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Thread: USA under presidency of a know-nothing neo-fascist, racist, sexist mobbed-up narcissist!!

  1. #701

    Default Part of the Republican plan [at all levels of government] for stealing/changing voters election will


    Will new Jim Crow scam tip Georgia’s
    Ossoff-Handel Congressional Race?


    GOP goons grab reporter when he asks how 40,000 minority voter registrations vanished

    by Greg Palast

    Catch Palast’s reports for Joy Reid, Thom Hartmann and Amy Goodman



    Karen Handel took a break from beating up Democrat John Ossoff to attack a reporter: me. In the televised debate between the two candidates vying for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Republican Handel claimed, “a reporter supposedly representing some very liberal Democratic organization almost literally accosted me.”
    In fact, is was a trio of galoots working for Handel who accosted me.
    Handel's handlers trying to prevent Greg Palast from asking a tough question

    But who accosted whom is less important than Handel promoting the dangerous new trend of attacking the press, sometimes physically, when questions are uncomfortable or challenging.

    Handel is afraid I’ll report what I began uncovering in my investigations in Georgia’s 6th. I first came here in 2014 for Al Jazeera, when I interviewed an enthusiastic group of Korean-Americans based in the 6th, the Asian-American Legal Advocacy Center. When I returned to cover the current race, I found the Asian-American voting rights office shuttered and empty.
    Helen Ho from the Asian-American Legal Advocacy Center (photo by Zach D Roberts)

    Apparently, the group which had launched a “10,000 Korean Votes” registration drive discovered that many of their registrants simply never appeared on voter rolls. Their lawyers’ query about missing voters to the Secretary of State resulted in a raid by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a threat of criminal charges.

    Voting rights attorney Nse Ufot told me what happened:

    They were doing a campaign to register 10,000 Korean-Americans to vote, and had quite a bit of success. At some point during the campaign, they noticed that many of the folks that they were registering were not showing up on the voter rolls. So, they reached out to the Secretary of State to say, "Hey, where are our folks? Why aren't they showing up on the rolls?" They never got an official response. What they did get was the GBI kicking in the door and requesting all of their files.”

    While no charges were brought, the terrifying raid, was enough to put the Korean voter group out of business.

    And Ufot’s own group, New Georgia Project has seen the registrations of new voters of color suspiciously…vanish.

    Ufot told me, ‘We submitted 86,419 voter registration forms. There are 46,000 of the folks that we've registered who have made it, and 40,000 of them are missing.’

    So New Georgia Project contacted the Republican Secretary of State’s office.
    “You know what they told us? ‘We don't know what you're talking about. What forms?’ They did not disappear. We intentionally registered voters on paper forms so that we could make copies. We knew who they were. They were not on the voter rolls.

    When African-American activists raised a ruckus over the disappearance, they got the same treatment as the Korean-Americans: a Gestapo-style raid on their offices, threats of criminal charges and jail term.

    But the African-American organizers had long faced down Jim Crow intimidation tactics.
    I wanted Handel’s story—and not just as a candidate. She herself was Secretary of State, and up to her chin in these vote suppression games.

    I started out by asking if the Democrats were stealing the election, and she was pleased to say, “They’re pulling out all stops!”

    But when I got to the subject of her office purging voters, one of her henchmen jumped in front of me, slammed me backwards and while two others grabbed and muscled me away. She refused to answer to a question about the raids on voter registration groups, but the crowd answered for her, chanting “U! S! A! U! S! A!” – as if a journalist asking a question is the new enemy of America. And that’s frightening. Not the clowns who assaulted me. They were more buffoonish than threatening.

    I don’t want compensation, I don’t want to press charges. I want an answer to the question: Who will decide the race in the Sixth—the voters or Jim Crow?
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. #702

    Default

    Government of, by and for Trump

    Posted on Jun 18, 2017

    By Robert Reich

    Donald Trump. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

    “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Trump told then FBI Director James Comey in January – even though FBI directors are supposed to be independent of a president, and Comey was only 4 years into a 10 year term.
    Comey testified before the Senate that Trump tried to “create some sort of patronage relationship,” based on personal loyalty.
    After Comey refused and continued to investigate possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, Trump fired him.
    Preet Bharara, who had been the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Trump tried to create the same sort of patronage relationship with him that he did with Comey.Bharara’s office had been investigating Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, and also looking into Russian money-laundering allegations against Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal private lender.
    When Bharara didn’t play along, Trump fired him.
    Bharara said Comey’s testimony “felt a little bit like déjà vu.”
    In his first and best-known book, “The Art of the Deal,”Trump distinguished between integrity and loyalty – and made clear he preferred loyalty.
    Trump compared attorney Roy Cohn – Senator Joe McCarthy’s attack dog who became Trump’s mentor – to “all the hundreds of ‘respectable’ guys who make careers out of boasting about their uncompromising integrity but have absolutely no loyalty … What I liked most about Roy Cohn was that he would do just the opposite.”
    As president, Trump continues to prefer loyalty over integrity.
    Although most of his Cabinet still don’t have top deputies in place, the White House has installed senior aides to monitor their loyalty. As Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, explained to the Washington Post, “they’re functioning as the White House’s voice and ears in these departments.”
    Last Monday, the White House invited reporters in to watch what was billed as a meeting of Trump’s Cabinet. After Trump spoke, he asked each of the Cabinet members around the table to briefly comment.
    Their statements were what you might expect from toadies surrounding a two-bit dictator.
    “We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda,” said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. “Greatest privilege of my life, to serve as vice president to a president who’s keeping his word to the American people,” said Vice President Mike Pence. “You’ve set the exact right message,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, adding, “The response is fabulous around the country.”
    When I was sworn in as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I didn’t pledge loyalty to Bill Clinton, and I wouldn’t have participated in such a fawning display.
    That oath is a pledge of loyalty to our system of government – not to a powerful individual. It puts integrity before personal loyalty. It’s what it means to have a government of laws.
    But Trump has filled his administration with people more loyal to him than they are to America.
    His top advisers are his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
    To run his legal defense and be his spokesman on the investigation into collusion with Russian operatives, Trump has hired Marc Kasowitz.
    Kasowitz is not an expert in criminal or constitutional law. His only apparent qualification is his utter loyal to Trump.
    He’s been Trump’s personal legal fixer for almost two decades – representing him in his failed libel lawsuit against a journalist, the Trump University fraud case that ended in January with a $25 million settlement from Trump, and candidate Trump’s response to allegations of sexual assault by multiple women last year.
    Kasowitz called the New York Times article containing interviews with the women “per se libel” and demanded “a full and immediate retraction and apology” (which the Times refused).
    Kasowitz has said he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara. Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,” according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account.
    Now, Kasowitz is taking on a public role. Bypassing the White House Counsel, he instructed White House aides to discuss the investigation as little as possible, and advised them about whether they should hire private lawyers.
    The horrifying reality is that in Trumpworld, there is no real “public” role. It’s all about protecting and benefiting Trump.
    When loyalty trumps integrity, we no longer have a government of laws. We have a government by and for Trump.

