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Can A President Appropriate Funds for a Program?

With regard to Trump’s three memos and one Executive Order.

We did go through this one time before with the ACA and funding for the Risk Corridor Program as I wrote “Risk Corridor, Healthcare Premiums, Companies Leaving the Exchanges, and Republicans.” The GAO said the President can not appropriate funds for funding of programs. Only congress can do so as stated in a letter to then Senator Jeff Sessions. However, a president can transfer funding from one program to another.

“Questioning whether the Risk Corridor payments were being appropriated correctly, the Appropriations Panel forced the HHS to make changes in how they appropriated funds allowing Congress to stop all appropriations. As stated in this letter, the PPACA could no longer appropriate the funds as they were subject to the discretion of Congress. The GAO issued an opinion on the legality of what the HHS was doing with funds.

GAO Letter to Senator Jeff Sessions. September 30, 2014: Discussion; “At issue here is whether appropriations are available to the Secretary of HHS to make the payments specified in section 1342(b)(1). Agencies may incur obligations and make expenditures only as permitted by an appropriation. U.S. Const., art. I, § 9, cl. 7; 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1); B-300192, Nov. 13, 2002, at 5. Appropriations may be provided through annual appropriations acts as well as through permanent legislation. See, e.g., 63 Comp. Gen. 331 (1984). The making of an appropriation must be expressly stated in law. 31 U.S.C. § 1301(d). It is not enough for a statute to simply require an agency to make a payment. B-114808, Aug. 7, 1979. Section 1342, by its terms, did not enact an appropriation to make the payments specified in section 1342(b)(1). In such cases, we next determine whether there are other appropriations available to an agency for this purpose.”

Further down in the GAO letter, the GAO leaves the HHS an out of using other already available appropriations for the Risk Corridor payments to insurance companies. Classifying the payments as “user fees” was another way to retain the authority to spend other appropriations already made by Congress. Otherwise if revenue from the Risk Corridor program fell short, the administration would need approval for addition appropriations from Congress. As it was, the HHS could no longer appropriate funds to make Risk Corridor payments unless the funds were already appropriated by Congress or Congress approved new funds which was not going to happen with a Republican controlled House.”

The transfer of funding from another healthcare program to the PPACA Risk Corridor Program was blocked by the insertion of Section 227 of the 2015 Appropriations Act (dated December 16, 2014) which escaped notice by Congressional Representatives Kingston and Upton. In the 2015 Appropriations Act (Cromnibus), the sentence inserted said no “other” funds in this bill could be used for Risk Corridor payments. See: Risk Corridor

What is reprehensible is the total alliance by Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and his sycophants’ who have locked stepped in accordance with a psychotic president in the White House blocking any economic help to the citizens of this nation during a catastrophic event. It remains to be seen if the Senate comes back to reality to stop this president. And McConnell? McConnell shall definitely be remembered in history as something.

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Make Election Mail Free

Mark Jamison’s commentary on USPO matters have been featured at Angry Bear Blog a number of times over the years. A retired postmaster, Mark Jamison serves as an advisor, resident guru, and a regular contributor to Save the Post Office. Mark’s previous posts concerning the USPO can be found here at “Save The Post Office” or by doing the search function at Angry Bear.  Mark can also be contacted on USPO matters markijamison01@gmail.com

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A common thread that runs throughout the history of the United States is the expansion of the franchise.

Early in our history the right to vote was limited to white males, often with strict property qualifications. By the time of Andrew Jackson, the franchise had extended to white males generally. While the primary reason for the Civil War was the elimination of slavery, the logical conclusion of that conflict was the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited denial of the franchise based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Nineteenth Amendment extended the franchise to women, and the Snyder Act of 1924 extended the vote to Native Americans by granting them full citizenship rights. The Twenty-sixth Amendment extended the voting age to eighteen-year-olds, acknowledging that if one was old enough to fight and die for their country they were old enough to exercise the franchise.

The fundamental premise of our Constitution is that sovereignty lies within the entity known as We the People. Voting, the exercise of our basic right to choose our leaders, should be our most cherished right because it enshrines voice and participation granting the dignity of self-government.

And yet for all its acknowledged value and importance there have still been reactionary and revanchist powers that sought to limit and confine the franchise. The powerful and elite rarely willingly share their wealth and power.  Each step in extending the franchise was met with resistance.

