Senate shenanigans

While we have been dealing with our own family health issues, I have also been keeping my eye on the sorry spectacle unfolding in Congress.

Last week, the Senate Republicans made public their version of a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. It was drafted by a small group of the most conservative male red-state Republican Senators, without hearings, public debate, the input of health care experts, and contributions of the other 87 Senators, who are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

The bill would cut Medicaid over time, raise deductibles, decrease the comprehensive nature of insurance, increase premiums, make insurance unaffordable for millions of people, and give massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.  It faces major opposition from doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurers, public health organizations and advocates, and the general public.

Still, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans a vote on the bill this week. It seems that the main reason is to have the first major piece of legislation enacted in the new administration, not to actually improve medical care access or affordability for the American people.

One of the things that has been most annoying is the Republican members of Congress and some pundits and reporters who equate the current process on this healthcare bill to the process that produced the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act was passed after almost a year of public discussion, numerous Congressional committee hearings, expert testimony, amendments from both Democrats and Republicans, Congressional debate, floor votes, the creation of a bill to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions, and a final round of voting with met the 60 vote total in the Senate to avoid filibuster.

Contrast this with the current Republican bill, which was written behind closed doors by a small group of Republicans. There are no hearings, plans for only limited debate, and the invocation of budget bill rules which make it impossible to filibuster.

There are two Republican Senators who are opposing the bill because it will hurt their constituents and other Americans. Four other Senators oppose it as not conservative enough. After the Congressional Budget Office analysis came out yesterday, with projections of 22 million people losing coverage and costs skyrocketing especially for those with low incomes and those who are in their late fifties to mid-sixties. there is hope that Senator McConnell will pull the bill or, at least, slow down the process to allow for more debate and revision and to put the bill under regular order instead of trying to reform healthcare through the budget process.

Many of us are inundating our Senators with pleas to protect and improve our healthcare. We’ll see if they listen.

Writer Beat comment

My recent post on the US, the Paris accord, and climate change was picked up by Autumn of Writer Beat and republished here. Due to personal circumstances, I have been remiss in answering comments, but I was up early today and baby ABC was asleep so I managed to put together a response. I urge you to visit the Writer Beat post to read the comments to which this response was written – and to check out the site which has many, many interesting posts from a range of bloggers.
*****
I wanted to share this link which has one of the best explanations of climate change/global warming I have ever read, compiled by knowledgeable scientists.

In terms of social responsibility, I truly appreciate the visions and insights of Pope Francis. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, he describes an integral ecology, which includes both care for creation (the environment) and care for people, especially those most vulnerable. One of the advantages of renewable energy is that it is often produced locally, eliminating the need for long-range distribution grids and powering other development needs.

A real-world example is a project in conjunction with my county’s community college and a remote village in Haiti. Solar panels with battery storage power a pump for a community water well for safe drinking water and a modern bathroom near the church and school. The community has started a garden to grow staple crops to feed the schoolchildren. Solar ovens are allowing the cooks to bake extra goods for sale to people in the village. LED lighting, which does not need much electricity to operate, allows the children to gather at the church and school to do homework in the evenings. Adults and children are able to use computers. Communication can be accomplished with cellular networks rather than by hardwire.

Climate change impacts are felt most acutely by those who are most vulnerable economically. Drought; collapse of native crops, fisheries, and wildlife; coastal, river, and flash flooding; and other climate and severe weather related problems disproportionately affect populations least able to defend against them. We are already seeing conflicts arise over water and other resources. Access to water and/or fossil fuels underlies many of the conflicts in the Middle East and in Africa. Natural gas transport is the subtext for the Russian land grab in Ukraine. The problems in Venezuela are connected to economic dependence on oil.

My personal viewpoint is that the United States, as one of the largest current greenhouse gas producers and historically the largest total greenhouse gas producer, should help people at home and abroad to deal with the effects of climate change as a moral responsibility. Doing so would not impoverish the wealthy or our country. We can re-prioritize our spending, especially in taking some of our current military budget and putting it toward human needs. Our military leaders have been speaking out for some time about the dangers that climate change poses to world stability and have been big advocates for using renewable energy as much as possible when they are in action. It makes sense to redirect some of the military budget to helping population around the world deal with climate change, hunger, water scarcity, pollution, sea level rise, and other problems, both because it is the just and moral course and because it will reduce causes of military conflict.

