Nel's New Day

February 28, 2019

Good News across the U.S.

The week has been filled with testimony from Michael Cohen about the corruption of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and DDT’s failure—and its GOP spin—at the highly vaunted summit with North Korea. Across the United States, however, bits of good news gleam from time to time.

Thanks to Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services, Deutsche Bank is cooperating in an investigation into DDT’s finances.

The House has passed its second gun control bill within two days, this one closing the “Charleston loophole.” A white supremacist was able to kill nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church because a background check couldn’t be finished within three days. Three Republicans joined Democrats in the vote of 228-198. Before yesterday, the last gun control bill to pass the house was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act 25 years ago. In 2017, over 6,000 guns were sold to people with criminal histories or other factors prevent sales because of the three-day deadline, 50 percent up from 2016. Also in 2017, the three-day deadline kept the FBI from completing 310,232 gun background checks.

After almost 50 years, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are finally legally married in the eyes of Social Security. They had successfully obtained a marriage license in Minnesota in 1971 because the clerk didn’t realize it was for two men, and the state didn’t request that the marriage be dissolved. Minnesota just pretended the marriage wasn’t valid. On September 18, 2018, a district court in Minnesota declared their marriage “in all respects valid.”

Overturning a State Department decision, a federal judge has ruled that Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks, twin boys born to a surrogate mother for a gay couple, have the same rights as U.S. citizens. One egg donor is a U.S. citizen, the other an Israeli, and they married in Canada in 2017. When one father applied for U.S. passports for both boys before moving to the U.S., immigration officials refused to recognize that the U.S. citizen was the legal father of both children and demanded a DNA test for the twins’ citizenship. The U.S. consulate in Toronto provided citizenship for only the one twin biologically related to the U.S. citizen and required him to sponsor the other twin as his “step-son” although he is listed on the birth certificate as the boy’s father. The two men sued for recognition of their marital status, and the judge ruled that federal law “does not require a person born during their parents’ marriage to demonstrate a biological relationship with both of their married parents.” The judge cited two court cases which clearly state the word “parents” is not limited to biological parents,” meaning that the twins will be allowed to stay together and with their married parents.

Another family is still fighting for their legal rights. U.S. citizen Allison Blixt married Italian citizen Stefania Zaccari in London because the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act had not yet been struck down. Blixt’s son was recognized as a U.S. citizen, but the State Department used a policy about unwed mothers to deny citizenship to Zaccari’s son. Both children were born after the two women were legally married, but Blixt was told that she had to register her son, born to Zaccari, as her “step-son.”

The State Department language on its website, that transferring a parent’s U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad requires “a biological relationship, or blood relationship,” violates the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits children to inherit married parents’ U.S. citizenship if the adult lived in the U.S. for at least five years and meets other requirements. The State Department appears to ignore the legal marriage of same-gender couples.

A federal judge ordered Texas to stop its purge of electoral rolls because evidence shows no widespread voter fraud in Texas. He described the planned purging “ham-handed” and “threatening.” Writing about the blatantly inaccurate numbers of non-citizens voted, the judge stated:

“It appears this is a solution looking for a problem…. [The policy] exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.”

Two weeks ago, 80-year-old Goodloe Sutton, the editor and owner of the 140-year-old Democrat-Reporter in Linden (AL), population 2,123, wrote an editorial asking the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” into communities of Democrats who consider raising taxes before he advocated lynching for his political opponents in an interview with the Montgomery Adviser. Both Alabama senators called for his resignation, the Alabama Press Association censured him, and the University of Southern Mississippi removed him from its Hall of Fame. Sutton, known for his racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic editorials, has now stepped down to be replaced by Elecia R. Dexter, a black woman, as the newspaper’s publisher and editor. In a recent interview, Sutton said the publicity was worth $10 million and that Democratic lawmakers are “terrible” while the KKK is “the nicest.” Dexter has no journalism background and started working at the newspaper two months ago as a clerk.

The New York legislature, now controlled by Democrats, may pass a law requiring DDT to release his state income tax returns. The NY TRUTH Act would require all statewide elected officials, including the president and vice president if they file taxes in the state, to publicly release their taxes each year.

With a pledge from new Dem Gov J.B. Pritzker to make Illinois the “most progressive state in the nation … for women’s reproductive rights,” state Democratic legislators introduced two measures to expand abortion access, repealing parental notification requirements for minors and restrictions for late pregnancies. The act would also require private insurance in the state to cover abortions like any other reproductive healthcare for women and allow advance-practice nurses to perform abortions. A 1975 law criminalizing doctors who perform abortions would be abolished. Former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner had signed legislation permitting Medicaid and state health insurance coverage to be used for abortions.

The Wisconsin National Guard is reviewing whether Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) violated the law when he criticized Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, in tweets and on Fox for withdrawing troops from the southern U.S. border. Hours before Evers issued an executive order for the troops, Zinzinger questioned in a tweet whether the governor’s decision was “based solely on politics.” Federal laws and Wisconsin laws call for “any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice-president, members of Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of homeland security, or the governor or legislature of the state of Wisconsin” to be punished. Kinzinger has the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard; as governor, Evers is his commander-in-chief. A spokeswoman for Kinzinger says that he can say anything he wants when he’s “off-duty,” but a First Amendment law expert disagrees.

New Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, canceled the sale of a former state prison site to a for-profit private prison company that planned to detain hundreds of immigrants in the facility. The company would not guarantee that the prison “would not be used to detain adults who had been separated from their children or other family members.”

Thanks to grassroots activists and the state of Illinois, the cost of telephone calls for prisoners has gone from the most inflated in the U.S. to under a penny a minute, the lowest cost in the country, although some costly fees put a 30-minute call at $2. DDT had overturned FCC regulations for prisoners’ telephone prices.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the “liberals” to order a review of the death penalty for an inmate suffering from dementia so severe that he cannot understand why he is being punished. The decision requires a lower court to examine whether Vernon Madison’s strokes and vascular dementia leave him unable to remember his crime and the reason that the state wants to execute him. Earlier the court had ruled that people suffering from schizophrenic and psychotic delusions may not be put to death; in her opinion for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan stated that the same logic applies to dementia. He had been on death row for 33 years. Brett Kavanaugh did not vote because he was not confirmed when the case was argued.

May we have more good news.

February 27, 2019

U.S. House Keeps Busy Despite Jim Jordan’s Complaints

For people who have been watching the situation with former fixer Michael Cohen for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), his testimony today before the House Oversight Committee held few surprises. Points from today:

  • Republican committee members did not try to refute anything he said; they just tried to smear him.
  • The GOP smears against Cohen—that he’s a “pathological liar”—can also be said about DDT, the man who Republicans were defending.
  • Cohen said that he had tried to cover for DDT during the past ten years in the same way that Republicans are doing now.
  • With this comment about protection, he added, “The more people that suffer Donald Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I did.”
  • Reporters following DDT in Vietnam for his meeting with North Korea president Kim Jong-Un were banned from his presence after asking questions about the Cohen testimony.

Pieces of Cohen’s testimony that many people already assumed:

  • DDT is a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat.”
  • Cohen quoted DDT as saying that black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and during a drive through a poor section of Chicago said that “only black people could live that way.” Cohen added, “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ “In private, he is even worse.”
  • Cohen has checks (which he produced), evidence “as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” directed by his son and the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg, to quiet a former adult film actor.
  • DDT told Cohen to lie about his affair with the actor to his wife, Melania.
  • Cohen said he presided over “several” “catch-and-kill” arrangements between David Pecker and DDT for the National Enquirer to purchase exclusive rights for stories damaging to DDT and then suppress the stories.
  • DDT inflated his wealth to appear on lists of rich people rich lists and falsely reduce it to avoid paying taxes.
  • To a question from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cohen said that DDT’s tax returns would be helpful in showing how DDT sharply reduced his tax costs by undervaluing his parents’ real estate holdings.
  • Cohen believes that DDT’s tax returns were not being audited in 2016 although that’s what DDT claimed.
  • DDT told Cohen that he didn’t release his tax returns because he might get audited and face big taxes and penalties.
  • Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks for the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 presidential election.
  • DDT knew about the June 2017 Trump Tower meeting among members of his campaign with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT used his charity’s money to pay for portrait of himself after driving up the price to impress people.

