Blog Category - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=categories&id=2&layout=listings&Itemid=182 Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:34:52 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Venetoulis: Seven Days in February http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1718&Itemid=182 http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1718&Itemid=182
It was a State of the Union Speech.  A speech that was less to do with the future functioning of the state of our country, then with the current malfunctioning of the state of a presidential mind. A Speech that will not be remembered for what it was about but for how it ended.  After listening to remarks packed with falsehoods and partisan rants and watching a balcony of theatrics including the First Lady fixing a Presidential Medal of Freedom around the neck of an unscrupulous hate monger who turned venom into a profitable business, that made her an accomplice to an act that will forever haunt her and her husband -- after listening to the President’s Mt Everest of lies, Speaker Pelosi, our own Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi, ripped up her copy of his speech. Criminal, according to the President – who knows a great deal about criminal behavior.  Indecorous, piled on Fox News and a few pundits who in service to the church of false equivalencies actually criticized her behavior as downright Trumpian.   

And then there was the Prayer Breakfast that featured an unworldly presidential breakdown, where the divine leader delivered a rancid rage of Presidential petulance challenging the “faith” of his critics.  

The Breakfast was followed by a White House celebration of vengeance before a gaggle of giggling grovelers, featuring the President spouting the language of a drunk drill sergeant including the first recorded use of the words “sleazebag” and  “bullshit’ in the East Room.  Trump knocked Purple Heart patriots, whistleblowers, congressional critics, intelligence agencies and any notion that civility was a valued commodity in a free society.

It was also the prelude to a Stalin-like purge where the President dismissed one of his handpicked ambassador, fired a Purple Heart veteran and his twin brother and bluntly warned those who would dare speak truth to power that he would instruct his Attorney General, America’s infamous legal lapdog, to launch criminal investigations into their behavior.   

With all this, Trump sent to Congress a Budget that ripped apart his pledges more violently then Speaker Pelosi speech-ripping-- a budget that would cut Medicare, food stamps, shrink the nations long protected and cherished safety net and still add billions to the annual deficit and national debt.

Finally, as if this was not an exhaustive display of presidential abuse, he ended the week with a brazen sentencing intrusion hammering the concept of an independent judicial system and setting the stage for election-timed investigations and the real whopper --a post-election parade of pardons—his idea of reducing prison crowding.

All of this was hailed as Trump’s “best week” in office.

Let’s get this straight:  Using a wrecking ball to crush the Constitution, throwing mud on political civility, and demonizing decades of institutional norms—this was his best week!  

Do we wonder why the nation is stunned, pundits are confused, and Democrats, in the midst of a quadrennial squabble to select a leader for the Loyal Opposition, are so angry they can’t figure out who would be best to deal with this lunatic.  Is he a mob boss, a thug, a mad monarch, a creepy dictator?  Is he the Godfather, Dr. Strangelove, a Russian asset?  Is he Mel Brooks leading a chorus of Springtime for Hitler, or is he playing the title role in a Mussolini musical bellowing obscenities from a balcony while the crowd below shouts Il Duce.  Maybe it’s Catch 22 – where we are all Yossarians challenging our own sanity as we grudgingly tolerate one level of unlawful presidential behavior until he jolts us by escalating to another even worse unlawful level.  And, anticipating a wave of a digital anger, dare we suggest that the parallel might be Europe in the l930’s overrun by fascism, Nazism and communism -- where thoughtful German citizens were transformed into a nation of mutes led by a hierarchy of enablers who sat silent as their new savior harangued the press as the enemy of the people and  weaponized the judicial system to rattle critics, round up Jews, prosecute opponents, rig trials and organized massive rallies  where followers  were incited to shout:  LOCK THEM UP!  

What America saw these Seven Days in February was the Full Trump!  History will show it was the week when  an unleashed, unhinged, uncontrollable President declared war on his own country.  His band of merry enablers left us with the amiable admonition:  Just Get Over It!

I don’t know about you.  But I’m not getting over it.

I stand with Pelosi.

I stand with Schiff.

I stand with Romney.

I stand with fearless diplomats in the State Department.  With heroic members in the military. With  Fed-up lawyers in the Justice Department. With unyielding members of Congress.  With gutsy whistleblowers,  zealous journalists and impassioned critics. And I stand with millions of my fellow Americans who will not just rip up Trump’s speech, but who can’t wait for Election Day – and -- to stoop to a Trumpian vulgarity -- give our leader a farewell finger!

Ted Venetoulis

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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Fri, 14 Feb 2020 06:26:29 -0500
Kim Pieper: New tech tool to expose the influence of big business in politics http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1715&Itemid=182 http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1715&Itemid=182 Everyone talks about how big business has too much influence over our political process, and sadly, many of us have witnessed it firsthand. Through meeting after meeting, I’ve watched CEOs and their lobbyists make demands to elected officials that were not in the best interest of their customers. Something was misaligned. Shouldn’t corporations be pushing political agendas that benefit their customers, the people who buy their products and keep them in business?

