How the GOP sold your privacy …

There is no privacy thanks to the Republicans ...

When you make a voice call on your smartphone, the information is protected: Your phone company can’t sell the fact that you are calling car dealerships to others who want to sell you a car. But if the same device and the same network are used to contact car dealers through the internet, that information — the same information, in fact — can be captured and sold by the network. To add insult to injury, you pay the network a monthly fee for the privilege of having your information sold to the highest bidder.

Read more here.

We’ve known for a long time that we have little privacy online; that there are powerful forces determined to make a profit off of your private information. Up until now, however, their right to do so was being contested.

But now things have changed. Now those forces control all three branches of the U.S. government and are determined to take advantage of that by having the government back their plans unequivocally.

Is there anything you can do to protect yourself online?

Not a lot, but you can find a few suggestions here and here. You can also remember who did this to you.

It was the Republican Party.

Weekly Toon …

And here we thought Obamacare was in a death spiral ...

Our toon this week comes from Mike Peters, perhaps best known for his comic strip Grimmy. Peters is also a Pulitizer-prize winning editorial cartoonist for the Dayton Daily News and you can find more of his editorial work here.

It may have been a bitter personal defeat for Paul Ryan, The Flimflam Man, but whether the decision of House Republicans to pull their so-called healthcare bill will prove to be a good or bad thing for the rest of us remains to be seen.

Certainly the passage of the bill would have been a very bad thing indeed. It would have left 24 million more Americans uninsured within a decade, 14 million next year alone. It would have raised deductibles for millions more — and the savings would’ve gone to pay for tax cuts for millionaires.

It broke Donald Trump’s campaign promises, “insurance for everybody” among others, and was opposed by nearly every serious conservative health care analyst. As David Brooks put it: “It was written by elites to serve the needs of elites.”

But Paul Ryan was having none of it. What Ryan said after the bill was withdrawn on Friday was that “I’m really proud of the bill we produced. It would make a dramatic improvement in our health care system.”

Really, Paul? Ayn Rand would be so proud of her mean-spirited little acolyte!

It was a bad bill and it kept getting worse and more cynical as Ryan made one concession after another trying to round up the votes to pass it. By the end, even the deficit reduction Ryan touted had been cut in half without reducing the number of people who would have lost their insurance.

Like I said, however, what happens now remains to be seen. No one ever claimed that the Affordable Care Act is perfect. There are problems that need to be fixed and could be fixed if Republicans are prepared to work with Democrats to do so.

That’s the course being recommended by the Washington Post. Alternatively, the Republicans may use what happened as an excuse to actively subvert and undermine the Affordable Care Act.

Sadly, there’s already evidence that’s what they have in store for the program. The Trump administration has already taken several measures certain to depress enrollment in Obamacare, which is exactly the opposite pf what needs to happen for success.

The White House also issued an executive order and took other actions that strongly implied it would no longer enforce the “individual mandate” requiring people to sign up for coverage, a provision designed to get younger people to enroll in order to help spread the risk health insurers face across a wider audience.

That’s a violation of the law, of course, but Trump has never been a stickler about upholding the law. Obeying the law is only for chumps like you and me.

And certainly neither Ryan nor Trump offered olive branches to Democrats after their legislative debacle. Ultimately what they’ll have to decide, as this article explains in more detail, is whether they want to improve things for ordinary Americans or continue playing partisan politics.

The odds they’ll opt for the latter are looking better all the time.

So much for privacy ….

GOP Senate kisses corporate ass ...

March 26, 2017 Update

Here’s an interesting update to the stories linked to below. It suggests that “some state legislatures may prove to be a counterweight to Washington by enacting new regulations to increase consumers’ privacy rights.”

Something is better than nothing, of course, so let’s hope that’s right. But we would be a lot better off if the people we elected to represent us, especially Republicans, actually were interested in protecting their fellow cirizens, not the corporate fatcats who contribute to their reelection campaigns.

But that’s probably asking too much. Most of these people who run for office are hopeless.

Originally Posted on March 24, 2017

“Senate lawmakers voted Thursday to repeal a historic set of rules aimed at protecting consumers’ online data from their own Internet providers, in a move that could make it easier for broadband companies to sell and share their customers’ usage information for advertising purposes.

“The rules, which prohibit providers from abusing the data they gather on their customers as they browse the Web on cellphones and computers, were approved last year over objections from Republicans who argued the regulations went too far.”

You can read more here and here. The vote was 50 to 48, with only Republicans supporting the rollback and only Democrats opposing it.

If the resolution passes the House and is signed by Trump, internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T would be able to sell customer user data to third parties or use the information to sell advertising without seeking express permission from their customers.

And here you were foolish enough to believe your Senators were actually working for you.

More …

Et tu, Brutus?

It’s getting so bad even The Wall Street Journal, long considered the bastion of conservative thinking in the United States, is taking notice.

“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

As for his charge that Obama tapped his wires, the Journal notes that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Trump “clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle.” Not a pretty analogy. It almost makes you wish Obama did tap his wires if only to tighten up all the loose screws in the man’s head.

Read more here; or if you can’t access it there, check out the full text of its editorial in the screenshot below.

Liar …

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters ...

“But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women.

He tells so many untruths that it’s time to leave behind the textual parsing over which are unwitting and which are deliberate — as well as the condescending notion that most of Trump’s supporters enjoy his lies.

Read more here and here.

Weekly Toon …

It was a BEAUTIFUL wall!

Another week, another round of insults from the American clown, this time for two of America’s closest friends and allies.

What makes this cartoon from Patrick Chappatte, the editorial cartoonist for the International New York Times, so funny is not that Trump actually said this. It’s that we know only too well Trump is capable of saying anything and will then refuse to apologize when shown to be wrong.

