Nel's New Day

April 28, 2019

The Religions of the Right

The religious right loves guns, wants to own women’s bodies, and listens to rantings of hatred and violence from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). These leading stories are since their holy time of the Easter weekend on April 19-21:

Yesterday, a young white man killed a woman and injured another three people at a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego, because he hates Jews. The tragedy occurred on the last day of Passover and six months to the day since another gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At his rally in Green Bay (WI), DDT made a short statement against anti-Semitism and hate “which must be defeated.” Then he launched into his familiar diatribes. The FBI people who investigated him are “scum,” according to DDT. He welcomed “lock her up!” chants about Hillary Clinton—who hasn’t committed any crimes—and then lied about Democrats wanting to execute babies. He denounced the media who covered the event as “sick people.” The day before he again defended protesters at United the Right, the Charlottesville (VA) protest organized and advertised as a racist and which supremacist event. [Photo: the self-described “young, vibrant man” at his rally.]

Two days before the Poway shooting, hundreds of people admired the guns filling a football-field-size venue at the NRA convention, and DDT bragged about pulling out of the international agreement, the Arms Trade Treaty, that regulates arms sales to keep weapons from human rights abusers. Technically, the U.S. has never been in the agreement because the conservative Senate has refused to ratify it since 2013. At least 101 countries have formally agreed to the treaty, and the U.S. joins Iran, North Korea, and Syria in the 29 countries refusing to sign thus far.

Other messages sent to the NRA cult members include “the first to uphold ‘Judeo-Christian values’”; VP Mike Pence’s opposition to the Green New Deal; Sen. Ted Cruz’s (D-TX) ridicule of the Democratic primary; and DDT’s mocking presidential candidate Joe Biden. The biggest cheers came from DDT’s “building the wall” and his lies that 400 miles supposedly built “by the end of next year.”

It was on his way to speak for the fifth consecutive year at the NRA convention that DDT spoke about his being “a young, vibrant man.” The convention was as woebegone as DDT looks in this photo. A schism in the NRA led to Oliver North leaving as president after only one year and Wayne LaPierre staying on as CEO. North didn’t show up at the convention in Indianapolis, leaving LaPierre the floor to accuse North of “extortion” for threatening to release “damaging” information about him.

The NRA had spent $30.3 million for DDT’s presidential campaign, but the money may have been funneled from Russia. Now the NRA has serious financial problems plus the New York AG, Letitia James, is investigating the NRA’s tax-exempt status. Some of the organization’s related businesses have also received subpoenas. James said that the NRA claims to be “a charitable organization” when he’s really “a terrorist organization.” The NRA is chartered in New York. NRA sued its ad firm, Ackerman McQueen, claiming that it won’t turn over financial records. Ackerman was paid $40 million in just 2017. LaPierre accused North of siding with Ackerman to the alarm of some board members. Ackerman is behind NRATV, the online streaming network that annoyed some board members from straying from Second Amendment issues. The network had addressed race wars and depicted trains in the children’s show Thomas & Friends in KKK hoods.

One difficulty came from the NRA Foundation, a charity, transferring over $100 million to the NRA and lending the NRA $5 million in 2017. Unlike donations to NRA, the ones to the Foundation are tax-deductible, which makes the transfer legally questionable. The NRA also paid $18 million since 2010 to the company that produces Under Wild Skies, a hunting show on NRATV. The NRA’s advancement director had a stake in the production company for most of that time, another possible nonprofit violation. These problems could lead to the NRA’s nonprofit status being revoked. In addition, the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo questioned the NRA for insurance it offers to gun owners.

NRA members also think that leaders of the embattled gun rights group have lost their way and sense of mission. Members also complained about the NRA’s close ties to DDT. One member said to “stick to guns” and “keep your mouth shut about the wall.” Another one cancelled her membership because of the financial scandals. People might want to send IRA their “thoughts and prayers.”

Last Tuesday, the Saudis beheaded 37 citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a sectarian-driven mass execution. One of them was well-known Shia religious leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah. Thus far this year, the Saudis have killed 100 people.  At least six of the 37 killed were minors despite international law that prohibits death sentences for minors. Saudi Arabia has a pattern of executing minors.

Radical Rabbi Shloo Aviner told Jews that burning churches is acceptable if it’s in retribution for Christian actions. He claims that the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire is justified because of “the mass-burning of Talmud volumes by French Catholic priests” in 1242. “Christians must be punished,” Aviner said. The burning of the Talmud almost 800 years was triggered by Nicholas Donin, a Jewish man who converted to Christianity. Aviner doesn’t recommend burning of churches generally—“for the time being”—but in Israel “the issue is more complicated.” The targeting of homes, vehicles, and Palestinian individuals in Israel is a daily occurrence, and the website Mondoweiss notes:

“Several churches have been burnt in Israel in the last few years, and the police have been spectacularly useless in capturing the arsonists. In several cases, the arson was accompanied by slogans familiar from ‘price tag’ attacks in the West Bank (mostly along the lines of Jewish vengeance).”

Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has said that God should kill gay people, and he’s applying that ethic to presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Asked about the heckling that Buttigieg has received for being gay, Franklin responded with Leviticus 20:13:

“The Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.’ (Leviticus 20:13). That’s what God says and that settles it for me. I stand with the Word of God. I care enough about people to tell them the truth and to warn them about the judgment to come for all sin.”

The verse finishes, “They shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’”

The D.C. Circuit Court agreed with the House rules that prayers for the chamber must be “religious.” A self-described atheist is forbidden to offer a secular prayer in the House of Representatives. The judge made the decision, not against the person delivering the prayer, but against its content. The House had defended its position that the rules require “a religious invocation” from the time of former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

On the flip side, the IRS has determined that the Satanic Temple is a church. The group will have the same benefits as other religion organizations such as tax exemption and protection from discrimination. Its founder, Lucien Greaves, said, “I am following a code of ethics, having fellowship with brethren. Why can’t I be a religion?” Once called a cult, Christianity has entered mainstream religion. Benjamin Zeller, religion professor, described a letter that Pliny the Younger wrote in the second century to Emperor Trajan about Christianity at that time:

“This Roman governor is complaining about the Christians and using all this anti-cult language. He says that they have these secret gatherings, they’re stealing children from families, they’re engaged in weird sexual practices, and they’re disrupting the social order. Just replace ‘early Christians’ with whatever your current cult fear is.”

In the 19th century, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, was regarded as a con man. The church became a political movement after their establishment in Utah, and the 20th century saw them as a business. Now they’re mainstream. Protestants think that religions must have beliefs and a deity, both of which need to be taken seriously.

Maybe DDT followers and the NRA can declare themselves religions.

Careful! Jesus Christ has risen. And he’s watching.

April 26, 2019

DDT: Week 118 – Dementia from Stress?

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 10:18 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Many people think the wandering speeches and tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) are used to provide diversion for the many lawsuits and investigations in all facets of his life. Yet his mental problems seem to be growing. His demented paranoia was on full display when Sean Hannity allowed him to host the Fox show last night—raving about the “coup” of the Mueller report to “overthrow the United States government,” the corrupt “top people” at the FBI, and the ways that Hillary Clinton “destroyed the lives” of people on DDT’s campaign. He proved himself an authoritarian, a dictator, operating outside the law, the Constitution, and the government. “I could have fired everybody. I could have fired Mueller. I could have fired anybody that I wanted to fire,” DDT said. He may even believe that about elected members of Congress.

Wednesday he gave a 40-minute speech at the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit that meandered into praise about dogs as one of two acceptable pets, Melania Trump’s dress on the day he announced his campaign, the “rigged system,” and his traditional diatribe about immigration.

This last week, Mexico described the actions it was taking in its commitment to immigration control of the border; the next day DDT said, despite no communication with the Mexican government, he was closing the southern border if they don’t do more. He also threatened to send “ARMED soldiers” to the border—despite his already sending soldiers there. The Pentagon resolved the situation in which Mexican soldiers stopped ICE agents and U.S. soldiers south of the border fence—that the Mexicans thought they were on Mexico land—but DDT won’t accept the decision. Attacks on Mexican soldiers would violate the Posse Comitatus law and be an act of war which only Congress can declare. DDT also told reporters that only he is in charge of immigration after asked if the neo-Nazi White House aide Stephen Miller would be the new DHS director.

