Nel's New Day

May 28, 2017

A Presidential Message

Filed under: Racism — trp2011 @ 3:23 PM
Tags: , , ,

At the same time that Alabama passed a law preventing anyone in the state from removing any Confederate monuments, New Orleans has removed the last of its four. Mayor Mitch Landrieu won’t be running for president, but his speech about these removals reflect how I wish the president of the United States would speak. Below is the first half of the speech, the remainder of it can be read here

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill.

It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.

There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one.

But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.

So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.

He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all of our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it.

President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history … on a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored.

As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.

So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.

When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

Landrieu concludes:

So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.

As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.

Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.

And thank you, Mayor Landrieu. 

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May 27, 2017

DDT: ‘Danger to the World’

A White House strategy for keeping Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in line while he traveled the world was to keep him so busy that he didn’t have time to get to his Twitter. The authoritarianism, opulence, and subservience in the Middle East also delighted  him. By last Thursday, however, his keepers had largely gone back to the United States, and he was in Europe where his favoritism of Russian was not as popular as in Saudi Arabia. In Brussels, where he attended the NATO summit, the familiar DDT showed up, with the customary picture of an unstable and embarrassing bully.

Perhaps no image demonstrates DDT’s superior attitude better than his pushing aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, representing a country which will join NATO in June to the displeasure of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It has to be seen to be believed! In his speech he  whined about NATO allies not paying their share and snarked about the expense of the new NATO building. Notable also is the way that DDT rejected the U.S. press. News about him—and there was plenty—came from the foreign press. Many people here and abroad will agree with Germany’s highly-respected Der Spiegel newspaper description of DDT:

“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

“He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.”

It’s not as if his comments were unscripted, the way that other DDT insults are. In a prepared speech in the ceremony to dedicate the new NATO headquarters, he talked about terrorism such as the Manchester bombing just three days earlier:

“These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct … in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share.”

DDT is demanding that NATO members pay two percent of their GDP as a “bare minimum.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left with DDT) was polite about DDT’s comments, but a senior diplomat said:

 

“This was not the right place or time. We are left with nothing else but trying to put a brave face on it.”

DDT also told the organization to limit immigration in its goals and failed to commit to its founding Article V rule, mandating that an attack against one ally is an attack against all. He is the only president who has not specifically endorsed the agreement. The only time that NATO has invoked Article V since its founding in 1949 was when the United States was attacked on 9/11. Over 1,000 NATO soldiers were killed in George W. Bush’s war against Afghanistan. DDT made his comments to NATO while standing next to wreckage from the Twin Towers. Last year, he had threatened to abandon the organization if they didn’t pay more while he was catering to Russia, a non-NATO member. Some current NATO countries were in the Soviet Union; Putin called its “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

NATO members did not respond well to DDT, as the above photo shows. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron went so far as to swerve away from him to first greet Germany’s Angela Merkel and others before DDT.

DDT’s continuing ignorance was on full display at the NATO summit. For example, he told Jean-Claude Juncker, EU president that “the Germans are bad, very bad” and said that he plans to stop the sale of their cars in the U.S. Yet he was told at least 11 times when Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited the U.S. that the EU makes trade deals, not individual EU countries. Even if he stopped the sale of German cars in the U.S., many people here would lose their jobs because the U.S. manufactured German 281,519 vehicles in the first four months of 2017. In a meeting with Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, DDT complained about the difficulty of building golf resorts in the EU.

NATO members have a more serious reason for their response to DDT. As he actively encourages racist nationalists in the U.S and allies himself with Putin to bring down Europe, he is also willing to start a war to regain popularity. This approach has already been seen in his preemptive bombing of Syria when he searched for a greater support from people in the U.S. He also has exhibited a pattern of carelessness about intelligence that can endanger the rest of the free world.

