Nel's New Day

February 15, 2019

DDT’s ‘Art of the Deal,’ a National Emergency

Using executive action is “a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court” and an impeachable offence, according to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). He tweeted:

“Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.”

On C-Span, VP Mike Pence said that real leadership comes from hammering out a deal with Congress. He explained:

“When I talk about the consent of the governed, that is where the American people work their will. If the president were to go through with this [national emergency order], he is acting outside the consent of the governed and is not providing leadership to solve this issue facing our country in the way the American people would expect a leader to do.”

That was five years ago, and now the man sitting in the Oval Office has created a fictitious national emergency “for virtual invasion purposes” to get money for “wall” because he failed to negotiate with Congress. DDT may get $600 million from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund—money taken from people who may not have been charged with crimes—and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department anti-drug program. Another $3.6 billion could come from military construction funds.

Under the National Emergencies Act (1976), House disapproval of DDT’s executive order would require Senate consideration that could pass with a simple majority. Several GOP senators have voiced opposition to DDT’s emergency declaration, and two-thirds of the people oppose building a wall, including more than one-fourth of DDT’s party. Even the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized DDT for his “emergency” order. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the action could allow a future president with different views to declare a climate emergency or gun emergency. After telling people over 200 times that Mexico would pay for “wall,” DDT is demanding that U.S. taxpayers provide the funds.

During his odd speech this morning, DDT said he “didn’t need to” declare a national emergency but wanted to “do it much faster.” He may have followed Sean Hannity’s directive on Fox that he could accept DDT’s signing a bill without “wall” if he immediately signed the national emergency order for funding. Ann Coulter disagreed when she called DDT’s national emergency declaration a way to “scam the stupidest people in his base.” She said, “The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.” Right meets left?

A Pew Research poll found that 58 percent of the people oppose building the wall.

More of DDT’s odd statements this morning:

  • The courts, except for the Supreme Court, won’t accept his executive order—perhaps because he said he “didn’t need to” sign it.
  • The North Korea communist dictatorship has great potential to be an economic hub.
  • Women taken across the border were tied up with tape on their mouths—ala the movie Sicario. https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/how-long-will-gop-radicalize-conservatives/
  • He likes that China doesn’t have trouble with drug addiction because its government kills drug dealers—said in a fake Asian accent.
  • The wall hasn’t been built because of GOP legislators’ failure.
  • Right-wing talk show hosts support him, and Rush Limbaugh can talk for three hours.

In discussing her new book, Fascism: A Warning, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that using a national emergency to address border crossings is an example of fascist behavior and the act of “a bully with an army.” She noted a “long history” of undemocratic leaders seizing control and subverting lawmaking bodies through so-called emergencies and described DDT as showing “undemocratic” tendencies through “his approach to the free press, to democratic institutions, to the independent judiciary,… and his general disdain for the rule of law is genuinely alarming.” William Rempel describes the parallels between DDT and Philippines’ democratic president-turned-dictator Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s.

DDT signed the veto-proof bill approving the budget until September 30. The Senate accepted the budget with 83-16 vote; four Democratic candidates voted no. The House voted 300-128 in favor; 109 Republicans and 19 Democrats voted no, and 87 Republicans voted yes. Before the vote, a large complement of Capitol Police physically shoved reporters, even a pregnant woman, away from senators willing to talk with the media. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was forced to stop an interview because of the police behavior.

DDT hopes to use an executive order to make up for getting less money for a barrier than he was offered before the 35-day shutdown of the government. Even worse, the new law blocks use of its $1.375 billion for a “concrete wall” and “only authorizes funds for ‘existing technologies,’ like the current fencing along the southern border.” DDT opposed additional immigration judges, but now he’s trying to use the additional 50 judges as a win for himself. He also got an increase in customs agents and border patrol personnel, but ICE can’t fill existing vacancies. DDT, famous for stiffing people who work for him, succeeded in doing the same for shutdown victims. He refused to pay the 580,000 federal contractors who went without pay for 35 days although they were furloughed or forced to work. That form of slavery saved him almost $200 million.

Democrats achieved more alternatives to immigration detention, more help (legal, medical, etc.) for detained immigrant families, and censure for some of the CBP’s worst practices. Immigration detention facilities must have adequate temperatures instead of freezing rooms and eliminate “chain-link type enclosures” (aka cages). Local communities will also have veto power over construction. To prevent separation of some families, DHS cannot remove or detain anyone who is a “sponsor, potential sponsor, or member of a household of a sponsor or potential sponsor of an unaccompanied alien child.”

DDT has a big problem with building the wall along the southern border: his land grabs. Yesterday, Democrats introduced bills to protect property from DDT’s eminent domain actions. One would remove DHS security to unilaterally waive “all legal requirements” for building “wall,” including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. A second would require a $20 million fund to provide legal service for low-income landowners to protect their land. The third would guarantee full compensation for seized land.

David French, once a DDT supporter, wrote in the conservative National Review about why DDT lacks the power to circumvent Congress in his attempt to seize funding and land for his wall. The former JAG officer claims that this issue was already settled over 60 years ago during the Korean War when courts stopped President Truman from seizing steel mills to prevent a strike. The emergencies act doesn’t give DDT permission for his wall because he would have to prove he needed to use the military against an ally for a function of the civilian DHS.  The statute also specifics “use,” not funding, for essential projects to national defense. DDT also has no “credible evidence” of terrorists headed to the U.S. from Mexico.

Passing the budget—despite doing it almost five months late—may make some people breathe a sign of relief, but the deadline for raising the debt ceiling arrives in less than two weeks on March 1, 2019. Failure to do so forces Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to use “extraordinary measures” to not go over the ceiling. Usually the influx of income taxes paid by April 15 helps pay the government’s bills, but the GOP passed a massive tax cut last year for the wealthy and big businesses which means much less revenue this year. Theoretically, the day when the federal government hits a crisis in its inability to pay bills hits in mid-summer which means another possibility of a shutdown if either the far-right conservatives or DDT decides they don’t want to pay the bills that they have run up with their budgets.

Perhaps everyone will agree to take responsibility for the bills that Congress incurred, but if not, it’s crisis time again. Congress has a tendency to put off its obligatory decisions until after the deadline. DDT’s officials like Mnuchin and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney say that the deficit—which causes the national debt—doesn’t matter; congressional decisions about raising the debt ceiling will determine whether they agree with the GOP administration.

Foreign investors have grown so concerned about lending money to the U.S. that their share of the debt has gone from 49 percent to 39 percent of the entire debt. Thirty percent of the government debt is to itself, including to the Social Security Trust Fund and federal employee retirement funds. Ronald Reagan started “borrowing” from the Social Security surplus, and George W. Bush ran his loan of almost $1 trillion to the top of almost $3 trillion to pay for his tax cuts, war, and recession.

DDT announced that the United States has a national emergency at the border and then headed to sunny Florida for a stay at Mar-a-Lago and a few rounds of golf. And hundreds of thousands of government workers still aren’t getting paid while the deficit skyrockets.

February 13, 2019

Tax Cuts Go to Wealthiest, Others Angry

Almost 14 months ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised people would pay $4,000 less on their taxes this year and “have a nice, simple form.” Neither is true. An additional ten percent of tax filers will owe the IRS money since the “tax reform,” and average refunds were 8.4 percent smaller, down to $1,865 because of the same “tax reform.” And that’s from a week ago. In addition, filing taxes is as complicated as in the past. IRS refunds sent out are also down about 24 percent because of the shutdown.

People hoping to pay for their cars will be disappointed. Seven million people are at least 90 days behind on their car loans, a record and a red flag for the economy. Auto loans are the first payment that people make; delinquencies show serious economic problems for low-income and working-class people in the U.S. The nation suffers from more than a million more “troubled borrowers” now than in 2010 when unemployment hit ten percent and the car loan delinquency rate peaked. After George W. Bush’s recession, the government restricted mortgages so that people could make the monthly payments, but car financers could continue predatory practices because they have few restrictions . Subprime borrowers with low credit scores, increasing from 28 percent of the market in 2009 to 39 percent in 2015, may pay interest rates between 14.5 and 20 percent.

Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, wrote about people plan buying big purchases or paying off large debts with their refunds. Some are so desperate that they pay extra to get advance lending on their refunds. Last year, 102 million taxpayers received an average of $2,778 in tax refunds, and most people spent this money, helping the U.S. economy. Lower refunds mean less spending and a shrinking economy. If people use their refunds for necessities, problems are worse than a slowing economy.