    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  3. #703

    Default

    Apparently we need to take Trumpf at his word that he'd bring back torture. Unknown if some of this was also on Obama's watch, as the timeline is not clear yet. What is clear is that the US is out of control/out of step on/with many fronts and one is international LAW! Nothing new!

    U.S. Interrogations Held at Secret Yemeni Prison

    Posted on Jun 22, 2017


    A deserted cell in a Yemeni prison. A separate wing is part of a network of secret prisons into which hundreds of people have disappeared after being detained. (Maad El Zikry / AP)

    A report published by Human Rights Watch and The Associated Press exposes how United States forces may have violated international law while interrogating detainees in a secret prison in Yemen. The detainees reportedly were tortured and abused by forces from the United Arab Emirates and Yemen prior to interrogation by the U.S.
    The Associated Press reports:
    Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.
    The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years. ...
    Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.
    The UAE denied allegations of torture in a statement to AP, but Yemeni lawyers and family members allege that at least 2,000 men have been locked up in the secret prisons. The AP continues:
    “None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses,” the AP continues. “Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year.”
    In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Kristine Beckerle of Human Rights Watch further explains the report. She says:
    The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led coalition, and it’s the U.S.’s main counterterror partner in Yemen. And so, what the AP then reports is that not only is the U.S. aware of these allegations of abuse, but the U.S. itself is sending in interrogators into these prisons and involved in interrogations of Yemeni detainees—the exact same places where we and the AP are reporting that former detainees, family members, government officials have been telling us that there’s sort of rampant abuse. And so, the big question that you then have is, OK, so now the U.S. is on the hook potentially legally for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and you now have the U.S. potentially complicit or involved in detainee abuse with the UAE in Yemen. ...
    The thing is, the ban on torture is one of the most fundamental prohibitions in international law. And that includes not only directly engaging in torture, but also being complicit in torture or using intelligence gleaned from torture. And again, that’s why these allegations are so—I mean, the U.S. and the UAE need to address them, because at this point it’s not just the AP reporting, it’s not just Human Rights Watch reporting. There are Yemeni groups who are reporting this. It’s sort of not in the realm of rumors. It’s in the realm of: At what point do you say, “OK, we’ve now talked to basically 50—we’ve documented 50 cases of abuse. You can’t come back at me and say you’re unaware, you’re not taking action”? Which, basically, the UAE’s response to the AP’s report was “There’s no secret detention sites. Don’t worry about it.” But it sort of defies belief, beggars belief, that we, the AP and others have documented all of these allegations of abuse and it isn’t in fact true.
    Read the full AP story here, and watch Beckerle’s full interview on Democracy Now! here.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  4. #704

    Default

    For the Earth’s Sake, Drop “Russiagate” Now

    by KOLLIBRI TERRE SONNENBLUME







    The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue. (Emma Goldman)
    I was born in 1969, so the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation were major themes in the political and emotional landscapes of my childhood. When the neighborhood kids got together, “nuclear war” was one of the games we played. This was in Omaha, Nebraska, and we were told that our city would be one of the first hit by the Russians due to the location of the Strategic Air Command nearby. This was taken as reassuring by some since it was assumed that in the utter horror of a post-nuclear exchange world, the survivors would “envy the dead” (in the famous words of Herman Kahn).
    Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the Cold War was regularly referenced not just on the news, but in movies, songs and television. It was omnipresent and inescapable, a threat that never went away. Authority figures, including the nuns at my school, used it as a hammer to keep people in line. I hated it. I don’t think anyone enjoyed it except the arms manufacturers and politicians.
    It was a great relief, then, when (as it seemed to me at the time) Gorbachev stepped back from the whole terrible business, and with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, ended the Cold War. It felt like the world had been given a new lease on life, like taking a deep, free breath after years of suffocating and terrifying constriction.
    So I was alarmed when Hillary Clinton started revving up the anti-Russia rhetoric during the presidential campaign in 2016. Don’t we have enough challenges to face in the world today without adding that one back into the mix?
    Soon enough I was also angered as Democratic partisans fell into line and began parroting her. I’m not talking about DNC politicians here, but the rank and file. The “good liberals” who listen to NPR, read the New York Times and are proud of themselves for recycling and supporting gay marriage. The ones who didn’t make a peep about the brutality of US foreign policy for eight years because it was Obama who was (literally) calling the shots.
    What was wrong with these people? I wondered. I knew many of them were old enough to remember the relentless dread of the Cold War. Were they willing to revive it just because Hillary said so? As it turns out—yes, unfortunately, they were.
    Over the course of the campaign, the Russia line changed. As Wikileaks revealed more and more information that embarrassed Hillary and the DNC, it became necessary to slander both the organization and its founder, Julian Assange, by tying them into the Russia narrative. I watched as the liberal class that had cheered for Wikileaks a few years earlier took up anti-Assange messaging with religious fervor. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.” Time for Two Minutes Hate.
    The Russia story took another turn after the election, when the blame for Hillary’s loss was pinned on alleged Russian meddling (and on Jill Stein, and Sanders supporters, and the FBI, etc., etc…) Shocked Hillary fans were happy to jump on any and every excuse and pass each one around like gospel, regardless of whether they were true or even coherent. At this time, the Washington Post published a slanderous hit piece attempting to link alternative media to Russia. “Fake News” was born, and it bore the marks of a psy-op.
    From January through June of this year, I spent most of my time WiFi-less, either camping out in the desert or working on farms in the sticks and so I was repeatedly away from news for two to three weeks at a time. Whenever I logged back in to catch up between these gigs, I would be both surprised and disappointed to see that the Russia non-story was still a story, with only the angle of attack shifting as each approach wore itself out.
    No evidence has yet to be offered. None. Zero. Zip. And regardless of that, we get the same shrill insistence from the liberal chattering class and their bots and their followers, who hang on and won’t let go. If only such persistence could be turned to other ends, like fighting racism, militarism or ecocide! I have been repeatedly disgusted to see so much propaganda spouted by people I’ve known for years who are “otherwise intelligent,” as they say (though my doubts about that characterization are growing).
    One cannot take Russiagate seriously unless one sets aside all intellectual rigor. The theory only has credence within the arena of belief; it does not inhabit the world of facts. This is ironic considering the unremitting skepticism for “faith-based” ideas espoused within the very circles of educated liberals who refuse to let go of this shit.
    No one seem cognizant of the size of the bite that’s been taken and how unchewable it is. That is to say, the people ferrying this crap are apparently oblivious that Russia-baiting could lead to very serious, planet-killing results. Do you really want to be poking a nuclear-armed bear with a sharp stick? ‘Cuz that’s what you’re doing!
    From my non-partisan perspective, it is obvious that Russiagate both plays cover for and justifies the increasingly belligerent behavior of the US toward Russia. Contrast how many people know about NATO’s provocative military maneuvers on Russia’s borders (see this, this, this and this) with the number who have heard the baseless accusations of “election hacking.” Imagine if Russia were holding military exercises along the Rio Grande in Mexico or establishing bases in Quebec. How would the US be reacting? With a flurry of drones, MOABs and white phosphorous, you can be sure. All things considered, I would say that Russia is being admirably restrained, but we cannot count on that lasting forever. Everyone has a breaking point.
    If an explanation is needed for why Hillary lost besides the fact that she was a profoundly unpalatable politician with unpopular positions, then there’s a simple one, and journalist Greg Palast wrote about it before the election took place. To wit, many thousands of voters were purposely and improperly removed from voter rolls in 27 states, including swing states that cost Hillary the electoral college. The purged voters were overwhelmingly people of color, the majority of whom would’ve voted Democratic. After the election, Palast showed how enough voters were excluded in the right states for Trump to win.
    The method that was used for kicking off these voters is called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, or just “Crosscheck” for short. The corporate media has almost universally disregarded this story, though it is highly scandalous. So have the Democratic partisans. Thus the racism of the voter purge itself is compounded by the racism of ignoring it. Push the blame overseas so as not to deal with the real trouble at home. I need an entire thesaurus entry to describe how I feel about this.
    There’s very few people on the Left who are willing to take on Russiagate as the pack of revolving lies that it is. You’ll be accused of supporting Trump or of being a shill for Putin if you do. We’ve all heard of “crowdsourcing”—well, this is “crowdstoning”. It’s ugly, but that’s partisanship for you. It’s never pretty.
    The issues facing the world right now are of deadly gravity. Environmental degradation and the threat of runaway climate change, for example, represent existential threats to life on the planet. We’ve got to focus on the serious stuff if we are going to survive. That means dropping Russiagate immediately. Continuing to pursue it would be an exercise in extreme immaturity and unforgivable irresponsibility. Risking war with a nuclear power rather than facing political reality is insanely reckless. C’mon, partisan Dems—grow up and drop this crap!
    * * *
    Recommended journalists:
    Caitlin Johnstone – “rogue journalist” in Australia. See her comprehensive Big Fat Compendium Of Russiagate Debunkery.
    Margaret Kimberly – editor and contributor for the Black Agenda Report
    Robert Parry – investigative reporter, and others at Consortium News

