The Slow Death of Obamacare

Posted May 5, 2017 on 2:36 pm | In the category Healthcare, Politics, Press, Taxes, TRUMP, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Trumpcare isn’t a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a transfer from the sick and poor to the rich and healthy.” – Robert Reich

The near death of Obamacare, long prayed for by Tea Partiers and Republicans arrived yesterday in the House of Representatives, but once again a stupid, useless bill from the Paul Ryan Chamber of Horrors will most likely suffer a slow, painful, disappearance in the Senate. As for Potentate Trump – this victory will not satisfy him, because nothing really satisfies him other than a standing ovation, which he will not get for this atrocity.

The Republican members of the House of Representatives voted yesterday for a bill that will make health insurance too expensive for those with pre-existing conditions and others including those older Americans not yet on Medicare, while lying about the actualities of the bill. This is obviously a time for the American press to do its job. Report the facts and tell the truth.

The plan is a classic trump “deal”, promise and renege. Trump’s history of not paying for services is well known and well reported. Bankruptcies and simply refusing to pay for services rendered is the playbook of a petty crook and thug – well documented – joined in this instance by Paul Ryan in applying this tried and true Trumpian approach to scamming people – this time out of their health care. In joining forces with Trump, Ryan is learning from the master scammer. A recent obvious example is Trump University which had to pay out $25 Million to scammed students.  There is a useful and entertaining catalog of his scandals and scams in a recent issue of the  Atlantic, which can be found here.

Here is how this scam works – for those with pre-existing conditions – like cancer, diabetes, birth defects, (even pregnancy!) etc. , insurance companies no longer would have to accept them at normal insurance costs, but the federal government would provide some financial assistance to those states that develop high risk pools to help cover the costs associated with insuring these people. There is absolutely no question that the amount of money in the bill is inadequate to cover such costs but those mythical “moderate” Republicans felt they had sufficient cover to vote for it.

In Republican America that is all that is required – sufficient cover to allow a vote that is inexcusably dishonest and venal. And what are the chances of states like Kansas and Wisconsin providing that kind of support? How about zero.

It is no longer a reasonable expectation that Republican Representatives will vote on reason, facts or the good of the country. But as long as the Senate avoids drinking the Kool Aid it remains a meaningless vote. Ryan’s crew may think they have fulfilled their wildest dreams, might need to change their pajamas, and can go home to their districts and boast that they voted to screw several million people out of health insurance. Witness the bizarre, obscene celebration at the White House yesterday afternoon.

This really is a time for the press to step up and explain to their readers/listeners just what it all means: That the losers are: the poor, the middle class, the old, Planned Parenthood, state governments, hospitals, medical professionals, people with pre-existing conditions, and veterans.

The winners include: the rich, who get a nearly $600 billion tax break by reducing healthcare taxes that primarily affect the wealthiest 10%, insurance companies who can now charge 5X for premiums for older people, and of course, Congressmen/women, who are exempt from the rules of the bill. A good analysis of the financial aspects of the bill is provided by Robert Reich.

Pressure now lies on the Senate to prove that America has not gone totally insane. I’m not recommending anyone bet on that; save your money for your increased healthcare costs.

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Don’t blame Trump – He’s just doing what he said he would, and he’s doing it with the class you expected

Posted February 1, 2017 on 10:11 pm | In the category Election, TRUMP, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now let’s wait a second.  All  of the decisions of Donald Trump in the last two weeks that are now being met with anger and derision by hundreds of thousands of marchers in the USA, many of whom didn’t feel like voting,  were long public  and cannot be a surprise.  These proposals  were thumped home in raucous fashion by the new President all across the country for months before the election.  There is certainly good reason to  be outraged by them, and  that is at least also partly because of the brutality and the amateurishness in which they have now been delivered.  The apparently spontaneous and unorganized travel restrictions placed on Moslems of seven countries that  the president doesn’t like, and the way it was announced and commented upon by a neanderthalean Press Secretary may be beyond any pale.  And the treatment of the President of neighbour Mexico also takes some kind of cake for arrogant boorishness and non-neighbourliness.  But the actual contents were  made clear long ago.

So didn’t anybody vote  for that programme?  Well, yes,  it turns out somewhere around 60 million Americans did vote for that, even if you don’t know any of them.  That’s a lot of Yanks who are not protesting.  That’s democracy for you and as the greatest troubadour of our times, Leonard Cohen, now safely buried on the peaceful north side of the border, wrote and sang not so long ago – “Democracy is coming  to theUSA”.  So get used to it and now get your act together and make sure it can”t happen again in four years time.

