Nel's New Day

February 8, 2019

The U.S. House: Fighting a Cornered Animal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The video of Maddow’s commentary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 24, 2019

Shutdown Bills Fail; House Investigates Kushner

Day 34 of government shutdown: Both of today’s Senate bills designed to reopen the government failed when neither one met the 60 votes necessary. In a 51-47 vote, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AL) voted against their party in opposing the measure proposed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to get his $5.7 billion for 200 miles of wall, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) supported DDT’s bill with the wall. The second bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to open the government with a continuing resolution until February 8 had one more supporting vote, 52-44, with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Lamar Alexander (TN), Johnny Isakson (GA) and Mitt Romney (UT) joining Democrats.

Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that he doesn’t understand why federal employees without paychecks don’t get loans instead of using food banks. He claimed that financial institutions just give them loans against “the 30 days of pay that people will be out.” Ross added that even if these 800,000 people never got their pay, they’re “about a third of a percent on our GDP. So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

DDT, another billionaire, had a peculiar reaction to Ross. He thought that Ross was accurate in his assertion that federal employees, either furloughed or working without pay, don’t need to get emergency help from homeless shelters and food pantries because—drum roll!—grocery stores will give these paycheck-less people food without paying for it. He said:

“Local people know who they are. Where they go for groceries and everything else. If you have mortgages, mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along. That’s what happens in times like these. They know the people. They’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along.”

Two months ago, DDT was telling people that they needed IDs to buy a box of cereal.

Republicans are getting so desperate that they are yelling at VP Mike Pence. In a private meeting two days ago, several senators harangued Pence, who said that the White House was working on a strategy to reopen the government and that they should not vote for the Democrat-offered bill that got six GOP votes today.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said they gave Pence an “earful” because “we’re all hearing from our constituents who are working for no pay.” Other members criticizing Pence included GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell (KY), Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Boozman (AR), Johnny Isakson (GA), and Jerry Moran (KS). Two of them voted for the Democratic-supported bill.

Fly at your own risk during the shutdown is the message from representatives of air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants. Making things worse, they report that the FAA “has frozen hiring and shuttered its training academy, so there is no plan in effect to fill the FAA’s critical staffing need.” Certification requires two to four years, and the U.S. has the fewest number of air traffic controllers in 30 years.

According to CEOs, DDT is hurting business with the shutdown and low immigration with lack of investment in research and development, education, and entrepreneurship. The National Science Foundation has not issued any grants for over a month, and government researchers in agencies such as NOAA, the EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey don’t get paychecks. Hundreds of postdoctoral fellows don’t get their stipends. Loss of immigration is destroying U.S. innovation.

In a “what if” piece, Rachel Maddow suggests a “Worst Case Scenario” in which Russia’s Vladimir Putin is behind the government shutdown. At one time, this idea would be too far-fetched, but Robert Mueller’s investigation has found hundreds of links with DDT’s campaign; ties with Russia and national security adviser John Bolton, Maria Butina, the NRA; threats against Michael Cohen’s family to keep him from testifying; and Oleg Deripaska’s Belarusian escort, who claimed to have information about DDT, was returned to Russia and may be in early states of poisoning. Putin wanted interference in the presidential election to cause chaos within the United States.

Now federal agency employees who were called back to work without pay—TSA agents, meat inspectors, prison guards, IRS workers, etc.—are starting to walk off their jobs, adding to the impact of jobs not being done by furloughed employees. Imagine if people can no longer trust safety in flying, food, and water and from crime while not receiving their tax refunds in addition to millions losing income from the missing paychecks for 800,000 federal employees. DDT is behind the shutdown and shows little urgency in reopening the government. He is also the focus of the biggest criminal and counter-intelligence investigation of any sitting U.S. president.

DailyKos has ideas for what a U.S. leader following Putin’s strategy could do to weaken the United States:

  • Relax sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs to give them more money.
  • Antagonize U.S. allies.
  • Polarize the U.S. with ugly divisive rhetoric.
  • Attack U.S. institutions, especially the judiciary, and replace the leadership with his cronies.
  • Pull the U.S. out of multinational trade and security alliances.
  • Excessively praise Putin.
  • Implement irrational economic trade sanctions to weaken U.S. economy.
  • Use excessive measures to conceal communications with Putin.
  • Consistently repeat Putin’s propaganda talking points.
  • Shut down the U.S. government for a ridiculous rationale and continue to cripple the U.S. with huge political, security, social, and financial damage.

Two years ago, this scenario would have seemed impossible. Now some might like to think it’s improbable, but every DDT action makes the proposition appear more likely.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), new chair of the Judiciary Committee, has an answer for the crisis facing many people in the U.S. during the shutdown: investigate Hillary Clinton’s email server, specifically the FBI’s handling of the situation and the FISA warrant application targeting DDT’s campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI investigated Page after the possibility that he conspired with Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Graham believes that the FBI was “in the tank” for her campaign and accused them of a double standard in the agency’s handling of the two presidential campaigns. In actuality, he’s right: the FBI helped swing the election to DDT by publicizing non-existent problems with Clinton and hiding real investigations into DDT.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) laughed at Graham’s plans and compared them to the ”thrilling days of yesteryear.” Durham said:

“This is going to be like the History Channel, it turns out. Instead of taking a look at the current issues, Lindsey Graham wants to go back and answer important questions about the Bermuda Triangle and Hillary Clinton.”

Durbin added that Graham may want to investigate Jimmy Carter next. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a judiciary committee member, joked that Graham might want to “investigate Benghazi some more.”

The House Oversight Committee plans an investigation into “grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump Administration” with the focus on White House handling of classified information, including DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Over 130 political appointees in DDT’s office lack permanent security clearances as of 2017, include Kushner and DDT’s daughter Ivanka.

The House committee has even more grist for its mill since the revelation that Kushner’s application for a top secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists because of FBI concerns about possible foreign influence on him. Overruling this decision from an investigation, the specialists’ supervisor, Carl Kline, approved the clearance. In unprecedented behavior, Kline, a DDT appointee, repeated this overruling 30 times despite unfavorable information on each of the applicants. Sources indicated that “the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.”

Kushner, who had to redo and correct his application clearance 40 times, received questions about foreign contacts, travel, and meetings as well as his family’s business. After Kline gave Kushner secret and top secret clearances, Kushner went to the CIA seeking a higher that allows him to access “sensitive compartmented information” that includes transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and CIA source reporting. Kline even stopped credit checks on security clearance applicants.

The CIA reviewed Kushner’s materials and questioned even the “top secret” clearance giving Kushner access to material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries. Officials are questioning whether the White House overruled the CIA refusal for the SCI clearance. A year ago, WaPo reported that officials in at least four countries—United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico—talked about how they could manipulate Kushner though his lack of policy experience, financial difficulties, and business arrangements.

The House needs to work fast!

January 23, 2019

Shutdown Continues Deprivation, Covington Gains Prominence

Day 33 of government shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may be feeling the consequences of his government shutdown. After he wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that he would give his State of the Union speech in the House in six days, she told him that he could give the annual speech at the Capitol after the government was reopened. She had invited him on January 3 with “no thought that the government would still be shut down.” DDT cannot give his speech in the House without a concurrent revolution for a joint session of Congress and an invitation from the House. DDT referred to the Democrats as being “radicalized,” a term that then House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) endorsed using as a pejorative term about Democrats in the early 1990s. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who supports the government shutdown, said that elected people should “put America’s public first.”

Pelosi accused DDT of “holding the health, safety and paychecks of the American people hostage” and said that Democrats fear he may do so again in future if they agree to his demands. Someone explained to DDT that he couldn’t go to the House with congressional approval, he launched into his usual tantrums, blaming Pelosi for trying to keep “the truth” from the public and controlling Schumer. DDT also was shocked that Pelosi would take this action for the first time in U.S. history. He skipped over the part that trying to give during the speech during a president-caused government shutdown is unprecedented (unpresidented?).

