Nel's New Day

January 31, 2017

Supreme Court Nominee, Lack of Independent Judiciary

Republicans said last year that no Democratic president would ever put a justice on the Supreme Court, starting with their refusal to vet President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, nominated almost one year before the end of the president’s term. Today Donald Trump (DT) drew attention away from his Muslim ban on entering the U.S. by his appointment for this position.Supreme Court nominees can be filibustered unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changes the rule to a simple majority.

DT’s nominee: Neil Gorsuch, 49, judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covering six Western states; the son of perhaps the most corrupt head of the Environmental Protection Agency in its history; attends Episcopalian church; appointed by George W. Bush in 2006; would be the most conservative judge on the court except for Clarence Thomas; opposes assisted suicide, legal in six states, because “human life is intrinsically valuable”; sided with Hobby Lobby in viewing contraception as immoral and defunding Planned Parenthood; falsely described birth control drugs and devices as having the effect of “destroying a fertilized human egg”; believes that business owners have religious liberty claims over their employees’ statutory right to access preventive health care; favors Christian religious expression in public spaces; endorses lack of gun safety laws; opposes agency regulatory power to consolidate power within the judiciary; is originalist, interpreting the Constitution as it was understood at the time it was adopted; opposes using the court for social reform; endangers labor and environmental protections, immigrants, and criminal defendants; most likely supports “religious liberty” to escape anti-discrimination laws; co-founded the ultra-conservative publication The Federalist; wants police to be immune from lawsuit for official actions unless “clearly established” law is violated.

In short, Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice would reward corporations and the Koch brothers and penalize voters, workers, women, and the planet. The question is whether DT appointed Gorsuch because the Democrats will filibuster against him and then go with Thomas Hardiman. Another question is how this nomination connects with the Department of Justice.

In his campaigns, Donald Trump (DT) promised to protect the U.S. Constitution. On Day Seven of his presidency, he issued a Muslim ban that violates up to three constitutional amendments, and on Day Ten he fired Sally Yates a few hours after the Acting Attorney General upheld the Constitution. DT claimed that she “betrayed the Department of Justice” and made the country less safe.

The last president to fire an Attorney General was Richard Nixon when Richard Nixon, who fired his AG and Deputy AG in the “Saturday Night Massacre” because they denied his order to dismiss the Watergate Special Prosecutor. Yates replacement is Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, until Senate confirms a person for AG. He said that he would order the DOJ to defend DT’s Muslim ban. At this time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is being reviewed by the complete U.S. Senate.

In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, Yates stated that the DOJ must take positions in court that “remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand up for what is right.” She also pointed out that the DOJ’s mission is to defend and uphold the Constitution based on established legal precedents. Almost a year ago, she wrote a memo to employees that they must “ensure that politics does not compromise the integrity of our work.”

Concluding that DT’s Muslim ban failed to meet basic constitutional and moral tests, she said she would not assign federal attorneys to show up in court to defend the policy in court. The New York judge granting a temporary restraining order stopping the ban declared that it was likely unconstitutional.

During her 27 years with the DOJ, Yates prosecuted “numerous white-collar fraud and political corruption matters.” She was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General with 85 votes in 2015. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said:

“I supported her nomination, both in Committee and today in the full Senate, and I hope that she will show independence as she provides leadership at the Department. As she told us during her hearing, she is aware that her client is, ‘The people of the United States… not the President… not the Congress, it’s the people of the United States.’”

Sessions, now an anti-Constitution nominee for AG, supported Yates positions:

“Well. you have to watch out, because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say ‘no’ about. Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? [„,] If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

Yates answered that the AG or Deputy AG had the responsibility to follow the law and the Constitution with “independent legal advice to the president.” Sessions followed up:

 “Like any CEO, with a law firm — sometimes the lawyers have to tell the CEO: ‘Mr. CEO, you can’t do that. Don’t do that. We’ll get us sued. It’s going to be in violation of the law. You’ll regret it, please.’ No matter how headstrong they might be. Do you feel like that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office?”

Yates agreed with the 2015 Sessions by saying, “I do believe that that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office, to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and to provide the president and the administration with impartial legal advice.” The year 2017 has a very different president, and Sessions, if confirmed for AG, plans to support the president who lacks respect for the document that Republicans promise to revere.

White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, defended the Muslim ban by citing the tragic attack on a Quebec mosque that killed six people and wounded another eight but made no reference that this was an attack on Muslims. The alleged attacker on the Muslims was Alexandre Bissonnette, a pro-Trump white French Canadian who was known for making anti-immigrant and misogynist remarks. Justin Trudeau accurately called it a terrorist attack on Muslims. Yet the Fox network and the Gab messaging service misinformation insisted on identifying a man of Moroccan descent as a suspect and not a witness.

Another DT defense of the Muslim ban is the attack in San Bernadino by Tashfeen Malick on a K1 visa. Malik was from a wealthy Pakistan family and later moved to Saudi Arabia; neither country is on DT’s list of banned countries. Her husband, who participated in the attack, was a U.S. citizen.

Asked about the five-year-old Iranian boy detained over the weekend in response to DT’s new Muslim ban, Spicer replied, “To assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be wrong.” An 11-month-old baby, a U.S. citizen, was separated from the mother, a legal permanent resident who the Muslim ban tried to deport. The mother was kept from breastfeeding her child.

The press secretary also lied in his references to President Obama’s 2011 policy temporarily delaying visas for Iraqis. And Homeland Security and border patrol officials ignored court orders to release the detainees or even let lawyers see them.

DT also moved James Ragsdale, the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to his former position with no explanation. He was replaced with Thomas Homan,  “deporter in chief” who deported at least 920,000 people and “spearheaded the management and reform of the largest civil detention system in the nation” by adding detention beds. An executive order signed by Mr. Trump last week calls for tripling the number of deportation agents. DT has now indicated that he intends to emphasize Homan’s harsh enforcement measures.

The possible confirmation of Jeff Sessions as AG is a continuing constitutional crisis exemplified by the firing of Sally Yates. White supremacist Steve Bannon said that he and Sessions are at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” and the global nationalist phenomenon. Bannon claims that the nation is “witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.” Sessions has refused to recuse himself from any investigations into DT, his family, his aides, his conflicts of interest—anything that would challenge DT. And he’ll have the support of the white supremacists.

DT’s firing Yates goes far beyond unconstitutionality of the Muslim ban to raise questions about his commitment to the Constitution and the law of the land. He has said that federal district judge, Gonzalo Curiel, could not properly adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because his parents were born in Mexico. DT would “instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look” into Hillary Clinton if he got elected and suggested he would break the law by waterboarding terrorism suspects.

Firing Yates also raises questions about DT’s relationship with the judiciary, which is intended to be an independent government branch. Did DT require commitments from his new nominees, Sessions and Gorsuch? Would he directly contact them about personal complaints? Or push them toward decisions that he wants?

The United States may be in the midst of a coup, “a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel”–a massive power grab by people who hate the rule of law.

