Nel's New Day

February 28, 2018

Ben Carson’s Furniture: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:18 PM
Tags: , , ,

Tom Price was fired as HHS secretary for using expensive transportation, and other Cabinet members selected by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) such as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are well known for their extravagant appropriation of taxpayer monies for personal pleasure. DDT outdoes them all with his frequent expensive trips to his personal properties, primarily Mar-a-Lago in Florida. But the crowd of grifters in Washington, D.C. filling DDT’s personal swamp has a new entry in wasting taxes while DDT gives money to the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of low-income and middle-class families.

The wasteful expenditures of HUD Secretary Ben Carson came to light when senior HUD official Helen Foster filed a complaint about her demotion, allegedly caused by her refusal to spend more than legally permitted to redecorate Carson’s office. When she told her boss, Craig Clemmensen, that the limit was $5,000, he told her to “find money” for the project, that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair. [Here’s an example of a chair for under $5,000.]

Foster’s reasons for her demotion in her complaint letter also listed retaliations for exposing a $10 million budget shortfall and protesting that she couldn’t deal with freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to DDT. But the furniture costs for furniture have caught on in the media.

The first outlay noted was $31,561 for a dining room set of table, chairs, and hutch. This $31,561 is more than the cost of over 200 homes listed for sale in 31 states on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website cost. Ohio alone had 26 available homes.

When asked about the expenditure for Carson’s new furniture, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams first said that this was false. Williams, the former deputy to Sean Spicer at the RNC and son of Fox presenter Juan Williams, answered:

“When it comes to the secretary’s office, the only money HUD spent was $3,200 to put up new blinds in his office and the deputy secretary’s office.”

Caught in the lie, HUD then justified the purchase by saying that the table inside Carson’s 10th-floor office suite served a “building-wide need.” That was their excuse for not requesting approval from the House or Senate Appropriations Committee, mandated for any expenditure over the $5,000. Williams declared that the decision for the expenditure was by a “career staffer” who selected Sebree and Associates, a company based in Carson’s hometown of Baltimore. The new table was listed as “household furniture” in the procurement documents, and the contract called it “secretary’s furniture.”

Williams said that Carson had complained that the table he inherited (above) had “scratches, scuff marks and cracks.”  Sebree isn’t telling anyone what $31,561 will provide.

Carson said that he thought the cost of that furniture was not very expensive, but he hasn’t commented on the new lounge furniture for his HUD digs. That costs another $165,000.

This profligacy would be bad enough on its own, but it comes on top of HUD budget cuts of 14 percent–$6.8 billion. Last April, Carson vowed to make HUD “the most honest department in the government,” declaring that he was “putting in place a structure so that we can monitor where every penny goes.” In September, Carson said:

“It doesn’t matter what the final budget is. We are looking at how we spend the money efficiently. How do we protect the taxpayers and get the maximum bang for the buck? If we get $10, we will spend it extremely well. If we get $10 trillion, we will spend it extremely well.”

Carson also said that the government shouldn’t “make housing for the poor too cozy.” Compassion, Carson added, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’” Since becoming HUD secretary, he has claimed that poverty is “a state of mind.”

GQ pointed out that Carson, unqualified for his job, had initially turned it down, and his spokesperson said that he “has no government experience” and “has never run a federal agency.” In his first speech to his new staff, he called slaves “immigrants” who came to America to pursue their dreams.

From Carson’s hometown newspaper, the Baltimore Sun:

“Not good, right? You are about to make decisions about how many Americans deserve to live on heating grates and in cardboard boxes while simultaneously picking out that just-so mix of mahogany and leather. Dr. Carson’s defense is that he didn’t have much direct involvement (it was a Charm City-based federally-approved contractor picking out that fancy dining room table, by the way) and that the cost isn’t out of line for such furniture. Here’s what his defense should be: I’m just following the example set by my boss and fellow cabinet members.

“If there’s one thing that has defined Donald Trump’s first year in office—aside from the incompetence, erratic behavior and frequent lies, of course—it’s how in both policy and appearance this president and his minions have favored the wealthy and shamelessly gamed the system for their personal benefit. The tax plan approved by Congress last fall is surely the centerpiece of policies side so lopsidedly tilted to the rich that investor Warren E. Buffett recently estimated his company’s windfall at $29 billion. So how’s that slightly lower income tax withholding rate working out for the rest of us?”

As Carson spends hundreds of thousands of dollars for his office furniture and allows his budget to shrink, HUD housing is becoming so unfit that it cannot be salvaged. Evictions will leave hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.

Carson is merely one example of the new administration totally out of touch with the needs of people throughout the United States, an administration that considers taxpayer funds from “we the people” as their own personal slush fund.

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February 25, 2018

Billy Graham Leaves a Devastating Legacy

Billy Graham, evangelical advisor to presidents for over a half century, died at the age of 99 this past week and will be buried on March 2. People are showering the dead Christian evangelist with tributes, but some of his beliefs are far from what Jesus preached.

Women: Graham criticized feminism and created the Mike Pence rule which advocates men avoid meeting, travelling or eating with a woman, other than one’s wife, alone, to prevent infidelity. At Boston Garden, he told women not to nag their husbands, keep their houses clean, and read a great deal to keep up with their husbands. Graham said that women should wear enough makeup to be pretty and not so much that husbands notice.

Graham’s Wife: When Graham’s wife felt the call to proselytize in Tibet, he told her that the Bible makes the husband the head of the wife: “Then I’ll do the leading and you do the following.” He moved on to harvest fields “more white” while she stayed in the U.S. to get pregnant and raise children according to a dog-training manual before they were sent off to boarding schools.

Civil Rights: Activists, not laws, should change hearts because personal conversions, not federal policies, change behaviors. His 1971 book, The Jesus Generation, praises people who reject government as a way to correct injustices. Of the 1963 March on Washington speech, “I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., Graham said, “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.” “There wasn’t a major Protestant leader in America who obstructed King’s Beloved Community more than Billy Graham did,” says Michael E. Long, author of Billy Graham and the Beloved Community: America’s Evangelist and the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/us/billy-graham-mlk-civil-rights/index.html

Global Warming: In his 1992 book about signs that the end of the world was near, Graham suggested that businesses reduce pollution, but his 2010 version eliminated the term “global warming.” Government had no right passing laws to save the world for posterity, he claimed.

New Deal: Graham believed that helping people through government, a godless competition for churches, was going to take Christians’ rights and liberties.

Wealth: With a net worth of $25 million, Graham normalized ultra-rich pastors and the focus on riches earth for the clergy.

Pro-War: Graham urged President Richard Nixon to use nuclear weapons that would destroy the dikes managing North Vietnam’s flooding and kill over one million people. Even Henry Kissinger considered this war crime “just too much.” George H.W. Bush said that Graham’s presence on the eve of the Persian Gulf War helped him avoid doubt, “even for a second … (about) the moral clarity of our mission that January night.” With the next Bush, Graham blessed the next Christian “crusade” into the Middle East.

Anti-LGBTQ: Graham preached that AIDS is the judgment of God. Saying later that he didn’t believe that statement didn’t stop other pastors from repeating it. He claimed that homosexuality is a “sinister form of perversion” that contributes to the decay of civilization. He promoted conversion therapy that uses Graham’s rhetoric. In 2012, he paid for 14 full-page ads in newspapers across North Carolina to support the state’s Amendment 1 prohibiting marriage equality. In the ads, Graham wrote, “At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear—God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Anti-Semitism: Jews control the media and that was dangerous, Graham told Nixon. “This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.” Nixon agreed, and Graham suggested that if he got elected to a second term “we might be able to do something.” In White House audio tapes released in 2002, Graham also refers to Jews as pornographers.

Graham was used as a pawn by both business and conservative government leaders:

Publishing magnates William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce helped make him famous, and financial and business leaders used him to fight the “socialistic” politics of Franklin D. Roosevelt that brought people out of poverty and starvation.