Fox & Friends told their watchers to stop whining about owing money to the government because they should have taken out more withholding—for a tax cut. The government’s guidelines did provide for less withdrawals from wages to get people to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections, a ploy that failed for many House members. But the reference to everyone’s “fatter paychecks” by Fox & Friends’ hosts applies primarily to higher income earners: most people didn’t see a significant increase in their paychecks.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), lead author of the tax bill, told taxpayers to be grateful for much smaller or no refunds because they have nothing to do with their overall tax bill. He falsely claimed that 90 percent of the middle class got a $2,100 average tax cut. Another tax cut backer, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), tried to convince people that refunds are less because most people “owed less income tax.” The Tax Policy Center estimated that earners in the bottom 20 percent might each see a total of $60 less tax for the year, and the next 20 percent might expect a $380 total cut. The top 0.1 percent of people in the U.S. saved an average of more than $190,000—each.

Meanwhile, the government ran a $14 billion deficit in December—just one month—as we lost revenues because of the “tax reform” law. The U.S. has run into the red by $319 since the beginning of the fiscal year in October, up 41 percent from the $225 deficit of the same time period last fiscal year. Corporate taxes fell 17 percent, and those from individuals dropped by 4 percent. We’re not spending more: we just aren’t collecting money partly because of the tax cuts for the wealthy and big businesses, ending in a larger deficit for the previous fiscal year—almost $900 billion added to the debt. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that “nobody cares” about the debt.

DDT’s supporters are learning that the Democratic position on the failure of tax cuts was right and that Republicans lied. Most of the people aren’t getting any extra $4,000, businesses haven’t changed their capital investment and hiring, and tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses aren’t paying for themselves. In addition, the economic growth is slowing instead of building. The GOP promised that corporate tax breaks wouldn’t go into stock buybacks; they did, which is the only reason that the stock market has not gone much below its level a year ago.

Instead of putting their tax breaks into higher wages for employees, companies in the S&P 500 spent almost $800 billion of their tax windfall on buybacks for the 2018 fiscal year that started nearly three months before the tax “reform” bill passed into law. The Dow Jones spiked until it went back to the same level as the beginning of 2018. The 2019 buyback projection is about $900 billion, almost all one third of all corporate cash spending and up 25 percent from 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-authored an op-ed for the New York Times with former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that criticized the tax law and suggested the prohibition of a public company from buy back shares “unless it invests in workers and communities first, including things like paying all workers at least $15 an hour, providing seven days of paid sick leave, and offering decent pensions and more reliable health benefits.” They also suggested other ways to require companies to invest in workers, including a change in tax rates on dividends.

A divided Congress with a Republican president can’t pass these laws, but the ideas have generated discussion. Lloyd Blankfein, former head of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that money doesn’t vanish with stock buybacks, that money “gets reinvested in higher growth businesses that boost the economy and jobs.” Sanders retorted that Blankfein was right in his claim that money “doesn’t vanish” but it Mr. Sanders quickly responded on Twitter that Mr. Blankfein was correct that the money buybacks “doesn’t vanish” but it “increases the wealth of billionaires” like Blankfein.

Republican leaders who financially benefit from the buybacks lambasted the buyback proposals as “socialism.”  The GOP case against “socialism” ignores the difference between pure socialism and “Democratic socialism.” Republicans plan to use the term as a one-word meme slamming Democrats during the 2020 election campaign after they failed with “witch hunt.” Today, the White House blared the headline, “Not one more person should suffer under socialism.” Republicans’ definition for socialism may be anything that doesn’t benefit themselves. [In the chart to the left, you could add flood protection, sports coliseum, “freedom of religion,” a 40-hour work week, child labor laws, Social Security, Medicare–the list is quite long.]

Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon asserts that the tax cuts will never pay for themselves and no one ever believed that they would. The increase in the national debt is faster than pessimists predicted at the time the GOP pushed through the cuts, and the CBO estimates that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion beginning in 2022. It’s almost there now. DDT campaigned with the promise that he would immediately eliminate the deficit, but in two years, he’s increased the national debt from under $20 trillion to $22 trillion. Salmon added that the nation is “awash in debt” with trillions in student loans, credit card debts, and car loans. Asked about the debt, DDT said that he’ll “get rid of” the entire debt “fairly quickly,” “over a period of eight years,” “paying off that debt like water.”

DDT plans to unleash predatory payday lenders on the majority of people receive less in tax refunds by gutting rules from President Obama’s era that shield people from “easy” loans with interests over 400 percent. If people borrow the money for the two weeks between paychecks, they pay $75 for a $500 loan. Over 60 percent of 12 million borrowers took out seven or more consecutive, digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt, and a majority of borrowers paid more in interest than the money borrowed.

In charge of making these changes is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which Budget Director Mick Mulvaney destroyed before he moved on to help DDT spike the national debt and works at failing as acting chief of staff. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, described the result of the change in rules for payday loans:

“This decision will put already struggling families in a cycle of debt and leave them in an even worse financial position. This administration has moved the CFPB away from protecting consumers to protecting the very companies abusing them.”

Almost 80 percent of people in the U.S. live from one paycheck to the next, and wages remain stagnant when inflation is taken into consideration, even dropping in the second quarter of 2018. Almost all the gains in the country go to the top—chief executives of big companies, financiers, and creators in the digital world. If the average wages go up at all this year, it will be due to the 18 states that raised the minimum wage although the increases in almost half these states were $.20 or lower—about 2 percent.  The GOP system makes the vast majority of people in the United States more and more desperate.

February 12, 2019

GOP Builds on Former Hypocrisy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) listed “American Indian” on her 1986 application for the Texas bar because he family had told her of her Native American background. We’re shocked, despite her DNA shows some Native American ancestry generations in the past.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) family received $7.6 million in government contracts for its company, Vortex Construction, through a program with no-bid contracts for “disadvantaged minorities.” McCarthy’s brother-in-law William Wages told the Small Business Administration that he’s one-eighth Cherokee in the Northern Cherokee Nation with “no federal or state recognition as a legitimate tribe.” The media largely ignored this fraud.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may have posed for a photograph over 30 years ago either in blackface or in a KKK costume, and the country is questioning whether he should resign.

DDT called neo-Nazi’s at the Charlottesville (VA) racist marches “very fine people” even after they caused the death of Heather Heyer, severely beat a man, and terrorized thousands of others. After his racist comments, DDT was described as appointed by God. He also demanded the death penalty for the young black and Latino men, the Central Park Five, and refused to apologize after their convictions were vacated. DDT continually—and falsely—accused President Barack Obama of being born in Kenyan, called undocumented immigrants rapists and murderers, ridicules Native Americans, and made more racist remarks.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel. When she was accused of being anti-Semite for her factual statement, she immediately apologized:

“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar said. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

DDT—who made multiple racist comments—called for Omar’s resignation, and Republicans demanded that she be stripped of her committee appointments. While campaigning, DDT accused Jewish donors of wanting to control politicians and called them “negotiators.” The Anti-Defamation League, which censured Omar, defended DDT. The “very fine people” who DDT protected in Charlottesville (VA) were shouting “Jews will not replace us.” He uses the anti-Jewish slur “globalist” to describe his opposition and vilified Holocaust survivor George Soros, as did McCarthy who called for sanctions on Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), another Muslim who criticized Israel. No Republican criticized McCarthy when he accused Soros of  trying to “buy the election,” a statement that sent a bomb to Soros’ home.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who supported DDT’s anti-Muslim travel ban that blocked entry to the U.S. for everyone from Omar’s native country of Somalia, has harassed Omar since the 116th Congress was sworn in. His attacks on her led to his claim that he would declare her as a hateful anti-Semite if she didn’t vote for the bill penalizing anyone boycotting Israel and has worked for over a month to have her removed from the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations because of her religion. Not one Republican complained about Zeldin’s disgusting comments. (In researching this piece, I also discovered that using terms such as hypnotize, manipulate, and conspiracy are anti-Semitic. Who knew?!)

Steve King may be the most amazing case of GOP hypocrisy. Despite the GOP representative’s ongoing racism, Republicans did nothing about King’s bigotry until he declared that the term “white supremacy” might be acceptable.

2002: In the Iowa State Senate, King filed a bill requiring schools to teach that the U.S. “derived it strength from … Christianity,” and sponsored a law making English the official language of Iowa.

2005: In the House, he introduced the bill to make English the official language of the U.S.

2006: King advocated a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and falsely claimed that 25 people in the U.S. died daily because of undocumented immigrants, a statement that DDT has repeated. His prototype of the wall, which he showed on the House floor, called for electrified wire on the top. King said, “We do that with livestock all the time.”

2010: On the House floor, King said that law enforcement can spot undocumented immigrants by “what kind of clothes people wear … what kind of shoes people wear, what kind of accent they have … sometimes it’s just a sixth sense they can’t put their finger on.”

2011: King opposed the coverage of contraception in the Affordable Care Act because “birth control is “not constructive to our culture and our civilization.”

