Saturday, May 27, 2017

The meaning of freedom for which so many died defending it

Heavily edited, reduced version appeared in the editions of the Sky Hi News, May 31, 2017.

So how are you celebrating Memorial Day? Will it be a long weekend  with friends and families and backyard barbecues? Or did you put up your flag  with a sense that you did your patriotic duty? Or have you reflected a bit  on the meaning of Memorial Day,  to commemorate those who died in defense of our country? I plan all.  Running through my head  is Lee Greenwood’s great lyric which  captures the meaning of Memorial Day the best:
“And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the ones who died who gave that right to me
And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land, God Bless the USA.”

Those words are ones that both sides of the ideological spectrum can agree upon.  However, in our polarized America, we have differing views of what freedom, the  core value saluted in those lyrics, means.

My grandson, raised in a Colorado household of both  immigrants  and  those who could trace New World ancestors back to the late 1600’s, just returned from a visit with relatives of his nearest and dearest in a southern state.  His comment was, “they live in a different world and now I understand why Donald Trump is popular there”.  To him  profound  political divisions became real.

I  was not surprised. I grew up in Oklahoma, the reddest of any state, but I spent the remainder  of my life in large urban areas both in Europe and in the US and  married  a refugee from eastern Europe.  I have experienced  authoritarianism and  non-free societies  practiced first hand. Not everyone has that perspective, but it has influenced my political thought about what freedom means and what I find disturbing today in this very politically polarized America.

While I respect others’ rights to hold values that differ even from what  I was taught in my  Oklahoma youth,   I see personal freedom as protected  in our Constitution’s  First Amendment : right to free speech, press freedom, religious freedom, and the freedom to peacefully assemble. I see those freedoms under attack  today by some. For them,  free speech is reserved for those who  agree with personal views, but otherwise those opinions are to be minimized, shouted down and physically intimidated. Religious freedom is not only free from government interference to practice it  or to be free of a  religion established, preferred, or enforced by a government,   but now  it  means to some freedom to refuse to serve or give the same rights to those  with different religious beliefs and values.   Freedom of the press means loyalty to one media outlet and to consider all others prejudicial  and “the enemy of the people”  regardless of the merits of the arguments or the sources of  facts. Facts become those presented by the favored news outlet; otherwise there are no such things as facts.  The freedom to assemble in peaceful protest is viewed as motivated and organized  by some sinister force to be disrespected as certainly not arising  from real self interest or values of morality and a sense of fairness.  Our military  defends our freedoms from foreign threats, but the real threat  to our traditional views of freedom lies  within our own country’s hearts and minds.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What should be the Democratic Party agenda? Here's the long and short of it.

Carried in all editions of the Sky Hi News May 24, 2017

The news coming from Washington regarding the Russian connection scandal has historic implications and the Democrats are salivating at a chance to turn the House of Representatives from red to blue.  The danger for  Democrats is that the scandal may drown out other news, and bury Democrat’s excellent case to beat Republican House candidates. The case to be made is that the Democrats are the champions of the middle class and :the GOP is  attacking  ordinary Americans’  day to day financial survival.

The GOP  talked  up a middle class game in 2016, but in 2017 they took a hard right turn..
They are quietly undertaking an agenda that hurts middle class pocket books, from  yanking away affordable health insurance and making it harder to pay off student loans or  to buy a home.   It will be up to Democrats to make sure the GOP/Trump agenda does not get  passed while voters are looking the other way.  

The scandals will play out over time, possibly lasting past 2018 and impacting the elections without the Democrats even hyperventilating. If Democrats  make the Russian issue  their only focus,  they are in danger of drowning out an attempt to position themselves as the advocates of issues that help  the middle class.   Voters ultimately care  most what impacts their lives, and  many  could view the Russian connection  as an issue that does not directly affect them other than crippling the implementation of Trump's domestic agenda.

Whenever the Trump administration and local GOP candidates support a policy that will hurt the middle class, Democrats need to 1) respond  quickly 2) point out how it hurts the middle class , and 3) present positive,viable alternatives..

