Nel's New Day

May 22, 2017

‘Pay for Play,’ Or Women ‘Empowerment’ in Saudi Arabia

The first stop on a world trip by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) garnered big bucks for his daughter Ivanka. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates gave her $134 million for her new initiative to “benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe.” Women Entrepreneurs Fund seems to be the sort of “pay for play” activity that DDT accused Hillary Clinton of running in the Clinton Foundation. Last year DDT was furious that the Clinton Foundation accepted money from Saudi Arabia because they treat “women as slaves” and “kill gays.” He added, “Hillary must return all money from such countries!”

About the countries who just donated money to Ivanka’s fund, DDT said to Clinton during a debate last year:

“You talk about women and women’s rights. These are people that push gays off business — off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly, and yet you take their money. So I’d like to ask you right now. Why don’t you give back the money that you’ve taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly? Why don’t you give back the money. I think it would be a great gesture.”

Of course, this was because the countries had donated to the Clinton Foundation, which did not accept any donations from Saudi Arabia while Clinton was Secretary of State. Donations to DDT’s daughter is just fine.

Scrutiny of Ivanka’s project caused her to claim that the World Bank would manage the investment fund. Yet it is widely known by both domestic and foreign officials that Ivanka has an office in the West Wing, meets with foreign leaders, and advises her father on many presidential matters. Writing her a check can make Ivanka’s father very happy. Ethics experts have objected to Ivanka’s leadership in gathering funds. Kathleen Clark at the Washington University in St. Louis said that it was unclear whether Ivanka had “any governmental authority” to make such requests. Richard Painter, Bush’s ethics czar, declared:

“It absolutely cannot be a private fund. She can’t be at the White House soliciting money for a private foundation. We went through this with Hillary Clinton, who resigned from her foundation when she took a job as secretary of state.”

Presidents and their families can be legally involved in philanthropy, but their efforts are subject to a lengthy approval process to guarantee there is no special access or influence or influence for donors. One example is “Let Girls Learn,” a Michelle and Barack Obama charity that supports educational opportunities for teen girls in developing countries. In 2016 the World Bank invested $2.5 billion in the project, stating that the empowerment of girls was “central” to the group’s development efforts. Earlier this year, DDT’s White House sent a memo to Peace Corps employees ending the program. After public outcry, a White House official indicated that it would continue the work—just not the name or probably any connection to the Obamas. Yet Jennifer Rigg, executive director of Global Campaign for Education-US (GCE-US), said, “We haven’t seen any new commitments, partners, or projects of Let Girls Learn announced since the start of the current administration.” DDT’s new budget provides deep cuts for Peace Corps–as well as everything else except the military.

During Clinton’s campaign, DDT attacked her for connections to Goldman Sachs, which is now deeply entrenched in the White House with at least six high-level officials. Dina Powell, who headed up the investment bank’s project to provide business education for women throughout the world, 10,000 Women, is working with Ivanka on this fund-raising. Ivanka’s chief of staff is Julie Radford, previous leader of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business initiative, which invested in small U.S. businesses. Information about Ivanka’s project is very sketchy, and Dan Primack has several questions:

  • Do these investments need a financial return, or are they are a grant or loan?
  • Who is on the investment committee, and will they get paid?
  • How are the people behind the project actively soliciting contributions from private institutions and foreign governments, and has White House counsel signed off on the project?
  • Will the fund get capital from U.S. state pension funds, similar to other private equity funds?
  • How will the fund balance interests of U.S. companies that might receive direct competition from foreign startups that receive investment?

In her speech about women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia, Ivanka glowed about how well the nation treats women, saying that the country’s “progress” in its treatment of women “is very encouraging.” Journalists were asked to leave the room before problems of women’s inequality could be brought up, such as women not having the right to drive, go anywhere alone, or be included in public life. U.S. officials also ignored these issues. Women reporters were banned from most of Ivanka’s event on women’s empowerment with Princess Reema bint Bandar.

In Saudi Arabia, adult women must have permission from a male guardian to travel, marry, work, and have access healthcare. Without a male relative, they also struggle with transactions such as renting an apartment or filing legal claims. Saudi women who attempt the restrictions of male control are jailed. Restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia extend to their garb. Even most foreign visitors—although not Melania and Ivanka Trump—are required to wear floor-length black dresses—no pants—that cover all the body including arms and legs. A head scarf should cover their head and hide their hair. More conservative women wear veils that also cover their faces, save for a slit that makes their eyes visible. In the past, First Ladies of the U.S. have dressed modestly but not in conformance with the mandated dress for Saudi women. DDT was highly critical when Michelle Obama failed to wear a scarf, accusing her of creating enemies.

Although 38 women were elected in December 2015 for a total of 3,159 municipal positions, Saudi Arabian councils are segregated by sex: women participate only through a video link in a separate room. Women are also denied the opportunities given males in sports: women were not allowed to attend or participate in national tournaments or state-organized sports leagues until last summer when four women represented Saudi Arabia in the Rio Olympics.

Aziza al-Yousef, a 58-year-old activist, said, “If Ivanka is interested in women empowerment and human rights, she should see activists, and not just officials.” As Ivanka wrote in her 2009 book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, “Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.”

The donation to Ivanka Trump raises a few question:

  • Is it just a coincidence that Ivanka gets $134 million at the same time that Saudi Arabia is able to buy at least $110 billion in lethal weapons from the United States and she travels to the country as “assistant to the president of the United States”?
  • Is it now acceptable that Ivanka receive at least $134 million from countries that her father describes as abusers of women and killers of gays?
  • And is $134 million enough for Ivanka to describe herself as an “advocate for the education & empowerment of women & girls” while ignoring the donor that lacks these values?

Time will tell.

May 21, 2017

Sunday Speeches: DDT Pandering; GOP Spin

The grand introduction to a nine-day tour by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was today’s pandering speech to over 50 Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, a speech written by Islamophobic Stephen Miller. Miller knew that DDT had to walk a fine line between not offending his racist U.S. base and the audience of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, including 3.3 million in the U.S. alone. Gone was the term “radical Islamic terrorism” which he used as a litmus test for conservatives, damning all people who refused to say this expression. Only once did he slip in “Islamic terrorism” among the 32 times that he referred to terrorism in the 34-minute speech. The teleprompter read “Islamist,” but DDT may be accustomed to his own term which refers to the religion rather than a political movement.

Saudi Arabia was the safest place to give the speech because DDT is in sync with the authoritarian regime there. In his desire to feel royal, DDT is comfortable with their ostentatious wealth, lack of concern for rule, and a disregard for democracy. He had also just favored them with the $110 billion arms sale that President Obama had delayed on the basis of human rights and how the weapons would be used as well as the proposed Qatar purchase by Qatar of “a lot of beautiful military equipment,” as DDT describes them. DDT brought them other multi-billion dollar deals such as $6 billion for Lockheed for 150 Black Hawk helicopters and $15 billion for General Electric.

The speech also avoided other such alien concepts to the Middle East as democracy, gender equality, and political reform—again matching DDT’s approach toward ruling. Even better for Saudi support, he blamed Iran instead of ISIS “fueling sectarian violence”; he spoke about the “despair” of the Iranians on the day after they freely elected a liberal reform president and demanded that the largest Shiite country in the Middle East be more isolated. According to DDT, Iran is to blame for “so much instability,” and Shiite Hezbolla and Yemienis were equally condemned.

