Nel's New Day

June 22, 2017

Senate Trumpcare: ‘Mean and Meaner’

After weeks of secrecy, the Senate version of Trumpcare is out, and police dragged protesters from the hall outside from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) door. Many of them were disabled in wheelchairs and on respirators. Over 40 people were attacked and arrested, and photographs showed blood on the floor of the hall. Photographs and video here. These protesters aren’t alone: Trumpcare has only a 17 percent approval rate in the country and no majority in any of the 50 states.

 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

GOP senators said that their bill would not be as cruel as the House bill passed last month, but it is more “mean,” to use a word from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Republicans said that they had to pass a repeal of “Obamacare” to keep their promise, but it leaves most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) bones while taking away the flesh. Four senators have criticized Trumpcare because it doesn’t do enough damage to most of the people in the United States.

The sole purpose of the bill was to take money out of health care for women, the poor and low income, the elderly, the sick, and any health person who becomes injured in order to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy, the health care companies, and the pharmaceutical corporations. People with incomes over $200,000 are the ones who benefit. The rich get over $600 billion while people on Medicaid lose over $800 billion. Forty percent of the tax cuts go to the top one percent: multi-billionaire Warren Buffet said that his tax bill would drop about $680,000 with the bill, a 17 percent reduction on his taxes. The top 20 percent will gain 64 percent of the cuts. No date is listed for the giveaway to the wealthy, but it’s retroactive to last December.

The pharmaceutical industry would gain $28 billion from Trumpcare to add to its massive profits, $83 billion last year alone. These companies are also among the biggest offshore tax dodgers; Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck are three of the top ten U.S. corporations avoiding U.S. taxes.

In essence, Trumpcare is only an income-distribution plan.

The bill will meet the requirement of lowering the deficit by a few billion because people will no longer have the benefits of the ACA. Like the House bill, the senate Trumpcare will take insurance from tens of millions of people, remove guarantees for pre-existing conditions, and force massive increases in premiums and deductibles.

Bill highlights:

  • No ACA mandates.
  • Elimination of taxes for wealthy and corporations.
  • Disappearance of Medicaid expansion throughout the next few years. In eight states—Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington—phasing out Medicaid automatically ends any expansion and cuts off currently enrolled people.
  • Limits on Medicaid spending with per capita caps or block grants for states, allocating a specific amount of money no matter what the actual costs of care are. Caps are tied to general rate of inflation, meaning a smaller percentage of the actual cost of care each year. States can also use this funding for purposes other than health care.
  • Waivers allowing states to sell insurance without the Ten Essential Benefits that include hospitalization, emergency care, mental health, lab tests, maternity and pediatric care, etc. People can pay lower premiums to get minimum health care from insurance, leaving them with much higher medical costs. Low- and middle-income Americans will spend significantly more for less coverage.
  • Elimination of tax credits by 2020.
  • Repeal of ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies by 2019. Until then subsidies are reduced to 350 percent of the poverty line from 400 percent, providing help to fewer people. People would have to spend as much as 16.2 percent of their income on premiums instead of no more than 9.5 percent.
  • Reduction of covered medical costs to 58 percent, down from the ACA 75 percent.
  • Shift to Medicaid spending growth to general inflation rate, much lower than medical costs inflation.
  • Work requirement for Medicaid recipients except elderly, pregnant women, and people with disability.
  • Elimination of Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.
  • Limitations on insurance for abortions, making it almost impossible to purchase.

Most of the 13 senators on the committee who supposedly wrote the 142 pages of Trumpcare were not aware of its contents during the process. [These 13 white men average over 60 years of age and more than $1 million in assets.] One member, Sen. Mike Lee (UT), said on Tuesday that he had not seen the bill that is “apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate.” Trumpcare must get a vote by the end of next week, according to McConnell. He will allow no testimony from experts and no input from the public. The debate will be limited to ten hours.

Republican senators claim that their bill stops denial of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. In reality, premiums will be too high for people to afford. An analysis of the bill shows that older people could see their premiums increase by more than 700 percent.

Women will suffer from Trumpcare with lack of birth control to maternity coverage. Medicaid now pays for half of all births in the United States, including two-thirds of unplanned births. Women in the U.S. have some of the worst maternal health and mortality outcomes in the industrialized world, and life expectancy for women is going down.  Trumpcare allows the nation to return to the days when only 11 states required maternity coverage on individual and small-group markets. At that time, 88 percent of individual plans failed to provide maternity coverage.

Another highly vulnerable population is disabled and elderly people living in nursing homes who depend on Medicaid. With federal spending reduced by 25 percent, states will be able to cover millions of fewer people. Medicaid also pays for opioid treatment in the current epidemic. Trumpcare allocates $2 billion in 2018 for treatment and recovery services but nothing beyond. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) have requested $45 billion over the next ten years, and experts say that $19 billion a year is needed for the addiction crisis that results in hepatitis C, HIV, and bacterial endocarditis.

Rural people will be hard hit with Trumpcare. Their hospitals are partly keep afloat by Medicaid funds because hospitals are required to care for people whether they have insurance or not. At least 79 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and another 700 are at risk. Trumpcare wants to remove $834 billion in Medicaid, and DDT takes another $610 billion cuts with his budget. The loss of hospitals means not only less health care but also fewer jobs and lowered property values.

Republicans complained about the secrecy of passing the Affordable Care Act when the ACA had over 100 hearings and involved hundreds of interested parties during more than a full year. Both the House and the senate bills for Trumpcare were more secret than the Russian hacking. Democrats always clearly stated the purpose for the law, but Trumpcare supporters can’t even come up with a logical reason for the bill. They just repeat that they want to repeal “Obamacare.”

Hopefully, senators will have to face constituents during the summer recess. Twenty GOP senators represent 14 states that accepted Medicaid expansion. Over 30 percent of people in Sens. John Kennedy’s Louisiana, John Boozman and Tom Cotton’s Arkansas, and Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul’s Kentucky are Medicaid beneficiaries. More than one-fifth of those living in eight of the other states with Republicans senators are enrolled in Medicaid.

In explaining the House Trumpcare bill, used as a pattern for the senate bill, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said:

“It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

Using Brooks’ statement as a guideline, he should tell Rep. Steve Scalise (R-SC) after he was received at least three surgeries from the recent shooting in Alexandria (VA) that he should have done a better job keeping his body healthy. Scalise now has at least one pre-existing condition—and probably many more—from the shooting. Fortunately, however, the people losing health care are paying for his health insurance.

The Republicans have trapped themselves. They can’t pass a repeal of the ACA if it needs 60 votes in the senate so they put it into a reconciliation process that requires only 50 votes. They can’t pass a reconciliation measure if it doesn’t have the budgetary savings as the House bill so they cut hundreds of billions of dollars that have helped people. They can’t “add some money to it,” as DDT suggested. So they end up with another bill that, added to the House bill, is “mean and meaner,” as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said. [Right: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaking on the floor of the senate.]

The 142-page bill is available on line.

June 17, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-One, Any Success Elusive

Two years ago yesterday, a New York businessman rode down an escalator to become the president of the United States who is under investigation for criminal charges. Supporters didn’t believe an article about investigating Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for obstruction of justice, but he angrily tweeted that he is being investigated. Much has been said about DDT invoking executive privilege, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Nixon from using the privilege to withhold evidence in a criminal investigation in 1974. The investigation is also looking into money laundering by DDT associates and the business affairs of DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Russian hackers breached voting systems in 39 different states, according to a new report. This number is almost twice what was previously reported. Russians tried to delete or alter voter data, accessed software for poll worker use on Election Day, and breached a campaign finance database.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers refused to talk about DDT’s involvement with Russia in  a hearing, but Coats told his colleagues in March that DDT asked both him and Rogers to stop former FBI director James Comey in a probe into Michael Flynn. DDT asked Coats in front of CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

DDT’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has clients with Russian connections include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank. Kasowitz also represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him.

