Sucks to be you, poor women

The Trump Administration just expanded the range of employers who can claim exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that birth control be made available as part of any insurance policy.

This latest rewriting of the federal policy, in an interim final rule that takes effect immediately, broadens the entities that may claim religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage to nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies, even ones that are publicly traded. Also included are higher educational institutions that arrange for insurance for their students, as well as individuals whose employers are willing to provide health plans consistent with their beliefs.

A separate section covers moral objections, allowing exemptions under similar circumstances except for publicly traded companies.

The Administration is spinning the effect of this as minimal:

…administration officials estimate that 120,000 women at most will lose access to free contraceptives — many fewer than critics predict.

They write that they do not know how many employers or insurers that omitted contraceptive coverage before the ACA did so based on religious beliefs that would now allow them to be exempt. For that reason, the law says, HHS cannot predict how many entities will want exemptions, other than the groups that have filed recent lawsuits or made other public statements against the Obama-era policy.

Does anyone really think that only those who sued will drop coverage for contraceptives? Doesn’t this look like a blank check to deny anything if it can be claimed to violate “religious liberties”?

Roger Severino, director of HHS’s office for civil rights and a longtime proponent of religious liberties [said]…”We should have space for organizations to live out their religious identity and not face discrimination because of their faith.”

How many corporations have a “religious identity?” But how many will claim one now that a free pass has been issued?

This is why evangelicals still back Trump. Their morals are, shall we say, flexible. As long as the President hands them victories like this and give them judges who are socially conservative they’ll happily overlook his history of sexual assaults, theft of wages from employees and subcontractors and fraudulent enterprises, as well as his lying and warmongering since he’s been in office.

Oh, by the way: the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that savings on the birth control pill have made up more than half of the drop in all out-of-pocket prescription drug spending since August 2012 when the mandate that some form of birth control be covered took effect.

Trumpian excess

Every day in every way imaginable this man embarrasses the United States, its citizens, and even himself (if he had the capacity to realize it).

His performance in Puerto Rico today was appalling.

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.

“Hell, little brown people, you think Maria was bad, you shoulda been in Katrina! Your storm wasn’t so big!”

You’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack. We’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.

Actually, we haven’t. If you recall, within a week of Irma and Harvey Congress appropriated $15B for emergency aid. No such emergency appropriations have been made for victims of Maria in either PR or USVI.

Then there’s this, where the great man passes out largesse to the peasants:

He is a despicable man worthy of no respect.

A question

How is it that the Republican Party repeatedly says gun control laws won’t work and aren’t needed but continually says more and more restrictive abortion laws are desperately needed?

“The shooters will just get guns on the black market,” they say when arguing against restrictions on gun purchasers. But when one points out that women will get abortions on the black market even if they close down every clinic in the country, they pooh-pooh the idea.

They’re literally bloodily delusional.

Dr. Strangelove has orange skin

What else is one to think after reading what Trump said this morning?

Later:

“I won’t fail?” You stupid stupid man, you fail the moment you undercut your senior diplomat, Secretary Tillerson. You are pushing North Korea toward launching nuclear weapons at us, at Japan, or at South Korea, all for the sake of your little man’s ego.

If we survive, it won’t be because of your good efforts.

Hawaii Five-0, Season Eight

I don’t watch the show, but there was a big foofaraw this past summer when two of the show’s four main characters, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, both quit after a salary dispute. They each wanted to be paid what Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan were paid, and CBS’s final offer to Kim and Park “was believed to have been 10-15% lower” than what O’Loughlin and Caan make in salary. After seven years of being paid less than the other two, I think I’d have said “pay up” too.

Anyway, the two characters had to be written out of the show somehow, so I was curious as to how that would be handled. Easy! Like so many other professionals, they left Hawai’i and moved to the Mainland!

In real life the reason most people move to the Mainland from Hawai’i is money. They can make more in their profession there or they can stretch the same pay a lot farther there, particularly for housing. The median price of a single-family house here was $795,000 three months ago. So it’s kind of a subtle joke that these two characters would head for the Mainland, presumably for more money, all while the real-live actors who played them couldn’t get the raise they wanted.

Maybe the writers didn’t think of it, but I did.

The end of the film

I was in the Navy in Japan relaying messages to ships off the coast of Vietnam from December 1972 through November 1974, just as America was desperately trying to get out of that war. Watching the final episode of Burns & Novick’s film tonight surely didn’t make me feel very good about the promises we reneged on and the haste with which we bailed on our allies. No matter how corrupt their politicians were, the South Vietnamese Army deserved better from us.

I remember seeing the famous photograph of people clambering up a ladder to get on board a chopper on the roof of the Embassy in Saigon on April 29, 1975. I don’t know whether I saw it in The Stars and Stripes or in Newsweek, and I know I didn’t know the whole story of how our erstwhile friends and co-workers among the Vietnamese were turned back from other helicopters that day, but I remember the sense of disbelief that the US would leave so unceremoniously.

Thinking on it now, we didn’t cover ourselves in glory at any point in that war, so why would the way we left be any different?

I’ve been to DC to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial once in 1984. I didn’t know anyone whose name was on it, but that didn’t keep it from being a very moving experience.

That documentary will stick with me for quite a while.

The NCAA & the FBI

Not to diminish the assistant coaches named yesterday in this FB investigation of NCAA basketball bribery and corruption at some of its member schools, but if Louisville really does fire its 2-time NCAA Champion coach Rick Pitino he will be the biggest scalp the FBI’s gotten without even naming him yet.

I’m inclined to think if it happens it’s about time. His programs have been under suspicion wherever he’s coached, from his time as an assistant at the University of Hawaii in the late 1970s all the way to today. He’s exhibited an attitude of being above the law at every one of them.

That said, Pitino may be the most visible, but he’s hardly alone in his corruption within the NCAA coaching ranks.

Vietnam, the music

The music to this documentary is a soundtrack of my life, which isn’t all that surprising, since the film starts in 1962, about when I began listening to AM radio.

Here’s the playlist for tonight’s episode seven:

Here are playlists for the previous six episodes.

There’s a 27-song soundtrack album available at iTunes or Amazon.