What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 22, 2017

Announcement: PODCAMP PITTSBURGH 2017

On Saturday the 21th, I'll be giving a talk at this year's PodCamp.

It's titled "Fact-Checking In The Time Of Trump." The description:
It’s been shown time and time again that the current administration has been, shall we say, less than honest when speaking about, shall we say, anything. For the electorate, for the average citizen this can be a challenge. How do you separate the news from the fake news? I’d like to offer a few suggestions.
One O'Clock. I'll be in the big room.

That is all.

September 21, 2017

Hey, Who Said That?? Maybe Someone Should Ask Senator Toomey.

Take a look at this:
Although we support providing states with greater flexibility in shaping health care options for their residents, we share the significant concerns of many health care organizations about the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions. The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans. Legislation must also ensure adequate funding for Medicaid to protect the most vulnerable.
Who said that???

That would be Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

How about this:
Throughout the debates this year we have consistently recommended that any proposals to replace portions of current law should ensure that individuals currently covered do not become uninsured. Proposals should maintain key insurance market reforms, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, and parental coverage for young adults; stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market; ensure that low- and moderate-income patients are able to secure affordable and meaningful coverage; and guarantee that Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other safety-net programs are adequately funded.

Unfortunately, the Graham-Cassidy Amendment fails to match this vision and violates the precept of “first do no harm.” Similar to proposals that were considered in the Senate in July, we believe the Graham-Cassidy Amendment would result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage, destabilize health insurance markets, and decrease access to affordable coverage and care. We are particularly concerned with provisions that repeal the ACA’s premium tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, small business tax credit, and Medicaid expansion, and that provide inadequate and temporary block grant funds (only through 2026) in lieu of the ACA’s spending on marketplace subsidies and the Medicaid expansion.
That would be the American Medical Association.

Or this:
The Graham-Cassidy bill, as proposed on September 13, 2017, threatens to make health care unaffordable and inaccessible for millions of older Americans. The bill eliminates two sources of financial assistance – premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions – critical to ensuring that low-to moderate-income older adults are able to afford the coverage they need. For a 60-year old earning $25,000 a year, premiums and out-of-pocket costs could increase by as much as $ 16,174 a year if they wanted to keep their current coverage. The bill may also allow states to charge older adults age 50 - 64 significantly higher premiums than under current law on the basis of their age by waiving federal protections that limit the practice known as age rating.
That would be the AARP.

Are you paying attention, Senator Toomey?

September 19, 2017

My Twenty-Eighth Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

News hit over the last few days that Senate Republicans are trying again to repeal and replace Obamacare. The latest attempt, the Graham-Cassidy bill, would reportedly waive key provisions of Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In other words insurers can raise premiums based on someone's medical history, probably pricing more than a few out of coverage. The bill also replaces several ACA provisions with block grants to the states - which then are phased out by 2026. Millions of people (including many of your constituents) will loose their healthcare coverage. Some of those people will die because they can't afford to see a doctor.

The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that they won't have time to fully analyze the bill before the end of the month, coincidentally exactly when Senate Republicans will no longer be able to pass this with only 50 votes. So you don't have any idea as to what this bill will do to the deficit or how it will impact the American People.

Here's my question: Is any of this OK with you? And if it is, you'll have to explain to me how you can be comfortable with hurting so many of your fellow Pennsylvanians, your constituents.

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.


September 18, 2017

September 15, 2017

What Do People Think Of Donald Trump?

From Axios:
A Trump adviser says that after a tumultuous seven months in office, it had finally dawned on the president: "People really f@&@ing hate me." For someone who has spent his life lapping up adulation, however fake, it was a harsh realization. This is a man with an especially acute need for affirmation.
Yes, that's true.  People fucking hate you, Donald Trump.  Lots of them.

We're just hoping to get out this alive.

September 14, 2017

All Politics Is Local (Some Senatorial Hypocrisy)

From The Washington Post:
The top Republican in the Senate is ready to formally dispense with a long-running practice that gives senators an early chance to block federal judicial nominees who would have jurisdiction over their states — at least at the appeals court level.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to get rid of individual senators’ power to block nominees to the appeals courts — the dozen powerful circuits just one notch below the Supreme Court — from being considered.

“My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball,” Mr. McConnell said on the Times’ “The New Washington” podcast, referring to the custom senators from affected states need to sign off on a physical blue slip before a nominee can formally start the congressional vetting process.
And from that NYTimes piece:
Now, with some Democrats refusing to consent as the Trump administration moves to fill scores of judicial vacancies, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, is for the first time publicly advocating that the blue slip be made strictly advisory when it comes to appeals court nominees — the most powerful judges after those on the Supreme Court.
Guess what?

From the Post-Gazette a few years ago:
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday grilled four nominees for federal judgeships, but one Pennsylvania jurist isn’t on the confirmation agenda even though he appears to have wide support.

Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District, was nominated six months ago to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, but his confirmation hearing is being held up, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. is at the center of the delay.

Mr. Toomey said he strongly supports Judge Restrepo, but he hasn’t formally endorsed by officially signing off on the nomination. On judicial confirmations, the Senate traditionally defers to home-state senators whose signatures on blue slips of paper allow confirmation hearings to move forward.
He finally did turn in the blue slip - 6 months after Restrepo's nomination.

The point here is that if McConnell's proposed rule was in place then, there would not have been any delay at all. Toomey's support would have presumably been reflected in his "notification of how...to vote" and it would have been over much sooner.

On the other hand, Toomey wouldn't have been able to make a passive aggressive protest against Obama's immigration policy. Now that the legislative shoe is on the other foot...

Yea I know. Surprising, huh?

September 12, 2017

My TWENTY-SEVENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

Now that a few days have passed since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have made landfall, I'd like to ask you about climate change. You're on record, by the way, denying that "human activity significantly contributes to climate change."

Time magazine recently reported that climate scientists have been citing global warming as having an impact on the severity of hurricanes - by making them worse.

Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's climate denying head of the E.P.A., recently said, on the other hand, that now is not the time to discuss climate change.

Let me ask you a question: When is a good time to discuss climate change?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.