417 posts categorized "Politics"

Travel While Old (and Resistance Notes)

[EDITORIAL NOTE: These travel complaints have been on my mind for a couple of weeks but they aren't wildly important unless you feel as I do. The Resistance Notes at the end are important.]

Greece2

During my working life, I traveled a lot, sometimes hopping on a plane at a moment's notice to go across the country or across an ocean. I loved visiting places I'd only read about or seen in movies and the airlines, in those days, made getting there and back a pleasant, even glamorous, experience.

The 1970s and 1980s were prime time for airline travel. Plenty of room even for people with long legs, reasonably good meals served hot (even special ones if you ordered ahead), aisles wide enough that you could get up and stroll around to stretch your legs without banging into people who were napping.

Remember 747s? The middle rows were five seats wide and when I was traveling between Los Angeles and New York, there were often a few that were entirely empty so I used one as a full-length bed and slept the whole way. No objections from the flight attendants who even gently woke me when it was time to buckle up again for landing.

Best of all, the price was the price. Whatever was quoted to you was what you paid. No surprise charges for an aisle or window seat or food or checked baggage or carry-on items or, maybe soon, oxygen.

Unless you can afford first class, air travel has become torture and I don't think I need to recount all the ways it is now made so terribly difficult, even painful.

Full-aircraft-xlarge

Therefore, I was surprised to read the results of an AARP survey about baby boomers' travel plans for 2016:

”Most respondents (97%) planned at least one domestic trip and nearly half (45%) planned international ones,” reports Irene S. Levine in MarketWatch (reprinted from Next Avenue).

“While most research about over-50 travelers focuses primarily on boomers, data on the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and 1945) suggests that with improved health and increased longevity, these folks, too, are opting to travel...”

[DISCLOSURE: Ms. Levine interviewed me for this travel story.]

The report goes on to discuss how boomers are willing to spend more money than younger people to avoid hassles, they demand better service, plan trips far in advance and are intent on checking items off their bucket lists, among other changes from their youth.

Bora-Bora

From the quotations in the article, they are gung-ho about getting out and about to seeing the world as often as possible by air.

“We take ourselves less seriously because we have lost loved ones and realize what really is important in life.”

“Life is unpredictable and I think we need to do as much as we can while we can.”

“Loving every minute of travel even when it isn’t so great. Aren’t we lucky to be able to go?”

Well, not me. Can it be that I am alone in finding being crammed into a plane seat that doesn't accommodate even my five-foot, two-inch size? Or enduring flight delays of many hours (happened on my last three flights in a row with the worst food on earth at airports)?

Crowded-terminal_Editorial

How about the literal mile and more that must be walked between flights? Worse, once you finally get to the gate, you find it's been changed to another gate half a mile from where you are standing and none of those little jitneys airports used to have to carry people from here to there are anywhere to be found.

I've turned into such an old fart that it's just too much work to contemplate a plane trip and because there isn't anywhere I want to go that isn't at least six hours from where I am, it's a full day trip when you count to and from airports which means I'll be exhausted for at least a day after I arrive.

In addition, there is something else in play that I haven't entirely worked out. I just like being home. We have mentioned here that even after too many social engagements in a row (in my case, two days worth does it), we need some down time to recharge.

For me, it's not just dinner with friends or a meeting or other kind of gathering that psychically exhausts me. Being in the vicinity of hundreds of other people for several hours, even if I don't know them or speak with them, is exhausting. I don't entirely understand but it seems to be related to the normal hubbub of being surrounded by a huge group.

Or not. I haven't sorted that out yet but the bottom line is that I'm quite happy at home and my nearby environment. And I'm amazed, given those AARP statistics, at how many people put up with what I find too odious to suffer through.

What do you think?

* * *

RESISTANCE NOTES
There is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., enough to give me a major headache AND heartburn. Here are two items that I'm sure you're aware of.

First Item: Tomorrow, unless the Republicans change their mind, the full House of Representatives will vote on Trumpcare. Or, as it is more formally known, The American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The bill devastates Medicaid, harms people age 55-64 in other ways too and undermines the financial stability of Medicare. You'll find more detail about all that at this two-page Justice in Aging fact sheet [PDF].

It would be a good thing for you to call your representative today and tell him or her what vote you prefer.

Second Item: Last week President Donald Trump released his budget plan but it's not his alone. The budget contains many of the cherished draconian dreams of Republicans.

Instead of me, let's have John Oliver, host of the HBO show, Last Week Tonight, tell you about the bill's troubling priorities:


What Trumpcare Tells Us About Social Security

If you want to know what the Republicans in Congress will soon try to do to Social Security, pay attention to today's post.

Socialsecuritycard

As we have discussed in these pages many times over the years, Republicans have wanted to kill Social Security and Medicare since they were enacted in 1935 and 1965, respectively.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is well known for his past attempts (so far failed) to kill Social Security, and the Robin-Hood-in-reverse American Health Care Act (aka Trumpcare) being debated now is a good indication – whatever happens to it – of what he and other Republicans will soon attempt with Social Security.

You have probably heard this widely reported premium nightmare people not yet old enough for Medicare will face if the ACHA becomes law:

"A 64-year-old earning [$26,500] will get sticker shock...Under the Republican plan, health insurers would be free to charge the senior more, raising that person's premium to $19,500.

“But the tax credit would be only $4,900, and the 64-year-old's share of the premium would then be $14,600 — about 10 times higher than the 21-year-old's."

You can comfortably assume that draconian changes of this kind will be adapted to fit Social Security when the Republicans move on to attack that program.

Ezra Klein, who is editor-in-chief at Vox and one of most knowledgeable policy journalists we have, made this video with a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of Trumpcare. It's worth five minutes of your time, keeping the future of Social Security in mind as you watch.

Late last year, Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee at the House Ways and Means Committee introduced H.R.6489 - Social Security Reform Act of 2016 - which he described as a "plan to permanently save Social Security."

At the time, estimable Los Angeles Times reporter, Michael Hiltzik called foul on that description:

”Followers of GOP habits won’t be surprised to learn that it achieves this goal entirely through benefit cuts, without a dime of new revenues such as higher payroll taxes on the wealthy.

“In fact, Johnson’s plan reduces the resources coming into the program by eliminating a key tax --another way that he absolves richer Americans of paying their fair share, while increasing the burdens of retirement for almost everyone else.”

To move forward, the bill needs to be reintroduced in the new 115th Congress which has not been done yet but undoubtedly some form of those changes will show up in future Social Security legislation.

In January, Social Security guru, Nancy Altman, wrote about another, more secretive way Congress may try to cut, if not entirely kill, Social Security (and Medicare). It's complicated, involving back-stage rules changes, but here is Altman's short explanation: Congress would transform the programs avoiding personal accountability by

”Using changes in the arcane rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts...By the time the American people realize what’s happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past, and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons.

“The rule that has been adopted was telegraphed shortly after the election when Representative Tom Price, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, proposed changes to the budget rules, which, if enacted, would end Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as we know them.”

As you know, Tom Price was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Medicaid “as we know it” is already on the chopping block with Trumpcare.

One way or another, the Republicans will try to kill Social Security and as the president has made evident already with other campaign promises, we cannot depend on his repeated statement not to cut Social Security and Medicare to hold.

In fact, former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney who was recently confirmed as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has said that the president promised only to “save” Social Security. Nancy Altman had a few words to say about that:

“Mulvaney and other Republican elites, who hate Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are now claiming that Trump was simply promising to 'save' these programs.

“Like the infamous comment about destroying the Vietnam village to save it, they argue that cutting or even dismantling these programs 'saves' them. In this twisted logic, Trump can cut these vital benefits, and not break his campaign promise not to cut them!

“The American people are not going to be fooled. If Mulvaney succeeds in convincing Trump to sign on to cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, or even worse, ending them as we know them, Trump voters will know that they have been betrayed.

“And all Americans will know that the Republicans in Washington, including Trump, are working for Wall Street, not Main Street.”

Oy. This administration is sure going to keep us busy. You can listen to a 10-minute interview with Nancy Altman about Trumpcare here - from fair.org.


Ben Carson's Geezer Surgery (and More)

There is no dearth of reasons to rant, rail and rage against the new president for the disgraceful caliber of people he has placed in positions of power throughout the departments, offices and agencies of the federal government.

Even a few Republicans have been embarrassed by the obvious lack of experience or knowledge of some nominees. Think Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, among others.

In some cases, however, a person who is given high political office is deeply unqualified in more disturbing ways: ideologically, ethically and morally.

Carson

On Saturday in these pages, I mentioned that Dr. Ben Carson, in his first official speech as the new secretary of the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), equated the men and women who were taken from their homes by force and shipped off to America to become slaves - with “immigrants.”

