McConnell finds his voice

After weeks of political laryngitis on the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) found the will to say that fellow Republican Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) should “find another line of work.”

During a recent interview lasting almost an hour, King said he doesn’t understand how white nationalist, pro Western civilization, and white supremacist language are offensive. Trump says he “hasn’t been following” the fallout over King’s most recent statements. Perhaps Trump’s lack of interest, or outrage, reflect his own comfort with King’s views?

Steve King
(Congressional photo)

In the mean time, King has been stripped of committee appointments by his own party. Without  committee assignments to craft and vote on bills as they are developed, King’s ability to robustly represent Iowa’s only Republican district in Congress has shrunk to hoping he can find anyone in his party to lobby for his district as bills move towards the House floor. James Clyburn, (D-South Carolina) will introduce a call to censure King in the House.

King has announced 39 district town hall meetings this year. I’m not sure those meetings, due to certain protests and counter-protests, will even happen. The country, and the world, will be watching.

Can Governor Kemp deliver for rural Georgia?

Today marks a new era in Georgia, one that follows a contentious race for the governor’s mansion. Will Brian Kemp and the GA Legislature deliver on promises to rural voters?

Rural hospitals are fragile, while access to care is difficult in regards to insurance coverage, number of providers, and transportation. Will legislators swallow hard and request a waiver so much needed federal dollars can make their way to rural citizens and providers?

Will rural residents, and by rural I mean the ones who live on dirt roads or outside any semblance of a crossroads or town, begin to see a solution to high speed, affordable internet access? This infrastructure impacts businesses, schools, and the attractiveness of living in rural communities.

How will Kemp and the legislature handle districting when the census is completed? This issue didn’t get a lot of coverage during the campaigns, but it will impact rural Georgians in big ways as populations continue to shift to more urban areas. What about safe and secure voting?

The clock starts today. When the 40 day session ends, what will wait until 2020, or arrive on Gov Kemp’s desk to be signed?

The new generation of leaders

The Friday Photo

Decatur High School, Decatur, GA

Students walked out or took a knee on Wednesday because #enoughisenough. I stood with them and for them.

Donald Trump’s Seven Dirty Words

Donald Trump isn’t afraid to use hate speech, but words grounded in science, facts, and evidence scare him and his followers so much that he is banning the use of seven words by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The words are:

vulnerable
entitlement
diversity
transgender
fetus
evidence-based
science-based

What are Trump and his followers so afraid of? Evidence and science-based research to protect a fetus from the Zika virus? Providing state of the art care to populations vulnerable to infection like transgender citizens of the United States? Diversity is what makes us a stronger country.

Thought-control and strangleholds on some of the world’s best health researchers, whose slogan is, “CDC 24/7 Saving Lives, Protecting People”™?

Call, email, Tweet, and Facebook your members of Congress and use every one of these words in your comments.

When people don’t mind being lied to

“They May Have Been Phony in the Past But They Are Very Real Now” Sean Spicer on employment numbers released on March 10, 2017

“I’m not in the job of having evidence” Kellyanne Conway on CNN, March 13, 2017

 Sean Spicer said Trump used air quotes when accusing President Obama of “wire tapping” (sic, Trump’s misspelling) phones at Trump Tower. Spicer rolled that explanation out on the same day that the Department of Justice asked for an extension from Congress for producing evidence to support Trump’s Twitter claims. March 13, 2017

What is the core belief that Trump supporters and followers hold that allows them to accept being lied to, day after day, by Trump and everyone in his administration? What does he offer to them that makes being lied to over and over again worth it? These are hard questions that must be asked, and squishy campaign-speak answers aren’t acceptable any longer.

When the data scare folks

Earlier this week I found this nifty tool for comparing the healthcare plan proposed by the Republicans (Trumpcare) to the current plan in place (Obamacare). Let’s call the plans what they are, since the Republicans considered attaching the former President’s name to the health care plan he championed, which provided affordable insurance to over 20Million more Americans, as a negative way to tag the plan and policies.

I also shared the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tool in a FaceBook group that was put together to support the hospital in my rural county. All I did was compare the differences in costs for a 60 year-old making $40,000 per year. I used the names Affordable Care Act and Affordable Health Care for America, not Obamacare and Trumpcare, respectively. I didn’t even mention either President or member of Congress by name.

Yesterday a local man took issue with posting the tool and providing the difference in coverage costs as criticism of the plan and the hospital. I responded today:

I am sharing the data. The tool allows people to use it themselves if they choose to do that. Both plans impact the access to care, and affordability of that care for local residents. Both plans also directly impact our hospital.