The problem is that consumers haven’t had an easy way to access information about company policies and practices, so we keep supporting them, and corporations have no reason to change. What we’ve been waiting for is an easy, trackable way to vote with our dollars.

Enter Tribe.

This new and amazing tool instantly shares information about company practices while you shop. Simply add Tribe to your web browser, and when you select a product for purchase on Amazon, a small box appears in the corner of the screen that tells you about a company’s policies and practices. Are their products cruelty-free? Do they support policies and programs that you disagree with? If a company is doing something you don’t like, Tribe suggests products from other companies you may want to support instead. Most importantly, we let the companies know how their practices are affecting their own bottom line.

Currently, Tribe shares information with consumers on companies’ animal cruelty practices. In 2020, Tribe will roll out new information that will provide consumers with a company’s broad political contributions (Democrat or Republican). And we’ll continue adding issues at our users’ requests. I invite you to add Tribe to your browser now and join our beta users in helping us shape our vision for 2020. Go to jointribe.us to be a part of our tribe.

Just as mass movements have come from great people taking ONE decisive act, we must start influencing corporations who hold an inordinate amount of power over our lives in the same way. Corporations have a duty to maximize profits to their shareholders. Tribe simply shows companies that consumers value more than the product they are purchasing. They value the way a company does business. By demonstrating that their political, social, and environmental practices impact companies’ profit margins, we can compel companies to change.

We are a tribe of 7 billion people on this planet. And when we all have access to information, we can change the world. One small act at a time. I hope you’ll join us.

You can get Tribe at www.jointribe.us

- Kim Pieper

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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 05 Dec 2019 01:34:09 -0500
Ransom: LifeBridge Acquisition of Bon Secours is a Win for West Baltimore http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1714&Itemid=182 http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1714&Itemid=182 Too often, the news in west Baltimore isn’t very positive. For a part of the city that faces myriad challenges, this month marked a major win—a new partnership between Bon Secours and LifeBridge Health. Earlier this month, Bon Secours, Mercy Health, and LifeBridge Health completed LifeBridge Health’s acquisition of Bon Secours Hospital. This merger will result in improved health services and an important investment in an area of our city that is deeply in need.  At the same time, Bon Secours will continue to its community works program to deliver critical services and housing in west Baltimore.

Countless individuals deserve credit for this achievement; as they say, victory has a thousand fathers. In this case, one leader in particular, Nelson Sabatini, deserves special accolades. He shepherded the project through the complicated regulatory process as Chair of the Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC). Chairman Sabatini insisted on a real solution centered on the west Baltimore community. Nelson, a former Maryland health Secretary for two governors, fought back against suggestions that the hospital simply be closed, and resources be moved to other Baltimore area hospitals. Nelson’s insistence on a solution that will serve west Baltimore was answered by LifeBridge Health.

Neil Meltzer, CEO of LifeBridge Health, and all the employees of LifeBridge Health should be proud of their mission-driven investment.

Mr. Sabatini believes that the transition of Bon Secours Hospital to LifeBridge Health can improve the quality of life in west Baltimore by transforming the healthcare delivery system, modernizing healthcare facilities, and committing resources aimed at increasing access to needed medical services and addressing social determinants of health.

To summarize the deal, On November 1, all eligible Bon Secours Hospital employees became part of the LifeBridge Health family, and leadership of the west Baltimore hospital transitioned to LifeBridge Health. As Chief Community Health Officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health, Sam Ross, M.D., continues his leadership of community health programs across the ministry of Bon Secours Mercy Health. Bon Secours has worked for years to create sustainable solutions for healthcare for the west Baltimore community; this acquisition is a continuation of discussions and approaches that have taken place for the past decade among health providers as well as local and state officials.

In connection with this acquisition, LifeBridge Health will make annual payments to be paid over six years to Bon Secours Baltimore Foundation and will be used exclusively for the establishment, continuation, or expansion of community-based programming at Bon Secours Community Works and Unity Properties. They will address social determinants of health. The acquisition of the hospital has the support of Governor Larry Hogan, the Health Services Cost Review Commission, MedChi The Maryland State Medical Society, and Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, among countless others.

Bon Secours and LifeBridge Health have been working together to ensure a smooth, stable transition with no disruption of healthcare services. LifeBridge Health’s preliminary plans for the hospital include enhanced emergency services, on-site clinical and primary care, expanded specialty services (including pediatrics, ENT, ophthalmology and 3D mammography) as well as a small medical/surgical unit.