Aside from any unease or disgust with the Russian connection, top of the list of voter  concerns is health care, per recent polls. Democrats cannot just  be a party of "no”. The party  must propose a better way to go. It must recognize the Obamacare problems of dwindling insurer participation and high cost of the individual market premiums.. It then must propose a fix that maintains affordable access and keeps essential benefits with guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Political reality is that Congressional Democrats  alone are powerless to implement any fixes to health care insurance  They do not have the majority and cannot pass much without some Republican support .  Medicare for All right now would be a very hard moderate Republicans.. Retaining and repairing Obamacare can be short term way forward. Doing so  should  not preclude those  who advocate  continuing a quest  down the road for a system that is cheaper for citizens and government and  provides more universal  and comprehensive. coverage.  That vision is the longer one.

If the investigations lead to jail time for Trump’s associates and  even Trump stepping down,  the GOP agenda  will not go away even if there is a President Pence.  The GOP will continue an attempt to upend healthcare insurance ,  limit civil rights , harm women’s health,
increase our dirty our air and water, remove consumer protections in financial matters,   undermine public education, and make radical , immoral  cuts in.the social safety to finance huge tax cuts to the rich.  .  That is the “long of it” .The only  short term brake on the GOP is if the House majority can go Democratic in 2018.  


In the meantime, Trump and the GOP are busy fulfilling their own prophecy that Obama care will fail. Donald Trump is trying to sabotage Obamacare by  proposing to remove subsidies to insurers or to those who receive subsidies that are necessary to  make their policies affordable in the exchanges.  His goal is to force Democrats to accept Trumpcare that has only 17% approval in the entire country. . So far their plan  would screw the lower middle class  for years by dumping 24 million off the insured roles and provide fewer benefits  for the rest who  will have to pay  even more out of their pockets.…/la-fi-hiltzik-obamacare-charts-201…
See 5/20/17 blog post: Trump has plans to destroy Obamacare so he can claim it is  failing
See 5/4/17 blog post: The china shop rule: Trump broke health care insurance; he owns it
and blog posting 4/17/17 Trump threatens to blow up exchanges: Why?

Some other views worth considering:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Trump has plans to sabotage Obamacare so he can claim it is failing

The post below was drafted May 20, 2017, but never posted. However, it contains some very pertinent comment and information concerning Donald Trump's threat in the face of the Senate's failure to pass their bills in July. He is threatening to blow up the exchanges by removing the subsidies. He has the ability to do this, but he would be facing legal action by insurers.  In addition, he is threatening to stop enforcing the individual mandate to buy or participate in health insurance, which would result in the pool being shrunk to ensure mostly the sick . Both actions would indeed sabotage Obamacare and result in soaring premiums, but it  would also result in Trump owning the results. In the meantime, a bipartisan group of 40 Senators are planning to propose fixes to Obamacare, following regular political order of running it through committees before holding floor votes, unlike McConnell's failed attempt to jam repeal/replace bills in various forms without even holding hearings in regular order committees. Trump is attempting to force the Senate to raise the repeal/replace issue from the dead with his threats.  

"Trump and the GOP are conning the American public. While opining Obamacare is failing so take their rescue plan, what they cite as the failure of Obamacare, they are actually responsible for making  sure Obamacare fails by threatening to  yank subsidies to insurance companies so they  pull out of marginal markets and making it impossible for long term insurance company planning.. The GOP  is the self fulfilling its own  prophecy.  Their dogged pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare has no room for repairing Obamacare. 

The basic  reason is that the GOP does not want to fix the problems they see because it helps feed their narrative that Obamacare failed, insurers refuse to participate, and the premiums are too much,  and their plan, to kick 22,000 off of the plan will save the patients. Their cure is even worse than the disease..  As the American Medical Association said, their motto is to do no harm and the GOP plans would harm many.

Hovering over the GOP is a nagging suspicion is that this is a way to finance an enormous tax reduction of the rich. Take away a chunk of Medicaid from the very poor, sick, disabled, needy, and elderly in nursing homes and reduce premiums by reducing benefits and increasing out of pocket expenses for everyone else, and voila, the tax cuts are paid for. 

Let Obamacare crash and burn, they say, if their bills do not pass. In the meantime they are the ones  lighting the fires under the crash they are engineering. Obamacare was hanging in there and the GOP is engineering its demise.  They are breaking it and the china shop policy rules. They own it. They are the ones with the majority in Congress and the White House and they deserve the blame. For example Iowa" last insurer still planning to offer individual coverage in most of the state next year warning it may leave “without swift action” by state or federal officials act to “provide stability.
The GOP could have promised no changes in the next few years so insurers to get their projections of costs stabilized.