For over two years, DDT has been desperate for a state visit to Britain despite disapproval from over 70 percent of the country’s population. This week he got his wish for an invite in June—the day before he retweeted the same type of message that lost him an earlier visit accusing “United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign.” The conspiracy theory came from DDT watching an interview with Larry Johnson on One America News Network, more extremely right-wing than the Fox network. DDT’s tweet caused George Conway, husband of White House official Kellyanne Conway, to use his hashtag #DerangedDonald” in response to DDT’s conspiracy theory.

DDT insisted that people always obey his orders at the White House Easter Roll, the same time that he explained to small children that he got more funding for the military, the economy is good, and DACA is bad. Yet people are fully aware that he was rescued from stronger cases of obstruction of justice because his officials refused his commands to kill Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, attack the Mueller probe, and other times his officials ignored DDT.

In a “secret” meeting with Twitter CEO, DDT protested the loss of Twitter buddies after the company shut down over 5,000 accounts connected to bots denouncing Robert Mueller’s investigation and lauding Saudi Arabia. Targeted to the U.S. audience, the fake accounts focused on hashtags such as #RussiaGate used by Sean Hannity and other far-right DDT supporters. DDT wants more followers because he has less than 60 percent of President Obama’s 100 million. Before the meeting, DDT tweeted an accusation that Twitter was playing “political games” with his follower count and called for congressional intervention against the company. DDT is fortunate that Twitter doesn’t ban white supremacist content the way it does most ISIS propaganda. Twitter cannot control this content because some of it comes from GOP politicians.

On Easter morning, DDT tweeted about the people killed in the Sri Lanka bombings and referred to the terrorist attacks “that have killed at least 138 million people.” That number is almost ten times the entire population of Sri Lanka and far more than the 207 people killed in the disaster.

In just 90 minutes last Tuesday, he tweeted at least eight angry insults at Nobel-prize winning Paul Krugman, New York Times, Democrats, CNN, Joe Scarborough, tariffs on Harley-Davidson, and Twitter itself. The night before, he retweeted 24 items from 15 people in 30 minutes.

DDT ordered his officials to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, scheduled for April 27. He is the first president to command officials to not attend the dinner and the first person to not attend since his inauguration except for Ronald Reagan who missed the event in 1981 while he recovered from an assassination attempt. DDT will be rallying his troops in Green Bay (WI) during the dinner. After DDT was upset about Michelle Wolff’s comedy last year, the press organization decided to use biographer Ron Chernow for a blander featured speaker in an effort to pander to DDT.

 (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)

DDT has a lot to upset him:

Deutsche Bank is sending its financial records about loans made to DDT and his business to New York state’s attorney general. That probe started after DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen testified that DDT inflated his assets and gave copies of financial states provided to Deutsche Bank.

DDT’s best friends Kim Jong-Un and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin are meeting in Russia without DDT at a time when the North Korean president has cooled off on DDT. (They look happy together.) Another accusation against DDT comes from a $2 million bill that the U.S. received for the healthcare of Otto Warmbier, the captive who died soon after his release, who was unconscious for 15 of the 17 months of his imprisonment. Warmbier’s father said that the charge might be a ransom.

The House Judiciary and Oversight committees is investigating DDT’s purge of the DHS to determine if DDT’s neo-Nazi aide Stephen Miller orchestrated it. Former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen offended Miller and DDT by pointing out legal barriers to the continuing family separation plan. House Democrats are asked acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan to give them communications about the officials’ departures and with Miller. DDT has already told Miller not to testify before a House hearing.

The news about the White House blocking former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from organizing cabinet secretaries for a strategy combating election interference in 2020 hit the headlines this week. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told her not to talk about the situation around DDT because it makes him feel bad although he denied doing so later. John Bolton’s reorganization of the National Security Council dropped the position of U.S. cyber-security czar.

Recently de-classified documents show that 32 years ago Australia turned down DDT’s bid to build a casino there because of his connections to “organized crime,” according to recently de-classified papers. The bid was also rejected for being “not financially viable.”

A federal court invalidated unconstitutionally partisan districts in Michigan and gave the legislature until August 1 to redraw the maps that must be used in the 2020 election.

A federal judge, who said that “lies went on for months,” told Flint (MI) residents they can sue the EPA for waiting too long to do something about the city’s water crisis.

A federal judge ruled DDT’s Interior Department acted illegally in trying to life a coal mining moratorium on public lands. Former Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to provide adequate environmental effects of mining in 2017. Within the coming months, the judge will issue another legal decision about reinstating the mining ban. The judge’s decision followed other rulings giving the EPA 90 days to decide whether to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to brain damage and overturning DDT’s executive order to life oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast.

DDT continues to babble about “no collusion” and “no obstruction,” but Congress doesn’t need crimes and demeanors to impeach him. He pretends he is innocent because Robert Mueller did not indict him, but the report states that he was not indicted only because of current DOJ guidelines for not indicting presidents.

DDT bragged about his 3.2 percent growth in GDP for the first quarter of 2019, he ignored February’s addition to the national debt of $234 million, the largest one-month deficit in history.

Joe Biden’s candidacy announcement featuring the neo-Nazi protest at Charlottesville (VA) in 2017 caused DDT to again defend white supremacists by claiming that they were just Civil War enthusiasts who “felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general.” Lee was indicted for treason after he led a war against the United States. DDT did defend the white supremacists although he denied doing so. Biden didn’t get a lot of points from Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer who was killed by a neo-Nazi at the protest; he didn’t bother to tell Bro that he was using her daughter in his launch video. Bro said, “I don’t think we’ve seen him in town. It was just sort of a feeling of, ‘Well, here we go again.’”

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

April 25, 2019

Biden: The Nation Deserves Better

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:30 PM
Tags:

Two more white men—one young, one old—joined the tribe of Democratic presidential candidates this week to make the total 20 for 2020. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), an anti-Nancy Pelosi candidate like his colleague Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), came into the wannabes just before former VP Joe Biden, involved in politics for almost 50 years, declared that he is the one to unify a divided nation.

Of the pack, Biden is the closest to being a Republican, not only because he “likes” them—even helping on get elected last fall—but also because of his GOP positions. Three weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, Biden got $200,000 for a speech in Michigan given in the name of GOP House candidate Fred Upton and called him “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.” The vulnerable GOP candidate won. In the 115th Congress, Upton’s votes matched the positions of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) 94.7 percent of the time. This year, Upton opposed net neutrality and supported the U.S. involvement with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen War.

Biden’s first planned fundraiser is with David Cohen, executive VP and main lobbyist for Comcast, who opposes net neutrality and broadband privacy protections. According to Biden, some of his major donors are “major Republican folks.”

In his love for Republicans, Biden called VP Mike Pence a “decent guy.” Criticized about his praise for the man who wants to take rights away from LGBTQ people, Biden did agree that “there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.” Yet Biden ignored Pence’s opposition to women’s rights and work to make the United States a Christian theocracy.  Cynthia Nixon wrote:

“The fact that Pence does vile, hateful things while well-coiffed and calm doesn’t make him decent; it makes him insidious and dangerous. Respecting each other’s rights and humanity is what makes us civilized — not keeping a civil tone while doing the opposite.

“It’s easy to say nice things about Pence when you’re not personally threatened by his agenda. If Biden were being directly attacked in the same way that our community is, I think he would see Pence from a very different vantage point.

“When politicians of a certain age reminisce about the “civility” that used to define Washington, it’s telling that the old guard conveniently forgets that this decorum has never been extended to all.”

During Biden’s two terms as vice-president, he benefited from GOP decorum as President Obama was given racist disrespect, going so far as incessantly refuting his citizenship. Minorities and women still suffer from Biden’s decision to be collegial with his GOP colleagues and Clarence Thomas in the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Thomas while attacking witness Anita Hill. Thanks to Biden, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thomas kept his dignity and achieved the prize while Anita Hill’s humanity was stripped and no other women were allowed to testify about Thomas’ sexual misconduct. Biden’s determination to silence women and avoid the truth has saddled the nation with one of the worst Supreme Court justices for decades until Biden’s GOP friends confirmed two DDT appointees.

Considering a run for president, Biden said a few months ago about the Thomas hearings, “I wish I could have done something.” He could have; he just didn’t. A few weeks ago, Biden called Anita Hill to express “his regret for what she endured.” Not really an apology and certainly not contrition for his part in the fiasco. Biden promoted Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall, one of the finest justices in modern history, and Thomas is still sitting on the court driving human rights into the ground after 30 years while building up his personal fortune and helping his wife in her far-right activism.

