Nel's New Day

January 18, 2019

DDT: Week 104 – Oval Office Occupant a Cause of National Security Crisis

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

In two years, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has built a sewer of corruption, filled with wealthy men who acquired their riches as DDT did by cheating people. Early strong supporters justified his putrid behavior with “Give him a chance” or “I’m still waiting.” Some still cling to the belief that DDT is the Second Coming while others try to get off DDT’s ship.

Columnist Michelle Goldberg summarized DDT ‘s first two years in the Oval Office:

“Trump has turned out to be the Norma Desmond of authoritarians, a senescent has-been whose delusions are propped up by obsequious retainers. From his fantasy world in the White House, he barks dictatorial and often illegal orders, floats conspiracy theories, tweets insults and lies unceasingly. But much of the time he’s not fully in charge. He has the instincts of a fascist but lacks both the discipline and the loyal lieutenants he’d need to create true autocracy.

“The shutdown throws our crisis into high relief. For the first two years, Trump destroyed American norms, standards and conventions. Now he’s cavalierly destroying American lives.”

Fodder for DDT’s downfall:

Last night, Buzzfield raised eyebrows when it reported that DDT told his fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations for the Trump Tower Moscow. During his campaign, DDT said he had no business deals with Russia but arranged to meet in Russia with Vladimir Putin to jump-start the project. Cohen was also ordered to give DDT and his children Ivanka and Don Jr. detailed updates. Don Jr. also lied to Congress about his participation in the possible Trump hotel in Moscow. Witnesses revealed that the three participants in the negotiation lied when they said they had little knowledge about it. Mueller’s office stated that “specific statements … are not accurate.” DDT claims vindication, and the media questions which parts Mueller declares not accurate. Buzzfield reporting has not been wrong yet.

This past week, DDT’s sort-of lawyer Rudy Giuliani defended his boss but claimed the possibility of collusion between Russia and DDT’s campaign.

DDT may be meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un in February, but the Pentagon worries that DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton might start a war with Iran after he asked them “to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran” because a Shia militia fired rockets on a vacant lot near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis quashed the idea, but a long-time Boeing executive is now in charge of the Pentagon. Bolton’s request last year follows his long-term desire to “bomb Iran” while he wants to eradicate the United Nations.

After DDT raged about the news that the FBI investigated the possibility that he was a national security risk, officials reported that DDT concealed the records of his five largely secret meetings with Vladimir Putin, including confiscating interpreters’ notes and keeping them from discussing the meetings with other administration officials. DDT’s temper tantrum included at least six tweets early last Saturday morning from the White House with vicious baseless accusations against the New York Times, Hillary Clinton, James Comey, the FBI, and Robert Mueller. DDT did not deny the FBI report. Lack of records from the meetings violates federal laws.

Frequent threats from DDT to pull the U.S. out of NATO have expressed concerns about other countries not pulling their financial weight, but this action would be DDT’s gift to Putin. Michèle A. Flournoy, an under secretary of defense under President Obama, said that leaving NATO “would be one of the most damaging things that any president could do to U.S. interests” and “the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of.” Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, said an American withdrawal from the alliance would be “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion.” After annexing Crimea in 2014, Putin focused on separating the United States from Europe to give him control over the NATO countries. DDT first stopped former Defense Secretary James Mattis from attending the next NATO meeting and then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from directly talking with NATO officials.

Mueller has turned his investigation to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), former head of the Intelligence Committee and fierce DDT defender long been suspected of leaking information to DDT. Nunes met with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and dozens of foreign officials at DDT’s Washington hotel on January 18, 2017, just two days before DDT’s inauguration before Nunes’ committee investigation opposed anyone investigating DDT and blocked subpoenas. During a fundraiser last summer, Nunes said that Republicans had to keep their House majority to protect DDT from Mueller.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released a January 2017 DHS plan from a whistleblower connecting separation of migrant children from their parents as a deterrent to crossing the U.S.-Mexico border when the number was at an all-time low. Thousands more migrant children were separated from their parents than reported, and DHS had no plans for reunification. DHS recommended denying migrant children their legal right to asylum hearings, target parents for increased prosecutions, and require extensive background checks for sponsoring an unaccompanied migrant child to create a backlog of children forced into abusive facilities. Merkley requested an FBI perjury investigation into DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s congressional testimony that the department had no policy of separating children.