 The poster child is the GOP extolls for their point is an insurer has pulled out of Iowa, but also as the Washington Post and Yahoo News report, insurers are already leaving the Obmacare exchanges because of the unstable market conditions created by the GOP's repeal/replace efforts.Per Yahoo News re Iowa" last insurer still planning to offer individual coverage in most of the state next year warning it may leave “without swift action” by state or federal officials act to “provide stability.  Nearly all insurance companies pulling out of the exchanges have blamed the unstable market caused by the GOP efforts to turn the system upside down in both the near and distant future.

 In fact, the GOP  has fought every  attempt to repair the problems. Another very likely  reason is that the GOP does not want to fix the problems they see because it helps feed their narrative that Obamacare failed, insurers refuse to participate,  the premiums are too much. Therefore the solution is  to kick 22,000 off of the  current plan will save the patients. Their cure is even worse than the disease..  As the American Medical Association said, their motto is to do no harm and the GOP plans would harm many.

There are fixes to Obamacare that would help. The subsidies to insurance companies providing services in rural areas could be increased. Where there are no insurance companies participating in areas at all,  consumers could subscribe to the same program as their Congressional representatives plan to enjoy. they could have worked on prescription drug costs among others. They could have promised no changes in the next few years so insurers to get their projections of costs stabilized.…/la-fi-hiltzik-obamacare-charts-201…t…/la-fi-hiltzik-obamacare-charts-201…

In N Carolina, Trump's plan to end subsidies to insurers is the reason why Blue Cross/Blue Shield say they have to raise rates:

For local impact on Trumpcare, and a related strategy to force Democrats to approve his terrible Trumpcare plan, see prior posting  in April: Trump threatens to blow up Obamacare exchanges. Why?

Many senior aides oppose the move for fear it will backfire politically.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Why has Mike Pence been out of the White House loop on the Russian connection controversy

The question is why has Mike Pence been seemingly out of the White House loop on the Russian connection controversies?  Perhaps it goes back to the 2016 campaign when Pence parted ways with Trump on Russian policy.  Going back to two prior postings on this blog, this has a history, including the Mike Flynn/Pence flap re: Pence saying Flynn lied to him.  In these blogs are also references to the Russian connections in the 2016 campaign and possible financial entanglements  with  Russia in  the Trump administration.  Whether Pence took himself out of being involved in the Russian connection issue or if Trump did, is unknown. However, it may be Pence himself removing himself and the matter flared up when he accused Flynn of lying about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador, that forced Trump to fire Flynn.

Pence also departed from Trump on Russia in his first trip abroad with a hard line approach: :,

Blog Posting Oct. 5  2016
 "One event in the Vice Presidential debate, October 4, was the position of GOP candidate Mike Pence regarding Russia.  The comments on Russia got lost in Pence's  absolute denial that Donal Trump ever said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a better leader than Pres. Obama. The quibble could be whether the correct term was "stronger". In any case, there is plenty of video available on Trump's comments which makes Pence look like a liar, albeit a smooth one delivered with conviction.

 What should also be the story is that Pence took a hard line on Russia saying we should stand up to them..  This deserves some closer scrutiny and looks like there is a division on foreign policy between the two running mates.  Take a look at the debate as can be accessed via You Tube regarding Pence's views of Russia incursions into the Crimea, Ukraine and Georgia...a great contrast from Trump's prior statements.
What does count in 2016 ,however, is Trump's position, though Pence might use his own quotes in his own future campaigns.

It stands in sharp contrast with the GOP presidential candidate himself, Donald Trump, who has been advocating a foreign policy that strangely runs parallel to the same as Russia's, from declaring NATO obsolete, not objecting to the Russian threats and incursions into Eastern Ukraine, and recognizing Russia's grab of the Crimea.  In fact, the mutual comments between Trump and Putin have been so complimentary that it has been timed a "bromance" of mutual admiration.