That is only the most obvious of the offensive moments in Carson's speech a week ago. Here is a short transcript of another, when he spoke about his previous work as a neurosurgeon:

”With a kid, you can operate 10, 12, 18, 20 hours and if you're successful, your reward may be 50, 60, 70, 80 years of life.

“Whereas with an old geezer, you spend all that time operating and they die in five years of something else. So I like to get a big return on my investment.”

I'll pause for a moment to let the potential consequences of that perspective on housing and related civil rights sink in.

Most days, I record the Late Show with Stephen Colbert so I can watch his monologue the next day. One of the “rewards” for my effort is way too many ageist jokes (although no more than the other late-night hosts).

But this time, to his great, grand credit, Colbert called out Carson.

This is that segment with the two parts from the secretary's speech I've highlighted along with two others that deserve equal piles of scorn:

You'll find some of the instant Twitter reaction to Carson's slave/immigrant comment at Huffington Post.

It's not that Secretary Carson is more ideologically or ethically challenged or any less knowledgeable about his new position than some other appointed leaders in this most reprehensible federal administration in my lifetime.

But he does appear to be the most candid about his shortcomings; whether by accident or design is hard to know.

What I do know is that there is so much double-dealing, overreach, hubris, lying, ignorance, secrecy, possible criminality and even treason along with open disdain for the Constitution, the rule of law and the citizenry itself that we must recognize every instance we see.

That isn't easy because there are several new ones every day. But we must not allow the bizarre beliefs of Secretary Carson and those of everyone else in the Trump administration to become so normal and ordinary that we are no longer shocked.

Do not let that happen to you or the people you know.


Elders and the Republican Healthcare Plan

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is a busy week for me so I'm writing this on Wednesday. God knows what will happen regarding the new healthcare plan by Friday morning when this is posted to TGB. If anything important changes, I'll try to update it but no promises.

* * *

Healthcare introduction

The ACHA, also known as the American Health Care Act (or Ryancare or Trumpcare if you prefer) released on Tuesday hit a firestorm of criticism from everywhere. That includes, according to ABC News,

”...AARP, the House Freedom Caucus, GOP senators including Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, Heritage, the Club for Growth, tea party groups and even, yes, Breitbart News.”

In some circles, it was scorned as Obama Lite and that the “Obamacare cure is worse than the disease.” Other responses as reported in mainstream news media:

”Ryan disappoints his friends with Obamacare replacement bill. Close allies in conservative policies circles found little to love with the GOP's health care proposal.” (Politico)
”The GOP’s plan guts the Medicaid expansion, defunds Planned Parenthood, and sunsets a federal rule that requires that qualified insurance plans cover things like mental health care, maternity care, and pediatric dental and vision care, among other things.” (The Daily Beast)
”If you’re poor, you will not have the money to pay the premium, leaving you without insurance." (Newsweek)

And don't think that if you are 65 or older and a Medicare beneficiary that it doesn't affect you. As Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid expert, Nancy Altman, explains

”Seniors aged 65 and over, as well as people with serious disabilities, rely on Medicare for their basic health insurance. That program will be seriously weakened if the Republican plan to gut the ACA is enacted. It is estimated that Medicare’s revenue will drop by $346 billion.

“The Republican bill to repeal the ACA drains Medicare to gives tax breaks to wealthy Americans and corporations. In fact, even before Republicans pass a so-called 'tax reform bill,' this bill’s giveaway amounts to a whopping $525 billion tax break for the wealthiest among us.”

There is little doubt that the $346 billion drain on Medicare revenue would negatively affect these items that, with the passage of Obamacare, came into being for Medicare:

  • the ongoing reduction of the donut hole in the Part D prescription drug program

  • annual wellness visits without a copay

  • free annual flu shot

  • the extension of Medicare solvency to the year 2029.

The many TGB readers not quite old enough for Medicare would be hit particularly hard if this new healthcare bill is passed. Vox reports:

"In general, the impact of the Republican bill would be particularly severe for older individuals, ages 55 to 64. Their costs [of annual premiums] would increase by $5,269 if the bill went into effect today and by $6,971 in 2020. Individuals with income below 250 percent of the federal poverty line would see their costs increase by $2,945 today and by $4,061 in 2020."

Which brings us to effects of Medicaid changes in the bill. The estimable Nancy Altman again:

”The GOP’s bill, if enacted, will place caps on Medicaid spending, again shifting costs away from the federal balance sheet and to the balance sheets of states and individuals.

“If that is enacted, seniors needing long term care and their families may find themselves out of luck, since nursing home care is extremely expensive. It is estimated that the typical annual cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $80,300. Very few families can afford that huge cost on their own.

“And the impact on seniors not yet 65, and so, not yet on Medicare, will be the harshest of all. They will have more difficulty obtaining insurance and will face higher health care costs if this legislation is enacted and implemented.”

On Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Tom Price, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and a physician,

”...would not commit to reporters that consumers would be able to keep their current doctors if the plan were passed, whether it would provide insurance at a lower cost, or that it would not add to the nation’s deficit. On each point he said simply that those were the administration’s goals.”

Of course not because no one knows, least of all writers of the bill. It was not been submitted to the Congressional Budget office for scoring, as is customary for any new bill.

Republicans, who control both the House and the Senate, expect Congress to vote on the bill by mid-April. President Trump supports it even though, as quoted by the Washington Post, he said in January:

“'We’re going to have insurance for everybody,' Trump said. 'There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.' People covered under the law 'can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.'"

Which, like his other campaign promises so far, is apparently dead. Maybe he never meant it to begin with. It is said that the president will fly here and there across the country to promote the bill. I wonder what he will tell his voters who expected not the lose the coverage they have now.

Let's give Nancy Altman that last word today:

”The truth is that all of these cuts [in the healthcare bill] are entirely unnecessary. In fact, Medicare should be expanded to cover all of us.

“Medicare and Medicaid are more efficient than private insurance. Other nations are able to provide health care as a right, at a fraction of the cost with better health outcomes.

“We should be building on the successes of Medicare and Medicaid and the cost savings measures of the ACA. But instead, Republicans in Congress want to take us backwards.”


Elders: Don't Let Trump Fatigue Stop You

Protests work. We who are old enough learned that first hand back in the 1960s when we stopped a war, helped force through civil rights legislation and made a big leap forward with women's rights. And it's true again in the 20-teens.

In addition to some wins and the growing resistance movement now, you can tell for sure progress is being made when the opposition gets scared enough to threaten criminal action.

Take a look at this map:

Mapstateswithprotestb ills

Republicans in at least 18 state legislatures have introduced bills that would restrict public protests and in some cases, criminalize them. The Hill reports:

”Arizona Republicans have introduced a measure to expand racketeering laws, which target organized crime groups, to include rioting. The bill would allow police officers to arrest and the seize the assets of those who organize protest events...

“One measure in Tennessee goes so far as to give civil immunity to a driver who hits a protester blocking traffic.

“The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill (R), comes after a car hit volunteers helping protesters cross a street in Nashville as they demonstrated against the Trump administration’s orders blocking immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.”

The Washington Post, in publishing a thorough listing of the various legislation to date noted that there are already plenty of laws throughout the U.S. that control public demonstrations:

“Democrats in many of these states are fighting the legislation. They cite existing laws that already make it a crime to block traffic, the possibility of a chilling effect on protests across the political spectrum, and concerns for protesters’ safety in the face of aggressive motorists.”

The Post reporter goes on to describe pending legislation in each of the 18 states. Some examples:

“An Indiana Senate committee recently toned down a bill that would have allowed police to shut down highway protests using 'any means necessary.' The current version allows police to issue fines for such behavior.”

“A Republican lawmaker [in Missouri] has introduced legislation that would make it illegal for protesters to wear masks, robes or other disguises during protests deemed to be illegal.”

“A bill before the Mississippi legislature would make obstruction of traffic a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.”

“A novel piece of legislation in Oregon would require public community colleges and universities to expel any student convicted of participating in a violent riot.”

None of the 18 bills has become law yet and according to the ACLU, most of them are unconstitutional. Even so, it takes time, money and effort to fight them and to me, the legislation frighteningly exposes how ignorant or dismissive or both of the First Amendment state Republican leaders are. ACLU senior staff attorney, Lee Rowland:

I bring all this to your attention because it is just one of the many overt and sneaky ways the Trump administration and the Republicans - as much in the states as in Congress - are working hard to strip away constitutionally guaranteed rights.

That, and how easy it is for us to succumb to Trump fatigue. With ten new outrageous assaults on our senses every day, it's not hard to throw up our hands and stop reading the news.