Cohen finished his testimony by saying:

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen’s described DDT as a mobster-like president, who told Cohen to shortchange suppliers, keep schools from releasing his student grades by threatening them, and deal with negative media about DDT’s Vietnam War draft dodging. Cohen said he had probably threatened a person because of DDT’s instructions at least 500 times. “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not make his country great,” said Cohen. “He ran to market himself and build his wealth and power.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under investigation by the Florida Bar because of a tweet that appears to be an attempt to intimidate DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen the day before he started his open testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Gaetz’s tweet:

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a former DA and federal prosecutor, asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet because it “clearly defines witness tampering and intimidation.” Her request that could lead to an official investigation and possibly a reprimand, censure or fine. An expulsion would require a two-thirds majority of the House. Asked about why he wrote the tweet, Gaeta said, “The tweet speaks for itself.” Later he deleted the tweet and apologized for sending it.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) during the hearing, falsely accusing him of using his first hearing to start removing DDT from office. Cummings ended the session by talking about the committee’s earlier hearings. The first hearing was on January 29, 2019 concerned the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs; Cummings noted that a young man had died because of these escalating costs. He also told Jordan that they had a hearing on H.R. 1, which was about voter suppression and executive branch ethics. That one was on February 6, 2019. “We can do more than one thing,” Cummings said. “And we have got to get back to normal.” The GOP House was notable for not having hearings before votes.

Credibly accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes while he was assistant coach at Ohio State University, Jordan’s accusations of Cohen’s lying and lack of remorse rang hollow to many watchers. Jordan claimed that Cummings had “stacked the deck against the truth” and ranted about Hillary Clinton conspiracies, calling Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis a “Clinton operative.” Then he raged about Democrats doing what Tom Steyer tells them and that Steyer had organized a town hall in Cummings’ Maryland district.

Asked if he believed Cohen, Cummings referenced his history with the law when he said he found him “credible” and that it “appears” that DDT committed a crime. Cummings added, “I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop.”

The House has been far busier than Republicans might like. This week, representatives passed a resolution to overturn DDT’s emergency declaration that takes money for various sources to build his wall without congressional approval. Thirteen Republicans voted with Democrats in the 245-182 vote. According to law, the Senate will be required to vote on the House resolution within 18 days, a March 18 deadline. Three GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC)— have indicated they will vote for the House bill, and others are questioning the sensibility of the national emergency, especially if a future president is a Democrat. Two more GOP votes are needed for a simple majority if all Democrats and independents vote in favor of it. A veto from DDT for any bill passed requires two-thirds support in each congressional chamber.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Rules, read a complaint about the lack of time for representatives to review the 70-word bill although Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion, 1,097-page tax bill a few hours after it was completed.

The House also passed a bipartisan bill requiring all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm sales by a 240-190. With five GOP co-sponsors, the bill received eight GOP votes and lost two Democrat votes. It expands background checks on private sales, including those at gun shows, on the internet, and through classified ads. The bill is the first significant gun control vote since the Senate failed to pass similar bipartisan legislation in 2013. Another bill is due for a vote that would extend the review period on gun sales.

Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents about the separation of families at the southern border. Cummings said that the documents submitted to the committee were not sufficient and failed to answer committee questions. Two Republicans, Justin Amash (MI) and Chip Roy (TX), voted with Democrats for the subpoenas. Again Jordan attacked Cummings, saying: “You just wanted to be first.” Cummings pointed out that the request was the same as the bipartisan request from eight months ago.

Other House actions:

The House is doing a lot to make Jim Jordan angry.

February 24, 2019

More Need for Wall on Religion

At the beginning of a four-day conference regarding clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to solve the behavior of the Church’s leadership. After four days of speeches about the need for action and the “outrage of the people,” Francis closed the summit by calling for an “all-out battle” but few concrete remedies. Sometimes avoiding the purpose of the meeting, Francis larded his speech with data regarding abuse in schools, at athletic facilities, and within families, talking about the dangers of the digital world.

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes about the problems of Christians who claims to be superior to all others:

When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.

“Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” The Chronicle reported.

Leathers told me he is glad he wrote the 2002 article, even if it cost him his career. He expressed frustration at Southern Baptist priorities: The church leadership would expel a church that appointed a woman as senior pastor, even as it accepted sexual predators.

The indifference to criminal behavior is an echo of what has been unearthed in the Roman Catholic Church over the decades. The latest sickening revelations are of priests getting away with raping nuns and with assaulting deaf students.

These new scandals provoke fresh nausea at the hypocrisy of religious blowhards like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who thundered at the immorality of gay people even as their own Southern Baptist network tolerated child rape.

I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

But then conventional hierarchies asserted themselves, and women were mostly barred from religious leadership.

After The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptists have promised greater training and more background checks, but what’s needed above all is accountability and equality.

“Prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity,” Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard, told me.

Baptist women have been ready to be heard for a century. I know because my great-grandfather John Howard Shakespeare was the leader of Baptists in Britain from 1898 to 1924 and practiced his sermons on his wife. When she once insisted that she had something else to do, he locked her in an upstairs room.

My great-grandmother Amy, wearing a long dress, then climbed out an upper window and onto a tree branch, and finally clambered down the tree to the ground.

Perhaps inspired by such a strong woman, Shakespeare favored the ordination of women. “That women are not yet permitted to take their proper share in the life and work of our churches is, to our thinking, a relic of barbarism,” he wrote in 1901.

So much has changed for women since then, yet even today a majority of religious women still belong to denominations that do not ordain women. And as long as inequality is baked into faith, as long as “men of God” are unaccountable, then sexual assaults will continue.

The problem is not just wayward pastors and priests. Rather it is structural, an inequality and masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.

And, perhaps, embarrasses God.

February 23, 2019

Hope from Elections, Courts

In a desperate move last fall after Democratic governors and state legislators were elected, several GOP-dominated state legislative bodies passed laws that would hamstring the elective preferences of the people. The Wake County Superior Court has determined that the illegally gerrymandered North Carolina General Assembly cannot put constitutional amendments on the ballot because it lacked the full will of the state’s people. The court voided two of these amendments related to a photo voter ID requirement and lowering of the state income tax cap. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that many of North Carolina’s legislative districts were illegally drawn on racial lines and required that 117 districts be redrawn by the 2018 election. Legislators from the illegally-drawn lines passed the two amendments that tend “to favor white households” and would “reinforc[e] the accumulation of wealth for white taxpayers,” according to a lawsuit.

North Carolina is also the only state without a seated representative in the U.S. House from the 2018 election. This past week, the state election board unanimously required a new election for the seat that Baptist pastor Mark Harris claimed to have won by 905 votes after he stepped down. The election board had investigated Harris and his employee who had been accused with “stuffing the ballot box” by requesting, collecting, and completing absentee ballots in favor of Republicans. A closer look at Harris’ actions shows more anomalies. One was Harris’ testimony that he paid the employee through a PAC, a violation of election laws, and then tried to retract that statement several times later in the day. North Carolina has never addressed the type of voter fraud that Harris exhibited, concentrating instead of non-existent “in-person” voter fraud in the GOP attempts to restrict Democratic voting.

Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman is bringing investigation findings of the 9th District election fraud in both 2016 and 2018 to a grand jury next month. She took the case from Marion Warren, the director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, after it was discovered that Warren had introduced Mark Harris to his employee, who is now under scrutiny. Warren has announced a new job at Regent University School of Law in Virginia next month.

David Whitley, Texas’ acting Secretary of State, needs to have two-thirds of a vote for confirmation. His problem is that he inaccurately stated that 95,000 possible noncitizens registered to vote in the state before checking his facts—that tens of thousands of them are citizens. He did apologize for his “mistake,” but 12 Democrats are refusing to vote for him in committee, which would sink his nomination requiring a two-thirds state Senate vote for success. Whitley still hasn’t retracted the list although one of his deputies said the office knew that flagged voters included names of naturalized citizens. The office used outdated driver’s license data to determine citizenships so there is no accurate count of voter fraud. The state is now facing three federal lawsuits over Whitley’s actions, at least one of them about voter disenfranchisement for the March 2, 2019 election. Verifying Whitley’s misinformation is a nightmare, especially for large counties, because Texas law mandates voter registration on paper only. Verifying naturalization also causes problems because data on ceremonies is limited to counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court made an amazing decision this past week—and did it unanimously. All nine justices ruled that states cannot ignore the Constitution when imposing fines or confiscating people’s property in civil or criminal cases. Although to many of us, the ruling sounds like common sense, but states have been confiscating money and property for centuries, but the profits made by governments accelerated with a 1978 federal law. Although the law may seem reasonable on its surface, law enforcement officials have been taking money from people even if they aren’t charged with any crime and then keeping it. By 2018, the DOJ had about $1.5 billion in its forfeiture fund. Reporters have found several cases when people were pulled over with no justification and had their money taken with no proof of a crime. After the police took $11,000, a college student’s life savings, he had to fight in court to get his money returned.

The high court heard Timbs v. Indiana, a case in which police kept a $42,000 Land Rover purchased with legal funds after Tyson Timbs was charged in selling two grams of heroin to an undercover officer. The maximum fine for the infraction was $10,000—four times less than the value of his vehicle that he lost. Indiana is one of four states that claims that the Constitution didn’t cover state law. The justices found that keeping the Land Rover violated the Eighth Amendment’s “excessive fines clause” that applies to state and local courts as well as federal ones.

In a win for Montana, after the Supreme Court wiped out its campaign finance law in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock (2012), the high court let stand the state’s Disclose Act requiring the disclosure of donors to groups spending money or mentioning a candidate with 60 days of a state-level elections. A lower court had ruled the law constitutional, and the Supreme Court declined to take the case. Montana is the third state after New York and California to have disclosure laws for dark money.

A federal judge in Seattle told the Defense Department that it may not require soldiers who are naturalized citizens to undergo “continuous monitoring,” security checks every two years if the military doesn’t scrutinize U.S.-born soldiers in the same way. The 17 plaintiffs are among the 10,000 who enlisted in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program that recruits immigrants with critical foreign language or medical skills in exchange for a fast track to citizenship. In mid-2018, the Pentagon began discharging MAVNI participants but reversed the policy a month later.

The research into which whities wore blackface in the past went deep after a photo allegedly with Virginia Ralph Northam (D) initiated the media examination during Black History Month. Most of the photos lacked captions, but 78 USA Today reporters, assigned to the search, found one in the 1989 Arizona State University’s yearbook. Their current editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll was editor of that yearbook and designer of the page with the blackface photo. She has apologized.

Oregon is considering a bill that would drop the voting age from 18 to 16. If the legislature passes the measure, it would be on the 2020 ballot for a vote by the people. My first thought was that 16-year-olds are too young to vote—until I read this article about a 12-year-old journalist. This past week, Hilde Kate Lysiak visited Patagonia (AZ) on the trail of a stories including resident’s opinions about the Border Patrol and the proposed border wall when Joseph Patterson, who passes for the small town’s police chief, stopped her and asked for ID. She gave him her telephone number and address before she told him that she was a member of the press. Patterson said, “I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom-of-the-press stuff.” He also threatened to have her arrested and thrown into juvey. [Photo by James Moorehead]

Lysiak decided to tape him when she asked him what she was doing that was illegal. Patterson sat in his white Chevy Silverado truck and said, “You taping me? You can tape me, okay, but what I’m going to tell you is if you put my face on the Internet, it’s against the law in Arizona.”

The conversation continued as he accused her of lying to him and disobeying his commands. He finally told her, “I’ll be getting a hold of your parents” before he drove off. When Lysiak posted the video to her blog later, she explained that the first Amendment protects recording a law enforcement official in a public place that no law prevents her actions. She also posted her story about the wall.

Lysiak reported on a murder in her hometown when she was nine and has reported on bank robberies, alleged rapes, and other crimes in her Orange Street News, which she helped found almost five years ago and publishes from her parents’ home in Selinsgrove (PA).

Patagonia has taken action against Patterson but won’t say what that is. This is not the first time that Patterson has threatened people with arrest after they started to video him, but it’s the first time that he went after a 12-year-old—and the first time that he had to back down. Lysiak’s taping of Patterson’s threats has received almost 250,000 views and almost 1,000 comments.

I’d pick 12-year-old Hilde Lysiak as an educated voter over Joseph Patterson any time.

February 22, 2019

DDT: Week 109 – Disregard from Allies, Corruption

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has lost—again. In VP Mike Pence’s attempt to turn Europeans against the 2015 Iran anti-nuclear deal at the 55th annual Munich Security Conference, he faced stony silence, starting when he said he brought greetings from DDT. Joe Biden received cheers for his speech. The French foreign minister asked why DDT can be so firm about opposing Iran while pulling troops out of Syria that helps Iran.

Like U.S. intelligence agencies, European nations have found no indication of Iran building nuclear weapons. Last month, Europe created a plan to purchase Iranian energy, stopping damage from U.S. sanctions, while not suffering U.S. financial reprimands. Even anti-Iran countries in the Middle East couldn’t agree at the meeting because of the Saudi-operated boycott of Qatar. With war-hungry national security adviser John Bolton, DDT wants a war with Iran, but his only follower may be Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “war with Iran.” The blasts against DDT came at the heels of a failure in a U.S.-led meeting about Iran in Warsaw where European nations sent only low-level delegations, if anyone.

No longer is Roe v. Wade being chipped away; it’s being chopped away with a hatchet. DDT’s newest rule takes Title X funds from family planning clinics that provide abortions, refer patients for abortions, or promote or support abortion for family planning. Funds will be directed to religious places, such as phony Crisis Pregnancy Centers, for women seeking reproductive health care—care which many CPCs promise but don’t provide. Title X covers reproductive health care for 4 million women every year at a cost of $286 million.

Former FBI deputy Andrew McCabe is providing the public with news about his conversations with DDT. A major revelation is that DDT believes that North Korea’s missiles can’t reach the U.S., despite intelligence to the contrary, because “[Vladimir] Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles.” On the day before its release, McCabe’s The Threat was #1 on the bestseller list.

Earlier this week, North Carolinian Baptist pastor Mark Harris, who paid a contractor to request and pick up absentee ballots that were either marked Republican or destroyed if for Democrats, said he knew nothing about what his employee was doing in an attempt to get seated in the U.S. House. Harris’ son said that he had told him about what was happening, but Harris said he ignored his son, a federal prosecutor, because he was only 27 years old at the time. The father described his son as a “very judgmental” person who “has a taste of arrogance.” A quantity of incriminating emails between Harris and his employee of them show that he lied about his ignorance. That issue seems to be the tipping point: Harris has asked for a new election. Harris excused himself by saying that he is recovering from an infection that led to sepsis and two strokes and therefore cannot deal with the “rigors” of the state election board hearing. The “rigors” of the election will start all over, beginning with a primary.

