Nel's New Day

September 16, 2019

Kavanaugh on the Hot Seat Again

One year ago, the Senate defended and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court despite a credible witness who described his sexual assault when they were teenagers. A year later, the New York Times reported another of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assaults at Yale that the Senate and FBI attempted to conceal at the confirmation hearings. At the hearings, Kavanaugh denied the woman’s description of how he forced his penis into her face and tried to get her to touch it. He said, “If that had happened, that would have been the talk of campus in our freshman dorm.”

Investigation reveals that Kavanaugh’s assault was “the talk of the campus.” Long before he became a federal judge, at least seven people, including the victim’s mother and two classmates, heard about his behavior. Two FBI agents who interviewed the victim, found her “credible,” but the GOP-controlled Senate did not give them authorization to investigate.

The FBI also failed to investigate another report from a classmate, Max Stier, who “saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.” Stier told both senators and the FBI about Kavanaugh’s behavior during the vetting process, but no one followed up, in spite of 25 possible corroborating witnesses.

These credible witnesses were in addition to the account from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford published in the Washington Post:

“[Kavanaugh] pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.”

The NYT buried the story under “news analysis” that appeared to focus on the victim not fitting into Yale. The tweet from NYT Opinion claimed “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.” Even the follow-up deletion and “apology” about the “poorly phrased” statement didn’t salvage the disgusting former tweet that made sexual assault seem like the new normal.

The article was abstracted comes The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, extensively researched by the authors Robin Pogrebin, Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale, and Kate Kelly. Among much more information, the authors point out that all Kavanaugh’s achievements, including justice on the Supreme Court, resulted from the power given him by other men, starting with his parents paying for his education in a prestigious school. In the hearing, Kavanaugh surrounded himself by female family and friends to show how much they love him.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), one of the five top contenders for Democratic presidential nomination, said: “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the US Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the court through a sham process and his place on the court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”

Another candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) agreed that the confirmation process was a “sham.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will undoubtedly face more ire from DDT for saying:

“Nothing terrifies this corrupt president more than the idea of Congress upholding the rule of law. We must open impeachment inquiries against Trump and Kavanaugh immediately. It’s our constitutional duty.”

Last fall, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) wrote FBI Christopher Wray with a request for an “appropriate follow up” with one individual who had come to Coons with information about Kavanaugh. The letter, which identified Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale University Max Stier, stated that “several individuals” contacted his office who had wanted to share information with federal authorities but said they had “difficulty reaching anyone who will collect their information.” DDT was in charge of the investigation’s scope and limited the number of witnesses to ten of all the people who had information about the Supreme Court justice nominee. A spokesman for Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the senator’s staff knew nothing about Stier’s information. Friends of the woman who was the subject of Stier’s information said that she didn’t remember it happening.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) may be the senator most hurt by a vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In any close vote, she tends to support the GOP even if she has promised not to do so. Her vote for Kavanaugh gave him the 50 votes that he needed, and she claimed that it was after a “very thorough review.” As a Senate insider, she knew a year ago what the public is now learning, that the investigation was a sham without reasonable investigative steps. Agents interviewed none of the 12 people whose names were given to the FBI by one of the women alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. The investigators, given only one week, also ignored an allegation of another drunken misbehavior. When Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asked for openness, the other GOP senators provided cover for their nominee. Meanwhile, DDT made repeated calls for the DOJ to strike back at accusers.

Up for re-election in 2020, Collins faces angry constituents. She said she is opposed to DDT stealing money from the military for his wall but cast the deciding vote against an amendment that would stop it, taking $200 million from construction at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She cast a vote for the tax cut benefiting the wealthy and big business with a lying excuse that it would help the poor and middle class, and she cast the deciding vote for a nominee who separated families. She also voted for three judges who refused to affirm the Supreme Court decision to desegregate public school students. Donations reflect her lack of popularity in her home state: the owners of Breitbart have donated more to her campaign in one quarter than all the money from Maine voters combined. Only 15 people have donated more than $200 to her, and the number of people donating less than that sum is small.

Over a month ago, the House Judiciary Committee requested records from the National Archives related to Brett Kavanagh while he worked for George W. Bush to understand his true position on Roe v. Wade. During his hearings for the Supreme Court and his appointment to a lower court, Kavanagh downplayed under oath his anti-abortion views, likely illegal representations and downright lies like the ones Collins believed. Republicans withheld 92 percent of these documents during the confirmation process. Already known are his lies about his knowledge regarding warrantless surveillance and torture during W’.s administration in 2006 and other information about Ken Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton, but these other records could show the extent of his falsehoods under oath. Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said the records are relevant because “in the coming year, the Supreme Court will again address important matters regarding civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration [and] may also review certain high-profile cases related to reproductive rights, the separation of powers, and the limits of executive authority.”

As might be expected, DDT was furious about the reporting, calling for Kavanaugh to sue people for “liable,” his term for libel. If Kavanaugh follows DDT’s directions, the discovery about his lying under oath could be extremely damaging. Using his belief that the DOJ is his fixer, DDT asked the DOJ to “rescue” Kavanaugh just as he argued that the DOJ shouldn’t bring federal charges against members of Congress to protect the GOP campaigning and directions to the DOJ to fire employees disloyal to DDT or prosecute his enemies.

The DOJ followed DDT’s directions by suing Omarosa Manigault Newman for financial disclosure violations after Omarosa had missed a disclosure report while ignoring Kavanaugh’s violations. He has never identified the “friends” who paid off his mortgage and the $60,000-$200,000 credit card debt, much of it for baseball tickets, so that he could be a “credible” nominee for the Supreme Court. The money should be counted as a financial gift to be publicly reported, and the benefactors may have cases before the Supreme Court.

Last week, AG Bill Barr started his fixing by giving an award to Kavanaugh’s fixers. The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, the second highest honor from the DOJ, was awarded last year to the prosecutor who convicted Ahmed Abu Khattala, a ringleader of the Benghazi terrorist attack that killed four people from the U.S. This year Barr gave the award to the 100 DOJ lawyers who covered up for Kavanaugh to get him onto the Supreme Court allowing the perversion of law enforcement with politics. 

Those who have forgotten how evasive and unhinged Kavanaugh appeared at his confirmation hearing can refresh their memories by watching this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show. [Visual – Kavanaugh victim]

Kavanaugh consistently lied during confirmation hears for both federal judge and Supreme Court justice. These new reports add to this record of falsehoods.

Thanks to DDT, the DOJ, and GOP senators, the U.S. Supreme Court now has two men among its nine justices who are credibly accused of sexual assault.

September 15, 2019

Immigration in the U.S.: The Center of Cruelty

Public opinion—aka outrage—about deporting approximately 1,000 seriously ill migrants, primarily children, by denying them any deferred status drew attention before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) moved Hurricane Dorian to Alabama. Families who must renew their medical deferred status every two years were notified in August that they would be automatically forced to leave the country within 33 days. After a backlash, DDT said he would reconsider the new policy that sends all these migrants to their certain death because they would lack health care, but he hasn’t provided a resolution.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, failed to appear for an emergency House hearing about the travesty, and Daniel Renaud, the associate director for field operations, said that he just follows orders. USCIS, formerly responsible for processing the deferral requests, handed all non-military requests over to ICE. ICE said it knew nothing about the change, and recipients of the deportation letters were not notified. Now ICE won’t address deferral requests until the subjects have an order of removal. The most recent information comes from American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Those people aren’t the only ones who DDT is killing. Last Thursday, ICE rushed the deportation to Cuba of Yoel Alonso Leal, an asylum-seeker with several serious medical conditions including a lung tumor. Over 100 physicians argued that he stay in the U.S. and warned that he might not even survive the flight. No matter—ICE refused to release him to his U.S. citizen wife and family for more tests and treatment. Leal said that Cuban authorities detained and assaulted him in 2016 and 2018 before he sought asylum. 

DDT already killed a man born in Greece 41 years ago, who legally came to the U.S. at less than a year of age, by deporting him to Iraq where he died without insulin for his diabetes. Jimmy Aldaoud never learned Arabic and was part of Detroit’s Chaldean Catholic community, targeted in Iraq by extremists. He was sent to Iraq because Greece doesn’t recognize birthright citizenship. Other Chaldeans, a conservative group, are also targeted for deportation, one of them for a years-old marijuana conviction that was dropped from his criminal record.

ICE also plans to kill detain immigrants by not vaccinating children for the flu. Despite the claim that detainees are held for only 72 hours, they can remain in detention for over a month. At least three people in government “care” have already died of the flu.

DDT also wants to terminate a program protecting undocumented family members of active-duty troops from deportation. Currently the program allows military family members illegally entering the U.S.—for example, overstaying a visa—who cannot adjust their immigration status to temporarily stay in the U.S. The program avoids distractions coming from worries about a spouse being deported and allows the spouse to apply for a green card. Already ICE doesn’t follow its own policies by deporting former service members and breaking the tradition of giving a path to citizenships for those who serve in the military—almost 130,000 since 2001. Last year, the Pentagon discharged immigrants with special skills recruited under George W. Bush’s program.