In the House, 136 GOP members voted against DDT in opposition to his removing sanctions from Putin’s friend Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who paid millions of dollars to get DDT elected. Because 42 Republicans in the Senate had already voted to permit the lifting of sanctions, the House vote was symbolic, but 11 GOP Senators also voted against giving Putin this gift and allowing him to put more money into U.S. election interference. Senate Majority Leader supported DDT in giving the money back to Russia although he had called Deripaska a “thug.”

DDT’s trade war with China has problems: China’s 2018 trade surplus with the U.S. grew 17 percent in 2018, at $351.76 billion the largest U.S. deficit since 2006. The difference is actually larger because China doesn’t count goods that come to the U.S. from other countries.

Two years ago, DDT made his first speech after his inauguration. These are some of his failed promises since then:

Fixing poverty: No statistical drop in the U.S. official poverty rate from 2016 to 2017.

Gun violence: Historic highs of gun violence—almost 40,000 gun deaths in 2017.

“New roads and high roads”: The failed plan in the GOP Congress was to stick states and cities with 80 percent of infrastructure costs—much higher than past years.

“Bring back our jobs … borders … wealth”: More coal mines closed in DDT’s first two years than President Obama’s first term; drop in soybean exports by 98 percent in 2018.

“No room for prejudice”: Growth of far-right extremism and far-right violence greatly increased in past two years after DDT’s expressions of bigotry.

“Education system flushed with cash”: Drastic cuts to Educational Department’s funding in DDT’s budget and public education deprioritized in favor of for-profit schools.

“All Americans never be ignored again”: Shutdown latest proof of DDT’s failure to keep this promise.

Before his inauguration, DDT made 663 promises, including 36 of them on the first day in office. He kept two of those—a hiring freeze on federal employees and a moratorium on new agency regulations—while breaking or ignoring the other 34, some of which might actually have helped people. In his first 100 days, he broke 80 promises he made before he was sworn in.

Two years ago, an Atlantic editorial stated:

“He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar…. [He] expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself…. [He] is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”

In two years, DDT has alienated all the countries in Europe, Africa, North America, and Central America and many countries in Asia and the Middle East. His threats have put the United States close to nuclear war with North Korea and Iran. His multitude of executive orders are destroying the planet, causing bad health, and eliminating democracy in the United States. The Atlantic believes that its editorial two years ago was “guilty of understatement.” Those still waiting for DDT’s “better angels” to appear should read DDT’s 50 destructive events since his inauguration.

Since the shutdown, DDT’s approval rating has dropped and his disapproval rating surged with a seven-percent increase between the two. Much of the difference comes from the loss of his base—suburban men and white evangelicals. The poll’s director said that he sees a crack in DDT’s support for the first time.

Former Trump Organization executive vice president Barbara Res said about DDT, “I see him going into a corner, I see him scratching back like a cornered animal. I think he’s afraid.”

January 17, 2019

Shutdown ‘Crushed’ DDT; Barr Follows GOP Line

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 8:41 PM
Tags: , , ,

Day 17 of the government shutdown: “We are getting crushed,” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. He wasn’t talking about the shutdown; he was complaining about the polls. A majority of people in the United States continues to blame DDT for the shutdown. In December, DDT said he would take credit for the shutdown, and now people agree. Nate Silver, usually the cheeriest of analysts about DDT’s polls, presents polls demonstrating how the shutdown is dragging down DDT’s approval.

DDT loves polls that favor him so much that he had former fixer Michael Cohen arrange to “rig online polls in his boss’s favor” before the 2016 elections. John Gauger, CIO of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and owner of Redfinch Solutions, failed to get DDT into the top 100 business leaders in a CNBC online poll in 2014 but moved DDT into the top five potential GOP candidates in 2015 on the Drudge Report. Gauger claims that he wasn’t paid the promised $50,000 although Cohen gave him a Walmart bag with $12,000 to $13,000 in cash plus a boxing glove Cohen claimed had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter. Cohen claims that his poll rigging was done “at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” DDT. When DDT claims that polls are rigged, he has proof.

