Nel's New Day

May 30, 2018

Democracy on Memorial Day

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:41 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the real Memorial Day and the final blog post in a series of vanishing democracy in the United States. News from the last few weeks:

When the cost of healthcare premiums skyrocket next year, people need to thank Republicans and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Vice President Kris Haltmeyer said that the rise will come from the GOP failure to shore up the market after a bill collapsed during Republican arguments about abortion restrictions. In last week’s briefing, Haltmeyer said, “With the repeal of the individual mandate and the failure of Congress to enact stabilization legislation, we are expecting premiums to go up substantially.”  He put the average increases in the “low teens” with costs in some areas of up to 70 or 80 percent.

The NRA found the “good guy with the gun” vital to their propaganda, but the organization blocked all guns at their convention earlier this month. People in the United States were safer for a few days while almost 90,000 gun fanatics gathered in one place without their weapons. The group made Oliver North its new leader. He can be remembered as an important figure in illegally selling weapons to Iranians for the release of U.S. prisoners before using the money to illegally finance a war in Central America. His convictions of multiple felonies were later overturned on appeal. It’s the new conservative world. In a recent appearance on Fox, he claimed that all Iranians are liars.

North joins the “convict caucus,” politicians who came out of prison to take important positions or run for office. (Technically, he was only convicted but never behind bars.) Other members are two candidates for U.S. Senate and one for the House in GOP primaries. Don Blankenship, imprisoned for violating workplace safety in the deaths of 29 coal miners, already lost his run for the senator from Kentucky but plans to run as an independent for the Constitution Party, despite the “sore loser” law preventing his candidacy. The other two primaries are August 28 when former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio runs in Arizona for the Senate, and June 26 when Michael Grimm runs for a representative from New York.

Grimm claimed to be a close friend of DDT, but DDT endorsed his opponent. One reason for the endorsement was Dan Donovan’s vote for the tax cut, but Donovan really voted against the bill. Grimm is running on his record of admittedly hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities, and making false statements under oath. After Grimm’s aide filed fraudulent candidate petitions in Donovan’s name, he may be headed back to the hoosegow.

The former Boy Scouts decided to recruit girls in an effort to increase its members, but the Mormon church pulled all its members world-wide, instantly reducing the 2.3 million membership by 20 percent. All boys who were part of the 30,500 congregations automatically became part of the Boy Scouts.

DDT’s swamp deepens. Busy with foreign affairs, he has not made many appointments lately, but this one is a doozy. Ronald W. Mortensen, a strong anti-immigration activist, is DDT’s pick to lead the State Department agency overseeing refugee and immigration issues. Normally GOP Senators would automatically confirm him, but his writings have attacked senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) and John McCain (AZ). Mortensen has worked for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and said that DACA gives amnesty to “criminal illegal aliens.” As assistant secretary of State for the bureau of population, refugees and migration, Mortensen’s mission would be to “provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world,” according to its mission statement.

After assigning immigration judges quotas for their employment, AG Jeff Sessions ordered all immigration judges to not temporarily remove cases from their dockets without issuing decisions. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that this practice will create problems, and Trina Realmutto, attorney with American Immigration Council, called the decision “bad law, bad policy.”

As if DDT’s appointments aren’t bad enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is adding to the sewer by appointing Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to the Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated FRC as a hate group. The commission’s job is to review violations of religious freedom and make policy recommendations to Congress, Secretary of State, and president. Perkins is best known for his virulent hatred of LGBTQ people.

Gordon Hartogensis, Mitch McConnell’s brother-in-law, is DDT’s pick for the Department of Labor’s pension agency, responsible for paying back dissolved pensions after companies cannot meet their obligations. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is already the Transportation Secretary. Hartogensis has no public service experience or understanding of his job’s responsibilities of protecting pensions for 1.5 million people with a deficit of $76 billion.

Andrew Smith, a former lawyer for payday lenders, has been confirmed as the director of the FTC’s consumer protection unit that acts as watchdog over private companies.

Richard Grenell, the new ambassador to Germany, lived up to concerns that he will offend Germans. An hour after his arrival, he issued the order that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” DDT had said that he wanted all countries to join him in sanctions against Iran, but Germany, along with four other countries, don’t plan to back out of the denuclearization agreement. Just as many people predicted, Germans found Grenell to be offensive. He matches the inappropriate selection of Pete Hoekstra, ambassador to the Netherlands, who lied about having said that the country has “no-go” areas where Muslims set cars and politicians on fire. Hoekstra then denied claiming “fake news” after he discovered the video footage of his statements. Since Grenell’s statement, he’s been fairly low-key although he told Fox that he didn’t want to be a “typical diplomat,” that he would “dig” into policy.

A few commencement speeches this year focused on the loss of democracy in the United States. Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) spoke to graduates of the Harvard Law School “about our democratic norms and how hard-won and vulnerable they are” with the lessons to be learned about today’s administration. At the University of Maryland, Al Gore encouraged his audience “to reclaim the integrity of American democracy.” Economist Alice Rivlin agreed, telling people at Indiana University, “Only you can fix American democracy.”

No address got as much attention as the one that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered to graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don’t take action. His warnings didn’t mention DDT by name, but the intent was obvious:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth—even on what may seem the most trivial of matters—we go wobbly on America.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector—and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector—then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.

“But a warning to you as you leave this place—a place where the person sitting on either side of you shares that understanding. You will now enter a world where, sadly, that is not always the case. And your commitment to this high standard of ethical behavior and integrity will be tested.”

According to Tillerson, truth is the “central tenet of a free society.”

Tillerson was complicit in an administration that displayed the opposite of the ideas he presented after he participated in a huge cover-up of climate change when he was CEO of a huge company in the fuel industry. We can only hope that he benefits from 20/20 hindsight and can help others understand how destructive the current administration and their followers are to the values of the U.S. people say they prize. And we hope that the youth of the United States will want to bring back a form of democracy to the nation and attend to the U.S. Constitution.

May 29, 2018

Congress Decisions, Destructive or Failed

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) couldn’t even get a farm bill passed after 18 hardline far-right and 12 moderate GOP representatives sided with the Democrats to vote against it after a difference of opinion about immigrants. Conservatives also didn’t like the idea of “too much” funding for food stamps, and the Dems hated the drastic food stamp cuts. On the other hand, farmers and relatives could be eligible for up to $125,000 annually per person. Food stamps cost $125.41 per month.

DDT has signed a bank deregulation bill that puts the United States into almost the same lack of oversight that sent the nation into a recession at the end of George W. Bush’s two terms. The excuse is to help the economy, but, thanks to the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, Wall Street netted $56 billion in the first quarter of 2018. That’s the industry’s most profitable quarter in history. The new law allows banks to take irresponsible risks that can primarily hurt the bottom 90 percent. Supposedly the lack of regulations help small banks, but rules moved big banks into the “mid-sized” level (up to $250 billion in assets) permitting them to lower compliance costs, expand trading opportunities, substitute costly debts with deposits, and kick back more money to shareholders. Consumers have lost their protection. Lobby money paid off 33 Democrats as well as the Republicans who voted for the bill.

The Senate showed that it understands the disaster of FCC’s repeal to net neutrality by passing a bill in opposition with all 49 Democrats and GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and John Kennedy (LA) voting for the bill. The House will ignore the bill, but it’s a start. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to deal with the bill because supporters used the Congressional Review Act to force action with a simple majority vote. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pointed out that new net neutrality rules hurt “public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses” while protecting “large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”

Congress has failed to overturn requirements on payday lenders that protect borrowers from paying excessive interest on these short-term loans. Conservatives touted these loans as the way that poor people could save themselves from disaster, but a typical two-week payday loan had an annual percentage rage of 400 percent. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may still try to change the rules itself, but that requires public input. The rules required under a former CFPB administration don’t go into effect until August 2019.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) formally requested that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) schedule a public hearing for Donald Trump Jr. because of evidence that Jr. gave “false testimony.” He told a congressional committee that foreigners did not “offer or provide assistance” to DDT’s campaign and did not seek any foreign assistance. Lying to Congress is a crime even if a person is not under oath. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Jr. by saying that a different witness may have lied to the panel instead.

