Nel's New Day

January 14, 2019

H.R. 1:  Imagine If the Swamp Really Got Drained

Day 24 of the government shutdown: A record-breaking snowfall has shut down Washington while Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) left on a trip to New Orleans to speak at the National Farm Bureau Federation. He told them he liked farmers and that everything would be fine with the shutdown before he launched into a gory description of a woman attack at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Fox network cut away from the speech after DDT began talking about how undocumented immigrants appear at court hearings are “not smart.” Demonstrators outside the convention center chanted “lock him up.” Earlier DDT tweeted that his speech was in Nashville (TN). [Left: The Korean War Memorial, Kevin Ambrose]

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of people opposes the wall (54 percent) and blames DDT and the GOP for the shutdown (53 percent). The new CNN poll is higher—56 percent opposing a wall and 55 percent blaming the GOP. Opposition to the declaration of a national emergency to build a wall is at 66 percent, but only 24 percent believes DDT’s description of a “crisis” at the Mexico border.

Those who claim that DDT is not a racist should note how he made his case for wall with his tweet touting Pat Buchanan’s recent column:

“The more multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual America becomes—the less it looks like Ronald Reagan’s America—the more dependably Democratic it will become. The Democratic Party is hostile to white men, because the smaller the share of the U.S. population that white men become, the sooner that Democrats inherit the national estate.”

Nothing says GOP like the color white.

My favorite shutdown story of the week: Today Kate Brown, elected twice for Oregon governor, was sworn in. Three days ago, she tweeted the story of how her husband, Dan Little, recently cleaned up a bathroom at the Mt. Hood National Forest Sno-Park southeast of Portland. This photo shows what the public does to public spaces if there is no staff to clean up after them. Little cleaned up the bathroom, hauled off the trash, and then sent a bill of $28 for “Trash Removal” to DDT. Like other national parks, Sno-Park is still open with the public leaving trash and human waste everywhere. The story is an example of how people care about their surroundings even if others don’t mind making them into a pigsty.

Instead of working to open the federal government, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled a third week trying to give states the right to discriminate against companies that boycott Israel. McConnell is sticking to his program of not putting forward any bills that DDT doesn’t like.

DDT may be backing off on his suggestion of declaring a “national emergency” to get his wall. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) always echoes DDT’s approach. A few days ago, he said “Build a wall!” Last Sunday, he went to the “last option” statement. The House conservative Freedom Caucus also opposes the emergency excuse because of legal standoffs and the strategy leading to tactics for Medicare for all or other progressive “emergency” ideas. Meanwhile DDT sat in the White House last weekend and waited for Democrats to come to him and give him his wall while legislators in both parties went home for the weekend. The House has already approved four funding bills to reopen parts of the government.

Two more weeks of the shutdown will cost the U.S. economy more than building the DDT’s vanity wall. If the government shutdown lasts another two weeks, the total cost to the U.S. economy would exceed the price of building the proposed border wall. In this estimate, S&P Global Ratings included lost productivity by furloughed workers and dropping sales for government contractors. No paychecks for 800,000 federal workers or IRS tax refunds equals at last $2 billion per week, according to Wells Fargo analysts. The 16-day shutdown in 2013 cut 0.4 percent from the fourth quarter GDP that year.

During DDT’s campaign, people believed his lie that he wants to help the working people. The shutdown is another example of how he has no concern for the plight for the workers; he’s ruining federal workers in the same way that he has spent decades cheating the people who worked for his business by refusing to pay for their work. He claims that he needs to keep his promise to get the wall—skipping the part of the promise about Mexico paying for the wall—but he has broken his promise to coal miners who have lost health protections, safety, wages, and even their jobs, just to mention a few ways that he has cheated his base.

Although Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) accuses the Democrats of inaction, the House has already passed four bills to open the government and fund several of the agencies. In addition, the House added these new rules to its operations: a ban on members serving on corporate boards, a requirement that members take ethics training every year, and a ban on employment discrimination against LGBTQ staffers and jobseekers. In the first few days, the House also created For the People Act, H.R.1, the number given to the bill considered the most important of the session. Provisions of this bill are intended to overcome the travesties of GOP actions in the 21st century–i.e., to “drain the swamp.” DDT’s and the GOP behavior has given an extensive list of ideas for reform. Following are some of the bill’s provisions:

Voting Rights

Access:

  • Removes barriers to the ballot box such as difficult registration systems and limited voting hours.
  • Creates nationwide automatic voter registration.
  • Restores voting fights to people who complete felony sentences.
  • Expands voting by mail.
  • Mandates a minimum of two weeks for early voting with locations accessible by public transportation.
  • Eliminate postage for absentee ballots.
  • Guarantees that ballots cast in the wrong precinct but within the home county will be counted.
  • Requires all provisional ballots to be counted.
  • Prevents states from imposing restrictions on voting by mail.
  • Creates options for same-day and online registration.
  • Designate colleges and universities as registration agencies.
  • Make Election Day a holiday for federal workers.

Integrity:

  • Affirms congressional right to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which granted the Justice Department veto power over jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination.
  • Confirms the federal government’s power to protect Native American voting.
  • Prohibits voter roll purges by overturning a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that put the onus on voters instead of government to keep registrations up to date.
  • Ends partisan gerrymandering by requiring a nonpartisan redistricting commission in every state.

Security:

  • Eliminates involvement in elections by foreign countries.
  • Pays for modernized voting systems.
  • Supports voting system security including paper ballots.
  • Increases oversight over election vendors.

Campaign Finance

Disclosure:

  • Requires super PACs and other organizations involved in political activity to disclose donors giving more than $10,000.
  • Mandates that large digital platforms maintain a public archive of all political ads and prevent foreigners from directly or indirectly buying ads.
  • Requires government contractors and presidential inaugural committees to disclose their political spending.

Empowerment:

  • Creates a multiple matching system for small donations.
  • Reaffirms congressional authority of regulation of money in politics.
  • Asserts that Citizens United was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court and Congress has authority to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.

Oversight: 

  • Bans the use of shell companies that funnel foreign money into U.S. campaigns and campaign contributions from corporations with significant foreign ownership.
  • Calls for the IRS to create new rules for non-profit political spending.
  • Defines a “coordinated” expense among political allies.

Enforce existing laws:

  • Tightens rules on super PACs.
  • Restructures the Federal Election Commission to break gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms.
  • Repeals Senate riders that prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.

Ethics and Accountability

Fortification of Ethics Law:

  • Expands conflict of interest law and divestment requirements.
  • Prevents members of Congress from serving on corporate boards
  • Requires presidential candidates to disclose ten years of tax returns.

Greater Ethics Enforcement:

  • Overhauls the Office of Government Ethics.
  • Provides sufficient resources to watchdogs to enforce the law.
  • Creates a code of ethics for the Supreme Court to govern conflicts of interest and recusals.
  • Requires that ethics waivers be publicly disclosed.
  • Governs possible conflicts of interest from previously received political contributions.
  • Gives the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) final approval over executive branch recusals, exemptions, or waivers from ethics laws or regulations.
  • Allows the OGE to investigate violations of ethics laws and author to provide remedies.
  • Limits the President’s ability to remove the director of OGE only for cause.

Foreign lobbying:

  • Closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.
  • Gives the OGE authority to levy civil fines for offenders.

Reading through this wish list of reforms, people will claim that Republicans will never agree—and they are right. The GOP of the 21st century knows that they cannot elect their candidates if everyone votes. That’s the reason that they violate ethics, codes of conduct, conflicts of interest, fair voting practices, transparent donations—in short, cheat to get their own way. Republicans no longer believe in democracy; they just want to get their own way. [Caveat: if the GOP embrace these ideas, I will profusely apologize.]

January 13, 2019

A Picture of U.S. Income, Health in 2018

Filed under: Income inequality — trp2011 @ 9:05 PM
Tags: ,

Since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, he has evaluated the economy through the unemployment rate, the GDP, and the stock market. Yet the progress of United States is far more complicated that these few markers as conservative policies are destroying all except the wealthiest in the nation.

