Nel's New Day

September 11, 2019

U.S., U.K.—Two World Leaders Focus on Themselves

Eighteen years ago today, 2,996 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured when 19 men—15 of them from Saudi Arabia—hijacked and crashed four planes on U.S. soil. Since that time, over 1,400 rescuers have died, and toxins at the crash site in New York caused cancer in 1,140 people. Since that time, 24 percent of U.S. population was born, and Republicans started wars costing trillions of dollars and creating chaos that continues to kill people throughout the world.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), inaugurated 964 days ago, multiplied the chaos in the U.S. many hundredsfold as he makes every situation—including a speech on 9/11—about himself. To “honor” the solemn occasion, he tweeted a photograph of himself and Melania Trump. Having done his duty for 9/11, he switched to his common theme of “fake news” after new polling shows him abysmally behind the top five Democratic contenders selected for the survey, and only 36 percent think he deserves re-election. In other rants, he tweeted about his trade war with China and praised himself for rejecting the peace talk with the Taliban after he offered to bring them to Camp David this week. Yesterday, he fired John Bolton because the national security adviser opposed DDT’s almost finishing an agreement with the Taliban.

DDT dishonors the memory of 9/11 with the many lies that he’s told about it, all for his own benefit:

  • He lied about seeing “thousands and thousands of people” on rooftops in New Jersey “cheering as that building was coming down” to reinforce his Muslim ban.
  • He lied about seeing bodies falling from his Midtown apartment four miles away.
  • He falsely blamed Bill Clinton during DDT’s campaign for the crash into the World Trade Center because he “didn’t kill Osama bin Laden.”  
  • He blamed George W. Bush for the disaster because “he didn’t listen to the advice of his CIA” and answered the audience’s boos with false claims that he “lost hundreds of friends” in the attacks. After Lawrence O’Donnell ridiculed the statement, he changed his lie to “many, many people.”
  • He lied about giving money to 9/11 charities.
  • He lied about helping to clear rubble and pay for several hundred workers to help clean up in the 9/11 aftermath.
  • He lied about his own building becoming the tallest building in New York City on the morning that the Twin Towers fell.
  • He lied about needing federal recovery money for small businesses and then admitted that his building had no physical damage. He falsely claimed he got the grant because he allowed people to use his building although the application didn’t specify that provision and he didn’t allow people to stay in his building.

Across the pond, DDT’s lookalike, Boris Johnson, whose sole goal is a no-deal Brexit to separate the UK from the EU, has miserably failed during his fewer than seven weeks term as prime minister. His only temporary success was a suspension of Parliament until October 14 to keep lawmakers from working on a Brexit deal, one of the longest suspensions in decades. Lawmakers did not go peacefully, protesting with signs, chants and attempts to physically restrain the speaker from leaving his chair. They finished with putting a sign reading “Silenced” on the speaker’s empty chairs. 

The validity of the suspension is in question. A Scottish court ruled the suspension illegal because Johnson falsified the reasons for the five-week suspension, perhaps even lying to the queen who had to approve it. Johnson plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Courts in England and Wales ruled that Johnson’s move was legal, and another Scottish judge, meanwhile, determined that courts lack the authority to interfere in the suspension.

Since talking office, Johnson lost six key votes in the House of Commons—two of them to force a snap national election that might have given him control over the Brexit decision. Parliament also voted to force the government to publish details of secret preparations for a no-deal departure and prevent a no-deal Brexit by forcing Johnson to ask the EU for a deadline extension. When 21 members of his party voted against him, Johnson banned them from Parliament and running again. Johnson’s brother was so disgusted by the prime minister’s actions that he quit Parliament

The first winning vote, 328-301, against Johnson by a coalition of the Labour Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party, and other Brexit opponents was to take control of the agenda. Johnson expelled the 21 conservatives, including eight former Cabinet ministers,  who voted with the coalition, including Winston Churchill’s grandson. They will not be able to run for office again. 

The next failures for Johnson were two readings to block his no-deal Brexit and 288 abstentions on a failed vote for a snap general election. The bill, which became law after acceptance of the House of Lords, doesn’t stop a no-deal Brexit, but it legally binds the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension without a Parliament agreement for a deal by October 19. A furious Johnson said he’s rather “be dead in a ditch” than follow that law. 

Johnson may also face condemnation for his sexist description of former Prime Minister David Cameron as a “girly swot.” This week, Johnson called Jeremy Corbyn, leader of his opposition, a “great big girl’s blouse” for refusing to back an immediate general election.   He also secretly ordered the Cabinet Office to turn the government’s public internet service into a platform for “targeted and personalized information” for his no-deal Brexit and a digital revolution in public services, raising legal and ethical questions. The PM would have profiles on everyone’s online interactions with government with no protection for the data.

Johnson became prime minister only five weeks ago with 92,153 votes from Conservative Party members (only 0.002 percent of the UK voters), in the third election in five years, after the resignation of Theresa May as prime minister. Voters were primarily white, male, and over 50 years of age. It was the first time that only party membership elected Britain’s prime minister. Almost 109,000 people registered to vote at the start of the week in two days with 58 percent of them under 34 years old. The deadline for registration would be September 27 for a snap election on October 15. A Johnson aide admitted that Johnson wanted an early date for a general election to keep young people from voting.  

Suspension has left Johnson with only bleak choices:

  • Renegotiate a deal with the EU.
  • Ask for a Brexit delay.
  • Resign and run again.
  • Go to jail for not following the law to negotiate with the EU.

DDT has constantly supported Brexit, even telling Johnson to default on the $47 billion that the UK owes the EU. Pence told Ireland how he supports Brexit that would be “deeply disruptive” to peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Fed chair Jerome Powell has warned that a no-deal Brexit and “rising tensions in Hong Kong” could unravel U.S. expansion. Brexit could cause the dollar to go even higher and thus make U.S. goods more expensive for foreign buyers and depress U.S. exports. DDT wants open trade with the UK but can’t have it until the end of Brexit. The UK objects to DDT’s demands to open the National Health Service to U.S. drugmakers, allow genetically modified seeds on UK farms, and accept “chlorinated chicken,” as Johnson calls imports from the U.S. EU trade with the UK is over $800 billion compared to the $262 billion commerce with the U.S.

Brits have long been highly concerned about the departure with no agreement to regulate trade, border security, and other critical issues. They could face food and medicine shortages, and farms will fail. After three years of threatened Brexiting, Europeans are getting fed up with the UK’s decisions—or non-decisions. EU leaders might accept a delay beyond the Halloween deadline because a no-deal Brexit would be economically destabilizing, but negotiators worry about consequences of continued uncertainty and the destructive poison of the UK being inside the union. A major advantage of Brexit is that the other 27 countries in the EU, having watched the insanity in UK, have no interest in repeating it.

Like DDT, Johnson wants to break the system for his own purposes. After Parliament consistently voted against him, he’ll tell people that politics are rigged against them. He will question the legitimacy of the judicial system, already insinuating that the Scottish ruling against him is illegitimate. And he plans to break the law for his own means. The country will move farther toward cynicism and gridlock—like in the United States. If Johnson wins with only the Conservative vote, 30 percent of the country, he’ll be backed by under one-third of the country, a catastrophic situation like DDT. The four nations in the United Kingdom may decide to separate, especially with Northern Ireland already isolated and no way to leave except by air or sea. A no-deal Brexit would keep them from freely crossing the border to the Republic of Ireland.