Crowdfunding (aka cyberbegging) has been used for-profit ventures as well as medical and legal expenses, travel, and community projects. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) wants to use crowdfunding to build DDT’s wall and has introduced a bill to “allow the secretary of the Treasury to accept public donations.” The bill also states that funds can be used “for other purposes” including a mile-long “commemorative display” to honor donors. During her announcement of the bill on Fox, host Farris Faulkner asked, “What happened to Mexico paying for it?” Black said that she didn’t know “what kind of pressure” DDT is putting on Mexico for funding. He is threatening to close the U.S. government if Congress doesn’t approve funding from taxpayers. USA Today has an interactive map of barriers to the wall.

John M. Gore, acting head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division has both refused to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and refused to answer questions about his request for a citizenship question on the census, but under the leadership of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), GOP members refused to issue a subpoena to Gore with no reason. Two weeks ago, Tom Brunell, DDT’s choice for Census Director, said that the decision to add this question was based on politics. He said, “They have made a political decision. And they have every right to do that, because they won the election.”

Republicans believe in no regulations—unless they serve personal interests. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) declared he will stop banks from new rules on guns that restrict credit card and banking services to gun retailers and cease lending to gun manufacturers that fail to comply with the banks’ age limits and background checks. Bank of America will no longer lend money to companies that make the AR-15. Kennedy plans to file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—that doesn’t protect consumers because regulations have disappeared—and wants colleagues to write legislation that prevents banks from “discriminating” against gun buyers. Other GOP senators threatening banks for their rules regarding guns are Mike Crapo (ID) and Ted Cruz (TX). Michael Piwowar, a SEC commissioner whose term ends this year, told banks that they would have trouble getting GOP support for easing derivatives regulations.

Dumbest statement from a member of Congress this month? It’s hard to pick, but this one is good. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has never known to be that sharpest tool in the shed, but his reason for sea-level rise may top earlier comments. “Every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.” He looked over the fact that his solution would be accurate only if the top five inches of the 9.1 million square miles in the U.S. went into the ocean—every year. At least, he’s figured out that the seas are rising. He’s making progress.

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA), member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, dropped his run for a second House term and announced that he’s an alcoholic. Former staffers had accused Garrett and his wife of treating them like servants—carrying groceries, walking the dog, and even cleaning up after the animal’s waste when he forgot to take the dog home from his office. Chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, was ready to leave Garrett when he made the announcement. Garrett’s resignation makes the 44th GOP resignation from the House this year. He had no opposition in the June 12 primary; the House district RNC will select an opponent against a strong Democratic candidate in the November midterm election.

No matter what Congress does, its rating stays low. Among Republicans, the approval rating dropped from 50 percent when DDT was inaugurated to 22 percent this month. And the GOP is in control!

State-wise, felons are beginning to regain their voting rights after they leave prison. Louisiana has passed a bill, which will probably be signed into law, that gives voting rights to people on probation or parole if they have been out of prison for at least five years. In other states:

  • Alabama: thousands of felons were added to voter rolls following a law clarifying specific crimes that bar felons from voting.
  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) restored the first pardons giving the right to vote to over 24,086 parolees.
  • Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored voting rights to over 155,000 convicted felons who completed their sentences.
  • Florida: A November ballot measure could restore voting rights to felons after they complete their prison sentences. (Florida is one of ten states where felons permanently lose their voting rights.)
  • Mississippi: Two pending federal suits seek automatic voting rights after the completion of the sentence.
  • New Jersey: Lawmakers are considering a measure allowing people in prison to vote, legal only in Maine and Vermont.

Republicans want to keep felons from voting from fear that they will vote against the GOP, but states have another method to keep white supremacy: eliminating all non-citizens from the census that determines the number of seats per state in Congress. Alabama has a lawsuit to exclude immigrants from the count, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are supporting that position. The 14th Amendment requiring the census states that congressional seats are designated on the basis of the number of “persons.” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Alabama’s AG Steve Marshall are using the argument that “persons” did not include undocumented people in the 18th and 19th centuries. Alabama may lose a congressional seat after the 2020 census. Missouri state legislators are considering a law that would base state legislative districts entirely on citizen population.

In all but six states, legislatures will be adjourned by the end of June. Next week, however, the Senate comes back to meet 12 weeks before midterms—less time for the House schedule. Both chambers disappear in August. We’ll see how much damage they can do in that time.

May 28, 2018

Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees. Trying to arbitrate such claims individually would be too expensive to be worth it, and “the risks of employer retaliation would likely dissuade most workers from seeking redress alone.”

Federal labor law permits employees to work together in improving their conditions and fight low wages, harassment, and discrimination, but the court states that companies can use arbitration clauses, forced on employees if they want the job, to ban joining together in legal actions. Employees must now fight individually against violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime, and requirements to work off the clock. Few private attorneys will take cases for so little money.

The day after this Supreme Court ruling, the National Labor Relations Board delivered an opposing position, that employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively and “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” According to the Board’s interpretation of Section 8, an employment agreement requiring employees to resolve disputes by arbitration or on an individual basis is an unfair labor practice. The question now will be what opinions supersede others.

In a Supreme Court’s decision that states can legally bet on college and professional sports, Justice Samuel Alito said that each state has the right to act on its own if Congress does not regulate sports gambling. Next year, the Supreme Court will hear a case on when federal law trumps state law.

After churches in Morris County (New Jersey) received almost $5 million for repairs, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution forbids using public money for religious purposes. A year ago, the Supreme Court allowed taxpayer monies to be used for repair of a church’s playground in Missouri, but the ruling did not address houses of worship. The case may go to the Supreme Court.

A federal court in California ruled Friday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in deciding that the agency violated privacy laws by using the Social Security Administration to analyze loan forgiveness for students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. The court ordered debt collection from defrauded students to stop after DeVos stated that only part of federal loans would be forgiven. DeVos is supporting other for-profit colleges. She appointed the dean of DeVry to head a team to investigate these schools, including DeVry. She has also frozen protections for students and reduced loan forgiveness relief for students defrauded by these schools.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, fought for years to use the bathroom in high school, and a federal judge ruled the school officials of Gloucester County (VA) violated his constitutional rights for stopping him from using the bathroom matching his gender identity after the 4th Circuit Court sent the case back to the lower court.

Judge Orlando Garcia, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that the state must comply with the federal National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) (or “motor voter” law) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Construction on the final 18 miles of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in St. James (LA), located in an area called Cancer Alley, has been halted after a judge ruled that state regulators violated guidelines in issuing a coastal use permit. Town residents would have no way to evacuate after an explosion or other pipeline failure emergency, a fact not considered in the state’s permit. The company building the pipeline faces a legal challenge for its U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permit through the Atchafalaya Basin, a National Heritage Area and massive river swamp. The 5th Circuit Court began to hear this case the beginning of May, but pipeline builders are already cutting down old growth cypress trees.

DDT cannot block people from his Twitter account, according to a federal judge who wrote:

“The President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.”

DDT can mute people’s accounts so that he doesn’t have to look at their comments.

Another DDT sign came down when a New York State judge ruled that the name “Trump Place” can be removed from a high-rise condo. The bad news is that the condo cannot change its name, and the sign will stay until two-thirds majority of the condo association agrees to remove the signs. DDT’s name has already been removed from three Manhattan buildings and hotels in New York, Toronto, and Panama.

A New York appeals court refused to allow DDT to stay a defamation case by Summer Zervos regarding her claim that DDT sexually assaulted her. At this time, DDT can be deposed in the case, and lawyers can proceed with pretrial discovery, including demands for documents. In addition, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he’s vetting two more women on their claims that DDT gave them large hush-money payments. Zervos will subpoena documents from the Trump Organization about DDT’s alleged mistreatment of women, recordings from the archives of the president’s former reality show, and surveillance footage from the hotel in which Zervos says she was attacked.

The third federal judge has ruled against DDT over cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. The judge wrote that ending grants two years early was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The 73 organizations receiving grants will have to follow DHS’ new requirements to focus on abstinence programs for continued funding while the eight suing organizations will not.

White supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin has been found guilty of malicious wounding, nine months after he battered a young black man in a Charlottesville (VA) garage before his victim, 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was attacked by other white supremacists who broke his arm and injured his spine. Other attackers are awaiting trial. At the same event, another white supremacist deliberately drove into a crowd, killed Heather Heyer, and injured more than another dozen people. Two days after Goodwin’s guilt was established, white supremacist Alex Michael Ramos was found guilty of “malicious wounding” in the same attack. Both men face 20 years in prison. Two other men face trials for the assault.