Biden consistently voted against women’s reproductive rights from his anti-abortion vote with Republicans in 1981 to banning federal funding for international nonprofit groups providing abortion counseling or referrals in 2005. He cited his Catholicism as a reason in his vote for Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) 2003 abortion ban with no exception for the woman’s health.

Another Biden “woman problem” is the controversy about his uninvited touching and kissing women. Seven women have spoken out against him. The defense of just being a nice man trying to comfort women doesn’t work for those who feel that his behavior intrudes on their personal space. [Right: Biden on the 2012 campaign trail in Seaman, Ohio – AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster] People who claim that women should be strong enough to object fail to understand that Biden wields power over female politicians and other women afraid of losing their positions. When several women finally complained, Biden said that he understood his behavior might have made some women uncomfortable. Yet he proved that he doesn’t “get it” after joking about touching people during a speech. After the speech, he claimed that he had never been “disrespectful intentionally” to people and also said:

“I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything I have ever done.”

Biden’s harsh anti-drug legislation in the 1980s was followed by “tough-on-crime” criminal justice policies. The result was mass incarceration focused on blacks. His staffers stated that made flimsy excuses for weekly hearings about drugs and crime combined with ensuring police at every public meeting.  He did apologize for his legislation but never took leadership in overturning racist crime laws during the eight years when he was vice-president. Biden also apologized for his support the poorly named “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996 after LGBTQ people had lost their rights for 16 years.

In 1986, Biden voted in favor of the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986, which the NRA has called “the law that saved gun rights.” Creating a legacy for the gun rights movement, the law overturned six Supreme Court rulings and other regulations by permitting dealers to sell rifles, shotguns, and ammunition through the mail and limited inspections of firearms dealers who were then allowed to sell weapons at gun shows.

Biden put young people in deeper debt by blocking student debt forgiveness. In 1978, he wrote a bill to keep students from seeking bankruptcy protections for a specific time after graduation although it would affect fewer than one percent of educational loans. Throughout time, he kept making the law more onerous, adding vocational schools to higher education and then lengthening the time for no bankruptcies. Despite a recommendation in 1997 from the National Bankruptcy and Review Commission that student loans be treated like all other private consumer debt, Biden stayed on the side of the loan industry to limit bankruptcy. In 2001, Biden pushed legislation stripping bankruptcy protections from all student loans including those from private industry, and George W. Bush’s Congress got the bill through in 2005.

To defend his punitive legislation, Biden called borrowers irresponsible or criminal, much like Ronald Reagan’s accusation of “welfare queens.” Biden voted against protecting mothers who failed to receive child support or alimony, voted against setting a limit of 30 percent on loan interest, and voted against special protections for bankruptcy among former military, victims of identity theft, and those with unmanageable medical debt. Elizabeth Warren’s book, The Two-Income Trap, criticizes Biden’s role in stripping out consumer protections for families and single mothers.

Delaware, Biden’s home state, is comparable to the Cayman Islands in providing tax havens for Fortune 500 companies, and one of its sheltered corporations, lending firm MBNA, was Biden’s top donor from 1989 to 2010. In 1996, Biden made a tidy profit by selling his home to MBNA executive John Cochran and continued to pride himself on his “business-friendly” legislative and deregulatory efforts during the decade. Biden’s relationship with MBNA made money for his son Hunter, who kept getting paid as a “consultant” while Biden supported legislation that benefited the credit card despite opposition by consumer groups. Biden likes the wealthy. Last year, he said, “I don’t think five hundred billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble.” He has no solutions for income inequality.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 that led to the 2008 recession, and Biden was part of the crew that gave this law to Wall Street. Through the overturn of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall legislation separating investment banking from commercial banking, institutions could legally gamble with people’s money. By late 2016 Biden admitted it was the “worst vote” he had cast, but again failed to address the consequences during his time as vice-president.

Another Biden “success” was the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. As chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, his hearings were sham—experts opposing the invasion were shut up while all the war hawks took the spotlight. In summer 2002, Biden declared that the U.S. was going to war and then sold the invasion to colleagues and the public. Biden’s support for Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister exacerbated the disaster of the invasion. During his time in power, $500 billion disappeared from the government, the country’s security forces deteriorated, and ISIS developed greater power.

As a senator from Delaware, Biden led the fight in the 1970s against integrating schools through “busing” by playing down racism and demanding a limited government role in integration. He said about slavery:

“I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”

Siding with conservatives on the issue, Biden received praise, such as Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) welcoming him “to the ranks of the enlightened.” Biden called the integration plans “just quota systems.” Biden refuses to be interviewed about the issue, but his spokesman said that Biden still thinks he was right. Sen. Edward Brooke (R-MA), the chamber’s only black, called one of Biden’s amendments “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.” Later, Biden extolled the virtues for and common cause with his friend Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-) in his 2003 eulogy for the virulent racist.

After considering a run for president at least six times beginning in 1980, this campaign makes Biden’s third presidential candidacy. In 1988, Biden, then 45 years old, dropped out after a plagiarism controversy. Twenty years later, his departure came after winning only one percent in the Iowa caucuses—fifth place. If elected in 2020, Biden would be 78 years old on his inauguration day. That eliminates a second term unless voters want an 86-year-old president.

Biden is part of the past: presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was five years old when Biden first ran for president. His announcement, a video, mentioned nothing about today’s problems such as jobs, health care, or education. His opening shows only a campaign against DDT without any goals that elected Democrats in 2018.

“I’ve got the most progressive record of anyone running,” Biden said in March. Young people, women, and minorities—all important Democratic constituencies—might differ with his statement. Democrats deserve a candidate who will do more than run against DDT. Unity is one thing; sellout is entirely different.

April 24, 2019

‘A Serious Crime against America’

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has declared war on the U.S. Congress while treating members as if they work for him instead of being in a separate and equal branch of the government. The Robert Mueller investigation closed down soon after the Senate confirmed DDT’s new fixer, Bill Barr, as the U.S. attorney general—a position that is supposed to be independent of the President of the United States. Now DDT is trying to block every House investigation into his actions.

Details in DDT’s Finances: DDT’s accounting firm Mazars USA told House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it would give him ten years of DDT’s financial statements if they received a subpoena after DDT’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, said that DDT had participated in possible bank fraud by inflating or deflating his assets to get loans and avoid real estate taxes. First, DDT’s lawyers threatened the firm with legal action if it follows the law and then sued Cummings to block the subpoena using the 1880 Supreme Court ruling in Kilbourn v. Thompson. That case was overruled by a 1927 decision.

Testimony from DDT’s Former White House Counsel: Trying to block Don McGahn’s testimony from Don McGahn by invoking executive privilege, DDT had earlier told McGahn that he could talk freely with Robert Mueller and failed to claim executive privilege in the release of the Mueller report. McGahn testified to Mueller that DDT told McGahn about DDT’s attempt to fire Robert Mueller. Not only does McGahn work in the government now, he worked for the people of the United States, not DDT. About McGahn’s declaring executive privilege, former federal counsel Jessica Roth said, “That ship has sailed.”

DDT’s Tax Records: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is still dragging his heels in turning over DDT’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, saying that he will decide by May 6. Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA) has a century-old law for his request. DDT’s lawyer wrote the Treasury Department to stop the tax returns from being handed over to House Democrats.

DDT’s Security Clearance Process: The Oversight Committee is also investigating whether people with drug, criminal, or financial problems received top-secret security clearances because of DDT’s demands. DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is one of the clearance recipients. The House subpoenaed Carl Kline, the person responsible for giving clearances after people failed the vetting, who also retaliated against the woman who reported his actions. DDT told Kline, as he told other aides, to ignore all subpoenas to appear before the House committee. Cummings warned that Kline could be held in contempt if he doesn’t appear.

Today, the Washington Post published an op-ed about the need for a response to DDT’s actions that was written by former First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today’s House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump’s recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

This week, DDT said, “I’m the most transparent president in history” while he objects to all subpoenas about his taxes and financial affairs, vetting for security clearances, testimony for the Mueller investigation, and holds secret meetings.

George Conway, husband of top White House official Kellyanne Conway, said about Clinton’s op-ed: “I’m with her.” So am I.