 

 

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And the winner is

Posted May 2, 2016 on 4:45 pm | In the category Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

So what happens next?  Even CNN, the great publicizer of the complete outsider Donald Trump, will discover  that this story  has run out of steam and they will have great difficulty pushing that revved-up political locomotive onto the summer timetable.   The problem is that the main event has already been completed and there is really little  excitement to rev up on how Indiana, or any other last-minute primary state, might vote in the primaries from now on.  Bernie Sanders put in a splendid race for a very long time, but in the end he has no chance of winning this marathon against the too-well connected and experienced front runner, Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump was a newspaper person’s delight in the beginning for putting together  an  amazingly unpredictable sprint  that put him way ahead of his rivals, and left  him on track to continue to pull ahead after the  sprinting should have been history.  He will certainly cross the finish line well ahead of  a catastrophically weak field of supposed  favourites, who had no staying power for the long haul, and in fact dropped out like flies as the checkpoints passed behind them.

So the US is still a democracy and the voters have spoken.  It will be Donald against Hillary for the winner-take all runoff, and already the pundits who were wrong from the start about the Trump candidacy, are  confidently predicting it will be a rout  for Hillary.  Here’s my advice.  Look out for the underdog once again.  Big Donald did not get into this runoff by being a man without a lot of public support,  Au contraire.  He is turning out to have plenty of friends  in a population tired of an overstuffed establishment, and willing to ignore the  fact that Billionaire Don is an obvious high flyer in that group.  His great advantage is, however, that he has never been a politician, like all the other candidates, and made his fortune by other means.   Donald could be gathering his second wind, and some pundits are already suggesting it – that there may still be a long-distance runner out on the streets and the outcome might be much closer than  seems to be the conclusion that the experts,  who were wrong in the beginning, might be predicting once again.

 

 

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Vikings in Panama

Posted April 6, 2016 on 4:27 pm | In the category Hillary Clintom, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

So – just about everybody you think of as overpaid – from soccer players to petty politicians to tough-guy dictators – have something in common. They invest in Panama Virgin Islands Co-operation companies. And it’s all legal – sort of – and moral – less sort of, but hey what do you expect in the modern world. Non-diving soccer players, truth-telling politicians, people-oriented  dictators? Okay okay, Bernie Sanders is from Brooklyn, where you’ve got to tell the truth or you know what! So he’s an exception. Maybe. And let’s hope he wins, so there is an exception that counts!

In the meantime, as expected from all serious history buffs, only one  society has demanded the consequences. Just as they did in Egil’s or Hrafnkls Saga or the Saga of Grettir the Strong, (until he was exiled to an isolated uninhabited Arctic island), the Vikings of Iceland know how to handle tax avoiders.  Sigmundur David Gunlaugsson (can’t match those Icelandic names), the PM, was caught with  his fingers in the Panama pot, presented himself with the *eatingest grin in photographic history as he entered parliament (the kid was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar as well) and only left it after he had been kicked out of his office, which had been pelted with  eggs and bananas by an angry mob, and joined the ranks of the unemployed – a contemporary mild version of medieval punishments.  No if only the US presidential candidates (pace Sanders)could be convinced after being pelted by eggs and bananas to get the hell out before it’s too late, we would all breathe easier.

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America or is it North America the Beautiful?

Posted February 17, 2016 on 3:21 pm | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Well, let’s see now. First there were several Republican candidates in the United States of America’s primary drama, led by the indomitable Donald Trump, who suggested that it would be a bright idea to build a Berlin-type wall along the US border. It seemed likely at the time that they had meant the border to Mexico, and perhaps forgotten or did not know that there was also a border in the north with Canada. When it was pointed out that that wall would present mighty challenges in the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia  and  Yukon, not to mention Newfoundland, ST. Pierre and Miquelon, some reconsidered after looking at a map. But some candidates stuck to their guns.

As more information about these candidates dribbles out, Canadians became more and more interested in the proposal for a wall, not because it would keep terrorists from travelling south, but rather because it might hinder  unwanted aliens from travelling north. As it turned out, one of the leading lights, Ted Cruz, was actually born and bred in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with a Cuban father and an Amurcan mother, and was a Canadian citizen when he announced  his candidacy for President of the United States. . Hmm. Now, the third in the trio of favourites, Marco Rubio, has begun showing an ad for his candidacy on tv in his new series “Morning in America” that makes you wonder just what he means when he uses the word “America”. Does he mean the United States or does he mean all of North America, perhaps excluding Mexico? Who knows?