Lack of Equality in Wages: The low unemployment rate looks good, but wages don’t. Since Ronald Reagan was elected, the schism through wages for the wealthiest and the rest of the U.S. population has only increased in disastrous differences that have built since Ronald Reagan became president.

Inequality by States: Every state demonstrates serious inequality in income between the top one percent and the other 99 percent, with the ratio higher than 26.3 to 1 in at least eight states and Washington, D.C. Inequality in the United States has gone past the Gilded Age of the 1920s—gold on the outside but dross under the cover—as working people lose any bargaining power.

Unions: As corporations and conservative policies destroyed unions, income inequality ballooned. Workers who have more ability to negotiate with employers have a much better chance of staying out of poverty; corporations and policymakers who care only about profits have eroded this capacity. Support for unions is essential for a reversal of mass poverty in the United States.

Black/Hispanic Poverty Rates: Today’s federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is 25 percent less than at its peak in 1968. The current federal minimum wage was last increased to $7.25 in 2009. That amount is worth ten percent less than ten years ago while inflation has gone up almost 17 percent. A connection between inflation and an increase in minimum wage from 1968 would lower the black and Hispanic poverty rate by 14 percent from the actual 17.4 million to 15.1 million, bringing at least 2.5 million of these minorities out of poverty. Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would take 7.4 million blacks and Hispanics out of poverty with the $12.47 minimum wage equivalent to 1968. This policy would save taxpayers billions by removing them from the safety net and strengthening the economy.

Teaching Wages: In the past few years, teachers have gone on strike in several states, many of them red, and 30,000 LA teachers are scheduled to follow suit tomorrow. In some states, teachers have run for legislature and won against the policymakers who starved education. Part of the problem is the teacher wage penalty—the difference between teachers and other college graduates. In every state, public school teachers are paid less, from 3.1 percent in Wyoming to 36.4 percent in Arizona.

Growing control by corporations in raising prices to benefit shareholders continues to transfer money from lower- and middle-income families to the wealthy, according to new research. Because the bottom 80 percent of the country owns just 10 percent of the shares but spends 60 percent of the money, they are the losers while the top 20 percent, the wealthy, make money. Shares alone took three percent of national household income from the bottom 80 percent in 2016 to give to the top 20 percent. One solution would be a cap on prices, something that conservatives oppose.

As income inequality increases, so does the rate of suicide. Researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett found the stress, anxiety, and addiction connected to suicide also comes from the inequality. Rising suicide rates are one reason for the downward trend of life expectancy in the U.S. for three years. Maternal death increased again this past year, putting the U.S. in the same category as Afghanistan and Swaziland. Infant mortality rates haven’t decreased significantly for five years, staying far higher than rates for other developed countries. These trends come from lack of access to healthcare, especially the reversals in coverage since DDT’s inauguration. Forty percent of adults don’t have the savings to cover a $400 emergency, and over 25 percent skipped a medical treatment because of the cost in 2017.

In worldwide happiness, the United States fell for the second time in two years to 18th place. The Gallup-Sharecare Index reported significant declines in well-being in 21 states in 2017, the largest drop since the 2008 recession with six states more than in 2008. At least two-thirds of these 21 states voted for DDT. Not one state improved in well-being during 2017. Every morning I wake up, wondering what disaster has happened since I left the Internet the night before and then become grateful because DDT hasn’t declared World War III. And I’m not alone. That is life in the new world of “normal” in the United States.

January 12, 2019

GOP Makes History with Shutdown—Again

Day 22 of government shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has his wish—the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Until today, the longest was from December 5, 1995 to January 6, 1996 when GOP leaders disagreed with the method of determining a balanced budget. Before that, the GOP closed the government from September 30 to October 18, 1978 when Jimmy Carter opposed purchasing the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Details of all shutdowns until the GOP objection on October 1-17, 2013 to the Affordable Care Act are here. In the formerly three longest shutdowns, the Republicans voted to agree with the Democratic presidents.

This past week, members of the Coast Guard risked their lives to rescue three men on a crabbing boat that tried to cross the dangerous Newport (OR) bar, the opening at the end of a jetty between the ocean and Yaquina Bay. Sadly, the boat was lost and the three crew members died, but not because the Coast Guard didn’t do their jobs—although they aren’t being paid. The 41,000 members of the Coast Guard are part of the 800,000 federal workers no longer receiving paychecks because of DDT’s intransigence or government allowances for housing in expensive coastal cities.

Adding insult to injury, a federal website for Coast Guard members published a five-page tip for surviving without paychecks—babysit or dogwalk or serve as a “mystery shopper.” They could sell their belongings at a yard sale. “Bankruptcy is a last option,” according to the website although it’s always been DDT’s first action before he got money from his father or the Russians. To be fair, the recommendations are primarily for the 8,500-person civilian workforce, but its publication is still demeaning, especially the comment, “Stay in charge of the situation by getting a clear understanding of what’s happening.”

Federal workers are already struggling to make up for the missing paychecks by getting supplies at charity food pantries, driving for Uber, and giving blood. They aren’t employable because they may not be staying on the job long. At the same time, states and municipalities are losing revenue by less sales tax, and small businesses are hurting from lack of business.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to address any bill passed by the new Democratic House.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “The goal is not to open up the government. Instead, the Senate focused on a bill The goal is to fix a broken immigration system.” Instead, the Senate worked on a bill giving states the right to punish companies that boycott Israel by refusing to contract with them and adding $33 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years to the $5.5 billion the U.S. enacted in last year’s defense spending bill. The fast-tracked bill bypassed any committee involvement. McConnell’s blocking all bills to reopen the government led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to ask:

“Do you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?”

 

This week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) decided to negotiate a resolution with DDT by reopening the government while letting congressional committees sort out money for the wall. DDT rejected the GOP plan, and Graham said that he’s given up looking for a resolution. In making a “deal” for the wall, each side has to give something to get something. The only “give” that DDT offers is reopening the government—which he has to do anyway. DDT claims “No wall, no deal,” and the only resolution is for two-thirds of each congressional chamber to vote for a continuing resolution—without a wall.

DDT now falsely claims he never said that Mexico would pay for the wall. Not only does video show him making this statement over and over, but his campaign materials state that he expects to finance the wall with “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” from Mexico which his administration would “compel” the country to make.

Trying to avoid bad press and appease friends, DDT promised the illegal actions of sending tax refunds to people and favoring lobbyists in the lending block of the mortgage industry. Yesterday, 800,000 federal workers got paychecks with $0.00, but Treasury officials guaranteed that the IRS will process forms for mortgage lenders. The Mortgage Bankers’ Association CEO, Robert Broeksmit, asked to “make these guys essential” because of “a problem for the lending industry.” The clerks working on Broeksmit’s problem will receive full pay, unlike the vast majority of their colleagues, but the estimated 248,400 veterans working for the shutdown government agencies get nothing.

In 2004, DDT told an audience of graduates at Wagner College how to avoid a wall:

“If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall.”

Thirty-three Wagner professors and over 700 alumni have asked the school to rescind the honorary degree that DDT received for his address.

A saw can be used to cut a hole through DDT’s preferred wall prototype, the “steel bollard.” Even without the hole, the spaces between the slats are wide enough for packages or perhaps people. Or they can just climb the bollards.

 

“Never so many apprehensions ever in our history,” DDT said. Yet the 400,000 apprehensions in 2017 and 300,000 in 2016 are far lower than the past with 19 years over one million people between 1983 to 2006 and topping out at 1,643,679 apprehensions in 2000. And bipartisan support for immigration has grown.

DDT wants to build a wall by taking $13.9 billion in disaster relief in declaring a national emergency, including include $2.4 billion for flood prevention and protection projects in California, $2.5 billion for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, and $4.5 billion for projects in Texas, including those related to 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

Putting this money into a medieval wall is like flushing it down a toilet—or a river—especially in the vast areas of the Rio Grande floodplain, where a 1970 treaty between the United States and Mexico bans the barrier. According to the treaty, the joint U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) “must approve construction of works proposed in either country” along those rivers and prohibits the construction of projects “which, in the judgment of the commission, may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the river or of its flood flows.”

