Virginia’s heat climbs while leaders nap

Let’s say you’re inclined to think that the whole climate-change conversation is, okay, overheated. It’s a swelter out there, but so what? It’s July in Virginia, right? Give me a minute, just the same, to make the case that it’s way past time to get a lot more serious about Virginia’s climate future.

This threat is not distant in space or time. It’s immediate and right here in the Bristol area. According to the University of Virginia Climatology Office, if the warming trend here in Virginia continues to rise at the same rate it has since the mid-1970s, it will surpass 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of additional heat — that’s a statewide annual average — by around 2050.

Your grandkids will be right in the middle of that. Worldwide, that much heat has been characterized as “could be dangerous” by climate scientists.

Over sixty percent of Virginia is forested. As the heat trend continues, we risk losing huge expanses of those forests to fires and heat-stimulated insects (that’s already happening in western states).

You can also see that troubled horizon in projections made by climate physicists Katharine Hayhoe and Sharmistha Swain of Texas Tech. On average each year, the Bristol area saw about nine days that were 90 and above, during the last three decades of the 1900s. But climate disruption will be 47 days by around the year 2065. That means we’ll be living with almost seven weeks of stifling heat, the projections suggest — but only if the world continues to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants, car exhausts and burning forests. That’s called the “business as usual” scenario.

Looked at another way, Virginia’s climate will be something like South Carolina’s by mid-century and something like Louisiana or Alabama by the end of the century. If the world works very hard, very quickly, on the greenhouse gas problem, climate change could slow. It could level off by 2100. Do we want to take the chance?

Virginia Democrats and Republicans have a serious case of the slows though, perhaps hoping the problem will just go away. Maybe that’s explained, in part, by where much of their campaign donations come from: fossil fuel corporations, Dominion Energy, Appalachian Power. Ask your current political representatives or candidates in the upcoming elections why that is and what they’ll do about it. Compared to other states, Virginia is failing to push for rapid conversion to solar power and other renewable energy sources, aggressive fuel economy requirements for cars and planning for the changes we will face.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has indeed told the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to propose regulations to reduce carbon pollution at power plants — but not until just before he leaves office in January, and with no set goals for those cuts. He took office in … What was it? Oh yeah, January 2014. Republicans, predictably, condemned the governor’s new move as “overreach” that will slow economic growth. Z-z-z-z-z — the usual sleepwalk.

Already in the state’s most populous area, Norfolk and Virginia Beach have chronic flooding — about half of it the result of sea level rise caused by global warming as it heats the oceans and melts polar icecaps. Our coastal waters could be about 1.5 feet higher sometime between 2030 and 2050, according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. That’s almost enough to drown or put at risk several billion dollars worth of commercial and residential real estate, dozens of miles of highways and rails and a third of our port facilities.

Even more irreparably, it will mean the potential loss of Virginia’s wetlands. They support a couple of dozen kinds of commercially valuable fish and innumerable wildlife species.

In our legislature, though, climate disruption isn’t about science. It’s about what’s expedient, or for some, it’s a kind of political religion. That will change, of course, as the disruption accelerates. No political leader who doesn’t respond to a threat of this scale and intensity will be electable. But the longer we take to engage with reality, the steeper our losses will be.

2016, 2015 and 2014 were the hottest years on record around the planet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. How long will any political party be able to stay “in denial?”

Stephen Nash

Editors Note: this op-ed has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a look at Republicans of yore

People today make sweeping statements about political parties or the direction of the country, but they often misrepresent the facts and engage in labeling rather than rigorous research.

Then again, political change may often only be seen in hindsight. We all remember Republican Joe McCarthy — the spinner of tales that found communists under everyone’s bed. He destroyed himself in the 1950s when he attacked the U.S. Army which was still remembered fondly as useful during World War II.

One of the first Republican Senators to call him to task was Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. The Senate record quotes her as saying, “I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.

After the marches in Selma in 1965, the Senate passed the Voting Rights Act later that year. The 16 Democratic Senators (plus Harry Byrd of Virginia) who voted against the Voting Rights Act in 1965 were all from the South. Over the years, southern Democratic voters and party leaders moved to the Republican Party, as Strom Thurman (SC) and John Tower (TX) had already done. Except for Virginia and Florida (Senator Nelson), all of these “Confederate” states are today represented by Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Abraham Lincoln would be appalled.