A lawsuit against Cuccinelli purports that all his directives are “invalid” because he “lacks the authority to serve as acting director.” Cuccinelli is also unqualified to serve in this position because he describes immigrants as rats although his job is to facilitate legal immigration. His new policies include fast-tracking initial screenings of asylum-seekers from 48 hours to a “full calendar day,” blocking them from preparing for interviews of seeing legal help. Cuccinelli is serving as “acting director” because GOP senators have doubted his appointment.

In another cruel form of current government bureaucracy, 37 asylum seekers accused of illegal entry were all processed at one time and expected to answer questions in unison. Public defendants had under two hours to talk with 41 defendants in one case. Unlike other courts under the judicial branch, immigration courts are under the control of DOJ AG Bill Barr. [Right: “Justice” under the reign of Barr and DDT.]

New tent courts recently established at the southern border will hear thousands of cases for asylum-seekers in closed hearings with no court observers unlike open immigration court proceedings. Attorneys are not allowed to participate although most asylum-seekers can’t get legal representation. Over 42,000 asylum-seekers are forced to wait in Mexico where they have been assaulted, kidnapped, and extorted. Others have let Mexico bus them to the middle of the country or the border of Guatemala. The hearings in the tent court facilities are via video teleconference, a serious problem from faulty equipment with poor video and sound quality that prevent due process. 

Last week, people believing in justice breathed a sigh of relief when a federal judge ruled that DDT cannot require asylum seekers to ask another country for shelter before seeking refuge in the U.S. According to DDT’s coerced agreement with Guatemala, people coming from Central America into Mexico must try and fail to obtain asylum in Guatemala before moving on to go through the same process in Mexico before seeking asylum in the U.S. Mexico had refused DDT’s negotiations, but he still forces the “third-country” asylum rule on that country. A 9th Circuit Court ruling against DDT’s new restriction had been only for the ten states in its jurisdiction, but Jon S. Tigar made that ruling consistent for the entire country to prevent “uneven enforcement.”

The relief ended when DDT’s U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to that judge’s ruling until the courts settled the cases, a process taking and leaving the Supreme Court as the final decider—or “fixer” for DDT. The lower courts determined that DDT’s policy conflicts with existing immigration statutes, violates the requirements of administrative rulemaking, and completely blocks all asylum for people on the southern border unless they come from Mexico. The decision was not explained.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginzberg submitted a dissent stating that lower court decisions should be respected and a stay overturning a lower court is “extraordinary.” The Supreme Court should not be used for the government to ignore lower court litigation. DDT’s administration has made an “extraordinary” number of requests—20—to bypass normal procedures or lower court actions. In addition to procedural anomalies, the dissent pointed out that the goal of DDT’s asylum policy is acting in bad faith. Facts do not support their arguments and illustrated that the policy puts untold numbers of people in serious danger—which DDT and his co-authors know. The decision overturns a longstanding offer of safe refuge to the persecuted with no input before DDT loses on the case’s merits. The lower court determined that DDT’s new policy broke government rules, violated the law, and lacks justification by being arbitrary and capricious.

One group of immigrants that DDT wants to protect are Venezuelans. He thinks that it might help him win the state of Florida in the 2020 election.

Perhaps the worst part of immigration court is control by the DOJ instead of the judicial branch. DDT’s fixer AG, Bill Barr, promoted the six judges with higher rates of denying immigrants’ asylum to the immigration appeals court that can overturn lower court decisions. Two of them came from courts drawing complaints of unfair proceedings from attorneys and advocates, and a third denies asylum to domestic violence victims. The six comprise over one-fourth of the appellate board, and four are on the DDT-created Board of Immigration Appeals. Barr established a regulation giving himself the ability to make any appellate decision binding. DOJ sent an email to all immigration court employees with a link to an article from the white nationalist website VDare that “directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs.”

The DOJ also filed a petition to decertify the union of immigration judges with the claim that they are “management officials.” The Federal Labor Relations Authority refused this tactic over 20 years ago, but the new FLRA members mostly belong to DDT. Last year, the union fought the new DOJ quota system of completing 700 cases a year and “efficiency” procedures that could damage due process in court. DDT has appointed at least 43 percent of the 440 immigration judges; changing them to “management” would allow him to fire them at his whim.

While DDT torments and kills migrants, the asylum law is now at the center of his immigration battle. The law says: “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States, whether or not at a designated port of arrival … may apply for asylum.”

Not satisfied with detaining only immigrants, DDT wants to incarcerate the homeless in a federal facility, starting his roundup in California to rile up his base for the 2020 election.

At his speech in Baltimore, DDT used a favorite term, “goddamn,” which the evangelical community hates. Texas megachurch leader and DDT supporter Rev. Robert Jeffress said, “I can take just about everything else, except [taking the Lord’s name in vain.” For evangelicals, cruelty, corruption, killing, abuse, lying, racism all okay, but “goddamn” crosses the line.

September 13, 2019

DDT: Week 138 – Speeches, Lesss Publicized Info

Last night, audiences in Baltimore and Houston heard some odd statements. In Houston, the “meh” Democratic debate among ten candidates had a few peculiar moments for Joe Biden—even for him. He called Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “the president,” referred to himself as “the vice president as the United States,” and retorted “this is America” to Sanders’ statement that the United States pays twice as much in health care as Canada does. Millionaire business owner non-politician candidate (does that sound familiar?) Andrew Yang used a possibly illegal gameshow technique to give away $12,000 to each of ten people from his campaign funds. In the debate’s aftermath, award-winning “pro-life hero” and Texas representative Briscoe Cain, who says he “supports the value of life,” tweeted “my AR is ready for you” after candidate Beto O’Rourke said that he would ban all assault weapons.

At the same time as the third Democratic candidate debate, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave a meandering speech at the House Republicans’ retreat. The geriatric man in the Oval Office referred to his vice president as “Mike Pounds” and explained that the water is so clean because 25 years ago “there was nobody here” in America to explain why the water was so clean at that time. He also blamed his rejected new energy efficient light bulbs for making him “look orange.” A photographer said that lighting, which doesn’t make DDT’s teeth turn orange, has nothing to do with his orangey-red skin, that the color comes from the heavy coat of bronzer that he puts on himself. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) worshipful statements about DDT tried to cover DDT’s racist slurs against Baltimore—and that was after DDT called McCarthy a “cow.” [visual – McCarthy]

About Hillary Clinton, DDT said that she “didn’t like stairs, didn’t like airplanes, didn’t like a lot”—and would rest for weeks between stops. In four years as Secretary of State, Clinton spent 401 days—over 25 percent of her tenure—to travel 956,733 miles to visit 112 countries. DDT spent the same percentage of time visiting his personal golf clubs, not counting the weekends and vacations when he didn’t play golf—including the weekend that he skipped a visit to Poland to play golf. He couldn’t even go a few miles in the rain to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I in France. 

Republicans say they oppose bailouts, but DDT promises them a bailout of $30 billion after he cost them billions from his trade war with China cost them billions. Democrats threaten to not fund part of that huge sum as part of the appropriations bill necessary to keep the government from shutting down at the end of the month. DDT originally said that farmers are okay with the sacrifice, but farmers have been increasingly upset—especially when they lose their farms—as the 2020 election nears—and especially because the wealthiest farmers receive the bulk of the money.

White House officials have said that the bailout may not be legal because of its huge scope. Almost 40 years ago, President Jimmy Carter banned U.S. sales of wheat to Russia; the country produced and exported wheat in competition with the U.S. for its prior markets. Farmers believe that they are still paying for the Russian wheat embargo, and Brazil is now taking over the soybean market.   

The NRA is unhappy that retail stores are dropping sales of guns and ammunitions, and NASCAR refused advertising with K-Var Corp., a large distributor of firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories.  Yet Walmart, despite an announcement that it wouldn’t allow open carry in its stores, isn’t living up to its promise.

And NRA has its own insider telling DDT about avoiding gun legislation. Michael B. Williams, formerly the top law for the American Suppressor Association that represents the silencer industry and law clerk for NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, has become deputy assistant to DDT. Scrapping the idea for background checks, that has an 89-percent approval, DDT is considering more mental health facilities and hospitals along with capital punishment for mass shooters.

DDT’s friend Bob Wright has written proposals to stop mass shootings. The former NBC chair’s “advisers” proposed monitoring “phones and smart watches” to see who will become violent. It’s an interesting answer for people so paranoid that they won’t register guns.

At a White House ceremony this week, DDT handed out an awards for “heroes” of recent mass shootings without vetting the recipients. One of them, Chris Grant, wasn’t there because he was detained by the Secret Service with an arrest warrant. El Paso police said that a video showed that Grant misrepresented his actions that were only “self-preservation.”

When Republicans in four states—Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina—eliminated presidential primaries, one of them cut out the newest candidate from its own state, South Carolina’s former governor Mark Sanford. Republicans in those four states have kept at least three presidential candidates from running. The GOP says it’s just saving money; others say that they’re rigging the election and protecting DDT. Republicans know that they need to stop Democrats from voting to win; now they show that they need to block voting to elect DDT as their candidate.

The RNC is accusing DDT’s campaign of further rigging by concealing DDT’s unpopularity in specific states and congressional districts. Information like this would allow GOP candidates to publicly distance themselves from DDT. Former RNC chairman Michael Steele said, “The RNC is not an independent actor; the RNC is now a part of the Trump campaign.”

