Nel's New Day

December 10, 2017

Jerusalem: DDT Further Isolates U.S.

Evangelical approval for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) fell 17 points last week, and DDT wants to bump it up again—recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the 19th century, Bible teacher John Nelson Darby created the theory that the Jews had to control Jerusalem before Jesus could return to earth in a second coming to save his loyal followers by the seven-year suffering and turmoil called the Armageddon when Satan is defeated and Christ controls the world. Hal Lindsey popularized the belief during the 1970s in The Late Great Planet Earth. At DDT’s rally in northern Florida, conservative state Sen. Doug Broxson said that DDT may bring the biblical end times. The crowd cheered.

DDT has already shown success in starting a conflict with his Jerusalem executive order as protests have spread across the Middle East. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem barred all personnel and their families from traveling in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s old city immediately after DDT’s proclamation. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and part of the city is also occupied by Christians. The last quarter is occupied by Armenians. Although Jordan claims the east half of Jerusalem and Palestine calls Jerusalem its capital, the city has a distinct status as not belonging to any country, according to the international community.

Only the U.S. and the Czech Republic recognize Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital, and the United States would have the only embassy in that city. The senior Christian leader in Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, sent a letter with a dozen other church leaders in the Holy Land warning of “irreparable harm.” DDT’s move “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division”, they wrote.

DDT’s violation of international law in his executive order follows the U.S. pattern of allowing the illegal expansion of Jews-only colonial settlements in occupied Arab Jerusalem and across the West Bank. But this act is creating even more problems in the area. DDT has removed any leverage in the negotiations for peace between Palestine and Israel and confirmed that the U.S. is a completely biased party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Twenty-five former Israeli Ambassadors, academics, and other dignitaries publicly denounced the move. The pope of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church canceled his meeting with VP Mike Pence when he travels to Cairo this week, saying that DDT did not take into account the “feelings of millions of Arab people.” Only the visit to Israel may be pleasant to Pence; the ones to Germany and Egypt are guaranteed to be chilly. For the first time, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, committed to a two-state solution, is refusing to meet with a senior U.S. leader. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi predicted “possible dangerous repercussions,” and Turkey warned the decision represented a “red line” for Muslims. The Middle East is already volatile, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the U.S. was “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight.” He hinted Turkey might cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the embassy is moved.

History has already shown how a supposedly small act can be incendiary. The second intifada in late 2000 began when Ariel Sharon declared the Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place in the world to Jews and the third holiest site in Islam, reserved for Israel. The result was a two-year bloody war of suicide bombers and military attacks that killed both Israelis and Palestinians. In the Palestinian-Israel conflict, symbols matter.

Instead of consulting with impacted countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, DDT said, “This is what we are going to do.” The Arab League of 21 countries said:

“The decision has no legal effect… it deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge the region into more violence and chaos.”

Jordan said that DDT’s announcement has “no validity under international law.”During a meeting of the Arab League, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on members to consider economic sanctions on the U.S. to stop it moving its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He said:

“Pre-emptive measures (must be) taken… beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions.”

Countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China have condemned DDT’s action as a threat to peace.

DDT also ignored Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who recommended a different course. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued against DDT’s order and took the brunt of anger in Europe during a tour to convince State Department officials that they are better off without any employees and, in some cases, without ambassadors. Federica Mogherini, the foreign policy chief of the European Union, stood beside Tillerson while telling reporters that the U.S. was wrong to back away from the Iran nuclear deal and that the move of the U.S. embassy would undermine peace. Countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China have condemned DDT’s action as a threat to peace. Other foreign ministers showed their disapproval of DDT’s action in an indication of decreased respect for the U.S. Relationships with Europe could worsen if DDT appoints Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Only VP Mike Pence seemed pleased as he watched like a proud father as DDT held up the order like a toddler who had accomplished a fine BM.

The United States stands largely alone after DDT made his proclamation. The UN passed six resolutions affirming Palestinian rights and condemning Israeli violations of international law. One resolution stated that “any actions by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void.” Six countries, including the United States and Israel, voted against the resolution; 151 voted in favor of the resolution. In an emergency meeting, 14 of the 15 nations on the UN Security Council condemned DDT for his declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel because of its threat to peace. The 15th member of the Council is the United States. Council members are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay.  Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenti said:

“While there are two parties in this conflict, they are not on a level playing field. One is an occupying power, the other is an occupied people. One party builds illegal settlements… One party puts a siege on Gaza… One party takes over the water resources and farmlands of the other …. One of the parties engages in forced displacement.”

DDT’s decision to placate the evangelicals also benefits his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is working to further an anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East developed around Saudi Arabia and Israel. A few days before DDT signed the order, DDT pressured the PLO office in Washington with eviction if they didn’t agree the Israeli human-rights-violating settlements. Kushner has supported illegal West Bank Israeli settlements for years, helping to funnel tens of thousands of dollars to Jewish institutions in the settlements encroaching on Palestinian land through his family’s foundation. In late 2016, Kushner ordered Michael Flynn to persuade Russia to delay the UN Security Council vote criticizing these illegal settlements although Russia didn’t follow Flynn’s request. Kushner’s family also has lucrative real estate deals with Israeli financial institutions, one of them shared ownership and profits on a New Jersey apartment building. Another Kushner relationship is with two Israeli banks investigated for helping wealthy clients evade U.S. taxes.