January 29, 2017

Protesters Gather over Muslim Ban

Filed under: Donald Trump,Religion — trp2011 @ 8:44 PM
Tags: , , , ,

protest-boston-copley-squareThe women’s march was only a week ago, and now thousands of protesters, such as the ones in Boston’s Copley Square above, have gathered in opposition to President Donald Trump’s (PDT) ban on Muslims coming into the United States. PDT’s order, written by white supremacist Steve Bannon, bars all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and all Muslims from seven Middle East countries for 90 days. Although PDT staffer Reince Priebus denied on Meet the Press that the ban is also on legal U.S. residents who hold green cards, these people have also been retained. The order states that they will need a case-by-case waiver to enter the country. Especially notable about the order is that is poorly written and was not vetted by any legal members of the PDT administration.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, called the ban “a dark moment in U.S. history,” citing the need for suffering people to save their lives by seeking refuge. Cupich wrote:

“The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.”

PDT has denied that his ban has anything to do with religion:

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion.”

trumpYet PDT’s order clearly identifies that refugee claims are for “religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” All seven countries’ majority religion is Islam; thus the ban clearly favors Christian refugees and violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment prohibiting one religion over another. Equal protection is also covered in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. PDT is following his campaign promise of calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and his admission that he would pretend the ban would be a neutral immigration restriction. Another argument for overturning PDT’s ban is the violation of a federal law forbidding discrimination based on national origin in the immigration system.

Within the first 23 hours of the ban, at least 375 people were impacted before U.S. District Court judge Ann M. Donnelly of Brooklyn issued an emergency order last night, halting the deportations. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of those banned, which Donnelly said is likely to succeed when a full trial is held in several weeks. Several other federal courts also issued similar stays. Rulings in four other cities are limited to those already at U.S. airports or in transit, not to the legality of PDT’s ban.

A federal judge ordered the DHS to allow an Iranian man holding a U.S. visa to return to California from Dubai where he was awaiting removal to Iran. Judge Dolly Gee found that PDT’s ban “violates the Establishment Clause, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and his rights to Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Yet many people are still in airport detention. After issuing the ban, PDT provided no guidance to airports or airlines about actions, other than confirming that the ban will not be lifted. Canadian Prime Minister has offered to take any refugees holding green cards who are banned in the U.S.

PDT counselor Kellyanne Conway, promoter of PDT’s “alternative facts” on Meet the Press a week ago, hid on the Fox network today and still had a meltdown about the horrible press that prints information about the new president. Describing reporters, she said:

“We turn the other cheek. If you are part of team Trump, you walk around with these gaping, seeping wounds every single day…. I’m here every Sunday morning. I haven’t slept in a month.”

[Turn the other cheek? Gaping wounds? A comparison to Jesus?]

Conway was fortunate in her interview: Chris Wallace failed to point out that the ban most likely violates international treaties, federal statutes, and the U.S. Constitution. Yet she couldn’t even handle that situation.

Arguments from the PDT team are that the ban promotes safety at the cost of a small convenience. But bans on the basis of nationality or religion can be disastrous to national security. It can undermine efforts of security agencies and erode relationships necessary to fight terror.  Iran has already accused Congress of violating its agreement after lawmakers put new sanctions on the country last month. The ban will accelerate hostilities in a fragile relationship: Iran’s Foreign Ministry has called PDT’s order “an insult to the Islamic world, and especially to the great nation of Iran.” According to the statement:

“The decision of the Government of the United States incorporates certain requests that are illegal, illogical, and contrary to international law. The Islamic Republic of Iran will carefully examine and legally pursue any negligence or violation of the international obligations of the United States under bilateral and multilateral agreements and reserves the right to respond as necessary.”

A Bipartisan Policy Center report pointed out that the result can be reciprocal bans against U.S. citizens and commerce, costing the nation billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The Iraqi parliament is already contemplating a block on visas for people from the U.S. who want to travel to the country.

Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich called the immigration “ham-handed” because it “sowed so much confusion” among international travelers and “sent a message that somehow the United States was looking sideways at Muslims.” He added, “In probably many Arab capitals today, people are like, ‘What is America doing?’ ”

Showing that public outcry can be effective, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly issued a blanket waiver to immigrants holding green cards or entitled to permanent residence in the U.S., allowing them to enter the country, despite President Trump’s new executive order. But the damage to the nation’s reputation is already done. There’s no going back. World War III, anyone?

January 28, 2017

Women’s March Affects Entire World, All Ages

I couldn’t stop laughing! A poll shows that Republican males believe that their lives are harder than those of women. Men make more money for the same work, have a far less chance of rape, don’t have their reproductive rights attacked, and do far more housework than men while holding a full-time job, but white men are the “low people on the totem pole” and “everybody else is above the white man,” according to an 81-year-old retired police captain. He complained that “everything in general is in favor of a woman. No matter what happens in life, it seems like the man’s always at fault.”

In this survey taken after the election, only 41 percent of GOP men think now is a good time to be a man. Although one-third of women feel unsafe because of their gender, only 20 percent of men understand that women feel this way. Thirty percent of women frequently feel sexually objectified, but again only 20 percent of men think that women feel this way. Benevolent sexism–the “negative consequences of attitudes that idealize women as pure, moral, pedestal-worthy objects of men’s adoration, protection and provision”–is rampant among men. With their bias of gender roles, 69 percent of men think that women should be protected, and 47 percent believe that women are more ethical and moral. At least 43 percent of parents reported that the election made them teach their children about sexual assault and consent, something President Donald Trump (PDT) was evidently not taught.

One week ago, millions of people throughout the world marched for women’s rights, and some conservative males weren’t happy.

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel: “So a group of unhappy liberal women marched in Washington DC. We shouldn’t be surprised; almost all liberal women are unhappy. Perhaps there’s a correlation. But I do have a question: if they can afford all those piercings, tattoos, body paintings, signs, and plane tickets, then why do they want us to pay for their birth control?”

Indiana state Sen. Jack Sandlin: “In one day Trump got more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.”

Nebraska state Sen. Bill Kintner: A retweeting of LA talk show host Larry Elder mocking a photo of three women with signs protesting PDT’s comments about his personal sexual assault was capped by Kintner’s statement, “Ladies, I think you’re safe.”

Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt: About his support to make abortion completely illegal, “Right now, it’s real easy. Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

Michael Flynn Jr., son of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to women: “What MORE do you want? Free mani/pedis?”

Atlantic County (NJ) GOP Freeholder John Carman: “Will the women’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?”

PDT: “Why didn’t these people vote?”

march-small-compare-2

inaug-small-compare

 

 

 

 

 

According to the New York Times, the women’s January 21, 2017 march on Washington, D.C. had 470,000 people (above left), three times the 160,000 who attended PDT’s inauguration the day before (above right).

inauguration-comparison

Crowd scientists were comfortable with the number for the inauguration, but thought that the number of people attending women’s march could be much larger because it was more sprawling and fluid—maybe as many as one million. They explained that PDT might have assumed that his crowd was larger because he could see only the front third of the crowd. Scientists monitored seven life feeds all day from a variety of perspectives. President Obama’s 2009 inauguration audience (above left) will continue to be the largest history. (Below: women’s march in Washington, D.C.)

Texas-based Southwest Airlines illuminated some of their cabins with a glowing support of the Women’s March. Pink is the “unofficial” color worn and used in support of Planned Parenthood.

 

antarctica-protestThe protest went as far as Antarctica. (right)

march-childEven a four-year-old girl participated.