From Brussels, the U.S. leader moved his disaster to Italy where he met with other members of the G7, the seven major advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund. These countries represent more than 64% of the net global wealth ($263 trillion). Russia was a member of G8 for seven years until the country was ejected for annexing Crimea. DDT threatened them with backing out of the Paris Agreement, a position that he has taken off and on since he began campaigning. This action would put the U.S. on a par with Nicaragua and Syria, the only two countries that did not sign the agreement. DDT has said that the U.S. will not work to slow down climate change if it costs the country money. Withdrawing from the agreement will make China a leader in global environmental policy and new green technologies.

While DDT is making America “great” again by removing regulations, China is on its way to be the world leader in efficiency standards for coal-fired power plants while that nation shifts to renewable energy as shown in this issue brief. While the nation’s new coal-fired power plants are cleaner than any in the U.S., its emission standards are stricter than U.S. ones. China’s air quality is on a political par with economic growth and corruption. If the U.S. doesn’t improve its regulations, all the coal plans would be illegal to operate in China by 2020.

Another argument DDT started with G7 leaders was about migration and famine. He wants only a short reference to the first and to eliminate a five-page statement recognizing migrants’ rights and their positive contribution. The Italian plans on human movement and food security were intended to be the centerpiece of the summit which was in Taormina (Sicily) to symbolize the concern for refugees’ plight. DDT offered its own statement on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis affirming “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security.” He also wants refugees to be settled close to their home countries, letting him off the hook to take the “Muslims.”

By the ninth day of his whirlwind trip, DDT was fed up. He didn’t even bother to listen to a translation of the G7 speech from his host, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni  The man who brags about his stamina was unable to walk 700 yards for a photo shoot; he had to wait for a golf cart. Four of the seven leaders of the G7 are attending their first summit. The only bright spot DDT gave the other six leaders is that he showed up; as usual, he gets a very low bar of performance.

DDT described his trip as “historic,” an accurate word for the way that he pandered to the Middle East for oil and money for his friends while he alienated NATO and G7 allies. At home, however, the attitude toward Islam is same-o, same-o. Rex Tillerson refused a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, a custom for almost 20 years.

Back home, DDT faces increasing pressure—Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russian collusion, a son-in-law in trouble, falling already bad approval ratings, legislative problems to get his tax reform through, the 2018 elections, and his Twitter addiction. White supremacist Steve Bannon is running the “war room” to protect DDT from criminal charges.

Conservatives who complained about a $12,000 dress that Michelle Obama wore to a state dinner probably won’t bat an eye at the Melania Trump’s $51,000 floral coat and matching $1,630 purse by Dolce & Gabanna. The 2015 median household income in the U.S. was $55,775, meaning that half the households in the U.S. have an income comparable to or less than what Melania Trump paid for a casual jacket and purse.

A bit of humor: an illustrated tale of Emmanuel Macron’s handshake with DDT.

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recovered from her DDT NATO experience with a joy-filled breakfast meeting with President Obama and an event at the Brandenburg Gate. The former president was invited a year ago to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

 

May 26, 2017

DDT: Week Eighteen, More GOP Losses

Good news for investors, albeit temporary, is the announcement from U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that President Obama’s order, the fiduciary rule, will go into effect on June 9 instead of another postponement from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Stock companies and brokers hate the rule that requires them to act in the best interest of their customers. Acosta’s decision caused several stocks to drop because of the industry’s disappointment in not being able to push more expensive products to benefit themselves.

Another failure for DDT: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate its nation-wide Muslim ban, ruling 10-3  that DDT’s executive order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The Maryland court order blocking the ban remains in place.

The Supreme Court has determined that two North Carolina GOP lawmakers used racial demographics to design two congressional districts. Elena Kagan, author of the majority opinion, described District 12 (below) as “snakelike.” The vote of 5-3 was opposed by John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Alito.

AG Jeff Sessions also had to pull back on his official definition of “sanctuary cities” and acknowledged that the federal government has very limited ability to revoke funding. As a judge had earlier ruled, the law only requires governments to share information about immigrants’ citizenship or legal status—nothing else.