MP Ian Murray wrote:

“Boris Johnson lied about Brexit, lied to the Queen about suspending parliament, politicised the police, derided judges and disregarded the law. Everyone must be concerned that his Government is moving dangerously close to a dictatorship.”

Boris Johnson is blustering, ruthless, racist, homophobic, sexist, boastful, divisive, Islamophobic—consumed with white male privilege. Does that sound familiar?

 

June 2, 2019

Catching Up on the Last Few Weeks

Looking through my files, I see information about events that has fallen through the cracks. Here’s a bit of “catch up” with links for readers who want to read more about the subject. 

Tariffs/Taxes:

Solar energy, responsible in 2016 for 43 percent of employment in electric power and twice as much as the fossil fuel industry, has lost almost 20,000 jobs since DDT’s inauguration, much of the loss from tariffs.

Increasing tariffs to 25 percent on some Chinese goods could annually tax a family of four $767 and destroy over 934,000 jobs. Tariffs on all Chinese imports, as DDT threatens, would annually tax families $2,294. The combined $72 billion for all DDT’s tariffs constitute one of the biggest tax increases since 1993, and that amount doesn’t include his new tax on all goods from Mexico. People, not companies or countries, pay for tariffs making them a tax increase, the equivalent of a ten-percent increase in Social Security tax for an average family. DDT plans to annually cost every family $100 annually and add to health problems and death rates with enhanced pollution by erasing efficiency standards for light bulbs and causing LED bulbs to be much more expensive. Since President Obama’s action, LED bulbs, which last ten years, dropped 90 percent in price to about $1.

According to DDT’s Commerce Department, the $891 billion merchandise trade deficit last year is the largest in U.S. history, and the trade deficit with China hit a record high of $419 billion after DDT’s tariffs. The 19-percent jump from November and December 2018 to $59.8 billion made the highest monthly trade deficit in 10 years.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), ready to declare war on Iran, told farmers that they’re making far less sacrifices by losing their farms from tariffs than soldiers “in Arlington” make. DDT calls farmers losing everything from his tariffs as “patriot farmers.” Did they know that they were signing up for the war by growing food? Meanwhile, GOP senators up for re-election in agricultural states are getting nervous.

DDT’s tariffs are closing down a South Carolina plant that assembles televisions using Chinese parts with a loss of 126 jobs.

Climate/Pollution:

Earth’s concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has reached 415 parts per million ( ppm). The first 280 ppm took 5,000 years until the Industrial Revolution; the last 5 ppm took two years. Ninety percent of all global fuel emissions have been released in the past 85 years. Excess carbon dioxide is causing men’s testicles to shrink from shortage of sperm. (Chemicals are also shrinking penises.)

The U.S. is one of two nations out of 189 to control movement of its waste across national borders, leaving the U.S. no place to send contaminated and plastic waste without other countries’ consent. 

Of the world’s 425,000 electric buses, China has 421,000. The U.S. has 300.

DDT may be able to escape any climate change penalties on the federal level, but New York is levying millions of dollars against his business because of pollution from DDT’s buildings. Without making improvements, DDT will pay annual fines of $2.1 million from 2030.

Not only has DDT failed to create more coal jobs, but he’s also losing the ones that existed when he was inaugurated. One-thousand jobs are at risk as the third-largest coal company declared bankruptcy because of a weak market, and over 50 coal plants closed under DDT’s leadership. A court ruling voided union contracts for another coal company, and lack of federal funding jeopardizes pensions of $600 a month for almost 100,000 workers. Transition to other jobs is highly problematic because coal workers aren’t well enough to work after leaving the mines.

Data:

DDT’s attempts to control the census by asking about citizenship isn’t the only way that he plans to skew information: poverty and pollution in the U.S. will be less severe once he changes all the numbers. After the EPA reported that DDT’s new energy policy to replace President Obama’s Clean Power Plan kills an additional 1,400 people, DDT ordered the number to be fixed.

DDT will allow oil and gas industry to drill places not within the safe drilling margin through the draft of guidelines that weren’t included for public comment last year.

Legislation:

DDT and the GOP hate net neutrality, which keeps prices lower for internet use, but love the idea of 5G wireless phones to speed up all those tweets. The result may be a 30-percent inaccuracy of weather forecasts because of interference, taking predictions back four decades. That means fewer days to prepare for hurricanes and incorrect tracking of storms’ paths to land. NOAA reported that the proposed 5G system would lose 77 percent data from its satellite’s passive microwave sounders. The FCC continues to auction off wireless spectrum, already making almost $2 billion.

Without legislation, Congressional Republicans will cause these catastrophes: lack of disaster aid; budget caps starting on September 30; not raising the debt ceiling resulting in calamitous financial crisis by the end of summer; government shutdown without passage of 12 appropriation bills by October 1; continued disintegration of infrastructure; no funds for Violence against Women Act which expired three months ago; no defense authorization or flood insurance which depends on the disaster bill; and lack of surveillance from sunsets on gathering metadata on domestic text messages and “roving” wiretaps—which might not be too bad.

DDT doesn’t think his ideas to use public-private relationships for infrastructure improvement “will work.

When the House passed the Equality Act, 173 Republicans voted in favor of discriminating against LGBTQ people. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment and house, and one of those states permits public accommodation discrimination. One Republican legislator compared LGBTQ people to Nazis.

IRS:

Every year, the IRS loses hundreds of auditing agents, so they pursue the poor rather than the wealthy. In 2018, millionaires were 80 percent less likely to be audited than in 2011, but the 43 percent of people receiving the earned income tax credit are audited at a higher rate than anyone except the richest. Highest audit rates are in poor, rural, mostly black, and Southern counties.

 Over 1.3 million college students on scholarships are taxed at higher rates than billionaires, including DDT, thanks to the new GOP “tax cut” law. High tax rates have also hit tribal funds paid to Native American youth for education or living expenses. Republicans have not only fixed the problem but seemed to have deliberately created it.

Education Department:

Republicans plan to renew investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for her emails although she recorded all of them. The GOP will undoubtedly ignore Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s use of personal email accounts for government businesses and her failure to properly save the messages. The practice is common for Republicans, and DDT fails to preserve public records.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that the Education Department is blocking efforts to police the student loan industry and costing borrowers thousands of dollars for those who owe over $1 trillion in these loans by refusing to share information.

As DDT wants to increase the charter school budget, the Network for Public Education reported how charter schools have scammed the federal government for over $1 billion in nonexistent or short-lived schools. With no adverse consequences, one in three schools that have received $4 billion closed, never opened, or hadn’t yet opened. Other charter schools fall short of the charter program’s promise of “high-quality” schools for disadvantaged students.

Ignorance/Bigotry:

Fifty-six percent of people reject the idea of teaching “Arabic numerals”—like 56.

DDT:

DDT likened himself to Hungary’s far-right authoritarian leader Prime Minister Viktor Orbán because of his being “respected all over Europe” and doing a “tremendous job.” 

At this time, 138 nominees are awaiting confirmation in the Senate, and another 132 positions have no nominees. The reason comes from overwhelming turnover in the past two years.

Condo sales in Trump Tower have plummeted, some of them as much as 20 percent, compared to 0.23 percent of Manhattan homes. Occupancy rates dropped even with lower than average rents; net income is 26 percent below banks’s expectations in 2012. DDT still made $434 million last year, especially from the D.C. hotel.