    See also:


    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  5. #705

    Default

    Trump is obviously positioning himself for firing Mueller. I don't think it will be soon, but not too far off either. He has spoken now that Mueller and Comey were close friends to set the 'stage'. It is hard to predict in today's topsy-turvy USA what would happen when he does, but my guess is the move will not play well for Trump's chessboard in the end. I think he is going to find himself without a Republican majority in Congress after the 2018 elections unless he/we are mid-major-war [and I think he and/or his advisers know that]. Sad to watch an already undemocratic nation I was born in fading into history as a oligarchy and over-militarized police-state [even more than it was]. I think there are just one or two elections left before it is time to have a funeral for the USA.... It is up to fellow citizens - and NOT just by voting [which is greatly controlled/rigged - and NOT by Russia!]. Very sad. Their snatching away the healthcare [limited as it is] from some 50-150.000.000 citizens could be their undoing and 'his'. His other horrible decisions come with teflon spray to his core supporters. Healthcare effects everyone and in real time.

    President Donald Trump has tried to sow the seeds of doubt against special counsel Robert Mueller in a Friday interview with “Fox and Friends.”
    After describing Mueller’s friendship with former FBI Director James Comey as “very bothersome,” Trump went on to hint that he may dismiss Mueller as special counsel. In response to a question about whether Mueller should step down from the investigation (there is no indication he has even thought about doing that), Trump ominously replied, “We’re going to have to see.”


    Trump also blamed Obama somehow, saying:
    “I didn’t tape [Comey]. You never know what’s happening when you see the Obama administration — and perhaps longer than that — was doing all this unmasking and surveillance. If you read all about it — and I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of months — about the seriousness and the horrible situation with surveillance all over the place. And you’ve been hearing the word unmasking — a word you’ve probably never heard before — so you never know what’s out there. But I didn’t tape. And I don’t have any tape. And I didn’t tape. But when he found out there may be tapes out there . . . I think his story may have changed.

    Trump claimed that Comey’s story “may have changed” when the president mentioned that he may have taped their conversations, “because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.”
    He also insisted that “my story was always a straight story, my story was always the truth.”
    Trump had previously suggested there were tapes.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 06-23-2017 at 06:15 PM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  6. #706