Another fight that DDT may lose is a request from the Office of Government Ethics to release all the waivers DDT has provided to former lobbyists hired in the White House or federal agencies so that they can work with former issues they had been involved with or clients. DDT’s executive order stated that he would follow President Obama’s practices to prohibit lobbyists from representing their former clients and issues without waivers, but he told Walter Shaub, the head of the Ethics section, that he won’t sent copies of the waivers. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has refused to provide the waivers.

Mulvaney also has a money problem because taxes are coming in “slower than expected,” meaning that the government could have fewer months before running out of cash. The current projection is October 2, even if some payments are suspended. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged a House committee to raise the debt limit before summer recess. The House Freedom Caucus opposed any increase in the debt limit without further cuts to the budget, meaning that Ryan may have to turn to Democrats.

DDT was elected partly because he promised jobs and used Carrier as one of his examples, saying it was a “100 percent chance” he would save the jobs that might move if he were elected. Carrier just announced that it was cutting 622 workers from its Indianapolis factory.

Loose lips sink ships—or in some cases, submarines. Pentagon officials are extremely upset because DDT told Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on April 29 that two nuclear submarines had been moved towards North Korea. Aircraft carriers don’t need to hide because the U.S. uses them as a show of force, but submarines are hidden as a means of strategic deterrence. According to the Philippine transcript of the call, DDT also told Duterte he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” and “keep up [the] good work; you are doing an amazing job.” Duterte has supported the extrajudicial killing of 9,000 people in less than a year, wants to “slaughter” millions of drug addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people, and put his country under martial law. Today Duterte “joked” about his soldiers raping women.

Another leak keeping the U.S. out of the intelligence loop is the naming of Salman Abedi as the recent bomber in Manchester by “U.S. officials.” The UK press kept the name secret because the UK government and Greater Manchester police wanted to make their investigation more effective, but the U.S. ruined the investigators’ plans. Police briefly stopped sharing information about the investigation with anyone in the U.S. until Secretary of State Rex Tillerson apologized. UK Prime Minister announced that she will “make clear” that leaking of sensitive information must stop. That’s at least three big intelligence mistakes in less than a month.

Last week Turkish security guards attacked protesters standing across the street from the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. while President Recep Erdogan watched from his car. Local police reported that Turkish guards savagely attacked protesters with Erdogan guards shown on video kicking and choking protesters. Yet Turkey criticized “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program” and demanded that the U.S. conduct a “full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation.” Turkey is also furious with the U.S. over DDT’s decision to arm Kurds to fight ISIS in Syria, maintaining that they are an affiliate of a terrorist organization.

Erdogan has indefinitely extended his dictated “state of emergency,” mandated after last year’s failed coup, until the country achieves “welfare and peace.” The decree permits him to make law without the Parliament of the courts.

DDT’s need to hire a private lawyer reflects the seriousness of the Russian investigation. His choice, New Yorker Marc Kasowitz, is known as a litigator and not a criminal defense lawyer with no background in constitutional cases. His experience with DDT is in civil cases, several of which he has lost—for example, DDT suing an author who claimed that DDT isn’t a billionaire, women accusing him of sexual misconduct, and students at Trump University. Kasowitz also represents Russia’s largest state-owned bank, OJSC Sberbank, which is currently in an open U.S. federal court case.

In other Russia news:

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that he believes Russia “brazenly” interfered in last year’s presidential election and that he knew of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. The interactions were enough for the FBI to investigate a possibility a collusion between the campaign and Moscow. Brennan informed eight senior congressional members last summer–long before the election–that Russia was working to elect DDT as present. He also briefed both President Obama and DDT in January that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered an “influence campaign” targeting the presidential election.

Another revelation is that DDT asked both the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Both refused DDT’s requests. In their failure to understand the independence of intelligence agencies, senior White House officials asked if they could ask Comey to stop his investigation of Michael Flynn, DDT’s former national security adviser.

