SoCS: US news

All or nothing tends to be the reaction to watching news coverage in the US these days.

Either people are glued to the breaking news and twists and turns of the current government or studiously avoiding the news.

One facebook friend was discussing this on her timeline this week. She is a “watcher.” She says it is like watching a train wreck; she can’t turn away.

Other friends, who used to watch the news on a regular basis, are taking a mental health break. They are avoiding the news because it is causing too much stress.

I am in the “watching” camp because I am trying to stay on top of developments so I can continue to write to elected officials on a variety of topics of concern. It is stressful, though, especially with the stresses of everyday life in addition.

Who knows? At some point, I may switch over to “nothing.”
*****
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays! This week’s prompt was “all or nothing.” Details here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/19/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-2017/

 

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.

US health care update

While I write about US political issues sometimes, I haven’t been recently, not because there hasn’t been a lot to write about, but because there has been too much – and not enough time, as I have been dealing with multiple family health issues.

I can’t bring myself to try to elucidate the increasingly alarming tangle of DT’s campaign, transition, and administration with Russian government and oligarchs, Cypriot banks, Turkey, surveillance, investigations, and the firing of justice officials, but I do want to comment on the failure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal.

The ACA has been an important law that has had a positive effect on my family and on many millions of Americans. We have all benefited from provisions that all insurance cover a suite of important health care provisions without deductible and copayments, that there be no annual or lifetime caps on coverage, and that pre-existing conditions must be covered. While premiums have increased as projected, the rate of increase has been lower than in the years before the ACA and the subsidies based on income have kept pace with the premium increases to keep insurance affordable for most people.

There have been some problems, the biggest being the gap caused when some states chose not to expand Medicaid eligibility as designed in the original legislation, a provision that was overturned by the Supreme Court. This left low-income folks in those states without a path to get subsidies for their insurance.

If Congress had been functional, the ACA would have been amended to deal with the various problems and to enhance the programs for the benefit of the public, as happened with other large programs, such as Social Security.

However, Congress has not been functional for years. The Republican leadership has refused to bring bipartisan legislation up for a vote, deciding that the ACA should be repealed in its entirety. Instead of enacting fixes and enhancements, the House voted dozens of times to repeal the ACA, a meaningless gesture as it would not pass the Senate and be signed by the President.

With DT’s inauguration and the Republicans in the majority in both houses of Congress, many of us feared that the ACA would be repealed and a more expensive and less extensive health care insurance program be put in its place.

The bill that was proposed was even worse than we had feared, with projections that 24 million people would lose insurance coverage, even more than were without coverage before the ACA.

And then it got worse, due to wrangling among the Republicans. Even the essential benefits were put on the chopping block.

The people had not been silent during this whole debate. Congressional offices, which had already been flooded with calls, visits, town hall attendance, emails, letters, faxes, postcards, and the occasional delivery of pizza or baked goods with a message attached, experienced even higher volumes of contact, with pro-ACA messages outnumbering repeal/replace messages by margins of hundreds or thousands to one.

DT got involved, pressuring House members to vote yes. The vote, scheduled for Thursday, which was the seventh anniversary of the signing of the ACA by President Obama, was postponed until Friday morning, then Friday afternoon.

Then, at the time it was supposed to begin the voting process, the announcement came that the bill had been pulled.

There was a huge sigh of relief.

And a cloud of uncertainty.

The best outcome at this point would be for Congressional committees to consult with health care providers and policy experts to craft repairs and enhancements for the ACA to benefit public health and well-being and to pass those amendments into law.

Which many of us have been advocating for years.

Maybe the Republicans will finally cooperate in this process.

We, the people, will continue to demand that they do.

 

a visit to a congressional office (door)

I had wanted to write last week about political developments, including the resignation of DT’s national security adviser, the failure of Republican leaders in Congress to step up to investigate the relationship between DT’s campaign/administration and Russia, the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as EPA chief, and DT’s bizarre press conference and continued attacks on the free press, which should be guaranteed by the US Constitution.

I couldn’t muster the energy to do it.

This morning, I attended a monthly meeting of the Catholic Peace Community, where we discussed a community health care town hall being held this evening. Our member of Congress has been invited to attend, but there has been no indication that she will do so.

She is a Tea Party Republican and wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I had already written to her about the ACA, asking that it be retained and improved, not repealed. Her reply to my letter was somewhat disingenuous, faulting the ACA for not solving problems that it was not designed to solve in the first place.  She also did not give concrete ideas on how a replacement plan would work.

Before the meeting, I had seen a post on Facebook about the town hall which gave the location of her new local office, which I shared with the people at the meeting. After we finished, I proceeded downtown to the new office, to ask that the Representative attend the town hall and to share my further thoughts on health care.

It was a bit difficult to locate the office. There was no listing on the directory, no arrow pointing down the appropriate hallway, and no sign on the door, although I knew it was the right place because there was a Congressional seal on the wall beyond the glass door.

The lights were on, but the door was locked.

Not having any idea how long it would be before someone returned and not wanting to waste a visit, I found a bench, pulled out some paper from my pocketbook, and composed a several-paragraph-long note.

I walked back to the office and slipped my note under the still-locked door.

When I returned home, there was a phone message from one of the staff members, so at least I know that my message was received.