Nevertheless, Republicans pridefully boast that that the Voting Rights Act was a model of bipartisanship and that Republicans should be given credit for their supportive vote. Indeed, they should be, except that none of them were from today’s core Republican base — the South.

Nor were they today’s ultraconservative Republicans. They were northerners and westerners from the states that brought down the Confederacy and preserved the Union. Those Senators — a different breed entirely — included such luminaries as Everett Dirksen of Illinois, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Clifford Case of New Jersey and Jacob Javits of New York.

The reality is that the Republican Party of today would not welcome those centrist Senators of 1965. Today’s Republican Party enacts voter suppression measures throughout the United States, just like the old Democratic party of Reconstruction and Massive Resistance. In the case of North Carolina, the court noted that the barriers were put into place with “surgical precision” to suppress the black vote.

Today’s Republicans, including Trump, insist that there was massive voter fraud in the last election, although no such evidence has been found. Trump’s claim that 3 million fraudulent votes were cast in the last election is an insult to state-run elections and all those who put their integrity on the line to make them fair.

The Republicans of today are asking the states to turn over the crown jewels of each state’s voter rolls so that it can find fraud where none exists. This is all done in the name of a political party that has prided itself on the narrative of creating fear about government overreach. This is the new Republican Party: frozen in ideology, dismissive of public discourse, creating “alternative facts” and further enriching the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

We just celebrated our 241st Independence Day — a day when we remember Thomas Jefferson’s ringing words about freedom and the rights of the common man. Which party is truly for freedom? Is it the party that offers new and creative restrictions on universal suffrage, or is it the party that would continue historic expansion of the vote?

As Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai bragged in 2012, his state’s voter ID laws were specifically designed to disenfranchise as many citizens (primarily minority, elderly and urban voters) as possible.

This is now typical of a party that displays racism and xenophobia, embraces Jim Crow and the KKK, supports government intrusion into personal decisions, takes health care away from millions of Americans, robs the poor to give to the rich, destroys the environment, defunds education, impoverishes college students, colludes with Russia to interfere in our last election and emboldens a man who has become the laughingstock of the rest of the world.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the good country doctor’s column in last Sunday’s paper, or read some of the truly despicable hatred and ignorance exhibited by a few select online commenter’s in this paper. For shame.

Mike McClary

Editor’s note: this op-ed is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

The Essences of Fraudulence

In the Senates rush to pass their version of healthcare “reform” next week any shady dodge will do.  And with the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, their plan is simple; lie, misrepresent what they are doing, when confronted, misdirect and lie some more. Because they are convinced they have found a loophole to exploit, one where any evaluation of their plan, ahem score will do.

By maneuvering the fate of deciding what “qualifies” as a score under Budget Act into the hands of Mike Enzi, chair of Senate Budget Committee, Senate leaders have pulled off a particularly convenient sleight of procedural hands since Enzi’s the guy who originated this bill.

Not to mention that Senate Republicans are “considering” an alternative scoring method, using the Department of Health and Human Services to “score it. What they neglected to mention about their “idea,” it’s that the HHS is controlled by the GOP, and their “numbers” will be cooked, partisan and fraudulent unlike the independent CBO.

Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that Senate leaders are trying to rush this bill through with as little debate as humanly possible, knowing full well that the HHS score can be done in just a few days, and on the cheap, while the CBO’s score will take several weeks.

And as tragic as it would be for Senate Republicans to have to listen to their constituents about healthcare, or wait to hold a more informed vote, it should be clear that barring massive resistance from a few holdouts, there will be a vote on BCRA before the CBO score comes out, and it will likely happen next week.

Killing the ACA is one of the lynchpins of the Republican fraudulent scheme, one that is based on a commitment to relocating wealth upwards and rendering government agencies impotent. In the case of health care, the “savings” from cutting programs like Medicaid will be effectively transferred to the ultra wealthy in the form of massive and unnecessary tax cuts.

What better way to assure that government agencies remain ineffective than to populate them with people who are ideologically opposed to their very existence, and then pretend that nothing like this is happening? And this is just the beginning, after they’ve killed health care, they will move like a swarm of lemmings headed for the cliff, passing another fatally flawed Federal budget.