Only 23 percent of evangelicals believe in a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis whereas a majority of U.S. Jews support a Palestinian state. Only 17 percent of U.S. Jews think that moving onto Palestinian land helps Israel’s security. Almost two-thirds of evangelicals think that a candidate’s stance on Israel matters “a lot” whereas only nine percent of U.S. Jews agree with that statement. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley claims that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and declaring the city to be Israel’s capital is “the will of the American people.” Yet 59 percent of people in the U.S. prefer that the U.S. select neither side of the Palestine-Israel conflict, and 63 percent oppose moving the embassy.

As with all his other actions, DDT shows no thought. He merely threw gasoline on the embers of a fire, perhaps hoping for an easier war than in North Korea so that he can look like an important leader in the world. Instead he has further isolated the United States from any part in global decisions, all of which negatively affects the United States’ status in the world.

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September 14, 2017

Edie Windsor: An Icon for the Ages

A great woman died this week. Thanks to Edie Windsor, my partner and I, along with hundreds of thousands of other same-gender couples, are able to have the same benefits of legal marriage that heterosexual couples have always had. Edie is even more special to me because I had the opportunity to talk with her on a cruise to Alaska before she became internationally famous. Every time I saw her on television or spotted her in a photograph, I remembered her energy, warmth, and kindness.

As Richard Socarides wrote, Edie is the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement of the 21st century. Her legal claim to have the same rights as any other married couple personified courage as she openly declared her long-time relationship with another woman. United States v. Windsor wasn’t even specifically about marriage; it was about the rights that marriage confirms in state and federal law regarding taxes. Yet the Supreme Court case ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), barring federal recognition of legally valid same-gender marriages, was unconstitutional ended in the landmark decision granting marriage equality to all same-gender couples.

Married in her early twenties, Edie divorced her husband, Saul Windsor, in less than a year after she told him that she wanted to be with a woman. In 2013, Windsor told NPR:

“I told him the truth. I said, ‘Honey, you deserve a lot more. You deserve somebody who thinks you’re the best because you are. And I need something else.’”

She took a job with IBM in 1958 after she earned a master’s in applied mathematics from New York University and became a computer programmer ad executive. Like almost all LGBT people at that time, she stayed in the closet. Earlier this year, she told Metro Weekly:

“I worked for IBM for 16 years. I lied for 16 years to people I loved. We ate lunch together, we had drinks together, we spent weekends together. Today, you don’t have to do that at IBM. You don’t do that anywhere, almost. It’s unlikely that LGBT people in the United States would have to do such a thing again.”

Edie met her love, clinical psychologist Thea Spyer (left), at the Portofino restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. A few years later, Thea gave Edie a diamond brooch instead of a ring for their engagement to keep their relationship secret. They loved to dance, and Edie kept dancing with Thea even after multiple sclerosis put Thea in a wheelchair (to right of Edie, above). Their remarkable relationship, which included Edie as Thea’s caregiver, is beautifully documented in the film, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement. The title refers to the 44-year “engagement” before they could legally marry in 2007 after an arduous trip to Canada when Thea was a quadriplegic. Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir used almost five decades of slides for this poignant yet joyful view of this love story. [More views of Edie at her website.]

After Thea’s death two years later, Edie’s inheritance was taxed at $363,053 because DOMA prevented same-gender couples from the advantages of marital tax deductions for all heterosexual couples. She argued that existing law subjects people in same-sex marriages “to differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification in violation of the right of equal protection secured by the Fifth Amendment.” The taxes resulted from the decades-long appreciation on real estate that they had long owned. Edie found the taxes an affront to her marriage to Thea, and she sued to regain them.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 27: Edith Windsor, 83, acknowledges her supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case ‘Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,’ which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Finding a lawyer was difficult because of her age and fragile health—and the fact that her sexual orientation made her appear to some lawyers as less than a compelling plaintiff. Roberta Kaplan, partner with the firm Paul, Weiss, was joined by the ACLU, and Edie’s case went before the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 when Edie was 83. Her openness and victory were signals to all of us in the LGBT community that we might also be out to the public. Edie stayed an LGBT rights activist after the court ruling, and met her second wife, Judith Kasen (right), at a benefit. They were married a year ago.

Even a Supreme Court case two years after Edie’s victory ruling for marriage equality has not  created equal rights for LGBTQ people across the nation. The judiciary continued to struggle with questions about marital rights, adoption, and other family law in states that kept opposing same-gender marriage. The future for these rights is dimming: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), the officials in his administration, and many other Republican leaders are virulently anti-LGBT. The Supreme Court will argue a case next month about whether businesses need to serve LGBT people, specifically if a baker has the right to not bake cakes for LGBT couples. DDT’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is supporting the baker and also arguing that the Civil Rights Act does not protect LGBT people from employment discrimination. Kaplan is fighting DOJ in these cases from her new firm, Kaplan & Company. DDT has attempted to ban transgender service members in the military.

