Nel's New Day

December 15, 2017

The Tax Bill Would Destroy Our Nation’s Future

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:13 PM
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The new tax bill, approved by a joint Senate/House committee in both congressional chambers, is ready for votes in both chambers this coming week with no experts testifying and no Democratic support.

Benefits for corporations: The permanent drop to 21 percent—40 percent of the rate during the 1950s—saves them $1 trillion in a decade. Corporations have not indicated any desire to invest these savings in the economy. Foreign income by U.S. companies would be tax-free. These cuts are permanent; those for individuals expire in nine years. Corporate cuts disproportionately help the wealthy because they are the share-holders.

Benefits for the wealthy: The highest tax rate for married couples making over $470,000 has been dropped 2.6 percent to 37 percent although DDT had said the bill would not cut taxes on the rich. DDT had said that his wealthy friends were complaining. Overall, 47.5 percent of taxpayers have an average increase of $150 in taxes, and 31.3 percent may get a reduction with an average of $1,500. This doesn’t reflect the cost of health insurance premiums.

Cuts for tax deductions: Only $10,000 in state, local, and property taxes can be deducted on federal income taxes, causing property values to fall in high-tax cities and leaving less money for public schools and infrastructure. The bill also prohibits taxpayers from prepaying next year’s state and local income or property taxes to prevent people from deducting them from 2018 taxes.

Increase in insurance premiums: The disappearance of an individual healthcare mandate will cause premiums for people not on the Affordable Care Act to rise and 13 million more people to be without health insurance in a decade. The elimination of the mandate doesn’t occur until 2019.

No estate tax under $22 million: Currently heirs don’t pay estate taxes under $11 million for married couples, but the new tax doubles that amount.

A 20-percent reduction for “pass through” companies: In S corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and sole proprietorships, income is “passed through” to the business owner’s individual tax return. The new bill invites a plethora of sham businesses for salaries to allow people to deduct 20-percent of their income up to $315,000 tax-free.

Drop in AMT (alternative minimum tax) for individuals: The tax began in 1969 to keep wealthy families from lowering their tax bill to almost nothing through credits and loopholes. The AMT level had not been changed, and couples earning over $84,500 may end of paying the AMT. The proposed threshold is $500,000.

No corporate AMT tax: This tax has kept corporate taxes close to 21 percent.

Drop in mortgage interest deduction: This deduction would be reduced from up to $1 million in mortgage loans to a cap of $750,000 for new loans.

Business perks: Additional tax relief for owners of engineering and architectural firms and the elimination of any change in capital gains treatment of home sales are among appeasements to business lobbyists and congressional champions.

Items left in place: The student loan deduction, the medical expense deduction, and the graduate student tuition waivers; retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans;

Churches, synagogues, mosques and other nonprofits (the Johnson Amendment stays in place) can’t get political and endorse candidates in elections or collect money for them with undisclosed donations.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who promised he would not vote for any bill that raised one penny of the national debt, is now in favor of a bill that increases the debt at least $1 trillion dollars (100 trillion pennies). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who was earlier opposed to dropping off health insurance, seems fine with the bill predicted to do that to 13 million people. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who caved on the last bill because he was promised that he could stay in a room where DACA might be discussed, is expressing doubt, but he can be expected to give in. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) who voted against an earlier bill because he didn’t get enough money for his own business in Wisconsin must have gotten the money because he stated that the probably non-existent “economic growth” will be the way that “most Americans benefit from this tax reform.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) now approves after the new bill slightly expands a child tax refundable credit by $300 from $1,100. The child tax credit, doubling to $2,000, would phase out at $400,000 in earnings for married couples, up from the current $110,000.

Over 30 years ago, the 1986 tax reform bill may have dropped the corporate tax rate to 34 percent, but the reduction was covered by eliminating or reducing business tax breaks. Congressional sentiment was to have fewer tax loopholes and shelters for the rich to avoid an increase in the deficit. The capital gains increased from 20 percent to 28 percent because of the bipartisan belief that these taxes should be at least commensurate with ordinary income for workers. Not ideal, but far superior to the today’s GOP view of tax “reform” of giving money to rich individuals and businesses, taking from the poor, and driving up the deficit with the goal of eliminating earned benefits such as Medicare and Social Security.

The tax bill is like an oil spill: it will keep oozing bad news. Egregious pieces of the Senate bill may remain such as a tax exemption for cruise ships that dock in Alaska, a favor for Sen. Dan Sullivan; allowing luxury car dealerships to deduct interest on loans to showrooms for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); and a tax deduction for $10,000 of private school tuition.  A deduction for domestic manufacturing is gone, encouraging companies to move offshore. Fossil fuel drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge stays.

Republicans have had enough time to play with their largely disliked tax scam bill, but they ignored CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), insurance for 9 million poor children, that expired at the end of September. GOP leaders such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) have sneered at people who need this insurance because they don’t work hard enough. Because of their indifference, young people won’t play basketball or join a dance team because they can’t afford an annual physical. Thousands more won’t have access to dialysis, surgery, or chemotherapy because the GOP believes that these children don’t deserve help. Meanwhile, they’re putting the same children into debt with a bill that gives money to the wealthy.

If the GOP wants to put the nation into debt by $1.5 trillion, they could stop child poverty, as Rachel West explains:

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 5.7 million poor families with children would need an average of $11,400 more to live above the poverty line in 2016. In total, the income needed to boost these families—along with the additional 105,000 children who were not living with their families—above the federal poverty level is about $69.4 billion per year in today’s dollars. Over ten years, that adds up to about 46 percent of what Congress plans to spend on its tax plan. There would be so much money left over after we boosted these kids out of poverty that the United States could also pay tuition and fees for all of them to get an in-state education at a four-year public university, and it still wouldn’t costs as much as the tax plan. If Congress wanted to really let loose, and spend just 12 percent more than the tax bill does—for a total of $1.74 trillion—we could completely eliminate all poverty in America.”

Using the $1.5 trillion in this way would give a real boost to the economy. People could afford to buy things that other people would need to manufacture; people could buy services that would create more jobs. With all these jobs, the taxes would vastly increase in an upwardly spiral movement instead giving businesses the opportunity to take their $1 trillion out of the country.

Giving almost $1.5 trillion to the wealthy and businesses also takes away any chance for fixing the crumbling infrastructure throughout the United States. The bill gives no opportunity to repair highways, bridges, airports, railways, water and sewage plants, electrical grids—the list has grown more and more as taxes dropped in the last half century. Now the Republicans expect states to fix all the infrastructure form their meager state budgets, already weakened by increasing federal demands on them.

In the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria wrote about the bill if it passes:

“The medium- and long-term effects of the plan will be a massive drop in public investment, which will come on the heels of decades of declining spending (as a percentage of gross domestic product) on infrastructure, scientific research, skills training and core government agencies. The United States can’t coast on past investments forever….

“United States has almost 56,000 bridges with structural problems (about 1,900 of which are on interstate highways), and these are crossed 185 million times a day….

“In 1977 the federal government provided 63 percent of the country’s total investment in water infrastructure, but only 9 percent by 2014. There’s so much congestion in America’s largest rail hub, Chicago, that it takes longer for a freight train to pass through the city than it takes to get from there to Los Angeles.”

The GOP tax bill would provide more of the same—more money for the wealthy taken from everyone else–and destroy any opportunity for a brighter future.

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December 11, 2017

GOP Plans to Destroy Democracy with Its Tax Bill

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 9:26 PM
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In darkness, secrecy, and haste, the Republicans in Congress created an ill-conceived bill erroneously labeled as Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (SCAM). The proposed evil law is designed to restructure the social structure of the United States by confirming the nation as a kleptocracy—rule by thieves. The law would take money from almost all the people in the lowest 80 percent, those with the least resources, while giving huge amounts to the top of the food chain and the huge corporations. It dehumanizes people with a class structure that evaluates everyone on economic productivity and exterminates those considered unsuitable. Republicans have moved toward this system in the past decade by removing poor people, women, and minorities from the voting rolls.

In just one example of the GOP cruelty, opening the Arctic national wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling may destroy the primary food source, caribou, for the Gwish’in people and perhaps the tribe itself. CBO estimates that the government will gain $145 million with drilling, equivalent to a year’s worth of DDT’s weekend trips.