In a 222-195 vote, House Republicans failed to pass a bill proposed a bill to pay furloughed workers—for doing nothing—but keep the government shutdown. Yesterday, the House passed its sixth bill for a continuing resolution to reopen the government. Congress did pass a bill into law to pay federal employees, both those working without pay and those furloughed, after the shutdown, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to address opening the government by claiming that to the Senate floor because he won’t present any bills that cannot pass. Today, however, McConnell presented an anti-abortion bill that has zero chance of passing Congress at this time. The measure makes the Hyde Amendment permanent, prohibits abortion in federal health facilities including veterans’ hospitals, and bans subsidized health plans from providing abortion coverage.

Pandering to parts of his base, DDT brought back furloughed workers—with no pay—to process IRS refunds, inspect foods, and expedite farm loans. He is also staffing refuges for hunters, paying more State Department employees, and helping a friend by providing paid workers to process forms for mortgages. Acting AG Matt Whitaker also gave a political speech to the Heritage Foundation in conflict with shutdown guidelines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked DDT to postpone his State of the Union address scheduled for January 29, citing security concerns for protecting the Congress, members of the executive branch, and U.S. Supreme Court justices gathered in one place. DDT cannot deliver his speech to the large audience without Pelosi’s invitation. She suggested that he give the speech in the Oval Office or submit it to Congress in writing. DDT needs Pelosi’s invitation to come to the House. cannot deliver his speech to the House without Pelosi’s invitation. DDT is now asking McConnell if he can go to the Senate.

In retaliation, DDT announced that he postponed Pelosi’s seven-day classified trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan by denying military transport because of the shutdown lack of security. A small contingent of House members were on the way to the airport when DDT told Pelosi could use commercial flights for the highly secret journey that he called a “public relations event.” Melania Trump left on military transport for a vacation at Mar-a-Lago soon after Pelosi’s business trip was canceled. The trip was for six days, and Pelosi was not planning to go to Egypt. Her stop in Brussels was to reassure top NATO commanders about the U.S. staying with the alliance. In Afghanistan, Pelosi planned to visit with members of the military as DDT and GOP House members did after the shutdown as well as to get national security and intelligence briefings. Pelosi is third in line for the presidency.

Barr confirmation:

While DDT sits and fumes, his nomination for DOJ AG, Bill Barr faced two days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. These are some of his responses:

Barr said that he would like to pursue an investigation into the conservative conspiracy theory that a Russian energy nuclear agency donated to the Clinton Foundation to get Hillary Clinton’s approval for is purchase of a uranium mining company. The situation has been thoroughly investigated and debunked.

Asked if he has concerns about how DDT undermines society’s institutions, Barr defended DDT’s repeated use of the term “witch hunt” about Robert Mueller’s investigation and said, “We have to remember that the president is the one who has denied that there’s any collusion and has been steadfast in that. Presumably he knows facts [we don’t]. . . .”

DDT has the power to pardon a family member, according to Barr.

Barr sees “no reason” to change policy not to indict a sitting president.

About birthright citizenship, Bar said that he couldn’t give an answer about whether the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizenship. The amendment states “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” DDT has promised to end birthright citizenship through an executive order.

When asked about what the DOJ should know about senior officials who have business relationships with foreign interests and governments, specifically DDT, Barr talked about how members of Congress didn’t need background checks and concluded that “business [relationships] with a foreign interest is not ordinarily a counter-intelligence concern.”

At the end of detailed and specific questioning about whether he would go against ethics officials’ recusal advice, Barr said he would ignore the advice if he disagreed because of a “different judgment of the facts.” He criticized former AG Jeff Sessions because he “locked himself into” following recusal advice from ethics officials at the Justice Department.

Barr said that Mueller’s report didn’t need to be public, but he would issue his own summary of its findings—through his own filter.

According to Barr, there should be a federal law that “prohibits marijuana everywhere.” He also defended his past push for “more incarceration.”

Asked if the DOJ will jail reporters for “doing their jobs,” Barr said he can “conceive of situations” in which a journalist could be held in contempt if a news organization “knows they are putting out stuff that will hurt the country.”

