Friday, January 20, 2017

Former South Dakota Teenage Republican Of The Year-- Is Now The State Legislator Molesting Interns


Heading into the elections in November, the Democrats held 8 of the 35 seats in the South Dakota state Senate. On November 8, they held 6 seats (and none of the 6 had been contested by the GOP). And of the 70 members of the state House, only 10 are Democrats. Every statewide elected official is a Republican and the 3 members of South Dakota's congressional delegation are also Republicans. Trump beat Hillary 227,721 (61.5%) to 117,458 (31.7%). In 2012 Romney won the state, but Obama did far better than Clinton, having taken 144,988 votes (40%). Of the state's 66 counties, Obama won 10; Hillary won 5. The Republicans own South Dakota; the Democrats barely exist there.

Last week the legislature killed a proposal that would have banned the predatory sexual behavior between legislators and their young pages and interns. Conservatives, who believe in the law of the jungle feel they have the right to rape youngsters as a manifestation of their power. When state Senator Stace Nelson, a Republican from Fulton proposed a ban on the behavior, he was rebuffed. Conservatives-- particularly, though not exclusively, Republicans-- are generally extremely hostile to ethics regulations.
A legislative panel voted down a proposed rule change Wednesday that would have explicitly prevented them from engaging in sexual contact with legislative interns and pages.

...Nelson said state lawmakers have previously engaged in instances of sexual harassment and sexual contact involving interns and high school pages, with at least one facing charges in 2007 for allegedly groping a legislative page.

"The facts are, this body went through a very public and ugly trial about a decade ago. There's been events in history that indicate these rules should have been put in stone and they haven't," Nelson said. "This is a rule we brought forth to address this so that there is no gray area."
The proposal was defeated in committee 9-4. Ironically, South Dakota voters approved-- 180,580 (51.6%) to 169,220 (48.4%)-- a package of ethics reforms in November and Republican elected officials are working furiously-- and so far successfully-- to block the implementation.

Yesterday, Sioux Falls' Argus Leader, the biggest newspaper in the state, ran a report on right-wing Republican from Madison, Rep. Mathew Wollman, who has been molesting interns. Although he denied the allegations when first confronted with them, he has since admitted his culpability to another right-wing crackpot, House Majority Leader Lee Qualm.

I remember when Mark Foley was caught molesting young interns and let off the hook by a conspiracy between Republican and Democratic leaders in return for him resigning. (Later Foley told me he would take pages to states where the age of consent was lower so he could have sex with them without technically breaking statutory rape laws.) Wollmann is claiming that the interns he molested were "of age" and "consenting." He has admitted he fucked one intern in 2015 and another one last year. He seems bitter that "my reputation was lowered, or perceived to be seen as lowered." Conservatives can't help but play the victim; it's part of the nature of conservatism.
He said he believed both were older than 21, and that he didn't feel he took advantage of his position of power because neither worked for him and both were of consenting age, which is why he thought it was permissible.

He said he hasn't hired a lawyer to represent him and would consider testifying before the committee if called.

"I can’t express how much I’m embarrassed, I understand these actions are unacceptable and I’ll accept all punitive measures that are decided," Wollmann told reporters. "I’ve tarnished the system and our title, this body as well as my name."

The state's legislative rule book says lawmakers are to avoid all sexual harassment in the workplace, but nothing explicitly prohibits sexual contact with interns or legislative pages.

Wollmann's confession comes a week after a Joint Committee on Legislative Procedure voted down a proposed rule change that would have prohibited sexual contact between lawmakers and interns or pages. House members said during the meeting that they considered sexual contact with high school pages and college interns to be misconduct.

The South Dakota Legislature last dealt with a case of a lawmaker engaging in sexual contact with a page in 2007. At that time, the Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion chose to censure Democratic state Senator Dan Sutton.

Qualm said he wouldn't comment on whether he viewed Wollmann's actions as a violation of House rules as he didn't want to skew the results of the investigating committee's probe.

“There are some implications in there, but that’s why we’re going by the rules, because we want the committee to make the determination,” Qualm said.
Yes... "some implications." Elizabeth Warren didn't have South Dakota or it's ethics-free Republican legislature in mind when she wrote her OpEd on the Republican approach to ethics for the Washington Post yesterday. She had Trumpanzee and his crooked cabinet in mind. Trumpanzee "is selecting nominees to run his government," she wrote. "It's no secret that I have deep reservations about the policy views of many of these nominees. I will vote against some of them."
But before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees' policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts.

The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules. If they succeed, the Republican-led Congress will erode public confidence in our democracy and set the new administration up for scandal and failure.

It is illegal for any Cabinet member to participate in a government matter that will "affect his own financial interest" or those of his or her family members, or any organization with whom he or she is affiliated. The reason this law exists is obvious: Without it, federal officials might be tempted to pursue their own interests rather than those of the American people, throwing into question the motives behind every move they make.

That is why Republicans and Democrats have embraced these restrictions. The procedures and precedents to enforce them have been followed by generations of American presidents and their Cabinets. Background checks ensure that nominees are free of criminal problems or debilitating foreign connections. Tax returns and financial disclosures reveal potentially damaging information that may undermine fitness to serve. Ethics agreements provide each Cabinet member a detailed, binding and personalized plan for disentangling from any personal and financial conflicts that could create even the appearance of self-dealing while in office.

But Republicans have ignored these safeguards. Betsy DeVos, the billionaire nominated to run the Department of Education despite having virtually no education experience, has not completed her financial disclosures or her ethics agreement. Despite Democrats' numerous attempts to postpone proceedings until these essential documents are provided, Republicans went ahead with DeVos's hearing Tuesday. Without the necessary information, we were unable to fully question the nominee about her many potential conflicts of interest. We were unable to say with confidence that DeVos will put the American people first. And after depriving the American public of even the most basic information on the nominee, Republicans further undercut a thoughtful examination by cutting the hearing short despite several senators pressing to ask additional questions.

When President Obama's nominees were presented to Congress, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanded that nominees meet these safeguards-- and they did, no matter who they were or what they had done in the past.

These requirements are even more important today, when Trump's nominees have complex financial histories, deep business ties and billions of dollars invested in the industries they will soon oversee. Complete compliance with the law might require weeks of hard work to identify and root out the many financial conflicts of a Cabinet whose members are collectively worth more than a third of all Americans combined. Difficult, yes-- but that is no excuse to ignore them.

