Nel's New Day

July 18, 2017

U.S. House Produces Mixed Results

Most media attention on Congress has targeted the Senate, but the House keeps chugging along. The 2018 budget plan goes to committee tomorrow with a partial repeal of Dodd-Frank in order to stop protecting consumers plus a reduction of $203 billion for financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, the safety net, etc. to pay for tax cuts and military. Defense spending would increase over the next decade as nondefense discretionary declines to $424 billion from $554 billion. Like senators, representative factions are split between far more cuts to the safety net and opposition to the proposed ones.

Unlike Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) assumption of a four-percent growth, the House Budget Committee expects a 2.6 percent annual average. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 1.9 percent growth in the economy for the next decade.  The House budget plan also assumes that their repeal of the Affordable Care Act will pass.

Last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $20 billion spending bill to fund federal agencies, including $1.6 billion to build DDT’s wall against Mexico. The bill includes a measure preventing the IRS from enforcing the 63-year-old law preventing churches from backing political candidates. Another provision in the bill is taking control of funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the Federal Reserve.

Congress—meaning both chambers—must pass a budget by October 1 to avoid another embarrassing and expensive government shutdown similar to the one in 2013. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), House Freedom Caucus chair, said that his members won’t vote for any budget without constructing the wall. They also claim that they won’t vote for the budget bill because they haven’t seen it. Ryan needs the Caucus because they comprise 31 of the 240 Republicans in the House; passing a bill requires 218 votes. Representatives from districts along the Mexico border are largely opposed to a wall between Mexico and the United States.

The House is still largely ignoring a Senate bill, passed 98-2, that imposes greater sanctions on Russia and limits DDT’s ability to lift them. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the bill should have originated in the House after DDT lobbied the House to weaken the bill. Special interests in energy are now opposing the bill. Despite the Democratic support for the bill in the senate, Ryan is blaming Democrats for the slowdown.

The House did manage to pass two anti-immigration bills. The first cuts off some federal grants from cities that do not go beyond federal law in cooperating with immigration authorities, and the other creates tougher sentences for criminals illegally entering the U.S. several times.  The second bill was based on a woman killed by a man who had been deported to Mexico five times; DDT had used her as a symbol during his campaign. The Senate will probably not survive the Senate, especially the first one opposed by law enforcement groups. The National Fraternal Order of Police wrote House leaders that “withholding needed assistance to law enforcement agencies—which have no policymaking role—also hurts public safety efforts.”

Even GOP representative couldn’t swallow the massive cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget that its ambassador Nikki Haley touted on behalf of DDT. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) pointed out “our leadership is irreplaceable.” Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said the cuts are not “sustainable or advisable” if the U.S. wants to maintain its status as a global leader.

The House did give DDT a bloated defense budget of $696 billion, more than his requested $603 billion. To survive, the budget needs to cut a deal to increase or repeal the sequestration caps that the GOP supported in 2013. A proposal to end the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force remained in the budget, but an amendment passed to require an administration strategy to defeat ISIS and an assessment of whether the 2001 AUMF is adequate to accomplish the strategy.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) lost her amendment to bar the Pentagon from paying for grender transition services when 24 Republicans joined Democrats to kill the measure. Twenty-seven GOP House representatives, including Oregon’s Greg Walden, joined the Democrats to oppose lawmakers who tried expand DDT’s religious profiling and Islamophobic policies. The failed amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense to “conduct strategic assessments of the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging.”

Another loss for the GOP came from 46 Republicans voting against with their caucus to defeat an amendment to the Pentagon’s budget to eradicate language about climate change’s threat. The defense policy calls climate change a “direct threat” to national security and requires analysis about its affect on the military. The House voted 185-234 to keep this language by voting down the amendment. Justification for the language in the Defense Department included the rising sea levels threatening military installations and disasters of drought and floods that exacerbate instability and increase extremist insurrections and war. Defense Secretary James Mattis has already stated that climate change is “a real-time issue, not some distant what-if” and “impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

One House member who may find himself embroiled in the DDT/Russia collusion is Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (SC). His super PAC accepted a great deal of money at the same time that the House Intelligence Committee began his investigation into the collusion. Gowdy defended himself by saying that “it’s not unusual for Russians to contact campaigns.” Yes, it is, and how does Gowdy know about these contacts? He also faces an ethics complaint about the possibility of bribes for his actions connected to Hillary Clinton’s debunked Benghazi investigation.

Gowdy has demanded that every DDT official disclose all communications with Russia before they come “out on the front page of the newspaper.” He wouldn’t admit that there is a problem with Russian collusion, but he wants the distraction to stop. Yet he admitted that “four or five statutes [could be] impacted” and “trusts” special investigator Robert Mueller “to sort all that out.” Mueller has 16 attorneys in his team of 25 people looking into Russian interference.

Things between the House and the White House may grow even more tense, if possible. Devil’s Bargain, a new book from Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, states that white supremacist Steve Bannon, back in WH favor, called Ryan “a limpd**k mother**ker.” Green wrote that the comment from DDT’s chief strategist came from the suggestion of Ryan as a DDT alternative is the RNC were contested. Breitbart.com, Bannon’s former website, launched critical pieces about Ryan. Can this be the first of “kiss and tell” books about DDT—without the kiss?

Ryan has expressed dismay at the senate failure to pass a healthcare bill after the House found 217 votes for Trumpcare months ago. He said that the House will move forward on tax “reform” (aka cuts for the wealthy). Passing the House health care bill has been profitable from some U.S. representative who bought stock in health insurance companies. As the bill moved forward in late March, GOP congressional members invested, i.e., Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), $30,000 and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), $50,000-$100,000.

Shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pulled the vote on its second bill for Trumpcare, he declared that the Senate would vote for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and then replace it later. That plan didn’t work either. Senators who opposed the harshness of the Trumpcare bill are already voicing their opposition. And one possible GOP vote—Sen. John McCain—is still in Arizona. Plus McConnell will need 60, not 50, votes because a repeal won’t fall under the reconciliation process. Yet McConnell plans to move ahead with a vote next week

Ryan was surprised when some women representatives objected to the enforcement of a dress code preventing sleeveless tops and open-toed shoe. Rep. Jackie Spiers (D-CA) initiated “Sleeveless Friday,” a day when the temperature in Washington, D.C. was 97 degrees. Twenty-five women gathered for a photo op on the steps of Congress. Three-fourths of the women in the House are Democrats, but the protest crossed party lines.

Some people may complain about the women making a big deal of a small thing. At this time, however, the Republicans in the House are making a small thing of a big deal—DDT’s conflicts of interest, lack of tax returns, violent and threatening tweets, Russian connections, etc.

July 17, 2017

Waiting for McCain: Senate Struggles

Senators were so desperate to avoid their constituents that they decided to stay in Washington, D.C. for two weeks of their summer recess, departing August 11 soon after DDT’s 200th day. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had planned to pass the health Trumpcare bill at the end of this week because he wanted major legislation by the end of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) 200th day. That might make up for almost nothing done during DDT’s first 100 days. McConnell’s little train went off the rails, however.

First, McConnell had two definite defections from either end of the political spectra. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) opposed the second bill that McConnell’s staffers wrote because it was more punitive than the first one. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he wouldn’t vote for the bill because it gave people too much health care. The second senate bill came from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who wants people to save money by buying substandard insurance plans. These would provide almost no care with prohibitively high deductibles, but the premiums might be lower.

Even big guns in the health insurance industry pointed out flaws in the new Trumpcare bill. In a letter to McConnell and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the insurance industry lobby group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) called the most recent Trumpcare plan “unworkable in any form.” They wrote that the plan “would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.” The letter also asserted that a “single risk pool” would establish “two systems of insurance for healthy and sick people.” The bill has two pools—one for regular policyholders and another for the very sick. According to the letter’s authors, “millions of more individuals will become uninsured” with the proposed “risk pool.”