Billionaire Robert Mercer, who bought the presidency for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), said that “a human being is only worth as much as they can earn,” that he’s worth thousands of times more than a school teacher because he makes that much more money than school teachers do.Pervasive GOP language—“makers and takers,” “anchor babies” (but not for the wealthy Russian women who come to the U.S. to give birth); “job creators” (for companies that keep moving overseas and firing people); etc.—describes Republicans’ disdain for the “underclass.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is reluctant to fund CHIP, health insurance for poor children, because it would “help people who won’t help themselves—won’t lift a finger—and expect the federal government to do everything.” These are the people who have a minimum wage of $7.25 in many states because Republicans think that they don’t deserve higher wages. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) determines that people with huge estates should need to pay taxes on them “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” Back to the $7.25 minimum wage that won’t even get them into a movie. And it’s the spending by the majority of people in the nation that drives the economy, not giving money to the wealthy who store it in other countries.

The sole aim of this egregious bill is to kill everything that came out of the New Deal. In the four decades after Herbert Hoover almost completely destroyed the nation, laws tried to stop employers from abusing workers and destroying the environment. They set in motion strategies to support those who could not help themselves and initiated the way to equal economic opportunity. Prosperity for people at the bottom means economic growth. It changed the GOP philosophy that protection of the rich, ruling by businessmen, and slashing taxes and regulations would create national prosperity, beliefs that drove the nation into the Great Depression. Looking at Kansas since the GOP instated this philosophy again demonstrates its failure.

FDR was president for almost four terms and followed by a Democrat for another one. By the 1950s, the standard of living in the nation was the best it had been before—and the best since then. Ignoring the facts, the GOP set out to do away with the philosophy and succeeded in eliminating the high standard of living. In the 1970s, the GOP began moving the nation’s assets to the rich through deregulation. Businesses were encouraged to attack the media, education, politics, and courts—just as in current times. Wealth moved upward.

Between 1946 and 1980, “pre-tax” incomes (ownership of assets, public and private pensions, and disability and unemployment insurance) grew from the bottom up, with an increase faster for the poorest adults than the top 20 percent. Those at the bottom 20 percent doubled their incomes whereas the top one percent increased 47 percent. In “post-tax” income, the bottom 20 percent gained a 179 percent hike over these 34 years.

The FCC regulation requiring news to be balanced, equitable, and honest disappeared in 1987, and biased news outlets such as Fox appeared, calling themselves “fair and balanced.” The GOP began to drive out the “RINOs,” Republicans in Name Only, who might support social welfare, regulations, taxes, or compromise. Between 1980 and 2014, pre-tax incomes dropped 25 percent for the bottom 20 percent while the top one percent incomes went up 204 percent, and the top 0.1 percent increased 320 percent. After-tax income for the bottom 20 percent was a four-percent increase. Post-tax income for those between the bottom 50 percent and the top ten percent rose 49 percent. By 2015, the top 1 percent of families took home more than 20 percent of income. Wealth distribution was 10 times worse than that: the families in the top 1 percent owned as much as the families in the bottom 90 percent. By 2015, the top one percent owned 40 percent of the wealth, equal to assets for the bottom 90 percent.

The “tax” bill is part of the GOP objective to eradicate the middle class by concentrating more income and wealth with the existing rich. Republicans will start by eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This year’s Senate tax bill starts begins the process by triggering a federal law, PayGo, that limits Medicare to four percent of the annual budget. The $1.5 trill deficit in the bill will them more ammunition when they claim that the country cannot afford the deficit that they created by giving huge sums of money to the wealthy and corporations. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said:

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) echoed Ryan by saying that “we have to have welfare reform.” Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) said, “If we pass tax reform, we have to have welfare reform.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) stated that the plan had always been “to do two things,” because “the driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.” No mention that the GOP is creating the huge debt themselves. The common cry from Republicans is that the government should not help people by “paying people not to work” (Ryan), people who “suffer on welfare” (Higgins); etc. Yet almost 90 percent of working-age parents receiving food stamps are back to work in a year, and two-thirds of people who receive them are children, people with disabilities, and people too old to work. Back to their inability to save because of the $7.25 minimum wage. And “welfare” to GOP legislatures is Medicare and Social Security.

A huge irony of the bill’s process come from the excessive complaining from the GOP about what they perceived as the “rushed” process of the healthcare bill seven years ago. The following chart shows the difference between the way that Democrats follow the “regular order” of Congress and that the way that Republicans ignore it.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) described the social engineering of the tax bill:

“It’s really designed to reorder our representative democracy. What they will do with these massive tax breaks is they will buy each other up in more mergers, which will concentrate markets and make it much more difficult for small businesses and workers. They’ll also pay each other off and give each other more bonuses, which they will use to purchase political influence in Washington and state capitals all over the country….

“This is really, I think, more about reordering our society, creating a hereditary aristocracy in the United States and really taking our country and leading it down a path where we will one day see a very tiny group of very, very, very rich elite people in an ocean of desperate people just trying to hang on and make it every single day—not too much different from countries that we see around the world, like Honduras, where I recently visited.”

A few goals of the GOP “tax” bill:

  • Kill off the weak by removing health insurance, Social Security, and the safety net;
  • Make education for only the advantaged through deductions for the wealthy and voucher systems;
  • Restrict income to only the wealthy;
  • Encourage corporations, with profits already at an all-time high, to shelter more assets offshore;
  • Take homes from more people;
  • Make the United States a theocracy by allowing untaxed churches to promote candidates;
  • Destroy the infrastructure and make the climate untenable;
  • Move more wealth upward.

Republicans are desperate to pass the bill because donors are withdrawing money from them until they complete the task. They openly support an alleged pedophile for the Senate because they are also desperate to get his vote. With no empathy or desire to preserve a democracy, the GOP will bulldoze this bill as far as they can through fraud, lies, and any other nefarious actions possible.

DDT promised people he wouldn’t touch Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. People believed him, and he was elected. Will they believe the next conservative who makes these false promises?

December 10, 2017

Jerusalem: DDT Further Isolates U.S.

Evangelical approval for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) fell 17 points last week, and DDT wants to bump it up again—recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the 19th century, Bible teacher John Nelson Darby created the theory that the Jews had to control Jerusalem before Jesus could return to earth in a second coming to save his loyal followers by the seven-year suffering and turmoil called the Armageddon when Satan is defeated and Christ controls the world. Hal Lindsey popularized the belief during the 1970s in The Late Great Planet Earth. At DDT’s rally in northern Florida, conservative state Sen. Doug Broxson said that DDT may bring the biblical end times. The crowd cheered.

DDT has already shown success in starting a conflict with his Jerusalem executive order as protests have spread across the Middle East. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem barred all personnel and their families from traveling in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s old city immediately after DDT’s proclamation. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and part of the city is also occupied by Christians. The last quarter is occupied by Armenians. Although Jordan claims the east half of Jerusalem and Palestine calls Jerusalem its capital, the city has a distinct status as not belonging to any country, according to the international community.

Only the U.S. and the Czech Republic recognize Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital, and the United States would have the only embassy in that city. The senior Christian leader in Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, sent a letter with a dozen other church leaders in the Holy Land warning of “irreparable harm.” DDT’s move “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division”, they wrote.

DDT’s violation of international law in his executive order follows the U.S. pattern of allowing the illegal expansion of Jews-only colonial settlements in occupied Arab Jerusalem and across the West Bank. But this act is creating even more problems in the area. DDT has removed any leverage in the negotiations for peace between Palestine and Israel and confirmed that the U.S. is a completely biased party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Twenty-five former Israeli Ambassadors, academics, and other dignitaries publicly denounced the move. The pope of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church canceled his meeting with VP Mike Pence when he travels to Cairo this week, saying that DDT did not take into account the “feelings of millions of Arab people.” Only the visit to Israel may be pleasant to Pence; the ones to Germany and Egypt are guaranteed to be chilly. For the first time, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, committed to a two-state solution, is refusing to meet with a senior U.S. leader. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi predicted “possible dangerous repercussions,” and Turkey warned the decision represented a “red line” for Muslims. The Middle East is already volatile, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the U.S. was “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight.” He hinted Turkey might cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the embassy is moved.