 

 

 

 

The women’s march was arguably the largest in U.S. history; numbers keep rising up to 5 million—over one percent of the country’s population—which doesn’t count many of the protesters from the hundreds of small cities and towns in every state across the nation.

map-march

In Stanley, Idaho (population of 63), almost half the town—30 people—protested. I’m proud to say that my small town of 10,000 had at least 1,600 people turning out for its “Stronger Together March.”

march-city-hall

And of course, Portland (OR) did us proud. (Photo below by Ann Hubbard)

march-crowd

leaviing-melanie-behindJust as PDT leaves his wife behind, he plans to ignore the women in the United States.

 

Despite claims made by conservatives that women are fat and ugly and shallow, that they don’t need financial help, that white men are at the bottom of humanity, “this is what democracy looks like!” Keep in mind that women make up over half the population in the United States. We think, care, work, and vote.

march-washington-dc

January 27, 2017

PDT: Week One

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
Tags: , ,

President Donald Trump (PDT) spent his first week as usual, diverting people’s attention from his destruction of the country by whining about media coverage of the crowds at his inauguration (much smaller than other inaugurations) and the majority of the popular vote for Hillary Clinton (lying about voter fraud). His MO is to keep people from noticing what he’s really doing.

To avoid falling into that trap, I’ve put together a few of his actions during his first week. You can sign up for continuing weekly summaries from Think Progress to keep posted on what PDT hides under his blustering, shallow complaints. Or as Bill Maher calls it, “The war on facts.”

trump-pen

An order to “ease the burdens” of the Affordable Care Act. This includes elimination of advertising that encourages people to enroll in health insurance before the cutoff date of January 31, this upcoming Tuesday. [Note: audio from the GOP meeting in Philadelphia show that congressional Republicans are terrified of losing the Affordable Care Act.]

A reinstatement of the “global gag rule.” Federal funding will be banned for all international organizations providing information to women regarding abortion services–just like in every other GOP administration.

Executive memoranda to move the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines forward. PDT has a good reason for expediting environmental checks to ignore pipeline problems: he owns stock in the companies building these pipelines.

Executive orders about immigration. PDT is threatening “sanctuary cities” with federal funding cuts and publishing a weekly list of undocumented immigrants committing crimes. He also plans to build additional detention centers and continue plans to “build the wall.” Because Mexico refuses to pay the $25 billion for the wall—despite promises from PDT—he promises to charge a 20-percent tariff on goods coming from Mexico, in essence making people in the United States pay for the wall through increased prices. PDT has a draft of his order stopping refugee resettlement and stopping travel from Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. These quickly prepared orders, spearheaded by senior policy advisory and chief strategist, white supremacist Steve Bannon—are most likely unenforceable and illegal.

Removal of the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP.

Doubling of initiation fees at the PDT-owned Mar-a-Lago and a tripling of PDT-branded hotels throughout the nation. Profits from these increased costs and expansion of hotels will go directly to PDT.

Elimination of a money-saving fee for new homeowners: PDT voided President Obama’s mortgage cost reduction, a .25 percent cut to federal mortgage insurance that would have saved first-time and lower-income home buyers about $500 a year.

 Drone strikes in Yemen. 

Promises to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If carried out, this action will likely stop any possibility of peace between Israel and Palestine.

Selection of John Gore for DOJ deputy assistant attorney general. In civil rights cases, Gore has only defended people accused of violating civil rights laws.

Declaration of a “war on the press.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer selected “reporters” from outlets that publish “alternative facts” (fake news) and PDT praise before mainstream outlets such as AP. Conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones claims his site Infowars was offered White House press credentials. White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon said that the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut.” According to Bannon, the media’s role is to just “listen.”

Support for only two of 36 “Day One” promises from the campaign trail. PDT created a moratorium on new regulations and a federal hiring freeze, increasing costs and reducing transparency. His lie in this statement was that he wanted to stop the massive increases of federal hiring during the time of President Obama, an increase from 2.7 million to 2.8 million people. He has another 661 promises to go.

Continued nomination of Andy Puzder. His CKE Restaurants received 33 more legal complaints from workers on Thursday, including four allegations of sexual harassment, 22 complaints about wage and hour violations, and seven unfair labor practices charges.

A diverse cabinet. PDT promised that his cabinet would “absolutely” look like America, including at least one Hispanic person who is Hispanic. The billionaires he selected are mostly white and male.

Pay for play. PDT selected New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to serve as ambassador to the UK, contrary to his promise not to appoint political donors to negotiate with other countries.

Promotion of “alternative facts.” Kellyanne Conway, PDT’s counselor, introduced the term now commonly used for PDT’s lies.

“America First.” PDT’s isolationist statement during his inauguration supports the anti-Semitic organization opposing U.S. involvement in World War II.

Erasure of science. PDT put a freeze on all EPA grants and contracts; banned agencies from communicating with the public, including a social media blackout for the Department of Energy’s renewable energy team); and briefly banned the Department of Agriculture from publishing research until public outcry forced this ban to be overturned.

Crackdown on protesters. At least six journalists are facing felony charges resulting in at least ten years in prison if they are convicted after they were filming protesters at the inauguration. This is after a Trump supporter who shot a protester in the abdomen has been released without charges.  GOP lawmakers in ten different states want to criminalize peaceful protests.

Targets on blue states. PDT has declared an investigation on “large states”—specifically California and New York—to find those three million undocumented immigrants who he claims voted illegally. (PDT must not consider Texas to be a “large state.”) Corrected for citing a Pew report that actually found no voter fraud, PDT accused the author of “groveling” instead of admitting he was wrong.

Control of Voice of America broadcasts: PDT can now use this State Department-run agency as his own personal propaganda network.

Martial law in Chicago. PDT’s “alternative facts” claim that the city is a place of “horrible carnage” and that two people were shot and killed there while the former president gave his farewell address on January 10. (Police stated that there were no fatal shootings on January 10 and no shootings at all during President Obama’s speech.)

Demands for more photos of Washington, D.C. from inauguration. PDT demanded new photos from the National Park Service director to give the idea that the crowd watching him matched his falsely inflated numbers.

Standing ovation at the CIA. PDT’s claim that he received a “standing ovation” from CIA members last Saturday meant that he didn’t understand they couldn’t sit down unless they had his permission.

Moving to reopen “black site” prisons. Because PDT believes that “torture … works,” he plans to have a place where this can happen—even after his new secretary of defense, James Mattis, got confirmed because he promised that the U.S. would not resort to torture.

Muzzling agencies. Agency employees were told to stop communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts, and correspondence.

Roll back fuel economy standards.

Blocking regulations. All regulations not formally published in the Federal Register have been frozen. These 62+ regs include a cancellation of sanctions against Burma and rules to give military spouses preferences in federal hiring, mistreatment of horses, and streamlining income tests for federally-subsidized housing. One that frequent fliers might find interesting is the withdrawal of a rule to inspect aircraft fuselages for cracks.”

Blocking Canadian border. Canadians were denied entrance to the U.S. because they honestly replied to the question of whether they were “pro-Trump or anti-Trump.”

Pillage countries for oil and other resources. The most frightening statement from last week is that U.S. will have another chance to keep the oil from Iraq. “To the victor belong the spoils,” PDT said. ISIL is now using his statement in recruitment videos, and military stationed in the Middle East are much less safe.