Border experts state that a wall has already been built everywhere possible on the border, but 1,254 miles runs through the middle of the Rio Grande River which routinely floods—more and more since recent climate change. Any barriers will greatly worsen flooding as shown by the flash flood along the 5-mile border fence along the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that poured through the port of entry and damaged businesses, government buildings, and private property. The only solution is to put the fence miles away from the border, leaving privately-owned U.S. land seized through eminent domain on the Mexican side and ceding that land to Mexico.

About walls, DDT declares he’s a “professional at technology.” He said, “I know tech better than anyone.” This statement follows all the other areas in which he considers himself an expert because he knows more about the subjects than “any human being on earth”: science, drones, Osama bin Laden, Cory Booker, borders, campaign contributions, courts, debt, Facebook, guns, visas, infrastructure, the political left, money, horror of nuclear, renewables, steelworkers, taxes, trade, Wall Street bankers, and wedges.

Jeffrey Toobin writes:

“If the President can spend government funds without congressional approval—indeed, if he can do so in the face of an explicit congressional refusal to spend funds for precisely the purpose that he seeks—that fundamentally reorders the relations between the branches. Specifically, it vastly expands the President’s power at the expense of Congress.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) went silent when CNN’s John Berman asked him if a future Democratic president could bypass Congress and declare climate change a “national emergency.” Finally questioning the validity of the claim, Berman pointed out that the Pentagon thinks climate change is a serious problem. Then deaths from guns could be a “national emergency.”

While DDT shuts down the government because of immigrants, U.S. citizens are destroying public land. A prime example is the prized Joshua Tree National Monument, now unstaffed, where “patriots” are cutting down trees (below right), making new roads with four-wheelers, and spray-painting rocks. Paraplegic veteran Rand Abbott has gone to the park almost every day to clean bathrooms, pick up trash, and “kindly persuade people to not destroy the park.”

Federal workers suffering from no pay are scattered throughout the country with the top afflicted places outside Washington, D.C. being Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Idaho. A map with numbers of federal workers without pay is here.

 

DDT’s shutdown is estimated to lose the economy $2.5 billion every week, a 0.1 percent loss in GDP for every two weeks. And that’s low-balling the guesstimate. Congress can stop the shutdown if two-thirds of each chamber votes for a continuing resolution or a budget. That’s 50 Republicans in the House and 15 in the Senate. The House has already picked up 12 Republicans. Maybe that many legislators will learn that a wall won’t stop drugs coming in through tunnels, ports of entries, and international bridges; a wall won’t address the majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who overstay their visas.

January 11, 2019

DDT: Week 103 – While the Media Focused on the Horrific Shutdown ….

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:52 PM

The big news today is that the FBI opened an investigation into Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) after he fired former FBI Director James Comey and bragged about it to the Russians, calling Comey “a real nut job.” The FBI was concerned that DDT was a threat to national security while working against the U.S. on behalf of the Russians and that the firing was an obstruction to justice. While Comey openly pursued Hillary Clinton’s emails, he was suspicious of DDT’s ties to Russia.

DDT claims “no collusion,” but the White House has just hired 17 new lawyers to protect DDT from Robert Mueller’s investigation through executive privilege.

Michael Cohen, DDT’s former fixer, will testify on February 7 about all things DDT.

A sloppy lawyer allowed the public to discover information about Paul Manafort’s sharing poling data during DDT’s campaign with Russian Konstantin Kilimnik, but DDT says he hasn’t heard anything about it.

Ed Burke, another DDT associate who worked for the Trump Organization, has been charged with attempted extortion. DDT has no involvement in the criminal complaint—unless Burke flips on DDT.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT claims that he likes an “acting” government—no confirmed people for the chief of staff (acting Mick Mulvaney), DOJ (acting Matt Whitaker), Interior (acting David Bernhardt), Defense Secretary (Patrick Shanahan), EPA (Andrew Wheeler), and Medicaid (Chris Traylor).  Many more acting appointments are just dropping the term “acting” from their titles. DDT claims to like the “flexibility,” but Jon Kyle and Ret. Gen. Jack Keane already turned him down for Defense. Six of 24 Cabinet positions have only acting personnel, and over one-third of vacancies requiring Senate approval are vacant. The next Cabinet disappearance may be Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was annoyed with the Democrats questioning him at a hearing about his decision to remove sanctions on Oleg Deripaska’s companies, but Democrats were even more irritated with his wasting time through his refusal to answer questions. Even Republicans in Congress, that can pass a law to thwart Mnuchin’s plans, have a history of sanctioning Russians. Deripaska is a former business associate of Paul Manafort.

DOJ AG nominee Bill Barr, headed for committee hearings this coming week, refused to meet with several Democratic senators by claiming the shutdown restricted his time until they went public. Democrats were told that they could meet with Barr after the rushed hearings. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) met with Barr and assured everyone that he wouldn’t stop Robert Mueller’s investigation. New Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Graham wouldn’t release Barr’s public financial disclosure report and ethics agreement. Barr has been questioned about his sending DDT a memo opposing Mueller’s investigation and his position that the president is above the law. He was AG for George H.W. Bush in 1992 when H.W. pardoned everyone in the Iran-Contra scandal to get H.W. out of legal difficulties. Graham doesn’t even pretend to be “fair and balanced”: he tweeted, “The confirmation of conservative judges will be one of my top priorities as Chairman.” Imagine the outrage if a Democrat said his goal was to confirm liberal judges.

State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo is spreading U.S. policy throughout the Middle East. He praised Saudi Arabia with no mention of their torturing and dismembering U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, promoted alliances with autocrats, and promised that the Kurds will be protected from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan attacks on them while the U.S. withdraws which it may not do. Missing from all Pompeo’s speeches was any reference to human rights.

DDT supporters in Johnson County (Indiana) are losing faith in their leader because of toxic chemicals underground from an old industrial site are contaminating their homes. Children are falling ill with cancer, including brain tumors, lymphocytic leukemia, and a rare bone cancer. DDT stopped President Obama’s attempts to ban the use of these chemicals as a stain remover and degreaser, leaving 178,000 workers exposed. Farmers, traditionally DDT supporters, are also becoming disillusioned after losing farm loans and disaster relief from the shutdown. Farmers can’t buy seed, chemicals and diesel without this assistance, and they’re resorting to getting food from food pantries. On Monday, DDT is scheduled to speak at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention.

After almost 100 years of support for lynching, the Senate unanimously passed a bill declaring it a hate crime. Now the Liberty Counsel, lawyers trying to make the United States a Christian theocracy, opposes the anti-lynching bill recently passed after 100 years of attempts because it would make lynching of LGBTQ people illegal. The organization is lobbying to keep the bill from passing the House.

Six months after the tents started going up at Tornillo (TX), a small town of under 2,000, the government has torn them down, and the last of 6,200 migrant children separated from their parents have been sent to other ICE-operated facilities. The building cost ran into the hundreds of millions, and the cost of incarceration was $775 per night for each child classified as “unaccompanied alien children” after ICE took them from their parents. Almost $500,000 was taken from medical research and other HHS programs for 2018 unbudgeted expenditures. Some of the children have been sent to the Homestead facility where staff are not required to go through FBI fingerprint checks because Florida state law prevents outside companies from accessing that background database.

Kevin Dinnin, the CEO of the contractor that ran the tents, said the government closed down the facility because he refused to detain more youths. He said that children came but never left.

Coal plants closed at the highest rate in history during DDT’s first full year in the Oval Office after he ridiculed Clinton for not protecting coal jobs. Huge companies such as Duke Energy are switching to renewable energy. Scottish Power completely left fossil fuels and said that they are using “the cheapest forms of energy.”

When the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from ExxonMobil, the company was forced to give documents about its knowledge of climate change to Massachusetts AG’s climate change investigation. Exxon faces far more lawsuits through the United States about its lying and dangers to the nation. In desperation, the corporation claimed that it doesn’t sell gasoline because service stations are franchises but may face the same problems in eight other states that have laws similar to those in Massachusetts.

A GoFundMe that collected $20 million to “Build the Wall” must return all of it because it didn’t meet its $1 billion goal unless donors are willing to redirect its money to a non-profit called “We Build the Wall, Inc.”