Deciding that he has lost the argument, DDT insulted Pelosi and said that he would wait until after the government reopens to give that “great” speech.

Lara Trump, wife of DDT’s son Eric Trump, calls the loss of paychecks for 800,000 people “a little bit of pain … for the future of our country.” An example of the “little bit of pain” caused by the shutdown is the requirement by Newton (AL) requiring  43 subsidized tenants to pay full rent until “the government opens up.” One 48-year-old woman living on disability with her daughter and granddaughter will immediately see her rent increase from $110 per month to $505. For Lara Trump, that wouldn’t be even a “little bit of pain”; for this family, the almost 400-percent increase is devastating. Rural people who voted for DDT are discovering the “pain” that he can cause them.

Poll since DDT started the government shutdown doesn’t look good for him:

  • 71 percent think that the border wall, which they say is having a negative impact on the country, is not worth a government shutdown.
  • 66 percent want DDT to agree to budget without wall funding.
  • 60 percent think that the shutdown is causing serious problems for the United States.
  • 20 percent report being personally impacted by the shutdown’s cutback in services and programs.

Because of the shutdown, some jail inmates cannot have visitors—not only family but also attorneys—even if they have not been convicted of any crimes. Medical care is also being denied to people in jail because of no availability. The Kentucky union of prison officials have started a billboard campaign to open the government. And they are targeting McConnell as responsible for the shutdown. Today, the House passed the tenth bill to open the government, and McConnell rejected all ten. He is up for re-election next year.

FBI agents have been forced to put investigations on hold because of the shutdown. An undercover agent investigating child exploitation said that he’s “had to put pervs on standby.” Investigation into MS-13 gang members had been slowed because Spanish speakers are on furlough. Another agent working counter-intelligence cases said that they can “only conduct administrative functions.” Indictments are postponed, and grand jury subpoenas put on hold.

DDT’s shutdown caused the cancellation of the 16th annual International Export Control and Border Security Conference, scheduled for 270 security experts from 85 countries to discuss border-related issues such as weapons policy, licensing, and enforcement, including nuclear-arms proliferation. The State Department described the move as a postponement but did not offer a date when the conference would be rescheduled.

Tomorrow, the Senate plans to offer Democrats a deal to stop holding DACA recipients hostage for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion to begin DDT’s wall. Today, the Supreme Court refused to hear the court cases that had stopped DDT’s executive order against the DACA program. That decision makes DDT’s bargaining chip moot for at least ten months.

Arizona Republicans have a way to pay for DDT’s wall: State Rep. Gail Griffin introduced a bill forcing each resident to pay $20 to get porn sites on new computers and smartphones unlocked. Forget the fact that the idea is unconstitutional; the necessary funds for DDT’s current wall would still be short $5,559,680,000 . And imagine the logistics of requiring manufacturers to comply. The idea came from Chris Sevier, a self-described porn addict.

During the government shutdown, the annual March for Life brought about 200,000 people to Washington, D.C., including a large contingent from Covington Catholic High School, a prep school for privileged—mostly white—teenagers in Kentucky, represented by Mitch McConnell who refuses to allow senators to vote on House bills to reopen the government. Most people in the United States were unfamiliar with the school until Nick Sandmann and a group of 50 to 70 students  came from the March for Life to jeer at Nathan Phillips, an older Native American and Vietnam veteran, and a group trying to raise awareness of Indigenous people. When Nick was faced with bad press regarding his behavior, his mother hired a PR agency to organize a campaign that would back the press off from criticism of her son.

Families of Covington students hired the attorney Robert Barnes who appeared on Fox & Friends where he threatened legal action against anyone making false or defamatory statements about the teenagers. He also gave journalists and celebrities 48 hours to apologize and delete their tweets. Videos of the event showed the teens screaming, harassing women, making rape jokes, and taking off their clothes. Barnes may also have to deal with past photos of Covington students in blackface during a basketball game against a rival team with black players. Covington students described blackface as “school spirit.”

This morning, Nick appeared, without his MAGA hat, on NBC Today show where he claimed that he couldn’t remember anyone yelling “build the wall” and “go back to the reservation,” that the chants that he and his fellow students shouted were “positive” displays of “school spirit.” According to Nick, the students, mostly wearing their MAGA hats, were reacting in fear to the “African-Americans” who shouted insults at them. Five Black Hebrew Israelites were seen on video calmly standing, and a sixth videoed them and the crowd while the Covington students was jumping, moving around, and shouting. Phillips led his group between the small group of blacks and the large group of Covington students, who then blocked him from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Racism is “not tolerated” at his “Catholic school,” Nick said. Rev. Marshall Jolly disagrees with Nick’s assessment, as shown in his tweets about his experience with Covington. Nick said on Today that he saw no reason to apologize for what he called “listening to [Phillips] and standing there” and that he had every right to be there.

DDT’s response to Nick’s behavior:

“Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be.”

A week earlier, DDT joked about the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of several hundred Lakota Indians by the U.S. Cavalry when he ridiculed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with his customary insulting term of “Pocahontas.”

The dialog on both right and left sides in the past five days has demonstrated one thing: Nick learned from his school, his parents, and other adults that he has the right to stand wherever he wants, even if he is blocking an elder and the resources to hire anyone to threaten people who disagree with him. He feels no obligation to apologize to someone who he has upset, even if it was inadvertent. Males like Nick have a great future: Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court justice.

January 22, 2019

Sue Hardesty: Wall–‘Have We No Shame?’

Day 32 of government shutdown: Last Saturday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) offered to sell Democrats a small part of what he took last year in exchange for $5.6 billion to build wall and reopen the country. In a TV speech, he offered DACA recipients a bit of relief for three years—unless he changed his mind—before they again lose their rights. People outraged with DDT’s weak offer may be angrier with other parts of DDT’s bill:

Remove eligibility for asylum from Central American minors. All these asylum seekers, who must have a parent or guardian in the U.S., would have to stay in their home countries and go through State Department processing centers there. DDT’s bill restricts the number of qualifying children to 15,000.

Eliminate all African countries and predominantly Muslim countries such as Syria and Yemen from the ten countries offered temporary protected status because of violence of damage by natural disasters. This change leaves only El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua out of the list of ten.

Restrict temporary protections to immigrants already legally in the U.S. Almost people in this category would lose their eligibility.

Create stricter penalties for Dreamers wanting a status change. The crime of making “any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements” would also allow prosecution for minor errors, even ones that the applicants unwittingly made.

Extend temporary DACA protections for those currently covered and who renew their applications. No new applications will be accepted, renewal application fees would be doubled, and income requirements would be added.

Add penalties for wrong information in applications to asylum applicants and limit applicants’ abilities to defend themselves. Applicants with fraudulent documents because of corruption in their home countries would suffer from these penalties.

Require that asylum applications be “consistent with the national interest.”

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal workers have missed their second paycheck. Many are on the same infamous “breadlines” common during the Great Depression. One of these soup kitchens are free meals (below) provided by chef José Andrés and his nonprofit group that served millions of free meals to needy people after natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires. Conservatives are fond of saying that people need this kind of charity because they aren’t willing to work. These people—almost half of them still on the job—have employment, but conservatives deny them their paychecks. 

On her Facebook page, Sue Hardesty has published this piece on DDT’s wall:

I have to take one deviation from my fun writings on Yaquina Bay and surrounding areas to do a bit of a rant. To be honest, it’s really a big rant, so those of you who are fed up with hearing about Trump’s wall, delete me. I swore to myself I would stay out of politics on Facebook, and I do know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. I just need to say it.

I grew up and spent most of my adult years close enough to the Arizona/Mexico border. I have crossed it in many places many times and have observed the damage the present walls have done in polluted lands, decreased water equality, loss of business in small towns on both sides of the border. When the border wall of the town of Boquillas del Carmen (Texas) was closed in 2001, the town was economically devastated and abandoned. Millions of dollars in border trade has been lost which will only get worse. The environment of more than one hundred species of wild animals will continue to be catastrophically damaged, and animals along 650 miles of the Rio Grande will be blocked from life-sustaining water.