What most who see this ad will know  is that the scene he opens with is not in the United States. It shows a tugboat sailing out of a very dynamic-looking harbour, obviously recognizable as Vancouver harbour to lots of folks, but for anyone who isn’t familiar with the  scene, there is a Canadian flag flying on the tug just to make it clear. Doesn’t Rubio or his advisors know that on the other side of that northern wall there is an independent country with a different flag than his, which does not call itself America, and that what his ad shows is “Morning in Canada” as the most spectacular and busy harbour city on the west coast of North America  comes to life? Anyhow Ted Cruz is probably thanking the unpredictable primary gods for this intervention in the Canadian irritation in the Republican primary. But Canadians are just wondering what the hell is going on.

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Another Tale of Two Cities

Posted January 21, 2016 on 12:17 am | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

So the statistics are now in for homicides in North American cities in 2015.  Here are a couple for readers to consider.

Baltimore, a US city  has a population of 622,000.

Vancouver, a Canadian city, has a population of 603,500.

Baltimore, in a country which seems to have become ever more enamoured of guns in the last decade , including public display of them, had 344 homicides in 2016, the great majority delivered by such guns.

Vancouver, in a country whose laws aim at strict control of firearms, had 14 homicides last year.  The police reported that  they were disappointed because they like to see homicide numbers in single digits, as it usually has been  in the last years.

Nuff said.

 

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AMERICA’S POLICE: PROTECTORS OR THREAT?

Posted November 30, 2015 on 5:53 pm | In the category Terrorism, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

On November 22, 2014, 12 year-old Tamir Rice made the mistake of playing with a toy gun at a playground in my old hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. A citizen called 911 to report that there was a person in the playground with what looked like a gun. Said citizen also told the dispatcher that the person might be a juvenile and that the gun might not be real. The police rolled into action with only the first part of that information, drove their car into the playground, opened the door and in the time you count one, one-hundred, two one-hundred Tamir Rice was shot, bleeding to death on the ground. The two cops stood around watching while Tamir said goodbye to his chance for a teenage birthday. When his 14 year-old sister arrived and tried to approach Tamir the cops forced her to the ground, handcuffed her and locked her in the backseat of the patrol car. The shooter was a white rookie cop who had flunked a Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Deputy exam (46%, when 70% is a passing grade), had been refused employment at several neighboring towns’ police departments, had been terminated after 5 months for poor performance at another neighboring police department, and then hired by Cleveland’s PD without a proper background check.

A year later Tamir’s family waits for justice. The prosecutor hired three outsiders to investigate and report on the incident and as in almost every incident of police abuse, the reports said that while tragic, the policeman’s action were “reasonable”. Tamir’s family hired their own experts (two separate California former police officials) whose reports are highly critical of the policemen – both the shooter and his colleague, or accomplice. A sidebar to the story emerged that an off-duty FBI agent appeared on the scene while Tamir was dying and administered first aid while the two cops stood around either bewildered, or just uncaring.

So- a year after Tamir’s death a grand jury continues to consider evidence. Perhaps justice will be done, but precedence is not a cause for optimism. The dice are almost always loaded in cases involving police killing citizens; there is always some real or imagined or made-up threat. For Tamir it is that he was reaching for his “gun” so the policeman had to shoot him in less than 2 seconds after arriving.

This is only one example of what may have been an historic epidemic of white policemen shooting black males regardless of age or real threat. Much of the current public awareness results from the ubiquitous presence of videos. And the judicial system seems to have been unable to address these incidents impartially, often now in the face of overwhelming eyewitness or video evidence. Currently there are at least three high visibility cases in various stages of potential or actual prosecution. In addition to the Tamir Rice case there is the matter of 17 year-old Laquan McDonald, shot by a police officer 16 times in Chicago, mostly in the back and mostly while lying on the street, and Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died while being transported to jail by Baltimore police. The Rice and McDonald cases are being presented to Grand Juries; the Freddie Gray case is being prosecuted in court in Baltimore after a Grand jury confirmed prosecution charges. These cases are tests of the American judicial system, but in a broader sense are tests of America’s basic values of judicial equity and fairness.

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A Tale of Two Countries

Posted November 27, 2015 on 3:23 pm | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his election pledge to accept 25,000 refugees from Syria by the end of 2015 will have to be altered with a new deadline of March 1, 2016 in order to provide sufficient security checks and to deal with transportation and housing issues.  10,000 refugees will arrive by January 1, 25,000 by March 1 and 35,000 by the end of 2016.  The refugees will be restricted to families, single women and children.  All the premiers of all the provinces and the two northern territories have agreed to this and there has been virtually no opposition.  On the contrary.  Housing will be located on military bases and other available sites, and no one will be settled in tents.