Muslim-American Yonas Fikre is suing the government for putting him on its no-fly list to blackmail him into being an FBI informant to provide information about his place of worship, Portland’s largest Sunni mosque. His lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, has asked a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court to continue the suit that had been dismissed after the government removed Fikre’s name from the list stopping him from returning to his home in the U.S. Judges were irritated by the DOJ sudden offer to stop the appeal by promising that Fikre won’t be put back on the list for the same reasons as in 2010. They asked why the DOJ does not think that Fikre deserves declaratory relief after his marriage was destroyed and his business was disrupted. Mayfield has been awarded a $2 million settlement after the FBI wrongly arrested him as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings and subjected him to the same unconstitutional actions as the government did to Fikre.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, is the next cabinet member to be sued. A rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration established in 2015 mandated assessment of local segregation patterns, barriers to fair housing, and planning to correct the problems. Carson called desegregation efforts “failed socialist experiments” and suspended the rule. The lawsuit asserts that Carson did not provide for public notice or comment opportunity. Carson said that the process was too burdensome. In addition, the lawsuit claims that HUD violated its duty to guarantee that federal funds promote fair housing—for example, giving millions in HUD grants to white suburbs in Westchester County that refuses affordable housing.

The next branch to be covered is the legislature.

May 27, 2018

U.S. Minorities Fight for Constitutional Rights

The calamitous and chaotic foreign affairs creating a debacle during the past week have pushed disastrous decisions of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) into the background. One of the worst is DDT’s new “gag rule” that prevents federal funds from any institution that mentions abortion. https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trump-pushing-domestic-gag-rule-stop-some-doctors-discussing-abortion-nyt?src=newsletter1092354  Until now, the “gag rule” by the federal government has been for only foreign women, but DDT plans to withdraw any federal family planning funds if healthcare workers indicates abortion as an alternative to pregnancy. The man making this decision is so ignorant about health that he doesn’t know the difference between HIV and HPV, even after Microsoft founder Bill Gates explained it to him—twice. (HIV is the virus that causes the disease known as AIDS, and HPV is the human papillomavirus causing genital warts and cancer.)

As DDT plans to put high tariffs on car imports, he forgets that some of these are “Made in the USA.” Foreign automobile companies employ people in Southern “right-to-work” states because car manufacturing is cheaper there than in their own countries. As usual, the battle is between hardline trade adviser Peter Navarro and his opponents, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett. DDT is on his customary pattern of intimidating people and distracting the media from his personal problems.

Minimum wages in Mexico are part of the NAFTA negotiations. Imported cars to the U.S. are tariff-free if 62.5 percent of the content comes from North America, but DDT wants to make that 75 percent and then require 40 percent of a car to be made by works earning at least $16 per hour. The question is whether U.S. workers would get $16 hourly wage too, especially because 21 states use the federal $7.25 minimum wage.

DDT is making Europe the leader in international carbon monitoring by canceling the NASA greenhouse gas monitoring program. Supporting 65 projects, the program costs $10 a year—about three of DDT’s weekends in Mar-a-Lago.

The DOJ has removed language about press freedom and racial gerrymandering from its manual of policy priorities. The first changes in over two decades removed the section called “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” which included “the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused.” Employees are now required to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” This section was also removed:

“The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find…that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.”

Fox has put the press for sale. Donald Trump Jr.’s new girlfriend is Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle who sells Jr.’s daddy, the man in the Oval Office.

DDT is investigating the possibility of using a Korean War-era law to support coal and nuclear industries. The Defense Production Act of 1950 allows a president to nationalize private industry to guarantee resources during wars or after disasters and classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material.” Taxpayers will pay the bill. In his bid for re-election, blue-dog Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is asking that the statute be invoked for the “security of our nation.” If he is successful in creating a manufactured crisis, pro-coal politicians can make customers pay for profits and shareholder values of failing coal companies and owners of nuclear fleets. (I think it’s called a “bailout.”)

Israeli lawmakers have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the authority to declare war with only the defense minister’s approval. DDT is surely paying attention with the possibility that he will get the same authority.

Transgender prisoners are more accessible to sexual abuse, assault, death and all forms of discrimination after DDT ordered the Bureau of Prisons to assign housing by “biological sex.” Guidance on medical care and hormone therapy now includes the word “necessary.” New DDT/VP Mike Pence orders conflict with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by George W. Bush.

The NFL has ruled that football players cannot kneel on the field although they can stay in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In addition to the First Amendment violations of this ruling, several states “have laws that bar private employers from retaliating against employees because of their political activity,” according to law professor Eugene Volokh. In 1934, a German football team was banned from playing because it wouldn’t give the Nazi salute. In 2017, 19 state legislatures considered bills to make protesting illegal; three of the states passed these into law.

DDT’s signature on a resolution repealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s auto-lending guidance revokes protection for minority customers from predatory practices. For the first time, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to pass a resolution revoking a federal agency’s informal guidance. The resolution also prevents any protection in the future. Minority customers frequently suffer from higher dealer markups than white customers with similar credit profiles.

White House staff must use cell phones with security features, but DDT refuses any cellphone that cannot easily be hacked. DDT criticizes Hillary Clinton’s private email service, but at least six of his officials follow her practice. GOP House members continue to investigate Hillary Clinton’s secure email server.

DDT insisted that dumping chemicals into clean water will keep “clean, clean water … the cleanest,” but a report proved him wrong, leaving  big companies and the Defense Department liable to huge clean-up costs and reevaluation of water system safety. EPA Scott Pruitt announced the results of the report after three months of concealing the problem of water contaminants, but reporters were banned from attendance. One reporter was shoved out the door, but the information still got into the media.

Most of southeast Wisconsin has been exempted from any federal limits on lung-damaging smog pollution as a favor to Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign centering on his new Foxconn Technology Group factory. Pruitt overruled his agency to stop requirements making improvements in Foxconn’s electronics plant just north of the Illinois border. Pruitt also added to Chicago’s unhealthy pollution problems by reducing the list of counties with dirty air in Illinois and Indiana. Walker blames Chicago for the bad air in Wisconsin.

Water is a concern for DDT appointee Brenda Burman, head of the Bureau of Reclamation that manages the water in the western U.S. The lack of runoff from the Rocky Mountains into the Colorado River, just 42 percent of normal, continues a 19-year dry spell that ranks as the driest on record for the Southwest, part of a drought that also covers the United States. The Colorado River provides drinking water for 40 million people and waters millions of acres of farmland. Arizona may get a 20-percent cut in water allotment by 2020. Burman didn’t say “climate change,” but she’s worried.

CBS News’ Lesley Stahl said DDT told her why he attacked the press:

“You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

In DDT’s continuing “LieGate” to discredit organizations—pollsters, law enforcement officials, courts, Congressional Budget Office, etc.—he ranted about the New York Times reporting that “’a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist” said that a meeting with Kim Jong-Un on June 12 was impossible because of “lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” On Thursday, that official, ordered to be called a “senior White House official,” briefed dozens of reporters in person and on a conference call about DDT’s cancellation of the meeting. DDT’s false accusation led reporters to circulate videos of Matt Pottinger delivering the message that DDT denies. The man who DDT said “doesn’t exist” overseas Asian affairs in the U.S. National Security Council.

Rudy Giuliani, DDT’s lawyer, has admitted that DDT’s “spygate” is a con to keep him from being impeached. On last Sunday’s CNN State of the Union, he said that it’s for “public opinion” and to “defend the president” by making people “question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation].”

After DDT’s wife spent five days in the hospital for a procedure that usually requires just an overnight stay, he welcomed his wife home by misspelling her name as “Melanie.” At least he didn’t make that mistake on Mother’s Day. DDT praised his late immigrant mother as “incredible” but made no mention of his current immigrant wife and mother of his youngest son. Even DDT’s son Donald Trump Jr. complimented his wife, who he is divorcing. We’ll see what Melania says about Barron’s father.

Three mobile billboards with art by Michael D’Antuono circled the Capitol earlier in May. Tourists interviewed for a media documenting the artist’s caravan agreed with his message, that people need to worry more about protecting democracy and less about covering up DDT’s offenses. Respondents may have been thinking about DDT’s removal of the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, voting rights, price equality, reproductive rights, clean water–or any water while DDT lies incessantly about his dishonest behavior.