Whether it, along with the opinions of many, many others in our district, has any impact on her Congressional votes remains to be seen.

activism refresher

Yesterday, I was able to attend two events that were updated but familiar.

First, I went to a presentation on sustainability in our area, hosted by SUNY BEST. Four speakers talked about different aspects of sustainability, including community revitalization, energy, and building/infrastructure.

My favorite presentation was by Amelia LoDolce of VINES (Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments). Daughter T was involved with this cause before it became a formal organization and I was thrilled to hear about how it has grown and all the good work it is doing and planning to do in the future. Their projects include community gardens, an urban farm in Binghamton which increases the availability of fresh produce for low- to moderate-income folks, youth employment, and educational outreach for schools and community.

It was nice to reconnect with some of the people that I met during the fight against fracking in New York. We have been hard at work continuing to fight against new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure projects, as well as advocating for renewable energy and increased efficiency. Still, we don’t see each other as often as we used to in the days of frequent rallies…which leads to…

I left the presentation and proceeded to a press conference/rally at Senator Schumer’s local office, part of a coordinated effort around New York State. Senator Schumer is now the Minority Leader in the Senate, so he is vital to leading the opposition to DT’s agenda. We stood outside in the cold and snow to get our message out. Speakers called on Senator Schumer to vote against several of DT’s appointees. There were several speakers who talked about environmental concerns, particularly about Scott Pruitt’s nomination as EPA chief. We were happy that one of Senator Schumer’s staff members came and spoke to us; she passed out two-page documents that had quotes from Senator Schumer’s press releases of which nominees he is opposing and the reasons for his opposition. It was nice to be acknowledged and to know that the Senator is doing what he can to protect our rights and our environment.

Today, I finished watching a video of the Washington Women’s March. Daughter T and I participated in the Binghamton March. It is encouraging that so many people are banding together to fight for social and environmental justice. The people and groups are diverse, but we are stronger together as we support one another in these tumultuous times.

 

doomed to repeat history – or just doomed?

I haven’t been using most of the (optional) prompts that have been provided for Just Jot It January, but I will start off using today’s, which is history.

It begs the question, “Does DT know/understand any history?”

If he did, would he be spouting the slogan “America First” which has disturbing connotations from the World War II era?

Would he have signed an order to ban Syrian refugees on Holocaust Remembrance Day, inviting comparisons to the shameful and cruel turning away of Jewish refugees trying to flee Hitler?

Does he understand the separation of powers in the United States Constitution? In some instances at the airports, executive branch personnel refused to carry out the order of federal judges. There will be numerous lawsuits filed challenging the legality of the executive order. US immigration law prohibits discrimination due to national origin, which this executive order clearly violates.

It also disturbs me that DT reneged on the promises made to visa, refugee, and green card applicants. A local example: A staff member at my parents’ retirement community is a long-time US resident and green card holder. He planned to leave in a few days to visit family in Iraq. Now, he won’t be able to go. Even if he can get to the Consulate, which is several hours away, and is granted a waiver, he may be leery of leaving the country because the administration has already shown that they are not honoring his green card as equal to that of someone from France or China – or Saudi Arabia, the country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists originated.

I have written often about my fear of Trump, which I am trying to mobilize into energy to fight for social and environmental justice in the face of his threats and actions.  These last two days make it even more difficult to not be afraid. Does DT think that he is above the laws of the United States? Does he think he makes the laws? The legislative and judicial branches need to assert their independent authority, as our system is designed. Sadly, only a few Congressional Republicans have spoken out against the executive orders on immigration.

Again, people power has been a source of hope. Protesters appeared at the airports where travellers were being detained despite their having valid visas and passports. Lawyers skilled in civil rights, Constitutional law, and immigration law rushed to help the affected people and filed emergency suits to keep them from being deported.

And this is only the second week of the administration.

I feel like a firefighter who is being summoned to multiple locations at the same time.

So much work to be done. So many people to try to protect.

Not knowing whence the next alarm comes.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/29/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-29th17/

jjj-2017

 

SoCS: What would you do?

People sometimes ask themselves, “What would you do if…?”

We in the United States are now getting the answer to to those hypotheticals when it comes to questions of what we would did if our liberties, rights, and Constitutional protections were threatened.

The answer is “We organize and fight!”

I don’t mean fighting in a physical sense; we are fighting non-violently. We are marching, calling and writing our members of Congress and the president, getting the word out in traditional and social media, and working through established organizations.

One of the heartening things to me is that we are helping each other with various causes, even if we are not directly affected by them.

I have been involved with various organizations for environmental and social justice for years. Most of them would co-ordinate with some other closely related organizations within their areas of interest, such as environmental or health care causes, but not think about other areas, such as racial justice or poverty. Now, everyone is pitching in to help any injustice that appears.

We are all in this together.

It isn’t easy and how effective we will be is unknown, as these are early days.

But we must keep at it to ensure our rights and the fate of our nation.

There is an old story about not speaking out when “they” (meaning the authorities in an authoritarian country) came for the members of this group and that group because the narrator is not a member of those groups. When they come for the narrator, there is no one left to speak up for him.

We are not making that mistake.

And for that I am grateful.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is wood/would. Join us for SoCS and/or Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-and-jusjojan-jan-2817/