Sunday, December 3, 2017

Last Call For CHIP Off, The Old Blocker

Republicans might get around to re-authorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program at some point.  Maybe.  Sort of.  It's only been expired for two months now and when January comes around millions of kids will lose their health coverage but not a big deal because really, as Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch says, those people don't deserve it.

This week, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) helped push a tax bill through the Senate that will cost about $1 trillion. At the same time, he lamented the difficulties of finding the money to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which pays for healthcare for nine million children and costs about $14 billion a year — a program Hatch helped create.

A Sunday-morning tweet from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough quoting Hatch kicked off a dustup on Twitter over the Utah Republican’s take on CHIP. Funding for the program — which was created as a joint effort between Hatch and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy in 1997 — expired at the end of September; Congress has yet to reauthorize it. That puts health care for millions of American children at risk.

On Thursday evening, as the Senate debated the Republican tax plan, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked whether there’s “something we can do to get the children’s health insurance program done.”

Hatch’s response, in a nutshell: Yes, we’ll fund the program, but we’re really short on money.

“We’re going to do CHIP, there’s no question about it in my mind. And it’s got to be done the right way,” Hatch said. “But the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore, and to just add more and more spending and more and more spending, and you can look at the rest of the bill for the more and more spending.”

This came as he advocated for a tax bill that, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s latest estimate, will add approximately $1 trillion to the deficit even when adjusted for economic growth, and which disproportionately benefits corporations and the wealthy.

Once again, Republicans just passed a Senate GOP tax heist bill that will cost $1.5 trillion just to give the vast majority of that money to corporations and obscenely rich people, but "we just don't have the money" for kids.  OK to give a trillion or so to rich people, $14 billion for kids, screw it.

In his speech, Hatch also said he thinks CHIP has done a “terrific job for people who really need the help” and noted that he had advocated for helping those who can’t help themselves throughout his Senate career. But, he continued, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” He blamed a “liberal philosophy” for creating millions of people “who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

You catch that dog whistle?  "The people YOU know who use CHIP are good people.  It's those people who are ruining it for the rest of us."

So if CHIP has to go, well, blame those people for ruining it.  And if the GOP can get away with trashing CHIP, they can get away with the exact same reasoning behind why they will cut trillions for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid next.  Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley:

In a Nov. 29 interview, Grassley was adamant about the need for change, even if farmers and small business owners represent a tiny minority of estate tax payers. The reason, he said, is as much philosophical as practical.

An estate tax effectively and unfairly taxes a person’s earnings twice, he argued: first when they earn it and again when they die. And, he added, it penalizes savers without touching spenders.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley said, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

If you're going to be hurt by the GOP austerity budget, it's because those people are immoral and causing you to be hurt by it.  We're sorry, but it just has to be done.  The morality of your suffering will be noted as long as you continue to vote correctly, citizen.

Oh, and some of us were never fooled into believing Orrin Hatch would make a good "caretaker president" should the impeachment express train get rolling for real.

The Tale Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

Alabama Republicans simply don't believe the Washington Post's allegations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against Roy Moore, so they will happily vote the monster into office in nine days.

A new CBS News poll finds 71 percent of Alabama Republicans say the allegations against Roy Moore are false, and those who believe this also overwhelmingly believe Democrats and the media are behind those allegations.

The poll found 92 percent of Republicans who don't believe the allegations against Moore say the Democrats are behind the charges, and 88 percent say newspapers and the media are behind them.

Multiple women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriately pursuingor touching them when they were teenagers. The youngest woman to accuse Moore says she was 14 and he was 32 at the time.

The Senate contest looks to be highly dependent on turnout. Moore has a lead over Democrat Doug Jones, 49 percent to 43 percent, among the likely voters who are most apt to vote on Dec. 12. Among all registered voters, the contest is even. And nearly a quarter of voters still describe themselves as "maybe" or "probably" going to vote.