DDT said that he will not use any campaign dirt on his opponents from foreign companies—if he gets the opponents he wants.

DDT’s trial balloon of getting another two years with no election because he was treated “unfairly” has failed: 77 percent of the people don’t agree. Only seven percent of respondents think that he should ignore the 2020 election if he loses, and 90 percent believe that the “peaceful handover of power after elections” and “both parties respecting the results of elections” were essential for the “healthy functioning of American democracy.” Large majorities agree that DDT “does not respect the customs or traditions of the Presidency” and “the laws of the United States.”

February 9, 2019

Brexit, ‘Executive Time,’ More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 9, 2018

Stereotyping Republicans

Conservatives are fond of using one person as a “poster child” of everything wrong with laws and policies that they hate. The anecdotal myth of the “welfare queen” came from one person who supposedly saw food stamps used to purchase lobster. In her rant against “illegals” on her show, Laura Ingraham played a clip from “Travis from Nevada” who reported that her brother was hit and killed on his bicycle by an “illegal alien” who was “doing 60 miles an hour on a side street.” Ingraham responded with appropriate shock and said, “I didn’t see any news coverage of this story and track all of these stories.” When the caller said the news did not cover the story, Ingraham agreed. “He’s right,” she said.” She then played a clip from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT):

“The media doesn’t talk about the American families permanently separated from their loved ones because Democrat policies release violent criminals into our communities.”

Like DDT, Ingraham uses this report to push her ideology that all undocumented immigrants are horrifying, vile people who must be ejected from the United States. The man driving the car was drunk, but Ingraham said nothing  about the problem of drunk drivers. She needed Travis’s claim about the man to support her narrow position.

In accord with this system of vilifying a large group of people by using one example, I choose Steve West, GOP primary winner for the Clay County seat in the Missouri House by almost 25 points, as an example of all Republicans. Hosting a show on KCXL, he raves about “Jewish cabals” that he says are “harvesting baby parts” through Planned Parenthood and other wacko conspiracy theories. On his YouTube channel, he wears a wig and fake beard to become “Jack Justice.” Front-page articles on West’s website include “The Coming Battle with Islam,” and his links to archives of his radio show promote anti-Semitism, anti-vaxxing, the “assassination” of Antonin Scalia, and pedophilia in liberal circles.

“Looking back in history, unfortunately, Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany. And who was behind it,” West said on his January 23, 2017 show. Asked about this statement, he first denied it and then claimed it had been taken out of context. West stated that he believes all men are created equal, but not all ideologies are equal. He specifically criticized Islam and Judaism, accusing Islam of trying to create an autocratic theocracy in the U.S. West wants Islam stripped of all benefits and rights given religion by the law and the U.S. Constitution.

More of West’s quotes:

“Islam is a problem for America. … It is a political movement masquerading as religion and should not receive the benefits we provide religious institutions as well as access to our prisons.”

“Many parents and students don’t want to have to deal with alternative sex ed, and the LGBT clubs and staff at all the public high schools today.”

The Missouri Republican Party has disavowed connection with West, but he got 1,485 votes, almost as many as the three runner-ups combined. West refused to be interviewed by the Kansas City Star, but he did explain that “Jews today are a remnant of the tribe of Judah that rejected Christ.” Asked about Jewish people in Missouri, West said, “Well, maybe they shouldn’t vote for me.”

West’s platform can be found on his election website.

If just one person isn’t enough to prove an anecdotal perspective on Republicans, I’ve provided a few more examples of GOP candidates on this year’s ballots:

Arthur “Art” Jones, U.S. representative—Illinois: White supremacist, Holocaust denier, founding member with his wife of the neo-Nazi America First Committee.

John Fitzgerald, U.S. representative—California: Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, defender of Holocaust deniers, anti-Israel, believer in chem trails poisoning people and FEMA internment camps for U.S. citizens, supporter of falsehood that Planned Parenthood is working in concert with the United Nations to “sexualize” the nation’s public school children.

Joe Arpaio, U.S. Senate—Arizona: convicted of criminal contempt, refused to investigate child abuse while county sheriff, operator of brutal detention camps for undocumented immigrants, interviewed with white supremacist Holocaust denier, birther.

Paul Nehlen, U.S. House of Representatives—Wisconsin: white supremacist, anti-Semite, candidate for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district.

Corey Stewart, U.S. Senate—Virginia): Admirer of Paul Nehlen (above) for anti-Semitic and white supremacist positions and of Ian MacDonald, supporter of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell.

Seth Grossman, U.S. House of Representatives—New Jersey: White Supremacists with these quotes: “Diversity leads to Muslims killing Christians,” and “Kwanzaa is a fake holiday made by black racists to divide America.” Other positions: faithful Muslims cannot be good Americans; Islam is a cancer; and gay men with HIV should have been quarantined in the 1980s. [His local GOP chairman said, “The man doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

Russell Walker, North Carolina State House of Representatives: There is “no such thing as equality” because of the “superiority” of white people. Jews are descendants of Satan.

Bryan Feste, Hawaii State House of Representatives: Expelled by the GOP, Feste stays on the ballot after his racist language.

To “prove” with anecdotal evidence that all Republicans are non-patriotic Communist supporters, I provide this photograph of DDT’s rally audience.

[Note: Rationally, I believe that one or a few crazies cannot be used to tar an entire group. Now I would ask that conservatives espouse a rational perspective and look at statistics rather than using a few people to denigrate everyone who fails to fit their ideal sense of humanity.]

May 30, 2018

Democracy on Memorial Day

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:41 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the real Memorial Day and the final blog post in a series of vanishing democracy in the United States. News from the last few weeks:

When the cost of healthcare premiums skyrocket next year, people need to thank Republicans and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Vice President Kris Haltmeyer said that the rise will come from the GOP failure to shore up the market after a bill collapsed during Republican arguments about abortion restrictions. In last week’s briefing, Haltmeyer said, “With the repeal of the individual mandate and the failure of Congress to enact stabilization legislation, we are expecting premiums to go up substantially.”  He put the average increases in the “low teens” with costs in some areas of up to 70 or 80 percent.

The NRA found the “good guy with the gun” vital to their propaganda, but the organization blocked all guns at their convention earlier this month. People in the United States were safer for a few days while almost 90,000 gun fanatics gathered in one place without their weapons. The group made Oliver North its new leader. He can be remembered as an important figure in illegally selling weapons to Iranians for the release of U.S. prisoners before using the money to illegally finance a war in Central America. His convictions of multiple felonies were later overturned on appeal. It’s the new conservative world. In a recent appearance on Fox, he claimed that all Iranians are liars.

North joins the “convict caucus,” politicians who came out of prison to take important positions or run for office. (Technically, he was only convicted but never behind bars.) Other members are two candidates for U.S. Senate and one for the House in GOP primaries. Don Blankenship, imprisoned for violating workplace safety in the deaths of 29 coal miners, already lost his run for the senator from Kentucky but plans to run as an independent for the Constitution Party, despite the “sore loser” law preventing his candidacy. The other two primaries are August 28 when former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio runs in Arizona for the Senate, and June 26 when Michael Grimm runs for a representative from New York.

Grimm claimed to be a close friend of DDT, but DDT endorsed his opponent. One reason for the endorsement was Dan Donovan’s vote for the tax cut, but Donovan really voted against the bill. Grimm is running on his record of admittedly hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities, and making false statements under oath. After Grimm’s aide filed fraudulent candidate petitions in Donovan’s name, he may be headed back to the hoosegow.