Stock markets ended the year with the biggest annual decline since George W. Bush’s recession in 2008: Dow Jones down 5.6 percent; S&P 500 down 6.2 percent; and Nasdaq down 4 percent. Problems arose from the government shutdown, Brexit, the China slowdown, DDT’s tariffs, increased interest rates, criticism of the Fed, and general uncertainty from market volatility. FAANG stocks—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet—suffered drastic drops in the past three months ending in the worst Christmas Eve market drop in history. Markets perked up this year with DDT’s promise that he’ll solve the Chinese tariff issue and the Fed’s promise that it won’t raise interest rates as often, but today, the Dow eased downward.

DDT has become increasing vicious after the Democrats won’t give him his wall. Some of his comments to the press yesterday before he left for his photo op on the Mexico border that he claims was pointless:

“I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Crying Chuck and Nancy. I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.” [Basically, he’s failing with both.]

“The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime. They don’t care about gang members coming in and stabbing people and cutting people up. They’ve been taken over by a group of young people, who frankly, in some cases, I’ve been watching, I actually think they’re crazy. They have been taken over by a group of people that don’t care about gangs, they don’t care about human trafficking and drugs—they don’t care about anything.”

“Look, you can [in the media] all play cute, and I’d say 80 percent of you are possibly in cooperation with the opposition party I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.” He described NBC as “maybe the most dishonest reporters of all time.”

“We have to get a win or I’ll have to go national security. We could compromise, or I will declare a national emergency.”

The man who campaigned on the slogan that “I alone can fix it” said, “The buck stops with everybody.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)  hasn’t responded to questions about DDT’s tweets to withhold federal disaster relief money from the thousands of Northern California families looking to rebuild after devastating “forrest [sic]” wildfires in McCarthy’s home state. He did, however, defend DDT’s position.

Much has been written about Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, but Republicans are getting anxious about the GOP primaries if a high profile Republican decides to run. And there are a few of them out there, helped by the shutdown.

January 9, 2019

Crisis in the Oval Office

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:04 PM

Day 19 of the government shutdown: Last night the wooden Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) replaced the angry bombastic one after he conned major networks into televising his speech with no new information. These outlets are the same ones that refused President Obama’s 2014 about executive actions in November 2014 because it would be “political.” NBC also aired a rebuttal to DDT’s false claim of a “crisis” about not having a border wall from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who emphasized the importance of operating the government.

Fact checking DDT’s speech is a waste of space because nothing he said was the truth. And nothing was new—he just followed former talking points and those of VP Mike Pence and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who were sent out on the media trail to reinforce his lies. No GOP members of Congress are putting themselves out front to pass on DDT’s lies. WaPo published a series of DDT’s lies with factual information refuting his entire case for a wall.

NBC published statistics in response to Sanders’ claimed that the border patrol picked up nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists trying to cross the Mexico border into the U.S. Her figure was inflated by almost 4,000 as shown by data that Customs and Border Protection gave to Congress for October 2017 through March 2018:

  • CBP found six immigrants at U.S.-Mexico ports of entry whose names were on a federal list of known or suspected terrorists. They may or may not have been dangerous.
  • Of the 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database encountered at the southern border, 35 were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  • CBP stopped 91 people on the northern border with Canada who were listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

People are stopped under the existing system, without a wall, and twice as many people are apprehended on a border with no proposed wall. DDT wants people to be very afraid—but just of brown people.

Even VP Mike Pence doesn’t argue that DDT is believable and honest. Before tonight’s speech, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked Pence how DDT can be trusted on his demands for the border wall, that this is a crisis, when he has told so many lies about the crisis. Pence answered:

“Well, look, the American people aren’t as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what’s really happening at the border.”

All four living presidents denied DDT’s claim that they privately agree with him on building a wall, but Pence said that DDT had received the “impression” that they wanted the wall.

Yesterday, Schumer said, “We don’t govern by temper tantrum.” Today DDT stomped out of a negotiations meeting with congressional leaders this morning when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told him that she wouldn’t fund his wall although the House has passed bills to reopen the government. Earlier DDT had a private lunch with Republicans. [Right: DDT shakes hands with his employee Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who refuses to address any bill that DDT doesn’t like, destroying the Senate’s independence.] Fifty-one percent of people blame DDT for the shutdown—up from 47 percent just two weeks ago.

DDT continues to say that he will declare a “national emergency” only if Congress won’t give him his wall. In essence, there is no emergency—just a strategy because time is not important. For weeks, experts have argued the legality of DDT’s threat. would be legal. Current law has no criteria for this situation, but such action would face lawsuits. the money would come from the military budget.

Funding for a national emergency would need to come from the military budget, but the military cannot enforce domestic law without congressional authorization. The statute mandates that construction must be done to support the use of armed forces. The purpose of the wall is the reverse: it’s to employ the military. DDT has also not proved that an emergency exists, and he would face opposition in seizing large areas of private, state, and tribal lands. The Constitution requirement that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law” was reinforced by the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA) stating that government employees may not “make or authorize an expenditure or obligation exceeding an amount available in an appropriation or fund for the expenditure or obligation.” Violation of this law results in prison time.

DDT’s idea for a wall came from two political strategists who used it to remind him to talk about immigration in his speeches. He found that his proposal of the wall made him look important with his conservative voting base. According to economist Mark Thornton, walls are a symbol of a successful standard of living like a large corner office despite their representation of isolation and contribution to a civilization’s decline. History has many failed walls:

  • The Great Wall of China, over 5,000 miles, was to block immigration and trade. Chinese scholar Arthur Waldron described the great losses, both financial and human, in building the wall and its failure to block people from crossing into China when the solution was to trade with the Mongols on the other side. WaPo‘s Ishaan Tharoor wrote that the Great Wall’s significance is best understood “not as a security barrier, but as a work of political propaganda.”
  • Hadrian’s Wall, built across northern England by fearful Romans, was to prevent invasions from barbarians but also failed.
  • The Berlin Wall led to a rapidly growing economy on one side because of progressive ideals and the fall into decline on the other side that resulted in the failure of communism. Like DDT’s highly vaunted wall proposal, the Berlin Wall came from a lie as East Germany claimed the “Anti-fascist Bulwark” protected communists from Western invaders instead of a desire to keep people from defecting to the West.

People support walls because they make them feel secure and keep them from having to solve problems. Jane Loeffler, architectural historian who studied fortifications of U.S. embassies said:

“A wall is so primitive. You can dig under it, go over it, catapult yourself over it. A wall is more symbolic than a real defense. A wall is fear in three dimensions.”

In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost first and last lines,“Good fences make good neighbors,” ironically depict how walls separate people and describe his wall-building neighbor as unthinking, “like an old-stone savage armed.”

Last Friday, the WaPo pointed out how DDT’s administration failed to understand the consequences until two weeks after its start. After 14 days, senior officials, understanding part of the shutdown’s scope, frantically started their attempt to eradicate the bad optics of making life worse for his supporters.

  • The oil industry still chugs along in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the government allowing pipelines and drilling rigs near wetlands sustaining caribou and threatened birds. BLM is holding public meetings about oil although its staff has been furloughed. EPA staff is processing new permits to drill in coastal waters because federal agencies decide what to do.
  • Farmers filing deadlines for payouts are extended, and checks from the $12 billion buyout after tariffs are still being mailed to wealthy farmers,  including members of Congress.
  • IRS tax refunds will be mailed despite this action’s questionable legality.
  • DDT is asking landlords to give up their income by not charging federal workers without paychecks. (Nothing has been said about banks delaying mortgage payments.)

Problems:

Although DDT may have trouble explaining his failure with shutdown if it’s still in effect in 21 days when he attends the economic summit in Davos (Switzerland), the government is still paying the bills for his trip. Almost two weeks before the event, hotel bills were almost $3 million with DDT’s entourage of eight cabinet members and dozens of officials and aides including his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. The U.S. taxpayers are still on the hook even if DDT cancels because of strict policies. Over one-half million for renting vehicles and other lodging brings the total to about $3.6 million which doesn’t include the $2.2 million for flying DDT to Davos. Last year’s lodging cost only $1.8 million.

