Nel's New Day

October 17, 2017

DDT’s Expensive Swamp

Cutting the waste in government was a frequent claim of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while on the campaign trail and the subject of an early executive order. DDT said that his executive order on March 13, 2017, would require a “thorough examination of every executive department and agency” to find out “where money is being wasted [and] how services can be improved.” His proposed budget slashes funds for the social network.

DDT should look to himself for waste in government. Although he has spent one night at New York’s Trump Tower since he was inaugurated, the apartment costs millions of dollars. He overcharged the facilities for the Secret Service there, requiring the command post to move to a trailer on the sidewalk in July. Expenditures for DDT’s golf trips are over $72 million, according to Trump Golf Count. At that rate, he’ll spend almost $400 million during his term.

DDT’s current campaigning for 2020 is on the taxpayer tab as well. When he went to Phoenix (AZ) to tout his “wall,” his campaign funds may have paid for the convention center and indoor security, but taxpayers were out almost $500,000 for his campaign event. Just employee overtime expenses for the Phoenix Police Department cost $336,887.

The costs of DDT’s family trips are astronomical. Just one ski vacation for Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, their spouses, their kids and their dogs cost taxpayers $330,000. The State Department paid the cost of $117,489.44 for the car rental charge when Tiffany Trump and her mother vacationed for two weeks in Italy. That was considerably cheaper than the $2 million that DDT cost the State Department during a 48-hour trip to Italy in May.

Secret Service is running out of money to protect DDT and his family of 18. Without congressional approval to increase the budget, 1,100 agents, one-third of them, will have to work overtime without pay. The current expenditure of $30 million is 250 percent more than the past annual cost of $12 million for President Obama and his family. The Secret Service protected 42 people around the clock until Donald Trump, Jr. refused his guard. After he said he wanted privacy, he was found killing moose in Alaska. Kellyanne Conway was also removed from the list.

Sen. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced an amendment the 2018 appropriations bill to prevent Secret Service payment to any businesses owned or operated by DDT:

“None of the funds made available by this Act to the United States Secret Service may be used to purchase, rent, or otherwise acquire goods or services, including hotel rooms, office space, or golf carts, from entities that are owned or operated by the President or the immediate family of the President.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) expanded Schiff’s plan to prohibit federal spending across the government at all “Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and other Trump-owned businesses.” The bills went nowhere but may have been educational.

In addition to DDT’s costs, taxpayers are paying for jetsetting Cabinet members:

  • (Former) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Over $1 million in military and charter flights. When he resigned, Price said that he would reimburse the government $52,000. A millionaire who made stock trade in health-care companies while helping them with laws, Price has been a proponent of taking hundreds of billions of dollars from federal health programs. As HHS secretary, he backed a $6 billion cut to NIH and an overall 18 percent reduction to the HHS budget. His goal is to eliminate “waste.” He also cut 90 percent from the Affordable Care Act’s advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million and almost half of the budget for consumer “navigators.” Price’s excuse for chartering private planes is that he once missed a meeting because of a four-hour delay on a commercial flight. Storms had shut down all flights in Washington, not only Price’s scheduled flight but also private jets which he attempted to get. Price missed dinner on Thursday night but was still available to give his speech the next morning. His destination, a two-day industry conference at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California, brings to question the excuse that he travels to be “connected with the real American people.” Another argument was how busy he was with the hurricanes; most of the chartered flights occurred before they hit the U.S.
  • EPA Director Scott Pruitt: Almost $60,000 for “non-commercial” flights. Pruitt spent 48 of 92 days traveling, most of the flights at least stopping in Oklahoma, possibly laying the groundwork for a senatorial campaign. One charter flight for $14,000 took Pruitt from Tulsa to Guymon (OK) to talk about closing the EPA’s ten regional offices by reassigning staff to state capitals—part of eliminating one-third of the EPA budget.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: Over $800,000 in costs for flights, including a government jet to Kentucky (where he and his wife viewed the solar eclipse) plus his request to take a government jet on his honeymoon to Europe.
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: A number of flights on private and military aircraft, including between St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as paying $12,000 to an oil-and-gas exploration firm for a charter flight instead of a commercial one because he was speaking to a political donor’s professional hockey team in Nevada. Zinke’s wife, manager of the campaign for Troy Downing who is a GOP candidate for a Montana senator, often travels with him as they stop at political fundraisers and donor events.
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin: Payment for his wife’s costs to Europe where they spent half his time, four days, on vacation tours that included four palaces and the championship Wimbledon match. Just weeks earlier, Shulkin told staff to cut back on travel expenses.
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: At least $58,000 for private flights.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: Seven FAA jet flights, including to New York and Paris.

VP Mike Pence may have cost taxpayers approximately $250,000 last week to stage a PR stunt. He flew from Las Vegas to Indiana with a pool of reporters to follow DDT’s orders by walking out of the football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after over 20 players knelt to protest police brutality. From there he flew to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. Worse than his staging this stunt was his statement that he saved people money because he would have flown to Washington, D.C. for the one night if he hadn’t gone to Indianapolis. Evidently no hotel openings in either Las Vegas or LA. Four Green Berets had been killed in Niger, but DDT ignored this tragedy to tweet against peaceful and legal protests by NFL athletes—29 times thus far.

DDT’s Cabinet runs high tabs in areas other than travel. Scott Pruitt’s protective 24/7 detail, triple that of his predecessors, costs $832,735.40 for his first three months, and the agency asked for an exception to DDT’s hiring freeze to hire an additional (number redacted on a memo) security members. In the past, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security received this kind of protection, but DDT has extended it to such dangerous positions as the Secretary of Education and the EPA. Betsy DeVos costs almost $1 million a month for protection from U.S. marshals.

Pruitt also wants a sound-proof booth. He’s paying almost $25,000 for it on the floor where employees cannot take cellphones or take notes. EPA employees say that he already has one but wants it “updated.”

One of Zinke’s staff is paid to go up to the roof and hoist his secretarial flag when Zinke enters the building and reverse the process when he leaves. He is the first White House official to do that for almost a century. His deputy secretary has his own flag to fly when Zinke is gone. Another cost, the amount not identified, is Zinke’s commissioning commemorative coins with his name that he hands out to staff and visitors. Again, the use of personalized coins is unique.

Price had early on asked to reopen the executive dining room, complete with executive chef, but Price has been fired.

And DDT’s executive order attempting to destroy health care for millions will cost the country $20 billion this year.

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October 15, 2017

Right v. Left in Religion

For almost a year, people have questioned how Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) could have 80 percent of the evangelical support to be elected U.S. president. He is a serial womanizer, divorced twice, married three times, brags about sexually assaulting women, and finds his biological daughter sexually attractive. (In addition, he’s autocratic, violent, vain, impulsive, and ignorant—but that may fit the evangelical lifestyle.)

A reason for evangelical support of DDT is that he can deliver what they want in turning the nation back to fundamentalist Christians. That support was evident last week when he began to make contraception illegal and came out against LGBTQ rights. A stronger reason for the evangelical belief in DDT, however, is that he shares their values. Money and wealth are gauges of human value and worth in the “prosperity gospel” as the rich are God’s “elect.” DDT promotes racism and white supremacy in accord with fundamentalist Christianity while he works to destroy the nation’s social safety net.