April 22, 2019

Judaism v. Zionism

One of the most sensitive topics in politics these days—other than Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—is Zionism. Despite his anti-Semitic ideology during his campaign, DDT now loves Israel, probably because the newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps farther right that DDT is. Republicans grab at any issue that they can use to criticize Democrats. Evangelicals want Israelis to control large swaths of land so that Jesus will have a big place to land during the rapture to save fundamentalist Christians. Some Democrats support Israel’s taking over Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Carolyn Karcher, author of Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, tries to unravel the difference between a religion and a political interest group. She points out that “ethical precepts lie at the heart of Judaism: pursue justice, love the stranger, love your neighbor and repair the world.” Zionist policy violates all these teachings. The new Basic Law, passed by Israel, calls for the nation-state of only Jewish people in the country and gives the indigenous Palestinians no rights.

Zionism’s main founder Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew, created a version of a settler colonial movement in the 19th century not as a religious group, but a separatist political society that excluded all non-Jews. Zionism has developed into a nationalist organization with the same approach as white nationalism, comparable to persecuted Puritans seeking a place where they could rule. Having left England for America in the 17th century, they dispossessed and killed the indigenous peoples with no ethical concerns. In both cases, one group of people elevated themselves over another and then tried to eradicate considered a sub-group.

Younger Jews are protesting this Israeli position of domination. Members of one group, “If Not Now,” were thrown out of Israel because of their difficult questions about birthrights in the Israeli-Palestinian region. Others in Jewish Voice for Peace started the “Return the Birthright” campaign with the claim that Palestinians as indigenous people have a birthright to the land.

Karcher states that questioning birthright and Israel can lead to “revitalizing Judaism and redefining Jewish identity that does not depend on identifying with a Jewish state, and that does not depend on claiming a right to a land that you were not born in and have no real connection to.” Like the philosophy of democracy, she espouses all people having the same rights and the same access to economic and political rights.

From another writer and Jewish voice, Michelle Goldberg, comes this column, “Zionists Deserve Free Speech”:

The Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was supposed to be on a speaking tour of the United States this week, with stops at N.Y.U.’s Washington campus and at Harvard. He was going to attend his daughter’s wedding in Texas. I had plans to interview him for “The Argument,” the debate podcast that I co-host, about B.D.S., the controversial campaign to make Israel pay an economic and cultural price for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Yet when Barghouti, a permanent resident of Israel, showed up for his flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport last week, he was informed that the United States was denying him entry. When I spoke to him on Sunday, he still didn’t know exactly why the country where he went to college and lived for many years wasn’t letting him in, but he assumed it was because of his political views. If that’s the case, Barghouti said, it was the first time someone has been barred from America for B.D.S. advocacy. He has proceeded with his public events, but he’s been appearing at them via Skype.

In recent years, the American right has presented itself as a champion of free expression. Conservatives are constantly bemoaning a censorious campus climate that stigmatizes their ideas; last month, Donald Trump signed an executive order on campus free speech, decrying those who would keep Americans from “challenging rigid far-left ideology.” The president said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.”

If that last line is true — and, uncharacteristically for Trump, I think it is — it says something about the insecurity of Israel’s defenders. There have indeed been illiberal attempts to silence conservative voices on college campuses, but they pale beside the assault on pro-Palestinian speech, particularly speech calling for an economic boycott of Israel. Around two dozen states have laws and regulations denouncing, and in many cases penalizing, B.D.S. activities, and the Senate recently passed a bill supporting such measures. According to the American Association of University Professors, some public universities in states with such laws require speakers and other contractors to “sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse B.D.S.” It’s hard to think of comparable speech restrictions on any other subject.

What are pro-Israel forces afraid of? The B.D.S. movement doesn’t engage in or promote violence. Its leaders make an effort to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism; the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee recently demanded that a Moroccan group stop using the term “B.D.S.” in its name because it featured anti-Semitic cartoons on its Facebook page.

Barghouti couches his opposition to Zionism in the language of humanist universalism. The official position of the B.D.S. movement, he says, is that “any supremacist, exclusionary state in historic Palestine — be it a ‘Jewish state,’ an ‘Islamic state,’ or a ‘Christian state’ — would by definition conflict with international law and basic human rights principles.”

The movement is agnostic on a final dispensation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it calls for the right of Palestinian refugees — both those displaced by the creation of Israel and their descendants — to return to their familial homes, which would likely end Israel’s Jewish majority. Barghouti told me he personally believes in the creation of a single state in which Israeli Jews, as individuals, would have civil rights, but Jews as a people would not have national rights.

I’d planned to argue with him about this view, which is largely dismissive of Jewish claims on Israel, and would likely lead to oppression or worse for Israeli Jews. My guess is that many if not most Jews find such a position offensive, even frightening.

But for years now, the right has been lecturing us all about the need to listen to and debate ideas we might consider dangerous. Barghouti wants this sort of dialogue. “We’ve been dying to debate anyone on the other side,” he told me. “We would debate anyone except Israeli government officials and professional lobbyists.” A government that tries to prevent Americans from engaging with his views cannot claim a commitment to free speech.

You could argue, I suppose, that Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state should not be up for discussion. If you do, realize it’s the exact same sort of argument that certain campus leftists make when they refuse to debate people they see as racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted. Sometimes this refusal is justified, because certain ideas shouldn’t be dignified with discussion. But sometimes it just makes the people unwilling to test their ideas in public look scared.

Ultimately, Barghouti threatens Israel’s American defenders not because he’s hateful, but because he isn’t. Israel has aligned itself with the global far right. Recently re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to unilaterally annex the West Bank, which would create a single state where Jews rule over Arabs. That prospect makes it ever more difficult for Israel’s American defenders to make coherent arguments against the sort of one-state solution that Barghouti espouses. “Israel is winning the far right around the world,” Barghouti said at an N.Y.U. event last week, where the journalist Peter Beinart interviewed him remotely. But, he added, “it is losing its moral stature around the world.” American authorities may be able to quash this message on some college campuses, but it won’t stop being true.

The United States has freely sanctioned countries that violate human rights to pressure them for change. Boycott has long been an individual practice from people on both the right and left to express displeasure about positions. Yet Ilhan Omar, a U.S. representative, black woman, Muslim, and Somali refugee, has been pilloried, not only by Republicans but by her own party of Democrats, because she was brave enough to speak out against the Israeli control over the U.S. federal government.

Pressure from Israeli is causing even Democrats to punish corporations that use their constitutional right to use a boycott as a form of free speech. A bipartisan House bill opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS,” movement and gives states the legal right to punish companies choosing not to do business with Israel or Israeli-owned enterprises. In the 26 states already passing anti-BDS laws, courts in two of them, Kansas and Arizona, have declared the legislation unconstitutional. To take free speech from companies, Congress would have to remove their classification as “persons” or take away the right of real people to free speech. Meanwhile Republicans have another wedge device by equating Palestinian support and human rights with anti-Semitism.

April 21, 2019

Earth Day 2019

Tomorrow is the 49th anniversary for a global event in 193 countries. Although hundreds of millions work to save the planet every day, April 22 is set aside as a day of action. As the Earth Day website explains:

“People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.”

Last year’s theme was to End Plastic Pollution. One goal was to reduce the annual use of 500 million plastic straws in just the United States. In July 2018, Seattle became the biggest city in the U.S. to ban plastic straws, and Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by 2020. McDonald will ban plastic straws at UK and Ireland restaurants, and the 1,000 U.S. locations of  the food service company Bon Appétit Management will follow suit. Thanks to a Girls Scout, Alaska Airlines was the first airline to phase out plastic straws and stirrers. Shelby O’Neil created Jr Ocean Guardians for her 2017 Girl Scout USA Gold Award Project to share her passion in saving oceans and marine life for the future. Other airlines–American, Delta, and United–are following Alaska’s lead.

Getting rid of straws may have seemed a minor task because they comprise only 0.025 percent of the eight million tons of plastic going into the ocean each year. But it’s a simple beginning. From there, governments are decreasing the use of single-use plastic bags for shopping by adding fees for them or replacing them with paper bags. The town where I live passed an ordinance to do this a few days ago. Kroger is just one major company doing away with plastic bags for its shoppers. Using reusable shopping bags can drastically cut down on the one trillion plastic bags used world-wide every year.