To elect Richard Nixon, Graham promised President Lyndon B. Johnson that Nixon, if elected, would give Johnson “a major share of the credit” for Nixon’s ending the war and “do everything to make you … a place in history.” Johnson promised Nixon full cooperation if he took the White House. Johnson’s Defense Secretary Clark Clifford thought that LBJ wanted Nixon to become president. Nixon sent Graham as an emissary to Johnson because he knew about their closeness. Graham didn’t know that Nixon was undermining a peace initiative during the last days of Johnson’s presidency.

About his anti-Semitic comments with Nixon, Graham said, “If it wasn’t on tape, I would not have believed it. I guess I was trying to please.” He always gave Nixon a pass, saying that “mistakes and blunders have been made.” The disclosure of Nixon’s wealth, however, and especially the small amount he donated to charity “surprised” Graham. The racist, foul, maniacal rantings on tape that made Graham physically ill, according to Marshall Frady’s 2006 biography of Graham, but Graham continued to make excuses for Nixon and claimed that he had become “deeply religious.” Graham blamed Nixon’s advisers because he was “just trying to protect” them. Frady reported that Graham eventually blamed “all those sleeping pills [that] just let a demon-power come in and play over him.”

Cecil Bothwell wrote about Graham as the father of modern evangelism:

“Graham’s message was principally one of fear: fear of a wrathful god; fear of temptation; fear of communists and socialists; fear of unions; fear of Catholics; fear of homosexuals; fear of racial integration and above all, fear of death. But as a balm for such fears, he promised listeners eternal life, which he said was readily claimed through acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s savior.”

Theolorigan Dorothee Sölle called white evangelical religion “Christofascism.”  Rev. Broderick Greer’s definition:

 “The perpetuation of a societal status quo in which Christians maintain power, frame the aim of Christianity as a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ and retain all the ills of white Christian society like patriarchy, colonization, and heterosexism.”

Greer added that the religion “has evolved into a hyper-nationalistic, militaristic and xenophobic corner of American Christianity” instead of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Almost 20 years ago, Graham wrote:

“If I had to do it all over again, I would also avoid any semblance of involvement in partisan politics… there have been times when I undoubtedly stepped over the line between politics and my calling as an evangelist.”

He was too late in this decision. His son Franklin Graham, who controls the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the group legitimizing Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to evangelicals, has moved to the far right of Billy Graham. About DDT, Franklin tells his 6.3 million followers to “hold your nose and go vote.” He ridicules rights for non-Christians and LGBTQ people, spews hate speech, and calls for discrimination while raising funds for “persecuted Christians.” Franklin Graham claims to “love Muslim people” but adds that Islam “can’t keep you from the doors of hell.”

Sarah Jones described how Franklin changed Billy’s evangelicalism:

“As the father waned, the son waxed: first as a spokesman for his elder, then as an evangelical figure in his own right. Franklin, using the platform he inherited from his father, has defended Trump’s Muslim bans, promoted Russia’s campaign to outlaw ‘homosexual propaganda,’ and once accused gay people of trying to ‘recruit children.’ Franklin, not Billy, represents the evangelical mainstream now.”

The father wanted change by “politeness”; the son follows the style of DDT who “offended everybody! And he became president of the United States.” Franklin crowed, “Only God could do that.” Or maybe Vladimir Putin.

Billy Graham was a handsome man with a powerful voice who was said to have brought more people to Jesus than any other evangelist, a Jesus and a population filled with hatred, bigotry, war-mongering, and domination.

 

February 24, 2018

DDT: Week 57 – Light Schedule, Several Lawsuits

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 7:31 PM
Tags: , , ,

Friday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ended his week with a speech at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference). Two years ago, he was considered too controversial; this year they loved shouting “Lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton and booing the seriously ill Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). DDT rehashed the past, misrepresented his so-called “accomplishments,” bashed the media, repeated the NRA’s positions on more guns, tossed in old clichés, and bellowed incoherent inanities. It was basically a campaign rally speech.

DDT’s working schedule is so slim that it’s padded by listing his daily “intelligence” briefing. He doesn’t even bother to read the President’s Daily Brief with pressing information prepared by intelligence agencies, relying instead on short explanations because of his limited attention span. Until publicity about his possible lack of attention to this information, the briefings were every two or three days. Other than these briefings, DDT’s four-day schedule was composed of these events:

  • Tuesday: Lunch with Defense Secretary Mattis; hosting the public safety “Medal of Valor” awards ceremony.
  • Wednesday: Hosting a “listening session” with high school students and teachers.
  • Thursday: Meeting with state and local officials on school safety.
  • Friday: Speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC); hosting the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; meeting with Rex Tillerson.

Wednesday DDT sat stony-faced while he listened to survivors of mass shootings, but he held a paper with five points, the last one “I hear you.” Even so, he has improved better since he praised the “turnout” for him in Corpus Christi after Hurricane Harvey in Texas and lambasted the U.S. territory’s debt to Wall Street during his visit to Puerto Rico before he threw “those beautiful soft” paper towels at his audience.

The exhausted DDT lacked energy to jet to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend.

DDT’s most recent in-laws are benefitting from “chain migration,” a DDT term for immigrants’ bringing their families into the U.S. to be permanent citizens and a practice that he wants to eliminate. Instead he wants “merit-based” immigration. DDT’s father-in-law, Viktor Knavs was a chauffeur and car salesman in Slovenia, and his mother-in-law was a pattern maker at a textile factory—neither positions which DDT describes as having “merit.” Melania Trump came to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa but found a modeling job and then needed a work visa before she self-sponsored herself for a green card because of her “extraordinary ability” as a model. A few years later, she married DDT 13 years ago.

Joe Cordova, principal deputy assistant secretary for HHS, is on administrative leave because his social media accounts featured conspiracy theories including the falsehood that Gold Star father Khizr Khan is a “Muslim Brotherhood agent.” For a year, Cordova has overseen daily operations for the Office of Human Relations, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of Security and Strategic Information, Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance and Operations Office and the Program Support Center. Targets of his attacks include blacks, Democrats, Muslims, and companies such as Budweiser.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/23/donald-trump-jr-cancels-us-fore  Donald Trump, Jr.’s foreign policy speech in India was changed to a “fireside chat” after objections to his giving an official speech, but he was still successful in selling the family condos, making about $15 million.

Lawsuits:

Net neutrality officially ends on April 23, but opposition to the decision by DDT’s Ajit Pai is not disappearing. Attorneys general from 23 red and blue states accompanied by tech companies such as Mozilla are filing lawsuits to keep the equality of charges on the internet, and Senate Democrats are closing in on enough votes to restore net neutrality. Any legislation will also end up in court because the FCC has blocked states from laws inconsistent with its repeal of net neutrality. https://gizmodo.com/the-nra-just-awarded-fcc-chair-ajit-pai-with-a-gun-for-1823273450  The NRA gave Pai a gun for his courage in overturning rules that stopped broadband providers from blocking or throttling content or creating “fast lanes” to provide better service for companies that pay for it.

Pennsylvania has a new redistricting map, thanks to the state Supreme Court, but Republicans hope to file a federal lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court already turned down the issue, but DDT is calling for a challenge to the new map so that Republicans keep the elections by contorting its boundaries.

Georgians, including the NAACP, are seeking to block or enjoin the 2015 state districting plan until the lawsuit against them has been resolved. The redistricting had been done solely to protect white GOP voters, which the Supreme Court has already ruled unconstitutional.

Federal prosecutors and the police in Washington, DC had help from far-right groups to block anti-DDT protesters, according to a new lawsuit. Evidence is a “doctored” video from Project Veritas used against six exonerated defendants from a rally during DDT’s inauguration. The lawsuit seeks information about information that police get from “private political non-governmental entities … to be used against the political opponents of those organizations.” Another issue concerns police working with the pro-DDT militia Oath Keepers.

