A Day Made For … Snarky Snippets!

Wow, folks … just when you think it can’t get any more chaotic … it does!  My phone has been abuzz today with breaking news updates from several media outlets, every time I pull up either The Washington Post, Politico or the New York Times, there is something else that demands to be read, and my email box has been overflowing every time I’ve checked it.  I almost wish for a nationwide power failure so I could catch my breath!  I said ‘almost’, for we are expecting ❄️ snow ❄️ today, so I really don’t want to be without heat.

Karma is a …

Back in November 2017, two years ago, I did a post called More Bits ‘N Pieces From Filosofa’s Mind … rather a precursor to my Snarky Snippets feature.  In that post, one of the ‘bits ‘n pieces’ was about a woman named Juli Briskman who bravely dared to flip the finger at Donald Trump’s motorcade as it passed by her while she was riding her bicycle.  This picture went viral …girl on bikeMs. Briskman lost her job over that picture, but yesterday, she got a new job!  She won a seat on the Loudoun County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors — ousting a Republican in the process!  Says Ms. Briskman …

“It’s feeling fantastic, it’s feeling surreal. The last two years have been quite a ride. Now we’re helping to flip Loudoun blue.”

And, to put the icing on the cake, the district to which she was elected happens to include a golf course owned by none other than a certain Donald Trump!  You know what they say about karma …

Score one for justice … for now, anyway

Two thumbs up to U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan.  Yesterday he struck down Trump’s so-called ‘conscience rule’, that would have given health care providers the right to refuse birth control, sterilization, abortions, and other treatments to patients if said health care providers claimed that those treatments were ‘against their personal/religious beliefs’.  It would have also allowed health care providers to refuse treatment to members of the LGBT community if they believed homosexuality to be fundamentally wrong.  In other words, there was really no line … doctors, nurses and others could have refused treatment on nearly any grounds or no grounds, simply by claiming that to offer treatment would go against their religion.

The rule would have required clinics and research institutions that receive federal funding from programs including Medicare and Medicaid to “submit written assurances and certifications of compliance” with federal religious-freedom and conscience-protection laws to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in order to receive federal funding.

This, in Trump’s view, is expanding the rights of religious freedom.  Judge Engelmayer saw it a bit differently, however …

“The Court has found that HHS’s stated justification for undertaking rulemaking in the first place—a purported ‘significant increase’ in civilian complaints relating to the conscience provisions—was factually untrue.”

He went on to say that the rule was “shot through with glaring legal defects.”  It is the opinion of this writer that if a person’s religious convictions are such that there are certain procedures they are unwilling to perform, or certain groups of people they are unwilling to treat, then that person does not belong in the health care field.  Period.  It is rather like … if you don’t like children, don’t become a teacher.  This rule was religious freedom run amok … it was set to cost lives, to take away the rights of others.

The Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Justice Department, say they are ‘reviewing’ the judge’s 147-page decision.  My best guess is that they will file an appeal.  Sigh.  You all do realize who’s footing the bill for all these lawsuits and appeals, right?

Only in Alabama …

Who could forget Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, commonly known simply as Jeff Sessions, racist extraordinaire, right?  He was a U.S. Senator from Alabama for twenty years, starting in 1997, and ending in 2017 when he stepped down to accept the position of U.S. District Attorney.  In his early years in Alabama … 1986, to be exact … then-President Ronald Reagan considered appointing Mr. Sessions to a federal court judgeship, but Sessions’ nomination was not confirmed in light of prior, documented racist remarks.

Sessions didn’t last too long as Attorney General … about a year, until 2018 when he resigned at Trump’s request.  Trump had wanted to fire him ever since Sessions, in a rare moment of integrity, recused himself from the Mueller investigation.  Trump had hoped that he could coerce Sessions into firing Robert Mueller and ending the investigation.  Anyway …

It is expected that any day now, Sessions will officially announce that he is running for his old Senate seat against incumbent Doug Jones, who beat out another racist jackass, Roy Moore, in 2017.  And, to add to the drama, Roy Moore is also planning to run for that seat again next year!  If Alabamans vote for either Sessions or Moore, then I think we should get our chain saws out and cut the whole state of Alabama out of the U.S. … let it drift over to the other side of the big pond!  Oh, my head.  🤯

Jaw-dropping news!

Is it possible, just possible, that Attorney General William Barr found his cojones?  Barr has slavishly done Trump’s bidding since the day he took his seat in the Department of Justice, not seeming to mind that he looked like a fool, a wuss, a pansy.  Perhaps he has finally gotten tired of it all?

Turns out that in late September, Trump requested that Barr hold a news conference declaring that Trump had broken no laws during that now famous July phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.  Nothing surprising there, but now for the jaw-dropping part … Barr refused!