History has already shown how a supposedly small act can be incendiary. The second intifada in late 2000 began when Ariel Sharon declared the Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place in the world to Jews and the third holiest site in Islam, reserved for Israel. The result was a two-year bloody war of suicide bombers and military attacks that killed both Israelis and Palestinians. In the Palestinian-Israel conflict, symbols matter.

Instead of consulting with impacted countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, DDT said, “This is what we are going to do.” The Arab League of 21 countries said:

“The decision has no legal effect… it deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge the region into more violence and chaos.”

Jordan said that DDT’s announcement has “no validity under international law.”During a meeting of the Arab League, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on members to consider economic sanctions on the U.S. to stop it moving its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He said:

“Pre-emptive measures (must be) taken… beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions.”

Countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China have condemned DDT’s action as a threat to peace.

DDT also ignored Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who recommended a different course. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued against DDT’s order and took the brunt of anger in Europe during a tour to convince State Department officials that they are better off without any employees and, in some cases, without ambassadors. Federica Mogherini, the foreign policy chief of the European Union, stood beside Tillerson while telling reporters that the U.S. was wrong to back away from the Iran nuclear deal and that the move of the U.S. embassy would undermine peace. Countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China have condemned DDT’s action as a threat to peace. Other foreign ministers showed their disapproval of DDT’s action in an indication of decreased respect for the U.S. Relationships with Europe could worsen if DDT appoints Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Only VP Mike Pence seemed pleased as he watched like a proud father as DDT held up the order like a toddler who had accomplished a fine BM.

The United States stands largely alone after DDT made his proclamation. The UN passed six resolutions affirming Palestinian rights and condemning Israeli violations of international law. One resolution stated that “any actions by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void.” Six countries, including the United States and Israel, voted against the resolution; 151 voted in favor of the resolution. In an emergency meeting, 14 of the 15 nations on the UN Security Council condemned DDT for his declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel because of its threat to peace. The 15th member of the Council is the United States. Council members are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay.  Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenti said:

“While there are two parties in this conflict, they are not on a level playing field. One is an occupying power, the other is an occupied people. One party builds illegal settlements… One party puts a siege on Gaza… One party takes over the water resources and farmlands of the other …. One of the parties engages in forced displacement.”

DDT’s decision to placate the evangelicals also benefits his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is working to further an anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East developed around Saudi Arabia and Israel. A few days before DDT signed the order, DDT pressured the PLO office in Washington with eviction if they didn’t agree the Israeli human-rights-violating settlements. Kushner has supported illegal West Bank Israeli settlements for years, helping to funnel tens of thousands of dollars to Jewish institutions in the settlements encroaching on Palestinian land through his family’s foundation. In late 2016, Kushner ordered Michael Flynn to persuade Russia to delay the UN Security Council vote criticizing these illegal settlements although Russia didn’t follow Flynn’s request. Kushner’s family also has lucrative real estate deals with Israeli financial institutions, one of them shared ownership and profits on a New Jersey apartment building. Another Kushner relationship is with two Israeli banks investigated for helping wealthy clients evade U.S. taxes.

Only 23 percent of evangelicals believe in a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis whereas a majority of U.S. Jews support a Palestinian state. Only 17 percent of U.S. Jews think that moving onto Palestinian land helps Israel’s security. Almost two-thirds of evangelicals think that a candidate’s stance on Israel matters “a lot” whereas only nine percent of U.S. Jews agree with that statement. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley claims that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and declaring the city to be Israel’s capital is “the will of the American people.” Yet 59 percent of people in the U.S. prefer that the U.S. select neither side of the Palestine-Israel conflict, and 63 percent oppose moving the embassy.

As with all his other actions, DDT shows no thought. He merely threw gasoline on the embers of a fire, perhaps hoping for an easier war than in North Korea so that he can look like an important leader in the world. Instead he has further isolated the United States from any part in global decisions, all of which negatively affects the United States’ status in the world.

December 9, 2017

DDT: Week Forty-six – Make America Worse

The good news: Congress Republicans passed a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown yesterday. The bad news: it’s only for two weeks. Every day, 122 DACA recipients lose their protections. The total thus far since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issues his decree is over 11,000 of the 800,000 young people. CHIP, health care for children, also expired over two months ago.

Other questions of the week:

  • Will DDT fire his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?
  • Can the two chambers of Congress combine their tax bill in time to give most people a lump of coal for the holidays?
  • Where will the courts go after the Supreme Court okayed DDT’s travel ban?
  • How many people will die or be injured because DDT tore up 70 years of U.S. policy and gave Jerusalem to Israel?
  • Who is the next to leave Congress because of sexual assault/harassment after the departures of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)?  (Clue: Reps. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) are on the chopping block, and as many as 40 congressional members–ten percent of the males–could be affected.)
  • And will the GOP elect pedophile Roy Moore for its senator from Alabama?

At the inauguration ceremony of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Michael Flynn texted a former associate, promising that U.S. sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” and plans to build nuclear interests in the Middle East with Russian interests was “good to go.” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who has a witness to these statements, asked Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to subpoena the White House for Flynn-related documents. Gowdy, who led a crusade against Hillary Clinton regarding Benghazi and the continuing focus on her emails as well as targeting former FBI director James Comey, responded, “Congress doesn’t investigate a crime.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked a federal judge to deny Paul Manafort’s request to release him from house arrest because of an op-ed that Manafort edited for an associate “assessed to have ties” with Russian intelligence. That act was in violation of a court order.

Republicans are trying to destroy Mueller with the most recent attacks fueled by disparaging texts about DDT from Peter Strzok, who has been removed as top FBI agent on the investigation team. New FBI director Christopher Wray repeatedly defended the FBI when Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee bombarded him with questions about anti-DDT sentiment. Hillary Clinton’s name came up at 76 times, and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) complained about no special counsel “addressing the Clinton administration.” On Fox, Gregg Jarrett accused the FBI of being “like the old KGB … a shadow government.”

Donald Trump Jr. talked to the House Intelligence Committee for eight hours behind closed doors with no released transcripts. He cited attorney-client privilege to refuse answering questions about his conversation with his father about the meeting between Jr. and others, including a Russian lawyer, on June 9, 2016. Neither DDT nor his son is a lawyer, but Jr. said one was in the room. Mueller also questioned Hope Hicks, DDT’s current Communications Director; the FBI had earlier warned her that Russian officials had tried to contact her during the presidential transition.

The Senate tax bill suffers a $300 billion glitch that may take more money from the less than wealthy. Hurried writers forgot to lower the alternative minimum tax (AMT) after putting it back into the legislation. Protests are accelerating as the two chambers try to reconcile their positions.

The decision allowing financial advisers to act in their own best interests for another 18 months will take $10.9 billion from their clients saving for retirement in the next three decades. Permanent implementation of the rule would be more devastating.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte ordered 23 DDT businesses including Mar-a-Lago to keep their records for a lawsuit against DDT regarding his violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. In District of Columbia v. Trump, attorneys in Washington and Maryland claim that his business empire is profiting from foreign and domestic governments.

Project Veritas may lose its license to collect donations in New York because it failed to disclose the criminal record of founder James O’Keefe from a 2010 conviction.  DDT is one of the donors to the group that uses editing and lies in order to produce fraudulent videos, the most recent one by a woman who lied about Roy Moore impregnating her and getting an abortion for her. The group’s paperwork also failed to disclose that Utah and Mississippi had already removed its rights to raise money in their states. The DOJ is now using O’Keefe’s fake videos about Planned Parenthood to launch an investigation into the organization.

Fox is calling for the arrest of a president. Lou Dobbs wants Barack Obama arrested for saying that people should “think before you speak. Think before you tweet.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the reason that DDT is taking almost two million acres from the public in the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments is that “public lands are for public use and not for special interests.” Possibly Zinke’s “public use” comes from the fact that over three-fourths of the property that DDT took from public land sits on fossil fuel reserves. Five Utah tribes—Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zini—plan to sue DDT to save approximately 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD. Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said:

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk. But we came back.”