HUD was forced to stop its ban on greater housing opportunities for low-income renters after a federal judge ruled against the federal agency that had tried to block people using housing vouchers from moving to improved residential areas. The agency also failed to provide opportunity for public comment before changing its rule. In another win for Public Citizen, visitor logs for the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Council on Environmental Quality will now be available for monthly review.

Nine government and nonprofit organizations are suing DDT for dropping grants for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), a bipartisan project serving 1.2 million youth at 81 institutions in 39 states which created a dramatic decline in teen pregnancy.  DDT’s decision saves $200 million in two years, $100 million less than the cost of DDT’s new “religious freedom” initiative to permit discrimination in health care.

New York City is issuing fines to “pregnancy services centers” that try to convince women not to get abortions and that spread false information about the procedure. PSCs are required to provide referrals to abortion, emergency contraception, and prenatal care if they lack an onsite licensed medical provider. Other states are siphoning off federal TANF funds that feed hungry children to give to these anti-choice clinics, largely run by volunteers, that provide little or no medical care.

In Schneiderman v. Griepp, an anti-harassment federal lawsuit, prosecutors played videos of anti-choice protesters driving away clients at a New York clinic. In one film, a group surrounded a woman before forcing her against a parked car and then against the clinic wall. The clinic developed an escort program of 12 to 20 trained volunteers for patients on Saturdays, peak time for aggressive protesters.

HHS has been forced to rescind its order prohibiting government-funded legal service lawyers from mentioning abortion rights to minors in custody.

Sexual Misconduct:

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was considered a presidential candidate, has been indicted on a charge of felony invasion of privacy for threatening a woman with distributing a naked photo of her if she told the public about their sexual relationship. He said that he made a “personal mistake before I was governor” but “did not commit a crime.” The man who had bound the woman’s hands was led out of the governor’s mansion in handcuffs.

The men’s basketball team at the University of Louisville men’s basketball program must vacate its 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance because a member of the coaching staff provided prostitutes and strippers to players and recruits. The team was also stripped of 123 wins from 2012 to 2015, and the school are required to pay the NCAA about $600,000 in fines for revenue from NCAA tournament appearances during that time.

A report from Sports Illustrated details sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, and retaliation against anyone reporting offenses throughout the Dallas Mavericks, starting with the former CEO, Terdema Ussery. The athletes and the team owner, Mark Cuban, are not involved. Despite complaints starting in 1998, Ussery stayed until 2015 when he went to Under Armour where accusations of harassment forced him out.

Last week’s school shooting that killed 17 people is having an affect on reactions to gun laws:

  • 66 percent – stricter gun laws (whereas only 31 percent don’t).
  • 97 percent – universal background checks for gun purchases.
  • 67 percent – assault weapons ban
  • 83 percent – mandatory waiting period for gun purchases
  • 75 percent – congressional action to reduce gun violence
  • 0 percent – GOP legislative move toward gun safety laws

DDT’s poll numbers since his “handling” of Rob Porter’s domestic violence:

  • His approval rating fell three points to 37 percent.
  • Almost 60 percent think he handled the Porter case badly.
  • Two-thirds think that DDT should release his tax returns.
  • He doesn’t respect women as much as men by 66 to 30 percent, 58 to 37 percent among men.

On to Week 58.

 

February 23, 2018

Another Friday, More Russian Indictments

After years of denying any Russian influence in his election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is blaming President Obama for not stopping it and claiming that he never denied any Russian meddling—despite hours of video that show he’s lying. Last weekend, DDT tweeted:

“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

DDT has no criticism for Russia and no call for action against them, but he lambasted his own intelligence agencies, security advisor H.R. McMaster, Hillary Clinton, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Democratic Party, the Iran deal—pretty much everybody except Russia. In two days at Mar-a-Lago, just 40 miles away from the site of the tragic shooting in Parkland, he tweeted only once about the killing of 17 people at a school 40 miles away from him, accusing the FBI of missing the call about the Florida shooter because it spent too much time on the Russian collusion. Twelve tweets were about the Russian news.

At the Munich Security Conference, U.S. officials told everyone ignore DDT, causing confusion among European officials. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel asked, “Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” Another diplomat suggested that foreign policy positions from people such as McMaster who serve in the name of protecting the nation are following those of Germany’s elite during Hitler’s rise and expressed concern about nuclear war because of DDT’s attacks on North Korea.

U.S. pundits, including George W. Bush’s conservative speech writer David Frum, called DDT’s lack of responsibility for the Russian interference a dereliction of duty, also the title of national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s book describing the military leaders’ failure to object to presidents who continued the Vietnam War. McMaster stated that evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election is “now really incontrovertible,” and DDT is taking no action about the ongoing cyber attack on the United States. The president takes an oath to protect the country; DDT is failing his constitutional mandate.

All states are at risk from electronic interference in voting systems as shown by this highly detailed state-by-state report on the status of election security in the United States. Ratings were from B to F: no state received an A, and 17 states were assigned a D or F. A complete explanation for each state’s grade is useful for contacting state elected representatives about specific concerns. Fixing these problems would cost the government $1.2 billion, the same price as one military plane.

Revelations and indictments during the past week bring DDT closer to the Russian involvement.

  • Alex van der Zwaan, an attorney whose firm was accused of cooperating with former DDT campaign manager Paul Manafort in whitewashing the human rights abuses by former Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovych, has pled guilty to lying to Mueller about his communications with Gates about their work for the Ukrainian government.
  • New charges against Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and campaign worker, has led to Gates pleading guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He worked for DDT almost a year, beginning before DDT’s nomination as the GOP candidate and continuing as deputy chairman of DDT’s inaugural committee.
  • Part of Gates’ lies include his hiding the involvement of Russian-friendly Rep. Dana Rohrabacker (R-CA) with Manafort in lobbying on behalf of Russia-backed former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.  In 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said in a meeting that he thought was secret, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Viewing Rohrabacker as a valuable source, Russian intelligence had assigned him a code name.
  • This week also brought additional indictments against Paul Manafort—twice—along with Mueller’s request to increase his $10 million bail. Manafort is still claiming innocence despite all the evidence.

Another danger to DDT could be Russian journalist Lyudmila Savchuk who went undercover into the Russian “Troll Factory,” the group masquerading as U.S. residents to produce and send pro-DDT propaganda. Savchuk and her Internet World team of 15 anti-trolling experts saw how the Factory hired “bot drivers” to create slanted or completely fictitious posts for automated networks that could go viral in social media.

In a discussion about whether DDT is a traitor, James Risen has listed “four important tracks” in the Russia story:

  • Whether there is reliable evidence that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was to help DDT win.
  • Whether DDT or his associates was involved with Russia to assist in his electoral success.
  • Whether these people tried to obstruct justice by blocking a federal investigation of collusion.
  • Whether Russians are helping DDT obstruct justice in continued efforts to discredit Robert Mueller.

Risen also points out that the U.S. media helped the Russian interference by not reporting on how the emails about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party were revealed and distributed. He wrote that the media ignored this part of the story “because it was so easy for journalists to write about Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.”

Now the world knows what Russia was doing, despite two years of DDT’s claims that it was a hoax and calling Hillary Clinton a “puppet” of Russia. Twice, DDT said that he took Vladimir Putin’s word that he wasn’t meddling in the presidential election over his own intelligence agencies. Now the conservative media is blaming President Obama because it started in 2014, but DDT was considering a presidential run before then with his 2012 trademark application for “Make America Great Again” and his praise for Putin in 2013 while DDT was in Moscow. In 2014, he referred to his run for president. DDT claims vindication because the indictments show no collusion with Russia, but the indictments are not the end of the investigation.

Thomas Friedman wrote:

“President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.”

DDT’s latest diversion from blame is attacking Jeff Session [sic] for not prosecuting President Obama because of Russian interference in the election. The former president had closed two Russian diplomatic facilities after he learned of the meddling, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked him for making the information public and threatened to retaliate against President Obama if he released any information.

