Nel's New Day

July 31, 2017

The Shrinking Republican Brain

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
Tags: ,

In the mid-twentieth century, Republicans represented the elite and intelligentsia. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a rational person who managed to provide the United States with the interstate. With the onset of actor Ronald Reagan, the GOP joined the evangelicals for power and lost its smarts—and its ability to lead. In his column, Paul Krugman asks, “Who ate Republicans brains?” and covers the changes in the past half century. 

When the tweeter-in-chief castigated Senate Republicans as “total quitters” for failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, they showed zombie-like relentlessness in their determination to take health care away from millions of Americans, shambling forward despite devastating analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, denunciations of their plans by every major medical group, and overwhelming public disapproval.

Put it this way: Senator Lindsey Graham was entirely correct when he described the final effort at repeal as “terrible policy and horrible politics,” a “disaster” and a “fraud.” He voted for it anyway — and so did 48 of his colleagues.

So where did this zombie horde come from? Who ate Republicans’ brains?

As many people have pointed out, when it came to health care Republicans were basically caught in their own web of lies. They fought against the idea of universal coverage, then denounced the Affordable Care Act for failing to cover enough people; they made “skin in the game,” i.e., high out-of-pocket costs, the centerpiece of their health care ideology, then denounced the act for high deductibles. When they finally got their chance at repeal, the contrast between what they had promised and their actual proposals produced widespread and justified public revulsion.

But the stark dishonesty of the Republican jihad against Obamacare itself demands an explanation. For it went well beyond normal political spin: for seven years a whole party kept insisting that black was white and up was down.

And that kind of behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. The Republican health care debacle was the culmination of a process of intellectual and moral deterioration that began four decades ago, at the very dawn of modern movement conservatism — that is, during the very era anti-Trump conservatives now point to as the golden age of conservative thought.

A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The problem is that once you accept the principle that it’s O.K. to lie if it helps you win elections, it gets ever harder to limit the extent of the lying — or even to remember what it’s like to seek the truth.

The right’s intellectual and moral collapse didn’t happen all at once. For a while, conservatives still tried to grapple with real problems. In 1989, for example, The Heritage Foundation offered a health care plan strongly resembling Obamacare. That same year, George H. W. Bush proposed a cap-and-trade system to control acid rain, a proposal that eventually became law.

But looking back, it’s easy to see the rot spreading. Compared with Donald Trump, the elder Bush looks like a paragon — but his administration lied relentlessly about rising inequality. His son’s administration lied consistently about its tax cuts, pretending that they were targeted on the middle class, and — in case you’ve forgotten — took us to war on false pretenses.

And almost the entire G.O.P. either endorsed or refused to condemn the “death panels” slander against Obamacare.

Given this history, the Republican health care disaster was entirely predictable. You can’t expect good or even coherent policy proposals from a party that has spent decades embracing politically useful lies and denigrating expertise.

And let’s be clear: we’re talking about Republicans here, not the “political system.”

Democrats aren’t above cutting a few intellectual corners in pursuit of electoral advantage. But the Obama administration was, when all is said and done, remarkably clearheaded and honest about its policies. In particular, it was always clear what the A.C.A. was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it — and it has, for the most part, worked as advertised.

Now what? Maybe, just maybe, Republicans will work with Democrats to make the health system work better — after all, polls suggest that voters will, rightly, blame them for any future problems. But it wouldn’t be easy for them to face reality even if their president wasn’t a bloviating bully.

And it’s hard to imagine anything good happening on other policy fronts, either. Republicans have spent decades losing their ability to think straight, and they’re not going to get it back anytime soon.

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July 30, 2017

Faith-Based Economy Equals Scorched Earth

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
Tags: , , ,

After destroying Kansas, its governor, Sam Brownback, is moving on—at least as long as he doesn’t offend Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Brownback has now been nominated as the at-large ambassador to head the State’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The position was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 created the ambassador position which was held by Christians until 2014 when President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein. The Senate approved him in a 61-35 vote.

As ambassador, Brownback would be responsible for a human rights platform and outreach to the diverse religious groups in the United States. Other responsibilities are to support minorities facing persecution or discrimination throughout the world. For example, ambassadors have been on the side of Muslims in Burma. The arch-conservative Brownback has signed a meaningless ban on Shariah law, warred against separation of church and states in public schools and everywhere else, and officially promoted Christian events and programming. He signed a bill in 2013 that states the government may not “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion.” In 2015, Brownback signed an executive order rescinding discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2016, he signed legislation that prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against religious organizations on campuses that restrict membership to students that adhere to the group’s religious beliefs or “comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.”

Brownback decided to turn Kansas around in an economic “experiment” that drastically cut taxes, slashed public investments, and then expected prosperity to flow throughout the state. He eliminated the state’s top income tax bracket, exempted many businesses from any income tax, lowered the sales tax, and eradicated individual and corporate income tax. Yet there was no prosperity.

In 2012, Brownback said that his experiment could show what would happen in comparison to neighboring states that had not lowered taxes. Since 2013, Kansas has seen private sector employment rise only 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally and the lowest of its neighbors. Total employment is worse—2.6 percent in Kansas compared to 6.5 percent nationally. GDP growth has stayed flat compared to blue states such as California with 3.2 percent and Oregon at 2.5 percent growth. Hospitals completely closed and schools closed early because of the radical cuts in health care and education. Kansas government expenses are expected to outpace income by $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas pays a high interest rate on borrowings because its bond rating has been downgraded twice.

Brownback’s tax cuts caused average taxes to go up $200 for the one-fifth of the state’s households that make less than $23,000 a year while the richest one percent saved $25,000 a year. One health insurance company moved its headquarters across the river to Missouri. Brownback “saved” $400,000 by closing services for low-income children and developmentally disabled in Lawrence and then spent the same about in a legal vendetta against the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Brownback started hiding his economic reports that he promised would show the impact of the state’s economic laws. Last year, he killed the report entirely with the claim that it was so complicated that people couldn’t understand it.

The state’s revenue estimates are consistently and massively lower than estimates, leading to cuts to state agencies and reductions in government services. He took $2 billion from highway funding to make up for a budget hold. The budget could be in even worse shape if the Supreme Court orders hundreds of millions of dollars in additional education spending. that court has twice ruled that the budget allocates insufficient funding for public schools. The state does fund private charter schools.

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and trickle-down supporter Arthur Laffer have declared the Kansas “experiment” a success by using inaccurate data and highly selective, misleading information about unemployment and job creation.

GOP disasters in Kansas aren’t just fiscal: last year a bill permitted impeachment of any judge who opposed a legislative law. Before that bill, Brownback signed a bill that removes funding from the judiciary if a state court strikes down a 2014 law a 2014 law removing some powers from the State Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court struck down the law. Brownback also signed a bill permitting the Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prosecute someone for voter fraud even if prosecutors choose not to proceed in the cases. Of 18,000 accusations, Kobach convicted nine people, most of whom didn’t understand that they couldn’t vote on local issues in two different states where they had homes. Kobach is now the leader of a federal voter fraud (aka suppression?) commission. Kansas represents what Charles Pierce called the potential of unchecked GOP policies from Tea Party dominance.

Religious diversity’s loss is Kansas’ gain. After his “experiment” in trickle-down poverty, the state legislature overrode Brownback’s veto a few weeks ago to repeal the draconian tax cuts. In the last election, 13 additional Democrats were elected to the legislature, and several conservatives lost to moderate Republicans. Brownback’s gubernatorial approval rating has fallen to 25 percent, tied with New Jersey’s Chris Christopher for the bottom of the heap.

