The Trump Administration and Moderate and Low Income Americans

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I wrote in the past about how the Trump administration negatively affects the poor. We have more details about the administration’s actions. There will be significant cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget. Lorraine Woellert with Politico writes:

In all, the request cuts funding by some $6 billion for fiscal year 2018, to about $40 billion. The draft, dated May 4, might not reflect the administration’s final spending request, which is expected next week. A HUD spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

The document puts increased responsibility on state and local governments and calls for the private sector to do more to meet community needs, a key goal of HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

The budget “recognizes a greater role for state and local governments and the private sector in addressing community development and affordable housing needs,” the document states.

Skeptics say some of those programs exist precisely because private money hasn’t stepped up.

“Private companies won’t build water and sewer; they expect the cities and counties and states to provide this infrastructure,” said Matt Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties.

“They’ve taken the Heritage Foundation budget, and we’re trying to educate them on the real-world impact,” Chase said. “This is no longer a think tank exercise.”

The biggest cut would eliminate the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, a state and local entitlement that benefits low- and moderate-income communities. The grants support a range of economic development projects, including roads, sewers and housing.

The administration actually thinks the private sector will attend to the needs of these communities. Cuts of this magnitude will shift the financial burden to state and local municipalities. A more likely outcome will be that these areas will be neglected in the areas impacted by the monetary loss. That’s not all:

Rental assistance to tenants would fall by $974 million, to $19.3 billion, with the elimination of a housing program for veterans and reduced spending on Section 8 and other voucher programs. Capital funding for public housing would fall by two-thirds.

I wonder how much monetary loss the rich has experienced during this administration.

Where are we Regarding the Trump Administration Collusion Investigation?

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There are three investigations on possible Trump-Russia collusion. Vox summarizes:

• First, the intertwined Justice Department investigation, now led by a special counsel, into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and, reportedly, the possible cover-up.
• Second, the investigations led by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are broadly looking at Russian intervention in the 2016 election.
• Third, the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have been looking into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s conduct specifically — and have recently expanded their inquiry to the circumstances surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s firing.

The most potent case against Trump is obstruction of justice. Legal scholars are divided over this issue, but a plausible case can be made for obstruction. ABC News queried a number of legal experts and the interviews yielded mixed results:

What is obstruction of justice?

Obstruction of justice is a federal crime in which someone “corruptly” attempts to “influence, obstruct or impede” the “due and proper administration of the law” in a pending proceeding, as stated in 18 U.S.Code § 1505.

“Corruptly” is defined in an accompanying section, 18 U.S.Code § 1515 (b), as “acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or other information.”
Liza Goitein, a former trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice who currently co-directs the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, put the statute in simpler terms.

“To boil this down, if the president corruptly attempted to influence the due administration of justice, that is obstruction of justice under the statute,” Goitein told ABC News. “This is an incredibly serious offense.”

If the description of Comey’s memo is accurate, does it detail actions that meet the definition of obstruction of justice?

Some legal experts say “yes.”

“This looks very much like obstruction of justice,” Goitein told ABC News. “It’s hard to reach a different conclusion. It is certainly possible that he incorrectly remembered the conversation or misrepresented it. But there’s no reason to think that’s the case.”

David Shapiro, a former FBI special agent and now an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told ABC News, “It’s hard to view this as anything other than obstruction of justice.”

Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, told ABC News that if Comey’s memo is accurately reported, then he believes it describes “an impeachable attempt to obstruct justice.”

John Lauro, a defense attorney with the Lauro Law Firm based in Tampa and New York City, told ABC News it remains unclear whether Trump obstructed justice.

“It depends on the evidence, which right now amounts to triple and quadruple hearsay,” Lauro said. “If Comey felt there was obstruction he would have been obligated to advise the Attorney General and formally open an investigation, none of which appears to have happened.”

David McIntosh, a lawyer and former congressman who is now the co-founder of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., defended Trump, saying the president “acted appropriately” if he was providing guidance to Comey on the investigation.

“It is important for us to step back and remember that, under the Constitution, the president has the authority and power to enforce the laws,” McIntosh said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “The FBI director reports to the president and it is the president’s decision to delegate authority on investigations. In delegating that authority, presidents have wisely chosen to insulate the FBI from political interference. But the president still has the power and authority to direct the FBI how to do their job.”