The second serious hitch for McConnell was Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) surgery in Arizona to remove a blood clot above his eye. McConnell delayed a vote to take healthcare from millions until McCain was back from his surgery paid for by the taxpayers. The first expectations were a week of recovery, but surgeons who performed the craniotomy are now less optimistic. He might not be able to vote on Trumpcare for several weeks. McCain’s blood clot was discovered during a routine physical, the kind of preventative care provided by the Affordable Care Act that Republicans hope to take from people if McCain gets back to Washington. The ACA Medicaid expansions in 30 states and D.C. increased preventative services for 5.4 percent more low-income childless adults in the past year.

If only Collins and Paul had defected, the remaining 50 GOP senators could have passed Trumpcare with VP Mike Pence casting the tie vote. But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) indicated that he might join Collins and Paul because of  his irritation about McConnell’s assurances to moderate Republicans. The majority leader said, “The bill’s deepest Medicaid cuts are far into the future, and they’ll never go into effect anyway. McConnell finally pulled the vote on Trumpcare after Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Lee (R-UT) dropped their support to even proceed to a vote. Moran stated:

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy. Furthermore, if we leave the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions, it is more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase.”

The senate debacle occurred after DDT hosted GOP senators for dinner at the White House. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), health committee chair, one of the invitees, was also one of those who wasn’t committed to voting in favor of the bill. A media whip count found only eleven GOP senators, mostly elected leaders and chairs of committees negotiating the bill, who fully supported Trumpcare. With Moran and Lee pairing up to deny Trumpcare, no GOP senator is in danger of being the third “no” in a vote.

Like the House, the Senate figured that if people didn’t like the first bill for healthcare, they would create a worse one. In addition to Cruz’s idea of ending federal subsidies and regulations, it still allows insurers to reject people with pre-existing conditions, reinstitutes lifetime coverage caps, and eliminates coverage of essential benefits such as maternity care. McConnell’s bill retains 80 percent of taxes that earlier versions would repeal, but reduction in Medicaid still offsets these taxes. The $100 billion tax break for people who open health care savings accounts gives to the wealthy, the only people who have enough money to establish these accounts. The bill also gives $70 billion to insurers as protection against the bill’s turbulence, but that action didn’t satisfy the health insurance industry. In its opposition to the bill, AHIP issued a press release entitled, “Policies that increase uncertainty or threaten instability should be avoided.”

As bad as the Trumpcare bill is, the process may be even worse. Senate staffers wrote a health bill that even GOP members of the health care committee couldn’t see, and the GOP leaders said they were proud to be part of a “transparent and open” process. They declared that the Democrats were far more secretive about passing the bill. The Affordable Care Act had over 100 hearings; Trumpcare has none, despite suggestions for having hearings now that the vote has been delayed. Trumpcare is the least popular bill in 30 years and growing less popular every day. Twice as many people support “Obamacare” as “Trumpcare”—50 percent to 28 percent. Sixty-one percent of people disapprove of the Senate plan, and almost two-thirds in the survey oppose major reductions to federal funding for Medicaid. Seventy-one percent want Republicans in Congress to work with Democrats to improve, but not repeal, the ACA.

In another mystery surrounding Trumpcare, the mandatory score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has been delayed from its expected release today. The report for the first bill revealed that Trumpcare would increase average premiums by 20 percent in 2018 and 10 percent the next year before going down in ten years. The CBO may be preparing a comparison with the two different senate bills, but Republicans are concerned about what the most recent bill may reveal.

Passing Trumpcare and DDT’s budget could create an epidemic of “super gonorrhea” caused by the overuse of antibiotics. Eliminating the Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative (ARSI) to try to improve detection and containment of resistant infections across the nation could also limit modern medical advances in surgery and chemotherapy from the threat of infection. Nineteen of the leaders in the G20 are planning to coordinate a fight against this problem.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In another Senate story that keeps dripping, a D.C. judge overturned the conviction of a protester at the confirmation hearing of AG Jeff Sessions. Desiree Fairooz, 61, laughed when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) claimed Sessions had a “clear and well-documented” record of “treating all Americans equally under the law.” The government had argued that her laugh was sufficient for a guilty verdict. The real disruption occurred when a rookie officer took her out of the room. A new trial has been set for Sept. 1.

In Senate confirmation hearings for FBI director last week, Christopher Wray said all the right things and impressed Democrats. Here is his background.

  • Defense of white collar defendants, including a major Swiss bank accused of laundering money for terrorists and helping Iran obtain nuclear weapons.
  • Lawyer for Russian companies Gazprom and Rosneft.
  • Deletion from his bio about representation of unnamed American “energy company executive in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities.”
  • Overseer of a deal with Chiquita, while he was in the Criminal Division, that exonerated executives of the company supporting terrorism in Colombia.
  • Support for Bush-era rules interrogating (torturing?) so-called “non-combatants.”
  • “Less-than-truthful” answers about the murder of a CIA-held detainee.
  • Defense attorney and “chief custodian of missing cell phones” for Gov. Chris Christie (NJ) during an investigation into the closure of the George Washington Bridge.
  • Extreme enthusiasm for the PATRIOT Act in opposition to civil liberties groups, indicating his using extensive surveillance for protesters.

E.J. Dionne gave an excellent rationale for not confirming Wray:

“There is good reason to feel uneasy about having anyone appointed by Trump lead the FBI at this moment. It is obvious to all except the willfully blind that we now have a president who observes none of the norms, rules or expectations of his office and will pressure anyone at any time if doing so serves his personal interests. We also know beyond doubt that this team will lie, and lie, and lie again whenever the matter of Russia’s exertions to elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton arises.”

But Wray said the right things to senators, and VP Mike Pence avows (falsely) that Trumpcare “secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.” Our culture is dominated by “fake” claims.

June 28, 2017

Congress Churns Forward

Congress is getting ready for another vacation, gone for all next week for a week, before returning for a few days and disappearing for over a month. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has taken over for Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as head of the House Oversight Committee and announced that he won’t bother with any investigation into the involvement of people such as Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner with Russia. Gowdy also ruled out looking into whether Trump White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be revoked. This is the same man who spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours examining Hillary Clinton’s email server and four deaths in Benghazi.

Chaffetz won’t be back to Washington after the break; he submitted his resignation in April. He did leave a legacy by calling on Congress to declare a monthly $2,500 housing stipend for each congressional member, equivalent to two annual minimum-wage salaries. Chaffetz is the same person who told people that they could pay for their health insurance if they didn’t buy an iPhone. People who asked why Chaffetz had quit a year and a half before the end of his two-year term now have their answer. He starts on Fox network Saturday—the day that he begins “retirement.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain (R-AZ), each met with Andriy Parubiy, founder of the neo-fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine that used Nazi ideology and Third Reich imagery. The SNPU banned non-Ukrainians and established a violently racist paramilitary group called the Patriot of Ukraine. Ryan called on “closer political, economic, and security relations between our legislatures,” and McCain said that he and Parubiy had a “good meeting.”

While the media concentrated on the egregious health care plan in the Senate and the Russian investigation into Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his colleagues, the House passed a near-repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act. When the act was signed into law in 2010, it attempted to limit the riskiest types of securities to keep the United States out of another recession like the one a decade ago. Current Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin hates the Dodd-Frank Act because it keeps him from making more vast profits from disclosing on mortgages the way that he did before it went into effect.

Ironically the pro-Wall Street bill is called CHOICE Act. One part of it eliminates the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, requiring brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. The legislation would also stop the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing plans for banks with more than $50 billion in holding assets if they need to declare bankruptcy. It would also greatly lower capital requirements, a method of making bank safer by keeping them from loading up on debt.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls it the “Wrong Choice Act” because the anti-family, anti-consumer provisions block regulators from carrying out their jobs and allows big banks to ignore oversight. CHOICE allows banks to return to gambling in the market with federally guaranteed deposits and resume unlimited unfair banking practices to deceive customers. CHOICE permits unregulated payday and car-title loan sharks. If the bill passes, the president can fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and curb its oversight powers. The bill allows legislators to defund CFPB, the first step in doing away from it.