Background for these values is the DDT’s dogmatic approach, also in accord to fundamentalists. Dogmatic people are less skilled in analytical thinking and less likely to view situations from a variety of perspectives. Therefore, they believe that facts are “fake” unless they follow their personal beliefs. Dogmatic people are far less likely to believe in science because of their lack of understanding and their refusal to consider anything outside their narrow understanding. Politics for conservatives have now become a religious fundamentalism. They operate on faith in both arenas, clinging to beliefs that cannot be proven through empirical means.

Last week, the “Awaken the Dawn” rally filled the Washington National Mall with worship music and prayer in a three-day event. The organizer, Independent Network Charismatic (INC), has held other events, for example one in Houston where former Texas governor Rick Perry and current Secretary of Energy, prayed for rain. The “apostles” of INC have close links other U.S. politicians such as Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, and DDT.

Instead of building churches, INC builds networks through media, conferences, and education for its control. The goal is to put their believers into all of society’s powerful positions. The fastest-growing Christian group in the nation increased 3.24 percent a year from 1970 to 2010 while Protestant church attendees dropped by 0.05 percent each of those years when the nation’s population was annually growing by 1 percent.

An appeal of INC for young people are impromptu supernatural healing sessions in a hospital ER room, the casting out of demonic spirits in ministry school classes, and teams in public places to relay divine messages. Instead of creating congregations and joining people in worship services, INC wants heaven, God’s perfect society, on Earth through their leadership control of the “seven mountains of culture”: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family, and religion.

INC believers in DDT’s administration—including Rick Perry, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Secretary of HUD Ben Carson—are part of the plan.

Evangelicals have become more and more obsessed with collecting money as James Hudnut-Beumler wrote in his book, In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism. The first automated teller machine (ATM) was installed in a London church 50 years ago to add to the alms boxes (alms for the poor) in the back of churches. Evangelical churches added the ATMs to their churches to increase donations a dozen years. Donations went from $100,000 the first year to double that the second year in an 18-percent increase over pre-ATM times. The next step was the “automatic tithing machine” that deducted cash from the giver’s account to move it directly into that of the church. The church’s argument for giving this money is that it frees the donor. The money becomes sacred.  The givers, though, can’t use credit cards because it’s not the same; the sanctuary requires cash.

The “prosperity gospel” includes committing fraud. The founder of the Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina, currently being investigated for enslaving foreign believers after luring them to the U.S., is encouraging members to file fraudulent unemployment claims to keep tithing and giving to the “church.” Jane Whaley told contractor Randy Fields that this fraud is “God’s plan” after he asked to cut back on his tithing after his business was in trouble. Fields said that several other members and fellowship employees committed fraud because of Whaley’s demands. The false claims may be provided the church hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past six years. A church member also led 30 parishioners to attack and beat a gay church member to “expel his demons.”

DDT’s war on athletes protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem follows the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity. Pastor Allen Joyner of the Sweet Home Baptist Church, who announces football games at McKenzie High School (Alabama), told his crowd that anyone who didn’t stand for the national anthem should “line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots AT you.” The school denounced his statement, but his church supported the belief.  Joyner has resigned from his volunteer position at the high school.

Evangelism of personal piety from over a century ago has been replaced by Christian Reconstructionism that tries to control all the Earth and eradicate any secular, humanist society. All non-fundamentalists will be silenced, imprisoned, or killed, and the mission of government is to protect property and wage war. Churches, in charge of social welfare, can deny help to the poor, and people can be executed for “moral crimes.” The United States is well on its way to this philosophy: almost 40 percent believe in creationism, and almost one-third are evangelical Christians. Only God can save evangelicals, who must overcome all others in any way possible. People in the evangelical movement consider themselves victims of all the “others”—racial, religious, etc.

While the religious right seems to be taking over, the “religious left” is not sitting back. Progressive faith leaders are not only opposing DDT’s actions in supporting his “values voters” but also opening their worship places and even homes to undocumented immigrants risking DDT’s deportations. Growing more nervous about the movement, the religious conservatives are attempting to discredit and condemn the Religious Left. Last July, Fox network treated one of the left’s leaders, Rev. William Barber II, after he accused right-wing pastors of hypocrisy, that their actions constituted “a form of theological malpractice bordering on heresy.” When Linda Sarsour called on her fellow Muslims to a nonviolent “jihad” for social justice against DDT, Fox joined other conservative media to accuse her remarks as “terror.” (Jihad means a spiritual struggle against evil.)

In addition to attacking individuals, conservative media claims that progressivism and religion are not compatible. Cal Thomas, vice president of the Moral Majority from 1980 to 1985, blame declines in church affiliation on liberal people of faith who engage in politics. Mark Tooley, head of the right-wing Institute of Religion and Democracy, described the “Christian left” as “unreflective.” The National Review claimed the Democratic Party is actively hostile to religion.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons theorizes that the religious right is killing religious belief in the United States. He writes that the same percentage of people unaffiliated with religion—97 percent—believed in God in 2014 and 2007. The reason for declining church membership, according to Graves-Fitzsimmons:

“Americans aren’t rejecting God, they’re rejecting harmful religion….

“Religion in America looks little like the Golden Rule and much more like Westboro Baptist Church.”

The reason for withdrawal from organized religion is that the religious right has established themselves “as the only legitimate religious voice.” The media incessantly reports on their activism so it appears to be the only religion. The rejection of people for fundamentalist Christianity furthers the belief that it is the only Christian belief. Progressive Christians then shy away from being identified with religion because of its negative perspective from conservatives.

“Progressive people of faith have been on the front lines of the racial justice, environmental justice and immigration justice movements,” writes Graves-Fitzsimmons. The media no longer views these movements as Christian in the way that they view anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-women’s rights.

The right-wing group in religion and all other matters proudly call themselves “conservatives,” but they are the opposite from this philosophy. Conservation is preserving natural resources and heritage. Yet today’s conservatives are determined to destroy the planet, history, and human rights. They should be called destructionists.

October 14, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-eight – More Unraveling, Part 2

The attempts of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to unravel the benefits of the past two presidential terms includes limiting assistance for Puerto Rico after two hurricanes. Although the Pentagon has issued private emails explaining a positive spin on U.S. non-assistance to its territory, DDT foils the attempt with such statements as his threat to remove FEMA because of PR’s financial struggles in the past.

Over three weeks after the second hurricane hit PR, 91 percent of the island is without electricity after yesterday’s power plant failure in San Juan, and 36 percent of the population lacks potable water. People are dying from such waterborne diseases as leptospirosis, and Puerto Ricans are drinking contaminated water from superfund sites because no other water is available.

FEMA sends information about sources of help through non-operational media sources; only 37 percent of cell towers function. Only 392 miles of Puerto Rico’s 5,073 miles of roads are open. FEMA cannot stay there forever—as DDT said—but it did stay in New Orleans for six years after Hurricane Katrina.

Criticized for the lack of support for people in Puerto Rico, FEMA said that it is not their job to distribute food and water. Their officials are there only to help people fill out paperwork. Mayors, who lack trucks, gas, and satellite phones, are responsible for getting these supplies to people. This photo to the right was taken this week in downtown Santurce, population of almost 100,000).

One senior FEMA official admitted that the agency is about 1.8 million meals short per day to feed people on Puerto Rico. Chef José Andrés had managed to deliver about 90,000 meals a day through a network of local chefs. His contract ended earlier this week with no urgency from FEMA to renew it.

Meanwhile, government workers are hiring Puerto Ricans for pedicures and massages on their “spa day” during work hours. An experienced senior doctor working for the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) in coordination with DHS quit after the FEMA disaster relief employees “used the triage tents that are supposed to be for medical care.”