It's a plot by the Democrats and the media, you see. The dog whistle of "If these allegations are true then Moore should step aside" has been received loud and clear as the end justifies the means. Moore hasn't stepped aside, ergo the allegations are a Democratic plot.  Voters simply do not care.

A majority of Alabama Republican voters (53 percent) say the allegations against Moore are a concern, but that other things matter more. One-third of Republicans say the allegations are not a concern to them.

The majority of Alabama voters are willing to overlook a sex criminal because he's a Republican. He's our pervert goddammit, at least he's not a goddamn hippie.

Moore will win easily in the state that elected Trump by 28 points, elected by voters who see being a Democrat as a worse crime than sexual abuse of 14-year-old girls.  This has always been our country, we reap what has been sown in the name of extending white supremacy since the beginning.   And in the end, Moore will win because this is Trump's America now.

The poll also found 49 percent of Moore voters say their Senate vote is in support of President Trump, and 23 percent of Moore voters say the president's comments about the race, specifically, have made them more likely to back Moore.

Among all registered voters, the president has a 57 percent approval rating in the state. Among Moore's voters, it is an astounding 96 percent approval.

"Also did you know Obama was really born in Kenya?" will be the next thing out of Moore voters' mouths after they leave the voting booth.

Sunday Long Read: House Of The Spirits

As Japan's population ages towards economic and cultural unsustainability, the country's solution to housing the elderly, huge apartment complexes that are half hospice, half storage facility, are coming under increasing scrutiny.  It doesn't mean however that Japan is actually going to do anything about it.

Cicadas, every Japanese schoolchild knows, lie underground for years before rising to the earth’s surface in summer. They climb up the nearest tree, where they cast off their shells and start their short second lives. During their few days among us, they mate, fly and cry. They cry until their bodies are found on the ground, twitching in their last moments, or on their backs with their legs pointing upward.

Chieko Ito hated the din they made. They had just started shrieking, as they always did in early summer, and the noise would keep getting louder in the weeks to come, invading her third-floor apartment, making any kind of silence impossible. As one species of cicadas quieted down, another’s distinct cry would take over. Then, as the insects peaked in numbers, showers of dead and dying cicadas would rain down on her enormous housing complex, stopping only with the end of summer itself.

“You hear them from morning to evening,” she sighed.

It was the afternoon of her 91st birthday, and unusually hot, part of a heat wave that had community leaders worried. Elderly volunteers had been winding through the labyrinth of footpaths, distributing leaflets on the dangers of heatstroke to the many hundreds of residents like Mrs. Ito who lived alone in 171 nearly identical white buildings. With no families or visitors to speak of, many older tenants spent weeks or months cocooned in their small apartments, offering little hint of their existence to the world outside their doors. And each year, some of them died without anyone knowing, only to be discovered after their neighbors caught the smell.

The first time it happened, or at least the first time it drew national attention, the corpse of a 69-year-old man living near Mrs. Ito had been lying on the floor for three years, without anyone noticing his absence. His monthly rent and utilities had been withdrawn automatically from his bank account. Finally, after his savings were depleted in 2000, the authorities came to the apartment and found his skeleton near the kitchen, its flesh picked clean by maggots and beetles, just a few feet away from his next-door neighbors.

The huge government apartment complex where Mrs. Ito has lived for nearly 60 years — one of the biggest in Japan, a monument to the nation’s postwar baby boom and aspirations for a modern, American way of life — suddenly became known for something else entirely: the “lonely deaths” of the world’s most rapidly aging society.

“4,000 lonely deaths a week,” estimated the cover of a popular weekly magazine this summer, capturing the national alarm.

To many residents in Mrs. Ito’s complex, the deaths were the natural and frightening conclusion of Japan’s journey since the 1960s. A single-minded focus on economic growth, followed by painful economic stagnation over the past generation, had frayed families and communities, leaving them trapped in a demographic crucible of increasing age and declining births. The extreme isolation of elderly Japanese is so common that an entire industry has emerged around it, specializing in cleaning out apartments where decomposing remains are found.