The problem starts at the top. The president-elect has thrown out decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns or disentangle himself from his business connections. Now his Republican allies in Congress seem content to permit Cabinet nominees to do the same.

Republicans have threatened to jam through confirmation hearings despite incomplete FBI background checks, missing financial disclosures, refusals to produce tax returns and incomplete ethics agreements. When the head of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics said his office was under "pressure to cut corners and ignore conflicts of interest" to meet these rushed timelines and criticized the adequacy of the president-elect's plans for his own businesses, House Republicans finally decided to launch an inquiry into-- wait for it-- the Office of Government Ethics. Evidently Republicans don't like an "aggressive stance" on ethics issues.

Intimidating and bullying ethics officials into ignoring their legal responsibilities corrodes our democracy. It also leads to shoddy ethics agreements, which could leave Cabinet members with unresolved conflicts of interest that might affect their official actions.

Casting aside the nominees' ethical obligations puts everyone at risk-- even the nominees. Ethics agreements provide a clear line for executive branch employees between what is illegal and what is not. Conflicts can arise for even the most innocent of government officials. Respecting the process protects nominees from investigation and prosecution.

This problem is not theoretical. Lester Crawford, Food and Drug Administration administrator under President George W. Bush, resigned after only two months on the job and pleaded guilty to conflict of interest charges after failing to report ownership of stock in food and drug companies regulated by the agency. President Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese, was plagued by conflicts of interest, resigning in 1988 after years of investigations into one scandal after another that distracted the nation's top law enforcement officer. Over the years, many government officials have been caught up in such scandals. These rules exist to prevent such incidents.

Congress must take these ethical requirements seriously. No Cabinet member should receive a hearing before his or her background checks, financial disclosures and ethics agreements are finished and senators have had time to review them. Nominees should be forthcoming and transparent. If those hearings have occurred, nominees who have not completed their ethics reviews should return for another round of questions after that information is made available. Senators should be thorough in their assessment and questioning of nominees. And financial conflicts with official duties must be eliminated.

I recently introduced legislation that would protect the president and vice president from financial conflicts and constitutional violations by requiring them to fully disclose and divest themselves of all personal financial interests. No such law is necessary for Cabinet officials because the laws on the books are perfectly clear.

If Congress ignores these basic ethics requirements today, the American people and the nominees themselves likely will pay the price tomorrow.

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"Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?" (MLK Jr.)


This week The Center has been featuring quotations from pioneering activists, writers and political leaders on social media that speak to the cause of social justice and equity. As we enter a period of uncertainty, one in which the signs of a hardening culture are already apparent, I find myself thinking of another.

Writing from a Birmingham jail cell in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the following:

Will we be extremists for hate or for love?
Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice
or for the extension of justice?

-- from an e-mail sent out this morning by Glennda Testone, executive director of New York's LGBT Center (known as The Center)
by Ken

I have my day pretty well blocked out activity-wise so that I won't have to deal directly with, you know, that stuff going on today. Naturally I recognize that this doesn't change the reality of, you know, that stuff the least little bit. Still, it's my way of coping, at least for a day.

In this morning's e-mail, though, I found and actually clicked through to the letter sent out by Glennda Testone, executive director of The Center, from which I've lifted the above Martin Luther King Jr. quote, which indeed seems mightily appropriate to the day.

I think it's an extraordinary letter, and I'm passing it along, not particularly because of its concern for issues of LGBT justice over the coming years, but because of the way it frames the issue of justice generally, which is obviously of concern to many other groups -- and individuals -- who find ourselves likely targets of the ugliness that the 2016 presidential campaign brought out, or maybe just reflected. So while the specifics, so smartly set out by Ms. Testone for the LGBT community, will vary for other at-risk groups and individuals, the general theme and of course the need to band together to fight the threat seem to me to have widespread application.

The only note I want to add is that while the letter is clearly, in a general sense, a fund-raising letter, with its repeated references like "the support of thousands of people like you," it approaches the day in the spirit of a dedication, a mission statement, a call for solidarity. The closest it comes to a direct appeal for, you know, money is that little tan button, "Support Our Work," in the header box. And since what you see here is a screen-shot graphic, with no live link, I do want to include that link, for anyone who may be inclined to follow it: (And the small-type links at the end of the letter should be live.)

Dear Center Friends & Supporters,

A few hours from now, a new President will take the oath of office. The transition will usher in an administration with more than a few officials whose careers have featured discriminatory policies and rhetoric aimed at the LGBT community. As the heart and the home for our community in New York City, we must be prepared for a fight in which LGBT equality is at stake.

By now, the catalogue of proposals that target or disproportionately affect the LGBT community may be sadly familiar. To name but a few: a sanctioning of anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of the First Amendment; a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that extends essential protections to the transgender community and coverage to so many in the LGBT community; an attack on our parental rights in states across the country; talk of so-called conversion therapy for LGBT youth and tepid enforcement of protections ensuring their safety within schools; and, finally, an agenda that will leave LGBT immigrants at greater risk.

Because of you we're ready to meet any challenge.

The Center will double down on its commitment to serving some of the most vulnerable LGBT New Yorkers through our transgender livelihood program, immigrant opportunities initiative and youth development continuum. We'll continue enrolling community members in health care and linking them to affirming care while providing substance use treatment and HIV/AIDS prevention and support.

And, in the months ahead, with the support of thousands of people like you, we will continue to care for one another and to provide a home for a community dedicated to justice for all.

This has always been The Center story. It has its origins in our founding when brave women and men came together out of a commitment to one another and to future generations.

Thank you for all that you do to ensure opportunity and equality for our community.

This week The Center has been featuring quotations from pioneering activists, writers and political leaders on social media that speak to the cause of social justice and equity. As we enter a period of uncertainty, one in which the signs of a hardening culture are already apparent, I find myself thinking of another.

Writing from a Birmingham jail cell in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the following:

Will we be extremists for hate or for love?
Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice
or for the extension of justice?

The commitment carried out here every day at The Center, and made possible by you, is and always will be squarely on the side of love, and in service of justice.