Members of the White House administration are still geographically challenged. DDT said that he spoke to the “president of the Virgin Island” who is technically Donald Trump. DDT described Puerto Rico as being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: it’s in the Caribbean Sea. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, as a “country” during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.

Russian trolls are distributing false information on social media about “excellent” conditions on the island.

DDT has withdrawn from Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known for its designation of World Heritage sites. Its missions include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women with the largest literacy program in Afghanistan. The excuse is that the organization is “anti-Israel,” meaning that it accepts Palestine.

DDT is threatening NFL with increased taxes if they don’t stop athletes from kneeling during the national anthem. The NFL has no federal tax breaks, but it benefits from tax-exempt bonds used by governments to finance new stadiums, about $13 billion since 2000 for NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA. DDT could demand a ban on these tax-exempt bonds.

After Richard Nixon fought the seizure of his records, a court case, followed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, mandated that all records of presidents and vice-presidents are public and cannot be destroyed. DDT, his White House staff, and his family are being sued for the preservation of all presidential records. According to DDT’s DOJ, “courts cannot review the President’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act.” DOJ lawyers also argue that judicial review is wrong even if DDT deletes secret recordings or his staff purges phone records because they expected to be subpoenaed in connection with various investigations.

After DDT said he was overturning DACA, the law allowing work permits to young people brought involuntarily into the country, he said that Congress should reform the law to permit them to stay. This week he issued his conditions for DACA: money for his wall on the Mexican border, laws to send undocumented immigrants including unaccompanied children to their home countries, elimination of sanctuary cities and other areas, refusal to allow immigrants to sponsor extended family members, rejection of children fleeing violence in Central America, use of the E-Verify program by businesses to find undocumented immigrants, and a fifty-percent cut on entry of unskilled workers through a “merit”-based immigration system. DACA members would also not be allowed to apply for citizenship. The demands indicate the fine hand of Stephen Miller, a white supremacist White House member.

One of the first bills that DDT signed after his inauguration was to make it easier for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. People on Social Security for mental illnesses and deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs are again permitted to purchase weapons. Law enforcement officials are beginning to view the man who killed 58 people and injured over 500 people in one shooting as mentally ill.

In this week’s fourth set of talks for NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada, DDT turned against businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce an enemy. The Chamber called DDT’s proposals “unnecessary and unacceptable” and “highly dangerous.” Businesses know that withdrawal from NAFTA means higher tariffs, losses in jobs, higher consumer prices, failure to create new trade deals, and forfeiture of any leadership in exports. Congressional members of Congress are also expressing frustration with their lack of involvement in negotiations because are responsible for any changes, additions, and/or deletions to trade agreements.

New language in the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018-2022 strategic plan: its mission is “serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.” This guideline may lead to contraceptives becoming illegal because some religious groups think that they produce abortions.

The EPA has issued a 43-page document to replace the Clean Power Plan with the Dirty Power Plan without any information on how his plan impacts air pollution. The document justifying the Dirty plan discounts any global costs or danger to future generations. The public is invited to comment on alternatives for replacing it, without the EPA proposing any replacement of its own. Secretary Scott Pruitt seems to think that he would have trouble with actually repealing the Clean plan because he’s asking for public input—a delaying tactic that allows him to maintain the Dirty plan.

In the “perfect storm” that elected DDT, Cambridge Analytica, an “election management agency” partly owned by conservative hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, crunched data for DDT’s campaign after Ted Cruz lost. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is now investigating the company for possible collusion between DDT’s campaign and Russian operatives. Social media delivered Russian propaganda to white voters, but the information about voters may have come from Cambridge, an outgrowth of the British SCL Group which ran a campaign dividing Latvians and ethnic Russians in Latvia with false statements and fake social movements. DDT’s data team followed the same social, ethnic, and racial divides, pushing the idea of discrimination against the white middle class.

DDT’s new anti-science nominees are Kathleen Hartnett-White for White House Council on Environmental Quality and Barry Myers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Hartnett-White, from a Koch-funded foundation, believes that carbon dioxide is “not a pollutant” and argues that developing fossil fuels is “moral.” Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, wants to privatize the National Weather Service to benefit his company and has no advanced degree in science.

DDT continues his goal to be “unique.” This week he was the first person inaugurated as president who spoke to the hate group Values Voters Summit with its collections of anti-LGBTQ white supremacists and religious zealots. Another speaker was white supremacist and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, now beloved because he was wounded in a mass shooting. He is still opposed to LGBTQ rights although a married lesbian police officer saved his life. In a panel discussion, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) said that religious freedom laws would “unshackle the voices on the right,” admitting that these laws are about politics, not religion.

Ignorance or lying? DDT said that he has reduced the national debt by $5.2 trillion because the stock market has increased that much since he was inaugurated. News for DDT: national debt is what the nation has borrowed; stock market is how much more businesses are worth. No relationship! DDT has made 1,318 false or misleading claims over 263 days.

People who think that impeachment is a solution to the problems that DDT brought to the U.S. should consider this statement yesterday from VP Mike Pence:

“President Donald Trump has restored the credibility of American power. Today our nation once again stands, without apology, as leader of the free world. That’s what American leadership on the world stage looks like.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) hasn’t let up on DDT. Yesterday Corker talked about DDT’s forced choices between going to war with countries like North Korea and Iran or allowing those countries to obtain nuclear weapons. Corker said, “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice.” He continued by saying that DDT’s actions are causing all Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “phenomenal” work to “fall apart.” Thus far DDT hasn’t tweeted back at Corker’s accusations; he’s busy bragging about healthcare stocks going down after his continued sabotage of the Affordable Care Act.

Our future?

 

October 13, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-eight – Unraveling, Part 1

The sole goal of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been to erase everything that President Obama which includes “unraveling” all the improvements of the past eight years for the United States. This past week, however, the term unraveling has been used as often for DDT’s mental condition, in short his lack of fitness for leadership. In a piece for Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman wrote about how a number of Republicans close to DDT “all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.” DDT’s mental issues have come after another week of leaks, including his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling him a “moron,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) warning that DDT could start World War III because the White House is a “adult day care,” and a report about DDT calling for a ten-fold increase in the nation’s nuclear abilities during a meeting last summer.

DDT is furious that he has no major legislative accomplishments and lost the GOP senatorial primary in Alabama to Roy Moore. Two sources said that DDT ranted, “I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!” Another source claimed that Chief of Staff and John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are trying to figure out what to do if DDT orders a nuclear first strike. Long-time DDT friend Tom Barrack is “shocked” and “stunned” by DDT’s behavior. A GOP donor said that calls to the Oval Office aren’t put through. Although DDT was willing to be interviewed by his friend Sean Hannity, he refused an interview with 60 Minutes.

Former white supremacist and strategist Steve Bannon told DDT early on that his greatest risk was the 25th Amendment, in which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove a president. About that amendment, DDT asked “What’s that?” Bannon has told people that DDT has a 30 percent chance of lasting the entire four-year term.

Even Rush Limbaugh has begun to criticize DDT. Regarding DDT’s attempt to make NFL athletes stand during the national anthem, Limbaugh said, “I am very uncomfortable with the president of the United States being able to dictate the behavior and power of anybody.”