    Default

    After weeks of secret deliberations, Republican senators Thursday released a healthcare bill that would reduce key benefits for millions of Americans. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would fund a large capital gains tax cut for the rich by removing millions of low-income and disabled people from Medicaid. According to the Center on Budget [and] Policy Priorities, $33 billion of the tax cuts would benefit the 400 wealthiest U.S. households. The Senate bill would also reduce subsidies to individuals to purchase health insurance, and would allow states to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The measure would defund Planned Parenthood for a year, making breast cancer screenings and basic reproductive services more difficult for women to secure.
    While drafting the legislation, President Trump had called on Republicans to improve the House plan by giving it more, quote, "heart." The bill was negotiated behind closed doors between 13 Republican white male senators. This is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
    SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: We agreed on the need to free Americans from Obamacare’s mandates. And policies contained in the discussion draft will repeal the individual mandate, so Americans are no longer forced to buy insurance they don’t need or can’t afford; will repeal the employer mandate, so Americans no longer see their hours and take-home pay cut by employers because of it.
    AMY GOODMAN: Senator McConnell says he wants to vote on the healthcare bill next week, before Congress leaves for the Fourth of July recess. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes for the measure to pass with 50 votes. Four Republican senators—Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and Mike Lee—said Thursday they’ll oppose the bill in its current form, arguing it fails to cut Medicaid benefits enough. The bill is similar to a House measure that would leave more than 20 million Americans without health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score the Senate bill. Democrats are firmly united against the bill. This is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: This is a bill designed to strip away healthcare benefits and protections from Americans who need it most, in order to give a tax break to the folks who need it least. This is a bill that would end Medicaid as we know it, rolling back Medicaid expansion, cutting federal support for the program even more than the House bill, which cut Medicaid by $800 billion.
    AMY GOODMAN: This comes as scores of disabled protesters held a sit-in outside Senator Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill Thursday and demonstrators gathered at Washington, D.C.’s National Airport to target Republican lawmakers as they left town for their home states.
    Also on Thursday, Barack Obama weighed in on efforts to scale back his signature healthcare law. He posted a scathing statement on Facebook that said, quote, "The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America," President Obama said.
    For more, we host a roundtable discussion with three guests. Joining us from Boston, John McDonough, professor at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, served as a senior adviser on national health reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2008 to 2010. And from 2003 to '08, he served as executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, playing a key role in passage of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law. He's the author of Inside National Health Reform.
    Also in Boston, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler joins us, a professor at CUNY-Hunter College and a primary care physician. She’s a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and the co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program. She is a well-known national advocate for Medicare for all.
    And in Aspen, Colorado, we’re joined by Dr. Willie Parker, physician, abortion provider, and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health. His new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.
    We welcome you all back to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Professor McDonough. Can you lay out what the Republicans presented, after weeks of secret negotiations with other Republicans?
    JOHN McDONOUGH: So, I think that the statements from Senator Schumer articulated it well. What is essentially going on here is the Affordable Care Act was an attempt to improve the nation’s healthcare system and expand coverage and deal with other issues. And it was paid for significantly by new taxes on wealthy Americans and some very powerful corporate interests. The new bill in the House, and reflected in the Senate, is an attempt to do major tax cuts for wealthy Americans and powerful corporate interests, financed by decimating the Medicaid program and other essential parts of the nation’s healthcare safety net. So, that is clearly what’s going on.
    The Senate initially said, "We will take the House bill and throw it away and start all over." Instead, what they’ve done is simply make a number of adjustments. If you look up close between the two, you can see many, many disagreements and differences of opinion on details, but if you stand back, they are essentially the same thing.
    They fundamentally undermine the nation’s commitment to the Medicaid program, which covers about 75 million low-income and lower-income Americans by phasing out the expansion that was created in the Affordable Care Act and by fundamentally changing the financing of it, where they put a cap on it so that states will have no choice but begin to retrench back on the benefits. They continue the subsidies for private health insurance purchase for lower-middle-income Americans, but, again, they substantially degrade that coverage—for example, lowering the—what’s called the actuarial value, or how much benefit you get out of your premiums, from the ACA standard of 70 percent down to 58 percent, which means higher copays, higher deductibles, across the board. They defund Planned Parenthood for a year, but setting it up then to continue well into the future. They get rid of the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund that has provided vital public health funds to the Centers for Disease Control as well as public health departments all over the country. You can go on and on. It’s hard to find something in the measure that one could say that’s good or at least not harmful. It’s pretty much bad from start to finish.
    AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of Medicaid, we’re talking about Medicaid cut, overall, in half, something we haven’t seen in the history of Medicaid, both Medicaid expansion and Medicaid itself. And can you talk about who is covered by Medicaid? Like half the babies born in this country are paid for by Medicaid.
    JOHN McDONOUGH: Yeah, so, Medicaid is the primary insurance coverage program for low- and lower-income Americans, many children, most children in the United States—more children under Medicaid than any other kind of coverage—their parents, poor senior citizens, low-income disabled people and other working low-income adults, who have no other options for coverage. About a third of the Medicaid program consists of low-income senior citizens and disabled. They actually account for two-thirds of the spending on the program. And so, if you want to take a meat ax, which is what they’re doing, to the Medicaid program, it is really impossible to implement cuts at that level without having damaging impacts on low-income, disabled and elderly, as well as children, parents and families.
    AMY GOODMAN: Nursing homes?
    JOHN McDONOUGH: Nursing homes is very much a part of the benefits that low-income seniors get. Very few families have had seniors, grandparents or parents, who have gone into long-term care and not at some point needed help from Medicaid to pay for the cost of long-term care, which is just so unaffordable for most Americans.
    AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, presumably, you only saw this starting yesterday. This was kept under wraps from many Republicans, as well as Democrats, in the Senate. And it’s interesting, the Republicans who are opposed to this. You have the group, like Mike Lee from Utah and Rand Paul from Kentucky, Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, who don’t—who feel that this doesn’t go far enough. But then you also have Senator Susan Collins from Maine, as well as Senator Murkowski from Alaska, who are deeply concerned that this, well, once again, as with the House bill, that apparently President Trump has called "mean," will mean tens of millions of more Americans will lose their health insurance.
    DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER: Well, it certainly will. I think it’s very important for people to express their views on this bill to the senators, because there will be a vote next week.
    You know, it is, of course—this bill, of course, is quite a bit meaner in some ways than the House bill. The cuts to Medicaid, for instance, are much deeper. And many people, like those in nursing homes and poor infants, are going to be affected worse. There’s going to be worse problems under this bill.
    But I do want to just talk a little bit about how the taxes are—these big tax windfalls are going to come to the rich. What the Republican bill does is says that rich people who get their income from investments no longer have to pay the Medicare tax. People who earn in wages and salaries have to pay a 3 to 4 percent Medicare tax. But the Republican Senate and House bills will say that rich people earning $100 million a year off of investments, through stock sales and dividends, no longer have to pay that same Medicare tax that the rest of us pay. They’ve been very quiet about that, because I don’t think that’s a very popular idea. You know, additionally, they’re cutting taxes on the insurance industry, on Pharma, as if they needed more money. They’re cutting taxes on the medical device industry. So this is a giant tax cut, a very unpopular tax cut, if Americans really understood who was getting this tax windfall. And it’s going to make healthcare skimpier and more expensive for ordinary Americans.
    AMY GOODMAN: Professor John McDonough, does this void Obamacare altogether, if this were passed?