CFPB returned $11.8 billion to more than 29 million consumers defrauded by big banks, shady for-profit colleges, and debt collectors. Despite the banks’ record profits last year, they want to eliminate the rules that reduce foreclosures and protect borrowers.

The Dodd-Frank Act creates rules, processes, and organizations in the connected financial world of banks, hedge funds, mortgage originators, insurance companies, debt collectors, and payday lenders. Stripping away the pieces of Dodd-Frank is like mining by removing a mountain. With any luck, the CHOICE Act may not move through the Senate because eight Democrats would have to support it.

Before the Senate tackles CHOICE, it has to deal with the highly unpopular health care bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has found $188 billion, and he’s madly talking with reluctant GOP senators to bribe them with backroom “side deals.” Conservatives no longer want to use money to reduce the deficit. If he gets any kind of consensus, then he has to rush the revised bill to the Congressional Budget Office for another scoring in order to vote in the last two weeks of July. The bill has to be passed in coordination with the House by September 30 in order to need only 50 votes, and the Senate is in recess for all of August.

Compromise will be difficult: the far right wants no coverage mandates to lower premiums, and the right (called moderates) want more generous tax credits for the working class and less punitive Medicaid cuts. At least nine senators have said that they couldn’t vote for the present bill, and they’re split between those from states that expanded Medicaid and those who fought it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants permission for bare-bones plans that don’t offer much health care—back to life before the Affordable Care Act. McConnell continues to claim that Democrats won’t talk about the health care bill while Democrats are begging to be given a seat at the discussion table.

As could be expected, Democrats were upset about being left out of the process. In an odd twist, however, so were several Republicans. Those in the closed-door “listening sessions” reported that the leadership wouldn’t tell them what was and wasn’t on the table. They were just asked about what they could and couldn’t support. Some went so far as to say that the meetings were a box-checking exercise.  “I always believe legislation is best crafted through the normal order,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said. “I think it’s much better to have committee consideration of bills, public hearings and to have a full debate.” She was joined by a number of “moderate” GOP senators in calling on involvement of Democrats in the governing process.

The Senate has not had this type of closed-door partisan process to major legislation since before World War I, over a century ago. Don Ritchie, the historian emeritus of the Senate, said that Democratic leaders tried the same MO during the Great Depression, but senator revolted. A small revolt may be starting now as most GOP senators are non-committal about the bill. A  result of Senate support, people hate their version of Trumpcare even more than they hated the House bill. A USA Today poll reported 12 percent approval, and that newspaper is owned by Fox’s Rupert Murdoch. The House bill had gone as high as 20 percent approval.

The last time that members of Congress headed home for a recess, most of the Republicans refused to have town halls with their constituents. They will be increasingly reluctant this summer because the health care bills are causing far more anger than earlier—and the public was furious then. Some GOP legislators are using the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as an excuse to avoid their voters. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) has an idea. During the last recess, he suggested that Democrats “adopt a district” as he did when he fielded questions in a town hall from constituents in a neighboring district after Rep. John Faso (R-NY) avoided any meetings. Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ) “adopted” a neighboring district belonging to Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) when she wouldn’t host an event in her district. Maybe the idea will catch on this summer. Only two GOP senators—Jerry Moran (KS) and Bill Cassidy (LA) have scheduled town halls for the upcoming break.

A miracle did happen in the U.S. House during the past month! Republicans stood up for the environment! DDT’s budget eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, halves the scientific research, and decimates environmental enforcement and grants—in all, slashing $2.6 billion, 31 percent of the EPA’s budget. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) wasn’t buying the agency’s secretary, Scott Pruitt, when he defended the cuts by saying they didn’t need the funding. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) defended the Great Lakes, calling them “a national treasure” and asking if Pruitt thought that it’s “fair to expect states and local communities to shoulder the burden of caring for them.” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed the 30 percent cuts in the Superfund program, affecting over 100 hazardous waste sites in his state. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) objected to zeroing out several tribal environmental grants and programs. It’s a start!

May 10, 2017

Jason Chaffetz: Epitome of the GOP

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
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Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) may be almost gone, but he will live on as the epitome of the GOP leadership. Vinson Cunningham describes some of his characteristics, and photographer Bill Clark captured a representative image.

Chaffetz seemed like an independent person last October when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) revealed his privileged sense of depravity by talking about indiscriminately  grabbing “pussy.” In response, Chaffetz seemed to take the high road when he rescinded his endorsement of DDT:

“My wife and I, we have a fifteen-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”

At that time he also had much more to say about the “awful place” the nominee had put the country in and his “abhorrent and offensive” language, but his position about DDT lasted only two and a half weeks before the 180-degree turned Chaffetz into a DDT supporter. His excuse was that Hillary Clinton was “that bad.” As House Oversight chairman, he has focused for years on trying to make Clinton’s life miserable in endless Benghazi inquisitions. None of the expensive endeavors turned up any illegal action, but Chaffetz isn’t through. Returning from re-election this past January, Chaffetz opened an investigation into Clinton’s emails, hoping for criminal charges, and Comey’s firing inspired him to expand the scope of his search for something—anything—that might be illegal in Clinton’s private server.

Faced with unconstitutional conflict of interest charges for DDT, Chaffetz mentally shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s already rich. He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Pushed to investigate the $400 million deal between Jared Kushner’s family and the Chinese, Chaffetz said:

“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”

Chaffetz referred to “these other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money” as “a bit of a sideshow.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, Chaffetz proposed a bill that would allow Republicans to sell off public lands. A bipartisan backlash caused him to say that he was withdrawing the bill because his constituents objected. That was February 2. Eight days later the bill was referred to a subcommittee.

During public appearances during “Trumpcare”s first attempt this year, Chaffetz maintained that people could pay for their health care if they didn’t buy a new iPhone. First, the cost of an iPhone won’t pay for health care. But then came the discovery that Chaffetz’s $738 iPhone—and its services—came from campaign funds. This would be illegal if he used it for person business, but he hasn’t answered any questions about whether he does. Then came his attack on Rosie O’Donnell after Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent for 2018, Kathryn Allen, raised over $200,000 in just two days.

Another part of Chaffetz’s history is his failure to become a Secret Service agent. He claimed that he was rejected because he was too old, but then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery sent an email saying about his application, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The kitchen apparently got too hot for Chaffetz at an April town hall meeting in his home Utah district. The people who attended scolded him for not investigating administration corruption, including DDT’s appointment of Michael Flynn for national security adviser. Chaffetz whined about how his constituents in his deep red district were there only to “bully and intimidate” him and called them “paid protesters.” Then he said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018 and might even leave Congress before then. Chaffetz claimed that he wanted to return to the private sector and be with his family. “I started poking around to see what I might be worth and what sort of possibilities are there,” he said in an interview. And then he avoided Congress and his constituents by a month-long leave after foot surgery. Distancing himself from DDT at this time could let him run for governor or even president in 2020.

The House was so desperate for votes on their cruel “repeal and replace” health care bill that Chaffetz showed up on an expensive metallic scooter to cast his vote denying tens of millions of people the same health insurance that he will keep. His district is in the top ten of districts with the most people relying on the Affordable Care Act. Clark’s photograph perfectly presents the GOP cruelty of a “repeal and replace” vote for ACA in the House with the slick, gleeful Chaffetz framed against marble walls and elaborate chandeliers.

With Clinton in the White House, Chaffetz could have stayed gleeful while the Fox network filmed him constantly leading highly visible investigations about Clinton’s conflicts of interests and abuses of power. Like many other Republicans, Chaffetz hasn’t figured out how to work in a government controlled by the GOP. They are accustomed to dealing with opposition in a world where they preen in front of the cameras as victims; they don’t know what to do when the opposition comes from within. Even worse for the Republicans is that the corruption comes their own party—and much of it from their own president.