2012: He described multiculturalism as “a tool for the Left to subdivide a culture and civilization into our own little ethnic enclaves and pit us against each other.”

2013: In opposing legal status for Dreamers, brought into the country as children, he said:

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

2015: King invited the far-right, anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders to Washington and appeared with him at the Capitol, praising him for having “the guts to speak out.” Wilders has called Islam “not a religion,” said the Quran was “worse than Mein Kampf,” and called for the closing of mosques. The two men posed in front of a portrait of Winston Churchill.

2016: At the RNC, King avowed that nonwhite groups have not contributed as much to civilization as whites. Days later, he said:

“The idea of multiculturalism, that every culture is equal — that’s not objectively true … We’ve been fed that information for the past 25 years, and we’re not going to become a greater nation if we continue to do that.”

Meeting again with Wilders and Frauke Petry, the leader of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, in Amsterdam, King tweeted, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.” Endorsing Wilders in the Dutch elections, King tweeted, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In Austria, King also met with leaders of the far-right Freedom Party founded in the 1950s by former Nazis, including Heinz-Christian Strache and Norbert Hofer.

2017: On Iowa talk radio, King recommended The Camp of the Saints, a 1973 racist 1973 novel about an invasion of Europe by nonwhite immigrants. He also tweeted agreement with Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian leader: “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”

2018: Mr. King wanted to block Somali Muslims from working in Iowa meatpacking plants saying, “I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.” He also reinforced his belief in The Camp of the Saints:

“This narrative should be imprinted into everyone’s brain. When you are importing people, even importing one single person, you are importing their culture.”

He also supports the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory positing that an international elite, including prominent Jews such as George Soros, are plotting to make white populations minorities in Europe and North America. King endorsed Faith Goldy, a neo-Nazi supporter, for Toronto mayor.

2019: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in an interview with the New York Times. At that point, McCarthy, House Minority Leader, and GOP House members stripped King of his committee appointments, but that may not be permanent.

King was a national co-chairman of Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential effort and of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 2018 election. House leadership made him chair of the subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice, and DDT boasted from the Oval Office that he raised more money for King than for anyone else. Only when King questioned why “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became “offensive,” did Republicans think they should take a bit of action—and even then, there was no talk of censure. King described his being stripped of committee assignments as a political witch hunt, a popular claim by racists these days.

And Rep. Ilham Omar (D-MN) was damned because she told the truth about AIPAC donating money to U.S. lawmakers.

Congressional Republicans:

  • Hate “socialized medicine” but insist on keeping their own “socialized” federal insurance.
  • Praise “democracy” while keeping people from voting and removing elected leaders from other countries.
  • Call for “humanitarian crisis” aid while killing thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East.
  • Laud family values while pandering to a serial adulterer in the Oval Office who gained his position through lying, fraud, and bigotry.
  • Fight for barriers on the border while hiring undocumented immigrants to work for them at slave wages.
  • Demand law and order while supporting access to assault rifles for psychopaths and terrorists.
  • Ban guns except for their own personal protection.
  • Claim they want local over central government unless they don’t like local laws.
  • Oppose all abortions unless they are for their girlfriends and mistresses.
  • Object to crime unless it’s by a GOP candidate violently attacked a reporter, choked him, and then lied to the police about his crime.
  • Call for neither deficit nor national debt unless the money goes to the wealthy and big business.
  • Mandate an investigation into FBI supposed partisan views while putting unqualified partisan hacks into federal positions and on the nation’s courts.
  • Criticize any Democratic delay in confirming appointments after delaying a Democrat’s Supreme Court appointment for almost a year as a gift to a GOP president.

And that’s the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg.

February 11, 2019

How Long Will GOP Radicalize Conservatives

Republicans seem to have grown increasingly tired of pandering to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) after he broke the law in giving Congress a report on the torture and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. After DDT said that he could refuse the demand under the Magnitsky Act to report on the responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October, several GOP congressional members threatened to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led civil war in Yemen.

DDT’s cavalier attitude toward congressional and constitutional law may be part of the impetus for Republicans stating that they may have a compromise with Democrats to forestall this week’s impending government shutdown. The deal offers less money for DDT’s wall—only 55 miles in proscribed places—than what DDT turned down last year. The term is “border barrier” for “wall,” not DDT’s “beautiful” concrete wall.

Tonight, DDT went on the campaign trail to El Paso where he lied to his audience about how much safer they are with the wall and how he’s already building a wall in the middle of the Rio Grande River. Occasionally he wandered off to encourage chants about Hillary Clinton of “lock her up” and question whether he should have a dog in the White House. His accusations came after both the city of El Paso and El Paso County passed resolutions criticizing DDT for his claims about crime in the city. In 2005, before the government decided to build a wall in El Paso, the murder rate in the city across from drug violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was one-half the national rate. Violence increased after the decision to create a wall between the two communities and continued to be worse for two years after a wall was installed. The city resolution stated that “Donald Trump has continuously made inaccurate claims about the United States’ southern border, including El Paso” and noted that data from Customs and Border Protection showed that “no crisis exists” on the border. DDT said that El Paso’s GOP  mayor, Dee Margo, is “full of crap.”

A counter-event led by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) was attended by about 7,000 people, more than attendance at DDT’s rally.

DDT persistently inflates his immigration figures. A bizarre tweet from late January:

“We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168. Cost Friday was $603,331,392. There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous! DHS”

After paying interest on the growing debt, mandatory expenditures on Social Security and health care, and the $700 billion for the military, the U.S. has less than $600 billion left–less than the money that DDT claimed was spent on “illegal immigration” in one day. Instead of using figures from the government, he got the tweet from watching television during his “Executive Time”—this time the far-right One America News Network. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said he doesn’t know where DDT gets his numbers.

Jonathan Blitzer cited the history of immigration for the past 40 years. In 1980, the U.S. accepted more than 200,000 refugees displaced by war and other violence. The number has greatly lessened since then, with President Obama’s 110,000 in 2017 because of Syrians fleeing civil war.

Despite objections from his advisers, DDT has dropped the cap on immigration to 45,000—objections from everyone except Stephen Miller, DDT’s neo-Nazi immigration adviser, who wanted the number to be far lower. Miller is suppressing studies showing that revenue from refugees through local, state, and federal taxes exceeded resettlement costs by $63 billion. According to witnesses, he told the Department of Health and Human Services:

“The President believes refugees cost more, and the results of this study shouldn’t embarrass the President.”

A State Department official said about Miller, “He shut down the U.S. government’s democratic approach to decision-making.” Miller cherry-picked statistics in studies, changed them and then wrote his own paper, often using falsehoods from the anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies. He successfully quashed Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner because he was the only one with government experience and found it easy to create his process because no established set of procedures existed. The conservative Cato Institute called DDT’s immigration reforms “the most severe restriction on legal immigrants since the 1920s.”

While DDT talks about keeping undocumented immigrants, who he calls rapists and criminals, from endangering everyone’s life, he hired them for his businesses, including resorts, because he can pay them less and have more control over them. Many of his employees were illegally brought from one Costa Rica town where a person said, “Many of us helped him get what he has today.” DDT has a long history of employing undocumented immigrants: in 1998, he paid more than $1.3 million for his illegal hiring of undocumented workers to build Trump Tower in 1980.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) echoed DDT’s call to be afraid of immigrants from Democrats who, DDT claims, “want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!” The senators ignored the rationale that ICE should concentrate on violent undocumented immigrants and keep the level of detentions in recent years.

In the time-honored tradition of bullies, DDT and Republicans want to terrorize anyone who disagree with them. According to a 2006 study, conservatives thinking about personal mortality increased their call for military intervention to kill thousands of civilians overseas. A 2017 study determined that encouraging death-related thoughts directly increased support for DDT. The same study found that these participants viewed immigrants moving into their neighborhood as a threat to their existence because the participants have been inculcated with fear.

Fear and aggression are circular: each creates the other with a feedback leading to mass hysteria and collective anger. From that manipulation of fear and aggression come bigotry and racism inflamed by the white supremacy movement. In that way, DDT radicalizes his loyalists into a fearful cult-like following, brainwashing victims much like the radicalized ISIS members by a fundamentalist ideology. DDT is continually radicalizing conservative people in the U.S. by describing immigrants as predatory creatures who threaten safety. Four academic studies disagree with his lies that undocumented immigration increases violent crime.

  • Michael Light, University of Wisconsin, Madison in Criminology: “Increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period.”
  • From the same researchers: The dramatic influx of undocumented immigrants did not increase rates of drug and alcohol arrests or the number of drug overdoses and DUI deaths.
  • The libertarian Cato Institute: In 2015, criminal conviction and arrest rates in Texas for undocumented immigrants were lower than those of native-born Americans for murder, sexual assault, and larceny.
  • U.K. journal Migration Letters: Youthful undocumented immigrants engage in less crime than do legal immigrants or U.S.-born peers.