Trump seems to love insulting other countries almost as much as he loves insulting anyone here in the U.S. who disagrees with him. But, as Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Asia shows, the United States will pay a price for alienating those whose cooperation we need in containing dangerous threats like North Korea.

Mexico was the first country to incur Trump’s wrath and continues to be a special favorite even though the budget Trump submitted to Congress this week includes billions to begin work on his border wall. So much for Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the wall; you’re the only one who is going to pay for it, probably in part with money saved from cutting other programs like Meals on Wheels.

Money for Trump’s big, beautiful, wall or to feed Grandma and Grandpa? Now there’s a terrific choice for you!

But Mexico is not the only country Trump has insulted. Others include Australia, China, Japan, and Sweden. And this week Trump added two more to the list, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The U.K. was ticked off because Trump, citing a Fox News commentator, suggested former President Obama partnered with GCHQ, the secretive British intelligence agency, to spy on Trump.

The British were less than pleased by this suggestion, which they vigorously denied, as was Fox News itself. It disavowed its own commentator. Fox was not alone in doing this. The GOP and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees say they’ve seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claim.

But would Trump apologize or allow others to do so for him? No! Trump won’t apologize to Obama for lying about wiretapping Trump Tower. Why would he apologize (or let others in his Administration apologize) to the U.K.?

Meanwhile, back at the White House, Trump was refusing to shake Angela Merkel’s hand in the Oval Office. To make matters worse, after proclaiming he had a wonderful meeting with the Chancellor, he took to social media the next day to slam Germany, insisting that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

That’s not true, of course, but Trump counts on no one caring about small details like the truth.

During her meeting with Trump on Friday, Merkel explicitly reaffirmed her commitment to nearly double Germany’s defense spending until 2024, an increase that would meet NATO’s requirement that member states spend 2 percent of GDP on defense by that year as agreed to three years ago under Obama.

The fact that we have a congenital liar as President is bad enough. More concerning perhaps is that Trump’s insults and crumbling credibility don’t just damage Trump. They damage America as well.

The percentage of Germans who view the United States as a trustworthy ally has dropped from 59 percent in November to 22 percent in February. In recent months, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s outspoken vice chancellor and foreign minister, has even called Trump a “threat.”

This is a worrisome shift in a nation that has long considered itself one of the United States’ closest allies, especially since it’s mostly the U.S. that has benefited from stationing troops in Germany in recent years. We rely on bases in Germany like Ramstein for operations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

But this is only one example of the damage Trump is causing. Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Asia, which seemingly accomplished nothing at all, is another. Why should China cooperate on North Korea with a country whose President insults it daily?

But, then again, why should anyone care? The only person in the world who matters is Donald Trump and his fragile ego. Take it from the clown himself!

Weekly Toon …

There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves ... GOP Rep. Roger Marshall

Originally I was planning to post another cartoon here, but this morning I ran across the one above in an article about the retirement of Bob Mankoff from The New Yorker. Mankoff reportedly submitted over 500 cartoons to that magazine before the first one was published. You can see more of his work in that article cited above or here.

Unlike the cartoon I had planned to use, which was much more slashing and immediately topical, this classic is much more understated. But it pretty much captures everything you need to know about the GOP proposal to kill the Affordable Care Act and substitute their own bill. Cutting through all the rhetoric, here is what the Republican proposal will do.

Millions of people who currently have health insurance will lose it. How many millions? It’s hard to know for sure since the GOP is rushing ahead before the Congressional Budget Office can analyze the bill (while also trying to preemptively discredit the CBO analysis before it’s released). But the ratings and analytics firm S&P Global has ballparked the number of people who would lose their insurance at between 6 million and 10 million. Others have offered figures as high as 15 million and 20 million.

If you keep coverage, you’ll be paying more for whatever insurance you have. That’s because the Republican proposal will destabilize the health insurance marketplace for the vast majority of Americans, especially older Americans. As healthier people abandon insurance because of rising costs, sicker people will try to hang on forcing insurance companies to charge everyone else more.

Your taxes will likely go up as well eventually unless you’re among the very richest Americans. As GOP Governor John Kasich puts it: “It is unrealistic to think that cutting coverage saves any money, since we will only see uninsured people returning to the emergency room for their care — and walking away from unpaid bills.”

Hospitals will either go bankrupt or you’ll have to bail them out with your tax dollars. In addition, both the Medicare and Medicaid Trust Funds will be exhausted sooner as a result of the bill. They’ll have to replenished or benefits scaled back. Alternatively, we can just add it to the growing deficit the GOP loves to deplore.

None of this is my opinion alone. The American Medical Association, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, AARP, the American Nurses Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others have all come out against the GOP bill.

On the other hand, you have Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, who says that “nobody will be worse off financially” and that coverage is “going to go up” if the bill is enacted. If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale you may be interested in.

It is true there is good news for the rich and powerful in the GOP bill. They’re in line for some big tax cuts. How big you ask?

Based on what the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has scored so far — and it has not analyzed every revenue loser in the bill — these tax cuts come to about $600 billion, including roughly $157 billion over the coming decade for those with incomes of $1 million or more and another $274 billion for people with incomes over $200,000 annually.

Congratulations if you’re in one of those categories. You no longer have to pay more so that people with far less can have health insurance.

Look, people, this isn’t rocket science. Either you believe everyone in America should be able to get decent health care or you don’t. The Donald, Paul Ryan and the Republicans don’t. It’s that simple.

In any event, if one cartoon on this subject doesn’t do it for you, here are a few more collected by the Washington Post.