Not only is this a major issue in foreign policy, but in calls into question whether Trump can even negotiate with Putin in America's and our alliies' security interests without giving away the store to Russia.  Negotiation means give and take and the question remains what Trump would give away to make a deal. "

Blog posting Feb, 14, 2017
"General Michael Flynn's departure from the White House may have much deeper roots than just his lie to both Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about conversations with the Russian ambassador.  The conflict between the two goes back to the days of the campaign post GOP conventions.  I noted that in a column at that time. In the Vice Presidential debate, Pence parted ways on Russia from  candidate Donald Trump's line.
From my blog posting 10/5/16: (repeated above)
and continues:

"Some background:
 For some time, the question has been why has Donald Trump been so cozy with Russia? There has been a great deal of speculation ranging from Trump's debts to Russia oligarchs to blackmail , the connection with  the Russian Alfa Bank, with embarrassing pictures (a victim of a honey trap).  Fingers have been pointed to influencing Trump's views of Russia was his campaign manager, who departed the campaign mid year, Paul Manafort, who was an advisor to the ousted  president of the Ukraine who sought refuge in Moscow after a coup.  Congressional investigations into Russian influence and hacking  in the US elections are just getting underway.  Ukraine is involved. The Russians have conducted a stealth takeover of the eastern parts of that country and the West punished Russia with economic sanctions.  The Flynn issue involves lies about his pre- January conversations with the Russian ambassador over lifting those sanctions. The question arises was this a thank you for the role Russia played in helping Trump win by planting false news stories and by hacking and revealing damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton.

That there are many concerned about why Donald Trump only ever has kind words for Russia and their president Vladimir Putin, while being critical of even our closest allies and even calling NATO, our mutual defense treaty with Europe, obsolete.  It has set our Eastern Europe members of NATO on edge and one of President Obama's departing actions was to announce the placement of US troops in Poland as a signal to Russia not to mess with our Baltic members.  Trump and others, including libertarians, had already expressed concern about going to war to support the small trio of Baltic nations in spite of their NATO membership. Russians have always seen the Baltics, with their ports to the sea, as part of theirs since there is a large number of Russians living in those areas left over from the old Soviet  military occupations days when the Baltics were their satellites.  Russia has a modus operandi of using "saving discrimination against Russian minorities" as an excuse to grab territory and the Baltics are ripe targets.  Their membership in NATO has made Russia think twice. Ukraine, Crimea, and Georgia, recent targets of Russian grabs, are not part of NATO and are not under NATO's protections.  Flynn was Donald Trump's closest campaign advisor on foreign affairs through out the campaign."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

You can make this stuff up

I posted this below on Sunday, May 14, but the next morning Joe Scarborough (MSNBC Morning Joe) "off the top of his head", came up with a What If...what if Trump was involved in money laundering..since he had already been charged for money laundering by regulatory agencies and paid fines to settle the matter concerning his Atlantic City casinos. He noted real estate and casinos have often been used as the vehicle through which to launder money. If that appears to be the case in the current times, with or without Russian involvement, that kind of accusation would make charges of obstruction of justice pale in comparison. I had in a prior post noted that the Russians would know if money laundering were involved and could use this as a way to "compromise" Trump, making him vulnerable to blackmail and their control.

This totally falls into the category of conspiracy theories, and there is no proof of this happening that is revealed to the public, but if this were the case, as I wrote ast week in the post, Firing Comey the Mother of all Political Bombs, "The unanswered questions. What new evidence could have the FBI found? Would it have been Trump himself actual coordinating with the Russians during the 2016 campaign (aka treason) or that Trump told a lie about his business dealings with the Russians? Was money laundering or financial crimes were involved because a recent request to the Treasury department showed FBI investigators pursuing that angle? Or was Trump himself "compromised", open to blackmail by the Russians? The FBI viewed the investigation as Russian activities that involved espionage (counter intelligence) but not criminal activity, so it is not just matters of lying in sworn testimony or failure to file disclosure of being a foreign agent or failure to fill out a tax return correctly. Or is there something else? This is the time to get Trump's tax returns he has worked so hard to conceal, if the latter is a tree the FBI was barking up. An important clue may be in that. "

. In a blog posting May 13, Is It Time to Talk Impeachment", "What seems to me most likely is that Trump's business dealings with Russia, loans and investments in his businesses, may have compromised Trump himself, opening him to blackmail.  That could also explain his “bromance” with Putin and his campaign advocacy for policies in synch with  Russia’s, denial that there was any Russian interference in 2016 elections in spite of all intelligence agencies testifying to the contrary. It also explains why he as taking been great pains to keep his tax filings secret."

Update 5/19/17: Special prosecutor turns focus to financial dealings:

You can make this stuff up into a who dunnit political conspiracy theory legal issue fiction novel. I am a real fan of John Grisham and I have read nearly every book he has written.  His first breakthrough novel  The Firm   educated the world how money laundering worked and the role off-shore banks played in it.

