Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump Wants Your Social Security Number!

The Star Tribune has a piece up about Trump's plan to root out and stop the imaginary voter fraud that he and his supporters believe is running rampant around the United States. It can't possibly be that people don't like them. It has to be those gol durned illegals!

So, he has sent Mike Pence out to get everyone's Social Security numbers to make sure that we are all legit. Yeah...riiiiiight...I'm giving my SS number to a well known con man! How well has that worked out in the past? And talk about BIG government. I guess it's when they do it, it's OK.


Trump and his allies have said the commission’s work is necessary to prevent what they contend are widespread instances of voter fraud. Evidence for that claim is exceedingly thin. Kobach has made it a central issue of his tenure and has achieved a total of nine voter fraud convictions. Most of the people convicted were older Republican voters, and at least one claims he was targeted for an “honest mistake.”

Who called that from a mile away?


Again, for those who have trouble accepting reality.

Academics who have studied the issue for decades say voter fraud — particularly of the type that strict ID laws championed by Kobach and others are intended to combat — is vanishingly rare, and that voter ID requirements are a burdensome solution. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Our National Enquirer President


Thursday, June 29, 2017

How Right Wing Blogger/Commenters Run Our Country

President Trump is indeed the dear leader of right wing bloggers and commenters. Thank god he shows those smug liberal elites like Mika Brezezinksi whose boss rather than...oh, I don't the country, fix our problems, you know, that minor stuff that gets in the way of baby's twitter time!

No wonder the guys I kicked off this site love him so much. He's the same insecure, childish, misogynistic pile of shit that they are.

How do you guys like your president now? 

Why the Republicans Are So Bad

Seth Meyers' A Closer Look segments are always interesting. This one has a clip from MSNBC which is extremely revealing about little the Republican-led congress has accomplished in five whole months, and how totally oblivious Republican congressmen truly are (the segment of interest starts at 5:07):

Florida congressman Francis Rooney was being interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC about the Senate's version of the health care bill.
Hayes: They're going make you vote on the Senate bill. You realize that, right? They're gonna bring that thing over and they're gonna jam it down the House caucus's throat. And this process is then going to be you're process, because you in the House are gonna have to own it.

Rooney: Well, I don't know. Isn't there something called a, like a ... compromise committee or something, when two different bills are different and they come together to...

Hayes: Yes, the conference committee. They're going to bypass it and they're going to make you, sir, they're going to make you vote for this thing.

Rooney: Oh, I don't know about that. I'll have to check into that.
Rooney has been in office since January, and he's still doesn't know at all how the legislative process works. That's because this Republican congress has done essentially nothing since taking office in  January. He doesn't know about the conference committee because the Republican congress hasn't gone through process yet.

It is obscene that Rooney doesn't even know what the conference committee is called. This is Rooney's job, and he's completely unfamiliar with it. A tenth grader knows more about how the government works than a Republican member of congress!

(I don't fault Rooney for being out of the loop on the Senate's dirty tricks, though you'd think Republican representatives would be leery about getting shafted again by the health care bill after Trump called the bill Rooney voted for "mean".)

The conference committee is isn't some arcane point of parliamentary procedure. It's the guts of the legislative process: how bills get passed.

Rooney was previously the Vatican ambassador under George W. Bush, and looks to be a fourth-generation know-nothing heir to a large construction corporation that sucks on the government's teat, building all kinds of government buildings, presidential libraries, public universities and various Pentagon contracts.

This is why the Republican Party is so bad. It's run by a clique of Washington insiders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who lead a bunch of ignorant rich boys (or rich boys' puppets) from the boondocks of the South and West (whose granddaddies and daddies got wealthy off the government), while bitching about how terrible the government is.

Because these zeroes are totally oblivious about how the mechanics of government works, they can pass themselves off as "authentic" and "outsiders" and get suckers who always vote Republican to vote for them. But in the end they're just representing their own interests or the interests of the billionaires who bought the election for them, and damn the people who voted for them.