What happens in Kansas now is anyone’s guess. Brownback’s replacement, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, was a key player in the decision to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. Colyer called KanCare a success for saving money, but funding problems left providers without reimbursements. Last January, the federal government rejected the state’s request to extend KanCare because it didn’t meet standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. Kansas has no system for reporting and tracking critical incidents and no data to show that unexpected deaths were investigated within mandatory timeframes. The program delayed eligibility, cut coverage, and increased caseloads.

Kobach calls Colyer a “good guy.” He said that he wished Brownback had won in his “battle … to preserve the tax cuts.”

Brownback’s approach in Kansas represents the GOP faith—indeed, a religion—in a system that consistently fails. The days that Republicans revere, the mid-twentieth century, was a time of great progressive taxation when the highest income tax rates topped 90 percent. As the taxes have shrunk, the income inequality in the nation has put most of the money in the hands of the top ten percent with the top one percent benefitting the most. The faith in trickle-down comes from the wealthy who can’t argue that they want tax cuts to get more money. When the faith in tax cuts is joined deregulation for the powerful, the result is wage suppression for everyone outside the golden circle.

Some conservative states have taken notice of Kansas’ failure in its “experiment” and consider tax hikes. Eight states, including Tennessee and Arizona, may raise gas taxes, and Nebraska is going more deeply in raising sales taxes to make up for falling income taxes.

Brownback’s failure in his religion of tax cuts may factor into the grand GOP plan to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy across the United States while increasing them for everyone else.  Every time that DDT makes a radical decision, he falsely claims it will save taxpayers money. In his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement he falsely claimed that saving the climate would cost $3 trillion in GDP and “6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income….” His numbers came from an isolated report, not a cost-benefit analysis, that omitted fiscal benefits of reduced emissions which could be as much as $4.5 trillion. The health insurance industry attributes the volatility and instability currently provided by the federal government to its departures from the marketplace, not the failure to turn a profit. DDT’s excuse for throwing out transgender service members was to save money–$5.4 million out of a $790 billion budget.

Republicans want Kansas’ faith-based experiment to be a model for the federal government. Like Kansas, the U.S. would then have a stagnant economy, failing job growth, falling personal income, massive budget shortfalls, loss of healthcare coverage, and significant delays in health care services. What the United States needs is the California model where the economy grew by 4.1 percent, and the budget surplus is nearly $900 million.

July 29, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Seven – ‘A Jackass’

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) outdid himself this week in outrageous drama. Tuesday was the disastrous speech at the National Scout Jamboree, Wednesday witnessed the backlash against his anti-transgender military service members, Thursday was the failure of the third health bill up for a vote this week, and Friday presented the changing of the guard at the White House. Then he topped the week with a speech asking police to injure suspects. He received applause from law enforcement officers on Long Island (NY) by saying, “Please don’t be nice.” He added in reference to protecting suspects’ heads while putting them into a vehicle, “You can take the hand away, okay?” The International Association of Police Chiefs (IAPC) responded with detailed information its use-of-force policies and training as well as the need for officers to “ensure that any use of force is carefully applied and objectively reasonable.” The IAPC added that officers are trained to treat all individuals “with dignity and respect.” Police departments in the U.S. also rejected DDT’s message of physically hurting suspects.

DDT got his “general”: Reince Priebus is out as Chief of Staff, and John Kelly, formerly Homeland Security Secretary, is in. Once again, DDT proved that loyalty has no value. Major questions surfaced about what changes, if any, the White House would see with the shift. Until now, key people—white supremacist Steve Bannon, “Communications Director” Anthony Scaramucci, and family members Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump—have bypassed the chief of staff to directly communicate with DDT. The tweets have poured out of DDT’s cellphone with no monitoring. Kelly can stop these practices (highly unlikely), leave if he fails (two months maybe?), or put up with DDT’s behavior and become another laughingstock (totally improbable).

A major question is what to do with “The Mooch” Scaramucci who spread his vile emissions throughout the week. On his sixth day as sort-of Communications Director, he falsely accused then White House chief of staff of a felony for leaking a public document listing his worth of $85 million, claimed he had inappropriately spoken with the Justice Department, threatened to “kill all the leakers,” delivered scatological criticisms about White House staff on the record to a New Yorker writer, and generally followed the toxic culture surrounding DDT. The NYT reported how the DDT White House is “driven by ambition, fear, animosity and envy.”

Scaramucci hasn’t been technically hired; his company, Skybridge, is under regulatory review with the Treasury Department in a committee that includes Defense, State, Commerce, and Homeland Security Departments. Success would bring the Mooch $77 million. With the same passion for revenge as DDT, Scaramucci was determined to destroy Priebus after he kept the Mooch from being public liaison officer and gave him grief over selling his company at an inflated price to China, possibly for U.S. favors to China. Evidently there’s proof for Priebus’ claim.

Even highly conservative pundit Bill Kristol was furious about DDT’s terrible speech to the Boy Scouts:

“What a jackass you have to be to speak to the Boy Scouts and attack your predecessor as President of the United States.”

Today’s tweets from DDT support Kristol’s description. He blamed the Republicans for the failure of the health care last Thursday and told them that they will continue to fail with the filibuster requiring 60 votes. Yet the health care failed 51 to 49 with two women GOP senators, Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voting no before Jon McCain (AZ) joined them. Following that series of tweets, he demanded that the senate make another try at passing Trumpcare and made threats:

“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

That was followed by his lambasting China for not helping the United States against North Korea. DDT also took total credit for winning the presidency. And he has another day without keepers.

Six days ago, DDT blamed the Republicans for their lack of support:

“It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.”

Senators are openly opposing DDT’s persecution of Jeff Sessions and the possibility that DDT would fire the attorney general to stop the investigation into his Russian collusion. Wednesday, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted:

“Everybody in D.C. Shld b warned that the agenda for the judiciary Comm is set for rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way.”

The next day Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.” He added, “Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency – unless Mueller did something wrong. Right now I have no reason to believe he’s compromised.”

One of DDT’s attacks on Sessions is totally without merit. He accused the AG of taking “a very weak position” in investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails. Yet Sessions had announced during his confirmation hearings that he was recusing himself of all issues about Clinton. DDT could have blocked Sessions’ hiring at that time.

Brian A. Benczkowski, a recent DDT nominee to lead DOJ’s criminal division, told the Senate that he represented Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions with ties to Vladimir Putin. Computer experts investigated communications between the bank and a Trump Organization server. The bank claims a clean bill of health although these investigations were cursory. A possible connection with Russia could require anyone to recuse themselves from cases, a situation causing DDT to say that he should not have nominated AG Jeff Sessions.

The failure of Trumpcare on Thursday took place on the 52nd anniversary of the senate’s passing Medicaid and Medicaid. Fifty-two years ago, then-Rep. Arch Moore (R-WV) voted in favor of these popular programs. Yet his daughter, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), voted in favor of Trumpcare that would negatively impact almost one-third of her constituency. Like other Republicans, Capito believed promises that she would get money for her state, in her case to fight opioid abuse, and that the bill she voted in favor of would never become law. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had said that he was “willing” to “talk” about taking the bill to conference with the House if it passed the senate.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Bill Miller, a top official in that department after DDT fired Gregory Starr in January, has quit. The senate will need to confirm his replacement. Only two State Department officials have been confirmed, and another six are waiting for confirmation.  That leaves 41 other senior roles, including policy leads for different regions, unfilled and another 31 filled by people in acting roles. Two more will soon be empty. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won’t be filling them until he reviews and reorganizes the agency. Rumors that Tillerson is quitting have been rife, but he denies them.

DDT mistakenly thanked Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his guest at the White House on Wednesday, for fighting Hezbollah that has a power base in Hariri’s cabinet. DDT said:

“Hezbollah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region. The group continues to increase its military arsenal which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel. With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.”

