Tag Archives: politics

America’s healthcare system is about to take a turn for the worse

healthcare image of tag on a toe

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerCongress may yet produce a national healthcare policy that Republican lobbyists like. It could happen.

But the dogged partisan resort to secrecy, skullduggery and subterfuge suggests that whatever healthcare creature eventually emerges from the legislative black lagoon beside the Potomac, it is unlikely to fix our broken system or put an end to the perennial turmoil over healthcare policy. It is more likely to make matters worse.

Republicans in Congress have been saying for the better part of a decade that they want to rip out the existing well-liked and functional healthcare system and replace it with … something.

Sometimes they go so far as to say “something better.” They have never been able to articulate just what that “something” might be. And now that they are in a position to actually produce an acceptable “something,” they find it’s more easily said than done.

Recent attempts at cobbling together a replacement have had more to do with delivering tax cuts to the wealthy than with healthcare improvements. Most of the changes offered in the recent congressional plans have involved sabotaging Medicare and Medicaid, and making insurance coverage worse, not better.

That hasn’t exactly thrilled the Republican voter base – most of whom have a lot at stake here. Yet they have remained mostly loyal, and seem willing to accept whatever sadistic and unnecessary cruelties their party inflicts.

It may seem baffling that Republicans can persuade so many people who stand to be seriously harmed, to go along with the notion that denying them affordable healthcare is a good idea. But the phenomenon is easily explained:

When it comes to healthcare, Americans don’t know what they want.

Right or privilege?

Is healthcare a right?

Blogger Jim Wright asked that question a while back, and discovered something startling: Americans seem genuinely conflicted about it

Wright concluded most Americans are uncomfortable, even afraid, to try answering the question.

healthcare cartoon imageMore than a few commenters hemmed and hawed and tried not to say they wanted healthcare for themselves and their fellows, but maybe not for everyone else – especially if that involved having to help pay for it.

The mixed bag of “Yes, but…” and “No, but…” answers Wright collected could never inform the creation of a sensible dialogue, let alone national policy.

So, is healthcare a right or not? We’ll take our own stab at answering that in a bit.

Get out of the lifeboat!

Meanwhile, the national ambiguity about right-vs-privilege has created a political vacuum the health insurance industry sees as a huge opportunity. The vacuum will be filled and it is they who intend to do the filling.

Big Insurance has allied itself in this vacuum-filling with Big Employers – read wealthy corporations and the already obscenely rich individuals  looking to avoid having to kick in a dime toward healthcare in any form for anyone but themselves.

The attempt to slip out of their share of the social contract goes beyond sharing the cost of health insurance. It includes their having to pay as little as possible for, among other things, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, nutrition assistance for poor kids, family planning or (heaven forefend) worker retirement pensions.

They plan to commandeer the social lifeboat, do you the favor of kicking you out, and sell it as giving you the freedom to swim to any shore you please.

Freedom.  Seriously.

As the specious argument goes, universal healthcare would curtail the freedom of those who don’t want it by making them to pay for it.

Kind of like what happens with just about everything governments at every level do every day. Select any government service you don’t like paying for, and tell us how you lawfully exempt yourself.

Schools? Roads? Police? An enormous military? Weaselly gas-bag lawmakers? You and I may not be enthused about paying for them, but we do because they are part of the society we have built and choose to live in.

healthcare meme image of paul ryanHouse Speaker Paul Ryan, one of the main architects of the various healthcare bill travesties foisted on us lately, likes to talk about how his plans will preserve “access” to the healthcare market for everyone.

His glittery words are deliberately slippery.

You currently have “access” to the market for Rolls-Royce automobiles. That doesn’t mean you can afford to own one.

“Access” to healthcare is not healthcare.

Policy based on fiction

Ryan a devout if unlikely disciple of the government-hating, resolutely selfish (and, in real-life, personally needy) novelist Ayn Rand, waxes articulate on his skewed concept of freedom.

Forgetting that he’s talking about a novel, a description of a fictional society that could not exist in the real world, Ryan fends off logic and assures us he’s only offering “the freedom to choose.”

The “freedom” to choose … what?

You are free to do without insurance for yourself and your family in an utterly unaffordable healthcare system. Never mind that everyone, including you, eventually needs healthcare.

You are free to spend half of your income – or perhaps much more – on insurance for treatment you need to survive.

You are free to go bankrupt if a serious illness visits your life.

You are free to die.

Yes. Really. That is not some alarmist exaggeration. It is the sort of callous, greedy thinking that is actually devising the healthcare policy that will govern you and your family and perhaps drive you to ruin.

By the way, Congress has exempted itself from any and all unpleasant changes it makes to your healthcare coverage. Whatever they come up with is not good enough for them but it’s OK for you.

Dirty little healthcare secret

Let’s be clear about who/what we are referring to.

The health insurance industry has a dirty little secret, one the wider American public has yet to sniff out:

Health insurance companies are not necessary.

They add only costs. They offer no price or quality advantage whatsoever over the single-payer plans in use in the rest of the world’s countries.

But they do make the American approach, which covers far less, vastly more expensive.

The scam that keeps driving Obamacare rates up

Health insurance companies are corporations. Like all corporations, they exist solely to make a profit for their investors.

They are not in the business of helping sick people. Healthcare is just the market they have chosen.

Like any corporation, insurance companies only want maximum profit and minimum payout, and no laws or moral folderol standing in the way.

Insurance is managed risk. It is a sort of Ponzi scheme – essentially a bet that you will pay premiums for a while without making any serious payment claims. When you inevitably do file a claim, money from others in the coverage pool will be used to pay you.

When insurance company payouts begin to eat into profits, the company raises rates and/or dumps its most expensive customers.

Guaranteed quality coverage

The Affordable Care Act – much reviled by Republicans as “Obamacare,” attempted to address the inherent instability of the health insurance market.

Obamacare is not insurance. Did you know?

That’s right. Obamacare is not insurance. It is a swindle-free competitive marketplace where you can buy guaranteed-quality insurance offered by private insurance companies.

ACA coverage is not provided by the government. It’s not free. Everybody pays. Some get subsidized rates but nobody gets a handout.

ACA eliminated the need to compare the fine-print gotcha language and the deliberately confusing legalese and the bewildering variations in coverage. All ACA-grade insurance policies cover the same things. They compete on price.

This is revolutionary in the American experience. The ability of private individuals to buy guaranteed-quality health insurance at a competitive price is something that simply did not exist before ACA.

The key to making this approach work is the mandate: Requiring everyone to buy health insurance, or at least contribute to the coverage pool.

That sort of universal coverage creates a stable, predictable customer base and spreads the risks among the sick and the healthy alike.

Yes, the healthy help pay for the sick. But today’s healthy are tomorrow’s sick; younger healthy people will arrive to help care for the infirm as they age. It is part of that social contract, a fundamental ingredient in making America the great nation it is.

Is this not the best of all possible worlds? Everyone is covered, markets are stable and guaranteed. With every company’s policy meeting the same basic level of coverage, profits are just be a matter of offering good pricing and controlling costs.

Further, under the ACA system, the continuing role of insurance companies is assured in perpetuity.

ACA is, in its way, an insurance policy for insurance companies – immunizing them not just against the threat of single-payer coverage but against abuses by companies that could produce a backlash, a public uprising of such fury that it could scatter their lucrative racket to the four winds.

But the insurance companies don’t see it that way.

A swindler’s paradise

Remember, they are corporations.  The corporate CEO’s bonus is tied to ever-increasing profits. Nothing but the ability to send quarterly numbers limitlessly soaring by whatever means necessary is ever enough for corporations.

So to hell with all that talk of stability and affordability and fairness and making sick people well. Insurance companies want to return to the old days, when healthcare was rationed and the marketplace was a swindler’s paradise.

Customers could again be bamboozled into buying policies with deceptively low premium rates that cover next to nothing. Or they could simply be priced out of quality healthcare verage.

Companies would go back to making sure profits stayed high and rising by enforcing bewildering authorization rules, maddening and dangerously long reimbursement delays, confiscatory co-pays, impossibly high deductibles, and lifetime benefit caps.