A recap of some of PDT’s lies in the past week.

PDT and other Republicans bitterly complained about President Obama “constantly” issuing executive orders “that are major power grabs of authority”—the tyrannical danger of the White House making policy without Congress. Tyranny has arrived.

It’s the end of the first week for the new president. Notable is that he is less popular than “Obamacare.”

January 15, 2017

U.S. Moving toward Nazism?

During his press conference last week, Donald Trump (DT) referred to himself as a victim, like six million murdered Jews, of Nazi-like tactics. His whining came from a leak describing about his alleged compromising behavior that may have given the Russians control over his actions. DT said:

“I think [the leak is] a disgrace…, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

That was before Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right National Front leader and advocate of ethnically cleansing France of Muslim immigrants, visited Trump Tower. DT’s team said that they didn’t meet with her, but they have also said that people should pay attention to “comes out of his mouth.”

DT is right about a similarity to the Nazi movement, but the behavior is coming from himself and the other Republicans as they oppose everyone except white male Christians. An example is their opposition to Planned Parenthood. For example, the GOP Congress has a prime goal to remove the $500 in federal funds from payments and grants, about 40 percent of PP’s budget in providing annual health checkups, screenings for diseases, and contraceptives for about 2.5 million people.

Alfred Rosenberg, a chief Nazi ideologue, said:

“The emancipation of women from the women’s emancipation movement is the first demand of a female generation trying to rescue nation and race, the eternally unconscious, the foundation of all civilization, from decline…. [O]ne thing must be made clear: Only a man must be and remain judge, soldier, and politician.”

Concerning same-gender rights, the Nazis extended Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code:

“Unnatural vice committed by two persons of the male sex or by people with animals is to be punished by imprisonment; the verdict may also include the loss of civil rights.”

Nazi ideology was based on their belief that gay men lowered the German birth rate; endangered, recruited, enticed, and corrupted youth; are “potential oppositionists” and enemies of respectable society; and bring the “decline of social community.” Nazis complained that gay men couldn’t fight in the war because, according to Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler, they were “like women.”

Lesbians weren’t rejected in Nazi Germany because Nazis expected that “Aryan” lesbians could produce children for them. A Nazi focus was on procreation of the “white race,” perhaps a reason that the GOP wants to prevent contraception for women.

Himmler ran surveillance operations on 90,000 men he suspected to being homosexual, arrested 50,000 of them, and sent 15,000 to concentration camps where most of them didn’t survive. His national file included not only gay men but also transgender people and “wage abortionists” (women who had abortions and the doctors who performed them). In 1938 alone, the Nazis arrested 28,366 people for abortions and 28,882 for homosexuality.

Hitler also wanted to eliminate all sex education in public schools. The goal of all this control was to control minds through controlling people’s bodies. In the world of male domination, “othered” bodies such as female, LGBT, and disabled people matter less in reproducing and maintaining the dominant patriarchal system. Non-European-heritage people also fit into the “othered” classification because they are inferior to “white” bodies.

DT has promised to sign proposed religious exemption laws to discriminate against LGBT people, including allowing federal employees to refuse the processing of benefits and claims if they object. The danger is exacerbated by potential power of VP-elect Mike Pence who declares himself “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” While governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law, similar to the one proposed for the entire nation, that legalized discrimination against same-gender couples. He did so in the company of the state’s Christian Right leadership, showing himself as one of the movement’s leaders.

A co-sponsor of the “religious” discrimination law, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is also the nominee for U.S. Attorney General and would be in charge of the nation’s maintenance of law if he were confirmed. A headline for HuffPo read, “Pick Any LGBTQ Rights Issue. Jeff Sessions Has Voted Against It.”

Another supporter of the “religious” law against LGBT people as well as co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-gender marriage is Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Members of DT’s hand-picked transition team such as Ken Blackwell, Ken Klukowski, and Ed Meese agree with this position.

In his Senate hearing as nominee for Secretary of HUD, Ben Carson, also a Christian Right leader, opposed “special rights” for LGBT people who he identified with polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of Education who wants to eliminate public education, is a wealthy contributor to Christian Right projects.

Another Nazi position was to control the press. This restriction on the “fourth estate” in the United States was evident at DT’s recent press conference when he shouted down a reporter asking a question before his press secretary told the reporter that he could be banned if he dared ask a question.

A strong supporter for DT following his treatment of the journalist is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said, “Mr. Trump put the reporter of that media group in his place there.” Turkey is 149th out of 180 countries in press freedom, and the country, where journalists face violence, intimidation, and harassment, has controlled journalism through strict laws.

The only people not targeted for extreme hate in DT’s regime are white Christians, and his campaign was anti-Semitic. DT’s senior advisor for the White House is a white supremacist who has been compared by Europeans to Hitler’s senior advisor and propaganda chief Josef Goebbels. Jewish people are being targeted throughout the United States with swastikas painted on their property.

trump-brownshirts

Trump supporters planned an armed protest against “Jews, Jewish businesses, and anyone who supports them” in Whitefish (MT) tomorrow, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Their “news site” of the Daily Stormer was the first to endorse Trump; the official KKK was the second. Both want to make American white and Christian. The march has been postponed because of an “incomplete permit,” but they haven’t given up their plans.

DT may also model his policies after Russia that has identified an “othered” class by its vote last week to decriminalize domestic violence. Abusers wouldn’t face criminal charges although they might have to pay a fine or do some community service. If the victim is not hospitalized or forced to take a leave of absence from work, the Russian punishment for assault would be determined “administrative.”  The vote was 368 in favor, one opposed, and one abstaining. Yelena Mizulina, known for her anti-LGBT propaganda law, crafted the domestic abuse bill.

Domestic violence laws have not existed in Russia, and Russian law doesn’t permit restraining orders from domestic abuse victims. The Russian Supreme Court has declared that people causing intrafamily violence can be criminally charged, but this bill becoming law would change that ruling. Another problem with the bill is that corporal punishment for children is popular in Russia.  Mizulina said that “the law should support that family tradition” of “the authority of the parents’ power.” Women, covered under the proposed law, are victims in three-fourths of the domestic violence, and almost 40 Russian women die from their husbands’ attacks every day—frequently from alcoholism.

DT has committed domestic abuse as has at least one of his Cabinet nominees.

Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps said:

“There is the assumption that by bullying corporations, such as Ford, and stepping into aid other corporations, such as Google, the Trump administration can achieve various objectives that will widely boost output and employment. But this is an expansion of corporatist policy of a kind not previously seen since the German and Italian economies of the 1930s.”

Although progressives have struggled to keep away from comparisons between the GOP and the Nazi government, the far-right movement of Republicans has gone close to the edge in their opposition to legalization of abortion, equal pay for equal work, marriage equality, transgender people’s access to public facilities, LGBT military inclusion, other LGBT rights, and many other restrictions on the people in the United States.

Looking at the Nazi government leading up to World War II has lessons for the future on the results of anti-feminist, anti-women’s equality, anti-women’s reproductive freedoms (anti-family planning, anti-contraception, anti-abortion), anti-lesbian, anti-gay, anti-bisexual, anti-transgender, anti-gender nonconforming, anti-sexuality education in schools. As DT’s childish tantrums continue, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the comparisons, especially when he compares his own intelligence agencies to Nazis.