The former Boy Scouts decided to recruit girls in an effort to increase its members, but the Mormon church pulled all its members world-wide, instantly reducing the 2.3 million membership by 20 percent. All boys who were part of the 30,500 congregations automatically became part of the Boy Scouts.

DDT’s swamp deepens. Busy with foreign affairs, he has not made many appointments lately, but this one is a doozy. Ronald W. Mortensen, a strong anti-immigration activist, is DDT’s pick to lead the State Department agency overseeing refugee and immigration issues. Normally GOP Senators would automatically confirm him, but his writings have attacked senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) and John McCain (AZ). Mortensen has worked for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and said that DACA gives amnesty to “criminal illegal aliens.” As assistant secretary of State for the bureau of population, refugees and migration, Mortensen’s mission would be to “provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world,” according to its mission statement.

After assigning immigration judges quotas for their employment, AG Jeff Sessions ordered all immigration judges to not temporarily remove cases from their dockets without issuing decisions. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that this practice will create problems, and Trina Realmutto, attorney with American Immigration Council, called the decision “bad law, bad policy.”

As if DDT’s appointments aren’t bad enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is adding to the sewer by appointing Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to the Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated FRC as a hate group. The commission’s job is to review violations of religious freedom and make policy recommendations to Congress, Secretary of State, and president. Perkins is best known for his virulent hatred of LGBTQ people.

Gordon Hartogensis, Mitch McConnell’s brother-in-law, is DDT’s pick for the Department of Labor’s pension agency, responsible for paying back dissolved pensions after companies cannot meet their obligations. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is already the Transportation Secretary. Hartogensis has no public service experience or understanding of his job’s responsibilities of protecting pensions for 1.5 million people with a deficit of $76 billion.

Andrew Smith, a former lawyer for payday lenders, has been confirmed as the director of the FTC’s consumer protection unit that acts as watchdog over private companies.

Richard Grenell, the new ambassador to Germany, lived up to concerns that he will offend Germans. An hour after his arrival, he issued the order that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” DDT had said that he wanted all countries to join him in sanctions against Iran, but Germany, along with four other countries, don’t plan to back out of the denuclearization agreement. Just as many people predicted, Germans found Grenell to be offensive. He matches the inappropriate selection of Pete Hoekstra, ambassador to the Netherlands, who lied about having said that the country has “no-go” areas where Muslims set cars and politicians on fire. Hoekstra then denied claiming “fake news” after he discovered the video footage of his statements. Since Grenell’s statement, he’s been fairly low-key although he told Fox that he didn’t want to be a “typical diplomat,” that he would “dig” into policy.

A few commencement speeches this year focused on the loss of democracy in the United States. Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) spoke to graduates of the Harvard Law School “about our democratic norms and how hard-won and vulnerable they are” with the lessons to be learned about today’s administration. At the University of Maryland, Al Gore encouraged his audience “to reclaim the integrity of American democracy.” Economist Alice Rivlin agreed, telling people at Indiana University, “Only you can fix American democracy.”

No address got as much attention as the one that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered to graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don’t take action. His warnings didn’t mention DDT by name, but the intent was obvious:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth—even on what may seem the most trivial of matters—we go wobbly on America.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector—and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector—then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.

“But a warning to you as you leave this place—a place where the person sitting on either side of you shares that understanding. You will now enter a world where, sadly, that is not always the case. And your commitment to this high standard of ethical behavior and integrity will be tested.”

According to Tillerson, truth is the “central tenet of a free society.”

Tillerson was complicit in an administration that displayed the opposite of the ideas he presented after he participated in a huge cover-up of climate change when he was CEO of a huge company in the fuel industry. We can only hope that he benefits from 20/20 hindsight and can help others understand how destructive the current administration and their followers are to the values of the U.S. people say they prize. And we hope that the youth of the United States will want to bring back a form of democracy to the nation and attend to the U.S. Constitution.

February 1, 2018

Darkness Descending: ‘The State of the Union’

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 11:09 PM
Tags: , ,

The day after the State of the Union (or “Uniom” as the White House invitations read), the lumbering, sniffling 80 minute speech of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rapidly moved into oblivion as the Russian investigation took center front in the media. The event, however, should be noted in the annals of history, not for what was said as much as how seemingly insignificant comments indicated DDT’s continuing policies of fear, hatred, and control.

DDT’s language continued his obsession with white supremacy and military/police strength:

  • DDT’s use of “citizens” five times were mostly in addition to his demand for tight immigration, setting up a social hierarchy when he says that he wants to “protect our citizens.”
  • Three-fourths of DDT’s guests were members of the police or military, and he frequently referred to veterans, military, and officer and police.
  • The audience, in an event meant to be a speech to a joint session of Congress, twice burst out into “USA! USA! chanting, much like DDT’s rallies used to suppress protests.
  • DDT connected his emphasis on the “great American flag” and “In God We Trust”  to military and police order in a way that appeals to Christian Dominionism. (It might be noted that DDT’s wife, Melania, remained seated during his statement that “faith and family … are the center of American life.” She has not been seen with DDT after the revelation that he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep their relationship quiet.)

Among DDT’s guests were people of color, paraded in front of the audience to show how they would follow the white supremacist movement. Two couples were present because their children had been killed by the MS-13 gang members from El Salvador on Long Island. Their presence gave DDT the chance to lie about “thousands and thousands and thousands” of gang members removed or imprisoned by his efforts and brag about eliminating immigrants from legally coming into the country. The number is closer to 1,000—although that might be exaggerated—while ICE concentrates on deporting people who have lived lawfully in the United States for decades. One mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, said that her attendance was not for political gain, but to “get proper funding for the resources for our kids.” DDT President Trump ignored her wishes and used her presence to demand laws to close “deadly” immigration loopholes.

Another guest couple, a policeman and his wife, were applauded because they adopted the child of a opioid addict. The baby’s mother was not even named. She is Crystal Champ, and she’s now been clean for 40 days. Yet nothing was said about helping people forced to live on the streets and develop addictions while DDT’s budget cuts money for them.

DDT extolled the bravery of Ji Seong-ho, a defector from North Korea who rescues other defectors in Seoul after his multiple amputations. Overlooked in the tragic story is the fact that people from North Korea are not allowed into the United States because of DDT’s executive order, and those living here already cannot bring in their rescued family members if DDT has his way.

DDT began his speech calling for unity and then launched into his divisiveness, driving wedges with the use of immigration, religion, and patriotism by showing that some people—mainly white people—are better than others. He returned to his criticism of sports figures—many of them black—for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against blacks and blaming Latinx immigrants for their threat to public safety. One of his guests was an ICE agent, reinforcing DDT’s anti-immigrant focus. Three guests were a military member, and the fourth was a boy who put flags on the grave of veterans.

DDT told his usual plethora of lies about his prowess in the number of jobs, rising wages, unemployment, benefits of rising stock market, tax cut size and its relief for people, increase in family income for lowering corporate taxes, reduction in regulations, description of visa program, the safety net, etc.