The one bright spot for DDT is that the National Park Service still staffs the clock tower in the “old post office” housing DDT’s Washington hotel.

January 7, 2019

Sue Hardesty: Sea Stars Gradually Disappear

Filed under: Sue Hardesty — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
Tags: , , ,

When I was young, these creatures were called starfish. The name was changed in the United States during the past five decades to sea stars because they are echinoderms, not fish, and closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars. No matter what the name, they are disappearing because of environmental problems. This Sea Grant video shows how scientists at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are developing a blood panel for ochre sea stars to help treat them before they die off from Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.

Below, Sue Hardesty’s Facebook entry about the gradual extinction:

I want to talk about my favorite sea thingy, that wondrous little creature, the sea star, that’s nearly impossible to kill. Until now. September 18, 2016, I posted on my Facebook. “Spent yesterday morning walking the tide pools on my favorite beach, looking for my favorite ocean friends, the sea stars. There should have been hundreds. I found three. All sick. They all had bubbling and swelling in their centers and the curling limbs, eventually turning into a smearing mess. This is the fourth year. How much longer before they are all gone?” So, I went looking.

The tragic fact is that we are presently witnessing the largest wildlife die-off in recorded history—and we don’t know why. It is suspected they are another victim of global warming, but the research is still sketchy. Even though this little sea creature has no fins, or brain, or teeth, or even bones, and circulates sea water through their systems instead of blood, they are still tough little guys of wondrous colors and shapes, and, remarkably, they have eyes at the end of each arm, can produce millions of eggs at one time, replace lost arms, and change gender from male to female at will. They can even create glue with their feet. Did I mention how beautiful they are, dressed up in all kinds of colors and shaped with many arms? The loss of the sea star is a true disaster because, unlike the 80 or so extinct mammal species whose demise we are already responsible for, this little guy is one of our major keystone species.

When a major keystone species becomes extinct, its habitat and the living creatures in it are seriously affected and often simply disappear. What makes the sea star a keystone species is that it eats sea urchins which have the bad habit of “clear-cutting” kelp beds destroying cover as well as oxygen and food for many other species, including prawns and fish. Sea stars also eat mussels which, if left unintended, clean the water so well no food is left for the small fishes. Other examples of keystone species presently in danger are bees whose pollination is critical for plant survival, and, in turn, provide food and shelter for bugs who are eaten by birds. Then there is the predator such as bears, lions, tigers, wolves, cougars, and good ol’ man who keep the population of various species in check.

A new report from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, November 26, 2018, has cited a disease called the “sea star wasting syndrome” as the killer of millions of sea stars from Mexico to Alaska. Like the perfect storm, this disease could be a combination of elevated sea water temperatures with an imbalance of microbiome, or just as likely several microbe pathogens.” The report also discussed the 2014/2015 “unusual boom” in juvenile sea stars of several species which gave so many of us hope. “Unfortunately, the abundance was short-lived,” wrote Schultz. “The juveniles disappeared over a period of weeks to months, and no evidence of their abundance has so far been reflected in adult populations…it’s not uncommon at all to observe a sea star healthy one day and in pieces and near death the next morning,” said UVM co-author Melanie Lloyd. “If this disease was happening in humans, it would be the making of a Stephen King novel.”

 

Sources:

https://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/data-products/sea-star-wasting/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181107130255.htm

https://www.opb.org/news/article/despite-glimmers-of-hope-starfish-are-still-wasting-away/

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180320141317.htm

 

January 6, 2019

Christians Lead the Way to Making DDT King

Day 16 of the government shutdown: On the day that the debacle caused by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ties for the third-longest shutdown in history, U.S. lawmakers on the Mexico border are rejecting DDT’s wall in favor of technology and staffing at legal ports of entry for improved security and crossing times. DDT offered $400 million for these purposes but still demands $5 billion for his wall.

Part of Mike Pence’s job as vice president is to swear in newly-elected senators, and the far-right Christian evangelist is the first VP to swear in an openly pagan and bisexual person for the chamber. Even more horrifying for Christian conservatives was Kyrsten Sinema’s use of the Constitution for her swearing in. When she saw the photo marking for “spouse,” Sinema asked, “Can we get a spouse?”

People who think that the Constitution begins with the Second Amendment—skipping freedom of press, religion, assembly, etc—were resentful when they thought Rashida Tlaib, the new representative from Michigan, who they claimed was sworn into office on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. One person wrote a concern that Muslims will “both receive a security clearance given to congress members.” Another one sputtered in a tweet:

“This is a disgrace of epic proportions. It is also unlawful. I am disgusted for every soldier who ever gave their life to protect our Constitution!!! I feel sick.”

Not much has changed since the fury of then Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) carrying the same Koran during his swearing when he became the first Muslim in Congress.

Representatives, unlike senators, simply raise their hands while swearing to support the Constitution of the United States. The House member with the longest continuous service, in the 116th Congress Don Young (R-AK) with 46 years of service, swears in the duly-elected Speaker who then swears in the other members en masse. A book of choice, whether it be a bible or koran, is used for photographs with the Speaker after the general swearing in.

Although many conservatives claims America only for Christians, Islam came to the continent in the 17th century with the West African slaves. Thomas Jefferson bought a Koran when he was 22 years old, 11 years before drafting the Declaration of Independence. He criticized Islam as well as Catholicism for “stifling free enquiry” because both religions tied religion to government, yet he supported the rights of believers. His private notes paraphrase the English philosopher John Locke’s 1689 “Letter on Toleration”:

“(He) says neither Pagan nor Mahometan (Muslim) nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”

Jefferson copied Locke’s ideas in writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

“(O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”

Drafted in 1777, the Statute became law in 1786 and thus the basis for the U.S. Constitution’s “no religious test” clause and the First Amendment.

In Jefferson’s 1821 autobiography, he affirmed that the failure to add the words “Jesus Christ” to his legislation’s preamble proved the application of his Statute to be “universal.” Therefore religious liberty and political equality cannot be exclusively Christian but protect “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.” “Universal” includes every one of every faith or non-faith.

Jefferson also welcomed the first Muslim ambassador, one from Tunis, to the White House in 1805. Because it was a time of Ramadan, Jefferson changed the time for the state dinner from 3:30 pm to be “precisely at sunset” to recognize the ambassador’s religious beliefs.

The month of Ramadan celebrates when Prophet Muhammad is believed to have first received revelations from God by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Each year, the event begins ten or eleven days earlier than the previous year, beginning on May 6 in 2019. Beginning in 1966, the White House commemorated Ramadan for two decades with an iftar dinner that broke the fast at night; DDT chose to ignore Ramadan in the first year after his inauguration.

While DDT’s supporters completely reject the Islam religion, they compare his election to the anointing of King Cyrus by God, a nonbeliever used by the faithful, as told by Mark Taylor, a former firefighter in The Trump Prophecy. Evangelical author Lance Wallnau, also in the film, said, “I believe the 45th president is meant to be an Isaiah 45 Cyrus,” who will “restore the crumbling walls that separate us from cultural collapse.”

DDT’s anti-Christian and anti-democratic attitudes make him popular with Christian nationalists who claim to follow the constitution and Founding Fathers while preferring autocrats and kings. Ralph Drollinger, the White House evangelist leading Bible study groups, has made “king” into a verb, i.e., “Get ready to king in our future lives.” DDT follows King Cyrus by making himself above the law, for example his most recent claim that he will build the wall with no authority from Congress. DDT’s evangelical followers also want only a king—no queens. Drollinger maintains that the Bible allows only “male leadership.” Even people who question his sexual language and behavior think that he’s a miracle sent from Heaven to lead the United States to God. To them, resisting DDT is resisting God. The current leading Christian movement in the U.S. today is unbending, authoritarian, patriarchal, and paranoid; it is an attack on democracy.

A sample of the far-right Christian sects and movements supporting DDT:

POTUS Shield: Televangelist Frank Amedia, leader of these self-described “warriors, worshippers, and watchmen,” insists that God visited him before DDT’s inauguration to ask him for a protective shield of prayer around DDT because he was sent to create a Christian fundamentalist takeover of the government. Members are Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, and Lou Engle, promoter of the Ugandan “kill the gays” bill—among other hate policies. One of their goals is doing away with Islam.