The Texas side of the southern border has less crime than the state’s larger cities and is much safer than Washington, D.C. and Chicago. El Paso is the safest city in the United States for its size.

DDT stopped trying to radicalize his base with his graphic descriptions of women being silenced with duct tape—a fantasy taken directly from the movie called Sicario: Day of the Soldado, but not until a Border Patrol official, following orders from  Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, emailed agents urgently seeking “any information that you may have (in any format) regarding claims ‘that traffickers tie up and silence women with tape before illegally driving them through the desert from Mexico to the United States in the backs of cars and windowless vans.’” DDT has a pattern of looking for evidence to back up his fabrications.

Evidence of women and duct tape on the border exists, but DDT would probably not want to use it. Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares took three women seeking asylum to a wooded area outside McAllen (TX). Manzanares tied the 14-year-old girl to a tree and covered her mouth with silver duct tape before he sexually assaulted another girl. Then he twisted her neck and the neck of the girl’s mother before he slashed their wrists. Manzanares, father of two, was also a pedophile.

At least ten people in South Texas have been victims of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and/or rape by Border Patrol agents since DDT was inaugurated. One stabbed and killed his girlfriend and their one-year-old son. Another Border Patrol agent fatally shot four women working as prostitutes and tried to kidnap a fifth to kill her. While DDT wants to hire thousands more Border Patrol agents, records show hundreds of agents and CBP officers arrested or charged with corruption-related crimes—embezzlement, human smuggling, theft, bribery, breaking and entering, money laundering, providing false statements, and using firearms during drug-related crimes. Border Patrol agents Raul and Fidel Villarreal made $1 million for smuggling about 1,000 undocumented immigrants into the United States.

In radicalizing his base, DDT touts every violent crime of an undocumented immigrant as proof that Mexico needs to be walled off, but he never mentions the crimes of his own employees who cause a humanitarian crisis on the border.

February 10, 2019

Constitutional Religious Freedom Restricted to Fundamentalist Christians

The U.S. Supreme Court just proved that “religious freedom” is only for Christians. In a 5-4 ruling (you can guess the names), Domineque Ray must die without his spiritual adviser available to give him comfort because he is a Muslim. Until this ruling, a cornerstone for the high court’s religion jurisprudence prevents the government from discriminating among faiths. Larson v. Valente (1981) determined that a Minnesota statute treating religious organizations differently violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The conservative members of the Supreme Court justified their vote by stating that Ray waited until ten days before his execution to ask for the presence of his iman. The prison warden did not deny Ray’s request to have his imam present until five days before the suit, a time when Ray went through the prison’s administrative channels for his request.

Even some conservatives disagree with this religious bigotry and agreed with Justice Elena Kagan who wrote:

“That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”

From Seth Mandel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine:

“As a conservative who opposes both the death penalty and religious discrimination I find this story appalling.”

Southern Baptist minister Alan Cross tweeted:

“Every time we want the state to favor Christianity over other religions, the result is a loss of religious freedom for all.”

In another Christian-focused government action, at least six states are using the current administrative protectorate in an attempt to legislate Bible (aka Christian) classes in public schools. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cheered on their efforts after seeing a segment on Fox & Friends. This practice was common in the 19th century but waned when the federal government took a greater part in public education in the 20th century. In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Supreme Court sided with the First Amendment to declare that states cannot use public education to promote “religious faiths or sects.” Later, the ruling of Engel v. Vitale (1962) decreed that compulsory prayer in public schools violated the constitution. Now DDT is using the Bible, about which he is largely ignorant, to club non-conservatives over the head.

Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, may have gone deaf: he said that he has never heard a lie out of DDT. DDT told at least 8,158 false or misleading claims in the two years after his inauguration. Perhaps Graham has a different sense of “objective truth,” that is “Jesus is the savior of the world and died for our sins.”

DDT does have a “spiritual adviser.” Paula White came to his reality TV show The Apprentice to pray over him, and they maintained a friendship as she became a popular televangelist. At the beginning of 2019, she asked people to send her money or face divine consequences. Her rationale for donating to her ministry was that of “first fruit,” that all firsts belong to God including the first month of a person’s salary. She said that if people didn’t donate, “I don’t know what you’re going to face.” In 2007, she was one of the subjects of Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) investigation into finances of ministries that solicit millions of dollars in donations.

In its move toward allowing laws that mandate Christian beliefs, the Supreme Court slashed reproductive rights for women in Hobby Lobby. Current Courts are now using “Justice” Clarence Thomas’ opinion in NIFLA v. Becerra, removing disclosure requirements for “crisis pregnancy centers” that block abortion, to attack laws preventing the torture and abuse of minors through “conversation therapy” that people falsely claim will make them cisgender instead of Q (sexual minority). With Thomas statement that “[free speech] is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals,” he has enshrined the position that the First Amendment protects all lies by “professionals.” In that way, the Supremes leads lower courts in their effort to strike down anti-conversion therapy laws in 15 states, 50 cities and counties, and Washington, D.C., laws supported by every mainstream medical association in the United States.

Conversion therapy is more horrific than most people can imagine. “Christian” therapists force naked children to touch their genitals while others watch, have “group cuddling sessions,” use a tennis racquet to beat effigies of their parents, and grab two oranges from the other side of a human chain while others hurl gay slurs at them. Some of the therapists are closeted gay men who force their male clients to kiss them. Conversion therapy can lead to suicide. At the very best, conversion therapy causes depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal,  substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. Therapy cannot change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almost five years ago,Thomas openly supported the ability of states to avoid the First Amendment freedom of religion and create a “state-mandated religion” in the 2014 Greece v. Galloway ruling permitting prayers at a city public meetings.

DDT’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now echoing evangelical leaders who say that God picked DDT to sit in the Oval office. Satirist Andy Borowitz picked up on Sanders’ statements in “Did God Want Trump?” [Ivy Close Images/Alamy]

“Partially confirming Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s theory of divine intervention in the 2016 election, Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and strife, revealed on Friday that she had wanted Donald J. Trump to be President.

“Speaking from her temple on Mt. Olympus, the usually reclusive deity said that Trump was ‘far and away’ her first choice to be President in 2016.

“’I’d been following his career for years,’ the goddess of disorder and ruin said. ‘The bankruptcies, the business failures. There was a lot for me to love.’

“She complained that the media had given Vladimir Putin ‘way too much credit’ for Trump’s ascent, asserting, ‘Who do you think made Putin President of Russia?’

“Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Eris said that she was officially undecided about which candidate to back for President, but that she was leaning toward Howard Schultz. ‘What a shit show that would be,’shesaid.

Has anyone else noticed the difficulty of identifying between satire and fact in the current climate?

The evangelicals may have an opponent in their support of conservatism and DDT. Like progressive Christians in the 19th century who fought to end slavery, some 21st-century Christian leaders are supporting immigration rights, universal health care, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. The coalition Faith in Public life, with almost 50,000 members, is a part of these civil rights movements.

Tara Agnew Harris, member of Myers Park Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC), believes that “Jesus talked about reaching out to the poor, reaching out to the marginalized, reaching out to the oppressed.” She said that “traditional Christian beliefs have been hijacked,” that people connect it to “a certain fundamentalist mindset.” She acts on her faith by visiting a detention center for undocumented immigrants in Lumpkin (GA).

Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life leader and an ordained Presbyterian minister, said:

“There are over a hundred verses of Scripture that say we are to welcome immigrants and welcome strangers. Faith in Public Life] is driven by our moral values and not by politics.”

Despite a smaller base among liberal Christians, Butler cites an advantage in building bridges. Religion can also bring passion to a movement as in the case of William Barber, the black North Carolina preacher who started the “Moral Majority” movement. He calls himself “an evangelical Biblicist” for a nation in need of “moral defibrillators” to work on its weak heart:

“We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all!”

Since Russians have joined the evangelicals to take over the United States, democracy needs a way to fight against the fundamentalist conservatives. At the end of 2018, hackers discovered emails and documents from Russian officials, oligarchs’ confidants, and leaders in interference effort that revealed their connections with the Bradley Foundation, a primary financier of right-wing groups including anti-immigrant organizations. Its mission is “to restore, strengthen, and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism.” In other words, to make America great again by taking away the rights of most people. Another Russian connection is with the Home School Legal Defense Association, the most influential right-wing homeschooling group in the United States. Another Russian goal with these groups is to support pro-Russian “separatists” in Ukraine so that Vladimir Putin can take over the country and move on to more of Europe. Part of their belief is also anti-Semitism and pro-fascism. Basically, the U.S. evangelicals are supporting the same philosophy that caused the rise of Adolf Hitler and led to World War II.