January 14, 2017

GOP Health Care Plan: Take from the Poor, Give to the Rich

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:17 PM
Tags: , ,

Without a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 24 million people who gained health insurance under the law may lose it. Donald Trump (DT) has promised that no one will lose any health insurance, but GOP members of the Congress aren’t backing up his guarantee.

While the Republicans plan to take health care from the poor, they give tax cuts to the rich. The top 1 percent of earners would get an average tax cut of $33,000 if the ACA is repealed, and those in the top 0.1 percent would get an average cut of $197,000. Repealing ACA’s taxes removes the 0.9 percent Medicare payroll surtax on wages above $200,000 ($150 billion) and the 3.8 percent surtax on investment income above the same threshold ($250 billion). That $800 billion increase in the deficit is about half the loss.

Another quarter of the revenue loss comes from repealing various fees on insurance companies, medical device companies, and drug manufacturers. About $450 billion of the $1.10 trillion of costs in repealing the ACA’s Medicare comes from reversing Medicare Advantage cuts. Another $500 billion would come from ending reductions in the growth of provider payments in fee-for-service Medicare. This is just for future cuts. If past cuts are reversed, about $200 billion to $250 billion more would be lost. In addition, Paul Ryan is struggling to pay for his planned $6 trillion tax cut for the wealthy.

Major losers from an ACA repeal are small business owners. With self-employed people, they represent 50 percent out of ACA customers.

While the GOP wants to repeal the ACA within a month, DT said at a news conference Wednesday in New York City that a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would wait until after Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price of Georgia wins confirmation.

But the chairman of a key committee involved in both repeal-replace and confirming Price said his confirmation may not take place until around the President’s Day recess in February. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also doesn’t want to make decisions until he consults with governors who will be in town around Presidents’ Day. Several GOP governors are joining Democrats to oppose the repeal.

health-chart

As Republicans blithely refer to Obamacare repeal, they probably don’t know how many people are covered by the ACA. The above chart shows the health status of people in the U.S. a year ago. Since then, Medicaid has increased from 71 million to about 74.4 million, largely from Louisiana expanding the program.

  • Green sections covering 46 percent of the nation are for government employees, including the military.
  • Orange sections are for Medicare—also threatened—plus Medicaid Advantage and Disability (under 65 years old).
  • Burgundy sections are NON-ACA Medicaid: Adults, Children and CHIP.
  • Blue sections are the greatest areas impacted by the ACA: Medicaid/CHIP expansion, the subsidized individual market exchange enrollees, and BHP enrollees in New York & Minnesota.
  • Yellow sections are the unsubsidized individual market. These people are enrolled in the ACA exchange but paying full price and off-exchange.
  • Gray/silver section is miscellaneous: the Indian Health Service, Student plans, NY’s ‘Child Health Plus’ program, etc.
  • Red sections are those still uninsured, down to about  27 million people. It includes people ineligible for either Medicaid or the exchange in 19 GOP states and undocumented immigrants. Others earn too much for ACA subsidies or cannot get them because of their employers.

In December House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “We will give everyone access to affordable health-care coverage.” He added that pre-existing conditions are “a very important feature of any health-care system.” DT’s counselor Kellyanne Conway promised that DT will keep the pre-existing conditions. That, of course, was before the GOP senators voted against it along with other health care provisions to help people. Ryan also promised that the GOP will ensure that “no one is worse off.”

At his press conference this week, DT described his replacement model:

“They can say what they want, they can guide you anyway they wanna guide you. In some cases, they guide you incorrectly. In most cases, you realize what’s happened, it’s imploding as we sit.”

He also made the promise that “we’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better.” He didn’t answer the question about whether everyone covered now will continue to have coverage.

In a letter to the Oregonian (January 14, 2017), Terry Weiss of Philomath superbly explained the idiocy of the proposed health care repeal:

“If a little old lady in Oregon can figure this out, why can’t someone in Washington? Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare account for thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to healthcare providers and suppliers. If any or all are removed, many thousands of living wage jobs will be lost and millions of dollars in income will vanish. Tax losses will be huge to federal and state budgets. If you can’t wrap your mind around the human aspect—letting people die or go untreated for illnesses and injuries—surely the enormous negative effect on the economy should make you pause.

“Spend billions of dollars dismantling a functional and economical system with only three percent overhead to administer Medicaid and medicare. Then spend more billions putting together another system that is untested and unknown and will take place to put in place. This is efficient government spending?

“I can’t figure out why the first order of business for this Congress and president is to tank the economy and take aay living-wage jobs. The opposite of the promises made by one and all. I known campaign promises tend to be less than truthful, but this is unbelievable. Where are the political commentators, representatives of the medical industrial complex, DEOs, and decent human beings?”

As another “little old lady” in Oregon, I worry about the IQ and common sense of the people who are leading our government. For example, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) suggested that people shouldn’t go to the doctor immediately with an illness or injury. He proudly cited his own experience by making his son wait a day to go to the emergency room for an arm injury. He saved money, but the arm was broken. According to Huizenga, that’s the reason that people shouldn’t get money for health care. Without necessary insurance, they could just wait until the next day—or perhaps longer.

This level of stupidity is not new. Former House Majority Leader dick Armey (R-TX), leader and instigator of the Tea Party, said, “The largest empirical problem we have in health care today is too many people are too over-insured.” That was when almost 40 million people lacked health insurance.

People who complain about the high cost of insurance refuse to accept the fact that the private market is driving up costs. Medicare, a government program, saw its costs rise by an average of 1.4 percent from 2010 to 2015, less than half the cost increase for private insurers even after the ACA forced them to charge less for “administrative costs.” As the above letter stated, these costs are three percent while the ACA allows private insurers to spend up to 20 percent–and that’s less than in the past.

A year ago Paul Ryan signed legislation to repeal the ACA and cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The bill didn’t succeed, but Ryan and his colleagues had a good time taking away health care for 24 million people. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images [visual]

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07:  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (3rd L) shares a laugh with Republican members of Congress after signing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to cut off federal funding of Planned Parenthood during an enrollment ceremony in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama has promised to veto the bill.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

Obamacare has been a success: fewer people are uninsured; hospitals’ uncompensated care costs have fallen by over 50 percent;  overall national health spending as a share of GDP has dropped faster than predicted; the growth in spending on health needs has slowed to one-third of the average in the early 2000s; the increase in premiums is only 60 percent of the average during the ten years before the ACA; and “Obamacare” is more popular. Even little old ladies know that.

January 13, 2017

So How’s That Obamacare Repeal Going?

Why did people hate the Affordable Care Act, a law that helped people have better health care and live longer? Conservative leadership fed lies to their constituents—like this one from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) at a town-hall event this week–because they feared a Democratic plan would be popular. Ryan’s mistake was taking a question from a man who owns a small business in a red state, worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns, and opposed the ACA. That was before the ACA saved his life after his life-threatening cancer was treated, thanks to “Obamacare.” Jeff Jeans said, “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”

Ryan’s response? The flat-out lie that the ACA is a “death spiral” because people won’t buy insurance when it gets too expensive.  If Ryan were right, enrollment numbers would be dropping. But instead they’re skyrocketing. The proportion of young adults is steady, proving that the mix of people enrolling this year is less likely to be sicker and more expensive. And this is happening despite the uncertainty about the future of health care for the people in the United States, thanks to the unhealthy obsession in the GOP Congress about a repeal.  Lies are failing with the public, however, because 75 percent object to repealing if there isn’t even a replacement.

