Nel's New Day

June 30, 2017

Federal Commission Wants All the Voting Registration Data

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 10:25 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been furious since his election last November that he missed getting the majority of popular votes by at least three million. He spent the first few months claiming voter fraud by undocumented immigrants, but white supremacist may have given him a solution for punishing people who disagreed with him. On May 11, DDT signed one of his executive orders, examining both voter fraud and suppression. Toward that end, he appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to be vice-chair of DDT’s commission who stated that the commission’s sole objective is to support DDT’s lie that voter fraud was involved in the 2016 election.

DDT has claimed that the commission would be bipartisan, but among Democrats are a West Virginia county clerk and a former Arkansas state legislator who doesn’t know why he was chosen. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner hope to look into Russia’s interference in the election, but that was not part of the commission’s charge.  Nor is the growing number of voter suppression laws across the nation since the Supreme Court gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Kobach has an illustrious history in voter suppression throughout the nation.In 2010, the Kansan started providing states with bills to prevent a nonproblem when he  provided Arizona with its language for demanding citizenship papers, citizenship proof to register to vote, and strict photo ID requirements for voting. The Arizona “show your papers”  law failed in the Supreme Court, but Arizona can still require citizenship proof for state elections. People have to register twice—once for federal candidates and the other for state/local elections.

In 2011, Kobach introduced the Kansas law requiring residents to give proof of citizenship to be registered as a voter. Lawsuits against the law are still in court because the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires only “the minimum amount of information necessary” to verify citizenship. Last April the court demanded documents to prove Kobach’s claims that enough citizens are registering to force higher standards from NVRA.  The ACLU claims that these show that he lobbied DDT to change the law, indicating that he knew his process was inconsistent with current federal law. Last week, a federal judge fined him $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about these documents.

In 2015, Kobach, he created a system suspending tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls but claimed that “nobody’s being disenfranchised.” He is the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute people for committing voter fraud. Kobach’s office also compared voter rolls to temporary driver’s licenses for non-citizens and commissioned outside firms to poll non-citizens about voting habits using these driver’s licenses. He also asked the Department of Homeland Security to compare a list of suspected non-citizen voters against a list of naturalized citizens.

In Kansas, Kobach used a database called Crosscheck to look for voters registered in two states and plans a similar process with the data that he collects from the 50 states. It supposedly matches voters’ names and dates of birth to flag people who are double registered. Unfortunately experts have found that it finds 200 false positives for every one legitimate result. Kobach could find almost 1 million false positives. Other states have dropped the program because it flagged one in six Latinos, one in seven Asian Americans, and one in nine African Americans as potential double registrants in the states examined.

This week, Kobach sent letters to all 50 secretaries of state requiring “publicly-available voter roll data” including ten types of sensitive information within two weeks. One of these is the last four digits of the registrants’ Social Security number. There was no indication of how Kobach or the commission chair, Vice President Mike Pence, plans to use the information—or keep it secure. Kobach may be on the way to setting up a national system like the one he developed in Kansas.

The majority response to Kobach’s letter was “no.” He can’t even get Social Security numbers from Kansas because state law prevents it. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a commission member, said that she would provide only voters’ names and their congressional district assignments. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that he will “not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.” Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that she would be “withholding protected data.” She added:

“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the commission is looking for. This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the vice chair of the commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”

Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann hadn’t gotten the letter when he formulated his response:

“As all of you may remember, I fought in federal court to protect Mississippi voters’ rights for their privacy and won. In the event I were to receive correspondence from the commission requesting (what the other state received) … My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”

In Missouri, however, the secretary of state said that he will cooperate. Jay Ashcroft is the son of former U.S. AG John Ashcroft, Kobach’s mentor at the Justice Department.

In some states, the secretaries of state are not responsible for voter information. For example, the two largest counties in Arizona, not the state, maintain their information.

The letter had also suggested that the data be sent to an insecure email address unprotected by even basic encryption technology, a faulty method for the goal of improving the security and integrity of federal election systems. The federal Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits the federal government from keeping records of voters’ party affiliation except in rare circumstances. The law was enacted after Watergate and concerns about Richard Nixon collecting personal information on U.S. voters. Still, Kobach hopes that the Justice Department will get the information for him if states would send him the data.