Actions which are intended to starve the beast and drown it in bathtub as it were. Unfortunately, they’ve grown so dependent kicking the fiscal can down the road in past budgets that even this budgetary sleight of hand is no longer what it used to be.

When they finally turn to privatizing highways, bridges and federal lands, it won’t take it long for it to become an unaccountable financial morass as far as the eye can see. Or to surpass the infamous “collation of the billing,” a cartel of contractors who freely looted government coffers under Bush’s provisional government in Iraq.

And in a related display of arrogance and chutzpah, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his cronies reinserted a provision back into this “amended” bill  after it was exposed as being too atrocious.  How heinous was it you ask? Congress and congressional employees would be exempted from Trumpcare.

Perhaps the New York Times was being too kind in outlining the cruelty and fraudulence of this bill, but they definitely got the part about the Republican’s extra helping of stealth right.

So if you don’t want to see this bill pass and watch the all progress made under ACA, and Medicaid be relegated to the trash pile, make it your business to contact your State Senator, along with these Republican holdouts:

Senator Rob Portman                          (202) 224-3353
Senator Susan Collins                          (202) 224-2523
Senator Dean Heller                             (202) 224-6244
Senator Shelly Moore Capito          (202) 224-6472

Senator John McCain                           (202) 224-2235

Senator Lisa Murkowski                      Too Late – already brought                                                                              off with a “Polar Payoff”

This list promises to become even smaller the further we get into next week. Whether Senator McCain will go out in his last term as a maverick remains to be seen, as well how many Senators will hold out for some pork to sway their vote, and possibly their conscience.

Jon Taylor

 

 

Signs of Contempt and Delusional Conclusions

In driving around the country, I was struck by how many political signs continue to litter the roadside a month after the primaries. And unless one is blind, it’s fairly obvious whose they are.  One would think that their supporters would have enough respect for others to take them down now they’ve served their purpose, as did our two local candidates.

While blaming outsiders and foreigners is something of local pastime around here, this abandoned signage is an indication of a more intractable problem, one which begins with contempt for others.  Particularly for those who aren’t members of their “tribe.”  And apparently, it’s an attitude which extends to even to tribal members — if the election results weren’t to their liking.

And it’s a type of disrespect which is much harder to define, because of its simplicity, minimalism and lack of substance. A quality some might call willful ignorance. Like Kellyanne Conway’s recent interview on Faux Noise, where she succeeded in making Cliffs Notes look like heavy reading after using flashcards and a red marker to respond to allegations about the Drumpf’s campaign and now administration colluding with the Russians.

Saying, What’s the conclusion? “So just so we’re clear, everyone: four words. Collusion, no. Illusion, delusion, yes,” she said. “I just thought we’d have some fun with words. A Sesame [Street] Grover’s word of the day, perhaps.”

Painfully unaware of just how badly she had jumped the shark …. I mean gone the “full Sesame Street.”  Where a more accurate portrayal should have been:

or

Another example of conservative disdain can be seen on full display in downtown Louisa. Anyone who’s ever driven through town knows there’s a building usually so covered with political signs one would be hard pressed to find an exposed brick. Yet today, there are none.

Since that building belongs to the head of Louisa’s Republican Party, and presumably they are supporting the “only supervisor with an “R” by his name,” along with the fellow who defeated him in the 56th district primary, the absence of any visible support is telling.

And it’s a lack of respect characterized by petty deeds; with actions as trivial as blocking users from commenting on their Facebook pages, as is the case with Dave Brat, Duane Adams, and even our local paper the Central Virginia. To outright lying about issues and smearing others, a “tactic” we’ve seen time and time again from Bryce Reeves, and now Congressman Garrett.  These denials, deflections, and distractions are nothing new; we’ve seen them before and apparently they are the only working tools in their authoritarian playbook.

And when it comes to getting the job done, it always helps to know what the right tools are, and especially how to use them. Something that judging from her constituents FB page separates Stephanie Koren from the rest of her fellow supervisors, where she lays out the many issues before Board of Supervisors in clear easy to understand language.

An open and honest approach to informing her constituents which stems from her commitment to implementing “best practices” and using the correct tools for governing responsibly, rather than a nail gun to change a tire so to speak.  Along with her ability to recognize that in a complex world, you’re going to need thoughtful solutions, not slogans.