MRI scans, a now-common diagnostic tool, can cost $13,000 or more, depending on where they are done.

A heart pacemaker, a device that spells the difference between life and death for people who need one, can easily cost a quarter of a million dollars, not counting the absolutely necessary regular follow-up care for the rest of the patient’s life.

If you aren’t familiar with what even simple medical procedures cost, it is understatement to say you might be in for some sticker shock. That lifetime healthcare insurance cap could evaporate faster than the beer at a stock car race.

Deceptive compromises

In a cynical attempt to deceive people, authors of the healthcare bills would include language that makes it seem things are covered. Cancer treatments? Covered under the federal law. Same for pre-existing conditions, etc.

What they don’t tell you is that states can be granted waivers, literally for the asking, granting them the power to allow healthcare insurance policies to exempt cancer drugs or pacemakers, or any specific medical treatments, from coverage.

Hey, don’t blame Congress for what the states do!

One especially deceptive Senate proposal currently in play would allow insurance companies to go back to selling junk, as long as they also offered ACA-quality policies as well.

That doesn’t sound unreasonable until you realize the junk policies could initially be priced very low and still be enormously profitable, but because of the reduced risk pool (fewer number of customers), the ACA-level policies would be prohibitively expensive.

Smaller pool – more risk to profits – higher cost to the insured.

Do you remember the three-claim rule?

If your doctor has been around for a few years, he or she can tell you about the unwritten corporate tactic: Insurance companies would slowly process and routinely reject legitimate claims twice. If you or the doctor, in an unusual display of persistence, filed the claim a third time, the company would usually pay.

It was a profitable ploy. Often as not, exasperated patients, dunned by their physician, would simply pony up the fee, letting the insurance company off the hook.

If allowed to do so, insurance companies would not hesitate to bring the unscrupulous practice back.

The ACA marketplace put an end to such chiseling. If you buy insurance via ACA, you’re covered for pretty much everything.

Congress and the Trump regime have been systematically sabotaging the ACA subsidy process. The effect is to reduce the number of poor people with insurance coverage. This allows ACA opponents to point to the decline in coverage numbers and claim it is proof ACA doesn’t work.

Many voters don’t know the government is engaged in this subterfuge because many voters are, as Republican political strategist Karl Rove famously observed, inattentive but brand-loyal.

In other words, as we mentioned earlier, it seems the Republican rank-and-file will happily vote for any Republican proposal, no matter the issue – even if it is dramatically against their own best interests – as long as the Democrats don’t like the plan.

Republicans have long known this human idiosyncrasy about their base and cynically use it, to demonstrated great success.

Neither fish nor fowl

So, back to the original question: Is healthcare in America a right or a privilege?

It is neither.

Healthcare is not a right.

At least, as blogger Wright observed, not an enumerated right, spelled out clearly in the Constitution –  like freedom of speech. And it is, as yet, not an unenumerated right (privacy, for example) as implied by the 9th Amendment.

And it is not a privilege.

Except in rare cases, America traditionally has not been a nation where privileges have been formally conferred on a de facto aristocracy, to the exclusion of others. That would be dangerously corrosive to the fabric of America.

We know that in practice, our society does harbor various elites, tolerates that they enjoy a certain level of privilege and defers to them in any number of ways.

Congress creating a gold-plated healthcare plan solely for itself is an example.

But we still generally subscribe to the tattered 14th Amendment concept that we are all equal before the law.

Most people think of rights as things they are allowed to do. But from a constitutional standpoint, rights actually describe things the government is not allowed to do.

You have a right to freedom of speech because the Constitution forbids Congress from passing a law to punish you for things you say.

So if healthcare is not a right and it is not a privilege, what is it?

That is what we must decide.

If we cannot agree that healthcare is or ought to be a right, and don’t like the idea of limiting it to a privileged few (the private plan for members of Congress, for example, let’s call it a benefit.

An American answer

Healthcare is a benefit of being an American.

Why not? Practically every other country on the planet offers healthcare as a benefit to its citizens.

All we have to do is choose to make it so.

This is actually a very American idea.

The answer to the healthcare dilemma has been staring us in the face all along.

Right there in the Preamble to the Constitution (that “We the people” thing folks are so fond of quoting) it says one of the core reasons for establishing the American Republic in the first place was to “promote the general welfare.”

The phrase is sandwiched between “provide for the common defense” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

That’s it! The Founding Fathers clearly recognized that a healthy society would be a strong and stable society.

So the phrase “promote the general welfare” of the nation’s citizens can be taken to suggest the government has a responsibility to have public policies that foster the health and well-being of all Americans.

Anyone who has known poor health, especially if the cause was a corporate or congressional policy decision, or the lack of one, understands the importance of  good health  to the general welfare of a society.

There has never been any doubt that the words “provide for the common defense” meant using taxes to pay for a standing army. The phrases are separated only by a comma.

So what the Deuce is the big dubiety over “promote the general welfare” all about?

Risking their future

A single-payer system could be easily accomplished. Simply lower the eligibility age for Medicare.

Insurance companies wouldn’t like that, and certainly would face some existential challenges under such a system.

It is, nevertheless, hard to imagine any other approach being better in the long term for the nation as a whole.

So the insurance industry should be careful what it wishes for.

If insurance companies insist on free rein in the healthcare marketplace, if they cannot step up and support a solution as eminently beneficial to their industry as ACA, then public opinion will inevitably boil over. Single-payer will be their future, and ours.


Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media

 

100 days of fail: Tweeting the unwelcome rise of the fascist Trump regime

100 days profile image of trump showing many chins
100 Days of Fail: A look back at Donald Trump’s first months in office.

 

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerSelected moments from Donald Trump’s first 100 days of fail. A retrospective, gleaned from actual Twitter tweets, of the First 100 days of fail that marked the unwelcome rise of the American Fascist Republic.

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The magical first 100 Days of Fail, @realDonaldTrump ..find you’ve been busily eating cake and plowing new ground.

100 days image of portly donald trump golfing
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As we expected, @realDonaldTrump ..you chose to celebrate your 100 Days of Fail with another rally limited to your adoring cult followers.

100 days image of trump greeting enthusiastic supporters at a rally

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Another fascist, now in the dustbin of history, used to stage his rallies in Nuremberg, @realDonaldTrump ..They looked like this:

100 days historical image of a Hitler Nuremberg rally
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.@realDonaldTrump ..Rallies are propaganda events, where you can control both the crowd and especially the media you so fear.

 

 

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No real president would fear a free press (or “enemy of the people” as you call them), @realDonaldTrump

100 days meme image of thomas jefferson on importance of newspapers

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You obsessively fear the media, @realDonaldTrump ..because you know they have a copy of your checklist of failures.

100 days image ofd onald trump's presidential checklist-o0o-

 Now you’re backpedaling, calling the 100-day deadline “ridiculous.” The timeline was your idea, @realDonaldTrump

100 days image of trump twitter tweet expressing fear of media-o0o-

You cannot defend your performance so far in public, @realDonaldTrump because it reeks of failure.

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.@realDonaldTrump ..What we’ve seen from you so far reminds  us of Trump Steaks. Those reviews … whew!

100 days image of Trump selling steaks-o0o-

.@realDonaldTrump ..Given your business record, all that winning you promised is never going to happen is it.

100 days meme image of trump business failures-o0o-

Why, do you suppose, you are widely reviled, @realDonaldTrump ? Why is resolve to #resist you still growing? Let’s examine the subject:

100 days Image of protester carrying sign

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Fascism is government in the service of commerce. It’s an un-American idea. @realDonaldTrump .. You are a fascist. We don’t like fascists.

100 days Composite image comparing Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini

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If fascism is the marriage of corporations and government, you, @realDonaldTrump performed the wedding.
100 days trump posing with image of his book

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.@realDonaldTrump You ignore conflicts of interest. So we see your regime as a pack of thieves.