SoCS: weather (and climate)

Whether you live in a city or a town or more rural area, weather always seems to be a topic of conversation.

For example, at my recent college reunion (which – shameless plug – you can read about here and here and here), we talked a lot about rain. Our commencement thirty-five years ago had had to be moved indoors due to rain, which limited attendance to only two people per graduate and caused all manner of disruption. (This was before the construction of the spacious indoor track and tennis facility that would now be used if weather forced a move indoors.) We have also had some remarkably rainy reunions. This year, we had lots of rain on Thursday and Friday, but Saturday was lovely for our parade, outdoor meeting, and evening illumination of campus.

Some people still confuse weather and climate, though, which is very frustrating. Yesterday, I posted about the US and the Paris climate agreement.  I have written a lot about climate over the years, which grew out of being a New York fracktivist. I and millions of other US climate activists will continue to do our part in accomplishing our country’s climate commitments and supporting other countries as they implement their own goals.

We need to protect our planet and people from the worst ravages of climate change and from one of its components, an increase in severe weather.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “whether/weather.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/06/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-317/

 

The US and climate

I did not want to have to write this post.

I listened with dismay to DT’s Rose Garden address yesterday, astonished at the level of misunderstanding of climate science, domestic and international economics, and the Paris climate agreement in evidence.

While the president made it seem that the United States is immediately leaving the Paris accord, that is not the case. There is a three year period starting in November, 2016 during which no signatory may exit the agreement. The one-year period in which the separation would occur can’t start until then, so the earliest date that the United States could officially leave would be Nov. 4, 2020, the day after our next presidential election. A lot can happen in three and a half years and my hope is that the United States will never officially withdraw from the Paris agreement.

Even without the federal government’s leadership, many of the states, cities, companies, and individuals in the US will be continuing reductions in carbon emissions and promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Over sixty mayors of large cities declared their intention to follow the climate agreement. The governors of New York, California, and Washington have started an initiative for states to continue working on their clean energy goals. Many companies, large and small, are committed to renewable energy sources for their operations. Many families, like mine, are weatherizing their homes, using energy efficient appliances and lighting, buying solar panels, and driving hybrid or all-electric vehicles like our Chevy Bolt.

The majority of the people of the United States believe in the Paris accord and will continue to work alongside the nations of the world to combat climate change. I hope we will soon return to official federal-level participation. It would not be the first time that the administration has had to backpedal after an unwise decision.

Coming home to Comey news

Because I was out yesterday evening at Bruce Borton’s retirement party, I was blissfully unaware of the news about the firing of FBI Director Comey for several hours until I returned home to hours of breaking news coverage.

In the United States, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is appointed and confirmed for a ten year term in order to insulate the FBI from political pressures. While one past director was removed after a lengthy review process for violating policy, this is the first time that an FBI director has been summarily fired with no notice.

The stated reason is that Director Comey violated policy by revealing information last July and subsequently about the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. You can read the letter from the Deputy Attorney General here. I am not disputing that this was wrong. The irony is that Donald Trump touted Comey’s revelations on the campaign trail and paid him compliments on his bravery, all while his crowds were chanting, “Lock her up!” Are we really supposed to believe that the President fired Director Comey for behavior that he lauded for months?

Certainly, the timing and suddenness of the firing are suspicious. The administration did not even have the courage to fire Comey to his face. He literally saw the news on television before he was told.

My fear, which is shared by millions of Americans, is that Comey was fired in an attempt to derail the FBI investigation into Russian interference in US electoral process and governance. I have been alarmed about this for months now, and the alarm bells are ringing more loudly all the time.

I hope that there will be an independent commission to fully investigate this issue. The Congressional inquiries are hobbled by political divisions. The Attorney General has had to recuse himself, although he was also supposed to be recused about the Clinton email investigation but somehow was in on Comey’s firing over it. The future of the FBI investigation is now uncertain.