Nicholas Kristof laid out a dozen pieces of the DDT puzzle:

  1. Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
  2. DDT has longstanding business interests in Russia.
  3. DDT has consistently displayed a soft spot for Putin. [Kristof puts this point very mildly!]
  4. DDT picked people with ties to Russia during his campaign, and his aides tweaked the GOP platform to please Russia.
  5. DDT aides secretly met with Russians.
  6. A DDT ally secretly communicated with a Russian mouthpiece.
  7. WikiLeaks, presumably representing Russian interests, engaged in secret correspondence with Donald Trump Jr.
  8. Jared Kushner met a Putin ally and asked about using Russian equipment for secret communications with the Kremlin.
  9. DDT aides consistently and falsely denied contacts.
  10. Russian bots are still joining DDT supporters in tweeting hashtags like #MAGA and #FullOfSchiff.
  11. This is not normal!

Meanwhile 57 percent of people in a recent poll disapprove of DDT’s response to the threat of Russian interference in the 2018 elections and agree that he isn’t fit to serve as president. Over three-fourths believe that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 elections, and 68 percent worry that they may do it again.

A little noticed DDT connection with Russia is his support of so-called “anchor babies.” While he opposes immigrants from the other side of the Mexican border, he promotes those from Russia. Pregnant Russian women frequently book his Miami properties to give birth while they are in the U.S., giving babies dual citizenship with Russia and the right to vote in just 18 years. Miami properties called Little Russia are bundling housing and medical services for a few months, and many companies advertise DDT’s lodgings for these “birth tourists.” The Sunny Medical Center “openly advertises citizenship as one of the primary benefits their clients receive.”

Paul Manafort put VP Mike Pence into the White House, according to GOP strategist John Weaver. Manafort has said that he connected DDT with Pence by manufacturing a story about a mechanical problem for DDT’s plane that forced the team to say over night in Indianapolis because Manafort believed that Pence “had value to Trump as a potential VP nominee.” DDT dumped New Jersey governor Chris Christie for vice-president after he talked with Pence and conferred with his son-in-law, the anyone-but-Christie Jared Kushner. Pence ran the transition team and filled the swamp with people like ousted Michael Flynn for national security adviser. After Flynn’s illegal activities were uncovered, Pence played the “I know nothing” game although Rep. Elijah Cummings (R-MD) revealed that Pence knew about Flynn’s relationship with Turkey and Russia when Pence put Flynn into his “security” position. If DDT goes, the nation is left with a worse alternative—Mike Pence.

February 21, 2018

Federal Administration’s Personnel, Legal Issues

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 8:19 PM

The last couple of weeks have seen the usual huge number of problems concerning officials and legal problems swirling around Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) not connected to his Russia connections. An overview:

Appointments:

Kurt Engelhardt, nominated for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, has received committee approval despite his rulings covering for police, not holding them accountable for shooting six unarmed black people on Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina. His decisions also refused to support women’s legal right to be safe from harassment in their employment.

Charles Rettig, nominee to head the IRS, has a history of defending clients against the agency, including Joe Francis who was indicted on tax evasion after he made a fortune selling videos of topless young women. At the same time, he was charged with sexual battery. If confirmed, Rettig, who defended DDT’s refusal to release his tax returns, would oversee an audit of these returns.

Andrew Wheeler, former coal-industry lobbyist, has been approved 11-10 to move to the full Senate for the second in command at the EPA. He was also chief counsel for climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). 

Resignations:

Rachel Brand, DOJ’s #3 attorney, resigned to take a position with Walmart possibly because she was concerned about being asked to oversee the Russia investigation if DDT fires Rod Rosenstein. Brand worked for both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. If Rosenstein leaves, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, connected with the far-right Christian Alliance Defending Freedom, is next in line at DOJ to oversee the Russia investigation after Rosenstein. The announcement of the 13 indictments and DDT’s furious tweets, however, may make Rosenstein a bit more bullet-proof.

Heath Hall has resigned as acting director of the Federal Railroad Administration after public knowledge that he is still working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi. His staff reported that they fielded calls for his second occupation. With no permanent leader since the time of President Obama, the FRA has seen deadly crashes, including one in Washington when a train went off the track on top of a freeway, one in Columbia (SC), and the collision in Virginia between a truck and a train carrying GOP lawmakers. Recently, a train broke apart from a “mechanical error.”  The news comes at a time of strain for the Federal Railroad Administration, which hasn’t had a permanent leader for more than a year while it investigates a string of fatal train crashes and deals with a rising trend of rail-related deaths.

Problems?

Greg Sheehan, acting Fish and Wildlife Service director, attended a convention to promote killing big game and import the bodies back to the U.S. for trophies.

Ajit Pai, FCC chair opposing net neutrality, is under investigation by his own agency for his push to approve rules that would let television broadcasters vastly increase the number of stations they own. Immediately after his success, extreme-conservative Sinclair Broadcasting announced its deal to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion that would increase its viewership to 70 percent of the U.S. public. Pai and his staff members had met with Sinclair executives several times, including days before he took over the FCC. Sinclair is now “asking” its employees for donations to its far-right PAC.

Missing—among over 200 others—is director of the DOJ Office on Violence Against Women.

The revolving door of DDT’s White House staff is now at 34 percent with at least 37 high-level aides and advisers who either resigned or were fired. left, either fired or resigned. That figure compares to nine percent for President Obama during his first year, Bill Clinton’s 11-percent turnover, and Ronald Reagan’s 17 percent. Even The Apprentice fired only 15 people each season.

Whither Jared:

After the revelation of over 100 White House officials who have no permanent security clearances, Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that some personnel with interim security clearances cannot have access to top-secret information, a category that includes Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law. In the past year, Kushner, who has complete access to anything in the White House and met frequently with foreign officials, failed to report financial assets and contacts with foreign officials. His “complicated” business relationships make him highly vulnerable to coercion. Kushner’s wide range of responsibilities included creating peace in the Middle East, improving government efficiency, acting as liaison with such allies as China and Saudi Arabia, reforming the VA and criminal justice, and solving the opioid crisis.  Other than members of the National Security Council, he makes more requests for information to the intelligence than any other White House employee.  Some resolution about Kushner may be public by this Friday.

Lawsuits:

After the state’s Supreme Court demanded redrawing the gerrymandered districts in Pennsylvania, SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, rejected a GOP appeal to reinstate misshapened districts designed to elect only Republicans. [An overview of the eight states in which cases are still pending, five of them before the Supreme Court without the update from PA.] GOP legislators suggested impeaching the state justices and drew another map that was rejected by Gov. Tom Wolf. The state court has now redrawn the map, and GOP legislators plan to file a lawsuit to appeal the decision. DDT is egging them on.

For the second time, a court blocked DDT’s order to end DACA, granting 700,000 young immigrants the right to renew permits to work and stay in the U.S. without deportation. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn ruled that DDT can end the program but that the administration did not provide legally adequate reasons for its decision. Garaufis used DDT’s tweets about DACA being unconstitutional to overturn his order and called DDT’s termination of DACA “arbitrary and capricious.”

A second federal appeals court, the 4th Circuit Court, has ruled, 9-4, against DDT’s latest travel ban executive order because the ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries and two other nations is based on anti-Muslim reasons. This court also used DDT’s tweets for its decision. The U.S. Supreme has agreed to hear arguments on the ban, probably in April.

U.S. District Judge Vince Girdhari Chhabria gave 12 states a victory in forcing the Department of Energy to advance several energy efficiency rules, despite DDT’s move to eliminate them. Rules include increased energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space. U.S. consumers can save $8 billion in energy bills.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ruled that the LA Sheriff’s department violated the Fourth Amendment rights of detained ICE inmates because holding them beyond their release dates constitutes a new arrest. They can only be re-arrested if there is probably cause of criminal activity. Immigration offenses are civil, and so-called ICE warrants are administrative, not judicial. Fairfax County (VA) no longer jails people past their ICE release dates unless the agency has a court order and decided to cancel its detention contract with ICE.