The reader should note that this article was written on May 17th, before a major revelation by the New York Times. According to a White House document made available to the New York Times:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

This is strong evidence that Trump fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. Trump believed he took pressure off himself by firing James Comey.

Here is what 18 U.S.Code § 1505 says:

Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

Here is my charge based on this law:

Charge: Donald Trump is guilty of corruptly forcing (by firing), obstructing, influencing, obstructing, and impeding the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency (FBI) of the United States.

Donald Trump has broken the law.

Waterboarding: A Tortured Illegality (Part 4)

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Waterboarding and the Military

A point that gets overlooked in these debates concerns how members of the military are instructed on these matters. Military members are forbidden from engaging in torture and waterboarding because it is explicitly deemed a form of torture.

Lieutenant Colonel Shane R. Reeves is a member of the Army and an Associate Professor and the Deputy Head of the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. Lt. Col. Reeves is quite instructive on this matter and I will quote him extensively:

…[T]he UCMJ articles make clear that obedience is only required for lawful orders. Patently or manifestly illegal orders impose no duty of obedience on the service member and instead mandate disobedience. In fact, a service member who obeys an illegal order is individually culpable for the crime and cannot later assert “following orders” as a defense. This would seem to put service members in the difficult position of being both expected to follow orders and also accountable if an order happens to be criminal. However, in practice, manifestly illegal orders are not difficult to discern. A manifestly illegal order is, as the Israeli Supreme Court stated in the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, unlawful not “only to the eyes of legal experts, but a flagrant and manifest breach of the law,” that appears “on the face of the order itself.” As a practical matter, service members are expected to clarify any questionable orders and, if a superior continues to demand obviously illegal action, report the circumstances to higher authorities.

Service members are, therefore, both released from their duty to obey a manifestly illegal order and also expected to refuse to participate in patently criminal conduct. Examples of manifestly illegal orders would include an order to murder civilians, to willfully cause great suffering or serious bodily injury to a prisoner of war, or to conduct medical experimentation on a protected person, to name a few. And without question this list includes any order to commit torture. The Law of Armed Conflict unequivocally forbids torture without exception and makes its use a grave breach under both conventional and customary international law. Further, under international human rights law the commission of torture is patently unlawful in any circumstance. Department of Defense Directive 2311.01E invalidates any arguments that there are U.S. military operations not regulated by international law, which therefore could theoretically allow for torture. That directive, which created the Department of Defense Law of War Program, expressly states “members of the DoD Components comply with the law of war during all armed conflicts, however such conflicts are characterized, and in all other military operations” making the prohibition on torture absolute.

Indisputably, a service member is required to disobey an order to commit torture, because such an order is manifestly illegal. But what about those who claim, based on a continued reliance on flawed justifications, that waterboarding and techniques are not torture? Fortunately, even these absurd and disingenuous end-arounds on the prohibition on torture are addressed and invalidated. The manual regulating interrogation for the armed forces, Field Manual (FM) 2-22.3, expressly prohibits waterboarding, conducting mock executions, inducing hypothermia or heat injury, as well as many other actions. The McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act enshrines in congressional legislation the requirement for military members to only use the interrogation techniques found in the manual making waterboarding and other similar techniques obviously illegal. (emphasis mine)

Here is what Army Field Manual (FM) 2-22.3 says on page 5-20-5-21:

5-74. All captured or detained personnel, regardless of status, shall be treated humanely, and in accordance with the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and DOD Directive 2310.1E, “Department of Defense Detainee Program,” and no person in the custody or under the control of DOD, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, in accordance with and as defined in US law. All intelligence interrogations, debriefings, or tactical questioning to gain intelligence from captured or detained personnel shall be conducted in accordance with applicable law and policy. Applicable law and policy include US law; the law of war; relevant international law; relevant directives including DOD Directive 3115.09, “DOD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning”; DOD Directive 2310.1E, “The Department of Defense Detainee Program”; DOD instructions; and military execute orders including FRAGOs. Use of torture is not only illegal but also it is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the HUMINT collector wants to hear. Use of torture can also have many possible negative consequences at national and international levels.

Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment Prohibited
All prisoners and detainees, regardless of status, will be treated humanely. Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 defines “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” as the cruel unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This definition refers to an extensive body of law developed by the courts of the United States to determine when, under various circumstances, treatment of individuals would be inconsistent with American constitutional standards related to concepts of dignity, civilization, humanity, decency and fundamental fairness. All DOD procedures for treatment of prisoners and detainees have been reviewed and are consistent with these standards, as well as our obligations under international law as interpreted by the United States.1 Questions about applications not resolved in the field by reference to DOD publications, must be forwarded to higher headquarters for legal review and specific approval by the appropriate authority before application. The following actions will not be approved and cannot be condoned in any circumstances: forcing an individual to perform or simulate sexual acts or to pose in a sexual manner; exposing an individual to outrageously lewd and sexually provocative behavior; intentionally damaging or destroying an individual’s religious articles.
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1 Nothing in this enclosure should be understood to affect the U.S. obligations under the law of war.

5-75. If used in conjunction with intelligence interrogations, prohibited actions include, but are not limited to—
• Forcing the detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner.
• Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee; using duct tape over the eyes.
• Applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain.
• “Waterboarding.”
• Using military working dogs.
• Inducing hypothermia or heat injury.
• Conducting mock executions.
• Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care

Lt. Col. Reeves argues in no uncertain terms that waterboarding is a form of torture and that they are both illegal. In fact, military members are expected to disobey an order to torture or waterboard anyone.

Waterboarding: A Tortured Illegality (Part 3)

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Let’s return to our series on waterboarding. You should read parts 1 and 2 before reading this post.  

Is Waterboarding Torture? Is Waterboarding Legal?

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity Donald Trump said, “I mean, torture is real torture, OK? Waterboarding is — I’m sure it’s not pleasant, but waterboarding was just short of torture.”

Is Donald Trump right?

In 2002 a memo signed, and written by Jay Bybee, former Assistant Attorney General, to then- White House Counsel to the President Alberto Gonzales. Most believe the memo was written by John Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The memo was an attempt to clarify the standards of conduct under the UN Convention Against Torture.

According to this letter, a pain must rise to a level that would “ordinarily be associated with a sufficiently serious physical condition or injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions” in order to qualify as torture.

Is it Torture or Not?

An open letter was sent to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urging him to condemn the use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding. This letter was signed by 100 professors of law. A relevant portion of the letter says:

Waterboarding is torture. It causes severe physical suffering in the form of reflexive choking, gagging, and the feeling of suffocation. It may cause severe pain in some cases. If uninterrupted, waterboarding will cause death by suffocation. It is also foreseeable that waterboarding, by producing an experience of drowning, will cause severe mental pain and suffering. The technique is a form of mock execution by suffocation with water. The process incapacitates the victim from drawing breath, and causes panic, distress, and terror of imminent death. Many victims of waterboarding suffer prolonged mental harm for years and even decades afterward.

Waterboarding involves a number of forbidden activities. Let’s parse out the legally applicable areas here:

1. Severe Physical Suffering (This element is in violation of: Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and 18 U.S. Code § 2340)
2. Severe Mental Pain (This element is in violation of: Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 18 U.S. Code § 2340)

These are not the only areas of illegality. The letter goes on to say:

Waterboarding, when used against people captured in the context of war, may also amount to a war crime as defined under the federal war crimes statute 18 U.S.C. § 2441, which criminalizes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (in international armed conflicts), and violations of Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions (in non-international armed conflicts). Waterboarding is also an assault, and thus violates the federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. § 113, when it occurs in the “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” a jurisdictional area which includes government installations overseas. In cases involving the U.S. armed forces, waterboarding also amounts to assault, and cruelty and maltreatment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If these legal scholars are right, waterboarding is caught in a web of illegalities.

The Comey Firing: The Crucial Link and Possible Impeachment

 

 

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Some of my readers expressed skepticism about my suggestion that Comey was fired because Donald Trump wants to halt the Russia investigation. I have talked to friends on the phone that objected to this thesis. We don’t need to speculate any longer thanks to our aggressive press core. Donald Trump was interviewed by Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News and he said: “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, [fire James Comey] I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” Note the highlighted area. Trump links the firing of James Comey with “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.”

The Trump Dismissal Letter

We were tipped off to Trump’s true motive for firing Comey when he released his letter of dismissal. The second paragraph of the letter says, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

The initial narrative given by the White House suggested that the chain of events that lead to Comey’s termination was initiated by a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I was suspicious of this line, in part, because of the curious sentence of the dismissal letter quoted above. What does the Russia investigation have to do with how Clinton was treated during the campaign?