Another reduction in plastic is to reuse water bottles instead of single-use ones. One person using a refillable water bottle can save an average of 170 bottles each year. And the single-use bottles have poisonous chemicals that aren’t present in glass or stainless steel reusable bottles.

Other ways to avoid plastic use is to pack food in glass containers, avoid snack foods with excess packaging, and skip plastic flatware. Hopefully, restaurants where you eat will use cardboard for takeout food instead of plastic. Buying products in cardboard containers will cut down on single-use plastics.

A particularly vicious form of plastic comes into microbeads used in most cosmetic items. UK has joined other countries in banning the product that is killing marine life who mistake the tiny particles for food. Ethique Beauty became plastic free in 2012, preventing three million bottles, jars, and tubes being sold and aiming for ten million by 2025. The United States has banned microbeads only in rinse-off cosmetics.

Founded in Bandon (OR), the Washed Ashore project creates sculptures from plastic materials washed up on beaches. It has a traveling art exhibit to create an awareness about the world’s growing plastic pollution problems.

Another 30 ways to recycle stuff.

Last year’s Earth Day theme to reduce plastic proliferation set progress into motion, and activists will begin work on this year’s theme, “Protect Our Species” which are rapidly disappearing from climate change, deforestation, poaching, pollution, pesticides/herbicides, and consumption.

One species that people might want to protect is that of humans. Because of the huge corporation Monsanto, people are getting cancer from its pesticides that contain glysophates. Products from popular foods for children–breakfast cereal, snack bars, and from popular companies such as Quaker, Kellogg, and General Mills–to “adult beverages” of wine and beer contain the cancer-causing chemical. To sell its genetically-modified seeds for plants that won’t be damaged by glysophates, Monsanto engineered varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, and more crops. Over 90% of all soybeans and over 70% of all corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, and the majority of these plants are tolerant to glyphosates. Originally people assumed that these crops were safe for human, but studies–not those paid for by Monsanto–show them to be endocrine disruptors causing birth defects, reproductive impairment, and DNA damage.

Another way to save the planet is to saving marine animals which might slow climate change because they store carbon in their bodies; their carbon-rich waste products sink into the ocean to fertilize and protect marine plants. Sea stars are just one of the marine species rapidly dying off. [Photo by Sue Hardesty]

On its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day network is organizing a “Great Global Clean Up,” which it hopes to be the largest environmental volunteer event in history. The goal is to remove billions of pieces of rubbish from streets, beaches, rivers,and parks, and is being launched across US cities in 2019. With its SOLVE project, Oregon is already ahead of the project. Founded 50 years ago in 1969 by Gov. Tom McCall, the goal of reducing and cleaning up litter and vandalism throughout the state expanded in 1984 to the first statewide citizen Beach Cleanup in the nation, an event that has spread to all 50 states and 100 other countries. The Oregon beach cleanup now takes place twice a year.

To celebrate Earth Day–every day, every year–hold yourself accountable and vow to save the planet for the future. [Photos: The Moon – Sue Hardesty; The Ocean – Ann Hubard]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 20, 2019

DDT: Week 117 – Brief Euphoria Leads to Fury

AG Bill Barr’s release of the Mueller Report—at least pieces of it—consumed the news last week with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) going from euphoria when he thought he was exonerated to fear and anger after the public and Congress saw a partial report. Despite Barr’s desperate lies and omissions to convince people that DDT was off the hook, questions about his conflicts of interest also damage his spin on DDT’s “innocence.” In the past, Barr worked for a law firm representing Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company with long-time business connections with Russia. He also received dividends from Vector Group with deep financial ties to Russia that brought DDT to Moscow to discuss investments there. Deutsche Bank, the only one recently willing to lend money to DDT and implicated in money-laundering schemes, holds up to $250,000 of Barr’s assets. These facts were largely overlooked in the Senate confirmation hearings, but the House is guaranteed to dig deeper into Barr’s Russian relationships—likely finding a web of people involved in both the scandal and attempts to bury it in addition to Barr’s past history of lying.

Noted journalist Jane Mayer also wrote an article of how Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and Blackwater founder, funded an attempt to determine “the authenticity of [Clinton’s] emails” that DDT requested from Russia. Michael Flynn told Mueller that DDT repeatedly asked to get the emails, and Flynn asked many people who might be able to get them, including Peter Smith who helped finance investigations into Bill Clinton’s sexual relationships in Arkansas. Smith wrote emails explaining that his work on Clinton’s emails was “in coordination with” DDT’s campaign, and Prince helped fund the operation. Smith’s death in May 2017 was ruled a suicide. Barr stated that disseminating stolen information was not a crime unless the person initially stole the information. Another “Trump Defense” that adds to nothing criminal for people who are angry and  fail.

While lying about the Mueller report, Barr issued a ruling that asylum seekers won’t be eligible for bond even they face credible fear in their countries of origin. Instead they’ll be held indefinitely, sometimes years, while immigration courts determine their fate. The ruling means taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private companies that house people who could find productive work and pay taxes. Last year’s charge was at least $730 million. Barr justified his authority by stating that he can do this because federal circuit courts have this right—although the DOJ has nothing to do with the judicial system. compared his authority to that of a federal court:

One of Barr’s goals may be to get rid of DDT’s former undocumented housekeeper at DDT’s golf resort in Bedminster (NJ), Victorina Morales, who blew the whistle on DDT’s employees’ penchant for hiring undocumented migrants and then blackmailing them with their status. Morales brought her son to Guatemala after they witnessed a group of men slashing her father-in-law with a machete in an attempt to extort him for money. The AG can refer any cases he wishes to her purview as a political tool to control the immigration system. In greater politicization, Barr is considering an expansion of his power to refer cases to himself that are being considered in addition to those determined by immigration judges.

An DHS advisory group wants Congress to pass “emergency legislation” to detain more children at the southern border. The goal is to block asylum seekers.

DDT, who tried to strongarm the Japanese president into nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize, vetoed the non-binding resolution to leave the war in Yemen causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Bombing is leaving 14 million Yemenis at risk of famine. One year ago, DDT claimed peace with North Korea. This week, its president, Kim Jong-Un, announced a test-firing of “tactical guided weapon,” showing the world that his nation is moving forward with weapons development. His media also said that North Korean officials won’t accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s participation in nuclear talks, requesting someone “more careful and mature in communicating.” Pompeo declared that he’s staying on, that its “my team,” illustrating that North Korea might be right. And once again, a Republican in the Oval Office has failed after triumphantly crying “Mission accomplished.”

Although DDT ignored the three black churches burned down in Louisiana in the past few weeks, he had enough time to give advice to firefighters battling the inferno at Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame—use “flying water tankers.” His suggestion was ignored to preserve the structural integrity of the 850-year-old building. DDT’s pattern of ignoring the plight of non-white people in the U.S. continues his failure to follow through to get clean drinking water in Flint (MI), taken by Republicans in 2014, and provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria over 18 months ago. Cages for migrant children at the southern border were built with fund designated for Head Start, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and the National Cancer Institute.

A directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration prevents ICE from arresting people inside courthouses without judicial warrants or orders. With 178 of these arrests in New York state courthouses last year, over 100 times as many as the 11 in 2016, immigrants are increasingly fearful of going to courts. ICE uses administrative warrants, signed by ICE agents instead of judges, to pick up immigrants.

The SEC is requiring ExxonMobil to permit a shareholder vote on a resolution that would require the corporation disclose its political spending, including “dark money” to advocacy and trade organizations. Another vote mandated by the SEC is on a shareholder-proposed resolution to create a committee that reviews and oversees Exxon’s climate change strategy. The votes will be taken at the May 29 annual meeting.

Soon after his inauguration, DDT proudly ordered a new Office within the VA Department to protect whistleblowers from reprisal. The VA is now investigating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for assisting in retaliation against whistleblowers. For example, an engineer who reported contracting violations to supervisors and OAWP was stripped of responsibilities and assigned to an office without heat or air conditioning. Others described OAWP’s inactivity and betrayal.

A president cannot put tariffs on items unless the purpose is for national security, but DDT has threatened to put these fees on French wine and cheese after putting high tariffs on soybeans. Now DDT is trying to figure out whether uranium is connected to U.S. security. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) thinks that Congress needs to take back its constitutional power to be in control of tariffs. Maybe the farmers who lost big time on soybeans have some influence on their senator.