With great apologies to him, I have come up with a brief outline for his next novel, a sequel to The Firm.

As all fiction writers do, my plot outline is a disclaimer that  the events described here are fake, and any resemblances to people living or dead are fake, too  You can make this stuff up.

A Texas multi -millionaire finds himself in trouble with some business dealings as the 2008 financial  crisis descends on him.  The only money available to borrow to keep from going belly up is in an oil rich country far away.  However, the country had been a one time enemy, but now relations had warmed up, but not enough to make it good PR to do much business with them.  The only thing booming in the world economy is the price of oil, giving that country some serious pocket change to lend out.  The would be lender suggests he gets a loan from another country’s bank, which is still in decent financial shape, and that the oil rich country would then buy the loan from that bank  However to pay it back, the oil rich country has some favors  to ask of of the Texan.  Help them in the future with other deals and always be a friend to the oil rich country. The Texan agrees because he also knows the oil rich country could get him into trouble back home if the deal and future deals were disclosed.   The Texan makes it big; becomes governor, and then through his business dealings abroad he qualifies for international credentials as a expert and becomes secretary of state, appointed by his good friend and past business associate, now President..    Near war breaks out over bordering territory to the oil rich state between the oil rich state and  the US who believes the oil rich state is interfering with US strategic interests and the secretary of state is now in a dilemma, how can he help the oil rich state and the US at the same time and still not have the oil rich state blackmail him into making a settlement that favors the oil rich state.  The only one who knows all of this is the Texan’s son who stumbled on some documents and confronted his father, and they had a huge falling out. The son is about to blow the whistle, The son is also a law school classmate of the usual Grisham character lawyer, slightly shady having done some money laundering defense work for clients, but the son calls the lawyer and asks him to find out what happened He found some copies of strange documents that he cannot decipher.….the novel takes it from there, with the lawyer untangling the question of who done it..suspecting maybe .the oil rich country that didn’t want the relations they were hoping for go south  acting to protect the compromised, blackmailed father. Or maybe the President himself who was part of the original loan deal.  All kinds of agencies get involved, the CIA, the Financial Crimes Bureau of the Treasury Department, and the President himself who hired the Texan, his former business partner, in the first place, not to mention vested interests in international money laundering. Witnesses keep disappearing, or turning up dead. The son disappears, too. Take it from there and have fun, John Grisham ...or are you already writing something like this?

Of course, some times real life and truth are stranger than fiction.

Donald Trump is his own worst enemy in search of voter fraud

Donald Trump is often his own worst enemy. He still has  not gotten over that he did not win the popular vote, so therefore he is insecure that people quetion if  his election was legitimate. He is constantly shooting himself in the foot  by often  bringing up the issue as he tries to justify that the 3 million vote gap was due to "voter fraud" committed by  three million illegial immigrants.

What is truly self defeating is that his opponents, including Hillary Clinton, did not nor does not question whether he was elected legitimately and never challenged it.  There was no effort by anyone to try to unseat him becaue of that.  Instead of letting that issue  lie, he is constantly trying to make the point that he won the popular vote, too. It is just because 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, he claims. . In doing that, he is constantly reminding  the public he lost the popular vote. That in itself is not a good public relations strategy, but it will be an even worse disaster when a "commission" charged with finding those three million pesky immigrants come up with a nothing burger.

In order to seek verification of his suppositions, he has set up a  commission.charged with proving false facts are actually ture.   He is stacking the deck, appointing vice chair  Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach,  the loudest voice in the US asseting  massive voter fraud and advocating ultra strict  voter ID laws. This will not be a true impartial fact finding commissio.  It will be a hunt to find  phantom 3 million illegals who should not have voted that  caused Trump to lose the popular vote.

These claims have already been debunked by such independent bodies as PEW research, and the Brennan Center for Justice, as well as other GOP secretaries of state. Kobach and group will be undertaking a wild goose chase and the results can only be embarrassing. It could also show that Trump indeed lost the popular vote, no matter what he keeps claiming..

If the commission seeks to justify voter suppression laws, they could  be baying at the moon.  Lower courts  have struck down  states'  voter suppression measures  and voter ID laws recently passed in Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, and South Dakota.  Do these strict ID laws suppress minority votes? Studies show they do, with voter participation less than in  states without such restrictive laws. White voter rates were not affected.