Rooney and Trump are peas in a pod: they know nothing about the jobs they were elected to perform, and apparently have no interest in learning about them.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic Starts in Our Back Yards

Last summer I was at a backyard volleyball party, comparing our various injuries and ailments (yeah, we're old).

One man, we'll call him "M," told us about how the time his toe hurt so much that he was seriously considering shooting it off. He went to the doctor, but his regular guy was on vacation.

M was certain he had gout, but the substitute doctor scoffed. M asked for something more potent than Tylenol or ibuprofen to relieve the pain, but the doctor refused, making M quite angry.

I pointed out that doctors are very leery about handing out opioids these days because addiction and overdose deaths have become an extremely serious problem in the United States. One doctor was just charged for murdering five patients after prescribing lethal amounts of painkillers.

Eventually M saw his regular doctor, who confirmed that he did in fact have gout, and with proper medication and diet the pain was resolved.

One woman at the party, we'll call her "W," said that she had a prescription for OxyContin, one of the major villains in the opioid epidemic. She had been prescribed the drug for an injury, which she said had long since been resolved. But she still had a prescription, and she would go to the pharmacy to pick it every month when they called to tell her it was ready. Her insurance was still paying for it, so why not?

Of the two stories, W's is the one that encapsulates everything that's wrong with health care in America.

First, insurance companies paying for expensive opioid prescriptions that people don't need jacks up insurance rates for everyone.

Second, what kind of quack issues a long-term OxyContin prescription for someone who no longer needs it? Why isn't there any follow up for patients on this highly additive drug?

Third, what kind of person essentially steals drugs they don't need or even use from the insurance company, jacking up insurance rates for the rest of us?

Fourth, if W has kids, what kind of mother puts them at risk of drug addiction by keeping a huge stock of what is essentially legalized heroin around the house? Kids get introduced to prescription drugs at parties and then start looking for a supply at home.

Fifth, what kind of person makes herself a target of criminals by talking about her large stash of oxy in a public place? I'm sure no one there would break into her house, but people do talk, especially when people say such stupid things.

This isn't an isolated incident: it's part of huge problem that's killing Americans much, much faster than the rest of the world.

According to CBS, in 2015 OxyContin and Vicodin killed 17,000+ Americans, more than one and a half times the number of gun homicides. Heroin "only" killed about 13,000 people. Illicit fentanyl (the drug that killed Prince) took almost 10,000 lives.

A UN study just released has found that Americans have the highest overdose death rate in the world, dying at six times the global average:

Infographic: America Has the Highest Drug-Death Rate in North America - and the World | Statista

We're number one!?

And the death rate is still climbing: there were at least 59,000 to 65,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. The real number is in all likelihood much higher because not every overdose death is tagged as such, because it takes time and money to run the tests to determine cause of death.

Drug companies, doctors and insurance companies are all complicit in these deaths, pushing drugs on people who don't need them and shouldn't have them. Ohio has sued five drug companies for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

People have to exercise some common sense: Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin are the same as heroin. If you take these drugs for any length of time, you run a significant risk of becoming addicted.

If you get addicted eventually your insurance company will cut you off, and you'll have to get your drug elsewhere: buying pills off teenagers who steal them from people like W, finding an illicit supply of fentanyl manufactured in Mexican drugs labs, or resorting to heroin, which funds the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It seems crazy, but the trail of American overdose deaths runs from the board rooms of the pharmaceutical giants, the drug labs of Mexico and the poppy fields of Afghanistan, directly into our back yards.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Everyone Stands to Lose Their Health Care with the Repeal of Obamacare

When people think of Obamacare, they think of the insurance exchanges where individuals can buy policies, or the expansion of Medicaid for people who can't afford to buy their own policies.

But both the House and Senate bills would eliminate a little-known Obamacare requirement: that large employers provide affordable coverage for their employees (the last point in this article).

Most people in the United States get their health insurance from the companies they work for. In the 1940s and 1950s companies started providing health care as a little extra perk that was relatively cheap. Medical care was mostly provided by non-profit hospitals, and mom-and-pop single-doctor practices. It was cheap because it wasn't very advanced.