According to The Washington Post

“In recent weeks, the Justice Department has sought some distance from the White House, particularly on matters relating to the burgeoning controversy over Trump’s dealings on Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry they sparked.”

Perhaps Mr. Barr is beginning to envision his entire career going up in flames if he continues to pander to the madman in the Oval Office?  Time will tell.

As always, I could go on … I had a few more snippets … but, the clock is telling me that it’s time to wrap this up and move on, so until next time …Trump-king

The Shame Of Our Nation …

“The Trump administration says it would require extraordinary effort to reunite what may be thousands of migrant children who have been separated from their parents and, even if it could, the children would likely be emotionally harmed.” – Associated Press, 02 February 2019

Say WHAT???

The first thing that comes to mind is … let’s get somebody to ‘remove’ Trump’s youngest (known) son, Barron, and then say we cannot likely return him.  I wonder if Trump would just shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh well,” as he obviously expects the parents of those stolen immigrant children to do?  In truth, it might be a kindness to Baron, for just look at how Trump’s other children have turned out.

According to Jonathan White, who leads the Health and Human Services Department’s efforts to reunite migrant children with their parents …

“It would destabilize the permanency of their existing home environment and could be traumatic to the children.” 

Where was the concern about the trauma to the children when they were unconscionably stolen from their parents?  Where was the concern when they were dragged, screaming and crying, from the arms of the only caregivers they had ever known?

The reality is that the government did a piss-poor job of record-keeping and now has no earthly idea where a vast majority of these children have landed.  They didn’t even know how many children they had separated from their parents and greatly underestimated the number.  They still don’t know, but Health and Human Services’ assistant inspector general, Ann Maxwell, said that the number of separated children was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents.  They didn’t even keep records!!!

People, these are lives we are talking about here, not electric light bulbs!  One does not simply take children from their parents, put them into cages, and then dispose of them willy-nilly without so much as a thought to remembering who went where!!!

“The department’s inspector general report didn’t have a precise count, but Maxwell said staff estimated it to be in the thousands.”

You may remember in June that Judge Dana Sabraw ordered all children held in U.S. custody to be returned to their parents, an order that still has not been completely fulfilled.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is requesting that Judge Sabraw amend that order to include children who were released to sponsors before his initial ruling.  A hearing is scheduled for February 21st.  ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said …

“The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

I agree.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claims that to review the 47,083 cases in an effort to track down these children would require too much time, too many man-hours.  Seriously???  We place a cost on the value of a child’s life and that cost isn’t worth hiring extra staff???  The department claims that 90% of these children were released to ‘close relatives’.  I don’t believe them.  How, after all, can they make that claim when they admittedly do not know where the children went?

On January 4th, The Guardian reported that the U.S. has stopped cooperating with the United Nations’ investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside the U.S.:

Quietly and unnoticed, the state department has ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice. There has been no response to any such formal query since 7 May 2018, with at least 13 requests going unanswered.

Nor has the Trump administration extended any invitation to a UN monitor to visit the US to investigate human rights inside the country since the start of Donald Trump’s term two years ago in January 2017. Two UN experts have made official fact-finding visits under his watch – the special rapporteurs on extreme poverty and privacy – but both were invited initially by Barack Obama, who hosted 16 such visits during his presidency.

Paradoxically, the Trump administration’s decision to shun the UN’s independent watchdogs places the US among a tiny minority of uncooperative states. There are very few countries that resist international oversight from UN special rapporteurs – one of them is North Korea.

Imagine, if you will, being a parent of a young child, living in a country where turmoil and violence are the norm.  Imagine wanting to protect your child, wanting to give your little boy or girl a better life.  You’ve heard that the U.S. is one of the ‘greatest’ countries in the world, the ‘land of opportunity’, so you give up everything you have, which is little enough, to make the long trek on foot to a place where you believe you and your child can live in safety, can carve out a life, can have a hope for the future.  And then … suddenly, bright lights shine in your eyes, booming angry voices scream at you, guns are pointed at you, and your child is taken screaming and crying, while you are powerless.  Imagine being told, then, that you will likely never see your child again because … “We don’t remember where we put him, and it’s just too much trouble to figure it out”.

This is the United States of America under Donald Trump.

Things You May Have Missed …

Okay, so you surely did not miss the fact that Trump blew up after finding Melania watching CNN while en route to Brussels two weeks ago.  And you surely did not miss the report that the House Freedom Caucus has begun impeachment proceedings against Rod Rosenstein, while Trump continues to call the Mueller investigation a ‘witch hunt’.  You don’t need me to keep you informed of those things.  But in amidst all the muck, there are a few things you might not have noticed, so here is a brief roundup of three I caught last night.