 The Supreme Court  May 15 2017 announced it refused to hear the North Carolina law, billed as the worst racially motivated voter law in the US,. The ruling let a lower court finding stand, but the rulling was based not on its merits, but on a messy appeals process. With a GOP dominated Supreme Court, expect the merits of such kinds of legislation to be decided later. The lower court had found the North Carolina  law was specifically designed to hobble Black voters. Some of the provisions aimed to suppress Black votes were ending Sunday early voting, requiring ID's most  Blacks did not have, and reducing early voting hours and places. Those crafting the law had conducted a study of Black voting habits, and then aimed  specific legislation to make it harder for that group to vote.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Is it time to talk impeachment?

Published in all editions of the Sky Hi News  5/19/17
The goings on in Washington, D.C. this past week with the firing of FBI Director James Comey have rekindled the talk of impeachment of a president. Often  in media discussions there have been historical references to the Watergate Scandal, a potentially similar situation , 1972-1974, it resulted in the resignation of Pres. Richard Nixon.. The issue of obstruction of justice could be what the cases have in common.
Unlike Watergate where an actual crime had been committed for which Nixon was charged with a cover up and  obstructing justice,   this year there  has been no  evidence presented to the public that a crime had been committed by a US person. All intelligence agencies do  agree the Russians had interfered in the 2016 elections.   The Trump administration is leaving the impression that it is covering up something and trying to end the Russian investigation quickly by intimidation with threats of and/ or firing and replacing those leading serious investigations with his preferred
picks.. .
For those of us who remember  Watergate and the resignation of Nixon in face of certain impeachment,  the political atmosphere  has the same feel now as it did then in the early stages of Watergate .  The public is on the outside looking in and trying to connect dots, wondering   whether there is no there there as Trump claims.   Or is there is a possibility there is evidence not yet uncovered that could lead to impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump himself? Before impeachment, convincing evidence   must be found that he is  culpable of high crimes and misdemeanors , including obstructing justice by misleading or quashing an investigation. That was the first article of impeachment which brought Nixon down.

Whether or not Trump tried to intimidate FBI Director Comey at a dinner or whether the conversation constituted obstruction of justice sufficient to impeach ,the timing of Comey’s firing  is enough to raise suspicion that there is something damaging there yet to be discovered that could implicate Donald Trump himself. The action of firing Comey is intimidating by itself  to  investigators. It sends the message "if you  show you are not on Trump’s side, you can get fired ".. The investigation last week was at a critical juncture. Grand jury and congressional bodies  investigating the Russian connection began  issuing subpoenas and a report from the Financial Crimes unit of the Treasury department was due to the Senate intelligence committee concerning money laundering,  Trump had already replaced Preet Bharara,  the  federal  district  prosecutor .who had been investigating US and Russian  money laundering activities. The head of the FBI was fired just as he was asking for resources to expand the investigation.

The political reality is that Republicans  control whether impeachment proceedings will happen, since they have the majority in both Houses of Congress and the House initiates impeachment (Indictment) whille the Senate holds the trial and convicts with a 2/3 vote.  The Senate approves the appointments of the Attorney Generaland the FBI. going forward. The Deputy Attorney General , Rod Rosenstein, has now appointed a special counsel to conduct an investigation of the Russian connection, taking the control out of the hands of both the Justice Department and the White House. The Justice Department is the only entity with the power to appoint a special prosecutor.

Who may be other participants in this historical drama?  As in Watergate, it will be a free, courageous  media  and   whistle  blowing Deep Throats  that can contribute their findings.  Voters still wield power at the ballot box with the ability to change the majority in the House in 2018..


What seems to me most likely is that Trump's business dealings with Russia, loans and investments in his businesses, may have compromised Trump himself, opening him to blackmail.  That could also explain his “bromance” with Putin and his campaign advocacy for policies in synch with  Russia’s, denial that there was any Russian interference in 2016 elections in spite of all intelligence agencies testifying to the contrary. It also explains why he as taking been great pains to keep his tax filings secret.

Rachel Madow in her MSNBC show Thursday, May 11, speculated that either Mike Flynn or Paul Manfort could be "flipped" by the FBI to become witnesses of any of Trump's collusion with Russia during the campaign.. They would be in a position to know if such happened.

James Clapper on Jake Tapper's interview Sunday, May 24: "our instutions are under assault by Trump", referring also to checks and balances, and he said he did not even know the FBI had an investigation into the Russian connection or campaign collusion in 2016 until FBI Director Comey verified it before the House committee March 22. In his position of DNI, the focus was not on that issue so he could not attest to whether it was true or not.