In the original letter, Kobach wrote that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” Later he reversed his position and said that it would be stored on a secure server. Voter data is useful for identity theft. Almost 200 million records for U.S. voters compiled for DDT’s 2016 campaign was available for 12 days until a techie pointed out the problem.  The Center for Democracy and Technology compared the data availability to a leak of toxic waste. Releasing the data to Kobach would mean having faith in him to keep the material secure.

The accusation of widespread voter fraud is fraudulent; the GOP uses it to eliminate votes from women, minorities, and the poor. The type that voter suppression laws intend to control is tremendously rare; they are only a burden to a largely non-existent problem. An examination of DDT’s claims about undocumented immigrants voting in mass during the 2016 presidential election has proved false. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Candidates around the United States are already beginning to incorporate opposition against Kobach’s plan. Kobach is a candidate for Kansas governor in 2018. A question in Kansas is whether Republicans value their privacy.

Imagine if the Democrats tried to collect all the voter data!

June 29, 2017

DDT: Bully-in-Chief

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) keeps hitting all-time lows in his self-proclaimed drive to regain the “American Dream.” The worst this week—thus far—may be his tweet attack on the hosts of MSNBC Morning Joe show, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough:

“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..

“…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

People in the White House feel that they don’t need to live up to any standards because DDT doesn’t. Fifteen minutes before DDT’s tweets, White House social media director Dan Scavino tweeted:

 “#DumbAsARockMika and lover #JealousJoe are lost, confused & saddened since @POTUS @realDonaldTrump stopped returning their calls! Unhinged.”

Scavino apologized; DDT did not.

DDT’s attitude toward Scarborough has reversed since the host helped with his campaign. After DDT’s inauguration, he suggested that he marry Brzezinski and Scarborough at Mar-a-Lago or the White House. Before the election, Scarborough went to Trump Tower and gave DDT advice on how to win the election.

In the same way that DDT has unified the European Union because of their opposition toward him, he created a bipartisan outcry although Republican legislators’ comments were a bit more muted. GOP comments included “[not] an appropriate comment” (House Speaker Paul Ryan), “beneath the office” and “highly inappropriate” (Sen. Lindsay Graham), “isn’t normal” (Sen. Ben Sasse),

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has a solution:  “Since our President clearly has a problem with women, let’s send more to Congress.”

In a press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders justified DDT by saying that he always pushes back when he’s attacked. She claimed that he has never been violent—this statement about the man who told his audience that he would pay lawyer’s fees for people who punch out protesters. Asked about the president being a role model, she said that only God has this role. Her justification for his behavior was that people knew what they were getting when they voted for him.

A statement from DDT’s wife, Melania, said that her husband hits back “ten times harder” when he is attacked. Asked about her cyberbullying program that she had proposed, her office stated that she Grisham was asked about Melania Trump’s stance against cyber bullying, the response was that she is “continuing to be thoughtful about her platform.”

DDT has said that “my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament.” He also claimed, “I can be the most presidential person.” Only 20 percent of people in the U.S. think that DDT’s tweets are “effective and informative,” and almost 70 percent find the tweets “reckless and distracting.” DDT is getting stranger—if that’s possible. Today, he interrupted a call to newly elected Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar to compliment a female reporter, calling her “beautiful” with a “nice smile.” Turning back to the prime minister, he said, “I bet she treats you well.”

No one is sure what specific problem initiated DDT’s virulent attack on the Morning Joe hosts, but it came soon after Brzezinski called him a narcissist and “needy” because of his “fake” Time cover hanging in at least four of his golf clubs. One of DDT’s common lies is that he appeared on the cover of Time more than anyone else. that he had been on the cover of Time magazine more than anyone else. When he made this claim, he had appeared on that periodical cover 11 times; Richard Nixon was on 55 times, and Barack Obama was on 12 times in just 2008.

The photoshopped image of DDT’s “fake” cover is dated March 1, 2009 and touts his show The Apprentice. The headline reads, “Trump Is Hitting On All Fronts…Even TV!” An analysis of the cover shows that two secondary headlines were on the March 2, 2009 cover that used an image of Kate Winslet. Several parts of the cover are wrong, including the exclamation point which Time never uses, the narrower red strip around the cover, and the bar code for software that lets you be a karaoke DJ. A Photoshop tutorial blog post provided the bar code free in 2010. Time has confirmed that the one with DDT is not their cover and asked for its removal from DDT’s properties. At a press conference, Sanders refused to answer question about whether DDT knows that the image is fake.   (Time has now published a tutorial on how to spot a fake Time cover that uses DDT’s image as an example.)