“The way we die is a mirror of the way we live,” said Takumi Nakazawa, 83, the chairman of the resident council at Mrs. Ito’s housing complex for the past 32 years.

Summer was the most dangerous season for these lonely deaths, and Mrs. Ito wasn’t taking any chances. Birthday or not, she knew that no one would call, drop a note or stop by to check on her. Born in the last year of the reign of Emperor Taisho, she never expected to live this long. One by one, family and friends had vanished or grown feeble. Ghosts, of the living and dead, now dwelled all around her in the scores of uniform buildings she and her husband had rushed to in 1960, when all of Japan seemed young.

“Now every room is mine, and I can do as I please,” Mrs. Ito said. “But it’s no good.”

This one was sad, even by my usual Sunday Long Read standards.  Not that I think anything is better in America these days, and pretty soon we'll all be Chieko Ito the way things are going.   A good friend of my mother passed away recently, alone, found a couple of days later when she didn't show up for church.  I'd be lying if I didn't fear that outcome.  I think we all do.

We're just led by people who don't care.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

It seems at every turn, Candidate Trump was seeking Vladimir Putin's help to win the election and surrounded himself again and again with people Trump believed who could get him Putin's ear, and the more we dig into this relationship, the more people we find who connect Trump and Putin.  The latest NY Times story on one of those connections involves Jeff Sessions and the NRA.

A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.

A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “‘first contact.’” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times.

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, secured a guilty plea on Friday from President Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, for lying to the F.B.I. about contacts with Moscow’s former ambassador to the United States. But those contacts came after Mr. Trump’s improbable election victory.

The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came far earlier, around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign. Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign.

I'm beginning to think all these ridiculously overt connections to Putin were insurance for Trump making good on his quid pro quo to remove US sanctions on Russia, because otherwise there would be no way that Trump could hide them if he was exposed.

Both efforts, made within days of each other, centered on the N.R.A.’s annual meeting and appear to involve Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of the Russian central bank and key figure in Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, who was instructed to make contact with the campaign.

Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” the N.R.A. member and conservative activist, Paul Erickson, wrote. “He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let’s talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions’s advice on how to proceed.”

It is not clear how Mr. Dearborn handled the outreach. He forwarded a similar proposal, made through Rick Clay, an advocate for conservative Christian causes, to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top campaign aide. Mr. Kushner rebuffed the proposal at the time, according to two people who have seen Mr. Kushner’s email.

Mr. Sessions told investigators from the House Intelligence Committee that he did not recall the outreach, according to three people with knowledge of the exchange. Mr. Dearborn did not return requests for comment, and Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer dealing with matters related to the investigations, declined to comment. Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Erickson were not successful.

Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia, on orders from the highest levels of its government, undertook a sophisticated campaign to hack Democratic computers, spread propaganda and undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. The repeated outreach around the N.R.A. convention, where Mr. Trump accepted the group’s endorsement, came just weeks after a self-described intermediary for the Russian government told George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide, that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton. And just weeks later, the president’s eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about the would-be Democratic nominee.

“The Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true reset in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House,” Mr. Erickson wrote to Mr. Dearborn, adding, “Ever since Hillary compared Putin to Hitler, all senior Russian leaders consider her beyond redemption.

There's no longer any doubt that Trump was working for Russia.  The question has always been if the rest of the GOP would give a damn about it, and the answer so far is a resounding "hell no, we're getting what we want from him."  They don't believe it, and even if they believed it, they don't care.

And why should they?  They've all but won a multi-generational battle that will destroy 80 years of classic New Deal liberalism and have returned America into a new Gilded Age where the quarter of Americans who vote Republican every election year in local, state, and federal elections are the proxy that rules the other 75% of us, the vast majority of that group composed of people who just don't give a damn either because they've never been convinced that government can ever be used for good.

We don't care enough to remove the GOP.  There's no bottom limit, no nadir for what they can get away with now.

No wonder we have Trump.
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