A federal judge has reinforced the ruling that requires DDT to pay $25 million to his former “students” of Trump University. Three pending cases include one for $40 million in restitution.

A federal lawsuit filed last year in Oklahoma has been expanded to obtain class-action status for thousands of state residents extorted by a sheriff- and court-sanctioned collections company. Oklahoma, which uses debt-collections to pay for its justice system, ranks first in locking up women and second in locking up men. The company orders arrest and jailing of people who cannot afford their court debts without legally mandated court hearings. The suit alleges violations of civil rights and extortion under the RICO Act. Civil Rights Corps has already reformed collection practices in Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama and Mississippi as well as bail practices in other states.

Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who won marriage equality in United States v. Windsor, is taking on the white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA). Her nine plaintiffs, injured during the rally, maintain that the 15 defendants conspired to incite racial hatred and violence. Kaplan’s lawsuit is reminiscent of the 20-year-old suit against the Nuremberg Files, the anti-abortion website posting names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions that led to their murders. Although the judgment of $100 million was lowered, the site was removed. Conspiracy may be difficult to prove, but the defendant openly communicated their intent to inspire, commit, or support violence. “The First Amendment does not protect a conspiracy to engage in violence any more than it protects a conspiracy to rob a bank,” said Kaplan. And social media has given her a lot of evidence for the neo-Nazis’ violence in their plans.

New York AG Eric Schneiderman plans a multistate coalition to keep the Clean Water Rule expansion protecting streams and wetlands. Schneiderman sued DDT 28 times last year.

More of these issues in the end of the week roundup on Friday or Saturday.

February 20, 2018

Dead Children: A ‘Reprieve,” the Price of Freedom

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited a visit to Parkland (FL) last Friday, he was all smiles. He never mentioned the word “guns” and largely ignored the victims’ families while focusing on first responders. On Valentine’s Day 2018, a mass shooter killed 17 people at a Florida high school with a legally purchased assault-style rifle. The day after the shooting Florida Republicans tried to loosen background check laws for guns by putting the provision into an agricultural bill. Along with oyster harvesting and water standards in vending machines came granting a concealed weapons permit within 90 days even without a full background check.

The day after the killings, Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio went to the U.S. Senate floor to explain that they shouldn’t ban the AR-15, the weapon of choice by mass shooters. That’s the conservative mentality for these tragedies. Republicans have had several other mass shootings that they use to choreograph their responses. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeated his argument against the “knee-jerk” political response to mass shootings, his same statement after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting killing 14 and the Umpqua Community College (OR) killing of nine the same year. Ryan got $177,000 from the NRA in 2016; his first successful bill last year was rescinding barriers to gun ownership for the mentally ill. Other GOP legislators repeat “knee-jerk” in the midst of their call for “thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan’s “knee jerk” comment did add the possibility of collecting “the facts and the data” that can’t happen because Republicans won’t remove the funding ban for this collecting. removed all funding for getting this information. Two decades ago, gun research in the United States stopped after the GOP threatened to take all funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if it funded research on firearm injuries and deaths. No one has a basis for any gun safety laws. The author of that law, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), regrets his action, but the NRA hasn’t allowed any changes.

This weekend Ryan was at a fundraiser 50 miles away from the shooting in Key Biscayne. When teacher Maria Thorne criticized him for his response to the killings, he told her he “didn’t want to talk politics.” She was removed from the facility. An activist tweeted a photo of people at the Ritz-Carlton and wrote, “This is @SpeakerRyan’s version of Thoughts and Prayers. Odd, it looks like a donor event in the tropics.”

The White House response to the killing of 17 people was one of relief. Aides said that the tragedy gave them “a distraction or a reprieve” from the media attention on coverups for wife-beating, Cabinet secretaries’ luxury travel, payments for DDT’s paramours, and, most especially, the Russian investigation. [The White House may have more “reprieves”: three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in nation’s history have occurred in the past five months.] DDT hid out at Mar-a-Lago for the long weekend where he hosted a disco party immediately after spending a few minutes with victims of the Parkland shooting. DDT had heavily criticized President Obama for playing after the ISIS beheading of a journalist, but DDT was back on the links Monday at the same time as the funerals just 40 miles away for children killed in the shooting.

Through his speech after the shooting, DDT spread more propaganda and lies. In addition to not mentioning the word “gun,” he talked about “defenseless students and teachers,” a line to support the NRA by encouraging guns in every school. The site of the shooting had armed security personnel who never encountered the shooter. His promise of doing “anything we can … assist in any way we can” is false because communities are asking for closed loopholes on buying guns, background checks, and bans on assault-style weapons. DDT also elevated the “thoughts and prayers” to “we hold on to God’s word in Scripture.” In his commitment “to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” he avoids the problem of gun ownership for all. Millions of people suffer from mental health, but they aren’t shooting people. Millions of other people aren’t classified as mentally ill, but they are violent.

DDT’s budget for 2019 eliminates funds for school counselors and violence prevention programs. The $25 million cut, 36 percent of funding for school safety activities, eliminates the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) and Project Prevent Grant programs. DDT’s budget also reduces funding by 16 percent that helps states report domestic and violence crimes for the national background check database for gun purchases. The man who killed 26 people at the Sutherland Springs (TX) church legally purchased his gun because his conviction of domestic abuse had not been entered into this check system. DDT’s constant judicial nominations of gun-happy conservatives will make life for people more dangerous for decades.

The NRA has been praised for its programs teaching young people how to shoot. The teenager who killed 17 people last week sharpened his marksmanship in a NRA-supported school program that received $10,000 from the pro-gun organization in 2016. While he was a member of JROTC, the shooter talked about his AR-15; he was described as “a very good shot” with one of the “air rifles special-made for target shooting.” The NRA gave $2.2 million in grants promoting gun use to schools including “elementary and middle schools” for “youth shooting sports.”

Teenagers refuse to wait to talk about gun safety. The last few days they have been protesting and giving speeches that received national media notice. They also plan these events:

  • March 14: National school walkout
  • March 24: March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
  • April 20: National school walkout

Stories from these young people are powerful. Carly Novell, 17, sent this message about herself and her grandfather, Charles Cohen, with this photo:

“This is my grandpa. When he was 12 years old, he hid in a closet while his family was murdered during the first mass shooting in America. Almost 70 years later, I also hid in a closet from a murderer. These events shouldn’t be repetitive. Something has to change.”

In response to conservative claims that the shooting was about mental illness and people, not guns, Carly wrote:

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

The conservative New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has reversed its position on assault-style weapons, now calling for a ban on them. The ten-year ban passed in 1994 banned features on semi-automatic rifles such as large capacity and detachable magazines as well as high-caliber bullets. The New York Daily News also has a cover attacking him.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida real estate developer who contributed millions of dollars to Republicans, said that he will no longer donate any money to organizations and candidates who don’t support a ban on selling military-style firearms to civilians. Buying an assault-style gun is easier that getting birth control or purchasing Sudafed.  Every state requires an ID to register to vote, but 39 states, including Florida, permit the sales of these weapons with no ID. At least 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. are purchased with no ID. People can buy as many guns at one time that they wish, and Florida gun sellers need no license to sell weapons.

Russians again flooded social media with “bot” propaganda, this time opposing any gun safety laws. Much of the propaganda pushed the concept of the crazy lone wolf shooter with possible terrorist connections, a device that blocks action on gun safety laws. The sole purpose of Russian involvement is creating chaos to widen divisions and freeze any action. DDT helped the chaos by first blaming the students for not reporting the shooter’s behavior (they did) and then the FBI for ignoring the tip they got because they concentrated on—according to DDT—the non-existent Russian collusion.