Stephanie Mencimer writes: “Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.” She explains that “to Chaffetz” means to throw a former mentor under the bus to move ahead, something that people such as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Other Republicans carry Chaffetzing farther. DDT claimed that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had come to DDT asking for Comey’s firing, but people familiar with the occurrence said that DDT summoned the two of them to the White House after he decided to fire Comey. They followed his orders, and DDT tried to put the blame on them when the scheme backfired.

According to over 30 White House officials, however, DDT had become increasingly furious about Comey’s appearing in public, especially to talk about Russian involvement in U.S. politics, especially during the past week. The Washington Post has provided extensive information about events leading up to the firing and such questions as why Sessions was involved in the firing when he recused himself from anything dealing with Clinton’s emails, the ostensible reason for the firing, and Russia, the probably reason behind the firing.

The firing and the GOP support behind him reflects how Chaffetz views his job—that he has sworn allegiance to the Republican party over any loyalty to his country. The question is how long the Republicans will continue to support DDT over their country’s best interests. In an analysis of senators’ responses, only 12 of them actively defended DDT for the firing while another fifteen said that DDT’s actions raised concerns about a lack of information or the timing of the firing. Another 21 senators were vague, likely waiting to see which way they should jump after the dust settles. This is the congressional body responsible for confirming the replacement for Comey. Much to DDT’s amazement, the Democrats were overwhelming angry about the firing because of its apparent intent to stop the investigation into his relationship with Russia.

DDT’s possible business dealings with Russia may be the major issue that emerged from Monday’s Senate hearing and Comey’s firing. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he had any “concern” about a DDT business interest in Russia. Clapper’s ultimate answer upon being pressed is that he could not comment on that question “because that impact an investigation.” That was an open hearing; the Judiciary Committee may pursue the question in closed meetings.  Thus far, there is a murky background to DDT’s Russia business interests that he has denied.

Basically, Chaffetz well represents the Republican leadership—cruel, self-centered, hypocritical, cowardly, dishonest, ignorant, and loyal only to those who can give him something. We’ll watch him to see where he pops up next.

April 26, 2017

Announcement of Tax ‘Reform’ (aka Tax Cuts for Wealthy) to Cover for Flynn, Trumpcare

Almost all the news today has been about the new tax plan from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The time is probably to divert media coverage from the scandal surrounding DDT’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and the struggles of the new Trumpcare health plan that he said would pass the House today. At this time, the conservative Freedom Caucus is on board with Trumpcare because it removes healthcare from many people, but the moderates haven’t confirmed that they will vote for it yet. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has enough trouble figuring out how to keep the government open past Friday without passing the budget that has not even been considered.

Retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell under George W. Bush, said that Flynn is either “one of the dumbest individuals who’s ever lived or … he really had some nefarious purposes.” Even GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the Oversight Committee, admitted that Flynn might not have complied with the law, but he blamed former President Obama after DDT refuses to reveal any documents about vetting, hiring, and dismissing Flynn for his 24-day tenure with the current White House administration. Flynn became the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 but left in 2014, over a year before he took the undisclosed payment from Russia’s state-owned news agency, Russia Today, in December 2015. Chaffetz has said that he won’t be running for re-election in 2018 and that he may resign from Congress before that.

By “nefarious purposes,” Wilkerson wrote that he meant activities ranging from “taking money for influencing your government on behalf of another government, to using your influence with the President and his cabinet on an issue for another government whom you are privately advising, even if pro bono. “The $33,000 that Flynn received for a speaking engagement in December 2015 was not on his application. Chaffetz said.

“I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law. He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), top minority member on the Oversight Committee, said that Flynn’s negligence on his SF86 forms could be punished by up to five years in prison but that decision was not up to the congressional committee. Flynn’s secret conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, is being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee, which Chaffetz said would take the lead on examining whether those contacts themselves were inappropriate. Last month, he asked for immunity in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but neither committee has accepted his offer.

Another high official, DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has also filed applications with omissions such as dozens of foreign contacts, including those with Kislyak and Russian bank CEO Sergey Gorkov in December. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted earlier this week:

“Dear Jared Kushner: Lying on the SF-86 security clearance form is a crime. Michael Flynn hired a lawyer. You may also want to hire a lawyer.”

Back to the tax plan. Here it is—all 226 words, including the title:

 

2017 Tax Reform for Economic Growth and American Jobs

The Biggest Individual And Business Tax Cut in American History

Goals for Tax Reform

  • Grow the economy and create millions of jobs
  • Simplify our burdensome tax code
  • Provide tax relief to American families—especially middle-income families
  • Lower the business tax rate from one of the highest in the world to one of the lowest
  • Individual Reform

Tax relief for American families, especially middle-income families:

  • Reducing the 7 tax brackets to 3 tax brackets for 10%, 25% and 35%
  • Doubling the standard deduction
  • Providing tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses

Simplification:

  • Eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers.
  • Protect the home ownership and charitable gift tax deductions.
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • Repeal the death tax.
  • Repeal the 3.8% Obamacare tax that hits small businesses and investment income.

Business Reform:

  • 15% business tax rate
  • Territorial tax system to level the playing field for American companies
  • One-time tax on trillions of dollars held overseas
  • Eliminate tax breaks for special interests

Process:

Throughout the month of May, the Trump administration will hold listening sessions with stakeholders to receive their input and will continue working with the House and Senate to develop the details of a plan that provides massive tax relief, creates jobs, and makes America more competitive — and can pass both chambers.

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that 100 people in his department worked on the tax plan, making it about two words per person. Lily Batchelder, former chief tax counsel of the Senate Finance committee, tweeted that the plan was “immensely costly and regressive.”

Benefitting from DDT’s plan are the popular “pass-through entities,” 94 percent of all companies in the nation by 2011, that distribute profits among owners instead of paying corporate taxes. Owners then have these profits taxed as normal income. This organization is popular not only with small companies but also highly profitable ones such as major law firms, hedge funds, and real estate developers. The Trump Organization is a pass-through that would greatly benefit from DDT’s plan, as would all his friends. At this time, 70 percent of income from these corporations goes to the top one percent of people in the nation. Today, Mnuchin said that the new 15-percent rate would be only for small and medium-sized businesses with no definition of “medium.” A business worth $5 million is considered “small.” The plan would allow high-wage workers into pass-through entities by setting themselves up as S corporations to “sell” their freelance services.

A comparison to DDT’s tax plan is Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts in Kansas which ended up being a monumental failure. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded and suffers from an ongoing budget crisis, including horrific cuts in such vital areas as education, from a $1.1 billion shortfall. The GOP is now rebelling against the governor, voting to undo the cuts and almost overruling Brownback’s veto. When Kansas completely exempted pass-through profits from state income tax, a large number of people filed for the break, but few new jobs were created. In 2016, Kansas had the fifth worst employment growth in the nation, and its economy has grown at half the national rate. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded and suffers from an ongoing budget crisis, including horrific cuts in such vital areas as education, from a $1.1 billion shortfall. The GOP is now rebelling against the governor, voting to undo the cuts and almost overruling Brownback’s veto.

Research showed that the Kansas plan, now proposed for the United States, merely encourages people to play the system. DDT’s system could take 20 percent from their taxes According to the conservative Tax Foundation, dropping the rate to 15 percent would reduce government revenue by $2 trillion over a decade, or about 5 percent. Allowing pass-throughs to pay the lower rate would add another $1.5 trillion loss of revenue to the country. DDT claims that his plan will increase economic growth. Alan Cole, a staff economist for the Tax Foundation, stated that the country’s annual growth rate could add about 0.12 percent, which, he said, isn’t a good trade for a cost of $1.5 trillion. “This would be Kansas on steroids,” Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, said about DDT’s plan.

Without looking at DDT’s tax returns, we can almost guarantee that he would vastly benefit from his tax plan. He reports owning more than 200 LLCs, and his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs. So much for his promises of helping the “little guys.”