None of the actual DDT covers of the New Yorker seem to appear in his properties, but they are available here. This one from April is an example of them. Parodies of DDT’s Time cover are also well worth perusing.

DDT continued his tweet diatribe with his frequent war on the media.

“So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”

White House press secretaries have constantly announced that they don’t want press conferences because they want DDT’s words to speak for themselves. Yet DDT’s words continue to be lies. Almost 60 percent of people agree that DDT is not honest, up from 53 percent at his inauguration. Two major newspapers have started tracking DDT’s lies.

New York Times reporters David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson have kept track of DDT’s lies since his inauguration and found at least one every day for each of the first 40 days and  then on at least 74 of 113 days. Days without lies were while he vacationed or golfed. Some of these lies were reversals of others as he piled lies on top of other lies. The majority of them come from taking credit for others accomplishments. The next categories were false historic detail and recent news that didn’t happen. After that came false exaggerations, descriptions of federal government functions, fabricated economic statistics, job impacts of his policies, and positive effects of his work. And other categories exist.

Daniel Dale at The Toronto Star found 337 DDT lies since he was inaugurated, an average of 2.1 per day. DDT managed 18 during just his Iowa rally, the first one west of the Mississippi. Dale listed the lies by date, but they can be searched by topic.

DDT’s “misrepresentations” may be the most dangerous. In praising the Senate’s disastrous version of Trumpcare, he stood in front of Alaska’s GOP senator Lisa Murkowski and talked about a 203-percent increase in premiums but omitted the reductions from tax credits. The Affordable Care Act brought the 25 percent increase last year to 1 percent for 93 percent of people in Alaska. Most of them pay less for health insurance than in 2013, before the ACA, and many others couldn’t buy insurance before the ACA because they had pre-existing conditions. In 2017, the 86 percent of Alaskans receiving tax credits pay $93 a month—far less than the $344 they paid in 2013. Only ten percent of people in the United States have to pay full premiums because they aren’t on Medicaid or Medicare, aren’t poor enough to receive subsidies, or don’t receive insurance from their employers. That’s a lot of people, but it’s only three percent of the people in the United States.

Brzezinski was right when she called DDT “needy,” and she may be right to call him a narcissist. Characteristics of narcissism is lying and telling people different things to feel good. Narcissists fail to follow social conventions, and others “normalize” their behavior and cover for them. Narcissists enjoy firings, recriminations, and punishment for any perceived enemies. Their “gaslighting” is intended to convince others that they perception of reality is wrong, a part of narcissistic lying.

DDT has spent his entire life lying to get what he wants. He’s always been a brutal bully, always on the attack, especially against women. But DDT is no longer a CEO, much as people think that is the job of the President of the United States. That position is a role model for the world, an influence for acceptable behavior by both adults and children. DDT’s presence in this position has coarsened people and caused other great nations to reject the United States.

President Obama held himself to the higher standard of his position. He ignored the racist jokes, the posters that showed him being lynched or appearing to be Adolf Hitler, even the slurs against his wife when Republicans called her “a male” or a “gorilla.” The former president did have altercations with the Fox network, perhaps because Fox leadership ordered their hosts to slant the “news” to make the president look bad.

In less than 23 weeks, DDT’s behavior and speech have made the United States the laughingstock of the world. No one, not even his lawyers, seems able to curb his crude manner or educate him about governing. People said, “Give him a chance.” He’s taken that chance to constantly embarrass the people of the United States.

Today DDT is the face of the GOP. Republicans might want to consider whether he is the image that they want to portray.

June 28, 2017

Congress Churns Forward

Congress is getting ready for another vacation, gone for all next week for a week, before returning for a few days and disappearing for over a month. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has taken over for Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as head of the House Oversight Committee and announced that he won’t bother with any investigation into the involvement of people such as Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner with Russia. Gowdy also ruled out looking into whether Trump White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be revoked. This is the same man who spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours examining Hillary Clinton’s email server and four deaths in Benghazi.

Chaffetz won’t be back to Washington after the break; he submitted his resignation in April. He did leave a legacy by calling on Congress to declare a monthly $2,500 housing stipend for each congressional member, equivalent to two annual minimum-wage salaries. Chaffetz is the same person who told people that they could pay for their health insurance if they didn’t buy an iPhone. People who asked why Chaffetz had quit a year and a half before the end of his two-year term now have their answer. He starts on Fox network Saturday—the day that he begins “retirement.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain (R-AZ), each met with Andriy Parubiy, founder of the neo-fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine that used Nazi ideology and Third Reich imagery. The SNPU banned non-Ukrainians and established a violently racist paramilitary group called the Patriot of Ukraine. Ryan called on “closer political, economic, and security relations between our legislatures,” and McCain said that he and Parubiy had a “good meeting.”