In his first campaign, DDT ran on the economy, saying that he would bring back the $2 trillion that wealthy people and corporations have stashed overseas and raise the GDP growth to four percent or over. He’s failed to bring back the money but added his $1.5 trillion tax cut to give money to the rich beneficiaries. At the same time, he’s driving away the immigrants who support his economy and work force.

DDT also runs his trade war in an attempt to help the economy. Exports did slightly climb 1.1% to a four-month high of $209.7 billion, inflated by a 60 percent surge in commercial aircraft to $5.8 billion, but a repeat performance is unlikely after the Boeing 757 MAX planes were grounded. Last year, the trade deficit was the highest in ten years and the second highest in history. Slower growth in imports doesn’t spell victory if people worried about the economy are cutting back on spending. Last year’s trade deficit was over $72 billion more than President Obama’s highest trade deficit in 2013 but $120 billion lower than George H. Bush’s highest deficit in 2006.

DDT sometimes “jokes” to send up trial balloons about the success of his statements. This time, he said he could be in the White House for another ten or 14 years because Chinese President Xi Jinping for doing away with term limits.

The White House was finally a happy place—before the pieces of the Mueller Report were released.  DDT’s aides were sure that he would be re-elected to keep from being indicted, and the statute of limitations would run out before DDT’s second term. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that immigrations controversies are “really smart” controversies, and DDT planned to get a special investigator for Clinton’s emails and other manufactured scandals. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, is running the White House, the RNC, and DDT’s campaign. Whatever DDT doesn’t tell Kushner to do, he offers to his daughter and Kushner’s wife Ivanka, known as “Baby” in meetings. Because DDT considers her qualified to do anything, he suggested she could be UN ambassador and then director of the World Bank. “She’s very good with numbers,” he said.

The smart ones around DDT, however, figured that the euphoria would vanish when the report came out—and it did. By yesterday, his rants were even more profane than usually, calling the Mueller report “bullshit” and retweeting a message from sports fantasy Scott Atkins about the DNC “circle jerk.” Maybe he learned something—like his approval rating going down three points in one day after the Mueller report release. The 37 percent approval is his lowest this year and down six points from when Barr released his lying letter about the report less than a month ago.

April 19, 2019

Barr Obstructs Justice

Back in 1978, a Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act allowing attorneys general to “request that a specially appointed three-judge panel appoint an outside individual to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of criminal law.” Fast-forward 22 years and a GOP-controlled Congress let the law lapse. The DOJ, however, knew that the administrations would continue to have scandals that needed an independent investigator to objectively gather and analyze evidence and testimony, and present conclusions to the public. Before George W. Bush took office, DOJ officials created guidelines for “specific investigations or prosecutions that may be deemed to present a conflict of interest if pursued under the normal procedures of the agency.” After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointed Jeff Sessions as his new AG, deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, in charge of the DOJ investigation because of Sessions’ conflicts of interest with Russian contacts, appointed Robert Mueller under the 2000 DOJ special counsel guidelines.

To avoid giving special investigators too much power with little oversight, the AG—or in this case deputy AG Rod Rosenstein—could manage investigations. Guidelines required Mueller to “receive, review, and, where appropriate, forward to the Attorney General or an agency head … disclosures of violations of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.” Rosenstein also required Mueller to give the person in charge a confidential final report about why the investigator prosecuted some people but not others. That requirement came from Ken Starr’s “grandiose vision of the truth-reporting role,” as legal experts Jack Goldsmith and Maddie McMahon wrote in a Lawfare blog essay. Rosenstein worked for Starr during the Whitewater investigation.

Mueller indicted 34 people and obtained guilty pleas, trial successes, and sentencing in 22 months. A few weeks after Bill Barr, the man who wrote a memo explaining his viewpoints that the president is above the law, was confirmed as AG. Weeks later, Mueller’s investigation was shut down. Barr took Mueller’s 448-page report, changed the opinion to exonerate DDT, heavily redacted the report, refused to give the unredacted document to Congress, and went back to exonerating DDT through omissions, misrepresentations, and lies:

  • Barr justified DDT’s obstruction of justice by saying that he was “frustrated and angered.”
  • Barr said nothing about DDT’s expectation of benefiting from hacked material.
  • Barr claimed that he should made the decision on obstruction of justice although the report had a conclusion:  “[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”
  • Barr too responsibility for decision-making from Congress despite Mueller’s order “that Congress can validly regulate the President’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice.” Barr refuses to give Congress the unredacted report.
  • Barr claimed no “obstructive conduct” because DDT’s staff wouldn’t follow his orders to obstruct justice. In DDT and Barr’s world, failure after attempting a crime means no crime. Mueller states that DDT tried many times and with many aides to impair, limit, and shut down Mueller’s investigation and wrote that DDT’s attempts “were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels.”
  • Barr repeatedly used the term “no collusion”—one of DDT’s favorite terms—although Mueller clarified that collusion is not a legal term. The report has over 100 pages of connections that describe “collusion.” Mueller’s summary states that DDT’s “Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
  • Barr claimed that DDT fully cooperated with the investigation. Yet DDT repeatedly refused requests to be interviewed for the investigation and showed an abysmal lack of recall in 19 of 22 responses to written questions.
  • Barr insisted that Mueller “found no evidence” of DDT’s campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, but Mueller identified “numerous” Trump campaign-Russia contacts. It outlines how Trump was elected with Russia’s help.

Eleven instances of DDT’s obstruction of justice could be prosecuted as crimes, according to Mueller:

  • DDT’s efforts to fire Mueller.
  • DDT’s order to former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.
  • DDT’s firing of Comey.
  • DDT’s efforts to hijack oversight of the Mueller investigation.
  • DDT’s order to White House counsel, Donald McGahn, to deny that Trump had tried to fire Mueller.
  • DDT’s conduct with associates who pled guilty to crimes, including Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.
  • DDT’s “repeated efforts to get McGahn to create a record denying that the President had directed him to remove the special counsel.” are held up for special scrutiny.
  • DDT’s publicly telling witnesses not to cooperate.
  • DDT’s telling Michael Cohen to not contradict him in congressional testimony about Trump Tower Moscow.
  • DDT’s trying to hide emails exposing Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians for “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT’s advanced knowledge about the planned dumps of Democratic emails hacked by Russia and given to WikiLeaks.
  • Dozens of accounts of suspect contacts between Russian operatives and Trump campaign figures.

The report states: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.However, we are unable to reach that judgment.

Barr’s exoneration of DDT might become the “Trump defense” for people charged with crimes: he isn’t guilty because he was angry and failed.

Other revelations in the unredacted portions of Mueller’s report:

Witnesses and investigated individuals often used message aps to automatically delete emails and texts after they are read or within a short time. Other documents were hard to find because witnesses and subjects lived out of the United States. The erasure of messages may have violated federal law. Mueller wrote that his office “cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”

DDT forced former AG Jeff Sessions to give him a letter of resignation and then kept it in his suit jacket’s inner pocket, pulling it out during meetings with aides. Reince Priebus said he worried that DDT was using the letter to influence DOJ investigations.

DDT told 33-year-old Stephen Miller, who has no legal training, to make the legal determination on whether he could fire Comey without cause. The White House lawyer, Don McGahn, “in an effort to slow down the decision-making process,” insisted top DOJ leaders be consulted.

After receiving the Mueller report, DOJ gave its information to the White House to help DDT’s legal team prepare a rebuttal and public relations strategy.

Many passages about DDT’s discussions between DDT’s campaign and WikiLeaks in releasing emails to damage Clinton have been blocked out, but enough remains to indicate a connection between DDT’s campaign and Russia. Mueller confirmed that the Russians tried to hack the Illinois Board of Elections website in 2016, penetrated computer systems in at least one Florida county government, and planted malware in systems at a manufacturer of election equipment. In 2016, Russian agents also hacked into the DCCC computers and disseminated the stolen information reporters and other individuals for six states.

The Rantt Rundown, “Day 819 of Trump’s “Presidency,” gives a detailed analysis of the Mueller report, “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.” It also points out that the report is damning for Barr’s reputation because of the contradictions, especially because of his conclusion that his memo arguing a sitting president cannot be indicted had no influence on Mueller’s decision-making. Mueller said Barr’s position was a factor. The full report and analysis are here. The U.S. attorney general is the chief law enforcement body for the people of the United States, not an extension of Trump’s personal legal team.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of Select Committee on Intelligence, gave the White House information about the Russia investigation after he had a private briefing with then-FBI Director James Comey. Soon afterward, DDT panicked. Although perhaps not as nefarious as DDT’s lapdog Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), once chair of the Intelligence committee, Burr has said he’s inclined to ignore the Russia scandal, downplayed it, and then said that he saw nothing wrong in DDT’s privately demanding personal loyalty from Comey.