Jay Sekulow, with a specialty in “religious liberty” case, is now the television face of DDT’s legal team. Sekulow claims that the president is a “unitary executive” with unlimited national security powers. Former VP Dick Cheney expanded this theory when George W. Bush’s White House Counsel John Yoo justified using torture. The U.S. Constitution does not provide unchecked power for any of the three branches of government.

A Few DDT Failures:

A federal judge has ruled that DDT failed to conduct an adequate environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline. Judge James Boasberg requested further briefings to see if the pipeline should be shut down until a full review of impacts of potential oil spills.

The Senate voted 97-to-2 to stop DDT’s power to unilaterally scale back sanctions on Russia.  Mike Lee and Rand Paul didn’t like the idea, and Secretary of State is not happy about tying “the administration’s hands.”

The ethics office refused a “retroactive” waiver to exempt white supremacist Steve Bannon for all of his infractions since he came to the White House. The “waiver” to nullify ethics claims was neither signed nor dated, raising the question of whether DDT knew anything about it.

The three-judge unanimous panel ruling against DDT’s travel ban in the 9th Circuit Court decided that he didn’t comply with federal immigration law. DDT failed to offer justification to stop the entry of over 180 million people into the U.S. basing its ban on nationality. Judges cited DDT’s tweets as an “authority.” In a case about the ban before the 4th Circuit Court, lawyers want judges to ignore DDT’s statements as president and rule only on the executive order and DDT’s official actions. If the Supreme Court hears the case, it will have to address both this questions and early constitutional issues from the 4th Circuit ruling.

Comey might have been fired earlier if he had refused to meet with DDT. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  said he was fired the day after he refused a call from DDT because he saw direct contact between the president and a law-enforcement official. He reported the call to AG Jeff Sessions on March 9 and was fired “twenty-two hours later.”

Congress is putting the heat on DDT about releasing tapes of his conversations with Comey after DDT accused him of lying under oath.

DDT’s Attempts at Foreign Policy:

In the week since eight Middle East countries have blockaded Qatar, a country that DDT had supported only days before, the U.S. has crossed from one side to another. DDT called the country extremist, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for diplomacy, and the United States completed a sale of 36 fighter jets for $12 billion that President Obama had initiated. Iran, Kuwait, and Turkey have declared themselves on the side of Qatar, and the blockading countries have broken up families. U.S. incompetence can put either Russia or Turkey as broker in the Middle East crisis, and Turkey is already deploying troops to help Qatar

The Philippines military has confirmed that the U.S. will provide “technical support” to fight ISIS in that country, but President Rodrigo Duterte says he doesn’t want the help. If that’s true, it means that the military may have gone rogue, and the U.S. could be in the middle of the mess.

After dumping 194 countries by rejecting the Paris climate agreement, DDT made the United States into a footnote with the G7 group of industrialized nations. The other six reconfirmed a commitment to reducing carbon emissions in a statement after its environment meeting that EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt left early. “G6” countries are already meeting with California in a beginning to work with some states in slowing down climate change. A German fact check of DDT’s speech about saving $3 trillion shows he didn’t account for massive savings in fiscal benefits of avoiding massive climate changes.

DDT is afraid to go to Britain if there are large-scale protests. He told current prime minister Theresa May that he’ll wait until the British public supports a visit. UK will save lot of money in not having to break out the gold coach for him.

And a Few Other Pieces:

D.C. and Maryland are suing DDT because of the millions in payments he is receiving in his Washington hotel that violate the Emoluments Clause of the constitution. Government lawyers content that this prohibition doesn’t count for DDT. If a federal court decides whether the case can continue, the plaintiffs will request that DDT’s personal tax returns be publicly revealed. Another 196 congressional Democrats are suing DDT for the same reason.

DDT is blocking more people from his Twitter account, including VoteVets.org, a group representing over 500,000 veterans, family members, and civilian supporters. A record of his more notable blocks, including famous novelist Stephen King, is available here.

DDT’s climate quote of the week: “You’ve got one heck of an island there. Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.” The statement was made to Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge of Tangier (VA) on an island that has about 25 years left before sea-level rise from climate change puts it under the water. Of the 450 population in the town first settled in the 17th century, about 87 percent voted for DDT in the place that is sinking 15 feet each year.

DDT’s wife Melania has reported that she officially moved into the White House with their son Barron.

Anyone watching comedy shows or news have seen clips of DDT’s Cabinet meeting where members and attendees were forced to suck up to the fragile DDT. Former CIA member Ned Price compared the fawning to what could be seen around North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un. Best headline: “Roomful of Pussies Purrs Its Praise At Feral Orange Tomcat.” Only Defense Secretary James Mattis didn’t play the game, instead praising the members of the military. Lesser noticed, however, is the parody that came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Well worth watching! The article is also a detailed debunking of DDT’s claims. If you really want to read the comments ….

Being president makes a lot of money for DDT, and not just from his salary. His recent financial disclosure shows tens of millions of dollars in income from his “Trump” golf courses and resorts that get the biggest boosts from places he personally visits. One of these is Mar-a-Lago that doubled its 2016 incoe to $29 million. DDT visited at least one of his own properties in one-third of his first 108 days in office, 36 times. Details here.

Republican approval of how things are going in the U.S. dropped 17 points from 58 percent last month to 41 percent.

For the first time in his 22 weekends, DDT is not spending time at one of his golf courses or resorts. Instead, he has gone to the presidents’ retreat of Camp David. It may not be a common practice. DDT called Camp David “rustic” and said, “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.” This facility does not require millions of dollars per visit like DDT’s time at his personal business places such as Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster (NJ). DDT should be okay: he’s only going overnight.

June 15, 2017

Right-Wing Refuses to Accept Blame for Their Rhetoric, Policies

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
Tags: ,

Front-page headlines today featured dual news reports: the president of the United States is under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice; and a U.S. representative is in critical condition after being shot at a baseball practice. The second item dominated talk shows as Republicans blame Democrats because of political hate rhetoric from the left. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) blames the media because “they keep inciting, as opposed to informing.”

Almost 63 million people voted for a man who called for violence against people who didn’t support him and bragged about his wanton sexual assaults. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continually made calls against Clinton to “lock her up” and encouraged his supporters when they threatened to kill Clinton. He even told his supporters that he would pay their legal fees for attacking protesters so that they would have to be “carried out on stretchers,” and his supporters cheered when he said that he wouldn’t lose any voters if he shot someone in the “middle of Fifth Avenue.” When his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested for physically attacking a Breitbart reporter, DDT defended him.

The serious escalation of violence developed in the 21st century after George W. Bush attacked Iraq without provocation in a “conflict” that has eaten away at U.S. resources, put millions into poverty, and enriched the wealthiest in the nation. For almost a decade, white male Tea Partiers carried guns, invoked a Thomas Jefferson quote about watering the “tree of liberty” with blood, and threatened President Obama’s life. Former VP candidate Sarah Palin posted online graphics with cross hairs on House districts, including that of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) who was then shot in the head in a massacre that also killed six people. Other GOP candidates, such as Nevada’s Sharron Angle, have promised that they would enact Second Amendment “cures” if they didn’t get their way.

A year ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted that the purpose of the Second Amendment is “to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) called for bloodshed if Hillary Clinton were elected, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) joked about shooting reporters at a gun range. The day before his successful election, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) body-slammed a reporter to the floor and punched him for asking a question before lying about having done it. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.” Other GOP congressional members covered for Gianforte’s attack on the reporter and laughed about it.

Newt Gringrich joined others about calls to assassinate DDT  but never complained when Republicans publicized materials for eight years to lynch President Obama. People objected to comparing DDT to Adolf Hitler but never spoke up about the narrative and visuals showing Barack Obama as Hitler.