Obstruction of Justice

I also suggested that Trump may be guilty of obstruction of justice in my last post. I would like to defend that claim here.

William Yeomans is a Fellow in Law and Government at American University Law School. Yeomans succinctly describes the conditions that must be met for a legal declaration of obstruction in an article he wrote for The Hill:

Obstruction of justice is both a federal crime and a well-established ground for impeachment. Under federal statutes, it is a crime to act with the specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial or congressional proceeding, or a proceeding before a federal agency (such as an investigation). The proceeding must be pending at the time of the conduct and the defendant must know it.

Obstruction requires:

1. Action with specific intent
2. Interference with a judicial or congressional proceeding, or a proceeding before a federal agency (such as an investigation)
3. The investigation must be pending at the time of the act of interference
4. The actor must know they are interfering with a federal proceeding

These elements overlap, but the actions are clear. Trump seems to have fulfilled all of these requirements. He committed the act of firing in order to halt the FBI’s investigation into the “Russia thing with Trump and Russia.”

Let’s quote him again and insert the relevant elements:

“And, in fact, when I decided to [Element 1] just do it, [fire James Comey] [ Element 2] I said to myself, I said: ‘You know,[Element 1] this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

It is obvious that the investigation is ongoing because James Comey testified to it and that Trump knew about it, thus fulfilling elements 3 and 4.

Bombshell Insight into the Firing of James Comey

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I know we started a series that we haven’t finished, but so much has happened that we will have to finish it next week.

The Washington Post has done an excellent job of investigative journalism since the Trump administration began. I’m sure there have been factual missteps along the way, but they are crucial to uncovering the twists and turns of the various Trump scandals.

They just released a bombshell report within the last 24 hours. The piece  pulls the curtain on the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Washington Post relied on 30 sources in “the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants” for this report. No doubt, the authors are exercising an abundance of caution on this sensitive issue.

This story begins with Trump’s frustration with James Comey:

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia.

Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment, and was infuriated by what he viewed as the director’s lack of action in recent weeks on leaks from within the federal government. By last weekend, he had made up his mind: Comey had to go.

Trump decided to take action against Comey Monday morning:

Back at work Monday morning in Washington, Trump told Vice President Pence and several senior aides — Reince Priebus, Stephen K. Bannon and Donald McGahn, among others — that he was ready to move on Comey. First, though, he wanted to talk with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his trusted confidant, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, to whom Comey reported directly. Trump summoned the two of them to the White House for a meeting, according to a person close to the White House.

The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to this person. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.

This paragraph contradicts the White House narrative that Donald Trump passively accepted the letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

What are the reasons for Comey’s dismissal? The piece continues:

Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

To review, Trump fired Comey because he:

1. Did not go along with Trump’s evidence-free claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama
2. Announced he was conducting a broad investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion on the part of the Trump campaign
3. Was not giving enough attention to the source of the leaks to journalists

The firing of James Comey was not the result of reasoned reflection on his job performance. It was a political hit job on a man who was performing actions Trump despised.

There is more to the story, but this gives you a taste of the contents of this article. It would be imprudent to rely on one news source, so we will wait to see what other news outlets say on the matter. If this is true, it is a legal ticking time bomb. Donald Trump may be guilty of obstruction of justice.

In the meantime, read it for yourself and marvel at the alleged corruption.

All highlighted words were done by the author of this blog.

Republican Killer Success: Preexisting Conditions under Trumpcare (Part B)

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We said in our last post that Trumpcare will allow insurers to raise premiums on those with preexisting conditions. The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare prohibits exclusions for preexisting conditions (see Subtitle C – Quality Health Insurance Coverage for All Americans, Subpart I, pg 45 of the ACA).

The relevant section of the Republican Health Care law that deals with preexisting conditions is the so-called MacArthur Amendment. States are allowed to seek waivers for the “essential health benefits” mentioned in our previous blog entry. The essential health benefits waiver provision is provided in section B on page 2 of the MacArthur Amendment.