These are some of the reasons why Democrats and progressives in Louisa, and particularly those in the Mineral district should consider supporting her re-election to the Board of Supervisors this November. So for those who would say “but she’s not a Democrat,” I would remind them that coalitions, like politics often make for strange bedfellows.

And just in case anybody has forgotten — what happens at the county level affects us all far more that state and federal actions.

When you consider all the issues and financial pressures the board faces; from high speed internet, to the James River pipeline and the Central Virginia Regional Jail, the last thing we need a board so divided that most if not all of their decisions are split along partisan lines, or becomes so heavily weighted to the free market side, that any decisions would have been settled long before they ever get around to voting on that issue.

Another reminder that if we as Democrats and progressives are serious about taking back control of who represents us at the local and state level, along with Congress in 2018, we should think long and hard about expanding our list of allies beyond the usual suspects. Especially in the case of Ms. Koren, whose opponent is being backed by AFP’s shadowy tentacles, just like state Senator Bryce Reeves.

It’s hardly any coincidence that his son is Reeve’s finance manager, an ideal position to serve as their cut out man, concealing the true sources of his father’s support. All of this is happening, because AFP and their Koch brothers sponsored affiliate ALEC have for all practical purposes taken over much of the General Assemblies legislative agendas, and are determined to consolidate that control downwards to the County and Township level.

So it would be most  interesting to hear what Mr. Adams, and some of our current board members have to say as they come up for re-election this year and in 2019 when asked about their relationship with ALEC’s latest spinoff, ACCE, not to be confused with the better known Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Perhaps all of this clandestine skullduggery will be enough to convince her and other sensible conservatives to go the full Joe Scarborough and switch parties. Because like Mike Silberman who tried to run for Sheriff in 2015 as Republican, it should be clear that the Louisa Republican Party will never give her, or anyone else who doesn’t believe in their ideology ­ — and won’t blindly follow their masters orders the time of day.

Jon Taylor

Winter of discontent is coming

Last week’s CV featured a lengthy piece about corporate funding of the General Assembly’s members, and how it affects their votes. In a reversal of their usual pattern of filling their editorial pages with misleading syndicated content and minimal local content, this impartial op-ed was accompanied by two local letters filled with half truths.

Like Mr. Darden’s, Fix the tax code claiming Republicans controlling the House and Senate couldn’t pass any meaningful legislature because of president Obama. Does he seriously expect anyone to forget the reason they were so spectacularly ineffective, and managed to shut down the government was their obstructionism?

Or will buy his free market framing that “tax reform” somehow makes things fairer for small businesses?

When implementing policies that create more and better paying jobs will do far more to simulate the economy and help small businesses than any tax reform could, simply because people have more money in their pockets to spend.

Then again, you could keep putting up pictures of Obama, with graphics screaming:

Mr. Arnold’s Executive orders out of hand almost got it right with his claims that Presidential executive orders are a “threat to our democracy as a whole.” Along with why the Republican dominated Congress “vacated their responsibility … in the sharing of governmental power…”  Only failing to note that Congressional Republicans never intended to share power under any circumstances, or that such heavy reliance on executive orders is a sign of a dysfunctional government.

Or making the connection between Republicans acting “unpatriotically,” and making it their “mission to see the Obama administration failed,” and the consequences of those actions. As circular logic goes, it’s hard to beat a solution which causes the very problem it’s supposed to fix.

Now that we have a Twittler in the White House, McConnell and his Senatorial allies think they can repeal the ACA with minimal or no debate. A job made considerably easier by a corporate media, who barely reports on what is happening, allowing Republicans to get away with hypocritical claims that “you won’t be loosing coverage; you’ll be gaining freedom of choice.”

Expecting you to believe this is just like Baskins-Robbins when they run out of your favorite flavor; you have other choices, when in fact there are none.

The Republican Party has adopted intentional misinformation—propaganda—to sell policies which directly damage the public, and trying every fantasy they can think of. Like Kris Kobach’s Election Integrity Commission which asked every state for all of their voter information, including your social security number. The fact that 45 Secretaries of States, including many Republican’s told him to go “jump in a lake” says much.

With hypocrisy being a conservative virtue, it remains to be seen how many these red states have already purged enough  voters to ensure victory in future elections. And Kobach’s long and sordid history of voter suppression with his Interstate Crosscheck program is well documented.