House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued a subpoena for Robert Mueller’s full report. Barr has stated that the DOJ will not allow him to release the unredacted portion to the public—or even Congress. History proves him wrong.

Mueller’s wrote:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Jon Swaine wrote in The Guardian: 

“No past president has so frequently denied reality, nor seemed so unfamiliar with the very concept of shame. Neither, perhaps, has any past president enjoyed the support of such a compliant Senate, which is Republican-held, and willing to excuse his every scandal in the service of their agenda.

Mueller’s work lives on in Roger Stone’s trial, planned House hearings, and continued investigation of DDT’s business and inaugural committee by Manhattan federal prosecutors. DDT know that he’s in trouble: he now rants about the “Crazy Mueller Report” during his religious commemoration of Good Friday when he played a round of golf.

Republicans for the Rule of Law, a conservative group with the mission of “defending the institutions of our republic,” will attempt to run a TV ad on Fox network urging GOP lawmakers to hold DDT accountable for Mueller’s findings. The 34-second ad opens, “Twenty years ago, Republicans denounced a Democratic president for lying and obstructing justice.” It concludes, “Republicans stood for the rule of law then. We should stand for the rule of law now.” Longwell, added that the group wants Republicans to “act like a congressional body with equal powers and to provide a check on a president, who clearly from this report does not respect the rule of law.”

 

 

 

End Barr:

April 16, 2019

Bill Barr’s History May Show Future Position

On the day of the 1989 “Black Friday” market crash, almost exactly 30 years ago, a legal memo by then head of DOJ’s office of Legal Counsel Bill Barr was leaked to the media. Issued in “unusual secrecy,” the missive determined that the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries with no consent from those countries. A newspaper headline indicated that Barr could use his personal decision to abduct Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega. When Congress requested the full legal opinion, Barr refused. He promised to provide them a statement that “summarizes the principal conclusions,” the same term he used for the Mueller report.

Barr’s action began 20 years earlier, in 1979, when the U.S. signed a treaty to turn over control of the Panama Canal zone to Panama. In 1989, the U.S. government wanted to get rid of Panama’s leader, Noriega. As DOJ’s head legal counsel, Barr was told to find a legal way to go into a sovereign country, dispose its leader, kidnap him, and bring him to the U.S. to stand trial. Barr followed orders and then tried to hide how he had accomplished the task by claiming that it was based on the entire DOJ legal opinion from the department’s study.

Because his “legal opinion” was so flimsy, Barr couldn’t release his opinion’s principal conclusions. Instead, he gave Congress 13 pages of written testimony with quotes from court cases, legal citations, and language excerpted from the full opinion. The memo, however, left out substantial and provocative conclusions from the full opinion with no justifiable reason for blocking the information from Congress.

Initially, Barr refused to discuss the opinion’s content that reversed a previous opinion from his office that had been released four years earlier. A reporter asked President George H.W. Bush, “The FBI can go into Panama now?” H.W. said he was “embarrassed” about his not knowing about Barr’s memo and promised to get back to the reporter. Secretary of State James Baker soon tried to cover for H.W. by a false claim:

“This is a very narrow legal opinion based on consideration only of domestic United States law. It did not take into account international law, nor did it weigh the President’s constitutional responsibility to carry out the foreign policy of the United States.”

An assistant AG told Rep. Don Edwards, chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, that “current legal advice by the Office of Legal Counsel is confidential.” With her response, however, she reversed her statement by noting that the DOJ had released the 1980 opinion to the public in 1985. Later Barr himself testified to Congress that the DOJ has no prohibition on the release of his memo.

Barr’s response to the congressional request for his 1989 memo, was like his treatment of the Mueller report thus far. He first falsely avowed the history of Internal Justice Department rules as a basis for his refusal. Edwards pointed out the 1980 memo precedent so Barr shifted his position from his testimony and letter sent to Edwards, claiming that “it has been the long established policy of OLC that except in very exceptional circumstances, the opinions must remain confidential.” Historical examination shows that Barr was mistaken—or lied. When Barr referred to his misleading 13-page written testimony, Edwards told him that he had violated House rules by submitting the document only the morning of the hearing instead of the required advance of 48 hours.

The written testimony asserted that domestic law allows a president to authorize FBI actions in foreign countries that violate international law. Yale law school professor Harold Koh explained that, without the full opinion, Congress could not determine whether Barr’s assertion was based on fact, what parts of the earlier opinion were overturned, and whether his full opinion contained nuances, subtleties, or exceptions that Barr’s testimony didn’t include. Barr’s testimony did indeed skip parts of his opinion, that Ryan Goodman described, “would have earned the Justice Department scorn from the halls of Congress, legal experts, and the public.”

Congress received the 1989 Barr opinion 21 months later after waiting a year and a half to issue a subpoena. But that was after the U.S. had invaded Panama, captured Noriega, and brought him back to the U.S. for a trial.

Award-winning investigative journalist Michael Isikoff gave this analysis of Barr’s full opinion:

Omission 1: President’s authority to violate the UN Charter

Barr’s opinion stated that a president could violate the United Nations Charter because such actions are “fundamentally political questions.” Barr was wrong. He ignored a president’s constitutional duty to “take care” that U.S. laws, including ratified treaties, be faithfully executed. He also combined this political question issue—whether courts can review an action taken by the executive branch—and the question of whether this action is legal or authorized. Professor Jeanne Woods wrote: “Barr’s congressional testimony attempted to gloss over the broad legal and policy changes that his written opinion advocated.… A careful analysis of the published opinion, and the reasoning underlying it, however, reveals the depth of its deviation from accepted norms.”

Omission 2: Presumption that acts of Congress comply with international law

Woods wrote that Barr failed to correctly apply the so-called “Charming Betsy” method when interpreting statutes. In the 1804 decision, Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, the Supreme Court ruled that “an act of Congress ought never to be construed to violate the law of nations if any other possible construction remains.” Even more, in a “reverse Charming Betsy” Barr asserted that “in the absence of an explicit restriction” concerning international law, the congressional statute must be interpreted as authorizing the executive branch to violate international law. He wrote that Congress has to grant the right to a president to break international law “because, as part of his law enforcement powers, the President has the inherent authority to override customary international law.” It’s a false analogy based on a false assertion.

Omission 3: International law on abductions in foreign countries

Barr’s testimony about his opinion didn’t even mention international law. He claimed that the full memo “is strictly a legal analysis of the FBI’s authority, as a matter of domestic law, to conduct extraterritorial arrests of individuals for violations of U.S. law.” His State Department legal adviser sidekick reinforced Barr’s testimony by claiming:

“Mr. Barr has summarized its conclusions for you. As Mr. Barr has indicated, that opinion addressed a narrow question-the domestic legal authority to make such arrests…. My role today is to address issues not discussed in the OLC opinion — the international law and foreign policy implications of a nonconsensual arrest in a foreign country.”

The full memo, however, included international law and the way that the UN Charter—a specific treaty—could apply. The 1980 memo, which Barr reversed, opposed abductions in other countries without their consent. It quoted a condemnation of Israel’s abduction of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina as an example of prohibition by Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Barr said the opposite of the 1980 DOJ memo. Barr also used personal “logic” in the memo instead of legality:

“Because sovereignty over territory derives not from the possession of legal title, but from the reality of effective control, logic would suggest there would be no violation of international law in exercising law enforcement activity in foreign territory over which no state exercises effective control.”

These pieces are a few of those uncovered in Congress after it subpoenaed the full opinion. By that time, however, Barr had become deputy AG on his way to being peacefully confirmed for AG. He said that the constitution didn’t permit abortion, that Roe v. Wade was wrong decided, and then Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), now considering a run for president, praised his honesty. At about the same time, Biden helped put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court for perpetuity. Not long after becoming AG, Barr helped H.W. pardon indicted and convicted officials from the Iran-Contra Affair to protect H.W. from being investigated about his own illegal conduct.