I would like to think that my marriage is like squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube: it’s impossible to put it back in. And I would like to think that I can’t be refused service in a restaurant because a so-called “law” allows people to deny service to anyone they personally reject. Nowhere in history have rights been taken away from people once granted. People can skirt school desegregation, mandated by Brown v. Board of Education, but the ruling is still the law of the land. In a fit of pique, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent to United States v. Windsor:

“By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court’s declaration that there is ‘no legitimate purpose’ served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition [of marriage] has ‘the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure’ the ‘personhood and dignity’ of same-sex couples.”

A public memorial will be held Friday, September. 15 at 12:30 pm at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City. In lieu of flowers, Windsor had requested that any donations in her memory be made to the NYC LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders, or SAGE.

President Obama made this touching statement after Edie’s death:

“America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right. Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.

“I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love. She was engaged to her partner, Thea, for forty years. After a wedding in Canada, they were married for less than two. But federal law didn’t recognize a marriage like theirs as valid – which meant that they were denied certain federal rights and benefits that other married couples enjoyed. And when Thea passed away, Edie spoke up – not for special treatment, but for equal treatment – so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else.

“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America – a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her.

“Two years later, to the day, we took another step forward on our journey as the Supreme Court recognized a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. It was a victory for families, and for the principle that all of us should be treated equally, regardless of who we are or who we love.

“I thought about Edie that day. I thought about all the millions of quiet heroes across the decades whose countless small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love – and who, in the process, made us all more free. They deserve our gratitude. And so does Edie.

“Michelle and I offer our condolences to her wife, Judith, and to all who loved and looked up to Edie Windsor.”

Thank you, President Obama. And thank you, Edie. And thank you, all the people who fight for equal rights.

May 12, 2017

DDT: Week Sixteen, Moving into Paranoia

The week began with all eyes on testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee from former Attorney General Sally Yates, but attention rapidly segued to Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) firing of James Comey, the FBI director who refused to stop investigation his involvement with Russia. The third senior Justice Department officials investigating DDT who was fired in less than four months, he follows DDT’s victims Sally Yates and Preet Bharara. Less media attention, however, was paid to DDT’s hosting Russian officials in the White House the day after Comey’s unorthodox firing. U.S. journalists were banned from the event, and the only visuals of the meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were photographed by the Russian state-owned news agency. The Washington Post raised questions about a security breach, citing issues about listening devices or other surveillance equipment being brought into the Oval Office. Intelligence officials noted that standard screenings might not identify an espionage device. The White House claimed that they were told the photographer worked for Lavrov, not that he worked for the Russian agency. A White House official, “They tricked us.” Either it’s true, which is scary. Or it wasn’t true, which is scary. A White House spokesman explained that DDT hosted the meeting “because Putin asked him to.” Again, scary.

Melissa McCarthy has already started preparing a Saturday Night Live sketch imitating Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes from reporters. A group of journalists caught him after he finished up a short interview with the friendly Fox business folks and met with his staff behind a tall hedge, but a groups of journalists wanted to ask him about Comey’s firing. He came out of the shrubbery and shouted, “Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off…. Can you just turn that light off?” Since WaPo issued the following correction about its story:

“Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”

How many FBI officials does DDT need to fire for control?  Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI had not lost faith in Comey, contradicting a DDT reason for Comey’s firing. He added that it was the “greatest privilege” of his professional career to work with Comey. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to quit because DDT presented him as the architect of the firing. And DDT now contradicts everything that his White House officials and VP Mike Pence have presented to the media. In an interview with Lester Holt, DDT said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself … this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Firing someone to deliberately block an investigation is an impeachable offense. After the Holt interview, in which DDT called Comey a “grandstander” and “showboat,” the FBI disinvited DDT to FBI Headquarters, saying that “the optics would not be good.”

The Senate has subpoenaed fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to appear at a hearing about Russian interference in the recent election. The joint chairs of the Intelligence Committee had requested materials from him on April 28, but he refused. Flynn had previously offered to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but he didn’t find any takers. Among Flynn’s problems are his taking payments from Russia and Turkey while giving them information. The committee has received only two responses in requests for documents from DDT associates.

In DDT’s attempt to find those three million voters who voted for Hillary Clinton last year and gave her a majority, he signed an executive order for a commission to review fraud and voter suppression in the nation’s election system with the possible intent of rigging the 2018 elections. If he were sincere, he could find almost zero of the first and a massive amount of the second—mostly through state legislation. After the election, ABC contacted officials in all 50 states and found that voter fraud was “very” or “extremely” rare. DDT’s leader, however, is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is extremely successful in finding voter fraud everywhere in places where it doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of voter suppression.

In another action, DDT broke a century-long tradition requiring senators to approve judicial nominees who sit on federal courts in their states. To ensure a right-wing court system, he has nominated ten unvetted lawyers for lifetime judges on federal courts without consulting any senators.