April 18, 2017

DDT’s Missing Tax Returns, More IRS Info

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Your federal income tax payment is due today, April 18. Technically, April 15 is the legal deadline, but not when that date is on a weekend. Then the date is pushed back because of Emancipation Day, the anniversary of freeing slaves and celebrated only in Washington, D.C. on April 16 every year. Its public employees had April 17 off because the 16th was on a weekend so taxes were then due on April 18. Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts don’t have to pay state taxes until tomorrow because of Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in April, but their federal taxes are still due today.

April 15 was still a day of protest. In the past, Tea Party members led small groups to oppose payment of taxes for all the government benefits that they receive. This year, opposition came from people representing the 74 percent of the population who want Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to release his tax returns. DDT may have ignored North Korea in his weekend tweets, but he addressed the marches in 200 cities and at least 48 states with at least 120,000 people. The number was probably much higher than that because several cities undercounted its crowds. Seattle and Washington, D.C. each numbered at least 25,000. DDT’s response was that he didn’t need to release his returns because he had already won the election, trying to cover up the continuing ramifications of his massive financial connections including collusion with Russia. He called the marches “small” and accusing the protesters of being “paid.”

The myths of small crowds and paid protesters began with the National Women’s March and the airport protests over Trump’s first Muslim ban during his first two weeks in office and continued for every gathering. Last February, Breitbart started the lie that George Soros is funding the protest movement.

Even hundreds of protesters marched at Mar-a-Lago where DDT vacationed for the seventh of 13 weekends since his inauguration brought out hundreds of people. His trips have cost taxpayers more than President Obama’s trips over his entire eight years, and Palm County (FL) alone has been charged $2 million for his trips. They chanted “Pay! Your! Taxes!” and waved signs calling him “Chicken in Chief” because of DDT’s shift in 40 years by refusing to release his returns. “Chicken Don” symbols replaced the women’s march pussy hats.

Debbie Wehking, a 66-year-old a school principal from Miami, said:

 “He needs to show us his tax returns so that we can tell who’s influencing his decisions, who he owes money to, who he’s doing business with — really so we can figure out whether he needs to be impeached.”

DDT was forced to take a longer route to his golf club to avoid the crowds. In Washington, D.C. a sign stated, “My taxes pay for your golf.” His claim that he cannot release his tax returns no longer holds any water because this is a new return. Also, presidents and vice presidents are automatically audited every year but still made public. In another opaque movement, DDT will no longer release White House visitor logs.

Republicans like Oregon’s representative Greg Walden claim that DDT should have his privacy. Others say that it doesn’t matter or that no one cares contradicted by the marches. Over one million people have already signed this petition.

Last year, individuals paid 49 percent of all federal tax revenues with businesses paying only nine percent of the $3 trillion. Worker and employer payroll taxes, commonly called Social Security and Medicare, account for another 33 percent, and another 3 percent comes from excise taxes with the last five percent labeled as “other.” Business taxes were down from an average of 14 percent last year, and huge corporations like GE and PG&E may pay absolutely nothing. Up to 118 individual breaks benefit companies and the wealthy by almost $1.15 trillion, and 80 corporate breaks net them $185.2 billion.

Technically, the federal corporate income tax is 35 percent, which the GOP wants to drop by over 50 percent. Yet the average taxation for 258 profitable Fortune 500 firms over eight years was 21.2 percent, and 100 of them paid zero taxes in at least one of those years. For example, major polluter North Carolina-based Duke Energy netted $18.2 billion in those eight years and paid no taxes for seven of them while getting $482 billion rebates. That makes their tax rate a minus 2.6 percent.

At least 23 percent of income taxes go to the military, not counting veterans benefits, debt from earlier wars, etc. Yet only 22 percent for this amount is for pay and benefits; almost half of military taxes go to multinational corporations making billions in profits. Domestic needs such as education and the safety net get far less money. [visual] For example, in 2015 taxpayers gave just one corporation, Lockheed Martin, $36 billion, 80 percent of its entire revenues. That money was six times the amount for all foreign aid in 2016.

How government spends your taxes:

  • Defense: 15 percent, not counting veterans benefits and almost 50 percent higher than 20 years ago. [visual]
  • Health care: 13 percent.
  • Interest payments: 6 percent, because of the $20 trillion in national debt largely caused since the George W. Bush tax cuts and wars.
  • Income security: 13 percent, including retirement and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families at its lowest level since 1998.
  • Benefits for veterans: 5 percent for 22 million veterans.
  • Education: 3 percent.
  • Social security: 24 percent.
  • Medicare: 15 percent.
  • Foreign aid: under 1 percent.
  • Other: Under 5 percent, including crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, and national parks.

Republicans want to eliminate many of the programs above, but they would be hurting their own constituents. GOP-managed states, aka red states, typically get more federal money back than they send to Washington. Nine of the 11 states that get more than $2 back for every dollar sent to Washington, D.C. are red, and eight of the ten states most dependent on federal funding are red. South Carolina, the queen of federal welfare, gets the most money: for every $1 that the state pays in federal taxes, it receives $7.87. One legislator said, “If you shut down 25 percent of all the federal dollars coming into South Carolina, the economy of South Carolina would collapse.” The federal $59.4 billion sent to South Carolina in 2014 was nine times the state’s annual General Fund budget. South Carolina was ranked the eighth most dependent state in Social Security payments. The state also has the ninth highest level of poverty with almost 28 percent of its children living in poverty along with a horrible health care system, bad public schools, climate-changing coal fired plants with no regulations, lower drinking water standards and other ways to damage its residents.

Only one of the least-dependent ten states, those receiving less money from the federal government that it sends, is red. In short, the lower the financial benefit of federal government in a state, the more likely it is to vote for federal government.

The practice of sending more federal money to Southern states than the government receives is an inheritance from the 20th century when that region voted Democrat, and senior members of Congress sent federal money to their states with contracts, projects, and installations. The other part of the equation is the extreme poverty in those areas. The need for a “safety net” in red states requires hundreds of billions of dollars annually to help the neediest because their own states won’t provide aid.

GOP-controlled red states belie the fantasy that cutting taxes drives growth. Blue states accomplish growth from investments in education, infrastructure, urban quality of life, and human services. These states have nine of the 10 top-ranked universities in the country, the highest median household income in nine of ten states, the greatest generation of technological innovation, and the highest average life expectancy. Despite globalization, local conditions of education, research and development, and promotion of idea exchange and talent development are vital. North Dakota’s oil helped its economy, but it looks more like Saudi Arabia than Silicon Valley. Hubs of “blueness” like Austin (TX) can exist in red states, but are forced to fight against government repression of wage rules and public investments.

Possibilities for blue states? A Bluexit (“Bloo-ksit”) along the lines of Brexit, the British exit from the European Union. If red states want only the U.S. military, paper currency, and the national anthem determined at the federal level, blue states can keep its resources to build up its cities and states.

Happy Tax Day!

April 13, 2017

Congress: Its Legislation-free First 100 Days

Filed under: Legislation,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
Tags: ,

The 115th Congress now celebrates its 100th day. Excited about have a GOP majority in both chambers, Republicans promised a goal to “go big, go bold” and deliver for people in the United States. In their 50 days during four months, they have failed.

The most visible activities in the House during the first 100 days have been the failure of the health care “reform” and the scandal of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who was forced from leading the investigation into Russian involvement with the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). After concealing information and secretly meeting with White House staffers, Nunes himself is under investigation.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) blamed their failures on a lack of experience in being the majority party, but the House has had a majority since 2010.

The failure—thus far—of the healthcare “repeal and replace” caused the greatest infighting in the current congressional year. Although the bill would have taken insurance from 24 million people, it didn’t remove enough benefits for the ultra-right wingers in the House. About the conservative Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) said:

“Americans are sick and tired of the dysfunction in Washington when far right-wing factions put their narrow interests above the will of the people that elected them.”