Another blow to freedom of the press …

kaitlan-collinsKaitlan Collins is a reporter for CNN.  Yesterday morning, Ms. Collins attended an “Oval Office press event”, and planned to attend the subsequent photo op ceremony in the Rose Garden with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.  She never made it to the second event.  Why?  Because she asked questions that Donald Trump, Communication Director Bill Shine, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t like.  They were not inappropriate questions.  They were questions about the same things that are on everyone’s mind:  Vladimir Putin’s postponed visit and the Michael Cohen tapes.  Fair game.  But in the Trump administration, there is no sense of fair play.

It is telling that even CNN’s traditional rival and Trump’s favoured network, Fox News, came to Collins’ defense:

“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.” – Jay Wallace, President of Fox News

And from the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) …

“We strongly condemn the White House’s misguided and inappropriate decision today to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like. This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand. Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the president, helps hold those people accountable. In our republic, the WHCA supports the prerogative of all reporters to do their jobs without fear of reprisal from the government.” – Olivier Knox, President of the WHCA

This is nothing less than a significant blow against a free press and one that we simply cannot tolerate.  Shutting out the press is only the first step.

Whose idea was it?

Trump’s former paramour, Stormy Daniels, was arrested in Columbus, Ohio on July 12th.  This is the woman, you may remember, to whom Trump via his then-attorney Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election to buy her silence about their affair.  When I read of her arrest, red flags went up and my nose twitched, but I soon forgot about it in light of other news, for Trump had just left behind his trail of detritus at NATO and was now in the UK, prepared to leave more droppings.  But yesterday, the story found its way back onto my radar …

stormy daniels

Stormy Daniels

Police said that Daniels violated an Ohio law by “touching” patrons of the strip club where she was performing.  Hmmm … sound fishy?  Well it is.  Turns out that those ‘patrons’ were actually undercover Vice cops.  The charges against Ms. Daniels were dropped 12 hours later, and Police Chief Kim Jacobs apologized and called it a “mistake.”

A whistleblower from the City of Columbus contacted the Fayette Advocate with numerous emails between several high-ranking Columbus police detectives and VICE officers. Inside the emails are news clippings discussing Daniels’ planned appearance in Columbus, pictures of Daniels with President Donald Trump, videos of her dancing, and even a map to the club where she would be performing, all sent days before her scheduled performance.

The bulk of the emails that the whistleblower provided are from the email account of Detective Shana Keckley. Keckley was one of the lead-arresting officers the night that the “sting” operation went down.

Shana Keckley

Shana Keckley

In an email dated Tuesday, July 10 — two days before Daniels arrived in Columbus — Keckley emails herself a video of Daniels in West Hollywood. Not long after, the VICE detective emails herself a link to an NBC 4 Columbus story promoting Daniels’ planned appearance.   In another email, several hours after Ms. Daniels’ arrest, Keckley writes to another police officer bragging about Daniel’s arrest, saying, “You’re Welcome!!!!!….Thank me in person later.”

Is this just the work of a bunch of local yokels, or did the orders come from ‘higher up’?  Draw your own conclusions.

Today is the deadline …

Today is the court-imposed deadline for the federal government to have re-united the immigrant children who were separated from their parents and held in detention centers around the nation.  Now tell me honestly, do you think they are even close to 100% on this one?  Nah, me neither.immigrant child-2According to the most recent government figures, the administration is on track to reunite most if not all “eligible” parents with their children by the court-mandated deadline. On Tuesday evening, the administration said it has reunited 1,012 parents with their kids between the ages of 5 and 17.  There was a time, say a year-and-a-half ago, that I might have taken this information at face value, but not today.  There is no way for you or I to either prove or disprove the numbers, and frankly, I don’t believe them.  But even if I did believe them, I have concerns about the government determining who is an “eligible” parent.  The parents were with their children when they came here.  They were ‘eligible’ parents on the day HHS took their children from them.  I don’t think it is our place to deem a parent ineligible to get their children back unless it can be proven that the child would be in danger.

One parent was declared ineligible for having received a DUI.  Sorry, I don’t see how that disqualifies him from being reunited with his child.  Perhaps having his child taken from him led to his drinking.  Two others are grandparents instead of parents and thus their grandchildren, who were with them as they crossed the border, are still being withheld from them.  And, of course, there are nearly 500 parents in total that have been deported and HHS claims they are unable to reunite the children.

I will have more about this later, for I want to know just what the plans for the rest of these children are – will HHS continue trying to reunite them, or are they planning to place them in private foster homes, or are they planning to keep them in detention centers indefinitely?  Below is a summary of the results as of yesterday morning.  Please note that there are still 1,584 children who have not yet been reunited with their parents.Separated-Children-7-25-1Let’s keep our eye on this ball, folks, for I’m fairly certain Trump & Co would like nothing better than for it to fade from the news and from our minds & hearts.