But ridiculing Trump’s commission and blithely dismissing Kobach’s latest attempt at raising the voter fraud flag misses the longer-term Republican Party strategy. Because Kobach is such a rich target, the overseer of an interstate voter data-matching consortium whose analytics are so sloppily executed they routinely creates lists of hundreds of thousands of false positives—people purportedly voting twice because they share the same name. That allows highly partisan secretaries of state, such as Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, to claim that a crisis exists, when it doesn’t, and then seek to purge tens of thousands of Democrats from the voter rolls.

What’s really happening needs to be watched beyond the buffoonish politics of the moment and the presidential panel’s clumsy opening steps. Kobach and a handful of other Republican statewide election managers and lawyers—the same crew that were running federal election oversight under George W. Bush—have found weaknesses or ambiguities in federal election laws, like the National Voter Registration Actor the NVRA, , or “motor voter” — that outlines registration requirements and procedures, in an attempt to further restrict who can vote.

The papers visible under Kris Kobach’s arm are deportation plans from the Department of Homeland Security. And when combined with the DOJ’s NVRA compliance request its clear this administration is engaging in a coordinated effort to force the states into purging voters.

With former Justice Department officials saying that while there’s nothing notable about seeking information about compliance with the NVRA, it is unusual for the Department of Justice to send out such a broad inquiry to so many states. Such a wide probe could signal the department is broadly fishing for cases of non-compliance to bring suits aimed at purging the voter rolls.

These two letters, sent on the same day, are highly suspect, and seem to confirm that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to suppress the right to vote,” said Vanita Gupta, the CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama. “It is not normal for the Department of Justice to ask for voting data from all states covered by the National Voter Registration Act. It’s likely that this is instead the beginning of an effort to force unwarranted voter purges.

Their motive is simple. They know their aging white base is a shrinking in a diversifying nation. Philosophically, they believe fewer but better qualified voters are perfectly acceptable. Make no mistake, Republicans can and will eliminate unfavorable voters everywhere they can, and such actions will be a taste of things to come.

Jon Taylor

Editor’s note: this is a modified version of a letter submitted to Louisa’s paper of record, the Central Virginian.

 

Monkey puzzles and lawmakers: make ‘em take the pledge!

It’s a little mystery that Louisa-area voters have almost figured out, but not quite. Why are the realtors, the health industry, the beer wholesalers and bankers, coal operators and electric utilities shoving all that cash into the Virginia legislature?

Puzzles plus money produce the view that the money explains the puzzles,” legal scholar Lawrence Lessig has written. “In a line: We don’t trust our government.”

If he’s talking about you, you have lots of company. Three-quarters of American voters — nearly equal numbers in both parties — are convinced that Congress is for sale. Given its record, the Virginia legislature can’t make a credible claim to higher public confidence, either.

William Black, a former bank regulator, summarizes the ordinary citizen’s street-level, tragic view when he writes that “a campaign contribution always generates the best return on investment.” But your government’s yours, not Dominion Energy’s. It’s not for the benefit of the roster of corporate high-rollers that have given large amounts to this area’s lawmakers — although we keep electing them.

So the missing puzzle piece is this: if they’re making monkeys of us and we know it, what can we do about it? And you can find the answer in Roanoke.

Start here: forty-five House of Delegates candidates so far, mostly Democrats, have signed a pledge that they’ll refuse to accept campaign cash from Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy, the two state-regulated electric power monopolies. Among them is Melissa Dart, a candidate for delegate in this area’s District 56. Arlington’s Rip Sullivan (D-48) has also refused to take Dominion money.

But Roanoke’s Sam Rasoul, a 35-year-old management consultant who has served in the House of Delegates since 2014, has gone even further. He has announced that he’ll refuse campaign donations not only from Dominion and Appalachian, but any “gifts” above $5,000 from anyone. In fact, he will take no more campaign cash at all from special interest PACS and corporations.

Rasoul’s a Democrat, but “…it is conservatives who should be leading the fight for campaign-finance reform,” Richard Painter of the University of Minnesota Law School has written. “Why should conservative voters care? First, big money in politics encourages big government. . . . When politicians are dependent on campaign money from contractors and lobbyists, they’re incapable of holding spending programs to account.”