Another House member called the leader of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), “a pathological liar who isn’t interested in getting to yes.” A Meadows’ ally, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) blamed Ryan, saying that the GOP needs “either a change in direction from this Speaker, or we need a new Speaker.” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said, “I don’t know that the Lord himself could unite our caucus.” Ryan thinks that tax reform would be easier than health care change, but Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said, “I don’t see it that way.” Other GOP representatives resist Ryan’s “border-adjustment plan,” otherwise known as large tariffs. Meanwhile Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), restless about congressional inaction and quits on health care change, has switched back to health care from tax reform as his priority.

What has Congress accomplished in 100 days? It erased 11 of President Obama’s previous orders by using the archaic Congressional Review Act that had been used only once in its 20-year history. George W. Bush used the law in 2001 to kill an ergonomics rule at the Department of Labor. This Congress used the act to cause the loss of internet privacy, healthcare for women, science in climate decisions, education guidelines, clean water regulations, keeping mentally ill people from buying guns, and more.  And that’s it during their 50 days.

The Senate has been a bit busier, although not with legislation. The Republicans confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and secretaries to the Cabinet, people opposed to their agencies’ missions. Yet GOP Senators couldn’t even accomplish this without changing the rules for the confirmations and bringing in the vice president to break a tie vote.

After failing to provide the Senate with nominees, DDT has gone back to lambasting Democrats for not moving fast enough to confirm his nominees. This week he changed his February position that “we don’t want to fill those jobs” to “waiting right now for so many people” to get confirmed by the Senate. DDT used his “alternative facts” when he claimed he has “hundreds of people that we’re trying to get through. “Accurate facts” shown that 478 out of 553 key positions have no nominee and another 29 have been announced but not formally nominated. Thus far, 22 positions have been confirmed. Even GOP senators are impatient with DDT’s slow pace.

The State Department is a prime example of DDT’s lack of action. Almost three months after “cleaning house” in the State Department, it is largely empty. At a time when DDT is creating disasters around the world, he has nominated only five ambassadors to replace the 57 who he fired and ordered home on the day he was inaugurated. Only the U.S. Ambassador to Israel has been confirmed, and the Senate has recently received four nominees for diplomats in Japan, China, Senegal, and the Republic of Congo. Still missing are officials  in charge of arms control, management, administration, consular affairs, and foreign missions with no replacements. The only senior position is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has no diplomatic experience. The deputy nominee was announced today. A very depressing chart can be found here. 

Congress faces a big problem when it returns from a two-week recess in the last week of April: the federal government shuts down on DDT’s 100th day in office if the House and the Senate cannot agree on a budget in three days. According to White House staffers, DDT doesn’t care whether the government shuts down, but the people waiting for $8 billion in income tax refunds may be upset when a government shutdown stops that process.

Meanwhile, Republicans are planning how to push through their agenda with the threat of closing down the government. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who thinks that “the consequences [of a shutdown] have been blown out of proportion,” has faith that he can blackmail Democrats into paying for DDT’s wall by threatening to stop funding for what he calls “sanctuary cities.” Unfortunately for Mulvaney, the Supreme Court has already ruled that this tactic is unconstitutional in one of its rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Twenty years ago, ultra-conservative SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that federal government may not “impress into its service— … at no cost to itself — the police officers of the 50 states.”  Municipalities are already suing DDT for his January 25 executive order from January 25 that claims to empower the attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security to cut off and claw back federal funds that go to these cities.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to use the budget bill to force non-payment to Planned Parenthood for its service to needy people, stopping checks for cancer, STDs, and HIV/AIDS while promoting family planning through providing contraception. In order to succeed, Ryan will have to get almost total consensus from House Republicans to boost military spending, reduce almost all humanitarian efforts domestic and abroad, and not reduce the deficit.

Because DDT threatens to destroy the Affordable Care Act by canceling insurer subsidies for low-income enrollees, Democrats in Congress plan to demand that key payments be included in the upcoming budget. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) is a GOP leader in the House who supports DDT in appropriating the money, but he’s having a rugged time at townhall meetings throughout the eastern part of the state, the first time he’s held these in four years. Protesters were extremely vocal in three different meetings, and he has not yet faced his constituents where the loss of the Affordable Care Act would close hospitals in small communities.

DDT thinks he can blame Democrats for a shutdown, but the GOP, that closed down the government in October 2013 for a month at a cost of $25 billion, took the brunt of the blame. Only 17 percent of voters are willing to have a shutdown, and 65 percent think it should be blocked by “all means necessary.”

While many members of Congress are dodging their constituents in town hall meetings because of protesters, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) “bravely” faced those fearsome creatures at a townhall this week. There he made the statement:

“You say you pay for me to do this? That’s bullcrap.”

Mullins canceled his next townhall meeting because he couldn’t get a ban on the red and green sheets of paper that people hold up at town halls to represent their positions. Taxpayers give Mullins a salary of $174,000 a year for meeting with Congress 145 days in 2017, up from 110 days in 2016. The rest of the time, members of Congress claim to be meeting with their constituents. Mullins added to his claim that he’s paid his “own salary” through his taxes and that “no one here pays me to go.” He stated that he’s providing a “service” to the people who pay him.

The approval rating of Congress dropped eight points since February to 20 percent. Republicans reduced their approval rating of their own Congress from 50 percent to 31 percent in that time. This story may demonstrate a reason for Congress’ falling approval rates. A question at Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) town hall: “When will you have the backbone to put our country over party?”

The willingness of Republican legislators to take away everything from the people in the United States except uncontrolled police and military forces demonstrates a growing cruelty in their ruling. Good leaders empower people while the GOP increasingly takes away rights through enforcing conservative Christian beliefs, suppressing voters, voter suppression, dehumanizing minorities, and eliminating all social services. Their entire focus is on giving all assets to the wealthy. Further polarizing the nation, the House leader completely rejected any negotiation with the Democrats.

A question at Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) town hall: “When will you have the backbone to put our country over party?”

We’ll hope that Congress can avert another shutdown of government services, but I wouldn’t plan a vacation in any national park during early May.

April 9, 2017

Activism: Lists of ‘Not Normal,’ Accomplishments

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 7:17 PM
Tags: , ,

Activist Jen Hofmann is currently publishing a weekly list of suggested activities to resist the dreadful actions of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his GOP minions in Congress. This is the link to her website for those who wish to keep up on what can be done.

This week’s list, as usual, includes an explanation of why people must not begin to think of DDT’s behavior as normal. In addition, she provided a list of successes for the past week. You can get more details here.

Not Normal – Avoid normalizing this presidency and #staywoke:

  • A normal president doesn’t lie 367 times within his first 80 days in office.
  • A normal president doesn’t sneak money from his business after agreeing not to. In fact, a normal president doesn’t run or own a business at all during his presidency.
  • A normal president doesn’t make money from waging war.
  • A normal president doesn’t bomb another country without Congressional approval.
  • A normal president doesn’t publicly support an accused sexual predator.
  • A normal president doesn’t revoke women’s rights in favor of corporate power.
  • A normal president doesn’t spend $24M on travel in the first 10 weeks of his term.
  • A normal president doesn’t take golf vacations for ten consecutive weekends.

Past “not normal” list:

  • A normal president doesn’t lie about a former POTUS.
  • The campaign staff of a normal president are not under FBI investigation for collusion with a foreign government.
  • A normal president doesn’t move a business partner into the West Wing.
  • A normal president doesn’t threaten congresswo/men for voting against his wishes.
  • A normal president talks to all Americans, rather than holding rallies for a small number.
  • A normal president doesn’t tweet his versions of events while a hearing is in progress.
  • A normal president doesn’t lie throughout an interview or say so little that is true.
  • A normal president doesn’t take land away from Americans.
  • Normal elected leaders care about the country’s safety more than the source of leaked information.
  • A normal Congressional committee is qualified to investigate treasonous behavior and has no questionable conflicts of interest.