Please don't. I know as well as anyone how hard it is for old people to get out and march for several hours. But there is a lot more we can do if we cannot be there in person.

And it must be us, the people, because I didn't see anything on Saturday at the election of the new leadership of the Democratic Party that will correct any of their ineptness.

Michael Moore has some good ideas for us. Here's the first item of his ten point plan:

THE DAILY CALL: You must call Congress every day. Yes – YOU! 202-225-3121. It will take just TWO MINUTES! Make it part of your daily routine, one of those five things you do every morning without even thinking about it:

  1. Wake up
  2. Brush teeth
  3. Walk dog (or stare at cat)
  4. Make coffee
  5. Call Congress

Further, says Moore, and I agree one hundred percent with this important note:

”[I]f you’re saying to yourself, 'I don’t need to call because my rep is a Democrat!' — that is NOT true. They need to hear from you. They need to know they have your support.

“Don’t believe it? Our beloved Sen. Elizabeth Warren voted in favor of Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development! I’m sure no one in Massachusetts thought they had to call her. YOU DO! She and the other Dems need to hear from the boss — YOU! They work for us – and what boss doesn’t have daily contact with his or her employees?”

Moore includes another terrific idea, a smart phone app someone created called 5 Calls that Moore says “...will dial the friggin’ phone for you and give you talking points for when you speak to your reps!”

It's available for both Android and Apple smartphones. I downloaded it and it couldn't be easier. Give it permission to access you location then, each day, there are a dozen or so issues about which you can call your representatives.

It even gives you a good explanation of each issue then shows you a photo of your representative with his/her phone number. Tap it and the phones dials for you.

Michael Moore has a lot of other good ideas in his Ten Things, many of which even we old folks can do.

We can't let protesting get old. We can't allow ourselves to become bored with it. We can't let President Trump wear us down. Our children, grandchildren and our country, need us to fight back as hard as we can.


Elders, Stress and the U.S. Government

There is a lot to do today so let's start with the winners of the drawing for Norm Jenson's book, Mostly Anecdotal: Stories that we told you about on Wednesday. May I have a drum roll please.

And the winners are:

Estelle D
Linda
Diane

Congratulations to you all. What the three of you need to do now, is email me (use the "Contact" link at the top of the page and send me your snailmail address. I'll then get the books off to you forthwith.

Next:

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* * *

ELDERS, STRESS AND THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

Stress

When even The American Institute of Stress can't define what stress is, you know you're in trouble:

“Stress is not a useful term for scientists because it is such a highly subjective phenomenon that it defies definition.”

[Eight opaque paragraphs later:]

“While everyone can’t agree on a definition of stress, all of our experimental and clinical research confirms that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful – and that’s what stress is all about.”

Uh-huh - stress is distressful. That is what is called a tautology – defining a word by using the same word.

MedicineNet is a bit more helpful: “a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension” but a note on a different page of that website is better:

”Due to the overabundance of stress in our modern lives, we usually think of stress as a negative experience, but from a biological point of view, stress can be a neutral, negative, or positive experience.”

If I've ever read anything about neutral or positive stress, I don't recall, but it confirms for me that sometimes stress is a good thing. In my career, for example, deadlines had me gritting my teeth but without them I would probably never have finished editing a story or video nor would my work have been as good.

Except for that one Medicinenet reference, all I ever see is how dangerous stress is. Here is one more definition of negative stress, from an article at Medical News Today, that makes the most sense to me:

”We generally use the word 'stress' when we feel that everything seems to have become too much - we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.”

What's important about that definition and my intro to it (“makes most sense to me”) is that stress – whatever it is or isn't – is individual. You might sail through a situation that leaves me a puddle on the floor. Or vice versa.

According to my cursory reading on stress, it is brought about in elders by such factors as financial hardship, physical decline, healthcare changes, loneliness and there are many, many other “smaller” stressers. Whatever the cause, the effects on our bodies are profound and dangerous to our health. Here is a partial list of stress responses:

Anger
Anxiety
Burnout
Depression
Fatigue
Feeling of insecurity
Forgetfulness
Headache
Heart disease
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Irritability
Lower immunity against diseases
Muscular aches
Nail biting
Nervous twitches
Pins and needles
Problem concentrating
Restlessness
Sadness
Sleeping difficulties

What brought up all this rumination on stress is that since election day, I've felt more worry, fear, anxiety and most of all, helplessness, than I can ever recall. Every day, all the time – and it is not related only to the president. It's the Republican Congress too.

Voucherize Medicare? Privatize Social Security? Repeal Obamacare? And those are almost incidental when you hear this from a White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller:

Let's repeat the most important part of his statement:

“...the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned."

Does that not chill you to the bone? And what can I, personally, possibly do to counter this most recent, terrifying turn toward autocratic rule in the United States?

Not much that I can see but it eats at me every day. Sometimes I can barely breathe and with each new move toward the right by the government, I am more frightened – read: stressed – and I'm not alone.

Here are some of the suggestions from the medical community for dealing with stress:

Meditation
Exercise
Good nutrition
Relaxation techniques
Cut down on caffeine
Talk with friends
Keep breathing

It is one thing if the sources of stress are from our own lives. In that case, those suggestions are useful. But what if the source of stress is your government? And what if the people comparing the Trump government to 1930's Germany are not hysterics?

So much for a quiet, fulfilling retirement. Breathe, everyone. Breathe.


Happy Valentine's Day and Update on the Retirement Fiduciary Rule


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* * *

Remember when I told you last week that President Donald Trump has signed a memorandum asking the Department of Labor to review President Barack Obama's regulation, the fiduciary rule, that requires investment advisers to put clients' interests above their own when giving advice on retirement accounts.

A reversal of the regulation would do away with the requirement of, basically, honesty.

Last week, in a directly related case seeking to roll back the regulation, brought by the investment community against the U.S. Labor Department in Texas, the court, in a sharply-worded decision, ruled against the plaintiffs. As The New York Times reported:

”The judge, Barbara Lynn, called the plaintiffs’ objections without merit, 'unpersuasive' and 'at odds with market realities.'”
Reuters picks up the coverage:

”The stinging 81-page ruling comes just days after Trump ordered the Labor Department to review the 'fiduciary' rule - a move widely interpreted as an effort to delay or kill the regulation,” reports Reuters.

“The decision by Chief Judge Barbara Lynn for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is a stunning defeat for the business and financial services industry groups that had sought to overturn it.

“And while it is not expected to stop the Labor Department from delaying the rule's April 10 compliance deadline while it conducts the review, some legal experts say it could make it more difficult for the Labor Department to find a way to justify scrapping or significantly altering the rule.”

Full 81-page decision is here [pdf].

As the ongoing cabinet confirmations continue to show us, we of the resistance are going to live through a lot of defeats and disappointments so we should celebrate the victories when we can. This may be a small step but so far, our side has won this time. Hurray.

* * *

Normally I do not publish on Tuesdays and would have skipped Valentine's Day but I wanted to tell you about the decision of Judge Barbara Lynn in Texas.

So that means I also get to send Valentine greetings letting you know how much each of you means to me. This is a labor of love but it wouldn't be so without every one of you who stops by, leaves comments, shares the posts via Facebook and Twitter and sends suggestions and all the rest you do. You are what make this blog worth it for me.

Valentines-day-03


Trumpian Attack on Old People

Did you know that even after the 2008 financial crisis, it has been legal for financial advisers to steer clients toward investments that produce the biggest commissions for them and not ones that are in the client's best interest?

That's right. Fraud has been legal all this time. It's bad enough for people of any age – few of us understand the complexities of Wall Street investing – but it is particularly hard on retired people.

So, last year, President Barack Obama's administration passed new regulations raising ethical standards that govern the industry. The one in question today is called the fiduciary rule and it

“...requires brokers to act in a client’s best interest,” reports The New York Times, rather than seek the highest profits for themselves, when providing retirement advice.”

Fiduciaryrule

The fiduciary rule was set to go into effect on 10 April 2017. But then, last Friday, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum asking the Labor Department to review the rule which critics say, according to the Washington Post, could limit options for investors and raise costs for financial firms. The White House addressed that issue, as quoted in the Post:

“'The rule’s intent may be to have provided retirees and others with better financial advice, but in reality its effect has been to limit the financial services that are available to them,' White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.

“'This is exactly the kind of government regulatory overreach the president was put in office to stop,” [Spicer continued.]

Yeah, right. With several Goldman Sachs appointees in the Trump administration, when it becomes a choice between safeguarding elders from predatory advisers and enriching Wall Street, it is easy to figure out which way it will go.