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Republican politicians will be quick to point out that Section 137, (b) explicitly says, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.” Section 137 is on page 7 of the MacArthur Amendment. Insofar as I can see, section 137 is a restriction on health insurance issuers, not states. To be clear, states are allowed to apply for, and obtain waivers that excuse them from providing essential health benefits in the ACA. Remember, section B, the section that allows states to obtain a waiver for the essential health benefits of the ACA, falls under section 136. The heading for section 136 is “Permitting States to Waive Certain ACA Requirements to Encourage Fair Health Insurance Premiums.” A state can allow insurance companies to be exempt from providing the ten benefits we itemized in our previous blog post if it thinks it will “encourage fair health insurance premiums.” What is a fair health insurance premium?

Digression: Note the difference you experience on this blog. We point to the law itself so that you can gain direct knowledge of relevant legislative actions.

According to CNN:

The Affordable Care Act that rolled out under President Barack Obama mandated that insurers charge everyone the same amount, regardless of their health history, and that they cover essential health benefits, such as prescription drugs, hospitalization and doctors’ visits.

The Trump administration’s American Health Care Act — which squeaked through in the House on Thursday but must still be voted on by the Senate — will allow insurance companies to raise prices for those with pre-existing conditions and to not guarantee that treatments are covered.

And the LA Times puts it succinctly:

A key focus of the GOP has been a provision of the Affordable Care Act that people with preexisting conditions not be discriminated against in any way by health insurers. Prior to Obamacare, insurers could deny coverage to such people or charge premiums beyond most people’s ability to pay.

The MacArthur Amendment would empower states to waive protections for those with preexisting conditions as long as they come up with some alternative way of making insurance available.

The catch, however, is that the amendment would not require insurers to charge the same rates that healthy people enjoy. That’s why the likes of the American Medical Assn. and AARP have warned that, under the Republican plan, sick people could face rates so high that they’d be unaffordable for any but the wealthy.

Here is a list of preexisting conditions that led to higher premiums in the past:

1. ADD/ADHA
2. Acne
3. Alcohol Addiction/Abuse
4. Anxiety
5. Alheimer’s
6. Asthma
7. C-Section
8. Cancer
9. Congestive Heart Failre
10. Crohn’s Disease
11. Cerebral Palsy (infantile)
12. Cystic Fibrosis
13. Diabetes
14. Domestic Violence Survivor
15. Depression
16. Drug Addiction/Abuse
17. Eating Disorders
18. Eczema
19. Epilepsy
20. Menstrual irregularities
21. HIV/AIDS
22. Heart Attack
23. Infertility
24. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
25. Kidney Disease
26. Leukemia
27. Lupus
28. Mental Disorders
29. Muscular Dystrophy
30. Obesity
31. Organ Transplant
32. Pacemaker
33. Parkinson’s Disease
34. Pending Surgery
35. Postpartum Depression
36. Pregnancy
37. Rape Survivor
38. Sleep Apnea
39. Stroke
40. Transgenderism
41. Tuberculosis

I want to make my closing point with precision. Trumpcare does not allow insures to deny coverage for things like rape, pregnancy, or anything else on this list. The bill does allow for people with preexisting conditions to be placed in high risk pools that could lead to prohibitively high premiums.

Here’s how CBS News puts it:

This bill, unlike the GOP’s first failed attempt to pass a bill to replace Obamacare, also has the support of the conservative Freedom Caucus. But does it guarantee coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, as Mr. Trump and the bill itself say?

Under the new Republican bill, states have the ability to apply for three different waivers from regulations under Obamacare if they can prove that doing so will reduce average premiums, increase enrollment, stabilize the health insurance coverage market or increase the choice of health plans in the state. One of those waivers applies to pre-existing conditions, allowing insurers to use “health status” — that is, current health, health history and other risk factors — to set insurance premiums.

While the MacArthur Amendment expressly forbids insurers from turning down people with pre-existing conditions, they could, based on your health status, “offer you a policy that could end up charging you thousands,” said Karen Pollitz, Senior Fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Do you or someone you know have any of these preexisting conditions?

Republican Health Care: A Killer Success (Part A)

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We interrupt our current series to bring you an analysis of the latest bill passed by the House of Representatives. 

Today is a historic day. House Republicans voted to repeal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Please note that this blog post is not a defense of the ACA, it is an evaluation of the House Republican bill.

What will this bill accomplish?