Almost 30 years later, Barr told Congress that he would “summarize the principal conclusions” of the Robert Mueller’s report for the public. He can obfuscate and hide information in Muller’s report. If that doesn’t work, Barr can help with more pardons to hide illegal actions by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). And as a bonus, Barr can authorize the FBI to arrest the head of any country DDT wishes—like Venezuela maybe? It’s a pattern for Barr.

The vote to confirm followed party lines except for one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (KY), who voted against confirmation and three Democrats—Doug Jones (AL), Joe Manchin (WY), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) voting for confirmation. Barr violated the Posse Comitatus Act that requires congressional approval for using military for law enforcement. Thanks to his confirmation, the nation may be subjected to his approach of doing whatever he wants and then claiming that what’s done is done. [In the above photo, Bill Barr may be demonstrating how much he will let the public see of Mueller’s report.]

With the release of the heavily-redacted Mueller report less than two days away, White House staffers are suffering a “breakdown-level anxiety” among cooperating staff who fear “the wrath” of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his allies. Look for a whole new level of fury in DDT’s tweets.

 

April 15, 2019

Tax Day: ‘Cuts,’ Returns

Today is the deadline for paying 2018 taxes, and the amount of taxes that people pay has consumed conversation for over a year, ever since DDT and other Republicans gave the wealthy and big business a huge tax break that cost the United States $1.5 trillion. When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered his rally speeches, he promised that people would get an additional $4,000, but over 80 percent of taxpayers didn’t get this generous bonus. Instead 10,260,263 paid more taxes last year after DDT’s 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, and raises for most people were under $1,000. The law eliminated personal and dependent exemptions, caps on state and local deductions, employee business expenses deductions, etc. The cap of $10,000 on state and local tax deductions was onerous for many people, especially those who have lived in their home for a long time or have high state income tax, although DDT claimed that only the wealthy were hurt.

Researchers found that “half the tax cuts went to the richest five percent, with about a quarter going to the richest one percent. Those among the top five percent got bigger tax cuts not just in dollar terms but even when measured as a share of their total income.” Households making between $500,000 and $1 million had their after-tax income rise by an average of 5.2 percent. Households making less than $50,000 experience only a 0.6 percent increase. In even greater income inequality, W-2 wages fell 2.0 percent in 2018. Bonuses fell $0.22 for 2018, and the average bonus for 2018 was just $0.01 higher than in 2017. Most bonuses came from recruiting because of low unemployment instead of production from company tax cuts.

Big benefits went to Fortune 500 companies: at least 60 profitable corporations will pay nothing—some of them getting back extra money from the government. That number is double from previous years. Instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes on their $79 billion of pretax income, the companies got rebates of $4.3 billion—a GOP gift of over $20 billion used to buy up stock and sock away in hidden offshore accounts. A few corporations with this advantage: Amazon, Chevron. Deere, Delta Air Lines, General Motors, Halliburton, Honeywell International, Molson Coors, and Prudential Financial. Another 51 companies with zero or minus taxes.

Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan’s CEO, bragged to shareholders that tax cuts for the bank add “$3.7 billion to net income.” But the increase “will be erased” so that shareholders won’t expect to get higher profits. The justification for the company’s spending $55 billion in stock buybacks? You have to buy back your own stock at “tangible book value.” And then at “two times tangible book value.” So buy back stock at any price, according to Dimonomics.

DDT surely gained millions—perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars—from DDT’s tax cuts for the wealth as did people he chose for his officials. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified in support of $6.7 billion in education cuts at a congressional hearing, but she saved at least $10 million in taxes for 2018. Amway, her family’s company structured as an S-corporation, dropped its taxes from 39.6 percent to 29.6 percent in what Republicans called a small business cut. The education cut comes from the tax cuts’ failure to continue revenue for the government; instead revenue is plummeting. DeVos’ $10 million in taxes would have supported work-study funding for 5,600 students, Nevada’s entire share of the 21st Century Community Learning Center after school program, or funding for Full Service Community Schools academic and social services at schools in 20 communities—programs that DeVos wants to eliminate because of no revenue. DDT wants to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent with a conservative addition to the deficit of $1 trillion over a decade.

In their effort to convince people that they are paying lower taxes, Republicans have decided to make the withholding form so complicated that they can just say that people aren’t being ripped off. Past forms asked for the number of allowances based on exemptions. The new form requires annual dollar amounts for nonwage income, such as interest and dividends; itemized and other deductions; income tax credits expected for the tax year; and total annual taxable wages for all lower-paying jobs in the household for people with multiple jobs. The new form references 12 IRS publications for its completion and looks like the 1040 for final taxes instead of a simple W-4. The former year’s 1099, pay stubs, or 1040 returns are necessary for making the withholding calculations.

People are required to tell the “primary” employee about all their other income as well as that of their family and will probably need training to fill it out. Productivity will shrink and privacy goes out the window. And states may also require a new withholding form instead of the current W-4. Remember when Republicans said that people could fill out their tax return information on a postcard? It’s not happening.

Polling indicates that only 17 percent of people think that they got any tax cut even if they did. This perception comes from most taxpayers getting only a small cut. Only one-third of people approve of the legislation that DDT saw as his signature legislative achievement. Economic growth, a talking point around tax cuts, is slightly worse than in 2015, and job growth has slowed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said about the tax cut when it was passed:

“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.”

The 77-year-old man is up for re-election next year. He may have the chance for “another line of work.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s tax reform proposal, “Real Corporate Profits Tax,” might force a modicum of honesty on huge corporations. She recommends that companies reporting more than $100 million in worldwide profits pay seven percent on every dollar above the first $100 million claimed in profits to their investors. After CEO’s like Dimon brag about their tremendous profits, companies currently convince the IRS that they make no profits and thus pay no taxes. J.P. Morgan made over $131 billion in 2018 but paid less than $10 million in taxes. Warren maintains that raising the corporate tax rate does no good because the tax code is “so littered” with loopholes. She estimates that charging 1,200 companies subject to this tax would give “smaller” businesses “a fighting chance.” Companies paying no taxes would pay some taxes—Amazon would pay $698 million in taxes and Occidental Petroleum, $280 million. Last year, Amazon got a tax refund of $129 million plus paying no taxes.

For people who complain about costs of Social Security and healthcare, consider another destination for tax money. Of every dollar in taxes, 24 cents go to the military. Of those 24 cents, only 5 cents go to our troops while 12 cents go to corporate military contractors. The average taxpayer gave $1,704 to Pentagon contractors last year but only $683 for military pay, housing, and other benefits except $833 to military health care. The average U.S. taxpayer gave $225 to Lockheed’s executives and shareholders. Its CEO Marillyn Hewson got over $20 million for 2017, but the top pay for a four-star general or admiral is $189,600. The lowest-rank enlisted soldiers make just $20,172. Boeing got $100 from the average taxpayer, the same amount as all of education received.

And a shout out to DDT’s tax returns. Writing that concerns from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “lack merit,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA) has given IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a firm deadline of April 23 to turn over six years of DDT’s tax returns. Two days later, DDT’s personal lawyer wrote the Treasury Department to stop the tax returns from being handed over to House Democrats.

DDT’s tax preparer Mazars USA told House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it would turn over ten years of DDT’s tax returns if the company received a subpoena. In an attempt to hide the returns, DDT’s lawyers have threatened the firm with legal action if it follows the law. The letter accused Cummings of wanting the returns only for political reasons, basically accusing a member of Congress of being a liar.  calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), members of the Oversight Committee, also accused Democrats of requesting DDT tax returns “solely to embarrass President Trump.”

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders passed along the DDT party line of smears and threats about Democrats requesting DDT’s his tax returns when she claimed that Democrats aren’t “smart enough” to look through his returns and that they are on a “dangerous, dangerous road.” DDT was tried twice for civil tax fraud, criticized by judges in both cases, and faced his own tax lawyer testifying against him.

Protesters brought an inflatable figure to the steps of the IRS when they asked for DDT to release his tax returns. The group uses the figure because DDT is “too chicken” to release his tax returns. The first “chicken bearing a resemblance to DDT was 23 feet tall and complete with golden hair pompadour and preening gestures. It arrived at a Chinese mall less than a month before DDT’s inauguration in preparation for the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Questions: If there is nothing wrong with DDT’s tax returns, why would he be embarrassed? If there is something wrong, why isn’t a look at them not warranted?

 

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