Much of the rhetoric against the GOP is legitimate:

Since the inauguration of a GOP president in January, the senate has confirmed Cabinet members and other officials who failed to submit materials before hearings and then blatantly lied under oath. When the Democrats questioned this process, the GOP senators changed the rules and met without Democrats to confirm nominees. Secretary of Education DeVos clearly stated that she condones discrimination against some students, doesn’t plan to help all students in the nation, and her vouchers will go to religious and/or wealthy schools.  OMB director Mick Mulvaney tries to pass off inexcusable budget cuts against the poor and elderly as “compassionate.” EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt committed criminal acts by concealing emails and taking bribes from members of the fossil fuels industry. HHS Secretary Tom Price introduced and encouraged legislation that raised the price of his personal stocks. Every confirmed agency director is in direct opposition to the agencies’ missions.

Currently, 13 white men are meeting in secret to prepare a draconian version of health care that even DDT calls “mean.” The chamber’s fast-tracked process allows the bill to be available for only two days before a vote with no democratic process of testimony and debate. The sole goal of the bill, affecting one-sixth of the economy and destroying jobs and people’s lives if passed, is to leave people without health insurance by giving billions of dollars to already wealthy people.

Republicans want to put more billions of dollars into the military while leaving the safety net, education, health care, and infrastructure bereft.

Massive gerrymandering and punitive laws have created voter suppression for women, minorities, and low-income people throughout the nation.

GOP senators ignored a nominee for the Supreme Court for almost a year and then rapidly moved to confirm a GOP-nominated justice so far right of the other justices that they unanimously overturned one of his rulings at the same time as his confirmation hearings. Other DDT-nominated justices for lifetime appointments equate the 19th-century Dred Scott case upholding slavery with Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion. Nominees have histories of discrimination against minorities and LGBT people as well as misogynist attitudes exhibited through their court arguments. John Bush, nominee for the 6th Circuit Court, used a blog to posted citations of white supremacist conspiracy theories and other false information, such President Obama not being born in the U.S. Kevin Newsome, nominee for the 11th Circuit Court, wants juveniles executed but doesn’t want to provide legal counsel to death-row prisoners.

Congress makes a sham of hearings, such as confirmations and other in the past few weeks to examine the involvement of Russia in U.S. elections and political activities, by suppressing questioning. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was stopped in Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for AG and told she could no longer speak, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was blocked in her questioning of Sessions this week when he stonewalled the Senate Intelligence Committee, the second time in a week that she was stopped.

Members of state and federal legislatures are purchased, usually by wealthy conservatives.

The intent of every piece of legislation overturning President Obama’s executive orders is to defraud people, take away salaries, and make life worse for the vast majority. DDT’s entire MO is dismantling anything that President Obama created—no matter its value—in an act of petty revenge after the man inaugurated last January was ridiculed at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. The GOP members of Congress are supporting him every inch of the way.

GOP members of Congress consistently enable DDT and his family. DDT consistently flouts the constitution, and 70 percent of his personal real estate deals are to “shell companies,” allowing the purchaser to be hidden. The percentage is up from four percent in the previous two years. He and his daughter are obtaining trademarks in China by meeting with Chinese officials, and he’s made business deals with other world leaders. Now investigated for fraud and embezzlement charges, DDT’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric are following in their father’s footsteps of cheating people. The business affairs of DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are also being examined as part of the Russian investigation.

Calling talk about gun control after shootings as politicizing the tragedy, Republicans are politicizing the Alexandria shooting, referring to the shooter as “anti-GOP” and “pro-Sanders.” They ignore his history of domestic and gun violence while blaming Democrats’ “rhetoric.”Republicans use the excuse of “rhetoric” to avoid talking about the culture of gun violence in the United States and remain indifferent to gun violence in the nation. The same day as the shooting in Alexandria, four people died in a shooting at a UPS facility, but no GOP politicians commented on the tragedy—or the other eight mass shootings in the last ten days. Mass shootings have increased 54 percent since that same period of time in 2014. The first five and a half months of 2017 have seen at least 13,400 gun injuries and almost 7,000 gun deaths. (See map.) Anti-Muslim hate crimes were up 67 percent in 2015, the first year of the presidential campaign, and then tripled last year. The number of white supremacist groups grew to 917 by the beginning of 2017, but DDT has stopped investigation of white domestic terrorism.

David Frum, former speech writer for George W. Bush, tweeted:

Virginia:

  • No background checks

  • No licensing

  • No registration

  • No permit req’d for concealed carry of long guns

  • Open carry long guns & handguns

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) said, “What makes us great is that we are Americans.” Nationality doesn’t bestow greatness. Greatness must be earned by support and respect for all, rapidly disappearing in the United States. Eric Trump summarized the GOP position when he said that Democrats aren’t even people. The United States needs a seismic shift in policy toward transparency, ethics, and a democratic policy that protects all—not just the privileged. Suppressing voting, protests, media, and public opinion is not a solution. Jailing and physically attacking journalists for reporting the news, a practice increased since the GOP took over the country, cannot be a solution.

The GOP is accustomed to attacking everyone except the wealthy, and they are astonished and outraged when a man with a history of violence shoots one of their own, a politician who voted against Martin Luther King Jr. Day and against punishing hate crimes. The right-wing never talked about their rhetoric being responsible for the shooting of Gabby Giffords; now one person from the left has committed violence against a Republican. Abstraction is hard for Republicans; they understand only those issues that affect them personally. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) voted against bipartisan legislation to expand the criminal background checks after a mass shooting in 2014, but now he wants a background check on the shooter of his colleague. It’s a start—background checks for shooters after they are killed.

June 14, 2017

Media Consumed by Sessions’ Testimony, Emoluments Clause Lawsuits

The most transparent—in some ways—action in Congress this week was the testimony of AG Jeff Sessions when he complained about “scurrilous” allegations, waffled on some answers, and claimed that “only the president can claim executive privilege.” The head of the Department of Justice doesn’t even know the law: both presidents and members of their administration can refuse to answer questions or even respond to subpoenas. Sessions passed along an erroneous perspective of executive privilege that Brian Williams falsely confirmed on MSNBC.  The AG found himself in a pickle with his false claim.

John McCain (R-AZ), a guest at the hearing because he is on another committee, complained about Kamala Harris (D-CA) who tried to keep Sessions from limiting her questions by talking nonstop. A notable Sessions quote to her is that being rushed “makes me nervous.” Chair Richard Burr allowed Sessions to take up time by grandstanding Harris’ (left) questions, the same way that he did last week in testimony by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions smirked when he was able to avoid her last “yes or no” question. He had preceded his stalling by vigorously stating, ”I am not stonewalling.” (It’s not good when a person has to deny this!) People being questioned know that senators have a finite number of minutes, and they can avoid embarrassing questions by stalling. Sessions insisted that he didn’t answer questions because DDT may want to declare executive privilege any time in the future.

Sessions declared that he was “following the historic policies of the Department of Justice” by not answering questions, but he could not cite any of these policies when Harris asked him about specifics.  Other senators brought up former AG Eric Holder’s refusal to discuss conversations with President Obama as precedent for Sessions’ refusals to answer questions, not a good idea because he was held in contempt. As Sessions pointed out, however, he was testifying in front of his “colleagues” so there probably won’t be a problem of that sort.

The male senators have a history of reprimanding only female senators. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) silenced Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during confirmation hearings for Sessions and then complained, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Much of Sessions’ testimony was “I can’t answer that” and “I can’t recall.” But other parts were more revealing than that from James Comey, who released his information the day before the hearing.