100 days image of trump and one of his appointees

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If you really have no incentive to steer U.S. policy for your personal profit, prove it. Show us your tax returns, @realDonaldTrump

100 days Meme image of Thomas Jefferson on public trust

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.@realDonaldTrump  Your America is an oligarchy (a small group of people having control of a country) with unlimited corruption

100 days meme image of trump on corruption.

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We can see where this is going, @realDonaldTrump – A sellout to Big $$ by you and your fellow fascists, the #GOP
100 days cartoon image of a frog in a pot of boiling water

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Thomas Jefferson (now THERE was a president) explained why we must #resist you @realDonaldTrump

100 days Meme image of Thomas Jefferson regarding justice and duty

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.@realDonaldTrump What Congress would go out of its way to OK poisoning waterways? What leader would approve that?

100 days image of a tractor on a coal pile

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.@realDonaldTrump You believe pollution is OK if it’s in the interest of commerce. Is this your vision of our future?

100 days Meme image of Mordor as Donald Trump's vision for Anerica

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.@realDonaldTrump regime regulatory agencies are led by lobbyists & teabillies & bribe-takers bent on destroying them.

100 days trump with supporters at rally

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.@realDonaldTrump Your FCC boss would hand the Internet to a few big corporations, to our detriment. But you will profit.
100 days net neutrality

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Insurance companies add nothing to health care but cost. @realDonaldTrump says “Suck it up, sick people.”
100 days rally opposing repeal of the affordable care act

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.@realDonaldTrump Secular public education has prevented religious warfare, a plague elsewhere, in the U.S.

100 days image of portesters at anti-discrimination rally

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The Christian dominionist @realDonaldTrump secretary of education intends to “advance God’s kingdom.” This invites disaster.

100 days image of Betsy DeVos

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You piously tried to BS us about Pres. Obama violating “the very sacred election process.” No, @realDonaldTrump ..that’s what YOU did.

100 days Image of Trump Twitter tweet about sanctity of elections

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.@realDonaldTrump ..You publicly (and treasonously) invited Russia to tamper w/our elections. #TrumpRussia

100 days image of putin urging secrecy

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Your pathological need to accuse others of deeds you have done points to your election-tampering guilt, @realDonaldTrump

100 days meme image of theodore roosevelt on stealing an election

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.@realDonaldTrump did treasonously collude w/Russia. The evidence is solid. The walls are closing in. #Trumprussia isn’t going away.

100 Days image of fbi director james comey

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#TrumpRussia is the gravest crisis the American Republic has ever faced. You see it as a path to immense personal wealth.

100 days image of trump, putin and tillerson

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.@realDonaldTrump We know Rex Tillerson is a fake Secretary of State. The job is cover while he does oil deals with Putin.

100 days map showing arctic oil fields

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Vladimir Putin smirked when he called you a genius, @realDonaldTrump. He regards you as a “useful idiot.” (look it up).

100 days composite image of donald trump and vladimeir putin both gesturing

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.@realDonaldTrump You think $$ awaits you if fake SoS Tillerson works big oil deal with Putin. Makes you feel smug, doesn’t it.

100 days photo image of donald trump with a smug grin

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Putin could destroy you with a wave of his hand, @realDonaldTrump. When he’s done, he will dispose of you like a dead mouse.

100 days composite image of putin holding miniature trump in his hands

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We know about Jared Kushner’s stealth data machine and how it helped steal the election for you, @realDonaldTrump

100 days image of jared kushner

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.@realDonaldTrump .. If there was incidental E-surveillance of your campaign, there was a good reason.

100 days image of Trump tweet about surveillance

 

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We know you are running a lucrative criminal enterprise out of the Oval Office, @realDonaldTrump ..It w/be your undoing.

100 days composite image of trump and putin with american flag background

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Sessions & Bannon are white supremacists. Your regime is larded with these creeps, @realDonaldTrump

100 days image of stephen bannon

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Of course racial bigotry is something of a tradition in the @realDonaldTrump family.

100 days image of newspaper clipping about fred trump

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“It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.” The @realDonaldTrump AG was referring to immigrants

100 days image of jeff sessions at a trump rally

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Immigrants are “filth”?  Jeff Sessions calls this “the Trump era.” You own it, @realDonaldTrump

100 days image of donald trump and jeff sessions

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Banning Muslims from the U.S. is disgusting as it is foolish. The @realDonaldTrump policy of exclusion is profoundly un-American.

100 days image of donald trump scowling

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It looks like your silly border wall will be one of many unkept campaign promises, @realDonaldTrump .. That’s a good thing.

100 days image of ladder leaning against the border wall

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.@realDonaldTrump Political posturing toward foreigners is killing the tourism industry, to the tune of $10B a year. #MAGA you say?

100 days image of mickey mouse at disneyworld

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Your loony travel restrictions are backfiring. Americans traveling abroad w/be victims of your shortsightedness, @realDonaldTrump

100 days image of tourists on a gondola in Venice

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Woody Guthrie was right, @realDonaldTrump  ..We expect no peace from your fascist regime. Expect none from us.

100 days image of woody guthrie

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America was and is already great, no thanks to you, @realDonaldTrump .. #MAGA is an empty slogan.

100 days image of donald trump MAGA hat burning

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You, @realDonaldTrump betrayed our forefathers by selling out the American Republic to fascism.

100 days meme image of uncle sam poster

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You, @realDonaldTrump undermined trust in the financial industry, making it legal for advisers to cheat investors.

100 days meme image of trump and bankers

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Made cheating legal! Who but a fascist would do that to his country? It is a truly @realDonaldTrump quality move.

100 days image of wall street protester with sign

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White House visitor logs have always been public. Not so with the @realDonaldTrump regime. Another bit of #MAGA, no doubt.

100 days image of ted nugent with donald trump in oval office

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Now @realDonaldTrump lobbyists, donors, #Trumprussia pals – and maybe dalliances – are free to come and go without scrutiny.

100 days image of donald trump behind an American flag

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@realDonaldTrump crows about eliminating the $148M National Endowment for the Humanities budget. Are you waiting for the applause?

100 days photo image of donald trump leaning on a golf club

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Eliminating NEH $$ will save 3 one-thousandths of 1 percent of the federal budget, @realDonaldTrump  Some potent #MAGA there!

100 days image of trump budget priorities

Cutting $$ for arts, humanities & public broadcasting won’t come close to covering @realDonaldTrump spending on golf weekends.

100 days image of trump falling on golf course

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Art defines civilizations, @realDonaldTrump ..WTH is the matter with you? Jefferson again..

100 days meme image thomas jefferson on false ideas

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.@realDonaldTrump whined about Pres. Obama’s executive orders – fewer than 35 per year. You did 66 EO’s in 90 days. Um, forgot one..

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Of the 66 @realDonaldTrump EO’s in first 100 days, not one benefits America as a whole. Fascists rule by fiat.

100 days meme satire image trump executive orders

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.@realDonaldTrump  You clearly did not write or even read the EOs you were signing & were surprised when Fox filled you in.

100 days image of surprised trump

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 That Bannon ..such a scamp! Rick “Oops” Perry is a reassuring National Security Council choice, @realDonaldTrump

100 days satirical meme image of rick perry

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Ronald Reagan was shot by a deranged gunman. @realDonaldTrump signed a measure assuring mentally ill people w/have access to guns.

100 days composite image of three mass killers

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.@realDonaldTrump revoked federal protection for transgender people. #MAGA in reverse. Why? That sort of bigotry didn’t play well in NC.

100 days image of all-gender restroom sign-o0o-

.@realDonaldTrump ..Do you remember how you came to be known as “President Pussygrabber”? You earned the title.

100 days image of Billy Bush and Donald Trump

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You are a misogynist & a sexual predator, @realDonaldTrump so your attacks on women are in character.

100 days meme miage of trump with lewd quote about women

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Yes, a serial sexual predator, @realDonaldTrump ..You said so yourself. Your daughter readily agreed.

100 days image of donald and ivanka trump

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Here is @realDonaldTrump using a pen to assault women’s medical access. Look at all the women in attendance!

100 days image of trump signing document

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You have shown us who and what you really are, @realDonaldTrump ..Is it any wonder nobody respects you?