Winston Churchill once said he believed in democracy until he spent five minutes talking to a voter. I have often been ignorant about politics having little energy left over after a long workday to think on our national crises. I figured that was what the guy I did vote for was supposed to do. And I don’t have a problem with that either unless those in power are as ignorant as the average voter and intend to stay that way. Seems to me anyone thinking about completing the wall on our Mexico/U.S. border would at least check out the historical successes or failures of walls, especially when millions of lives and billions of dollars are at stake. How long would that take?

So I decided to find out. Starting with the Great Wall of China I learned it was over 5,000 miles long and was built to stop inner Asia nomads from entering China. It did not. Then there was Hadrian’s Wall built across northern England to stop barbarians. It did not. Oh, and let’s not forget our modern-day Berlin Wall, built originally to stop invaders from the west but ended up attempting to stop deflectors from the East. It did not. The presently successful Israel/Egypt wall is Trump’s model. This “apartheid wall” or “anti-terrorist wall,” depending whose side you’re on, is 152 miles long and costs Israel $260 million per year for maintenance. Walls, like fences, help us feel safe. But that’s about all they do.

Trump himself once said, “Is there a brick wall getting in your way? Fine. That happens. But you have a choice. You can walk away from the wall. You can go over the wall. You can go under the wall. You can go around the wall. You can also obliterate the wall. In other words, don’t let anything get in your way.” As Jane Loeffler, architectural historian who studied fortifications of U.S. embassies, said, “A wall is so primitive. You can dig under it, go over it, catapult yourself over it. A wall is more symbolic than a real defense. A wall is fear in three dimensions.” In truth, what really happens? The first and last lines in Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” reads “Good fences make good neighbors,” ironically depict how walls separate people and describes his wall-building neighbor as unthinking, “like an old-stone savage armed.”

As to the illogical argument we are overcrowded now, 39.8% of the land in the U.S. is privately owned with 1.14 million miles in farmland, mostly unpopulated as is most of the 60% publicly owned land. The U.S. is a very big place. If you think we don’t have jobs for all these undocumented, that is also not true. During the 1990’s the U.S. Congress provided the H-2A work visa to stop criminals from entering the U.S. and prevent farmers from hiring immigrants if a U.S. resident could do the work. The loss of so many workers with the passing of this act was devastating to many businesses in most of the states.

Some states such as Georgia passed even more highly restrictive laws against immigrants. As a result, an estimated 40 percent of Georgia state’s agricultural workforce disappeared, and $140 million worth of crops were lost. It was a lesson no one learned. Desperate for workers, Alabama founder/CEO of Grow Alabama, Jerry Spencer, decided to train local white workers in a month-long experiment. At the end, all but three workers were gone. I understand why it failed. As a kid, I decided to earn money by chopping weeds in my brothers’ cotton fields. I lasted four hours: I had no idea how much bending, kneeling, chopping, pulling, and bleeding it took. I was lucky I could get an education and move on.*

But the most tragic result of wall building is that when we began hunting each other we turn the hunter and hunted alike into animals as violent as any criminal. We teach each other there are undesirables among us, resulting in refuge seekers and innocent indigenous people getting beat up and left lying in the hot sun in their own blood and vomit, wives and daughters raped, and homes savaged.

The opportunity to openly hunt with little repercussion along the 1954-mile border has already attracted self-appointed groups like the American Border Patrol who call themselves a watch group, the Civil Homeland Defense, Tea Baggers, white supremacist vigilantes, Minute Men, National Socialists, and Ranch Rescue. And my favorite, Joe Arpaio copycat Walking Tallers. In the middle of this crazy mix are the cartel, Coyotes, drug traffickers, undocumented workers, and on the Mexican side, the Federales. On the American side we have our own Border Patrol with its Forward Operating Camps.

When we do run down the undocumented, we throw them into cages, separating parents from their children, and don’t even pretend to care what happens to them. The old adage, “violence never resolves who’s right. Only who’s left,” has never been more frightening. I cannot help but ask what happened to our humanity. Have we no shame?

Sources:

https://talkpoverty.org/2019/01/03/already-border-wall-environmental-disaster/

https://www.newsweek.com/what-history-tells-us-about-building-wall-solve-problem-381875

https://www.summitpost.org/public-and-private-land-percentages-by-us-states/186111

https://www.Wikipedia

https://www.america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/12/visual-activism

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/world/middleeast/

*The situation was worse in Georgia and Alabama than Hardesty described. After an anti-immigrant law caused 11,000 Latino farm workers to leave, farmers tried to hire others looking for jobs. In Georgia, the new non-immigrant “workers” picking cucumbers had one-sixth of the output that migrant workers did because of less effort, longer breaks, and quitting early. Throughout the states with these punitive laws, farmers retired or switched from growing food to planting trees. When Alabama potato farmer Keith Smith lost his immigrant workers, most of the new employees not only displayed the same problems as listed in Georgia but also showed up late with some quitting after less than a day. These problems existed in 2011 with a higher unemployment rate. In 2019, far fewer workers are willing to endure the backbreaking work.

January 20, 2019

The U.S. Has a Concierge Government

Day 30 of government shutdown: People said that they voted for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) because he could run the government like a business. After shutting down the government a month ago, he demonstrates how he frequently ran his own businesses—by putting more people to work without pay. In the past, DDT has refused to pay hundreds of contractors for their work; some of these cases re still in court. Many times, he also illegally refused to pay overtime or minimum wages. DDT also brags about his cheating his workers. The result was at least six bankruptcies.

Trying to not alienate his base and draw less attention to the problems of a shutdown government, DDT has ordered people back to work, loosely categorizing them as “essential” without rationale, but still not paying them for their work. Private businesses are especially benefitting from his largess, as he runs a concierge government for only the favored. These are not the employees deemed “essential” because of the public safety or health concerns of their jobs. DDT is operating on the theory that if only the federal employees are suffering that he can continue the shutdown indefinitely without protest.

Concierge advantages performed by employees ordered back without pay from “furlough”:

Finalize land deals for oil and gas drilling to maintain profit opportunities for wealthy conservative businessmen.

Process existing farm loans and give 1009 tax documents to farmers/ranchers.

Submit tax refunds.

Inspect food and drugs.

Issue flood insurance certificates to allow banks to continue collecting revenue by providing mortgages to prospective homeowners. (The action is illegal because the law prevents government agencies from participating in contracts or spending money without funded projects.)

Ensure safety of airplanes and national airspace.

The diplomats ordered back will be paid from when they return but will not receive back pay until the end of the shutdown. Judges will continue to be paid through the end of this week, but some judiciary employees would be furloughed.

Reasons to take notice of the concierge government:

IRS is seizing property without recourse because the IRS has no one to respond to the seizures or resolve the government mistakes. This travesty causes the greatest pain to small businesses.

Airline safety is “eroding,” and TSA workers are on the verge of quitting if they don’t receive paychecks.

Native Americans are losing basic services in obtaining food and health care.

Women cannot find respite from domestic violence.

Unwelcome visitors to parks are permanently defacing parts and national monuments.

People are dying without health services that cannot be resolved by a government that is shutdown.

Low-wage contract workers performing janitorial, security, and food services at public buildings will not be getting back pay while they are “furloughed.”

Many people—including DDT—associate federal employees with Washington, D.C., but of the over 2 million civilian workers, only 350,000 are in the larger D.C. area. Forty percent of the 2 million, 800,000, are scattered across the United States. The largest number of federal employees affected by the lack of paychecks per resident are in the mostly red states of Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Unpaid federal workers owe $438 million in mortgage and rent for just this month, and over 110,000 unpaid employees earn under $50,000 a year. Only 40 percent can afford to pay for a $1,000 unexpected expense.

