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.

One-Liner Wednesday: in/competence

“Competent people go in one of a few directions. But incompetence is infinite.”
~~~ David Brooks  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/the-coming-incompetence-crisis.html
*****
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Eighth anniversary of the ACA shootings

Three years ago, I wrote the post below. Sadly, it is even more relevant today on the eighth anniversary, with so many expressing animus against immigrants and refugees in the United States and in Europe. Here in the Binghamton, New York area, ACA stands for not only the Affordable Care Act but also the American Civic Association. Today, we remember in a special way all those who died or who were injured that day and re-commit to welcoming immigrants and refugees to our communities.

Fifth Anniversary of the ACA shootings

Last night, when the news broke about the shooting at Fort Hood, the first thought many people had was “not again.” Not again at Fort  Hood, and not again in general.

The timing was especially poignant for those of us in the Binghamton NY area, because today marks the fifth anniversary of the American Civic Association shootings, in which fourteen people died, including the mentally ill gunman, and four were wounded.

Despite the tragic loss of life, the ACA shooting is usually not present in the list of mass shootings that gets recited in the media when the next horrible shooting comes along. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Aurora. Newtown. Fort Hood.

I am not saying that we should not be remembering these other mass shootings. We should, and we should be doing more to avert similar deaths and injuries in the future.

What I do find disturbing is that so many have forgotten about the ACA tragedy. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why.

I am afraid that the primary reason is that the gunman and most of the dead were immigrants. Most of them were gathered in one of the American Civic Association’s classrooms, taking a class to improve their English skills, when they were shot. They were from Vietnam, China, Pakistan, Iraq, Haiti, Brazil, The Philippines. Two were in Binghamton as visiting scholars. Others had been resettled in the area as refugees. The ACA is well-known in the area as a gathering place for immigrants to study English or prepare for citizenship tests. Several of those who were shot were employees or volunteers who had embraced this important mission. Somehow, though nearly all of us in the United States are descended from immigrants or are immigrants ourselves, the story of the ACA shootings did not embed itself into our minds as have some of the other tragedies that took place in schools or other public settings. I’m sorry to say that I think people see themselves or their grand/children as being just like those gathered in an elementary school or at a movie theater, but that they don’t see themselves as people from a different country, with a different skin color, speaking with an accent, working toward citizenship.

Five years on, I don’t want these people to have been forgotten. I want them to be remembered – and to be remembered as neighbors, as members of our community, as people like us.

 

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.

 

Making Art in the Age of Trump

This resonates with me. Thank you, Nancy, for your writing and your witness as we make our way in these troubled and troubling times.

Source: Making Art in the Age of Trump

the privilege of (private) mistakes

We all make mistakes.

After the problem at the Oscars last night, mistakes are in the news, so I have been thinking about mistakes a lot today.

Most of us lead our lives in a small, mostly private sphere. When I make a mistake, it is usually straightforward to correct it and move on.

I’d hate to think of what my posts would look like if I couldn’t correct my mistakes…

A simple mistake of handing someone the wrong envelope last night led to a few minutes of confusion before the situation was corrected, but having millions of people viewing that mistake must have made it very difficult for those involved.

Still, the solution was fast and there was no lasting damage.

Other mistakes are not so easy to rectify.

Last night, 60 Minutes was re-showing a segment on people who have been exonerated after long prison sentences. Such grievously mistaken convictions are not so easy to rectify. Some states try to award money to the person, while others don’t even do that. Still, no amount of money can replace decades of lost life with family and friends, a chance for a career or for building a family, being able to choose what to eat and where to travel, to have contact with others on a regular basis, all the stuff that we take for granted as we build our adult lives.

One man, exonerated by ballistics testing after thirty years in prison, made his first stop after being released his mother’s grave. Nothing could ever replace the precious time he lost, locked away from her.

One of my current worries is mistakes from the White House, which can have massive consequences.

For example, mistakes with the executive order on immigrants and refugees sent some people back to dangerous situations. A mistake made in international relations could even lead to armed conflict.

People who are in positions of public authority don’t share the luxury that I have of making – and correcting – mistakes in private. Therefore, they must be particularly diligent to be thoughtful and considered in everything they say and do.

The new administration is not there yet.

SoCS: How?

“How is this going to turn out?” may be one of the most frequently asked questions in the United States these days.

Most often the answer is “I don’t know.”

There is a certain comfort in routine and predictability. but DT is proving to be about as predictable as a two-year-old.

I wake up in the morning and put on the news and am relieved if there isn’t a “Breaking News” caption splashed across the bottom of the screen.

It’s so confusing that every time DT says or does something, the Vice-President or a Cabinet Secretary or spokesperson explains that isn’t really what he meant.

It’s even worse with the tweets.

I can’t keep this level of adrenaline or cortisol flooding my body for the next four years.

We’ll manage, I guess, but I’m not sure how.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week is “how.” Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/02/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-2517/

 

 

Poem: Beatitudes

Beatitudes
~~~by Joanne Corey

The priest took a risk in his homily,
asking the President to look
again at the refugee ban,
before a conservative congregation
who thought the Sermon on the Mount
was meant only for long-ago Jews;
the poor and hungry,
those searching for justice and peace
have nothing to do with them,
secure in their homes
with well-stocked kitchens,
their children safe
in schools with locked doors.

Who is my neighbor?
Who is my brother or sister?
Questions as ancient
as Cain and Abel,
confined within church walls.

Still, a faithful few
go forth,
march,
chant,
pray,
demand justice,
give shelter,
        food,
        clothing,
        sanctuary,
dare to be Christian
and American.

Note:  Thanks to Sappho’s Circle and the Grapevine Group for their help with this poem. I decided to share it here as it is related to current events and doesn’t have a long shelf life.

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.

Patriots never quit

Although I am not really a football fan, our family watched the Super Bowl last night. As a native of New England, I was hoping for a Patriots win.

It didn’t look good for a long while, as the Falcons took a commanding lead, larger than any that had ever been overcome in Super Bowl history.

But the Patriots fought back to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation play and scored a touchdown in the first drive of overtime to win their fifth Super Bowl under current ownership, coach, and quarterback.

I woke up this morning thinking that patriots always fight back.

They do not quit.

And, eventually, despite the odds against them, they prevail.

It gives me hope that, despite the attempts of DT’s administration to dismantle or side-step our Constitutional rights, the balance of power among the three branches of government, and checks and balance, we patriots of 2017 will prevail, as have patriots since 1776.

And the reigning Super Bowl champions.