The United States has pledged to resettle 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016. However, according to CNN, the governors of 31 US states have announced that Syrian refugees will not  be welcome in their states, including President Obama’s home state of Illinois, and  Canadian  border states Michigan, New Hampshire  and Maine.  Dylan was right.  The times they are really achanging.

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Baltimore the beautiful city

Posted July 8, 2015 on 3:09 pm | In the category Human Rights, Racism, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Has anyone ever produced more nostalgically beautiful music about the United States than the ultra-Canadian McGarrigle Sisters and their talented offspring Rufus and Martha Wainwright, especially in their communal album “The McGarrigle Hour”?  If you don’t know what we mean, get yourself a copy of this splendid  cd, listen to cut 17, “Talk to me of Mendocino”, the almost heartbreaking  love song written by Anna McGarrigle to a California that will soon no longer exist, and  move on  to cut number 18, “Baltimore the Beautiful City”, listed as a traditional song that they sang as buskers in US cities.This song was of course not written about the fires that ravaged Baltimore, the northernmost of southern cities, in the spring, but it captures the essence of the emotional drain that followed in its wake and no doubt found resonance in the nightmare that followed in Charleston, South Carolina.

Strong Men in anguish prayed

calling out to the heavens for rain

while the fire in ruins laid

Baltimore their beautiful city.

Between March 23rd and June 30, 2015 there were 100 homicides in Baltimore.  The excellent and historic Baltimore newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, recently published the basic facts about these 100 homicides: name of victim, place of residence, age, gender and race.    Three of the victims were white, one Asian, and 7 female, all the rest were black males. and almost all of them were under 35.  No doubt each one of these cases has a backstory worth hearing, but one thing is very clear:  It is dangerous to be a young black man in Baltimore, and there is every reason to feel that you have very few prospects of an improved life through hard work or better education if you were born into this syndrome.  There are of course exceptions, but such exceptions tend to move out into the safer areas of town or out of town, which is also where the white population has been drifting for years.  The city centre is simply too dangerous and if you can afford to leave it, you do leave.  There is no information given on this list about the perpetrators of the homicides, but it is certainly not the case that the police force, which has  been too easily identified as the cause rather than the solution of Baltimore’s racial problems, (by most estimates about half of the police officers in Baltimore are black)  was involved with  many, or even any, of these homicides.  Any serious improvement in this situation can only occur when the basic problem of  an understandable feeling of hopelessness in young black males is met by a willingness in the population as a whole to deal with the underlying problems for it.  Baltimore, the beautiful city, still has some of that southern grace at its northernmost outpost, but also much of  an understood racial division that too often is a destructive part of it.  The solution has to start in finding a way out of  this social structure.

 

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Security bordering on oppressive

Posted May 29, 2015 on 2:58 pm | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Congratulations to the Boston Globe for publishing an article with the above title that underlines a festering problem which has only begun festering more in the 6 years of the Obama regime. It is yet another disappointment for those who thought Obama would bring in a fresh breeze after the Bush years, which is when the border problem began festering. But Bush did have a desperate security problem on his hands after 9/11 and clamping down on border crossing was a reasonable, if apparently, temporary, step. Instead as The Globe put it:
“Since the 9/11 jihadist attacks, the 5,525-mile-long border between Canada and the United States has been transformed from the world’s friendliest to a high security zone marked by fortified crossing points, thermal “body detectors,’’ swiveling surveillance cameras, and the occasional low-skimming Blackhawk helicopter or spy drone.”
Anyone who got stuck in the four-hour long waits at the US/ Canada crossing at the so-called Peace Arch on the Victoria Day long weekend was surely asking why and how this could happen in a century in which no such border checks interrupt the flow of economic, regular and tourist traffic in all of western and central Europe. You can drive from the UK to the Ukrainian border without encountering a single checkpoint but if you drive from Vancouver to Seattle you could well be stopped after 40 minutes for four hours by a checkpoint which costs many millions of dollars in economic terms and more than that in lost friendliness, while serving no real purpose. What is now called the mexicanization of the Canadian border will be a legacy of the Obama years. Let’s hope someone now comes in to put an end to the increasingly hostile border, before it’s too late, and grounds the drone planes which continue to spot no terrorists but many moose crossing a border in the wilderness.

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