No money is going to the Indian Health Service with its 730 doctors, 2,300 nurses, 750 pharmacists, and 40+ hospitals in 37 states, many of the personnel and facilities in remote areas with no alternative providers. Federal contractors are losing $200 million each day from lost or delayed revenue, $25 million alone to Delta Airlines for lost government flights. Standard and Poor estimates that the U.S. economy will lose $7.1 billion in one more week of the shutdown. That’s almost 20 percent more than DDT’s $5.6 billion wall.

Corrupt administrative officials can take advantage of the shutdown to continue their fraudulent practices:

The Inspectors General who audit financials and investigate waste, fraud, and abuse are largely gone from the many federal agencies. During six months last year in ten of the shutdown agencies, OIGs secured 620 indictments, 507 convictions, and $411 million in criminal restitution, fines, civil recoveries, and forfeited assets. Every day means less recovered money and more wrongdoing.

The rights of whistleblowers aren’t protected because offices assigned to doing this are shut down.

Any transparency and accountability are disappearing with websites going offline. When (if?) hey reopen, the information will be out of date, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission that posts recall.

People cannot make requests per the Freedom of Information Act.

Work on the American Community Survey, which goes out to 3.5 million Americans each year and determines government, has stopped during the lapse.

Monthly economic indicators on everything from trade, construction and retail business have stopped, preventing planning and knowledge about the state of the country.

Announcement of comment periods for changes in regulations have disappeared although the comment time may not be delayed, leaving the public with even less involvement than before to give their opinions.

Over 80 government websites are “insecure or inaccessible” because of expiring security certificates, including that for the Department of Commerce.

Every agency was required to have a shutdown plan that was approved by the OMB listing essential and furloughed employees, but half the 130 agencies failed to carry through submitting these contingency plans. In the middle of the flu season, almost 80 percent of the employees at the National Institutes of Health were furloughed as were two-thirds of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers.

The problems of the shutdown won’t end when it’s over:

Disaster Preparedness and Response: FEMA ordered its contractors to stop working on projects five days after the shutdown started. States suffering disasters in the last two years will be left waiting for help to recover. Lack of knowledge from the shutdown impedes the government’s ability to foresee, prevent, and respond to upcoming natural disasters—worsening from climate change. For example, NOAA’s hurricane modelers are furloughed. Forests are not being managed, leading to greater wildfires. First responders and emergency experts cannot take this time to prepare for the next disaster season. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was not renewed, meaning no funding for the development of emergency and new medicine for future outbreaks.

Losing Dedicated Public Servants in Public Health: Much of the staff may no longer work for the government after their treatment during a lengthy shutdown, and the government may be unable to replace them. Even worse, federal salaries will be cut for 2019.

In one example of economic loss, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) loses $400,000 in fares and parking revenue for every weekday—about $20 million thus far. In addition, the government shutdown stiffed WMATA $33 million in unreimbursed expenses. Transit companies are just one small part of businesses negatively impacted by the loss of $1 billion missing from the economy each week with unpaid federal employees. Hotels, restaurants, renters, and small businesses are losing billions of dollars, while charities to give unpaid federal works, including food pantries, are being stretched beyond their capabilities. Travel and tourism, responsible for $1.6 trillion annually, are losing income. Employers will eventually be further stressed through unemployment claims.

DDT is breaking the law in his effort to keep himself from political pain by running a concierge government. According to the U.S. Constitution, government can spend only money appropriated by Congress. Activities during a shutdown are limited to protect life or property, carry out the president’s core constitutional responsibilities, and operate programs permitted by Congress in the absence of funding.

Leaving the parks open with skeleton staffing results in safety risks so the Interior Department decided to provide some park services from fees. But no one is charging fees during the shutdown, and the fees already collected were designated for long-term maintenance. DDT is using the same short-term solutions for long-term consequences outside the law.

Congress has declared that Social Security payments must be made during a shutdown in its requirement that these are on a regular basis, but it has no requirement for paying IR refunds. Therefore, DDT’s order that IRS refunds be sent out during the shutdown is illegal. Most of DDT’s other actions to please his constituents despite the shutdown are equally illegal. The danger of allowing DDT to break the law with impunity will see that his politicized approach toward government will only increase as he permits only those programs that align with powerful interests or gain positive media coverage. DDT’s real purpose of a concierge government is to prolong the shutdown.

January 12, 2019

GOP Makes History with Shutdown—Again

Day 22 of government shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has his wish—the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Until today, the longest was from December 5, 1995 to January 6, 1996 when GOP leaders disagreed with the method of determining a balanced budget. Before that, the GOP closed the government from September 30 to October 18, 1978 when Jimmy Carter opposed purchasing the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Details of all shutdowns until the GOP objection on October 1-17, 2013 to the Affordable Care Act are here. In the formerly three longest shutdowns, the Republicans voted to agree with the Democratic presidents.

This past week, members of the Coast Guard risked their lives to rescue three men on a crabbing boat that tried to cross the dangerous Newport (OR) bar, the opening at the end of a jetty between the ocean and Yaquina Bay. Sadly, the boat was lost and the three crew members died, but not because the Coast Guard didn’t do their jobs—although they aren’t being paid. The 41,000 members of the Coast Guard are part of the 800,000 federal workers no longer receiving paychecks because of DDT’s intransigence or government allowances for housing in expensive coastal cities.

Adding insult to injury, a federal website for Coast Guard members published a five-page tip for surviving without paychecks—babysit or dogwalk or serve as a “mystery shopper.” They could sell their belongings at a yard sale. “Bankruptcy is a last option,” according to the website although it’s always been DDT’s first action before he got money from his father or the Russians. To be fair, the recommendations are primarily for the 8,500-person civilian workforce, but its publication is still demeaning, especially the comment, “Stay in charge of the situation by getting a clear understanding of what’s happening.”

Federal workers are already struggling to make up for the missing paychecks by getting supplies at charity food pantries, driving for Uber, and giving blood. They aren’t employable because they may not be staying on the job long. At the same time, states and municipalities are losing revenue by less sales tax, and small businesses are hurting from lack of business.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to address any bill passed by the new Democratic House.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “The goal is not to open up the government. Instead, the Senate focused on a bill The goal is to fix a broken immigration system.” Instead, the Senate worked on a bill giving states the right to punish companies that boycott Israel by refusing to contract with them and adding $33 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years to the $5.5 billion the U.S. enacted in last year’s defense spending bill. The fast-tracked bill bypassed any committee involvement. McConnell’s blocking all bills to reopen the government led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to ask:

“Do you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?”

 

This week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) decided to negotiate a resolution with DDT by reopening the government while letting congressional committees sort out money for the wall. DDT rejected the GOP plan, and Graham said that he’s given up looking for a resolution. In making a “deal” for the wall, each side has to give something to get something. The only “give” that DDT offers is reopening the government—which he has to do anyway. DDT claims “No wall, no deal,” and the only resolution is for two-thirds of each congressional chamber to vote for a continuing resolution—without a wall.

DDT now falsely claims he never said that Mexico would pay for the wall. Not only does video show him making this statement over and over, but his campaign materials state that he expects to finance the wall with “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” from Mexico which his administration would “compel” the country to make.

Trying to avoid bad press and appease friends, DDT promised the illegal actions of sending tax refunds to people and favoring lobbyists in the lending block of the mortgage industry. Yesterday, 800,000 federal workers got paychecks with $0.00, but Treasury officials guaranteed that the IRS will process forms for mortgage lenders. The Mortgage Bankers’ Association CEO, Robert Broeksmit, asked to “make these guys essential” because of “a problem for the lending industry.” The clerks working on Broeksmit’s problem will receive full pay, unlike the vast majority of their colleagues, but the estimated 248,400 veterans working for the shutdown government agencies get nothing.

In 2004, DDT told an audience of graduates at Wagner College how to avoid a wall:

“If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall.”

Thirty-three Wagner professors and over 700 alumni have asked the school to rescind the honorary degree that DDT received for his address.