  • Sessions claimed at the beginning of the hearing that he had no third meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak but he started to hedge his answers about the issue throughout his testimony.
  • Sessions claimed that he had recused himself from all DDT ties to Russia the day after he was sworn into office, but there is a question why no one—not the public and not his associates—knew about the recusal for another month.
  • Sessions said he doesn’t know if Russia was involved with the presidential election because he didn’t read anything about the possibility except in the media.
  • Sessions covered for DDT by disclaiming Comey’s testimony, finally exploding into calling it a “secret innuendo.”

GOP senators may have covered for Sessions in the hearing, but Burr did request—very politely—further information and documents from him.

On the same day that Sessions gave his weak testimony, at least 196 Democrats in Congress sued DDT for violating the Emolument Clause, the part of the U.S. Constitution that prevents presidents from taking gifts from foreign nations without the approval of Congress. Like other lawsuits against DDT in connection with the Emoluments Clause, this one will ask that DDT reveal his business affairs and put his holdings in a blind trust or sell them. A court ruling for these members of Congress to proceed would make history as the first since the U.S. became a country.

Other lawsuits come from owners of businesses in Washington, D.C. competing with DDT’s hotels and restaurants and the states of D.C. and Maryland represented by their attorneys general because businesses are at a disadvantage. Soon after DDT’s inauguration, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued DDT on the same basis of the other lawsuits. There is no precedent for the suit, now pending in New York, but an argument for dismissing the case is lack of standing for the plaintiffs. Several examples of DDT profiting are listed in the lawsuit, including the lease for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China that is due to expire during DDT’s term. Favorable terms for the rental could be a financial gift to the president.

Government lawyers contend that this prohibition doesn’t count for DDT. If a federal court decides whether the case can continue, the plaintiffs will request that DDT’s personal tax returns be publicly revealed.

Another media concern for the week is whether DDT plans to fire the special investigator selected by Rosenstein to investigate Russia–and probably DDT. Technically, he cannot do that, but he can fire Rosenstein and keep replacing him until he finds someone for the Justice Department who will then fire the investigator. Sessions has no control because he has recused himself, but he may violate the recusal as he has in recommending that James Comey be fired. At this time, the White House claims that there are no plans to get rid of the investigator because staffers begged him to do it, but DDT’s decision depends on who he talked with last.

Last week, DDT’s declaration of “Infrastructure Week” failed to draw attention from James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He tried the same thing this week with a focus on workplace development. At the same time, people are learning more about the workplaces that provide clothing for daughter Ivanka Trump’s business. Ivanka’s claim of “women’s empowerment” and “paid child care” rings hollow with the revelation that the women working in the factory manufacturing Ivanka-branded clothing make so little that they cannot afford to live with their children. Employees at the factory in Subang (Indonesia) earn $173 a month, the lowest legal wage in the entire country. The factory does give them an extra $10.50 if they don’t take time off for menstrual periods.

Workers making Ivanka’s clothes in China earned about $62 per week, below the legal minimum wage, and sometimes work 86 hours overtime a month with the legal limit at 36 hours. Since April, Ivanka has said that they no longer buy clothes from that factory—maybe because Indonesia is cheaper. That was the rationale for moving Ivanka’s shoe factory from China to Ethiopia last year: five Ethiopians at the Addis Ababa are paid the same as one Chinese worker.

Spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, the week focuses on promotion of expansion of apprenticeship programs. Will this allow lower pay than minimum wage so that Ivanka’s and DDT’s business purchases can come to the U.S.? The media has paid almost no attention, however, as Jeff Sessions, Russia, and lawsuits are swallowing up the news.

June 12, 2017

Remembrance, Celebration

Two anniversaries make this a bitter-sweet day.

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court made interracial marriage the law of the United States in its ruling in Loving v. Virginia. The 1967 unanimous decision came nine years after Mildred Jeter, a black woman who later identified as Native American, married Richard Loving, a white man, and the couple was threatened with prison if they didn’t leave Virginia. Justice Anthony Kennedy cited Loving v. Virginia in the Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equality, a case in which four of the nine justices—John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas—supported bigotry.

On the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, one year before Mildred Loving died in 2008, she talked about her support for marriage equality:

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

One year ago, 49 LGBT people were slain in a hate crime at the Orlando (FL) club, Pulse. Those deaths brought the total of murdered LGBT people in the United States to 77 last year, making 2016 the deadliest year ever for that community. Even without the 49 people killed at Pulse, the number of LGBT homicides rose from 24 in 2015 to 28 in 2016, a 17 percent increase. Of the 28, 19 were transgender and gender non-conforming people—68 percent—and 17 were transgender women of color. Joining those commemorating the horrific event at the location at Pulse were 49 “angels” who formed a protective circle like they did after the slaughter.

With LGBT rights under attack from the current administration, over 50 LGBT Pride Parades in the nation came full circle last weekend back to resistance and equality marches , designed to urge politicians to support LGBT rights. It was the 54th “pride” parade since gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny organized the first one on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia. Yesterday, people gathered for the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C.

For pure joy, watch Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) dancing through the streets in a parade.

June is Pride Month. I would like to extend thanks to the governor of Oregon who sent this message about the tragedy in Orlando and marriage equality:

“Every year in June, the LGBTQ community and allies come together to celebrate Pride. It is a month-long public celebration of love and embracing each other for who we are — inside and out. That has been the LGBTQ community’s message from the very first Pride celebrations: love and equality.

“One year ago today, we woke up to a heartbreaking reminder that our values are not shared by everyone. As details unfolded about the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we were painfully reminded not only of senseless gun violence in our country, but the countless hate crimes that have targeted LGBTQ people for generations.

“What happened in Orlando was an attempt to make people afraid and ashamed of who they are. This should not happen anywhere, or for any reason. Every one of us has the right to live openly, safely, and with dignity.

“As governor, I will not tolerate acts of hatred and discrimination in the state of Oregon. We are still mourning the loss of two brave men who stood up to hate on a train in Portland. As a state, we must embrace a culture of inclusion — and celebrate our diversity — because when we open the doors of opportunity to everyone, we thrive together.

“I’m proud that Oregon continues to be a leader in policies that protect LGBTQ individuals. Our state prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Since I became governor, we’ve banned gay conversion therapy, and just a few weeks ago, expanded rights for transgender Oregonians.

“The LGBTQ community is stronger and more resilient today than ever before. As we remember the 49 lives cut short one year ago today in Orlando, we recommit ourselves to marching forward. We stand together, stronger than ever, with our message of love and equality.

“Be who you are. Love whom you wish. Together, we won’t let hate win.

On this day, during this month, and all through the year, I give thanks to people like the Lovings, the Supreme Court, Kate Brown, and millions of others who have paved the way for me to marry my love as we look forward to our 48th anniversary on June 25, 2017.

June 11, 2017

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation, allowing a simple majority vote instead of a possible 60 votes in a filibuster. A vote on the bill by June 30 requires that it go to the Congressional Budget by the end of this week. Unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill that has not received CBO scoring. Because the bill will be voted on under the “reconciliation” process, it cannot require any revenue. Because of the possible tax cuts for the wealthy, a leaked version of the bill shows that it includes waivers for states to the ten essential items—including hospitalization—from insurance coverage and enlarges the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers, greatly increasing premiums for many people.

McConnell implemented Senate “Rule 14” last week, the day before Comey’s testimony, to fast-track it by skipping the committee process—and a full senate debate. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Health and Human Services 2018 budget request on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed her concern with McConnell’s invoking Rule 14. She said that the senate health care bill was being written by “group of guys in the back room making all the decisions” and asked Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) if there would be a public hearing on the health bill which has been secret until now. (Hatch is a member of the gang of 13 health care killers.) After a painfully long pause, an aide said into Hatch’s ear, “They’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.” Hatch, helped by an aide talking into his ear, said he didn’t know. As McCaskill commented, “But we have no idea what’s being proposed.” Republicans complained about her “rants and raves,” perhaps because she said that the Republicans were trying to pass the bill with 50 votes and one from the vice president. McConnell plans to make the bill public for only two days before the vote.