Yours in love and service,

Glennda Testone
Executive Director

Become a Member | Donate | Subscribe | MyCenter

This message was sent by
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
208 W 13 St, New York, NY 10011 | 212.620.7310

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Trump Takes Office Following the Three Hottest Years in Recorded History


A chart of global surface temperature anomalies, meaning changes from a baseline, for the 2016 calendar year. Here the baseline is 1951–1980 (source: NASA). For the most part, the globe is a mask of red, and the Arctic is a sea of dark read, virtually "burning up."

by Gaius Publius

Nature bats last, and when it comes to global warming, nature is three-for-three during 2014, 2015 and 2016. For the third year in a row, global temperature has been the warmest in recorded history. Global temperature in 2014 surpassed all previous years; 2015 temperature surpassed that, and 2016, the year just ended, was the hottest of all.

In addition, "this is now the fifth time that the temperature record has been shattered in the current century (along with 2005, 2010, 2014, and 2015), and it’s the 40th consecutive year featuring an annual temperature above the 20th century average. All 16 years of the 21st century rank among the seventeen warmest on record, with 1998 being the eighth warmest" (Gizmodo).

This is worrisome enough, but it's clear that temperature rise is accelerating as well, though not necessarily on an every-year basis (2017 may be a bit cooler than 2016 due to the La Niña effect, but no one knows for sure). 

In general, expect more change, and expect it to occur more rapidly than anyone wants or expects. Also, expect more and faster consequences, both trivial-but-noticeable and deadly.

The Arctic Is "Burning Up"

The phrase "burning up" is meant figuratively, of course, but only because the Arctic is so cold to start with. As I wrote late last year, the North Pole was 50 degrees warmer than normal in December — that's the winter month of December — warm enough in fact to melt winter ice. You can see warming that reflected in the chart at the top. The darkest red on the chart is around the Arctic. The summer with no Arctic ice is fast approaching, perhaps this year or next will see it, and the winter with no Arctic ice is on the horizon as well. Many alive today will see the last Arctic ice in human history.

Why is the Arctic so much warmer than, say the Antarctic? Because the northern hemisphere is where almost all the industrial activity is. Take a look at the GIF image below.

The animation shows a time sequence of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. Notice the circulation flowing north and east on lower and upper air currents, and none to the south. Now picture the same for Europe, Russia, India and China.

The northern hemisphere is awash in daily CO2 emissions from industrial and consumer energy use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and methane). That rate is increasing, not slowing. Tick, tick, tick.

If Trump Won't Stop This Disaster...

Which brings me to my real main point, which I'll pose as a question for now. Let's assume Donald Trump and his cabinet-level band of climate destroyers — Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, EPA director-designate Scott Pruitt and others — are determined to make the climate disaster worse, and to make it arrive sooner than it otherwise would.

What are the choices left to us besides laying down and taking it?

That's the question. There are answers. Americans are a resourceful lot, not much given (usually) to laying down and taking it. It will be interesting to see what the American people come up with when they know that help from their government will never come.

Watch for it. Because they will do something.


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It's Trumpanzee Inauguration Day And God Is Crying Cold Tears


Yesterday, Alan Grayson e-mailed his supporters to ask them to support John Lewis-- which you can do here, at the Resist ActBlue page. When he was in Congress, Grayson always spoke reverentially about Lewis. In his e-mail he reminded his supporters why Lewis feels Trump is an illegitimate president and why he's boycotting his Inauguration today. "I don't see this President-Elect as a legitimate president," said Lewis on Meet The Press. "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton."

Before Lewis' interview, only a small handful of congressmembers had heeded Luis Gutierrez's call to boycott the inauguration. We may never know how many members skip it, but so far over 70 have made public statements about why they are staying away-- and most of them mentioned John Lewis and the way Trump responded to him. Back to Grayson:
The Tweeter-in-Chief responded as follows:

"Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime-infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk-- no action or results. Sad!"

I don’t know what’s worse about President-Elect Trump, his thin skin or his thick skull.

Make Donald Trump even more angry-- show your support for John Lewis.

John Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, who challenged racial segregation on the buses in the South.  He also was the Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

In 1961 and 1962, Lewis was arrested. Twenty-four times.

In Anniston, Alabama, Klan members deflated the tires of a bus that Lewis and the other Freedom Riders had boarded.  Then they firebombed it.

In Birmingham, Lewis was beaten.

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, two white men punched Lewis in the face, and kicked him in the ribs.

In Montgomery, a mob met the bus, took Lewis off the bus, knocked him over the head with a wooden crate, and left him unconscious on the bus station floor.

On one day in 1965, a day known as “Bloody Sunday,” Alabama state troopers in Selma hit civil rights demonstrators with tear gas, charged into them, and beat them with clubs. They broke John Lewis’s skull.

I’ve seen the scars on his head.

Somehow, all of that . . . pain . . . forged an outstanding Congressman. A champion on universal healthcare.  A forceful proponent of gay rights and gun safety.  An apostle of peace.

Let me sum it up this way.  Whatever John Lewis has done, he has done for others. And whatever Donald Trump has done, he has done for himself-- bigly.

I’m glad that there are people like John Lewis in public life.
So are these 71 Democrats, all of whom have explicitly confirmed that they're skipping the Trump inauguration today:
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Ted Lieu (D-CA)
Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA)
Judy Chu (D-CA)
Mark Takano (D-CA)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Karen Bass (D-CA)
Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
Raul Ruiz (D-CA)
Tony Cardenas (New Dem-CA)
Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA)
Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC)
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Darren Soto (New Dem-FL)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Mike Quigley (New Dem-IL)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Pete Visclosky (D-IN)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Katherine Clark (D-MA)
Mike Capuano (D-MA)
Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
Anthony Brown (D-MD)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
Alma Adams (D-NC)
G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ)
Donald Payne (D-NJ)
Albio Sires (D-NJ)
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Grace Meng (D-NY)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Pete DeFazio (D-OR)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Dwight Evans (D-PA)
Mike Doyle (D-PA)
Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
Bob Brady (D-PA)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Al Green (D-TX)
Joaquin Castro (New Dem-TX)
Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX)
Donald McEachin (D-VA)
Don Beyer (New Dem-VA)
Gerry Connolly (New Dem-VA)
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
Adam Smith (New Dem-WA)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Like Grayson, Steve Israel is no longer a member of Congress. However, unlike Grayson, I haven't seen Israel, a former Blue Dog and a lobbyist-loving corruptionist, have anything to say about John Lewis' service. His dismally failed messaging talents have been so catastrophic for the Democrats that he was just hired by the corporately owned and operated Third Way organization to bring his "his decades of experience... to help Democrats reconnect with middle class voters and offer a compelling alternative to bring Democrats out of the wilderness." Here's some Fake News from Third Way:
“Democrats are on the cusp of becoming a regional party. We are winning only in the more comfortable and elite coastal areas and losing badly virtually everywhere else. We are thrilled that Steve Israel will be joining our organization and serving as a leader in our New Blue campaign. Steve’s tremendous expertise will be an integral part of devising the economic strategy and messaging that will restore the Democratic Party nationwide,” said Jonathan Cowan, President of Third Way.