Then DDT said he would be making a decision about U.S. sanctions by Wednesday, but Congress just started considering any sanctions regarding Lebanon a week ago.

At the time of his inauguration, DDT threatened to steal oil from Iraq. Now he is considering “relieving” Afghanistan of raw-earth minerals that could be worth $1 trillion.

Russia seemed to be on the back burner this week because of the distractions and the health care fiasco. Congress did pass a bill increasing sanctions on Russia and removing some power from DDT to change the sanctions. He spent several days deciding whether to sign it but finally said that he will accept it. With a senate vote of 98-2 and a House vote of 419-3, the bill seems to be veto proof.

Jared Kushner managed to avoid public testimony before a congressional committee by supposedly turning over documents, but New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, who also published the story about Scaramucci’s vulgar rhetoric, has an article about Jared Kushner’s involvement with the Russian collusion. Records from DDT’s son-in-law also shows his app that disappears messages sent to him as does DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.  Kushner downloaded the app four days before his father-in-law was inaugurated. Destroying any communication with a president violates the Presidential Records Act.

In November 2013, DDT tweeted:

“Leadership: Whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.”

This position is far different from what he exhibited in the past week–and in the past six months.

 

July 28, 2017

Fiat by Tweet Fails

Filed under: LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 11:58 PM
Tags: , , ,

Following a horrendous speech to Boy Scouts last Tuesday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) attempted to distract people from his earlier egregious behavior by tweeting that transgender people would not be permitted to serve in the military in any capacity. There was no study for this decision, and the Pentagon seemed to be taken unawares. Fiat by tweet? No one really knows. It’s possible that DDT is trying to make nice with evangelicals after being offensive to their beloved Jeff Sessions for days in a row.

The tweets began at 5:55 am on July 26. The first one read:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……”

During the eight-minute pause before a continuation of DDT’s message, the Department of Defense HQ panicked. Al Gore said that they thought DDT had declared war. The second part of the tweet showed that the war was on the the 15,000 transgender soldiers in active or reserve duty and the almost 150,000 transgender people who serve in the military in some capacity. The second tweet told them that they had lost their jobs:

“….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..”

DDT completed the three tweets by a reference to the costs and disruption from transgender people in the military:

“….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

Both DDT’s “reasons” are bogus.

The military spends $84.4 million on medication for erectile dysfunction but only $5.6 million for health care for transgender employees. That $84.4 million is our taxes at work—15 times more than the $5.6 million cost of hormone treatment and surgery for transgender people in the military and 0.07 percent of the $49.3 billion in health care expenditures for military and former military members, 586,804 percent more than that for transgender employees in the military. The Pentagon pays $91.1 million for one F-35s fighter plane and $478 million for a single Littoral combat ship that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said has “practically no proven combat capability.”

Two DDT weekends would pay for a year of health care for transgender people in the military. A single trip to Mar-a-Lago, his private clubs, costs taxpayers about $3.6 million, and he spent seven weekends there in just two and a half months before he moved on to his personal resort at Bedminster (NJ). Congress also allocated $41 million to provide security costs to his resorts for his time there. Travel and protection costs for the DDT family ran a least $30 million for his first 100 days, compared to $12 million for an entire year for President Obama and his family. The costs continue for security for Trump Tower where DDT never goes and other personal costs for him.

The disruption claim was refuted by Defense Department officials who reported on a seamless process of transgender service members coming out after the Obama administration repealed the ban on their serving. The Pentagon completed a comprehensive review of the situation before it lifted the ban on transgender service members in 2016. Radha Iyengar, author of the RAND study that investigated transgender people in the military, said:

“We’ve had commanders report that having a more improved attitude toward inclusiveness and diversity was beneficial to their unit overall. And that really speaks to the benefits, but there was really no effect, in any of the cases, of operational effectiveness. They saw these positives, but we really didn’t see any of the negatives.”

In a third “misrepresentation,” DDT claimed that his decision came after consultation with “my Generals and military experts, but the tweets came as a surprise to the Pentagon. Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation and reportedly appalled and infuriated by the tweets. The Pentagon referred all questions about DDT’s order to the White House. The day after DDT’s tweets, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a memo to service chiefs, commanders, and senior enlisted leaders.

“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President. There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

A theory behind DDT’s tweets is that he reacted to the radical right threatening to blow up the $790 billion defense and security spending package in the House if it included health care for transgender service members. (Keep in mind that they are quibbling about $5.4 million for health care.) Mattis was working with them, but DDT may have taken over the issue and decided to eliminate more President Obama’s work. An amendment to ban funding for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments for transgender active-duty personnel failed 209-214 with 24 Republicans voting with the Democrats. Amendment supporters then tried to push the GOP leadership to circumvent the House rules to pass the amendment, but the leadership refused, saying it would make them look hypocritical. That’s’ when Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) went to the White House and complained to DDT. White supremacist Steve Bannon told DDT that he should deal with the situation.

A senior House GOP aide emailed about DDT’s tweets, “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire.”

DDT’s unified many of the Republicans, even representatives who voted in favor of the amendment, with the Democrats’ outrage regarding the tweets. Although some GOP legislators stayed quiet, several of GOP legislators agreed with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who said, “Removing thousands of men and women from admirably and honorably serving is counterintuitive to strengthening our military. I have serious concerns about what this new directive means.” LoBiondo called on Mattis to “provide clarity on this issue and determine what is in the best interest of military readiness to protect our nation.” Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK)—all veterans—came out in strong support for allowing qualified people into the military no matter their gender identity. McCain chairs of the Armed Services Committee.  This is the first issue, other than the possibility of DDT firing Jeff Sessions as attorney general, in which Republicans have been vocal in opposing DDT’s views.

Other countries were flabbergasted with DDT’s declaration. In Israel, Retired Gen. Elazar Stern was shocked by DDT’s position. “It makes us strong that we don’t waste time on questions like this,” said Stern, the former commander of the Israel Defense Forces Manpower Command. “It’s something to be proud of.” The Guardian wrote about how DDT’s tweets send “the depressing message … in normalising and legitimising prejudice and discrimination” and “significant in itself for its cruelty and foolishness.” Eighteen countries other than the United States permit transgender people to serve in the military. Nine other countries are moving in that direction.

After DDT became the GOP candidate at the RNC a year ago, he said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” On the campaign trail, he tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

In Gallup Daily’s tracking of DDT’s approval rating, his disapproval rating is up 13 percent since his inauguration, up to 58 percent. He has lost support among his entire base: drops of 12 points with evangelicals, 20 points with the working class, and eight points each with rural United States and Mormons. Fifty-eight percent of adults agree with the statement, “Transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military.” Only 27 percent said they should not while the rest answered “don’t know.”

DDT made his announcement on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman integrating the armed services and during a week with DDT’s theme “American Heroes.”  He used transgender people as scapegoats to distract from his involvement with Russian influence in the election, the health care fiasco, and all his other mistakes. Now he’s moved on to sabotage health care and continue with hiring and firing.  John Kelly has been moved from Homeland Security Secretary to DDT’s chief of staff. A question across the media is whether he will control DDT’s tweets. If he tries ….

Help continue the fight against DDT’s ruling on transgender military employees by signing a petition on the internet.

Correction: “An entire year for President Obama and his family,” not “day.”

July 26, 2017

GOP Can’t Create

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 11:31 PM
Tags: , , ,

Debate started today on Trumpcare in the senate after 50 GOP senators voted yesterday to move forward with the process. That motion passed because Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) returned after surgery last week for a brain tumor. George Zornick laid out the process. The Senate will have several votes on different bills—with those voting not knowing what is in them. Understanding of the bills is not important for Republicans; their goal is to get anything passed. Any success will continue the secrecy as Senate leaders hide with House leaders to get anything to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) before his 200th day.