Most of DDT’s former Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, including VP Mike Pence, stayed silent about this fraud after their attempts to suppress poor and minority voters. The only GOP response came from election lawyer J. Christian Adams who scolded fellow commission member Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlop for a WaPo op-ed, “Why Doesn’t the ‘Voter Fraud’ Crowd Care about What Happened in North Carolina?” In a tweet, Adams called Dunlop a “charlatan.”

DDT deflected questions about the North Carolina  fraud by mentioning California and Texas. Told that these accusations had been disproved, he moved on. At the same time, DDT has been highly vocal about the revelation that Jussie Smollett allegedly paid two brothers $3,500 to fake a racist attack on him. Also missing from DDT’s prolific tweets is commentary on the arrest of a Coast Guard lieutenant, Christopher P. Hasson, for a domestic terrorist plot to kill prominent Democrats, CNN and MSNBC journalists, and “almost every last person on earth.” The self-identified white nationalist (aka supremacist), obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views, has stockpiled weapons and ammunition since 2017 to sow destruction and chaos. He also planned biological attacks targeting the food supply. Hasson got many of his ideas from books by Harold A. Covington, whose books, along with other white supremacist polemics, are  available on Amazon. Covington, who popularized the concept of a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest, died in 2017.

Federal authorities concealed the arrest for five days until a private citizen discovered information in a documents search about extremism. Another Coast Guard member was reprimanded and removed from the response to Hurricane Florence after the public complained that he flashed a white-supremacy sign last September during a televised interview with another officer.

The current cultural and political climate will most likely result in punitive measures for Smollett, concerns about the mental state of Hasson, and exoneration for Harris.

One DDT game is which Cabinet secretary is the next to go. Maybe Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta? Eleven years ago, Acosta, then U.S. Attorney for southern Florida, was sued for giving Jeffrey Epstein federal immunity on child molestation and trafficking charges, blocking an FBI probe into Epstein who may have trafficking young girls in Florida but also from other states and Europe. For his leadership in abusing scores of underage girls, Acosta received only 13 months of prison time, most of it on work release and the rest in a special suite separate from other prisoners. Epstein’s lawyers, including Ken Starr who led Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying, were largely allowed to set the terms of their client’s plea deal. Acosta had this evidence but complained that he would have trouble convicting Epstein.

The Miami Herald has been working on the story for months and reported yesterday a judicial ruling that Acosta and federal prosecutors “broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey.” The judge wrote that prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims Rights Act when they didn’t tell the victims but also misled the victims into believing that the case, secretly closed after the plea bargain was sealed, was ongoing. For the first time, a judge has ruled that Acosta illegally hid the agreement from Epstein’s victims although the only follow-up is that the victims have 15 days to settle the issue with the government. Acosta was so convincing during his confirmation hearings—even calling the Epstein deal a “point of pride”—that he gained the votes of all the GOP senators plus 8 Democrats and one independent.

Asked about Acosta, DDT said:

“I really don’t know too much about it. I know he’s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago.”

Sex trafficking in DDT’s mind exists only as a device to get votes through his wall on the southern border.

DDT doesn’t mind troops in Syria—he just thinks they shouldn’t be from the U.S. After he announced his pullout of the U.S. military, he asked Europe to send in more soldiers to replace them, raising questions of whether he thinks that Syria is safe enough to be left on its own. EU allies refused DDT’s request. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), separated himself from DDT by shouting at the DOD acting secretary Patrick Shanahan who supports the pullout by April 20. “That’s the dumbest f—ing idea I’ve ever heard,” Graham yelled. he said that ISIS would return, Turkey would attack Kurdish forces, and Iran would have the advantage. Shanahan agreed with Graham but said he would do what DDT wants. Maybe DDT listened to Graham: today he plans to keep 400 soldiers on the ground in Syria, up from the 200 that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced yesterday.

The leakiest White House in history has mandatory non-disclosure agreements for all employees—at least for now. Former DDT staffer Jessica Denson is suing to nullify the NDAs, claiming that their broadness allows retaliation against employees with legitimate workplace grievance. The lawsuit describes the NDAs as “unenforceable” and “unconscionable.” The class-action suit covers thousands of DDT’s employees and volunteers, including for his campaign, that prevented them from making any disparaging comments about DDT, the campaign, and his family.  Staffers aren’t even allowed copies of the NDAs that they sign that include a $10 million penalty for each infraction.

Roger Stone groveled after he sent out a tweet incorporating a gun target symbol with a photo of his judge and his criticism of her, but his abject apology wasn’t enough. She just placed a full gag order on him.

Spin—twisting negative events to make them sound positive—has reached an artistic high in a conservative Wall Street Journal editorial. Attorney David Rivkin and “legal theorist” Elizabeth Foley purported that criminal allegations against DDT are so many that he should not be investigated. One concern was taking time away from DDT’s “work”—aka “Executive Time.” Investigating DDT’s money laundering and other business fraud might take away from the unscheduled calls he makes to GOP legislators to talk about his television watching or golf or whatever.

February 21, 2019

Sue Hardesty: The Wall Continues 

In a poll taken since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced that he was building a wall at the southern U.S. border because of a “national emergency,” polls indicate a disagreement from the people of the United States:

  • 61 percent do not approve of the “emergency.”
  • 58 percent believe an “emergency” does not exist.
  • 58 percent think that DDT misused his power by redirecting funds toward the wall.

Sue Hardesty shows from her FB writings that she’s in the majority of people not approving of an “emergency” and believing that there is no emergency and DDT misused his powers. A few pieces from the past month (lightly edited). She wrote these pieces after her first commentary on walls.

Did you know that for the year of 2015 the IRS reported 4.4 million workers (mostly undocumented immigrants) without a Social Security number paid $23.6 billion in income taxes? And that these same undocumented workers pay $7 billion each year into Social Security. The tragic thing is they are paying all these taxes for benefits they cannot even use like Medicare and Social Security. The reason they did file is that paying taxes leave a paper trail proving how long the immigrant has been in the U.S., one of the requirements toward becoming a citizen. The half of the undocumented workers who did not file still paid taxes which adds billions more every year. These workers are also doing critical jobs, especially in the food industry, that natural born whites refuse to do.

  *  *  *

Sorry. My political side is back. I received so many responses to my page on Trump’s wall that I decided to continue the debate. On crime committed by immigrants, I found that “the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. tripled between the 1990s and 2013, while violent crime declined 48% and property crime fell 41% over that period.” Recent research sources on immigration and crime concluded:

“There are two broad types of studies that investigate immigrant criminality. The first type uses Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data from the institutionalized population and broadly concludes that immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population. It is important to note that immigrants convicted of crimes serve their sentences before being deported with few exceptions.”

Not only have immigrants committed less crime, there is an abundance of research that immigrants even bring the crime rate down. The second type of research at a macro level analysis generally found, “increased immigration does not increase crime and sometimes even causes crime rates to fall.”

I guess what breaks my heart are the asylum seekers caught in a war we likely caused and are only asking to live. Tell me we have room for them.

Another of Sue’s entries after she read about how private prison conglomerates take cash from immigrants seeking asylum:

I think the government should never hire outside contractors for any job having to do with taking care of any living thing because greed usually wins, especially when rich corporations such as GeoGroup and CoreCivic are involved. On the average, ICE pays around $62 dollars a day for each detainee, giving $38 million to CoreCivic alone last year. When it comes to corporations and the bottom profit line, anything is never enough. In addition to starving prisoners so that they have to work for as little as $1.00 a day, they are overcharged for anything they buy such as a can of tuna, paying four times what it cost outside. Or a dollar’s worth of Dove soap $2.44. Companies also take ten percent of money from inmates waiting for asylum for “fees.” One more nail of shame.