May 26, 2018

DDT’s Problems with Russia

Filed under: Russia — trp2011 @ 11:45 PM
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Monday is the day that people are to celebrate Memorial Day—instead of the actual day of commemoration on May 30—so that people can have a three-day weekend and forget the day’s meaning. The tradition of honoring those who died in the service of the country goes back to Civil War days, and the purpose of the day now is to remember those who died to preserve freedom—and presumably—the U.S. Constitution in the United States. Toward that end, the blog posts for the next few days will catch up on events that threaten to take rights from the people of the U.S. and those in which people are fighting back.

Despite raising issues with China and North Korea, Russian news still fills the media. Except for a breakdown from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) regarding James Clapper’s interviews about Russia throwing the election to him, DDT has been quiet. For example, he made no comment about the investigation from a five-country coalition team concluding that the Russian military fired the missile hitting the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 and killed all 298 people on the plane.

DDT also failed to comment about the news that intermediaries for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko paid $400,000 to DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen Michael Cohen in exchange for a meeting between Poroshenko and DDT last year. Cohen has more problems with his former business partner, Evgeny “Gene” Freidman (aka the “Taxi King”), reaching a plea deal for his false tax returns. The Soviet immigrant managed taxis owned and controlled by Cohen when he failed to remit the 50-cent-per-ride tax to the state. Freidman is a position to know Cohen’s wrong-doings. And then there’s the discovery that Cohen met Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in Trump Tower less than two weeks before Trump took office. Head of the Russian investment firm Renova Group, Vekselberg co-founded Columbus Nova that paid over $1 million to Cohen’s Essential Consultants with $400,000 going to Cohen to arrange a meeting with DDT. The meeting was one of two before the third meeting between Vekselberg and Cohen on Inauguration Day.

News in May also came from House Republicans, especially Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), trying to cover up DDT’s Russian involvement in direct contrast to results from the Senate Intelligence Committee. The results of that investigation agreed with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help then-candidate Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The chair of the Senate committee, Richard Burr (R-NC), released the conclusion that “there is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.

John Bolton, new national security adviser, isn’t concerned: he eliminated the cybersecurity coordinator position on the National Security Council.

One person who claimed that she didn’t know if Russia wanted to help DDT win the presidential election is Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, looking like a “dumb blonde” (right) during congressional briefings about election security. DDT’s angry words toward Nielsen have continued for months, including one time in front of the entire cabinet, and Chief of Staff John Kelly is no longer defending her as DDT blames Nielsen for higher numbers of people cross the Mexico border. Nielsen hasn’t been silent about DDT, complaining that he fails to understand the nuances of immigration law While DDT accuses her of being a George W. Bush Republican, not a compliment. DDT wants instant results for

Special investigator Robert Mueller has started zeroing in on Roger Stone, former campaign staffer and longtime friend of DDT, who talked about his prior knowledge regarding WikiLeaks hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Subpoenas have been issued to Stone’s social media director and Twitter specialist Jason Sullivan and John Kakanis, Stone’s driver, accountant and operative. Jeffrey Yohai, Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law, has also cut a deal with Mueller regarding the criminal probes, including those surrounding DDT’s one-time campaign chair. Former DDT campaign adviser Sam Nunberg predicted that Stone will be indicted for “some stupid financial thing.” Mueller’s investigation has brought 19 indictments and five guilty pleas.

DDT’s major ploy to stop Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling with the presidential election was to demand that the DOJ investigate the FBI and DOJ that may have “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”  Pundits were split between whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had caved in to DDT by asking the DOJ inspector general to review the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for any political motivations during the campaign or whether he was stalling. By searching for “anyone” who might have infiltrated or surveilled “participants in a presidential campaign,” Rosenstein may also investigate infiltration into Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

DDT is incensed because FBI agents sent an informant to talk to two DDT campaign advisers after the evidence that they had connections with Russians during the campaign. The FBI also got a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor former DDT campaign aide Carter. The FBI had good cause to investigate DDT’s campaign for communication with Russians. Rachel Maddow pointed out some people connected to Russian intelligence: Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and others who were aware. Some of these people have already pled guilty to these communications after lying to the FBI. Other ties with Russia come from DDT’s family members, friends, and business associates. These connections are over a year old; a newer article lists more. At least 15 blanket denials of contact have proved false, and Mueller’s indictments reveal at least 75 contacts between DDT’s team and Russia-linked operatives amid consistent denials.

The purpose of the FBI is to look for crimes, and it discovered that DDT’s campaign was connected to Russian meddling in the election, causing the FBI to investigate the situation. DDT’s accusation that the FBI wanted an “October surprise” to defeat him in the election was bogus because the agency didn’t release any of their information before he was elected. Hillary Clinton, however, did suffer from FBI’s “investigation.” DDT’s attacks are on organizations that protected him immediately before the election while exposing false, damaging information about DDT’s opposition, Hillary Clinton.

In protecting DDT, the RNC has paid almost $500,000 in legal fees to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and others in the ongoing Russia investigations.

Donald Trump, Jr. is also  in hot water after the release of the  2,500 page transcript from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the June 9, 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower intended to obtain information from the Russians that would cost Hillary Clinton the presidential election. The documents provide testimony from five people who attended the meeting: Donald Trump, Jr.; Rob Goldstone; Irakly (Ike) Kaveladze, an employee of the Agalarovs; Rinat Akhmetshin, the consultant; and Anatoli Samochornov, the interpreter for Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.  Also released were notes from a meeting that Manafort took on the phone, and Veselnitskaya’s written answers to its questions. Jr. keeps saying that he didn’t tell his father about the meeting, but evidence indicates that he might be lying.

The discovery that Jr. had another secret meeting at Trump Tower eight weeks later on August 3, 2016 with an Israeli social media manipulation specialist, an emissary for two Arab princes, and a private security contractor for the Middle East. Erik Prince, former head of Blackwater and brother to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, arranged the session on August 3, 2016. Emissary George Nadar told Jr. that the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were enthusiastic to help DDT win the election, and Israeli Joel Zamel said his company could give an edge to DDT’s political campaign. Nadar went on to frequently meet with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, who was promoting a secret plan to destabilize Iran with private contractors. After the election, Nadar paid Zamel money, as much as $2 million, at least partly for Zamel’s participation in social media campaigning. U.S. law forbids the involvement of foreign governments or people in U.S. elections. Zamel’s companies also have links to Russian oligarchs and president Vladimir Putin.

If that isn’t enough trouble for Jr., the FBI have recordings from the Spanish police between Jr. and Alexander Torshin, an official at Russia’s Central Bank with close ties to the NRA, and Alexander Romanov, a Russian who was convicted of money laundering. Those conversations are connected to Torshin’s meeting with Jr. at the NRA convention in May 2016. Spanish prosecutor José Grinda said, “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.” Torshin was one of 17 Russians sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, and documents show that donors may have used the NRA to help DDT and his campaign.

Yet DDT and far-right Republicans keep claiming that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” DDT’s tweets today continue to rant about Russia with the same tired lies that he always uses. His demands that the DOJ and FBI must turn over everything to him about the investigation into him along with his claim that he is control of those agencies is an erosion into democracy and fails every person who died to protect the United States.

 

May 25, 2018

DDT: Week 70 – New U.S. Foreign Policy

China wins. The Asian country has made no commitments about reducing the trade deficits, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is saving jobs in China by lifting sanctions on the Chinese-owned company ZTE. The U.S. government had banned the company from buying U.S. components for seven years because the phones a security risk, used to track service members. ZTE officials as well as for foreign espionage and cyber attacks. Even with a 23-3 vote to keep DDT from lifting these sanctions, the Senate Banking Committee  failed to stop DDT.

During the last week, the U.S. foreign policy on China shifted daily—sometimes hourly. On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the trade war was “on hold” because the U.S. had postponed tariffs on China. Hours later, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer told China that DDT might impose tariffs. DDT’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow earlier said that China offered to shrink the trade deficit by $200 billion but followed up on Sunday by saying that the figure was a “rough ballpark estimate” and that the two countries never expected to reach an agreement.