Good news:

  • Court rules in favor of equal rights in employment for LGBT people.
  • Steve Bannon is off the National Security Council…and two qualified leaders, previously excluded, are once again attending the meetings.
  • Nunes “stepped down” from leading the House investigation on 45-Russia ties.
  • The Wall is looking increasingly less likely.
  • A lawsuit will proceed against 45 for inciting violence at a campaign rally.
  • Four senators (2 Dem, 2 GOP) present a bill preventing unwarranted searches of Americans’ devices at the border.
  • Some GOP leaders are starting to publicly support elements of the ACA.
  • The Department of Homeland Security withdraws its request for Twitter to release a user’s account information.
  • Jeff Sessions loses battle in attempt to bully Baltimore Police.
  • EPA staffer shares a piece of his mind on his last day on the job.
  • 8,000 millennial Democrats plan to run for office. (I heart this generation.)
  • Delaware Democrats win a swing vote and keep control of the legislature.
  • Cards Against Humanity founder will buy and publish Congress’ internet browsing data.
  • In response to a violent hate crime against a gay couple, men in The Netherlands are holding hands in public.
  • New Mexico becomes the 8th state to ban the practice of gay “conversion therapy.”
  • NY state becomes the first in the nation to provide legal assistance to ICE detainees.
  • NYC will raise the age at which youth are sentenced as adults from 16 to 18.
  • Nebraska court strikes down rule banning gay foster parents.
  • California court upholds innovative cap-and-trade program–a win for the environment.
  • Maryland will financially support its Planned Parenthood clinics.
  • Advertisers flee en masse from The O’Reilly Factor, and show oddly shortened.
  • California’s drought is declared over with snowpack at 164% above normal.
  • Renewable energy is taking over fossil fuels.
  • Due to public health concerns, KFC stops using chicken treated with human antibiotics.
  • TV satirists are covering 45 better than the news. Hilarious example.
  • Unemployment went down again and wage gains are up.
  • US women’s soccer scores a goal for pay parity.
  • Vermont’s New Farms for New Americans’ programs feed body and soul.
  • We’re still the majority.

And positive actions from the week before last:

  • We defeated the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saving millions of Americans from suffering and premature death!
  • The rusty-patched bumblebee is now listed as endangered!
  • CA upholds stricter auto-emissions standards, despite 45’s efforts to lower them.
  • Fox stops repeating wiretap lies by pulling Napolitano off the air.
  • Alex Jones apologizes for fueling Pizzagate conspiracy theories.
  • The New York Attorney General takes on Trump.
  • VA governor vetoes bills that discriminate against LGBTQI Americans.
  • Conservative governors oppose 45’s damaging budget.
  • Syrian immigrants show love through food in their adopted countries.
  • Indian villagers knit pajamas for rescued elephants to stay warm in winter.
  • Three sacred rivers are granted legal status as people.

Ways that people can protect themselves from new guidelines permitting Internet Service Providers to sell personal information from subscribers:

  • Call your provider and opt out of having your information shared.
  • Pressure ISPs to have opt-in consent.
  • Use sites that encrypt the connection between themselves and your browser, usually identified with an “https” prefix to an address or a lock icon in the address bar so that the ISP sees only the domain name that you visit.
  • Use a VPN, Virtual Private Network, for a safeguard or other ISPs that respect your privacy.
  • Opt out of supercookies and other ISP tracking by checking your account settings under privacy, marketing, or ads settings.
  • Set your PC to use a third-party DNS provider such as Open DNS.
  • Tell your congressional representatives and senators that you want the privacy back.

Little by little! Thanks, Jen!

October 1, 2016

Be Careful What You Vote For!

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 12:02 AM
Tags: ,

When in doubt, attack the government. That’s what George W. Bush did in 2003—and he didn’t even attack the government of 9/11 attackers! And attacking a government for the action of 15 of its citizens is what Congress just did.

Just days after the 15th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by 19 individuals, Congress passed Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) allowing any U.S. citizen to sue any country with the claim that the country financed or otherwise aided and abetted a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. People in the U.S. could already sue countries designated as “state sponsors of terrorism”; currently, that list includes only three countries—Iran, Syria and Sudan—because the designation is assigned only after very careful review by national security, intelligence and foreign policy officials. It isn’t left to private litigants and judges.

Congress has voted not once but twice to throw a long-held principle of international law, sovereign immunity, under the bus by removing countries from immunity from lawsuits in the courts of other countries. JASTA was touted as helping 9/11 victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia through the court system, but it also allows courts to waive claims to foreign sovereign immunity in situations involving acts of terrorism on U.S. soil. Congress passed the bill, and after President Obama vetoed the bill, Congress passed an override to his veto in the first time of the seven years, eight months, and eight days of the president’s terms.

Many legislators who voted in favor of the override are now saying “oops!” while President Obama has the right to say “I told you so.” After 123 Democrats and 225 Republicans of 425 representatives in the House and 97 out of 98 senators voted for the override, they’re beginning to consider the consequences of a law that might produce laws in other countries that force U.S. government officials and military members into foreign courts. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said that these lawsuits would expose the U.S. to tremendous liability although he voted in favor of the law. He said, “We’ve got assets deployed all around the world more than any country. So if sovereign immunity recedes, we’re the nation that is most exposed.” While voting for the law, Corker said that Congress “has [not] functioned in an appropriate manner as it relates to a very important piece of legislation.”

President Obama warned that there could be lawsuits against the U.S. for “actions taken by members of an armed group that received U.S. assistance, misuse of U.S. military equipment by foreign forces, or abuses committed by police units that received U.S. training.” There has to be proof of liability, but U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for fighting the vastly increasing number of lawsuits.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said:

“The biggest issue is that [JASTA is] … not limited to Saudi Arabia, and it’s likely to have a much larger impact on the U.S. government than the Saudi government, because the U.S. government takes rules very seriously.”

He gave an example of lawsuits filed against the federal government by victims of drone strikes and other American military activities. John B. Bellinger III, who served as the State Department’s legal adviser from 2005 to 2009, said measures in other countries “are hardly likely to be as precise and surgical as our Congress has been.”

An immediate reaction from Saudi Arabia could be their removal of hundreds of billions of dollars in assets from the U.S. causing problems for the economy.

GOP congressional leaders are now saying that they need to revisit the law—the day before they left town until after the general election that occurs in 40 days. “I’d like to think that there’s a way we could fix [it] so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas, while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) who supported the bill in public statements without casting a vote in the override. You think, Rep. Ryan!? Yet the man who controls legislative access to all bills hasn’t said that he will address the issue in the lame duck session in November and December.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who did vote for the override, said that the law could have “unintended ramifications” and needed “further discussion.” You think!? McConnell laid the blame on the passage of the override on the White House because it didn’t make a forceful argument about its threats to U.S. officials. The bill has been pending only seven years, but McConnell claimed that “nobody had really focused on the potential downsides in terms of our international relationships.” [I always worry when I know more about the “potential downsides” than members of the congress, especially those who have been there forever and call themselves “leaders.”]

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that comments from lawmakers [such as those like McConnell] are a “deeply embarrassing” display of “rapid-onset buyer’s remorse.” He added:

“The suggestion on the part of some members of the Senate was that they didn’t know what they were voting on, that they didn’t understand the negative consequences of the bill. That’s a hard suggestion to take seriously. All of that communications was made public before Congress passed the first vote to put this bill into law yesterday. Ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to our national security and the safety and security of our diplomats and our service members.”

The White House told legislators that the bill is too broad and could set a dangerous precedent, inviting other nations to respond by suing American diplomats, military personnel and other officials in foreign courts over U.S. foreign policy actions. What part of that information didn’t the legislators understand? The vast majority of legislators ignored statements from not only the White House but also national security officials, the European Union’s delegation to the United States, and business leaders who warned the law will damage relations with Saudi Arabia and encourage other countries to pass laws that would allow them to target U.S. officials. Yet the GOP, which can’t find time to replace a Supreme Court justice or pass a long-term budget bill, pushed through the bill before the current recess.