Zinke hopes to shrink more national monuments, including Oregon’s Cascades-Siskiyou so that he can cut down its trees.

Last week, DDT destroyed a ceremony with the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II; this week he described the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a “pretty wild scene” during a ceremony.

DDT refused to take on-the-record questions on Air Force One during one his newsiest days. Ken Walsh, journalist covering six presidents, said, “The briefing has become a battleground, not a place for public education or enlightenment or even the discussion of basic information.”

The RNC gave $170,000 to Roy Moore for his campaign because DDT told them to give him money. Sexual assault isn’t Moore’s only problem; he also said to a black man that the last time the United States was great was when the nation had slavery. In the meantime, lawyers are working to preserve electronic images of all paper ballots cast in the December 12 election and ensure the electronic scanners will capture the digital ballot images. Different states have struggled with out-of-date computers and mysteriously destroyed records, most recently in Georgia. Elections have already shown through hand-counting that many votes are not detected by the optical-scan device.

In another move toward “Make America Alone Again,” DDT withdrew from UN attempts to develop compassionate global refugee policies. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the U.S. will make decisions alone. The nomination for Haley’s fill-in if she is not available, white supremacist Patrick Murray, has passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary of State Betsy DeVos’ brother, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, is proposing a private spy group to fight “deep state” political enemies in federal intelligence agencies and allow DDT to send spies for covert operations into “denied areas” such as North Korea and Iran. Prince also wants a global rendition force to capture terrorist suspects around the world and set up propaganda campaigns in the Middle East and Europe. The plan copies the old British East Indian Company private army that colonized the British empire in India. The group would be “off the books” with no government oversight: funding would come from picking off Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, uranium, and “rare earth elements.” Another actor in the plan is Oliver North, who set up the same type of network 30 years ago to wage war against the leftist government of Nicaragua after Congress refused funding for military intervention in Central America’s civil wars.

DDT’s lawyers have a new defense tactic: the president is above the law. The current DOJ said 18 years ago that no one—even the president—is above the law when the president was a Democrat.

Forget about price shopping for airline flights; DDT withdrew a proposed rule for transparency in baggage fees.

The 28 of 30 Jewish House members who are Democrats weren’t invited to DDT’s partisan Hanukah party, five days before the beginning of the celebration. The tiny menorah brought into the room only for the ceremony and lighted by DDT’s grandchildren was in the midst of four huge Christmas trees. Afterwards, the party moved to DDT’s International Hotel for the “Hanukkah Nightcap” party funded by Sheldon Adelson’s Republican Jewish Coalition.

Less than one year after his inauguration, DDT is welcome only at rallies with vetted audiences of Trumpettes. Early this week, neither DDT nor his wife attended Kennedy Center Honors, the first time the president was not in attendance or represented since its inception in 1978.  Today DDT did not attend the public opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson because of protests, including by NAACP and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) who had been injured and jailed during the 1960s civil rights protests. DeNeen L. Brown and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. describe the tragedies depicted in the museum.

After DDT may have admitted obstructing of justice in his tweet about Michael Flynn, White House staff is considering making rules for how messages are posted on social media.

The latest Pew Research puts the approval rating for DDT at 32 percent with 63 percent disapproving. At the same time for his first term, President Obama’s approval rating was 49 percent. DDT’s loss of evangelical voters may be painful; the approval rating among that group has fallen 17 points down to 72 percent.  Further drops for DDT: Adults 50 and older – from 47 percent to 38 percent; whites – 49 percent to 41 percent.

December 5, 2017

Has the Supreme Court Ever ‘Given Protection to Food’?

Couples denied the benefits of legal marriage in the United States cheered when the Supreme Court invalidated discrimination against them in US v. Windsor (2013) and later Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). The current set of justices is now eliminating rights for married same-gender couples. Yesterday, the majority of justices refused to hear an appeal from the Texas Supreme Court that decided lesbian and gay spouses do not deserve government-subsidized workplace benefits in Houston. In Pidgeon v. Parker, the state’s high court concluded that Obergefell may have granted the right for same-sex marriage, but the federal decision “did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.” In Texas, marriage equality is legal, but married same-gender couples won’t get the same rights as married straight couples.

That Supreme Court non-decision was made the day before it heard arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Division, a case in which a baker was sued because he refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception after they legally married out of state. The lawsuit is based on Colorado law declaring that businesses cannot deny goods or services to someone due to their disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry. Colorado agreed with the gay couple that the baker was discriminating against them with his refusal to make them a cake because they are gay.

In another Colorado case, a baker refused to create a cake with homophobic bible messages but offered to sell him a Bible-shaped cake and an icing bag so that he could decorate it himself. The commission disagreed with the complaint against her because the refusal was based on the message and not the religion. The Masterpiece baker refused to the sale because of the users; he didn’t even ask if the cake would have any written “speech.”

Although “religious belief” seems to be an integral part of the case, the baker is not using the First Amendment’s recognition of freedom of religion. Instead the case is based on “free speech,” in this situation the claim that decorating a cake is an art and therefore represents free speech.

As in earlier cases about LGBTQ rights, the questions—and sometimes answers—would have been humorous if they didn’t pertain to the serious issue of government-sanction discrimination. Elena Kagan asked the baker’s lawyer if religious beliefs are a reason for hairstylists or make-up artists to refuse services for a same-gender wedding. The lawyer said no because these activities are not about “speech.” Kagan retorted that “some people might say that about cakes.” The justice was even more incredulous about the lawyer’s statement that “the tailor is not engaged in speech, nor is the chef.” Kagan asked, “Woah, the baker is engaged in speech, but the chef is not engaged in speech?”

Sonia Sotomayor asked the baker’s lawyer if the high court had ever “given protection to a food” and noted that “the primary purpose of a food of any kind is to be eaten.” She continued, “There are sandwich artists now. There are people who create beauty in what they make, but we still don’t call it expressive and entitled to First Amendment protection.” Sotomayor suggested a functional test to determine where objects to be used or consumed wouldn’t be considered expressive enough to warrant First Amendment protection.

Samuel Alito dug the hole deeper in an innocent question about the protection of architectural designs based on speech. The lawyer again said it would not be, and Stephen Breyer indicated surprise at her answer:

“So in other words, Mies [Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-American architect] or Michelangelo is not protected when he creates the Laurentian steps, but this cake baker is protected when he creates the cake without any message on it for a wedding? Now, that really does baffle me, I have to say.”

As in most Supreme Court cases, three conservative justices—Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito, and Neil Gorsuch—oppose civil rights with Clarence Thomas a complicit silent fourth.  Anthony Kennedy is firmly in the middle, and questions from the remaining four indicate an understanding of the issue.

People who suffer from privilege continue to demonstrate their lack of understanding regarding the humiliation of discrimination. In his column, conservative George Will almost seemed to be sensitive to the issue when he wrote about the limits of free speech and cited the black protests of “sit-ins” leading up to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet he finished by lambasting the gay couple for not just going to another baker who would prepare the cake. Yet Will said nothing about the blacks just going to another place where they could get served.

From his pedestal, white straight conservative male David Brooks wrote, “It’s just a cake. It’s not like they were being denied a home or a job, or a wedding. A cake looks good in magazines, but it’s not an important thing in a marriage.”

Kennedy told Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the representative from the homophobic DOJ supporting the baker, that the baker, if he won, could just put up a sign stating that he would not back wedding cakes for same-gender couples. That would be “an affront to the gay community,” Kennedy explained to Francisco. Visual signs   Kennedy also rejected the argument that the baker’s denial was based on the couple’s identity and not objections to marriage equality. He also accused the Colorado Civil Rights Commission of being “neither tolerant, nor respectful of Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

A group of faith leaders has written:

“Our objective is to spread hope and love to all people, including gay and transgender people, which is why we are deeply troubled by those who continually use religion as an excuse for discrimination against LGBTQ people—or any group of people…. We want to state loud and clear that religion should never be used to harm, hurt or deny service to anyone in the public square.”