Since so much of the news reports about Watergate dribbled out for 2 and a half years, as I lived through those times, I did not fully grasp the significance of the scandal untill I put it all together by reading the book All the President's Men by the investigative reporters who blew upen and reported it. The movie based on the book I found to be a very accurate recounting as desribed in the book by the same name, For those who want a greater understanding, required reading would be the book,

All the President's Men

by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
avaailable on Amazon in a variety of devices and in paper.

and the movie based on the book. it can be streamed with a subscription on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Firing Comey: the mother of all political bombs and an attack on democracy

For whatever reason Trump said he fired Comey, the effect was it could possibly quash the Russian connection investigation that could have been damaging to the administration. .The stench is overwhelming because of the timing .and Trump is acting like a tin-pot dictator.. The rule of law is once again being tossed into the trash pile and no matter to what party one belongs, the basic tenant of our Democracy is under attack. The independence of government entities that could provide independent investigations of the Russian connection has been undermined as Trump purges everyone that could possibly implicate him or his associates.

This is the mother of all political bombs. The fallout is not yet known, but it will not be minor. It impacts both the rule of law and the checks and balances in our Constitution and will go down as a major historical event in our country's history and will determine the course of the Trump presidency.
I am no fan of Comey and he did contribute to Clinton's loss...but the Russian issue now becomes part of the entire picture. Comey's "mistakes" were bi-partisan...harming both Clinton and Trump. The two biggest issues , the Clinton emails and the Russian connection/meddling in the 2016 election are combined into one.

Now who will take over the FBI and will he pursue the Russian connection with integrity.? Congress needs to make sure the investigation to go on and get it into the hand of a special independent prosecutor. Had the investigation gotten too close to finding the damning evidence of the Russian connection? . Now for the special prosecutor.. Heads up.: The President appoints the attorney general (who has recused himself from the Russian issue,though not sure he has recused himself from the Clinton issue), so now the deputy attorney general would appoint the special counsel or prosecutor., if he has the guts to stand up to Trump. Nixon, by the way, fired the special prosecutor. We, people of a , democracy, are not out of the woods, yet, even if a special prosecutor is appointed. The independence and integrity of the FBI is now open to question as is the Jusice Department as Trump purges all those who do not march to his tune. and to divert and thwart investigations of the Russian connection, claiming there is no there there.

The Democrats do not have enough votes in the Senate to force the establishment of an independent prosecutor. A few good GOP men and women are needed to do that, but even then, the independence of a prosecutor appointed by the same Department of Justice person who crafted the Comey firing letter is also in question. The entire burden of any faith in an independent investigation now falls on those GOP senators with the guts to join with the Democrats to find the independent person to conduct the investigative function.

Firing the acting attorney general and now the director of the FBI in the middle of the investigation into the Trump campaign's Russian connection is raising more questions. Sen Chuck Schumer (D NY) pointed out that the Clinton error on the part of Comey that Trump used as an excuse to fire Comey has very suspicious timing since that reason could have been used at the end of January, but is not making as much sense now now. That Trump had praised Comey to the rafters after he disclosed that Clinton's emails were again under scrutiny ten days before the November 16 election, probably reassuring Trump's election, shows an unexplained reversal. If the theory is that Comey was getting close to finding the Russian connection that implicated Trump himself, and that was the real motivation for the timing,
makes more sense.. Comey was scheduled to address a Senate committee in an open session within the next day. Shortly before that that, Comey refused to rule out that Trump was an object of investigation by the FBI in a recent open Senate committee hearing. This contradicts Trump's assertion that Comey had told him the FBI investigtation did not involve him. Perhpas new evidence was found after Comey told Trump he was off the hook.
The unanswered questions. What new evidence could have the FBI found? Would it have been Trump himself actual coordinating with the Russians during the 2016 campaign (aka treason) or that Trump told a lie about his business dealings with the Russians? Was money laundering or financial crimes were involved because a recent request to the Treasury department showed FBI investigators pursuing that angle? Or was Trump himself "compromised", open to blackmail by the Russians? The FBI viewed the investigation as Russian activities that involved espionage (counter intelligence) but not criminal activity, so it is not just matters of lying in sworn testimony or failure to file disclosure of being a foreign agent or failure to fill out a tax return correctly. Or is there something else? This is the time to get Trump's tax returns he has worked so hard to conceal, if the latter is a tree the FBI was barking up. An important clue may be in that.