While the media concentrated on the egregious health care plan in the Senate and the Russian investigation into Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his colleagues, the House passed a near-repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act. When the act was signed into law in 2010, it attempted to limit the riskiest types of securities to keep the United States out of another recession like the one a decade ago. Current Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin hates the Dodd-Frank Act because it keeps him from making more vast profits from disclosing on mortgages the way that he did before it went into effect.

Ironically the pro-Wall Street bill is called CHOICE Act. One part of it eliminates the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, requiring brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. The legislation would also stop the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing plans for banks with more than $50 billion in holding assets if they need to declare bankruptcy. It would also greatly lower capital requirements, a method of making bank safer by keeping them from loading up on debt.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls it the “Wrong Choice Act” because the anti-family, anti-consumer provisions block regulators from carrying out their jobs and allows big banks to ignore oversight. CHOICE allows banks to return to gambling in the market with federally guaranteed deposits and resume unlimited unfair banking practices to deceive customers. CHOICE permits unregulated payday and car-title loan sharks. If the bill passes, the president can fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and curb its oversight powers. The bill allows legislators to defund CFPB, the first step in doing away from it.

CFPB returned $11.8 billion to more than 29 million consumers defrauded by big banks, shady for-profit colleges, and debt collectors. Despite the banks’ record profits last year, they want to eliminate the rules that reduce foreclosures and protect borrowers.

The Dodd-Frank Act creates rules, processes, and organizations in the connected financial world of banks, hedge funds, mortgage originators, insurance companies, debt collectors, and payday lenders. Stripping away the pieces of Dodd-Frank is like mining by removing a mountain. With any luck, the CHOICE Act may not move through the Senate because eight Democrats would have to support it.

Before the Senate tackles CHOICE, it has to deal with the highly unpopular health care bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has found $188 billion, and he’s madly talking with reluctant GOP senators to bribe them with backroom “side deals.” Conservatives no longer want to use money to reduce the deficit. If he gets any kind of consensus, then he has to rush the revised bill to the Congressional Budget Office for another scoring in order to vote in the last two weeks of July. The bill has to be passed in coordination with the House by September 30 in order to need only 50 votes, and the Senate is in recess for all of August.

Compromise will be difficult: the far right wants no coverage mandates to lower premiums, and the right (called moderates) want more generous tax credits for the working class and less punitive Medicaid cuts. At least nine senators have said that they couldn’t vote for the present bill, and they’re split between those from states that expanded Medicaid and those who fought it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants permission for bare-bones plans that don’t offer much health care—back to life before the Affordable Care Act. McConnell continues to claim that Democrats won’t talk about the health care bill while Democrats are begging to be given a seat at the discussion table.

As could be expected, Democrats were upset about being left out of the process. In an odd twist, however, so were several Republicans. Those in the closed-door “listening sessions” reported that the leadership wouldn’t tell them what was and wasn’t on the table. They were just asked about what they could and couldn’t support. Some went so far as to say that the meetings were a box-checking exercise.  “I always believe legislation is best crafted through the normal order,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said. “I think it’s much better to have committee consideration of bills, public hearings and to have a full debate.” She was joined by a number of “moderate” GOP senators in calling on involvement of Democrats in the governing process.

The Senate has not had this type of closed-door partisan process to major legislation since before World War I, over a century ago. Don Ritchie, the historian emeritus of the Senate, said that Democratic leaders tried the same MO during the Great Depression, but senator revolted. A small revolt may be starting now as most GOP senators are non-committal about the bill. A  result of Senate support, people hate their version of Trumpcare even more than they hated the House bill. A USA Today poll reported 12 percent approval, and that newspaper is owned by Fox’s Rupert Murdoch. The House bill had gone as high as 20 percent approval.