100 days meme image comparing how trump and obama treat their wives

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You may con some of the middle-class into believing they’ll get “massive” tax cuts. But you know it’s a lie, @realDonaldTrump

100 days cartoon image of trump speaking with fingers crossed

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 You made it legal to kill hibernating bears, including cubs, in their dens. How pro-life of you, @realDonaldTrump
 

100 days image of a bear walking

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.@realDonaldTrump  .. Why do you go out of your way to besmirch your legacy? Wait ..You already told us.

100 days imeme image of trump with quote about greed-o0o-

A good Reichstag Fire (look it up) might boost your poll numbers for a while, @realDonaldtrump  ..We anticipate one.

100 days composite image of donald trump against a fiery background

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Bombing an empty airfield didn’t help you or us, @realDonaldTrump ..Have some chocolate cake & look at what airstrikes often accomplish.

100 days image of man carrying an injured child

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Bragging of eating cake while ordering an attack on Iraq (actually Syria), was seriously creepy, @realDonaldTrump

100 days imageo f trump eating

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 Your flip attitude about attacking a country was horrifying, @realDonaldTrump ..but not surprising from one who casually steals valor.

100 days trump with purple heart-o0o-

Blustering at N. Korea boosted pipsqueak leader Kim Jong-un’s credibility & diminished yours, @realDonaldTrump

100 days composite image of donald trump and kim jong-un

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Big Stick diplomacy only works when you don’t muck up the threat, @realDonaldTrump.

100 days image of Trump in theatrical military garb

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No, your popularity will remain in the tank, @realDonaldTrump  ..that pesky Jefferson had you pegged long ago.

100 days meme image of Thomas Jefferson on being defined by our acts

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There’s no redemption for you, @realDonaldTrump ..If there is a Hell, your soul is already there.

100 days composite image of donald trump as a demon

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.@realDonaldTrump Your constant lying has produced 100 days of fail. That won’t improve because you only measure up in 1 category.

100 days image of trump being measured

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It seems you can’t help it, @realDonaldTrump ..Pathological lying is a symptom of mental illness.

100 days image of trump pointing to the side of his head

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An example of @realDonaldTrump untrustworthiness? Look no further than Social Security, which you promised to protect.

100 days composite image of money and a social security card

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Social Security is insurance people pay for all their working lives.  It has proven good, @realDonaldTrump ..Unlike your word.

composite image questioning trump trustworthiness

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It’s been all failure, @realDonaldTrump ..You are the #fakepresident we expected. You have already left quite a mess for us.

100 days image of a twitter tweet by elliot lusztig

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Now you must go, @realDonaldTrump ..Leaving is the only thing that w/boost your poll numbers.

100 days lady liberty covers her face with her hands

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Do you get it? We #resist @realDonaldTrump ..because silence would be to accept the terrible things you are doing to our beloved country.

100 days composite image of American flag and Nazi eagle

Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For  Hire Media

America as a boiling frog: Dangerous political changes go unrecognized by many

boiling frog cartoon image of a frog in a pot of water
A frog in a pot of water on a fire will adapt to changes in its surroundings, oblivious to the danger.

 

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerYou don’t have to even be paying close attention to notice the fascist Trump regime is gradually solidifying its coup d’etat by ratcheting up its grip on America and its institutions. All three branches of government are in their hands and the obstacles between them and total authoritarian power are few and tenuous.

A lot of this is occurring just under the radar of even politically attentive and astute observers. A friend whose thinking I admire recently concluded that the fashioning of an authoritarian fascist regime has yet to happen and is not likely to be accomplished without the acquiescence of the other branches of government,  federal agencies, the military, the national security apparatus, the media and the American people. He doesn’t see that cooperation happening.

He went on to suggest that collusion by the Legislative branch alone would be insufficient to allow the fascists to accomplish their ends.

I wish I shared his optimism. But the fascist coup has already occurred and the consolidation of power is rapidly taking place.

America, once the nemesis of fascists, has fallen to them

Takeover is complete

The regime’s appointees now run the military and the national security apparatus. Even the National Security Council, an analytical body traditionally insulated from the whims and dictates of politics, now has a political commissar (remember the Soviet Union during the Cold War?) in the person of Donald Trump’s chief strategist – self-described “Leninist” and political vandal Steve Bannon.

Trump did not write – or even read – order appointing Bannon to NSC

It is an unprecedented and breathkingly alarming move that will enable the regime to enforce the ideological purity of the NSC’s recommendations.

This is not some cockeyed conspiracy hypothesis. It is real and it is happening now. Look around you and draw your own conclusions.

Fascism is, at its core, government in the service of commerce. Fascists have no respect for, and certainly no fear of, such social niceties as Constitutional guarantees and the rule of law. If they choose to ignore the law or abrogate the Constitution (or at least the parts they find inconvenient) they will unhesitatingly do so.

And who will stop them?

In Trump’s rise, the fall of American democracy

Supremacy of the billionaires

“This nation of the people, by the people and for the people …” and blah blah blah is now run by billionaires. Defense, foreign policy, environmental policy, natural resources, education… even the Internet… are among other key areas now controlled by wealthy corporate powers.

They are abetted by an extreme religious wing – mostly religious Dominionists – which will provide the facile explanations of why it is all OK. Think VP Mike Pence, AG Jeff Sessions, “Advisor” Franklin Graham, etc. Betsy DeVos is both billionaire and dominionist. Her task as Education Secretary will (according to her) be to undermine the secularity of America.

How Dominionists gained control of the Trump campaign

So while the fearful many are distracted by the regime leader with such noisy nonsense as border walls and immigration bans and belligerent threats of war with China and Iran and Mexico, the fascists are quickly solidifying their power. “We are moving big and we are moving fast,” Bannon recently told the New York Times. “We didn’t come here to do small things.”

So far we have seen only moves to protect and enhance the interests of the corporate fascists while reducing regulations. Who will be the beneficiaries of returning free rein to avaricious insurance companies? How does removing the fiduciary rule (making it easier for financial advisors to cheat you) help small investors like you? Who will profit from completion, against all sensible deliberation, the filthy Dakota Access Pipeline? “Privatizing” Social Security, public lands, and even the Postal Service (among other things) is to whose benefit?

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that unlimited political bribery was not only legal but a form of constitutionally protected free speech (Citizens United), and that corporations are “people” in the eyss of the law, both houses of Congress, now solidly in fascist hands, have come to represent money interests, not public interests.

Legislating from the Oval Office

When President Barack Obama would infrequently issue a narrowly drawn executive order, the Republicans in Congress would deafeningly squeal and bellow about “executive overreach” and “power grab” and the “imperial presidency.”

Now, as the regime leader furiously legislates from the Oval Office, issuing a blizzard of orders he did not write or even read, the bobble-head GOP is approving or, for the most part, entirely silent.

image of donald trump twitter message disparaging a judge
When Donald Trump doesn’t like a judge’s ruling he attempts to undermine the judicial system.

Meanwhile the regime has been busily undermining the remaining checks and balances that have kept America free. We are told that courts and the judiciary system are damaging the country because judges insist on following the law.

We are told that, in the regime’s opinion, separation of church and state is unconstitutional and that religion – specifically Christianity – must become the guiding force in law and policy and public education.

image of Donald trump twitter message disparaging immigrants
When Donald Trump writes Twitter messages about “evil” he is usually dog-whistling immigrant groups he dislikes.

The Twitter-happy regime leader recently went so far as to darkly declare that “evil” (which is a Christian religious moral concept) must be kept out of our country. The purpose of this blast on his dog-whistle was to demonize dark-skinned immigrants and rally support for his wholly un-American attempt to simply ban many immigrants.

image of donald trump twitter message disparaging news media reports as fake.
The Trump regime likes to present itself as the only source of reliable information. Negative reports are disparaged as “fake news.”

White House propagandists assure us that they are the only source of accurate information and questioning the regime on any subject at any level amounts to lies by “crooked media.” The regime assures us it does not lie, it only presents “alternative facts” and goes so far as to claim there are no such things as facts anymore.