White House staff use parenting techniques for toddlers with DDT. When he wanted to instantly end NAFTA or fire AG Jeff Sessions, former chief of staff Reince Priebus would suggest waiting until the next week or bring in advisers to talk with DDT. If that didn’t work, another tactic was to call all of DDT’s friends to talk him down from the edge. NF Gov. Chris Christie was asked at least five times to talk down an angry DDT, and aides kept Corker’s number on speed dial. DDT’s friends and aides would publicly criticize him, hoping that the media might help him listen to concerns. Decisions work better for DDT if there was only one choice. When he starts the day “worked into a lather,” aides “have to just move the conversation along to something else.” Daniel Drezner has a collection of how the aides to the Toddler-in-Chief have had to “contain” the Leader of the Free World.

This article is not the first to use the term “unraveling” for DDT’s actions: last spring Joan Walsh described DDT’s behavior last spring with the firing of former FBI director James Comey in connection with DDT’s insistence on the biggest numbers—for example, at the inauguration and in the popular vote. She gave Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as one of DDT’s reason for firing him:

“Comey himself was confirming Trump’s darkest fear, the font of his angsty, crazy late-night and early-morning tweets: that he hadn’t won the presidency legitimately.”

DDT had always criticized the Iran deal because it was an important part of President Obama’s legacy. Ignoring the danger of a nuclear war, DDT has de-certified the international agreement that keeps Iran from building nuclear weapons. He didn’t totally withdraw, but he gave Congress 60 days to save the deal, knowing that the dysfunctional legislative body can’t even pass simple bills. DDT’s decision weakens the United States because the other five countries in the deal want it to continue. it is only one of five other countries in the agreement that plan to continue the agreement. The result may united Europe, the UK, Russia, and China against the United States. Any changes that the U.S. attempts will violate the agreement.

DDT’s base may want his “hardline” approach, but Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis agree that the constraints on Iran are in the U.S. national security interests. Mattis argued that Iran should be left alone, especially because of the nuclear issues with North Korea. Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush’s secretary of state, and Ehud Barak, hawkish toward Iran as a former Israeli prime minister and defense minister, also disagree with DDT’s de-certification.

DDT had no valid reason for his decision because Iran is still in compliance and the deal is working very well. Iran is in compliance, moving the country farther from building a bomb. The money Iran has redeemed after the agreement—formerly sanctioned Iranian money that DDT misrepresents as U.S. money—has increased Iranian business with Europe, an influential part of the six-country deal. U.S. departure won’t hurt Iran alone but it can keep inspectors from Iran, allowing nuclear weapon buildup. DDT has no idea what is contained within the Iran deal except it needs to be re-certified every 90 days—which annoys him.

DDT made two moves this past week in an attempt to unravel the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance from tens of millions of people. His decision to eliminate subsidies for low- and medium-income buyers of health insurance will increase both premiums by 20 to 25 percent for the next two years and the federal deficit by an average of $20 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The end of subsidies will leave many counties without insurance providers for low-income people. DDT’s intent in ending subsidy payments to insurance companies may be to leverage Democrats into replacing the ACA. Fifteen states are suing to replace the payments.

DDT’s executive order provides a way for people to avoid higher premiums leaves them with insurance that provides little healthcare. It frees coverage from ACA regulations by exempting many association health plans from core ACA requirements, allowing individuals to join these plans, and extending short-term insurance to one year. Insurance policies, with no mandate to cover essential health benefits, allows insurance companies to charge sick people more than healthy people and permits them to deny people coverage based on their medical history. Another indication that DDT is personally unraveling is that he proudly announced the signing and then started to leave the room. When he was called back to actually do the signing, he said, “I’m only signing this because it doesn’t cost anything.” Once DDT was reminded that he needed to sign the order, he smiled proudly like a toddler in toilet training.

Other DDT actions to sabotage the ACA:

  • Erase almost all funding for outreach and assistance in enrolling for ACA;
  • Cut the open enrollment by over half;
  • Shut down the federal exchange on the first day of open enrollment as well as for twelve hours every Sunday except for December 10;
  • Use taxpayer money for negative ads about the ACA to post on YouTube;
  • Post negative information on Twitter and in press releases;
  • Remove guidance for ACA from website;
  • Fail to require individual mandate.

DDT is enacting a policy  in which the government spends billions more to insure fewer people in opposition to the wishes of the population. Seventy-one percent—48 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of independents—want the GOP to make the healthcare work.  In addition, DDT is violating the oath of office to uphold the constitution, specifically “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The ACA is a law, not a regulation.

DDT wants to take away licensing from media outlets because “it’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” There goes the “free press” in the First Amendment. Yet DDT has been good for some media outlets because of the vastly increased interest in following politics. At least one Republican has indicated a concern about DDT’s censorship plan.   Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) tweeted to the conservatives, “What will you wish you had said now if someday a President Elizabeth Warren talks about censoring Fox News?”

More unravelling in Part 2.

October 8, 2017

DDT Needs Caretaker

A weekend means interviews on Sunday “news” shows and obnoxious tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). This weekend, DDT declared war on Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), claiming that Corker didn’t have the guts to run for re-election because DDT had refused an endorsement for Corker and turned him down to be Secretary of State after he begged DDT. He also blamed Corker for supporting the Iran deal that keeps Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Both Corker and other sources have said that DDT is lying in his claims about Corker.

DDT’s tantrum came after Corker said that DDT treats his office like “a reality show” with his threats possibly moving the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” Corker said that he is alarmed by a president who acts “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something.” DDT is ignoring his need for Corker’s votes to pass his tax cut legislation and “decertify” the Iranian deal. Corker’s committee also is in control of confirmation hearings for DDT’s ambassadorial appointments. After DDT’s virulent remarks about him, Corker topped off his own tweets with this one:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

On Fox News Sunday, Corker repeated his earlier statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” DDT’s racist comments about neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (VA) earlier caused Corker to say that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Corker said:

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Corker also said that his personal concerns about DDT were shared by almost every GOP senator.

FEMA director, William “Brock” Long, has decided to ignore pleas for help from San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz because he considers them “political.” She tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA_Brock. NOTHING!” Long said on a morning talk show, “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago.” DDT is still congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he is doing with Puerto Rico and said that he was just having “fun” throwing those “beautiful soft towels.”

Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico has joined Germany in sending help to the U.S territory. In spite of two major earthquakes last month, Mexico will send aid to Puerto Rico including water and electricity experts to mitigate damage and help restore the island’s power supply as well as mosquito repellent and 30 tons of bottled water.

While people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying from lack of food, water, electricity, etc., the U.S. House put its priority on  limiting abortion access. It passed a bill, likely unconstitutional and definitely disproportionately affecting low-income women, that bans abortions after 20 weeks and imprisoning doctors performing the procedure for up to five years. The vote was 237 to 189, with two Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting nay.

The IRS has given Equifax, the company that allowed the records of 143 million people to be stolen, a $7.5 million contract. The no-bid contract, posted the last day of the fiscal year on September 30, is to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract.  During a committee hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asked former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?”

Photos of Smith at the hearing have shown Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, seated behind Smith as he testified about the computer breach. He rushed off after she tried to give him a bag of “Get out of jail free” cards after the hearing in a protest of plans that allow banks and financial institutions to take advantage of consumers.

DDT’s third Muslim ban is going to court.

DDT’s need for a majority vote has bled down to the DOJ’s violating federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, states that voter registration maintenance “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Yet AG Jeff Sessions is supporting purging voter registrations because of irregular voting patterns. Ohio, for example, removed 1.2 million voters for infrequent voting. Sessions has not decided that this action is appropriate, despite federal law.