So whether you’re conservative, green, libertarian or liberal, here’s the question: can your legislator explain why it’s okay to accept “donations” from the two power companies and still cast votes on legislation that affects not only their profits, but also our electric bills and, crucially, our environment? For that matter, why is it legitimate to take money from any corporate interests who also have legislative needs that should not pre-empt the public interest?

The non-profit, non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project provides local data. Louisa County State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17) has received $14,000 from Dominion and Sen. Mark Peake (R-22), $500. They have, of course, also taken donations from other corporate interests.

Meanwhile, those same public servants who take Dominion’s money have voted on countless Dominion-related bills, listened to the pitches of the sturdy corps of Dominion lobbyists. Overall, the legislature has handed the company a lengthening series of legislative home runs worth hundreds of millions of dollars — perhaps a billion or two by some estimates. And they routinely vote on legislation affecting the bankers, realtors, beer wholesalers, the health industry and their other benefactors.

Don’t accept their easy answer: “I need the money to get elected.” Realistically: they don’t need Dominion Energy money. And they should fight to transition our politics away from the other corporate payouts. Vermont, Connecticut and conservative Arizona have figured that out, with voluntary donation limits and public financing for candidates. Is your state senator or delegate pushing, noisily, for that? Why not? Never too late to start.

This isn’t a partisan issue. In fact, Dominion has given more than $7.5 million to legislators of both parties since 2006 — $826,000 in 2016-17 alone. It is Virginia’s top corporate donor. Its biggest recipient is a Democrat, though the Republicans have taken in more Dominion donations, over all.

So ask each of your legislators and candidates: Will you pledge to reject that kind of campaign cash from now on, or fight to make public financing a major issue? Can you at least decline donations from the state-regulated utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power? If you think it’s okay to accept their money, then will you pledge to abstain from voting on legislation involving those interests?

And get ‘em on the record. We’d all like to know.

Stephen Nash

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and is only available online to paid subscribers of the Central Virginian.

 

From the embassy: Doing America’s job abroad

As a career Foreign Service Officer, I took great pride for 27 years representing our country at our diplomatic posts overseas.

The job of the embassy is multi-fold. We measured political stability. We measured internal ethnic frictions. We might make a note of which ethnicity controlled which part of the government or economy. We measured economic performance. We watched social trends and human hopes as visa applicants flowed through the doors.

Because of our language training, we could gather information from all sectors of the host country, not just their English-speaking elite. We tried to understand, and report back to Washington, how events in our host country affected the United States and what, if anything, we might do, to influence them in a favorable way.

Not being part of the host society, we — the dispassionate outside observers — could, as it were, observe from arm’s length. We tried to report facts that could be supported and from these facts, offer commentary as to what, in our professional judgment, their impact might be on the host country, its neighbors, and ourselves.

I often wonder what embassies in Washington now make of our America. They would notice the sharp decline in the use of the State Department professionals. The 30 percent budget cut says it all. In effect, there has already been a massive cut as hundreds of high level positions remain unfilled. Between Secretary Rex Tillerson and the most senior remaining Foreign Service professional is a yawning chasm.

Washington’s embassies would feel this gap because their usual contacts are missing. Washington embassies would also report back media reports suggesting the Secretary wants to fill these positions with talented people, as opposed to White House nominees.

Washington embassies may report that it appears that the State Department is not the gatekeeper it once was. Modern diplomacy is made of many parts, one of which is expert record keeping so that our side knows what our senior officials said and promised so that the working level can act in concert with the leadership. In the case of the current administration where high-level audiences are often in the White House or Mar-a-Largo, often without the attendance of the Secretary of State, the absence of any consistent standard note taking procedures offers myriad opportunities for later misunderstanding.

Washington embassies will note that at the end of the president’s first trip the White House announced arms sales to Saudi Arabia and joined in Saudi criticism of Qatar. Only later do we find Tillerson expressing some criticism of the rhetorical attacks on Qatar and other Saudi policies. Then they learned that we were selling Qatar sophisticated aircraft. What are they to make of this lack of consistency, which used to be an American hallmark.

In congressional testimony last week, Tillerson said he was looking to cut back on special envoy and special representative positions to empower regional bureaus to take control of their issue areas. The State Department is planning to eliminate the position of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example.

Yet, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will travel to Israel and join Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s chief negotiator in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Washington embassies will note the mixture of business and diplomacy in this case or in the case of Kushner going to China and touting investor visas.