A saw can be used to cut a hole through DDT’s preferred wall prototype, the “steel bollard.” Even without the hole, the spaces between the slats are wide enough for packages or perhaps people. Or they can just climb the bollards.

 

“Never so many apprehensions ever in our history,” DDT said. Yet the 400,000 apprehensions in 2017 and 300,000 in 2016 are far lower than the past with 19 years over one million people between 1983 to 2006 and topping out at 1,643,679 apprehensions in 2000. And bipartisan support for immigration has grown.

DDT wants to build a wall by taking $13.9 billion in disaster relief in declaring a national emergency, including include $2.4 billion for flood prevention and protection projects in California, $2.5 billion for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, and $4.5 billion for projects in Texas, including those related to 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

Putting this money into a medieval wall is like flushing it down a toilet—or a river—especially in the vast areas of the Rio Grande floodplain, where a 1970 treaty between the United States and Mexico bans the barrier. According to the treaty, the joint U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) “must approve construction of works proposed in either country” along those rivers and prohibits the construction of projects “which, in the judgment of the commission, may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the river or of its flood flows.”

Border experts state that a wall has already been built everywhere possible on the border, but 1,254 miles runs through the middle of the Rio Grande River which routinely floods—more and more since recent climate change. Any barriers will greatly worsen flooding as shown by the flash flood along the 5-mile border fence along the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that poured through the port of entry and damaged businesses, government buildings, and private property. The only solution is to put the fence miles away from the border, leaving privately-owned U.S. land seized through eminent domain on the Mexican side and ceding that land to Mexico.

About walls, DDT declares he’s a “professional at technology.” He said, “I know tech better than anyone.” This statement follows all the other areas in which he considers himself an expert because he knows more about the subjects than “any human being on earth”: science, drones, Osama bin Laden, Cory Booker, borders, campaign contributions, courts, debt, Facebook, guns, visas, infrastructure, the political left, money, horror of nuclear, renewables, steelworkers, taxes, trade, Wall Street bankers, and wedges.

Jeffrey Toobin writes:

“If the President can spend government funds without congressional approval—indeed, if he can do so in the face of an explicit congressional refusal to spend funds for precisely the purpose that he seeks—that fundamentally reorders the relations between the branches. Specifically, it vastly expands the President’s power at the expense of Congress.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) went silent when CNN’s John Berman asked him if a future Democratic president could bypass Congress and declare climate change a “national emergency.” Finally questioning the validity of the claim, Berman pointed out that the Pentagon thinks climate change is a serious problem. Then deaths from guns could be a “national emergency.”

While DDT shuts down the government because of immigrants, U.S. citizens are destroying public land. A prime example is the prized Joshua Tree National Monument, now unstaffed, where “patriots” are cutting down trees (below right), making new roads with four-wheelers, and spray-painting rocks. Paraplegic veteran Rand Abbott has gone to the park almost every day to clean bathrooms, pick up trash, and “kindly persuade people to not destroy the park.”

Federal workers suffering from no pay are scattered throughout the country with the top afflicted places outside Washington, D.C. being Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Idaho. A map with numbers of federal workers without pay is here.

 

DDT’s shutdown is estimated to lose the economy $2.5 billion every week, a 0.1 percent loss in GDP for every two weeks. And that’s low-balling the guesstimate. Congress can stop the shutdown if two-thirds of each chamber votes for a continuing resolution or a budget. That’s 50 Republicans in the House and 15 in the Senate. The House has already picked up 12 Republicans. Maybe that many legislators will learn that a wall won’t stop drugs coming in through tunnels, ports of entries, and international bridges; a wall won’t address the majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who overstay their visas.

January 4, 2019

Shutdown Disasters Start with DDT

Day 14 of the government shutdown: VP Mike Pence and hundreds of his appointees will receive wage increases averaging about $10,000 a year, thanks to the lack of appropriation legislation. At the same time, 800,000 federal workers have no paychecks although about half of them are still on the job. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ordered a pay freeze for most federal workers just before 2019, one which does not keep his cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, top administrators from getting raises, people who may receive them in bulk later if their agencies’ human resources departments aren’t staffed because of the shutdown. Public information about these raises led to “bad optics”; after a day of “exploring options,” the government ordered departments to hold off on the pay raises.

DDT has already said he would “look foolish” if he backed off from the wall funding, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is goading him into staying the course by saying:

“If he gives in now, that’s the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president. That’s probably the end of his presidency. Donald Trump has made a promise to the American people: He’s going to secure our border.”

Disagreeing that DDT is an “effective president,” people also wonder why he doesn’t keep his promise to make Mexico “pay for the wall.”

To get his wall through holding the government hostage, DDT spreads false fear-mongering to keep his base in control.

  • DHS highly inflated numbers of gang members trying to cross the border—6,000 instead of the actual 800.
  • The 3,755 “terrorists” described, including those under suspicion of ties to organizations, come at all U.S. ports of entry such as airports. Last year, the State Department report zero number of terrorists crossing the Mexico border.

  • Percentages of apprehensions on the Mexico is high for 2018 because the number was so low in 2017, the first year after DDT’s inauguration. DDT wanted that decline to prove that his methods were effective, but he realized that he needed high numbers to persuade people to fund his wall.
  • DDT spreads false increases about drugs coming across from Mexico: the 2.14 million pounds of narcotics were seized in 2017 dropped to 1.7 million pounds in 2018, a decrease of over 20 percent. Former DHS Secretary John F. Kelly testified that most of these drugs come through existing ports of entry, and statistics show that the vast majority of these drugs is marijuana, which has been legalized for some purposes in two-thirds of the states. DDT also lied when he said most of the drugs don’t come through legal ports of entry.
  • A conservative outlet reported 900 cases of human trafficking but inflated the figure by counting all children who did not come into the U.S. with a biological parent. Only 170 children claiming to be with family were separated because of no biological; these children, who may have been with family friends, have been sent to privatized confinement where many of them are abused—physically, sexually, and emotionally—by taxpayer funds.

People in the U.S. need to be far more afraid of native-born citizens than undocumented immigrants. In 2015, these citizens committed crimes at over twice the rate that of undocumented immigrants. In another study, cities with a higher undocumented immigration population do not have higher rates of violent crime.

After a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House this morning, DDT said that they came “a long way” and that they were “all on the same path.” DDT’s other reports were equally optimistic. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, however, that DDT threatened to keep the government closed for “years” if he doesn’t get his wall funding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described the meeting as “sometimes contentious.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said DDT did not talk about protections for DACA recipients. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not attend the meeting but said that Democrats need to agree to meet. DDT, the great negotiator, has appointed a group—including VP Mike Pence, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—to negotiate a solution.

On Splinter, the irreverent but informative purveyor of news, Rafi Schwartz called DDT’s 16-minute press conference following the White House meeting the dumbest—if not the craziest or worst—performance. The strangest part was DDT’s repetition that terrorists are driving across the southern border where they make a right turn” at the existing border fence and then “they make a left” where the barrier ends to enter the United States.

Other repetitive DDT statements were a long diatribe about the “powerful steel structure” for a wall, perhaps better than concrete because people can see through it and because steel is stronger and more “beautiful” than concrete. People might throw drugs across a concrete wall and kill you—according to DDT. About people who own land where he wants to build the law, DDT declared a nonexistent “military version of eminent domain.” He also declared that he would give himself emergency powers to build his wall by calling it a “national emergency.”

On Vox, Aaron Rupar went farther when he called the news conference “unhinged, incoherent, oblivious, and dangerous.” DDT lied again about his government finishing “new walls, beautiful walls, steels walls” in California. Congress has not appropriated one cent for DDT’s “new walls.” He also falsely claimed that San Diego begged him for the wall.

DDT preened about how “some” previous presidents privately told him that they wish they would have built a border wall. Unless he’s channeling Andrew Jackson, who died in 1845, he’s lying again. No rational person can imagine former presidents—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—even having recent private conversations with him, let alone being sorry that they didn’t create a “beautiful” wall.