To accommodate construction and the addition of new services, some services will relocate to other LifeBridge Health facilities. LifeBridge Health has been working with the Bon Secours Hospital team members on transition preparations, including communicating with employees who are transferring to other LifeBridge Health hospitals, specifically Sinai and Northwest hospitals.

While LifeBridge Health has some initial ideas for the facility, including what services may be added, these plans may be modified as the health system takes over hospital operations and assesses what additional services will best serve the healthcare needs of the community. LifeBridge Health looks to complete renovations and new construction by the end of 2022.

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Gene Ransom

Gene is the CEO of MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society.

Twitter @generansom

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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 19 Nov 2019 22:40:40 -0500
Ransom: Now is the time to think about your Health Insurance http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1712&Itemid=182 http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1712&Itemid=182 This is the season for Health Insurance Open enrollment. Many employers are having employees make decisions and general open enrollment to buy, change, or renew a qualified health plan for 2020 began Friday, November 1 and runs to Sunday, December 15 for healthcare starting on January 1, 2020. MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, encourages all individuals to sign up for health insurance for themselves and their families.

Open enrollment is the only time of year you can enroll in a health plan, switch plans, or re-enroll in your current plan. If you miss open enrollment, options are limited to special enrollment, short term health insurance, employer-based coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP. 

To enroll in a Medicare plan or to change your Medicare coverage, Medicare Open Enrollment continues through December 15. For additional Medicare plan information, individuals may call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov. Individuals do not need to renew their coverage if they are satisfied with their current plans, and those plans are still offered through Medicare.

It is of paramount importance to make sure you get the best health care plan for you and your family. When reviewing potential health plans it is important to do research on your health care plan options. MedChi recommends you ask the following five questions:

  1. Are your family’s physician’s in-network? Mistakenly seeing an out-of-network provider can leave you with unnecessarily expensive medical bills. Using in-network providers will save you from these additional costs.
  2. Does the plan cover your family’s medications? Check prescription medications against the list of plan-approved drugs. Choosing a plan that does not cover your most regular medications will severely increase your family’s health care costs.
  3. What are the plan’s prior authorization and step therapy policies? Prior authorization requires physicians to obtain the carrier’s approval before the carrier will pay for certain medications or treatment. Step therapy policies require physicians to prescribe cheaper alternatives before the insurer will cover the preferred treatment.
  4. What are the out-of-pocket costs and limits? In order to estimate the full cost of each plan, compare co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses that you will be responsible for.
  5. What is hidden in the fine print? Reading the plan materials thoroughly will inform you of your rights and responsibilities under each plan and can prevent you from incurring unexpected costs.

If you have any questions about Open Enrollment, call MedChi 1-800-492-1056 x 3311 (toll-free). This is the time to make choices about your health insurance, if you know someone who doesn’t have insurance encourage them to look at the Maryland Exchange or Maryland Health Connection to see what is available. Access to insurance, doesn’t equal access to insurance, but having insurance helps take that step in the right direction.

Gene M. Ransom III

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Gene Ransom is the CEO of MedChi the Maryland State Medical Society Twitter @GeneRansom

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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 05 Nov 2019 23:02:37 -0500
Ted Venetoulis - Welcome to Baltimore, Mr. President http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1711&Itemid=182 http://www.centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1711&Itemid=182 It appears our president is coming to our city, home of some of his most recent verbal vitriol.

Welcome Mr. President. We suggest you be careful. Theres a new infestation of crabs coming into our city. They pour in every day. We actually eat them. Perhaps another infestation you can knock. After all, you are a first class “knocker” — war heroes, hispanic judges, four star parents, immigrants, women who are not your type, long time global allies, members of congress.

But of all the heavy weight knocks that have flown out of your mouth, knocking Baltimore may have been one knock too far.

Apparently you did not learn a lesson when you suffered a shellacking in the 2018 congressional election at the hands of Nancy Pelosi who, let us remember, was born and raised in Baltimore. Her father and brother were Mayors. The thrashing she masterminded not only cleansed the House of Representatives of scores of your political sycophants, it gave Democrats control of the House. It lifted Pelosi to Speaker, and handed her the Constitutional power to preside over an equal branch of government, puncturing your ego and handicapping your authoritarian instincts.

And you did what you always do when humiliated, you attempted to embarrass Pelosi at a White House meeting by belittling her status. Pelosi, whose Baltimore political upbringing gave her some intuition about spotting phonies and taking on bullies, bluntly pointed out that she was not one of your lackeys. She reminded you that she was the Constitutional head of an equal branch of government and scolded you for challenging her authority. It was one of those defining moments where a street smart Baltimorean clobbered a high ranking bully.

Then, with the idiocy of a flea and verbal ineptitude of a groundhog, you picked on another Baltimorean— Congressman Elijah Cummings and slurred his district by claiming it was infested with rodents — a warren of subhumans not worthy of the Presidential empathy or its share of federal cash.