It is easy to lose sight of some things with the constant barrage of news facing us each day.  Some things, though, are just too important to lose sight of.

Where Are The Children?

It was one week ago today that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) missed the court-mandated deadline to reunite all immigrant children under the age of five with their parents.  It was, apart from Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the most important news story of the day one short week ago.  The government had only managed to reunited some 50% of the children.  In 20% of the cases, HHS lost track of the parents after they were either deported or released into the U.S.  In other cases, the excuse was they were doing DNA testing to verify parentage, but the bottom line was that far too many toddlers were still left sleeping behind wire and crying for their mommies every night.

Then Trump went abroad where he ruined relations with our NATO allies, trashed our kinship with the UK, and sold the U.S. to Putin in Helsinki.  And the plight of the children, probably to the relief of HHS Secretary Alex Azar, fell off the front pages and for a brief time, out of our minds.  I awakened this morning with these children very much on my mind and determined I would do some digging to find out the latest status.

According to USA Today …

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Monday he’s become “exasperated” by the Trump administration’s slow work to reunify more than 2,600 children separated from their parents, and he ordered the government to halt all deportations of parents for at least a week.

Sabraw scolded the Department of Health and Human Services for taking so long to reunite children in its care with their parents held in separate government facilities. The judge responded to a court filing by Chris Meekins, a senior HHS official who wrote that the judge’s order requiring accelerated reunifications was leading to “increased risks to child welfare.”

Sabraw tore into Meekins during a court hearing in San Diego on Monday, saying his claims were “deeply troubling” and “completely unhelpful” to what had been a mutual spirit of good faith between the two sides. The judge said Meekins’ filing appeared to represent an effort to deflect blame for any damage caused to children as a result of the government’s family separation policy.

The latest tally seems to be that 57 of the under-five group have been reunited with their parents, just over half.  HHS claims that the others will not be returned to their parents, as the parents have been found ‘unfit’, most due to criminal records.  There was a time I would have believed the government, but frankly, I no longer believe a word of it.  So, there are still 46 children under five-years-old, living in detention centers under conditions that we do not know, for the media has been barred from touring those facilities.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a joint statement that the 57 reunifications show the government has done everything it can to comply with Sabraw’s order.

According to the administration, some of the cases that were not completed include:

  • 11 parents who were found to have a “serious criminal history,” including charges or convictions of child cruelty, kidnapping and murder, making them a danger to their children.
  • 12 parents who had already been deported. Sabraw agreed to give the government more time to identify those parents and create a system to reunify them with their children.
  • 11 adults who are in federal and state custody on non-immigration, criminal charges.
  • Seven adults who were determined not to be a parent. The government has been conducting DNA tests of all alleged families to ensure that children are not released to human smugglers.
  • One parent whose identity remains unknown. The Department of Justice said the child, who has been in custody for more than a year, may be a U.S. citizen.

Sarah Fabian, an attorney for the Department of Justice argued against Judge Sabraw’s order to halt deportations, saying it would affect the government’s ability to maintain its pace of reunifications. She said there is a limited number of detention facilities where families can be held together and said they may fill up as deportations are on hold.  Judge Sabraw appears to have run out of patience with the U.S. government’s bungling efforts and simply said, “That is not an option. The government will have to make space.”  I like Judge Sabraw!

The next deadline, that to reunite the 2,551 children age five and older, is July 26th.  Already HHS admits to having lost track of at least 71 of those parents, so the odds are that this effort will be as much a disaster as the prior one.

This was all the information I could find this morning, and it was about what I expected.  We need to keep our eye on this ball.  Yes, Donald Trump’s actions abroad are without precedent and are extremely important to the future of our nation, but these children cannot fall by the wayside either.  What has happened to these children, these families, is nothing short of a crime against humanity and must be treated as such.  Where we once welcomed immigrants with open arms, we now take their children from them and lock them away.  This, my friends, is unconscionable.

Define “Generous” Please …

My jaw literally (well, okay, figuratively) dropped to the floor this morning when I saw this headline:

HHS Secretary: Separating Immigrant Families Is ‘One of the Great Acts of American Generosity’

Say what???

The separation of children from their parents at the southern border can be defined by only two words:  a fiasco, and chaos.  ‘Generosity’ is definitely the antithesis of what this nation has done to those families seeking a safe haven.  A federal judge ordered all children under the age of five to be reunited with their parents by July 10th  — yesterday.  However, some 84 of the 101 or 102 children under five remain separated from their families in detention centers, aka concentration camps.  How is this ‘generous’?