Under consideration are the House health care bill (the AHCA); some version of the Senate health care bill (the BCRA) with changes pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); a straight repeal vote pushed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); and one called a “skinny repeal” bill. The first failure was the Better Care Reconciliation Act with Sen. Ted Cruz’s provision was the first to lose in a vote by 43 to 57. This one needed 60 votes because it didn’t meet the requirements for the reconciliation process. Nine GOP senators opposed the bill. The next bill to fail was the amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) similar to the 2015 bill to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act. Paul’s amendment lost by 45-52 as seven GOP senators joined Democrats in opposition.

This chart shows the divergence of GOP senators between the first two options.

The most popular bill among Republicans may be what’s called the “skinny repeal.” Measures of this include repeal of the mandates for individual insurance and requirements for larger employers providing insurance for their workers. It would also end some taxes, including on medical device makers.  The CBO has issued its score that the bill will eradicate insurance for 16 million people and increase premiums by 20 percent. Earlier the CBO concluded that loss of the individual mandate negatively impacts the insurance market. Most Republicans don’t care: they just want to get something passed so that they can meet in secret with the House to have a bill that they can get through Congress. The content doesn’t matter. As VP Mike Pence said, “Inaction is not an option.”

McCain filed amendments today about Medicaid in support for Arizona, one of 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. He wants the phase out to extend ten years and increase the growth rate for payments to reflect health care inflation. Later this week, senators will endure a “vote-a-rama” with rapid-fire votes on all amendments. Democrats have stopped putting up amendments because no one knows what is in any of the bills. As Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) pointed out, how can anyone prepare amendments to legislation without knowing what’s being amended?

One amendment planned by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is for a single-payer plan. He doesn’t want the plan; he just wants to play off the split among Democrats for this type of health care. Although Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supports “Medicare for All,” he has said that he will not be voting in favor of this amendment because “the Democratic caucus will not participate in the Republicans’ sham process.” He added that “no amendment will get a vote until we see the final legislation and know what bill we are amending.”

Blue Cross/Blue Shield told senators that a repeal of the ACA insurance mandate would be a serious problem if it doesn’t have a replacement that ensures people get and maintain insurance coverage. That puts the giant insurance company against the “skinny repeal.”

Some GOP governors also virulently oppose the “skinny” approach, and their opinion could sway at least one senator toward no. Earlier Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) had said that he would support a bill that didn’t cut Medicaid although he’s smart enough to worry about cuts in Medicaid after the bill goes to conference. He also said that he will support his GOP governor, Brian Sandoval, who opposes the bill. That could make him the third no, if Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) stick to their no votes to even proceed. Heller is up for re-election next year, and DDT had pushed his buddies, billionaire casino moguls and GOP donors Sheldon Adleson and Steve Wynn, to twist Heller’s arm. The question is which side Heller picks.

Before he lost his election to a Tea Partier, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) led the charge to repeal “Obamacare.” He promised voters that Republicans would eliminate the Affordable Care Act if they were elected. Not being in Congress has given Cantor the freedom to tell the truth: he said that the GOP used “that anger working for you,” that they never intended to follow through. About the ACA repeal, Cantor said:

“To give the impression that if Republicans were in control of the House and Senate, that we could do that when Obama was still in office — I never believed it.”

Cantor feels partially responsible for the current mess surrounding the health care debate and the negative part of his party “that says if it’s not everything, then it can’t be conservative.” He prefers working in the private sector because of “the deliberateness and the thoughtfulness.” Too bad that Congress now chooses an opposite path. The fight has turned vicious. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said somebody needs to go to the Senate and “snatch a knot in their ass,” referring to Murkowski. The folksy statement means to beat up or badly injure. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) said that he would “settle this Aaron-Burr style” if they were men, referring to Murkowski and Collins (ME) who voted against proceeding with Trumpcare. Vice President Burr mortally wounded Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

DDT has been very clear that he has no idea how health care works. He even talked to the NYT about how young people could buy coverage for $12 a year. Before his interview, DDT also said that Trumpcare would offer “better coverage for low-income Americans” than the ACA, a complete fantasy, and that the GOP plan is “more generous than Obamacare.” He promised that “premiums will be down 60 and 70 percent” when they would skyrocket. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) may be echoing many GOP legislators when he claims that DDT is “about broad principles,” not specifics. All DDT needs to understand, according to Cassidy, is “the principle … that there would be a replace associated with repeal. In one week, DDT tweeted support for a bipartisan repeal and replace plan, failure of Obamacare, and a senate sales pitch for Trumpcare that strips coverage from over 20 million people. DDT’s sole principle is passing a bill, any bill.

The senators accompany DDT in ignorance. Asked last week which bill will be up for a vote, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) replied, “I suspect it will be anything senators want to vote on. If a senator wants to offer an amendment that’s the 2015 [Obamacare repeal] bill, they can do that.” And indeed Paul did. In answer to a question about whether senators should know the content of the bill before the vote, Cornyn said, “That’s a luxury we don’t have.”

The CBO scoring for the “repeal and replace” plan indicates that a deductible for a standard insurance plan in 2026 would be $13,000. Under current law, an individual making $56,800 would have a deductible of $5,000, while someone making $26,500 would have an $800 deductible. The GOP plan tries to have lower premiums which equates much high deductibles.

Polls oppose the GOP drive to not provide health care for people. A recent poll shows that 62 percent think that the federal government is responsible for healthcare for all, a number up from 52 percent just three months ago. Only 13 percent want the ACA repealed without a replacement. And 80 percent of people think that Republicans should work with Democrats, something that the GOP has stalwartly refused to do. Patrick Murphy is one example of this majority. He said, “Everybody needs some sort of health insurance. They’re trying to repeal Obamacare but they don’t have anything in place. I can’t remember why I opposed it.”

Everyone agrees that the Affordable Care Act needs fixing. That was a consensus when it became law. The Democrats weakened the plan when they catered to the Republicans to get their support, and the Republicans turned tail and refused to vote for the ideas that they provided. But something that needs fixing should be fixed. A house that needs a new roof doesn’t need to be burned down, but that’s what the GOP wants to do with the ACA. The party that has spent decades saying no can’t figure out how to create something—it just wants to burn everything down.

The GOP is the only major party in any advanced democracy on the planet to oppose health care as a core benefit of citizenship, and people are terrified that Republicans will be successful in achieving their goal.

July 25, 2017

Boy Scouts Become Political

Every speech that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes is a new low. Instead of being congratulatory or uplifting, the self-pitying messages are either whining about his unfair life or self-aggrandizing. Ceremonial speeches carry the same tone as his campaign speeches.

The day after he was inaugurated, DDT spoke in front of the Memorial Wall at the CIA, an agency that he had consistently disparaged and compared to Nazis. His fourth full sentence referred to the “dishonest media,” a theme he repeated later in the speech including the accusation that it falsified the number of people at his inauguration. He proceeded to brag about the large number of people in the military who voted for him, the number of times he was on the Time cover, and his unadulterated praise for Michael Flynn who was forced to soon leave the administration because of his Russian connections.

In May, he spoke to graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy about his victimization, especially by the media:

“No politician in history – and I say this with great surety – has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

DDT’s speech to honor veterans at the Kennedy Center immediately before the Fourth of July again focused on himself and his grievances. Instead of a focus on heroes, he pushed his customary complaint about the “fake news” at a time. His goal is to do away with the freedom of the press guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and celebrated on July 4.