Today, the U.S. House began their process of destroying health care for the millions and millions of people in the United States. A vote of 227-198 with only nine GOP defectors approved the budget resolution that the Senate passed in the dark of night earlier this week. The bill doesn’t specifically address the ACA, but the passed “budget reconciliation” is needed to kill off the ACA because of the danger from a Senate filibuster.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) warned that their action could send insurance markets into a collapse. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) tweeted, “Most massive budget in U.S. history passed 227-198. It adds more than $9 TRILLION to the debt over the next decade.” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) argued that the House had to pass the bill because they had campaigned on it.

The Senate vote allowed non-binding amendments showing the chamber’s position. These are positions that the GOP Senate oppose:

Protect people with pre-existing conditions: 52 million people in the U.S.—25 percent of non-elderly people—have pre-existing conditions. Before ACA, they were frequently denied any coverage. Only two Republicans voted in support of keeping these conditions in a health care plan.

Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan: Over six million young people 26 years old and younger have gained health insurance since this plan went into effect in 2010. Surveys show 85-percent approval of this provision. Again only two Republicans support this condition.

Maintain access to contraceptive coverage: The ACA has caused spending on contraceptive health care to drop 20 percent. Only two Republicans vote in favor of this amendment.

Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place: 11 million low-income people benefited from this provision in 2015, and thousands of jobs were created for direct care workers.  Republicans unanimously defeated this amendment.

Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP: GOP Senators blocked this amendment.

Protect veterans’ health care: Republicans blocked an amendment to make it harder to restrict veterans’ access to VA health care.

Republicans demonstrated that they oppose insurance that requires pre-existing conditions, puts children up through age 26 on the parents’ policy, provides free contraceptive care, helps low-income people and children, and protects veterans. These are the leaders who want to take people’s health care: Vice President-elect Mike Pence with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Barrasso (AP Photo/Cliff Owen).

health-care-killers

The public opposition to ACA repeal began when more and more people understood that the congressional goal was to take away health care without any new plan. Sen Bob Corker warned that repeal without replacement would be “not very appealing.” Even ultra-conservative Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked for a replacement “game plan.” Passing the repeal/replacement also requires 60 votes in the Senate because of the filibuster.

The derailing of the grand repeal plan began just four days after the GOP Congress took over the country. That’s when Republicans determined that the GOP project to Make America Sick Again would cost more than four times than the extremely expensive Iraq War while it kills millions of private sector jobs. Republicans had a solution: hide the cost of their repeal. Page 25 of the new rules package passed by GOP House members stated that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) should estimate the cost over $5 trillion—except Obamacare. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work either: the word got out that what the GOP calls an “appropriate” level of public debt is actually an unnecessary anti-job debt spike.

Add to that problem Ryan’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood through a bill to repeal Obamacare, and the bill riled more conservatives. Two moderate female GOP senators opposed this suggestion, and the program is highly popular throughout the nation.

Some of the most conservative senators—Rand Paul (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) for example—are reluctant to vote for the repeal because of the increasing deficit. Paul wants an immediate repeal but isn’t happy about the $10 trillion dollars added to the deficit. Even ultra-conservative Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Health Committee, declared that it’s not smart to repeal without a replacement.  Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) don’t like Repeal without Replace. Six dubious senators will put the 48 Democrats opposing the repeal to a majority of the chamber. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) might join them because she, like Collins, doesn’t like the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood.

The repeal is rapidly coming to a head because GOP leadership wants to force the development of legislation by January 27. Wanting to postpone the deadline until March 3 are at least five GOP senators: Bill Cassidy (LA ), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH).

Congressional Republicans are also facing opposition from GOP governors. John Kasich (OH) and Rick Snyder (MI) have already complained about the loss of Medicaid. Kasich said the hospitals need Medicaid that “has worked very well in this state.” He said that the program covers 700,000 of his residents; Snyder agreed when talking about his 642,000 people in Michigan. Other GOP governors opposing the repeal thus far are Charlie Baker (MA),  Asa Hutchinson (AR), and Brian Sandoval (NV).

Kasich eloquently expressed his concern:

“Let’s just say they just got rid of it, didn’t replace it with anything.” What happens to the 700,000 people [in Ohio]? What happens to drug treatment? What happens to mental health counseling? What happens to these people who have very high cholesterol and are victims from a heart attack? What happens to them?”

The GOP desire to balance the federal budget occurs only with Democratic presidents. Republican legislators showed no longing for “fiscal responsibility” during the Reagan/Bush years. Under Clinton, their need for zero deficit returned, but unfortunately for them, Clinton showed a surplus by the end of his two terms. In the two following Bush/Cheney terms, Republicans asserted that “deficits don’t matter.” They ran up trillions of costs for two wars, two tax-cut packages, Medicare expansion, and the Wall Street bailout.

During the two terms of Democratic President Obama, conservatives screamed about the ballooning deficit set in place by his predecessor. The GOP even lowered the credit rating of the United States and then closed down the country because of their demand for a balanced budget. With a prospective GOP president, the majority of GOP Congressional legislators started to repeal a law vastly increasing the deficit, a law that keeps people alive. Their plans would put the public debt to at least $29.1 trillion by 2016, according to the budget resolution they passed.

People are already losing jobs because of the GOP’s declaration that they will “repeal Obamacare.” The loss of health care for millions of people is already sending shock waves throughout the $3 trillion-a-year health system. Hospitals estimate that the repeal will cost them $165 billion within five years and trigger “an unprecedented public health crisis” if sick people can’t get care. The Advisory Board Company, providing services to health care firms, has already laid off 200 people partly because hospitals vastly decreased spending after the election.

With much lower health coverage, hospitals and health providers could find themselves on the hook for up to $1.1 trillion for uncompensated care in the next decade, causing the collapse of finances in hospitals serving needy populations. Their only solution would be to curtail services and reduce workforce, impacting health care access even for the insured. Illinois alone would suffer a loss of 95,000 jobs and $13.1 billion. Forty percent of the state’s hospitals are already in the red or close to it.

The question is whether the GOP can get over its gridlock and lack of bipartisanship to pass a “repeal and replace” law. I wouldn’t bet on it.

January 11, 2017

Nominee Hearings: Make America Corrupt Again

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 9:50 PM
Tags: , ,

Writing about the timing for Senate confirmation hearings—at least accurately!—has become almost impossible. A few days, I was bemoaning how Cabinet members are being rushed through without deliberation, but every hour seems to change the GOP game plan. Originally, six Cabinet-level confirmations were scheduled on the same day that the chamber works on the budget (that one that grows the deficit by $10 trillion in the next decade) and Donald Trump (DT) gives his first press conference in six months to divert attention from his nominees. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “There is a whole lot of: ‘Don’t watch what we’re doing here.” Watchers now, however, can see how the GOP is failing at its job.

The inability of Betsy DeVos (Department of Education) put off her hearing until next Tuesday in the hopes that she can finished her required ethics paperwork. Her investment in a for-profit charter school would be a conflict of interest in any other administration.  As more cabinet nominees are shown to have possible conflicts of interest, they have also been postponed without the necessary review of background checks and ethics review.