“We have nothing to hide about how we operate these facilities.” That was Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday night, referring to what he calls the juvenile and “tender age” facilities in which many of the separated children are currently being detained. It seems strange to me that if they have nothing to hide, they have barred media outlets and public figures from filming or visiting. And then he went on to say …

“It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids.” 

I call FOUL!!!  There is no generosity involved in taking a young child, a toddler, from its mother’s arms and putting it in an abandoned Wal-Mart store, surrounded by wire and strange faces!  And why is he referring to them as ‘unaccompanied’?  A two-year-old child does not just wander across the border on his own.  These children were accompanied by their parents!!!  Three thousand – 3,000 – children were accompanied by their parents, then taken away to detention centers, scared, alone, and not knowing why they are no longer with their parents.  And Mr. Azar calls this ‘generous’?  Perhaps his definition of the word is different than mine.  Or perhaps he is in the wrong job, for his agency is titled “Health and Human Services”, and there is nothing … not one thing … humanitarian about what is happening to these children!

HHS and ICE have so royally mucked up this entire fiasco that they deserve to be placed in these detention centers themselves.  First, they have lost track of some 20% of the parents who were either released in the U.S. or deported back to their homelands – without their children.  Second, they are claiming that 27 of the children under 5 will not be reunited because the parents have ‘criminal records’, yet we are not told what crimes they are accused of.  Perhaps nothing more than a speeding ticket or jaywalking in some cases.  We don’t know … we just don’t know.  And frankly, I no longer trust our government to provide us with actual facts, for thus far we have been spoon-fed the b.s. that they want us to believe and I do not buy a single word of it.

The delay in reuniting the children, we are told, is because HHS is conducting DNA testing on children and parents in order to ensure the right kids go to the right families.  I see this more as a delaying tactic than a genuine concern for the children’s safety and welfare.  Part of the reason for the DNA requirement, according to officials, is that the documents proving parentage were initially taken from the parents at the border, and those documents have since been lost!  They cannot keep up with the parents, they cannot keep up with the paperwork … what next?  And now we are told that at least four of the mothers have been told they must pay the cost for the DNA testing before getting their children back!  These mothers do not have $700 – $800 in their pockets!

There are many people in this administration who must bear the guilt of this fiasco, but at the end of the day, it all falls squarely in the lap of Donald Trump.  Separating these children from their parents was a political move, making the children pawns in Trump’s game.  The process was hastily thrown together with little or no thought to record-keeping and eventual reunification.  These children and their parents are human beings, yet they have been treated as … objects, for lack of a better word.  And now, to add insult to injury, Alex Azar has the unmitigated gall to call what we are doing ‘generous’?  I don’t think so, Alex … no sir, I do not see generosity anywhere in this equation.

Another Ball To Keep Your Eye On …

The past week or two has been a three-ring media circus, with news of Rosanne Barr making an ass of herself, Samantha Bee trying to keep up with Roseanne, Trump pardoning the least likely felons, Tuesday primaries, Trump’s tariffs, the feud between Trump and Super bowl winners the Philadelphia Eagles, the upcoming G7 summit, and Trump’s on-again-off-again meeting with Kim Jong-un, to name a few.  So it is understandable that you might have missed something important stuck in one of the back corners of the room.

By now, surely we all understand that one of the goals of Trump and his supporters is to diminish spending on domestic social programs that help people have food to eat, a place to live, and medical care.  Instead, he/they would rather increase such things as military spending, which is a multi-billion-dollar gig for defense industry, and putting extra money into the coffers of wealthy corporations.  Trump has, for the past 16 months, been chipping away at the programs that benefit people, such as his executive orders that put large cracks into ACA and is resulting in a spike in health insurance premiums, especially for those who can least afford it.

But the latest has the potential to do far greater damage than anything he has done so far.  On Wednesday it was announced that the administration is preparing to release a sweeping plan for reorganizing the federal government that includes a major consolidation of welfare programs — and a renaming of the Health and Human Services Department.

It all started back in March 2017, when Trump signed an executive order  directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to come up with a plan to overhaul the government to make it more efficient.

There are three major issues I see with this plan.  One, the renaming, two, the consolidation of services under HHS, and three, Alex Azar, the Secretary of HHS.  Let us look at each of these issues.

The name change …

Until 1980, HHS was named Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  Under President Carter, the Department of Education became a separate department, and the word “Welfare” was dropped from the name because of the stigma.  Many associate ‘welfare’ with ‘lazy poor people—mainly black, single mothers—bilking the federal government’.  A recent study found racial resentment fueled most white Americans’ attitudes toward social safety nets. Other studies have found that public support drops for programs labeled as “welfare” as opposed to when they are labeled as “assistance to the poor.”