In response from one of Sue’s readers, an 11-minute video about the effect of the wall on Arizona’s Tohono o’odham, whose land is approximately the size of Connecticut [transcript included]. Full one-hour PBS presentation.

A comprehensive view of Arizona’s Tohono o’odham dilemma from the Smithsonian American Indian Magazine. 

Addenda from Nel:

DDT started the wall as a memory device to remind him to talk about his hatred for immigrants; now he says that his Space Patrol started as joke. “I was not really serious,” he said about his first mention. Now he has ordered the DOD to establish a new military branch for the purpose of fighting threats in space—which the Pentagon already does in a Space Command. DDT still needs congressional approval.

DDT demanded the wall because of his “gut feeling” that drugs don’t come through ports of entry. ICE disagreed because drug smuggling has turned to large truckloads—such as the 254 pounds of Fentanyl that Customs found a few weeks ago “under the rear floor of a tractor-trailer.” The discovery didn’t deter DDT’s claims, but facts disprove his false claims again. Yesterday, Customs announced the find of 906 pounds of meth hidden in a trailer with frozen strawberries. A wall would not have blocked either of these enormous drug shipments.

Last week, DDT said the wall wasn’t being built; this week he says the wall is being built—but it’s only a renovation of an existing wall approved in 2017. The video that he parades is almost two years old.

DDT said he would be sued over the wall, and he’s right.

  • A coalition of 16 states filed a federal lawsuit to block DDT’s building the wall without congressional permission.
  • The Sierra Club, the ACLU, and a coalition of environmental groups have filed suits in two other jurisdictions.
  • Three Texas landowners are suing to keep their land on the border from DDT’s wall. One of them said she had never seen undocumented immigrants crossing the border in 40 years.
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a suit seeking documents about DDT’s legal reasoning for declaring the emergency.
  • El Paso County has joined the Border Network for Human Rights to sue DDT in a lawsuit designed to prevent the wall. They argue that the emergency declaration damages the city’s reputation and economy.

Arguments against the constitutionality of DDT’s emergency include no emergency exists (DDT waited two years until he got a Democratic House), the Congress refused the money, apprehensions of undocumented immigrants are down, immigrants aren’t responsible for massive crimes, and drug trafficking won’t be blocked by a wall.

More opposition:

  • The House is preparing to vote on a bill opposing the “emergency.”
  • More than one-third of the money said he would take from other federal programs will probably be unavailable. DOD said only $85 million remains unspent in the $2.5 billion anti-drug funds that DDT targeted.
  • At least eight GOP senators and possibly more, openly oppose the emergency declaration and DDT’s taking money from military construction funds because military bases won’t get the renovation that they need.
  • Representatives are equally unhappy, even our Trumpist Greg Walden (R-OR).

For now, the law that gave DDT only $1.375 billion for a barrier that can’t be concrete has protected areas in the Rio Grande Valley:

  • The National Butterfly Center, an ecotourism destination.
  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, an international area for bird watching.
  • Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, exempted in last year’s budget.
  • La Lomita, an historic Catholic chapel that lost a court fight a week ago.
  • Area designated for the commercial spaceport for SpaceX, a space transportation company designed by Tesla founder Elon Musk.
  • Starr County, second-poorest county in Texas, permitted mandatory “mutual agreements” with DHS about barriers.

Losers are the 154-year-old Eli Jackson cemetery, an indigenous burial ground, and 600 owners of private land that can be taken by eminent domain. Every protection is gone if DDT’s “national emergency” succeeds.

DDT is increasing human trafficking by transferring money from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to ICE that focuses on low-level “coyotes” and finding law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for decades. HSI investigations have dropped by other 50 percent because of less than half its former staff in DDT’s first full fiscal year. Although the number of people charged with “bringing in and harboring certain aliens rose statistically by 18 percent, DDT had lowered the standards for smuggling.

Taxpayers are paying $12,000 for DDT’s wall around his Florida golf course to block the press’s view. Last year, he put journalists in basements and covered windows with black plastic so that they couldn’t see his frequent golf games. Taxpayers have already given DDT $17,000 to build a wall at Mar-a-Lago.

February 20, 2019

First Amendment Contorted by Love for Saudi Arabia, Clarence Thomas

Remember Jeff Bezos? For a week, the media focused on his “junk,” his battle with the National Enquirer, and his search for the person who ripped off his photos and documents such as texts and emails. Turns out that the guilty person is Bezos’ girlfriend’s gay brother. Then Bezos generated more media buzz when he pulled the Amazon headquarters from New York City, much to the disgust of some and delight of others.

The Bezos scandal highlighted the tie between the Enquirer and the Saudi government through Bezos’ letter to AMI, the owner of the tabloid. In its mandate that Bezos state he had “no knowledge” that the Enquirer’s coverage of his affair was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces,” people guessed that the issue was Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). David Pecker, AMI’s owner and DDT’s close associate, had an immunity deal with the DOJ for their criminal suppression of stories about DDT during his campaign, paying people for stories and then not printing them. Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with DDT was one of these articles that were killed before the election.

But Pecker may wanted the Washington Post, owned by Bezos, to stop printing negative news about Saudi Arabia. Pecker used his ties with DDT to cultivate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for business opportunities, including borrowing money to buy major publications such as Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Fortune, and Money.  magazine. AMI’s 97-page glossy propaganda about Saudi Arabia and featuring MBS on the cover sold at Walmarts across the nation as part of Pecker’s pandering.

Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. resident and journalist, worked for the WaPo, and his writings were highly critical of MBS. Before the Saudis tortured and dismembered Khashoggi, MBS had said that he would use a “bullet” on Khashoggi if he got the chance, according to WaPo reporting. On the same day the Wall Street Journal wrote that MBS was actively enlisting U.S. media outlets to remake his image in the West and met with Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith on a yacht to discuss “an international media empire to combat the kingdom’s rivals and remake its image in the West.”

“For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote. Former longtime Enquirer editor Jerry George said that Pecker was using Bezo’ damaging photos and documents as bargaining chips. As the story unraveled, Pecker failed because Bezos refused to give into blackmail. George cited AMI’s pro-Saudi propaganda as “suspicious” because the company was “cash poor” and “suddenly” got an “influx of cash.” He suggested that “there’s another shoe to drop,” referring to Robert Mueller’s investigation into “the Saudis’ role in all of this.” A restriction of AMI’s immunity included the company staying out of politics, and WaPo revealed that the company may not have lived up to its promises.

Last year, AMI contacted the DOJ to see if the company should register as a foreign agent but said that it didn’t get any Saudi funding for their Saudi propaganda. The DOJ said probably not, but AMI wrote that a Saudi adviser submitted content for its publication and then made changes to the final version after receiving an early draft. AMI’s extortion of Bezos has brought its relation to the Saudis has brought the issue back into visibility.

DDT, who denied his own intelligence showing that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi, now faces an investigation by House Democrats about DDT’s illegal push to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections by national security officials and attorneys, a plan that may have directly benefited his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Despite warnings of “potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles” in 2017, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other DDT employees push for the sales. DDT plans to bypass Congress with an illegal technology transfer that can spread nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pled guilty of lying to the FBI, was an early advocate for these sales after DDT’s inauguration and recommended that Barrack, who raised $107 million for DDT’s corrupt inaugural committee, be a special representative to carry out his nuclear plan. Appearing to be from DDT, a memo told federal agencies to do Barrack’s bidding.

The House reports Flynn’s working with retired military officers to circumvent U.S. law. After he resigned, the National Security Council continued with its plan in opposition to advice from its own ethics counsel. The next adviser, H.R. McMaster, said that the illegal work must stop, but McMaster left almost two months ago. Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation has examined the possibility of Middle Eastern monarchies financially influencing DDT’s political activities, starting with his presidential campaign. Congress has not look at claims about the nuclear sales until this year because of GOP control.