Kali Holloway has the solution for ending mass shootings: arm all black men. As in the past, armed black men would move white conservative legislators to endorse gun control. “Racism [can] move American political mountains,” Holloway wrote. The first gun control law, passed in Virginia in 1640, banned blacks from owning guns, and the 1857 Dred Scott decision banned blacks from citizenship because it conferred the right “to keep and carry arms.” Following the Civil War, “Black Codes” made gun ownership by blacks illegal. Martin Luther King was denied an open carry permit. California under Gov. Ronald Reagan ended public carry when the Black Panther Party for Self Defense patrolled Oakland with weapons, and the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, the first federal gun law in almost 30 years, came after race riots.

This list of congressional legislators shows which ones are profiting from supporting the NRA in its opposition to gun safety laws.

Millions of people throughout the United States demand unlimited gun ownership as their definition of “freedom.” The price of their freedom is dead children.

February 19, 2018

Presidents Day 2018

Today is Presidents Day. It is a good time to consider the prescient speech given by Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, on October 17, 1960:

“In many countries of the free world private enterprise is greatly different from what we know here. In some, a few families are fabulously wealthy, contribute far less than they should in taxes, and are indifferent to the poverty of the great masses of the people. Broad purchasing power does not, therefore, exist, even for the domestic products of the nation. A country in this situation is fraught with continual instability. It is ripe for revolution.”

Three months later, Eisenhower said in his farewell address:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Presidential warnings about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) began with George Washington’s farewell speech. He warned about false patriotism, special interests, extreme partisanship, fake news, disunity, foreign hatreds, and the national debt. His other concerns were foreign influence over the U.S. political system and a despotic president whose avarice and ego transcended the national interest. Washington cautioned about the danger of one group, “sharpened by the spirit of revenge,” gaining dominion over another that could lead to “a more formal and permanent despotism.” Its “disorders and miseries” would push citizens “to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual.” He concluded:

 “Sooner or later, the chief of some prevailing faction, more able and more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purpose of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

In one of his greatest worries, he counseled that hyperpartisanship could lead “to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Every year since 1896, the Senate has marked Washington’s birthday by reading his farewell speech on the floor of the Senate, annually alternating the reading senator between political parties. The House of Representatives stopped this commemoration many years ago because of their lack of interest. The current “dominant” party has no interest in how Russian involvement, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and fake news led to their victory because they are more preoccupied about their own personal interests than protecting democracy in the United States.

The 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey ranks the current occupant of the Oval Office at the bottom of all presidents, replacing James Buchanan and rating 12 points out of 100. Even among only Republican respondents, he came in fifth from the bottom while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were #15 and 16.  In the biggest overall shift, President Obama has gone up to 8 from 18 since 2014.

Today is Presidents Day, and the Great Tweeter led up to the day by making these official statements yesterday:

  1. “Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!” (8:28 am about 60 Minutes segment)
  2. “Thank you to KenStarr, former Independent Counsel, Whitewater, for your insight and powerful words on FISA abuse, Russian meddling etc. Really great interview with @MariaBartiromo” (9:10 am about Fox network)
  3. “The Fake News of big ratings loser CNN” (5:46 am about a cartoon of Wolf Blitzer in 2038 not available)
  4. “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the US then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” (5:11 am)
  5. “Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?” (4:43 am)
  6. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” (4:33 am)
  7. “Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!” (4:22 am)

Today’s tweets were “Have a great, but very reflective, President’s Day!” (13 minutes before his motorcade left for the golf course) and

 “Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”

President Obama took some action about the meddling when he discovered it, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to join him in warning people about Russian interference. Last summer WaPo published an article about how President Obama discovered Russian interference in 2016 and wanted to release the information. He did not speak out publicly because McConnell would not agree to sign a bipartisan statement about Russian meddling. The former president was concerned that without a united front that it would appear he was attempting to illegitimatize the presidential election. Instead he created sanctions against Russia that the newly elected president tried to prevent and expelled Russians from the United States. In the meantime, McConnell kept the voters from knowing that Russia was supporting Hillary Clinton’s opponent. McConnell merely sent out a letter to states about possible hacking into their voting machines.

The question on Presidents Day 2018 is why the man inaugurated over a year ago isn’t doing anything now about the Russian meddling this year.

For his supporters, the best thing about President’s Day is that there’s a 30-percent off sale on all his MAGA merchandise. Get your caps and cups!

February 18, 2018

GOP Tries to Erase Constitutional Church-State Separation

Christian counseling has taken a new meaning during the time of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Reports about his paying off $130,000 to a porn star after a sexual liaison with her led to James Bakker complimenting DDT for his “counseling” her and giving her money to get out of the pornography industry.

Now George Gregory, a 61-year-old Pennsylvania pastor, claims that he “was counseling a young man with a drug problem.” The man was found in the front seat of Gregory’s car, naked and tied up with nylon rope. Gregory claimed that the man propositioned him, but that he “did nothing.” A neighbor had called the police, and officers found Gregory in the back seat adjusting his clothing. He told officers that he and the man “were just playing” and that they “meet up from time to time to play with each other.” Gregory also claimed that he thought he was in a private place, and officials reminded him that he was on a public street. He said, “That conversation never happened.” The Pittsburgh pastor has been charged with lewdness and indecent exposure, and the other man confirmed that what they were doing was consensual.

In Texas, evangelical minister Gloria Copeland believes in Christian immunization:

Jesus himself is our flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of the flu. We have a duck season, a deer season, but we don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when someone threatens you with ‘everybody is getting the flu.’ We’ve already had our shot.”

Texas has already had 2,300 deaths from the flu, and the season—which Copeland claims doesn’t exist—isn’t over. Jesus didn’t save Copeland’s megachurch from a 2013 measles outbreak after the preaching that people don’t need vaccines because of Jesus’s protection. Both Gloria and her husband, Kenneth, Copeland were members of DDT’s evangelical advisory panel in 2016.

Evangelical belief is fast becoming the mode, as evidenced at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. DDT said that faith “is central to American life and liberty” although he rarely attends church. The percentage of atheists in the United States has almost doubled to 3.1 from 1.6 percent in 2007, and another 4.0 percent identify as agnostics.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who delivered the keynote address at the event, was even farther off target than DDT. The legislator who was shot at a baseball practice last year gave a revisionist view of American history:

“This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God. Our founding fathers talked about it when they were preparing to draft the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson—who was the author of the Constitution—If you go to the Jefferson Memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson: ‘God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’

“You can’t separate church from state…. People would say, you know, when you’re voting on issues, how do you separate your faith from the way you vote? Faith is part of who you are.”

Time for a reality check:

Thomas Jefferson didn’t write the U.S. Constitution; he was in France at the time. James Madison, who supported separation of church and state, wrote the constitution. Jefferson did write the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson also strongly supported the separation of church and state. The term “wall of separation” between the two institutions come from Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association about the First Amendment: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” As president, Jefferson refused to issue proclamations for official days of prayer.

People’s votes may come from their personal beliefs, but not always religious. And government neutrality on religious issues allows people to seek their own paths without government interference.

Evangelical ascendance is leading the United States into a “post-truth era,” according to writer and reporter Kurt Andersen, and that seems to reduce the average IQ. Anderson, a linguistic expert on DDT’s speaking style, points out that only one-third of GOP candidates in 2012 agreed to the scientific theory of evolution. George W. Bush said that evolution shouldn’t be taught in schools unless it is accompanied by the religious belief of creationism. By 2016, only one candidate, George W.’s brother Jeb Bush, was the only one in a large field supporting the science of evolution. Anderson thinks that the Republican candidates, however, are forced to deny evolution to keep their voters as the GOP becomes increasingly extreme. When religious belief “bleeds over into how we manage and construct our economy and our society,” the United States suffers from lasting trouble.