DDT claimed his purpose was not to “lecture” before he launched into ponderous and repetitious demands of “drive them out” like an Old Testament prophet declaiming that the Muslims are totally responsible in this “battle between good and evil.” Nowhere did he mention that his hosts are responsible for the Wahhabi Salafit extremists who murder “innocent people.” DDT also praised Saudi Arabia for its “strong action against the Houthi militants in Yemen,” an action using U.S.-made cluster bombs in crowded cities indiscriminately killing people and exacerbating a massive humanitarian crisis.

“We are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests,” DDT told his audience, indicating that these “common values” can include misogyny, murder by beheading, and dictatorships in the name of oil and gas. He said, “Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination.” But the generality didn’t define “friends,” which could include Russia, Iran’s supporter, and the warring militias in the Middle East. DDT said:

“We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.”

Translations for this statement could  include that the U.S. can reverse its positions at a minute’s notice based on a knee-jerk reaction to an occurrence but that the U.S. will not oppose crimes against humanity unless it will be of some financial benefit.

DDT’s speech is being declared “presidential,” the common description for words he didn’t prepare that were carefully read with no off-script comments.

Yet former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams pointed out a major flaw, “an understanding of what produces extremism”:

 “The president’s approach would work if terrorists were coming from outer space, and our task were solely to organize against them militarily. That is no doubt part of the task—but not all of it, because they are coming from within the societies whose leaders he was addressing. He offered no explanation of what was producing this phenomenon…. Trump had no theory and therefore could not suggest what might be done to prevent more extremists from rising.”

While DDT was in Saudi Arabia trying to overcome the ghastly scandals of May, his faithful were spinning his actions on the Sunday talk shows.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that DDT talked about firing former FBI director James Comey with the Russian officials to prove he wasn’t distracted by any problems in Washington. As usual, Tillerson pressed his talking point that U.S. and Russian relations were “at a low point.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster explained DDT’s meetings with the Russians as a desire to “find areas of cooperation.” Asked about DDT’s statements about Comey, McMaster said:

“Well, I don’t remember exactly what the president said. And the notes that there apparently have I do not think are a direct transcript.”

DDT reportedly called Comey “crazy” and “a real nut job” as well as firing Comey relieving “great pressure because of Russia.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) disagreed with DDT that Comey is a “nut job.” On Face the Nation, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said:

“This is a horrible thing for a president to say. Former Director Comey is no way, shape, or form a ‘nut job.’”

Even Republican members of Congress didn’t defend DDT’s statements. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that the investigating committees on Russia’s meddling need to have “the notes.” He added:

“The White House would benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoids some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis…. People got what they voted for.”

Asked about DDT’s speech, Rubio said that he differed with him on DDT’s approach to human rights issues:

“I think it’s in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights. We just have a disagreement on the right way to approach it.”

“The White House would benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoids some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis,” Rubio said.

With the possibility of again running for president, Rubio may have felt the need to soft-pedal his response, but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was not shackled by any such requirement when he told Fox’s Chris Wallace that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey “had no business in the Oval Office” and cited Russia’s invasion into Crimea:

“Mr. Lavrov is the stooge of a thug and a murderer, who used Russian precision weapons to strike hospitals in Aleppo, who has committed human rights issues all over the place.”

McCain called himself “almost speechless” about the report that DDT told Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he fired Comey  to take “off” some of the pressure about Russia. Almost, but not completely. McCain said, “I don’t know why someone would say something like that,” he told Wallace.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in his interview today that the House Intelligence Committee investigation is examining possibly Russian collusion with DDT and his campaign. House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said that the scandal surrounding Russia goes far beyond DDT.

DDT may be back on U.S. soil sooner than expected. His staffers say that he is “exhausted” after less than two days of travel into his nine-day trip and  is already canceling some of his performances. This from the man who said that Hillary Clinton “lacks stamina” after her constant travel around the world while she was Secretary of State. Maybe he’ll be too tired to tweet.

 

May 20, 2017

DDT: Week Seventeen outside Russia

You Can Make a Difference: You can make your voice heard! The Department of Interior is considering rollbacks for protections of up to 27 national monuments;  the public comment period ends on May 26 for Utah’s Bears Ears and on July 20 for all the others. All the monuments, created after 1996, that are considered for the chopping block are larger than 100,000 acres. They were created through the 1906 Antiquities Act, but the law has never been used to eliminate them. The plan by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is probably to open these public lands to logging, mining, and grazing. One of the monuments being considered is the Grand Canyon-Parashant on the north side of the Colorado River. More advice on protesting the elimination of public lands.

Last week’s news about DDT concentrated on connections with Russia, including his telling Russian officials in the Oval Office that former FBI director James Comey is a “nut job” and firing him took off “great pressure because of Russia.” But DDT was surrounded by far more issues.

DDT’s lack of financial transparency has become murkier since his tax attorneys told him to submit an updated financial disclosure in lieu of his tax returns without signing it, meaning that he won’t certify the information as true. Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, said that his office required DDT’s signature for certification, and DDT claimed that he will certify the information by mid-June. Without the signature, incorrect financial information cannot result in a fine or referral for criminal persecution. The same lawyers at Morgan Lewis also wrote a letter testifying to DDT’s lack of financial ties with Russia except for about $100 million. The longtime firm for the Trump Organization was named Russia Law Firm of the Year in 2016.

Sheriff David Clarke, under scrutiny for the death of a man denied water for a week in Clarke’s jail in Milwaukee (WI), said he will be assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. He calls transgender people mentally ill, that they lead a “freakish lifestyle, and he asked for “pitchforks and torches” in response to the Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality. Clarke also referred to Islam as “a sick ideology” and that “we ought to just try to kill it.” He plagiarized chunks of his 2013 master’s thesis on U.S. security and wears medals that are probably not legitimate, according to veterans.

Another inappropriate DDT nominee is his possible selection of former Sen. Joe Lieberman for FBI director. In addition to great antipathy from Democrats because of his past actions, Lieberman is employed by the law firm that has represented DDT for at least six years. Nominating the 75-year-old man would indicate a heavy politicization for a position that should be independent and separate from any branches of the government, including the executive. His selection of the lately-come conservative, however, fits DDT’s neocon philosophy because Lieberman fails to see the importance of Bill of Rights protections.

DDT also plans to appoint Newt Gingrich’s ex-mistress and now wife, Callista, as ambassador to the Vatican. At least the country would have one woman.

DDT’s hosting his tyrant-of-the-week, Turkish President Recep Erdogan, led to the injury of 11 people when members of Erdogan’s security detail attacked peaceful protesters across from the Turkish embassy. Nine of the injured were sent to the hospital after Erdogan watched the attack from his car. The Turkish government described the protesters as “terrorists” and said that the demonstrators were being “provocative.” DDT said nothing about the attacks but compliments Erdogan for his leadership. New Jersey resident Ceren Borazan, one of the attack victims wrote:

“My Kurdish friends and allies were protesting peacefully against Erdogan being in Washington when were suddenly attacked by a group of Erdogan’s official bodyguards and secret police. They attacked women, children and elderly with reckless abandon.”

Borazan was strangled, punched and kicked by Erdogan’s personal guards. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this thuggish behavior.” Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) agreed and called on the State Department and DOJ to press charges. He said, “Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior.” The attackers are probably protected by diplomatic immunity.

The GOP party that claims a belief in states’ rights has blocked a rule encouraging states to create retirement plans for private-sector workers whose employers don’t provide these plans. The rule would have exempted these state plans from the law that outlines rules for workplace savings. Last month the GOP eliminated this benefit for cities and counties. In fact, the rollback of the rule sends more money to Wall Street, showing that the GOP loves regulations that send money to the wealthiest. The GOP plan keeps people from saving before taking away their Social Security.