If we want to keep our hospital open and viable, it will take a combination of many funding streams- that’s not a criticism of the hospital. Hospital admins and leaders have been frank about the diverse source of funds and payer load that is required to keep the hospital open. I have not named any elected officials, nor criticized anyone, OR provided any information that can’t be verified. If sharing information in a polite and civil forum “stirs people up,” that is something that people who are “stirred up” must resolve for themselves. I’m not afraid to do some of the work of being an informed citizen, and share what I learn if others want to use those resources. The proposed legislation is being fast-tracked, so there isn’t a lot of time to “wait for all the data to be processed.”

I’m smart enough to look at the numbers myself and work through the differences- I don’t have to wait for someone to explain it to me.

Have a good day and weekend.

What’s so scary about a an easy-to-use data tool with information that is readily available and verifiable? What’s to get “stirred up for no reason” about looking at information yourself? And perhaps worse, why does anyone think that we ought to, “wait for all the data to be processed.’? Even though this in a complex problem, it isn’t rocket science.

Why are Trump supporters so unhappy about comparing Trumpcare data to Obamacare data?

The mansplaining and “don’t you worry missy, wait until someone can explain it all to you” is another problem. If you look at the provisions for women’s health care in the Trumpcare plan, and the lack of respect for women and our ability to make information decisions about our health and bodies, well, no wonder this man thought I needed to just sit down and be quiet.

Clearly I didn’t take his words to heart.

One way the Republican health plan will impact my rural county

Last night I used this nifty tool released by the Kaiser Family Foundation to calculate how the proposed health care bill released by the Republicans Tuesday night will impact Washington County.

In Washington County, if you are 60 years old and making $40,000 a year (per capita income is under $38,000 in my county), the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) health insurance tax credit in 2020 will be $7,800. The House plan would provide a credit of just $4,000 in 2020. That means the cost of buying health insurance for a 60-year-old making $40,000 per year will GO UP by $3,800 if the Republican plan is adopted.

Washington County health data comparing ACA and proposed plan from Republicans

Under the current plan, insurance companies are capped at charging three times the amount charged for coverage for younger people. Under the Republican plan the cap increases to five times the cost of rates charged to younger people.

There are also considerable cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

All of these proposed changes will impose serious financial and health threats to people in my county who may not be able to afford insurance any longer, and these expenses will be added to the other cuts to funding in the proposed legislation. These factors, plus others in the proposed plan, do not bode well for our hospital or facilities in other rural communities.

Last May Washington County voters took on a bond to support our hospital, knowing that the bond could not solve all of the financial problems for our struggling facility. We still have work to do if we want to keep our hospital open.

Enslaved people are not immigrants

Ben Carson, photo credit Mother Jones

Dr. Ben Carson, recognized as a brilliant surgeon, used some “alternative facts” in comments to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) staff today, as he begins his work there as the Secretary of the agency. Carson chose to describe enslaved people forced onto boats and brought to the United States, as immigrants.

I looked up immigrant, and I never found a definition that parallels definitions of enslave, “To enslave someone is to force that person to work for no pay, to obey commands, and to lose his or her freedom.”

Carson told HUD staffers, “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

What alternative history book did Carson get that version of optimism on the part of enslaved people? I’d say you couldn’t make this stuff up and try to pass it off as the truth, but if you are Secretary Carson, apparently, you can try.

What I’m reading about last night

What I’m reading about last night (link to the address is below from the New York Times):

WAPo: “In describing his bleak vision of a ruined United States exploited by foreigners, Mr. Trump wrote a series of checks he almost certainly cannot cash.”

The ugliest moment in the 60-minute address came when Mr. Trump announced the formation of an office on “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” and then introduced families of people allegedly murdered by illegal immigrants. It was an appeal to raw prejudice and fear that will do nothing to promote the national unity he claims to be seeking. (emphasis added)

WAPO: Fact checking demonstrates that Trump continues to take credit for things he didn’t do, including the sourcing for DAPL pipeline materials

WaPo: Why any glow from last night won’t last very long

WaPo: The word you didn’t hear last night

NYT: Video of the address to Congress and NYT Washington correspondents comments and analysis during the speech and the Democratic response

NYT: Did Bannon and Miller talk Trump away from a pivot on immigration during lunch yesterday?

NYT: Five takeaways from last night’s speech

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution on pouring money into the military,
“In short, this is not a carefully thought-out strategy from the Trump administration, based on consultation with the experts and our allies. Instead, the man who took five draft deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam, the man who says that he knows better than the generals how to defeat ISIS and who claims he understands the military because he attended a military-themed boarding school, is offering a military strategy fueled largely by his own deep personal insecurities.”

Who isn’t in the room now?

Gen John Dunford, Jr. left, is the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council. Senator Dan Coats, right, has been nominated to serve as the next Director of National Intelligence.

The duties that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence include participating in discussions and decision-making in the National Security Council.  Trump has decided that they don’t need to attend unless specifically asked. Their job every day, all day, is to protect our country. They’ve been told to wait in the hall.

Who will be attending National Security Meetings?

Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategist and former Breitbart Executive Director, said in august 2016,“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Trump’s strategist, Steve Bannon, who does not go through any confirmation process with the Senate, as Cabinet and other high-ranking officials are required to do, is now a member of the National Security Council. Two men with military and diplomatic experience were sent to the hallway to make room for Bannon.

What are Bannon’s politics in addition to anti-Semitic and misogynist views? In August of last year he told reporter Ronald Radosh,“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Trump is giving his chief strategist free rein to do that.

The millions of people who have filled our country’s streets, airports, Congressional offices, and jammed phone lines, are doing their part to protect the Constitution and our government from the hands of those who are determined to destroy all of it.

 

Breaking bread in a mosque

The Friday Photo
January 27, 2016

photo from the internet

Heeding the observation a wise friend shared with me the day after last year’s election, I am making a concerted effort to desegregate what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the most segregated hour” in our country. In November I visited the church just a block down the street from my house, a congregation established by former slaves not too many years after the end of the Civil War.

Last Friday, along with my husband and a friend, I attended the monthly community dinner at the Islamic Center of Macon. All three of us were warmly greeted and welcomed for the evening. My friend and I joined the women on their side of the partitioned room, where younger children played and roamed freely from our side to the one where the men gathered. . There were prayers, a practice round for a children’s quiz competition, and wonderful food.

Environmental advocacy connected all of us during dinner conversations. Our concerns ranged from food resources, clean water, and ways that the women we shared a meal with could be active in stewardship. In turn, we were invited to participate and support an interfaith women’s organization in Macon, and of course, to return again to join them.

The mosque where we gathered was vandalized in December 2015. When funds are secured they will relocated to a larger facility better suited for their needs. For now, on the edge of a neighborhood in the early stages of gentrification, just blocks from larger affluent Christian churches, faithful and peace-loving Muslims gather every week to worship, and when visitors appear, they open their arms to hug them as most welcome guests.

Calling his bluff

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto refused to fall victim to Trump’s childish demand that Mexico pay for a wall that Trump insists on building on the Mexico-United States border. Instead of tolerating the behavior of a spoiled child, Neito said he’d just stay at home.

Every business threatened by Trump’s insistence that he would impose tariffs and taxes on them if they don’t do exactly what he wants, should be watching. If they are smart, they also know that Trump doesn’t have the authority to do that- Congress levies taxes and tariffs.

Bullying is breaking a good relationship with a continental ally. Will it prove to embolden American companies to follow their own course, leaving Trump to look like the fool he is proving himself to be?

The cancellation of this working meeting comes on the heels of senior State Department officials leaving their jobs en masse, according to the Washington Post.

Jay Bookman at the AJC has an outstanding column today on the first six days of Trump’s administration.

 

“The little voice in your heart must guide you”- my daughter’s letter to her children

The Friday Photo
January 20, 2017
reposted with permission from my daughter McKinsey Cummings

photo credit McKinsey Cummings, Macon, GA, Martin Luther King Jr, Day, January 16, 2017 Chase, 8.5 years old, Ella, 10 years old

An Open Letter  to My Children on MLK Day

4 days prior to the inauguration of He Who Must Not Be Named: I’m sorry. Sorry that the world you were born into is about to change. Sorry that the value I raise you with: honesty, kindness, and fairness to all will not be the values reflected by the head of government in this country. When all this is over you will be teenagers and trying to find your place in the world. You will have heard and witnessed things I would have never thought possible for your generation. I promise I will show you the path of generosity of spirit and deed. And that the little voice in your heart must guide you in the face of overwhelming animosity that is sure to come. #notmypresident #bluedot #notthis

If your plane has been hijacked….

This saying has been circulating since the election, and I understand the thinking behind it.

It also reminds me of the passenger-heroes of Flight 93, who overtook hijackers on their September 11, 2001 flight, forcing the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field instead of its intended metropolitan target.

If your plane has been hijacked, and you know it is on a suicide mission, do you sit by idly? Or, do you organize and try to regain control of the plane, putting it on its right course?

Check the dictionary

The Friday Photo
January 13, 2017

I did some checking on definitions last night. Carl Bernstein, who, with fellow reporter Bob Woodward, earned a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post after uncovering and reporting the Watergate break-in and resulting coverup, tagged Donald Trump’s campaign manager and staffer Kellyanne Conway, as the incoming administration’s Propaganda Minister. Bernstein bestowed that title following her complex and unsuccessful verbal gymnastic routine with Anderson Cooper over Trump’s media event on Wednesday.

I googled Propaganda Minister and the second listing was:

Jospeh Goebbels

Jospeh Goebbels served Adolf Hitler as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich.

Kellyanne Conway, staffer for Donald Trump (photo posted on RawStory credited to CNN)

Another word getting lots of use in recent months is gaslighting. Wikipedia definition: Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. The online resource goes on to offer examples: Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically are also convincing liars, sometimes charming ones, who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their own perceptions. Some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners by flatly denying that they have been violent.

