Know your rights! Sign up now to check your eligibility for health insurance help

Not sure if should buy health insurance, or go bankrupt if I get sick.

You have until Dec. 15 to check your eligibility for health insurance subsidies.

Every fall, the federal government opens the enrollment period for individuals to buy health insurance. By going online to your state insurance site, such as my state’s HealthPlanFinder, or to HealthCare.gov, you can learn whether you are eligible for a subsidy to purchase health insurance for yourself or your family.

President Trump did not repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Despite what you may have heard, President Trump did not repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Only Congress can repeal a law, and it failed to do so last summer. However, Trump has made it difficult for individuals to benefit from the law. For example, he has shortened the enrollment period to just 45 days. The last day for enrollment is December 15.

I am one of millions of individuals who purchase health insurance on the open market. My employer does not offer a health plan for me, and I earn some of my income through free-lance work. I’m also a full-time student. Obamacare is a lifeline to me and many writers, artists, and other low-income individuals, who otherwise couldn’t afford or access quality health insurance.

It’s important that you sharpen your patience skills. The Trump Administration has slashed the support budget for the ACA. It’s possible your state may balance this with more support. However, be ready to spend extra time online or on the phone. It will be worth it, especially if you qualify for a tax subsidy that will reduce your premium cost.

According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States has signed, every person has a right to decent health care. In our country, this means you have the opportunity to purchase affordable health insurance, which protects you and your family from economic catastrophe if you get sick, and provides benefits that help you live a longer, more productive life.

Don’t wait. Enroll today!

Author Mem Fox and Donald Trump’s chilling of America

Mem Fox reads to kids

Author Mem Fox reads to her audience. Image courtesy Adelaide Advertiser.

The recent mistreatment of Australian author Mem Fox by US Customs and Border Patrol heralds a little-discussed effect of President Trump’s plan to shut the door on immigration. Her detention by CBP could have a chilling effect on the cross-fertilization of ideas that makes open societies so powerful. As Trump attacks illegal immigration, he is sending a message that any visitor is suspect, and Fox’s experience underlines the argument.

In February, Fox was en route to Milwaukee to attend a conference on literacy, tolerance, and inclusion. Fox is the author of numerous children’s books, including Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes, and Possum Magic. At the airport, she was detained for two hours by CBP on a visa problem, which turned out to be the CBP’s error. She has visited the US 117 times.

“In that moment I loathed America,” she says. “This is not the way to win friends.”

America is proud of its history of openness to new ideas from the outside. That’s part of our heritage of welcoming immigrants, because they bring new energy and approaches that enrich us, figuratively and literally. The country also welcomes visiting artists and writers for the same reason, in hopes that cross-cultural fertilization raises everyone up. During the Cold War, despite the hostility, the Soviet Union and the U.S. each sent ambassadors in the form of writers, symphonies, dance companies, and visual artists in the interests of peace. It took the edge off the mutual suspicion.

If I were stopped at the border, how I would prove I was a writer? Compose a sequel to War and Peace?

Which artists and writers will now think twice about visiting, given Fox’s experience, and the Trump Administration’s tone? Engineers may already be thinking about staying away. A Nigerian engineer was stopped at the border and told to prove his expertise by taking a test. If I were stopped, how I would prove I was a writer? Compose a sequel to War and Peace?

In effect, every visitor is an ambassador, and there are signs they are going elsewhere. According to travel industry figures, searches for on flights to major US tourist attractions are down by nearly half. Not only does the country suffer intellectually, these drops have a major economic impact on tourism-dependent communities. The industry says the “Trump slump” has cost $185 million in business.

America is in danger of losing its reputation as a welcoming light to all peoples, whether to stay or to visit. Some want us to close our doors to the stranger. If they win, we’ll all be the poorer.

What do you think? How will we maintain our reputation for openness?

Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and the veneration of veterans

Starship Troopers still image

Starship Troopers elevates military veterans to demi-god status.

The election and inauguration of Donald Trump has left-leaning book lovers scrambling for analogous stories in fiction. Most have cited George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, both dystopian novels. A few have pointed to Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction novel Starship Troopers, because of long-standing criticisms of what some believe is its fascist politics.

The 1959 novel, which won the prestigious Hugo Award and made into a 1997 movie, tells the story of Juan “Johnnie” Rico, a ne’er-do-well teenager who finds meaning and belonging in the “Mobile Infantry.” He goes off to fight in an interstellar war against the Arachnid creatures from the planet Klendathu. Rico goes from raw recruit to experienced sergeant to field-tested officer participating in a crucial battle to defeat the “bugs” and save Earth.

In Heinlein’s world, the combat veteran is the civic god incarnate.

The charges of fascism relate to the dominance of earth by a militarized government that places enormous prestige and civil power in the hands of military veterans. In Heinlein’s world, the combat veteran is the civic god incarnate. Only people who fought and bled understand the true meaning of freedom and the necessity of the voting franchise to sustain the public good, not just private interest. Continue reading

Dammit. Now we have to deal with the “alt-climate.” And they’re going to be in the White House.