After refusing to submit subpoenaed materials and pleading the Fifth Amendment, former national security adviser Michael Flynn was found to have lied in his interview for a 2016 security clearance renewal, according to a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Flynn told investigators that he was paid by “U.S. companies” when a Russian media propaganda arm, RT, paid him to travel to Russia. The Fifth Amendment, however, does not protect Flynn from incriminatory documents; he could be convicted of criminal charges for withholding any documents. Flynn had discussed a back channel of communication with Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in order to skip the U.S. national security bureaucracy—like DDT meeting Russian officials in the Oval Office with only Russian media present. During the presidential race, Russian officials bragged that they could use Flynn to influence DDT, causing intelligence officials to try to curb information given Flynn after DDT’s election.

AG Jeff Sessions also failed to disclose his meetings with the Russians when he applied for his security clearance. His excuse was that he was a senator at the time, but a legal expert differs with that opinion. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he “did not have communication” with the Russians during the campaign and asserted the same lie in an official questionnaire. Later Republicans let him cover himself by amending his testimony. Sessions canceled appearances before two congressional committees this week. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) is now spreading lies about the Sessions’ stories being wrong. In advising DDT to fire James Comey, Sessions also violated two oaths to recuse himself from issues dealing with Hillary Clinton’s emails and with the Russian investigation.

Also under investigation for deliberately manipulating the election through hacking or distributing hacked materials are Republican operative and DDT adviser Roger Stone.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest to be caught up in the FBI investigation about Russian collusion. He has been declared a “person of interest” in his relationship with Flynn and his contacts with the Russians. One of his past meetings, not reported on his security clearance forms, was with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian-owned development bank Vnesheconombank that is sanctioned by the United States for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. DDT put Kushner in charge of an extensive number of presidential duties including peace in the Middle East, the opioid solution, a $1 trillion infrastructure plans, recreation of government IT, and the reform of Veterans Affairs. Kushner left DDT’s world visit to return with his wife, Ivanka, to Washington yesterday when the news about his status broke.

 

Earlier, it was reported that Flynn discussed a back channel of communication with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The world now knows that in December Kushner may have been with Flynn in suggesting that DDT’s transition team and the Russian government use Russia’s diplomatic facilities in this secret communication. Kushner also had far more meetings with Russia officials than earlier reported. (The above graphic is a few weeks old; people may have been added since then.)

In another Kushner “oops,” Jared and his wife, Ivanka Trump, failed to disclose their multimillion-dollar art collection in public financial disclosures. By now, however, that seems like a minor problem for them.

If you question that DDT could be suffering from dementia, you need to read this article.

May 25, 2017

DDT Doesn’t Complete Embarrass U.S.

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

At the half-way mark of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT’s) whirlwind trip to the Middle East, NATO in Brussels, the Vatican, and G-7 in Sicily, he got back to Europe but marked the trip with hypocrisy, rejection of human rights, gaffes, and lots of meetings that have left DDT exhausted.

The people who voted for anti-Muslim, anti-global DDT were unhappy to see him with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi holding a creepy glowing orb in a darkened room for a ceremony opening a global organization. At the same event, he touted the similarities between the United States and the Muslim countries represented by 50 leaders in his audience and reversed all his former positions. No mention of “America First.”

President Donald Trump’s one time campaign adviser and longtime confidante Roger Stone said the royal reception Trump received in Riyadh, including the country’s highest civilian honor, made him want to puke. Both George W. Bush and President Obama received the same award, and both bowed. DDT criticized President Obama for this. Stone said that DDT should insist that Saudi Arabia pay for the 9/11 attacks which they financed. Instead DDT lavished praise on the Saudis. The opulence in Saudi Arabia made DDT comfortable, so comfortable that he made this comment when he was talking to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” (Note that the speaker is the president of the United States.) He gave a speech reversing all his former positions, but he made a lot of money for his friends with their multi-billion-dollar deals in the Middle East plus $360 billion in arms deals. In return, Saudi Arabia wants the repeal of a 2016 law permitting relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom for their deaths. After George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan and Iraq, many people forgot that 15 of the 19 attackers came from Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also gave a news conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, to which only foreign media were invited—not any U.S. media. The UK Daily Mail provided a transcript to U.S. media.