Andrew Puzder (Department of Labor) may not get a hearing until February. The postponement comes at the same time as a new survey finding that two-thirds of the women who work at his fast-food restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) reported sexual harassment in the workplace. That was followed by a spokesperson for Puzder who confirmed that his ex-wife appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about his domestic violence against her in the 1980s.

Wilbur Ross (Department of Commerce), also  scheduled for today, has his hearing next Thursday, again because the committee has not received his ethics agreement. The hearings for CIA director nominee, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KA) for CIA Director was postponed until tomorrow. That makes hearings for four different cabinet members on one day.

Conservatives are blaming Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the ethics office, for the delay, but nominees have not submitted their information to him.

The schedule as of recently:

  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions – Jan. 10-11
  • Homeland Security: John Kelly – Jan. 10-11
  • State: Rex Tillerson – Jan 11 (may go into Jan 12)
  • Transportation: Elaine Chao – Jan. 11
  • CIA: Mike Pompeo – Jan. 12
  • Labor: Andrew Puzder – February
  • Defense: James Mattis – Jan. 12
  • HUD: Ben Carson – Jan. 12

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of trying to slow down the process in demanding the necessary paperwork, but he had been a stickler for this requirement when President Obama was elected. Now he calls them “little procedural complaints.” Necessary submissions require tax returns, FBI background checks, and Office of Government Ethics information.

Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (Department of Justice) had completed the FBI background check, but his original application skipped over years of experience. He withheld decades of records about his career—information about 1981-1993 as U.S. Attorney to the Southern District of Alabama, 1995-1997 as the state’s attorney general, and 1997-2002 as a first term U.S. senator. Also missing are the hearings after his nomination for federal judge in 1986 when he was determined to be too racist for the position and dozens of recent interviews when he made controversial statements. It all came out in the hearing anyway.

The Alabama Republican criticized Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Goodwin Liu for incomplete questionnaires, accusing the latter of his incompetence because of his “extraordinary disregard for the Committee’s constitutional role” or attempting “to hide his most controversial work from the Committee.” Sessions said that Liu might be committing a felony by omitting information from his questionnaire. After almost a year of the Senate ignoring the nominee, President Obama withdrew the nomination. Liu is now seated on California’s Supreme Court.

Sessions is perhaps the most controversial nominee, and McConnell had limited the number of witnesses called by Democrats to four in the two-day hearing, only half the length of four days for John Ashcroft, the last nominees for AG plucked from the Senate. Ashcroft’s hearings included 19 outside witnesses plus four senators. Committee Chair Chuck Grassley refused to push back the time of Sessions’ hearing because of his omissions on his applications. Two witnesses against Sessions were Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)—the first time a sitting senator has testified against a sitting senate nominee—and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Sessions did not appear for today’s hearing–but that is another story for later.

Although Sessions’ racist record goes back many decades, his current record shows racist, homophobic,  and misogynist  attitudes. For example, he gave Trump a pass for his sexist comments and admissions to sexual assault because “everybody knows that Trump likes women” and “uses this kind of talk.” He praised the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that eliminated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; he voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act; he voted for a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage; he opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the hate crimes prevention act; and he voted to abolish a program that helps businesses owned by women and minorities compete for federally funded transportation projects. In 2015, he praised a 1924 immigration law to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.”

In addition to being racist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, and anti-woman, Sessions has connections to Southern Co., one of the nation’s biggest electric companies and his biggest corporate donor. Favors for the company could impact his legal work on the Clean Power Plan which regulates carbon emissions from electric utilities. A power plant that the company is building is also being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ExxonMobil also gave to campaigns of Sessions who then vociferously objected to any investigations into the company concealing its knowledge of climate change from its shareholders and the public. This is the man who would be guiding the country in protecting the laws and civil rights.

Sessions has said that he will not recuse himself from voting on his own nomination as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry did.

Even the Republicans admit that they have different standards for DT’s nominees. Asked if past standards of disclosing foreign payments apply to DT’s Cabinet nominees, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said it should not. HuffPo repeated, “So it’s different now because it’s Trump?” Inhofe said twice that’s “just right” about different standards for DT. The question came from a GOP letter, also signed by Inhofe, demanding  “unprecedented disclosures” from former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) when he was President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. At that time, Senate Republicans had a concern about “the potential for foreign conflicts of interest.” The same Republicans no longer have that concern.

The hearing for Elaine Chao (Department of Transportation) went quite well if you can stomach sexist comments such as “I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country’s infrastructure” (Mitch McConnell and “I keep thinking … how excited your daddy is right now … and that he is responsible for you and your performing” (Jim Inhofe).  Even the Democrats joined the nonsense.

John Kelly (Department of Homeland Security) said gave all the right answers to keep his hearing audience happy, but the questions were softballs.

Donald Trump’s press conference was also today. But that, too, is another story as is information from the hearing for Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State).

The lights have already gone out twice in a week at the Washington Monument. It could be an indication of the coming dark ages.

January 10, 2017

Trump: ‘You’re Fired’—Except for Putin

“You’re fired.” Donald Trump’s (DT) favorite sentence on The Apprentice has circled the world. In a break with decades of precedent, he has ordered all politically appointed ambassadors, 39 in all, to return to the United States by Inauguration Day. The order was given two days before Christmas, about the time that DT was offering ambassadorships to booking agents who could find performers for his inauguration. New ambassadors to all these countries have to be individually confirmed by the Senate. Forget any continuity; DT is king.

DT’s ten-year-old son gets to stay in his New York school after his inauguration, but ambassadors’ children will be left in limbo. For example, Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, has four school age children, and his wife is fighting breast cancer. A question for DT’s Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, is whether he thinks that diplomats should be treated in this manner.

“You’re fired” is also what DT said to the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and his deputy. This $12 billion-a-year agency “maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.” That includes responding to nuclear emergencies throughout the world, keeping the Navy in its guarding against terrorists acquiring nuclear material, and caring for the nation’s 7,000 weapons. For the first time since its creation in 2000 that the agency has no one in charge of this responsibility or its 2,300 employees. Never fear, however, because one of these days Rick Perry may be in charge as Secretary of Energy.

There are denials that the people in the top two NNSA positions were “fired,” but Gizmodo reported that “the Trump transition team has not asked the top two NNSA officials to stay on until they can be replaced.” Still sounds like being fired on the first day. And no replacements have been named.

No one knows how many more government officials will received the message of “You’re fired!” The executive branch has between 3,000 and 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointment, and over 1,200 of these need to be confirmed by the Senate. In a recent petty DT act by DT,  he fired Charles Brotman, 89, by email and replaced him with a DT campaign volunteer. Brotman has served as official announcer for every inauguration parade since the second one for Dwight Eisenhower in 1957. That’s 11 inaugurations and 60 years.

DT will most likely not fire Vladimir Putin because of DT’s heavy financial involvement with Russia. Human rights lawyer Scott Horton has been investigating Financial Times studies that show how Russian crime lords bailed DT out of his seventh bankruptcy in the past decade and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit.