With the daily DDT scandals, Republican members of Congress are avoiding television appearances. CBS This Morning invited 20 Republican lawmakers and White House staff to appear on the program; they all declined. Chris Hayes reported the same for his MSNBC program. Even Fox is having trouble, and Tucker Carlson said that Kellyanne Conway backed out of her scheduled appearance on his show.. Fox and Friends had to resort to its news of the day—the cancellation of Tim Allen’s sitcom.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer may be on the way out, and Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle, self-proclaimed “patriot,” has said that she’s “in conversations” for the job. She lists “deep knowledge” as a requirement for the job, but she’s already passed the “leaking” qualification.  Another one is her support for a leader—like Putin or Netanyahu—who can easily destroy ISIS with military force, troops, and bombings. Putin, according to Guilfoyle, could fix the United States if he led the country for 48 hours. Her strongest credential for DDT, however, is her statement on Fox that James Clapper said in his Senate testimony about Russia that “there is no evidence of collusion.” That’s what DDT said, but Clapper said the opposite.

The White House staff members have become so manipulative that they are feeding DDT false information. K.T. McFarland gave DDT a printout of two Time covers about a coming ice age and surviving global warming. DDT doesn’t look at the Internet so he didn’t know that 1970s cover were part of a hoax circulating for years. He attaches so much significance to printouts he receives that they guide his agenda and control his appointments. Last February someone gave DDT a printout from the fake GotNews.com about deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh being behind numerous leaks, and she was forced out of the White House.

Imagine if Dictator Donald Trump had to pay expenses—including those for the Secret Service—to travel to his own properties where he makes money from the visits? That’s a bill that Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) has introduced. The Stop Waste and Misuse by the President (SWAMP) Act states that Trump’s travel “results in the American taxpayer effectively subsidizing the president’s businesses.”

DDT sniveled his way through a graduation address at the Coast Guard Academy, well described here. In response to his complaint that “no politician in history … has been treated worse or more unfairly,” CNN’s Jake Tapper responded, “Four U.S. Presidents have been actually literally assassinated and killed.” DDT was addressing young people who will be putting themselves into physical danger—unlike DDT who dodged the draft.

A couple bits of good news: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed the Fairbanks Declaration over a week ago, indicating the need to slow the impact of climate change in the Arctic. And the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal for the decision from the 4th Circuit Court to strike down North Carolina’s voter restriction law. A judge in the lower court ruling had stated that the state’s ballot restrictions targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” The law had required approved ID, dropped early voting from 17 to 10 days, stopped out-of-precinct voting, blocked same-day registration and voting, and eliminating preregistration by 16-year-olds. It may be a temporary fix because GOP state legislators are already planning another path to voter suppression.

Update on Jason Chaffetz from the May 10 post: He announced his resignation on June 30 and told lawmakers that he’ll be on the Fox network. Even conservatives are not happy about his bailing out a job he took only six months ago. Why is he leaving? Family is always cited, but does he think that the Russian scandal could bring him down? Meanwhile, colleagues are telling him to immediately step down from his committee chair position.

DDT may think that his days are numbered in the White House. He’s put his Caribbean estate for sale at a greatly inflated price, probably looking for another Russian billionaire to grab it up while DDT is still supposedly president. Emolument’s Clause, anyone?

Robin Bell’s projection art at DDT’s Washington hotel is the most recent in the anti-DDT artistic movement and the fifth of his Bell’s projections. This one protests DDT’s on-going violation of the Emoluments Clause preventing him from taking “gifts” from foreign nations.

A picture is worth a thousand words! A rogue Barnes & Noble shopper revised the book display touting Ivanka Trump’s new book.

May 18, 2017

DDT: Ten Days in May

Sally Yates’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8 about Russian interference in the election should have been the high point of last week. Many people were riveted to the screen as the former acting AG calmly parried the hostile questions from GOP members who asked why she didn’t do everything that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) requested. But between new events and revelations, this day was only the first of ten explosive days for the United States and its attempts to retain democracy. [Time magazine has detailed articles about the Russian connection.]

May 8, 2017 – Senate Hearing: Yates explained that she notified the White House about Michael Flynn’s lies regarding his Russian communications because they left him open to blackmail. She did that a full 18 days before he was fired—ostensibly for lying to VP Mike Pence. Yet when she told DDT’s top lawyer, Don McGahn, about Flynn, he asked her why it mattered if one White House official lies to another. Throughout the hearing, Republicans cared only about how the media discovered Flynn’s discussions with the Russian ambassador. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Yates if she had leaked that information because DDT had told senators to ask her that. She said no. Then they suggested that President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, had provided the leak, but there is no evidence that this happened. Although the hearing was about Michael Flynn, Republicans persistently asked Yates about her not defending DDT’s travel ban, the reason he gave for firing her. Yates held her ground when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) criticized her judgment and reminded him that she had promised him in her confirmation hearings that she would act independently of the president, then Barack Obama.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also testified, at one point stating that he knew nothing about any collusion between DDT and the Russians during his campaign. DDT tried to use his statement to say that Clapper testified that there was no collusion, but Clapper said that was not true. Sen. John Cassidy (R-LA) awkwardly demanded to know if Clapper had ever leaked unclassified information.

May 9, 2017 – Comey Firing: All the buzz about the Senate hearing disappeared the following day when DDT fired FBI Director James Comey. Over the weekend, DDT had become increasingly angry about Comey’s congressional appearance discussing the FBI’s investigation into DDT’s campaign ties with Russia, and he gathered a small group, including VP Mike Pence and McGahn, to prepare talking points. Comey discovered he was fired while glancing at a television screen in Los Angeles. Initially, DDT said that he fired Comey for the way he had treated Hillary Clinton and done it on the advice of DOJ AG Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, but throughout the week that story unraveled. By Thursday he told journalist Lester Holt that he decided to do it on his own because of that “Russian thing.” In his firing letter to Comey, DDT claimed that the FBI director had told him that DDT wasn’t under investigation, another piece that was a lie as was the false statement about Rosenstein making the recommendation to fire Comey.

Comey’s firing covered up news about the subpoenas issued by a federal grand jury in Alexandria (VA) to Flynn’s associates. More widely spread through the media was Press Secretary Sean Spicer shouting “turn the lights off” to journalists as he stood amid the White House bushes.

May 10, 2017 – The Russians in the White House: A meeting between DDT and  with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov [left] and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak was chronicled only by a photographer from a Russian state-owned news agency. U.S. journalists were banned. DDT said that he met with them because Putin had asked him and he didn’t know how to say no. He also said that he didn’t know the photographer was from the Russian agency. It was five days later that the media discovered DDT gave highly classified information about ISIS threats in Iraq and Syria to the Russians that had obtained from another country. The reason may have been pure bragging. He prefaced it by saying, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

May 11, 2017 – Changes in DDT’s stories: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified that, unlike DDT’s claims, Comey had “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.” DDT had claimed that a reason for firing Comey was the lack of trust among FBI agents. On the same day as DDT’s interview with Lester Holt, the New York Times reported on DDT asking for a personal loyalty pledge from Comey at a dinner on January 27 that the FBI director refused to give. The Senate Intelligence Committee also subpoenaed documents from Flynn because he wouldn’t give them voluntarily.