    JOHN McDONOUGH: If it were passed in its current form, it would do unprecedented damage to that law, most of the major portions of it that deal with expanding coverage and providing some security for Americans in terms of needing healthcare services. There are other major parts of the law that it actually doesn’t touch at all. There’s a big part of the law that’s trying to do major changes in medical care delivery, creating new mechanisms called accountable care organizations, establishing a center for innovation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. None of those are touched, so there’s large parts of the law that, quietly, Republicans actually support and seem to want to continue and even expand. But the major pieces of the law, in terms of expanding insurance coverage for low- and lower-middle-income Americans and the taxes to pay for that, are pretty well decimated in terms of what’s on the table right now.
    And this is going to move very fast. It’s possible that it won’t happen. And that’s why Steffie is so correct when she says everybody’s got to weigh in here. But if they succeed in getting it through the Senate on Thursday or Friday of next week, there are some reports that the House may actually convene on Saturday and adopt the Senate version and send it to the president’s desk. So this could move with unprecedented rapidity for such a major controversial issue. So the stakes are very high. And the place really where this needs to get stalled and defeated is next week in the Senate.
    AMY GOODMAN: So are you saying that this actually could go to the House—instead of the House attempting to reconcile the Senate and House bills, they could just adopt the Senate bill?
    JOHN McDONOUGH: It is conceivable that, you know, if it gets through the Senate with 50 votes, that the Senate will say to the House, "This is it, folks. Take it or leave it." And they will come on Saturday, and they may be able to string together enough votes so that they could actually just adopt the Senate plan in toto and send it directly to President Trump’s desk.
    AMY GOODMAN: You were one of—
    JOHN McDONOUGH: So, this could happen very fast.
    AMY GOODMAN: You were one of the architects of Romneycare in Massachusetts, right?
    JOHN McDONOUGH: We didn’t call it that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Well, the Affordable Care Act very much based on a Republican plan, under a Republican governor of Massachusetts, Governor Romney, who would later, obviously, run for president. How far away are the Republicans today in Congress, in the House and the Senate, from that Republican plan in Massachusetts that did get passed?
    JOHN McDONOUGH: Well, there’s a—there’s a significant withdrawal. As we know, the individual mandate was a Republican conservative idea, going back to the 1980s. The '90s, that was their alternative to Bill Clinton's universal coverage plan. And they continued to promote it throughout the process where we passed it in Massachusetts. And then, when it got to Congress in 2009 and it was Barack Obama who was supporting it, then they all jumped off the ship and left the Democrats there by ourselves to try to get as best done as it was possible to get done at that time. So, there’s been a substantial retrenchment.
    And what’s left is—I saw, you know, this morning, on one of the TV shows, Senator Rand Paul basically saying, "Well, I think we should just take away all of the standards and requirements and let people buy whatever they want. And people should be able to buy health insurance," he said, "for about a dollar a day"—so, about $365 a year. I don’t know what that would really get you, but it wouldn’t get you very much.
    But I think that one has to understand is what motivates the Republican Party is cutting taxes. That’s first, and everything else is secondary to that goal, whether it’s healthcare, education, environmental protection—everything else. So this is part of a bigger pattern in terms of the Republican agenda. It’s just this is so big and important, this is up first. But this is not the end. This is just the beginning.
    The healthcare proposal released Thursday by Senate Republicans that would reduce key benefits for millions of Americans. And it’s expected tens of millions will lose their insurance if this legislation is passed. It’s called in the Senate the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would fund a large capital gains tax cut for the rich by removing millions of low-income and disabled people from Medicaid. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, $33 billion of the tax cuts would benefit the 400 wealthiest U.S. households. The Senate bill would also reduce subsidies to individuals to purchase health insurance, and would allow states to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The measure would also defund Planned Parenthood for a year, making, among other things, breast cancer screenings and basic reproductive services more difficult for women to secure.
    For more, we’re joined in Aspen, Colorado, by Dr. Willie Parker, a physician, abortion provider, and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health. His new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. Still with us in Boston is Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, professor at CUNY-Hunter College and primary care physician, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates Medicare for all, which we’ll also talk about.
    But, Dr. Willie Parker, respond to what has finally been revealed by the Republicans in the Senate, this healthcare bill, and specifically what it means for women.
    DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, this bill, to me, looks like a reverse Robin Hood bill, where it will steal from the poor to give to the rich. The president called for a bill with more heart. But what we end up from the Senate is a more heartless bill.
    What it will mean, as your other guests have said, the most vulnerable people who rely on Medicaid—75 percent of poor children rely on Medicaid. Fifty percent of births that happen in this country are covered by Medicaid. And when you say the births, you’re also talking about the health of the women who give birth. And it’s just alarming that if women lose access to coverage for prenatal care and for childbirth, something that we’ve never even conceived of, that’s alarming in the context of the fact that we have rising maternal mortality in this country, a lot of which can be prevented by alterable things that can be discovered during prenatal care. So there is that impact.
    There’s also the impact of the fact that the Affordable Care Act expanded access to the preventive services of contraception and family planning. It strikes me as odd that the people who are ideologically driven to reduce abortion in this country are going to reduce the very services that make abortion unnecessary. So, hundreds of thousands of women got their birth control through Medicaid coverage because it was a preventive service, and as a result of that, we’ve seen the lowest number of abortions in this country since it became legal.
    AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever seen an organization—in this case, Planned Parenthood—targeted in this way, named in a bill, that this particular group will lose its funding? And why for a year?
    DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, this is unprecedented. I think it’s a bait and switch, "watch the birdie." It’s kind of like deciding that we’re not going to overtly hit you in the nose, but, while people can’t see, I’m going to pinch you in the ribs while people aren’t looking. And so, I’ve never seen a targeted restriction of resources toward an organization simply because, ideologically, people are opposed to one of the services that they provide. But it is consistent with the extremism that we see on people who disagree with the idea of abortion.
    And so, they are willing to discount all the other vital services that Planned Parenthood provides, like, as you said earlier, screening, mammography, pelvic exams, cervical cancer screening. And defunding Planned Parenthood for a year, or at all, means that 2.5 million women who rely on Planned Parenthood for those services will be uncovered for a year. And going into the future, that number would only swell.
    AMY GOODMAN: It might surprise people to hear that, for example, that half the babies born in this country are on Medicaid, that those births are covered by Medicaid. Can you explain that, Dr. Parker?
    DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, it’s related to—when you look at the fact that higher rates of unintended pregnancy, which is about half of all pregnancies in this country that occur, they’re unintended. Those unintended pregnancy rates occur higher to people who lack reliable access to healthcare. So that means that those people would not have access to preventive services and would enter into pregnancy with a—with comorbidities or other health issues that might make their care necessary, when they don’t have coverage. And as your guests said earlier, the people who are sickest and who are neediest consume more of the healthcare services. And so, you know, when you look at the fact that we say that women, in an effort to make sure that they have healthy babies, are entitled to healthcare, it’s not a small stretch that poor women and underinsured women who become pregnant, irrespective of their insurance coverage status, need the care when they need it. And that’s where Medicaid steps into the gap.
    AMY GOODMAN: What was your response when you started to read through this bill? And how are people organizing right now in the reproductive rights community around the country?
    DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, I was just disheartened and saddened and angry and energized at the same time. It seems like those who have little will have the most taken from them, and those who have the most will have their excess augmented. It is just shameful. And it’s perplexing that the most vulnerable in our society are being made more vulnerable and that there’s just a blatant disregard for our most vulnerable citizens that we claim to care so much about—namely, elderly, women and children.
    I think people are understanding and deciding that they can’t take this lying down. I think the march on January 21st, the Women’s March, and other marches that have launched since have energized people to understand that they have to become politically engaged. And so, you have people who are moving forward based on the movement of people to get out and march, and now we’re trying to transition that into political activism on multiple levels.
    Neither the Republicans nor Democrats will even mention single-payer nationalized health care like in every other developed nation - as it is 'socialism', which is really 'totalitarian communism in disguise', which is 'un-American'. and hurts the elites while helping the VAST majority...... and neither half of the US Corporate Party would want to do that!
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  7. #707