A few days after DDT defunded members of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), claiming it was “unconstitutional,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed when she gave the graduation address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach (FL). DeVos has her own issues with HBCUs, referring them as a sort of pilot program for schools of choice while ignoring the fact that people went there not out of choice but because they weren’t permitted into white schools. In the speech, the billionaire who forced legislation to move many Michigan students into failing religious schools funded by taxpayers said:

“We must first listen and then speak with humility to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don’t immediately or instinctively agree.”

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index lost half the gains it made since DDT’s election, going from +16 to +3. Fewer Americans last week said the economy was “getting better” (45%) than said it was “getting worse” (49%), leaving the economic outlook component at -4, its worst score since Nov. 7-13, when it measured -5. The rating is almost 20 points below its recent high of +15 set in early March. DDT is down to a 36 percent approval, and that was before he fired Comey. The percentages for his characteristics are also very low.

No matter the intention behind Comey’s firing—distraction, avoidance, shock, chaos—scholars on authoritarianism agree that DDT’s goal is to “uproot the system,” according to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at NYU. We’ve watched his obsession with issuing executive orders, his aggressive opposition toward the media, and his love for “alternative facts” while GOP politicians enable him for their own personal advantage. In a recent event, a reporter was arrested for asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether or not domestic violence survivors would have difficulty getting insurance under Trumpcare.

Ben-Ghiat said, “Democracy is threatened in drips.” She draws parallels between DDT and authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Hungary who undermine society by chipping at democratic institutions while greatly expanding their power. The people of the United States, however, may be developing a bit more savvy about DDT’s techniques after 16 weeks: 54 percent of the people think that the firing was inappropriate, and only 24 percent think that the reason was Hillary Clinton’s emails, DDT’s original stated reason.

Progressives had one win this week. After a spate of successful bills overturning President Obama’s regulations, the Senate voted against a resolution to nullify a clean air regulation the last day before the GOP could do this without a filibuster. In the 51-49 vote, Sens. John McCain (AZ), Susan Collins (ME), and Lindsey Graham (SC)  joined the Democrats. The Congressional Review Act, successfully used only once before DDT allows repeal of regulations within 60 days of being submitted to Congress, has been used in he past 100 days to reverse 15 regulations from President Obama.

The regulation that stayed updates 30-year-old regulations about venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas on public and Native American lands to help stop waste of natural resources. It helps protect the climate while saving taxpayers $330 million a year. Colorado, one of the two states that already have this regulation, have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents, including Republicans, and increased both job production and natural gas production, a contradiction to arguments from the conservative opposition.

DDT didn’t wait until this weekend to issue crazy tweets. First he threatened to stop press briefings from the White House after the media pointed out all the inconsistencies regarding DDT’s method and reasoning for firing Comey. He ratcheted up his paranoid almost to the level of former President Richard Nixon when he threatened Comey:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

DDT has not denied that he taped meetings or records conversations in the Oval Office. Witness intimidation is a crime, and DDT threatened former Attorney General Sally Yates before she testified last Monday to a Senate hearing:

“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council [sic].”

DDT also violated the Presidential Records Act by attempting to scrub the tweet with the misspelled tweet and replacing it with the corrected version. All his tweets must be kept as official records of his public remarks. DDT may still not know that all his tweets belong to the people of the United States.

Hard to believe that these are the actions of a man supposed to be the leader of the “free world.”

May 4, 2017

Make America Suffer Again

The House passed its “We Don’t Care” bill this morning to take health insurance away from tens of millions of people in the United States. The 217-213 had 20 GOP “no” votes from those smart enough to know how furious their constituents would be with a “yes” vote. Only one of them belonged to the scorched-earth Freedom Caucus. Voters didn’t even have an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office to help them make a decision.

In their race to the bottom, the GOP also ignored the impact the 100+ million people who get insurance from employers. Because the bill allows large employers to offer the same benefits as state requirements, companies can skimp on benefit standards in states that get waivers to opt out of current ACA regulations. The same employers can also bypass any limits on out-of-pocket expenses for expensive illnesses and impose lifetime limits of cost. Premiums may cost less, as Republicans promised, people would have little health care covered. Congressional members and staff are lucky: the new bill exempts them from losing quality insurance.

In the time of DDT and the GOP, governance means voting for a bill that has a life-or-death impact with no information on costs and other affects. The legislators who voted for it hadn’t even read it and don’t want to know the outcome of their legislation that affects one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Republicans leaders didn’t let anyone read the legislation in advance. All people know about the bill is that gives massive tax breaks to the wealthiest in the nation and guts protections for everyone else. Now that it’s passed, people know what’s in the bill, and it looks even worse than previously believed.

Trumpcare winners:

  • The rich and corporations getting $600 billion in tax breaks.
  • Millionaires getting a $50,000 tax break each year for a total of $275 billion to the richest two percent.
  • The 400 richest families each getting an average $7 million each year.
  • Insurance companies getting $145 billion in tax breaks over ten years.
  • Drug companies rewarded with $25 million in tax breaks over ten years.
  • The richest two percent getting a $117 billion tax cut.