As John Cassidy noted in The New Yorker,

”...five financial stocks account for more than forty per cent of the rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average since November 8th. The jump in Goldman’s stock alone accounts for a quarter of the over-all rise.

“On Friday morning, bank stocks rose again. At noon [after Trump signed the fiduciary rule memorandum], Goldman was up four per cent.”

As bad as this may become for retirees, there is much more to be frightened of coming from the Trump administration in regard to financial (de)regulation and I strongly suggest you go read Cassidy's New Yorker piece about that.

It is exhausting trying to keep up with all the ways, every day, the Republican Congress and the president are working to turn our republic into something unrecognizable.

Many serious television commentators and pundits along with their counterparts in print have warned about not succumbing to Trump fatigue, that we can't count on Congress, certainly not the Democrats and maybe not even the courts to keep American democracy safe.

It is up to us, the people, to keep the Constitution and the country intact.

Now, go call your representatives' offices (you have those numbers saved by now, don't you) and let them know where you stand on whatever the Trump firehose has sprayed our way this morning.

* * *

RESISTANCE NOTES:
Okay, maybe not exactly a resistance note but close enough.

Tuesday night John Oliver, who is host of the HBO show, Last Week Tonight, appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote the return of his program which begins a new season on Sunday.

During the interview, Oliver tells Colbert that although he is a green card holder and his wife and son are American citizens, he worries a little bit about being deported depending on the whims (my word, not Oliver's) of our new president. "A green card may not be enough," he says and although deportation is unlikely in his case, there is now, with the election of Trump, "a non-zero chance of it happening."

He and Colbert also mention his cover story interview in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine that you can read here.

It's wonderful to have John Oliver in back in such fine form.


Death With Dignity and the Supreme Court Nominee

It's not often I can combine an age-related post with a political one as directly as I can today so I'm taking advantage of it while the opportunity is here.

When I moved to Oregon nearly seven years ago, the state's Death With Dignity Act played no part in my choice although I knew it existed.

Having had plenty of time now to look into it and think about it, I am relieved to have this law. Understand that not just any person can request the drugs and die willy-nilly. There are restrictions:

”A physician must determine that the patient has less than six months and a second opinion is required,” reported my late friend, Pulitzer Prize-winner Saul Friedman in these pages in 2010. “The patient must make repeated requests, waiting at least 15 days between requests.

“If these procedures are followed, an Oregon physician can prescribe the life-ending drugs, which may be taken with or without a doctor present.”

Personally, I think the rules are too restrictive but they are better than not and changing public perception is a slow process.

Oregon was the first state to enact a death with dignity law and since the act was passed 1997, and through 2015, 991 patients have used it to end their lives. Here's the chart:

DWDAoregon

It gives me comfort to know that if my end days are filled with pain, for example, and my days are short, there is recourse for me. It's my life; no one else should have the right to prevent me from making this choice.

Last week, President Donald Trump nominated federal appeals court judge, Neil Gorsuch, to fill the Supreme Court chair left empty when Justice Antonin Scalia died a year ago.

That, I believe, is an illegitimate nomination that should not stand given that Congressional Republicans barely acknowledged President Barack Obama's choice, Merrick Garland, let alone held hearings on him. But let's let that go for today and take a look at who Judge Gorsuch is.

As the Washington Post reported last week, in the year the judge was appointed to the federal bench, 2006:

”...he published a book titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The front cover looks almost like a Tom Clancy novel, with purple all-caps block text set against a black background. But the book itself is a deep, highly cerebral overview of the ethical and legal debate surrounding the practices.”

Gorsuchdeaathwithdignitybookcover

I have not read the book so I am relying on the WaPo reporter, Derek Hawkins, who writes that Gorsuch opposes assisted suicide, euthanasia and death with dignity laws because “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Really? Even if the life-taking is done by the person whose life it is? I don't think that is at all as obvious as he makes it sound. The Washington Post again:

”Some of Gorsuch’s sharpest criticisms were directed at one of his fellow jurists, Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

“Posner has written in favor of permitting physician-assisted suicide, arguing that the government should not interfere with a person’s decision to take his or her own life, especially in cases where the patient is terminally ill.

“Gorsuch rejected that view, writing it would 'tend toward, if not require, the legalization not only of assisted suicide and euthanasia, but of any act of consensual homicide.'”

Huh? How does that follow? It gets even less rational as his argument continues:

”Posner’s position, he writes, would allow 'sadomasochist killings' and 'mass suicide pacts,' as well as duels, illicit drug use, organ sales and the 'sale of one’s own life.'

“Gorsuch concludes his book by envisioning a legal system that allows for terminally ill patients to refuse treatments that would extend their lives, while stopping short of permitting intentional killing.”

Judge Gorsuch is a young man - 49 now, 39 when his book was published. Aside from physicians trained in science and health and such people as hospice workers, I do not believe that younger adults have any idea what old age is really like. You cannot know until you get there.

Unless he has suffered through a prolonged period of debility and ongoing, untreatable pain, Judge Gorsuch cannot possibly imagine why an old person would find themselves arriving at a place where they know it is time for them to go and even yearn for it.

There are other good reasons to oppose Judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court but from my perch here as what a reporter at the Baltimore Sun once called “a bloviator on all things ageing,” this one issue is enough.

Particularly so because if he is confirmed and in addition, Congress follows through on President Trump's recent vow to the overturn the 1954 law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, we are heading deep toward Christian control of government.

The New York Times quoted Trump about that vow last week:

“'Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us,' Mr. Trump told religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast. 'That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.'”

These may never come to pass. But to potentially lose death with dignity laws while gaining unfettered political speech for religious organizations combined with the new survey showing that one-third of Americans believe a citizen must be a Christian to be a real American – well, you tell me what that means.


First They Came For the Immigrants...

On Saturday morning, I put the finishing touches on what I thought would be today's post about President Donald Trump's awful first week in office. It began like this:

Does anyone else think it's weird that President Donald Trump shows off his signature to camera every time – every single time! - he signs something? “Look ma, I learned how to write my name.”

Trump Signature

That was meant only to note a minor but strange behavior quirk among so many others this man exhibits as a lead-in to a report on the president's flurry of terrible executive orders last week along with other appalling executive branch events and the ways we, elders, can resist.

Then I tuned in to the news to see that spontaneous crowds of protesters had erupted at dozens of airports around the United States and in a lot of other countries as travelers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen were detained in the U.S. by border agents.

PortestersJFK2017_01_28

The authorization for this detention is Trump's Friday executive order (full text) banning immigrants, refugees and even legal green card holders traveling to the U.S. from those seven majority-Muslim countries, as The New York Times reported:

”The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 p.m. Eastern on Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries...”

Make no mistake, this is a religious test and there has never before been one in the United States. For god's sake, it is the first founding principle.

At least one federal judge blocked part of Trump's Muslim ban - in particular, ordering that refugees and others detained at U.S. airports not be sent back to their home countries.

People from those seven countries were detained willy-nilly – mothers with children, the sick and infirm, old people.

Lawyers throughout the U.S. rushed to airports, working through Friday night and into Saturday and Sunday to help get the detainees released from custody while numbers of protesters grew as this CNN compilation video shows:

Sunday morning, White House Chief of Staff, Reince Preibus, appeared to roll back the ban on green card holders but then confused the issue when interviewed by Chuck Todd, host of the NBC News program, Meet the Press:

"'We didn't overrule the Department of Homeland Security, as far as green card holders moving forward, it doesn't affect them,' Priebus first said.

“But when pressed by host Chuck Todd on whether it impacts green card holders, Priebus reversed himself, saying, 'Well, of course it does. If you're traveling back and forth, you're going to be subjected to further screening.'

“Asked whether the executive order would affect U.S. citizens, he again indicated it would, suggesting it was up to the 'discretionary authority' of a Customs and Border Patrol agent whether to question citizens coming from the countries in question.”

RB UPDATE SUNDAY EVENING: The White House reversed itself saying that green card holders will henceforth not be affected by the by the Muslim ban.

In addition, CNN reports that Trump said in an interview on Friday

”...that persecuted Christians will be given priority over other refugees seeking to enter the United States, saying they have been 'horribly treated.'

“Speaking with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said that it had been 'impossible, or at least very tough' for Syrian Christians to enter the United States...

“The United States,” the CNN report continues, “admitted a record number of 38,901 Muslim refugees in 2016, according to a study conducted by Pew. But nearly the same number of Christians, 37,521 were also admitted.”

Let me repeat, this Muslim banning executive order is a religious test no matter what Trump and his White House sycophants say and from day one in the United States, there has never been a religious test.

