Monday, December 11, 2017

Last Call For Chew On This, America

A third of Americans lack dental coverage, far more than lack health coverage, so here in the wealthiest, most prosperous country in human history, people like Shanda King camp out in parking lots a day in advance for a chance at getting their teeth looked at.

King, 41, couldn't believe it when a friend told her about the two-day mobile clinic held Saturday and Sunday at the Chua Viên Thông Tu Buddhist Temple in west Houston. Free medical care. Free vision screenings and prescription glasses. And, most important to King, free dental. 
This was the chance she'd been waiting for. To gain access to the Remote Area Medical clinic, she just needed to be one of the first 400 people in line before it opened 6 a.m. Saturday. 
King wasn't taking any chances. 
When she arrived at 4 p.m. Friday — a full 14 hours early — she was the first. Thirty minutes later, another car parked behind her outside the temple, a retired husband and wife who'd driven four hours from Dallas, hoping for new dentures. An hour later, another car pulled up, this one driven by a retail worker from Pearland who'd gone four years without new glasses. Then another, a 19-year-old construction worker from Dickinson who for more than a year had suffered the constant pain of an untreated toothache. 
By 3 a.m., a few dozen cars had lined up behind King, each carrying a story of despair.
Similar scenes play out every time Remote Area Medical arrives in a town. The Tennessee-based nonprofit, better known as RAM, has hosted similar clinics across the country, each time drawing massive crowds. In a country where more than 114 million people have no dental coverage — far more than the 28 million who lack medical coverage — RAM clinics and others like them are a lifeline for those most desperate for help. 
"There are tens of thousands of people in Houston who lack access to affordable care," said Stan Brock, who founded RAM in 1985 and, of late, has made headlines by inviting President Donald Trump to attend one of his events. "No matter how much we talk about improving our health care system, unless we add vision and dental coverage, people will continue to be in pain and suffering." 
King has endured her share of pain and suffering, but she didn't want to dwell on her past as she waited at the front of the line Saturday morning. She leaned back in her driver's seat and tried to sleep, but she couldn't. She distracted herself by reading on her phone or listening to the radio, but mostly she just sat in silence, daydreaming. 
She thought about what her life would be like after RAM's volunteer dentists implanted bridges and crowns in her mouth to replace the teeth that she'd lost to tooth decay. She imagined how she'd look without the "ragged smile" that has made her embarrassed to even smirk in public. King described the hopeless cycle that's led her here: Without a steady job and dental coverage, she can't afford to see a dentist; as a result, her teeth look terrible, which makes it harder to land a job. 
She doesn't blame employers for passing her over after they see the gaps in her teeth. 
"A person's smile is like a window into their soul," King said around 4 a.m. "This is a chance for me to regain that and to start letting people see me for who I really am. This is my big break."

I agree with Erik Loomis on this, there's no greater indictment of American late-stage capitalism than a government that prioritizes tax cuts for billionaires and corporations over basic dental care.  The great breakdown is coming, millions of us living on the same cliff as Shanda King are going to go over the edge and the America that will follow will not be a pretty sight.

Yes, right now they are willing to vote for Trump and even fight for him.  Whether they are ready to die for Monsanto or Merck or Apple on the streets in a Great Depression is another matter entirely.  Some will.  I'm betting most won't.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Mueller probe is closing in on Trump, with multiple interviews of Trump regime staffers in the White House over the last several months.  The focus of those interviews, according to NBC News at least, is on the two-and-a-half weeks between when the FBI informed Trump that his national security adviser Michael Flynn was a massive security risk to the nation, and when Flynn was actually fired.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. 
The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. 
Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn. 
Some of those interviewed by Mueller's team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical to federal investigators trying to piece together a timeline of those 18 days. 
Neither McGahn's lawyer nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Special Counsel's office declined to comment.

It ain't the crime, as they say, but the cover-up.  The key to this is Sally Yates.

The obstruction of justice question could hinge on when Trump knew about the content of Flynn's conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, which were at the crux of Yates's warning, and when the president learned Flynn had lied about those conversations to the FBI, according to two people familiar with the Mueller probe. 
Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI on Jan. 24, an interview that took place the day after he was sworn in as national security adviser. 
Yates has testified to Congress that she informed McGahn on Jan. 26 that Flynn had not been truthful in statements to senior members of the Trump team, including Vice President Mike Pence, when he said he did not discuss U.S. sanctions with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Yates said Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by the Russians because he had lied about the contents of a phone call with Kislyak.

Yates was later fired by Trump.

Justice Department officials who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity said they had expected the White House to fire Flynn on Jan. 26 upon learning that he had lied to the vice president. 
Instead, Trump fired Yates on Jan. 30, citing her refusal to enforce his executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the U.S. Before she left, however, she made available, at McGahn's request, evidence she had that Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with Kislyak, according to her congressional testimony.

Again, if the Trump regime knew Flynn was a national security threat and it took almost three weeks to fire him because Trump was actively trying to cover up that assessment, then that's your obstruction charge right there.  Ball game.

And that's just the tip of this iceberg of toxic waste.  It also points the finger at what Mike Pence knew, meaning he too could go up on obstruction charges.  And speaking of toxic waste, it looks like it's Steve Bannon's turn on the carousel.