But over the years the medical industrial complex got bigger and bigger. Organ transplants became possible. In many cases cancer became a chronic disease instead of a death sentence. Drugs could completely cure certain diseases (hepatitis C). Arthritic knees and hips could be replaced. Many types of blindness could be completely cured.

These treatments were expensive to develop and expensive to deliver. Health insurance companies got bigger and bigger, and medicine became a huge part of the economy, now more than a sixth of United States GDP.

Companies used to completely subsidize employees' health care, but as it became more expensive they made employees pick up more and more of the cost. The biggest sticking point in union contract negotiations has now become health care, not wages.

But Obamacare slowed that down: companies were required to provide affordable health care to employees.

But if the Republicans succeed in repealing Obamacare, that will no longer be the case: everyone, whether they buy their own insurance or get it through their employer, will be facing drastically increasing premiums and eventually the loss of their health insurance. Only the wealthy will be able to afford health care.

Courtesy of Donald Trump and the Republicans.

When Trump was running for president he blathered endlessly about how he'd provide great care for everyone at a fraction of the cost. This was total nonsense: where would the cost savings come from?

Was he going to eliminate insurance companies? These companies are highly profitable but all they do is shuffle paperwork, deny treatment, and suck up larger and larger percentage of our health care dollar every year.

Was he going to cut doctor salaries? Four years ago even the most poorly paid doctor -- family practitioners -- made $189,000. Cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons rake in over $500K a year. But do you really want to have heart surgery by a doctor who's bitter about having his income cut to a meager $100K?

Was he going to cap drug prices? Drug prices in the United States have skyrocketed, even for generic drugs that have been off-patent for decades.

Was he going to regulate prices for medical devices such as knee replacements? These cost as much as ten times more in the US than they do in Europe.

The answer to all these questions is no. The main thing the Republican health care bill does is eliminate the investment income tax on the wealthy that finances Medicaid and the premium assistance that low-income.

The Republican "health care" bill is actually a gigantic tax cut for the wealthy.

Republicans have been selling a lie about health care for the last 20 years, pretending that it's just another consumer product.

People can't shop around for medical care based on price: you can't go to Consumer Reports and find the best deal on triple bypass operations -- you never know what anything will cost until you get the bill in the mail.

And people don't want to know, anyway: since their lives depend on it, they just care about the outcome, not how much it'll cost.

The most irksome thing about this is that the people who are making these decisions -- President Trump and congressmen -- are either extremely wealthy or have their health care provided for free by a generous government-funded health plan.

But whatever decision they make, it won't affect their health care at all. That is, we can only hope, until 2019, when all these bums are thrown out of office.

So Now The Russians Did Hack The Election?

Here's a great series of twitter squirts which essentially admit that the Russians hacked the election.
    He is truly his own worst enemy.

    Monday, June 26, 2017

    The Supreme Court Lets California Restrict Guns in Public

    The Supreme Court turned down another challenge to a gun control law, this time a California law that restricts carrying guns in public. 

    This has a lot of people scratching their heads:
    As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for deciding not to hear the case. The court has turned away numerous Second Amendment cases in recent years, to the frustration of gun rights groups and some conservative justices.

    Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, dissented. The court’s refusal to hear the case, Justice Thomas wrote, “reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right.”

    In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep guns at home for self-defense.
    Some of the laws the Court has let stand appear to be contradictory:
    The question has divided the lower courts. The federal appeals court in Chicago struck down an Illinois law that banned carrying guns in public, while federal appeals courts in New York, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va., upheld laws that placed limits on permits to carry guns outside the home. The Supreme Court turned away appeals in all three cases.
    Here's an idea: perhaps the court realizes that not all locales should have the same gun laws: New York City has little in common with Cheyenne, Wyoming. Those two cities don't have the same population density, levels of wealth and poverty, types of land use, wildlife, industry, and on and on.