Asked about the $10,000 raises that his executive employees receive when federal workers aren’t being paid, DDT suggested that these workers approve of the increases, that they are the “biggest fan[s] of what we’re doing.” April Ryan asked him whether he had a safety net for people without paychecks for months or years. DDT said, “The safety net is going to be having a strong border.”

Asked whether he was still “proud” to own the shutdown, Trump deflected:

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing. I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and safety of our country.”

DDT’s babblings can be found here.

Yesterday Pelosi explained why DDT is difficult to negotiate with:

“When you’re negotiating with someone, you have to know, you stipulate to some fact. It’s hard to do that with the president because he resists science, evidence, data, truth. It’s hard to pin the president down on the facts.”

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), member of the Appropriations Committee, was more blunt than Pelosi in describing DDT:

“The one thing you’ve got when you come into this place is your credibility, and once you lose it, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. He’s lost it. It’s very difficult to negotiate anything, because you don’t know if he’s going to stick with it. You don’t know what his attitude is going to be tomorrow or what his position is going to be tomorrow. There’s a lot of members of our caucus who think this shutdown is stupid.”

Simpson expressed more frustration because DDT backed down after he told McConnell that he would support a CR without a wall until February 8. McConnell twisted arms until he persuaded every GOP senator to vote for the CR, and then DDT refused to agree with the bill. The House patterned its new bill after the unanimously-passed Senate bill, and McConnell refuses to bring the House bill back to the chamber floor—probably because it was passed by Democrats.

DDT denies that he ever offered $2.5 billion instead of the original $5.7 billion for his wall, but Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), said that he attend the meetings where “Pence offered the $2.5 [billion].” Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) called for “cooler heads to prevail and to know where “everybody’s negotiating from.” Asked if he knows where DDT, is negotiating from, Hurd said, “No, I don’t.”

The idea for the wall came from Roger Stone, being investigated by Robert Mueller, when the political analyst urged him to talk about illegal immigration to manipulate conservatives. Sam Nunberg said that he and Stone “came up with the idea of ‘the Wall,’ and we talked to Steve [Bannon] about it. It was to make sure that [DDT] talked about immigration.” DDT tried out the idea at the Iowa Freedom Summit. The crowd went crazy over the idea, and DDT added, “Nobody builds like Trump.”

Even the conservative Wall Street Journal opposes the building of the wall to stop illegal immigration. A large increase of legal admission of farm workers during the 1950s drastically reduced illegal entry to the United States from Mexico, and illegal entry across the Mexico border has dropped by over 90 percent since 2000, according to Border Patrol apprehensions data. A wall also does not stop immigrants from applying for asylum.

In 1995 and 2013, the shutdowns closed national parks, but White House budget director/acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decided to keep them open this time without staffing. By the 14th day of DDT’s shutdown, three people have died of accidents in three different national parks. More may have died because the government is not notifying the public of deaths because of the shutdown.

January 3, 2019

Shutdown, House Moves Forward

Day 13 of government shutdown: Thanks to the intransigence of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT), ICE has immigration problems. Tens of thousands of immigration officers and agents have no pay while they show up for work at the Mexico border. Many judges and clerks in immigration courts, already backlogged by almost one million cases, have been sent home while over 2,000 migrants are taken into custody each day. Sixty-five of these border crossers are families and children who are being released in the streets of El Paso (TX), Yuma (AZ), and other border cities. The E-verify website to check on the immigration status of potential hires has been shut down.

In addition to delayed IRS refunds, the Emergency Food Assistance Program may have delayed delivery of food to soup kitchens, food banks, and pantries. Frozen guarantees to back loans from the Small Business Administration mean millions of small businesses lost access to federal assistance loans and technical assistance. Homebuyers will be delayed in getting mortgages. Access to marriage licenses in D.C. has been suspended.

Parks are filthy, restrooms are closed, and museums are closed. Because of health and safety concerns, campgrounds at the Joshua Tree National Park were closed. Areas around parks are losing an average $18 million a day from tourism, and the government is losing money from not collecting fees at the parks where people crawl over fences and gates. Staff shortages create a feeling of “lawlessness” in the parks.  [Trash at the Washington Monument.]

One of DDT’s arguments for the wall is his claim that the Obama D.C. home has a surrounding ten-foot wall. As usual, DDT is wrong. One of the Obama neighbors commented that DDT “has a very active imagination.” Fox “news” reported on DDT’s information but not the reality.

For the second time in a government shutdown, federal workers are suing in protest of the requirement that “essential” employees must work without pay. Some affected agencies, including the VA and Defense Department, have enough money to pay employees until next fall, but nine other departments and dozens of agencies have been closed except for “essential” individuals who not only won’t receive pay but can’t take vacations or sick leave. Even if employees are in the hospital, they can be fired for being absent without leave. Employees also sued during the 2013 shutdown, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims required that employees must be paid twice their back pay because the government violated the requirement that employees be paid on time for their services.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a woman elected as Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress, beat out Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a vote of 220-192 despite 15 Democratic dissidents. She celebrates her position in the 100th anniversary of women voting for federal candidates in the United States. Pelosi needed at least 216 votes for the position to obtain a simple majority of members on the chamber floor because one Republican was absent, one had not been seated, and three Democrats voted “present. Other votes went to Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), 4 votes); Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), 2 votes; Rep. John Lewis (D-GA); Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA); and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). Two people who are not House members, former VP Joe Biden and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, each received one vote.

The Democratic and Blue Dog representative for my Oregon district, Kurt Schrader, voted for Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The super PAC for Schrader’s “No Labels” group spent over $2.5 million during the recent midterms to support vulnerable GOP House candidates trying to keep their position. Only half that amount supported Democrats. No Labels declared candidate DDT as one of their official “problem solvers,”  and No Labels tried to prevent Pelosi from becoming Speaker. Schrader maintained he wanted a younger House leadership before he voted for the 66-year-old Fudge for Speaker and supported older House representatives for other leadership positions.

The House promptly went to work today. In an effort to stop the shutdown, the House passed two bills with the support of a few Republicans. One package of six bills, passed by 239-192, funds agencies that are not considered controversial including the departments of Treasury, State, and Justice through the 2019 fiscal year at the end of September. The second bill, funding DHS through February 8, maintains the department’s funding at current levels which includes $3.1 billion for border security.

The first GOP senator has called for reopening the government with a CR that doesn’t give DDT his money for the wall. Cory Gardner (CO) suggested continuing negotiations after federal agencies open and “let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) agreed with Gardner, but her opinion carries no weight because she never follows through with her promises. After the House passed a bill last month mandating $5.7 billion for DDT’s wall, the Senate approved a CR without that funding to keep the government open until February 8. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that no vote will occur without DDT’s previous sign-off. In essence, McConnell abdicated all the power of the Senate to the executive branch. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed out that the House bills are the same as the ones supported in the GOP Senate Appropriations Committee.

Pundits like to talk about how disliked Pelosi is. In the most recent Gallup poll, she is rated more favorably at 38 percent than either Senate leader (Democrat Chuck Schumer from New York at 32 percent and GOP Mitch McConnell from Kentucky at 30 percent) with the same unfavorable rating, 48 percent, as McConnell. Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) received a 34-percent favorable rating with his unfavorable 50 percent at two percent higher than Pelosi, but the media has had few comments about these ratings.

On fivethirtyeight.com, Perry Bacon wrote that all congressional leaders are unpopular. It’s the job and the fact that Congress is unpopular, but increasing partisan polarization has led to increasing partisan hatred of the leaders of the opposite party. As Bacon pointed out, any Democratic House Speaker will be disliked. Congressional leaders also receive negativity from the opposing party but little support of their own. The sexism adds to the mix: Pelosi is the only female congressional leader in the House or Senate, the country fails to elect a woman president, and almost half the states have never elected a woman for governor.