Trumpcare losers are the 24+ million low-income sometimes DDT supporters who lose health care (24 million) or people who will pay up to $13,000 more for premiums. No one will have protection from huge increases in drug costs, and the loss of $117 billion in revenue shortens Medicare’s ability to pay full benefits by at least three years.

Eight years ago, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said this about the Affordable Care Act on MSNBC:

“I don’t think we should pass bills that we haven’t read, that we don’t know what they cost.”

At the same time, Mike Pence ridiculed the Democrats:

“Don’t blame us, we didn’t read the bill we voted for.”

In 2009, House Republicans had a fit about the possibility of voting for the ACA without a CBO score, and Ryan demanded that the CBO analysis be expedited before a vote. In fact, Congress and President Obama and spent 14 months writing that bill in 2009 and 2010 with dozens of hearings, committee markups, and consultation with the health care system that won support from hospitals and doctors while waiting for multiple CBO scores. No one in the health care system wants Trumpcare, and Republicans’ only rationale for voting in favor of the bill is that they promised to do it. Oh yes, and it gives massive cuts to the wealthy.

Perhaps most prescient is DDT’s 2014 tweet:

“It’s Thursday. How many people have lost their healthcare today?”

Today is Thursday, and we don’t know the affect of the House vote, but it’s sure to be tens of millions of people if the House bill passes the Senate.

According to DDT’s statements last Sunday, he hasn’t read the revised plan to satisfy the scorched-earth Republicans. On Face the Nation, DDT told John Dickerson that the bill keeps pre-existing conditions and “I mandate it.” Pressed for clarification, DDT added, “We actually have a clause that guarantees [protections to those with pre-existing conditions].” [No, “we” don’t.] The GOP bill clears the way for states to remove this benefit. DDT said that “Obamacare” “doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.” [Yes, it does.] Even VP Mike Pence said that Republican policymakers are “keeping our promises to protect people who have pre-existing conditions.” Of course, he believed that Michael Flynn didn’t have anything to do with the Russians.

According to a Harvard study about the health care bill, Trumpcare would “effectively end enrollment in the insurance markets for families that make less than $75,000 a year.” In 2015, that was over 70 percent of the people in the United States.

Another population that would suffer from Trumpcare are students needing special education help. Medicaid provides schools districts with such services as physical therapists and feeding tubes as well as preventative care like vision and hearing screenings. Republicans voting to do away with these services may not know about this issue because the House did not allow any public testimony before the vote.

If DDT and Congress are successful in repealing the ACA, discrimination can be the law of the land. One section is the ACA stops federal funds from going to anyone or any group discriminating on the basis of race, skin color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. That includes pregnancy, sex stereotyping, gender identity; religious-connected providers could deny contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, or anything else against “religious” beliefs. People could be turned away from emergency rooms for any reason. At this time, 20 percent of the hospitals in the nation have an affiliation with religion—up 50 percent since 2010, and many times small communities have only these hospitals. At the same time, the federal and state governments are rapidly closing non-religious clinics such as those operated by Planned Parenthood.

In addition to ethical reasons to keep and repair the ACA, its loss will result in the loss of 1.8 billion jobs.

Oregon’s only GOP representative was a leader in destroying the ACA. Greg Walden is now proud of his part in doing away with the small hospitals in his rural district and losing insurance for the largest number of people in his state. DDT acknowledged the part that Ryan and Walden played in taking insurance from Walden’s constituent when he said, “This is the group.” Walden’s district added more Medicaid recipients than any other GOP district and more than all except three Democrat-held districts. That makes it fourth out of 435 districts in helping people under the ACA.  One of Walden’s colleagues pointed out that 640,000 people with pre-existing conditions could lose their insurance, but Walden claimed, “We are protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Those conditions continue to be protected.” Either he has not read the bill, or he lies. People have said he’s a nice man. So sad.

The GOP is backing a losing horse with its argument for less government. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that a majority of people, 57 percent, thinks that government should do more—not less—to help solve the nation’s problems. That’s an increase of 14 percent in just two years and almost double the percentage since 1996. In that time the number of people who think that the government should do less has dropped by over one-third. A study from Baylor University has also found that more government enhances human happiness.

Last month the New York Times’ hired climate denier Bret Stephens. Now the NYT equates Ryan’s lie (“under no circumstance can people be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition”) and Pelosi’s statement (“up to 17 million children … who have pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurers” thanks to the ACA) as both “misleading.” It may be possible that Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper while I wasn’t paying attention.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (3rd L)  after signing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to cut off federal funding of Planned Parenthood at the U.S. Capitol January 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The bill that passed today and moved on to the Senate was even more draconian that the earlier bill, and that one got only 17 percent approval. Yet Republicans are celebrating their success at taking insurance away from 24 million people and allocating much higher charges for people with pre-existing conditions with cases of Bud Light rolled into the Capitol. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the other GOP leaders are even giddier than they were over a repeal in January 2016. Following their beer-bust in the Capitol, Republicans took buses for more celebration in the White House Rose Garden, historically a place where bills are signed into law. Never before have House Republicans reveled in passing a bill that may not survive the Senate. And certainly not a bill designed to create misery for millions of people in the United States.