To that point, even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who lately has sounded like the president's best buddy, had this to say on Sunday:

”In an interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, McConnell said he supports the notion of strengthening the country's process of vetting immigrants for national security, but not the targeting of specific sects.

“'I don't want to criticize them for improving vetting. I think we need to be careful; we don't have religious tests in this country,' the Kentucky senator said on This Week...

“McConnell told Raddatz of the executive order, 'It's hopefully going to be decided in the courts as to whether or not this has gone too far.'”

Could it be that this executive order is at last too much even for the Republican Congress?

Flipping around the dial on Sunday, I heard Virginia senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine say that his office has been deluged with phone calls from supporters registering their objection to this executive order. At least one other Democratic Congress person said that too.

I report this to remind readers who believe calls to their Democratic representatives are not necessary because those reps are already on the side of the angels.

Well, that's not always so but more importantly, it lights a fire under them when they get lots of calls and it makes an impact when they can say that on television.

So call your representatives whatever party they belong to. Here's an idea: TGB reader Annie Lindsay made me aware of this:

CallCongress

Print it out and tape it to your refrigerator. Or make your own. And if you can get to your airport today to join the protesters, do that too.

If not, the phone calls are good. The women's march and this nationwide outpouring a week later? Something big is happening and we elders need to do our part.

One more thing. Let us not ever forget the famous words of Martin Niemoller, a protestant pastor who spent the last seven years(!) of the Nazi regime in concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

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


Done With Self-Improvement

EDITORIAL NOTE: Please take note of a new regular section at the bottom of today's post.

* * *

During most of my adult life, the United States has been big on self-improvement. Thousands of books bear witness to this – such titles as the granddaddy of them all, How to Win Friends and Influence People from the 1930s. You will undoubtedly recognize some of the biggest sellers since then including

Think and Grow Rich
Psycho-Cybernetics
The Power of Positive Thinking
Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
You Can Heal Your Life
The Road Less Traveled
Dress For Success
Your Erroneous Zones
I'm OK, You're OK
The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
Codependence No More
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom

And so on ad infinitum. These self-help classics and thousands of lesser volumes promise that if you just change yourself in one particular way, you will be rich and famous and happy.

Or something like that.

I was never a strong fan of self-help books but there is a lot of pressure in American culture to be working on bettering yourself. Constantly.

It's hard to resist and over the years I did succumb to several personal development books even as I was disappointed at how thin and shallow the advice is.

Whatever change they promised, the result for me - not surprisingly - was some measure of guilt and self-loathing at not being good enough to master the instructions. Not exactly the what I was going for when I picked up the book.

Now that I have reached an age where I ought to be able to skate toward the end, they haven't eased off, these self-help gurus.

There is hardly an elder website worthy of the name that isn't stuffed with articles about how to achieve “positive ageing,” “creative ageing,” “successful ageing,” “better ageing” “purposeful ageing,” and one of my favorites, “how to look younger as you get older.” And much more.

But here's the thing: At 75, I don't need any help to “exercise my mind” or take up “lifelong learning.” I've been doing those things steadily, day by day since before I can remember and I doubt there are many people who can avoid it. By now, I'm not going to “overcome any fears” that I haven't already. And I don't have enough time left to worry about “identifying my blind spots.”

It exhausts me just to even think about doing such things at my age. I'm not saying the self-help industry is a sham but I've learned that there is no secret ingredient, no idea, no revelation that will make you or me a better person.

That comes from inside, from quiet times with ourselves, from living by the values we believe in.

It may have taken me way too long to get to this but no book, no guru, no facile elder webpage about how to age well is going to change me anymore than they did when I was young. I'm done with self-improvement and getting on with living however many years of life remain to me, warts and all.

Old People at Play

* * *

RESISTANCE NOTES:
(So much is happening so quickly in the new administration that even large news organizations are having trouble keeping pace, let alone a little, one-woman website like this. So now and then when the day's topic relates to ageing but I want to pass on some short, resistance-related information, I will post it here at the bottom of the main story. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.)

Here is the first go:

On Wednesday, in his daily email newsletter from Axios, Mike Allen reported on America's latest reading habit:

"'1984 sales soar after Trump claims, alternative facts' per AP: 'First published in 1949, Orwell's classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of newspeak topped the best-seller list of Amazon.com [last] evening...

"Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel about the election of an authoritarian president, It Can't Happen Here, was at No. 46. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was at No. 71. Sales also were up for Hannah Arendt's seminal nonfiction analysis, The Origins of Totalitarianism."

This is terrific, good news. I re-read all four of these books during the election campaign along with Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. They are important instruction manuals for the times we are living in now.


The New President's First Official Act

FIRST, A NOTE FOR INTERNATIONAL TGB READERS: The outpouring of protest at the Saturday Women's March in cities across the U.S. turned out to be much larger than anyone anticipated – certainly me.

USWomensMarchesNYT

And what surprised me most - in the best possible way - is that more millions of people in cities around the world joined the protests.

WomensMarchesWorld

(Both images from The New York Times.)

Something big is happening, it is worldwide and we all need to nourish it, encourage it and keep it moving forward for all the reasons the marchers took to the streets on Saturday.

I mentioned this not long ago but it bears repeating: when necessary and reasonable, Time Goes By will be part of that resistance because our democracy, my democracy (I had no idea I was so patriotic until now) may depend upon it.

First and foremost, this blog has always been about “what it's really like to get old” as it says up there on the banner, and that will never change.

Time Goes By benefits greatly from readers and commenters who live in other countries and I have always been careful to write about ageing in a general sense, for all of us wherever we live.

But by necessity now, sometimes TGB will need to be America-centric to address both threats to all Americans, and to American elders specifically (as today) which other media too often overlook. I apologize to international readers but I don't see any other way for the foreseeable future.

There will still be plenty of good conversation about growing old – just please bear with me while I try to work out a balance.

* * *

FIRST TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER COULD GUT OBAMACARE
On his first day in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (which has the force of law without Congressional approval) that will scale back parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Here is the new press secretary, Sean Spicer, making the announcement to reporters in the White House briefing room:

Well, that certainly was vague while being ominous too. Did you hear the reporters in the room asking, “What does that mean?” as Spicer left the room? Me too.

Before I get to that, let me remind you that there are a few important elements of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – that benefit elders specifically.

There is a full list of ACA Medicare benefits here.

In addition, Obamacare opened Medicaid to low-income adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line in states that opted to expand their Medicaid programs – so far, about 15 million people in 31 states and the District of Columbia have benefited.

What we do not know now is how this first presidential executive order (full text), signed on Friday, will affect Obamacare provisions for Medicare.

Politico calls the order “sweeping” and wrote that it

”...encourages federal agencies to dismantle large parts of Obamacare, possibly including the hugely unpopular mandate requiring most Americans to purchase insurance.

“While only Congress can repeal the law, the nine-paragraph order effectively tells the federal government to take as much leeway as possible to 'ease the burdens' on individuals, states and the health industry.”

The Washington Post offered some additional ideas of what the order may mean:

“'Potentially the biggest effect of this order could be widespread waivers from the individual mandate, which would likely create chaos in the individual insurance market,' said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“In addition, he said, the order suggests that insurers may have new flexibility on the benefits they must provide.

“'This doesn’t grant any new powers to federal agencies, but it sends a clear signal that they should use whatever authority they have to scale back regulations and penalties. The Trump administration is looking to unwind the ACA, not necessarily waiting for Congress,' Levitt said.”

In a bit more detail, The New York Times suggests that the executive order should be seen more as a “mission statement” more than an “edict that can instantly change the law.”

”Mr. Trump has sent a strong signal that he intends to fight the health law...And the order, crucially, notes that agencies can act only 'to the maximum extent permitted by law.' (How the Trump administration interprets those permissions, of course, is yet untested.)

“The order spells out the various ways that a Trump administration might fight the parts of the health law until new legislation comes...Regulations can be changed, but, as the order notes, only through a legal process of 'notice and comment' that can take months or years.

“How much of the order is bluster and how much it signals a set of significant policy changes in the pipeline is unclear. The order was not specific and did not direct any particular actions.”

In other words, the order urges agencies of the federal government to try to destroy Obamacare by chipping away at provisions without actually have to use the word “repeal,” while giving them plenty of time to come up with a replacement.

There is no reason to believe that provisions for Medicare recipients won't be among the ones changed or removed. And there is nothing we can do about it. According to Wikipedia,

”...executive orders are subject to judicial review, and may be struck down if deemed by the courts to be unsupported by statute or the Constitution.”

Unlikely. We will need to use our resistance tools elsewhere.


What are You Doing During Today's Inauguration?