People of Praise: Predominantly Catholic, the group incorporates Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, and requires members to swear an oath of loyalty to the group. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sits on the 7th Circuit Court and on DDT’s short list for a Supreme Court justice appointment, belongs to this group believing that women must submit to male authority. The terms “handmaid” and “handmaiden” to describe women are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, popularized in the 1990 film and 2017/2018 television series.

Quiverfull: This movement within fundamentalist Protestant Christianity claims that preventing a pregnancy is a sin and that all contraceptives are tools of the Devil. Christian wives, who must be submissive to their husbands, should have as many children as possible. Author Nancy Campbell called the womb a “weapon against Satan.” Kathryn Joyce wrote:

“If just eight million American Christians began supplying more ‘arrows for the war’ by having six children or more, they propose that the Christian Right ranks could rise to 550 million within a century.”

Wives are not allowed to have bank accounts or email addresses with their husbands’ permission, and they are to be always sexually available to their husbands.

Project Blitz: This coalition of Christian fundamentalist activists floods state legislatures with bills promoting a theocracy with the hope that a few may succeed in passing. Model bills come from the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) playbook under the guise of “religious freedom.” Five states have passed “In God We Trust” bills mandating that the phrase be on public buildings, schools, and public vehicles include police cars. Other bills could provide proclamations that move religious teachings into schools through something like a Christian heritage week, followed by anti-LGBTQ bills to promote “biblical values concerning marriage and sexuality.” Christians are to rule the United States with their far-right vision, according to Project Blitz; all other people are second-class citizens.

WallBuilders: Founder David Barton, also active in Project Blitz, is a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party and director of Keep the Promise PAC that supported Sen. Ted Cruz’ 2016 presidential campaign. A history revisionist, he teaches that separation of church and state is unconstitutional and that the government should be based on strict biblical law.  Barton has advised Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, and Mike Huckabee and regularly appeared on Glenn Beck’s Founders Fridays radio broadcasts. God established national borders, according to Barton, who opposes any immigration. In 2010, he tried to keep Martin Luther King, Jr. from Texas textbooks because “only majorities can expand political rights.”

Through the National Prayer Breakfast, far-right Christians connected with Russia to maintain the GOP leadership of the United States. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, explained the background for the National Prayer Breakfast and its connection to Russia:

“It’s run by a private, sectarian, fundamentalist organization called The Fellowship and The Family that believes in precisely this kind of action. In fact, the long-time leader of the organization has called it quiet diplomacy, back channel, back door interactions between international leaders, that they use the prayer breakfast to bring them together. As recently as a year ago, the current leader, Doug Burleigh, was predicting alliance between [President Donald] Trump and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He predicted that at a Russian prayer breakfast.”

Russian Maria Butina, recently admitted to being a Russian spy, allegedly sought to influence U.S. officials not only through organizations such as the National Rifle Association, but also by exploiting the National Prayer Breakfast. Butina was denied entry into the United States until the NRA pushed through a visa for her. The affidavit stated that she intended to use the prayer breakfast to “establish a back channel of communications” between influential Russians in the U.S. with power U.S. citizens. This year, the Breakfast had the biggest group of any country. One of the Russians formally invited was sanctioned two months after the prayer breakfast.

Christian evangelicals are leaders of the movement to involve Russia in making DDT king of the United States with his support from Pence and the GOP base.

January 5, 2019

DDT: Week 102 – Shutdown Stalemates, Idiocy Continues

Day 15 of government shutdown: Not much progress was made in shutdown talks between White House officials and congressional aides today although acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Democrats would not view a steel wall as a wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the House will start with bills to open departments, beginning with the Treasury so that people can get IRS tax refunds. A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, gone this week in a cloud of ethics investigations, transferred public records to a political appointee who had advised the Koch brothers and proposed limiting new Freedom of Information requests by refusing these if they are “burdensome.” He also shortened the public opinion to 30 days, in spite of the shutdown. In that way, no one can determine damage caused by the government shutdown and uncover Zinke’s ethics violations. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees that Zinke’s proposal violates the FOIA because it says nothing about the “vast quantity of material” requested. DOJ is also investigating whether Zinke committed the criminal offence of lying to the Inspector General.

Despite the shutdown, Robert Mueller’s investigation is still funded, and the federal grand jury has been extended for another six months.

Almost 400,000 federal workers are “furloughed” because they aren’t “essential,” and some of them won’t get paychecks when they go back to work because they are employed by a private contractor. Zach Fuentes, one of the lucky ones who keeps getting paid, needs six more months of work to qualify for a Coast Guard early retirement program that expired at the end of 2018. DHS pushed to have the program renewed, but reporters’ questions led legislation for the program to be removed from the House appropriations bill. John Kelly saved the 36-year-old with under 15 years of service by making him his deputy chief of staff. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wanted another deputy but said that Fuentes will stick around. Mulvaney said, “Zach’s a good man; we’ll find something for him to do productive.” His new title is assistant to the president and senior adviser to the chief of staff. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the committee with oversight over the White House, has promised an investigation into the Fuentes affair.

The stock of Goldman Sachs, former employer of several DDT appointments, went down 35 percent because Malaysian filed criminal charges against Goldman after country’s Prime Minster Najib Razak, DDT’s friend, took huge amounts of cash from a state investment fund. Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs, demanding $7.5 billion in reparations, and at least ten countries have probes into Goldman Sachs’ business. Before the 2008 recession, Goldman profited in the collapse in subprime mortgage bonds by short-selling subprime mortgage-backed securities. DDT’s White House is known for having employed a large number of Goldman Sachs alumni.

DDT’s rambling comments in a press conference yesterday followed his disastrous 90-minute meeting Wednesday when he offended India by accusing them of only building a small library in Afghanistan. India, which didn’t attack and destroy Afghanistan as the U.S. did, gave $3 billion to Afghanistan which included building the Parliament. DDT also parroted Vladimir Putin’s propaganda in his revisionist history that the USSR collapsed after declaring bankruptcy fighting in Afghanistan in retaliation for its terrorists going into Russia. The statement that “Russia used to be the Soviet Union” ignored the 14 other republics in the USSR, and DDT’s statement that the USSR was “right to be there” conflicted with U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. opposed the USSR in that conflict, the USSR went into Afghanistan to keep communism in the country, the Soviet economy didn’t go bankrupt, and its financial problems came from declining oil prices. DDT’s comments come directly from Vladimir Putin, and he went farther than Putin when he excused Russian aggression.

National Security adviser John Bolton assured Israel that DDT had no timeline for a military pullout from Syria two weeks after DDT declared it eminent. Mulvaney had said that DDT wouldn’t change his mind about the immediate pullout, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is taking credit for talking DDT into a “pause situation.” DDT decided to slow down the withdrawal of troops in Syria after tweeting that retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has “big, dumb mouth” in accord with Fox’s Laura Ingraham’s criticism of McChrystal caution against the pullout.

After George W. Bush’s judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the media addressed the possibility of “Medicare for All” (aka universal health care like every other industrialized nation). The judge has now decided that the ACA would stay in effect until the issue moves through the courts because “many everyday Americans would… face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal”—an obvious conclusion from his first ruling. A coalition of 17 states has appealed the decision, and the House plans to direct its Office of General Counsel to represent lawmakers in any litigation involving the act and authorize hiring of outside counsel.

DDT has starting to chip away at Medicare Part D by cutting some medications provided by Part D of Medicare—specifically those for HIV, depression, schizophrenia, cancer, epilepsy, and immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection of organ transplants. Despite DDT’s bragging that he had lowered costs of drugs, pharmaceutical companies raised prices at the beginning of 2019 for hundreds of prescription medications this week. The increases, as high as 133.4 percent, averaged 6.3 percent and included drugs for high blood pressure, pain relievers, and anesthetics.