Bannon was a key bystander when Trump decided to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with foreign officials. He was among those Trump consulted before firing FBI Director James Comey, whose dismissal prompted Mueller’s appointment — a decision Bannon subsequently described to "60 Minutes" as the biggest mistake “in modern political history.” 
And during the campaign, Bannon was the one who offered the introduction to data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO has since acknowledged trying to coordinate with WikiLeaks on the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. 
Yet Bannon hasn’t faced anywhere near the degree of public scrutiny in connection to the probe as others in Trump’s inner circle, including son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner — who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team — or Donald Trump Jr., who was interviewed on Capitol Hill last week about his own Russian connections. 
People close to Bannon, who left the White House in August and returned to his former perch as head of Breitbart News, say he’s told them he doesn’t have a lawyer and isn’t worried about potential exposure. But others say it’s inevitable he’ll be called in as a witness in the ongoing investigations. He has not been publicly accused of any wrongdoing or named as a target of the investigations.
Stay tuned.  The Trumpies are getting scared, so scared in fact that they are desperately trying to discredit Mueller and to goad Trump into firing him.  Trump's ham-fisted attempt to do so is coming very soon.

Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro called for the “cleansing” of law enforcement officials who are investigating the president on her show Saturday night. She said the FBI and Justice Department have too many "political hacks" embedded and called on a whole bunch of federal law enforcement officials to be arrested.

"There have been times in our history where corruption and lawlessness were so pervasive that examples had to be made. This is one of those times," she said. "I for one am tired of investigations, politicians posturing. Something more has to be done."

Pirro singled out Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and FBI official Peter Strzok. Fox News opinion hosts have been using the discovery of “anti-Trump text messages” from Strzok as an excuse to undermine the entire Mueller investigation as corrupt.

“The stench coming out of the Justice Department and the FBI is like that of a third-world country where money and bullies and clubs decide election,” she said. “It all started with cardinal [James] Comey destroyed our FBI with political hacks to set events in motion to destroy the republic because they did not like the man we chose to be our president.”

Pirro called Comey a “political whore” during her show last week.

She continued on Saturday: “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice — it needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in cuffs!

"Handcuffs for Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI. The man at the hub, protecting Hillary and attempting to destroy Trump."

Trump regime state TV calling for a mass purge of the FBI, but let's keep pretending that we're not headed for a near-guaranteed constitutional crisis and very possibly a bloody and violent one.  But that's what they want, of course.

And the Mueller probe rolls on.

The Deplorables Have Always Been There

Author and journalist Jared Yates Sexton grew up in rural Indiana and has a pretty good idea of how Donald Trump rose to power, his August 2017 book The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore is a solid account of the rise of the "deplorables" who, as Sexton reminds us this week at the Daily Beast, have always been with us.

My experiences on the 2016 campaign trail were pretty standard before I went to my first Donald Trump rally. Like others, I’d considered Trump to be a sideshow that would run its course before the field narrowed to more serious competitors. And, like others, I’d heard his speeches that ran around the clock on cable news and was certain someone expressing such vulgar and offensive ideas didn’t stand a chance of winning the office.

I was wrong.

Trump maintained his momentum in the polls largely because of his offensive statements. People like my family loved that he called Mexicans rapists, that he said African Americans are “living in hell,” that, at my first Trump rally, he rolled out his plan to ban Muslim immigrants. Here was a man who spoke their language. Here was a man who lived in their world.

For too long they’d been manipulated by a Republican Party that played on their worst fears but never intended to give them power. They’d voted out of fear for decades. Fear of African Americans. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the world changing. They supported Republicans even though, in their guts, they never trusted them. The GOP was the party of wealth, and many of them, like my family, had been raised to be suspicious of Republicans altogether.

Now, Donald Trump wasn’t just placating them, he was one of them. He said the things they said, believed the things they believed. His “tough talk” and “straight shooter” delivery sounded a lot like the racist and misogynistic conversations taking place at my family’s dinner table.

As a result, Trump dominated the Republican primary while his rallies turned into mobile safe spaces for people to be as ugly and offensive as they wanted.
Inside those rallies, Trump’s faithful were free to spout racial slurs, demean anyone they disagreed with, and call for political opponents to be locked up or hung. I heard them shout “hang Hillary,” or talk about Clinton being stood in front of a firing squad, some of them saying they’d like to fire the last shot or miming the pulling of a trigger. In other rallies, as the media ran stories detailing Trump’s scandals, they discussed how good it would feel to torture and ultimately murder journalists they believed to be traitors.

Meanwhile, the alt right, a group of white supremacists hiding behind the new, cleaned-up moniker of “white nationalists,” were gaining power and influence. In Cleveland, at the Republican National Convention, I saw rising stars of the alt-right flaunt their newfound stardom among the Republican faithful. They held packed events, partied until dawn, and toasted the death of the old guard.

My family bought in big. In addition to Trump signs and hats, they were on social media posting more racist memes, articles from Breitbart, the home of the alt-right, that regurgitated racist ideology. When Steve Bannon came on the campaign and leashed Donald Trump to teleprompters and his speeches, my family was absolutely hooked. The rhetoric he pushed, the soft appeal of white nationalism, was what they had been looking for, what they had been spouting, their entire lives.

Having grown up in small town NC and now living in Kentucky, I know the people Sexton is talking about. Donald Trump won in large part because he Made Racism Okay Again.  And even if he resigned tomorrow, the tens of millions who voted for him will expect their America to continue down this path of generational backlash against electing a black president.

And as Sexton says, these folks will always be with us.  Up until now we've been largely able to keep them out of power.  That has failed. There's a reason why Trump's domestic policy is "reverse everything Obama did and erase him from the history books".  It's what he wants, it's what Sexton's racist relatives want, it's what they voted for Trump to do, and he's doing it.

Somehow, people are still surprised by all this. And should America survive Trump, we'll have to deal with his voters too.  They will not go quietly either, not now.  It's going to be brutal, ugly, and bloody, and I don't think people are anywhere near prepared for what it will take to get things back to some semblance of pre-Trump normalcy.


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