Missing within his speech was any mention of women’s issues, deficits, healthcare, guns, Russia, FBI, and details in how he would accomplish any of his lofty goals. He had no guests other than those who he could use to pass his limited agenda—no educators, immigrants who contributed to the nation, domestic violence survivors, volunteers, students, etc. The only member of Congress who DDT recognized was the white supremacist who was shot by another white supremacist. DDT’s speech was reminiscent of the “chicken in every pot” advertising for Herbert Hoover about “Republican Prosperity” in 1928, the year before the crash. It was a fantasy to all the people in his base who he failed during the past year.

One frightening statement DDT made was to increase his authoritarian agenda:

“Tonight I call on the congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers—and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”

DDT may consider that anyone investigating the president fits in this category. His “call on Congress” takes away an independence from federal agencies such as the IRS, FBI, DOJ, and consumer bureau. The GOP is so closely connected to the president that they could pass such a law, and DDT’s Supreme Court might uphold such an unconstitutional law.

Another DDT request is for a law that foreign aid “only go to friends of America,” a rapidly shrinking category.

People have so normalized DDT’s hatred and anger that his speech was an impressive performance to some. He stayed on his feet, clearly read the words from the teleprompter, and pronounced them correctly. As former Bush speechwriter and conservative David Frum explained it well:

“Look, you can train a seal to sit on the side of a pool for an hour and behave itself. That doesn’t make it no longer a seal.”

Kathleen Parker, conservative columnist, held out hope during DDT’s ensuing tweetlessness the next day. He lasted almost 36 hours after the speech with no tweets until his first ones damned the Democrats and expanded the wedge in the immigration issue. He then complimented himself for the biggest audience for a state of the union speech in history, but the number of watchers came in after those by Bill Clinton (1994), George W. Bush (2002), and Barack Obama (2010). He might get the record for the slowest speech. Bill Clinton spoke only ten minutes longer in 1995, but he said 4,000 words more than DDT’s 5,200 words. In polls for the speech, 48 percent gave him “very positive,” but that result is the lowest in the 20 years of responses. DDT’s approval was also enhanced by asking seven percent more Republicans than Democrats.

What is the State of the Union after DDT’s first year?

  • DDT’s approval rating hovering in the 30s for most of the year, at least 20 percent lower than any other recent president.
  • Only 3 in 10 people saying at the end of 2017 that the nation is heading in the right direction
  • The country more divided because of DDT, according to 67 percent of a survey respondents.
  • Several DDT campaign team under criminal indictment.
  • DDT’s pick for national security advisor already pleading guilty for lying to the FBI.
  • DDT under federal investigation for obstruction of justice and center of a serious sex scandal.
  • Sole legislative accomplishment unpopular tax breaks for wealthy and big corporations with no bipartisanship or regard for the wishes of DDT’s base with only two percent of people in a poll saying that it has led to any financial benefits.
  • Slowest job growth in six years when the economy was coming out of the Recession.
  • Black unemployment falling at a slower rate than the previous four years.
  • GDP growth of 2.3 percent worse than two of the past three years and far away from the four percent needed for the new tax bill.
  • Corporations spending less than 1 percent of their tax cut on bonuses.
  • Growing trade deficit.
  • Global crises, especially in North Korea.
  • Blackout on information from the Middle East including deaths, number of troops, and progress in taking back land.

The pundit who said that DDT “has some wind at his back” may have meant flatulence. Just like President Obama, DDT is turning the economy around; Barack Obama took over a recession and put the country on its feet. DDT is knocking it back down again.

January 1, 2018

2017 – A Year of Disasters

Niagara Falls froze, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) lasted four hours and twelve minutes into 2018 before causing an international incident. At 4:12 am on January 1, 2018, he tweeted:

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

This official Twitter assault came after frequent attacks on Iran for “failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration.” One year ago, DDT told the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that “Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people” and then ignored attacks in the country that killed over 100 people.

To epitomize 2017, the Washington Post asked readers to submit their favorite quote of the year. “Alternative facts,” Kellyanne Conway’s excuse for DDT’s lying, came in first, but “Nevertheless, she persisted” was second. This statement was the complaint that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave to argue that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had violated Senate rules by continuing to speak on the Senate floor. Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism, the word that had the most searches. A definition for the word: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” “Complicit,” also very popular became popular after Ivanka Trump said she didn’t know what the word meant when interviewer Gayle King asked her if she were “complicit” in White House activities. Complicit: “helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way.”

Much of the “winning” in the past year came from backlash to horrible actions. For example, great numbers of people focused on nuclear weapons after DDT threatened a war with North Korea. People protested against hate speech and white supremacists after DDT supported Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Winners:

Women: Last year Hillary Clinton lost the presidency, but women gained ground through political wins in different states and the #MeToo movement. This increasing strength of unification on the part of women can move further successes into 2018.

Democrats: The blue party performed better in 2017 elections than those in 2016, finding the majority in at least one legislature and picking up an additional seat in the U.S. Senate. Virginia is still undecided, but at this point, it’s only one person away from a majority in the House of Delegates. Although too early to hope, the Democrats are in play for a majority in both congressional chambers.

MSNBC: With its almost 50 percent viewer increase compared to the 2016 campaign cycle, the cable network edged out CNN for the top with viewers ages 18 to 49 this year and became the third most-watched basic cable network in prime time—after Fox and ESPN—up from eighth place. Rachel Maddow is moving ahead of Fox’s Sean Hannity and regularly beating him in the envied demographic of viewers 25 to 54.

Chris Hurst: After his girlfriend, another Roanoke journalist at WDBJ-TV, was shot and killed on the air in 2015, he unseated a GOP incumbent in the Virginia House of Delegates.

LGBTQ candidates: Across the nation, LGBTQ people won seats on state legislature, mayoral seats, city councils, and school boards. 

Winners for the far right:

Conservative judicial system: The GOP confirmed Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and at least 36 federal judges, most of them young and many unqualified, who oppose human rights.

The wealthy: Despite DDT’s campaign to help the “people,” he managed to pass a tax bill that greatly benefits big corporations and the rich. As he told his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago, “You all just got a lot richer.” 

Winners and losers:

Immigrants: Federal judges have been opposing DDT’s Muslim ban, but the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the number of lower courts opposing the ban. Immigrants “won” when marchers protested against DDT’s ban but lost with DDT’s executive order to deport the “Dreamers,” young people illegally brought into the U.S. with their parents. DDT’s new anti-immigrant system separates families. At the same time, federal judges are also opposing the DOJ’s opposition to “sanctuary” municipalities and states, the places that say that they will only follow the law and not hunt down undocumented people for ICE.

Losers:

The truth: DDT’s entire base is built on a non-existent alternate reality.

DDT’s lawyers: Afraid of what DDT might say or do, his lawyers are lying to him about how serious Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian collusion will be for the man inaugurated last January, according to reporter Carl Bernstein who helped break the case against Richard Nixon.

Political stability: While DDT argues that any opposing institutions are corrupt and biased, he has instituted a system of corruption and bias through inculcating conspiracy theories around law enforcement, the judiciary, the intelligence agencies, and the media that tries to explain what he is doing.

Roy Moore: The GOP backed a lying pedophile for the U.S. senator from Alabama and lost.