May 12, 2017 – Threats and financial issues: DDT sent a (slightly) veiled threat about Comey and “tapes,” unleashing a media storm regarding the possibility that DDT has taped conversations. Again Spicer cannot answer any of these questions. A letter from DDT’s outside lawyers states that “with a few exceptions” totaling about $100 million, Trump’s tax returns from 2005 “do not reflect” any “income from Russian sources,” “debt owed by you or [The Trump Organization] to Russian lenders,” “equity investments by Russian persons or entities,” or “equity or debt investments by you or [The Trump Organization] in Russian entities.” This is after DDT’s statement that he has no financial connections to Russia. The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which specializes in combating money-laundering, will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

May 13, 2017 – Humor: DDT gives the graduation address at conservative evangelical Liberty University, and Saturday Night Live skewers DDT.

May 14, 2017 – Mother’s Day: DDT plays golf four states away from his wife, Melania, and son Barron.

May 15, 2017 – The Russian connection: The news about DDT giving away classified information hits the media, and denials flow. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and the White House denied the entire story along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell. But on the day of the conversation,Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, called directors of the CIA and the NSA and requested that DDT’s comments to be deleted from internal memos. That night his communications people—Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Saunders, and Michale Dubke—were in such a loud screaming fit in the Cabinet that staffers turned up the television sets to keep journalists from hearing. Sen. James Risch (R-ID) epitomized much of the GOP supportive spin:

“The minute the President speaks about it to someone, he has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process.”

May 16, 2017 – Changing stories, lies revealed: McMaster repeated that he was in the room with DDT and the Russians and reversed his story: yes, DDT did reveal the information, but it was “wholly appropriate.” In addition, DDT hadn’t been briefed and “wasn’t even aware where this information came from.” He had to admit it because DDT tweeted that he certainly did give Russia this information—and that he has every right to do this. McMaster said that the big problem was the leakers. Israel, the country that had provided the information to the U.S., didn’t concur. Worried since January that DDT would pass on their classified information, Israel feared that information leaked to Russia would move on to Iran. As always when DDT causes chaos for the nation, Russia is triumphant about the disaster.

Information emerges that Comey had left a paper trail of his conversations with DDT, including when DDT asked him to stop the investigation into Flynn. DDT also asked Comey to put journalists in prison for publishing classified information.

May 17, 2017 – New sheriff in town: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. His action elicited another flurry of furious DDT tweets including more impugning of the Clintons. Sources are now saying that Flynn himself told DDT’s transition team, headed by Mike Pence, that Flynn was under investigation before DDT appointed him to be National Security Adviser.

May 18, 2017 – Today: At this time, Flynn has failed to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee for documents connected to its investigation regarding Russia’s interference in the presidential election. He may be following the request he got on April 25 from DDT to “stay strong.” Like DDT, Flynn is crying “unfair” about the investigation despite a new revelation that he and other DDT campaign advisers were in contact with Russian officials at least 18 times during the last seven months of the campaign. In another scandal, Flynn told Susan Rice, then National Security Adviser, in mid-January to call off plans to use Kurdish forces to retake Raqqa from ISIS. Flynn may have been acting without any involvement from the DDT transition team but pleased Turkey, his undisclosed client at the time. DDT approved the Raqqa plan later after Flynn was fired. Some congressional members have used the term “treason” to describe Flynn’s making a military decision for the U.S.  while acting in behalf of a foreign nation that was paying him.

Tomorrow, DDT heads off to the Middle East for a nine-day trip. What can go wrong?!

May 15, 2017

Does DDT Have Dementia?

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
Tags: , ,

DDT’s racism, misogyny, narcissism, paranoia, and lack of ethics have been obvious for several decades, but his current behavior shows an extreme version of past personality—a shift that could be connected to cognitive decline and dementia. Only after Ronald Reagan left the presidency was he diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and his wife, Nancy, protected him from any general awareness of his disease while he was in office. Researchers examining Reagan’s speeches found substantial declines in his language with a large reduction in unique words and a great increase in non-specific nouns, filler words such as “basically,” and low-image verbs such as “get” and “do.”

In his book about his father, Ron Reagan wrote about his Ronald Reagan’s presidential debate with Walter Mondale in 1984:

“My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with his notes, uncharacteristically lost for words. He looked tired and bewildered.”

Reagan’s brother, Michael, disputes this opinion, but scholars are more likely to side with Ron Reagan.

DDT’s parallels to Reagan are obvious from his fourth-grade language that often makes no sense to his lengthy comments that use no specifics and express nothing. He relies on generalities such as “great” and “tremendous” while failing to know the names of people, even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), demonstrated by his reference to “this gentleman” or as “Ron” in a speech in Ryan’s district. Alex Leo (Daily Beast) transcribed one statement during a campaign stop in South Carolina:

“Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my, like, credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger, fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”

Journalists have noted DDT’s mental problems for over a year. In April 2016, DDT said in Pittsburgh, “How’s Joe Paterno? We gonna bring that back? Right? How about that—how about that whole deal?” Paterno was head coach of Penn State’s football team and forced to resign for covering up a child-molestation scandal involving one of his coaches. Trump was probably the only person in the room who didn’t remember Paterno died in 2012. DDT said that the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center occurred on 7/11. He even walked out of the Oval Office, forgetting to sign the executive order at an event for that purpose and failed to locate Rudy Giuliani sitting across from him at a media briefing.

DDT has made thousands of puzzling statements in the almost two years since he started his campaign, including insinuating that Frederick Douglass, who died in the 19th century, might still be alive; talking about how President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War, might have prevented it, and calling Pavarotti, who died a decade earlier, a great friend. His wife had to remind him to put his hand on his heart for the national anthem; he forgot which country he had just bombed; and he confused Kim Jong-Un with his father when complaining about Bill Clinton.

In speeches, DDT frequently asks people, time and again, if they know common facts, for example marveling that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican—as if he had just discovered this fact each time he repeats it. At a women’s empowerment meeting last March, he said, “I’m shocked that you’ve heard of [Susan B. Anthony]!” He also referenced a Nigerian proverb as Irish when he greeted Ireland’s prime minister Enda Kenny on St. Patrick’s Day.

DDT’s tweets are notorious not only for misspelling, bad grammar, confusing quotation marks, and general confusion but also for misinformation. For example, he ranted against the 9th Circuit Court about blocking his attempts to deny federal funding to what he calls “sanctuary cities” when the ruling judge is not on that court.

In his interview with Lester Holt last week, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told the journalists that he invented the term “prime the pump” and never heard it before although he has used it several times in the past. The metaphor was first used at least 200 years ago, and President Franklin Roosevelt may have been the first to describe economics in 1933. DDT’s speeches are filled with repetitions, frequently within the same sentence, and he seems to be extremely forgetful.

His positions veer from one direction to another; he said he might break up the banks, establish a gas tax, and be “honored” to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un right before he said that the country’s nuclear weapons make nobody safe. One day he says that he’s pulling the U.S. out of NAFTA; the next day, he’s changed his mind.

Concerns about DDT’s mental situation have circulated for a long time. In the beginning, many professionals have declared that they could not have an opinion without examining him, but his increasingly erratic behavior has changed that. Five top psychiatrists at a Yale conference agreed that DDT has “a dangerous mental illness.”

Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive degenerative disorder, results loss of memory, thinking, and language skills. In its early stages, people forget words and what they have said, repeat things, and cannot remember names and dates. People know nothing about his personal medical history and little about that of his family. DDT’s father was diagnosed with Alzeimer’s, and the disease can be hereditary. Like Reagan, DDT appears normal when he keeps to his prepared speech, and the warning signs appear when he ad-libs. Most people suffering from the disease show signs at 65; DDT is 70.