But Congressman Cummings is not just any Baltimorean—he may be the towns most popular
politician who reached heroic status when he walked in the middle of his towns police riots carrying only a bullhorn. Fearless and inspirational, protesters parted as he kept the calm like no other political figure could — not the governor, not the mayor, not the police chief — just Cummings and his bullhorn.

Cummings also happens to Chair the House Government Operations and Oversight Committee with the authority to investigate your executive antics, conflicts of interest, questionable appointments — to subpoena witnesses, conduct public hearings, and to look for the bed bugs sprawling under the sheets of everyone one of Trump’s cabinet.

Mr. President, knocking a Speaker, a Chairman, a city and anything else that seems to offend your royal status is not the behavior of a rational man. This is the behavior of a man who needs an intervention.

And Baltimore intervened. It came from a Baltimore institution. Since you don’t read, its unlikely that you know what you unleashed when you knocked our town. Unwittingly you woke a sleeping giant — the Baltimore Sun, the regions daily newspaper. The Paper realized that you were not just knocking a Baltimore Congressman — you were striking at the heart of our city
— our neighborhoods, our pride, our soul. It was as if a lunatic stood in Camden Yards and in one wacky, crazy moment, attacked Johnny Unitas, Cal Ripen and Brooks Robinson. It was the war of 1812. The Battle of Ft. McHenry. The rockets red glare. Only it wasn’t the British and the redcoats, coming, it was Trump and the cult. It was one knock too many.

The city needed defending. Not timidity. Not vague punditry. Civic rumbling was not enough. This was war and the Sun saw its mission clearly. In spite of limited resources caused by the decline in print journalism that has deprived many cities of a major daily newspaper, The Sun marshaled its staff to expose the phony thoughts behind your demeaning accusations. They challenged your sinister views; fact checked your lies; opened its pages to letters, op-eds, and
free lancers.

But most critically, the Paper found a public voice. With all its verbal snappiness, brilliant phrasing and crisp observations, reaching back to the glory days of H. L. Mencken and a history once the province of many great newspapers, the Sun blew its journalistic top with words that turned the town’s rumble into volcanic eruption spewing a lava of words that shook all the ships in port.

The Editorials! Those Editorials!

When have we read an editorial headline that said of a United States President: BETTER TO HAVE A FEW RATS THAN TO BE ONE. When did a reputable media institution call the words of a president “rat droppings…” Or declare that it was “better to have vermin’s living in your community than

to be one…” Think about that, Mr. President, a few rats would be better as neighbors than you. The Sun fretted over your mental stability reminding us that your lack of empathy had a medical term — “anti social personality disorder.” Then they really let you have it. Your behavior was far from Presidential. It was, in fact, the behavior of a “jerk, a clod, a dolt, a schmuck…” How perfect. A schmuck. The President of the United States is a schmuck. You, Sir, are a schmuck!

In one ferocious moment in time, this gritty, port city burst in air with a spirit that is reserved for parades honoring heroes and winning super bowls. Emerged was the town’s pride, its fondness for its community including its problems and a instinctive desire to tell a trash talking president — enough we won’t take it any more. Defending Baltimore went viral. Across
the country journalists, politicians, pundit, joined Baltimoreans in knocking the “Knocker -in-Chief.” They lobbed more verbal cannonballs at you then the early patriots fired fending off the British at Ft. McHenry. You may be President but after your bombast on Baltimore, it was OUR flag that was still there.

So here’s the score between you, the Knocker-in-Chief — and Baltimore — the target of your knocks.

Baltimore: …Pelosi drills a hole in your ego —wiping out dozens of sycophants, and humiliating you in the White House.
…Cummings: drills a hole in your heart— exposing your indifference, lies and cruelty.
…The Sun drills a hole in your inflammatory demeanor — unifying the city and unleashing a torrent of verbal reprisals, mobilizing a massive anti Trump movement. Baltimore three. You zip.

Sorry Mr. President. Three strikes. You’re out. Swallow the truth. You are not a first responder. You are not a stable genius, you are not smarter than your generals, you do not have a great vocabulary, you are really not rich, you can’t stiff Congress the way you stiff contractors, you can’t just wipe out another country because you feel like it. But mostly you can’t knock our city without paying a price. You are way out of Pelosi’s league. You can’t carry Cummings jock. We don’t want you in our neighborhood. In fact, while we are at it, tell Jared to get rid of the vermin in his local apartments and go back to where he came from.

As for you, Mr. President. Good luck with your visit. However, I’d really be careful about knocking our crabs. Go Baltimore!

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TED VENETOULIS | EMAIL TED

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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 12 Sep 2019 04:21:20 -0400