Mr. Israel said in a statement, “I am eager to join Third Way’s work on this vital task. I came to rely heavily on Third Way’s insights in my own swing district and as DCCC Chair. They are the smartest think tank in Washington when it comes to innovative policies with broad appeal. And, as I saw first-hand in evenly-matched areas around the nation, we need a vision for the Democratic Party that constructively taps into the unique convergence of anxieties gripping middle class and working families. The New Blue campaign is precisely what our party needs as we rebuild in message, mobilization, and values.”
Blue America is looking forward, not backward to the failed era of Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Blue Dogs, the New Dems and Third Way but towards young leaders of working families like California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who is running in the special election to replace Xavier Beccera in Congress from a district that Steve Israel and his allies from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party might want to characterize as one of the "elite coastal areas" (like Old Westbury, Great Neck, Oyster Bay, Manhasset, Roslyn, Mill Neck and Woodbury-- all among the richest towns in America and all formerly represented by Israel), although the district Gomez is running in is a fast-growing and vibrant but an area that is ranked as one of the dozen poorest congressional districts in America. That's Third Way's and Steve Israel's idea of an "elite coastal" area. Oh, yeah-- Steve Israel doing messaging for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party... what could possibly go wrong?

Writing on his Facebook page yesterday, Robert Reich referred to today's freakshow as "a sickening event in the history of the United States, a tragedy for America and the world, and a victory for hatefulness, racism, misogyny, and authoritarianism."
[W]e say farewell to the first African-American President-- a man of decency, integrity, and dignity-- and turn the national reigns over to a thin-skinned, vindictive, impulsive, sociopath. Trump is a conman and bully who is ignorant about democracy and disdainful of its basic institutions. He lies constantly. He has cheated his customers, investors, and contractors. His countless tweets and stream-of-consciousness statements at his rallies reveal a nasty, greedy, mendacious, bigoted human being, with a level of egotism and narcissism rare even among politicians and celebrities.

Trump fueled his campaign with the sense of dispossession and anxiety found among millions of voters-- most of them white-- many of whom voted for him because they thought he would carry their resentments and fury to the nation’s capital, and make our political economic system work for them instead of the privileged few. Some say Trump rose on racism. But racism has been with us since the founding of the nation. Trump rose on downward mobility and economic fears, which allowed him to exploit racism and as well as fears of foreigners and Mexican immigrants, Islamophobia, and the rest of his hateful arsenal.

Trump is the ultimate price our political establishment pays for doing almost nothing to improve the plight of the bottom 60 percent of Americans for over thirty years.

As David Remnick has written, the most hopeful way to look at this grievous event is that it and its consequences in coming years “will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.”

Every decent American-- regardless of political party, or wealth, or race-- must now commit herself or himself to combating Trump’s authoritarianism, calling out his lies, protecting the weak and vulnerable among us, keeping hope alive, and preserving what we can of what is best about America.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Color Will Señor Trumpanzee Be Mañana?


We love the Dublin-based European betting house Paddy Power. Even though I'm not a betting man myself, they always offer fascinating opportunities to bet on current events. In a press release today, "Deep Saffron Is The New Black-- Paddy Power Open Betting On Inauguration Specials-- Including Trump's Skin Colour," they're calling attention to the odds they're offering on several important aspects of tomorrow's biggest day for fascism since Germany expanded employment by 1- preventing Jews from working, which opened up thousands of jobs for members of the master race and 2- banning labor unions from striking.
The bookie makes lighter tones Tiger’s Eye and Deep Saffron its 6/1 favourites with Mango Tango leading the chasing pack at 7/1.

Further down in the betting is Vivid Tangelo and Cool Copper at 8/1 while Mahogany props up the betting at 18/1.

Paddy Power are also betting on what will be the first Trump-ism uttered by the tycoon during his speech.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Make America Great Again’ is the favourite (2/1), while ‘Fake News’ (11/1), ‘Vladimir Putin’ (12/1)), and ‘Brexit’ (16/1) are also solid contenders.

There are also a host of wildcard options included in the betting, such as ‘I think, therefore I am’ (33/1), ‘I have a dream’ (40/1), ‘You’re fired!’ (50/1), and ‘Nigel Farage’ (40/1).

And Farage is also prominent in the market for which celebrities will be in attendance. The UKIP leader is a short price to be at the inauguration (2/1).

Noted supporter Kanye West (3/1), madcap wrestler Hulk Hogan (3/1) and Dennis Rodman (10/3) are also in contention-- as well as loud-mouth pal Piers Morgan (12/1).

However, the party could be short-lived-- with the bookie offering odds of 4/1 that Trump is impeached within six months of his presidency.

Féilim Mac An Iomaire, a spokesperson for Paddy Power, said: “Donald Trump’s election led to our biggest political payout in our history and we very much doubt that he’s done with upsetting the odds just yet. His inauguration will be watched all around the world and we make it 6/1 for the State’s to follow up its first ever black President with its first ever deep saffron Commander and Chief.”

Trump’s Inauguration Skin Colour

6/1         Tiger’s Eye
6/1         Deep Saffron
7/1         Mango Tango
8/1         Cinnamon
8/1         Heat Wave
8/1         Cool Copper
8/1         Vivid Tangelo
9/1         Carrot
10/1       Persimmon
10/1       Pumpkin
12/1       Burnt Orange
18/1       Mahogany

What Phrase Will Trump Use First?

2/1         Make America Great Again
7/2         Islamic Terrorism
11/2       Russia
9/1         Twitter
9/1         Nuclear Weapons
11/1       Fake News
12/1       Mexican Wall
12/1       Vladimir Putin
14/1       North Korea
16/1       Brexit
33/1       I think, therefore I am
40/1       I have a dream
40/1       Nigel Farage
50/1      You’re fired!
500/1    Golden Shower

Who Will Be In Attendance?