We are being conditioned to accept these Orwellian claims as sensible and normal.  The intended outcome is that we will be willing to meekly give up even more of our freedom in exchange for the empty promise of safety and security.

When, let’s say, a terrorist incident, manufactured or deliberately allowed, inevitably occurs, it will be met by the regime with an unrelenting appeal to fear and panic, along with a loud and unified demand  for more governmental power.

The boiling frog

This deliberate erosion of the American Republic is, for the moment, occurring slowly enough that many people either do not recognize it or hope against hope it will not continue to its logical (and wholly intended) conclusion. This sort of thinking is like the boiling frog that quietly adapts to slow changes in its surroundings and does not sense danger in the rising temperature of the water until it is too late.

The veneer of what we have come to regard as our representative democracy is thin indeed, and offers little protection from those who would dismantle it. The American Experiment only worked because wa all agreed it should. The Constitution has no power whatsoever, except that which it draws from the consent of the governed – the people.

So when those people, many of them dangerously inattentive to their own interests, allow their leaders to incrementally peel away protections and encroach on traditional guarantees, those protections and guarantees will eventually be gone.

Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media.

How to steal an election: America’s Electoral College system is an easy mark

Electoral College image of President Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican worthy of a place on Mount Rushmore, had no tolerance for election fraud.

 

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerElection 2016 smells like it was stolen. The improbable outcome and the lingering doubts about the integrity of the balloting have seriously damaged America’s confidence in its election process, and the Electoral College itself.  

We know the Russian government was actively meddling in the election. Even if someday that claim proves to be untrue, the damage is done. Without a credible investigation, Americans can never again be confident that their election system, and the Electoral College itself, is not being manipulated.


Election 2016 may indeed have been rigged

The distrust does not flow from fake news or crazy unfounded conspiracy theories. The notion that the election was stolen rests on solid and plausible possibilities which could fairly easily be confirmed or debunked.  

Invitation to fraud

Electronic voting machines are natural suspects in a massive election fraud scheme. But voting machines doubtless do not have an Internet connection, so how could hackers from a distant land have broken in?

Distance means nothing on the Internet, but a direct connection to the voting machines is not necessary for hackers.

A path to the Internet might have actually been an impediment to them because such a connection implies the existence of a file server with security software, activity logs, multiple passwords and authority levels, and access history – things the hackers would have had to evade or somehow disguise, to avoid being unmasked.


America embraces fascism

Because they are by far the most vulnerable to chicanery, the primary suspects in a voting fraud investigation would have to be the Direct Recording Entry (DRE) voting machines, which use no paper ballots and provide no paper trail.

For example, the voting districts in the Miami-Dade- Gold Coast counties, and the greater Philadelphia area (places big enough to sway their state’s Electoral College votes, and where Hillary Clinton’s early-voting lead was mathematically impossible to surmount), primarily use DRE units.

DRE machines typically run on the unpatched, wholly insecure and long obsolete Windows XP operating system. Since access to the machines is restricted and they are never connected to the Internet, they probably all have a default password – or no password at all. But even that is not where the problem lies.

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
— Attributed to Joseph Stalin

Before the election, ballots for each district are loaded into machines to be used in that district. The process probably involves either a local area network (not the Internet) or technicians physically visiting each machine and using a USB flash drive, a CD or another computer to perform the ballot upload.

 Once the ballots are uploaded, the technician briefly tests the software to make sure ballots entered are properly counted.

DRE voting machines do not use paper ballots, so there is no paper trail and, therefore, no way to perform an accurate recount.

Before they are loaded into the DRE machines, the ballots (think of them as master files or source files) are created on a computer somewhere and stored there, or on another machine, until they are needed.

This is where the greatest vulnerability lies.

Electoral College is an easy target

Ballots for each voting district are different (different candidates, etc.) and each ballot would have a unique name, so technicians doing the loading can tell which ones to use. The naming convention would be readily apparent to hackers, too. That would make it easy to target which files should get the malicious code.

If a certain few of the ballot files, the ones to be used in the greatest population centers, can be compromised, the election outcome can be manipulated.

Note that the hackers are trying to game the “winner take all” Electoral College system, not the meaningless popular vote.

In a close election, swinging just one large state might provide enough Electoral College votes to elect the intruder’s preferred candidate.

This election result where the winner of the popular vote – by at least 2.7 million ballots – loses the election is the very thing the Electoral College system was created to prevent.  

Electronic balloting, with its inherent vulnerabilities and potential for mischief, stands the Electoral College on its head. The supposed (and illusory) strength of our Electoral College system would be used against us.

Difficult to detect

The ballot files might be infected with hidden code. Hiding code is preposterously easy. The XP system allows you to simply mark it as hidden. The possibilities for hackers to break into such an insecure system beggar the imagination.

Once an entry point is gained, loading the malicious code would be no problem. Anti-virus software, if there is any, would not detect it because the code does not have a malware signature; it looks harmless. 

Unlike most malware, the malicious code would use commonly available operating system resources. It would not be a formal “program,” but a snippet of code. It would be readily erasable. It would not try to capture keystrokes or data, or hijack a network, and would be deliberately (if unwittingly) entered by someone with administrator-level authority. One infected USB flash drive could conceivably get the job done.

Insidiously simple

The code, in this scenario, could do a simple Boolean line compare – let’s provocatively say Candidate Clinton vs. Candidate Trump. The “if/then” compare function would automatically adjust the Candidate Trump line to always be, for argument’s sake, one percent greater than the Candidate Clinton line.

In this example, no matter how many votes were cast for Candidate Clinton, the Candidate Trump tally would always be one percent greater. That is enough to skew the overall results, but not close enough to trigger automatic recounts.

This approach could result in more votes being cast than the number of registered voters. That would raise a flag, but given the usual low voter turnouts, it is not likely to happen.

Again, it wouldn’t matter if the results raised eyebrows because on a DRE machine, no accurate recount is possible.

There’s more.

Using the computer’s clock, the malicious code could include a “cron” function – a time-based scheduler built into the operating system – that would activate the script just before voting began. That means the aforementioned technician’s test would not have discovered it. When the polls close, that same cron job could automatically delete the malicious code.

Computers are really good at doing this stuff, and no serious programmer would find it difficult to write this sort of code.

Where’s the proof?

Did this actually happen? Proof, one way or the other, does indeed exist. It is on the hard drives of the suspect DRE machines. A forensic examination of at least some of those disk drives would reveal the truth or falsity of the claim.

Despite what Republican “investigators” led us to believe in the Great Bogus Hillary Clinton E-Mail Server Scandal, files can never really be “wiped,” erased or eradicated from a computer disk drive – even if the disk is reformatted and repeatedly written over. The “erasing” process actually involves only changing a file bit in an effort to make it unreadable by the computer.

Forensic software – think of it as an “undo” key on steroids – can peel back the erasure attempts, the reformat efforts and the obfuscatory overwrites until the original contents are revealed.

There is no way to truly obliterate a file on a computer disk drive, short of physically destroying the disk itself.

Far from farfetched

The stealthy infection of secure computers that are not connected to the Internet is nothing new. In fact it is a staple of the ongoing, and all but invisible, international cyber cold war that has been raging for years.

 Arguably the most famous example of sabotage to an off-the-Internet system is the so-called “Stuxnet” intrusion. Stuxnet is the name of a software worm that nearly brought down Iran’s uranium enrichment operation. Stuxnet was introduced to the Iranian computers via a compromised USB flash drive and went undetected for at least a year.

Whether Election 2016 was really sabotaged by hackers is no longer the main point.

No greater loss

Those who benefited from the sabotage, the “winners,” have no interest in examining the intrusion, lest the probe cast doubt on the authenticity of their victory. So we may never know for sure if the Electoral College system was actually gamed.

Unless and until a credible investigation proves otherwise, Americans can never fully trust their election system. Leaving this issue carelessly unexamined makes a mockery of all that America has stood for.