DDT goes to the side that can most benefit him personally, in this case a $500 million loan from China for his personal business. Andrew Ross Sorkin described DDT’s negotiating style:

“Start with a headline-grabbing demand, beat chest loudly, then accept whatever is actually practical and call it a win.”

DDT seems to have forgotten a rule in his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal:

“You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”

Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, is back in business—literally—after he got his permanence high security clearance. Foreign officials, including those from China and UAE, can return to planning ways to manipulate him as he can enrich his family business by classified intelligence and access to DDT.

North Korea wins. In his desire to get a Nobel Peace Prize, DDT claimed that the summit meeting with Kim Jong-Un might be back on after he pulled out of the agreement yesterday. In a letter refusing the meeting, DDT had used the excuse of Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement” as his excuse. Technically, the hostility came from John Bolton’s and VP Mike Pence’s statements about employing the “Libya model” for North Korea, an action that led to the death and dismemberment for Libya’s leader. DDT gave no warning to South Korea about his withdrawal which weakened South Korea after its buy-in to the summit. The U.S. State Department may not even have been aware of DDT’s letter to Kim that canceled the meeting.

North Korea already dismantled a nuclear test site, most likely because it had become unusable. History repeats itself as North Korea destroyed another site to get rid of George W. Bush’s sanctions, only to later back out of its agreement. DDT tried to look reasonable by not flying planes over North Korea in his military games, but Kim looked much better after he released U.S. prisoners, stopped nuclear and missile testing, and blew up his nuclear testing site. By announcing that the he was backing out of the talks and then backing down from his action a few hours earlier, DDT looks impulsive and rash. He has ignored briefings about North Korea and advice to move more slowly into diplomatic meetings, thus increasing the world’s negative perspective about the U.S. being a failure under his leadership. DDT made Kim into a world leader and proved himself again a quitter while Kim ended up with the moral high ground.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea also benefits from better trade relationships with China, which may take over talks with North Korea after DDT abandoned its leverage. Japan had been left out of the discussions, thus dropping the talks will leave that country less vulnerable. The coalition of Asian companies further isolates the United States. DDT’s letter made threats by implying that U.S. nuclear powers are more “massive and powerful,” a continuation of DDT’s earlier “my button is bigger than your button” comments to Kim. He also said that the U.S. military is “ready if necessary” to take action against North Korea if it engages in a “foolish or reckless act” and that South Korea and Japan are willing to shoulder the costs. The two Asian countries haven’t responded to DDT’s statements—South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was “very perplexed and sorry.”

The Washington Post write in an editorial: “Never has such chaos attended the public behavior of a U.S. president on a matter of such gravity.” A history of the failing summit talks with North Korea.

DDT may meet with Kim so that he doesn’t waste this commemorative coin that’s already being sold for $85. Seth Meyers has a segment on this and other coins.

The back-and-forth approaches toward China and North Korea are DDT’s attempt to divert people from James Clapper’s interviews and new book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, and Clapper’s statement that Russia won the election for DDT, that he is an illegitimate president. Clapper’s interview with Rachel Maddow. Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, also used the word “distorted” in describing DDT’s accusation that the FBI and DOJ infiltrated or surveilled his campaign. That was the subject of a meeting at the White House, first scheduled with only GOP congressional members. Protests led to a second meeting on the same day that included the “Gang of 8, the bipartisan leadership of both the Senate and House. One of the “eight” was missing; House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) didn’t want to miss a fundraiser to be briefed on a confidential intelligence source in the Russian investigation. DDT’s lawyer Emmet Flood managed to attend the meeting about a government’s case against his client—an unethical and possibly illegal action.

DDT’s hope for diverting more attention was “Spygate,” but the FBI was investigating Russian involvement in DDT’s campaign, not DDT and the members of his campaign. Yet DDT ordered federal agencies to give sensitive information about a person in the investigation to lawmakers who, he was sure, would then give him all the information—all for purely political reasons and in violation of the law After the meeting, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that the briefing had no evidence of “Spygate.” Republicans said nothing except Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) twice defended false statements and accused Schiff of leaking classified information.  DDT’s other conspiracy theories to falsely and deliberately divert people from facts:

  • Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. (He didn’t.)
  • There were improper unmaskings. (There weren’t.)
  • The FISA warrants related to Carter Page were improper. (They weren’t).
  • It was Democrats who actually colluded with Russia. (They didn’t.)
  • Conspiring FBI officials may be guilty of “treason.” (They aren’t.)
  • “Uranium One” is a real scandal. (It isn’t.)
  • Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) had improper communications with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch. (He didn’t.)
  • Every member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is a rabid Democratic partisan. (Mueller is a Republican.)
  • Law enforcement officials ”infiltrated” the Trump campaign, “implanting” a “spy” in the Republican operation. (They didn’t.)

The irony about DDT’s complaints about the FBI investigation into the campaign is that the FBI protected DDT. They concealed the campaign’s connections with Russia until after the election at the same time that they released information about Hillary Clinton with no reason that then led to her losing the election.

Other news from the current administration is so bizarre that most of it appears like satire—except for the disasters of the swamp/sewer facts. The latest piece had to be checked, and it’s true. A sinkhole on the North Lawn of the White House outside the press briefing room is growing every day with another sinkhole nearby. These phenomena develop from loosened soil and can swallow cars, streets, and even homes. Exactly one year ago, a bigger pit opened in front of Mar-a-Lago.

According to religious lore, the Bible states in Numbers:

“But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

The Book of Revelation has a more vivid description:

“When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.”

In that case, the sinkhole might be followed by locusts and scorpions. The most entertaining tweets about DDT’s sinkhole.

Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist, geologist and candidate for a California congressional seat in California, said, “Blame the swamp.” Really.

 

May 19, 2018

DDT: Week 69 – Killings, ‘Pay to Play’

Killings on two sides of the world marked the past week. One was the 16th school shooting in the United States in the first four and a half months of the year that killed ten people, eight of them students, and wounded another 14 in the small town of Santa Fe (TX) with a population under 13,000. The 17-year-old shooter admitted that he deliberately aimed at people he wanted to kill; the first girl he killed had turned down his persistent advances over four months. The shooter used guns that belonged to his father. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed that there were no “red flags,” but the teenager’s Facebook page and computer journals identify his plans.

Guns don’t kill people; doors do. This claim by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick follows the latest NRA excuse for the growing number of mass shootings. He recommends just one entrance for all 1,400 people in a school like the one in Santa Fe (TX). Former government ethics director Walter Shaub examined the state requirements for doors and tweeted that “Texas has stricter regulations for doors than it does for guns.”

Last week’s Palestinian bloodbath from the Israelis came at the same time that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) proudly opened his embassy in Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of Nakba (Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled by the 1948 creation of Israel. That country’s military claimed that they attacked members of Hamas; Palestinians said that the “terrible massacre” was against unarmed demonstrators. DDT called the time “a great day for Israel” that will create peace between Palestine and Israel, something he has always said would be “easy.” He invited fundamentalist Christian pastors to open the embassy are anti-Semitic. Robert Jeffress has preached that everyone except Christians are going to hell and that Jews will be saved at the second coming of Christ because they will accept Him. DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who once led a group illegally funding West Bank settlements, was supposed to create this “easy” peace but blamed the Palestinians for their deaths.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayip Erdogan, led the diplomatic protests from several Arab and Middle East countries against DDT’s action, calling the U.S. “part of the problem, not the solution.” The UK prime minister, Theresa May, was more restrained in her criticism, but Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, called the embassy move from Tel-Aviv a violation of International law and UN Security Council resolutions.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, left an emergency Security Council meeting discussing the killings in Gaza when the Palestinian envoy began to speak. Earlier she had praised the “restraint” by Israel when they killed at least 62 people and wounded another 3,100 Palestinian protesters on the day when the embassy opened on land recognized by many world leaders as the capital of a future Palestinian state. A vote of 29-2 with 14 abstentions by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s massacre as war crimes followed a speech by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN human rights chief, condemning the “horrific” attacks on peaceful demonstrators and calling for “the occupation” to end. About the Palestinians, Zeid said:

“All of the 1.9 million people who live in Gaza have been penned in behind fences and have suffered progressively more restrictions and greater poverty. After 11 years of blockade by Israel they have little hope of employment, and their infrastructure is crumbling, with an electricity crisis, inadequate health services and a decaying sewage system that constitutes a threat to health.”