It’s a new time: Make America Suffer Again.

April 28, 2017

DDT: Week Fourteen, More Failures

The quarterly GDP report just came out, and the average 0.7 percent increase is bad news for news for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) who bragged that his leadership would move the gross domestic product skyhigh. Instead the GDP for his first quarter is the worst in three years. Why do people vote for Republicans? In a statement of how DDT is struggling, he said, “I thought it would be easier.” This is DDT’s classic statement as he reflects on his first 100 days. “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going.” Many other people wish he were back in his previous life too after his string of failures.

Alienation of South Korea: After picking a fight with North Korea, DDT attacked South Korea by threatening to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea because the five-year-old accord was “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.” To make things worse, he told South Korea that they should pay the $1 billion for the U.S. missile-defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (Thaad), to be installed in South Korea as protection against a North Korean attack.

Flynn’s Failure: When Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser for 24 days, started the chant of “Lock her up” about candidate Clinton last summer, he said that he’d be in prison if he did one-tenth of the things that she had done. Maybe he will be incarcerated. The investigation into Flynn has already shown that he likely took money from Russia without notification to the U.S. after the Pentagon warned him against doing it and that his work for Turkey has a Russian connection. Meanwhile, DDT is trying to cover for Flynn’s illegal activities by refusing to release any information about him. Now the Pentagon has joined the investigation into Flynn, and DDT’s AG Jess Sessions has recused himself from the whole problem. Maybe if FBI James Comey had been more worried about real treason and not Hillary Clinton’s emails?

The Wall: Press Secretary Sean Spicer is trying to cover for DDT’s backing off from his main promise by saying that it was a priority and not a demand, but DDT tweeted that the drug problem will never be solved without a wall. Yet 56 percent responses to a poll agree that DDT hasn’t accomplished much, and 47 percent of the blame goes to DDT. The GOP gets 25 percent blame and Democrats only seven percent. At the same time, the majority of people—a number that is growing—oppose building the wall, and an increasing number want money put into infrastructure instead. Texans oppose the wall as much as Mexico on the possibility of making Mexico so instable that it becomes another Venezuela as well as flooding and sewage in the Rio Grande River.

Tax Increases: DDT may have hoped that his shiny new tax plan would distract from his other problems, but it’s going downhill fast. Presenter and Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin knows that it gives cuts to the wealthy but can’t guarantee that “no one in the middle class is gonna pay more.” At least DDT will get a big cut with his own plan. A 65-year study by the Congressional Research Office found no correlation between cutting taxes and economic growth.

Latest Executive Order Overturned: Judge William Orrick, of the federal Northern District for California, has blocked DDT’s threat to cut off funds to sanctuary cities if they refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an executive order by Donald Trump which threatened to cut off funds to sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. The injunction retains the right to identify sanctuary cities and withhold certain grants but cannot alter the way federal funds are spent because that power lies within the congressional, not the presidential, branch of government. The Justice Department said that the order applies only to the failure in sharing citizenship information as required by law and three federal grants that require compliance as a pre-condition. Orrick said that this defense is worthless because law already permits it, leaving no purpose for the executive order. He also said that DDT’s rhetoric and surrogate statements, including those from the AG, contradicted the interpretation that the Justice Department tried to place on it. Orrick said:

“The President has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary has reiterated that the President intends to ensure that ‘counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cites don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.'”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said that the administration stood behind its threats to eliminate law enforcement funding to those cities. The federal government is now trying to decide on a definition of “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Massive Donor Errors for Inauguration: Inauguration Donor Fraud?: Follow the rubles. A crowdsourced data project at HuffPost found massive mistakes in DDT’s final campaign report with the was filled with mistakes—missing addresses, vacant lots used for addresses, anonymous or fake names, etc.—showing that even basic checks on accuracy were made.

Failure of Conservative Press Control: Unhappy with the sometimes factual reporting in the mainstream press, DDT has been wooing the far-right outlets and frequently failing. After they didn’t support his healthcare plan, he called them to the White House last Monday to tell them—gently, for him—to shape up. It wasn’t a success: they’re still complaining about the lack of attention that DDT has given them despite his favoritism. They’re also upset that they were told to leave their phones outside the room and not to report on what was said until 30 minutes into the meeting. The result was bad press from conservatives about DDT’s communications team. 

Empty Rooms: Cite Priebus: The Senate has confirmed 26 of DDT’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts, but he’s nominated only 37 people for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

Disappearance of Zombie Healthcare Bill—Again: Once again, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) couldn’t get the votes for the revised healthcare bill. The ultra-conservatives loved it because it takes insurance from more people, but the more centrist GOP members balked. One embarrassment for the GOP is that the failed bill exempted members of Congress and their staff: they can keep all their benefits. Once this fact came to light, GOP representatives talked about changing their minds about piece of the bill.