Civil Rights hero John Lewis has been the representative for the state of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1987. He has taken a lot of tweet vitriol from the new president for announcing that he is boycotting today's inauguration.

Me too (along with several dozen additional federal legislators) which, since I live about 3,000 miles from Washington, D.C., just means I will not be watching on television.

In no way is that meant to scorn or disparage the office of the president nor do I believe – even with possible Russian interference in the November election and FBI director James Comey's reprehensible behavior toward Hillary Clinton – that Donald Trump should not be sworn in.

Alternately, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland takes a different view. Yesterday, he told CNN reporter Chris Cuomo that while he believes others should boycott the inauguration if they want, he is attending the because he wants to be a witness to history.

Further, however, he told Cuomo that if the public knew what he and some colleagues had heard in the classified briefings about Russian interference in the election and other information, they might not attend the inauguration themselves. This six-minute exchange is a more informative interview than we usually get on cable television:

Note that Cummings says the information from those classified hearings will come out later.

We, the citizens of the United States, can respect the office of president while generally opposing the man himself – which is the intention of my personal boycott.

To tell the truth, however, I have a long-standing appointment and several errands that will take me away from home today for all but the oath of office so I didn't put a whole lot of thought into my boycott. I would not have missed President Barack Obama's inaugurations for anything; this one doesn't matter to me beyond the fear I feel for the future of our country and for us, the citizens of America.

Besides, what am I really missing. There will be more reporting than anyone needs of the inauguration address and since Trump disavows or changes his mind about everything he says faster than anyone can parse it, it doesn't really matter what he tells the nation today.

Apparently, a lot of people feel as I do about today's event. One website I ran across asked readers how they planned to spend the day, offering these four choices:

Watching the ceremony
Protesting
Avoiding the spectacle
Moving to Canada

I do recall reading news stories about how tens of thousands of Americans, on the day following the election in November, were Googling what is required to immigrate to Canada.

Remember when, a few weeks ago, I posted a Dr. Seuss parody titled How the Trump Stole America written by a North Carolina minister named John Pavlovitz?

He's had some thoughts about what dissenters can do on this inauguration day to resist. Here's the short version:

Serve someone
Financial activism
Get your hands dirty
Reach across a divide
Read
Pray
Reassure your children
Cultivae gratitude
Be visible
Create
Rest

You can read Pavlovitz's full post with explanations of his 11 points at his website.

Resist200Since I am already committed for several hours today, I like the last one in that list for us - for elders - so we can store up a lot of energy for the long resistance we need to undertake starting now.

What are you doing today?



The First Sneak Attack on Medicare, Social Security Has Already Happened

And we didn't even know it.

Social Security Medicare Cards

Remember, back on the morning of 3 January when the new 115th Congress convened, Republicans had already voted in secret the night before to shut down the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)?

And how, when word got out, so many thousands of furious citizens phoned Congress that the House was forced to rescind that clause? Before noon?

It was a jubilant win for the good guys that day but there is more in the new rules package that got lost in the hubbub and celebration:

”Unnoticed by most was an additional provision, which is one part of the Republican game plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare,” writes Nancy Altman at Huffington Post last Saturday...”

This is slightly complicated (as the Republicans intend) but not something we can't understand if we pay attention – and it is crucial that we do.

Start with this from Altman:

Social Security...and Medicare...do not go through the appropriations process because, as monthly pension payments and medical insurance, they must pay what is owed, not what Congress chooses to spend.

“If Social Security and Medicare were subject to the whims of every Congress, they would be radically transformed. No one could count on the benefits they had earned.

For this reason, Social Security and Medicare are unique among most federal agencies and departments whose work can be hobbled and even destroyed with funding cuts during the appropriations process by representatives who don't like those departments.

As Altman explains, Republicans have an almost religious belief that the private sector can do anything better than government can and because Social Security and Medicare bypass the appropriations process, the GOP has hated those two programs from the moment they were each enacted.

So here is what the House Republicans wrote into the new rules package that will be in force for the next two years. Altman again:

“...the new rules require the relevant committees to make 'recommendations for changes to existing law for moving [unspecified] programs...from mandatory funding to discretionary appropriations, where appropriate.'

“Note the vague language,” writes Altman. “Republican politicians understand how popular Social Security and Medicare are.

Yet they desperately want to destroy the programs, which put the lie to their anti-government agenda by illustrating clearly that there are some tasks that the government does much better than the private sector.”

Now, here is the stealth part that the Republicans hope will slip by and/or mystify other politicians, the press and citizens (emphasis mine):

”The solution? Cut and radically transform Social Security and Medicare, but do it in a manner that avoids political accountability.

“Using changes in the arcane [new] rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts fits that bill perfectly.

“By the time the American people realize what's happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past [voted in on 3 January 2017], and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons.”

Representative Tom Price, current chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed other changes to the budget rules which if enacted, says Altman, “would end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.”

Price is the president-elect's nominee to become Secretary of Health and Human Services where he will have direct control of Medicare and Medicaid and will be a trustee of Social Security.

Nancy Altman understands more about Social Security and Medicare and the politics thereof than just about anyone on the planet. She is founding co-director of Social Security Works and and a regular contributor on these issues at Huffington Post.

Along with Josh Marshall and his reporters at Talking Points Memo, she is the foremost defender and topnotch explainer of the sometimes cryptic issues around these programs.

Please read Altman's entire story on the stealth attack at Huffington Post. We need all the education we can get to be articulate enough to effectively resist the upcoming Republican attempts to dismantle these programs.

In some ways, the Republicans in Congress are more dangerous to the American way of life that the president-elect and you can expect additional stealth attacks in almost any area Congress controls. We're all going to be busy for the foreseeable future.


A Delicious TGB Extra

Time Goes By does not usually publish on Tuesday but this is too delicious to hold back especially because it does have a sell-by date - Friday 20 January – after which it is not as rich.

It happened Sunday in Scotland's Sunday Herald newspaper where Damien Love is the television columnist. You will find his review of President Trump: The Inauguration about halfway down the the online listings here.

And this is how it appeared in the print edition's featured highlights:

SundayHeraldTrump

The Twitterverse has had a fine ol' time passing this around and you'll find some commentary on the "preview" at the BBC. A few people object; I think they have no sense of humor - we need to remember to laugh about our predicament now and then, even if darkly.

* * *

FYI: You will find the cabinet nominee hearing schedule for this week here.


How Trump Will Get Anything He Wants From Congress

I believe this is important enough to publish on what is usually an “off day” for Time Goes by.

donald_trump

If you have been following the Republican/Democratic discussion over repealing Obamacare, it has become obvious that it is way too complex to replace the ACA than can be done in a week or two.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday that is what Donald Trump demanded: that Congress repeal Obamacare and replace it “within weeks,” as The New York Times reported.

Further from The Times [emphasis is mine]:

"...[Trump] threatened Democrats who might stand in his way, saying he would campaign against them, especially in states that he won in November.

“'I feel that repeal and replace have to be together,” said Trump “for very simply, I think that the Democrats should want to fix Obamacare. They cannot live with it, and they have to go together...'

“'It may not get approved the first time, and it may not get approved the second time, but the Democrats who will try not to approve it will be at risk, warning that 'they have 10 people coming up' for re-election in 2018. That alluded to Democratic senators in states he won.

“'I won some of those states by numbers that nobody has seen. I will be out there campaigning,' he said.”

That is, campaigning against any Democrat who does not vote in line with Trump.

Is there any precedent for this from a president? Dear god, what have we wrought.


Call To Action Now: Senate Confirmation Hearings This Week

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is much longer than I intended and that's just how it is today. There's more stuff to know these days than my ability, sometimes, to summarize.

* * *

Remember when I told you last week that it was thousands of telephone calls from voters to Congress that forced House Republicans to reverse their decision to trash the Office of Congressional Ethics?

Too many news outlets reported that it was the president-elect's tweet that made the difference. No, it was not. Most members of Congress agree that it was the deluge of constituent phone calls that forced them to backtrack.

Throughout our coming resistance campaigns, do not forget that. Such is the mindset of our Congressional leaders that their number one concern is not the benefit of the country or its people; it is being re-elected next time.

If you are in the D.C. area and can visit your representative(s), go for it – that impresses them more than anything. But second are live phone calls. They work.

* * *

GOP CONFIRMATION BLITZ
Here we go. As mentioned in that Friday post, the Republicans are going to try to snow everyone into inattention by doing so much at once that no one – Democrats, press, the American public – can keep up. As Politico noted last week:

”Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has personally urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not to schedule simultaneous hearings on Trump’s selections, warning that such a move would test the new relationship between the two leaders.