In another campaign technique, Fox and other far-right media are warning that people won’t be safe if Democrats are elected in 2020. On The View, Meghan McCain predicted “a lot of violence” if laws take “people’s guns away from them.” She added, “I’m not going to live without guns.”

According to a former agent of the Israel intelligence agency Mossad, Russia picked DDT as most advantageous to its goals and then “deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections.” This statement follows two Senate-commission reports that Russia used every social media tool to support DDT for the election. This article was published almost nine month ago, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has ignored it, blocking any legislature to correct these cyberattacks.

Investigated for his business affairs, DDT says that he plans to release information about his financial affairs—but not when.

Information coming out about VP Mike Pence’s stay with his family at DDT’s resort show that the cost for just limousines was $600,000 to go back and forth across Ireland. Taxpayers have paid DDT for Pence to visit DDT’s properties at least 20 times, and political groups connected to Pence have hosted six events at DDT’s properties.  

Three years ago, DDT called Gregory Cheadle “my African American” at a campaign rally. Cheadle now says the GOP pursues a “pro-white” agenda and uses black people like him as “political pawns.” He is running as an independent for a U.S. representative from California.

DDT is presenting a false picture of the southern border by using Mexican information instead of data provided by the U.S. government. The media adopted DDT’s chart about the drastically declining number of migrants in the U.S. needing processing came from Mexico; the true story is a much higher number of migrant crossings. DDT’s chart has no citation about its source.

DDT gave up on his attempt to blackmail Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden this year by releasing the $250 million that Congress had approved to oppose pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow. The money was released only hours before a debate on a defense bill amendment stopping DDT from similar actions in the future.  

The racial wealth gap will cost the U.S. economy up to $1 trillion by 2028. A faster growth of white wealth over black wealth could increase that sum to $1.5 trillion, six percent of GDP. Failure to build wealth in black families comes from not only family income but also family wealth, family savings, and community context (a community’s collective public and private assets).

DDT violated federal laws in not getting congressional authorization when moving entrance fees to keep national parks open during the most recent 35-day shutdown, according to the legal opinion from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

DDT’s trade war has lost 300,000 jobs for people in the U.S. with another lost 500,000 jobs in the next 16 months. If the recession doesn’t exist before the 2020 election, DDT’s re-election will cause it.

Sixty percent of people expect a recession within the coming year, and 60 percent say that DDT doesn’t deserve to be re-elected. 

Mourn for the environment and the nation’s public lands as DDT begins building his wall across the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. Seventy-four percent of people say that climate change is a crisis or a major problem, and two-thirds say that DDT is not doing enough to solve the problem. DDT’s central re-election message is “You have no choice.” He’s right: another DDT term would completely destroy the U.S.—and the world. People have no choice.

September 12, 2019

Bolton, Science Gone But Not Forgotten

John Bolton is the latest person who Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) dumped: Bolton said he resigned, and DDT’s tweeted that he fired his national security adviser. DDT’s stated reason was that he “disagreed strongly” with Bolton, who has been criticized for being a hawk. A recent disagreement was bringing the Taliban to Camp David for “peace talks” during the anniversary of the 9/11 U.S. bombings in 2001. DDT ignored Bolton and VP Mike Pence who said that the idea was bad. Bolton wouldn’t defend DDT’s positions on Afghanistan, North Korea, and Russia. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) expressed pleasure, saying that DDT should have “people around him who will carry out his policies.” Another major Senate suck-up Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was less pleased, saying that Bolton’s agenda “makes America safe.” Three of Bolton’s top aids resigned the day after DDT fired Bolton. 

Although DDT said that he fired Bolton Monday night, Bolton was still scheduled the next morning to appear with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for a briefing about new sanctions against a “wide range” of terrorist groups and their supporters. Pompeo and Mnuchin (right) seemed to be downright giddy at the meeting with the press corps without Bolton.

DDT tweeted his firing of H.R. McMaster as national security adviser 17 months ago, but he’s been calling his ex-adviser for advice for almost a year and said he missed him. This pattern is not new: DDT called Reince Priebus after he became disenchanted with chief of staff replacement, John Kelly.

Charles M. Kupperman, Bolton’s acting replacement, might be worse than the war-mongering Bolton. Decades-long associates, they seem to be birds of a feather with Kupperman a past member on the boards of several defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Kupperman, a right-wing extremist, has connections to Islamophobe Frank Gaffney from when he served on the board of the misnamed Center for Security Policy that promotes Islamophobic conspiracy theories, according to Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Almost two weeks after Hurricane Dorian sat on the Bahamas for two days—and left Alabama untouched—1,300 people are still missing in the country of 395,000, and 50 people are dead. In the hardest-hit northern islands, almost 70,000 people of the 395,000 population have lost everything; on the Grand Bahama Island, population 50,000, three-fourths of the houses were underwater. A tropical storm is now headed for the Bahamas.

Not satisfied with the tragedies facing people from the Bahamas during the Category 5 hurricane, DDT turned on his cruelty to make it worse. He turned back over 100 people heading for refuge in Florida because they didn’t have visas. He refuses to grant temporary protected status to displaced people from the Bahamas, a status that would allow them to work and live in the U.S. until they could safely return home. Although existing visas permit Bahamans to come to the U.S., they won’t be allowed to work. DDT said some of those seeking aid could be “very bad people” and “very bad gang members” and “very, very bad drug dealers.” These statements were a 180-degree switch from DDT’s initial statement when he pledged U.S. help with recovery efforts. DDT said:

“We’re working hard, we’re with you, and God bless you.”

Florida GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott asked that DDT permit Bahamians to live with their relatives in the United States, but DDT separated at least one family instead. CBP took refugee Kaytora Paul from her godmother and sent the child to a detention facility with migrant children. Paul’s mother were living in a wrecked car with Kaytora and her two younger children while Paul’s father stayed with an adult son after their home’s roof collapsed. Officials refused to release Kaytora to a biological aunt at the airport, and the mother, who went to Florida to get her daughter, was told she must apply to be her own daughter’s sponsor, a process requiring many documents and taking weeks. The mother would have been deported in two weeks, but immigration advocacy and publicity forced the reunification of Kaytora and her mother after the 12-year-old was in detention for four days.

DDT looks at all the federal agencies, even those supposed to be independent, as personal “fixers” for his whatever he wants, such as DDT’s forcing NOAA to back his lies about Hurricane Dorian badly damaging Alabama. Documentation shows that a top NOAA official ordered its staff to not contradict DDT’s lies about Hurricane Dorian doing great damage to Alabama. Media reports that DDT told his staff to deal with NOAA contradicting his weather forecast, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney called Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to fix the problem, and Ross threatened to fire people if they didn’t immediately take care of it. DDT said he didn’t tell NOAA to do this. No, he told his staff to tell NOAA. Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology are investigating the Commerce Department’s part in NOAA’s decision siding with DDT over its scientists and requested a briefing with Commerce Department staff. Former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said:

“It is truly sad to see political appointees undermining the superb, lifesaving work of NOAA’s talented and dedicated career servant.”

A meteorologist said that he had never before been told “to not say that truly is the forecast.” Other agencies have sided with DDT against facts, but accurate weather forecasts in disasters are vital to preserving lives. Acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs and NOAA director of public affairs Julie Kay Roberts, who had worked on DDT’s campaign, were responsible for the anonymous false statement trying to cover up for DDT’s “mistake.” The department’s Inspector General is reviewing NOAA’s statement supporting DDT’s false statement about the great danger to Alabama from Hurricane Dorian.

Most of DDT’s hurricane briefings were by people without meteorological expertise. A 2018 survey of scientists in 16 federal agencies revealed a culture of fear and self-censorship with sidelined scientific evidence in favor of political expediency.

Meteorology will become even more problematic if DDT gets his 5G cellphone networks that seriously degrade forecasting accuracy, up to 30 percent according to Jacobs’ testimony on Capitol Hill. He added that the loss in tracking could cut “forecasts’ lead time by roughly two to three days,” a catastrophic effect on human life. The 5G is already available from Verizon to corporate customers in some cities.

In his desire to return to 1986 in water pollution, DDT will roll back a 2015 regulation to protect waters that feed into But critics say the rollback will speed the conversion of wetlands and headwaters, which provide critical habitat for wildlife and support the nation’s drinking water supply. Americans drained about half of the 220 million acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States between the 1970s and 1980s, most of it to expand farmland. The 2015 rule gave the federal government authority to oversee a wide array of lakes, streams, wetlands, storm-water controls and ditches that feed into larger waterways that are clearly protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act. He justified the rollback with his claim that he wants “crystal clean water.”

The DDT-led Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plans to dump reporting rules by large companies, those with more than 100 workers, for gender and race pay disparities by large companies. In 2017, Mick Mulvaney, Director of Office of Management and Budget, froze the data collection, but a court ordered the collection for 2017 and 2018. DDT’s EEOC chair confirmed by 50-43, Janet Dhillon, is a former general counsel for Burlington Stores and JCPenney. The gender pay gap has not moved from 82 percent during the past year, only four percent higher than the 78 percent 12 years ago. The gap is 62 percent for black women and 54 percent for Latinas. Ivanka Trump opposed collecting the data after she tweeted on Equal Pay Day that “we must work to close the gender pay gap!”