Ninety-five years after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, the 1965 Voting Rights Act finally enshrined mechanisms to fulfill the vision of participation that is the cornerstone of American Democracy. The VRA was renewed by Congress several times, most recently in 2006 when it passed in the House by a vote of 390 – 33 and in the Senate unanimously. And yet elements, small recalcitrant elements of our society, still begrudge this most fundamental and basic of rights. In an infamous decision that stands with Dred Scott as among the most unjust acts of the Supreme Court the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision eviscerated key parts of the VRA. Predictably the same bad actors who have fought voting rights took the opportunity to find new and effective ways to suppress voting, especially among minority communities.

Now we have a president who, fearing he will lose an honest and fair election, takes every opportunity to call into question the integrity of our elections and voting practices. While we struggle as a nation with a deadly pandemic, this president has done everything in his power to call into question an obvious solution that will make voting safer, easier, and more accessible. That solution is voting by mail.

Several states already vote exclusively by mail and every state has some provision for mail voting even if limited to excuse-required absentee ballots. In this time of pandemic, voting by mail makes sense and we should make every effort to assist states in providing vote by mail.

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Healthcare Workers Union Pushing Medicaid Expansion in States

Oklahoma
If you remember, I wrote about Oklahoma squeaking through its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low-income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s seat (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government. Political interests will have a difficult time killing Medicaid without another ballot initiative to override what The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters.

Missouri
This last week, Missouri approved the expansion of Medicaid for many of the state’s poorest adults up to 138% FPL (which is 90% funded by the Federal Government. The expansion under Missouri Amendment 2 makes their conservative state the second to join the ACA through a ballot imitative changing the Missouri constitution during the pandemic.

The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. If you are unemployed you may qualify for Medicaid if you have income less than 138% FPL. Medicaid looks at current income and not annual income. The Medicaid expansion measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

Fairness Project and the United Healthcare Workers Union West
Backing these initiatives is a nonprofit organization called the Fairness Project which grew out of the frustration of healthcare strategists with 19 states, governed by Republicans, refusing to pass the Medicaid Expansion . . . which from the start of the ACA covered Medicaid expansion costs at 100% up till the end of 2016 and then gradually decreased to 90%.

A memo written by a California union leader in 2014, warned of steep declines in union membership potentially could leave workers unprotected with fewer benefits.

Dave Regan, president of United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 95,000 hospital workers; “Unionism is in decline, and there is no end to that in sight. We still need to give regular people the opportunity to have positive change in their lives.”

Regan proposed creating a nonprofit to promote the ballot initiative process to secure policies that would benefit workers, like increased access to health coverage and a higher minimum wage.

“Ballots are an opportunity to put a question, in its undiluted form, in front of millions of people as opposed to traditional legislative work, where things get watered down to get out of committee. You end up with what you actually want when you use the ballot.”

The Fairness Project came into existence in 2016 with initiatives to increase the minimum wage in both California and Maine. The following year it returned to Maine to work on healthcare and Medicaid. Five times, the Maine legislature passed bills to expand Medicaid and each time they were vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Efforts to override the veto failed by a vote or two each time.

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Not To Be Forgotten Today

Not To Be Forgotten Today

August 6th a US bomber escorted by 5 other planes drop a lone bomb which exploded over the city of Hiroshima at 8:15 AM, creating a firestorm destroying an estimated 70 percent of the city and killing an estimated 70,000 Japanese. Today is that day when what is left of the hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as they are known in Japan, gather at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to mourn the city’s destruction by the American military during World War II, and to serve as a living testament to the abiding dangers of the atomic bomb.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the nuclear assault and the remaining hibakusha were diminished, victims of the twin forces of the coronavirus pandemic and advancing age. Despite the health risks, a relatively small number of survivors attended this year. They believed that “they’ve come this far” and “can’t quit,” the chair of the Hiroshima branch of the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations, Kunihiko Sakuma said. City officials and peace activists had envisioned a series of grand events to commemorate what will most likely be the last major anniversary of the bombing for almost all of the hibakusha still living.

Hiroshima 75th Anniversary: Preserving Survivors’ Message of Peace, New York Times, Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno, August 5, 2020

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“Preserve Our Post Office, Before It’s Too Late”

The Postal Service is under assault and it is time to do everything we can to protect the integrity of one of our greatest national assets. Retired U.S. Postmaster Mark Jamison writes at Save The Post Office Blog . Mark serves as an advisor, resident guru, and regular contributor to “Save the Post Office.” His previous posts on Angry Bear and Save The Post Office can be found here. Mark can be contacted at markijamison01@gmail.com or you can ask him questions on his post here at AB.