In more First Amendment issues, the Covington Catholic High School (KY) teenager who appeared to harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and veteran, is suing WaPo for $250 million. The defamation lawsuit alleges that the newspaper “engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism” and “wrongfully targeted and bullied” the “innocent child” Nick Sandmann. According to his lawyers, Sandmann is suffering from “the pain and destruction its attacks would cause to his life.”

The lawsuit reads like a political polemic:

“[The Post wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump (“the President”) by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President…. [The Post’s coverage was] in furtherance of its political agenda … carried out by using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles which effectively provided a worldwide megaphone to Phillips and other anti-Trump individuals and entities to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the President.”

Earlier this month, the Sandmann lawyers sent letters warning litigation to over 50 media organizations, celebrities, and politicians. As the wealthiest man in the world, WaPo owner Jeff Bezos has the most money and is considered DDT’s biggest media enemy, and the $250 million is the same amount that Bezos paid for the Post in 2013. Nick’s parents, Ted and Julie Sandmanns, say they want to “teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.” They argue that Nick is not a public figure, lowering the bar for winning their lawsuit.

While Nick was described as a “child,” the lawsuit calls Nathan Phillips “a phony war hero” who “targeted and bullied” Sandmann. Phillips said that Sandmann and his peers from Covington surrounded him after he tried to stop possible violence between them and a few Hebrew Israelites. About Sandmann’s comment on the Today show, Phillips used the terms “insincerity, lack of responsibility”—“coached and written up for him.” About the encounter, Phillips said that he was trying to get out of an ugly situation. “That guy in the hat [Sandmann] stood in my way, and we were at an impasse.” Phillips added, “Then I went to go pray about it …. I forgive him.”

The Sandmanns may find support in their war on freedom of the press from Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. He hopes to attack the media through his proposal to reconsider the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan which determined that public figures must have greater proof to claim libel. Thomas’ “roadmap” to  helping DDT’s change in libel laws permitting him to sue news organizations came after Thomas and his far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas had dinner with DDT and his wife Melania Trump. Trump’s pledge to change libel laws so he can sue news organizations for their reporting.

Last Tuesday, Thomas expressed concern about the high court’s refusal to hear an appeal from Katherine McKee, who claimed Bill Cosby’s lawyer leaked a letter that distorted her background and damaged her reputation after she claimed that Cosby raped her. Lower courts cited the Times v. Sullivan precedent in dismissing her case with the justification that disclosing her accusation required her to meet a higher libel standard of malice that applies to public figures. The decision to not take the case was unanimous, but Thomas wrote a sole opinion that the 1964 case was wrongly decided.

Since 1964, public officials can sue for libel only if the person responsible for the statement knows that the statement is false or if the person recklessly disregarded its falsehood. Subsequent Supreme Court cases have added all public figures to public officials to protect journalists and media organizations from intimidation by wealthy and/or powerful public figures wishing to exploit minor errors in reporting. That Supreme Court decision protect the media reporting on Thomas sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Thomas, who claims to be an originalist, following only the word of the U.S. Constitution and not its meaning, said, “We should carefully examine the original meaning [of the First Amendment.]” An early interpretation of this right, as shown by the first Sedition Act in 1798, was that the government could punish any published story, and the Sedition Act still exists. If the Supreme Court supports Thomas, the First Amendment could disappear.

February 19, 2019

DDT Wants Oil, War in Venezuela

Former acting FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s new book, The Threat, has been consuming media this week, in which he writes that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said almost two years ago that he wanted to go to war with Venezuela to get its oil:

“Then the president talked about Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with, he said. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.”

Panicked by the news about his involvement in the Russian scandal, DDT is moving forward with his aggressive plans for a coup in Venezuela. Unconcerned about its problem of “humanitarian rights” in the past, DDT now offers to send the people medical supplies and food—but only to his selected lackey, head of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó, who was almost entirely unknown until a few weeks ago. Legally elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that Russia is sending 300 tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela. No matter what, Venezuelans need the humanitarian aid because U.S. sanctions with no exceptions are crippling the country’s economy.

DDT’s offer of U.S. humanitarian aid might not be necessary without the U.S. sanctions on oil that are killing thousands of people and cost Venezuela over $6 billion since 2015. In November 2018, the U.S. authorized emergency aid for Venezuela after Maduro made a public appeal for help, but the $20 million in aid goes only if Maduro steps down. Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield said that the “desired outcome” to quickly bring the regime change to an end “justifies this fairly severe punishment” of sanctions.

Socialism is DDT ’s argument against Maduro, yet DDT’s approach is blackmailing the Venezuelan people to subjugate them. subjugating the Venezuelan people against their will. Sanctions also block Maduro from getting money out of banks in other countries for the people. The U.S., which complains about Russian interference with its election, has put at least $100 million to subvert Venezuela’s elected government. Maduro’s opposition boycotted last year’s vote and asked the UN to not send observers. A Canadian coalition of observers by unions, church leaders, and other officials declared the election to be “a transparent, secure, democratic and orderly electoral and voting process.”

Seventy percent of Venezuelan economy is in the private sector, the country is part of the world capitalist system, and its dependence is on a commodity with fluctuating prices on capitalist markets. Capitalists were able to sabotage the economy. The political system comes from democratic councils at the grassroots level for “constituent” power that organize enterprises for local employment and supplies of basic goods. Social programs known as “missions” try to directly provide services. A 2001 law mandates that all members of cooperative enterprises are included in decision-making with an assembly of all members have the final decisions over all topics. Nonprofit, state-owned enterprises are managed democratically by a combination of their workers, local communal councils, and the national government to provide local services, such as transportation and distribution of cooking gas, and the creation of production.

DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton supports DDT’s resource war, like George W. Bush’s takeover of Iraq, and says that U.S. oil companies can benefit from DDT’s actions. Opposition, however, comes from India, the second-largest importer of Venezuelan oil; China, the third largest importer of that oil; and Russia, the owner of 49 percent of Citgo in the U.S. Europe is also buying oil from Iran.

In his Miami speech yesterday, DDT threatened members of the Venezuelan military and their families:

“You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept president Guaidó’s generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen. Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro. If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”

Last month, DDT kept attention about his maneuvering to take over Venezuela from the media with the budget crisis and “wall.” He called Guaidó to see if he would like to depose Maduro. Once Guaidó came on board, DDT began secret talks with Maduro’s military, trying to persuade them to defect, and top U.S. cabinet officials used threats to push for regime change. Guaidó is pushing the United States to use its military to overturn Maduro. Maduro went to Russia to improve relationships and collect money; two Russian aircraft flew to Caracas, to be followed by Russian personnel. Iran’s new Sahand destroyer may soon be in Venezuela.

To make his new project a fait accompli, DDT put Elliott Abrams in charge as his special envoy. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) openly addressed Abrams about his past in a House hearing when she asked him about his dismissing reports about the massacre in El Salvador that the U.S. led in the 1980s. After Omar described the soldiers bragging about raping a 12-year-old girl brutal murders and their brutal murders, Abrams grudgingly admitted that perhaps he was wrong about calling U.S. policy in El Salvador a “fabulous achievement.” He refused to answer questions about his involvement in Guatemalan war crimes.

Abrams has a 30-year history as convicted liar and war criminal in bloody U.S. backed coups, insurrections, and massacres which culminated—until now—in the Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002 against Hugo Chávez. George H.W. Bush pardoned him to save his own skin. The selection of Abrams for special envoy declares the position that the United States will take toward people in Venezuela—get out of our way or we’ll kill you.