One way that the DDT administration puts Christianity in charge of justice for all people is the religious liberty czar required for every U.S. attorney office. The DOJ has ordered each office to assign a person who monitors litigation for any suits involving “religious liberty” and notify supervisors. All offices must get the approval of the Associate Attorney General, formerly Rachel Brand, before that case can proceed. With Brand’s resignation, the replacement may be Noel Francisco, allied with the ultra-conservative Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom. The new policy mandates:

“To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, Department components and United States Attorneys’ Offices must reasonably accommodate religious observance and practice in all activities, including litigation.”

The policy adds that “the Office of the Associate Attorney General has supervisory responsibility for overseeing the Department’s respect for religious liberty in litigation.”

A new DDT division of the Office of Civil Rights, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD), permits healthcare workers to deny treatment to LGBTQ people and women seeking abortions if it conflicts with their religious convictions. [The White House has also issued many other mandates giving Christian control of the United States.]

The CRFD will cost the health care system at least $300 million to set up new religious requirements as hospitals, nursing homes, state health programs, pharmacies, and other service providers must post employee notices, draft policies, maintain documentation, and prepare other methods of guaranteeing that health care workers can discriminate against people based on their form of Christianity. Annual maintenance of these practices will continue to cost $125 million. Catholics at institutions supported by taxpayers have re-confirmed their opposition to abortion and death with dignity practices.

Other GOP leaders are following DDT’s lead. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has picked anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian pastor to head up the Michigan Civil Rights Commission last week. The state senate is supposed to confirm the person for this position, but Snyder ignored that requirement.

As evangelicals move farther from the cultural mainstream, they are also losing their constituents through aging and attrition. As a result, the white evangelical Protestant population in the U.S. has fallen over 25 percent from 23 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2016. over the past decade, dropping from 23 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2016. Almost two-thirds of them are now at least 50 years old. Perhaps this change will overcome the listing of the ship of state toward Christian theocracy and Christian sharia-like law.

February 17, 2018

DDT: Weeks 55/56 – From ‘Treason’ to ‘Trumpgust’

 One year ago yesterday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave his only press conference since inauguration. George W. Bush gave five during his first year, and Barack Obama gave eleven. Almost two years ago, DDT tweeted:

“Crooked Hillary Clinton has not given a press conference in more than seven months. Her record is so bad she is unable to answer tough questions!”

Instead of being accountable for directly lying to the people, he leaves the job to staff like Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. His rally speeches give him the chance to spread falsehoods with no questions from the media. Six days after his mildly “presidential” State of the Union address, DDT released his vitriolic anger in a speech to Ohio workers. At the rally, supposedly about the tax bill and the economy, he launched into a furious attack of Democrats as “treasonous” and “un-American” because they did not clap for him at his address the week before. [Treason, as defined in the Constitution, “shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”] Masha Gessen compared DDT’s fixation on applause to that in the Soviet Union.

“Whether I chose to applaud or not applaud is a First Amendment right that our forefathers wrote down and that generations before me have sacrificed many a life for,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “And I would just say the president’s out of line with that statement.” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Iraq War veteran who lost both of her legs in battle, tweeted that she didn’t swear an oath “to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” Four of DDT’s draft deferments during the Vietnam War were for college and the fifth for bone spurs in his heels.

As he bragged about the stock market during the speech, the television screen showed the Dow Jones plummeting 1,177 for the day on top of the 666-point loss the Friday before. [Later DDT, who took credit for the stock market growth, said that it is now rigged against him.]

During his speech, DDT became almost incoherent with a reference to the GOP-drafted memo claiming FBI bias:

“Oh, but did we catch them in the act or what? You know what I’m — oh did we catch them in the act. They are very embarrassed. They never thought they were going to get caught. We caught ‘em! We caught ‘em. It’s so much fun. We’re like the great sleuth.”

DDT told the workers that they would get “thousands and thousands of dollars, and you’re getting it every year,” but a few fortunate ones are getting $1,000 bonuses, $.30 a day for the next ten years. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called that “crumbs,” compared to the tens and hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of dollars given to the wealthy and large corporations, but Sheffer CEO Jeff Norris said that “we consider [the bonus] fine dining.”

Unable to let go of his obsession about his former rival Hillary Clinton, DDT ranted about her destroying discarded smartphones with hammers while she was secretary of state five years ago. Guidelines mandate destruction of discarded technology for security reasons.

Earlier that day, DDT enthusiastically—and erroneously—tweeted that UK people were marching because “their [universal healthcare] system is going broke and not working.” The marches were in support of the National Health Service and calling for more funding.

Two days after his speech, DDT said in the midst of a bipartisan congressional near-agreement for a two-year spending bill, “I’d love to see a shutdown.” He got his wish because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY decided to hold the Senate floor, but it was over in five hours. The bill that ended the shutdown is another “continuing resolution” until March 23, the deadline for Congress determining the specifics of the two-year spending plan.

The little boy in DDT has also demanded a military parade in Washington with costs for heavy tanks damaging streets and movement of equipment to that location while taking the military away from their responsibilities.  The parade will cost taxpayers between $10 million and $30 million. George H.W. Bush’s military parade is a precursor of DDT’s disaster. VP Mike Pence criticized North Korea’s military parade but praised one in the United States.

DDT’s latest infrastructure week was again a disaster, marred by talk about sexual misconduct, missing security clearances, and a horrific school shooting. He waited almost 400 days to announce that he expects states to assume over 80 percent of the costs, a reversal from the past when the federal government provided 80 percent of funding. The $200 billion budgeted for infrastructure for an effort that will cost trillions is offset by his removal of $281 billion from transportation—a loss of $81 billion.

Congress contributed to the disasters of the past week. With a vote of 225-192, the House removed business incentives for improving access for disabled people in the Disabilities “Reform” Act. Twelve Democrats supported the discrimination with 19 Republicans in opposition.

Despite a bipartisan compromise between party leaders, both congressional chambers failed to move forward with an immigration bill. The conservatives want nothing to do with helping DACA recipients, and DDT has refused to sign anything that doesn’t give him $25 for his wall.  Yesterday legislators went home for a week’s vacation, and the State Department closed one-third of its refugee settlement offices across 24 states.

After a year, the disposition of some inaugural funds shows one-fourth of the $107 million went to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania Trump’s friend, who got almost $26 million entertainment, staffing, and a $1.62 for her consultation and executive production. Another $25 million went to event company Hargrove Inc. of Maryland.

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

VP Mike Pence embarrassed the United States at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The man who claims to be a Christian sat next to Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, but refused to even acknowledge her. Pence, who spent taxpayer money to fly across the continent twice in one day to walk out of a sports event after athletes protested, refused to stand when the North Korea and South Korea athletes entered the stadium under their flag. Before the opening ceremonies, Pence kept claiming that the North was trying to “hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games” with its “propaganda,” and he stayed at a VIP reception for less than five minutes. DDT accused Democrats of being “treasonous” because they sat at his address like “death.” Pence looked like “death” at the Olympics and missed the chance to represent sportsmanship and unity that DDT says he wants at U.S. sports events.

DDT got a lot of political play for a border wall by claiming last year that a Border Patrol agent was killed by undocumented immigrants, but the FBI determined that Rogelio Martinez died of an accident after the agencies mobilized 37 field offices in an investigation.

FEMA chalked up another loss; the government agency gave Tribute Contracting LLC a $156 million contract to deliver 30 million meals to people in Puerto Rico. The Atlanta company provided 50,000 meals. It has at least five canceled government contracts, and the company, with only one employee, has no experience coordinating large-scale disaster relief. At least 20 percent of Puerto Rican residents still lack power five months after Hurricane Marie.

The Koch-backed organization National Federation of Independent Business is promoting flu across the nation. They are fighting a Maryland law, passed over the governor’s veto, and an ordinance up for vote in Austin (TX) allowing workers to earn paid sick leave. Flu infection rate decrease with sick days, and two-thirds of restaurants and cooks have served or cooked foot while ill. The organization complain about job-killing costs while they push a policy that is people-killing.