Behavioral changes are other symptoms of Alzheimer’s. DDT’s moodiness, paranoia, belligerence, and erratic behavior lend to highly inappropriate tweets, the belief that his phones are tapped and that James Comey may release his “tapes,” and his uncontrollable anger, for example when he was talking to the Australian prime minister whose name he also couldn’t remember during a recent press conference in New York City. DDT’s anger and jealousy led to his blocking a prestigious award for Jimmy Carter from Argentina for Carter’s promotion of human rights during Argentina’s last military dictatorship. The award was cancelled after the U.S. government asked the nation to “delay” it.

The daily blog of White House activities illustrate how “low energy” DDT is: he speaks to a few people or occasionally has a dinner while he has assigned all the normal presidential duties to others such as son-in-law Jared Kushner. White supremacist Steve Bannon is probably still writing all his orders and other statements—except the awkward letter firing James Comey—unless other aides have taken over these duties. The Pentagon is fully in charge of all military actions without DDT input. Although a golfer, DDT is anti-exercising, believing that people are like batteries with a finite amount of energy.

Other people are more polite about DDT’s mental issues: E.J. Dionne used the term “ineptitude,” others have referred to him as “out of control,” and the Washington Post provided an official’s phrase, “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion” as well as angry, impulsive, and directionless. People might want to be careful, however, when he asks who stole the strawberries.

May 14, 2017

DDT: Religion, Mother’s Day

Evangelicals may not be as supportive of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) as in the past, but the far right Christian nationalists (aka white supremacists) are still clinging to him. Their heritage is creating an extensive private school system after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ordered desegregation. Because of that, Jerry Falwell, Sr. developed his fame in founding and defending the “segregation academies.” When the federal government blocked tax-exempt status for private segregated schools in 1971, religious schools burgeoned throughout the South with the sole goal of preventing racial mixing. At the same time, the evangelicals fought to keep sex discrimination by opposing the ERA and then developed a strong political stance against legal abortion, sex education, and contraceptive access. Collaboration of corporations, that wanted a government that gave them money, and religion, that oppose civil and voting rights, made a strong voting bloc. The evangelicals ignored DDT’s sexual assaults and multiple divorces as long he used virulent racist rhetoric.

Another evangelical argument in support of DDT is their belief in the rapture. DDT believes in chaos, and evangelicals think that he is God’s weapon to bring the righteous closer to the event that will destroy the world and raise the believers to Heaven. They began to worship DDT when he pushed the conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in a foreign country and that he is secretly a Muslim. An international capitalist with investments in over 20 countries, DDT became a symbol for anti-globalism to conspiracy theorists. As a result, DDT is in the center of racist, anti-woman conspiracy theorists. He alone can make the United States into an all-white nation. Their solution is to burn down the country, and DDT is willing to carry out their plans.

As Valerie Tarico  points out, DDT supporters view him as a kind of god, with great similarity to the one in the Old Testament. He incessantly tries to prove his power to people, even rigging his microphone so that his voice sounds powerful. As an insatiable attention seeker, he displays the same characteristics that the bible demands that people grovel before him and prove their loyalty, just like DDT demanded of former FBI Director James Comey before he fired him. Like the Old Testament god, DDT is cruel and sadistic as well as racist and prejudiced. They both reject the handicapped and demean women. Revenge is also a strong characteristic of both DDT and the evangelical god, and the bible is as contradictory as DDT. Science in the bible is garbage, but both of them promise riches for following them. Biologist Richard Dawkins summed up Jehovah in a sentence: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Yup, that’s DDT. Except for the fiction.

Evangelicals have used the bible to justify DDT’s actions such as extreme vetting. A panel at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference was titled: “If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?” In The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi provided other suggestions for following the bible:

  • Marry your rib: Conservatives used the myth of Adam marrying Eve, made from Adam’s rib, to prevent marriage equality so they could take the story to its logical conclusion.
  • Pay taxes with magic fish: Peter did it after Jesus told him to catch a fish that would have money for taxes in its mouth. 
  • Offer up virgin daughters to be raped as in Sodom: Enough said.

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in 40 countries around the world. Most people see the day as just another commercial enterprise and don’t realize that it began in the 1850s when a women formed clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination. During the Civil War commemorated the day to mourn their fallen soldiers. They also tended wounded soldiers and worked for peace. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.  [More history here.]

Before speaking at great length about football during his graduation address at the evangelical Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell and now operated by his son, DDT spoke briefly about today’s celebration:

“And especially this weekend, let’s make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. But in all of this excitement don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, right? I had a great mother, she’s looking down, now but I had a great mother. I always loved Mother’s Day.”

The man of family values, representing the party of family values, didn’t see his wife, the mother of his son, or his son on Mother’s Day. DDT was busy golfing with his buddies at the Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, four states away from his wife and son, on his 21st golf excursion in 112 days since he was inaugurated. He did tweet:

 

“Wishing @FLOTUS Melania and all of the great mothers out there a wonderful day ahead with family and friends!”

He picked “friends” over family.

Melania Trump tweeted this photo of her and Barron, her son with DDT, with the message: Happy Mother’s Day!

May 12, 2017

DDT: Week Sixteen, Moving into Paranoia

The week began with all eyes on testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee from former Attorney General Sally Yates, but attention rapidly segued to Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) firing of James Comey, the FBI director who refused to stop investigation his involvement with Russia. The third senior Justice Department officials investigating DDT who was fired in less than four months, he follows DDT’s victims Sally Yates and Preet Bharara. Less media attention, however, was paid to DDT’s hosting Russian officials in the White House the day after Comey’s unorthodox firing. U.S. journalists were banned from the event, and the only visuals of the meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were photographed by the Russian state-owned news agency. The Washington Post raised questions about a security breach, citing issues about listening devices or other surveillance equipment being brought into the Oval Office. Intelligence officials noted that standard screenings might not identify an espionage device. The White House claimed that they were told the photographer worked for Lavrov, not that he worked for the Russian agency. A White House official, “They tricked us.” Either it’s true, which is scary. Or it wasn’t true, which is scary. A White House spokesman explained that DDT hosted the meeting “because Putin asked him to.” Again, scary.

Melissa McCarthy has already started preparing a Saturday Night Live sketch imitating Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes from reporters. A group of journalists caught him after he finished up a short interview with the friendly Fox business folks and met with his staff behind a tall hedge, but a groups of journalists wanted to ask him about Comey’s firing. He came out of the shrubbery and shouted, “Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off…. Can you just turn that light off?” Since WaPo issued the following correction about its story:

“Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”

How many FBI officials does DDT need to fire for control?  Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI had not lost faith in Comey, contradicting a DDT reason for Comey’s firing. He added that it was the “greatest privilege” of his professional career to work with Comey. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to quit because DDT presented him as the architect of the firing. And DDT now contradicts everything that his White House officials and VP Mike Pence have presented to the media. In an interview with Lester Holt, DDT said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself … this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Firing someone to deliberately block an investigation is an impeachable offense. After the Holt interview, in which DDT called Comey a “grandstander” and “showboat,” the FBI disinvited DDT to FBI Headquarters, saying that “the optics would not be good.”

The Senate has subpoenaed fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to appear at a hearing about Russian interference in the recent election. The joint chairs of the Intelligence Committee had requested materials from him on April 28, but he refused. Flynn had previously offered to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but he didn’t find any takers. Among Flynn’s problems are his taking payments from Russia and Turkey while giving them information. The committee has received only two responses in requests for documents from DDT associates.

In DDT’s attempt to find those three million voters who voted for Hillary Clinton last year and gave her a majority, he signed an executive order for a commission to review fraud and voter suppression in the nation’s election system with the possible intent of rigging the 2018 elections. If he were sincere, he could find almost zero of the first and a massive amount of the second—mostly through state legislation. After the election, ABC contacted officials in all 50 states and found that voter fraud was “very” or “extremely” rare. DDT’s leader, however, is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is extremely successful in finding voter fraud everywhere in places where it doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of voter suppression.