In DDT’s attempt to seat Guaidó, he sides with the whiter and wealthier Venezuelans against the Mestizo mixed-race poor who represent the majority. The 1998 election of Hugo Chavez ended four centuries of white supremacist control by European descendants in Venezuela and continued with the election of Maduro. Chavez reduced poverty from 50 percent in 1999 to almost half of that, 27 percent in 2011. He used the country’s oil production to increase school enrollment, decrease infant and child mortality, and improve access to clean water and sanitation. In 2002, George W. Bush supported the coup led by an oil industry leader that kidnapped Chavez, holding him hostage until a million mostly Mestizo indigenous, and black Venezuelans came to the capital and forced Chavez’s release.

The huge drop in oil prices caused inflation, and an economic slide worsened by DDT’s cutting off oil sales contributed to many of Maduro’s problems. As in the U.S., the white rulers discovered that they could not win an election if ethnic minorities voted, so DDT and Guaidó disregarded the need for an election to install a new president. DDT’s supporters follow the process of coups in Venezuela and other places that the U.S. has established a new regime with chants to take back the country. In Macon (GA) DDT told his audience to fear Stacey Abrams, a black candidate for governor, because she would “turn Georgia into Venezuela.”

DDT uses the media to spread his myths. The Miami Herald calls Venezuela’s elected president, Maduro, its “leader” and Guaidó, the person who didn’t even run in the election, Venezuela’s “interim president.” Guaidó was even mentioned as one of Maduro’s opposition leaders. Henri Falcon, who ran in the election, was tied for the most popular of Maduro’s opposition, but no one claims that the “fraudulent” election was “stolen” from Falcon—probably because it wasn’t stolen from anyone. DDT avows that Maduro “abandoned” the presidency by solidly defeating Falcon in the election. National security adviser John Bolton, part of master-minding the Iraq War, called for Maduro to be sent to a U.S.-run torture camp in Cuba.

Envoy Abrams used the cover of “humanitarian aid” to provide the U.S.-backed Contra terrorists in Nicaragua during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and the CIA did the same in Southeast Asia during the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. The United States supplied weapons, ammunition, and other military necessities to Guaidó for months until the media discovered the transports.

In a New York Times op-ed on Saturday, Francisco Rodríguez, chief economist at Torino Economics, and Jeffrey D. Sachs of at Columbia University—both experts on Latin America—called for a compromise on Venezuela, citing the harm of DDT’s “winner take all” policy. For example, an 18-year-old war in Afghanistan is ending with negotiating with the Taliban, and U.S. interventions in Iraq, Syria, and Libya have resulted only in strife. They urge an “alternative approach” instead of DDT’s “game of chicken.”

The United States has militarily invaded Latin American and Caribbean countries 96 times in direct interventions, including 48 times in the 20th century, and that number doesn’t count U.S.-fomented coups such as Guatemala (1954) to obtain land for United Fruit and Chile (1973) to install the murderous Augusto Pinochet as dictator. DDT needs a war, like George W. Bush did, but he doesn’t want the danger of the Middle East. As a bonus, Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves of any country in the world as well as a huge supply of gold. DDT figures Venezuela is his path to re-election.

February 18, 2019

Tell Scholastic to Publish Accurate Educational Materials

When I was young, we celebrated the birthdays of two presidents born in February, Abraham Lincoln (2/12/1809) and George Washington (2/22/1731), the latter being a national holiday for the past 140 years. In the past few decades, Lincoln seems to have lost his popularity, and only seven states celebrate his birthday. Even “George Washington Day” has largely become “President’s” or “Presidents’” Day in the states—although three states don’t celebrate the holiday.

For over a century, children were taught the myth that Washington said he could not tell a lie. Washington’s storyteller went overboard with this tale, but Washington insisted on paying the new nation’s war debts, despite his colleagues suggesting that the U.S. renege on payments to both its new citizens and French investors in the Revolutionary War.

The man inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States Presidents Day, the current occupant of the White House, reportedly told 8,158 lies during the first two years after his inauguration—almost 6,000 during his second year. That’s almost 16.5 a day, nearly triple the pace.

Almost two years ago, Scholastic Books, well-known in the past for being a reputable publisher of books for youth, came out two books by Joanne Mattern, both called President Donald Trump. The first, for ages 6-7, is in the Rookie Biographies series, and the second in True Books series is for children ages 8-10.

The younger book begins with this poem:

His buildings reached into the sky.

His businesses just grew and grew.

Then Trump became our president–

People wanted something new.

The first prose text states:

“Meet Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a famous entrepreneur. He is also a television personality. In 2015, Trump surprised many people when he decided to run for president. In November 2016, he won the election. Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States.”

And continues:

“Donald Trump inspired his supporters to try something new. He promised them a better future. Millions of Americans are counting on him to help improve their lives.”

Trump supporters would say that this is all true. The book, however, just tells one part of the story, omitting how many children were frightened because of his promises to get rid of people of color (aka threats) and the hostile language that he used for everyone except white people. At least 1,000 people wrote Scholastic with their outrage about the book’s propaganda.

Scholastic responded to the negative comments by claiming “that discussing controversial aspects of any public figure’s life isn’t appropriate for our youngest readers” and that the True Books biography for older readers would “delve deeper into the controversial aspects of the Trump campaign and presidency” in their True Books biography of Trump for readers in grades 3-5. Scholastic failed in its promise to “delve deeper,” and they are wrong that Trump’s white supremacist statements aren’t “appropriate for our youngest readers.” Many children suffer from Trump’s push toward white supremacist because bullies—even ages 6 and 7—who listen to him.

The book failed to address how builders working for Trump being unfairly treated or how Trump discriminated against people of color who wanted to live in his buildings. Scholastic got around this by not mentioning people of color at all. Forty percent of people in the U.S. were ignored. The statement that “many people were happy” about the election silenced the dissent and resistance regarding the election except for one picture. Avoiding the hard issues about race—that most children of color know—supports the dominance of the ruling (aka white) class.

Kathleen Nganga and Sarah Cornelius wrote this review about the “True Biographies” version of Trump:

“The book dedicates 10 glowing pages to Trump’s business career, high rises, and casinos, but does not include a single detail about housing discrimination claims, his unfulfilled business contracts, and customer grievances such as the lawsuits against Trump University. In fact, the one time the book mentions Trump’s bankruptcies and alludes to organizational troubles, the book removes all responsibility from Trump by solely attributing these problems to the ‘weakened’ real estate market.

“There is a page dedicated to New York City’s Central Park where Trump is credited with rebuilding the Wollman ice-skating rink in 1986. No mention is made of another Central Park story, Trump’s crusade against the Central Park Five (all teenagers at the time), including spending $85,000 for full page ads in all four New York daily newspapers in 1989 calling for a reinstatement of the death penalty. This is a crucial story for understanding Trump’s use of racism and law and order rhetoric to garner support. There is also no mention of Trump’s lead role in the Birther Movement (questioning President Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen). Both of these stories are relevant to his biography since they contributed to his base and eventual election as president. By dedicating most of the book to Trump’s fancy buildings and T.V. shows, the implication is that his business experience and stardom led to his election. While there are a couple of references to prejudice and discrimination, racism is not mentioned once.

“Regarding the election, Mattern writes: ‘[Trump] had no political experience. He had never held a public office or taken part in political activities. For this reason, some people thought he was not qualified to be president. Others loved the idea of an outsider coming in to shake up the way the government was run.’ In contrast, after detailing Hillary Clinton’s professional experiences the author states, ‘… many people did not like Clinton. They felt she was not trustworthy and would not bring enough changes to the government.’ While the book qualifies that “some people” were dissatisfied with Trump, dissatisfaction with Clinton is qualified with “many people.” This juxtaposition suggests that most people found Trump qualified and trustworthy….