February 9, 2019

Brexit, ‘Executive Time,’ More

The media has not released any jaw-dropping news about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) today, so it’s time for catch-up with outrageous happenings during the past few weeks.

With the ongoing disasters in the United States, including a 35-day government shutdown, many people ignore events “across the pond.” In 47 days, the United Kingdom is scheduled to separate from the European Union, and, like in many U.S. debacles, the UK has no plan for the separation. In a world-wide promotion of chaos, Russia “encouraged” people to vote in favor of Brexit, a British exit from the EU, a few months before the U.S. chaos resulting from DDT’s election. The deadline for departure, with or without a plan, was scheduled for March 29, 2019—which seemed a long time away in summer of 2016. As the deadline arrives in less than seven weeks, UK has no agreed-upon plan.

The UK has been bleeding industries and jobs since the vote, and the momentum is building. Companies are making up backup plans as well as stockpiling products and looking for new shipping routes, and international banks have shifted thousands of jobs from Britain to the EU. Of 1,200 surveyed business leaders, 16 percent already have relocation plans, and another 13 percent are considering moves. That’s in addition to the ones which have already gone. The Netherlands reported that its government is talking to over 250 companies about moving their operations from the UK before Brexit. Forty-two companies or branch offices moved 1,923 jobs from the UK last year. Britain’s economy is 2.3 percent smaller than if voters had agreed to stay in the EU, and investment in the automobile sector plunged by almost 50 percent in 2018.

The World Travel and Tourism Council warned Britain that leaving the European Union without an agreement could cost 308,000 UK-based jobs and another 399,000 jobs in the EU from loss of tourism. An analysis from the International Monetary Fund also projects a 7.7 percent decline in economic activity with a total cost to Europe of over £40 billion.

Recently, the HM Revenue and Customs told 145,000 businesses that without a deal between UK and EU, it won’t check goods from the European Union. The average trailer has 400 consignments, each requiring ten minutes for the 40-answer declaration, requiring nine people eight hours to process just one trailer. Ferry operators and Eurotunnel were ordered be accept the word of “reasonable belief” customers. To avoid traffic jams at 20 of the busiest ports, haulers can declare the loads later, and companies can postpone paying import duties for up to a year.

Some people envision security problems from this decision. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid refused to disagree with claims that a no-deal Brexit would make the country less safe. The head of criminals records office, Rob Price said that dangerous criminals might be free in Britain if law enforcement cannot access European conviction records.

An indication of how frightening the Brexit may be for the UK comes from the report about plans for the emergency evacuation of Queen Elizabeth if rioting ensues. People in UK are already stockpiling groceries, medicines, and other supplies, and a possible lack of cash and imports could result in civil unrest. Compounding the problem is that Brexit disagreement is based on “identity politics” from white nationalism instead of economics.

Back in the U.S., DDT is in a rage about a recent White House leak. He raved about how much he liked “doing it” when asked if he would run for a second term, but  a White House leak shows that about 60 percent of DDT’s schedule since the midterm elections was “Executive Time,” even the month when he claimed he was working hard to reopen the government and facing crises in his cabinet and Syria. DDT’s first five hours in the day are “Executive Time” (aka down time) almost always in his residence “watching TV, reading newspapers and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.” Salon’s Heather Digby Parton wrote, “Fox has become Trump’s de facto kitchen cabinet and unofficial communications office, creating a tight feedback loop between the far right and the White House.” Compared to this executive time, 77 hours of DDT’s time has been in meetings for policy planning, legislative strategy, and video showings.

Madeleine Westerhout, DDT’s personal secretary, tweeted about “the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday [sic].” If she is right, why were all these omitted from an official schedule?

The DDT’s defense from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“[DDT] has a different leadership style than his predecessors, and the results speak for themselves.”

According to Sanders, DDT’s over 300 hours of unstructured time is “to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history.” Newt Gingrich went farther to defend DDT by comparing him to Winston Churchill.

Beyond the fact that DDT doesn’t work much—not a new revelation—is that a White House staffer is willing to release this information. DDT is frantically searching for the leaker. DDT’s schedules since the 2018 midterm elections have been published here.

DDT’s aides are also unhappy with their boss. A revolt against DDT’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Pascale, is imminent, especially after he misrepresented the DDT’s polling regarding the shutdown, representing them as a political winner for DDT. Corey Lewandowski, DDT’s first campaign manager in 2016, blames Pascale for the Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms.

Having destroyed two federal agencies and failing at his job as “acting” White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, unhappy with his current gig, wants to move on to ruin something else—either the Commerce Department, which already has a Secretary, or president of the University of South Carolina. Still the Office of Management and Budget director, Mulvaney briefly headed up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which may need to change its name to Corrupt Business Protection Bureau after a few months with Mulvaney. In a complete 180-turn from two years ago, Mulvaney said “nobody cares” about the deficit. Congress will be required to address raising the debt limit in March after over a $1 trillion deficit last year—at the latest in Summer 2019. Perhaps Mulvaney wants to be gone by then.

Deutsche Bank refused to loan money to DDT in 2016 when he was funding his presidential campaign and expanding his business at the same time, specifically asking for a loan against a Miami property to pay for work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. DDT still owes at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, and bank officials are concerned about DDT defaulting on the loan if he is elected as president. The choice would be losing the money or seizing assets of the President of the United States.

The EU is investigating Deutsch Bank for possible money laundering by Danske Bank’s moving cash abroad. Democrats in the U.S. are carefully watching this investigation as they follow the “Trump money trail.” Deutsche Bank has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for allowing Russian money laundering of massive sums. The bank also sold financial products to the Mercer family who bankrolled DDT’s campaign. The Mercers are now negotiating with the IRS because they used Deutsche Bank to dodge more than $6 billion in taxes to the United States.

Maryland prosecutors have subpoenaed financial documents about DDT’s golf courses in Scotland in their investigation a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution as DDT profits from his businesses. An investigation into expenditures by DDT’s inaugural committee may do the same with the revelation that it paid $700,000 to DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel for events over four days when other venues donated their premises for the inauguration.

A Russian-born lobbyist at the investigated Trump Tower meeting with Don Trump Jr. and others in June 2016 received half a million dollars in payments before and after the meeting. The large cash deposits to Rinat Akhmetshin were deemed suspicious transactions by bank investigators.

In a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Commander Jonathan White, in charge of overseeing migrant children shelters, said he was unaware of the “zero tolerance” policy causing separation of children and parents until he saw the news on television after being told that the policy didn’t exist. Government officials say that children are still being separated, with situations such as lying to an eight-year-old boy who was told he would see his father at a shelter over 2,000 miles away. ICE gave the wrong baby to a mother who had lost all four of her children.

DDT may think that the border needs another 3,700 soldiers to confine a caravan of about 2,000 at the southern border, but New Mexico’s governor Michelle Lujan ordered the withdrawal of most of the National Guard troops deployed on the border. She declared the “crisis” to be bogus because the state’s border towns are some of the safest in the country. Texas has also sent 500 state troopers to the border. New law enforcement outnumbers the immigrants 2 to 1.

February 8, 2019

DDT: Week 107 – Temper Tantrums, Threats

A wild week—Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered his usual lies in the State of the Union speech and the House committees began its investigative hearings. Tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) have the stench of fear, with a recent example of a tirade about how investigations of his scandals not being “allowed” finished by how “Dems and their committees are … even stealing people who work at White House.” An unnamed staffer guided a CNN reporter to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the Intelligence Committee, for an explanation. Schiff has hired former National Security Council members, who DDT had dumped, to work in the investigation into DDT’s finances and foreign connections. In an inverse act, Kashyap Patel, former staffer for former House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), to join the National Security Council.

Acting AG Matt Whitaker joined Republicans in responding with the same fear as DDT. Whitaker rudely responded to Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee hearing today, even telling the chair that his time for questioning was up. Whitaker said, “I’m here voluntarily,” but he might not be so fortunate at his next hearing. He refused to answer questions while disrespecting House Democrats. GOP committee members repeated conspiracy theories including the lie about the FBI tipping off CNN for the Roger Stone arrest. After he pounded the table and yelled at chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) tried to shut down Eric Swalwell (D-CA) when he questioned Whitaker about taking donations from foreign groups. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Whitaker for the redactions in a memo from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to Robert Mueller about the investigation. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked Whitaker to get DOJ employees to be loyal to DDT, despite the oath that they take to be loyal to the U.S. Constitution. Vox has a good rundown of the event.

Because the Senate still has a GOP majority, Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of its Intelligence Committee, is dragging his heels in any investigation of Russia collusion, but DDT still had to lie when he said that the committee had finished its investigation and had found “NO COLLUSION.”