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    Saudi Arabia Is ‘Playing’ Donald Trump With Potentially Disastrous Consequences

    Posted on Jun 22, 2017

    By William D. Hartung

    President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are welcomed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    At this point, it’s no great surprise when Donald Trump walks away from past statements in service to some impulse of the moment. Nowhere, however, has such a shift been more extreme or its potential consequences more dangerous than in his sudden love affair with the Saudi royal family. It could in the end destabilize the Middle East in ways not seen in our lifetimes (which, given the growing chaos in the region, is no small thing to say).
    Trump’s newfound ardor for the Saudi regime is a far cry from his past positions, including his campaign season assertion that the Saudis were behind the 9/11 attacks and complaints, as recently as this April, that the United States was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom. That was yet another example of the sort of bad deal that President Trump was going to set right as part of his “America First” foreign policy.
    Given this background, it came as a surprise to pundits, politicians, and foreign policy experts alike when the president chose Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, as the very first stop on his very first overseas trip. This was clearly meant to underscore the importance his administration was suddenly placing on the need to bolster the long-standing U.S.-Saudi alliance.
    Mindful of Trump’s vanity, the Saudi government rolled out the red carpet for our narcissist-in-chief, lining the streets for miles with alternating U.S. and Saudi flags, huge images of which were projected onto the Ritz Carlton hotel where Trump was staying. (Before his arrival, in a sign of the psychological astuteness of his Saudi hosts, the hotel projected a five-story-high image of Trump himself onto its façade, pairing it with a similarly huge and flattering photo of the country’s ruler, King Salman.) His hosts also put up billboards with pictures of Trump and Salman over the slogan “together we prevail.” What exactly the two countries were to prevail against was left open to interpretation. It is, however, unlikely that the Saudis were thinking about Trump’s much-denounced enemy, ISIS—given that Saudi planes, deep into a war in neighboring Yemen, have rarelyjoined Washington’s air war against that outfit. More likely, what they had in mind was their country’s bitter regional rival Iran.The agenda planned for Trump’s stay included an anti-terrorism summit attended by 50 leaders from Arab and Muslim nations, a concert by country singer Toby Keith, and an exhibition game by the Harlem Globetrotters. Then there were the strange touches like President Trump, King Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi laying hands on a futuristically glowing orb—images of which then circled the planet—in a ceremony inaugurating a new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, and Trump’s awkward participation in an all-male sword dance.
    Unsurprisingly enough, the president was pleased with the spectacle staged in his honor, saying of the anti-terrorism summit in one of his many signature flights of hyperbole, “There has never been anything like it before, and perhaps there never will be again.”
    Here, however, is a statement that shouldn’t qualify as hyperbole: never have such preparations for a presidential visit paid such quick dividends. On arriving home, Trump jumped at the chance to embrace a fierce Saudi attempt to blockade and isolate its tiny neighbor Qatar, the policies of whose emir have long irritated them. The Saudis claimed to be focused on that country’s alleged role in financing terrorist groups in the region (a category they themselves fit into remarkably well). More likely, however, the royal family wanted to bring Qatar to heel after it failed to jump enthusiastically onto the Saudi-led anti-Iranian bandwagon.
    Trump, who clearly knew nothing about the subject, accepted the Saudi move with alacrity and at face value. In his normal fashion, he even tried to take credit for it, tweeting, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!” And according to Trump, the historic impact of his travels hardly stopped there. As he also tweeted: “So good to see Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries paying off… Perhaps it will be the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism.”
    Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution hit the nail on the head when he commented that “the Saudis played Donald Trump like a fiddle. He unwittingly encouraged their worst instincts toward their neighbors.” The New York Times captured one likely impact of the Saudi move against Qatar when it reported, “Analysts said Mr. Trump’s public support for Saudi Arabia… sent a chill through other Gulf States, including Oman and Kuwait, for fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has.”
    And Then Came Trump…
    And what precisely are the Saudis’ instincts toward their neighbors? The leaders in Riyadh, led by King Salman’s 31-year-old son, Saudi Defense Minister and deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, are taking the gloves off in an increasingly aggressive bid for regional dominance aimed at isolating Iran. The defense minister and potential future leader of the kingdom, whose policies have been described as reckless and impulsive, underscored the new, harsher line on Iran in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV in which he said, “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia, but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.”
    The opening salvo in Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran campaign came in March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition, including smaller Gulf petro-states (Qatar among them) and Egypt, intervened militarily in a chaotic situation in Yemen in an effort to reinstall Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the president of that country. They clearly expected a quick victory over their ill-armed enemies and yet, more than two years later, in a war that has grown ever harsher, they have in fact achieved little. Hadi, a pro-Saudi leader, had served as that country’s interim president under an agreement that, in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2012, ousted longstanding Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh. In January 2015, Hadi himself was deposed by an alliance of Houthi rebels and remnants of forces loyal to former president Saleh.
    The Saudis—now joined by Trump and his foreign policy team—have characterized the conflict as a war to blunt Iranian influence and the Houthi rebels have been cast as the vassals of Tehran. In reality, they have longstanding political and economic grievances that predate the current conflict and they would undoubtedly be fighting at this moment with or without support from Iran. As Middle Eastern expert Thomas Juneau recently noted in the Washington Post, “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.”
    The Saudi-Emirati intervention in Yemen has had disastrous results. Thousands of civilians have been killed in an indiscriminate bombing campaign that has targeted hospitals, marketplaces, civilian neighborhoods, and even a funeral, in actions that Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) has said “look like war crimes.” The Saudi bombing campaign has, in addition, been enabled by Washington, which has supplied the kingdom with bombs, including cluster munitions, and aircraft, while providing aerial refueling services to Saudi planes to ensure longer missions and the ability to hit more targets. It has also shared intelligence on targeting in Yemen.
    The destruction of that country’s port facilities and the imposition of a naval blockade have had an even more devastating effect, radically reducing the ability of aid groups to get food, medicine, and other essential supplies into a country now suffering from a major outbreak of cholera and on the brink of a massive famine. This situation will only be made worse if the coalition tries to retake the port of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of the humanitarian aid still getting into Yemen. Not only has the U.S.-backed Saudi war sparked a humanitarian crisis, but it has inadvertently strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has increased its influence in Yemen while the Saudi- and Houthi-led coalitions are busy fighting each other.