    Over the last few years conservatives have been insisting that Roe vs. Wade was evil because the federal government usurped the right of states to make their own abortion laws.

    So why do they believe the federal government should be able to jam the same gun control laws down the throats of every state?

    Every right guaranteed in the Constitution is subject to conditions and exceptions. Felons don't have the right to vote or carry guns. Pedophiles don't have the right to associate with children. States can control your freedom of movement by setting speed limits.

    The Second Amendment is no different, especially considering the weird "well-regulated militia" preamble that it has. We can also get a sense of what the Framers were thinking by looking at the several forms it went through before it was finalized in 1789. Most of the versions implied that "the militia" was an organized army of citizens, as implied by the final (rejected) amendment to change the wording to "bear arms for the common defence."

    I suspect that the Framers simply could not agree on whether they really wanted to let every moron carry a gun, and rather than bicker endlessly about it, they decided to make the amendment as short as possible and let future generations sort it out.

    Which is what we're doing now.

    The Cost of Fear: $3 Million

    The fear of guns now has a price tag: $3 million. That's the amount that Philando Castile's survivors will be paid:
    The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist killed by a Minnesota police officer last year, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement in his death, according to an announcement Monday by her attorneys and the Minneapolis suburb that employed the officer.
    What's even more outrageous is the following:
    The $2.995 million settlement will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. It requires approval by a state court, which could take several weeks. The statement from the city and Castile's attorneys says no taxpayer money will be used to fund the settlement. 
    What? No taxpayer money is funding the settlement? This is utter nonsense.

    Clearly the Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust receives funds from Minnesota cities. And not just from the cities who employed Jeronimo Yanez -- it's all Minnesota cities, including the city I live in. Where do cities get the money to pay the premiums to the Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust? From my property taxes, that's where.

    So my tax dollars are definitely paying for this settlement.

    Now, I'm not complaining that Castile's mother is being compensated for the murder of her son. I'm complaining about the city lying about taxpayers not paying for it.

    Every time one of these cops murders an innocent person we're the ones on the hook for giving their victims some form of justice, albeit a very poor form.

    As I have said before, police do have legitimate fears of being shot whenever they pull someone over. Guns are way too prevalent in American society. But that still doesn't excuse cops who make piss-poor trigger-happy judgment calls.

    Cops would shoot a lot fewer people if there were a lot fewer guns on the street: this sort of thing doesn't happen with anywhere near this frequency in countries like England because 90% of cops don't carry firearms. Because guns are tightly controlled. Even when cops carry weapons they rarely use them:
    In the year up to March 2016, police in England and Wales only fired seven bullets. (Although these government figures do not include accidental shots, shooting out tires, or killing dangerous or injured animals.)

    These officers fatally shot just five people during that period, according to British charity Inquest, which helps families after police-related deaths. 
    Yanez fired seven bullets at Castile in as many seconds, in just one incident.

    Five deaths about 1 person per 10 million citizens. For the same period in the United States cops shot and killed almost a thousand people, or 30 people per 10 million citizens.

    The simple fact is, the more common guns are, the more acceptable people find their use. Owning a gun means you intend to kill someone or something. People who own guns believe that violence and killing are acceptable solutions to their problems.

    Who else thinks that way? The Taliban, Hezbollah, ISIS and Al Qaeda.

    Sunday, June 25, 2017

    How Do We Weed Out Cops Who Are a Public Menace?

    There have been dozens of protests since Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted for killing Philando Castile just seconds after Castile calmly and rationally informed Yanez that he was in possession of a licensed firearm.

    Castile's defense?
    “I thought, I was gonna die,” St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez told investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension fifteen hours after the shooting. “And I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the 5-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me. And, I let off the rounds and then after the rounds were off, the little girls was screaming.”
    This is not credible -- that story was clearly concocted after the fact to explain away the cold-blooded assassination of an innocent man. Yanez wasn't thinking of a little girl's lungs and second-hand smoke while he was shooting Castile.