Luckily DDT has Pompeo to lie for him. He was in Kansas when a state university a physics professor asked Pompeo if he supported “the suppression of scientific reports from the U.S. Department of State” because of the “exodus of scientists” from federal agencies after their work is suppressed. Pompeo said he disagrees because “no one supports the absence of science.” With a straight face, he said this and more on the same day that NOAA was told to support DDT’s falsifying science with his Sharpie line on a hurricane map. DDT also didn’t a pick a scientist to be the chief scientist at the USDA, and he hid dozens of government-funded studies warning about the climate crisis and potentially dangerous chemicals.

DDT, however, knows that his magical black sharpie pen that he uses to sign orders, make notes on his hands for speeches, and redirect hurricane warnings will solve everything. 

September 11, 2019

U.S., U.K.—Two World Leaders Focus on Themselves

Eighteen years ago today, 2,996 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured when 19 men—15 of them from Saudi Arabia—hijacked and crashed four planes on U.S. soil. Since that time, over 1,400 rescuers have died, and toxins at the crash site in New York caused cancer in 1,140 people. Since that time, 24 percent of U.S. population was born, and Republicans started wars costing trillions of dollars and creating chaos that continues to kill people throughout the world.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), inaugurated 964 days ago, multiplied the chaos in the U.S. many hundredsfold as he makes every situation—including a speech on 9/11—about himself. To “honor” the solemn occasion, he tweeted a photograph of himself and Melania Trump. Having done his duty for 9/11, he switched to his common theme of “fake news” after new polling shows him abysmally behind the top five Democratic contenders selected for the survey, and only 36 percent think he deserves re-election. In other rants, he tweeted about his trade war with China and praised himself for rejecting the peace talk with the Taliban after he offered to bring them to Camp David this week. Yesterday, he fired John Bolton because the national security adviser opposed DDT’s almost finishing an agreement with the Taliban.

DDT dishonors the memory of 9/11 with the many lies that he’s told about it, all for his own benefit:

  • He lied about seeing “thousands and thousands of people” on rooftops in New Jersey “cheering as that building was coming down” to reinforce his Muslim ban.
  • He lied about seeing bodies falling from his Midtown apartment four miles away.
  • He falsely blamed Bill Clinton during DDT’s campaign for the crash into the World Trade Center because he “didn’t kill Osama bin Laden.”  
  • He blamed George W. Bush for the disaster because “he didn’t listen to the advice of his CIA” and answered the audience’s boos with false claims that he “lost hundreds of friends” in the attacks. After Lawrence O’Donnell ridiculed the statement, he changed his lie to “many, many people.”
  • He lied about giving money to 9/11 charities.
  • He lied about helping to clear rubble and pay for several hundred workers to help clean up in the 9/11 aftermath.
  • He lied about his own building becoming the tallest building in New York City on the morning that the Twin Towers fell.
  • He lied about needing federal recovery money for small businesses and then admitted that his building had no physical damage. He falsely claimed he got the grant because he allowed people to use his building although the application didn’t specify that provision and he didn’t allow people to stay in his building.

Across the pond, DDT’s lookalike, Boris Johnson, whose sole goal is a no-deal Brexit to separate the UK from the EU, has miserably failed during his fewer than seven weeks term as prime minister. His only temporary success was a suspension of Parliament until October 14 to keep lawmakers from working on a Brexit deal, one of the longest suspensions in decades. Lawmakers did not go peacefully, protesting with signs, chants and attempts to physically restrain the speaker from leaving his chair. They finished with putting a sign reading “Silenced” on the speaker’s empty chairs. 

The validity of the suspension is in question. A Scottish court ruled the suspension illegal because Johnson falsified the reasons for the five-week suspension, perhaps even lying to the queen who had to approve it. Johnson plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Courts in England and Wales ruled that Johnson’s move was legal, and another Scottish judge, meanwhile, determined that courts lack the authority to interfere in the suspension.

Since talking office, Johnson lost six key votes in the House of Commons—two of them to force a snap national election that might have given him control over the Brexit decision. Parliament also voted to force the government to publish details of secret preparations for a no-deal departure and prevent a no-deal Brexit by forcing Johnson to ask the EU for a deadline extension. When 21 members of his party voted against him, Johnson banned them from Parliament and running again. Johnson’s brother was so disgusted by the prime minister’s actions that he quit Parliament

The first winning vote, 328-301, against Johnson by a coalition of the Labour Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party, and other Brexit opponents was to take control of the agenda. Johnson expelled the 21 conservatives, including eight former Cabinet ministers,  who voted with the coalition, including Winston Churchill’s grandson. They will not be able to run for office again. 

The next failures for Johnson were two readings to block his no-deal Brexit and 288 abstentions on a failed vote for a snap general election. The bill, which became law after acceptance of the House of Lords, doesn’t stop a no-deal Brexit, but it legally binds the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension without a Parliament agreement for a deal by October 19. A furious Johnson said he’s rather “be dead in a ditch” than follow that law. 

Johnson may also face condemnation for his sexist description of former Prime Minister David Cameron as a “girly swot.” This week, Johnson called Jeremy Corbyn, leader of his opposition, a “great big girl’s blouse” for refusing to back an immediate general election.   He also secretly ordered the Cabinet Office to turn the government’s public internet service into a platform for “targeted and personalized information” for his no-deal Brexit and a digital revolution in public services, raising legal and ethical questions. The PM would have profiles on everyone’s online interactions with government with no protection for the data.

Johnson became prime minister only five weeks ago with 92,153 votes from Conservative Party members (only 0.002 percent of the UK voters), in the third election in five years, after the resignation of Theresa May as prime minister. Voters were primarily white, male, and over 50 years of age. It was the first time that only party membership elected Britain’s prime minister. Almost 109,000 people registered to vote at the start of the week in two days with 58 percent of them under 34 years old. The deadline for registration would be September 27 for a snap election on October 15. A Johnson aide admitted that Johnson wanted an early date for a general election to keep young people from voting.  

Suspension has left Johnson with only bleak choices:

  • Renegotiate a deal with the EU.
  • Ask for a Brexit delay.
  • Resign and run again.
  • Go to jail for not following the law to negotiate with the EU.

DDT has constantly supported Brexit, even telling Johnson to default on the $47 billion that the UK owes the EU. Pence told Ireland how he supports Brexit that would be “deeply disruptive” to peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Fed chair Jerome Powell has warned that a no-deal Brexit and “rising tensions in Hong Kong” could unravel U.S. expansion. Brexit could cause the dollar to go even higher and thus make U.S. goods more expensive for foreign buyers and depress U.S. exports. DDT wants open trade with the UK but can’t have it until the end of Brexit. The UK objects to DDT’s demands to open the National Health Service to U.S. drugmakers, allow genetically modified seeds on UK farms, and accept “chlorinated chicken,” as Johnson calls imports from the U.S. EU trade with the UK is over $800 billion compared to the $262 billion commerce with the U.S.

Brits have long been highly concerned about the departure with no agreement to regulate trade, border security, and other critical issues. They could face food and medicine shortages, and farms will fail. After three years of threatened Brexiting, Europeans are getting fed up with the UK’s decisions—or non-decisions. EU leaders might accept a delay beyond the Halloween deadline because a no-deal Brexit would be economically destabilizing, but negotiators worry about consequences of continued uncertainty and the destructive poison of the UK being inside the union. A major advantage of Brexit is that the other 27 countries in the EU, having watched the insanity in UK, have no interest in repeating it.

Like DDT, Johnson wants to break the system for his own purposes. After Parliament consistently voted against him, he’ll tell people that politics are rigged against them. He will question the legitimacy of the judicial system, already insinuating that the Scottish ruling against him is illegitimate. And he plans to break the law for his own means. The country will move farther toward cynicism and gridlock—like in the United States. If Johnson wins with only the Conservative vote, 30 percent of the country, he’ll be backed by under one-third of the country, a catastrophic situation like DDT. The four nations in the United Kingdom may decide to separate, especially with Northern Ireland already isolated and no way to leave except by air or sea. A no-deal Brexit would keep them from freely crossing the border to the Republic of Ireland.

MP Ian Murray wrote:

“Boris Johnson lied about Brexit, lied to the Queen about suspending parliament, politicised the police, derided judges and disregarded the law. Everyone must be concerned that his Government is moving dangerously close to a dictatorship.”

Boris Johnson is blustering, ruthless, racist, homophobic, sexist, boastful, divisive, Islamophobic—consumed with white male privilege. Does that sound familiar?

 

September 8, 2019

Treating Foreign Affairs like a Game Show Fails

Foreign policy for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is like his orchestration of his game show, but he is miserably failing in coping with the problems of the world—many of which he has caused. Some of the past month’s failures: 

Afghanistan:

Just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. “delivered” on its mission to oust al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and deter terrorist attacks, DDT said he canceled a secret summit at Camp David with Taliban leadership and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after the Taliban claimed last week’s attack that killed a U.S. soldier. The soldier was one of ten people, including a Romanian service member, killed in a suicide attack. He was the fourth killed in Afghanistan in two weeks and the 16th thus far this year. The day after the top negotiator’s announcement that he had reached a deal “in principle,” a Taliban suicide bomber strapped a bomb to a tractor and drove it into an international compound in Kabul, killing 16 people and injured 100. Two weeks ago, a bomb killed 63 people, many of them women and children, at a wedding in the Afghan capital. A car bomb killing 45 and injuring 145 a few months ago was attributed to the Taliban as well as a bomb and gun attack on a political party’s office that left 20 dead and over 50 injured. Afghanis express concern if “peace” does not include a ceasefire and if the Taliban reneges on its agreement after the U.S. pulls its troops.

