This is what the Trump administration thinks of veterans

Via here, here’s a nice little story for Memorial Day:

The Marine Corps called him back to Iraq and Afghanistan for three more tours. He was in Fallujah in Iraq’s “bloody triangle” during the surge. In all, he spent about four years in the Middle East.

In between deployments, McGreevey would return to Vancouver, where he managed to buy a house on Northeast 24th Court. But the years overseas took a toll. He says he made a fateful mistake: trusting someone else to make the mortgage payment.

He returned from his third tour in June 2010, just in time to watch PHH Mortgage repossess his house.

They foreclosed despite the fact that it was illegal:

The law prohibits banks and other creditors from foreclosing, garnishing, evicting or repossessing assets from service members while they are on active duty or within 12 months of leaving the service. It is the creditor’s obligation to determine whether the debtor is protected by the law.

And here is the Trump administration taking sides:

Her words rang hollow with McGreevey and Riddell on March 29 when the U.S. Justice Department intervened in their case and effectively sided with PHH Mortgage and Northwest Trustee. The federal lawyers said they were not taking a position on the merits of McGreevey’s complaint. Rather, they echoed defendants’ arguments that the four-year statute of limitations should apply and McGreevey’s case be dismissed.

McGreevey shouldn’t feel that they’re after him, it’s just the Trump administration likes corporations:

Twelve days before it sided with PHH Mortgage over McGreevey, the Justice Department intervened in an ongoing dispute between the New Jersey lender and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau contended that PHH for more than a decade had been operating a mortgage insurance kickback scheme that cost its borrowers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The case got particularly controversial in 2015, when bureau Director Richard Cordray unilaterally increased the fine against PHH Mortgage from $6 million to $109 million. A court froze the penalty after the lender appealed. The Justice Department sided with PHH Mortgage in March.

Betsy DeVos needs to go back to school

Katherine Clark asked her about discrimination:

Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) said that one private school in Indiana that is a voucher school says it may deny admission to students who are LGBT or who come from a family where there is “homosexual or bisexual activity.” She asked DeVos whether she would tell the state of Indiana that it could not discriminate in that way if it were to accept federal funding through a new school choice program. Clark further asked what DeVos would say if a voucher school were not accepting African American students and the state “said it was okay.”

To Clark’s question about whether she would step in, DeVos responded: “Well again, the Office of Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board, but when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of their students …”

This should have been an easy question to answer: all schools need to abide by federal standards to get federal money, but for some reason DeVos couldn’t just say that. I wonder why? Is it because she really thinks that schools should be allowed to discriminate or if she just doesn’t know how the law works?

She was also asked about students with disabilities:

Lowey noted that in voucher and voucher-like programs in which public money is used to pay for private school tuition and educational expenses, families are often required to sign away their IDEA protections, including due process when a school fails to meet a child’s needs. Lowey asked DeVos if she thought that was fair.

DeVos responded that it should be up to the states to decide how to run their own programs, and then she referred to a tax credit program in Florida, where tens of thousands of students with disabilities attend private school with public money. Florida is one of those states that requires voucher recipients to give up their IDEA rights.

So she’s fine with those students losing federal protection.

She doesn’t seem to know that high poverty schools tend to have less funding:

In her first answer, the secretary said she believed high-poverty school districts do get more funding than wealthier districts, which is most often not true. In the second response, she said she believes high-poverty school districts get more federal funding than wealthier districts.  That is not always true.

She doesn’t think private schools should be held to any standards:

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) discussed a private school that took public dollars even though it said students could learn how to read by simply putting a hand on a book. He asked her if she was “going to have accountability standards” in any new school choice program.

Her response: States should decide “what kind of flexibility they are going to allow.”

Wow.

Trump/Republican Tax Cut as bad as predicted

The CBO has released their analysis of the tax cut disguised as a healthcare bill that passed the House:

CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under H.R. 1628 than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. In 2026, an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law. Under the legislation, a few million of those people would use tax credits to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks.

They also compare how non-group insurance would fare under current law (Obamacare) to the new law:

Under Current Law. Although premiums have been rising under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference between that percentage and the premiums for a reference plan. The subsidies to purchase coverage, combined with the effects of the individual mandate, which requires most individuals to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by enough people, including people with low health care expenditures, for the market to be stable in most areas.

Nevertheless, some areas of the country have limited participation by insurers in the nongroup market under current law. Several factors could lead insurers to withdraw from the market—including lack of profitability and substantial uncertainty about enforcement of the individual mandate and about future payments of the cost-sharing subsidies to reduce out-of-pocket payments for people who enroll in nongroup coverage through the marketplaces established by the ACA.

Under the Legislation. CBO and JCT anticipate that, under H.R. 1628, nongroup insurance markets would continue to be stable in many parts of the country. Although substantial uncertainty about how the new law would be implemented could lead insurers to withdraw from or not enter the nongroup market, several factors would bring about market stability in most states before 2020. In the agencies’ view, those key factors include subsidies to purchase insurance, which would maintain sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures, and grants to states from the Patient and State Stability Fund, which would lower premiums by reducing the costs to insurers of people with high health care expenditures.

The agencies expect that the nongroup market in many areas of the country would continue to be stable in 2020 and later years as well, including in some states that obtain waivers from market regulations. Even though the new tax credits, which would take effect in 2020, would be structured differently from the current subsidies and would generally be less generous for those receiving subsidies under current law, other changes (including the money available through the Patient and State Stability Fund) would, in the agencies’ view, lower average premiums enough to attract a sufficient number of relatively healthy people to stabilize the market.