 That lingering and possibly well-placed doubt will lead to even less participation in elections and a strengthening of the incipient fascist state. The American republic of our forefathers – the America we have always known and loved – will have been lost, perhaps forever.


Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media.

America, once the nemesis of fascists, delivers itself to them

fascist poster image uncle sam leads america to war
America used to go to war to defeat fascist countries. Now it has become one.

 

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerAmerica used to stand as the bulwark against fascism. In four wars, from World War I to Vietnam, nearly half a million Americans gave their lives to defend the world against the truly evil darkness of fascism and its authoritarian political derivatives.

Our soldiers fiercely fought and bravely died, inspired by a sense of patriotism and belief in the rightness of their cause.

Their sacrifice was for more than protection of their nation’s freedom or its Constitutional guarantees. They fought for the idea that American democracy, with its ideals of fairness and equality and justice for all, was a birthright to be shared with the world. Theirs was a truly noble quest.

The enemy within

In the end they were betrayed by the very people and freedoms they so loyally defended.

Their America will soon be ruled by a cynical and fundamentally un-American regime of wealthy corporatist greedheads and Bible-babbling jackals, swept into power by the American equivalent of an Electoral College bookkeeping error – quite possibly the result of computer hackers sponsored by a foreign government  – in an election they lost by more than 2.5 million votes.


How Election 2016 may have been stolen

American voters, protest casters and abstainers included, the unwitting enemy within, with considerable help from an abetting press and foreign saboteurs working in concert with a politicized FBI, have delivered the country to the hands of fascists.

It is a measure of how far America has strayed from its roots that this turn of events is accepted with a shrug, and not seen as the national emergency it is.

Now those fascists are about to seize the levers of American power.

Theirs is an America where the business interests of corporations trump the general welfare of the people, where the many are plundered on behalf of the few, where the only social classes are the very rich and those who serve them, and only the servant class pays taxes.

The regime will bring us an America that actively divides us  by encouraging bigotry and violence and hate and distrust.

Will we ever again be able to trust the election process?

Theirs is a place where justice and quality education and a healthy environment are reserved for the privileged.

Theirs is a land of self-righteous zealotry, where pathological lies and corruption and unlimited political bribery and selfishness and greed are suddenly guiding principles, not only regarded as normal but good.

Death of the Dream

American exceptionalism is gone. The American Century has passed. The American Experiment, as we knew it, has failed. The American Dream died by its own hand on November 8, 2016. America’s vaunted claim to greatness, to leadership of the “free world,” is forfeit, perhaps forever.

It is a measure of how far America has strayed from its roots that this turn of events is accepted with a shrug, and not seen as the national emergency it is.

The fascists, strutting and posturing and wallowing in echoes of one of the world’s darkest periods, and rallying under whatever seditious flag or party banner, have made no secret of their intention to transform this once-tolerant and generous nation of immigrants into a walled fortress that bans and criminalizes the very things that made America so strong and great.

The world has never looked up to a nation ruled by fascists and never will. It is not yet clear which nation, if any, will step up to assume the mantle of greatness we have so carelessly cast off.

Who will become the champion of the oppressed and the powerless, the beacon of leadership and hope to the world? There is now a vacancy for that position and America has disqualified itself from regaining it.

Land of the Free no more

Fascist regimes are, by their nature, corporatist and authoritarian, and possessed of a pernicious ability to divide and subjugate. They are very good at it. Constitutional guarantees that do not further the fascists’ cause will come to be tightly controlled, disregarded or discarded entirely.

In the rise of Trump, the fall of America

The disaffected voters who, with thunderous applause, giddily swept the fascists into power may not have realized they were killing their democracy in the process. They may not have examined their actions deeply enough to know that only the already wealthy prosper under the rule of fascists.

Those merry fools will discover their error too late to correct it.

One other ominous thing about fascist regimes: Once they are established in power, they are never peacefully voted out. Any who think it will be different with America are tragically naïve.

November 8, 2016 will be remembered as the saddest day in American history.


Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media

 

 

In Trump’s rise, fascism and the fall of American democracy

fascism composite image of donald trump and benito mussolini
Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922 on the promise he – and he alone – could make Italy great again. That message has found a new voice and success in Donald Trump.

 

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerAmerican democracy is not just in decline, it is in imminent danger of collapsing into fascism. An openly fascist regime is about to seize the reins of the greatest and most powerful nation the world has ever known, to the thunderous applause of Donald Trump’s cult followers – those who most benefited from the democracy his fascists will replace. Our government, “…of the people, by the people, for the people” may indeed perish from the earth.

Government in service of commerce

Since America has, heretofore, been a capitalist democracy, it is easy to confuse democracy with capitalism – which is a system where commerce and industry are controlled by private owners rather than by the government.

Capitalism can thrive under almost any political system, but it prefers fascism or similarly authoritarian permutations. To capitalists, democracy is the least hospitable form of government.

America was once the nemesis of fascist states. No more

Capitalists – spelled with a big C – loathe having to deal with a constant stream of uncertainties – taxes and worker rules and wage laws and safety demands and environmental limitations and other restrictions, and the regulatory agencies that create them.

It is much easier for capitalists to deal with an authoritarian leader who will simply order things done. Fascist goverments have had their duce, their führer, their “great helmsman,” and soon, their Trump.


Trump-style fascism is more Mussolini than Hitler

Democracy has been in startling retreat in places long identified as bulwarks of government by the people. For example, it is polling increasingly poorly in Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. 

“Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived in their relation to the State.”
—The Doctrine of Fascism (1932)

For an inattentive population, fool’s gold

America has been drifting toward fascism  for quite a while. It only came up on the political radar for most people when the government, acting on behalf of the corporatists, started pushing glittering fools-gold images of the benefits of “privatizing” (handing ownership and control to corporations) such successful American ventures as Social Security, Medicare, the Postal Service, national parks and public lands. etc.

Will we ever again be able to trust our election process?

There certainly would be benefits, but they would all accrue to the capitalists.

The effort was greatly aided by the Supreme Court ruling that unlimited political spending (Jimmy Carter called it legalized bribery) by corporations was protected free speech. The shift of Big Media away from its First Amendment underpinnings also helped the rise of fascism as a means of protecting its own corporate interests.

Since then the conversion of American democracy to fascism has been very successful and alarmingly swift. America is about to enter its fascist phase.


How the American election of 2016 may have been stolen

An extreme crisis

The enormity of this crisis cannot be overstated.

Trump, who lost the popular election by more than 2.2 million votes,  will control the White House, our vast military and intelligence agencies, the Justice Department, the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. The corporatists already own the Congress.

Add to these advantages a servile press and the demise of American democracy as we knew it seems all but inevitable.

If the fascist regime decides, years from now and for whatever reason, to stay in power, who will stand in the way? You do not need the 19th century German philosopher (and capitalist nemesis) Karl Marx to explain where this is likely to lead.

Suffice to say that once they are established, fascist regimes are never peacefully voted out. Do not delude yourself into thinking the wealthy and powerful will allow their privilege to be simply voted away.


Michael W.  Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media

Trust Trump? In one sense of the word, it may be possible, in a useful way

trust trump image of donald trump and a meter showing his dishonesty
Can Donald Trump be trusted? In one sense of the word, yes.

Trust Trump to be the shifty, immoral, unethical creature he has shown himself to be

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerMight there be a silver lining in the dark cloud that has enveloped America with the election of [I hesitate in disgust before I write the term] Donald Trump as president? Can we, at some level, trust Trump? It’s a long shot, and a tortured stretch of the language, but perhaps we can.

For more than a year, Donald Trump has consistently shown himself to be a boorish, selfish, narcissistic clod, and an ignoramus about anything not related to burnishing his brand or increasing his personal fortune. He has spoken the language fascism, bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, violence and hatred. He undoubtedly embodies all those things.  If he truly believes his words, we have much to be concerned about.


Was the outcome of Election 2016 rigged?

But remember that for much of his life, Trump identified as a Democrat. He is an actor who relishes ad-libbing his roles and exercising his unpredictability. He is also a pathological liar whose story sometimes changes in a matter of minutes, and whose word simply cannot be trusted. So who knows what lies beneath? How he will behave in the days ahead is anybody’s guess.