National security adviser John Bolton has been missing from talks with Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran. The head negotiator had even refused to give Bolton a draft of the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, and Bolton wasn’t originally invited to a high-level meeting at DDT’s New Jersey golf resort because he might leak the details.

Yemen:

The U.S., France, and Britain may be complicit in war crimes for providing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in its war on Yemen with logistical support and weapons, according to a UN report released days after the coalition killed over 100 people in airstrikes on a Yemeni detention center. The coalition “is guilty of bombing hospitals, homes, a school bus, and other civilian targets during its years-long assault on Yemen” which may constitute war crimes. Last spring, DDT vetoed a stand-alone War Powers resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led assault on Yemen. Their report documents air strikes on civilian infrastructure, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, landmines, arbitrary killings and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, starvation, and impeding of access to humanitarian aid in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The four-year conflict killed at least 7,290 civilians and left 24 million people—80 percent of the population—in need of humanitarian assistance or protection including ten million who rely on food aid to survive.

Iran:

When DDT backed out of an anti-nuclear agreement in May 2018, he was convinced that he would emerge victorious. He failed. This week, Iran promised to reinstate R&D on its nuclear program and may begin to enrich uranium faster. Before that, Tehran defied the U.S. trying to launch a space rocket in response to heavy U.S. financial penalties and pushes for countries to stop doing business with Iran. An angry DDT added to the crippling sanctions against Iran. A year before the agreement, the CIA predicted that if the U.S. backed out of the deal, radical elements would be empowered.

DDT even failed to take an Iranian tanker with 2.1 million barrels of oil and a $1 million penalty after a Gibraltar court refused DDT’s request. The ship, renamed the Adrian Darya-1, proceeded through the Mediterranean where it’s nearing Syria because U.S. sanctions do not apply in the EU. In an unprecedented scam, Brian Hook, Pompeo’s special envoy on Iran, even tried to bribe the ship’s captain with millions of dollars to take the ship into a port where the U.S. could seize it. Hook offered “good news” to the Indian captain, writing, “With this money you can have any life you wish and be well-off in old age.” Later Hook wrote, “If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you.” Iran is now injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges.

Israel:

Peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine hit another glitch when the envoy for brokering the deal, DDT’s former real estate lawyer and Trump Organization employee Jason Greenblatt, resigned. He was replaced by 29-year-old Avi Berkowitz, Jared Kushner’s longtime aide, who graduated from law school in 2016 with no experience in foreign policy or international diplomacy. A sample of headlines: “Trump’s New Mideast Point Man Is Jared Kushner’s Former Coffee Boy Avi Berkowitz” (Vanity Fair) and “Trump Somehow Replaces Unqualified Mideast Envoy with Even Less Qualified One” (New York magazine). During the past two months, Israel expanded its air attacks on Iran and militia from Syria to Iraq, including a drone attack on a Shiite militia convoy in Iraq killing nine, an air raid in Syria killing two Lebanese Hezbollah operatives, and an attack on a weapons depot north of Baghdad.

North Korea:

DDT Keeps bragging about the non-existent progress in North Korea, but Kim Jong-Un refuses to meet and built up the “range and maneuverability” of North Korea’s weapons. DDT downplays North Korea’s ballistic missile tests violating UN Security Council resolutions as something that “many nations” do.

Hong Kong:

After DDT hid from Hong Kong’s summer of protesting, leader Carrie Lam announced she would formally withdraw the bill allowing extradition to mainland China. China wanted the extradition law to get political dissidents back to the mainland. Protesters demand political reforms, an independent inquiry into police brutality, the retraction of the government’s label of some protesters as “rioters,” and amnesty for the arrested protesters.

China:

U.S. consumer prices skyrocketed, thanks to DDT’s tariffs. The stock market went up after he announced talks in October, but he’s lied about talks before.

Venezuela:

DDT’s attempts to unseat legally-elected President Nicholas Maduro, a stringent blockade, received signatures from at least eight million Venezuelans—one fourth of the nation’s population—protesting the U.S. blockade to the UN. They also march with the “No More Trump” campaign to denounce DDT’s sanctions on Venezuela. Socialism-hating DDT is coordinating secret meetings with Venezuela’s socialist party boss, Diosdado Cabello, against Maduro. Last year, DDT sanctioned Cabello for organizing drug shipments and running a major corruption network embezzling state funds that were invested in Florida real estate. He may have intended to kill Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). This year he’s a U.S. colleague. Problems with DDT’s Venezuelan strategy:

  • Latin America may reject his willingness to use military force; even Brazil’s autocratic president sided with Maduro in May.
  • The ousting of Maduro hasn’t succeeded yet, forcing foreign ministries to normalize ties with Maduro’s government with the perception that DDT had no plans and did it for personal political reasons.
  • U.S. actions makes Juan Guaidó look like a U.S. puppet.
  • Sanctions have made the U.S. a scapegoat, and many of Maduro’s protesters have left Venezuela.

Brazil:

Top donors giving millions to DDT and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are significantly responsible for the Amazon rainforest destruction. The two Brazilian firms took control of land, deforested it, and helped build a controversial highway to their new terminal in the one-time jungle to cultivate and export grain and soybeans. Since DDT put U.S. farmers out of the soybean business with Chinese tariffs, Brazil has taken over the market.

Ukraine:

In efforts to ingratiate himself with Putin and “persuade” Ukrainian officials to investigate possible corruption by presidential candidate Joe Biden, DDT follows chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s wish by continuing to block $250 million in military assistance to them. The Pentagon congressional members want DDT to lift his hold on the money, that goes back into the general fund (wall) if not spent in three weeks. Russian television appreciates DDT’s subservience to Putin

Georgia:

DDT blamed Russia’s annexation of Crimea on President Obama instead of Vladimir Putin, but on DDT’s watch, Putin is backing a takeover of Georgia’s South Ossetia and recognizes Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Russia won’t allow the EUMM (European Union Monitoring Mission) monitors to enter South Ossetia and Abkhazia in violation of the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement. As part of its occupation, Russians are building border fences. Georgia and the West declare Russia’s move as an “illegal occupation” of 20 percent of Georgia’s sovereign territory.

Ten countries warn their residents that the U.S. is a dangerous place to travel: Venezuela, Uruguay, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, France, Bahamas, and China. Warnings go from extreme cautions to postponing travel to the U.S., with most cautions advising people that they do not go to crowded places which tend to be tourist destinations. The human rights organization Amnesty International, present in over 150 countries, echoed this warning.  

September 7, 2019

More Investigations by and for DDT

Investigations into the abuses of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) using government funds for his own private piggy back does not end with the Pentagon supporting his Scottish Turnberry resort. VP Mike Pence added to DDT’s coffers during Pence’s European trip. While VP Mike Pence attended meetings in Dublin (Ireland), he stayed at DDT’s golf course, Doonbeg, requiring four extra flights in Air Force 2, four extra motorcade trips, and security. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that the government “negotiated room rates” for DDT’s resort. DDT “suggested” (code for ordered) the stay at the golf course including Pence’s wife, sister, and mother. Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said “suggested” and then denied he said it until the next day when he reversed the reversal, the same day that DDT said he did not “suggest” anything. Although Pence claims to be “personally paying all family expenses,” taxpayers covered expenses for staff, security, and transports for them.

Pence claimed that he wanted to stay close to his ancestral home, but the visit there was rather bleak. Only one couple finally showed up, a huge difference from the crowds in Ireland for President Obama. 

 

Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deer tried—and failed—to cover up for Pence’s homophobia:

 

“For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.”

Pence also faced LGBTQ support for LGBTQ people at his next stop, Iceland, where he was greeted with row of rainbow flags from the technology company Advania across from his meeting with President Gudni Johannesson in the capital, Reykjavik. Johannesson and Iceland’s first lady, Eliza Reid, wore rainbow bracelets during the meeting.

Two House committees are investigating Pence’s stay at DDT’s golf resort and DDT’s suggestion that the 2020 G7 summit meet at his Doral resort in Miami. Representatives requested documents from DDT, Pence, and other officials about violations of the Emoluments Clause. The State Department enriched DDT by allowing seven foreign governments to rent luxury condos in New York’s Trump Tower in 2017 with no congressional consent from lawmakers as required by the constitution.

Pro-pollution DDT is is bad for businesses that cross him. The DOJ is accusing four automobile companies of antitrust violations because they plan to conform with California’s fuel efficiency standards. The EPA and Transportation Department also notified California that the deal “appears to be inconsistent with federal law.”

CEOs understand that DDT is causing them serious problems. In an August survey of CEOs, 62 percent said the trade war with its flipflops on tariffs is “highly detrimental” to outlook and strategy, and 72 percent believe that cutting interest rates won’t sustain the economic cycle. The 3.9 percent rate of investment DDT has fallen from President Obama’s 5.7 percent after the nation’s economy started to recover in 2010.