Barr wants a “barrier system” on the border and connected it to the drugs that actually come through the ports of entry. In declaring that, he used the dehumanizing language of “illegal aliens.” He claimed that so-called “sanctuary cities” encourage criminals to come to the U.S., wants to process asylum seekers without letting them into the country, and supports DDT’s “wall or nothing” shutdown. While AG for George H.W. Bush, Barr’s aggressive “law and order” agenda on both immigration and street crime surprised even Republicans. DDT’s immigration actions are patterned after those of Barr in the early 1990s. Barr has a history of supporting the violation of human rights: discriminatory profiling; secret military trials; unchecked security power; bans on asylum seekers; and separation of parents from children.

DDT’s Muslim ban was about national security, according to Barr; therefore, he supports using non-Christian religious beliefs for discrimination.

Barr was “shocked” by the text messages of former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, private conversation that criticized DDT but did not conspire against him or use their positions against DDT. With no indication that Bruce Ohr orchestrated the Christopher Steele dossier, Barr said he was bothered by Ohr’s “connection,” an echo of DDT’s comments.

Asked about DDT rescinding guidelines protecting transgender students from school discrimination, Barr said he didn’t understand the question. Barr also believes that the law doesn’t ban discrimination against LGBTQ people.

In perhaps his most gobsmacking response, Barr said, “I can’t tell you what the Emoluments Clause means.” Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the US Constitution:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of Amy kind whatever from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

It means that DDT can’t legally take money from foreign officials—as he’s been doing because they pay him to stay in his hotel. The governments of DC and Maryland have standing to sue DDT for violating the clause with proof because a manager of DDT’s New York hotel claims that it had a turnaround from the Saudi Arabia’s government business. The shutdown has put court cases on hold. Maybe Barr will learn about the Emoluments Clause by the end of the shutdown.

Bill Barr was the DOJ AG who pardoned all the conspirators of the Iran-Contra Scandal, getting President George H.W. Bush out of legal problems, opposes Mueller’s investigation, and believes that the president is above the law. Barr thinks that the president can use military force without congressional authorization. He opposes Roe v Wade and net neutrality. Senate Republicans will confirm him in a heartbeat.

January 16, 2019

Past, Future of a Fishing Village

The Port of Newport in Oregon oversees Yaquina Bay, an area that is home to research ships from NOAA after its Pacific marine operations relocated from Lake Union (WA), the Hatfield Marine Science Center which is operated by Oregon State University, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Residents have struggled to keep the water clean for these facilities, however, as businesses have tried to take over in the 21st century.

In 2005, a company from the United Arab Emirates wanted to recycle huge ships in this large bay, commonly known as “ship breaking,” by removing all hazardous wastes and then cutting the ships into pieces that are then sold as scrap metal. These ships were anchored in a California bay because the government no longer needed them. Because of the danger from polluting the bay, the community stopped the venture to keep the Hatfield facility and the Oregon Aquarium safe. Business people were upset with the loss because the ship breaking promised as many as 125 jobs within two years.

Yaquina Bay had been selected for the project because Oregon’s environmental regulations are more lax than those in California. Ships in Newport wouldn’t even be in drydock to destroy invasive species as they are in other areas such as Texas. After sitting in California for another four years, the government sent the ships to Texas for dismantling.

The next proposed venture for the Yaquina Bay came after a bond measure in 2010 with the $28 million restructuring of the Newport International Terminal that would provide about 40 jobs. By 2013, the Port had contracted to bring logs to the small town of Newport, about one truck every 20 minutes on the winding road from Corvallis and down through residential areas to the terminal, so that raw logs could be shipped overseas to China.

Between the time of the passing of the bond for the terminal reconstruction and the Port’s contract to bring logs through Newport, the Port won a bid to become the new home for NOAA’s new Marine Operations Center-Pacific Facility. NOAA built a $38 million facility with a pier long enough for five large ships and arranged for the relocation of at least 175 high-paying jobs to Newport.

Newport residents continued to express concerns about foreign ships bringing invasive species in its ballast, toxic issues from debarking the logs before they were shipped, and threats that large fishing ships could no longer dock at the Newport International Terminal. As many as 15 fishing vessels moor at the terminal at the same time during peak fishing activity November 1 to January 10 and April 1 to May 15 because the port has no other place with shore power and other services for these large vessels. After improvements to the terminal, for example, Fred Yeck brought his 124-foot trawler F/V Sea Dawn back to Newport. With Newport the top commercial fishing port on the West Coast, the industry pours hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.