    Yanez's story is revealed as a total crock by the presence of that same five-year-old girl and the front-seat passenger. They were in far more danger from the seven shots Yanez unloaded into the car than by some marijuana smoke.

    Yanez was clearly driven by fear, and the only thing he was thinking was "Black man! Gun! Shoot!"

    And this is still happening, almost on a daily basis.

    Last Wednesday night a white police officer shot an off-duty cop (a black man) who had come to assist his fellow officers.

    The shooter's excuse? He feared for his safety. But it's the same story: "Black man! Gun! Shoot!"

    This is getting really old, really fast. Cops are supposed to be professionals. They're not supposed to let emotions like fear and anger influence their actions. Yet they pull this sort of crap every god-damned day. They're supposed to be trained to handle these sorts of situations. But instead they start popping off gunshots like some kid plinking away at bottles in the local quarry.

    Castile got off because the jury believed he was afraid, even though there was video of the shooting and its aftermath. Jurors gave Yanez the benefit of the doubt because, if they had been in his shoes, they too might have pulled the trigger.

    But they are civilians. They would never be in that situation because they don't have the right to stop cars on the street and intrude on people's privacy. If some random civilian armed with a gun had done the exact same thing Yanez did, stopping Castile's car and then shooting him, the cops would have called it carjacking, first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon and endangering a minor. The jury would have convicted him after an hour's deliberation, tops, especially if he was Hispanic like Yanez.

    Cops have to be held to a higher standard. Because cops are given more power, they have to bear greater responsibility for their actions. They shouldn't be judged like civilians. As professionals, their internal emotional state should have no bearing whatsoever on how they carry out their duties. When they shoot innocent civilians out of fear they are being derelict in their duty and endangering the public at large.

    A cop using his fear to excuse shooting an innocent civilian at a traffic stop is the same as a vice cop saying, "The hooker I was arresting made me horny so I had to rape her."

    Being a police officer is a tough job. But cops who shoot innocent civilians and fellow officers are criminally incompetent and a danger to themselves, the police force, the cities and counties who employ them, and the public at large.

    At a minimum Yanez is guilty of gross incompetence, gross criminal negligence and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm (charges he was, incredibly, acquitted of). He should have been fired as soon as his superiors saw the dashcam video of the encounter. It's outrageous that he received a year's paid vacation when he was put on leave.

    And even though Yanez was acquitted, the case is not over yet. Yanez and the cities of Falcon Heights and St. Anthony are almost certainly going to be sued in civil court by Castile's kin and Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car.

    Cities -- and the citizens who pay taxes -- fork over hundreds of millions of dollars a year for cops who screw up like this. All too often these cops have a long history of violence and shoddy police work.

    Police officers who can't master their own fear have no business being cops. We have to find some way to weed out officers who can't make rational decisions in tough situations.

    Of course, it must be noted that -- despite everything that the NRA says -- guns provide absolutely no protection: they make you a target, especially if you are a black man.

    The omnipresence of guns in America and the rife paranoia they inspire in police officers is the number one reason why so many black men are shot.

    Safety Net For The Poor

    Saturday, June 24, 2017

    Why They Love Trump

    Nikto recently left a comment that is deserving of its own post.

    Trump's popularity among conservatives is much simpler to explain than that. They derive enjoyment from hurting other people. Trump loves to hurt other people. Therefore they love Trump. They don't give a damn about abortion, or religion, or morality, or anything else really. They just like seeing people hurt. That's why they like guns, hunting, waterboarding, war, NASCAR, boxing, you name it. Reality TV shows like the one Trump was on are all about humiliating people, hurting them to their core. That's how Trump wormed his way into these people's hearts. Are these people tired of their own hurt so they want to see others hurt? Or are they all just psychopaths like Trump? 

    I don't know. But eventually they'll come to understand that Trump has been playing them all this time, and they'll be the ones that are hurting. Trump's policies are going to screw over his base royally. The question is whether they'll be able to escape the Sunk Cost Fallacy and blow off Trump and the Republican Party, which has been screwing them for more than five decades now.

    Amen, brother.