The shutdown came about—and may return—because Congress has not provided a budget that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) will sign. At the same time, however, DDT has failed to comply with the law. It is his legal obligation to send a budget to Congress by the first Monday in February—February 4, 2019–which he has not done.

Yesterday was National Black HIV Awareness Day, and Tuesday DDT announced that he will end the HIV epidemic by 2030. Here’s the male white crowd who plan to carry out the plan.

The Supreme Court released both conservative and not-quite-so-conservative opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing in striking down Louisiana’s restrictive anti-abortion law—at least for now—but moved to the conservative side in refusing a Muslim any religious support during his execution in Alabama. The Supreme Court had already found the Louisiana law unconstitutional when the same one was passed in Texas, but DDT has added two conservative justices since 2016 when Roberts had dissented from overturning the Texas law. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), up for reelection next year, is taking criticism when she supported Brett Kavanaugh for the high court because she believed his promise that he would not overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade, legalizing some abortions.

AMI, owner of the National Enquirer which helped elect DDT with its suppression of news, may have lost its immunity from Robert Mueller. If the publishing company cooperates and avoids committing crimes, it won’t face prosecution for paying off a woman who had an affair with DDT. Upset about news published in the WaPo, AMI tried to extort Jeff Bezos, the newspaper owner, by threatening to publish more embarrassing material about his sexual affair.

Instead of being coerced, Bezos published the extortion message and his response in which he defined the extortion terms:

“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.’”

Bezos’ documents can be read in entirety here. The National Enquirer’s final paragraph in the blackmail note reads:

“If [Jeff Bezos] agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior [meaning reporting in the Washington Post], we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.”

Bezos indicated that the reason for National Enquirer’s may be WaPo’s coverage of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” wrote the world’s richest person.

DDT has refused to submit a requested report from Congress regarding White House findings on whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is personally responsible for the torture and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence determined that the premeditated murder was almost certainly from orders by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but DDT said he would retain relationships with Saudi Arabia even if the rulers were responsible for the killing. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, has claimed that the killing was a “rogue operation.” A bipartisan Senate group is considering asking the White House to lay sanctions against anyone considered “responsible.” A bill might include a refusal to sell Saudi Arabia certain military arms.

ICE may have hit a new low. Ordered last summer by the Supreme Court to give specific hearing dates, ICE agents issued “dummy” dates with threats that people would be deported if they didn’t attend. Immigrants crossed the country to comply with the orders only to find that the fake scheduled hearings didn’t exist. Chaos ensured as the photo to the left shows. Court administrators tried to help the immigrants by double-checking addresses and promising that they would soon receive hearing notices.

Because DDT has pulled out of a nuclear treaty with Russia, Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military to develop new ground-launched hypersonic missiles with an intermediate range and to convert previously sea-based cruise missiles for ground launch.

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. general in charge of military operations in the Middle East, testified that he was not consulted before DDT’s announcement of all 2,000 troop withdrawal from Syria. He also testified that taking pressure off ISIS will permit it to regroup and have “renewed vigor.”

The GOP and DDT’s tax cuts for the wealthy and big business may raise the deficit trillions of dollars, but many DDT’s supporters are discovering that it doesn’t help them. Here’s one of the angry responses:

“The @GOP tax bill cost my family THOUSANDS of dollars this year on our return due to changes, thereby hitting us with the LARGEST tax increase of our lives. We are middle-class homeowners, and you raised our taxes. Infuriating!”

IRS accounting deception to keep people unaware of how little tax cuts would help them—at least until after the midterm elections—may have added to their frustration. Instead of telling people that the tax “reform” wouldn’t give much relief to most people, the IRS changed withholding guidelines that would give more money back to workers in each paycheck by reducing the amount of taxes withheld throughout 2018. In the past, people tended to get refunds, but the new system means much smaller refunds or even the requirement to send more money to the IRS. Discovering that corporations are getting even more of a break than they were promised will undoubtedly result in more rage, especially if they find out that companies get a much larger tax break fi they move their profits overseas—about half as much tax responsibility.

Maybe some people have already learned their lesson: over three-fourths of registered voters want the wealthiest people in the U.S. to pay higher taxes. Even a Fox poll shows that 70 percent of people want increased taxes for those earning more than $10 million.

Other polls are also not favorable for DDT. He went into the Oval Office with a growing economy, but two years later, 56 percent of people in the U.S. believe that the economy is slowing down or worse. Seventeen percent think that the economy is in a recession or depression. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe interest rates will go up in the next six months, including 20 percent who believe they will go up “a lot.” Likewise, a majority (61 percent) see inflation rising in the near future, including 17 percent who say it will increase a lot.

The U.S. House: Fighting a Cornered Animal

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 12:42 AM
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VP Mike Pence threatened a shutdown the day after Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered the State of the Union speech and tweeted, “The simple truth is Congress needs to do their job.” That’s exactly what the oversight Congress is doing—much to the dismay of DDT and his minions. Pence and DDT oppose the wishes of the U.S. people: 60 percent of U.S. people oppose the wall; a majority blames DDT for the shutdown that he said he would be “proud” to do; and DDT’s disapproval ratings spiked after he shut down the government. But this is only a start if DDT decides to shut down the government again in eight days.

Yesterday, I talked with someone who questioned whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) should have permitted the State of the Union address in the House chambers when another shutdown is imminent. I said that she had a strategy because DDT resembles a cornered animal, much like the brutal, vicious badger that snarls and goes for the scrotum to defeat its enemies. Known as masters of mayhem, badgers don’t register fear or pain while destroying everything in its path.

I’m guessing that Pelosi’s strategy includes the elimination of complaints from DDT’s base about refusing him his demand for the speech and scheduling the speech immediately before the House rolls into its job of oversight that causes news about the speech to disappear. The headline for the conservative Register-Guard from Eugene (OR) the day after the speech was “A Reach for Unity.” One day later, the same newspaper led with “House Launches New Probes,” news that will likely dominate the news for weeks and months—except for DDT’s possible shutdown. Like his longtime U.S. and Russian mobster associates, DDT threatened “war” if Democrats proceed with the investigation. He may have more than he bargained for as House committees delve into corruption and fraud.

For the past two years, U.S. House committee leaders repeated, “Yes, Mr. President, you’re right about everything.” Last year, House Republicans announced that DDT and his campaign showed no collusion with Russia. The message from the previous six years was “We hate you and will do anything to stop you” to President Obama.

Yesterday, however, the news from the House was totally reversed.

On the first day of the reorganized House Intelligence Committee, Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced a five-part reopening of the investigation that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) had closed down to protect DDT. Rachel Maddow cited these five parts:

  • The “scope and scale” of Russia’s electoral interference to influence U.S. politics and the government’s response;
  • Potential collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign, transition and administration and foreign governments;
  • Possibility that DDT and/or his family have been compromised by “foreign actors” or any or their leverage over their finances;
  • Vulnerability of DDT and/or his associates to “foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion”;
  • The possibility of any foreign or domestic actors “seeking to impede, obstruct, and/or mislead authorized investigations into these matters, including those in the Congress.”

The video of Maddow’s commentary.

The first act of the Intelligence was a vote to send over 50 transcripts from its Russia investigation interviews to Robert Mueller. These include meetings with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and senior campaign aides Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, and Hope Hicks. Republicans failed in their push to continue Nunes’ investigations into Hillary Clinton’s campaign and alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The GOP also failed in their attempts to send subpoenas to 12 officials including former FBI Director James Comey. The Democrats said that the committee wouldn’t issue subpoenas unless the witnesses refused to voluntarily witness.

Schiff also plans to draft legislation to “ensure the U.S. government is better positioned to counter future efforts to undermine our political process and national security.” The committee may also investigate the actions of Nunes because he had tried to cover up for DDT when Nunes was chair. Another point of investigation is Nunes’ meeting with dozens of foreign officials between DDT’s election and inauguration. He said that the committee will investigate efforts to impede or obstruct the investigation, including conduct by “those in the Congress.”

The House Judiciary Committee also held hearings on gun control, the first one on gun violence in eight years. White supremacist and conspiracy theorist Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said that DDT’s wall would stop violence, and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) asked, “Are members in Congress entitled to just make things up?” In an angry exchange, Gaetz responded that House members are “not entitled to their own facts.” Gaetz also demanded that survivors of the Parkland (FL) shooting be removed from the hearing because they interrupted his rant on illegal documentation. A video of the exchange.