DDT’s hosts were a bit concerned about his visit too. Speeches had to be cut down to a couple of minutes for the man who has a shorter attention span than a five-year-old, and everyone needs to be careful about what they tell him as he’ll tell anybody anything. DDT needs to be complimented and feel that he’s winning.

When DDT landed in Israel, his next stop after Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered his cabinet members to be present. Some of them had planned to skip the event. DDT said to a group of Israeli officials, “We just got back from the Middle East.” The men tried to control their laughs at the man who failed to realize that Israel is also in the Middle East.

Gaffes before the trip to Israel also riled his host there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped that the U.S. embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, giving Israel ownership over the city occupied by four distinctly separate groups. DDT decided against the move, however, because Jordan’s King Abdullah told him not to do it. DDT refused to go to the ancient mountain fortress of Masada because he would have to take a cable car instead a helicopter. The White House had told Netanyahu that he couldn’t go to the holy Western wall because it was in the West Bank although part of it is in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. The map used for the trip showed Israel’s pre-1967 borders, excluding East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza strip. In his appearance at the Jewish Western Wall where he seemed to be either doing exercises or maintaining his balance. DDT was afraid to speak to Israel’s Parliament because he might be interrupted. He limited his visit to the famous Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, to 30 minutes, and much has been made of the difference between his statement at the site compared to the one that President Obama wrote.

Truly embarrassing was DDT’s giving highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians while DDT chatted with two high officials in the White House Oval Office. Israel’s bitter enemy Iran is one of Russia’s closest allies. In child-like manner, DDT blurted out at a press conference that he never told the Russians that the information had come from Israel—something no one had been accused of doing. “Never mentioned the word Israel.” This response was to a question directed toward Netanyahu about any concerns regarding intelligence cooperation with the United States.

As for the Palestine visit, DDT had reported that his meetings with leaders in their territory were in Israel— another map issue. He skipped Islam’s Holy Sanctuary, where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to the heavens, and his brief remarks to the Palestinians during his one-hour visit made no reference to a “two-state solution” between the two rival countries. As Hanan Ashrawi, senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said, “He’s still on a learning curve, and peacemaking is not a business deal.” Palestinians in Bethlehem joked that the greatest achievement was that the streets had been cleaned for the visit.

Iran commented on DDT’s constant criticism of the country. PressTV in Iran quoted Americans who wonder, “Why is the Saudi monarchy our friend but not democratic Iran?” Mehdi Hassan, based in the U.S., criticized Trump for speaking to a room full of “autocrats, dictators and despots.”

From Israel and the Middle East, DDT moved on to the Vatican; this photo shows the beginning of the meeting although Pope Francis did relax a bit by the end of the hour. DDT left the 30-minute private meeting, saying that he’ll remember what the Pope had said.

DDT took an extensive entourage with him although Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon were returned to the U.S. after just two days. DDT claimed that this was planned, but rumors included that they’re out of favor, anti-Semitic Bannon was dropped off the tour before Israel, they need to work with the budget, and—my favorite—they need to do something about the steady drip of Russia involvement with DDT.

Wilbur Ross returned with Priebus and Bannon, glowing about the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia. The Commerce Secretary raved, “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there.” Becky Quick, the CNBC anchor interviewing him, pointed out that the country is a police state and bans protesting. But he  knew better: “The mood was a genuinely good mood.” Saudi state security personnel had given him “two gigantic bushels of dates” which was “a from-the-heart, genuine gesture,” Ross said.

In 2015, more than a dozen activists, members of the Shia minority, were in prison, convicted for peaceful activities. Waleed Abu al-Khair has a 15-year sentence from his peaceful criticism in media interviews and on social media. The writer Zuhair Kutbi was jailed for discussing peaceful reform on television. Others are sentenced to death. In November 2016, the Saudis executed a partially blind and deaf man for protesting. His family said he was tortured into confessing. He was accused of “sending texts,” but he was too poor to own a cell phone. Earlier in January, 47 protesters were executed in one day, and the total number of beheadings by July was 108. In addition, people break the law if they “distort the reputation of the kingdom” or “break allegiance with the ruler.”  A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including “calling for atheist thought,” “contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom,” and “seeking to disrupt national unity” by calling for protests. Dissenters are tortured in prison as well as publicly flogged and sometimes beheaded.