The United States Postal Service is an essential national infrastructure. That simple and indisputable fact has never been more evident than during the current pandemic. A network that has the capability to serve every address in the United States, almost all of them daily, is a lifeline and a necessity.

It’s no secret that the Postal Service, like much of the infrastructure in this country, has been under assault by those who are ideologically predisposed to dismiss the necessity of a functioning, well-managed government. They would like to privatize the postal system, the national parks, the schools, the railroad, even roads and bridges. For them, these public infrastructures are merely targets of opportunity, another way for the few to profit at the expense of the many. By disregarding and undermining the value of public infrastructure at the expense of domestic tranquility and the promotion of the general welfare, they do a great disservice to the country

The postal system has been a target for generations. The privatizers and those who could not discern the fallacy inherent in trying to run government as a business when their ends and purposes were very different have repeatedly sought to turn the postal system into something much less useful than a nationwide infrastructure. Over the last fifteen years, since the passage of PAEA, the capacity and institutional strength of the USPS have been compromised by a succession of Postmasters General who substituted empty rhetoric and misguided plans for the very real value of a broad and robust network dedicated to universal service.

The current president came into office with lots of grudges and fury but no knowledge or understanding of the Postal Service. For the last three and a half years he has overseen the corruption of our institutions, the debasement of our bureaucracies, and the hollowing out of our ability to serve our citizens. The administration has acted with malice and ignorance, failing at its most basic task of governing. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the mismanagement of the Postal Service.

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Just Some Conversation

Republicans finally get “death panels,” Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan, July, 26, 2020

Dr. Jose Vasquez, the health officer for Starr County, Texas located on the US-Mexico border “The situation is desperate.” At the only hospital in the county, over 50% of patients are testing positive for the COVID-19 virus — 40 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday. Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City made plans to set up a committee to decide which patients to send home to die. The hospital will ration its resources to patients with the best chances of surviving  (CNN).

Texas
Fri, July 24, 2020
126 died this day
5 002 total deaths
391 609 tot. confirm cases
7 947 new confirmed
2.1% daily growth

The hospital quickly filled the eight beds in its Covid-19 unit, so it expanded to 17 and then 29 beds, Vasquez said. About 33 medical workers, including medical practitioners and lab technicians, were deployed by the state to assist the hospital.

“Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “This is what we did not want our community to experience.”

Republicans screamed about ACA death panels  deciding whether citizens could have treatment under its regime.

Does Gun Ownership and Concealed Carry Deter the Frequency of Mass Shootings and Firearms Homicide?,” Justice Quarterly, Emma E. Fridel, July 23, 2020

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The First Steps . . .

As posted by Anne:

Pope Francis

“All dictatorships, all of them, began like this, by adulterating communication, by putting communications in the hands of people without scruples, of governments without scruples.”

June 18, 2018 Morning Mass, Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis Dictatorships begin with taking over media to spread lies and handing it over to a firm, a business that slanders, tells lies, weakens democracy, and then the judges come to judge these weakened institutions, these destroyed, condemned people.

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Weird News

Blacks Should Be More Afraid Of Other Blacks Than Cops

Rudy Giuliani joined Fox and Friends to trash Mayor de Blasio and decree that Black men should be more afraid of other Black men than of his cop buddies murdering black men with racist intent.

Echoing Trump’s “law and order” idiocy and hatred of the Black Lives Movement, Giuliani gave his unfettered support to law enforcement, and decreed that he has always been the true savior of New York.

Me: What can I say? The facts do not support Giuliani. He lies like Trumop does.

Rose Garden Strategy

Digsby: Bret Baier remarked that as a matter of tradition, past presidents “stayed away from overt campaign rhetoric from the Rose Garden or the White House.”

Not Trump!

“Trump managed to work himself up to deliver one of his patented incoherent rally performances as if the audience in front of him weren’t a bunch of masked-up, socially distanced reporters, who were undoubtedly confused as to why they had been summoned to the Rose Garden to act as props for Trump’s stump speech.

After all was said and done, ‘To be fair, if President Obama had given a speech like this in the White House, Republicans on Capitol Hill would have been up in arms.’ Indeed, if Obama had done anything like that, Republican heads would have swiveled on their shoulders and their mouths would have erupted with green bile like Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist.’ After all, they had a full-blown hissy fit when Obama wore a tan suit to the White House briefing room one day.”