By accepting the baker’s arguments, the Supreme Court can create a giant sinkhole for civil rights laws for all other categories including sex, race, and religion. Even with five votes in favor of the baker produces the dilemma of drawing a line respecting religious beliefs without, as Breyer said, “creating chaos.” If the baker wins a free speech argument in the highest court for his “art,” anyone can refuse service to any minority group by claiming free speech rights. The basis of the baker’s argument is that laws protecting the civil rights of marginalized groups can violate free-speech rights of those who refuse to serve them. A court ruling against LGBTQ people only would single out that group for legal discrimination while protecting other classes of people. There would not be a legislative fix for such a constitutional right to discriminate.

The baker’s attorneys acknowledge that their win could allow a baker to refuse service to an interracial couple, an argument supposedly settled almost 50 years in another Supreme Court case, Newman v. Piggie Park. The owner of a South Carolina barbecue chain claimed that the Civil Rights Act “contravene[d] the will of God” and infringed on his right to the free exercise of religion, because his beliefs “compel him to oppose any integration of the races.” In a brief 1968 ruling, the Supreme Court called his claims “patently frivolous.”

Justices could also send the case back to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission requiring it to be more tolerant to the baker’s religious beliefs or write the decision to apply only to Colorado law.

A ruling in favor of the gay couple would merely preserve current nondiscrimination laws, unavailable in most states.

However the court decides, the decision will probably not be announced until next June, the month of wedding cakes. Reasonable people can hope that at least five justices will agree with Sotomayor’s conclusion:

“If you want to be a part of our community, of our civic community, there’s certain behavior, conduct you can’t engage in. And that includes not selling products that you sell to everyone else to people simply because of either their race, religion, national origin, gender, and in this case sexual orientation. So we can’t legislate civility and rudeness, but we can and have permitted it as a compelling state interest legislating behavior.”

December 3, 2017

How Far Can Republicans Sink?

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 10:35 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The reports of sexual assault have filled the news, and Democrats are going into the problem head on while the GOP (Grand Old Perverts) are running away. It’s the shiny object keeping people from paying attention to the disastrous tax bill passed by the Senate and headed back to the House while Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues his lies and alienates reasonable leaders in other countries with his bigotry—the past week a focus against Muslims. And Roy Moore is most likely headed toward Washington as the new senator from Alabama. The world will know after the special election on December 12, nine days away.

Last year’s presidential election changed the perspective in the United States toward leadership. Eighty percent of Christian evangelicals voted for an alleged pedophile, and the trend continues with Moore. A survey at end of November shows that 39 percent of registered evangelical Christian voters are more likely to support him after they hear that he may have sexually abused a 14-year-old girl, dated teenage girls when he was in his 30s, and groped women in his office. Only 28 percent says that his behavior makes them less like to vote for him. Sixty-four percent of evangelicals say that they support him over a Democrat. In Alabama, 35 percent of the state are white evangelical Protestants and 58 percent of the state GOP.

Moore is running a campaign rife with fraud. His wife Kayla published a letter supposedly from 50 pastors endorsing her husband. At least four of them said they wanted their names removed from the letter, and others didn’t live in Alabama. Dozens of other evangelical pastors have signed a letter that declares him “not fit for office.”

The stories go far beyond his sexual assault, dating teenage girls, and groping. People who lived in his town knew that he was banned from a mall and the YMCA because he harassed the girls there. An Alabama police officer was assigned to watch him at local high school football games. Her task was to keep him from harassing the cheerleaders.

The recent unabashed GOP support for candidates like Moore and DDT demonstrates the shift in evangelical approach. The party has long proudly supported “family values,” but they have lost their Christian approach toward goodness to vote for policies. Even in 2004, “values voters” who said they prioritized character embodying Christian values such as kindness, honesty, and forgiveness voted for George W. Bush’s policy positions. In a survey following the election, 23 percent referenced personal characteristics of candidates whereas 44 percent talked about their opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights. That percentage increased to 58 percent among evangelicals by 2015 who held high priorities for social and cultural goals no matter the quality of the candidate. Those who want “religious freedom” also want to remove secularism and diversity from the nation. Seventy-two percent thought in 2015 that too many laws about moral standards have been removed and want to keep the United States a “Christian nation.” Last year almost half of white evangelical Protestants described Democrats as a serious threat to the nation.

Moore fits the evangelical view of what the United States should be. He blames the 9/11 attacks on the legalization of abortion and LGBTQ rights, stating that the Supreme Court recognition of marriage equality is worse than the 1857 Dred Scott decision declaring that blacks were property and not citizens. In addition to rejecting LGBTQ rights and abortion, he denied the existence of evolution and opposes women voting and running for office. He wrote that it is a moral obligation to never vote for a woman to hold public office. It also criticizes a woman’s right to vote.

The evangelical philosophy of marrying young women is taught in homeschooling with the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men.” Part of Vaughn Ohlman’s career was speaking at home-school conventions about his retreat for families to arrange child marriages. Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said that men should marry 15- and 16-year-old girls because 20-year-olds are too old to be molded. Another term for evangelical approach to a male selecting and grooming young girls is predation. Roy Moore represents a Christian fundamentalist problem.

Fundamentalist Christians leadership has a record of protecting GOP sexual predators. Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, covered for Ohio state Rep. Wes Goodman (R) after his sexual encounters with other men, at least one of them allegedly not consensual. Documents indicate that he sexually assaulted a young man at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. in 2015 while employed by the Council for National Policy (CNP), a somewhat-secretive umbrella organization for prominent conservative leaders from across the country. Goodman has since resigned after an “inappropriate interaction” in his legislative office that GOP Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger deemed consensual. The legislator’s position included virulent opposition to LGBTQ rights; Perkins promised the teenage boy’s stepfather that “this will not be ignored nor swept aside. It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.” Two months later Goodman was running for office. Perkins did suspend his membership with CNP but isn’t answering questions.

Approximately 30 sources, mostly college-aged men, reported inappropriate advances such as unwanted sexting, photos of his body, and hot tub invitations. One news source reported that Goodman targeted “young men he met through conservative circles who were too intimidated to publicly complain.” They feared for their own careers if they reported his undesired sexual advances.

Although the future looks dark at this time of year, a column by conservative Ross Douthat gives a light at the end of the tunnel. According to sociologist Christian Smith, younger evangelicals will “invent evangelicalism anew” because they were “betrayed by older pastors who insisted on the importance of moral character and then abandoned these preachments for the sake of partisanship — revealing their own commitments as essentially idolatrous.” Baylor professor Alan Jacobs goes farther when he predicts that young people will stop identifying with evangelicalism and move on to less radical philosophies. An “evangelical crackup” may come from pitting anti-Trump Southern Baptist Russell Moore “against the nationalist evangelicalism of a Jerry Falwell Jr. or Robert Jeffress.”

A common question about Republicans is how low can they sink. The possibility seems bottomless. After saying that he believed the allegations against Moore, that he was unfit to serve in public office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is now tacitly supporting him.

“The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate. It’s really up to them. It’s been a pretty robust campaign with a lot of people weighing in. The president and I, of course, supported somebody different earlier in the process. But in the end, the voters of Alabama will make their choice.”

Despite McConnell’s call on Moore to drop out of the race, Moore continues to say that Democrats and the media are making all the women are lying about what he did to them. He claims that LGBTQ people are orchestrating a campaign against him, and conservative outlets are smearing the women. The polls have been up and down for Moore, but polls have proved to be sometimes unreliable since the advent of DDT. One poll gives Moore a six-point lead over his opponent, Doug Jones, whereas another one puts Jones three points ahead.

The Alabaman argument for supporting Moore is to stop abortion. Conservative Jonathan Last wrote that his election will “set back the pro-life cause of years.” It will be an “albatross” for the GOP, and Democrats can use him to take over both chambers in 2018. According to Last, “the chances of Moore hurting the broader GOP caucus in a catastrophic way next year outweigh the chances of that one vote being make-or-break for abortion during the next four years.” (The winner of the December 12 election will be up again in 2020 because he is finishing Jeff Sessions’ term.)

Voting for DDT already increased the rot in the GOP; voting for Moore would increase the decay. Last asks if there is any limit to what a GOP candidate would do to stop votes—and stop the putrefaction. He concludes:

“If you care about the actual impact of supporting Moore—rather than preening in public about how you want people to view you—you start by looking in the mirror and thinking about the next compromise you’ll be asked to make.”