Trusted by no one

Trust is a big deal if we are to have a safe and functional world. More than half of Americans who bothered to vote do not trust him.

The corporatists and big banks and the economy in general don’t trust him – even though he is a fellow tax-evader and has already promised he will free them of most regulatory constraints.

Our military leadership does not trust the draft dodger. Our international allies accurately see him as reckless, and do not trust him.  His business partners never trusted him – except the naïve ones who learned their distrust the hard way.

Former Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a real billionaire, derided Trump as a con artist. He said the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.

Donald Trump has no one’s trust. And he trusts no one.

If indeed there is a silver lining to be found, his utter lack of moral and ethical integrity may be it.

The Cult of Trump

A good many Trump supporters were enthralled by his enthusiastic willingness to viciously insult and disparage the objects of his scorn, including his political rivals. Anybody who stood in his way, who opposed him or was seen as even a minor impediment to his success was attacked, sometimes in a Twitter storm that might go on for days.


Trump is an equal-opportunity insulter

To offer anything but adulation was to risk being caught in the stink wind of his bellow. Not even Miss Universe escaped his fulminating wrath. The louder he roared, the louder his cult-like supporters cheered, and American ideals and values be damned. His confession that he is a serial sexual predator was no deal-breaker to them.

Why should the Republican Party leaders think it will be different for them?

A Faustian bargain

Now that the party controls all three branches of government, the GOP is giddy about enacting even the most extreme reaches of its agenda unimpeded. Like the legendary Faust, the Republican Party leadership eagerly sold its collective soul to the devil and quickly vowed to work “hand in hand” with Trump – cooperation denied President Obama for the past eight years.

But Trump has never worked hand in hand with anyone in the threescore and ten years of his life, except where he saw a direct benefit to himself. Now that he’s in the proverbial catbird seat, he isn’t likely to change that pattern.


Has the GOP made a deal with the antichrist?

That’s not to say he cannot be persuaded or manipulated; quite the contrary. The self-anointed Great Dealmaker’s weaknesses are ego and greed. Any decisions he is asked to make that will aggrandize or enrich him are likely to get his full attention. Conversely, decisions and actions, no matter how urgent, that imperil those two imperatives will be ignored.


Ego, tripped: How to use Trump’s personality disorder

Would we prefer a Supreme Court that is not rabidly conservative? Do we want better treatment for our military and veterans? Do we want Social Security to continue? Or Medicare or affordable health care? Or the Postal Service? Do we want to build roads and bridges instead of a border wall? Do we favor a rational American values response to climate change, or religious and sexual-identity tolerance?  Then we must cast these issues in terms of the values Donald Trump perceives and the language he speaks.

Dangerous days

Like Frankenstein’s monster let loose upon the land, Donald Trump will, from the outset, be dangerously out of control may end up destroying the village.


How to survive an autocrat

Taking the man at his word, the coming Trump administration, is likely to do great, even grievous damage to the America we have known all of our lives. We are not speaking figuratively here. He has in his hands the capability and the power of literally destroying the country, and us as well.


Trump campaigned against lobbyists. Now he’s hiring them

Trump, who brays about defending American workers while buying everything from steel girders to campaign hats from other countries, has amply demonstrated that he is no patriot. But there is evidence, however scant, that he is also no fool.

Can we trust Trump? Yes. We can trust him to remain consistently utterly unworthy of any foolish belief that he might actually ever keep his word or choose the common good of the nation over personal gain.

That knowledge is our only tool. It isn’t much to work with, but it seems to be all we have.


Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media

 

Stolen: How the outcome of Election 2016 may have been rigged

elecltion 2016 image of computer hacker
Did hackers manipulate the outcome of Election 2016? We may never know.

America’s lax attitude about the integrity of our voting process puts the legitimacy of Election 2016 in doubt

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerHow could so many high-quality polls have been so universally  wrong about the outcome of Election 2016? The losers always complain, but there is something suspicious about the shocking Election 2016 upset, something that feels stolen.

The experts would have you believe that rigging a national election in the U.S.A. is nigh unto impossible. States run the elections and there are thousands of polling places. Many use different methods of voting and have slightly different ballots. They correctly point out that manipulating votes in that many places is simply not possible without being detected.

But what if that were not necessary?

Few targets, big effects

To manipulate the outcome of a presidential election, you do not have to hack a wide variety of voting machines across the country. If the software in a few populous counties in a couple of key states could be compromised, the outcome of the election could be controlled.

 Is this even plausible? In fact, it is scarily easy to do. Stealthy software attacks like the Energetic Bear and the Stuxnet hacks show such sabotage can be quite effective and can go undetected indefinitely.


Trust Trump? How to exploit his weaknesses

There are any number of scenarios of how an attack on our voting process might be accomplished. Here is one:

The keys to Election 2016 were Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes and Florida with 29. The winner of the state takes all the electoral votes.

A handful of the most populous counties effectively determine the outcome of the election in those states: Philadelphia surrounding counties are the key to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, and Florida’s Gold Coast counties control that state’s electoral votes.

Both of those areas use the same sort of digital voting systems: direct-entry voting (DRE) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). With no paper trail, an accurate recount is impossible.

The equipment and the voting software used in those states are, for the most part, old and insecure.

An undetectable nudge

Let’s say a foreign government wanted to manipulate the outcome of Election 2016 to help their favorite candidate. They might do that by modifying the core vote tabulation software with some simple  coding that would continuously compare the vote totals of two candidates.

This could be accomplished by replacing the machines’ authentic source code, stored at a central location, with the malicious version. Nobody, even at the highest state level, might ever be aware of the sabotage.

The hacked software would faithfully record each vote – indicating the machine is working properly – but would tally those votes to slightly favor one candidate over another.

When the voting machines are updated, prior to being sealed and distributed to the polling places, they are prepared and calibrated with a brief test. The machine calibration process would not catch this cheating if the software did not begin skewing the votes until a larger number ballots were cast, or until the polls opened.

With the hack in place, no matter how many votes are cast (up to the number of registered voters), the favored candidate might always be, to choose a number, about one percent ahead of the rival candidate.

This is enough of a margin to assure victory, but it is probably not close enough to raise suspicion. Again, an accurate recount is impossible because there is no paper trail to compare.

Both Florida, Pennsylvania, and some others with similar voting schemes, provided surprise victories for Donald Trump. The margin of victory in each case was about one percent.

“Those who cast the votes decide nothing”

If investigators went to examine the software, they might find the malicious code had automatically deleted itself.

Russia was formally accused of actively interfering with Election 2016 – a bold intrusion tantamount to an act of war. This was a blockbuster charge. Yet we as a nation, caught in a historically divisive campaign, shrugged it off.

Remember it was Russian dictator (and Vladimir Putin idol) Josef Stalin who purportedly said “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”

Did intruders ultimately succeed in rigging the outcome of Election 2016? Because of our lax national attitude toward maintaining the integrity of our voting process, we may never know.


Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media.

The scam that continues to drive Obamacare rates up

obamacare image of president pointing
Obamacare? Republicans still want to sabotage your ability to buy health insurance.

 

Scrapping the Affordable Care Act would return health insurance to the bad old days

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk headerThe annual Open Enrollment period has begun again as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) enters its fourth year. After all this time, thanks to lackluster explanations by its supporters and vigorous disinformation from the Republican-controlled Congress, it seems fewer people than ever actually understand the program. All they know is that rates are still going up, and they don’t like it.

To begin with, so-called “Obamacare” is not insurance. It is a marketplace where insurance is sold. Companies who set up stalls in that marketplace must all meet certain coverage requirements and they must sell to anyone, regardless of their current health status. You, the shopper, get to choose which plan you prefer.

Before the marketplace existed (just a few years ago) individuals found it all but impossible to buy health insurance at any price. If you had a pre-existing condition, or even if you were healthy but had a family history of, for example, cancer or heart disease, you were simply out of luck.