U.S. international leadership: DDT has turned the United States into the laughing-stock of the entire world while he backs out of all coalitions except his inexplicable friendship with Russia and Vladimir Putin. At the same time, he ran on the philosophy of isolationism before he bombed the Syrian government, killed civilians in a number of countries including Iraq, and expanded the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan while alienating China and Japan, threatening North Korea and siding with Israel against most of the rest of the Middle East. In his spare time, he made an enemy of Europe by backing out of the climate agreement, dunning NATO membership, and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The federal government: Tens of thousands of federal employees, most of them valued parts of the structure, have been shed in the past 344 days in keeping with DDT’s promise to shrink the government. Even DDT’s beloved Defense Department has lost one percent—7,811 civilian workers, and the IRS, integral in DDT’s tax plan, lost 6,801 permanent staffers, almost nine percent. The proposed budget will drastically slash more employees—over 30 percent at some agencies–and DDT has promised worse for the following year. Losses from the reduced number of employees include worker and personal safety, technology, defense, transparency, human rights, and education.

The short-term future for the government, according to former DDT advisor Steve Bannon, is “trade, DACA, and the wall — but it’s much beyond that. This is the run-up, the last 20 days before the first anniversary of his inauguration, and it’s all coming to a head: a spending bill of epic proportions, the test of a veto or a government shutdown, the China confrontation and Korea, all the immigration issues, infrastructure funding and welfare reform. All on the table, with their direction uncertain.”

DDT’s economic advisor, Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, are worried about proposed new tariffs on industries such as steel and aluminum that would make consumer goods more expensive. Sources close to DDT claim that his goal of putting “huge tariffs on countries, industries, and product categories … would roil global markets, start a costly trade war, and harm America’s relationships with allies.”

Last year was a time of impulsive but official presidential statements primarily on tweets, a large number of resignations and firing in both the legislative and executive branches, the swinging door at the White House with a 34 percent staff turnover, the immersion of Russia collusion into almost every corner of politics, DDT’s support of racism and misogyny, nepotism, lack of diplomacy, DDT’s unconstitutional profiteering from the White House, more mass shootings and other deaths from guns because of legislative inaction, increased religious control of the government, the swinging door at the White House with a 34 percent staff turnover, the rapid increase in stock value while most people’s salaries stayed almost stagnant, constant conflict and anger, revenge and threats, and what seems an inexorable move toward World War III. All of these political problems overlooked the serious problems from climate change—forest fires, and hurricanes. In addition, 2017 was the warmest year in history without an El Nino.

One hundred years ago, the end of World War I caused the disintegration of some empires while the lines drawn by France and England in the Middle East to determine which of the two countries would control these nations began the bloody, brutal battles for the past century. The U.S. isolationism led to racism and ethnic bigotry exacerbated by vigilante actions and the merciless leadership by the federal attorney general. The nation denied international cooperation and relied on trade protectionism, resulting in the Great Depression. One century later, DDT has launched the U.S. into the same direction. There is not one example of how DDT has thus far championed the “forgotten” working class and sided with consumers over businesses.

The question now is whether the people will fight back.

September 6, 2017

Fight Authoritarianism with Humor

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

My partner and I get together every afternoon and talk. I drink scotch, and she drinks fruit juice. We start out with each of us listing three good things that happened to us during the day and then continue with wherever the conversation leads. I sometimes talk about what I’ve been reading, and she asks questions that makes me want to delve further into the topic. Often, the subject is politics, yesterday the tragedy of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rescinding DACA, work permits for children brought illegally and involuntarily into the United States. I segued into how stupid DDT looked when he was trying to load a pickup for a photo op. She asked why it mattered, and we launched into the importance of ridicule to oppose authoritarians.

[Anti-fascist protesters in Wurzen, Germany, last week. Markus Keine/NurPhoto via Getty Images.]

Today, the New York Times published Tina Rosenberg’s opinion piece, “Neo-Nazis in Your Streets? Send in the (Coup Clutz) Clowns,” that followed our discussion. Here are excerpts:

In Olympia, Wash., in 2005, a march of about a dozen brown-shirted neo-Nazis was met by protesting clowns, goose-stepping, Nazi-style. Hundreds of counterprotesters turned the occasion into a celebration of diversity and unity.

Two years later in Knoxville, Tenn., residents countered a white supremacist march with a hastily assembled group calling itself the Coup Clutz Clowns. The clowns pretended not to understand the shouts of “White power!”

“White flour?” the clowns cried, throwing some in the air. “White flower? Tight shower? Wife power!” For wife power, some of them put on wedding dresses.

And in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C., clowns protesting a far-right march held up “Dwight Power!” signs, evoking the Charlotte Hornets player Dwight Howard.

Responding to far-right demonstrators with mockery originated in Europe, where one outstanding recent example took place in the German town of Wunsiedel. Unable to dislodge annual marches with ordinary counterprotests, the town took a new tack in 2014. For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, the town donated 10 euros to an organization that helped people leave right-wing extremist groups. Residents hung silly signs along the route and threw confetti at the end, leaving the neo-Nazis responsible for raising $12,000 against their own cause.

Humor has a long and honored place in American politics as well.

And counterintuitive though it may seem, ridicule and mockery have long been an effective way to disarm protesters who espouse bigotry and racial supremacy. If you want to resist those who would stir up violence, using humor is more effective than staying at home when they march, and far better than rewarding their provocations with a melee in the streets.

Here’s what white supremacists want to do when they stage a rally:

  • Legitimize their views.
  • Strengthen their self-image as part of the downtrodden.
  • Unite their squabbling factions.
  • Attract new people to the movement.
  • Control media coverage.
  • Feel powerful and heroic.

They can accomplish all of those goals when the Antifa, or anti-fascists, respond to violence by throwing fists or rocks.

“For the far-right groups, violence is central to their way of looking at the world,” said Peter Simi, associate professor of sociology at Chapman University. “The idea of having violent confrontation and conflicts fuels and energizes them. They feed off it.

“It also helps perpetuate their own narrative about victimization and persecution —‘Look, we can’t even have a free speech rally without being attacked.’ ”

For the same reasons that violence by counter-protesters helps the far right, mockery hurts. “Ridicule makes the far right look less attractive to the type of people they want to attract,” said Cas Mudde, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “There’s a sizable portion who are there for the thrill. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the broader ideology, but they really enjoy the potential violence. They want to feel dangerous and important. They don’t want to feel like part of a sketch.” He thinks that’s true for the Antifa as well.

After all, which plan is more attractive to young macho men? “We’ll face a small group of masked tough guys” or “We’ll face a large number of men, women and children wearing silly hats and big red noses”?

Humor and mockery are also good strategies for classic political protest — whether against politicians who enable white supremacists, or policies like tax cuts for the rich.

Founded in 1980 as part of the Solidarity movement, [the Orange Alternative in Communist Poland] specialized in surrealist protest, often conducted by people in orange garden gnome costumes. At a protest in 1988, 10,000 people marched wearing gnome hats. One of the group’s common tactics was to mock the state through exaggerated obedience.

On Poland’s annual day honoring the secret police (you can’t make this stuff up), the Orange Alternative carried banners and posters proclaiming complete devotion: “Love the People’s Police!” “Long Life to Undercover Agents!” During the annual celebration of the Russian Revolution, the group shouted Bolshevik slogans, and during a state-supported referendum in the city of Wroclaw, Orange Alternative marchers chanted “Vote Yes Twice!” as they called for a “200 percent voter turnout.”

The police found themselves in a conundrum. They couldn’t let the protesters continue. But by making arrests, they acknowledged that no one could possibly believe in the Communist orthodoxy — and anyone who said they did must have been joking. Most Poles already knew that, of course, but the Orange Alternative forced the state authorities to make it visible.