In another action, DDT broke a century-long tradition requiring senators to approve judicial nominees who sit on federal courts in their states. To ensure a right-wing court system, he has nominated ten unvetted lawyers for lifetime judges on federal courts without consulting any senators.

A few days after DDT defunded members of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), claiming it was “unconstitutional,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed when she gave the graduation address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach (FL). DeVos has her own issues with HBCUs, referring them as a sort of pilot program for schools of choice while ignoring the fact that people went there not out of choice but because they weren’t permitted into white schools. In the speech, the billionaire who forced legislation to move many Michigan students into failing religious schools funded by taxpayers said:

“We must first listen and then speak with humility to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don’t immediately or instinctively agree.”

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index lost half the gains it made since DDT’s election, going from +16 to +3. Fewer Americans last week said the economy was “getting better” (45%) than said it was “getting worse” (49%), leaving the economic outlook component at -4, its worst score since Nov. 7-13, when it measured -5. The rating is almost 20 points below its recent high of +15 set in early March. DDT is down to a 36 percent approval, and that was before he fired Comey. The percentages for his characteristics are also very low.

No matter the intention behind Comey’s firing—distraction, avoidance, shock, chaos—scholars on authoritarianism agree that DDT’s goal is to “uproot the system,” according to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at NYU. We’ve watched his obsession with issuing executive orders, his aggressive opposition toward the media, and his love for “alternative facts” while GOP politicians enable him for their own personal advantage. In a recent event, a reporter was arrested for asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether or not domestic violence survivors would have difficulty getting insurance under Trumpcare.

Ben-Ghiat said, “Democracy is threatened in drips.” She draws parallels between DDT and authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Hungary who undermine society by chipping at democratic institutions while greatly expanding their power. The people of the United States, however, may be developing a bit more savvy about DDT’s techniques after 16 weeks: 54 percent of the people think that the firing was inappropriate, and only 24 percent think that the reason was Hillary Clinton’s emails, DDT’s original stated reason.

Progressives had one win this week. After a spate of successful bills overturning President Obama’s regulations, the Senate voted against a resolution to nullify a clean air regulation the last day before the GOP could do this without a filibuster. In the 51-49 vote, Sens. John McCain (AZ), Susan Collins (ME), and Lindsey Graham (SC)  joined the Democrats. The Congressional Review Act, successfully used only once before DDT allows repeal of regulations within 60 days of being submitted to Congress, has been used in he past 100 days to reverse 15 regulations from President Obama.

The regulation that stayed updates 30-year-old regulations about venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas on public and Native American lands to help stop waste of natural resources. It helps protect the climate while saving taxpayers $330 million a year. Colorado, one of the two states that already have this regulation, have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents, including Republicans, and increased both job production and natural gas production, a contradiction to arguments from the conservative opposition.

DDT didn’t wait until this weekend to issue crazy tweets. First he threatened to stop press briefings from the White House after the media pointed out all the inconsistencies regarding DDT’s method and reasoning for firing Comey. He ratcheted up his paranoid almost to the level of former President Richard Nixon when he threatened Comey:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

DDT has not denied that he taped meetings or records conversations in the Oval Office. Witness intimidation is a crime, and DDT threatened former Attorney General Sally Yates before she testified last Monday to a Senate hearing:

“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council [sic].”

DDT also violated the Presidential Records Act by attempting to scrub the tweet with the misspelled tweet and replacing it with the corrected version. All his tweets must be kept as official records of his public remarks. DDT may still not know that all his tweets belong to the people of the United States.

Hard to believe that these are the actions of a man supposed to be the leader of the “free world.”

May 10, 2017

Jason Chaffetz: Epitome of the GOP

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) may be almost gone, but he will live on as the epitome of the GOP leadership. Vinson Cunningham describes some of his characteristics, and photographer Bill Clark captured a representative image.

Chaffetz seemed like an independent person last October when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) revealed his privileged sense of depravity by talking about indiscriminately  grabbing “pussy.” In response, Chaffetz seemed to take the high road when he rescinded his endorsement of DDT:

“My wife and I, we have a fifteen-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”

At that time he also had much more to say about the “awful place” the nominee had put the country in and his “abhorrent and offensive” language, but his position about DDT lasted only two and a half weeks before the 180-degree turned Chaffetz into a DDT supporter. His excuse was that Hillary Clinton was “that bad.” As House Oversight chairman, he has focused for years on trying to make Clinton’s life miserable in endless Benghazi inquisitions. None of the expensive endeavors turned up any illegal action, but Chaffetz isn’t through. Returning from re-election this past January, Chaffetz opened an investigation into Clinton’s emails, hoping for criminal charges, and Comey’s firing inspired him to expand the scope of his search for something—anything—that might be illegal in Clinton’s private server.

Faced with unconstitutional conflict of interest charges for DDT, Chaffetz mentally shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s already rich. He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Pushed to investigate the $400 million deal between Jared Kushner’s family and the Chinese, Chaffetz said:

“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”

Chaffetz referred to “these other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money” as “a bit of a sideshow.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, Chaffetz proposed a bill that would allow Republicans to sell off public lands. A bipartisan backlash caused him to say that he was withdrawing the bill because his constituents objected. That was February 2. Eight days later the bill was referred to a subcommittee.

During public appearances during “Trumpcare”s first attempt this year, Chaffetz maintained that people could pay for their health care if they didn’t buy a new iPhone. First, the cost of an iPhone won’t pay for health care. But then came the discovery that Chaffetz’s $738 iPhone—and its services—came from campaign funds. This would be illegal if he used it for person business, but he hasn’t answered any questions about whether he does. Then came his attack on Rosie O’Donnell after Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent for 2018, Kathryn Allen, raised over $200,000 in just two days.

Another part of Chaffetz’s history is his failure to become a Secret Service agent. He claimed that he was rejected because he was too old, but then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery sent an email saying about his application, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The kitchen apparently got too hot for Chaffetz at an April town hall meeting in his home Utah district. The people who attended scolded him for not investigating administration corruption, including DDT’s appointment of Michael Flynn for national security adviser. Chaffetz whined about how his constituents in his deep red district were there only to “bully and intimidate” him and called them “paid protesters.” Then he said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018 and might even leave Congress before then. Chaffetz claimed that he wanted to return to the private sector and be with his family. “I started poking around to see what I might be worth and what sort of possibilities are there,” he said in an interview. And then he avoided Congress and his constituents by a month-long leave after foot surgery. Distancing himself from DDT at this time could let him run for governor or even president in 2020.

The House was so desperate for votes on their cruel “repeal and replace” health care bill that Chaffetz showed up on an expensive metallic scooter to cast his vote denying tens of millions of people the same health insurance that he will keep. His district is in the top ten of districts with the most people relying on the Affordable Care Act. Clark’s photograph perfectly presents the GOP cruelty of a “repeal and replace” vote for ACA in the House with the slick, gleeful Chaffetz framed against marble walls and elaborate chandeliers.

With Clinton in the White House, Chaffetz could have stayed gleeful while the Fox network filmed him constantly leading highly visible investigations about Clinton’s conflicts of interests and abuses of power. Like many other Republicans, Chaffetz hasn’t figured out how to work in a government controlled by the GOP. They are accustomed to dealing with opposition in a world where they preen in front of the cameras as victims; they don’t know what to do when the opposition comes from within. Even worse for the Republicans is that the corruption comes their own party—and much of it from their own president.