Me: More noise from the White House.

Video Catches Five NJ Cops Wrestling Black Man To Ground Over Open Beer

Five New Jersey police officers are being accused of using excessive force after they were seen wrestling a Black man to the ground for allegedly having a open beer at a beach.

Video of the incident, which was said to have occurred at Point Pleasant, was shared on social media. Typically, a ticket is issued rather than an arrest.

Me: They still have not learned Black Americans are people!

Navarro Attacks Dr. Fauci Today In Op-Ed Piece

Navarro’s op-ed, titled “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” represented his most brazen effort yet to dress down the widely respected immunologist and veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

When I was working feverishly on behalf of the president in February to help engineer the fastest industrial mobilization of the health care sector in our history, Fauci was still telling the public the China virus was low risk.

When we were building new mask capacity in record time, Fauci was flip-flopping on the use of masks.

Me: This was a supply chain problem. The issue was where to allocate the limited supply of face masks. Give to healthcare workers or allow citizens to hoard them?  Fauci made the right decision and lied.

Navarro and trump’s son-in-law could not plan their way out of a paper bag. They should not have had to build capacity. Dumb statement by Navarro.

New Postmaster Orders Workers To Slow Down First-Class Mail Delivery

The new head of the U.S. Postal Service established major operational changes Monday that could slow down mail delivery, warning employees the agency would not survive unless it made “difficult” changes to cut costs. But critics say such a philosophical change would sacrifice operational efficiency and cede its competitive edge to UPS, FedEx and other private-sector rivals.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes, according to internal USPS documents obtained by The Washington Post and verified by the American Postal Workers Union and three people with knowledge of their contents, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

Me: That will “really” help mail-in ballots! Suggest one week for all mail to be delivered locally. Post Office should incorporate intelligent bar coding also to track ballots.

More white people’ are killed by Police

Me: “More” Trump Lies

Trump’s claim about more white people being killed by police in the US is misleading.

The Guardian’s investigative project The Counted in 2015-2016 that set out to record all people in the US killed by police showed that Black people in America were more than twice as likely to be killed by the police than white people.

And in 2016 Black men ages 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers, and they were killed at four times the rate of young white men.

A similar 2016 analysis by the Washington Post also found that African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be shot and killed by police offers as white Americans.

Another study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018 found that African Americans are 3.5 times as likely to be killed by police compared to white people.

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“Cheap Charlies,” Bangkok, Thailand – A bit of history

Never thought of myself as a global traveler. My kids kind of mentioned it as I was always bringing something home for them and my wife. I did ship home a Tang Dynasty tomb horse and drummer from Hollywood Road in Hong Kong.  Can not say I am an Indiana Jones type taking artifacts which belong in museums.

After working a 10-12 hour shift with the Thai, we would go to dinner, eat Thai and relax. This was one of the places we would go to, which was a short walk from the Landmark Hotel. Nothing special and just unique as a Thai bar for foreigners, which offered bourbon and whiskey as well as other liquors. Most of it was around 100 baht and cheap. Charlie is sitting in front there.

The original bar was demolished due to new developments coming into play. They also took out a lot of nice local restaurants at the same time. Charlie relocated and opened up again.

A plethora of pictures here of the old bar spanning a couple of decades. Fun place to hang in till bed time.

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“Speechless – Trump White House is now muzzling, bypassing, and kneecapping the CDC,”

Epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding . . . “No other ways to spin this.” Common Dreams, “Warnings of Possible Cover-Up in Progress”

I was hoping I could get the clip of Doctor Wen discussing what the Trump administration has done in its end run around the CDC. I couldn’t C&P the embed code as it is in a lock down and I do not have the wave length to create one for it. You can view the news clip here “Trump Orders Hospitals to give him the data.”

Common Dreams has a good article up concerning Trump’s take over of the Hospital Covid Data reporting. The general opinion is the data will be massaged into a better outlook favoring Trump and his followers. I do not read of many people claiming different about the political nature of this take over. Alex Azar’s H.H.S. will replace the C.D.C. in collecting daily reports about the patients each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.

Four former CDC directors wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday that “no president has ever politicized [the CDC’s] science the way Trump has.”

In the WaPo po-ed, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richard Besser wrote: “Trying to fight this pandemic while subverting scientific expertise is like fighting blindfolded. It is not too late to give the CDC its proper role in guiding this response. But the clock is ticking.”

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