    Trump’s all-in support for the Saudis in its war doesn’t, in fact, come out of the blue. Despite some internal divisions over the wisdom of doing so, the Obama administration also supported the Saudi war effort in a major way. This was part of an attempt to reassure the royals that the United States was still on their side and would not tilt towards Iran in the wake of an agreement to cap and reverse that country’s nuclear program.
    It was only after concerted pressure from Congress and a coalition of peace, human rights, and humanitarian aid groups that the Obama administration finally took a concrete, if limited, step to express opposition to the Saudi targeting of civilians in Yemen. In a December 2016 decision, it suspended a sale of laser-guided bombs and other precision-guided munitions to their military. The move outraged the Saudis, but proved at best a halfway measure as the refueling of Saudi aircraft continued, and none of rest of the record $115 billion in U.S. weaponry offered to that country during the Obama years was affected.
    And then came Trump. His administration has doubled down on the Saudi war in Yemen by lifting the suspension of the bomb deal, despite the objections of a Senate coalition led by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Al Franken (D-MN) that recently mustered an unprecedented 47 votes against Trump’s offer of precision-guided bombs to Riyadh. Defense Secretary James Mattis has advocated yet more vigorous support for the Saudi-led intervention, including additional planning assistance and yet more intelligence sharing—but not, for the moment, the introduction of U.S. troops. Although the Trump foreign policy team has refused to endorse a proposal by the United Arab Emirates, one of the Saudi coalition members, to attack the port at Hodeidah, it’s not clear if that will hold.
    A Parade for an American President?
    In addition to Trump’s kind words on Twitter, the clearest sign of his administration’s uncritical support for the Saudi regime has been the offer of an astounding $110 billion worth of arms to the kingdom, a sum almost equal to the record levels reached during all eight years of the Obama administration. (This may, of course, have been part of the point, showing that President Trump could make a bigger, better deal than that slacker Obama, while supporting what he described as “jobs, jobs, jobs” in the United States.)
    Like all things Trumpian, however, that $110 billion figure proved to be an exaggeration. Tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms included in the package had already been promised under Obama, and tens of billions more represent promises that, experts suspect, are unlikely to be kept. But that still leaves a huge package, one that, according to the Pentagon, will include more than 100,000 bombs of the sort that can be used in the Yemen war, should the Saudis choose to do so. All that being said, the most important aspect of the deal may be political—Trump’s way of telling “my friend King Salman,” as he now calls him, that the United States is firmly in his camp. And this is, in fact, the most troubling development of all.
    It’s bad enough that the Obama administration allowed itself to be dragged into an ill-conceived, counterproductive, and regionally destabilizing war in Yemen. Trump’s uncritical support of Saudi foreign policy could have even more dangerous consequences. The Saudis are more intent than Trump’s own advisers (distinctly a crew of Iranophobes) on ratcheting up tensions with Iran. It’s no small thing, for instance, that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has asserted that Iran is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” and who advocated U.S. military attacks on that country during his tenure as head of the U.S. Central Command, looks sober-minded compared to the Saudi royals.
    If there is even a glimmer of hope in the situation, it might lie in the efforts of both Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to walk back the president’s full-throated support for a Saudi confrontation with Qatar. Tillerson, for instance, has attempted to pursue an effort to mediate the Saudi-Qatari dispute and has called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue.” Similarly, on the same day as Trump tweeted in support of the Saudis, the Pentagon issued a statement praising Qatar’s “enduring commitment to regional security.” This is hardly surprising given the roughly 10,000 troops the U.S. has at al-Udeid air base in Doha, its capital, and the key role that base plays in Washington’s war on terror in the region. It is the largest American base in the Middle East and the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, as well as a primary staging area for the U.S. war on ISIS. The administration’s confusion regarding how to deal with Qatar was further underscored when Mattis and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah signed a $12 billion deal for up to 36 Boeing F-15 combat aircraft, barely a week after President Trump had implied that Qatar was the world capital of terrorist financing.
    In a further possible counter to Trump’s aggressive stance, Secretary of Defense Mattis has suggested that perhaps it’s time to pursue a diplomatic settlement of the war in Yemen. In April, he told reporters that, “in regards to the Saudi and Emirati campaign in Yemen, our goal, ladies and gentleman, is for that crisis down there, that ongoing fight, [to] be put in front of a U.N.-brokered negotiating team and try to resolve this politically as soon as possible.” Mattis went on to decry the number of civilians being killed, stating that the war there “has simply got to be brought to an end.”
    It remains to be seen whether Tillerson’s and Mattis’s conciliatory words are hints of a possible foot on the brake in the Trump administration when it comes to building momentum for what could, in the end, be a U.S. military strike against Iran, egged on by Donald Trump’s good friends in Saudi Arabia. As Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”
    In fact, in a period when the turmoil has only risen in much of the rest of the Greater Middle East, the Saudi Arabian peninsula remained relatively stable, at least until the Saudi-led coalition drastically escalated the civil war in Yemen. The new, more aggressive course being pursued against the royal family in Qatar and in relation to Iran could, however, make matters much worse, and fast. Given the situation in the region today, including the spread of terror movements and failing states, the thought that Saudi Arabia itself might be destabilized (and Iran with it) should be daunting indeed, though not perhaps for Donald Trump.
    So far, through a combination of internal repression and generous social benefits to its citizens—a form of political bribery designed to buy loyalty—the Saudi royal family has managed to avoid the fate of other regional autocrats driven from power. But with low oil prices and a costly war in Yemen, the regime is being forced to reduce the social spending that has helped cement its hold on power. It’s possible that further military adventures, coupled with a backlash against its repressive policies, could break what analysts Sarah Chayes and Alex de Waal have described as the current regime’s “brittle hold on power.” In other words, what a time for the Trump administration to offer its all-in support for the plans of an aggressive yet fragile regime whose reckless policies could even spark a regional war.
    Maybe it’s time for opponents of a stepped-up U.S. military role in the Middle East to throw Donald Trump a big, glitzy parade aimed at boosting his ego and dampening his enthusiasm for the Saudi royal family. It might not change his policies, but at least it would get his attention.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  8. #708

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    JUNE 24, 2017 | CHRISTINE CAPOZZIELLO