Stephanie Mencimer writes: “Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.” She explains that “to Chaffetz” means to throw a former mentor under the bus to move ahead, something that people such as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Other Republicans carry Chaffetzing farther. DDT claimed that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had come to DDT asking for Comey’s firing, but people familiar with the occurrence said that DDT summoned the two of them to the White House after he decided to fire Comey. They followed his orders, and DDT tried to put the blame on them when the scheme backfired.

According to over 30 White House officials, however, DDT had become increasingly furious about Comey’s appearing in public, especially to talk about Russian involvement in U.S. politics, especially during the past week. The Washington Post has provided extensive information about events leading up to the firing and such questions as why Sessions was involved in the firing when he recused himself from anything dealing with Clinton’s emails, the ostensible reason for the firing, and Russia, the probably reason behind the firing.

The firing and the GOP support behind him reflects how Chaffetz views his job—that he has sworn allegiance to the Republican party over any loyalty to his country. The question is how long the Republicans will continue to support DDT over their country’s best interests. In an analysis of senators’ responses, only 12 of them actively defended DDT for the firing while another fifteen said that DDT’s actions raised concerns about a lack of information or the timing of the firing. Another 21 senators were vague, likely waiting to see which way they should jump after the dust settles. This is the congressional body responsible for confirming the replacement for Comey. Much to DDT’s amazement, the Democrats were overwhelming angry about the firing because of its apparent intent to stop the investigation into his relationship with Russia.

DDT’s possible business dealings with Russia may be the major issue that emerged from Monday’s Senate hearing and Comey’s firing. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he had any “concern” about a DDT business interest in Russia. Clapper’s ultimate answer upon being pressed is that he could not comment on that question “because that impact an investigation.” That was an open hearing; the Judiciary Committee may pursue the question in closed meetings.  Thus far, there is a murky background to DDT’s Russia business interests that he has denied.

Basically, Chaffetz well represents the Republican leadership—cruel, self-centered, hypocritical, cowardly, dishonest, ignorant, and loyal only to those who can give him something. We’ll watch him to see where he pops up next.

May 8, 2017

Don’t Mess with Our Internet!

 

John Oliver, comedic satirist on HBO who was once on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, closed down the FCC comment website three years ago when he asked people to fight for net neutrality. The people who fought for an open net won, but a new administration led by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and a new FCC chair (Ajit Pai) appointed by DDT want to reverse the freedom to close the net. Last night, Oliver gave a brilliant description that thoroughly explained the situation. By this afternoon, the FCC had received over 100,000 comments.

People are permitted to comment on impending policies, but government websites have become much more convoluted. To simplify a need to wander the government links, Oliver has set a link that leads to making a comment. It’s www.gofccyourself.com which takes you to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/proceedings?q=name:((17-108)). The process is still a bit convoluted. On the screen, press Submit a Filing at the top of the page and then Express Comment. The top box to complete requires the number of the case (17-108). There is also a telephone number to call with comments. (Pai has said that he’s looking at the “quality,” not the “quantity” of comments.)

You can also sign this petition.

Once again, Oliver’s commentary loaded the servers, and the site went down for a while. FCC is rather grumpy about it, blaming the crash on a denial-of-service attack on its website:

“These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host.”

The outcry came from people who wanted to preserve internet rights, the same people who persuaded FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to reclassify internet server providers (ISPs) as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. In that way, companies cannot create “fast lanes” from preferred websites or slow down others because of larger or smaller payments to the ISPs.

Big ISPs have flooded the media with op-ed pieces praising Pai and his intention to get rid of Net Neutrality. Almost every piece came from those who have links to a group getting money from the cable and phone companies trying to bury Net Neutrality. People from these groups provided millions of dollars to these groups whose representatives are trying to persuade the public that they should be controlled by big business ISPs because NTA and CTIA pays them: the Technology Policy Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation, Digital Liberty, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Task Force on Communications & Technology, wrote an April 28 piece for The Hill attacking the Obama administration’s Net Neutrality rules, and the Free State Foundation.

“Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem,” according to ISP officials who typically claim that blocking has never happened. They say the market would prevent blocking by forcing ISPs to reopen their networks. They’re wrong. Here are a few abusive problems in search of a solution:

Madison River:  In 2005, North Carolina ISP Madison River Communications blocked the voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) service Vonage. The FCC stepped in to sanction Madison River and prevent further blocking after Vonage complained, but it lacks the authority to stop this kind of abuse today.

Comcast: In 2005, the nation’s largest ISP, Comcast, began secretly blocking peer-to-peer technologies that its customers were using over its network so that users of services like BitTorrent and Gnutella were unable to connect to these services. Investigations in 2007 confirmed the Comcast action that they did not tell their customers.

Telus: In 2005, Canada’s second-largest telecommunications company began blocking access to a server that hosted a website supporting a labor strike against the company as well as another 766 unrelated sites.

AT&T: From 2007–2009, AT&T forced Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services on the iPhone to keep users from any app allowing them to make calls on such “over-the-top” voice services. The same thing happened to the Google Voice app in 2009.

Windstream: In 2010, this DSL provider with more than 1 million customers confessed to illegally seizing copped user-search queries on the Google toolbar within Firefox and redirected them to Windstream’s own search portal and results.

MetroPCS: In 2011, one of the top-five U.S. wireless carriers announced plans to block streaming video over its 4G network from all sources except YouTube and then supported Verizon’s court challenge against the FCC’s 2010 open internet ruling, hoping to continue its anti-consumer practices.

Paxfire: In 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that several small ISPs were redirecting search queries via the vendor Paxfire which would intercept a search at Bing and Yahoo to redirected it to another page. In that way, the ISPs could collect referral fees for delivering users to select websites.

AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon: From 2011–2013, these three companies blocked Google Wallet, a mobile-payment system, for force users into ISIS, a similar system that the companies had participated in developing.

Europe: A 2012 report from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications found that violations of Net Neutrality affected at least one in five users in Europe.

Verizon: In 2012, Verizon Wireless blocked people from using tethering (sharing) applications on their phones that let users circumvent Verizon’s $20 tethering fee and turn their smartphones into Wi-Fi hot spots. By blocking those applications, Verizon violated a Net Neutrality pledge it made to the FCC as a condition of the 2008 airwaves auction.

AT&T: In 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers’ iPhones unless they subscribed to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.

A court struck down the FCC’s rules in January 2014, and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler opened a public proceeding for a new order in May of that year. Millions of people urged the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, and in February 2015 the agency did just that by voting to regulate high-speed internet service as a utility. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld these net neutrality regulations. Since his appointment in January 2017, FCC Chairman Pai has sought to dismantle the agency’s landmark Net Neutrality rules because cable companies have claimed that they are reliable enough to monitor themselves.

During the court proceedings, Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker freely confessed that the company wanted to prioritize websites and services willing to pay more money and then give them better access. She added that Verizon wants to block online content from companies and individuals not willing to pay enough to her company. Five time she said in court:

“I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

When Judge Laurence Silberman asked if Verizon should be able to block any website or service that doesn’t pay the company’s proposed tolls, Walker said: “I think we should be able to; in the world I’m positing, you would be able to.”

Last month, the GOP Congress took away online privacy protections by overturning FCC’s Title II net neutrality broadband privacy order. ISPs can now sell personal information about their subscribers. Major providers are pledging to protect customers’ data, including browsing data, but they haven’t provided any definition of that they supposedly won’t be selling. And Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T plan to deliver ads “based on the websites visited by people who are not personally identified”—which means that they are collecting your browsing data. In a filing to the FCC earlier this year, CTIA, representing the major wireless ISPs, argued that “web browsing and app usage history are not ‘sensitive information'” and that ISPs should be able to share those records by default, unless a customer asks them not to.