All of these organizations changed people’s thinking by putting familiar ideas into a disorienting new context….

Soon Congress will be considering proposals to drastically cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor. What’s the message? “No tax cuts for the rich”? “Protect social services”?

Better to do what Billionaires for Bush did during the George W. years. Put on your (fake) mink stole and pearls, or don your tux — look fabulously wealthy, or just fabulous. Carry a cardboard Rolls-Royce door or a Champagne glass and hold a sign that says “Pools, not schools.” Or “Only little people pay taxes.”

The group adopted a logo that cast the Republican Party’s elephant as a piggy bank and described itself as a “grass-roots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses and Halliburton C.E.O.s.” When President Bush made privatization of Social Security the flagship issue of his second term, the Billionaires, tired of waiting, put Social Security on eBay.

It seems too basic to even say, but the rule is violated again and again: Successful political activists are strategic. They ask: “What will reach, and motivate or convince, the people we need?”

Very often, the answer is: Make ’em laugh.

DDT said that he rejected the Paris Agreement because he didn’t want people in the world to laugh at him, failing to understand that he is the laughing stock of the entire world—sometimes openly and other times covertly as in Saudi Arabia where they consider him to be useful. In his first 100 days, DDT was the target of jokes from late night hosts, with 1,000 jokes about him, and the second 100 days just got worse.

Humorist Garison Keillor wrote about DDT:

“The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now….

“Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.”

As we now know, DDT’s adlibs revealed a high level of ignorance and a low level of vocabulary.

People are afraid of humor and satire because they are effective. Hollywood executives fought Charlie Chaplin when he wanted to satirize Nazism and Hitler in The Great Dictator. Arab airlines helped defeat the U.S. electronic ban with sarcasm. “Fake” news is so commonly used now for real faux news that DDT uses the term less and less. As Mel Brooks said, comedy robs people of their “power and myths.” Director Michael Moore told people to “form an army of comedy” to defeat DDT because “he’ll implode”; it’s “his Achilles’ heel.”

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mocked DDT’s small hands and small something else during the campaign, DDT talked at a debate about how he was well-endowed. He may not be reacting as much to the jokes recently because of John Kelly’s tutelage and restrictions of what DDT watches, but John Kelly won’t be in the White House long. The humor will lead to DDT’s destruction.

June 9, 2017

Comey on DDT: ‘Lies, Plain & Simple’

Fox network and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may have tried to paint former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as a success for the White House, but headlines throughout the United States say otherwise—concentrating on the words “lies,” “lied,” and “liar” in reference to DDT. In some cases, Comey gave direct evidence of how DDT had lied about their interactions; in other cases, he answered questions such as whether DDT colluded with Russia by saying that he couldn’t “answer in an open setting.” Translation for that statement is likely “yes, but it’s classified.”

DDT wasn’t the only person who took hits in Comey’s testimony; AG Jeff Sessions suffered too. To another question he couldn’t “discuss in an open setting,” Comey indicated a relationship between the new attorney general and Russia.

Comey also pulled VP Mike Pence into the DDT morass with his answer to Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) question about whether Pence knew about Michael Flynn’s Russian connections during the transition after the election. Comey’s response was “my understanding is that he was,” meaning that Pence lied about his ignorance.

Not one GOP senator refuted Comey’s testimony; instead they praised him and his testimony. About DDT’s lies, however, they seemed nonchalant. The Intelligence Committee’s chair, Richard Burr (R-NC), expressed no concern about DDT’s demand for loyalty or his lying about requiring this from the FBI director.  Ezra Klein wrote:

 

“Trump’s behavior, in Comey’s telling, is more befitting of a Mafioso than a president. He asks, repeatedly, for loyalty, and shows no evident understanding of the norms or institutions that bind American presidents. His actions would be worrying if they came from the regional manager of a Scranton paper firm; they are terrifying coming from the most powerful man in the world.”

Michael Winship wrote that “the testimony of the fired FBI director revealed a president who sees himself more crime boss than chief executive.” Maybe that’s what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose lawyer Christopher Wray has just been appointed as FBI director, meant when he called DDT’s statements “normal New York City conversation.”

Other politicians argued that DDT only expressed “hope” that Comey would let the Michael Flynn thing go because he’s a “good guy.” (Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) pointed out that the word “hope” carries great weight if it’s delivered by a man pointing a gun.) House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) justified all of DDT’s lying, asking for special favors from the FBI director in private meetings called by DDT, and his possible obstruction of justice by saying that “he’s just new to this.” This is a GOP claim who lectured the U.S. nonstop about obstruction of justice after Bill Clinton had a casual conversation with then AG Loretta Lynch.

Conservative media pundits aren’t that sanguine. WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin called Comey’s testimony “a devastating day for the president” that “could spell the beginning of the end of his administration.” She said, “What [Comey] painted was not any one incident but a portrait of the way this guy operates.”

On the other hand, Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly’s replacement on Fox, used his show to  smear Comey. Carlson’s news operation, Daily Caller, received $150,000 from DDT’s campaign.

The oddest part of Comey’s almost three-hour appearance came from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), allowed time for questioning because he chairs the Armed Services Committee. With muttered, sometimes slurred, and occasionally incoherent speech, he referred to Comey once when talking about DDT. McCain seemed confused when Comey said that the FBI was done with investigating Hillary Clinton and stated that she was clearly involved in whole Russian situation because she was a candidate for president. Later McCain tried to explain away his highly confusing questioning to sleeplessness. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) also failed to understand how the FBI’s extensive investigation into Clinton’s private mail server exonerated her in testimony about the GOP blocking the possible GOP campaigners’ colluding with the Russian interference in a U.S. election.

With his keepers in the room during the testimony, DDT kept his Twitter quiet, but his namesake didn’t. Lindsay Gibbs wrote:

“Donald Trump Jr. tweeted or re-tweeted a total of 50 times during Comey’s testimony, proving once again that the apple does not fall far from the tree. There were poorly threaded rants, out-of-context reactions, and dozens of RTs of right-wing accounts, one which had the name ‘CNN is ISIS & Hitler.’”

DDT’s privately retained lawyer has his own limitations. His first response to James Comey’s testimony began with “I am Marc Kasowitz, Predisent Trump’s personal lawyer.” His smears of Comey and defense of DDT may not be taken seriously when he can’t correctly spell his client’s position. Kasowitz then made an error in a main point about when the New York Times published information about Comey’s memos. (Surely, DDT’s lawyer wouldn’t lie to support his premises.) The rest of Kasowitz’s brief talk largely misrepresented Comey’s statements.

Comey testified that he took copious notes on their meetings because he “was honestly concerned [DDT] might lie about the nature of our meeting.” DDT’s lawyer has stated that he will file a complaint against Comey’s “leaking” his notes to the press, but legal experts have indicated that there is nothing illegal because a private citizen provided non-classified information. Others think that DDT’s lawyer’s action could at least be abusing DDT’s authority if not committing obstruction of justice if they ask the DOJ to open an investigation without clear merits.

Regarding the responses to the GOP expressions of their victory from Comey’s testimony, Christian Schneider, USA Today’s Board of Contributors, has the best response to GOP expressions of victory from Comey’s testimony:

“To say that Comey’s testimony ‘vindicates’ Trump in any way ignores giant swaths of what the former FBI director actually said — it’s like leaving the theater after seeing Wonder Woman and telling people it’s a World War I documentary. This is the place where Trump’s supporters exist: Rather than seeing the president for who he clearly is, they construct an entirely different Trump in the negative space around him.”