DDT’s magical tax cut plan, labeled as the “middle-class miracle,” has an evaluation from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). According to its study, the plan mostly benefits the rich, raises taxes on some middle-class people, and lowers federal revenue by $2.4 trillion within a decade. Republicans are not happy, but they haven’t offered any evidence of any tax relief to the middle class. The pattern is the same as the GOP plan for healthcare “reform” when Republicans were confused by facts about tens of millions few people having insurance. A chief GOP criticism was that there was no “dynamic” score, meaning one that made up information about an improved economy.

DDT’s latest nominee, this one for the second most powerful EPA position as safety chief, is an employee of the chemical industry. As such, Michael Dourson declared that children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity. His position includes overseeing pesticides and setting safety levels for some of the most dangerous chemicals in use.

Conservationists have had a run of successes in court, a recent one in Washington. A state board overturned two important permits for an immense refinery turning natural gas into methanol because an environmental impact study had not considered greenhouse gas emissions. The product would then be shipped to China to make plastics. The failed project was designated for Kalama (WA), less than an hour north of Portland (OR). This past week a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the reinstatement of a restriction on harmful methane emissions from gas and oil drilling on federal lands after the Interior Department tried to remove it with the excuse that it was a burden to the industry. Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the department had no “reasoned explanation” for allowing energy companies to not capture the polluting methane that wastes about $330 million a year—enough to power five million homes for that year. Before the rule went into effect, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hung over the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado from the oil and gas industry.

Only 24 percent of people think that the U.S. is going in the right directions. The change among Republicans has been the most drastic: only 44 percent support the direction, compared to 60 percent just three months ago. Other areas in which people have a high percentage of disapproval toward DDT are handling race relations, foreign policy, and immigration—all with over 60 percent disapproval.

That drop in support may be the reason that DDT sent Mike Pence to Indianapolis today to attend the game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. The sole purpose of the “reality show” was pandering to DDT’s base with  was a photo shoot when Pence walked out after some of the athletes knelt during the national anthem. Pence was so sure he would be leaving that he didn’t bother to take any reporters with him. A Pence aide said that he might be leaving early. The photo sent to the press of the vice-president in a suit with his hand over his heart was actually taken in 2014 when Pence was governor of Indiana. To attend the game, Pence flew from Las Vegas before he immediately returned to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. (Your taxes at work!)

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tweeted:

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets.”

Constantly accused of disrespecting the flag, kneeling athletes are protesting police racial brutality and injustice. Anyone questioning this brutality should watch the highly graphic video of a Utah police officer fatally shooting a black man in the back after he was stopped for not having a light on his bicycle. The DA exonerated the police officer who killed Patrick Harmon because the officer said he was afraid.

October 7, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-seven – Raking Up Big Numbers

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can now take credit for the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history—59 59 dead and at least 527 people in Las Vegas this week. These are the “secret” White House talking points in an effort to stop any talk about common sense gun laws, as indicated in a leak: pray and monitor; wait for any “political debate” until facts are known; protect the people through the Second Amendment; can’t stop a “mad man” with “new laws” because “they will curtail the freedoms of law-abiding citizens; don’t need guns for terrorist attacks; allow people to protect themselves with concealed carry; and don’t “rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.” In other words, legislative business as usual—tax cuts!

Another leak this week that hit the comedy routines was DDT’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling DDT a “moron” in a Pentagon meeting last July. Tillerson was forced  to call DDT “smart” in a press conference, but he didn’t deny that he used that term for DDT. The comment was made after DDT’s appearance at the Boy Scouts Jamboree; Tillerson was its leader from 2010 to 2012.

Tillerson has also been frustrated because DDT’s publicly undermines him, for example, the dispute when Middle Eastern countries blockaded Qatar, sanctions on Venezuela, aid to Israel, and, most recently, DDT’s tweet that Tillerson should not negotiate with North Korea. The day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached out to North Korea for talks, DDT tweeted that he was “wasting his time” and “we’ll do what has to be done!”  Just 37 percent trust Trump to responsibly handle the North Korea standoff.

In opposition to Tillerson, DDT indicated that he will back out of the Iranian agreement, leaving them free to develop nuclear weapons. The Nobel Committee cited this as one reason to award its Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its efforts in advancing negotiations leading to the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms. The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies—including the United States—boycotted the negotiations, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis threatened Sweden with retribution if the country supported the treaty. Fifty-three UN member states signed the treaty, and three of them have formally ratified it since the process started on September 20.

Tillerson has formed a “pact” with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Treasury that all three will resign if DDT fires one of them.

DDT did get to Puerto Rico almost two weeks after Maria was the second hurricane to hit the island, stayed in populated areas, and left an hour early. [Right: DDT shows a different kind of “compassion” to hurricane victims.]

While there, DDT:

  • Refused to mention or communicate with the mayor of San Juan;
  • Complained about the cost of the two hurricanes’ damage while saying how happy he is to spend “hundreds of millions” on the F-35, a plane has never flown a mission and “you can’t see” (according to DDT);
  • Said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe like Katrina;
  • Ignored the devastation on the island;
  • Threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd of survivors in a church, perhaps appearing to “distribute” supplies;
  • Praised the place for its beautiful weather;
  • Told hurricane victims to “have a good time”;
  • Said he was doing an “A+” job.

DDT has not yet submitted a request for aid to Puerto Rico. As he bragged about the wonderful response to the disaster, over half the people have no clean drinking water, and 95 percent of them have no electricity. DDT handed out flashlights but said that the people didn’t need them. Only one of the island’s 69 hospitals is fully operational, 59 of the 69 hospitals are operating on generators. Local officials talked about the lack of assistance. The mayor in a city of 54,000 said that they had received 10,000 meals, and one woman in the city said she had seen no supplies except for a case of water after 11 days. DDT waited ten days to waive the requirement that food stamps be used only in grocery stores despite the inability of these facilities to process the stamps.

After he returned from Puerto Rico, DDT said that he might wipe out the territory’s $72 billion debt, mostly held in huge hedge funds, but his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said, “We’re absolutely not going to bail them out.” As the U.S. seems incapable of helping Puerto Rico, Germany is donating 15 microgrids around the island for power emergency centers that combine solar panels and batteries.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no for a resolution calling on countries to not use the death penalty for discrimination in cases of consensual adultery and same-gender relations. Twenty-seven countries supported the resolution while the U.S. was one of 13 countries, primarily those in the Middle East and Asia, that opposed it. Seven countries abstained. Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted about the vote, “Not even Russia and Iran stooped as low as we did.” The U.S. does use the death penalty as discrimination against minorities, women, and poor people.

The congressional conclusion that Russian attempted to hack into U.S. voting machines and influenced U.S. voters through social media has been followed by DDT’s request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the U.S. press. DDT’s constant attacks on the media as “fake news” has a benefit for the media. The 48 percent of people who have confidence in the press is up nine percent since last November whereas the same 48 percent having a measure of faith in DDT is down three percent.

Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is also being investigated for his reassignment of Joel Clement after Clement showed how climate change affects Alaska’ Native communities. An earlier probe came from his threats to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in an attempt to get her vote for the health care bill.

Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. are in the hot seat with their emails, including publicity about how they barely evaded indictment on felony fraud charges in 2012 regarding their failed project, Trump SoHo, but donations to a campaign saved them. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made prosecutors drop the case after DDT’s attorney Marc Kasowitz gave $25,000 to the DA’s reelection campaign with another $50,000 from DDT and other donors later on.