To a complaint about the lack of privacy, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), 73, said, “Nobody’s got to use the internet.” GOP politicians are out of touch with the voters in many ways, especially because staffers do most of their work. Even DDT, known for his prolific tweets, refuses to use email most of the time. Assistants print out online articles for him to read from hardcopy. DDT supposedly wants to roll back net neutrality—most likely because he wants to roll back any progress by President Obama—but most likely he has no idea what net neutrality is.

Naysayers claim that protesting will do no good. Pai is using “jobs” as his excuse to give more money to big ISPs although they invested more money with net neutrality than before it. An open meeting on the topic is scheduled for May 18.

May 7, 2017

DDT’s Executive Order: ‘Religious Bigotry’

Many conservatives are unhappy with the “religious liberty” order that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed last Thursday: they wanted more discrimination. They don’t believe DDT when he declared to dozens of Judeo-Christian leaders in the Rose Garden ceremony that the “threat against the faith community is over.” Instead, they think that his executive order is useless at best and harmful at worst—sort of like most of his other vague orders. In the National Review, David French called the order “constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect.” He added, “[DDT] should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.” Meaning that it can’t be used for discrimination.

An earlier draft of the order leaked in February was twice the length of the final one and described as “staggering” and “sweeping,” one which could be challenged in the courts. After last week’s signing, the ACLU called it nothing more than an “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

Conservative criticisms of DDT’s executive order:

The order’s declaration that the executive branch will “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”: Complaint – the state only repeats that the government should enforce existing laws.

The directive to the Treasury Department to not enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment from 1954 banning nonprofit religious institutions from endorsing political candidates and parties: Complaint – as law, the Amendment requires a change in Congress or the courts. Also, permission to be involved in politics could encourage churches to elect progressive candidates. Orders are good only as long as presidents support them; a future president could reverse the directive.

Instructions to government agencies to “consider issuing amended regulation” to address “conscience-based objections” to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate: Complaint – That’s already happened with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. The contraception mandate stays on the books, and lawsuits are flooding the courts.

A pledge to “provide regulatory relief”: Complaint – This “promise” is so vague as to mean nothing in law.

Far-right anger to DDT’s executive order:

Brian Brown (left) of the National Organization for Marriage and World Congress for Families denounced the president for his “failure to directly fulfill his repeated campaign promises” and then asked for money.

Bryan Fischer told listeners of his American Family Association radio show that it’s “ultra-liberal” Ivanka Trump’s fault because she “likely leaked the February draft to a liberal rag (The Nation) in order to stir up enough intense outrage from the LGBT community to strangle this baby in the cradle.”

Troy Newman, president of anti-abortion Operation Rescue emailed, “We are really feeling betrayed right now.”

The ACLU may go to court yet. Far-right radio host Todd Starnes reassured his listeners that the order gives anti-LGBTQ, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions a directive to write—in DDT’s words—“new rules” for the purpose of religious discrimination. A case in point is proposed Texas law echoing one in South Dakota that prevents the state from punishing adoption agencies that deny LGBTQ families services and child placement for “religious” reasons. If it passes, Texas state- and private-funded agencies could reject potential parents seeking to adopt children with such “religious objects” to couples’ being Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, single, or interfaith couples. Five other states already have this law, but only for faith-based adoption organizations that do not accept government funding. If the Texas law passes, agencies can also reject people who want to foster children, and child welfare organizations can force LGBTQ children to have so-called “conversion therapy,” to “take away the gay.”

Once again, after losing the voter ID law, Texas could go to court for not treating all people equally. This time, however, they have Jeff Sessions who translates the constitutional separation of church and state as prohibiting the favoring of one Christian church over another. He thinks that the First Amendment does not stop establishing Christianity as the national religion.

Christian protection for conservatives by DDT’s Christian order comes from its encouragement to break the law by telling the IRS to violate the Johnson Amendment and not penalize churches for political candidate endorsements and donations. In more “normal” times, these churches and other faith-based nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates or donating to their campaigns, but Sessions most likely won’t be doing this. The order, however, exempts only nonprofit religious nonprofits and churches; other nonprofits will still be prohibited from political endorsements and donations.

Federal law also requires that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraceptives at no cost to the employee unless the organizations—or “religious” corporations—obtain government exemptions. Sessions will probably not force this requirement. The IRS is already breaking the law by not collecting fees from people refusing to purchase health insurance. Again the Justice Department, headed by Sessions, is responsible for enacting the laws of the land.

While the media has concentrated on LGBTQ losses, the order and Sessions interpretations could negatively impact at least half the people in the United States . In addition to losing birth control, female employees of all “religious” organizations and corporations could lose all forms of preventative care—screenings for sexually transmitted infection, IV, and domestic violence along with well-woman visits. Any business could refuse to hire women or pay them less, based on its “religious convictions.”

With the wealthiest Cabinet in history, DDT has put the icing on the cake for corporations who joined religious groups in the 1930s to fight President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For decades, the United States leveled out the financial playing field by developing a middle class that enjoyed the 40-hour workweek, lack of child labor, environmental protection, work safety laws, rural health care, and education. Unions, a safety net, and higher taxes for the wealthiest reigned until corporations used evangelicals as a front to elect Ronald Reagan. Princeton scholar Kevin Kruse has described the corporate historical background in his book One Nation under God as the country continues to be more and more extremist. As Rev. William J. Barber II, creator of Moral Mondays fighting against the immoral political excesses in North Carolina, wrote about DDT’s signing of his executive order:

“If today is the fulfillment of the corporatists’ National Day of Prayer, it may also be its undoing. The God of justice hears the cries of those this executive order targets, along with the prayers of all who suffer under this administration. A religious liberty that gives license for discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community is nothing more than lust for power dressed up in a thinning religious garb. The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency has inspired a moral resistance that is not going away, but is building a movement that will bend the arc of our common life toward justice for years to come. This, too, is an answer to prayer. And it may yet save the heart of our democracy.”

Barber said that the executive order is not about religious liberty. “It’s about religious bigotry.”

Public Citizen, a group that favors strict campaign finance limits, plans to bring a lawsuit against the order in court because churches and other religious charities that do not disclose their donors could be used to launder dark money. Its president said, “This executive order may go down in history as the Citizens United of church/state separation in the context of political spending.” Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition. “Politicians could funnel untold sums of money into churches, and it would all be completely untraceable.”

DDT may have pleased no one. Even worse for the evangelicals, however, might be a backlash from those who don’t want to hear political speeches in about candidates when they go to their house of worship. The past decade has seen the biggest growth of “nones,” especially those among the younger generation who have no affiliation to organized religion. Almost 30 percent of those who left disapprove of religious homophobia, another 16 percent claim their churches became too political, and 19 percent cited clergy sex abuse scandal in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Ninety percent of evangelical leaders think that pastors should not endorse candidates, and 72 percent support the Johnson Amendment. Even 66 percent of DDT-voters want the amendment left as is. Instead DDT is promoting the controlling authoritarianism of religion that many people—except the white men surrounding him—don’t like.

One piece of temporary joy for the day. Frances’s DDT imitator, Marie Le Pen, lost the election to Emmanuel Macron, despite the last-minute drop of negative information about him for “unknown” (aka Russian?) hackers. As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, one more reason for the French to declare their superiority over the United States.

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