The day before Comey’s testimony, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, refused to answer questions from the Senate Oversight Committee, in violation of the oath they gave when they took those positions. If they don’t answer the questions, they must legally invoke the 5th or claim executive privilege. Rogers merely said that he didn’t “feel” like answer the questions. Coats said he no “legal basis” for his refusal. It appears that this is their approach to keep their jobs.

In an attempt to divert attention from Comey’s testimony, DDT announced Christopher Wray as his nominee for FBI director. One reason might be that Wray was the lawyer who got Chris Christie out of “Bridgegate” trouble after he closed the George Washington bridge, but the nomination may be awkward. Wray’s firm works for the Russians and advises DDT’s untrustworthy “trust.”

Asked if he would be willing to testify under oath, DDT said, “100 percent.” At least for now.

Nicole Serratore has an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times about DDT and Comey called “James Comey and the Predator in Chief.” She wrote that the interaction was like “the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.” DDT demanded “dinner for two” and loyalty, both of which Comey didn’t want to provide. Yet Comey didn’t know how to get out of the situation. He tried to avoid any contact with DDT and even asked Sessions to not leave them alone. In claiming to Comey that “we had that thing,” the manipulator seducer DDT insinuates a non-existent shared intimacy to make his victim complicit. Now DDT supporters are blaming Comey for not being “stronger,” another parallel to victimizing victims. They claim that the problem belongs to Comey when DDT is at fault.

As one tweet pointed out about Mike Pence’s declaration that he could never have a meal alone with a woman not his wife. Everyone should avoid having dinner alone with DDT.

July 20, 2016

GOP Platform Goes Back to 19th Century

Republicans love to talk about the importance of following the U.S. Constitution being the party of Lincoln. Judges and legislation are bound by the Constitution. This year the platform of the self-proclaimed party of Lincoln has seven pages—ten percent of the content—in a section called “A Rebirth of Constitutional Government” (aka revisionist constitutional theory).

This section of the GOP platform proclaims that government exists to protect “God-given, natural rights”; in any difference of opinion, God wins. One of these God-given “inalienable right that predates the Constitution” is “the right of individuals to keep and bear arms” as “a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution.” Another God-given rights are “to devote resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports” (such as influencing elections), influence elections), to “set their own membership standards” free from anti-discrimination laws, and the “freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs” often when those beliefs call for defiance of the law, as examples of rights that are “not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.”

The platform gets worse by completely invalidating  the U.S. Constitution. “The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.” Thus the GOP repudiates the way that legislators and judges are bound by the Constitution. Republican position is that Congress cannot propose and states cannot ratify, for example, a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Republican Party’s position is that this amendment would be null and void.

“Inalienable” means “impossible to take away or give up.” Therefore Republicans state that rights that they consider inalienable cannot be changed through constitutional process and no more amendments with the slightest connection to the First Amendment—religion, free speech, and financing—can be made.  Also “the unborn child” has an “inalienable right to life … which cannot be infringed.”

Stephen Rosenfeld has culled these excerpts from the 2016 GOP platform.

  1. Tax cuts for the rich.
  2. Bank deregulation.
  3. Elimination of consumer protection.
  4. Repeal of environmental laws.
  5. Shrinking unions and union labor.
  6. Privatization of federal railway service.
  7. Freezing or elimination of federal minimum wage.
  8. Cuts in government salaries and benefits.
  9. Appointment of only anti-choice Supreme Court justices.
  10. Appointment of only anti-LGBT and anti-Obamacare justices.
  11. Legalization of anti-LGBT discrimination.
  12. Christianity as a national religion.
  13. Greater campaign finance loopholes and dark money.
  14. Eliminate gun controls nationwide.
  15. An anti-choice constitutional amendment.
  16. Elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
  17. Permission to states in closure of abortion clinics.
  18. Opposition to stem cell scientific research.
  19. Condemnation of executive branch policy making.
  20. Retention of the electoral college.
  21. Requirement of citizenship documents for voter registration.
  22. Drawing congressional districts without consideration of undocumented immigrants.
  23. No labeling of GMO ingredients in food products.
  24. Work requirements for welfare recipients and cuts in food stamps.
  25. More oil and gas drilling on U.S. shores.
  26. Completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  27. Expansion of fracking and burying nuclear waste.
  28. No tax on carbon products.
  29. Disregard of global climate change agreements.
  30. Privatization of Medicare.
  31. State administration of Medicaid.
  32. No increase of Social Security benefits by taxing the rich.
  33. Repeal of Obamacare.
  34. Monopoly control by internet service providers.
  35. English as the official U.S. language.
  36. No amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
  37. Wall along U.S./Mexico border to keep immigrants out.
  38. Government verification of citizenship of all workers.
  39. Penalties for cities giving sanctuary to migrants.
  40. Puerto Rico a state but not Washington DC.
  41. Support of traditional marriage but no other families.
  42. Privatization of government services to fight poverty.
  43. Mandatory bible study in public schools.
  44. Replacement of public schools with privatized options.
  45. Permission of abstinence-only approaches in sex education.
  46. Privatized student loans without lowering interest rates.
  47. Restoration of the death penalty.
  48. Dramatic increase in the Pentagon budget.
  49. Cancelation of Iran nuclear treaty and expansion of U.S. nuclear arsenal.
  50. Reaffirmation support for Israel and elimination of sanctions movement as anti-Semitic.

And that’s just a few of the issues covered in the platform. The GOP shows itself to be pro-rape, pro-gold standard, and pro-“right-to-work” while being anti-national parks and anti-mass transit.

The less rabid members of the Republican party who don’t follow all these positions blithely say that no one reads the platform or pays any attention. Yet the platform is the wish list of GOP leaders for Congress; it’s what they think they want to do to the United States. This platform calls for a drastic military buildup when a large percentage of taxes already goes to the Pentagon. This policy, combined with the massive tax cuts that they call for, follows the first term of George W. Bush which led to trillions of dollars in deficit and a recession that still hurts the nation’s economy.

In his speech tonight, GOP VP candidate, Mike Pence, called for the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will uphold the constitution, but the platform calls for justices who follow the GOP platform. During the convention, speakers consistently maintained that there is nothing progressive about the Democratic party, that it is the GOP that wants to move forward. In many ways, however, the platform resembles the conservative position of the mid-1800s except conservatives 150 years ago didn’t oppose abortion and immigration.

The theme of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) speech tonight is that “freedom matters.” He’s right, but his party’s platform wants to take away freedom for many people in the United States—no freedom for LGBT people to have the same rights as heterosexual people, no freedom for women to have reproductive health care, no freedom from poverty and illness, no freedom to have clean water and air, no freedom for equal internet use, no freedom for people with any skin color to travel safely wherever they want, no freedom for people other than strict “Christians.” In short, no freedom for all—just the entitled.

Of course, Cruz was booed at the end of his speech for not endorsing  Donald Trump after he said that people should not stay away from the election in the fall and that they should vote their conviction. Then Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was escorted from the floor for her own safety. So much for GOP unity. Or maybe the entire situation was a set-up so that Cruz would make Mike Pence, who followed Cruz, look good.

As far as the platform and Donald Trump, however, anyone with sense knows that Trump won’t even read it—and he certainly won’t pay any attention to it. He only wants a wall between the United States and Mexico.

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