Republicans undoubtedly dislike Pelosi because she gets things done, including the vote for the Affordable Care Act. They complain that she is too liberal, but much of their distaste for the new House Speaker comes from her gender. The GOP wants women to vote for them, but they don’t want women in office. The 116th Congress is evidence of that philosophy.

The question is why some Democrats oppose Pelosi. Some might believe that she’s not progressive enough, although the 15 dissidents are so conservative that the Blue Dogs supported DDT before his election. Other Democrats blame her for their party losing Congress because they need someone to blame. Sometimes Democrats are offended when members of their party try to compromise while at the same time they excoriate the GOP for not working with the Democrats.

An overview of the House membership in the 116th Congress: Three Republicans come from districts that Clinton took in 2016, and 31 Democrats came from DDT-majority districts.

Today is a big milestone for DDT: it represents the longest period of time that DDT didn’t play golf since he was inaugurated. DDT hasn’t visited a golf course and one his personally owned properties for 39 days. Before that time, he spent 166 days at one of his golf clubs and another 22 days at one of his properties. President Obama didn’t hit even 100 rounds of golf until the end of his first term. On the campaign trail, DDT said that he wouldn’t be able to visit any of his properties while he was in office because “I’m going to be working for you.” The man who calls himself the best negotiator possible sat around the White House for two weeks and waited for Democrats to come talk to him.

December 27, 2018

Disasters in Iraq, More Bad news in North Carolina

Day Six of the Government Shutdown:  The Senate returned today for four minutes to discuss the federal shutdown and then went home until the afternoon of January 2, the last day of the 115th Congress. The House lasted two minutes and 55 seconds. Republicans denied the attempt of Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to get a vote on legislation to reopen the government. DDT’s only visibility are his irate tweets.

Nine federal departments and several federal agencies stay unfunded, leaving 25 percent of the government unable to continue operations. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) said that the Democratic House may put forward a bill to fund the government without the wall on its first day of January 3. The legislation would mirror the bipartisan Senate bill passed last week before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) refused to sign any budget bill without his wall. All bills passed before January 3 expire, and the Senate would have to repass the legislation with seven new members. The the Office of Personnel Management shared advice for federal workers such as doing building chores in exchange for reduced rent.

DDT said he was “proud” to cause the shutdown and would wear the “mantle.” A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted primarily before the beginning of the shutdown shows that 47 percent of adults agree that he is to blame. Only seven percent fault Republicans in Congress with another 33 percent blaming the Democrats.

On Christmas Day, DDT tweeted, with no evidence that “many” of the 800,000 workers without paychecks want him to hold out for the wall and that they’re doing “just fine.” By today, he declared that most of those workers are “Democrats.”

After 706 days in office, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited troops in a combat zone for the first time since he was inaugurated. The visit occurred the week after he announced victory over ISIS, a claim that his Pentagon and State Department disputed, and the same day that the New York Times blew the whistle on DDT’s claims of bone spurs to dodge the Vietnam War. Reports from a podiatrist’s doctor’s daughter describe how Fred Trump may have kept his son from the Vietnam War draft. Long ridiculed for using bone spurs as an excuse, DDT received his medical exemption from Dr. Larry Braunstein, according to his daughters who said Braunstein talked about doing a favor for DDT’s father. Braunstein practiced in one of dozens of buildings that Fred Trump owned in Jamaica, Queens. Dr. Manny Weinstein, who lived in two Brooklyn apartments owned by Trump, may have also been involved. Weinstein died in 1995, and Braunstein in 2007. DDT always said that he had a high lottery number, but that process didn’t begin until a year after his bone spur 1-Y exemption. DDT’s earlier exemption as a student came from his attending Wharton, thanks in part to “an interview with a friendly Wharton admissions officer who was one of [his father’s] old high school classmates,” according to Gwenda Blair’s book The Trumps.

While talking to the troops in Iraq, DDT repeated his lies—that they were getting “one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received” and that they “haven’t gotten one in more than ten years.” He continued, “I got you a big one,” claiming that it is over ten percent. Fact check: U.S. troops received pay raises for every year back to 1975 except for 1983. The latest pay raise was 2.6 percent. And there was no debate with anyone who wanted smaller races.

DDT tweeted video of his meeting in Iraq with members of a Navy Seal team on covert operations who were wearing camouflage gear with night vision goggles, putting the men into danger. Their location was considered classified—until DDT announced it. A Defense Department official said that it is the first time that special-ops forces serving in a war zone didn’t have their faces covered or digitally blurred for a photo release. The troops who asked DDT to autograph their MAGA hats might also be violating the DOD’s position on politics.

Although DDT outed special ops, possibly putting them in danger, he failed to meet with any Iraqi officials during his three hours in their country. He said that the trip had been planned for three weeks, but Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was invited to meet the president only two hours in advance. The prime minister said that any meeting was canceled because of a disagreement of how to conduct the session. After DDT’s visit, Iraqi politicians and lawmakers, angered and insulted by DDT’s swift and unannounced visit, demanded that U.S. troops leave Iraq. Sabah al-Saadi, leader of Iraq’s Islah parliamentary bloc, asked that an emergency parliament “discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

DDT also raised conflict in South Africa, not for the first time, by tweeting that State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo should investigate the “killing of farmers” and “land and farm seizures” there. The South African government declared DDT “misinformed” and accused him of stoking racial divisions. The country’s rand currency dropped over 1.5 percent against the U.S. dollar. Farm murders are at a 20-year low, and conservative Australian politicians have falsified the number of deaths last year.

The trip wasn’t even kept a secret. An amateur plane enthusiast and photographer spotted Air Force One over Sheffield, England on its way to Iraq. According to Alan Meloy, the only two VC-25s alternate as Air Force One. He posted his photograph on Flickr, and the secret was out three hours before the plane landed at Al Asad Airbase west of Baghdad.

Distressed about DDT’s moves to pull out troops from the Middle East, GOP senators are looking for someone to stand up to DDT now that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has died. The name of Utah’s incoming GOP senator, Mitt Romney, has been tossed out as a solution to take this role—sort of “let Mikey try it.” Evidently no sitting senator has the courage to take on the task.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), known for choosing his words carefully, sent out one of his most critical statements to date, saying he was “distressed” to read Mattis’s reasons for resigning. He added that Trump should pick a successor who shares Mattis’s “understanding” of the “vital principles” that he outlined in his resignation letter. He didn’t. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said he didn’t believe Trump’s views on foreign policy aligned in many ways with his or most Republicans’.

“I think General Mattis has put his finger on where the president has views that are very, very distinct from the vast majority of Republicans and probably Democrats, elected and unelected,” Toomey told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), asked about Mattis, quipped that he was “still depressed” and “too emotional” to talk about the impending departure. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) said “the vast majority of senators both Democratic and Republican are totally opposed to this policy. We’re trying to get the administration to rethink it.”

Asked if he thought Trump understood foreign policy, the highly conservative senator smiled briefly before adding, “I kind of scratch my head.”

Senators need to get started if they have any involvement in DDT’s decisions about the Middle East.

The North Carolina 9th District issue of election fraud keeps getting worse. In the midst of the GOP candidate’s absentee ballot harvesting to create his win, the state legislature passed an override of the governor’s veto that permits the state elections board to hide any allegations of campaign law violations. The new law also requires new primaries and general election for the 9th District if the board determines that fraud existed in the 2018 election, a law that would force primaries on innocent participants as well as the guilty. The GOP legislature rushed to pass the law because it loses its veto-proof majority at the end of December. At that time, a lawsuit has reinstated the power of overseeing elections, ethics enforcement, and lobbyist reporting to the governor after a GOP legislature removed it from the Democratic governor, changing a century-long practice.

Another problem is that the state Supreme Court dissolved the current elections board as of tomorrow. The board had scheduled a hearing on the 9th District issue on January 11, 2019. Because the state board of elections has not certified Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th District election, Harris cannot go to the U.S. House with the newly elected members on January 3. The governor may be able to appoint a new elections board, but the bill passed into law by the state legislature today mandates that the board doesn’t take effect until January 31, 2019. The House can also refuse to seat a candidate until after an investigation. The 116th Congress will most likely start with 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one vacancy.