History shows that no one wins in a trade war. When President George W. Bush raised steel tariffs in 2002, the GDP declined by $30.4 million, and about 200,000 jobs disappeared, 13,000 in raw steel-making. The cost to taxpayers was $400,000 for every steel-industry job saved. The World Trade Organization also ruled that the Bush tariffs were illegal

With DDT, the U.S. trade deficit for the first half of 2019 is bigger than in the last two years.

Farmers may suffer more than businesses. Bob Kuylen, the vice president of the 50,000-member North Dakota Farmers Union, said that farmers “lost pretty much all of our markets since Trump took over” leaving farmers “land-rich and cash-poor.” He added that bonuses for his high-protein wheat crops have dropped 95 percent.

In more DDT corruption, the private company of DDT’s campaign manager Brad Parscale has received almost $1 million from a PAC supporting DDT and Pence. Law prohibits PACS from coordinating with candidates’ campaigns.

DDT may have defrauded the IRS by not paying taxes on a tax-avoidance $50-million dollar loan that he owes to one of his own companies. He says it’s a wash; IRS law states that a firm owed money and has no outstand debt is worth at least as much as it is owed.

To give DDT $3.6 billion for his wall, the Pentagon “deferred” 127 projects in 23 states, 19 countries, and three U.S. territories, including $400 million for military installations in Puerto Rico. Another $770 million of the money disappeared from projects in allied European nations to help deter a possible attack from Russia, and another one is for cybersecurity. The Pentagon plans to get Congress to replace the $3.6 billion for a wall that Congress voted down. Either the projects weren’t important in the first place, of the military thought they could blackmail Congress. 

Congressional members are losing status with their constituents because of the lost revenue after Pentagon projects were deferred. North Carolina is unhappy after losing $80 million dollars, and its GOP senator Thom Tillis voted to remove FEMA funds for detention centers. The biggest loser, Tillis is up for re-election next year. He’s also in trouble after DDT lied about signing an emergency declaration “at the request of Senator Thom Tillis.” Federal law allows only governors to make these requests, but DDT couldn’t bear to give a Democrat credit for anything.  

GOP Sen. Martha McSally, also up for re-election after being appointed last year, downplayed Arizona’s loss by saying the state loses only $30,000. Later she had to explain that the loss is $30 million. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) simply blamed the Democrats.

Seventy percent of residents in the 200-household living community for older adults, River Bend Resort and Golf Club in Brownsville (TX), found that DDT’s wall puts them on Mexico’s side of DDT’s 30-foot-tall barrier.

DDT wants to raise mortgage costs and the deficit by ending government control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that handle half the nation’s mortgages. Part of the strategy in stopping an even worse recession from the unraveling housing market in 2008 was to have government control of those companies. People are already struggling to find affordable homes, and the U.S. will lose revenue from the companies’ profits while Wall Street gets richer. After paying less than $200 billion to rescue Freddie and Fannie, the government received $300 billion in dividends from them. Neither company has capital to be sustainable for several years, and taxpayers would be forced to bail them out again in “exigent circumstances,” according to the 53-page proposal. Shares in the companies drastically fell last week.

DDT brought out his 85th mandate to destroy the planet by rolling back George W. Bush’s energy-efficient requirements for LED bulbs. Continued use of incandescent bulbs cost people more money. Eliminating inefficient bulbs nationwide would save electricity equivalent to the output from at least 25 large power plants, equivalent to powering all homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Since 2010, energy consumption in U.S. homes dropped by 6 percent.

Only three incumbent presidents—Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush—faced primary challengers, and all three lost the general elections for a second term. With GOP politicians planning to run against DDT, Republicans have a solution: cancel 2020 presidential primaries and caucuses, already almost done in four states. One of the states is South Carolina, where Mark Sanford is considering an intent to run against DDT. DDT is right about the rigging of the election—at least for the GOP.

More NRA scandals: Former NRA president Marion Hammer obtained loans of over $250,000 at an interest rate down to two percent from the NRA’s Florida affiliate where she is the only employee. This affiliate reported a $28,389 shortfall when it gave Hammer a $200,000 loan. Most of Unified Sportsmen of Florida gets almost all its budget from the NRA. The IRS can impose tax penalties if the organization benefits a private shareholder or person.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who incited people to defend themselves from immigrants before the El Paso shooting, cannot understand how the killer at Midland-Odessa last week could obtain a gun without a background check. The shooter bought the gun in a private sale which, under state law, has no background checks.

“The economy is great,” says DDT, but new jobs slowed in August to 130,000, 34,000 of them government jobs included 25,000 short-term positions for the 2020 U.S. census. Reductions of June and July jobs numbers by 20,000 brought the 2019 monthly average down to 143,000, 25 percent below the 192,000 in 2018. President Obama’s monthly job growth averages were 251,000 per month in 2014, 227,000 in 2015 and 193,000 in 2016. The stock market went up but only because of DDT’s promise of trade talks with China in October. U.S. business investment and growth in trade-sensitive sectors slumped after fewer foreign sales, rising costs of imported goods, and the uncertain global outlook. People’s views of the economy are partisan, but they’re all going down—and independents are much closer to those of Democrats than Republicans. And the election is less than 14 months away.

September 6, 2019

DDT: Week 137 – Alabama’s Hurricane, Pentagon’s Pandering

Almost 70 years ago, Herman Wouk wrote The Caine Mutiny, a fictionalized account of a mutiny on a U.S. destroyer-minesweeper during World War II. Worried about the potential loss of the ship during a storm, the executive officer takes command from Captain Queeg at the suggestion of the communications office who talks about Section 184 of the Navy regs. Citing Queeg’s incompetence, cowardice, and mental illness, the officer prevents the loss of the ship in a storm but is then tried by court martial. A highlight of the movie based on the book, featuring Humphrey Bogart as Queeg, is the scene in which Queeg breaks down under questioning about an episode regarding strawberries.

When Queeg shared a large tin of strawberries, a gift from another ship’s captain, with his officers, they were given one scoop while Queeg had two—like the scoops of ice cream that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doles out. He gets two and everyone else gets one. That night, Queeg wants more strawberries and finds them missing. In a fury, he obsessively wakes his sailors and orders them to search throughout the ship for his strawberries before the out-of-control Queeg concocts the theory, never proved, that crewmen secretly copied keys to the icebox and obsessively forces more searching to locate them.

The Caine Mutiny led to the 25th Amendment  blocking one person such as the vice president to pronounce that a president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Instead the majority of the Cabinet must initiate the process, and two-thirds of the Congress must also agree. For the past 960 days, however, Republican leaders have ignored DDT’s obsessive lying, incompetence, and inability to maintain control of himself.

On the day of his inauguration, DDT insisted that his crowd was bigger than the crowd for any president’s inauguration and insisted on photographs that proved his lie. Since then, he continued with his own out-of-control, incompetent, obsessive behavior with wild claims about his winning the popular vote because of voter fraud, claiming all news he didn’t like to be fake news, and creating far more fantasies to show that he is a god who can control nature. His statement about Hurricane Dorian damaging Alabama, however, hit a high point.   

David Lauter put DDT’s “strawberry” episode with his Alabama proclamation and obsession of proving himself right into three acts. DDT’s behavior entire focus on the hurricane was the non-existent problem in Alabama while Dorian devastated the Bahamas (sounds like Alabama?) and killed possibly hundreds of people, threatened Florida, damaged North Carolina, and heads to the Northeast coast.

Act I – The Gathering Storm

Sunday, September 1: DDT’s first tweet – “In addition to Florida—South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

National Hurricane Center’s forecasts showed that any small chance of Dorian hitting the Gulf Coast disappeared at least a day earlier. Twenty minutes after DDT’s tweets, the National Weather Service’s Birmingham (AL) station tweeted to set the record straight and reassure Alabama residents that they were safe from a fearsome storm: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote in an email, “The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama.”

DDT repeated his personal warning to Alabama that afternoon in televised remarks from a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing.  

Act 2 – The TV Hour

Monday, September 2: ABC correspondent Jon Karl noted Trump’s mistake and the weather service’s response: “He also misstated the storm’s possible trajectory [and the weather service] corrected the president.” Karl also commented that DDT canceled his scheduled trip to Poland, supposedly to monitor the hurricane, but played golf at his Virginia country club.

DDT doesn’t admit mistakes, claims he works hard, criticizes President Obama for playing golf, and obsessively watches television while saying that he pays little attention to TV. He called Karl a “lightweight reporter” on Twitter and made his usual slurs against the media: “It was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’ Always good to be prepared! But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!” 

Act 3 – Closing the Ring

Wednesday, September 4: Cable news reported on the story, and DDT performed in the Oval Office by displaying a NOAA weather map showing the August 29 forecast track, in white but added a black Sharpie line over a sliver of southern Alabama. DDT said, “That was the original chart. It could’ve — was going towards the Gulf.” Altering official government weather forecasts is illegal with the possibility of a prison term and fine as well as dangerous for people who believe him.    

Thursday, September 5: Rear Adm. Peter Brown, a Coast Guard flag officer and White House homeland security and counter-terrorism advisor, issued a 225-word statement carefully explaining that his briefings to DDT “included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.”

Coda – Protecting DDT

Friday, September 6: NOAA reversed its earlier message about the forecast not including Alabama and disavowed the September 1 tweet from the National Weather Service that corrected DDT about the danger in Alabama from Dorian: “Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time. From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

DDT, now feeling vindicated through the lies of a federal agency, tweeted: “The Fake News Media was fixated on the fact that I properly said, at the beginnings of Hurricane Dorian, that in addition to Florida & other states, Alabama may also be grazed or hit.”