3/1         Kanye West
3/1         Hulk Hogan
10/3       Dennis Rodman
10/3       Mike Tyson
6/1         Jon Voight
12/1       Piers Morgan
16/1       Arnold Schwarzenegger
33/1       Meryl Streep
40/1       Kim Kardashian
50/1       Bernie Sanders
66/1       Lady Gaga
100/1     Bruce Springsteen
200/1     Bono

Golden couple specials

11/2       Trump to wear a golden tie
9/1         Melania to wear a golden dress

Presidential Betting Specials

4/1         Trump to be impeached in first six months of Presidency
14/1       To have an actual golden shower installed in the White House
16/1       To be dumped by Melania in 2017
500/1     To paint the entire White House gold

Trump’s First State Visit

EVS       Russia
4/1         Canada
4/1         Mexico
5/1         Israel
5/1         China
5/1         England
Let's hope people are still laughing about Trump by summertime. The alternative is chilling.


Can Anything Prevent The Trump Take-Over Tomorrow?


This is what Trump has done to the Lincoln Memorial (the jumbo-tron is not photoshopped)

Tomorrow, America will see the inauguration of a deranged and narcissistic fascist with shady ties to brutal Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. According to a CBS poll released Wednesday, Trump's approval rating is just 32%. In contrast, other recent presidents of both parties have had sky-high transition approval ratings. George H.W. Bush's was 82%, Bill Clinton's was 81%, Obama's was 80% and even George W. Bush's, which wasn't nearly as high (72%), was still way over double Trump's. And yet... barely over a third of the Democratic congressmembers are boycotting the horror tomorrow. And not a single senator is joining them. (At last count, there were 70-something congressmembers who have announced they're staying away from the Day of Shame events.)

The 3 top leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva and first Vice-Chairman, Mark Pocan, are staying away. Grijalva explained why he's going to be in Tucson Friday. Rather than participate in the inauguration," he explained, "I will be joining with members of my district to reaffirm and renew this democracy and the people that are part of it. My decision to skip the inauguration is not motivated by disrespect for the office of the president, or by disrespect for the government. It is an individual act of defiance at the disrespect shown to the millions of Americans by this incoming administration."
Donald Trump wants to deport millions of people who call this country home, create a national registry for Muslims and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Skipping his inauguration is a necessary step in the fight to reject his harmful policies and stand with those who will be most at risk during his presidency.

The majority of voters rejected Trump-- they deserve respect. The 20 million Americans threatened by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no replacement-- they deserve respect. And the millions of voters who did not participate in the election because they blame both parties-- they deserve respect, too.

That's why during the inauguration I will be at home in Arizona meeting with seniors, the immigrant community, health care providers, and folks that care about the environment and climate change. I will join with the people of Tucson to demand respect from the Trump administration.

Now is the time for us to come together to defend and protect the future of all Americans.

David Cicilline is a vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He's decided that he should go top the Trump Inauguration and he explained why-- after hearing from lots of angry Rhode Islanders-- on his Facebook page yesterday. He points out that he "worked hard to prevent Donald Trump from becoming our 45th President. When Trump's affinity for Vladimir Putin came into focus last summer, I asked President Obama to cut off his access to classified intel. I denounced his deplorable comments on women and people with disabilities, and his attack on Latinos as the hate speech that it was. And I condemned his selection of Mike Pence, a running mate with an unambiguously anti-LGBT record. Since his election, I have refused to give a single inch to the President-elect. I led more than 160 of my colleagues demanding that he rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist. I introduced new legislation that requires him to release his tax returns so we finally know what he's hiding. And just this past weekend I condemned him for his outrageous comments about John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement and a man who I am proud to call my friend."

And yet, Cicilline is still going tomorrow. Why? This is what he says:
I understand the frustration that people are feeling over the results of this election, and I share it. Some of my colleagues have decided the most powerful way to express their opposition to the incoming administration and the policies of the new President is to boycott the inauguration. I have deep respect for their decision and recognize that this is one way to express strong opposition. Others, like me, think it's an equally powerful message to attend the inauguration to make it clear that we're in this fight from the very first minute he takes office and for the next four years.

Tens of thousands of Americans and many Rhode Islanders are taking time out of their lives to travel to Washington D.C. to protest the incoming Administration on Inauguration Day, and I will be there in solidarity and in opposition to the policies and the rhetoric of Donald Trump. And to carry on that message, on Saturday, I will join the Women's March on Washington to oppose Trump’s agenda and to commit to fight for our shared values.

Serving our state is the honor of my life. It's a responsibility that I never take lightly. And as your Representative, I promise that I will not surrender the field to Donald Trump for a single moment. He may be our 45th President, but I will be there to make sure your voice is heard loud and clear in Washington.
I take him at his word. He's a good member of Congress; better than most. The DWT strategy-- articulated by Noah: "Disdain, Derision and Zero Tolerance"-- isn't the same as Cicilline's but that doesn't mean I don't respect his decision and his service. This is a symbolic effort. I believe in it.

Alan Lowenthal, a progressive policy wonk who represents Long Beach, California had been reported by the L.A. Times to be going. He told me he never spoke with the Times about it and that he's been undecided and trying to figure out the best thing to do after Trump's deranged attacks on John Lewis. He told me this morning that "After much soul searching, and two days of listening to my constituents, I felt I could not attend the inauguration." In a message to those constituents he said that "On inauguration day, our nation invests the President-elect with executive power. We do not anoint the President with respect.  Respect must be earned. Donald Trump, in his attacks on Rep. Lewis, and minorities, and women, and the disabled, has yet done little to earn my respect. For that reason, and in solidarity with those he has attacked, I have decided not to attend the inauguration. I sincerely hope that over the next four years President Trump will work hard to earn the respect of all Americans, not just those who voted for him. The American people deserve it and the office of the President requires it."

Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the most truly disgusting and unworthy member of Congress on either side of the aisle-- if Trump was smart, he'd ban her from his inauguration-- decided to send out an e-mail implying she was resisting Trump. She asked her supporters to send her money because Friday is the inauguration. What she didn't say, of course, is that she's one of the corrupt deplorables who can barely wait to mingle with the lobbyists and fellow insiders at the inauguration. She'll be there... in all her contemptible shame and lack of dignity.