Commander-In-Chief, Denier-In-Chief Meme

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt is a climate change skeptic and part of what I call the “alt-climate.”

Donald Trump believes that climate change is a “hoax” perpetuated by China, and his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, will be his hatchet man. Oklahoma’s attorney general has pooh-poohed climate science, arguing that the lack of 100 percent agreement among scientists that climate change is human-caused is evidence that they might all be wrong. It’s not only twisted logic, but it’s scientifically ignorant. Disagreement is how science moves forward; it doesn’t indicate a failure to understand what’s happening.

First we had to deal with the “alt-right.” Now we have to deal with what you could call the “alt-climate,” deniers who’ll roll back desperately needed efforts to combat climate change, the biggest existential threat to humanity since… never.

Alt-climate, a noun referring to a group of delusional idiots in loose agreement that climate change is a hoax, unreal, or false.

Pruitt’s friendliness toward the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma is probably the best indication of how he’ll treat climate change. He’s one of the leaders of a lawsuit aimed at rolling back regulations meant to curb carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Whether the regs might “kill” jobs is irrelevant if we reach a point where having a job is a luxury because the earth is toasted by global warming.

Scott Pruitt isn’t the only Trump pick who’s skeptical of climate change. The “alt-climate” cabal in Trump’s cabinet, according to an excellent analysis by independent news site Climate Central, includes Stephen Bannon, who views climate change as a “con,” Reince Priebus, who has slammed the respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Jeff Sessions, who repeats debunked research denying increases in global temperatures, and Mike Pompeo, who has called the Paris Agreement a “radical climate change deal.”

I don’t mean to suggest that deniers are racists like those in the “alt-right.” However, they exhibit a similar post-truth attitude toward the fact of rising global temperatures and its impact on the planet. No one wants white supremacists in government, but we’re getting deniers instead.

Worse, apologists for Team Trump have already tried to wrap their reactionary threats with environmentally friendly rhetoric, saying Trump wants to keep the nation’s air and water clean, just not so much. Their real targets are activists on the “environmental left,” presumably bomb throwers such as the Sierra Club and Ducks Unlimited. Don’t be fooled. The greens will soon be under attack by policy-makers who prefer black gold to a healthy planet.

Update: Trump has named Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke as his Secretary of Interior. Zinke’s stand on human-caused climate change is unclear, or even on climate change in general, saying that “something is going on.” However, he is not well-liked by climate activists.

Earlier reports said Trump wanted Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, also a Republican, as his nominee. However, she will stay in the House of Representatives. McMorris Rodgers is opposed to greenhouse gas regulations, and she has denied humans have anything to with climate change. “Scientific reports are inconclusive at best on human culpability of global warming,” McMorris told a newspaper in her Washington State district.

What do you think of the idea of an “alt-climate?”

Grrreat! Tony the Tiger chews out Breitbart News and slaps Stephen Bannon in the face.

Stephen Bannon: Only property owners should be allowed to vote.

President-elect Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, once suggested that only property owners be allowed to vote. 71.9 percent of whites own homes, compared to 41.3 percent of African-Americans.

It’s been a living hell the past four weeks. On November 8, voters picked Donald J. Trump as the next president, and he’s already embroiled in the beginnings of a half-dozen scandals. For me, the most egregious is his ignorance of the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment. Of all his staff picks, the most odious is Stephen Bannon, former executive editor of Breitbart News.

Corporate America is taking notice of Bannon and his background. This week, breakfast cereal maker Kellogg pulled its ads from the reactionary website, saying the site’s inflammatory approach to news is not “aligned with our values as a company.” Yes, it may be unbelievable, but some corporations have a conscience. Other brands that have ditched Breitbart include Allstate, Nest, and EarthLink.

Though everyone who knows Bannon even slightly says he’s not a racist, anti-Semite, or kitten-hater, he oversaw the growth of Breitbart News from a nothing to a leading hyper-conservative voice that reaches 19.2 million visitors a month. He blessed its take-no-prisoners approach before leaving in August, but there’s worry that three weeks after his appointment as Trump’s chief adviser and strategist, he may be legitimizing racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance. After all, he did it at Breitbart News. Might he do it in the White House?

Bannon may not be racist, but he’s a bully [Tweet this!]

Big news outlets have now published detailed backgrounders on Bannon, and he comes across as a bully, but not a racist, at least in the KKK sense of outspoken disrespect for minorities. Racism, however, is far more nuanced than using the “n” word when referring to African-Americans, for example. According to the New York Times, he “occasionally” suggested to a friend that only property owners should be allowed to vote. If it ever came to pass, millions of poor people, including blacks, would be disenfranchised. When challenged on this point, he reportedly said, “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

The one word applied to Bannon by most of his friends, relatives, and acquaintances is “opportunist,” because of his pursuit of business opportunities. His rise at Breitbart was supposedly because of its profit potential, as well as its conservative politics. The Oxford Dictionary defines an opportunist as “a person who takes advantage of opportunities as and when they arise, regardless of planning or principle.” A more precise word for Bannon might be “carpetbagger,” because he only joined the Trump campaign in August, after seeing how the candidate’s statements matched his extremist nationalist views. With his White House appointment, he becomes Trump’s muse.