One glitch to the bill comes from a ban on people using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough pointed out that the Byrd Rule might prevent that provision for reconciliation because it covers policy and not budget, not permitted under reconciliation. With the anti-abortion provision, the bill may not be allowed under reconciliation, and without that provision it might not pass. David Christensen of the far-right evangelical Family Resesarch Council, said, “Abortion is not healthcare.” A precedent for MacDonough’s position was in a 1995 ruling about attempting to block abortion in a reconciliation bill.

The GOP senators are already divided into factions, three in opposition to the 13 white men devising the plan. Bill Cassidy (LA) and Susan Collins (ME), not members of the deciding 13 senators, oppose the House bill and co-sponsored their version called the Patient Freedom Act. Led by Rob Portman (OH), another group wants Medicaid expansion. Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) are part of the group that wants the House bill.

The abominable baker’s dozen of murderers on the Senate health care plan has an average age of over 60 and an average worth of over $1 million each. (They look very much like the people above celebrating the ending of health care of millions of people in the U.S. after the House bill passed.) Almost half of the 13, six senators, are from three states—Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and Wyoming’s total population of under 600,000 represents less than 0.002 percent of the U.S. population of 321,000,000. Utah isn’t much better with under one percent of the U.S. population. These are the men deciding health care for everyone, including women, minorities, and the poor. The average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of people in the U.S. is almost zero because of heavy losses during the George W. Bush era.

These 13 men of wealth are writing and pushing through a bill for health care that 140 million people in the U.S. directly rely on and one that comprises one-sixth of the nation’s GDP, one that 140 million people in the United States.  This comes from the same party that complained for eight years that Democrats passed health care on a party-line vote and falsely asserted that Republicans weren’t involved in the process. And they admit what they’re doing: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that there was no reason for a committee hearing because Democrats won’t support their bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the bill will go up for a vote without floor debate as soon as there’re 51 votes for it. The senate has 52 Republicans.

The senate promised a kinder version of health care than the House approved, but states would still be forced to end expanded Medicaid programs because of lost federal funds, and poor and near-poor adults losing Medicaid couldn’t afford private coverage. Eight Medicaid-expansion states have laws immediately dropping the program without federal funding, the year 2020 if the bill passes, and other states would see significant increases in costs which they may not be able to afford. Eighty-four percent of the public, including 71 percent of Republicans, support continued current federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

With the philosophy of “kill the ump,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wants to do away with the Congressional Budget Office because it scored the House bill as removing health insurance from 23 million people as well as either raising premiums or reducing health care coverage—or both—for tens of millions more people. He used this information to claim that the CBO is partisan, despite the fact that his own department’s evaluation matched that of the CBO. In addition, the GOP chose CBO’s director, Keith Hall, praised by DDT’s cabinet member Tom Price because of Hall’s “impressive level of economic expertise.”

In addition to telling Christians at the conference that he wants to strip health care for tens of millions of people, DDT is also sabotaging the existing health care plan. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has impacted 10,500 consumers by pulling out of the federal exchange in Ohio; the company blamed DDT, citing “the lack of certainty” about the federal government funding cost-sharing subsidies. Since DDT was inaugurated Ohio’s governor, John Kasich has warned that insurance markets are “slipping into crisis.” DDT is pushing for the health care system to collapse by making the exchanges less stable and discouraging companies from offering plans.

DDT supporters are big losers with Trumpcare. The more likely people were to vote for DDT, the greater they will lose. Those losing more than $1,000 favored him by seven points, and those losing at least $5,000 in tax credits supported DDT by 59 percent to 36 percent. The largest number of losers from voting for DDT are older people and those who live in rural areas. All the benefits of two tax hikes go to people earning $200,000 or more; only ten percent of that demographic voted for DDT.

North Carolina resident Martha Brawley, 55, cast her first ballot in her lifetime for DDT because he said he would bring down the cost of healthcare. “I might as well have not voted,” she said after she discovered that Trumpcare would give her $3,500 to buy insurance instead of the $8,688 subsidy she gets from Obamacare.

Gone with Trumpcare will be any hope for retirement. Tea Partiers who turned the government into one of cruelty almost eight years ago are the same people who are getting too old to find jobs now and won’t have health insurance if they aren’t old enough for Medicare. Before the Affordable Care Act, people were forced to stay in jobs to keep health insurance; “Obamacare” freed many of them. Trumpcare will force people back into a pattern of working long into old age, even those with serious medical issues like cancer. Trumpcare may force people out of their homes. In 2009, medical bills caused 1.5 million people in the U.S. to declare bankruptcies. Medical bills stressed at least 20 percent of all families. By 2013, medical bills put over ten million people into poverty. During the first year of the ACA, over four million fewer people, including one million children, were in poverty.

The 50+ senators who may vote for Trumpcare go home on recess immediately after the vote. Let’s hope that they all have town hall meetings with their constituents who lose the health care.

 

June 10, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty, Infrastructure Fails to Distract from GOP Problems

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:44 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Infrastructure was supposed to be topic of the week for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). He tried very hard to use this topic to distract from his problems—such as testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee—but failed.

A major DDT problem is the Middle East. Immediately after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to end the eight-country blockade against Qatar, DDT tried to regain his popularity with his bullying, interfering stance toward the tiny, natural-gas rich country. The world, including the United States, may be confused about who is in charge of foreign policy. The $110 billion arms sales to Saudi Arabia that DDT touts has been shown to be a giant con—only letters of interest or offers for enticement. Nothing has gone to the Senate, and none of the identified deals is new.  All began before DDT was inaugurated, including four frigates, first reported in 2015, and other items on the Saudi’s wish list such as 150 Black Hawk helicopters and the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD). With low oil prices and a two-year war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia may not have the money as the country struggles to make their payments for past deals.

DDT’s caretakers kept him from tweeting for a solid 46 hours during the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, but his rants returned. About Comey’s testimony, DDT tweeted, “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Earlier in the week, DDT smeared London Mayor Sadiz Khan after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. DDT is still bitter because Khan opposed DDT’s Muslim ban. Other DDT tweet attacks slammed his own Justice Department by blaming them for not submitting a “tougher version” of the “travel ban” to the Supreme Court. He also criticized his lawyers for not calling it a travel ban and thus destroyed their only argument to regain the ban. Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George, was so disgusted that he withdrew his name last week from consideration as the Justice Department’s Civil Division chief.  In a poll, 59 percent responded that his tweeting is bad, and 69 percent want him to stop. A strong approval of DDT went from a peak of 30 percent in February to 21 or 22 percent now. Every demographic has shown a significant decline.

A question is whether DDT’s tweets are formal statements or just musings. Aides and officials like Kellyanne Conway and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly maintain that DDT’s tweets aren’t policy, but Press Secretary Sean Spicer called them the “official statements by the President of the United States.” Russel Neiss has put DDT tweets on the record by retweeting DDT’s messages with the White House letterhead. Neiss said, “These are serious words coming out of the highest office holder in the land, and all that this bot does is just give those messages the proper honor they deserve….These are statements of the president.” DDT is also threatened with a lawsuit after he blocked selected followers from his Twitter account. In a letter to DDT, Columbia University scholars wrote, “Blocking users from your Twitter account violates the First Amendment.” The argument is that his tweets are a public forum just as a Facebook page by a government official is.