No Budget: The House passed a one-week extension on passing the budget to keep the government functioning for another seven days. The reason may be to prevent a shutdown on DDT’s 100th day tomorrow. The GOP House follows the pattern of teenagers who do no school work and then ask for an extension. And the action saves DDT the embarrassment of a government shutdown on his 100th day.

The United States has become so racist—including some law enforcement officials—that Sanya Gragg has published a book on the “talk” with black children: what they should do to stay ALIVE. Momma, Did You Hear The News?, a picture book for small children, gives this directions if they are confronted by the police, even if they’re just innocently walking down the street.

  • A – Always use your manners
  • L – Listen and comply
  • I – In control of your emotions
  • V – Visible hands always
  • E – Explain everything

Something else that white children don’t have to face.

Much more about DDT’s last week, but tomorrow is his 100th day—and lots more for another post.

Meanwhile, cheers for recently retired GOP Judge GOP Judge Doug McCullough, who resigned from the North Carolina Appeals Court a month before his date of mandatory retirement to allow the Democrat governor to replace him. McCullough is disgusted with the legislature’s blatant attempt to strip the new governor of any appointment abilities, going so far as to pass a bill to reduce the court from 15 to 12 so that newly elected Roy Cooper cannot fill any vacancies. An attempt to override Cooper’s veto leaves the governor with a small window of opportunity. Cooper’s new appointment, Judge John Arrowood, is the first openly gay member of the North Carolina court of appeals. McCullough is a man with ethics.

April 23, 2017

Earth Day 2017

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:59 PM
Tags:

For centuries, indigenous peoples around the world understood the importance of caring for their environment—that “there is no Plan B” for our planet. Smaller religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism appreciate the interdependence between humans and the Earth. Hebrew scriptures, used for Jewish and Christian religions, recognize God’s ownership of the earth, and 750 reference to ecology in the Qu’ran explain caring for the environment. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si (“Care for Our Common Home”), the connection of human behavior to global warming, and defined a sustainable environment as a moral imperative. The Dalai Lama endorsed the pope’s pronouncement.

The European invasion of America was one of destruction. They considered the American natives to be inferior to Anglos and found the two continents’ vast resources useful only for their all-consuming need to become more and more wealthy. In the nineteenth century, men plundered the massive buffalo herds, necessary for life in North America, and left the carcasses to rot. Farmers depleted the soil land and moved on to another area when it no longer supported crops. The result was the devastation in the huge Midwest “Dust Bowl” during the economic depression of the 1930s.

Science provided the education for protecting the land, but it also gave huge companies such as Monsanto, the corporation that developed the devastating Agent Orange, a way to control farmers through its magic seeds that could be used only once without permission for Monsanto and other similar companies. The pesticides also developed by these companies destroyed both wildlife and domestic beings, including humans.

The 21st century has had three leaders in the United States. The first one followed the rapacious desires of advisers who wanted to take over the Middle East for more wealth, and the second tried to reverse some of the assaults on the planet from earlier leaders. His successor has spent less than 100 days in overturning anything done in the last eight years, including its attention to reducing the destruction of the Earth.

On Earth Day 2017, April 22, the current leader denies climate change and actively promotes an annihilation of our only planet through appointments of officials, proposed budget cuts, legislation and executive orders to eliminate environmental and public health protections, suppression of information, and opposition to any cleanups of earlier devastation. He has attempted to eradicate any scientific evidence in make policies. His goal is to break the chain of knowledge that has moved us forward in the past century.

In an immense extinction, the planet loses about 27,000 species every year, and in just three years the number of wild animals living on Earth will drop by two-thirds in the past half century largely because of habitat loss, uncontrolled hunting and fishing, and pollution. Humanity is dependent on nature for air, water, and food, and leaders of the United States are destroying nature.

Every year, I published some magnificent photos by Ann Hubard. Last year, I talked about the advances of overcoming climate change. Yesterday hundreds of thousands of people marched to “Make Earth Great Again.” Otherwise Earth Day 2017 has very little good news; these photographs show what we can lose with our current leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 13, 2017

Congress: Its Legislation-free First 100 Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23, 2017

Deny Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice

The Senate hearings for Neil Gorsuch ended today, and Republicans are already congratulating themselves for getting such a far-right justice after refusing to even speak to Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee almost an entire year before the end of his second term. “Unreasonable” and “obstructionist” are two popular terms from the conservatives who completely ignored Garland for almost a year while they claimed that Supreme Court justice decisions should never be considered during a campaign season. Yet the United States is in the midst of a campaign season: Dictator Donald Trump (DTT) declared his 2020 candidacy on the day of his inauguration, and he’s already holding rallies funded by his campaign donations.

Even worse, the evidence keeps piling up that DDT was not legitimately elected to his current office following testimony by FBI director James Comey and other reports from intelligence agencies. The strong suggestion of an impeachment for DDT began swirling even before he was inaugurated, and the daily occurrences of his conflicts of interest make the length of his term even more tenuous. Further, DDT’s behavior is make the United States increasingly unstable.