The last time that members of Congress headed home for a recess, most of the Republicans refused to have town halls with their constituents. They will be increasingly reluctant this summer because the health care bills are causing far more anger than earlier—and the public was furious then. Some GOP legislators are using the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as an excuse to avoid their voters. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) has an idea. During the last recess, he suggested that Democrats “adopt a district” as he did when he fielded questions in a town hall from constituents in a neighboring district after Rep. John Faso (R-NY) avoided any meetings. Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ) “adopted” a neighboring district belonging to Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) when she wouldn’t host an event in her district. Maybe the idea will catch on this summer. Only two GOP senators—Jerry Moran (KS) and Bill Cassidy (LA) have scheduled town halls for the upcoming break.

A miracle did happen in the U.S. House during the past month! Republicans stood up for the environment! DDT’s budget eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, halves the scientific research, and decimates environmental enforcement and grants—in all, slashing $2.6 billion, 31 percent of the EPA’s budget. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) wasn’t buying the agency’s secretary, Scott Pruitt, when he defended the cuts by saying they didn’t need the funding. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) defended the Great Lakes, calling them “a national treasure” and asking if Pruitt thought that it’s “fair to expect states and local communities to shoulder the burden of caring for them.” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed the 30 percent cuts in the Superfund program, affecting over 100 hazardous waste sites in his state. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) objected to zeroing out several tribal environmental grants and programs. It’s a start!

June 27, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Two – Russia, Other Bizarre Happenings

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) seemed tamer earlier last week, but he always winds up before his weekend vacations when he can ditch his keepers. Maybe his daily 6:30 am calls to his legal time have given him food for thought. He has far too many lawyers for a man who has nothing to hide. Some of his own lawyers are even hiring their own lawyers.

DDT’s biggest loss to Russia could be the Senate vote of 98-2 that limits DDT’s power to remove sanctions from Russia. The U.S. shooting down a Syrian Air Force fighter didn’t make this nation popular with Russia, a Syrian supporter. In retaliation, Russia declared any U.S.-led coalition craft west of the Euphrates river as a possible target and ended the Syrian air safety agreement with the U.S. to avoid aircraft collisions. DDT had already turned all military decisions to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, thereby losing all control and possibly forecasting war. The result was 4,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan and a massive increase in U.S.-caused civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq, more than 35 percent more in five months since DDT’s inauguration than in all of 2016. May saw a record number of women and children killed. It was only two months ago that DDT said that “we’re not going into Syria.”

Each week gives greater information about Russian hacking into the U.S. election, including attempts to delete or change voter data. A DHS official testified that 21 states were target although a total of 39 states is possible.

Russian revelations keep surfacing. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn missed reporting a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia lobbying a U.S./Russia business plan to build nuclear reactors. The legality of foreign payments to Michael Flynn’s business partner Bijan Kianthe is also being investigated.  Another casualty could be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who kept briefing Flynn on highly classified secrets after he knew Flynn was subject to Russian blackmail. The Justice Department has one month to make public part of AG Jeff Sessions’ clearance form that was supposed to disclose Russian official contact, according to a U.S. District Court judge. Sessions has hired his own lawyer. The judge gave the same time limit to search Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ communication with the FBI to repudiate links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Much of the media was taken up last week with the announcement of the senate health care bill, prepared in secret by GOP leader’s staffers, according to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The sole purpose of the bill is tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, indicating that the name might be better Trumpcut than Trumpcare.

In his continuation of hosting foreign leaders—perhaps hoping that they will want his golf courses and resorts—DDT praised the U.S. for doing “a good job building [the Panama Canal].” Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela responded, “Yeah, about 100 years ago.”

The Supreme Court decided to hear a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin that could—or might not—reduce voter suppression throughout the United States. The fourth solid red district stayed red after reelections for DDT’s nominations. All of them, however, are turning purple as the most recent one in Georgia where Dem Jon Osoff lost by under two points after GOP Tom Price won it by 23 percent just six months ago. Democrats overperformed in the other elections too, despite the Republians’ lies.

The circus of White House press conferences continued with refusals to even tape the event before Spicer backed down. Despite rumors of Sean Spicer’s departure—and his requirement to interview for his replacement—the press secretary is still there and repeating his line about not speaking to DDT about the subject of the question, any question.

After weeks of teasing his audience about possible tapes of himself and former FBI director James Comey, DDT has announced that he lied, that there are no tapes. His claim about taping could be defined as an attempt to intimidate a witness. DDT could still be lying about the existence of tapes if he thinks that they don’t support his version of conversations with Comey. According to former employees, DDT taped conversations at Trump Tower in New York City and recorded his guests’ telephone calls at Mar-a-Lago. To cover himself, DDT said that he didn’t rule out the possibility that “electronic surveillance” had picked up their talks.