Blue America started this page when only a tiny handful of members were supporting Luis Gutierrez's call for a boycott. We've raised nearly $12,000 in 4 days for members to encourage this kind of resistance. But, in the end, what we're looking for is men and women in Congress willing to hold the line on bad policies and bad nominees. Bernie says he's going to the inauguration. So are Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken. Did you hear their questioning of Trump's horrible nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary Wednesday? That's more important. The votes from Democrats on Tom Price's putrid  nomination will mean a lot more-- in every way-- than whether or not they decide to go to the Trumpanzee inauguration. But if you want to show solidarity with the members who aren't going... here's the place (just tap that thermometer):

Goal Thermometer

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Virtually Everything Out Of Trump's Mouth Is Fake News


Like I've been saying for months, we'll never really know-- not definitively-- the extent of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. It's a given-- at least for me that none of the interested parties-- not the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, not the FSB and certainly not Putin, Wasserman Schultz or Trumpanzee, has any kind of an operative relationship with Truth.

But yesterday McClathchy's Washington Bureau reported that 6 American law enforcement agencies are still trying to get to the bottom of the collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian dictator to make sure Trump won the presidency. The FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence are all following up leads about Putin injecting money into Trump's campaign.
Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

On Jan. 6, the director of national intelligence released a declassified report that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to “undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process,” damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects and bolster Trump’s. The campaign included the hacking of top Democrats’ emails and fake news distributed by Russian sources.

The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Friday, has said he believes Russia was involved with the hacking, and he has called allegations that he or his associates were involved a “political witch hunt” and a “complete and total fabrication.”

Trump has yet to say whether FBI Director James Comey will be retained. The rest of Trump’s newly appointed intelligence and law enforcement chiefs will inherit the investigation, whose outcome could create national and international fallout.

 ...U.S. intelligence agencies not only have been unanimous in blaming Russia for the hacking of Democrats’ computers but also have concluded that the leaking and dissemination of thousands of emails of top Democrats, some of which caused headaches for the Clinton campaign, were done to help Trump win.

Trump and Republican members of Congress have said they believe Russia meddled in the U.S. election but that those actions didn’t change the outcome. However, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that she believes that Russia’s tactics did alter the election result.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has opened its own investigation into Russia’s involvement in the campaign. That panel will have subpoena power.

...The BBC reported last week that the joint inquiry was launched when the CIA learned last spring, through a Baltic ally, of a recording indicating the Russian government was planning to funnel funds aimed at influencing the U.S. election.

Another source of information was the former longtime British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who was hired to gather opposition research about Trump for a Republican client and later a Democrat. Early last summer, Steele became alarmed about information he was receiving from a network of Russian sources describing a web of Trump’s business relationships with wealthy Russians and alleged political ties to the Kremlin, according to two people who know him. These sources also declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Steele’s reports also alleged that Russian consulates in New York, Washington and Miami were used to deliver “tens of thousands of dollars” to Kremlin-hired operatives using fictitious names as if they were legitimate Russian-American pensioners. That “ruse” was designed to give Russia “plausible deniability,” Steele’s reports suggested. However, Russia does not operate a consulate in Miami.

Steele, who had worked previously with the FBI and was well regarded, fed the bureau information in July and September suggesting collusion between Trump associates and Moscow in the hacking of Democratic computers, they said. Eventually, he met in Italy with an FBI official to share more information alleging that a top Trump campaign official had known about the hacking as early as last June, the sources said. About a month after the election, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona gave FBI Director Comey a copy of a 35-page compilation of Steele’s reports.
Filling the B Street Band slot at the inauguration? -photo by Al Quaglieri

Trump seems to follow Putin's line on just about everything-- from NATO and the EU to... well, Trump has said whether or not he agrees with Putin that Moscow's golden shower prostitutes are the best in the world. But the two of them-- both absolute and amoral masters of fake news-- agree that Steele's dossier is fake news. In fact, "fake news" is now one of Trumpanzee's favorite phrases and he uses it routinely in his campaign to discredit, bully and neutralize the press.

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Why So Many Celebrities? They Are the Masks that Humanize Corporations


The Coca-Cola organization without the smiling celebrity mask (source)

by Gaius Publius

On this side of the Atlantic, George Monbiot is an underappreciated writer. The piece I'm about to quote makes just two main points, but they are stunning. The subject under consideration: Why is the modern world awash in celebrities, from actors who've "done something" to people like the Kardashians, who appear to have done nothing at all but "be famous."

We've even just elected our second celebrity president, a man known more as a "brand" than as person, the first being Reagan. Why did we do that?

Why are there so many of celebrities, and what do they really do? Is it something about the media, or the 20th century nationalization of publicity, that creates these people — for example, via the earlier movie fan magazines and now television and the Internet? Or is media not the cause? Is the presence of all these celebrities in our media a result of something else, of something more hidden from us?

Monbiot thinks he has the answer to the question "why so many celebrities?" and I think he's right. His two main points:

▪ Corporations are lifeless predatory monsters. They need human faces to make them look like our friends. This is like putting a face-like mask on a robot before it asks you out to dinner ... to eat you. Celebrities act as their masks and supply those human faces.

▪ At the same time that celebrities humanize the corporations that use them, they themselves become less human, productized, marketed (by themselves and others) as things — masks or "brands" — good mainly for their utility to the corporate world that employs them.

As Monbiot puts it in his piece: "Celebrity is not harmless fun – it’s the lieutenant of exploitation." The essay is called "Imaginary Friends". Here are two excepts, each making one of the two points above.

Celebrities As Human Masks for Inhuman Products and Entities

About the first point, Monbiot writes (my emphasis):
The rise of celebrity culture did not happen by itself. It has long been cultivated by advertisers, marketers and the media. And it has a function. The more distant and impersonal corporations become, the more they rely on other people’s faces to connect them to their customers.

Corporation means body; capital means head. But corporate capital has neither head nor body. It is hard for people to attach themselves to a homogenised franchise, owned by a hedge fund whose corporate identity consists of a filing cabinet in Panama City. So the machine needs a mask. It must wear the face of someone we see as often as we see our next-door neighbours. It is pointless to ask what Kim Kardashian does to earn her living; her role is to exist in our minds. By playing our virtual neighbour, she induces a click of recognition on behalf of whatever grey monolith sits behind her this week.