“There is only one page dedicated to Trump’s campaign statements. It begins, ‘Trump made several statements during his campaign that were concerning to some people.’ That is an understatement. People were not only concerned, they were also demeaned, insulted, and threatened by these comments. It says, “For example, he promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.” There is no reference to the language he used to describe women, Mexican immigrants, POWs, Muslims, people with disabilities, and more.

“This is also the only place in the 45-page book in which people of color are featured, and they are protesting. While protest imagery conveys important ideas of non-electoral forms of democratic engagement, it is significant that the book’s only visual reference of people of color is one of them engaging in disruptive protests and surrounded by police….”

Scholastic may have muzzled Mattern in the book’s content. An earlier draft of the Scholastic book indicates its “changes” in the final edition. In a prepub draft, a page called “Troubling Statements read:

“Some of Trump’s biggest supporters were white nationalists. Their comments and actions during and after the campaign were racist and often dangerous. Trump did little to speak against them.”

In the finished book, the heading was changed to “Campaign Statements,” and the text read, “Some of Trump’s critics felt he did not speak out against prejudicial people and groups strongly enough.”

Penguin Young Readers has chosen to not publish any books about Trump at this time, and even conservative Regnery, which published the Pence picture book about the family’s pet rabbit has no plans for a young readers’ biography of Trump. In an update about First Ladies, Kathleen Krull found little information other than she was the third wife, a supermodel, and the wealthiest.

An example of using “bare facts” methodology that Scholastic used in its two children’s books about Trump:

“Hitler was a powerful leader. He promised to lead the German people out of their economic depression. He particularly wanted to help Aryan citizens. Many people were happy with his leadership style.”

The best advice for publishers, to paraphrase an old saying, might be: “If you can’t say anything accurate, don’t say anything at all.”

Scholastic has misled children in other books. Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of Houston made no mention of climate change, and Scholastic partnered with the American Coal Federation to distribute educational materials about the benefits of coal with no reference to the dangers. Scholastic finally pulled A Birthday Cake for George Washington after complaints about the happy depictions of his slaves.

People are growing more and more upset about the poor education in the United States. You can protest a major publisher for its misrepresentation that helps children grow up ignorant. Created almost 100 years ago, the huge publishing conglomerate of Scholastic wields great power over education for children in the U.S. The company needs to hear from people regarding this practice of promoting inaccuracies in educational materials that purport to be nonfiction.  You can contact them here. They need to know that you care about children.

February 17, 2019

A Wall to Protect People from Religion?

If we used the same standards for religious figures that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to use for undocumented immigrants, the United States would build a wall between the country and all churches. Another former archbishop and cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse with no chance for appeal, Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power” and “solicitation” during confession. A study completed in 2002 found almost 11,000 cases of sexual abuse by almost 5,000 priests. Far more have emerged in the past 17 years, including the uncovering of over 300 priests in just one state who abused over 1,000 children.

Catholics aren’t alone in sexual abuse by their leaders: at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced charges of sexual misconduct against over 700 victims in the past 20 years—more in Texas than any other state. The church urged many of the victims to forgive the offenders and for becoming pregnant. Sometimes churches shunned the victims. Some sexual abusers returned to their churches to preach. Southern Baptist Convention officials shielded the predators and refused any reforms.

The above are just two examples of denominations in which people are sexual abused by their religious leaders. The stories go into the tens of millions, unlike DDT’s concerns about undocumented immigrants.

The Roman Catholic diocese has exonerated the male white students from Covington (KY) who appeared to invade the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. after they attended an anti-choice March for Life. The bishop claimed that their students were being threatened can called their behavior “laudatory.” The opinion was based on online video and interviews with 43 students and 13 adult chaperones. No one from the Indigenous Peoples group was interviewed. All of them are quite pleased with themselves.

Wyoming has failed to repeal the death penalty, and state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) is grateful because Jesus also got the death penalty. Without his execution, he could not have absolved the sins of mankind. Therefore, retaining the death penalty is vital. I’m a bit confused about her logic. Does she compare all executed people to Jesus? Self-identified on her FB as “your only true Conservative, Christian, Pro-Life Candidate,” she also made this argument for her homophobia while speaking to students from Cheyenne Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance:

“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Frustrated by two Muslim women in the newly-elected House, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has accused her of being anti-Semitic because she pointed out that Israel gets its power with the U.S. government because of its donations to legislators. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is right in her claim, but she left out the money that anti-Semitic evangelicals donate to conservative legislators while lobbying them to support Israelis and destroy Palestinians. It all comes from the Christian belief that Christ must convert the Jews after he returns to Israel before the great millennium, the golden age, can begin. Thus their obsession with strengthening Israel for Jesus’s return. Eighty percent of evangelicals viewed Israel’s new state in 1948 as a vital piece of the Second Coming, and 52 percent say they support Israel because of its role in the End Times. VP Mike Pence is one of these people.

The Center for Religion and Civil Culture at the University of Southern California divides evangelical Christians into five different sects since DDT developed power:

Trump-vangelicals:  Primarily white with a few Latinx or black pastors; DDT’s base who want access to political power with the belief that God picked DDT to “make America great again.”

Neo-fundamentalists: DDT supporters who try to keep some Christian values and separate themselves from DDT’s “moral failings.”

iVangelicals: Conservative but pretend to be non-partisan; ministering in big churches to mostly white, financially well-off suburbanites.

Kingdom Christians: Separate from evangelicals but with similar beliefs; keep to smaller, urban churches, sometimes rented spaces.

Peace and justice evangelicals: The left-wing with origins in the 1973 “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” urging evangelicals away from prosperity gospel and toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows that religious fundamentalism comes from a functional impairment in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage results in diminished cognitive flexibility and openness—a loss of curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness. Religious beliefs, socially transmitted mental representations of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real, differ from empirical beliefs based on the appearance of the world and updated with new evidence and new theories. People with lesions in the prefrontal cortex rate radical political statements as more moderate than people without the damage possibly caused by brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetic profile. Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas.

Conservatism is connected with religious beliefs because they are not updated with new evidence or scientific explanations. Fixed, rigid beliefs promote predictability and rules of evidence in the person’s tribe. Religious fundamentalism discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues—anything that challenges their beliefs. People can become aggressive toward others who are perceived because they don’t share their anti-science and supernatural beliefs.

Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas. Dr. Marlene Winell, daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and a human development consultant, addresses the problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) in her counseling and in her book Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She explains that emotional and mental treatment by authoritarian religious groups causes RTS from teachings such as eternal damnation, religious punishment and guilt, and neglect when people are denied information and opportunities. Indoctrination leads to fear and anxiety, and some people suffer from nightmares and panic attacks throughout their lives. The syndrome can also cause depression, cognitive problems, and difficulty in social functioning because the core message of fundamentalist Christianity is that people are wrong and deserve to die.

To control people, fundamentalists tell them that they are weak and dependent, keeping them from making decisions because they must follow the Christian leaders. Leaving can be almost impossible because of religious shunning if people don’t conform.  Departure from a church requires a complete change of one’s self of reality and belief systems. Traumas other than RTS are built into society because of an understanding about the horrors of domestic abuse and war-related PTSD. A person needed counseling because of issues related to RTS are sent back to religion.

One of the goals for fundamentalist Christians is to block marriage equality, and seven Kansas GOP legislators are using the concept of religion to accomplish their mission. Their proposed bill would eliminate all rights for sexual minorities because being LGBTQ is “a religion that does not fulfill any compelling state interest.” They maintain that secular humanism was recognized as a religion in the 1961 unanimous Supreme Court decision when the decision merely determined that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government prohibits a religious test for public office. The legislators’ proof is that the LGBTQ community is organized and has “a daily code by which members may guide their daily lives” along with its religious symbols, i.e., a rainbow-colored flag, and the creed of “love is love”—a shibboleth to oppress those outside their denomination.

Perhaps we need a wall to protect people.

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