The use of official emails on Ivanka’s and Don Jr.’s personal accounts may have compromised national security:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shared official White House materials on the Kushner family’s private domain, in a third private account recently discovered. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said. Kushner set up ijkfamily.com when he joined DDT’s administration.

Apps on Kushner’s and Ivanka’s private email automatically deleted communications for official matters, an illegal action that other of DDT’s White House officials have also taken.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to White House counsel last week requesting more information about the White House staff use of private email addresses for official business, including disappearing message apps.

Both Kushner and Ivanka moved their email accounts to Trump Organization after the letter stating that the records not be destroyed, modified, or transferred. Cummings pointed out that their action also violates their pledge to not be a part of Trump Organization.

https://www.mediaite.com/online/rachel-maddow-reports-that-secret-service-is-banning-mobile-devices-from-west-wing/  More problems arose after it was discovered that the cell phone of John Kelly, former National Security Advisor and current chief of staff, was compromised with the establishment of new guidelines. Personal mobile devices—including tablets, cell phones, and smart watches—are to be prohibited from the West Wing. The question is whether DDT’s cell phone is part of this ban.

ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit against the government after AG Jeff Sessions announced that businesses and organizations can use religious belief or “moral conviction” to avoid providing free birth control on its insurance plans. A majority of people, even Republicans, disagree with DDT. The same excuse can also be used to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The ACLU is also suing to lift unreasonable FDA restrictions on Mifeprex, a safe and effective method of ending an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks, from pharmacies.

DDT may also be able to take credit for the worst hurricane destruction of any president. The fourth major storm to hit the U.S. in less than nine months has killed 30 people in Central America and has now hit the Louisiana coast. Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. Over 40 percent of the Gulf’s staffed oil- and gas-producing platforms were evacuated. The storm, now a Category One, still has winds of about 100 mph and possible storm surges of 10 feet but should weaken on land. It may be the worst hurricane in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005.

October 6, 2017

Congress Supports Women–A Little

North Korea, hurricanes, mass shootings, anti-women and anti-LGBTQ rights’ bills and order—all these are the orders of the day during the past few weeks. Scouring the news, however, reveals the passage of the Women, Peace and Security Act, in both the House and Senate with voice votes and then signed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) today.

For the first time, the U.S. is required to develop a strategy to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations and conflict prevention. The Department of Defense, State Department, and USAID are to strengthen the participation of women in peace and security processes along with post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.

The bill entered Congress five years ago because women have such a small part in conflict resolution. Only nine percent of negotiators at official peace talks were women between 1992 and 2011. Only five percent of police and military forces are women in many places throughout the world. In 2011, President Obama created a strategy on women’s participation in peace and security processes by executive order that was updated in 2016.  The order did not improve the situation much in the past six years: In 2015, only 3 percent of UN military peacekeepers and 10 percent of UN police personnel were women. DDT has nominated white men to almost all positions.

The new law not only requires that women’s participation be a priority in federal agencies but also mandates personnel for these agencies to train and consult with women in conflict areas. It also gives Congress the right to oversee that the law is enacted. The law requires the International Military Education and Training program, that brings foreign officers to U.S. military schools, to double the number of women in three years. Out of participants from 140 countries between 2011 and 2015, only seven percent were women. Also to be doubled is the number of female peacekeepers in five years and female participants in the State Department anti-terrorism training program within three years. Women must be at least ten percent of nominees for U.S.-funded police training programs around the world.

This new law may seem like a distraction to the various foreign policy challenges and security threats, but it does require gender diverse groups which can be better at preventing and resolving conflicts. In 2001, U.S. and allied NATO forces gave billions of dollars to stabilize the country and help to reconstruct it. Yet Afghan women had little involvement in decision-making, leaving procedures to men. Women stayed at home with no input into their fate as male soldiers and tribal elders determined what to do with them. Community needs, understood by women where terrorist groups and insurgents were embedded, were determined by men without any contribution by women.

How women move the world toward conflict resolution:

  • Syrian women have risked their lives to secure local ceasefires, mobilize campaigns for reconciliation, and open secret schools in ISIS-controlled territories.
  • Policewomen in Pakistan address grievances to rebuild trust with the civilian population.
  • Women in South Sudan are forming coalitions to resolve the conflict between government and opposition leaders.
  • Peace accords are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years if women take part in their development because women often bring up issues connected to causes of conflict and violence.

Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH), a founder of the bill, said:

“Women are disproportionally affected by violence and armed conflict around the world, yet far too often they are under-represented in the peace process. We know that when women are at the table in peace talks, conflict prevention, and conflict mediation, it increases the likelihood that these negotiations will succeed. Our legislation will help ensure that women have a meaningful role in security and peace around the world.”

According to research, female security forces are more likely than men to de-escalate tensions with excessive force. Women are better at providing a perception of a security force’s integrity. They can also get more information about security risks, and women are more likely to report gender-based violence to female personnel.

Congress has now passed the law, but DDT wants to slash the tiny budget for women, peace, and security efforts. This needs to be stopped. Other important steps forward are improved targets for all U.S.-offered training related to peace and security issues and outlines of specific steps to better use women’s skills and perspectives. Guidelines are necessary for recruitment, retention and outreach to involve women in prevention and peacebuilding efforts. Congress also needs to legislate the U.S. National Action Plan on women, peace, and security so that U.S. agencies are held accountable for the commitment shown in the Women, Peace and Security Act.

The law is a baby step, but it’s a start.

October 4, 2017

A Needed Conversation on Race

Filed under: Discrimination — trp2011 @ 11:34 PM
Tags: ,

My small community on the Oregon coast is a mix of active progressives who fight for human rights and conservatives who pray to the Second Amendment. The local newspaper is a popular venue of discussion, some of it strongly opposed to public education, LGBTQ rights, and healthcare for all. (Many from the latter group are firmly attached to their Medicare because retired people compose a large percentage of the population.)

The tragedy of 59 deaths and at least 527 wounded people in Las Vegas earlier this week has consumed much of the media space, but the slow careful reading of condolences by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doesn’t erase his antagonism toward a majority of people in the United States. His recent behavior in Puerto Rico when he was off teleprompter was indicative of his dismissal of anyone who doesn’t have his white skin. His throwing packages of towels at a group of survivors after the destruction of their second hurricane in a few weeks and his insistence that they grovel for assistance demonstrated his belief that, to him, Puerto Rico, is an inferior colony.

Conservatives keep writing letters with the message of “get over it” in their attempt to normalize DDT’s behavior. There is nothing normal about his behavior or his actions, and we can’t buy in to a need for this normalizing. Below is an op-ed to the local newspaper in response to letters supporting DDT’s racism. The author is right in stressing the importance of dialog about issues surrounding racism in the United States. Keep educating yourself, and keep talking!

A rash of letters here has begun to supply a needed conversation on racism. The public should be grateful to the editor for providing a venue for this. It’s time to step back and consider the whole issue more objectively.

The issues which set off this debate were the actions of neo-Nazis (which they proudly call themselves) at Charlottesville, Trump’s defense of them, and his equation of peace activists and leftists with the various neo-Nazi, KKK, and other white supremacists groups which began the provocation.

Trump’s obvious sympathy for groups of this kind was long preceded by his bigoted attacks on women, Blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, and Muslims. This was followed by the pardon of Joe Arpaio, guilty of abusing his office, racial profiling, contempt of court, and violating the Constitution. Trump’s pardon excuses these things and undermines the rule of law.