ICE has rescued “Amuricans” from another “bad hombre.” Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, was taken away from his front yard in Lawrence (KS) without permission to say goodbye to his wife and three children.  Over 30 years ago, he came from Bangladesh on a student visa and earned graduate degrees in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering. He changed to an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers and then back to a student visa when he enrolled in a doctoral program. He was on a temporary work permit, teaching chemistry as an adjunct professor at Park University in Kansas City and conducting research at local hospitals, when he was arrested for deportation. “Amuricans” may think they are a bit safer today because this man is captured.

A 1946 law and its regulations allow ICE agents to search any vehicle within 100 air miles of a land or sea boundary. That covers almost two-thirds of the U.S. population—over 200 million people. Agents can have permanent and temporary checkpoints within that area.

Trumpgust” reveals that DDT’s “combover” is far more extensive than most people know.

The number of states where conservatives outnumber liberals declined in 2017 to the lowest in Gallup’s trend since 2008.

February 16, 2018

White House Misery from Russia, Sexual Misconduct

Most people in the U.S. pay Social Security taxes for the entire year, but February 16 is the date when the last millionaire can stop because of the ceiling of $128,500. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) finished his Social Security payments in less than the first hour on January 1.

The biggest news today, however, was Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian collusion in the presidential election. A grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals for tampering with the U.S. political process through the Internet Research Agency (IRA), aka Glasvet, and the Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering. Concord hid their payments to the IRA by calling them software support. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the defendants had “allegedly conducted what they called ‘information warfare’ against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust of candidates and political system in general.” He continued:

“They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

Chats from Julian Assange, who released edited emails through Wikileaks to denigrate Hillary Clinton and the Democrats also show his work to elect DDT and Republicans. The State Department and the Treasury Department had already missed the January 29 deadline to place sanctions on Russia.

These indictments are just one part of the investigation. Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s junior business partner and DDT’s campaign staffer, is “finalizing” a plea deal after his earlier indictment. Former White House staffer Steve Bannon also testified to Mueller for over 20 hours before he refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee that may charge him with contempt.

The Democratic memo from the Intelligence Committee has been turned down by DDT who already released the Republican version in its entirety. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that DDT would be fair in determining the release of the memo, but he maintained that the Dem’s memo had classified information.

According to U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, the GOP memo had already declassified information about the investigation. He made that pronouncement because the DOJ is fighting the release of when the FBI received the dossier after Buzzfeed asked for this information in fighting a defamation lawsuit. Mehta rejected the DOJ argument that they couldn’t reveal the date by saying that DDT “has now declassified an entire national security investigation.” The argument for not releasing the Democratic memo is gone. Thanks to Rep. Devin (R-CA) Nunes’ GOP memo, Buzzfeed has most of the classified information that it needed.  The FBI had already objected to releasing the GOP memo because it was misleading, but DDT didn’t even bother to read the GOP memo before he promised its release.

Another problem for DDT is the ruling from a federal appeals court to unseal 20-year-old records about his mobster, mafia, and Russian connections with Felix Sater who developed the Trump SoHo Hotel-Condominium and a tower in Fort Lauderdale, both resulting in fraud lawsuit. DDT was involved in a “pump-and-dump penny” stock scam that artificially inflates the price of owned stock through false and misleading positive comments to sell cheaply-acquired stock at a much higher price. DDT used The Apprentice to promote his So-Ho project and collected a large cash amount before its failure led to foreclosure; even then DDT earned an annual $3 million for managing it until its sale last year. Almost criminally charged, Ivanka and Erica Trump escaped with a large political donation to Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance. Sater told worked for DDT through back channels to get a Ukraine “peace plan” in exchange for dropping Russian sanctions after he promised DDT’ lawyer Michael Cohen that he would work with Putin to “get Donald Trump elected.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has asked the Treasury Department for documentation about DDT’s sale in 2008 of an uninhabitable Palm Beach mansion to Russian Oligarch Dmitry Rybolevley for much more than it was worth. DDT’s purchase price was $41.35 million, and he sold it for $95 million for a property evaluated at $30 million. Although DDT claimed that he never met Rybolevley, their paths crossed, including during DDT’s campaign in 2016.

The biggest DDT news in the last two weeks before Mueller’s indictments was the Rob Porter case. It began as a basic domestic abuse situation before it blew up into a situation marked by falsehoods by White House staff, led by Sanders and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

After Porter’s alleged beating and verbal abuse of two ex-wives became public, he resigned—although he stayed in the White House for an indeterminate time. As staff secretary, he held one of the highest positions there, serving as liaison between DDT and all government agencies, handling all the communications that go to DDT, and acting as “gatekeeper to the Oval Office, determining which articles and policy proposals reached the president’s hands and screening the briefing materials that his visitors shared with him,” according to WaPo. 

For several days after the revelation, Kelly supported Porter and tried to save his job. Even when Kelly gave up the attempt, he—and DDT—refused to acknowledge that Porter might have committed the acts attributed to him. Communications director Hope Hicks, who wrote the supportive statements about Porter, is also dating him, despite warnings from an ex-girlfriend of Porter. Staffer Kellyanne Conway said that Hicks was safe with Porter because she is strong and smart, insinuating that only weak and dumb women are victims of domestic abuse.

The White House standard line that no one had told them about any problems with Porter unraveled after FBI director, Christopher Wray, testified at a Senate hearing that the agency had reported about Porter’s behavior last March, in July, and again in November when the White House kept insisting that the FBI do more extensive investigations. WH counsel Don McGahn had said that Porter should resign in November, but nothing came of his suggestion. Several days after Porter’s resignation, DDT wished him a successful career and refused to answer a question during his event with sheriffs if he had any message for victims of abuse. Since then, DDT declared that he was opposed to domestic violence but didn’t say anything against Porter.

Within the first week after the Porter news broke, Sanders switched the blame to the FBI after admitting that the White House knew about the situation and then moved the focus to the White House Office of Personnel Security. Kelly’s support of Porter has led to the possibility that Kelly might be leaving the White House, but news about the problem has largely disappeared since the tragic school shooting in Florida and the indictment of Russians for their part in last year’s election.

GOP legislators are trying hard to cover for DDT. For example, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) said that “blackmail and domestic situations [aren’t] crimes of character…. They aren’t dishonesty.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who won’t run for re-election this year, came out to join the full-throated praise of wife-abuser and man who sees everything sensitive document despite no security clearance, Rob Porter, this week. Porter had earlier worked for Hatch, who wants him to “work his way through and do what’s right.”

Throughout his campaign, DDT has lambasted Hillary Clinton with accusations that she mishandled classified information and should go to prison. Yet more than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President lacked permanent security clearances a few months ago, including his top legal counsel, Press Secretary Sanders, daughter, and son-in-law. At least 34 of them started at the White House on the day that DDT did. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who has recently left WH employment, never had clearance, and George Banks, special assistant for economic policy, resigned because he couldn’t get clearance. More are listed here.

DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen may have sent Stormy Daniels away with $130,000, but Karen McDougal has a report about her nine-month affair with DDT in 2006, beginning three months after DDT’s son Barron was born. She sold her account to the owner of the National Enquirer for $150,000, but it protected DDT by quashing the story.

DDT’s approval ratings may be crawling up around 40 percent, but women who are watching his approval of sexual misconduct have dropped his ratings among females to 29 percent. Among that group, the strongest supporters are still white women without college degrees, but their approval for DDT is falling seriously in the Rustbelt. Over 22 percent of white women without college degrees report that DDT’s actions have hurt them and their families, and 47 percent report the nation’s economy as not good or poor. Sixty-five percent believe he is not the “very stable genius” that he claims to be, and 79 percent see sexual harassment of women in the workplace as a problem.

For the first time in the nation, not one state viewed improvement in 2017, and 21 states saw their well-being scores decline, six states more than the previous record in the Great Recession of 2009.

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