Personnel is also a serious problem for DDT. He’s unhappy with his staff, but other people are increasingly reluctant to work for him. AG Jeff Sessions offered to resign, probably because of DDT’s anger at his recusal from anything Russian. Sessions didn’t keep to his promise, but he’s still not in charge of the investigation into Russian collusion and hacking. Sessions is trying to get back into DDT’s good graces by blaming New York City’s “murder epidemic” on humane treatment of undocumented immigrants. Last year, the city experienced its second lowest rate in history, and shootings were below 1,000 for the first time on record. Sessions is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

DDT also hasn’t made appointments for 442 of the 559 key positions requiring Senate confirmation. In February, he said that he didn’t want to fill “a lot” of key posts in his administration because “they’re unnecessary to have.” By April he said that the vacancies were a Democratic conspiracy against him. Yet Republicans control the confirmations; and DDT hasn’t sent names of nominees to the Senate. Only five countries in the world have U.S. nominees for ambassadorships waiting for confirmation: Bahamas, Ethiopia, Holy See, Japan, and New Zealand. A major country without an ambassador at this time is Great Britain.

A deadly hurricane season is predicted, and neither NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) nor FEMA has had anyone in charge since DDT fired everyone in January. DDT has also recommended huge budget cuts for both these agencies. He probably listened to Alex Jones who thinks that FEMA runs camps where people’s guns are taken away and NOAA wants to “intensify global warming” by outfitting planes with chemtrails. DDT may not know that NOAA tracks hurricanes to provide warnings, and FEMA coordinates disaster responses. DDT appointments, however, would most likely be selected because of their opposition to these missions.

White supremacist Steve Bennon appears to have returned as de facto U.S. president since DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disappeared. In addition to the at least 20 waivers allowing conflicts of interest for his officials, DDT has retroactively granted a “blanket exemption” permitting Bannon to “communicate” with editors of ultra-right Breitbart “News,” Bannon’s old employment. The exemption might relieve him from a pending ethics complaint about past discussions with the editors. OGE director, Walter Shaub, said, “If you need a retroactive waiver, you have violated a rule.” Bannon’s ally Michael Peck may control U.S. government messaging abroad with a possible nomination to head the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

In an impressive analysis, Propublica has collected disclosures from 349 officials installed in DDT’s administration and analyzed their financial holdings and employment backgrounds for conflicts of interest and omissions. It’s a monumental—and invaluable—accomplishment. Check it out here.

DDT has also been stealing from his own foundation and charity. Earlier it was known that he used money donated by others to the Trump Foundation to settle his lawsuits plus purchasing a portrait and autographed Tim Tebow memorabilia, DDT has been found to overcharge the Eric Trump Foundation for annual fundraisers at one of DDT’s golf courses. DDT’s son said that DDT donated the facilities, but he charged $322,000 in just 2015 for 200 day golfers and 600 dinners. Another $500,000 was transferred from helping children with cancer to charities connected to DDT’s family or interests. He also has a history of taking credit when he failed to donate any money, for example to a nursery school serving children with AIDS and  $1 million for children with a rare disease.

In a partnership with the Houston-based Remembrance Project, DDT claimed to raise money to families of those killed by undocumented immigrants. For almost a year, he has gotten publicity while the group collected funds, but no families have been financially helped. The nonprofit project has filed paperwork to allow it to directly support or oppose candidates and to lobby for legislation.

Democratic members of Congress are being denied information from federal agencies because of DDT’s orders to ignore their requests. His excuse is that Republicans now control the entire government. GOP Sen. Grassley (IA) has told DDT that he has no right to withhold information unless Congress approves the action which has left 102 requests unanswered.

The percentage of people identifying as Republicans has dropped to 38 percent since the November election, and Democrats have increased to 45 percent. The seven-point gap is over three times in that seven-month period. Overall DDT’s approval ratings have slid to the 30s, and strong approval of DDT has dropped from a peak of 30 percent in February to 21 or 22 percent. Every demographic has shown a significant decline.

As fewer people look for jobs, the increase in the number of new ones is also shrinking. The 138,000 jobs created during May, down from the estimated 185,000, plus the downgraded totals of 174,000 in April and the 50,000 in May, make an average monthly gain of 121,000 for those three months. (Last year, over two million new jobs were created.) Retail jobs have declined for five straight months. For the fifth month in a row, auto sales declined—the first slump since the end of George W. Bush’s financial disaster. Consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.6 percent in April, down from the 6.2 percent rate in March. Borrowing rose only $8.2 billion, barely half the estimated $15.5 billion and 40 percent of March’s $19.5 billion. Consumer spending, accounting for two-thirds of U.S. economic growth, rose at a 0.6% annual rate in the first quarter, far short of DDT’s promised three to four percent, indicating a concern about the nation’s instability.

For now, DDT is at his home in Bedminster (NJ) for the weekend, probably playing golf in the 90+ degree weather.

June 9, 2017

Comey on DDT: ‘Lies, Plain & Simple’

Fox network and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may have tried to paint former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as a success for the White House, but headlines throughout the United States say otherwise—concentrating on the words “lies,” “lied,” and “liar” in reference to DDT. In some cases, Comey gave direct evidence of how DDT had lied about their interactions; in other cases, he answered questions such as whether DDT colluded with Russia by saying that he couldn’t “answer in an open setting.” Translation for that statement is likely “yes, but it’s classified.”

DDT wasn’t the only person who took hits in Comey’s testimony; AG Jeff Sessions suffered too. To another question he couldn’t “discuss in an open setting,” Comey indicated a relationship between the new attorney general and Russia.

Comey also pulled VP Mike Pence into the DDT morass with his answer to Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) question about whether Pence knew about Michael Flynn’s Russian connections during the transition after the election. Comey’s response was “my understanding is that he was,” meaning that Pence lied about his ignorance.

Not one GOP senator refuted Comey’s testimony; instead they praised him and his testimony. About DDT’s lies, however, they seemed nonchalant. The Intelligence Committee’s chair, Richard Burr (R-NC), expressed no concern about DDT’s demand for loyalty or his lying about requiring this from the FBI director.  Ezra Klein wrote:

 

“Trump’s behavior, in Comey’s telling, is more befitting of a Mafioso than a president. He asks, repeatedly, for loyalty, and shows no evident understanding of the norms or institutions that bind American presidents. His actions would be worrying if they came from the regional manager of a Scranton paper firm; they are terrifying coming from the most powerful man in the world.”

Michael Winship wrote that “the testimony of the fired FBI director revealed a president who sees himself more crime boss than chief executive.” Maybe that’s what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose lawyer Christopher Wray has just been appointed as FBI director, meant when he called DDT’s statements “normal New York City conversation.”

Other politicians argued that DDT only expressed “hope” that Comey would let the Michael Flynn thing go because he’s a “good guy.” (Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) pointed out that the word “hope” carries great weight if it’s delivered by a man pointing a gun.) House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) justified all of DDT’s lying, asking for special favors from the FBI director in private meetings called by DDT, and his possible obstruction of justice by saying that “he’s just new to this.” This is a GOP claim who lectured the U.S. nonstop about obstruction of justice after Bill Clinton had a casual conversation with then AG Loretta Lynch.

Conservative media pundits aren’t that sanguine. WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin called Comey’s testimony “a devastating day for the president” that “could spell the beginning of the end of his administration.” She said, “What [Comey] painted was not any one incident but a portrait of the way this guy operates.”

On the other hand, Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly’s replacement on Fox, used his show to  smear Comey. Carlson’s news operation, Daily Caller, received $150,000 from DDT’s campaign.

The oddest part of Comey’s almost three-hour appearance came from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), allowed time for questioning because he chairs the Armed Services Committee. With muttered, sometimes slurred, and occasionally incoherent speech, he referred to Comey once when talking about DDT. McCain seemed confused when Comey said that the FBI was done with investigating Hillary Clinton and stated that she was clearly involved in whole Russian situation because she was a candidate for president. Later McCain tried to explain away his highly confusing questioning to sleeplessness. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) also failed to understand how the FBI’s extensive investigation into Clinton’s private mail server exonerated her in testimony about the GOP blocking the possible GOP campaigners’ colluding with the Russian interference in a U.S. election.