Facing at least seven major investigations—campaign, transition, inaugural committee, presidency, business, charity, emoluments, and personal finances—DDT is looking at an eighth one about the employment of undocumented immigrants at his Bedminster (NJ) golf resort in New Jersey. Federal and state investigators are looking into the employment records of immigrants after several undocumented immigrants said they were recruited to work at the facility. An employer told Victorina Morales, assured that her immigration status didn’t matter, that she couldn’t do anything about abuse at work because she wasn’t documented and worked for the president. Employers at the club deliberately removed names of undocumented workers so that the Secret Service would not vet them, but the undocumented immigrants kept working.

Video from a privatized government Southwest Key facility for migrant children shows the staff physically dragging, pulling, and slapping children in their care, but Arizona authorities have determined that this abuse is not criminal. Maricopa County closed three cases of child abuse without interviewing staff or minors involved. The place, along with another operated by Southwest Key, had its license canceled two months ago because of faulty employee background checks. Taxpayers gave the company, holding more migrant children than any other corporation, $1.7 billion in the last decade, $620 million just last year. Salary for the owner, Juan Sanchez, was $1.5 million last year.

The IRS has more serious problems than the inability to refund taxes as the GOP guarantees that it fails to collect revenue. Its 9,510 IRS auditors are one third fewer than 2010 and fewer than the 10,000 revenue agents in 1953 when the economy was one-seventh of the present day. Over one-third of IRS employees is eligible for retirement next year. Corporations and billionaires are the biggest beneficiaries of these cuts because their audits require specialized personnel. Instead, the IRS audits the working poor who receive the earned income tax credit the highest priority. GOP policies are losing the United States tens of billions of dollars. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also acting chief of staff, failed to pay over $15,000 in taxes for his nanny from 2000 through 2004.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis left his office on New Year’s Eve with his message for U.S. troops: “Hold Fast.”  With Mattis gone, US Strategic Command (StratCom) tweeted, “We are ready to drop something much, much bigger [than the ball in New York].” StratCom waited three hours to decide that a threat from the “guardians of several thousand nuclear missiles” about “raining death and destruction from above is some kind of joke,” as Derek Johnson, executive director of the anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero, pointed out. Walter Schaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, asked, “What kind of maniacs are running this country?” We’ll learn in the coming months. [visual]

DDT’s ICE celebrated New Year’s Day by teargassing migrants on the Mexico side of the border. They were seeking asylum according to law, lifting toddlers over the fence, but ICE claimed that they were throwing rocks. AP reported that no one threw rocks until after they were teargassed, and Mexico is investigating.

Over two decades ago, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich took money from staff for committees and outsourced policy making to right-wing think tanks and lobbyists. Last summer, DDT believed in a “red wave” and budgeted $129 million for staff “handy for investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails.” On January 3, the new House Speaker, likely Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), took control over that $129 million to hire more personnel for investigations—maybe into DDT’s administration. Welcome to the U.S. House of 2019!

January 4, 2019

Shutdown Disasters Start with DDT

Day 14 of the government shutdown: VP Mike Pence and hundreds of his appointees will receive wage increases averaging about $10,000 a year, thanks to the lack of appropriation legislation. At the same time, 800,000 federal workers have no paychecks although about half of them are still on the job. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ordered a pay freeze for most federal workers just before 2019, one which does not keep his cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, top administrators from getting raises, people who may receive them in bulk later if their agencies’ human resources departments aren’t staffed because of the shutdown. Public information about these raises led to “bad optics”; after a day of “exploring options,” the government ordered departments to hold off on the pay raises.

DDT has already said he would “look foolish” if he backed off from the wall funding, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is goading him into staying the course by saying:

“If he gives in now, that’s the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president. That’s probably the end of his presidency. Donald Trump has made a promise to the American people: He’s going to secure our border.”

Disagreeing that DDT is an “effective president,” people also wonder why he doesn’t keep his promise to make Mexico “pay for the wall.”

To get his wall through holding the government hostage, DDT spreads false fear-mongering to keep his base in control.

  • DHS highly inflated numbers of gang members trying to cross the border—6,000 instead of the actual 800.
  • The 3,755 “terrorists” described, including those under suspicion of ties to organizations, come at all U.S. ports of entry such as airports. Last year, the State Department report zero number of terrorists crossing the Mexico border.

  • Percentages of apprehensions on the Mexico is high for 2018 because the number was so low in 2017, the first year after DDT’s inauguration. DDT wanted that decline to prove that his methods were effective, but he realized that he needed high numbers to persuade people to fund his wall.
  • DDT spreads false increases about drugs coming across from Mexico: the 2.14 million pounds of narcotics were seized in 2017 dropped to 1.7 million pounds in 2018, a decrease of over 20 percent. Former DHS Secretary John F. Kelly testified that most of these drugs come through existing ports of entry, and statistics show that the vast majority of these drugs is marijuana, which has been legalized for some purposes in two-thirds of the states. DDT also lied when he said most of the drugs don’t come through legal ports of entry.
  • A conservative outlet reported 900 cases of human trafficking but inflated the figure by counting all children who did not come into the U.S. with a biological parent. Only 170 children claiming to be with family were separated because of no biological; these children, who may have been with family friends, have been sent to privatized confinement where many of them are abused—physically, sexually, and emotionally—by taxpayer funds.

People in the U.S. need to be far more afraid of native-born citizens than undocumented immigrants. In 2015, these citizens committed crimes at over twice the rate that of undocumented immigrants. In another study, cities with a higher undocumented immigration population do not have higher rates of violent crime.

After a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House this morning, DDT said that they came “a long way” and that they were “all on the same path.” DDT’s other reports were equally optimistic. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, however, that DDT threatened to keep the government closed for “years” if he doesn’t get his wall funding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described the meeting as “sometimes contentious.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said DDT did not talk about protections for DACA recipients. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not attend the meeting but said that Democrats need to agree to meet. DDT, the great negotiator, has appointed a group—including VP Mike Pence, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—to negotiate a solution.

On Splinter, the irreverent but informative purveyor of news, Rafi Schwartz called DDT’s 16-minute press conference following the White House meeting the dumbest—if not the craziest or worst—performance. The strangest part was DDT’s repetition that terrorists are driving across the southern border where they make a right turn” at the existing border fence and then “they make a left” where the barrier ends to enter the United States.

Other repetitive DDT statements were a long diatribe about the “powerful steel structure” for a wall, perhaps better than concrete because people can see through it and because steel is stronger and more “beautiful” than concrete. People might throw drugs across a concrete wall and kill you—according to DDT. About people who own land where he wants to build the law, DDT declared a nonexistent “military version of eminent domain.” He also declared that he would give himself emergency powers to build his wall by calling it a “national emergency.”

On Vox, Aaron Rupar went farther when he called the news conference “unhinged, incoherent, oblivious, and dangerous.” DDT lied again about his government finishing “new walls, beautiful walls, steels walls” in California. Congress has not appropriated one cent for DDT’s “new walls.” He also falsely claimed that San Diego begged him for the wall.

DDT preened about how “some” previous presidents privately told him that they wish they would have built a border wall. Unless he’s channeling Andrew Jackson, who died in 1845, he’s lying again. No rational person can imagine former presidents—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—even having recent private conversations with him, let alone being sorry that they didn’t create a “beautiful” wall.

Asked about the $10,000 raises that his executive employees receive when federal workers aren’t being paid, DDT suggested that these workers approve of the increases, that they are the “biggest fan[s] of what we’re doing.” April Ryan asked him whether he had a safety net for people without paychecks for months or years. DDT said, “The safety net is going to be having a strong border.”

Asked whether he was still “proud” to own the shutdown, Trump deflected:

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing. I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and safety of our country.”

DDT’s babblings can be found here.

Yesterday Pelosi explained why DDT is difficult to negotiate with:

“When you’re negotiating with someone, you have to know, you stipulate to some fact. It’s hard to do that with the president because he resists science, evidence, data, truth. It’s hard to pin the president down on the facts.”

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), member of the Appropriations Committee, was more blunt than Pelosi in describing DDT:

“The one thing you’ve got when you come into this place is your credibility, and once you lose it, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. He’s lost it. It’s very difficult to negotiate anything, because you don’t know if he’s going to stick with it. You don’t know what his attitude is going to be tomorrow or what his position is going to be tomorrow. There’s a lot of members of our caucus who think this shutdown is stupid.”