Last weekend DDT spoke at an event commissioning the $12.9 billion USS Gerald R. Ford. He urged 6,500 people to call Congress and ask members to pass the budget. Then he added a request to call senators “to make sure you get health care.” Many people there were members of the military who receive federal health care that is not in jeopardy. As commander-in-chief, DDT was technically giving naval officers an order to make political requests to lawmakers. Once again, the man inaugurated as president last January violated the norms separating military and politics which presidents are supposed to honor and protect. His own protectors will justify his actions by saying that he is ignorant of these norms; the question is how long ignorance can be an excuse for his buffoonery.

Two days later, DDT’s he violated the ban on Boy Scout’s participation in political events. In front of 24,000 Scouts and 16,000 other attendees at the Boy Scout Jamboree, he went all out in proselytizing adolescents  the same way that Adolf Hitler did with his Hitler Youth groups. The Nazi party used youth to spread propaganda, and youth groups numbered 5.4 million members before the organizations became mandatory in 1939. Last year, a Trump supporter created “Trump Youth” with an anti-Jewish bent. Although comparisons between DDT and Hitler have long been considered offensive, the connection is growing closer. Eagle Scout Michael Moore compared the scene at the Jamboree to the thousands of Hitler Youth chronicled in the 1934 propaganda Nazi film, Triumph of the Will.

John McLaughlin, acting director of the CIA under George Bush, tweeted that the rally “had the feel of a third world authoritarian’s youth rally.”

DDT called Scouts “young patriots,” and they responded by cheering “USA! USA!” DDT slammed his opponents and incited his audience to boo President Obama; whined about his struggles in the White House; and recalled his great election for his office. He called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and said that Secretary of HHS Tom Price might be fired if the repeal didn’t pass.

“By the way, are you going to get the votes? You better get the votes. Otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’'”

Once again, he talked about “fake news” and demanded loyalty from his officials. In short, he made the speech another boorish campaign rally.

DDT opened his speech in front of tens of thousands of you by cursing, “who the hell wants to talk about politics anyway?” Some of his speech veered from politics to DDT’s partying with the rich and famous on yachts and offering a possible off-color story about meeting real estate developer William Levitt.

Other DDT comments in his speech:

  • “Today, I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or, perhaps, to the word ‘sewer.'”
  • “Many of my top advisers in the White House were Scouts. Ten members of my Cabinet were Scouts. Can you believe that? Ten.” [DDT wasn’t but President Obama was the equivalent of a Cub Scout in Indonesia, and four other presidents—John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush—were also Boy Scouts. DDT failed to mention that AG Jeff Sessions was also an Eagle Scout.]
  • “Some of you here tonight might even have camped out in this yard when Mike was the governor of Indiana, but the scouting was very, very important.” [Who knows what he meant!]
  • “We’re doing a lot with energy.” [DDT’s introduction to Rick Perry.]
  • “I have to tell you our economy is doing great.”
  • “Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date…. But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say? …And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier.”
  • “I’ve known so many great people.”

The Scout Law commands that Scouts be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” The Boy Scouts of America invited DDT because he is the honorary president of BSA. His comments were not their responsibility, but their tepid response to his speech was inexcusable. https://www.facebook.com/pg/theboyscoutsofamerica/posts/?ref=page_internal  Many of the hundreds of comments on the BSA Facebook page agreed with this position. For DDT supporters who accused some people of merely having different political views, one commenter had a pitch-perfect response:

“People disrespect Trump because he treats people terribly (both perceived enemies and friends), whines like a child, acts like a criminal hiding something, and tries to skirt the law at every turn. It’s not because we have different political views.”

Dan Rather also hit the bullseye with his statement:

“A grown man who is so insecure as to seek affirmation in a group of teenagers is not a man with the maturity to lead a nation. A man who is so self-absorbed as to make every utterance about himself and his needs is not a man with the vision to elevate a nation.”

DDT encouraged the crowd to cheer when he claimed that President Obama had never attended one of the Boy Scout Jamborees. Yet the former president taped a speech for the 100th Boy Scout Jamboree seven years ago. He highlighted the role the Boy Scouts had played in America’s history and praised the leadership skills the organization seeks to instill in its members. Transcript and video here.

For the past 80 years, presidents have inspired Boy Scouts with their speeches: Franklin D. Roosevelt, good citizenship; Harry S. Truman, fellowship; Dwight D. Eisenhower, “bonds of common purpose and common ideals”; Lyndon B. Johnson, work to better the future; George H.W. Bush, potential for a new generation; Bill Clinton, doing “good turns”; George W. Bush, serving others. This year, DDT slammed the media, his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, his opposition—any slight offense while he praised himself for getting lots of votes. GOP lawmakers stayed silent.

In contrast to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts—no relationship—announced 23 new badges focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). New CEO Sylvia Acevedo explained that scouts requested many of the badges that range from robots and engineering for kindergarteners and first graders to cybersecurity and programming for the older ones. Acevedo said that she became an engineer and a rocket scientists because of her Girl Scout experience, and many female astronauts were Girl Scouts. According to Acevedo, “we are focused every day on creating girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. We are totally dedicated to create the best leadership experience for girls in America in a nonpartisan way. That’s our focus.”

How sad for the Boy Scouts that all they got was DDT.

July 22, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Six – ‘Made outside America’

Biggest news of week along with the current failure of Trumpcare and the dissing of AG Jeff Sessions is Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) claim that he can pardon himself as well as his family and associates. The jury is out on that one, but even a DDT success in that arena doesn’t get him out of trouble. By accepting a pardon, DDT—or anyone else he pardons—admits guilt and then has to face state charges. The use of pardons for one’s own crimes can also be considered an abuse of power or obstruction of justice. Similarly, firing special investigator Robert Mueller doesn’t necessarily get DDT out of trouble because state prosecutors can hire Mueller and his team. All this can be done without impeachment or congressional investigation by Republicans. Mueller and his lawyers could also be called as witnesses in the civil litigation about emoluments and the hacking conspiracy.

During his campaign, DDT warned that the nation would face a constitutional crisis with a Hillary Clinton presidency because she would face multiple criminal investigations? That Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders would “sit back and they would laugh and they would smile” during a years-long investigation.

“She would be under protracted criminal investigation and probably a criminal trial, I would say. So we’d have a criminal trial of a sitting president…. Our country will continue to suffer.”

Litigation is spreading over into DDT’s cabinet. Last week the U.S. Treasury fined ExxonMobil $1 million for signing agreements with Russian-owned Rosneft while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO. Exxon filed a legal complaint naming Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as lead defendant.

One other strategy from DDT is impugning Mueller’s character. Even his own team of lawyers reportedly opposes it, and Mark Corallo quit the team after only one day. His departure briefly preceded Press Secretary/Communications Director Sean Spicer as collateral damage from DDT’s administration. Also gone is DDT’s long-time lawyer Marc Kasowitz. That makes at least 19 “resignations” during DDT’s first six months.

On his first day, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci appeared at the first on-camera White House press conference in nine days to declare his and everyone else’s love for DDT and announce Spicer’s leaving. Scaramucci said that he hoped Spicer “goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.” Just two years ago, Scaramucci called DDT a “hack politician” and member of the “Queen County bullies association” but now plans to erase all his negative tweets about DDT. The new press secretary is Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has been holding most of the recent press conferences. White supremacist Steve Bannon almost quit when DDT hired the Goldman Sachs alumnus, nicknamed “The Mooch.”

Four days before DDT’s inauguration, Scaramucci met with Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian $10 billion state-run investment fund, which the U.S. sanctioned in 2015. When Scaramucci criticized the sanctions, DDT said that he might ease them. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during his confirmation hearing that he would ask for an investigation into Scaramucci who also sold his hedge funds investment firm, SkyBridge Capital, to China for $11.5 billion. Scaramucci’s only experience in “political communication” was a few appearances on television. SNL aficionados may miss Spicer, but Scaramucci is sure to make an appearance.