We deserve to know the truth about who was involved with Russian hacking and interference, either wittingly or unwittingly. Our national sovereignty and the integrity of our government are at stake.

Update on May 12, 2017:  The President said in an interview yesterday that he had already decided to fire Director Comey before meeting with the Justice Department officials, so the idea that he was being fired because of the Clinton investigation is bogus. Also, he said in the interview that the Russia investigation was connected to the Comey decision.

SoCS: interference

Late in the night, about an hour before the media blackout before the French election, a lot of the documents from the Macron campaign, mixed with some false documents, were dumped onto the internet. Four minutes before the blackout, the Macron campaign put out a statement, but the media is not allowed to distribute or discuss it.

It looks like this was caused by the same Russian-backed agency that interfered in the US election last year.

These attacks on democracy need to be recognized as cyber-warfare. No one other than the French people, full informed with facts, should be determining the outcome of their election. No one other than the United States people should be determining the outcome of the US election. We know that their was interference from Russia in our last election and we are dealing with the dire consequences.

NO foreign interference! NO “alternative facts”!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is  inter-. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-617/

 

SoCS: on our yard and climate

Unlike many people in our area, we keep our yard as natural as we can. No pesticides or herbicides. Big shade trees on the south side of the house – maple, oak, cherry, and ash. a few bushes – lilac, rhododendron, forsythia. We do have a mowed lawn; going full meadow wouldn’t be allowed by our town, but along with the grasses, there are wild strawberries, violets, daisies, and, of course, dandelions. There are animals – squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and the occasional skunk – and lots of birds – chickadees, nuthatches, bluejays, mourning doves, several kinds of finches and woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, and, this time of year, robins. At the moment, a robin is building a nest on the bend of the downspout near the back door.

This has been a good year for our forsythia. It is usually a bit anemic. We inherited it when we bought the house and have a suspicion that it was actually a variety that was more suited to a warmer zone. Lately, it seems to have more good years for blossoms than bad. It’s probably not a coincidence, as the climate is warming and growing zones shift.
IMG_20170429_093816815

Of course, this is a particularly appropriate day to talk about climate change, as there are many climate change awareness marches happening today, here in the US and around the world. I wish that I were able to be in Washington DC for the main US march. There are people from my area who boarded a bus at 3ish in the morning to get there to participate.

I will be joining them in spirit. I have been writing, studying, protesting, lobbying, etc. on phasing out fossil fuels, banning fracking, increasing renewable energy quickly, and combating climate change and greenhouse gases’astronomical rise for many years now. With the current administration, we are redoubling, tripling, quadrupling, or exponentially raising our efforts.

If we are wrong on climate policy and the effects of climate change roll on out of control, people will die unnecessarily. Coastal populations and those living in poverty are most vulnerable. There are already climate refugees. Some island nations are under threat of losing their land entirely. Even in the US, there are already some people needing to be relocated due to rising sea levels.

We are all in this together. Every single person throughout the world. The heaviest burdens financially in the cleanup efforts, and mitigation, and relocation, and all the other effects of climate change, should be borne by the countries and companies who were enriched by exploiting fossil fuels beyond what the environment and climate could absorb. Developing economies don’t need to follow the fossil fuel pattern of the industrialized countries. They can build up their communities using renewable and energy-efficient technologies and the wealthier countries must help them to do that.

When Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, he addressed all people and called for an integral ecology that would aid the natural world and human communities, with special emphasis on aiding the most vulnerable people and environments. Many people of all spiritual traditions and those who do not follow any faith path have joined together in this endeavor. One-hundred ninety-five countries signed onto the Paris climate accord. Each pledged to all the others to implement goals to combat climate change, help the environment, and support people, especially those most at risk. Progress is being made and many places are reaching beyond their stated goals to effect further greenhouse gas reductions.

We are already feeling the effects of climate change in increased severe weather, droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, and species extinctions. Even if the US government unwisely abandoned its promises in Paris, many of our states and localities, our companies, and our citizens and residents will keep going, moving forward with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and preparing our towns and cities for emergencies.

We will continue to march on, literally and figuratively.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “yard.”  Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/04/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-apr-2917/