Nine more days until Moore’s election date. We’ll see then whether people in Alabama continue the destruction of the GOP.

December 2, 2017

DDT: Week Forty-five – Closer to Collusion

The man who led the cry against Hillary Clinton to “lock her up” at the GOP convention is now a convicted felon, and his statement “if I had done one-tenth of what she did” falls flat. The admission of former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have been the biggest bombshell to hit Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) this week when Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on January 24, 2017, two days after he was sworn in, about his communications with Russia. He may testify that DDT “directed him to make contact with the Russians.” Two top transition officials, one of them DDT’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, told Flynn to contact Russia to influence the vote. Flynn’s lies include his claim that he didn’t ask Russia on December 22, 2016 to “delay a vote on or defeat” a U.N. Security Council resolution. A week later and the day after President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S., Flynn promised Russian officials that DDT would reverse the Obama sanctions against Russia for its election meddling. The next day, DDT tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Flynn also forwarded a client’s memo to his National Security Council staff and told them to “fashion it into a policy for President Trump’s approval” to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East.

Flynn’s flip caused chaos for the White House as Mueller digs deeper into DDT’s inner circle. DDT canceled a scheduled press event and said that Flynn had previously worked for President Obama, that Flynn was DDT’s advisor for only a month. In fact, President Obama had fired Flynn and warned DDT against hiring him, the only advice about a  person that he gave DDT. Flynn was closely involved with DDT before the national RNC, and DDT seriously considered him for the vice president slot.

DDT’s tweet that Flynn had lied to the FBI may also mean that DDT knew about the collusion. If so, his request to former FBI director James Comey to “let this go” also is evidence of an obstruction of the investigation—and justice. Revealing emails from K.T. McFarland, a transition advisor to DDT, may cause him more problems.

DDT knew last summer he was in trouble with his possible collusion with Russia when he asked GOP senators to either end or convince their colleagues to end the investigation. Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney, said this pressuring was “potentially obstruction of justice.” The White House admitted the influence but claimed it was not “undue.”

Conservative Christians may be in the middle of Russian collusion: that Rick Clay, fundamentalist activist from West Virginia, was a go-between a “backdoor overture and dinner invite” to DDT from the Russians. Jared Kushner turned it down, but Clay still made the attempt. The offer was shortly before Donald Trump Jr. arranged a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who might provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

During testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, AG Jeff Sessions refused to answer the question about whether DDT had told him to block the Russian investigation although he didn’t invoke executive privilege—which he can’t do because only the president can do this. Sessions typically doesn’t admit wrongdoing until it has been made public.

Donald Trump Jr. will meet with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on December 6. The question now is when VP Mike Pence is asked to submit documents and testimony about his knowledge of the Russian collusion.

Earlier this week, DDT failed to even honor the Navajo code talkers whose work saved the United States from Germany during World War II. Instead DDT delivered a partisan slur against Native Americans and Elizabeth Warren, “We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”  Navajos protected the U.S. despite being prevented from voting until 1965 after they were killed, denigrated, and pushed onto reservations for over centuries. DDT’s photo-op was in front of the portrait of Andrew Jackson, who removed Native Americans from their lands.

DDT’s lap dog Mike Pompeo, CIA Director, may replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Chief-of-staff John Kelly has been orchestrating this as well as replacing Pompeo with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) who wants extensive surveillance and waterboarding. Cotton orchestrated a letter signed by most GOP senators and sent to Iranian leaders, warning them against the nuclear agreement with President Obama. Retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton described the letter, signed by most GOP senators, as “mutinous.”

The government will shut down this coming week without a budget, but DDT wants a shutdown because he thinks it will help him politically.

DDT may declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Internationally, the city is not recognized as belonging to Israel and has holy places for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Allowing Israel to control the city, which is not part of Israel, would create serious problems throughout the Middle East as well as all Islamic-majority countries.

Earlier this year, Congress used the death of Kate Steinle in 2015 to make punishment more severe for convicted and deported criminals who re-entered the U.S., based on the assumption that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, had deliberately killed Kate Steinle in 2015. A jury has found Zarate not guilty of murder, but DDT is using the trial to lambast sanctuary cities.

James Schultz, a lawyer tackling ethics and financial disclosures issues in the White House, has given up and is heading back to Philadelphia.

The Koch brothers are buying one-fourth of Time magazine through their company, Meredith.

With the departure of Richard Cordray from the watchdog consumer bureau protecting U.S. consumers, DDT appointed Mike Mulvaney as interim director despite a law putting the deputy director—in this case Leandra English—in the position. Mulvaney hates the bureau and has called it a “sad, sick joke.” Nevertheless, U.S. District Timothy Kelly, a DDT appointee, ruled in favor of Mulvaney for the position. English will continue a court case against the appointment of Mulvaney, who told Fox that his “authority really should frighten people.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, he tried to drive out legitimate journalists from the press corps and embed questionable far-right representatives. One of these, Lucian Wintrich from hoax-ridden Gateway Pundit, was arrested after grabbing a woman during his speech, “It’s OK to Be White,” at the University of Connecticut.

The trial against the inauguration protesters continues with the DOJ using video footage from discredited James O’Keefe who just tried a fake sting on the Washington Post regarding coverage of Roy Moore after many other fraudulent videos.

The egregious tax bill has passed the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to give senators any time to read the bill before the vote. (Far more about the bill later!)

DDT’s tweets:

About the killing of over 300 Muslims in an Egyptian mosque: “Need the Wall” that will keep Muslims from coming in from Mexico.

About DDT’s retweets from a British neo-fascist  of videos lying about Islam, British lawmaker David Lammy wrote, “The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours.”

About criticism from Prime Minister Theresa May, DDT fired back an angry tweet which targeted Theresa May Scrivener, a British “mum” who has only six Twitter followers.

About Joe Scarborough: DDT asked if MSNBC would terminate “low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the ‘unsolved mystery’ that took place in Florida years ago?  Investigate!” The unsubstantiated accusation concerned the death of Scarborough’s intern who collapsed of an un-diagnosed heart condition and hit her head on the side of a desk, causing a fatal blood clot. DDT also demanded an investigation into Andy Lack, NBC news chair, for “fake news.”

About negotiating with top Democrats Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Chuck Schumer (NY) to keep the government open and working, DDT tweeted: “I don’t see a deal!” They cancelled the meeting.

When you think that the world can’t get crazier, listen to Alex Jones on Info Wars. He claims that liberal lesbians are abusive to women and want to eat their victims’ brains. DDT has appeared on Jones’ show and told him, “Your reputation’s amazing. I will not let you down.” They reportedly communicate regularly. Their joint conspiracy theories are chronicled here.

Corey Lewandowski’s new book co-authored with David Bossie, Let Trump Be Trump, will immediately hit the best-seller list with its description of DDT on the campaign trail. Although Lewandowski may not have intended his portrait to be a slam, his descriptions of DDT’s violently unreasonable temper are sure to support recent allegations of an unstable mind. The tales of infighting, including Lewandowski’s dislike for his replacement Paul Manafort, will provide conversation for months.

November 30, 2017

History Shows Disaster of Tax Bill

Over a century ago, George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This saying applies to the disastrous tax bill moving through Congress. “The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” tax raises for the poor and middle class (to paraphrase the title of Judith Viorst’s children’s classic) has passed the House, and another one, probably worse, has moved from committee to the Senate floor after GOP senators were bought off by bribes. Historian Robert S. McElvaine wrote this perspective from the past to illustrate the nation’s future: “I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.” The piece is subtitled “Republicans are again sprinting toward an economic cliff.”

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

That was more than three decades before the collapse of the economy in 1929. The crash followed a decade of Republican control of the federal government during which trickle-down policies, including massive tax cuts for the rich, produced the greatest concentration of income in the accounts of the richest 0.01 percent at any time between World War I and 2007 (when trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the hyper-rich, and deregulation again resulted in another economic collapse).

Yet the plain fact that the trickle-down approach has never worked leaves Republicans unfazed. The GOP has been singing from the Market-is-God hymnal for well over a century, telling us that deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and the concentration of ever more wealth in the bloated accounts of the richest people will result in prosperity for the rest of us. The party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy.