Those praising DDT on his trip have used the low bar that he hasn’t embarrassed the United States. He did support all the actions that found wrong with the Obama: his wife didn’t wear a head covering in Saudi Arabia, and DDT bowed to the Saudi Arabia king. He also supported a global organization and praised the Islam faith. He violated all his promises to his base. Now he has four more days in Europe.

One more thing. From videos of the couple, DDT and his wife, Melania, may not have a close relationship. She preferred to stay in New York when he moved into the White House, and he largely ignores her, never returning to his Trump Tower home. She rarely travels with him although she is on this trip with him. There was one moment that some have called “the slap heard ‘round the world.” As the couple deplaned onto the red carpet in Tel Aviv, he reached out for her hand, and she swatted it away—in front of the dignitaries and news cameras while they walked to a photo op with Netanyahu and his wife. It’s not the first time, but it was the least subtle. this time it was less subtle.

May 24, 2017

Worst Budget Ever

While Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) left the country, his top officials delivered the proposed 2018 budget to Congress with $1.4 trillion cuts against everyone except the wealthy and large corporations. The winner is the military and increased defense for waging war throughout the world.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney tried to defend the document in a press conference. These are his talking points:

Instead of a budget, the document is tax cuts. Mulvaney said that the title should be “A Taxpayer-First Budget” instead of “The New Foundation for American Greatness.”

The plan is based on “compassion.” The “compassion” is only for people paying taxes.

DDT-economics demands a three percent growth. (Actually, it requires a 4.5 percent growth.)

The money goes for police, military, and border walls. That’s $54 billion that needs to be taken from helping people.

Only people in uniform deserve safety nets. All people other than veterans—disabled, students, etc.—are freeloaders.

Corporate privateers aren’t freeloaders. That’s the reason that education money is transferred to for-profit corporations running charter schools.

Spending freezes don’t apply to cuts.  “We are not spending less money one year than we spent before. What we are doing is growing Medicaid more slowly over the 10-year budget window than the Congressional Budget Office says that we should or says that we will under current law.”

Medicaid should be privatized or rationed block grants. States can provide it much cheaper than the federal government. (Cynical comment: That’s because they don’t provide services but put those grants into their general fund for something else.) The $800 billion cut for Medicaid of 47 percent will lead to “a better way.” (Cynical comment: That’s because it takes 23 million people off insurance.) Mulvaney said that breaking DDT’s promise about not reducing Medicaid isn’t important because it wasn’t that important.

The government could collect $500 billion in uncollected taxes. But Mulvaney thinks it’s not a good idea to collect that money because taxes are too complicated for people to know what to pay.

The EPA cuts are anti-climate science, but that’s not anti-science.  The new plan spends less on the environment (31 percent!) to reduce a focus on climate science. “Does it mean that we are anti-science? Absolutely not!” (Cynical comment: I can’t think of anything to say.)

There will still be a border wall. That was a DDT promise.

People on SSDI—disability—aren’t really on Social Security, and they aren’t really disabled. “It is a welfare program for the long-term disabled…. There are people who are getting SSDI who should not be getting it.”

People pretend to be hungry. People shouldn’t have food stamps because economic statistics show that the 2008 recession is over. (At least one Republican thinks that the economy is better—just for the wrong reason.

DDT’s budget reflects the values of Robert Mercer, the man who bought the presidency for him. The billionaire hedge-fund manager believes that “human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make,” “if someone is on welfare they have negative value,” and the government violates nature’s sacred hierarchy when it “helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away.” It’s Ayn Rand’s fiction controlling what used to be the greatest nation in the world.