A retired CIA analyst recently wrote that the president’s tweets are an excellent source of his thinking. If you want to manipulate someone, you need to know how they think. President Trump is quite vain. The Saudi Government noted that and went all out with its hospitality. The Pope apparently was not as generous with his praise.

Washington embassies, as neutral observers, are reporting all this to their capitals. Certainly, they are reporting on, and evaluating the consequences of, the president’s denunciation of the American media and his attacks on American intelligence agencies on whom they also depend.

Foreign countries are beginning to respond to an America that has abdicated its role as thoughtful uncle; encouraging and guiding others to find non-confrontational ways to resolve problems. In the pending German election campaign Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s opposition is trying to gain traction by accusing her of being “soft” on Trump.

The former president of Mexico has sharply responded to Trump’s characterization of his country. Canadian officials have started a program of closer cooperation with America at the state-level, because they have little confidence in American federal authorities. A worldwide Pew survey finds America’s reputation falling.

Americans are nervous contemplating North Korea with one bomb and one missile. The Europeans must be beside themselves contemplating American weakened support against the second largest nuclear power, their backyard neighbor, Russia.

Washington embassies are as excellent reporters of us as we were of them. They are as good as their American counterparts while reporting about America, warts and all. One can only imagine the tone and tenor of their reporting cables now.

Dave Reuther

Editor’s note: this article is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

Additional editorial comment: Mr. Reuther’s piece doesn’t begin to capture the devastation which Tillerson has wreaked on the State Department, or that his actions are part of this administrations effort to “deconstruct” the Government. And the consequences will be as predictable as they are tragic

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Louisa loses big under Senate health care bill

Last week, the GOP Senate released its version of the new health care bill that will replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If you think you and your family won’t be affected by it, think again.

There are major areas that could affect most residents in our county – cuts to the school system and cuts that will affect people who are in nursing homes. This is in addition to the working people who will lose their healthcare because the ACA subsidies will be cut and insurance will become unaffordable.

The Louisa County school system will lose $206,990 in federal Medicaid funding for services for students under this health bill. Many of these services are for students who need special education services or have disabilities. Because these services are mandated by law, they cannot be just taken out of the budget. They will have to be provided and paid for by Louisa County in its budget. Where does Louisa County get most of its money? It collects taxes from us. A tax increase might be necessary to fund these deficits and that affects all of us.

The second area that may touch the lives of those who think they will be unaffected is the funding provided by Medicaid for those in nursing homes. Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million people in nursing homes across the nation. A lot of those patients paid for years of care privately in assisted living but, when their savings ran out, they had to rely on Medicaid to pay for skilled care in nursing homes. Maybe you have a family member in a nursing home in the area and this will affect you. Are you ready to take them into your home to care for them? Many of us will need these skilled nursing home services later in life. You just don’t know what the future holds in store for you.

Very few of us are safe from the drastic measures in this new health care bill that Congress is proposing. Whether you will lose your health care directly from the cuts or you have children receiving services in school or you have family in nursing homes or you have a pre-existing condition, this Senate bill will affect your life and not for the better. The Affordable Care Act gave us coverage and protections that just don’t exist in the new bill. Don’t let Congress wipe out the progress and protections we have gained in health care. Contact your senators and congressional representatives today and let them know that you support the Affordable Care Act and you want it fixed but NOT repealed.

JoAnna Hickman

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and is only available online to paid subscribers of the Central Virginian.

Health care requires insurance

In America, proper health care is tied to access to health insurance. Furthermore, a lack of health insurance generally means a lack of preventive care until conditions advance to the point where they are financial and health disasters.

The demand at free health clinics in Virginia continues to rise, especially in the economically depressed parts of the commonwealth. Yet the Republican-dominated legislature refused to take the federal money in the Affordable Care Act, which would cover 400,000 citizens, and instead sent the money to other states. California thanks you.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts tackled the health care problem with state-wide health care insurance reform in the early 2000s when Republican Gov. Mitch Romney was in office. The Massachusetts example became the template for the Affordable Care Act that passed Congress in March 2010.

At that time, the Democratic-led Congress held numerous hearings on the Affordable Care Act. Dozens of Republican amendments were added to the bill during that process. Despite the legislative compromises with Republicans, doctors, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry, no Republicans voted for the ACA and have voiced opposition ever since. Misrepresentations became the coin of the realm, such as the false charges that ACA instituted death panels and funded abortions.