As a result, there have been letters attacking Trump’s racism and letters defending him. The letters attacking Trump refer to facts, i.e. 74% of hate crimes in the last 10 years have been committed by right-wing hate groups, 24% by Islamists” and only 2% by “leftists.” Letters defending Trump rely on name-calling, using words such as “haters,” “dims,” and even “Californians.” Anything to avoid the facts of the argument. Always, they promote the idea that Trump’s critics are a radical extreme.

The facts are different. Trump has been denounced not only by Democrats, but by noted Republicans, his own Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, former party chairs, etc. Across the world, people are appalled as well.

One of the letters which sparked special local outrage was one in which the author said that “if you stand with Trump, you stand with the Nazis.” Even some progressives thought this was a bit too much. Really? In criminal law you would talk about “aiding and abetting,” in military law, you would talk about “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

People trying to stop hate speech aren’t as “hate-filled” as armed thugs shouting, “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil.”  The blood part of that chant refers to the idea that human “goodness” resides in the “purity” of your “blood.”  Do such utterances not deserve loud and very clear denunciation?

My point is that this really is about race, not political correctness.  Our community needs to talk about it. And I hope that readers note the quality of the arguments on both sides.  On one side, there are denunciations of real faults; on the other deflections and denial.

The bottom line is, lots of Germans supported Hitler, not because they were members of the Nazi party, or because they hated Jews or foreigners, but because they liked some of what Hitler said, especially the idea that he was “making Germany great again.” These supporters and others who just kept quiet helped him along, and they rightly share the blame for what happened.

Trump is a package deal—in the end you will be responsible for the whole ugly package.

Diane Eckstein

October 1, 2017

Christian Nationalism Lacks Rational Thought, Decency

Various claims for Hillary Clinton’s loss are her not visiting Wisconsin and Michigan, not articulating her economic program, and relying on “identity politics.” Nobody addresses her faith in the voters to be, as David Masciotra wrote, “sufficiently thoughtful and moral to reject the prospect of a historically illiterate con man who routinely makes racist remarks and once boasted of committing sexual assault, acting as President of the United States.” Almost 63 million people used the excuse of Clinton’s private email server to all an impulsive man displaying a serious case of ADHD to be in control of the nation’s nuclear weapons. Progressives lose at the ballot and across the culture because they consistently overestimate the intelligence and decency of the American people. She assumed that the majority of Americans operate according to rationality and compassion.

During a pre-election debate, DDT blamed Clinton for not reforming the tax code while she was a senator; she had to explain to him how a bill becomes a law. But 37 percent of people cannot identify one freedom in the First Amendment, and 25 percent can’t correctly name all three branches of government. Sixty-four percent of people want NFL to force players to stand during the performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at a commercial event. They have forgotten that the first man who “took a knee” at an NFL performance was protesting the police killings of unarmed black men without any penalty. Colin Kaepernick took this action instead of sitting during the national anthem because Army veteran Nate Boyer made that suggestion. Boyer’s letter to Kaepernick stated in part:

“I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.”

Three-fourths of white people in the United States are claiming great respect for the flag but not for people with dark skin.

Ignorance of geography also leads to people looking at “others” as subhuman. The more accurately that people could identify North Korea, the less likely they were to support military action against the country, an action that comes from DDT’s incitement. In 2015, 30 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats wanted the United States to bomb Agrabah—the fictional setting for Disney’s animated feature film for children Alladin.

Only 54 percent of people in the U.S. knew that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens before the recent publicity. Of those who know they are citizens, 81 percent wanted strong support; of those unaware of their citizenship, only 44 percent supported assistance.

In an example of current Republican philosophy, Alabama selected far right-wing evangelical, Roy Moore, for their standard bearer in the Senate. As their candidate, he goes against Democrat Doug Moore on December 12, 2017 to replace Luther Strange who was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions.

Moore twice lost his elected office as Supreme Court justice because he refused to follow the law. The first time (2003) he kept a two-ton monument to the Ten Commandments in the central rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building afer being told to remove it, and the second time (2016) he was suspended for telling probate judges to ignore the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing marriage equality. His position was that Alabama didn’t have to follow federal law.

Supported by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and sidekick Mike Pence, Moore could reinforce his positions in the U.S. Senate:

Homosexuality: “Homosexual conduct … is defined by the law as detestable…. When we become one nation under god again, when liberty and justice for all reigns across our land, we will be truly good again.”

9/11: The attack by 19 terrorists was divine retribution because of Isiah 30:25 – “There should be up on every high mountain and upon every hill, rivers and streams of water in the day of the great slaughter when the towers will fall.'”

People of Color: “Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be god.” He defends his slurs on Native and Asian American communities with lyrics from the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children”: “all the children of the world—red, brown, yellow, black and white.”

Vladimir Putin: “Maybe Putin is right” in “protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda.”

Same-Gender Marriage: The ruling for marriage equality is “even worse” than 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson, establishing racial desegregation, “the words are not there [in the U.S. Constitution,] we’ve never had it in our history.”

Sharia Law: Muslim law is in the United States, especially in places in Illinois and Indiana—or maybe not. “I was informed that there were. But if they’re not, it doesn’t matter. Sharia law incorporates Muslim law into the law. That’s not what we do. We do not punish people according to the Christian precepts of our faith — so there’s a difference. I’ll just say this: I don’t know if there are. I understand that there are some.” [He missed the point about Christianity actually punishing people by eliminating LGBTQ and women’s rights.]

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress: “Enough evidence exists for Congress to question Ellison’s qualifications to be a member of Congress as well as his commitment to the Constitution in view of his apparent determination to embrace the Quran and an Islamic philosophy directly contrary to the principles of the Constitution. In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on Mein Kampf, or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the Communist Manifesto.”

Right to Work and DACA: “Right to work?” Moore asked a questioner at an American Principles Project in April. “Explain…a little bit.” The response to a question about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: “Pardon? The Dreamers program? Why don’t you… quit beating around and tell me what it is.”

Barack Obama: “My opinion is that there is a big question about [Barack Obama’s place of birth]. My personal belief is that he isn’t [a U.S. citizen], but that’s probably over and done in a few days, unless we get something else to come along,”

Last fall’s general election pitted a rational, intelligent, compassionate, decent woman against Christian nationalism’s champion, DDT. George W. Bush coalesced evangelical power, creating a time when conservative politicians are forced to declare the U.S. as a “Christian nation” to be successful. That belief forces them to be Islamophobic and anti-immigrant. The force of Christian nationalism is so strong that DDT couldn’t even get a candidate elected by claiming that “[Luther Strange] knows the true source of America’s strength — it’s God, it’s family and its country.”

DDT was up against a candidate who out-Christianed DDT and Strange—and up against his former chief political strategist, white supremacist Steve Bannon, who campaigned for Moore. For another man, Moore’s win would weaken political power, but DDT believes he can control anyone. He may have trouble, however, with a man who seems afraid of nothing because his god is on his side.

Christian nationalism has been around for over a half century, but it accelerated with DDT’s rise.  Their reverence for the American “founders” is not only unusual in industrialized countries but also skewed from reality as is their perception rights provided by of the U.S. Constitution. The Christian nationalists’ rejection of science, education, and government is also antithetical to the beliefs of the founders.

Although less common in U.S. history, there are ample examples of DDT-style Christian nationalism in other parts of the world. Like Russia and China, U.S. controlling religious groups want to impose their beliefs on others. Christian nationalists in Germany were largely responsible for the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. The Nazi sense of “family values,” disturbed by the shift in gender roles after women joined the workplace in World War I, also contributed to increasing popularity.