Before the shutdown, DDT’s approval rating had dropped to 39 percent, the lowest since he was inaugurated. It’s not likely that these events will bolster the figures.

 

November 26, 2018

Conservative Politicians Continue Far-right Activities

Last week, many people vacationed—including Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) vacationed for Thanksgiving, but politicians kept busy.

Sent to the Pacific Rim APEC trade summit last weekend, VP Mike Pence worsened global affairs of 21 nations representing 60 percent of the world’s economy with his refusal to compromise with China. Instead, China continued bonding with North Korea. The conflict was so bad that the group couldn’t even agree on a routine joint statement for the first time in 30 years. DDT frequently asks people if Pence is loyal. The answers have varied from Pence as a committed warrior to ending his usefulness because DDT needs female voters. One of DDT’s concerns might be Pence’s promise of consequences for the Saudis’ killing U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite DDT’s attempt to cover for the Saudis.

Two days before Thanksgiving, John Kelly, DDT’s chief of staff, signed a “Cabinet order,” a memo allowing U.S. troops, 5,900 active duty members and 2,100 National Guard members, on the Mexico border to use lethal force. DDT had already left town for Mar-a-Lago. This past weekend, ICE agents fired tear gas, a deadly chemical, at mostly Honduran asylum seekers near the Tijuana port of entry.

Hillary Clinton was pilloried for using a secure private server for her emails, but the GOP refused to criticize Ivanka Trump for using her personal email account that she shared with her husband, Jared Kushner, to send hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials, and her assistants, frequently in violation of federal records rules. When she first joined the White House, she claimed all access and perks of the White House with none of the legal responsibilities or constraints. Maybe investigations by the FBI and Congress? Or cries of “Lock her up” and “Crooked Ivanka”?

Lame duck House Republicans subpoenaed former FBI director James Comey and former DOJ AG Loretta Lynch to appear in private hearings this week. Comey said he is willing to appear in an open hearing but not a closed one:

“While the authority for Congressional subpoenas is broad, it does not cover the right to misuse closed hearings as a political stunt to promote political as opposed to legislative agendas.”

DDT’s appointment of lap dog Matthew Whitaker as acting DOJ AG may fail to give him protection. According to an argument in court from the Robert Mueller investigation team:

“The validity of the Special Counsel’s appointment [in May 2017] cannot be retroactively affected by a change in the official who is serving as the Acting Attorney General.”

Two rulings, one by a DDT-appointed judge, have already upheld the constitutionality of Mueller’s appointment. Three Senate Democrats are also suing to have Whitaker removed on constitutional and legal grounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court is taking a case about whether Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, an odd move because the case is already being heard in a New York court with closing arguments next week. The Constitution requires an accurate count of the population every ten years, something that will be lost if the estimated 24+ million people avoid the census because of fear. The census is used not only for congressional districting but allocation of federal funds, disaster and epidemic preparedness, and other government support. Ross has skipped the lengthy approval process about new survey questions and lied when he said that the DOJ had requested the addition of a citizenship question to enforce the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Commerce has only six months to submit the information to printers.

More people may not participate in the census after DDT’s proposal that census information be shared with law enforcement, an illegal action under the Census Act of 1879. In 1954, Congress passed a law stating that the Commerce Department cannot share its census data with any other government agency or court with up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for violation. Only Congress can change this law. When Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) asked acting assistant attorney general John Gore about data being disclosed “for law enforcement or national security purposes,” DOJ attorney Ben Aguinaga answered, “I don’t think we want to say too much there in case the issues . . . or related issues come up later for renewed debate.” In other words, maybe.

DDT may not get the trade agreement similar to and replacing NAFTA that he proudly announced weeks ago. Republican lawmakers are furious about the nondiscrimination protections of sexual orientation and gender identity included by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Several GOP members of Congress object to the new trade agreement because of this one provision, but it must be passed by the end of the year to avoid the Democratic majority in the House on the first of January. Congress has just 12 days to not only pass the agreement but also agree on the farm bill and keep the government from shutting down on December 7 with DDT threatening to allow this to happen if he doesn’t get his wall.

Farmers hurt by DDT’s tariffs are promised $12 billion say they don’t want to be on the dole, but they’re not even getting the promised welfare. Only $838 million of authorized $6 billion has been paid out because farmers cannot apply until harvests are completed for the season, harvests delayed by bad weather. Soybean sales shrank by 94 percent from last year, and the subsidy covers less than half the farmers’ losses. China pork tariffs that responded to DDT’s steel and aluminum tariffs cost farmers $2 billion. Partners with farmers also get government money; Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) might get $125,000, the subsidy cap. Farmers may permanently lose their foreign countries for crops, and DDT’s tariffs may force the U.S. to keep borrowing money from China to pay for farmers.

For the second year in a row, DDT is skipping the Kennedy Center Honors, again because he doesn’t feel comfortable.

While people in the U.S. complain about Russia interfering with elections, DDT campaign worker and sycophant Steve Bannon played a role in the UK passing Brexit, supporting the nation’s separation from the European Union. Emails dating back to October 2015 reveal that Bannon, former VP of Cambridge Analytic, participated in the campaign to persuade UK voters in supporting the separation from EU. Like the U.S. the UK has laws to stop foreign companies from manipulating UK affairs.

Mississippi votes for a U.S. senator in a runoff tomorrow; the GOP candidate, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, announced last Tuesday that it was on November 22, the day of her announcement, but that was Thanksgiving. After her lauding public hangings, a number of large companies—including Aetna, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Leidos, Pfizer, Union Pacific, and Walmart—asked her to return their donations. DDT, who failed to attending lacked the time to go to Arlington National Cemetery close to the White House or visit military members on Veterans Day, extended his Thanksgiving vacation to give two campaign rallies in Mississippi today for the GOP Senate candidate.

Since the midterm elections when the Senate election to replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become AG before he was fired, several revelations have caused concern for Republicans about Hyde-Smith’s success. After she talked favorably about public hangings (aka lynchings), she suggested that black students should not be able to vote. Photos of her posing with Confederate artifacts at the “Shrine of [treasonous] Jefferson Davis” and the caption “Mississippi history at its best!” were accompanied by information that she promoted a measure praising a Confederate soldier’s effort to “defend his homeland” and pushed a revisionist view of the Civil War. She not only attended a private high school to avoid integrated schools but also enrolled her daughter in a “segregation academy.” The daughter graduated in 2017.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), considering a run for president, gave an interview to the New York Times about the reading habits of himself and his family. An analysis of his 33 book recommendations show all were written by white authors. Sasse’s three children, ages 17, 15, and 8, are homeschooled, probably reading no books of people by color.

The Ohio state House argued that “Motherhood is necessary” to ban abortions at six weeks, before a pregnancy appears on an ultrasound which is not medically recommended. The law is unconstitutional unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Even if the bill passes the state Senate, it cannot become law without Gov. John Kasich’s signature because Gov.-elect Mike DeVine cannot sign a bill passed by the legislature before he takes office.

On the more positive side, Maine will have Medicaid expansion after the departure of rabidly right-wing Gov. Paul LePage. He had refused to follow orders from the state Supreme Court to obey a vote by the people.

A U.S. district court judge ordered ICE to release over 100 Iraqis from detention centers and jails in Michigan after they had been there for more than a year. They are to be released within 30 days under “orders of supervision” and allowed to return to their homes. The majority of the detainees had been living in the U.S. for decades. Although they committed criminal offenses, they had served their time and been living “peaceably in their respective communities” since then, according to the ruling. The opinion also cites ICE’s refusal to provide documents to detainees’ attorneys, and the judge wrote that he will be issuing sanctions against ICE. Detainees had not been permitted in-person visits from family and friends, and the majority would be persecuted and even murdered if they were forced to return to Iraq because they are Christians.

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