Now that the Republicans control Congress and the presidency, they are bound and determined to end the movement for a more equitable health care insurance system. Again, misrepresentation is the name of the game: male congressmen saying they should not have to pay for insurance that covers women, while that same insurance covers ED pills, prostate treatment and vasectomies.

The issue is health insurance, people, not politics. The conservative mantra would be like saying there should be one insurance policy for houses that burn down and one for houses that don’t. The idea of insurance is to aggregate the population, not separate it into expensive, small groups. Covering everybody lowers the costs for all.

Lowering—or at least stabilizing—health care insurance costs should be the target of all proposals. Of course, health insurance in the U.S. is a for-profit industry, so your policy dollars go to the inflated salaries, stock market dividends and other corporate expenses before your health professional’s costs get paid.

Conservatives argue that market competition will lower health care costs. When you look at what the EpiPen people did, you realize that there is little, if any, market competition in the individual products and services that make up health care. The May AARP Bulletin extensively reported on the excessive cost of medicines in America. Competition doesn’t start with the patient, it starts with the pharmaceutical industry, which may be littered with less than free market monopolies.

The current Republican legislative package was pulled when it was obvious that the Tea Party-based Freedom Caucus wouldn’t back it because they judged it didn’t go far enough to kill the ACA.

But the legislation found new life through an amendment permitting states to request waivers that would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. This was a point of considerable contention during Congressman Dave Brat’s Midlothian town hall where he insisted the bill protected people with pre-existing conditions and the audience knew that states could and would receive, under the current administration, waivers.

It is not clear whether Brat is kidding himself or just trying to again pull the wool over the public’s eyes over pre-existing conditions.

According to AARP, 25 million people ages 50-64 have a pre-existing condition and would face much higher premiums under the Republican proposal—thousands of dollars a year—that in many cases would be unaffordable.

Supporters of the bill, such as Brat, maintained that people with pre-existing conditions could be cared for through high-risk pools. High-risk pools would not spread costs over a broad population, but confine them to a narrow population.

An analysis by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that premiums in such pools could reach unaffordable levels—as much as $25,700 a year in 2019. In the past, high-risk pools have put such an onerous financial burden on states that insurance benefits were scaled back and enrollment in them was capped.

The CBO looked at the latest bill and calculated the legislation would lead to a loss of coverage for 23 million Americans over the next decade. It also agreed the bill would also worsen the fiscal outlook for Medicare by reducing the program’s revenue.

These dire predictions demonstrate why the Congress will not allow public hearings and open discussion of the Republican bill that affects one-sixth of our economy, that would raise health care costs for millions of Americans and that would deny coverage to millions more. Nevertheless, if the current Republican bill passes, they own the consequences that are understandably dire for the very people that voted Republican. Buyer beware.

Dave Reuther

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.

 

 

Brat doesn’t know his Constituents

In a recent email from Dave Brat requesting donations for his re-election next year, he said he was dismayed by reactions at town hall meetings from people who did not understand why he voted for the Republicans’ American Health Care Act.

Undoubtedly, Dave doesn’t know much about his constituents.

The majority of the people in the 7th District are not part of the upper 1 percent. The only rich people in this district are some who have transplanted themselves to the country for a quieter life.

Under the Republican health care act, spending for Medicaid will be reduced by almost $900 billion. Older people can be charged more than others. The number of illnesses considered to be pre-existing will increase as states seek waivers in federal provisions.

The offset is that the upper 1 percent of taxpayers will see a $1 trillion reduction of taxes.

In other words, to Brat and his Republican teammates, it is more important to give millionaires and billionaires more tax breaks than it is to provide basic, life-saving health care to the less fortunate. Sound good to you? Not to me.

The health care act is just the beginning of Donald Trump’s war on 99 percent of Americans. His budget calls for cuts to social programs (fuel assistance, Meals on Wheels, Medicaid, food stamps, and nursing homes for elderly who can’t otherwise afford it). In his usual fashion, Brat will vote for the party, not his constituents.

When did we become a country that cares more about the upper 1 percent than we do about the rest of us?

Trump’s budget proposal will be even worse for the lower and middle classes, but you can bet Brat will vote for his party, not for his constituents.

Deanna Nicosia

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.