    EPA DROPS SCIENTISTS, INVITES IN CORPORATIONS

    Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr(CC BY SA 2.0)
    When President Donald Trump promised to create 25 million new jobs in the next decade, he clearly wasn’t talking about Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees.
    On the heels of proposed budget cuts, the EPA announced plans to eliminate 1,200 employees — roughly 8 percent of the agency’s workforce — by next September.
    Since May, Trump-appointed EPA administrator and climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt has informed dozens of scientists on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) that their tenure will not be extended. That would leave over half of the positions on the panel empty and effectively cripple the BOSC, which cancelled five meetings that had been scheduled for summer and fall.
    Pruitt hasn’t been shy about his plans to include industry advocates to fill the void. He expressed his intent to increase representation of coal and oil companies on a board designed to regulate those same industries. In an interview in March, Pruitt revealed he does not believe that CO2 emissions are a primary contributor to global warming, leading many to voice concern over whether or not he would be able to perform the duties of his position.
    “Having an EPA administrator who claims carbon pollution is not the primary cause of climate change is like having a US surgeon general who says smoking is not the primary cause of lung cancer,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
    Coining the phrase “EPA originalism,” Pruitt is pushing to limit the EPA’s mission and regulatory reach, taking focus away from climate change and redirecting it to issues which spurred the agency’s conception in 1970. This “back to basics” agenda completely disregards that there are new environmental challenges we face today that were not relevant — or fully understood — 40 years ago.
    These videos will help explain the EPA’s job cuts and Pruitt’s vision for the agency going forward.

    https://whowhatwhy.org/2017/06/24/ep...-corporations/
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  9. #709

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    Disabled Activists Put Their Bodies on the Line to Defend Health Care

    Posted on Jun 25, 2017

    By Sonali Kolhatkar

    Security officials remove an activist from a protest outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Demonstrators were opposing proposed cuts to Medicaid. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

    “They haven’t told us what we’re being arrested for yet,” said Rhoda Gibson, an organizer with ADAPT, a groups that advocates for disability rights. Gibson was speaking to me via Skype from a police van, where she being transported with other activists after they were arrested for protesting the Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Gibson was one of 60 people who participated in a “die-in” at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office Thursday. Several of the activists, including Gibson, are wheelchair users who rely heavily on Medicaid to cover their health care-related costs.
    When Senate Republicans finally unveiled their secret health care bill Thursday morning, it appeared to be not very different from the version the House passed some weeks ago—except that the proposed cuts to Medicaid go even deeper.
    Gibson, who is African-American and has needed a wheelchair for the past six years, explained that “by cutting Medicaid, we will lose our housing, our personal care attendants, our right to live independently.” Gibson just had surgery to replace her right shoulder and still needs an elbow replacement. She needs help getting dressed and cleaning her house. “I would like to be able to live the way I’m living,” she said. If the Senate version of the bill passes and is signed into law by President Trump, Gibson says she will lose her housing and her personal care attendant.
    Another Medicaid recipient named Colleen Flanagan was among those arrested. She told me that “the reason why we got out of our wheelchairs and put our bodies on the line was because Medicaid is going to be cut and capped.” She explained: “Without the federal government matching money to the states for home and community-based services, no one’s going to pay for this wheelchair that cost over $20,000. No one’s going to pay someone a living wage so that I can live in a home that I choose and that I contribute to [to] make my neighborhood better.”Flanagan’s disability is the result of a medical condition that makes her bones extremely fragile, which made her participation in the “die-in” very risky. “I did not want to have a bunch of cops lift me in a way that could have been unsafe, but I did that because this message needs to heard,” she said.
    President Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, expanded Medicaid funding to states, which benefits low-income Americans, including those with disabilities. The Senate’s BCRA bill repeals most of the ACA’s tax increases on wealthy Americans that helped pay for the Medicaid expansion. In effect, the Republican senators want to give back to the rich by taking away from the poor.
    Beyond funding health care for low-income Americans, the Medicaid expansion under the ACA helped the economy as a whole. Studies found that more jobs were created in states that expanded Medicaid than in the 15 states that chose not to. “It’s not just about sick people, it’s not just about poor people; this is about jobs,” said Flanagan. Indeed, home care workers like the personal care attendant Gibson relies on, nurses and other health care professionals stand to lose their jobs if Republicans decide it is more important for wealthy Americans to pay less in taxes than it is for ordinary Americans to have health care they can’t afford to pay for out of pocket.


    In many other cases, Republicans are quick to tout job creation as a justification for their policies, even those that might be destructive to the environment. In the case of cuts to Medicaid, there is no mention of jobs whatsoever.
    The rights of disabled Americans to live with dignity is also nowhere on the GOP’s radar. Ironically, under Republican President George H.W. Bush, the United States passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Writing in the New Republic on the 25th anniversary of that milestone law’s passage, Brian Beutler speculated: “Given what we know about today’s Republican Party, it stands to reason that few or none of the GOP primary candidates this cycle would support ADA, and that ADA would fail in Congress, if it were introduced as new legislation today.”
    “They’re not demonstrating that they care about disability rights,” Flanagan said about Republican senators. “They used to—they’re not doing it anymore.”
    Given how cruel the GOP bill is, it is no surprise that its negotiations took place in secret. Thirteen white male senators crafted the details in such a clandestine manner that the satire website The Onion posted a doctored photo of Sen. McConnell shoving the entire bill into his mouth to hide it from passing Democrats earlier this week. Julia Rovner, an analyst who has covered health care-related negotiations in Washington, D.C., for years, wrote, “The extreme secrecy is a situation without precedent, at least in creating health care law.” Republican claims that Obamacare negotiations were also conducted in secret were debunked by the fact-checking website Snopes.com.
    Republicans need 51 votes to pass the bill and currently control 52 seats. But there are four holdouts. Shockingly, to this handful of senators, the bill is not cruel enough, even though they offer rhetoric suggesting that they want to lower health care costs and are concerned about insurance premiums being too high. What Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin want is a complete repeal of the ACA.There are forces, albeit smaller in number, on the moderate side of the Republican Party in the form of Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who are pulling in the opposite direction. In the end, passage of the BCRA and the fate of millions of Americans may depend on this extremely small handful of elected officials who personally enjoy health insurance plans made available by the ACA.
    The Republican Party is entirely out of step with the American people on the issue of health care, most of whom disapprove of their efforts to repeal Obamacare.
    When I asked how far she would go to protest the Senate version of the health care bill, Flanagan retorted, “Are you serious? Until we finally get some respect and they listen to us as equal Americans who are here. We vote, we pay taxes, and we’re making this country better and we’re growing it.”
    The GOP would do well to listen to the growing grass-roots anger that is fueling Flanagan and others like her to put their bodies on the line to stop the cruel cuts to needed health care.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  10. Default

    I have been having some very weird problems on this site. For days my screen would freeze when I would come here and I would have to re-boot the computer. Now I am able to scroll down and post on all subjects except one. The Seth Rich thread. Can't read the posts or reply. I get a message saying internet explorer is not working. very odd.
    Dawn

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