A study among 11,000 randomly selected people in the nation found that the Christian nationalist narrative, more about country than faith, united religious groups and those with sexist, Islamophobic, and anti-refugee beliefs in a perfect storm of symbiosis. As shown by the firestorm over people not standing for the national anthem, DDT’s form of patriotism is the new piety of intolerance. The chief author of the report, sociologist Andrew Whitehead of Clemson University, said,  “The legacy of white Christian America is going to live on.”

September 30, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-six – ‘Mind-bogglingly Bad’

Every week for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has given him losses, but the first week of his ninth month may have topped the previous 35 weeks. On Tuesday, he lost the Alabama GOP senatorial primary for Luther Strange against a rabid religious right-winger, Roy Moore, but deleted his tweets supporting Strange after the election, probably illegal for a person in the Oval Office to do. The Affordable Care Act lost for a fourth time since he was inaugurated although he said that Trumpcare was on track. Again he threatened North Korea with “devastating” consequences.

DDT also faced the overwhelming media coverage of government waste by his Cabinet members who love to use charter jets to the tune of over $1 million in unnecessary expenditure. One of them, former HHS Secretary Tom Price quit after DDT expressed great displeasure. A question is whether DDT dumped him for spending less money than DDT does on flights or whether the departure was because of Price’s inability to pass Trumpcare. At a Boy Scout’s jamboree last summer, DDT had threatened to fire Price if the secretary didn’t bring in the necessary congressional votes.

All these disasters were overlaid by DDT’s failure to help Puerto Rico after he was hit by two hurricanes in only two weeks. Frustrated by the lack of U.S. federal support, the mayor of San Juan (PR), Carmen Yulin Cruz, resorted to begging for assistance, saying that she has “one goal and that’s to save lives.” DDT had spent the nine days since Hurricane Maria hit the island by telling everyone that he was doing a great job. In retaliation to Cruz, he tweeted that she has “poor leadership ability” and “they want everything to be done for them.” He complained about her “nasty criticism” and blamed Democrats who “has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. DDT included criticism of the media, naming CNN and NBC, for their coverage of the relief effort in a series of at least insulting six tweets in less than an hour that he started a little after 4:00 am. The war against Cruz continued late this afternoon.

DDT also received ridicule for his new tax cut proposal that benefits the wealthy and penalizes the poor, despite his claims that the information isn’t true. His grand plan would drop taxes for the wealthy by ten percent and increase the bottom tier by 20 percent. When questioned about his statement that the upper class will have no tax cut, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he made that statement but that “it was never a promise … never a pledge.” Even Goldman Sachs opposed the “trickle-down” justification for tax cuts, reporting that DDT’s plan adds only 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent to America’s economy in 2018 and 2019, far less than the boon that DDT predicts.

On the Russian front, bad news keeps nipping at DDT: 

  • Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election.”
  • DHS finally notified 21 states that Russian hackers targeted their election systems during the 2016 election after having that information for several months.
  • Russia continues its work to influence people in the U.S. as shown through identification of  80 news stories promoted by 600 Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations just between September 16 and September 22, 2017.
  • DDT has refused to provide documents connected to the firing of former FBI director to the House Intelligence Committee. He may receive a subpoena for them.
  • Fake news from Russian sources saturated battleground states during the campaign that DDT barely won.
  • Russian-funded Facebook ads during the general election worked to elect DDT by praising him, criticizing Hillary Clinton, and promoting Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders after Clinton was chosen at the Democratic convention.
  • Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg said, “After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.”
  • The IRS has given special investigator Robert Mueller information on top
  • DDT officials, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
  • Twitter found and shut down 201 accounts connected to Russian operatives posting thousands of political ads on Facebook.

Meanwhile, DDT tweeted:

“Facebook was always anti-Trump.The Networks were always anti-Trump hence,Fake News, @nytimes(apologized) & @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion?”

Pundits are now talking about the possibility that DDT will attack North Korea to protect himself from the Russian investigation.

Acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Chuck Rosenberg, a prosecutor for George W. bush and appointed by Barack Obama, quit because DDT has “little respect for the law.”

DDT spent the entire week trying to cover all his problems with his firestorm of inflammatory remarks about sports athletes. He did recognize that his statements were overboard because he later told reporters that he was not calling on supporters to boycott the NFL. In a separate tweet, he wrote that players who locked arms during the anthem were doing something “good,” despite players said they were demonstrating their unity against the president’s statements.  Trump’s political strategy follows the pattern of past offensive positions: take a divisive stand between himself and those who he describes as unpatriotic elites. He uses the controversy to dominate the news cycle, try to place himself as a strong leader, and maintain that he fights for regular working Americans nostalgic for an earlier time in the country’s history.

DDT’s war against the NFL goes back decades when he failed to buy his way into the league in 1984. The story is here. Forty years later he failed in his attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and wants his revenge.

Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to defend DDT by saying that it’s always “presidential” behavior and appropriate for DDT to lie and call a black athlete a “son of a b*****.” Respect the flag and disregard the Constitution is a common conservative position. Sanders said that anything the president does is “presidential.” Questioned further, Sanders said that the issue about protesting during the national anthem was “pretty black and white.” Tomorrow the NFL games—and the “black and white” issue–accelerate.

More DDT problems needing smoke-screens:

DDT invented a mythical hospitalized senator for the most recent failure of Trumpcare but claimed that they still had the votes to pass the bill.

A new travel ban has kept the old one from being argued before the Supreme Court this fall. DDT added Chad, North Korea, and government officials and their families from Venezuela to divert attention from the ban being against Muslims. North Korea won’t let their people coming into the U.S., making that country a no starter, and DDT can’t explain the problem with Chad. Even his order calls the country an “important and valuable counterterrorism partner.” DDT removed Sudan from the banned list, an odd choice because of its international terrorism and ethnic killings. Sudan, however, does have the support of the United Arab Emirates. Asked about the removal, DDT said:

“As far as the travel ban is concerned, whatever it is, I want the toughest travel ban you can have. So I’ll see you in Indiana.

DDT has nominated John Adler, former Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president, for the Department of Justice’s director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. His resume includes several years on the advisory board of the Heroes Health Fund, a group offering support for ‘firefighters, police, EMTs, veterans, and others harmed by toxic exposures in the line of duty’ using a detoxification program developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

DDT loyalists are reaping a rich reward with appointments to the Department of Agriculture. DDT campaign staff and volunteers hired for these positions include a long-haul truck driver, a country club cabana attendant, and the owner of a scented-candle company. Some of them lack requirements, such as a college degree, for the higher government salaries. The truck-driver may not be a college graduate, but he will be developing overseas markets for U.S. agricultural trade goods, a position requiring a master’s degree. A landscaper is assigned to helping farmers, ranchers, and forest managers use conservation practices.

Polls don’t look good for DDT:

  • Climate change: 55 percent of respondents said that climate change had made Hurricanes Irma and Harvey worse. That’s up from the 39 percent who said climate change contributed to Hurricane Katrina when asked 12 years ago. (DDT is a vociferous climate denier.)
  • Lowering corporate taxes: 65 percent of people believe that corporations pay too little in taxes, and only 11 percent think that they pay too much.
  • DDT’s Russia fees: 64 percent of the people think that DDT should pay for his own legal fees in the Russia collusion issue rather than asking the people to do this by contributing to his campaign.

Humorist Samantha Bee has gathered the conservative positions on acceptable forms of protest.

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