James Spann, a meteorologist based in Alabama, wrote that the September 1 tweet from the National Weather Service in Birmingham that corrected DDT was “spot on and accurate.”

During all the crises of last week, including a Category 5 hurricane, DDT, fixated on his insistence of always being right, posted nine tweets and five maps about Alabama and the big storm to justify his mistake, ordered a White House official to release a 225-word statement defending his error that could endanger lives, and coerced NOAA into lying for him. He also called Fox correspondent John Roberts into his office to again lie about the hurricane hitting Alabama and “to hit back at Shepard Smith.”

On his show, Smith said

“Why would the president of the United States do this? He decries fake news that isn’t and disseminates fake news that is. Think China pays the tariffs. The wall is going up. Historic inauguration crowds. The Russia probe was a witch hunt. You need an ID to buy cereal. Noise from windmills causes cancer. It’s endless!”

DDT increasingly manipulates government agencies to enrich his personal businesses, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, for example refueling stops that an Air National Guard crew made last spring on a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies. The stops at a small airport 20 miles from DDT’s Scottish Turnberry resort and 50 miles outside Glasgow (Scotland) cost much more than charges at a military base in the UK, such as nearby Lakenheath Air Base in England. The military spent $11 million on 629 fuel purchase orders at the airport since October 2017, and the airport paid for a five-person crew to stay at DDT’s golf resort along with free rounds of golf. One crew member said that their per diem allowance wasn’t enough to cover food and drinks.

In the past, the same plane refueled at U.S. air bases in Germany, Spain, Azores, and Italy. Never in Scotland. Since April, the Pentagon has stonewalled the House Oversight Committee’s investigation requesting information about the reason for the location of the stops en route to the Middle East and the transport plane’s return and refused to send any documents to the committee.

The reason for stops at Turnberry may be to keep the golf resort from going under: in 2017 the property lost $4.5 million, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018. The golf resort must keep the airport to be at all viable. The Scottish government bought the debt-ridden airport in 2013 for £1. In June, the Scottish government said it will sell the airport that continues to lose money. U.S. taxpayer money is vital for the airport: the authorization of U.S. payments to Prestwick worth £1.4m in the first three months of 2019 is equivalent to revenue from passenger services in 2017 and 2018.

Over two months ago, a Scottish newspaper reported that the U.S. Defense Department is set to sign a contract to continue refueling until fall 2024 with over 35 transactions a month and another £8m from 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, three million more than the existing arrangement. Taxpayer spending at both the airport and at DDT’s property may be conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause. Even worse, such actions could be illegal activities on the part of the Pentagon that appears to pander to DDT’s desires and further make the U.S. look like a dictatorship.   

September 4, 2019

NRA Rapidly Disintegrates

Filed under: Guns,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:02 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Last year has been hard on the organization that controls Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and GOP legislators since the National Rifle Association imploded at its annual conference only five months ago. That was when NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre blocked the re-election of NRA’s President Oliver North. When North became president a year earlier, LaPierre called him “hands down, the absolute best choice to lead our NRA Board”; a year later LaPierre accused North of trying to extort him.

Since that time, multiple scandals about NRA have dribbled out, causing many of its members to become disillusioned. In May, leaked documents showed employees unhappy about low wages, underfunded pensions, and a culture of fear while LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, making him the eighth-highest compensated nonprofit leader in the nation. The pension plan was frozen in 2018, meaning that employees cannot accrue new benefits while working for the organization. LaPierre got a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment in 2015.

Less than two months after North’s ouster, LaPierre got rid of chief lobbyist Chris Cox, part of NRA leadership for 24 years, by accusing him of conspiring with North against him. Cox was also executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the explicitly political arm of the gun lobby, since 2002 and made over $1.1 million in 2017. A lawsuit against Cox might force North to pay his own legal fees with the claim that he acted in bad faith.

Another blow was NRA’s closure of its online media arm, NRATV. NRA board members had increasingly become disenchanted with live production for the video channel with little response: January had only 49,000 unique visitors. The content also moved far from gun rights into right-wing talking points such as criticism of immigration and the FBI. Bad publicity came from Dana Loesch’s program putting KKK hoods on talking trains from Thomas & Friends because the popular children’s program added a train from Africa. 

A sexual harassment allegation against NRA senior official Josh Powell from an employee was settled in 2017 with the nonprofit’s funds, the same year that LaPierre promoted Powell to executive director of general operations. The next year, NRA’s ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, barred Powell from any further contact with its employees after a sexual harassment dispute with a woman who worked for the ad agency. Ackerman said that Powell received “the full support of Mr. LaPierre and the board of directors.” LaPierre said that the claim was part of a larger “extortion demand” and made Powell a “senior strategist” on the NRA’s legal team. NRA accountants found payments by Powell to his father, and his wife was hired by one of NRA’s top fundraising vendors. Board members had asked that Powell be dismissed.

Two prominent board members resigned from the NRA board in mid-August: country music singer Craig Morgan and NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, the latter after he had urged careful review of spending under LaPierre. Childress wanted an independent ethics counsel to review $24 million paid in 13 months to an outside law firm. Since May, seven of the 76-member board have left, some of them after they were stripped of committee assignments. Board objections came from cuts in funding for firearm safety and education to increase spending on legal fees, travel, and entertainment. Eighteen board members also benefited from NRA finances, incurring possible conflict of interest charges.

The departures started in the midst of news about LaPierre’s efforts to get NRA to pay for a $6 million mansion in a gated Dallas-area golf club after the Parkland shooting. The “good guy with a gun” said he need a more secure place to live. In addition, LaPierre and his wife asked for a membership at the exclusive club and two vehicles. The NRA started the purchase transaction by paying $70,000 to an entity set up by Ackerman at LaPierre’s request. The deal fell through, and the ad agency stopped funneling LaPierre’s personal expenses through its multimillion-dollar annual contract.

Before Ackerman stopped paying LaPierre’s bills, NRA paid $542,000 for private jet trips for LaPierre, including a trip to the Bahamas with his wife after the Sandy Hook shooting; $300,000 for Italian designer suits; and $13,800 rent for a summer intern’s apartment. LaPierre’s wife, Susan, also benefited from the NRA, spending tens of thousands of dollars flying hair and makeup artists around the country, including housing the stylists in luxury hotels. Again, LaPierre blamed Ackerman.

Prior to North’s departure, the NRA suffered from publicity about its expenditure of $31 million for DDT’s campaign, part of the over $50 million for the 2016 elections. The media reported possibly illegal connections, perhaps money laundering between NRA and Russian officials for the election. Gun safety groups outspent the NRA for the 2018 elections for the first time ever, and gun safety candidates won, partly from the movement led by Parkland High School students after the horrific high school shooting in Florida. Since 2010, the NRA took over $200 million in cash from its non-profit NRA Foundation to survive, and NRA was short $31.8 million at the end of 2017.

Making matters worse, New York declared that the NRA’s “Carry Guard” insurance program providing policies for self-defense shootings violated state insurance rules. Critics called it “murder insurance” because of is coverage for a potentially criminal act. Litigation continues while the state’s AG investigates NRA’s tax status and Congress investigates campaign finance law violations involving Russia.

Government records show that DDT’s 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company connected to ad buyers in an illegal coordination scheme with the NRA through 2018 and up to May 2019. The buys were routed through a secret limited-liability company appeared in FCC records.

In July, D.C.’s attorney general issued subpoenas to the NRA for its financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors.

Ackerman continues to sue NRA after it demanded the ad agency remove any NRA references from the ad agency’s website. The National Rifle Association has sued, again, its former ad maker and “NRATV” creator, Ackerman. The feud started in April when NRA sued Ackerman for not handing over financial records and then for leaking documents. Ackerman then sued NRA for the first time, and the back and forth became more vicious as LaPierre accused Ackerman of extortion.

The NRA’s biggest loss may be its donors disgusted with the organization’s problems. David Dell’Aquila gave $100,000 to NRA and pledged most of his own estate but said that $134 million in pledges may disappear. One donor, an anonymous “senior firearms industry executive,” might decide that LaPierre is bad for the interests of the firearms industry. Under LaPierre, the NRA focuses on guns as self-defense for angry and paranoid people who might not approve of LaPierre’s scandals. Difficulty in attracting followers might translate in difficulty in finding Republican voters.

The gun culture may be changing, especially after the growing number of deaths in highly-publicized mass shootings this summer. The loss of 22 percent in membership fees between 2016 and 2017 means an even greater drop in membership because of two membership raises in one year. Contributions to the NRA were $98 million in 20017, down from almost $125 million the year before. Almost one-fifth of last year’s contributions, $19 million, came from one anonymous donor. At the end of 2018, the NRA reported losing $55 million in revenue.