Gaslighting may occur in parent–child relationships, with either parent, child, or both, lying to each other and attempting to undermine perceptions. Gaslighting also occurs in examples of school bullying. The word gaslighting is often used to describe the tactics of the President-elect. Teenvogue, of all places, had an excellent editorial on Trump’s tactics.

Donald Trump, photo credit The Politics
Forum

Nine points on Trump’s “press” conference

There were LOTS of things said during Trump’s “press conference” today that either conflict or contradict what he has said or Tweeted in the past, or were simply outrageous. A few of the highlights:

1. Trump made all kinds of claims about removing himself from any business conflicts, or rather his attorney did in an eye-glaze-over statement. He also said he could manage to run the government and his companies too.

2. The President-elect almost stomped his feet while trying to make CNN reporter Jim Acosta quit asking a question, finally resorting to “You’re fake news.”

3. Despite statements from Congressional Republicans that they aren’t prepared to repeal and replace ACA in the near future, Trump said all that would be happening soon.

4. He wants a report on hacking within 90 days from US intelligence agencies. Didn’t he get a report last Friday?

5. Trump asserted that, he “will be the greatest job producer that God ever created.” That’s a pretty bold statement. Will Trump singularly receive confirmation that he has hit that mark? Will it be Tweeted so everyone can see it? And what happens if things aren’t going well and God decides we need a course correction?

6. Only the media wants to see his tax returns. Um, no, lots of Americans want to see them.

7. Of his Cabinet choices, Trump said, “generally they are smart.” I sure wish he would identify the ones he thinks aren’t so smart.

8. Trump says the wall on the Mexican border will be built, and he isn’t willing to wait on the funding from Mexico. He wants American taxpayer dollars sunk into it now.

9. After a rambling event that included shouting at a reporter, Trump was asked what will happen if his sons don’t do well with running the family businesses. He gestured towards the stacks of papers that are supposed to demonstrate some type of disconnection between the President-elect and his businesses, and then, pointing to his sons, said, “You’re fired.”

Except Trump also said he won’t know what is happening with his family companies because his sons aren’t going to discuss them with him. How can Trump fire anyone if he is in the dark?

 

 

Judge by actions, not words

Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, told CNN that people should stop judging the President-elect by his words, and instead judge him by his heart.

OK. Let’s use his actions as a measure of his heart.

Trump mocked a reporter who is physically disabled.

Beauty pageant contestants said he would walk into dressing rooms while they were nude and not excuse himself immediately.

The President-elect has been taken to court by contractors he refuses to pay.

He agreed to a settlement of $25M in lawsuits brought against the defunct Trump University including a penalty due to the state of New York for claiming to operate a “university” when it wasn’t one.

Trump cheated on his first wife, Ivana Trump, with the woman who became his second wife, Marla Maples.

Although he has five children, Trump refuses to do any of the physical care of his children.

Trump picked a fight with Khizi and Ghazala Kahn, whose son was killed in military action.

If we let Trump’s actions serve as the measure of his heart, that isn’t any more encouraging than his words or Tweets.

 

Required reading

The public intelligence report on Russian interference in our Presidential election last year was released from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence yesterday. It is less than 25 pages long in content.

Reading this is where the work of being an engaged citizen begins. Showing up at the voting booth isn’t enough.

Odds and ends

Trumps cuts the diplomatic corps loose
Last night a report from the The New York Times was making the rounds about an edict from the incoming Trump administration that all politically appointed ambassadors are to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day. This directive runs counter to previous administrations of both parties.

Trump didn’t understand until he met with President Obama after the election that the incoming administration has to staff the West Wing. Now he is rushing to have our country’s representatives to allies like Japan, Britain, and Germany vacate their offices on January 20th.  While it can take months to get ambassadors confirmed, I’ll venture that Trump gets someone cherry-picked by Vladimir Putin in place right away.

On the other hand, this positions the Democratic Party and voters to hold the Trump Administration responsible from day one on diplomatic actions.

In the mean time, or worse, for the long run, does Trump plan to handle our diplomatic relations with late-night Tweets?

White House Press Briefings
Last week Trump staffers said they didn’t like having White House press briefings broadcast live. Instead, they want the media to report out on the briefings.

In a world of fake news, and Trumpsters’ proclivity to gaslight, that makes sense- why let the public hear the briefing for ourselves when the Trump administration can hope that the media simply parrots whatever was said by his staffer? I enjoy listening to the questions and hearing the answers myself. Robert Gibbs, Obama’s first press secretary, had a good sense of humor and enjoyed word play. His briefings were interesting and sometimes entertaining. Trump doesn’t seem to enjoy the company of people who are witty, or use big words. But I’ll still listen.