DDT sent a statement with “warm greetings” to Muslims celebrating Ramadan but eliminated the two-decade tradition of an Iftar dinner representing the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Two organizations are suing DDT for illegally destroying communications that federal law demands be preserved. Messages sent from the White House supposedly use an “auto-delete” app to erase messages after they are read. Jordan Libowitz, CREW spokesman, said that the purpose is to “keep them secret from the American people,” as part of a “larger, troubling pattern” of information suppression in the Trump administration, which also includes deletion of the president’s tweets.” DDT continually slammed Hillary Clinton for not saving her emails, asking Russia to find them.

Ivanka Trump is also involved in a lawsuit. She has been ordered to testify in a lawsuit from an Italian shoemaker who is accusing her of copying one of his designs.

DDT has gone back to finding ambassadors. He picked two owners of sports franchises, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to go to the UK and former LA Dodgers baseball team owner Jamie McCourt for Belgium. Top donor and fundraiser Kelly Knight Craft may be headed to Canada. She and her husband Joe Craft, president of a coal company Alliance Resource Partners, gave $1.3 million to GOP candidates and SuperPACs last year. Fourteen of his 19 ambassador picks are campaign donors.

In another choice, DDT nominated Christopher Wray to replace James Comey as head of the FBI. In early January 2017, Wray deleted a line from his law firm bio referencing a 2006 case in which he represented a U.S. energy executive being investigated by the Russian government. As Chris Christie’s personal lawyer, Wray got the New Jersey governor off from a charge of the George Washington Bridge closing. Wray had a phone with text messages and a former staffer during legislative testimony that Christie claimed he gave to the Department of Justice, but a judge refused to subpoena the phone in evidence against Christie. Wray’s firm also worked on DDT’s “blind trust.” Several candidates for the FBI position had already withdrawn from consideration.

A Washington Post analysis found that DDT’s Mar-a-Lago club is booking fewer charity banquets and events since his campaign than in the previous seven years. These banquets account for almost half the annual revenue. DDT’s  real estate business is also struggling with a decline in condo and land sales. Listing prices for several high-end NYC condos are being drastically cut while the city’s condo market is booming. DDT did manage to sell a penthouse to a Chinese American tied to high-ranking Chinese government officials and organizations linked to Chinese military intelligence groups. The large revenue on DDT’s financial disclosure forms show gross and not net revenue.

DDT tried to rally his troops in a speech in Iowa ten days ago. It was his first west of the Mississippi, and he told at least 18 lies according to fact checkers. One was his promise to pass “new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years.”  DDT’s mandate has been law for 20 years. He also bragged about bringing back coal jobs while delivering multiple lies about the Paris Agreement. Iowa not only has no coal jobs but also gets one-third of its electricity from wind. DDT ridiculed the state for its wind energy, indicating that people will have no electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and complaining about wind turbines “killing all the birds.” Cell phone towers killed 6.8 million birds a year, and glass buildings do away with one billion. Climate change can finish off the rest of them.

Last fall DDT proudly announced that he had saved jobs because Ford wouldn’t be expanding its production in Mexico. The corporation is centralizing its small-car production in China. Ford has said it will cut as many as 1,400 jobs in less than a year. General Motors has cut production at four U.S. assembly lines, costing 4,400 workers their jobs. Fiat Chrysler laid off another 1,300 workers at their assembly line in Detroit. The 600 Carrier jobs that DDT bragged about saving last year are going to Mexico, and Boeing is pink-slipping an unknown number of employees.

As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said,  American leadership was better under President Obama than under DDT.

[Note: My apologies for being late with the 22nd week. Look for the 23rd week in a few days. DDT keeps making news!]

June 22, 2017

Senate Trumpcare: ‘Mean and Meaner’

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

 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

Bill highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 142-page bill is available on line.

June 17, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-One, Any Success Elusive

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

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

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

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

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

A Few DDT Failures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

DDT’s Attempts at Foreign Policy:

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

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

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

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

And a Few Other Pieces:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much of the rhetoric against the GOP is legitimate:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia:

  • No background checks

  • No licensing

  • No registration

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

  • Open carry long guns & handguns

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

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

June 14, 2017

Media Consumed by Sessions’ Testimony, Emoluments Clause Lawsuits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 12, 2017

Remembrance, Celebration

Two anniversaries make this a bitter-sweet day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 11, 2017

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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