An obsession with celebrity does not lie quietly beside the other things we value; it takes their place. A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology reveals that an extraordinary shift appears to have taken place between 1997 and 2007. In 1997, the dominant values (as judged by an adult audience) expressed by the shows most popular among 9-11 year olds were community feeling, followed by benevolence. Fame came 15th out of the 16 values tested. By 2007, when shows like Hannah Montana prevailed, fame came first, followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success. Community feeling had fallen to 11th; benevolence to 12th.
Which leads to two sub-points:
A paper in the International Journal of Cultural Studies found that, among the people it surveyed, those who follow celebrity gossip most closely are three times less likely than people interested in other forms of news to be involved in local organisations, and half as likely to volunteer. Virtual neighbours replace real ones.

The blander and more homogenised the product, the more distinctive the mask it needs to wear. This is why Iggy Pop is used to promote motor insurance and Benicio del Toro is used to sell Heineken. The role of such people is to suggest that there something more exciting behind the logo than office blocks and spreadsheets. They transfer their edginess to the company they represent: as soon they take the cheque that buys their identity, they become as processed and meaningless as the item they are promoting.
An American example — the nameless person cast as "the most interesting man in the world" is needed to put a face to a product few can recall by name, especially now they've retired the old, nameless "most interesting man" and hired a nameless younger replacement.

You can even apply the idea to something much less bland and far more objectionable, like the Republican Party. You need a celebrity as outlandish as Trump to market that product, to take your eyes off what's really underneath. None of the other members of their vaunted "deep bench" could have done a tenth of what Trump accomplished as an obscuring mask for the vile set of policies known as "Republicanism."

Trump was a good mask because the party's "customers" saw Trump and not the party or its goals. With any of the others as the party's virtual face, most people would see right through them to the Republicanism beneath. As masks they'd be worthless, transparent, obscuring nothing.

Celebrities Become Products

Once they become masks for others, celebrities become products themselves. While they're busy humanizing corporations, corporations are busy productizing celebrities. Monbiot:
The celebrities you see most often are the most lucrative products, extruded through a willing media by a marketing industry whose power no one seeks to check. This is why actors and models now receive such disproportionate attention, capturing much of the space once occupied by people with their own ideas. Their expertise lies in channelling other people’s visions. ...

You don’t have to read or watch many interviews to see that the principal qualities now sought in a celebrity are vapidity, vacuity and physical beauty. They can be used as a blank screen onto which anything can be projected. Those who have least to say are granted the greatest number of platforms on which to say it....

[But as] soon as celebrities forget their allotted role, the hounds of hell are let loose upon them. Lily Allen was the media’s darling when she was advertising John Lewis’s. Gary Lineker couldn’t put a foot wrong when he stuck to selling junk food to children. But when they expressed sympathy for refugees, they were torn to shreds. When you take the corporate shilling, you are supposed to stop thinking for yourself.
When celebrities take corporate money, in other words, masking and humanizing the product or operation, they become products as well, marketable only to the extent that they don't intrude an identity of their own onto the scripted (painted-on) identity the "mask" is intended to project.

Corporations As "Imaginary Friends" 

As to Monbiot's title, "Imaginary Friends" — for Monbiot the friends are the celebrities, and they are indeed imaginary. Kim Kardashian could be as imaginary as the Marlboro Man, a person who never existed, and none of us would know it. Celebrities are real to us in our minds alone, and we do imagine they are our friends.

But considering their function — to put a human face on the inhuman machinery of exploitation — it's easy to see that our actual "imaginary friends" are really the corporations themselves, whom we are taught to imagine as human, likable, even friendly, but who in fact would kill us the minute the cost-benefit analysis went their way but not ours. Is McDonald's your friend? Is WalMart?

How about Coke, the company that makes the happy fizzy drink? The Coca-Cola company is a nonhuman, profit-seeking corporation that is guilty of murder to protect its profits. Only its paid, smiling-mask faces want to "teach the world to sing."

The mask hides the psychopath beneath. And that's why we have celebrities, to keep us from noticing all that we're surrounded by.


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Can The Senate Democrats Derail Tom Price?


How do Ryan and the congressional Republicans get away with all the twisted lies and deceptions about healthcare? Watch the Jimmy Kimmel video up top-- and remember, that's in Los Angeles! People are morons? I'm afraid so. Otherwise Friday would be a day we'd either be pissed off that another corporate Democrat was being inaugurated or we'd be rejoicing that Debbie Wasserman Schultz failed and we'd be inaugurating the first president dedicated to working families since FDR.

Did you watch the Price Senate hearings yesterday? How foolish and wasteful! Price said, with a straight face that he doesn't want to replace a "Democrat healthcare system with a Republican system. Instead he says he wants to replace "Democrat healthcare with American healthcare." No one called him an asshole, But, as Greg Sargent pointed out in his Washington Post column yesterday, Trump is already backtracking on his pledge that "everybody" will be covered. Sargent, unlike most mainstream journalists, called all the gobbledygook and misdirection what it is: a scam. "In recent days," he wrote, "Donald Trump and his advisers have gone to tremendous, extraordinary, terrific lengths to obscure a basic aspect of the replacement for the Affordable Care Act that he and congressional Republicans are likely to embrace after repeal: It will cover far fewer people."
Trump and his advisers have been saying that no one who currently has coverage under Obamacare will lose it under the GOP replacement. Trump himself recently said that under his replacement, “everybody” will have insurance, adding that “there was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” Top transition adviser Kellyanne Conway recently made similarly nice-sounding noises.

But today, Trump seemed to backtrack on this promise in interviews with Fox News and Axios. While he reiterated that people without money will get coverage, he clarified that he’s considering a mechanism to do this: Medicaid block grants. “We’ll probably have block grants of Medicaid back into the states,” Trump told Fox.

Progressives tend to oppose Medicaid block grants because they are all but certain to get cut, and because states would restrict eligibility requirements. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently put it, they “would likely eliminate the guarantee that everyone who’s eligible and applies for its benefits would receive them.”