DDT claimed Jerusalem the capital of Israel in opposition to State of Palestine claims that the embassy is on its capital. A 1949 international treaty recognizes half the city, including the embassy area, under Jordanian control. DDT’s decision to move the embassy led to a UN revolution, approved 128-9, requesting him to withdraw his declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Those nine members supporting DDT are the U.S., Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Another 35 nations abstained, and 21 countries were not present for the vote. DDT said that he made the decision for “peace” in the region.

In his attempts for a Nobel Peace Prize, DDT has decided to “Make China Great Again,” tweeting that “Too many jobs in China lost.” His new-found concern for jobs in China happened at the same time that the Chinese government loaned DDT $500 million for his billion-dollar resort project in Indonesia.

Just 72 hours after the loan deal was made, DDT ordered a bailout for the Chinese-government-owned cellphone maker ZTE. The U.S. military and intelligence community has declared the phones a security risk, and they are banned on military bases out of concern they can track service members. Last year, the company was fined $1.2 billion for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The U.S. government had banned the company from buying U.S. components for seven years because ZTE officials lied about their actions. Stocks may go up for U.S. optical component companies because they can resume exporting their product to China. U.S. intelligence officials believe that China may use ZTE products for foreign espionage and cyber attacks.

DDT’s Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah described the deal with China as “give and take,” and it’s the farmers in the U.S. that are forced into the “give” while China can “take.” After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) threatened tariffs on soybeans, China almost tripled its purchases from Russia and canceled U.S. shipments. DDT had promised to protect farmers.

While national security adviser John Bolton is threatening sanctions on European allies if they dare deal with Iran, China has a new freight train connection that saves 20 days in carrying supplies to the capital of Iran over cargo ships and allows greater trade relations between the two countries. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that they would “maintain normal economic ties and trade.” China can also again create separate funds and banks from the U.S. market that the United States cannot punish. Chinese entities can also act as intermediaries for European countries to keep trading with Iran with no fear of violating U.S. sanctions, for example oil sales from Iran through China or Russia. Iran sells more to China than any other country with a 25 percent increase in exports last year. Chinese exports to Iran increased over 20 percent. Iranian exports to the EU increased by 375 percent from 2015 to 2016.

DDT is bragging that he will shrink the trade deficit with China because it may buy an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods, up from purchases last year of $130 billion. Some sales may be to ZTE. Economists think the plan won’t succeed, however, because the U.S. may just buy more goods from China. At the same time, DDT is not trying to keep China from taking U.S. intellectual property.

DDT’s foreign policy is also bailing out his son-in-law from his financial problems. The U.S. position on the tiny country of Qatar seems to parallel whether the wealthy oil nation will lend money to bail out Jared Kushner’s disastrous deal with a 41-story building at 666 Fifth Avenue Manhattan. Over a year ago, DDT supported Qatar when Kushner thought it would lend his family business money. As soon as Qatar withdrew the offer, DDT supported the eight-country blockade of Qatar despite the 10,000 service members at the base on Qatar. Now, Qatar is considering a loan of hundreds of millions to dollars to the Kushner family to pay off the original loan and renovate the building at the same time that DDT met with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. Jared Kushner resigned as his company’s chief executive but kept most of his business with it.

Qatar may have a good reason for thinking that DDT will take bribes. Businessman Jeff Kwatinetz turned down an offer from Ahmed al-Ramaihi, head of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund, to exchange a meeting with DDT and his officials for an investment. Kwatinetz said, “Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think Flynn turned down our money?’” The pattern for these bribes may have started immediately after the 2016 election.

DDT is already conceding to North Korea by agreeing not to fly two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Korean Peninsula because North Korea’s president, Kim Jong-Un, canceled talks with South Korea. National security adviser John Bolton may be blocking the U.S./North Korea summit by repeated claims that the U.S. will use the “Libya model” in its settlement with North Korea and getting DDT to back out of the Iranian deal. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi ended up dismembered, and DDT’s position on Iran proves that no agreement would be lasting.

The GOP isn’t even worried about a war with North Korea. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that “all the damage … would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security.” The beginning of this war 65 years ago killed 3.5 million people (36,516 of them from the U.S.) and 2.5 million civilians while costing almost $700 billion plus hundreds of billions of dollars more to put military on the border because North and South Korea for 65 years. The U.S. has spent more to cover other Pacific Rim nations. That was before North Korea had nuclear weapons which might reach the U.S.

As a real estate developer, DDT was always willing to walk away from negotiations, the way he promised to negotiate with Kim Jong-Un. His craving for the Nobel Prize may cause him to give up anything to North Korea. His attitude mirrors what he accuses President Obama of doing in Iran.

And then there’s Russia and much more.

 

May 13, 2018

Pence Aims to Control All through His Evangelical Belief

Since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, the Washington Post has kept track of his lies—what the New York Times sometimes calls “reversed his position” as in when DDT said he did pay hush money to Stormy Daniels after he said he didn’t pay her off. Or sometimes from the NYT, “contradicts earlier claims.” After at least 3,001 “false or misleading claims” in his first 466 days in the Oval Office, however, the question might be how long people can stay in denial about DDT’s incessant lying. That 6.5 lies per day is an increase of 32.6 percent over the average of 4.9 daily lies during his first 100 days. One of his prime lies is that he keeps his promises. The Post also noted that DDT “kept only 23 percent of 60 key promises and broken 27 percent.”

A high percentage of DDT’s lies are to make himself appear superior, especially to earlier presidents. For example, his statement to the Celebration of Military Mothers and Spouses Event when he bragged about his raises for the military were “first time in ten years” in his continuing attempts to make President Obama look bad. Except DDT’s wrong. The military received raises every year since the inception of the all-voluntary military—45 years ago.

With so much attention focused on DDT’s lies, the media generally ignores VP Mike Pence’s history of lying, including this list from Politifact. Pence will do anything to do what the person in authority requires, including lying for him. Since Pence rejected a coup against DDT after the “pussy” video was released, Pence has been sycophant in chief—“servant to authority”—supporting all DDT’s lies including DDT’s false claim that he had no collusion with Russia.

Conservative columnist George Will became fed up with Pence’s lies and sycophancy after Pence’s full-throated support of former Maricopa County (AZ) sheriff and current U.S. senator candidate Joe Arpaio as “a tireless champion … of the rule of law.” Will’s opinion of Arpaio differs from that of Pence. Instead of Pence’s hero, Arpaio to Will is “a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, [who] is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices.” Will concluded his column about Pence:

“Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”

The entire column is well-worth reading, if only for an amazingly extensive use of vocabulary.

In his attempt to assume the role of authority in another few years, Pence works to retain support from evangelical voters and donors, including his commencement address to Hillsdale College, the small, private, far-far-right wing Christian school in Michigan. Pence’s message was that more people in the U.S. believe in God because DDT was elected to the nation’s highest office. “President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of Hillsdale College,” Pence said. Considering the fraud, corruption, destruction of the planet, and robbery of poor people, the question might be what principles are taught at the Christian school.

A look at the recent Gallup poll shows that Pence is “misrepresenting” the involvement of religious involvement in today’s United States. The poll indicates an increase in the number of people who express dissatisfaction with religion and want less influence by organized religion. Fewer people in the United States believe that the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally, and more people see the Bible as fables. Fewer people believe in God. (Further statistics here.)

A Pew Research poll from April 2018 revealed that 80 percent of people believe in “God,” but only 56 percent believe in the God of the Bible. One-third of the population believe in some other higher power.

Hillsdale is important to Pence because of its ties to wealthy family of Betsy DeVos. Both she and her brother Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security services company paid millions by the U.S. government, are graduates, and Prince is a member of its board. Other alumni work for DDT, including as speechwriters. As an article in the Hillsdale Collegian states, “Hillsdale Alumni Take over the White House.” Conservatives Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), both aiming for House Speaker, have Hillsdale graduates on their staffs. After DDT’s national security spokesman left the White House, he found a job at Hillsdale. Quite astonishing for a college of only 1,486.

Hillsdale gained notoriety last year when a GOP amendment would have exempted the school from a tax on university endowments. The proposed amendment was written so that Hillsdale would have been the only college in the nation with that exemption. Four GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), John Kennedy (LA), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—joined Democrats to vote down the amendment.