Millions of Americans want Bannon stopped, including 15,000 lawyers who have signed an online letter decrying Bannon and asking Trump to rescind his hiring. “Through Breitbart, Mr. Bannon has intentionally legitimized racism, anti-Semitism, and other hate-based ideologies,” the letter says. “Such bigotry runs counter to the values enshrined in the Constitution we promised to defend.”

Up to now, Trump has shown no interest in firing or sidelining Bannon. You can judge another by his friends, and now we know how Trump really thinks, because of the people he gathers round him.

How are you opposing racism and misogyny in the incoming Trump Administration?

Stephen Bannon not a white nationalist? He should repudiate Breitbart News.

Stephen Bannon photo

Stephen Bannon is the former executive editor of Breitbart News, a haven for white nationalism. He is President-elect Trump’s pick as chief strategist. Photo courtesy The Guardian.

The justifiable angst over Stephen Bannon’s hiring as soon-to-be President Trump’s chief strategist stems from the former’s time as executive editor of Breitbart News. He quit the job and joined the Trump campaign in August. Known for its incendiary headlines and stories that diss just about everyone who is not a white, male, U.S.-born Christian, Breitbart News is a comfortable home for the alt-right movement, better described as white nationalism.

Bannon is proud of his association with the alt-right.

The alt-right is led by young men like Richard Spencer, who runs a one-man think tank in Washington, D.C. Well-spoken, good-looking, and calm, if intense, Spencer was recently interviewed on NPR and the public radio investigative program Reveal. His main goal is creation of a white “ethno-state” within the borders of the United States, populated exclusively with—you guessed it—white people.

Earlier this week, Spencer and many of his ilk were banned from Twitter for violating its rules on hate speech. Many have fled to another social media site known for attracting the alt-right.

Bannon and Breitbart News are intimately intertwined with white nationalism. However, Bannon’s apologists claim he is not racist himself, and he really is a teddy bear once you get to know him. He denies that he is a white nationalist. His embrace of the alt-right comes from shared views on immigration (stop it) and globalist economics (stop that, too), not racism.

Stephen Bannon should immediately and unconditionally repudiate and condemn Breitbart News and all white nationalists in the alt-right and elsewhere.

Fine. As someone willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt, let him prove his tolerance and love of diversity.

Stephen Bannon should immediately and unconditionally repudiate and condemn Breitbart News and all white nationalists in the alt-right and elsewhere. That might ease the fears of religious groups, supporters of immigration rights, and feminists.

But I doubt it.

What do you think? Should Bannon disassociate himself with Breitbart News?

Let’s ban Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon from the people’s house. Here’s why.

Stephen Bannon meme

Stephen Bannon, President-elect Trumps’ choice for chief strategist, was editor of Breitbart News.

No one knows whether Stephen Bannon, President-elect Trump’s choice as chief strategist, is racist or not. It’s too easy to throw around the word, which tends to shut down debate immediately. That does not mean, however, he should be allowed within the walls of the White House.

Saying he should be “given a chance” is like saying “give intolerance a chance.”

The former executive editor of Breitbart News attracts white supremacists, anti-Semites, homophobes, and self-described racists like a flame draws moths. That’s why he doesn’t belong in the people’s house. We can’t take the risk of like-minded people soiling the home that belongs to the entire country, not just his followers.

Breitbart News draws white supremacists like a flame draws moths

Bannon rose to prominence last summer, when he joined the Trump campaign after championing the latter’s candidacy on the pages of Breitbart News. The site is responsible for incendiary stories with headlines such as “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy,” “Lesbian bridezillas bully bridal shop owner over religious beliefs,” and “There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews.”

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told Mother Jones magazine, although he focuses his own energy on curbing immigration and the “globalist” trend in economic and political affairs. As executive editor, Bannon would have signed off on these headlines and the accompanying stories. He would’ve set policies that encouraged misogynist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, race-baiting language.

Will he encourage similar thinking in the White House?

His appointment this week rightly drew howls of protest. The Anti-Defamation League called for Trump to rescind his hiring, which does not require Senate approval. However, many other Jewish groups said nothing about the appointment, prefering to wait and see. This is hard to understand, given that Breitbart News compared Planned Parenthood’s legal abortion services to the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, the most singular event in modern Jewish history.

Every American who believes in respect, tolerance, and diversity should cry out against Stephen Bannon and his views. If he joins the White House staff, it’ll take years to wipe out the stain on America’s values.

What do you think of Mr. Bannon?