Gun sales are also dropping: U.S. firearms sales fell 6.1 percent in 2018 marking the second straight year of declines. Because NRA gets a cut of these sales, their revenue also goes down. More stores are eliminating gun sales, the most recent Walmart, that is ending sales of handguns and short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons while asking customers to not openly carry firearms in its stores. A statement referred to concern about “multiple incidents” of individuals wanting to “test our response” to the El Paso shooting by bringing weapons into stores. For example, 20-year-old Dmitriy Andreychenko who faces up to four years in prison and a $10,000 for legally bringing over 100 rounds of ammunition to a Walmart in Springfield (MO) as part of a “social experiment.” Walmart stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015, raised the age to buy guns from 18 to 21 in 2018, and called for strengthened background checks. Krogers has also asked customers to not openly carry in their stores.

Despite an increasing number of mass shootings and more gun violence from white supremacists, GOP members of Congress who receive hundreds of thousands from the NRA reject any gun safety legislation plus millions more dark money given to PACs. These are the top-20 list of congressional members recently getting the most money recently from the gun lobby based on the 2017-2018 election cycle. Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) who lost her election and then was appointed until 2020 came in second at $227,928.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution declaring the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization” and urging the city to examine its financial relationships with companies that do business with the group. The statement noted mass shootings, including the murders of three people, all younger than 26, at Gilroy’s (CA) food festival. “The National Rifle Association musters its considerable wealth and organizational strength to promote gun ownership and incite gun owners to acts of violence,” the resolution read.

After the August killings in El Paso, DDT made a few noises about background checks but quit after several long discussions with LaPierre. Later killings in Midland-Odessa made no difference with him. In a complete rejection of democracy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he would bring any bill to the floor that DDT didn’t want. Only elections may make a difference.

September 3, 2019

Courts Still Help ‘We the People’

August may be a time for Congress and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to take a hiatus, but the courts keep chugging along. Here are a few highlights:

Voting:

Today, North Carolina’s state court ruled the GOP legislative gerrymandering unconstitutional and gave specific guidelines to the GOP state legislature in redrawing the lines within two weeks by September 18. Other gerrymandered states such as Wisconsin, Maryland, and Texas could follow the same directions.

Mississippi shows how bad gerrymandering can be. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling forcing the legislature to redraw the 102-mile-long state Senate District 22 spanning parts of six countries. The districting, done in 2012, diluted black voter strength to re-elect a Republican. Multiple voting machines in nine counties during last week’s Mississippi election switched votes and kept voters from their choices during a gubernatorial runoff race. The machines preferred Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who won the runoff with 54 percent of the vote. At a Las Vegas convention, attendees as young as 11 were able to hack into voting machines, and at least ten states have made remote hacking easier by connecting computers to the internet. 

Paperless voting machines are another GOP way of controlling the vote, and a federal district court judge ordered Georgia to stop using paperless voting machines after 2019. For 2020, Georgia must either use paper ballots filled out with a pen and then fed into an optical scanner or voting machines that print a paper ballot record. Election officials must also fix errors in the state’s voter registration database and provide paper backups for the electronic poll books at each polling place, used to track whether a registered voter has cast a ballot or not when a voter shows up on Election Day. Employees of the firm that manufactured Georgia’s current paperless voting machines left them open to hacking by designing electronic ballots from their home offices rather than in a secure location. The ruling is the first to block use of paperless voting machines, also used in a dozen other states. Earlier this year, the state gave a $107 million contract for “ballot-marking devices,” machines that print a bar code and a text summary of individual votes. The bar code, which voters cannot read, is used for tallying votes, not the text summary. The lawsuit began when Brian Kemp, the Republican in charge of voting, was “elected” governor last year after evidence of security failings was destroyed. Like Kemp, his successor opposes paper ballots. 

The 7th Circuit Court supported a lower court in rejecting a 2017 Indiana law allowing election officials to cancel a voter’s registration without the voter’s confirmation. By using Interstate Crosscheck, faulty computer software checking a database of 24 states, the state got rid of Democratic registrations. The National Voter Registration Act requires that states cannot remove voters from rolls without a “reasonable effort.” The judge said that “the only way to know whether voters want to cancel their registration is to ask them.”

Ohio’s aggressive voter removal process has also been temporarily settled when the state agreed that all eligible voters removed through 2019 may cast provisional ballots in any local, state, special, or federal election through 2022 which are counted. Doing this will restore voters to the rolls. Ohio failed to provide proper notice to voters whose registration was in jeopardy and now must notify non-registered eligible voters of the settlement with the deadline for registering and tell boards of elections to use motor vehicle records to determine if voters still live where they registered. After the settlement, the Ohio Democratic Party sued to keep over 200,000 voters from being removed on September 6.

With Texas facing the possibility of turning purple, emails show that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) led the effort to purge thousands of voters from state election rolls although former Secretary of State David Whitley got the blame and resigned. A federal court stopped the purge of almost 100,000 people wrongfully identified as non-citizens. Texas tries to keep Texas voters white and GOP through restrictive voter ID laws, barriers to earlier voting, and difficulties in casting ballots, efforts overturned a half-dozen times in the past few years. Texas conservatives also hire people to sit outside driver license offices and register people after screening them with the question of whether they want “less government and less taxes” or “more government and more taxes.” Last year, Democrats flipped two congressional seats, and gained 12 in the Texas House and two in the Texas Senate.

Other:

In Maryland, a district court ruled that transgender military service members have legal standing to sue for their rights. DDT cannot block judicial review of his trans military ban.  

A U.S. district court judge in Michigan permitted a challenge to DDT’s Muslim Ban that bars immigration and travel from identified predominantly Muslim countries. The judge supported the claim of unconstitutional religious discrimination, writing that “the Plaintiffs present sufficient evidence that the Proclamation is unable to be explained by anything but animus towards Muslims.”

An Oklahoma judge ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the opioid epidemic through its marketing of powerful painkillers and ordered the company to pay $572.1 million in damages. The decision is the first in approximately 2,000 state and local lawsuits against health care companies pushing opioids. Oklahoma stated that J&J was “at the root of the crisis” and created a “public nuisance.” Earlier this year, the state settled claims against Purdue for $270 million and Teva for $85 million. The wealthy Sacklers family, who made their fortune from Purdue Pharma’s oxycontin, may keep most of their money by selling the company to avoid a federal $10 billion to $12 billion settlement.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a Missouri law banning abortions after eight weeks with no exceptions for rape and incest. Courts blocked similar laws in Mississippi and Kentucky earlier this year. A federal judge also blocked Ohio’s so-called “heartbeat law” that would ban abortions as early as six weeks before women know that they are pregnant.   

Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to serve as student government president at American University in Washington, D.C., was awarded $725,000 from a massive “troll storm” against her by Andrew Anglin, founder of neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, and follower Brian Ade, who failed to appear in court. Anglin, who fled the U.S., has also been ordered to pay $14 million to Tanya Gersh, a Jewish Montana real estate agent who he harassed, and $4.1 million to Muslim comedian Dean Obeidallah after falsely accusing him of involvement in the May 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Eight months ago, another defendant, Eugene (OR) actor and musician Evan McCarty, settled after an apology to Dumpson and publicly renouncing white supremacy, completing 200 hours of community service at a racial justice organization, and finishing “anti-hate” training.

A judge invalidated the Treasury Department’s permission to IRS to conceal the identity of donors who contributed over $5,000 to nonprofits during one year. The IRS violated the law by not having the required notice and comment period.

In Arizona, a state court of appeals ruled that people in the state have a constitutional right to online privacy from police who don’t have a warrant based on appearance of criminal activity because Internet users have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” for information about themselves furnished to internet providers based on the state constitution. The decision conflicts with federal court rulings that people give up privacy when they give information to third parties and are no longer protected against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment.

Despite federal attempts to open all public land to mining, drilling, and housing developments, a federal judge blocked construction of a huge open-pit copper mine in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest considered ancestral sacred burial sites for the Hopi, Tohono O’odham, and Pascua Yaqui tribes. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, former lobbyist for the copper company, wanted to give his friends this land as well as another place near the border for a 70,000-person housing development destroying the San Pedro, one of the Southwest’s last free-flowing rivers. The current project, near Benson, is back on after the federal government issued permits. People are waiting to see if the government will close a uranium mine near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon contaminating groundwater with radioactive waste.

The 11th Circuit Court ruled that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment” and sent a lawsuit back to a lower court to see if a city ordinance violates those rights. In 2014, after Fort Lauderdale (FL) required a permit to share food in public parks, police arrested a 90-year-old man (left) and two ministers who gave food to homeless people. 

A federal judge dismissed a $250-million libel lawsuit against the Washington Post filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann after he received negative media attention from his behavior in Washington, DC while attending a pro-life march. The filing called the reporting false and defamatory; the judge called it constitutionally protected. Sandmann’s dad, Ted, plans to appeal.

After New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold killed the unarmed Eric Garner in 2014 while other police officers watched, was exonerated last summer, outrage built, and a police administrative judge found Pantaleo guilty of violating a department ban on chokeholds. The tragedy was resolved with Pantaleo was fired and stripped of his pension benefits. Garner had cried out “I can’t breathe” eleven times until he stopped breathing. Garner had been accused of selling untaxed cigarettes.

One recent decision is questionable and could throw the nation into chaos. The 10th Circuit Court has ruled that representatives for the Electoral College are not required to vote in accord with the popular vote of their states. The lawsuit came after seven of the electors went “rogue” in the 2016 election. If that decision were left to stand, 538 individual people would be the only ones to vote for the president of the United States. The ruling covers six Western states unless it is overturned by an en banc decision or the Supreme Court. 

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