Let’s list the pros and cons:

Pros

1. It preserves the provision to allow children to remain on their parent’s health insurance until they reach the age of 26.

Cons

1. It will drastically reduce the subsidies provided to help lower-middle class and lower income workers purchase insurance.
2. Reduce Medicaid Expansion: I want to highlight a little known fact about Medicaid. There are provisions in Medicaid that have a significant impact on children with disabilities. Medicaid helps school districts pay for special education services and equipment. This monetary aid helps pay for physical therapists and feeding tubes. Children are also given vision and hearing screenings through Medicaid. The new law cuts Medicaid by $880 billion over the next ten years. A survey was taken in January of this year of nearly 1,000 school districts, 70% said they use money from Medicaid to pay the salaries of health care professionals who assist special education students. What provision in the Republican Health Care Bill will offset these costs?

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3. As many as 24 million people will either loose or elect to give up their health insurance.
4. The bill will effectively end the ban on discriminating on those with pre-existing conditions by subjecting sick people to higher costs.
5. The bill will place the sickest people in high risk pools. We have seen on this blog that this measure doesn’t work. High risk pools were tried in 36 states. Premiums in high risk pools were 150 to 200% higher than the rest of the market.
6. State’s Costs: According to TIME magazine , “in 2011, net losses for 25 state high-risk pools were over $1.2 billion for just 225,000 nationwide enrollees.”
7. Long Wait Times for Care: We also pointed out there are long waiting lists for patients. Some even died while waiting. People will die. Some 27% of people in the individual market had preexisting conditions that barred them from being covered before the ACA was enacted.
8. Employer Based Health Insurance: Don’t think you’re shielded from the bill’s negative effects because you have employer based health insurance. The Affordable Care Act allows large employers to choose which state insurance regulations they want to abide by. The ACA preserved consistency across states by imposing 10 “essential health benefits” that all health plans must provide. These essential benefits include:

• Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital
• Emergency services
• Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
• Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care (both before and after birth)
• Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
• Prescription drugs
• Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
• Laboratory services
• Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
• Pediatric services, including oral and vision care (but adult dental and vision coverage aren’t essential health benefits)

The Republican bill allows entire states to get waivers from regulations like the essential health benefit requirement. This means a large employer can choose to abide by the regulations of a wavier state and fail to provide the aforementioned benefits.

If this is not enough, the bill will significantly help the rich by:

1. Eliminating the Medicare Surtax on Wages
2. Scraping the Medicare tax on investments
3. Establish more generous tax-advantaged accounts for health expenses
4. Give people who earn up to $215,000 ($290,000 if married) help for paying for insurance

Republicans were able to sway doubting members of their party by providing $8 billion to high risk pools. They need to add $192 billion in order for high risk pools to have a chance to work. Here is the killer caveat: States that have waivers to opt out of protections under Obamacare are not required to set up high risk pools!

The Republican Party is not a pro-life party. It is a party that prizes profit over death. Trump voters will suffer and perhaps die because of Donald Trump and his 217 House co-conspirators. This bill will leave dead bodies and underserved special education children in its wake.

Waterboarding: A Tortured Illegality (Part 2)

 

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Is Torture Legal?

Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment says:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 says:

(a) In General.—No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

(b) Construction.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any geographical limitation on the applicability of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under this section.

(c) Limitation on Supersedure.—The provisions of this section shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section.

(d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.—In this section, the term “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.

18 U.S. Code § 2340 says:

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

The Detainee Treatment Act binds citizens to adhere to the UN Convention against torture. So, it is clear that US citizens are not allowed to engage in torture at any time or place.

Click here for part 3, the next post in this series. 

Waterboarding: A Tortured Illegality (Part 1)

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Here is what Donald Trump said on the campaign trail:

I happen to think that when you’re fighting an enemy that chops off heads, I happen to think that we should use something that’s stronger than we have right now. Right now, basically, waterboarding is essentially not allowed, as I understand it. … I would certainly like it to be, at a minimum, at a minimum to allow that.

In this blog series we will investigate the legality of waterboarding. I embark on this investigation in anticipation of future debate on torture and waterboarding.

Let’s begin by defining the central term.

What is waterboarding?

Waterboarding is a procedure where a person is bound to an inclined platform. A cloth is placed over their face and water is poured over the person’s face. This procedure makes the person feel their lungs are filling with water and they are drowning.