DDT understands that he lacks the power that he thought a president holds, but he’s still exceeding that power. This week he interviewed Jessie Liu before he nominated her to a U.S. attorney seat. His action breaks precedence of separating this position from political influence. If confirmed, Liu would have power in Washington, D.C. where DDT is being sued for his hotel/restaurant’s conflict of interest.

A few DDT losses this week:

DDT’s administration is using taxpayer money intended to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act for a PR campaign to kill the law with video testimonials and social media to damage public opinion of a law works quite well. Tom Price led HHS in producing over 130 videos from almost 30 interviews that occurred at the department’s internal studio. Contractors may have charged $550 an hour for their work from DDT’s request of $574 million for “consumer information and outreach.” Funds also paid for people to travel to Washington, D.C. for this purpose. HHS is also leading the anti-ACA messaging and replaced information on its website about applying for coverage with critical information about ACA encouraging people to use private brokers.

A group suing DDT has gained access to DDT’s Mar-A-Lago visitor logs; they will be publicly released in early September. The suit regarding White House visitor logs is ongoing.

In California, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III denied DDT’s request to strip funding from cities providing haven to undocumented immigrants. Orrick ruled that spending power is vested in Congress, not the president.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is requesting DDT campaign documents about Russian contacts and requested “all communications to, from, or copied to the Trump campaign relating to” a list of 41 individuals that includes presidential candidate Jill Stein.

After spending almost an entire hour telling national security advisers the he didn’t want to preserve the nuclear agreement with Iran, DDT declared that Iran is complying with its agreement. The GOP needs its failure to support their opposition, but DDT has twice confirmed Iranian compliance.

Business is shrinking at DDT’s branded properties, especially in L.A. and the Bronx.

Identification of the eighth person at a collusion meeting with DDT’s son-in-law and oldest son reveals Irakly Kaveladze who may be part of a $1.4 billion money-laundering scheme of Russian and Eastern European money through U.S. banks. The major figure in the meeting, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, denied any connection to the Kremlin, but she represented the Russian spy agency FSB which followed the KGB.  Russian president, Vladimir Putin, worked for the KGB until 1999.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker will block U.S. arms sales to six Middle East nations until they settle the blockade against Qatar. DDT sided against Qatar, but U.S. intelligence found that the conflict started after the United Arab Emirates planted false information on Qatari government news and social media sites.

DDT’s approval rating of 38.8 percent for his second quarter is below all other presidents in over a half century, in some case far below.

DDT’s week theme, “Made in America,” creates media attention to DDT’s “Made outside America” approaches:

Much of DDT-branded products are manufactured offshore—clothing in Mexico and China as well as steel and aluminum in China.  But he’s already coming under fire for the move, given that Trump-branded products are often manufactured overseas.

Ivanka Trump’s fashion lines are produced by low-wage workers in places such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and China. The company said that it won’t be selling clothing and shoes made in the U.S.

DDT has expanded the H-2B visa program for temporary workers from 66,000 to 81,000. Some of these workers will be at DDT’s Florida properties. DDT said that the U.S. suffers from a shortage of workers.

Jared Kushner is still selling visas and green cards for $500,000 to foreigners who invest in his properties.

DDT is slashing funds for a government program that helps U.S. companies stay ahead of foreign rivals. He is also cutting a number of other programs to improve jobs, including ones in manufacturing, in the U.S.

One year ago, DDT said, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” –Donald J. Trump, August, 2016  Zeke Miller, White House correspondent for Time, reports that Trump will be at his Bedminster, NJ golf course from August 3rd to the 20th.  Told senators to stay in town until they gave him a health bill, but he’s headed on vacation for his 200th day—and a lot of others. Trump has already spent $47,378,438 on his wasteful sixteen golfing trips. He’s spent a total of eleven days at Bedminster and twenty-five at Mar-a-Lago. Of his first 200 days, he’s spent 20 at Bedminster (NJ) and 25 at Mar-a-Lago. More DDT/golf stories here. That’s over 22 percent of his first 200 days in the White House. There would be more if he hadn’t spent three weekends or traveling from Europe. DDT complained how much time President Obama spent on the links—once in his first 14 weeks in office. DDT has golfed three times more than the combined golfing of his past three predecessors. Last weekend he bragged in seven separate tweets about seeing the Women’s Open while he spent the time at his Bedminster (NJ) resort.

Losing DDT, however, might exalt VP Mike Pence into the top U.S. position. One example of Pence’s narrow world view is his co-sponsorship of Ralph Drollinger for bible study. Pence and at least six cabinet members have joined congressional members to learn from Drollinger. Beyond his bigotry toward LGBTQ people, Catholics, and females, Drollinger states that God hears prayers only from “Christians”—no Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc. need apply.  He also claims that the bible does not support “influential” separation, that the church should win politicians’ souls or replace them with people who are “strong in Christ Public Servants.” The nation should have “God-fearing righteous judges,” not ones who support abortion or “make up rights for the unrighteous.”

During his campaign, DDT asked blacks what they had to lose by voting for him. For the second year in a row, he has refused to speak at the NAACP conference, the first sitting president who denied the invitation in over 30 years.

July 20, 2017

Voter Suppression Goes National

A distraction from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) yesterday was his threats to the DOJ top personnel and the special investigator in charge of tracking Russian collusion with DDT and his associates. Today’s shocker was the revelation that he’s checking into the possibility of using his “presidential pardon” for his staff, his family, and himself. A vital issue for democracy in the United states, however, is his new voting commission which met in public for the first time yesterday.

An obsession with big numbers led DDT to claim that the Hillary Clinton would not have bested him by almost three million votes if the nation didn’t have three to five million illegal votes cast in the election. In his fits of pique, he supports the Republicans who use voter suppression to win elections, state by state, through draconian laws and voter registration purging. Several days ago, the commission riled up secretaries of state across the country by demanding voter roles, including birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and individual voting records.

Across the nation, those requested to send information have primarily said that they would provide the same information that they would to any request for public information. After one lawsuit, the commission must stop collecting voter information until a court makes a ruling. Another suit addressed privacy concerns, especially because the storage computer lacks security.

Amazed at the backlash to the commission, DDT had an official rollout with its chair, VP Mike Pence, and its mastermind and vice chair, Kris Kobach, presenting its goals in what has been called its first meeting. The real first meeting was done just among the members in private. Kobach is known for creating and disseminating the most unreasonable voter ID laws in the country as well as purging voter registration lists in Kansas where he is secretary of state. In the past, Kobach has been one of the strongest defenders of states’ rights.

One stated reason from the commission is to study voter fraud. It has been studied ad infinitum since states started passing laws to prevent minorities, women, and low-income people from casting votes. Women are easily disenfranchised if they have married because names on current identification don’t match the birth certificate. They are also a larger percentage of the elderly who sometimes have no birth certificates. One comprehensive study of every federal election between 2000 and 2014 found 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of over one billion votes cast. Only four cases of voter fraud were identified in the 135 million votes cast last November.

Wisconsin was one of 14 states last year implementing new voting restrictions for the first time. Voter turnout fell in that state to a 20-year low, especially among poor and black residents. According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin.  An analysis of states with and without strict voter ID laws, the number of voters, primarily black and poor, was suppressed in all the states that passed restrictive laws.  This comparison showed that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes. Voter suppression has been confirmed by other studies.

Like officials in 31 other states, Kobach uses Crosscheck to purge voters from registration lists and hopes to use the program with all 50 states. The program is known for huge numbers of false positives, but these people are disenfranchised. The ACLU has sued Kobach four times for voter suppression; he lost all four cases. With great investigative zeal, he found only nine cases of fraudulent voting out of 1.8 million votes. In describing registration and voting by noncitizens as “pervasive,” Kobach could find only one of these cases in Kansas. Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in Kansas has blocked one of seven Kansans since 2013.