The next morning after the Comey firing, deputy press secretary, Sarah Sanders, flatly stated that the firing of Comey had nothing to do with the Russian connection, because thre was nothing to the story that Trump had a Russian connection.
If there is no there there, then independent investigations should prove thaose negatives and Trump would be exonerated. So why is Trump and his spokespeple so anxious to declare there is no reason for the investigations to take place.

Since most of the investigations are still in its infancy stages, and Comey verified that the investigation included all actors in the Trump campaign, and not ruling out the President was being investigated that a request the day before was to the financial crims section of the Treasury department, that a grand jury investigation is on going and just issued subpoenas, that an ethics report of the Inspector Genral is not due until next year but is on-going, that the Senate and House have numerous investigations on-going, then that assertion there is no there there holds no water.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The CBO score on Trumpcare:
I am getting sick and tired of the GOP's BS preemptive strike in anticipation of the CBO "score" on the cost and impact of their House Trumpcare bill. Their claim: the CBO is never right, so forget it. Unfortunately for them, the CBO score on Obamacare was actually quite close, though the bottom line on the numbers covered by Obamacare while close did not happen exactly in a way as predicted, partially due to a Supreme Court decision.. Of course, the GOP has no other official "score" and that is the one the public accepted. They should be called out for their deception and challenged to present equally non-partisan, official figures.    CBO score on House final version; 23 million uninsured, and 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Trumpcare shifts to the Senate and Colorado senator Cory Gardner is in the hotseat

A version of this appeared in all editions of the Sky Hi News 5/10/17

With a narrow vote, the GOP dominated House of Representatives threw  their version of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Trumpcare to the Senate.  Colorado’s GOP Senator Cory Gardner will be facing voters  again in 2020.  He is one of a GOP committee of thirteen men crafting the Senate version. Women were the largest group  harmed by the House version.

If Gardner can take comfort that voters may forget how he voted in on Trumpcare with any Senate alterations in 2017 or 2018,  he should dream on because   the  full impact will  be seen clearly for what it does  since it will be fully implemented and  painfully and personally felt around  2020.  It is not only a pocket book issue, it is a matter of life and death for those  harmed by the House Trumpcare version,  including  women, the over 50 crowd, lower middle class, the poor, the near poor, those with pre-existing conditions. All  with employer provided insurance are at risk, as well.. Over  400,000 in Colorado alone would lose their health insurance in ten years.  Rural hospitals and urban charity hospitals would lose  many paying customers, causing some to close.
The most damaging hit on Colorado  is that funding for  Medicaid expansion under Obamacare would be eliminated.  With Obamacare  Medicaid  qualifications were loosened to cover those who fell in the crack between qualifying tor  traditional Medicaid and their an  income level needed to pay for the lowest subsidized premiums.   Colorado  could  vote to restore the loss of Medicaid expansion  at the cost to taxpayers of $15 billion over ten years. That is how significant this loss to the state and our families would be.

With the House Trumpcare bill. 22% of Colorado adults  with  the most conservative definition of pre-existing conditions could be dumped into a “high risk” pool. So inadequately would those pools be  funded  under the House version that the premiums would have to be raised to the point of being unaffordable to make up the difference. In any case  women could be charged more than men again for  coverage of their special services, from pre-natal to maternity care, cancer screenings, mammograms, birth control pills,  assuming those benefits would even  be offered. All guarantees  of  such benefit inclusion were removed in  the House Trumpcare bill.

Winners could  be premium reductions for some , especially men under 50 with no pre-existing conditions . The  greatest beneficiaries are the  wealthy  who saw Obamacare taxes on them of $300 billion  eliminated and some health care providers who were relieved of another $300 billion in taxes.  No one will be required to have insurance and employers will not be required to provide it or to include essential benefits  or coverage of pre-existing conditions if they do.

In 2018, all members of the House of Representatives will be up for re-election.  In 2017 if not later, all will get another bite at their poisonous Trumpcare apple because the Senate and the House versions will go to a conference committee. The result of that melding will be voted upon by the House and Senate again . Keep your eyes on the following GOP Representatives  in Congress  who voted for the House Trumpcare bill this month: Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck, and  Scott Tipton.  GOP Rep. Mike Coffman and all Democrats voted no, including Grand County’s  Representative Jared Polis.

The sources for these figures and analyses follow..