The House Ways and Means Oversight Committee held a hearing about legislative proposals that would provide for the release of DDT’s tax returns. The discussion was about a part of the ethics bill H.R. 1, requiring presidents, vice presidents, and major-party nominees for these positions to release ten years of tax returns. These could reveal conflicts of interest and benefits from laws that they sign. A caucus is also requesting the expansion of the bill to disclosure of presidents’ business tax returns. If Congress fails to pass such a law, they could try to get copies of DDT’s tax returns through the federal tax code allowing chairs of congressional tax-writing committees to directly ask for them from the Treasury Department and examine them in a closed session. The committee could then vote to send a report to the House which could make some or all of the returns public.

Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) also spoke about how “most Republicans” have tried to keep people from voting by “cutting back on early voting, eliminating polling places, and taking other steps to reduce the number of people who vote.” He added, “Especially troubling, in some cases, they have engaged in illegal efforts to suppress the vote that target minority communities.” He asserted, “This is not Russia. This is the United States of America!” An example of possible election fraud was this past year in Georgia where Brian Kemp, who ran the election and purged 340,134 voters from the roles, achieved about 55,000 more votes than Stacey Abrams. Kemp told all counties that they were not to count provisional ballots from purged voters even “if they have been purged wrongly.”

Cummings also said that another provision of H.R. 1 prevents senior officials “from accepting ‘golden parachute’ payments from private sector employers in exchange for their government service.” For example, former Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn received over $100 million “in accelerated payments from Goldman Sachs while leading the Trump Administration’s efforts to slash corporate taxes.” Another section would “require transition teams to have ethics plans in place and make those plans publicly available,” while a third would “prohibit senior federal employees from working on matters that affect the financial interests of their former employers or prospective employers. They could obtain waivers for this requirement, but those waivers would have to be made public.” The bill would also require presidents to divest their business holdings.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), chair of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, announced hearings about FCC’s lack of competence, its rejection of net neutrality, and Chair Ajit Pai’s refusal to respond to congressional concerns.

In its first meeting, the new subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce began an examination of the environmental and economic consequences of climate change—the first time in ten years. High-profile experts talked about the cost of Polar Vortex, people hurt by hurricanes, the need for renewable energy, and “politically-realistic” and “technology-inclusive” solutions to the challenge of climate change. Seven of ten Republicans on the committee have received $4,167,162 from fossil fuel contributors. One of the GOP members complained that the committee was not focusing on Black History Month.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is also looking into the shutdown impact (aka damage) on federal workers, national parks, and public health.

The House Armed Services committee is investigating how the decisions for troop deployments was made soon before the 2018 election midterms.

House Democrats also plan to investigate Sergei Millian, the Belarus-born businessman reported to be the source for the “pee” tapes in Christopher Steele’s DDT/Russia dossier.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), youngest member of the House, pointed out the ability of congressional members to be corrupt. They can:

  • Run a campaign that is entirely funded by corporate PACs.
  • Participate in any legislation.
  • Hold stocks and then write laws to deregulate that industry.

Ethics expert Walter Schaub said, “There’s almost no laws at all that apply to the president.”

And this committee action is only the tip of the iceberg in hearings and legislation to stop That’s why we need legislation to stop the corruption—to really drain the swamp.

February 6, 2019

State of the Union 2019

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) managed to last 82 minutes in his State of the Disunion (SOD) address last night as he moved from Tweeter Trump to Teleprompter Trump, but he couldn’t outlast Bill Clinton’s 88-minute speech at 88 minutes. DDT failed to keep on his message of “unity while he maintained the record for the most lies—or “misrepresentations”:

Economy:

DDT announced that he had an “unprecedented economic boom,” but his economic record is behind those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. And the economy is slowing down.

The “lowest rate” of “unemployment” for “half a century” that DDT quoted is actually at an 18-year-old low and is going up to where it’s matches the rate at the beginning of 2018. January’s unemployment rate rose to 6.8 percent from its low of 5.9 percent in May 2018. Latinx and Asian-American unemployment rates are also increasing.

“Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades,” according to DDT who ignored any adjustment for inflation. The actual increase in wages, 1.3 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, is the largest since August 2016.

DDT’s figures for new jobs and new manufacturing jobs were inflated: the last year saw almost 4.9 million jobs, not 5.3 million, and 436,000 in manufacturing, not 600,000.

Importers, not exporters, pay DDT’s tariffs, thus far increased by about $6.7 billion, and then pass along the cost to consumers, in essence raising taxes for people in the U.S. In addition, taxpayers are ponying up $12 billion to support farmers, some of them wealthy, for being hurt by DDT’s tariffs.

The reduction of estate-taxes benefits the wealthy and almost never on farms or small businesses, only 80 out of the 5,500 estates in 2017.

Foreign Affairs:

DDT did withdraw from the Iran agreement, but the deal still exists with other countries, making his action largely symbolic. He claimed that Iran won’t be building nuclear weapons because we have no agreement to stop them.

Instead of the U.S. spending “$7 trillion in the Middle East,” this sum covers only estimates future obligations through 2056 for veterans’ care, including George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DDT’s claim that he has “liberated virtually all [the 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS]” does not consider the ISIS comeback from a hasty U.S. departure predicted by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

NATO countries started spending more money on defense before DDT was elected, unlike his claims that he made them pay more.

DDT’s supposition that without him, the U.S. would be at war with North Korea has no evidence. He also ignores the new missiles that North Korea continues to build.

Healthcare:

Despite his declaration that he will “protect patients with preexisting conditions,” DDT has refused to defend these conditions in a lawsuit and then celebrated the ruling against these protections.

DDT completely misrepresented the abortion legislation in New York that finally matches Roe v. Wade. The Virginia bill still requires a doctor to agree that the pregnancy would kill the woman or impair her mental or physical health.

Immigration:

DDT’s claim that apprehensions along the Mexico border have been drastically reduced in areas of a wall ignores that ALL apprehensions, including those in areas with no barrier. As for the “tremendous onslaught” at the border, the 304,000 apprehensions are an 81.5 percent decline since the 1.6 million in 2000. The Congressional Research Service reported that the San Diego fence, mentioned by DDT, “did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border.” Suspected in-country overstays of visas are twice those of southern border apprehensions.

DDT’s claim of “humanitarian assistance” in the bill he sent to Congress gave no help for Central American children but was intended to keep them from escaping violence and poverty by coming to the U.S. He also said, “I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.” In reality, DDT wanted to cut legal immigration rates in at least half while eliminating immigration based on family ties—the way his in-laws came to the U.S.—and the visa lottery.

DDT’s inflated figures of “criminal aliens” and charges or convictions fail to consider multiple counts and doesn’t separate charges and convictions. His claims about the MS-13 gang are equally dubious: they are concentrated only in three areas—Los Angeles, Long Island, and Washington, D.C. areas.

He promised that wall “will stop much of the drugs from pouring into this country,” but most drugs come through legal entry points.

Praise that DDT gave El Paso for cutting its violent crime ignored the fall in violent crime before the building of the wall, crime that rose for four years after Bush authorized the wall and it was built.

DDT’s accusation about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants ignores research that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born population and that immigration is a net positive for the U.S. economy and to workers overall.

DDT’s statement about 1-in-3 women being “sexually assaulted on the long journey north” did not come from a random sample, but from a Doctors without Borders report which addressed the 12 percent of females in 500 people treated by these doctors. These 56 women, likely not representative of all migrant women, said they were “sexually abused,” not “sexually assaulted.” DDT’s statistic is derived from the experiences of 56 women and cannot necessarily be considered representative of all migrant women.

Domestic Affairs:

Of the 3.6 million, not 5 million, people who have stopped getting food stamps, many may have lost this benefit because DDT allowed recession-era waivers allowing some adults to retain the benefit for longer periods of time, and immigrants fear DDT’s new policies. The number of people collecting benefits has also been shrinking since 2014.

DDT is right that more women are in the workforce, but more people are in the workforce because of the U.S. increasing population. Female labor participation rate was 60.3 percent in April 2000, below DDT’s 57.5 percent. DDT’s praise of women’s electoral gains in the 2018 midterms was awkward because the increase is for Democrats. The Senate gained two female GOP members but lost a dozen Republicans in the House. New female House members, dressed in white to celebrate women’s suffrage, laughed and danced at DDT’s words.

The U.S. “revolution” in energy started with President Obama in 2009, in opposition to DDT’s claim.

Beyond lies and “misrepresentations,” DDT threatened the Democrats by saying that the United States cannot have peace if he’s investigated in the United States. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” This morning, Pelosi responded:

“The president should not bring threats to the floor of the House. He said he wasn’t going to cooperate unless we didn’t exercise our constitutional responsibility to oversight.”

Philip Bump (WaPo) compared DDT’s line about “ridiculous partisan investigations” to Richard Nixon’s statements in his 1974 State of the Union speech when Nixon said, “One year of Watergate is enough.”