However, the agencies estimate that about one-sixth of the population resides in areas in which the nongroup market would start to become unstable beginning in 2020. That instability would result from market responses to decisions by some states to waive two provisions of federal law, as would be permitted under H.R. 1628. One type of waiver would allow states to modify the requirements governing essential health benefits (EHBs), which set minimum standards for the benefits that insurance in the nongroup and small-group markets must cover. A second type of waiver would allow insurers to set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status if the person had not demonstrated continuous coverage; that is, the waiver would eliminate the requirement for what is termed community rating for premiums charged to such people. CBO and JCT anticipate that most healthy people applying for insurance in the nongroup market in those states would be able to choose between premiums based on their own expected health care costs (medically underwritten premiums) and premiums based on the average health care costs for people who share the same age and smoking status and who reside in the same geographic area (community-rated premiums). By choosing the former, people who are healthier than average would be able to purchase nongroup insurance with relatively low premiums.

Why it almost sounds like things will be worse under this legislation. But let’s get to the important part:

• Repealing the surtax on certain high-income taxpayers’ net investment income;
• Repealing the annual fee on health insurance providers;
• Reducing the income threshold for determining the medical care deduction;
• Delaying when the excise tax imposed on some health insurance plans with high premiums would go into effect; and
• Repealing the increase in the Hospital Insurance payroll tax rate for certain high-income taxpayers.

And here’s what that gets:

The chart below shows the tax changes (the first two major components mentioned) go almost entirely to the highest earning households, while providing little or no benefit to the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution.  In fact, TPC estimates that a $37,000 average annual tax cut will go to the 1 percent of the population with the highest earnings (annual income of over $772,000).  The top 0.1 percent of the income distribution would receive an annual tax cut of over $200,000 (annual income over $3.9 million).

In short, the bill drops 23 million people off insurance to give very large tax cuts to the rich. Now that’s the type of bill a Republican loves.

The Turkey scandal

There’s so much attention on Russia that you might not have noticed that something’s going on with Turkey:

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”

The episode was not the first time that Turkish security forces have ignited violence in the American capital. The police and members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team clashed with demonstrators last year outside the Brookings Institution, where Mr. Erdogan was giving a speech. Brookings wrote on its website that his bodyguards had “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or Chinese.”

It seems that Turkey doesn’t know about this thing called Freedom of Speech:

Video of the incident shows protesters being attacked in what appeared to be three waves as D.C. police officers struggled to regain control. The Anadolu news agency framed the guards’ actions as a response to the presence of ‘‘terrorist’’ sympathizers – apparently a reference to Kurdish activists.

The news agency criticized U.S. police for failing to end the dissent; such protests are largely put down in Turkey.

And, as with much of what happens now, there is a scandalous Trump connection:

The investigation stems from the work Flynn did for Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. On Aug. 9, Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group signed a contract with Inovo for $600,000 over 90 days to run an influence campaign aimed at discrediting Fethullah Gulen, an reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

When he was hired by Alptekin, Flynn did not register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government. Only in March did he file a retroactive registration with the Justice Department because his lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, said that “the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

Trump campaign officials first became aware of a problem with Flynn’s business dealings in early November. On Nov. 8, the day of the election, Flynn wrote an op-ed in The Hill that advocated improved relations between Turkey and the United States and called Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah.”

“If he were in reality a moderate, he would not be in exile, nor would he excite the animus of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government,” the op-ed said.

And wait there’s more:

According to the report, Flynn declined a request from the Obama administration to approve an operation in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, effectively delaying the military operation. His reasoning wasn’t reported, but Turkey has long opposed U.S. military operations in cooperation with Kurdish forces.

President Erdogan isn’t known as a friend to human rights:

We should expect no substantial discussion of the 150 journalists detained in Turkey on misleading or bogus charges, or the elected politicians from peaceful pro-Kurdish parties who remain behind bars. Also unlikely to be on the agenda: The fate of the 50,000 people swept up on overly broad terrorism charges, or even the more than 100,000 civil servants permanently dismissed with no right of appeal.

This means that Trump likes Erdogan, as he seems to like many dictator-types:

US President Donald Trump’s affinity for authoritarian leaders across the globe has been one of the few constants during his chaotic first few months in office.

From Russian President Vladimir Putin to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump has gone out of his way to lavish praise on some of the world’s most notorious strongmen.
As always, Trump makes me proud to be an American.

Our President

Remember how upset Republicans were when Hillary Clinton perhaps maybe put classified information in her private emails. Wow are they going to go ballistic now:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

It’s too early to put up the Republican reaction but I’m sure it’s going to be harsh, I’m sure we’ll hear threats impeachment. Ha ha, I jest.

Somebody must have handed him a printout:

Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.

Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it.

There is universal agreement among Trump advisers on this: The best way to focus the president’s attention on any story is to tell him about it personally, even if it is in one of the papers he’s already thumbed through. But officials say it’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition because Trump’s frustrations at bad stories can easily boomerang against those delivering him the news.

We are so fucked.

Trump is going under

Here’s Donald Trump a-tweeting:

The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!

James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.

Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!

Hey, look at that, Trump might be right–we might be thanking him for firing James Comey. That’s because it’s so outrageous that it might convince some Republicans that there really does have to be a Special Prosecutor to investigate the connections between the Russians and the Trump administration.

Trump doesn’t exercise and doesn’t think you should either

President Trump never ceases to amaze me, this is the latest:

Trump himself says that he is “not a big sleeper” (“I like three hours, four hours”) and professes a fondness for steak and McDonald’s. Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.

That’s stunningly misinformed. Really, in what century was he born? Vox points us to other links, such as this:

Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,’’ he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘‘That’s exercise.’’

And they include this quote:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

So add personal health to the things that Trump is completely wrong about.

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