“But the GOP ignored the entreaty by scheduling the attorney general, secretary of state, CIA director, education secretary, homeland security chief and transportation secretary all for the same day.”

That would be Wednesday this week, 11 January and the Republicans, as to be expected these days, ignored Schumer. Here are the nominees whose separate hearings are currently scheduled to be held that day:

Nominees

Actually, Jeff Sessions, who is the most controversial of all the nominees so far, is scheduled for a two-day hearing beginning on Tuesday 10 January and all the other nominees should be scheduled for more than one Senate committee session. At the risk of stating the obvious, just how are citizens expected to follow this bum's rush?

Further, most of the background checks and ethics clearances have not been finished. Bad enough but wait, there's more.

KICKER
Here is the kicker to these multiple hearings: The Republicans, in addition to scheduling hearings of five of the most crucial appointments in one day are getting extra help at confusing the country from the president-elect:

On the same day, 11 January, Donald Trump is holding his first open press conference since July 2016. Now what do you think will lead the news on Wednesday and how much short shrift will these nominees get?

OTHER NOMINEE HEARINGS THIS WEEK
In addition to Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, 10 January: Retired Marine General John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security

Thursday, 12 January
Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce

1. All the schedules are subject to change at Republican whim

2. Do your homework on these nominees. Track down the arguments for and against each one's confirmation

3. You can start that with the short version at this Washington Post page but go further, Google them and see what you learn.

And here is something worth knowing that I've excerpted from a The New York Times report:

”Donald Trump’s transition team and Senate Republicans are determined to railroad several nominees to his cabinet of billionaires and moguls through to confirmation without fully revealing business interests that could disqualify them, say people both inside and outside government who are working on the transition process.

“This is unprecedented, potentially illegal, and the clearest sign yet of Mr. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward criminal laws preventing federal officials from profiting from public service.”

WHAT WE NEED TO DO
So our job this week is to:
Do our homework on these nominees

Follow the hearings as best we can depending on how much attention the press pays as the president-elect's press conference shuck and jive is the shiniest of shiny object this week

Deluge our senators with phone calls about where we stand about each of the nominees

You might throw in how you feel about cramming this many confirmation hearings into one day, especially one when the president-elect holds a press conference

To prepare for your call, use those scripts in the Indivisible Guide and this page under the header “Calling Script” to help write a script in your own words.

Even with as many conflicts of interest there are with nearly every nominee – all of whom are millionaires, billionaires, insiders or highest level military – I expect all, with the possible exception of Jeff Sessions, to be approved.

We are not going to win everything we resist but maintaining democracy is never-ending work and we are as responsible to do our part as every other age group. And it IS relevant to our lives.

Remember that slogan from the Sixties: The personal is the political. My friend Tony Sarmiento sent a link to the Wikipedia page about that for us.

Call your senators before the vote of the full Senate on these nominees. Wednesday is a good day to do it.

* * *

EXTRA: How the Confirmation Process Works
In case you are wondering how the confirmation process works – first of all it is contained in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Appointments Clause which, a different Wikipedia entry explains:

"...empowers the President of the United States to appoint certain public officials with the 'advice and consent' of the U.S. Senate. This clause also allows lower-level officials to be appointed without the advice and consent process."

ABC News provides us with the best, most succinct description of the process I have read:

1. A nomination is given to the relevant Senate committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee, for example, handles the attorney general nomination.

2. That committee can then hold hearings, vote to move the nomination straight to the Senate floor for a vote or not move on it at all (in which case, the committee effectually kills the nomination).

3. After hearings, the committee votes to report a nomination to the full Senate, requiring a simple majority. It may vote to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation. If a committee sits on an appointment, the full Senate may vote to invoke cloture and move the nomination along.

4. If a nomination clears committee, it moves to the Senate floor for a simple majority vote. Filibusters are not an issue here because Democrats changed Senate rules three years ago to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for most nominations. Supreme Court picks are still subject to filibuster.

Certainly I know that I am asking for a lot. Please keep in mind this new government is not business as usual. These appointments are not normal. And "it" CAN happen here. We must each do our part to prevent it.


Things to Do Now to Resist and Protect

The former Congressional staffers who wrote the excellent Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda state unequivocally that, while not dismissing telephone calls, nothing works better than in-person meetings with our representatives in Washington, D.C. and at their state offices and events.

Certainly that is good advice but for us elders, it is often not possible for a variety of reasons. In that case our second best option is phone calls to our reps directed at one specific issue at a time.

An amazing, brand new case in point:

On the first day of the new, 115th Congress on Tuesday, the Republicans, who with their majority, are in charge of the House rules, had voted in secret on Monday evening to change the rules of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

”A rules change,” reported The New York Times, “would have prevented the office...from investigating potentially criminal allegations, allowed lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee to shut down any O.C.E. investigation and, for good measure, gagged the office’s staff members in their dealings with the news media.”

As soon as the news of this got out early Tuesday morning, even before the House members were sworn in, voters throughout the country deluged House members with angry phone calls.

Now here is the important part for you and me and others committed to resistance and protection:

Before noon, House Republican leaders reconvened in the basement of the Capitol and rescinded their changes to the OCE and that happened because of the uproar from ordinary citizens.

It was a humiliating defeat for the Republicans on the first day of the new Congress that was the lead headline Tuesday and Wednesday on every TV news program, internet news website and old-fashioned print newspaper.

Let us not forget that. We elders who don't get out and about much have an important role to play with phone calls and we got our first lesson this week in just how effective it can be. Here's why.

House members and one-third of the Senate will be up for re-election in 2018. From day one in each session, they spend about half their days fundraising for the next campaign and nothing scares them more than angry constituents. (See page 8 of the Indivisible guide for more on this.)

BE PREPARED FOR TO RESIST AND PROTECT
As on Tuesday, votes and other issues can come up quickly in Congress – in fact, the Republicans have planned it that way, to keep public and political opponents hopping and, maybe, confused with one thing following swiftly on the heels of another so they can sneak through bills – like that rule change on Tuesday.

So we need to be prepared to take action on a moment's notice. Here's how to do that: Create a file on your computer with all the information you need to contact your three representatives: two senators, one House member.

Make a section for each one that includes:
Member's Name

Congressional office phone number

District office phone number

Address of nearest district office

Email address, if available. If not, a link to the Congressional webpage where you can send email

List of committees he/she serves on and what position they hold on it. These can be relevant depending on legislation at hand.

Lots of this information and much more about bills and votes can be found at GovTrack

Copy out sample call dialogue scripts to edit as needed for current issues (See page 25 of Indivisible Guide and more scripts at this link under the header “Calling Script”.)

You can find links to your representatives home pages at these two links; it's a good idea to sign up for the newsletters that many members of Congress send out regularly:
Senate Contact Information
House Contact Information

If you don't know who your House representative is, click here to find out via Zip Code.

SOME ADDITIONAL TIPS
Keep this number handy too: 202.224.3121. It is the Capitol switchboard where you can be directed to any of your representatives. Even if you don't know the rep's name, just give the operator your Zip Code and he/she will connect you.

Keep the White House Switchboard number too: 202.456.1414

Subscribe to the Indivisible Guide newsletter. The authors send out regular updates with tips and information on how best to influence your representatives.

Add all your phone numbers to your cell phone so you can easily call from anywhere.

In the computer file you have made for each of your representatives, keep a diary of what you are doing: telephone calls, in-person visits, what you told them and the response you received.

If you think this is a lot of work, listen to what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) said, as was recently reported in Daily Kos:

”Democrats plotting a return from the political wilderness are facing their first big dilemma: how fiercely to fight President-elect Donald Trump.

“Let me answer that for you: Fiercely. In the way that, back in 2010, Elizabeth Warren said she wanted the fight for a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to go: 'plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.'

And President Obama said on Wednesday in his meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill planning their resistance to Republican's promise to repeal Obamacare:

“Treat it like a campaign” and “Look out for the American people.”

A PERSONAL DILEMMA
I believe that America's democratic ideals, Constitution and way of life are at greater risk than at any time since the Civil War. And it is not just from the president-elect. The Republicans are equally dangerous to our country's well being.

For that reason, I will not let up on reporting and urging readers to do whatever is possible to resist and protect the United States. (Thank you, Simone, and all the commenters who agreed to her excellent suggestion for “resist and protect on Monday's post.)

However, I cannot and do not want to neglect the original mandate of TimeGoesBy to explore “what it's really like to get old” and while it is important not to respond to every twitch from Congress or tweet from Trump, sometimes political events will take precedence over ageing.

That notwithstanding, I am wondering about the mix. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have.