Thus, this idea-- which seems likely to be at the center of the Trump/GOP replacement plan-- would dilute the guarantee of coverage that Obamacare is striving to make universal. The ACA does this through a combination of expanded Medicaid for everyone who is eligible (in states that participate) and subsidies that are doled out according to means to cap the percentage of income that other people pay for coverage. The GOP replacement would come up with a new subsidy scheme, perhaps tied to age but not income, but there’s no indication yet that it would accomplish that cap. That, combined with the likely Medicaid cuts, would add up to a scrapped guarantee.

Thus, the question of what the Trump/GOP replacement will actually look like turns on the question of what really counts as everybody having insurance. If the Republican plan does not strive for this type of guarantee but does try to make insurance more affordable, Republicans might still say this constitutes giving people access to insurance (if they’re willing to pay for it).

Today, Democrats have a chance to pin down Price on this. Harold Pollack, a health policy expert at the University of Chicago, suggests questions designed to clarify not just whether Trump envisions a replacement that covers “everybody,” but what this actually means:
“Should every American who has an income below the federal poverty line be guaranteed access to Medicaid? Should every other American be entitled to health insurance with out-of-pocket and premium costs limited to an affordable, capped fraction of their income?”
Then there’s also the question of what constitutes acceptable coverage. The ACA has basic regulatory standards that Republicans are going to want to repeal. That, too, is an area on which Price should be questioned.

“The real question is what counts as insurance,” Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor who has written extensively on health reform, says. “Does Price support a replacement that would allow insurers to exclude mental-health services? Preventive services? What about annual or lifetime coverage limits? Or $10,000 deductibles?”

Now, for various reasons, Republicans just don’t believe health reform should guarantee coverage in the manner that the ACA does. And that’s fine-- that’s their philosophical view. But the point is that Trump and his advisers are trying to obscure this. Trump does not want to be the guy who kicked millions off insurance. But it appears congressional Republicans philosophically cannot support anything that does not do this.  This basic problem cannot be spun away forever. An actual comparison between the ACA and the GOP replacement cannot be dodged in perpetuity. Hopefully, today will begin to supply some clarity.
PolitiFact found that Schumer was being truthful when he said that "Trump campaigned on not cutting Medicare and Social Security, but his nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, 'made his career on cutting Medicare and Medicaid.'" Price, wrote PolitiFact's Linda Qiu, "has introduced a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare every legislative session since 2009. Price’s Empowering Patients First Act instead provides tax credits to help pay for private insurance plans and expands health savings accounts. The Price plan also allows for people to opt out of Medicare and Medicaid (and other government-run health programs) and choose the tax credits to purchase private plans instead. It folds in his previous advocacy of private contracting between Medicare beneficiaries and doctors. Beyond his own proposals, Price supported Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget plan, which would have eventually moved Medicare toward private insurance by giving people under 55 voucher-like tax credits to purchase plans. This is also called premium support. When he became chairman of the House budget committee, Price was the primary author of a budget for fiscal year 2016  that included $900 billion in spending reductions to Medicaid (through block granting) and $148 billion to Medicare (by leaving the Obama administration’s cost-saving measures intact), according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Price’s budget for fiscal year 2017 similarly sought: $1 trillion from Medicaid and $449 billion from Medicare. After Trump’s election, Price expressed optimism that lawmakers could overhaul Medicare in 2017."
The Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonpartisan health care advocacy group, typically doesn’t weigh in on cabinet appointments but opposes Price’s nomination precisely because of his position on Medicare, said David Lipschutz, the group’s senior policy attorney.

"The policies he has advocated would significantly cut and alter Medicare," Lipschutz told us, listing Price’s support for a premium support model, opposition to allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and advocating for private contracting between Medicare beneficiaries with physicians with Medicare footing the bill.

Gail Wilensky, the former director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid under President George H.W. Bush, called Price’s comment on Medicare as government intrusion a "gross exaggeration."

But Wilensky preferred to characterize Price as a supporter of Medicare reform. She added that like Price, she supports premium support as a model for Medicare reform, as do prominent Democrats Alice Rivlin, a health care policy expert who served under President Bill Clinton, and Bob Reischauer, a fellow at the left-leaning Urban Institute.

Our ruling

Schumer said, "Donald Trump said when he campaigned he wouldn't cut Medicare and Social Security" but his nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services "made his career on cutting Medicare and Medicaid."

Price, Trump’s HHS pick, has supported reducing the government’s role in Medicare and block granting Medicaid, which would amount to spending reductions to both programs. While it’s clear these proposals would reduce federal spending on the health safety nets, experts say it’s not the same thing as gutting the programs entirely.

Trump did pledge to leave Medicare and Social Security alone, and Price’s positions seem at odds with that. (It’s worth noting that Social Security isn’t administered by HHS).

We rate Schumer’s claim Mostly True.
Just as he started his confirmation hearing, the National Nurses United urged the Senate to reject Price as head of Health and Human Services. NNU Co-President Jean Ross, a registered nurse, pointed out that Price has also taken public positions that directly conflict with pledges made by Trump. She said that Price is against Trump's stated goals that include "a system that would assure healthcare coverage for everyone, lower healthcare premiums, deductibles and co-pays, high quality, a process to negotiate the high costs of prescription drugs, and has repeatedly opposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid."
"There is only one plan that would achieve all of those goals, improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans," said Ross. "Medicare for all would mean universal, guaranteed access to care for all, guaranteed patient choice of provider, lower costs to families, strengthening Medicare through an expanded pool of healthier people, and the ability of the federal government to negotiate and demand fairer prices from the drug companies," Ross noted.

"That’s the health care plan President-elect Trump should support, and we should have an HHS Secretary who will protect the health and safety of Americans, not shred it," Ross said.

By contrast, Price supports the push by House Speaker Paul Ryan to privatize Medicare, a major cut in access and cost for seniors and the disabled and favors cuts to Medicaid by repealing the ACA expansion and replacing it with reduced block grants to states to make further cuts.

Price wants to repeal curbs on insurance abuses set by the ACA, notably the ban on pre-existing conditions exclusion, lifetime and annual payment limits.

The proposals by Price to replace subsidies for low income families to buy coverage with tax credits or health savings accounts, without any limits on industry price gouging, "would lead to additional disaster for millions of Americans already priced out of access to care, even if they have insurance," said Ross. "The last thing we need is a full return to a cutthroat healthcare system totally based on ability to pay."

..."As nurses know from the patients we care for every day, without health, there is no security. We cannot risk the very real consequences of Rep. Price’s reckless disregard for the health of our patients and our nation."

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