DDT has pushed a theocracy in his first 68 weeks, but Pence would be even worse in continuing to support far more people like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. After trying to allocate most educational funds to religious charter schools, she wants to give more taxpayer monies to religious colleges and universities, a possibility after the Supreme Court ruled last June against denying government grants to religious institutions for secular purposes. That case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, was about surfacing playgrounds; DeVos will move the bar far lower to education. The DOJ also plans to greatly expand support for religious groups in “employment, contracting, and programming,” according to AG Jeff Sessions. Sessions and DeVos intend to permit unrestrained discrimination to federally-funded institutions.

A coalition of Christian right groups, including those from Congress, has created Project Blitz, a legislative initiative to pass connected Christian nationalism bills on the state level for a “dominionist” nation. Basically, they want a Sharia law for Christians to subjugate everyone to their perception of family structure, gender identity, marriage, and all other societal issues. The 71 bills introduced in states have innocuous “feel-good names” such as the Child Protection Act.

Joining the evangelical movement to take over the United States is Focus on the Family, founded by Roy Moore supporter James Dobson. This movement that proudly claimed to focus on “family values” focuses only on white men. By declaring itself a church, the organization can avoid taxes and audits through IRS standards that a religious organization does not need to meet all the requirements. Supposedly tax-exempt religious status mandates “a recognized creed and form of worship,” “a formal code of doctrine and discipline,” “regular religious services,” “Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young,” and “schools for the preparation of its ministers.” Yet Focus on the Family has no congregation and “rites of various parts of a person’s life,” according to Gail Harmon, an attorney who advises nonprofits on tax law. VP Mike Pence has promised Focus on the Family the administration’s unwavering support.

Liberty Counsel also escapes filing IRS forms by declaring itself a “church auxiliary.” Lawyers in this group represented Kim Davis in her losing fight to illegally deny same-gender couples marriage licenses and is awaiting the Supreme Court “wedding cake” decision about whether businesses can discriminate against anyone they don’t like. The DOJ is filling up with members of the Liberty Counsel, those who aren’t traveling the world to help countries legislative draconian anti-LGBTQ laws.

The dual evangelical goal is to force non-evangelicals to pay for their institutions by not paying all taxes and control the actions of the entire population of the United States, no matter what their beliefs.

May 12, 2018

DDT: Weeks 67-68 – While We Paid Attention to Foreign Affairs

The last two weeks have seen monumental decisions by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), including his withdrawal from the Iran deal and his upcoming talks with North Korean president, Kim Jong-Un. Another media focus has been the revelations of “pay to play,” as DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen collected millions of dollars from huge businesses in exchange for access to DDT.

Before these events, however, the media spent several days protecting Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the fundraising correspondents’ dinner, largely maintaining that the media’s comedian Michelle Wolfe had unfairly attacked the White House press secretary. The truth she told about the media being instrumental in electing DDT probably infuriated them.

“He has helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you are profiting from him.”

Not all the media criticized Wolfe;  New Yorker’s Masha Gessen’ critique of the media was as clear as that expressed by Wolfe.

All the warm fuzzy expressions about Sanders disappeared, however, after she protected Kelly Sadler for her vile comment about Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) objection to Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, that it was irrelevant because “he’s dying anyway.” Sanders didn’t object to Sadler’s comment–just to the leak. objection was not to the comment, but to a leak. Sadler made her statement three days after Melania Trump kicked off her “Be Best” program, promoting kindness in children.

Chief of staff John Kelly is also taking some heat from the media. Trying to gain DDT’s support after calling him an “idiot,” Kelly went on NRP to lambaste immigrants from Mexico because they are poorly educated, don’t speak English, come from rural areas, and cannot assimilate into society. Unfortunately for Kelly, genealogical researcher Monica Pattangall researched his family tree. Seven of Kelly’s eight great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S., and three of Kelly’s four great-grandfathers were unskilled workers. The fourth was a cooper. They came to the United States because they wanted a better future for themselves and their children. Great-grandfather Giuseppe Pedalino could not read, write, or speak English, and great-grandfather John Marco also did not speak English for at least ten years. Marco and his second wife, who could not speak English for over 30 years, lived with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, one of them the chief of staff’s mother. Kelly’s family has all the characteristics that he doesn’t want in immigrants, but he became the top aide to the man elected as president of the United States. Kelly also claims that women are more emotional than men, ironic considering his bosses temperament of his boss, and wanted the ex-wives of then-White House staff Secretary Rob Porter to talking about their abuse.

After almost total silence for other a year, First Lady Melania Trump launched “Be Best,” her program to help the vulnerable children. “Children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence,” Ms. Trump. She expresses a concern about the well-being of children and released a booklet complete with her photograph—that was copied from a 2014 Federal Trade Commission pamphlet by President Obama and his wife, Michelle, called, “Talking to Your Kids.” Melania Trump fought back against the criticism with a statement against what she called “baseless accusations” on “a day meant to promote kindness and positive efforts on behalf of children.

On the same day that she touted kindness to children, AG Jeff Sessions announced that ICE will separate every family who tries to cross the border, including ripping infants and toddlers away from their mothers. Last fall, HHS discovered that they had lost almost 1,500 children that ICE had taken from their parents. As if that wasn’t enough cruelty to children, on the same day DDT asked Congress to shred the $9 billion Children’s Health Insurance Program by $7 billion, removing almost 80 percent of funding earmarked for children living close to poverty in the United States.

Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning has a different perspective on immigrants and took the opportunity of her award acceptance at the White House to hand letters from her students to DDT. She teaches English in Spokane (WA) to refugee and immigrant high school students when they first arrive in the United States. She wrote in her application:

“In the current political climate, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric is rampant. As soon as my students arrive, they are afraid they will have to leave. Most of my students come to the U.S. seeking safety, but they don’t always feel safe here. This makes it hard for them to share and learn from others….

I am here for refugee and immigrant students, for the kids in the gay-straight alliance, and for all the girls.”

The letters expressed their feelings of happiness to contribute to their new country and the shame of having from the nation’s leader speaking poorly of them. During her acceptance appearance, Manning wore activist pins for LGBTQ, trans, and women’s rights. In his speech, DDT refuted Manning’s message by talking about the importance of teaching CITIZENS (in all caps on the teleprompter) instead of Manning’s students.

Another ICE tactic is stealing money. Six months ago, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took over $41,000 in cash without a civil asset forfeiture case from a U.S. citizen who saved the money for years for a medical clinic in Nigeria. They refuse to return the money until she agrees not to sue them for taking her money. Taking money from innocent people is so prevalent that state and local governments take billions of dollars from people without charging them with crimes.

Perhaps DDT should have kept his former HHS Secretary Tom Price. Now Price is agreeing with the CBO that repealing the health care mandate “drives up the cost for other folks within that market.” DDT’s policies are also driving up the number of people without health insurance.

Much was made of the 49 questions that investigator Robert Mueller wanted to asked DDT. DDT tweeted, “No questions on Collusion,” but he ignored the one about cooperation between the Russian government and DDT’s campaign. Largely ignored, however, is that DDT’s lawyer Jay Sekulow wrote them. The questions are listed here.

People may be pleased that Cambridge Analytica, the software company that helped DDT win electoral votes, is no more. The closure, however, can only benefit the company: it registered the new company, Emerdata Limited, last year and now can no longer be sued.

“Trade wars are good and easy to win,” according to DDT, except when they aren’t. Caught up in global hostility toward him, DDT has postponed more tariffs against steel and aluminum. Details here.

DDT’s personal physician Harold Bornstein, fed up with DDT, stated that DDT personally dictated the 2015 letter ostensibly from Bornstein to praise DDT’s fantastic good health. The letter came after DDT consistently attacked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with the statement that she wasn’t healthy enough to be president because he will do anything to win anything. Borstein told the story after DDT’s longtime bodyguard raided the doctor’s office and took all DDT records with no signed form or request from DDT and told Bornstein to take down a picture of Bornstein and DDT.

DDT’s tweet that threatened to remove credentials from the press came immediately after Fox & Friends said he should do just that. During his campaign, DDT said he would never remove credentials, but his mind now equates negative news with his concept of “fake news.”

Any infrastructure plan has died as all its supporters have left the White House.