The understanding about JASTA’s disastrous effects seemed to come during the voting. Before the Senate finished voting 97-1 to override Obama’s veto, 28 senators signed a letter that they would support legislation to blunt its impact if [when?] other countries retaliate. [Here’s the letter with the signatures. Check for your senator if you can read the handwriting!] Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), whose signature I didn’t see on the letter, said: “I’m for the 9/11 families having their day in court, but I’m also for not exposing our people unnecessarily. If you want to go forward in the Mideast without Saudi Arabia as an ally, then be careful what you wish for.”

The only senator seeming to have an understanding of the bill, Majority Harry Reid (D-NV), was the only senator to have complete understanding of the bill’s ramifications. Sens. Tim Kaine and Bernie Sanders didn’t vote on the bill.

The Republican party has hit a new low: they passed a bad bill that President Obama told them was a bad bill; the president vetoed the bill; the GOP pushed through an override after the president told them again how it was a bad bill; they discovered how bad the bill is; and GOP legislators blamed President Obama for not forcing them to understand that this is a bad bill. As Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said on All In with Chris Hayes tonight in explaining that the GOP blames President Obama for everything. If Barack Obama walked on water, the GOP would say that he does it because he can’t swim.

Congress may be able to change a terrible vote. Buyer’s remorse for a vote for Donald Trump can’t be taken back. Voters in the United States need to consider what they would get with a man who wants the office of the presidency only for his own benefit. Supporters think that he will take care of him, but Trump takes care of only himself.

September 19, 2016

Media Focuses on Clinton’s Non-Stories, Largely Ignores GOP Zombie Issues

Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails are two issues that Republicans refuse to let die, despite tens of investigations into each one that fail to prove anything that the Democratic presidential candidate has done wrong. Today, the Clinton Foundation zombie problems returned when a headline referencing a quote from Bill Clinton read “‘Natural’ For Foundation Donors to Seek Favors.” As usual, the media, determined to make something out of nothing, took this headline out of context from Bill Clinton’s response in an NPR interview:

“It was natural for people who’ve been our political allies and personal friends to call and ask for things. And I trusted the State Department wouldn’t do anything they shouldn’t do.”

Leaked emails show that people aren’t getting the favors that they request, and all the aggressive searching by Hillary haters has found absolutely no “pay for play” from the Clinton Foundation that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

While dwelling on Clinton non-stories, Sunday talk shows ignored the real story about the “pay for play” Trump Foundation already fined for illegal campaign donations to Florida’s AG Pam Bondi in exchange for her dropping an investigation into the fraudulent Trump University. A less biased media would have covered the New York investigation into Trump illegally using the Trump Foundation charity funds to purchase at least one oil painting and one football helmet. Trump has not donated one cent to his “foundation” since 2008 while he gets credit for donating funds that other people gave to his foundation. Instead of reporting on Trump’s “pay for play” violations, the media concentrated on Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis and Trump’s infomercial on Dr. Oz’s show.

The same media largely ignored Kurt Eichenwald’s detailed cover story in Newsweek which reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. As Eichenwald wrote, the Trump Organization has been “largely ignored” by media despite its “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions during a Trump presidency. Eichenwald provides information about the Trump Organization’s “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians, and even criminals” and “a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with presidential major national security decisions and negotiations.

GOP members zombies:

Donald Trump desperately wanted to drop the birther issue after claiming for many years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. His giant mistake, however was blaming Clinton for initiating the theory. A strategist had suggested that the 2008 Clinton campaign could use the idea that Barack Obama was “not American,” but Clinton immediately quashed it. There’s no fire where Trump is blowing smoke. Yet campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus repeatedly accused Clinton of starting the birther theory on Sunday talk shows.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went one better. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump hadn’t said anything about the issue “for a long time.” Fortunately, Tapper, a journalist who believes in telling the truth, reminded Christie that Trump continued birthering for five years after the president released the long-form birth certificate to the public in 2011. A lively exchange of “true” and “not true” ensured followed by Christie saying, “It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis.” In fact-checking Christie’s claim, the Washington Post wrote:

“This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face…. [C]learly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.”

Christie should shift to protecting himself. His involvement in the closure of the George Washington Bridge that created havoc and physical danger to people has returned. While his allies and employees have pled guilty or gone to court in this issue, Christie has stuck to his position that “I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.” In today’s trial for two of those accused of closing the bridge, both both prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants agree that Christie “knew his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him.”

In 2013, at the time of the event, Christie ridiculed the controversy because his office would never be so petty and partisan. After evidence proved that it was a petty and partisan vendetta, Christie claimed ignorance. The micromanaging governor swore that he had no idea that his top aides used his name to abuse their power. Today Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna has told jurors that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni “bragged” to the governor directly about the scheme to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in order to deliberately cripple Fort Lee. The trial is against former top Christie aides Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, but Christie may suffer the fallout, perhaps to the point of being impeached. It already lost him being a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate, and last May, Christie’s approval rating had fallen to 29 percent.

Dick Cheney, another zombie, has come to life in the body of GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence who said that his role model is the vice-president who put the United States into the preemptive war with Iraq costing the country millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. Cheney’s career as VP was a time of incompetence, lies, opaque ruling, scandal, missing emails, and deadly bad judgment. When he left office, Cheney’s approval rating was 13 percent, about half Richard Nixon’s support at the height of Watergate. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Cheney an “idiot.” If Trump were elected and followed his plans, Pence, who sees himself a Cheney clone, “would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy” while Trump would focus on “making America great again.”

The zombie of Ralph Nadar, which may have led to George W. Bush’s appointment as president in 2000, may have returned in the name of Gary Johnson. A rumor circulated last week that Bill Weld might drop out of the race as Libertarian vice-presidential candidate because he didn’t want to be another Nadar. “No chance,” says Gary Johnson, top of the Libertarian ticket. Polling at 9 percent, Johnson is far away from the 15-percent threshold for participating in a presidential candidate debate, an advantage for him because he doesn’t interview well and might lose votes in a debate. Asked on public radio whether he was worried about votes for him leading to Trump as a president, he responded that he didn’t care and that it wouldn’t be his problem.

A pattern in GOP campaigning is to have one message in English and a different one in Spanish. For example, during his successful Nevada senatorial run in 2012, Dean Heller put his hardline immigration policy into English with a softer approach in Spanish. Another shift came from the GOP response to the State of the Union address last year when the Spanish version supported immigration reform—opposite to the message in English. This last spring, Kansas printed the wrong voter registration deadline, six days after the deadline, in the Spanish version and omitted the use of a passport for identification.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) brought this zombie to life in his struggling re-election. In Spanish, McCain brags about seeking comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for children brought illegally to the United States; the English skips over these policies and draws an image of McCain as hardcore immigration control. After this “translation” was questioned, a campaign spokesperson said that the website versions were “never intended to be identical.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking the budget bill has aroused the zombie of shutting down the government. Congress has only 11 more days—two “working weeks” before a the government closes down, but McConnell “delayed” a procedural vote until 2:15 pm tomorrow. At least the bill may allow Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood clinic to access federal grants to fight the Zika virus, a provision that had held up the bill for several months. In his arrogant manner, McConnell said that “Senate Republicans stand ready to move forward” and wants Democrats to “complete negotiations,” something that they have been willing to do for some time.

Asked about the agreement, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “Close is relative.” The Dems also want funding for the Flint (MI) water crisis to be in the mix, something the GOP turns down.

Ideally two weeks is enough time, but the bill must be sent to the House, returned, and then reconciled while ultra-conservatives in that chamber demand itty-bitty budget bills instead of an omnibus which go into next year instead of being a stopgap that returns—in zombie fashion—on December 9 this year.

Just a few zombies from people who ignore history.

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