With his keepers in the room during the testimony, DDT kept his Twitter quiet, but his namesake didn’t. Lindsay Gibbs wrote:

“Donald Trump Jr. tweeted or re-tweeted a total of 50 times during Comey’s testimony, proving once again that the apple does not fall far from the tree. There were poorly threaded rants, out-of-context reactions, and dozens of RTs of right-wing accounts, one which had the name ‘CNN is ISIS & Hitler.’”

DDT’s privately retained lawyer has his own limitations. His first response to James Comey’s testimony began with “I am Marc Kasowitz, Predisent Trump’s personal lawyer.” His smears of Comey and defense of DDT may not be taken seriously when he can’t correctly spell his client’s position. Kasowitz then made an error in a main point about when the New York Times published information about Comey’s memos. (Surely, DDT’s lawyer wouldn’t lie to support his premises.) The rest of Kasowitz’s brief talk largely misrepresented Comey’s statements.

Comey testified that he took copious notes on their meetings because he “was honestly concerned [DDT] might lie about the nature of our meeting.” DDT’s lawyer has stated that he will file a complaint against Comey’s “leaking” his notes to the press, but legal experts have indicated that there is nothing illegal because a private citizen provided non-classified information. Others think that DDT’s lawyer’s action could at least be abusing DDT’s authority if not committing obstruction of justice if they ask the DOJ to open an investigation without clear merits.

Regarding the responses to the GOP expressions of their victory from Comey’s testimony, Christian Schneider, USA Today’s Board of Contributors, has the best response to GOP expressions of victory from Comey’s testimony:

“To say that Comey’s testimony ‘vindicates’ Trump in any way ignores giant swaths of what the former FBI director actually said — it’s like leaving the theater after seeing Wonder Woman and telling people it’s a World War I documentary. This is the place where Trump’s supporters exist: Rather than seeing the president for who he clearly is, they construct an entirely different Trump in the negative space around him.”

The day before Comey’s testimony, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, refused to answer questions from the Senate Oversight Committee, in violation of the oath they gave when they took those positions. If they don’t answer the questions, they must legally invoke the 5th or claim executive privilege. Rogers merely said that he didn’t “feel” like answer the questions. Coats said he no “legal basis” for his refusal. It appears that this is their approach to keep their jobs.

In an attempt to divert attention from Comey’s testimony, DDT announced Christopher Wray as his nominee for FBI director. One reason might be that Wray was the lawyer who got Chris Christie out of “Bridgegate” trouble after he closed the George Washington bridge, but the nomination may be awkward. Wray’s firm works for the Russians and advises DDT’s untrustworthy “trust.”

Asked if he would be willing to testify under oath, DDT said, “100 percent.” At least for now.

Nicole Serratore has an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times about DDT and Comey called “James Comey and the Predator in Chief.” She wrote that the interaction was like “the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.” DDT demanded “dinner for two” and loyalty, both of which Comey didn’t want to provide. Yet Comey didn’t know how to get out of the situation. He tried to avoid any contact with DDT and even asked Sessions to not leave them alone. In claiming to Comey that “we had that thing,” the manipulator seducer DDT insinuates a non-existent shared intimacy to make his victim complicit. Now DDT supporters are blaming Comey for not being “stronger,” another parallel to victimizing victims. They claim that the problem belongs to Comey when DDT is at fault.

As one tweet pointed out about Mike Pence’s declaration that he could never have a meal alone with a woman not his wife. Everyone should avoid having dinner alone with DDT.

June 8, 2017

50th Anniversary of Israeli Preemptive Strike against U.S.

Today, June 8, is USS Liberty Remembrance Day to commemorate a little-known event—the first and only time that a Middle East country attacked the United States. On that day, 50 years ago, Israel attacked the USS Liberty in international waters about 25 miles off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Flying the U.S. flag, the largely unarmed intelligence ship was monitoring communications between the USSR and Egypt to anticipate intervention in Israel’s Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

Israeli planes and torpedo boats attacked this US Navy research ship, the USS Liberty in the Mediterranean Sea near the Sinai Peninsula 6/8. 

After observing the ship with radar tracking and hourly aircraft-over flights for more than nine hours, unmarked Israeli warplanes led an air attack followed by three Israeli torpedo boats. Of the 821 holes in the USS Liberty, a 40-foot one was in the hull. The hour-long attack included napalm munitions dropped on the decks and machine gun fire on stretcher-bearers and life rafts. Ultimately, Israelis killed 34 U.S. sailors and injured another 17. With transmission equipment destroyed and all but one of the six U.S. radio frequencies jammed, the ship sent one “mayday.” Although defensive aircraft was launched from a nearby carrier group, the White House recalled them. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara stated, “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.” Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State, disagreed:

“I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”

Despite Israelis’ claim that they misidentified the vessel, the jamming of U.S. frequencies, testimony from survivors about low surveillance flyovers, and intercepted radio transmissions between the Israelis and Tel Aviv proved differently. One Israeli pilot who refused to attack was later court-martialed. According to CIA sources, Gen. Moshe Dayan, commander of Israeli forces during the Six Day War, had ordered the Liberty attacked and sunk.

Liberty survivors were threatened with court-martial if they told the truth, yet at least four of them have written books about the event. The U.S. government told the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Adm. Thomas Moorer, not to investigate. After he retired, Moorer led a blue-ribbon, independent commission that included testimony from Capt. Ward Boston, the Navy’s chief military attorney in the original hearing. He confirmed that the original hearing into the attack had whitewashed the entire event.

Before Moorer died in 2004, he said, “I’ve never seen a President … stand up to Israel. … If the American people understood what a grip these people have on our government, they would rise up in arms.” Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck echoed Moorer when he described the federal government’s attitude toward Israel as “obsequious, unctuous subservience … at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.”

Moorer’s commission concluded that “Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew” and that “Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.” It recommended the annual remembrance day to “commemorate the Liberty’s heroic crew; and to educate the American people of the danger to our national security inherent in any passionate attachment of our elected officials for any foreign nation.”

Many people in the U.S. think that Israelis fought the Six Day War to protect themselves from Egypt. Largely ignored is a statement from former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982 that described Israel’s preemptive Six Day War in 1967, a war leading to the displacement of over one million Palestinians:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Lieutenant Commander David Lewis, the Liberty’s senior Naval Security Group officer stated:

“They took out all of our transmitting antennas, and shortly thereafter deposited napalm there on the deck. It appeared to me that it was the intent of the attacker to take out all communications and keep all people off deck so they couldn’t re-establish any sort of antennas or communication system. If it was an accident, it was the best planned accident I ever heard of. The only reason we got the SOS out was because my crazy troops were climbing the antenna string and long wire while they were being shot at.”

A BBC film, USS Liberty Dead in the Water, details the attack and argues that the attack was to keep the U.S. from knowing about the forthcoming attack in the Golan Heights, which would violate a cease-fire agreement. The 68-minute video is available here. More information is in an article by Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst in 1967,and a Wikipedia piece. Also interesting are an Intercept about the coverup and photographs from the USS Liberty.

The USS Liberty was attacked 50 years ago. Today, the man inaugurated on January 20, 2017, is instigating war with around the world. In the past week, he alienated Qatar by siding with Saudi Arabia and goaded Iran with the tweet to about the attack in Tehran by Iranians recruited by ISIS causing at least 17 dead and 52 wounded:

 “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the message “repugnant … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.” Weapons killing people in the Middle East come from the U.S., both those sold to Middle East countries and those the U.S. lost in Iraq,  including more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment” channeled to Iraq under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF).

Last month DDT worked on attacking North Korea, and the conflict has again reared its ugly head. North Korea keeps firing missiles, and the U.S. has two aircraft carriers within attacking distance of the country. Right now DDT likes China because they gave him copyrights and he thinks he needs them as protection against North Korea after he dumped NATO. But what happens if he loses his temper and goes after China?