 

One of DT’s many lies is that he’s a good businessman, but the above graph shows his failure during a decade from 1995 to 2005. That sham of a successful enterprise came from millions of dollars from Russian businesses fronting for mobsters and the GRU, the military intelligence service of the Russian Federation which was formerly the Red Army of the Soviet Union. One of the actors in DT’s pretend success is Sergei Millian, head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce (RACC) in the U.S. when Donald Trump, Jr. explained the Trump solvency as coming from “money pouring in from Russia.”

Millian denied that the RACC has any relationship to the Russian government, but former Russian MP Konstantin Borovoi cited the chamber as a front for intelligence operations dating back to Soviet times. Millian called himself the Trump “exclusive broker,” and “in 2007-2008, dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties in the US.” He told ABC television that the Trump Organization had received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen. DT denied any association with Millian despite documents and photos.

Another Financial Times article shows DT at the center of a money-laundering scheme when he used his real estate deals to hide both his infusion of Russian capital and launder hundreds of millions of dollars looted by Russian oligarchs through selling his apartments at highly inflated costs. The companies created for the laundering network were created in April 2013, a week before one LLC paid another LLC hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to buy apartments in Trump Soho—all transactions with companies having undisclosed ownership. DT’s only obligation was to ignore the background for the deal and deny any knowledge of ownership, as in the case of the Fort Lauderdale project, Bayrock.

Jody Kriss, a former Bayrock finance director, claimed the backers included “hidden interests in Russia and Kazakhstan.” Both Bayrock and DT were based in Trump Tower and collaborated in deals around the world. DT said that he had no idea who owned Bayrock, yet he was a partner who represented and took money from this corporation totaling hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the world.

DT’s involvement with Russian money came from his multiple corporate bankruptcies removing his ability to heavily borrow in the U.S. In the 2000s, he had become an entertainer who licensed his name to businesses wanting a brand. He was bankrupt but appeared to be a “successful businessman,” allowing him to carry out massive criminal activities. His only value was his image. DT still had some degree of ownership in apartments and buildings, and foreign crime bosses needs a place to hide their money.

Reports emerged today that both President Obama and DT have been briefed on compromising personal and financial information that Russian have about DT. The two-page synopsis was attached to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It shows that Russia had material harmful to both political parties but chose to release only what damaged Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The sources were credible enough to inform President Obama and DT.

The FBI was aware last August about the content of the memos that include contact between DT aides and Russian operatives as well as graphic sexual acts documented by the Russians. Whether this information is accurate has not been made public, but the United States has serious problems with just an indication that Russia can blackmail the president of the United States. Kellyanne Conway, DT’s counselor, said he is “not aware” about any briefing, but she also said that people shouldn’t believe anything he says.

Without DT’s tax returns, no one may never find out the extent of DT’s involvement  with the Russians. Yet he got money, oligarchs hid their money, and Russia got the U.S. president. And DT can’t afford to say to Russia, “You’re fired.” The real losers are the DT supporters who believed his lies about getting them jobs and a better future.

DT’s overriding motivation is revenge. His hatred for Barack Obama came with the president’s jokes at a White House Correspondent’s Dinner and throughout the years as he expressed his loathing for the “elites.” Right now he may be planning action against Meryl Streep and the Golden Globes because of Streep’s anti-bullying speech last Sunday. DT has evidenced no human decency, and now he’s in charge of millions of people who will be trampled by his fragile ego.

DT’s first press conference in six months is scheduled for tomorrow at 11:00 EST. The topic is supposedly how he plans to “divest” himself to avoid conflicts of interest. Will he show up? Will he spin? Will he lie? Last question is a no-brainer.

 

January 9, 2017

Streep Not ‘Over-rated,’ Trump Loses Temper–Again

For 74 years, The Golden Globe awards have recognized excellence in domestic and foreign film and television as identified by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). Political statements vary from year to year, but last night was memorable. Jimmy Fallon opened the program by calling the selection as “one of the few places left where America still honors the popular vote.” He wasn’t necessarily on target because only the HFPA makes the choice, but it was a nice jab.

Fallon wasn’t alone in his criticism of the recent election. Hugh Laurie, who won an award for The Night Manager, said that he accepted his accolade “on behalf of psychopathic billionaires everywhere.” Winner of Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Elle), Isabelle Hupert, finished by saying,  “Do not expect cinema to set up walls and borders.” Animated feature Zootopia co-director Byron Howard added a statement about “embracing diversity, even though there are people in the world who want to divide us using fear.”

The Mooncast cast and crew accepted an award for Best Picture by saying:

“No one could have anticipated that we would be sitting on the president-elect that we have coming into office in the next 12, 13 days; however, we all made these films because we felt something was lacking in the soil at the root: These stories that hadn’t been told.

“Honestly, we have to give people things… to reaffirm. If you’re feeling something and you want to speak it, you speak it, and someone will be there to hear your truth, and I think that’s been the spirit of ‘Moonlight’ so far.”

Supporting actress Janelle Monae, winner for her performance as a NASA mathematician in Hidden Figures, talked about racism and hate speech:

“I’ve been very supportive of love, and at the end of the day I think that no matter where you come from and who you love, you deserve to have a right to the American Dream. I think anybody who is representing hate is part of the problem. I hope we can all remember that at the end of the day, we all bleed the same color.”

meryl-streep

The viral internet presence, however, was Meryl Streep in her acceptance of the Cecil B. Demille award for her lifetime achievement. Following is part of her speech, that she delivered in a scratchy voice because, according to Streep, “I have lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend”:

“Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said, you and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments of American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

“But who are we and, you know, what is Hollywood, anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey, Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls,  R.I. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio, Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy and Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates?

“And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in Lon—no, in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts….

“An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work.

“But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart, not because it was good, it was—there’s nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege and power and the capacity to fight back. It, it kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can’t get it out my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose. OK, go on with that thing. OK, this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.

“That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood foreign press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, ’cause we’re going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

Donald Trump (DT), who has never seen a criticism that he could ignore, denied mocking a reporter in 2015 during his campaign and attacked Meryl Streep in angry tweets. Starting at 3:27 am this morning, he tweeted:

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

It’s hard for DT to keep himself to 140 characters. And  by the numbers, Streep has received 29 Golden Globe nominations and won eight awards. The tweets followed questions from New York Times reporter Patrick Healy about Streep’s statements. DT told Healy he wasn’t surprised by the comments from a “Hillary lover” and “liberal movie people.”

A video shows DT cruelly imitating New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a disease that limits the function of his joints. DT jerked his arms and said, “Now, the poor guy, you ought to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said, I don’t remember, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said.’” Kovaleski had denied his 2001 article supported DT’s claim that “thousands” of people in New Jersey cheered the fall of the World Trade Center. DT was never able to find evidence to substantiate his statement.

DT’s incoming counselor, Kellyanne Conway, did what she’s paid to do—try to mope up DT’s screwups. On the Fox network she used the GOP ploy of blaming others for what they themselves as she attacked Streep for “inciting people’s worst instincts.” Streep’s speech was about empathy for others and opposing bullying. An hour later Conway told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that people listening to DT should ignore anything he says because he doesn’t mean his words. She asked, “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart?” Conway added, “You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”

Streep’s words have far more impact when you hear them.

[Update: Andy Borowitz’s satire column today is headlined “Trump Urges Spy Agencies to Lay Off Russia and Focus on Threat Posed by Actresses.” Read more!]

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