The consolidation …

In part, the rationale for consolidating services under one department is explained by …

“You have low-income assistance in a bunch of different shops without one point of oversight and without a whole lot of communication. Why not have one federal agency responsible for execution?”

I see some logic in this, but … we do not have a federal government in place that can be trusted.  Period.  Trump has already proven he has little, if any concern for the poor, the disabled or the elderly.  Congress has already proven that they will basically rubber-stamp whatever legislation Trump asks for.  Consolidate all services, then he cuts the budget by 75%.  What happens then?

The six major programs that would fall under the umbrella of the new department are:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Medicaid (includes Child’s Health Insurance Program aka CHIP)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food stamps)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Housing Assistance

The Secretary …

The Secretary of the current HHS department is Alex Michael Azar II.  From 2012 to 2017, Mr. Azar was President of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Company, a major pharmaceutical drug company, and was a member of the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a pharmaceutical lobby.  Under Azar’s leadership, drug prices rose steadily.  In fact, under Azar, the company tripled the price of insulin.  Yet, when Trump nominated Azar, he called him a “star for better healthcare and lower drug prices.”

Azar has long been a critic of ACA and predicts there will be a blanket repeal before the end of this year.  He is also firmly against women’s right to choose in the matter of abortion.

Last year, when Trump announced his choice of Azar, Bernie Sanders said …

“The nomination of Alex Azar, the former head of Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations, shows that Trump was never serious about his promise to stop the pharmaceutical industry from ‘getting away with murder. The last thing we need is to put a pharmaceutical executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

I agree, and would also add that the last thing we need is to put the lives and well-being of some 40 million low income people under the direction of an agency headed by a drug czar.  Everything I have read about Azar indicates that he is toeing the party line … or rather, the Trumpian line, saying nothing that resembles fact as regards health insurance.  His goal, like so many others in the Trump administration, is profit.  What is needed to oversee low-income assistance programs is a person whose goal is to help people.  Mr. Azar does not fill that bill.

The reality is that much of this plan to reorganize the federal government, which is said to also include “big changes” in nearly every department, may not likely see the light of day, for much of it will require the approval of Congress.  Then again, the current Congress hasn’t said “no” to much of anything yet. But the intent could not be more chillingly clear:  the more government programs that are rebranded as “welfare” regardless of their function or intent, the easier it will be to cut them.

The full plan is expected to be released in the next few weeks.  I can hardly wait (dripping sarcasm intended).

Where Does It End???

Perhaps there is some confusion on the meanings of certain words and phrases.  At the beginning of Trump’s ‘Reign of Bigotry’, Kellyanne Conway, referring to the number of people who attended the inauguration, introduced the term ‘alternative facts’.  It would seem that now there is some general confusion, particularly among those tied to the Trump administration, about what words mean.  Let us take a couple of examples:

Religious freedom: the freedom to practice and observe your religion of choice, or none at all, without interference.

Civil rights: the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

Conscience: an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.

Of course, we can expand on these definitions, but these are the base, the foundation, and for the purpose of this conversation will serve quite nicely.

Donald Trump has once again found a way to circumvent Congressional approval and make law himself by creating a new division within the Civil Rights office of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The name of this new division is “Division for Conscience and Religious Freedom”. It might just as well be the “Division for Discrimination”, for that is precisely what it is.  The sheer irony is that it is a division within the Civil Rights office, and yet it threatens to take civil rights from both the LGBT community and any who have had or seek to have an abortion.


Roger Severino

The head of the Civil Rights office within HHS is headed up by one Roger Severino, a man who has been extremely vocal in his opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination protections for transgender people.  The purpose of this new division is to “defend healthcare workers who, on religious grounds, refuse to treat patients or take part in procedures”. Severino claims this division will “protect people from unfair treatment”.

It seems to me that health care workers are there to serve the public, not to pick and choose which members of the public are worthy of being helped.  Think about this one for a minute.  Say I had an abortion six years ago (no, I didn’t) and it is in my medical file.  Today, I wake up with severe chest pains, and I call for an ambulance.  The driver comes, checks my vital signs, then asks if I have ever had an abortion?  ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I cannot transport you to the hospital, for abortion is against my religious beliefs.’ Extreme example?  Maybe, maybe not.  I can see it happening, and that is the part that should frighten us all.

Severino says the goal is to ‘protect individuals from unfair treatment’.  I ask you, which is more unfair:  denying life-saving medical treatment to a sick person, or asking a health care professional to treat each patient as a human being, nothing more?