In 1926, Calvin Coolidge’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, one of the world’s richest men, pushed through a massive tax cut that would substantially contribute to the causes of the Great Depression. Republican Sen. George Norris of Nebraska said that Mellon himself would reap from the tax bill “a larger personal reduction [in taxes] than the aggregate of practically all the taxpayers in the state of Nebraska.” The same is true now of Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other fabulously rich people.

During the 1920s, Republicans almost literally worshiped business. “The business of America,” Coolidge proclaimed, “is business.” Coolidge also remarked that, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple,” and “the man who works there worships there.” That faith in the Market as God has been the Republican religion ever since. A few months after he became president in 1981, Ronald Reagan praised Coolidge for cutting “taxes four times” and said “we had probably the greatest growth in prosperity that we’ve ever known.” Reagan said nothing about what happened to “Coolidge Prosperity” a few months after he left office.

In 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for “bold, persistent experimentation” and said: “It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” The contrasting position of Republicans then and now is: Take the method and try it. If it fails, deny its failure and try it again. And again. And again.

When Bill Clinton proposed a modest increase in the top marginal tax rate in his 1993 budget, every Republican voted against it. Trickle-down economists proclaimed that it would lead to economic disaster. But the tax increase on the wealthy was followed by one of the greatest periods of prosperity in American history and resulted in a budget surplus. When the Republicans came back into power in 2001, the administration of George W. Bush pushed the opposite policies, which had invariably produced calamity in the past. Predictably, that happened again in 2008.

Just how disastrous would the proposed reincarnation of the failed Republican trickle-down policies of the past be for the American people and the future of the nation? A few ways:

  • Repealing the estate tax, or, as Republicans have dubbed it, the “death tax.” But the estate tax is not a tax on the dead; it is a tax on their heirs. Repeal would reverse an important aspect of the American Revolution and establish an American hereditary aristocracy. If your estate is not above $11 million, your benefits from this portion of the GOP’s tax cut will be a nice round number: zero.
  • Eliminating deductions for state and local taxes. The GOP has called these deductions favoritism for people who live in high-tax states. In fact, ending deductibility of state and local taxes would tax income that has already been taxed away from a taxpayer. It is, quite simply, double taxation.
  • Repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which assures that wealthy people who hire accountants to find all the obscure ways to avoid taxes cannot escape taxation altogether. Repealing it would save Trump millions.
  • Extending the “pass-through” provision to noncorporate businesses, including some 500 entities Trump owns. It would allow the owners of these businesses to pay taxes at 25 percent, instead of 39.9 percent. This provision would allow Wall Street fund managers, among other very wealthy people, to pay a lower tax rate than many middle-class Americans pay.
  • Ending the deductibility of large medical expenses.
  • Taxing waived tuition for college students, ending deductibility for student loan payments, and even disallowing teachers from deducting what they spend on school supplies for their students.
  • Ending the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would cause 13 million Americans to lose health insurance and result in much higher premiums for those who do get insurance through the exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that, if enacted, the Republican tax bill may force deep cuts in Medicare through a generally unknown budget rule that its deficits would trigger.

The analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that people making less than $100,000 a year (approximately 80 percent of American households) will have their taxes increased while the millionaires and billionaires will make off like bandits.

In the 1920s, Republicans were in full control of the federal government and used that power to pursue their objective to “make the well-to-do prosperous.” It didn’t “leak through on those below.” In that decade, the mass-production American economy became dependent on mass consumption. For it to work, the masses need a sufficient share of the national income to be able to consume what is being produced.

Republican policies in the ’20s instead pushed to concentrate more of the income at the top. Nine decades later, Republicans are rushing to do it again — and they are sprinting toward an economic cliff. Another round of Government of the People, by the Republicans, for the super-rich will be catastrophic. The American people must call a halt before it’s too late.

Thank you, Mr. McElvaine

The deliberate $1.5 trillion deficit, tacked on to the massive deficits from George W. Bush’s wars and tax cuts, hobbles future generations. Instead of cutting back the deficit, the GOP is following the lead of a man who bragged that “I’m the king of debt.” DDT said, “I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out … you go back and you say, ‘Hey, guess what? The economy crashed. I’m going to give you back half.’” The king of debt made money cheating workers and retired people by refusing to pay them and declaring bankruptcies while he took all the cream for himself. He plans to continue the practice for all the people in the United States, for example anyone with Treasury bonds who will get only half of their investment back if he gets his way.

DDT claims he will “make America great again,” but he is turning the nation into a place where people are leaving instructions to send their ashes to Republicans who vote to literally kill them. Zoey Salsbury has created a popular website for people who may die without healthcare or Medicare. (The tax bill cuts $25 billion from that healthcare program). She provides information about how to mail cremains to the congressional member of choice, suggesting that packages be sent to legislators’ district offices because the Capitol may block them, and offers assistance in writing wills to for this process.

DDT is gaining his own vision of the United States, a place where he can take at least $1 billion for his personal gain from the bottom half of the population.

November 28, 2017

WaPo Outs O’Keefe, DDT Hides

A characteristic of fascism is to destroy a free press, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has obsessed with getting rid of the First Amendment through his term “fake news” for media outlets except Fox since he went on the campaign trail. The greatest fake news, however, comes from the far right, for example James O’Keefe, head of the falsely named Project Veritas, that led the destruction of ACORN and the smearing of Planned Parenthood which have helped hundreds of millions of people.

The latest destructive attempt from O’Keefe was designed to protect alleged pedophile Roy Moore and directed at the Washington Post.  Jaime T. Phillips, 41, told one of the newspaper’s reporters that Moore helped her get an abortion after he made her pregnant when she was 15. In her meetings with different reporters, she repeatedly asked them to promise her that her story would keep Moore from being elected.

Professional journalists, however, tend to check out stories before they are published, and these reporters looked into the information that she gave them. Phillips said she had lived in Alabama for only one summer and decided to go public after she saw the news while she worked at NFM Lending in Westchester (NJ). But her cellphone had an Alabama prefix, and NFM has no offices in Westchester County. Phillips used a Georgia driver’s license when she was asked for identification. The reporter asked Phillips about a web GoFundMe site that stated:

“I’m moving to New York! I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM. I’ll be using my skills as a researcher and fact-checker to help our movement. I was laid off from my mortgage job a few months ago and came across the opportunity to change my career path.”

Phillips said that a job with the Daily Caller had fallen through and that her interviewer there was Kathy Johnson. The Daily Caller’s executive editor, Paul Conner, said that no one by that name works there and that no other top editors had interviewed her. (Below: WaPo reporter Stephanie McCrummen, left, interviews Jaime Phillips. Credit Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post) 

The GoFundMe site has been erased, and reporters saw her going to the New York offices of the organization that sets up “stings” for false cover stories and doctored videos to lie about different groups.

Project Veritas had posted a request on its Facebook page in March for twelve “undercover reporters,” and a posting for the “journalist” job warned that the job “is not a role for the faint of heart.” The job’s listed goal: “To adopt an alias persona, gain access to an identified person of interest and persuade that person to reveal information.” Required tasks include “Learning a script,” “Preparing a background story to support your role,” “Gaining an appointment or access to the target of the investigation,” and “Operating concealed recording equipment.”

Staff at Project Veritas are involved a variety of criminal charges. Mississippi and Utah stripped the group of a license to raise money in those states because it failed to disclose O’Keefe’s conviction on state applications. A Veritas employee, former television producer Robert J. Halderman, was sentenced to six months in jail in 2010 after he was accused of trying to blackmail late-night host David Letterman. O’Keefe has pleaded guilty to entering a government office under false pretenses in an attempt to bug then-Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) congressional office, tried to lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and seduce the reporter in a “sting,” and was forced to pay a former video target $100,000. DDT’s campaign used O’Keefe’s highly edited videos in a false claim that the election was rigged against DDT. (James O’Keefe, left)

The Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Project Veritas.

O’Keefe has admitted to Phillips’ scam, saying that the “investigative journalist” had her “cover blown.” Yesterday, he released a video “inside the Washington Post” with WaPo employees talking about how the editorial section opposes DDT and how DDT is good for business. No news there.