At this time, DDT is at war with the press and the Department of Justice. He wants tens of billions more for the military and has turned all decisions over to the Pentagon that will “protect” the country with munitions. He no longer protects people in the U.S. from domestic terrorism if it is perpetrated by white supremacists. The U.S. is at the mercy of a twitch of his finger on a button that he may confuse with the button to order more Diet Coke. Our nation has developed a great fondness for preemptive attacks—like Israel. Congress is supposed to be able to stop the president from starting wars. But the U.S. has not had any wars since World War II; it merely has “conflicts,” that might be started without any congressional authorization. With Jared Kushner in trouble, white supremacist Steve Bannon is back in charge of the White House. In March 2016, he stated, “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” The question is how long it will take for Republicans to understand how close the nation is to a nuclear war—if they ever do.

Or maybe DDT is just all fake news. The $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia doesn’t exist, his order to privatize the air traffic controllers is just an order to develop “principles.” There is no tax bill, and GOP congressional members hate his budget. A parliamentarian shot down the senate version of Trumpcare at a time when GOP senators are at each other’s throats. And Congress will be in session only 36 days during the next four months when the deadline comes for raising the debt ceiling—always an exciting process—and passing a budget to avoid a government shutdown. Maybe, like the past six years, the GOP won’t be able to do anything, and DDT will be tweeting about James Comey.

The world may be turning around. Today in Great Britain, people may have voted against the conservatives, Prime Minister Teresa May, and the large support for Brexit—leaving the European Union. May had called for a “snap” election seven weeks ago with the hopes of reinforcing her position. Now it appears that the Conservatives won’t have a majority in Parliament, and she may even lose her position. Here’s an early analysis. For more detail, The Guardian is running frequent updates.

[Thanks to Jack Dresser, national vice-chairman of the Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and co-director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, for educating me about the USS Liberty Remembrance Day and its background.]

June 6, 2017

War in Middle East: DDT’s Path to Popularity?

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 11:51 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Many world leaders fear that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants a war to increase his popularity. What if it is true? Less than two weeks ago, he came home for a nine-day trip that included a visit to Saudi Arabia, and a senior official declared, “Donald Trump united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn’t been in many years.” The unity doesn’t exist—especially since yesterday’s rift in the Middle East when Saudi Arabia led eight countries to isolate Qatar over its supposed support for terrorism.

One theory for Saudi Arabia’s action is DDT’s empowerment of Saudi with warmth for them and an excessive criticism of Iran. DDT worsened the situation by seeming to take credit for the problems in the Middle East through his tweets. He began with this one:

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”

DDT added praise for Saudi Arabia’s actions in isolating Qatar:

“They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

The tweets were his usual early morning, knee-jerk reaction with no involvement with his administrative officials.

The action: Eight countries have severed diplomatic ties with the tiny country of Qatar, about the size of Connecticut with a population of under 2.3 million with only 12 percent of them natives and the others workers, most of them from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Five countries—Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen—started the dispute, and Libya, Mauritius, and the Maldives joined in. Countries have stopped flights in and out of Doha, the Qatari capital, and Saudi Arabia eliminated all land, sea and air links with Qatar. The country’s diplomats have been told to leave foreign posts from some of the countries as well as Qatari citizens.

The reason: Qatar is criticized for its reputed support of the Muslim brotherhood, a nearly 100-year-old Islamist group that Saudi Arabia and UAE consider a terrorist organization. Then Saudi Arabia became incensed with Qatar-owned Al Jazeera’s news story supporting Israel and Iran; both Saudi and UAE blocked access to the television network as well as other Qatari newspaper websites. According to U.S. intelligence, the news story was fake news from Russian hackers, but Qatar’s opponents didn’t believe the information. Then Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to congratulate him on his reelection. Qatar News Agency’s website is still offline because of hacking attempts. Qatar and Iran share the biggest natural gas field in the world, and Saudi Arabia sees this as a problem to them as well as Iran’s nuclear program and its growing influence in the Middle East. The Saudis have accused Qatari officials of meeting with the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Problems for Qatar: Almost all food in Qatar comes from Saudi Arabia which has stopped shipping to the nation, and trucks carrying food may be stranded on the Saudi side of the border. A major global airlines, Qatar Airlines must now detour around airspace above Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE at highly increased fuel costs, flight times, and ticket prices. That creates a hardship for families that live in Dubai and commute to Doha, a 45-minute flight before the barricade. Qatar is also scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup, and the recent action keeps supplies, workers, and possibly soccer fans from easily going in and out of the country.

Problems for Qatari neighbors—and the U.S.: The country has over a $300 billion sovereign wealth fund founded in 2005 to increase money from its natural resources. As the world largest LNG exporter with pipelines in the Gulf, Qatar could cut off supplies. The Al Udeid Ari Base, the principal U.S. regional center responsible for daily air missions and air operations coordination against ISIS is located on Qatar. The country also houses the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, which manages all U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East. About 11,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed there.

Demands: Saudi Arabia has not been specific about what they expect from Qatar although they have stated that they expect a stop to terrorism. They could also demand the closure of Al Jazeera, the television network that launched English-language programming.

Pentagon is trying to stop the damage: spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that the U.S. is “grateful to the Qataris for the longstanding support for our presence and their enduring commitment to regional security.” Yes, Qatar supports groups considered terrorist organizations, such as Hamas. But so does Saudi Arabia. And the U.S. military bases in Qatar also allows it to be an intermediary between this country and theirs. For example, Qatar was instrumental in dealing with the Taliban to release U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Knowing that the U.S. needs to be good terms with all countries in the region, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked for the countries “to sit down together and address these differences” because “it is important that the [Gulf Cooperation Council] remain unified.”

DDT’s tweet is another of his 180-degree turns. He had never accused of Qatar promoting radical ideology before, and in fact he has praised Qatar. During his visit in Saudia Arabia, DDT said that U.S. relations with Qatar were “extremely good.” During that speech to the Saudis, DDT also said, “Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner.” On that trip DDT also met separately with the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (left), on May 21 and discussed the “the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment.” He told reporters, “We are friends, we’ve been friends for a long time now, haven’t we?” As for the sales to Qatar, DDT said, “That means jobs, and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

DDT has 270,000 reasons for supporting Saudi Arabia: that’s the number of dollars that the Saudis have paid for stays at DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel for lodging, catering, and parking. The group paying DDT is the organization lobbying against the law that permits victims of terrorist attacks to sue foreign government, meaning that Saudi Arabia could be financially responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Part of the Saudi lobbying campaign is recruiting U.S. veterans and sending them on luxury trips to Washington. DDT’s hotel is a very nice place for them to stay.

Leaders in the Western world consider the Saudi regime a danger to public security because of its dissemination of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islamism practiced in Saudi Arabia that has been identified by the European parliament as a driver of global terrorism. Saudi claimed that the restrictions against Qatar were caused by the nation’s support of terrorism. After George W. Bush’s war in Iraq put Shia Muslims in control, open polarization between Sunni and Shia Muslims have increasingly polarized the entire Middle East as Saudi Arabian Sunni fundamentalists exacerbate their battle against Iranian Shiites.

The current problem is said to be the worst in the region since the Gulf Cooperation Council was formed 36 years ago. Although Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, is predominantly Shia, the country has tried to stay neutral between the Saudi-Iran conflict. Sunnis want the nation to take sides with them. Qatar has also been blamed for the 2011 Arab Spring overturning regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. The dispute is the most serious to hit the region since the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council 36 years ago.

When George W. Bush blew up the Middle East in the early 21st century, he knew little about its politics and culture. DDT knows less. But maybe he thinks that he can match Bush’s popularity if he just blows up the world.

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