Pro-commission people constantly use the term “voter fraud” for registrations for one person in multiple states and for deceased people.  Yet registering in multiple states is legal; it is the act of voting in more than one state that is a felony. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and adviser with high-level security clearance, is registered in more than one state. The same is true for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. And probably many of DDT’s officials. Gregg Phillips, creator of the app VoteStand to help people report potential voter fraud, is registered in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. DDT called Phillips a guru on voter fraud. One study shows 2.75 million people registered to vote in multiple states, usually because of recent moves. In just Clark County (NV), over 150,000 of the county’s 700,000 active registered voters within one year.

The commission claims to be “bipartisan,” but it is run by two seriously partisan Republicans and packed with strong supporters of the voter fraud myth. Another member is Ohio’s former secretary of state Ken Blackwell who ordered county clerks not to accept voter registration on anything less than paper the thickness of a postcard. He also accidentally distributed voter lists with full Social Security numbers for the state’s voters.

House Republicans seem unconcerned about voter fraud. They are attempting to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the only federal agency that exclusively works to make the voting process secure. The move comes after the EAC worked with the FBI to investigate Russian hacking. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also fired its cyberattack expert.

For over a decade, computer experts have issued warnings about the vulnerability of equipment used for voting, especially the direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines. At least five states lack any paper trail for votes, and another 24 use a mixture. Thus only 21 states in the nation have a system for verifying votes. After the Bush/Gore debacle in 2000 when punch cards were unreadable, the Help America Vote Act provided states with $3 billion in 2002 to purchase modern equipment. Most of the states used the money for DRE machines that provided to paper trail.  Russian hackers tried to access election computers in at least 21 states last year, and that may be a conservative estimate.

About states’ reaction to submitting personal information about voters, DDT delivered a line that should have brought laughs: “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the Vice President, I asked the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.”

Yes, DDT, if you are hiding your tax returns, your visitor logs, your conversations with an adversarial country, your—it goes on and on—you must have something to hide.

Courts have determined that voter suppression laws, including but far beyond voter IDs, are “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” GOP legislators admit that the purpose of these laws is to reduce the number of Democrats at the polls. But DDT’s new commission claims that it is “fighting voter fraud” and “protecting election integrity.” The commission ignores the fact that ten percent of people eligible to vote lack the identification to satisfy these new GOP laws. DMVs necessary to obtain IDs and early-voting places close in non-white, non-rich, and non-GOP neighborhoods. Commission members claim that no one ever complains about their disenfranchisement. They do, but they have no effect on the process outside the courts.

Republicans need the new voting commission to stay in power. They will divert attention from the democracy of paper trails for computer voting, enfranchising all eligible voters, early voting, and simplified voter registration. Republicans hate mail-in voting popular in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington because voting is made easier. They hate the automatic voter registration because any eligible voter can easily access the process. They hate a paper trail because the votes can be recounted. The sole goal of most GOP legislators is to keep their party in power at any cost to democracy. The United States doesn’t suffer from voter fraud–it suffers from GOP fraud.

July 19, 2017

DDT Dominates Media–Again

The interview of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by a New York Time report sucked the energy out of any other news today, perhaps for good reason because of the outrageous–and false–statements he made:

  • If he had known that current AG Jeff Sessions would have accused himself from the Russia investigation, he would not have appointment Sessions for his position. [Is the U.S. now on resignation watch for Sessions?]
  • The investigation in Russia’s involvement in the United States—including DDT’s campaign—suffers from conflicts of interest because the lead investigator, Robert Mueller, interviewed for FBI director. DDT claims for have far more conflicts of interest about Mueller that he will reveal “at some point.”
  • Mueller would cross a “red line” if he looks into DDT’s family finances.
  • Rod Rosenstein was wrong for appointing Mueller as special prosecutor because he’s only a “deputy,” and DDT was irritated after he learned that Rosenstein was from Baltimore. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.”
  • He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”
  • Former FBI director James Comey lied in his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony—according to DDT. Also Comey told DDT about the salacious allegations against him to gain leverage with DDT.

Senate Democrats need to be careful about voting to confirm Christopher Wray, a lawyer with a past in supporting money laundering and torture, for the FBI director. Wray gave all the right answers in his confirmation hearings, but so did others such as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who reversed their opinions the instant that they were confirmed. During his interview with the NYT, DDT delivered revisionist history about the FBI when he stated that the director reported “out of courtesy” to the Department of Justice during Richard Nixon’s presidential term. DDT said that “the FBI person really reports directly to the President of the United States.” The FBI website states:

“Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI’s intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence.”

The president can fire the FBI director, as DDT proved a few months ago, but he can’t tell him what to do. DDT followed his falsehood with the statement, “I think we’re going to have a great new FBI director.” That discussion was interrupted by the appearance of DDT’s daughter, Ivanka, and his granddaughter, Arabella, but the allusion was obvious.

The interview also delved into DDT’s lengthy discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 Summit dinner almost two weeks ago but was just revealed yesterday. That talk had only three people in attendance—DDT, Putin, and Putin’s translator. DDT had no translator, and no one from the United States was a witness. In the interview, DDT described the hour-long conversation as about 15 minutes in length and concentrating on “pleasantries.” He mentioned that it was about adoption, originally given as the focus of a meeting of eight people, including DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and son Donald Jr., a year ago. Jr. later said the meeting was really about Russia offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Putin also banned adoptions of Russian children in 2012 because the U.S. sanctioned Russians about human rights abuses.

DDT gave Putin a gift today when he ended the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad. President Obama started the program in 2013 to put pressure on Assad, so DDT accomplished two goals today—pleasing Putin and wiping out another program from the last administration. Putin and DDT had agreed to back the ceasefire in southwest Syria, but the plan did not require the elimination of the training program. Russia has been firing on the CIA-backed rebels fighting against ISIS, and a U.S. official said, “Putin won in Syria.” Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said the DDT’s actions “are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable…. We are really cutting them off at the neck.” The U.S. may no longer be able to stop other countries such as Turkey and Middle East allies from providing anti-Assad rebels and other more radical groups with sophisticated weapons. Officials have seen the program as a bargaining chip for Russian concessions about Syria’s future.

The NYT reported:

“The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.”

No one has any notes from the meeting except for Putin, meaning that the U.S. has no record of discussions, disclosures, and promises. In his first meeting with Putin at G20, DD accepted Putin’s denials of Russian interference and claimed that the U.S. were “exaggerating” the affect of Russia on the presidential election.

Russia also gave DDT permission to name Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and presidential candidate, as ambassador to Russia. His name was tossed out four months ago, but he wasn’t officially nominated until Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met at the State Department with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Since DDT’s talk with Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering the elimination of his cybersecurity office. The U.S. was the first country to have a high-level cyber diplomat role. This week, Tillerson fired Christopher Painter, the person in this job. Doing away with the position would make the U.S. the only major country without a leader whose job is to reduce cyberattacks, abdicating the role to Russia and China.

DDT’s interview was a distraction from the “no confidence” resolution that 25 Democratic representatives filed today. The resolution has no chance of passing in the GOP-dominated chamber, but it publicizes the 88 reasons for declaring DDT unsuitable to hold his current office. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) defined the resolution as “an attempt at political intervention.” He said that the resolution details “misdeeds and actions that give people lack of confidence in him and the direction he is taking our country.” Among them are DDT’s refusal to release his taxes, verbal attacks on women and the press, withdrawal from a vital climate agreement, payments from foreign powers, firing the FBI director during an investigation, and indiscriminate use of Twitter. Cohen said that DDT’s track record reveals “a president that you wouldn’t want your children to look up to.”