Hard to believe, but there’s a bigger problem with Mulvaney’s budget: he counted $2 trillion twice, once anticipating a three-percent economic growth and the other one neglecting projected tax cuts. In one example of the problem, DDT promised to eliminate estate taxes of over $300 billion, but the budget lists this as revenue. To achieve the budget, the economic growth would have to be 4.5 percent—2.5 times the projected growth from the Congressional Budget Office. President Clinton achieved over 4 percent during his second term with tax increases, but George W. Bush’s tax cuts and two wars took the rate down to a minus .3 percent. The first quarter of 2017 grew at a .7 percent annual rate, the lowest in three years.

Mulvaney isn’t concerned about a $2 trillion budgeting mistake. In fact, he thinks it doesn’t exist. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that it’s a “preliminary document.” So no problem. (Mnuchin is the same person who made a $100 million mistake on his financial disclosures to the Senate before his confirmation.) The Treasury Secretary also claims that the abolition of the estate tax and reductions to rates on capital gains and income will provide “no absolute tax cut for the upper class,” maybe the most unrealistic perspective connected to the budget. The CBO estimates that these tax cuts would decrease revenue between $3 and $7 trillion during the next decade.

History proves that tax cuts for the wealthy don’t increase economic growth. The cuts also never fulfill the promises that they cause massive investment to help all. Corporations and the wealthy already possess a great deal of assets which they don’t invest in new enterprises and increase costs of real estate—like DDT does.

Red states that voted for DDT are hurt the worst by his budget. This source shows the way individual states are hit with his draconian cuts in food stamps, help for children and disabled, Medicaid—even farm insurance. Last August, DDT tried to woo black voters by say that they would be so impressed by what he does for them that he would get 95 percent of their votes in 2020. This month’s poll gives him a 12-percent approval rating among black people, one that will probably go down after his budget cut eviscerate their safety net.

The budget is so huge that it’s impossible to list all the horrible pieces of it. In the next decade, working families will lose $3.6 trillion in benefits and services while tax cuts of $6.2 trillion will go primarily to wealthy corporations and individuals. The deficit will grow by $7 trillion. Specific details are available here. The budget would totally eliminate these 66 programs. that the budget would totally eliminate. Axios also has an excellent overview of the disaster.

It’s not as if DDT’s budget has a good chance of passing. Republican lawmakers have responded negatively: “dead on arrival” (Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX); “anti-Nevada” (Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV); “terrible” (Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC); “I have some concern” (ultra-conservative Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue); and “went too far” (House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows, R-NC about cutting Meals on Wheels). But a White House budget shows a president’s policies—or at least those who are writing DDT’s policies.

One success DDT may have is selling off the nation’s assets so he will look as if he’s doing a good job. In addition to privatizing many governmental activities such as airport security, DDT is trying to put public lands and power transmission assets such as those administered by Bonneville Power Administration. As of October 2014, Bonneville paid the government $24.8 billion provided by ratepayers and receives no money from the federal government. The annual payment is now approximately $1 billion a year, thus Bonneville costs the federal government nothing and earns them about $1 billion annually. Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon’s only GOP congressional member, did not comment, but his office stated that the idea “demonstrates President Trump’s commitment to balancing the budget and responsibly prioritizing taxpayer dollars.” Private companies would likely raise costs Bonneville’s 12 million customers.

Luckily, DDT has no idea how to get legislation passed. History shows that his only MO is bullying. Typically the introduction of a budget begins with a president’s State of the Union speech revealing major policy proposals followed by leaks of details and trial balloons before high economic officials sell the plan to the public. After the budget is sent to Congress, the president holds a press conference to brag about his proposals, and federal departments and agencies hold briefings the same day for reporters. Cabinet members appear at congressional hearings on their budgets. The weekend talk shows then use the budget as the principal topic. None of this has happened.

As a business man, DDT relied on his public image of wealth and glamour to negotiate scams. If one deal fell through, he always found other marks. In his current position, he has 535 partners—no one else if he loses them. If he wins, people in the U.S. will get only a wall—which he promised would be supplied by Mexico—and never-ending wars around the planet.

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.

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