We Have Never Seen a Year Like 2017

Capitol-diagram

There are ceremonies tomorrow at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. At noon or thereabouts, the 115th Congress will be sworn in. All the of 435 members of the House of Representatives will take the oath. In the Senate, the newly elected and re-elected one-third will do so. It goes like this:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Would that every member of Congress took that oath seriously. But honestly, when in recorded history have all politicians lived up to their oaths and obligations?

Last Friday, at a lunch I attended, the conversation at my table of six turned to the president-elect. Every one of us expressed fear at what might be coming this year and the concern that we – individually and as “we the people” who are aghast at the terrifying proposals – are up to the sustained effort of resistance that is required.

I like that word “resistance”. It brings to mind the brave members of the World War II underground in the occupied countries. At their start, it took awhile to get organized but over time, the resistance forces grew in size and number and were amazingly effective against an overwhelming war machine.

With the entire federal government now held by a Republican majority, that is how we need to operate – to resist in every manner we can imagine and create.

Resist200By the way, I have ordered my “Resist!” teeshirt. I'm not saying you should do that too – at $40 it's expensive – but if you are interested, it supports Think Progress, an important and well-established progressive institution that will certainly be of help in the coming months and years.

Between the new executive administration and the Republican Congress – both so full of themselves - it won't be easy keeping up with number of outrageous changes they will throw our way: environmental, nuclear, border walls, taxes, deportation, public education, poverty, Wall Street de-regulation and of course, what they like to falsely call “entitlements”.

In fact, according to Robert Pear in The New York Times a couple of days ago:

”Within hours of the new Congress convening on Tuesday, the House plans to adopt a package of rules to clear the way for repealing the health care law and replacing it with as-yet-unspecified measures meant to help people obtain insurance coverage.

“Then, in the week of Jan. 9, according to a likely timetable sketched out by Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, the House will vote on a budget blueprint, which is expected to call for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.”

These are procedural moves and neither repeals Obamacare (yet) so I don't want to waste our ammunition by asking us to call our Congress members yet. But you see what it's going to be like - one damned move after another and we will need to be alert to keep up.

No single person, website, political organization can handle all the issues Congress and the Trump administration with throw out way and because the focus of the this website has always been ageing and elders, TimeGoesBy will target and resist the already announced threats to repeal, privatize and/or voucherize Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and Social Security.

Right now, there is an explosion of resistance plans on the internet from old and new organizations. So far, they are scatter shooting their resources, each with individual plans for this march, that petition, those visits with representatives and various other public events as they request donations from you and me.

And god bless them. We, America, need every protester and resister we can mobilize but what I'm looking and watching for is are two or three well-organized coalitions where people like us with targeted concerns can share resources and support one another as events from Washington require us to speak out and to act.

Here's what worries me (not counting the frightening assault on our institutions): my energy. I will be 76 in a couple of months and in the past year I have felt more acutely than ever before how much my stamina waxes and wanes from day to day and how much I need to pace myself.

Tiring more easily is a fact of ageing life and I'm working to devise a good plan to keep going in what will be a completely unpredictable 2017. We're facing a frightening new world and we must do our part even if our physical gusto isn't quite what it was in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of links you can set aside to use for the coming campaign:

Indivisible: The Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda that we have discussed here before

List of the freshmen members of Congress



Inspiration for Our Resistance in 2017

...or, How His Excellency * Stole America.

As I explained on Wednesday, I had been down with a virus since last Friday. I'm much better now – you could even say I'm well. But one of the hardest lessons of my old age is that it takes much longer to recover from a setback than when I was young.

Now, at last, I have learned this truth and am giving myself time to get up to speed again. Hence, another post today on which I don't need to expend a lot of effort.

This comes from TGB reader Richard Hannigan who says he received it from a friend. It is a poem titled How the Trump Stole America, written by one John Pavlovitz who is a minister at the North Raleigh Community Church in North Carolina. He has a personal website here.

JohnPavlovitz250As Richard pointed out in his email to me, given where Mr. Pavlovitz lives and works, making this poem public takes a lot of courage and so it does. But I also see it as an inspiration for our coming work to resist “his excellency” and the Republican Party in the new year.

Here then, as our quadrennial interregnum proceeds on course, is John Pavlovitz's How the Trump Stole America with as he says, “many apologies to Dr. Seuss”.

In a land where the states are united, they claim,
in a sky-scraping tower adorned with his name,
lived a terrible, horrible, devious chump,
the bright orange miscreant known as the Trump.
This Trump he was mean, such a mean little man,
with the tiniest heart and two tinier hands,
and a thin set of lips etched in permanent curl,
and a sneer and a scowl and contempt for the world.

He looked down from his perch and he grinned ear to ear,
and he thought, “I could steal the election this year!
It’d be rather simple, it’s so easily won,
I’ll just make them believe that their best days are done!
Yes, I’ll make them believe that it’s all gone to Hell,
and I’ll be Jerk Messiah and their souls they will sell.
And I’ll use lots of words disconnected from truth,
but I’ll say them with style so they won’t ask for proof.
I’ll toss out random platitudes, phrases, and such,
They’re so raised on fake news that it won’t matter much!
They won’t question the how to, the what, why, or when,
I will make their America great once again!”

The Trump told them to fear, they should fear he would say,
“They’ve all come for your jobs, they’ll all take them away.
You should fear every Muslim and Mexican too,
every brown, black, and tan one, everyone who votes blue.”
And he fooled all the Christians, he fooled them indeed,
He just trotted out Jesus, that’s all Jesus folk need.
And celebrity preachers they all crowned him as king,
Tripping over themselves just to kiss the Trump’s ring.
And he spoke only lies just as if they were true,
Until they believed all of those lies were true too.
He repeated and Tweeted and he blustered and spit,
And he mislead and fibbed—and he just made up sh*t.
And the media laughed but they printed each line,
thinking “He’ll never will win, in the end we’ll be fine.”

So they chased every headline, bold typed every claim,
‘Till the fake news and real news they looked just the same.
And the scared folk who listened, they devoured each word,
Yes, they ate it all up every word that they heard,
petrified that their freedom was under attack,
trusting Trump he would take their America back.
From the gays and from ISIS, he’d take it all back,
Take it back from the Democrats, fat cats, and blacks.
And so hook, line, and sinker they all took the bait,
all his lies about making America great.

Now the Pant-suited One she was smart and prepared,
she was brilliant and steady but none of them cared,
no they cared not to see all the work that she’d done,
or the fact they the Trump had not yet done thing one.

They could only shout “Emails!”, yes “Emails!” they’d shout,
because Fox News had told them—and Fox News had clout.
And the Pant-suited One she was slandered no end,
and a lie became truth she could never defend.
And the Trump watched it all go according to plan—
a strong woman eclipsed by an insecure man.

And November the 8th arrived, finally it came,
like a slow-moving storm but it came just the same.
And Tuesday became Wednesday as those days will do,
And the night turned to morning and the nightmare came true,
With millions of non-voters still in their beds,
Yes, the Trump he had done it, just like he had said.
And the Trumpers they trumped, how they trumped when he won,

All the racists and bigots; deplorable ones,
they crawled out from the woodwork, came out to raise Hell,
they came out to be hateful and hurtful as well.
With slurs and with road signs, with spray paint and Tweets,
with death threats to neighbors and taunts on the street.
And the grossest of grossness they hurled on their peers,
while the Trump he said zilch—for the first time in years.

But he Tweeted at Hamilton, he Tweeted the Times,
And he trolled Alec Baldwin a few hundred times,
and he pouted a pout like a petulant kid,
thinking this is what Presidents actually did,
thinking he could still be a perpetual jerk,
terrified to learn he had to actually work,
work for every American, not just for a few,
not just for the white ones—there was much more to do.

He now worked for the Muslims and Mexicans too,
for the brown, black, and tan ones, and the ones who vote blue.
They were all now his bosses, now they all had a say,
and those nasty pant-suited ones were here to stay.

And the Trump he soon realized that he didn’t win,
He had gotten the thing—and the thing now had him.
And it turned out the Trump was a little too late,
for America was already more than quite great,
not because of the sameness, the opposite’s true,
It’s greatness far more than just red, white, and blue,
It’s straight, gay, and female—it’s Gentile and Jew,
It’s Transgender and Christian and Atheist too.
It’s Asians, Caucasians of every kind,
The disabled and abled, the deaf and the blind,
It’s immigrants, Muslims, and brave refugees,
It’s Liberals with bleeding hearts fixed to their sleeves.
And we are all staying, we’re staying right here,
and we’ll be the great bane of the Trump for four years.
And we’ll be twice as loud as the loudness of hate,
be the greatness that makes our America great.
And the Trump’s loudest boasts they won’t ever obscure,
over two million more of us - voted for her.