“The way he talks about women, the press, the language he uses, the use of Twitter — you don’t want him to be a role model. It’s injurious to our culture, and it’s injurious to … our foreign policy.”

Co-sponsor Judy Chu (D-CA) said:

“We have a president who actively undermines the very principles of our government, and a Republican Congress that makes excuses for him as though his behaviour were normal. It is not normal. Trump’s behavior is cruel, unethical and it is driving people’s faith in government to dangerously low levels.”

About DDT’s second, just revealed, meeting with Putin, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said, “This is not the behavior of the leader of the free world.”

The Democrats also criticized GOP representative for defending DDT’s actions. A bill to appoint an outside prosecutor has only two Republican supporters, Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Justin Amash (R-MI).  Capitol Hill Republicans for defending Trump’s actions and his unconventional approach to governing.

In today’s news, a major story was Sen. John McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer. He is indeed fortunate to have excellent health care provided by the government.

July 18, 2017

U.S. House Produces Mixed Results

Most media attention on Congress has targeted the Senate, but the House keeps chugging along. The 2018 budget plan goes to committee tomorrow with a partial repeal of Dodd-Frank in order to stop protecting consumers plus a reduction of $203 billion for financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, the safety net, etc. to pay for tax cuts and military. Defense spending would increase over the next decade as nondefense discretionary declines to $424 billion from $554 billion. Like senators, representative factions are split between far more cuts to the safety net and opposition to the proposed ones.

Unlike Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) assumption of a four-percent growth, the House Budget Committee expects a 2.6 percent annual average. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 1.9 percent growth in the economy for the next decade.  The House budget plan also assumes that their repeal of the Affordable Care Act will pass.

Last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $20 billion spending bill to fund federal agencies, including $1.6 billion to build DDT’s wall against Mexico. The bill includes a measure preventing the IRS from enforcing the 63-year-old law preventing churches from backing political candidates. Another provision in the bill is taking control of funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the Federal Reserve.

Congress—meaning both chambers—must pass a budget by October 1 to avoid another embarrassing and expensive government shutdown similar to the one in 2013. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), House Freedom Caucus chair, said that his members won’t vote for any budget without constructing the wall. They also claim that they won’t vote for the budget bill because they haven’t seen it. Ryan needs the Caucus because they comprise 31 of the 240 Republicans in the House; passing a bill requires 218 votes. Representatives from districts along the Mexico border are largely opposed to a wall between Mexico and the United States.

The House is still largely ignoring a Senate bill, passed 98-2, that imposes greater sanctions on Russia and limits DDT’s ability to lift them. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the bill should have originated in the House after DDT lobbied the House to weaken the bill. Special interests in energy are now opposing the bill. Despite the Democratic support for the bill in the senate, Ryan is blaming Democrats for the slowdown.

The House did manage to pass two anti-immigration bills. The first cuts off some federal grants from cities that do not go beyond federal law in cooperating with immigration authorities, and the other creates tougher sentences for criminals illegally entering the U.S. several times.  The second bill was based on a woman killed by a man who had been deported to Mexico five times; DDT had used her as a symbol during his campaign. The Senate will probably not survive the Senate, especially the first one opposed by law enforcement groups. The National Fraternal Order of Police wrote House leaders that “withholding needed assistance to law enforcement agencies—which have no policymaking role—also hurts public safety efforts.”

Even GOP representative couldn’t swallow the massive cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget that its ambassador Nikki Haley touted on behalf of DDT. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) pointed out “our leadership is irreplaceable.” Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said the cuts are not “sustainable or advisable” if the U.S. wants to maintain its status as a global leader.

The House did give DDT a bloated defense budget of $696 billion, more than his requested $603 billion. To survive, the budget needs to cut a deal to increase or repeal the sequestration caps that the GOP supported in 2013. A proposal to end the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force remained in the budget, but an amendment passed to require an administration strategy to defeat ISIS and an assessment of whether the 2001 AUMF is adequate to accomplish the strategy.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) lost her amendment to bar the Pentagon from paying for grender transition services when 24 Republicans joined Democrats to kill the measure. Twenty-seven GOP House representatives, including Oregon’s Greg Walden, joined the Democrats to oppose lawmakers who tried expand DDT’s religious profiling and Islamophobic policies. The failed amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense to “conduct strategic assessments of the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging.”

Another loss for the GOP came from 46 Republicans voting against with their caucus to defeat an amendment to the Pentagon’s budget to eradicate language about climate change’s threat. The defense policy calls climate change a “direct threat” to national security and requires analysis about its affect on the military. The House voted 185-234 to keep this language by voting down the amendment. Justification for the language in the Defense Department included the rising sea levels threatening military installations and disasters of drought and floods that exacerbate instability and increase extremist insurrections and war. Defense Secretary James Mattis has already stated that climate change is “a real-time issue, not some distant what-if” and “impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

One House member who may find himself embroiled in the DDT/Russia collusion is Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (SC). His super PAC accepted a great deal of money at the same time that the House Intelligence Committee began his investigation into the collusion. Gowdy defended himself by saying that “it’s not unusual for Russians to contact campaigns.” Yes, it is, and how does Gowdy know about these contacts? He also faces an ethics complaint about the possibility of bribes for his actions connected to Hillary Clinton’s debunked Benghazi investigation.

Gowdy has demanded that every DDT official disclose all communications with Russia before they come “out on the front page of the newspaper.” He wouldn’t admit that there is a problem with Russian collusion, but he wants the distraction to stop. Yet he admitted that “four or five statutes [could be] impacted” and “trusts” special investigator Robert Mueller “to sort all that out.” Mueller has 16 attorneys in his team of 25 people looking into Russian interference.

Things between the House and the White House may grow even more tense, if possible. Devil’s Bargain, a new book from Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, states that white supremacist Steve Bannon, back in WH favor, called Ryan “a limpd**k mother**ker.” Green wrote that the comment from DDT’s chief strategist came from the suggestion of Ryan as a DDT alternative is the RNC were contested. Breitbart.com, Bannon’s former website, launched critical pieces about Ryan. Can this be the first of “kiss and tell” books about DDT—without the kiss?

Ryan has expressed dismay at the senate failure to pass a healthcare bill after the House found 217 votes for Trumpcare months ago. He said that the House will move forward on tax “reform” (aka cuts for the wealthy). Passing the House health care bill has been profitable from some U.S. representative who bought stock in health insurance companies. As the bill moved forward in late March, GOP congressional members invested, i.e., Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), $30,000 and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), $50,000-$100,000.

Shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pulled the vote on its second bill for Trumpcare, he declared that the Senate would vote for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and then replace it later. That plan didn’t work either. Senators who opposed the harshness of the Trumpcare bill are already voicing their opposition. And one possible GOP vote—Sen. John McCain—is still in Arizona. Plus McConnell will need 60, not 50, votes because a repeal won’t fall under the reconciliation process. Yet McConnell plans to move ahead with a vote next week

Ryan was surprised when some women representatives objected to the enforcement of a dress code preventing sleeveless tops and open-toed shoe. Rep. Jackie Spiers (D-CA) initiated “Sleeveless Friday,” a day when the temperature in Washington, D.C. was 97 degrees. Twenty-five women gathered for a photo op on the steps of Congress. Three-fourths of the women in the House are Democrats, but the protest crossed party lines.

Some people may complain about the women making a big deal of a small thing. At this time, however, the Republicans in the House are making a small thing of a big deal—DDT’s conflicts of interest, lack of tax returns, violent and threatening tweets, Russian connections, etc.

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