False stories about Moore and the WaPo have come from other sources. The conservative Gateway Pundit reported that a reporter offered a woman $1,000 to accuse Roy Moore although WaPo doesn’t pay people for information. An Alabama pastor claimed a reporter was looking for women “willing to make damaging remarks” about Moore for money. No one associated with The Post made any such call. A man claiming to be a WaPo reporter offered up to $7,000 if they were “willing to make damaging remarks” about Moore.

The victor in this sordid story is the journalism that works to write the truth. James O’Keefe won’t quit, but the journalists will continue to fact-check their stories as long as a fascist regime doesn’t completely take over the United States.

The losers are the women who are trying to tell the world about the sexual assault and sexual harassment that they suffer. This farce creates doubt for brave people who talk about what they endure from those in power who think that they can sexually force themselves on anyone.

The tragedy is that some powerful men still escape even if the women are credible. Sixteen women have come forward to report sexual assault and/or harassment by the man inaugurated as the United States president. These are their stories.

  • Jessica Leeds (1970s): DDT grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt while he sat next to her on an airplane. “He was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere.”
  • Kristin Anderson (early 1990s): DDT put his hand up her skirt and touched her genitals at a Manhattan nightclub; she had never met him.
  • Jill Harth (1993): DDT sexually assaulted her in his daughter Ivanka’s bedroom.
  • Lisa Boyne (mid-1990s): DDT made women walk across a table in front of him and “stuck his head right underneath their skirts.” He commented on their genitals and whether they were wearing underwear.
  • Cathy Heller (1997): DDT tried to forcibly kiss her while he was married to Marla Maples.
  • Temple Taggart (1997): DDT forcibly kissed her and other Miss USA Pageant candidates.
  • Karena Virginia (1998): DDT approached her at the US Open, made sexual comments about her body, and groped her. He said, “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know who I am?”
  • Tasha Dixon (2001): DDT came into the contests’ dressing room; the former Miss Arizona said the girls were either topless or naked. In 2005, DDT bragged about doing it and said, “I sort of get away with things like that.”
  • Mindy McGillivray (2003): DDT groped her while she was helping photograph a Ray Charles concert at Mar-a-Lago.
  • Rachel Crooks (2005): DDT “kissed me directly on the mouth” when she was a 22-year-old receptionist in Trump Tower.
  • Natasha Stoynoff (2005): DDT was “pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat: after taking her into a room with Melania Trump waiting outside. She was interviewing DDT for People magazine.
  • Jessica Drake (mid-2000s): DDT “grabbed” her and two other women and kissed them “without asking permission” and then offered her $10,000 and use of his plane if she would come back to his room.
  • Ninni Laaksonen (2006): DDT groped the former Miss Finland when she was preparing for a TV appearance.
  • Samantha Holvey (2006): DDT lined up contestants when she was Miss North Carolina so he could step “in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat, we were just sexual objects, that we were not people.”
  • Summer Zervos (2007): DDT met with the a contestant on The Apprentice about getting a job at the Trump Tower, greeted her with an “open-mouthed” kiss, groped her breast, and, as she attempted to push him off, “thrusted his genitals” against her. She has filed a defamation lawsuit against DDT.
  • Cassandra Searles (2013): DDT “grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room” as he treated Miss USA competitors “like cattle.”

This list doesn’t include the woman who initiated a lawsuit for rape when she was only 13 years old. She dropped the suit after threats against her, according to her attorneys. A court deposition and Harry Hurt III’s 1993 book, Lost Tycoon, describes DDT’s violent rape of Ivana Trump, his wife at the time and mother of Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka. DDT’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, said that a man cannot rape his spouse.

A tape from Access Hollywood describes DDT’s assaults in his own words. When the tape was first released, DDT admitted it was true, but now he claims that the video is not authentic. The program stands behind its authenticity. DDT also tries to hide from his assaults by saying that some of the women are too ugly for him to attack.

As long as DDT hides in his Oval Office, the United States will continue its culture of sexual assault.

November 27, 2017

December – GOP Breaking Point

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:23 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With 15 days of work left before their holiday hiatus at the end of December, Congress may face a far more difficult task than in September unless they shuffle everything down the pike, as they did two months ago. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the Republicans have more than a full plate for its few working days.

Government shutdown: The lights in the government go off on December 8 without further action on the spending bill. Spending caps cause trouble for this bill, so House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) may float another short-term bill, something that the Republicans lambasted Democrats for doing before the GOP was in power. The 2011 Budget Control Act set 2018 caps which will automatically go into effect in January without a deal to raise them. No legislation has been written, and the Senate needs at least 60 votes, meaning at least eight Democrats.

Without a change in the law, defense programs get only $549 billion, and nondefense programs are limited to $516. DDT and the GOP haws want over $600 billion for defense, and Democrats want the same increase in nondefense spending.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program for nine million children and 370,000 pregnant women in poverty expired at the end of September, and funding may end up in the December spending bill. The program is running out of money for the first time since it was created two decades ago.  The expenditure of $15 billion for CHIP is vital for preventative health care, but families are already receiving notice that their children can no longer have this coverage.

DACA: The deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing some undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and attend school without fear of deportation, isn’t until March, but Democrats may force the issue as part of the spending bill.

Tax cuts: At least 50 GOP senators must sign off on a bill that increasingly gouges people the poorer they are. Then the bill has to go to the House which either signs off on it or creates its own version and then sends it back to the Senate for approval. At least eight GOP senators don’t like the bill, each for his own reason, but they may end up caving in because donors are insisting that the GOP Congress do SOMETHING! Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal with healthcare individual mandate, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) oppose that part of it because the loss of the mandate may destabilize health care markets. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) refuses to vote in favor of the bill unless he gets more perks for his personal small business. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are leading the charge in opposing the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit.

To keep the vote for tax cuts to a simple majority, the increase in deficit can be no more than $1.5 billion. As senators consider tweaks to keep some of the reluctant GOP senators in line, the deficit goes up, requiring that other cuts be made. One suggestion is to just eliminate all the cuts for individuals—not businesses—in the bill’s final year.

The popularity of the tax cut bill is going down and may shrink even more with the Congressional Budget Office report that poor people are hurt even worse than previously thought. People making less than $30,000 a year could be worse off by 2019, and those earning $40,000 will be losers by 2021. By 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 are worse off. In addition, the increase in health insurance premiums will take four million people off any plans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The rest of the people, 38 percent of the population, will keep getting tax cuts. The chart below indicates the amount that the government will reap from different salary groups—for example, the group of people making under $10,000 will pay an additional $1,540,000,000 whereas those making over $1 million a year will gain $34,100,000,000. The negative sign before the amount means less revenue for the government and shows that the poor pay for the rich.

FISA: Without a bill, this surveillance program expires at the end of the year, but bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of warrantless spying comes from those who believe in privacy. At this time, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to collect emails and texts from foreign spies, terrorists, and other overseas foreign targets without warrants. Proposals have been cleared by the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, but neither has gone to a floor vote. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has pledged opposition because it violates the Fourth Amendment.

Flood Insurance: The House has passed its version of reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, renewing it for five years, updating federal flood mapping requirements, and bolstering a new private flood insurance market. The Senate, however, has made no plans to address the House bill. The NFIP is $25 billion in debt.

Emergency disaster aid: The $44 billion package for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is too small, according to some Republicans from Texas, although it’s added to another $50 billion. Conservatives will demand that cuts elsewhere pay for the $44 billion. The budget from DDT goes only to these places for hurricane relief; DDT has offered not one cent to the Western states ravaged by wildfires.

Iran: The 60-day deadline after DDT’s October statement that the nation is not in compliance with the agreement comes in December. Leading Republican senators want to keep the deal but pass legislation to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons after the deal expires. DDT will need to waive sanctions to keep the nuclear pact intact.

All these decisions are set against the background of ethics proceedings for continuing sexual assault and harassment accusations and a December 12 election to determine whether Roy Moore joins the Senate. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) has promised to force a vote to impeach DDT before the end of 2017.

In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza writes that December is the make or break time for DDT:

“Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark[.] By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. [And] he looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. … He is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office.”

What’s missing from this list of must-dos? Restricting bump stocks or closing the domestic violence loopholes in the gun laws.

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