“No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice,” said Severino.  VICTIMS???  Excuse me, but did he say victims?  The nurse who is asked to draw blood from a gay person is the victim here?  I think not.  The victim is the person who is being refused life-saving medical treatment because of his gender identity.  The victim is the one who is being discriminated against, and that is not the nurse who is simply being asked to do her job! This division is nothing more than a vehicle to use religion as a justification for discrimination.

In addition to my absolute fury over this division and its likely policies, I also have a fear about what other doors this opens.  Think about this … we have a hell of a lot of white supremacists in this nation, it seems.  What happens when they claim their rights are being violated by having to serve black people in restaurants, or white supremacist doctors feel it is unjust for them to have to treat African-American patients?  Or what about the anti-Semitic doctor or nurse who is opposed to treating Jewish patients?

Now, back to the definition of religious freedom for a moment.  If you don’t believe that abortion is right, then do not have an abortion.  That is your right, your freedom to choose not to have an abortion.  However, if I do choose to have one, it is not your right to choose for me, it is not your right to prevent me from having one.  You follow your conscience and I will follow mine.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “Religious liberty doesn’t include a right to be exempt from laws protecting our health or barring discrimination. It doesn’t mean a right to refuse to transport a patient in need because she had an abortion. It doesn’t mean refusing care to a patient because she is transgender. Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care.”

The division speaks of ‘conscience’, yet perhaps these people who are so offended by treating a gay or transgender person ought to examine their own consciences a little closer and see their own bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

Yesterday, a press conference was held with a series of speeches celebrating the new division.  Severino led the event and at one point, referring to health  care professionals who refuse to treat LGBT people, he  compared their situation with that of Jews who were slaughtered during the Holocaust and Martin Luther King Jr. in his quest for racial justice. Seriously??? The Nazis, he said, had forced Jews to wear a certain type of insole in their shoes with Hebrew writing on them, “so that every step they took, they would be violating their conscience….I could see the common humanity of why someone is forced to violate their conscience with every step they take, how it’s an attack, really, on their human dignity.”

An excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by all doctors reads, “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings …”  Please note that it does not say “all human beings with whom I am in religious agreement”, but simply “all human beings”.  I read the entire oath, and did not find anything that indicates otherwise.

This entire scenario is surreal, it is chilling, for as I said, it opens doors to discrimination in every facet of our society, and against every group.  This, my friends, is not what this nation is, not what it was ever intended to be.  This is not a nation I recognize, as I have said more than once in the past year.  This is not a nation in which I can any longer have even a degree of pride.  Donald Trump promised to “make America great again”, but instead, he has made it terrible. Ruined it for people of true conscience, for humanitarians, for people who put others before themselves.  If Trump is allowed to stay in office beyond the end of this year, I predict there will be a mass migration out of the country, and I will be leading the way.

Note to Readers:  You may have noticed that I am slow these days in responding to comments, and have not visited your blogs as much as I would like.  Please forgive me, but I am having serious vision difficulties these days, and can neither read nor write without holding a magnifying glass in one hand.  As you might imagine, that slows me down quite a bit.  Please bear with me and keep commenting … I read them all, but simply have not been able to respond as timely as I would like. Hopefully my vision problems can be corrected soon, but meanwhile, thank you for your continued patience w!ith my slowness.  Love ‘n hugs to you all

One More Step Back Into Darkness …

You know how I sometimes say that a headline made me jaw drop?  This headline sent a very cold chill down my spine, and not in a good sort of way:

CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity

“The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”The Washington Post, 15 December 2017  

Vulnerable?  They are not allowed to use the word “vulnerable”???  Or fetus?  Diversity?  This … this … takes my breath and leaves me without words.  We started down this path on 20 January, and I began predicting this then, began noting Orwell’s 1984 in a few posts on this blog.  But even I did not see such blatant censorship happening this quickly.

“Censorship was rampant throughout Nazi Germany. Censorship ensured that Germans could only see what the Nazi hierarchy wanted people to see, hear what they wanted them to hear and read only what the Nazis deemed acceptable.”History Learning Site /

To be sure, this is not the first incidence where Trump & Co have censored certain words from federal agencies.  Remember back in August when the U.S. Department of Energy requested that scientists no longer use the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in their research?  Or in January, almost immediately following his inauguration, when the White House removed all mention of climate change from its official website?

“The chief function of propaganda is to convince the masses, who slowness of understanding needs to be given time in order that they may absorb information; and only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on their mind………the slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula. The one will be rewarded by the surprising and almost incredible results that such a personal policy secures.” – Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

And do you remember back in October when Trump decided to  withdraw from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)? The mandate of UNESCO is to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image [and] to foster free, independent, and pluralistic media in print, broadcast and online”.  The U.S. withdrawal is seen as making the world less safe for journalists, according to a joint statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

And just this week, the repeal of not only net neutrality, which enforced internet equality, gave equal opportunity to websites large and small, and enabled us to search the web unfettered.  Now, our choices will be censored, not necessarily by government, but by the largest and wealthiest corporations around the globe.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Bertolt Brecht was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet who wrote the following, which was banned in Hitler’s Germany:

“There was once a nanny-goat who said,
In my cradle someone sang to me:
“A strong man is coming.
He will set you free!”