Simpson expressed more frustration because DDT backed down after he told McConnell that he would support a CR without a wall until February 8. McConnell twisted arms until he persuaded every GOP senator to vote for the CR, and then DDT refused to agree with the bill. The House patterned its new bill after the unanimously-passed Senate bill, and McConnell refuses to bring the House bill back to the chamber floor—probably because it was passed by Democrats.

DDT denies that he ever offered $2.5 billion instead of the original $5.7 billion for his wall, but Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), said that he attend the meetings where “Pence offered the $2.5 [billion].” Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) called for “cooler heads to prevail and to know where “everybody’s negotiating from.” Asked if he knows where DDT, is negotiating from, Hurd said, “No, I don’t.”

The idea for the wall came from Roger Stone, being investigated by Robert Mueller, when the political analyst urged him to talk about illegal immigration to manipulate conservatives. Sam Nunberg said that he and Stone “came up with the idea of ‘the Wall,’ and we talked to Steve [Bannon] about it. It was to make sure that [DDT] talked about immigration.” DDT tried out the idea at the Iowa Freedom Summit. The crowd went crazy over the idea, and DDT added, “Nobody builds like Trump.”

Even the conservative Wall Street Journal opposes the building of the wall to stop illegal immigration. A large increase of legal admission of farm workers during the 1950s drastically reduced illegal entry to the United States from Mexico, and illegal entry across the Mexico border has dropped by over 90 percent since 2000, according to Border Patrol apprehensions data. A wall also does not stop immigrants from applying for asylum.

In 1995 and 2013, the shutdowns closed national parks, but White House budget director/acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decided to keep them open this time without staffing. By the 14th day of DDT’s shutdown, three people have died of accidents in three different national parks. More may have died because the government is not notifying the public of deaths because of the shutdown.

January 3, 2019

Shutdown, House Moves Forward

Day 13 of government shutdown: Thanks to the intransigence of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT), ICE has immigration problems. Tens of thousands of immigration officers and agents have no pay while they show up for work at the Mexico border. Many judges and clerks in immigration courts, already backlogged by almost one million cases, have been sent home while over 2,000 migrants are taken into custody each day. Sixty-five of these border crossers are families and children who are being released in the streets of El Paso (TX), Yuma (AZ), and other border cities. The E-verify website to check on the immigration status of potential hires has been shut down.

In addition to delayed IRS refunds, the Emergency Food Assistance Program may have delayed delivery of food to soup kitchens, food banks, and pantries. Frozen guarantees to back loans from the Small Business Administration mean millions of small businesses lost access to federal assistance loans and technical assistance. Homebuyers will be delayed in getting mortgages. Access to marriage licenses in D.C. has been suspended.

Parks are filthy, restrooms are closed, and museums are closed. Because of health and safety concerns, campgrounds at the Joshua Tree National Park were closed. Areas around parks are losing an average $18 million a day from tourism, and the government is losing money from not collecting fees at the parks where people crawl over fences and gates. Staff shortages create a feeling of “lawlessness” in the parks.  [Trash at the Washington Monument.]

One of DDT’s arguments for the wall is his claim that the Obama D.C. home has a surrounding ten-foot wall. As usual, DDT is wrong. One of the Obama neighbors commented that DDT “has a very active imagination.” Fox “news” reported on DDT’s information but not the reality.

For the second time in a government shutdown, federal workers are suing in protest of the requirement that “essential” employees must work without pay. Some affected agencies, including the VA and Defense Department, have enough money to pay employees until next fall, but nine other departments and dozens of agencies have been closed except for “essential” individuals who not only won’t receive pay but can’t take vacations or sick leave. Even if employees are in the hospital, they can be fired for being absent without leave. Employees also sued during the 2013 shutdown, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims required that employees must be paid twice their back pay because the government violated the requirement that employees be paid on time for their services.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a woman elected as Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress, beat out Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a vote of 220-192 despite 15 Democratic dissidents. She celebrates her position in the 100th anniversary of women voting for federal candidates in the United States. Pelosi needed at least 216 votes for the position to obtain a simple majority of members on the chamber floor because one Republican was absent, one had not been seated, and three Democrats voted “present. Other votes went to Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), 4 votes); Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), 2 votes; Rep. John Lewis (D-GA); Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA); and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). Two people who are not House members, former VP Joe Biden and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, each received one vote.

The Democratic and Blue Dog representative for my Oregon district, Kurt Schrader, voted for Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The super PAC for Schrader’s “No Labels” group spent over $2.5 million during the recent midterms to support vulnerable GOP House candidates trying to keep their position. Only half that amount supported Democrats. No Labels declared candidate DDT as one of their official “problem solvers,”  and No Labels tried to prevent Pelosi from becoming Speaker. Schrader maintained he wanted a younger House leadership before he voted for the 66-year-old Fudge for Speaker and supported older House representatives for other leadership positions.

The House promptly went to work today. In an effort to stop the shutdown, the House passed two bills with the support of a few Republicans. One package of six bills, passed by 239-192, funds agencies that are not considered controversial including the departments of Treasury, State, and Justice through the 2019 fiscal year at the end of September. The second bill, funding DHS through February 8, maintains the department’s funding at current levels which includes $3.1 billion for border security.

The first GOP senator has called for reopening the government with a CR that doesn’t give DDT his money for the wall. Cory Gardner (CO) suggested continuing negotiations after federal agencies open and “let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) agreed with Gardner, but her opinion carries no weight because she never follows through with her promises. After the House passed a bill last month mandating $5.7 billion for DDT’s wall, the Senate approved a CR without that funding to keep the government open until February 8. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that no vote will occur without DDT’s previous sign-off. In essence, McConnell abdicated all the power of the Senate to the executive branch. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed out that the House bills are the same as the ones supported in the GOP Senate Appropriations Committee.

Pundits like to talk about how disliked Pelosi is. In the most recent Gallup poll, she is rated more favorably at 38 percent than either Senate leader (Democrat Chuck Schumer from New York at 32 percent and GOP Mitch McConnell from Kentucky at 30 percent) with the same unfavorable rating, 48 percent, as McConnell. Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) received a 34-percent favorable rating with his unfavorable 50 percent at two percent higher than Pelosi, but the media has had few comments about these ratings.

On fivethirtyeight.com, Perry Bacon wrote that all congressional leaders are unpopular. It’s the job and the fact that Congress is unpopular, but increasing partisan polarization has led to increasing partisan hatred of the leaders of the opposite party. As Bacon pointed out, any Democratic House Speaker will be disliked. Congressional leaders also receive negativity from the opposing party but little support of their own. The sexism adds to the mix: Pelosi is the only female congressional leader in the House or Senate, the country fails to elect a woman president, and almost half the states have never elected a woman for governor.

Republicans undoubtedly dislike Pelosi because she gets things done, including the vote for the Affordable Care Act. They complain that she is too liberal, but much of their distaste for the new House Speaker comes from her gender. The GOP wants women to vote for them, but they don’t want women in office. The 116th Congress is evidence of that philosophy.

The question is why some Democrats oppose Pelosi. Some might believe that she’s not progressive enough, although the 15 dissidents are so conservative that the Blue Dogs supported DDT before his election. Other Democrats blame her for their party losing Congress because they need someone to blame. Sometimes Democrats are offended when members of their party try to compromise while at the same time they excoriate the GOP for not working with the Democrats.

An overview of the House membership in the 116th Congress: Three Republicans come from districts that Clinton took in 2016, and 31 Democrats came from DDT-majority districts.

Today is a big milestone for DDT: it represents the longest period of time that DDT didn’t play golf since he was inaugurated. DDT hasn’t visited a golf course and one his personally owned properties for 39 days. Before that time, he spent 166 days at one of his golf clubs and another 22 days at one of his properties. President Obama didn’t hit even 100 rounds of golf until the end of his first term. On the campaign trail, DDT said that he wouldn’t be able to visit any of his properties while he was in office because “I’m going to be working for you.” The man who calls himself the best negotiator possible sat around the White House for two weeks and waited for Democrats to come talk to him.

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