Hardcore conservatives—DDT supporters—were unhappy with the speech:

Ann Coulter: DDT’s speech was the “lamest, sappiest, most intentionally tear-jerking” State of the Union ever.

Rick Santorum: It was “probably the worst delivered speech” he’d heard DDT deliver.

A few subjects missing from DDT’s speech: Russia, the shutdown, tax cuts, “clean coal,” China trade war, farmers, the Me Too movement, election fraud, the press, Iraq or Afghanistan, the ongoing disaster in Puerto Rico, and the climate. He gave 14 seconds to infrastructure. DDT also failed to allow the Speaker of the House to introduce him in a violation of protocol.

While she sat behind–and above–DDT during the address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) wore a smaller version of the Mace of the Republic or the Mace of the US House of Representatives which she can order the Sergeant of Arms to present before an offender to restore order in the House.

The Mace was last used during the first world war when white supremacist Rep. J. Thomas Heflin, uncle of former Sen. Howard Heflin, accused colleagues of being unpatriotic in voting against entering the war. The Sergeant of Arms carries the four-foot-long mace ahead of the speaker to the rostrum at each session of the House.

DDT called for unity and cooperation last night, but today he called Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) a “political hack.” At least yesterday, before giving his speech, he trash talked political figures on both sides—maybe his definition of bipartisanship.

February 2, 2019

How Facebook Damages Our Future

Love it or hate it, Facebook is ubiquitous around the world—making Mark Zuckerberg a multi-billionaire and helping elect Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to the highest office in the United States. On Monday, February 4, it celebrates its 15th anniversary. With over 2.2 billion active users, Facebook has devastated people through the ability to “defriend” others and been the cause of millions of cyberattacks, especially among teenagers. A prevalence of violence, hate speech, and fake news has caused concerned people to look for solutions, but no one, not even creator Zuckerberg, knows how to counteract the negative aspects of Facebook.

Zuckerberg’s early use of social media was well known when he attended Harvard University, according to a piece by Claire Hoffman published ten years ago in Rolling Stone. In 2002, sophomore Zuckerberg got drunk after his girlfriend dumped him and hacked into the university websites. He downloaded female classmates’ photographs and put them next to ones of farm animals for people to rate which ones were more desirable. Pleased with himself, he blogged the process along the way. More than 450 people signed up before Harvard tracked the source and shut off Zuckerberg’s web access. In a hearing, he was accused of violating student privacy and downloading school property without permission. The praise he gained from his peers taught him a lesson that he recorded in a deposition:

“People are more voyeuristic than what I would have thought.”

After Zuckerberg launched Facebook, three classmates sued him, arguing that he stole their invention of a social-networking site after they hired him to code their creation. Zuckerberg liked the idea but dragged his heels in completing his agreement, finally telling them that they should get another programmer. He claimed that he probably didn’t start his own Facebook until after that, but he used his classmates prototype for Facebook. Zuckerberg also failed to tell his former employers that he officially registered the original Facebook site with his web provider before he told the three employers that he couldn’t finish the project. A fourth classmate said that he had already invented an online facebook. On his launch of his Facebook on February 4, 2004, he described himself as “Founder, Master and Commander [and] Enemy of the State.”

In Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg continued to take advantage of people. Former suite-mate Eduardo Saverin gave him $20,000 as a co-investor in Facebook but stayed in New York while Zuckerberg played and worked in Palo Alto. When they had a falling out, Zuckerberg sued Saverin, claiming that he froze Facebook’s bank accounts. Saverin sued, claiming that Zuckerberg never matched his $20,000 and that he used Saverin’s money for personal expenses. Zuckerberg transferred all intellectual-property rights and membership interests to a new version of the company in Delaware, unhinged Saverin’s stock from any further Facebook growth, and fired Saverin as an employee. Then, as now, Zuckerberg let no one stand in his way.

In 2007, Zuckerberg did lose one round—with his users. He sold advertisers Beacon, a program allowing them to put information about users’ purchasers on their Facebook identity. The ensuing revolt made him back off. At the same time, those close to him started to leave him. Lawyers accused Zuckerberg of hiding the code to create Facebook, and key data was missing when the hard drives were final found.

In 2015, a DDT-supporting data company, Cambridge Analytica, took personal data from tens of millions of Facebook profiles without their consent to collect voting patterns, supposedly at the request of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and for support of DDT during the 2016 presidential campaigns. Once again, Zuckerberg apologized for the “leak” that occurred when Facebook allowed a Cambridge University researcher to persuade users to share both their own and their friends’ user data. He said that Facebook stopped letting app creators access data about “friends” without their authorization, but the damage was done, damage that wasn’t discovered until after the 2016 election.

As users burgeoned, Zuckerberg used his “social media” to promote conspiracy theories and pass along misinformation, some of which greatly influenced voters. A Russian company bought Facebook ads for the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg enabled hate groups to proselytize, for example his selling ads targeting Facebook users self-identified as “Jew Haters.” Zuckerberg excused himself by claiming that users are self-reporting the data, seemingly ignoring his claim that his algorithms can detect and eliminate hate speech.

In one example of dangerous conspiracies promoted on Facebook, “Pizzagate” made up a story before the 2016 election that Hillary Clinton was running a child trafficking operation out of a Washington, D.C. pizza place. One believer showed up at the restaurant, waving a gun and demanding the children. The ridiculous and thoroughly debunked claim recently reemerged with an act of arson in the restaurant. Facebook’s mechanisms can radicalize users to support these conspiracy groups. Like gravitates to like, as Renée DiResta, a researcher of disinformation online, explains:

“Facebook’s recommendation engine says, ‘If you like pseudoscience, I’ll show you chemtrails and flat earth.’ Because of the increase of ominous conspiracies, you’re seeing groups around these conspiracy theories like QAnon or pizzagate being referred to people who would never search for them in the first place.”

Facebook’s “Suggested Groups” includes “Pizzagate Reports,” with this vivid photo-shopped image. From there, people are encouraged to move to groups such as “Real UFO Sightings & Strange Phenomenon,” “Official Flat Earth & Globe Discussion,” and “Q Angels.” While condemning misinformation and “fake news,” Zuckerman defends these groups, as well as Infowars, on his powerful social media. He said he would not ban Infowars although it shares “conspiracy theories or false news” and said that “there are things that different people get wrong—I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.” He plans to leave up offensive or deliberately inaccurate posts but downgrade them so that algorithms show them to fewer people. Although Zuckerberg claims that he’ll take down misinformation that incites violence, Pizzagate is still up, and the restaurant is still being threatened with posts on Facebook bragging about frightening the owner to readers’ praise.

Last year, investigators discovered that Facebook uses “ethnic affinity” (aka race) that then permitted advertisers to target or exclude users based on this category. This Facebook characteristic allowed advertisers to deny opportunities for housing and employment. Zuckerberg claimed that he couldn’t see the impact of this category, and backlash caused Facebook to stop using this category—supposedly. Facebook’s abetting racism is profitable because every user is a possible source of revenue for the corporation. The more users, the more ads, and the more user insight to generate money for Facebook.

As Zuckerberg promises to fix one Facebook scam, he creates another. Facebook is secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN allowing the company to obtain all the user’s phone and web activity, like Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June. That one was removed in August. The new Facebook approach may violate Apple policy because the social network can decrypt and analyze the users’ phone activity. Since 2016, Facebook paid users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month and more in referral fees to install this iOS or Android app. To hide its involvement with “Facebook Research,” Facebook documented the app as “Project Atlas” and administers the program through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest. Instagram and Snapchat ads for VPN run by uTest targeted teens 13-17 years old for a “paid social media research study” and promise compensation.

Apple blocked the app the day before Facebook promised to voluntarily pull it from Apple but continue to run the Android version. Collected data includes private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps, photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and ongoing location information from tracking apps. It works whether users’ screens and the VPN are on or off. Facebook claimed that the program is to learn how people use their phones and other services. The spokesperson said, “We don’t share this information with anyone.”

Zuckerberg plans to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, originally independent companies. The result may be more privacy issues because WhatsApp currently doesn’t require a person’s identity, just a telephone number. It also doesn’t store messages and keeps minimal user data. Disturbed by the change, employees at all these companies are leaving. Facebook will also have additional problems in finding and stopping illicit activity and disinformation. WhatsApp blocked disinformation before the Brazilian presidential election by limiting the number of times a message could be forwarded.

In the past, I’ve worried about negative effects of Facebook usage, especially on teens. Studies show problems with self-esteem, feelings of envy, dissatisfaction, narcissism, antisocial behavior, and aggressiveness. Those concerns have moved to fears about radicalization of the far-right and control of elected officials. And Zuckerman just keeps apologizing and raking in the billions with new scams.

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