Louisiana may start a trend of increasing the number of the homeless by moving old people out of nursing homes. Letters went out to 37,000 Medicaid recipients, 20,000 of them in nursing homes, telling them that they could lose their benefits. The closure of nursing homes could also leave 25,000 people unemployed. In the richest country in the world, the wealthy and huge corporations are gaining trillions of dollars from the GOP tax cut while old people are turned out on the streets.

Only Charlotte (NC) is admitting that it is willing to host the 2020 GOP convention; several of the others have rejected the event because of concerns about violence and security concerns.

Drugs stocks shot upward this past week after DDT broke another campaign promise to lower drug costs. DDT already put a drug company executive in charge of Department of Health and Human Services and now announced that he won’t permit Medicare to negotiate prices. He claimed that he would lower drug costs by encouraging use of generic prescriptions that often don’t work as well as the original, promoting competition in pricing, calling on other countries to increase their prices—in short, doing nothing about skyrocketing prices that are gouging patients. Pharmaceutical companies have benefited from the $26 million they spent last year in lobbying to keep their high prices.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), told Supreme Court justices considering retirement that they should immediately announce so that the current Senate can replace that person before the November midterm election. He seems to be concerned that Democrats would use GOP tactics to hold up confirmation hearings for GOP nominations.

Believe it or not, to be continued!

May 11, 2018

DDT: Weeks 67-68 – Iran, North Korea Plus Religion, Giuliani

Catching up on the last two weeks of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) roller-coaster events:

Will the United States go to war to support Israel? That question may be front and center now that DDT has withdrawn from the Iran agreement for that nation’s denuclearization. Israel fired on targets in Syria that were believed to be Iranian soon after DDT’s withdrawal. Claims that Iran fired 20 rockets at the Golan Heights the most extensive Israeli bombing on Syria since the countries signed a disengagement agreement after the October war of 1973. Israel has illegally occupied Golan Heights since the Six-Day War in 1967. DDT’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are scheduled to arrive in Israel soon for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has assured Israel that the U.S. will stand at its side in a fight.

DDT’s officials are circulating a report from Securities Studies Group, an organization with ties to DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton, that provides strategy for a regime change in Iran is being circulated among DDT’s officials. The plan is to stir unrest and help the Iran public to drive a wedge between the people and the nation’s rulers. The plan sounds identical to Russia’s approach to control the 2018 presidential election.

Israel’s military escalation came after DDT decided to please some of his constituents—including Vladimir Putin and Israel—by withdrawing from the Iranian deal. Russia’s economy desperately needs the rubles from the increase in oil prices if Iranian resources aren’t available. At the same time, Russia is concerned about Israel’s attacks on Iran, but DDT may side with Israel, again separating him from Putin. Perhaps DDT figures that a world war would allow him to declare military law, like in Turkey, so that he can remain dictator forever. Bernard Avishai discusses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motivations and the dangers of his country in pushing a war in the Middle East.

DDT announced his withdrawal several days before the deadline at the same time the media jumped on the millions of dollars in “pay to play” paid to his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for access to DDT. Since payments made to DDT’s personal lawyer were first announced, the amount has vastly grown, for example AT&T’s $600,000 to Cohen for access to DDT instead of $200,000. CEO Randall Stephenson called Cohen’s hiring “a big mistake,” and top lobbyist for the company, Bob Quinn, has retired. Quinn was a leader in opposing net neutrality. AT&T also paid Cohen to get approval for its $85 billion merger with Time Warner. Drugmaker Novartis agreed that its $1.2 million contract with Cohen was “a mistake.” Reports as of now show that Cohen was paid $2.95 million through Essential Consultants, the shell company Cohen set up to funnel hush money to Stormy Daniels and perhaps others. The involved companies learned about Essential Consultants because Cohen reached out to them.

In his work to guarantee never-ending war for the U.S., former VP Dick Cheney, who mythologized weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, went on Fox Business directing DDT to believe the falsehood that Iran has these weapons. He also encouraged the continuation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture).

DDT is also hoping that people will ignore all the Russia and Cohen scandals because three U.S. prisoners have been released from North Korea. He also hopes that his talks with North Korea will result in his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, even encouraging his rally crows to chant, “No-bel, No-bel. When the prisoners arrived at 3:00 am, he said, “I think you probably broke the all time in history television rating for three o’clock in the morning.” DDT also thanked North Korean president Kim Jong-Un “ who really was excellent to these three incredible people.” They had been imprisoned for at least a year, and one of them had been sentenced to ten years’ hard labor in one of the world’s most brutal prisons. DDT plans to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12.

While people become excited about the release of prisoners in North Korea, they forget the four U.S. citizens still held in Iran for longer than the newly released NK ones. DDT’s withdrawal spells disaster for these people, one of them 81 years old. Another two U.S. men are still illegally imprisoned in Turkey. 

Although DDT’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared on Sean Hannity only nine days ago, so much has happened that it could have been last year. Giuliani, DDT’s lawyer for one day, said that DDT had paid Cohen $35,000 a week to clean up hush money to Stormy Daniels about her affair with DDT as well as “things that might come up.” DDT first agreed that he paid off Daniels and then tried to deny that he did, going so far as to say that Giuliani “will get his fact straight.” Giuliani lacks the skill to stay quiet, a serious problem in court. (Transcript for the program.)  Giuliani went on another talk show to say that he knew the payment didn’t look good immediately before the election but changed his story to say that the settlement was made solely “to protect the President’s family.” He also might be waiving attorney-client privilege by saying that he had conferred with DDT before he talked about DDT paying Cohen. About the payoff, Giuliani said:

“I don’t think the president realized he paid him back for that specific thing until we made him aware of the paperwork.”

Despite being released from his law firm and claiming “sole concentration” as DDT’s lawyer, Giuliani appeared in a Florida court today to represent a woman accused of purchasing car insurance ten minutes after her car crash. He isn’t licensed to practice law in Florida but said the woman was her personal assistant.

DDT’s staff tried to prep him in advance of any interview with Robert Mueller, but he could answer only two questions in four hours. The argument might be that an interview could cut into time for his important work in the Oval Office, but evidence indicates that he “works” less than two hours a day. DDT is still falsely accusing that the investigators are Democrats as he continues his rant against the investigation. DDT is back to saying that he wants an interview with Mueller, but most people no longer believe him.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) issued DOJ with a subpoena after he was refused extensive information about a longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI with the concern that the source could be jeopardized if Nunes discovers the person’s identity. Common knowledge indicates that Nunes wants the information to take to the White House. DOJ officials offered a classified briefing about his demand, but Nunes threatened a contempt charge against AG Jeff Sessions. He also has not bothered to read earlier classified information that he demanded. Nunes is under investigation for three potential campaign law violations.

Giuliani’s bombshell about DDT’s paying off Stormy Daniels intersected with DDT’s appearance for the day of prayer, causing CNBC to tweet, “Trump leads National Prayer Day event after saying he repaid lawyer for hush money to porn star.” DDT signed the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” that permits religious organizations to use taxpayer money to discriminate on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, allow religious organizations to be “experts” for public policy, remove requirements that religious groups refer anyone objecting to their teachings to other programs, and use his new “faith-based office” to guarantee no blocking of “liberty of conscience” of believers. (Sounds like Sharia law for evangelicals.) The major groups wanting to deny services to LGBTQ people are Mormons and white evangelicals, 20 percent of the population. Among that 20 percent, 47 percent think that it’s wrong to refuse business based on religious convictions.

States such as Kansas and Oklahoma are already passing laws permitting adoption agencies to prevent same-gender couples from adopting children. A lesbian couple in Mississippi was denied an adoption by the state the day before they were scheduled to take their daughter home despite a court ruling that the Mississippi’s ban on same-gender adoptions was struck down by a federal judge in 2016. In another case, the state Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian couple could divorce; a dissenting justice, Jess Dickinson, is now head of the agency denying the couple their legally adopted child. Bryan Fischer, former spokesman for the American Family Association (AFA), announced on his show that only Christians have First Amendment rights and protections.

Anti-LGBTQ preacher Kevin Swanson will hold the Bible Family Conference in Washington, D.C. on August 10-11. He wants to execute all LGBTQ people and all Girls Scout leaders because they support LGBTQ and women’s rights. He also wants Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA because it recruits girls as well as boys, to have a “sodomy merit badge” because openly gay scouts can join the organization. The name of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) has disappeared as keynote speaker.

The six worst states for LGBTQ support are Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

More later!

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