The contract for the logging shipments was canceled, but another problem arose in the past few months: conservative legislators from eastern Oregon took on the longshore group’s cause to take local leadership from the Port and put it into the hands of state government. The local newspaper News-Times printed opposing viewpoints about the proposed legislation, HB 2284. Members of the longshore organization wrote about HB 2284 turning Newport into “a vital part of the economic engine for the mid-coastal area” and making promises of “expanded family wage jobs, expanded business growth.”

Robert Smith, owner of the F/V Raven, pointed out that lobbyist for the bill lives in “the valley” (a term for the I-5 corridor 50 miles inland) and may not be aware of the economic activity in the port—NOAA, Hatfield, OSU, Rogue Brewery, the aquarium, and the facility from OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). As Smith wrote, the marine research, including wave and wind energy development, generates millions of dollars and expected to create hundreds of jobs. He provided much more information about more reasons for preserving local leadership of the Port.

Newport (OR) is well on the way to become the premier research center of the West Coast comparable to Woods Hole. A short-sighted shift to focusing on shipping logs, which takes manufacturing jobs out of the United States, destroys the future of Newport and its potential for more living-wage employment.

As the state battles the question of whether the Port of Newport should lose its local leadership—and possibly its existing marine benefits—go back in time in Sue Hardesty’s history of the Newport International Terminal:

Among the many things I love about living on Oregon’s Yaquina Bay are the bits of history platted about on its edges or used in ways it was never meant to be—for example, the huge ship propeller stationed outside our Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. My interest, however, is not so much in the propeller (although it is beautiful) as it is in the SS CW Pasley ship [below right] to which it was once attached. This ship was named after Sir Charles William Pasley (1780-1861), a British military engineer who wrote textbooks and experimented with improving concrete. McCloskey and Company built the Pasley, one of a fleet of 24 concrete ships, under a wartime emergency program near the end of World War II. The decks and hulls were made entirely of concrete with six-inch-thick walls reinforced with rebar.

The second concrete-hulled vessel purchased by the port was the SS Joseph Aspdin, named for a Brit who received a patent for “Portland” cement made from limestone on the English Channel. The Aspdin is remembered as “the ship that committed suicide.” She broke loose of its moorings in the dark of night, left Yaquina Bay, went aground, and sank

In 1948, the Pasley and the SS Francois Hennebique, named after a French stonemason who pioneered in reinforced concrete, were floated into place to build a wharf at McLean Point on the south side of Yaquina Bay and sunk by blasting holes in their sides and bottoms. Over time the Pasley shifted and rolled toward the bay, and structural failure caused cracks in the hull. Oil leaks polluting the bay finally closed the wharf in 2001.

 

I watched the renovation of the terminal that began in 2010. The Pasley was refloated and dismantled and the Hennebique partially dismantled. Much of the Hennebique hull still remains under the terminal, and I can see the bow on the edge of the tarmac where fishing boats are serviced. The cement from the hulls was ground up and reused as paving material and the metal rebar recycled. The new terminal opened for business in August 2013.

Back in 1942, McCloskey had received a federal contract in 1942 to build the fleet of concrete ships because steel was scarce. All 24 ships were built at an incredible rate of speed, with the first one launched within a month, and named after pioneers in the science and development of concrete. In addition to the ones in Yaquina Bay, two ships were sunk as blockships in the Allied invasion of Normandy, and nine more were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Seven are still afloat in a giant breakwater on the Powell River in Canada to protect the logging pond of the Powell River Company pulp and paper mill in BC, Canada.

The future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is floated from the dock for the first time during its October 2015 christening at Bath Iron Works.

At 420 feet, the SS Peralta is the largest—and oldest—concrete ship afloat and comprises part of the Powell River breakwater with eight other concrete ships that McCloskey built. Originally an oil tanker built during World War I, the Peralta was converted to a sardine cannery in Alaska in 1924. Twenty-four years later, she was taken to Antioch (CA) where she served for another ten years before moving to Canada with nine World War II concrete ships.

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.

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