The ox looked at her askance.
Then turning to the pig
He said,
“That will be the butcher.”

Bertolt Brecht

Let us not be silent, friends.  Let us speak for our right to hear the truth. We cannot allow the government to turn everything we see, read or hear into ‘newspeak’, or ‘alternative language’.  Remember The Washington Post’s new slogan:  Democracy Dies In Darkness.

Another Strike Against Women …

I am beginning to wonder why we have Congress at all, for it seems that Trump and his administration are doing pretty much whatever Trump wants done without the approval of our elected officials.  Executive orders and cabinet-level decisions have become the norm, bypassing the legislative branch altogether.

Legislative:  having the power to make laws

By now you have all heard the news, that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “rolled back” (translation: eradicated) the ACA requirement that employer’s insurance plans cover contraception (birth control).  Now any company can refuse to provide insurance plans that include birth control based on ‘religious or moral’ grounds.  Let us not kid ourselves here … companies will indeed cite religious or moral grounds and they will indeed drop coverage of birth control, but the real reason will be because it will save them money.  General Motors is a company, owned by a group of shareholders, none of whom give a whit whether their employees use birth control or not.  But they do care about seeing the value of their stock go up, they do care about their dividend check.

I understand why some people have strong feelings about abortion.  It is, as it should be, a topic to be seriously considered, and while I fully support a woman’s right to choose, I can also see why others may feel differently.  But birth control???  In this, the 21st century, people still have moral objections to birth control? I do not believe that more than a very small percentage can actually wish a family to have an unlimited number of children that they can barely afford to feed.  I cannot believe that any thinking person wishes to see the population of the world soar, just as food supplies are diminishing due to the effects of climate change.  I have a hard time seeing that those people really want to be responsible for children being born into families where they will be abused and neglected.  If that is what the religious right are supporting, I really have to question the moral values they claim.

Does anybody besides me find it odd that there is such a hue and cry over birth control for women, yet nobody seems bothered, nobody says a word about the fact that a large number of insurance plans cover Viagra for men, a drug that has no actual medical benefit, but is merely for men’s … pleasure?  Am I the only one who sees a disparity here? Women’s economic, physical and emotional health vs. men’s pleasure.  Hmmmm … tell me again that it is not still a man’s world?

This action on the part of HHS will certainly be challenged, for already women’s health care groups are preparing lawsuits, and ultimately the issue is likely to end up on the docket of the Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, how many women will suffer? In light of today’s action, I would suggest that the Department of Health and Human Services should be renamed to the Department of Religious and Moral Services, for they have shown their disregard for both health and humans.

In August, Trump struck another blow against women’s rights when he suspended a proposed policy that would have required companies to disclose pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the purpose of identifying gender and racial pay gaps.  This action, combined with today’s announcement are a reversal of rights that women have fought for in the past decades and set a course that is disturbing, to say the least.

But the even bigger aspect, as I see, is the fact that this administration has been busily abusing its power for more than eight long months, and one must ask the question:  what next?  I think it would be best if we return to having the legislative branch, Congress, make the laws based on what is best for the nation as a whole, not merely one segment of religious zealots.

How The President’s Swamp Keeps Draining Our Taxpayers’ Monies (Tom Price)?

It would appear that the goal of Trump and his minions is to bankrupt the federal government in the shortest possible amount of time. And yet, they cannot find money to fund healthcare. Please read my friend Gronda’s post on the latest in a series of abuses of power and OUR money! Thank you,, Gronda, for this enlightening post and for permission to share!

Gronda Morin

Image result for cartoons about tom price

While the republican US congress representatives are doing their best to take away affordable quality healthcare insurance via Obamacare from “we the people,” with their claim that they are saving a failing program which they deliberately caused, like their decision to not fund risk insurance (reinsurance) as required by the ACA bill, the head of HHS, Tom Price has been spending tax payer monies to the tune of $400, 000 on private jets as of May 2017.  Somehow, Tom Price despite his own wealth is clueless about how inappropriate his actions are. He is part of the president’s swamp.

Here is the rest of the story…

On September 23, 2017, Dan Diamond of Politico penned the following report, “Tom Price to halt taxpayer-funded travel on private jets.” (POLITICO has identified more than $400,000 in charter jet spending for the HHS secretary’s travels since May.)


Health and Human Services…

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