Premiums are free to soar

Controlling costs is not one of the ACA rules. The Republican-controlled Congress saw to that. They claimed competition alone would hold costs down. That has not worked out because, for a relatively small amount of money, young, healthy people can avoid buying insurance.

Health insurance is not about health care. It is a scheme to turn a profit by managing risk. It is a corporate bet that while some people will file claims, many others will not. If more people have insurance, the risk is spread around and the bet is likely to pay off.

Health insurance becomes a losing proposition for companies when only people likely to file claims have insurance. To maintain profitability (which is the sole reason corporations exist), insurance companies have no choice but to raise premiums.

The GOP has worked assiduously to undermine this insurance industry basic. They wanted to eliminate the coverage rules – which leveled the playing field and prevented insurance companies from using the fine print in their policies to deceive customers and deny coverage. They also wanted to make carrying insurance optional.

Together these acts of political vandalism would have destroyed the ACA. The Republicans took their recalcitrance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – where they lost. But they have not given up.

After scores of failed votes to repeal the law, the GOP is still vowing to try and try again.

Bribe money trumps regulations

Why do Republicans hate allowing people the freedom to buy affordable quality health insurance? Follow the money.

Unlike in most of the rest of the world, health care in the United States is a huge for-profit industry. It is controlled by Big Medicine (hospitals, physicians and other providers), Big Pharma (the drug companies) and Big Insurance.

The companies are legally allowed to spend as much money as they wish to attempt to influence (or call it what it is, bribe) Congress and government regulators, at the expense of your interests.

Complain to your Republican congressional representative if it makes you feel better. But your opinion, quite frankly, doesn’t matter to them.

On the other hand, your vote still counts.


Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media.

Can congressional term limits prevent future Trumps?

image of Donald Trump as Julius Caesar
History is littered with populist fear-mongers. Donald Trump is only the latest.

 

Entrenched politicians encourage unrest among voters and give rise to those who play on fears

By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
goshawk header
Presidents are limited to two terms in office. There are no such term limits for Congress. If you would understand why a political situation exists or a problem persists, look at who profits from the status quo.

Populist demagogues – political leaders who seek power by playing on popular desires, prejudices and fears – have, over the history of the republic, caused plenty of mischief and led us to no few ill-considered decisions.

We have been persuaded to trade major freedoms for the illusion of security; we have been dragooned into wars that should never have been fought and avoided involvement in wars we should have entered far sooner. We have foolishly tinkered with social change that flew in the face of human nature (Prohibition comes to mind).

People (including Americans, believe it or not), are easily misled by bombastic politicians and bobble-head media who cheer them on. The spirit and tenor of the times – what the Germans call zeitgeist – has a lot to do with it.

A weakness of democracy

Democracy is prone to this sort of thing. John Adams, a founder of the nation and our second president, warned that the Constitution would protect American democracy only so long as its leaders followed a moral path that prized fairness and justice, and avoided greedy self-interest, insidious policy and a lust for power. He was not optimistic.

When war fever, expansionism, xenophobia (fear of foreigners) or indignation over social or economic change periodically engulf public opinion, rational thought goes out the proverbial window and demagogues find their opening.

If our democracy is ailing, national political figures like Donald Trump are an opportunistic infection. In Trump’s case, his popularity is a reaction, a product of a widespread and understandable, if misguided, national dissatisfaction over deliberately obstructionist political dead wood and corruption-tainted business as usual  – a set of circumstances that has been left unattended for far too long.

Popular,  dangerous … and false

Writing in the National Review (uber conservative Bill Buckley’s old outfit), correspondent Kevin D. Williamson reduces the dangerous false-flag conservatism projected by Donald Trump.

“[He] rejects conservatism. He rejects free trade. He rejects property rights. He rejects the rule of law. He rejects limited government. … He meditates merrily upon the uses of political violence and riots, and dreams of shutting down newspapers critical of him. He isn’t a conservative of any stripe, and it is an outright lie to present him as anything other than what he is.”

Swaying an inflamed public

The appeal to popular illogic is nothing new.

For example, in 1897, famed artist Frederic Remington asked his boss, William Randolph Hearst, for permission to come home from Cuba after the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor. “Everything quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. Wish to return.” In response to Remington’s message, Hearst, a war hawk and master manipulator of public opinion, reportedly replied, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

(Here I digress: The poorly designed Maine blew up because its coal bunker caught fire and set off the ordnance in an adjoining locker. Spanish saboteurs had nothing to do with it. But with Hearst and his ilk pounding the war drums, the Spanish-American War soon resulted)

(Another digression on the Spanish-American War: How deeply and easily people can be caught up in the fevered passions of the moment is illustrated by Gen. Joseph Wheeler, one of four former Confederate generals who served in that war. Wheeler seemed to still be fighting the last war when, during the Battle of Las Guasimas – a patch of jungle outside Santiago, Cuba, which was said to be in the process of being abandoned by the Spanish – the old general supposedly called out “Let’s go, boys! We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run again!”)

Fast-forward to 1947: Republicans, having seized the levers of power despite having triggered the Great Depression, and having prolonged it by unanimously opposing recovery efforts (sound familiar?); and having delayed our entry into World War II long enough for Hitler and the Nazis to become established, were determined to never be humiliated by another Roosevelt, who had proved unbeatable at the polls. So they whipped up fervor over the imagined power of an “imperial” presidency and rammed the 22nd Amendment through.

The amendment was ratified in 1951 and the GOP immediately regretted it when the immensely popular Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected as the next president. There was similar gnashing of GOP teeth when Ronald Reagan ascended.

Change is not always for the better

The American revolution notwithstanding, when the governed grow restless with those who govern, good things do not always follow. People are apt to embrace a leader who promises to “shake things up” – and the eventual cost to the nation be damned. History is littered with precedents.

Philip Freeman, writing in Time, observed that “Julius Caesar was a charismatic and unconventional politician who knew what the masses wanted to hear. He used his immense wealth to fight his way to the highest ranks of political power. The old guard politicians of Rome were horrified at his rise and did everything they could to stop him, but nothing worked. The more the establishment spoke against him, the more the common people loved him.”

Caesar managed to seize power and quickly dismantled the centuries-old democracy of Rome. Five years later, with elections effectively gone, it was left to assassins to remove the run-amok Caesar from power. By then Roman democracy was already dead.

America now finds itself ruled by a coterie of self-interested and self-perpetuating politicians operating in a political climate where representative government has been replaced by an oligarchy, a small ruling class fueled by systematic bribery.

Our political system has proven dismayingly easy to corrupt with political machinations and Big Money – a situation that has only grown an order of magnitude worse in recent years.

Term limits as a bulwark against voter unrest

Amending  the Constitution to limit the number of terms – or at least consecutive terms – a person may serve in Congress will not change human nature, but it might prove an effective levee against the pernicious influence of money and power flowing unchecked and disruptive across the lives of the many from the wealthy and well-connected few.

Don’t we already have effective term limits – in the form of elections? Not so long as those in power control the process. It is the political elites who decide who the candidates will be (voters get to choose only from the list of those presented) and, through gerrymandering, they decide who will, or will not, vote for those candidates.

Williamson again: “As difficult as it is to imagine Donald Trump taking the presidential oath of office, it is much more difficult to imagine him taking it seriously, or indeed to imagine that there exists anything that is to him a ‘sacred obligation.’”

Williamson could have been speaking about any of the ruling class that has abetted the mindset and rise of Trumpian politics.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that the wealthy and powerful will quietly allow their wealth and power to simply be voted away.  The American Experiment is an expensive nuisance to them, an impediment to their goals and ambitions. Do not expect support from the so-called “One-Percent.” They know they would do well, perhaps even better, under an openly fascist or autocratic form of government.

A long and difficult struggle

So accomplishing an effective term limits amendment will be much more easily said than done, for it will be left to the political class to vote an end to their lucrative sinecures.

Late in his life, John Adams wearily wondered  …”When will mankind listen to reason, to nature or to revelation?” History seems to suggest that, so long as mankind manages to exist, probably never.

Michael W. Dominowski is the editor of Not For Hire Media.