Just 45 percent favor Gorsuch’s nomination’s nomination for the Court, the lowest level of public support for a Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork (31 percent) and Harriet Miers (44 percent). Even the Fox poll could find only a 49 percent approval for Gorsuch, and approval among women was only 42 percent. The Senate rejected Bork, and Miers withdrew under intense criticism. Gorsuch’s glib charm will almost surely not have the same result for him as Bork and Miers, but he’s no more deserving than they were.

Gorsuch’s philosophy as shown in Chevron is that unelected judges should have far more power to strike down regulations, a belief extremely popular with Republicans. He believes in blocking agencies from writing regulations that implement congressional laws signed by the president as shown by his opposition to a long-standing legal doctrine tried in a case involving Chevron. Even Antonin Scalia supported the importance of regulations that allow “flexibility, and appropriate political participation, in the administrative process.” Gorsuch wrote that liberals are focused on achieving goals, such as marriage equality, through litigation, but like other conservative judges, he supports the use of corporation lawsuits to strike down laws they oppose. The chart below shows that the only current justice farther right than Gorsuch is Clarence Thomas, but his rulings and writings may show that he’s even more right. Justice Thomas voted this week to overturn one of Gorsuch’s rulings.

Republicans are obsessed with replacing Antonin Scalia with an even more far-right justice. They conveniently forgot that they replaced Thurgood Marshall, one of the finest justices in history, with Clarence Thomas, who is severely flawed with conflicts of interest and other issues while he votes as far right as possible. The only “replacement” that Republicans made was choosing another man of color in Thomas.

Gorsuch’s history shows that he attacks women’s equality by putting employers’ preferences ahead of women’s rights, failing to protect women from pregnancy discrimination, eliminating women’s access to health care, and even denying women access to justice. During a discussion in Gorsuch’s law class, he said that employers should ask female applicants if they plan to start a family because women manipulate maternity leave policies at the company’s expense before resigning—a flagrantly illegal action. In the hearings, Gorsuch first denied saying this but then refused to state whether questioning women and not men about plans for adding to the family would violate the law.

In his writings, Gorsuch has argued against the legal principals of Roe v. Wade and disagrees with the right to privacy allowing legalized abortion. Removing that right removes constitutional rights for individuals to make decisions about sex, reproduction, and marriage. Gorsuch tends to bar women from litigating discrimination claims, going so far as to ignore U.S. Supreme Court precedent in his refusal. When he did take a case of sexual harassment, he ruled that it didn’t exist because the manager was also hard on the men—although UPS drivers testified that the manager was worse on the only female on the team.

Gorsuch’s opposition to substantive due process shows that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s affirmation that a person’s right to liberty also protects their dignity, to life free of interference and to making personal decisions free of discrimination. As an “originalist,” he believes that this right is not in the Constitution although SCOTUS has disagreed with his position. Gorsuch prefers equal protection which denies medical aided death because of his belief in an inalienable right to life. The right to dignity was the basis for Justice Paul Stevens’ dissent to upholding Georgia’s anti-sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick. Stevens maintained that federal judges have the responsibility to protect an individual’s right to decide “how he will live his own life.” Justice Anthony Kennedy used Stevens’ dissent to overturn sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and to declare marriage equality in United States v. Windsor and later in Obergefell v. Hodges. Gorsuch could attempt to overturn these rights as well as Roe v. Wade because he doesn’t believe in “dignity.”

As part of the GOP culture of cruelty, Gorsuch ruled that a truck driver should die rather than leave his rig in sub-zero weather, that a woman recuperating from a bone marrow transplant should risk getting the flu rather than work from home for a short time, and that disabled children don’t deserve an education. He called the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014, leading to a prolonged painful death, an “innocent misadventure” when he ruled that Oklahoma should continue its untested lethal injection protocol. He also wrote two separate opinions against blocking felons from possessing guns.

An examination of Gorsuch’s cruel votes shows that he almost always sides with the “big guys”—corporations and school systems rather than individuals. His strong support for corporations may come from his associates in his personal life. A lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Gorsuch represented Philip Anschutz and his companies. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to get Gorsuch onto the federal appeals court in 2006. Now a multi-millionaire, Gorsuch is welcome among that wealthy at Anschutz’ ranch, and he is partners in a company with two of Anschutz’ colleagues. They are so close that Gorsuch has built a vacation home with them.

What Gorsuch says in the hearings means very little because GOP-supported candidates show that their answers mean nothing. Asked in his hearing about the right to vote being “a fundamental constitutional right,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, “It is preservative, I think, of all the other rights.” He said he had no issue with upholding the Voting Rights Act that he gutted eight years later. He also said, about having no agenda, “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them.” That was before he pushed the court to the right in outlawing school integration, blocking Medicaid expansion, and allowing—not once but twice—unlimited secret corporate spending for political campaigns.

In the hearings, Gorsuch talked about judicial modesty and not being a “super-legislator,” but his rulings show that he has tried to establish law in ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. In a count, it’s corporation 21, humans 2. There’s a very good reason that big special interests are spending millions of dollars in dark money to push his confirmation.

Republicans praise Neil Gorsuch because he writes well and concisely, because he calls himself a textualist or originalist, and because he votes for big business, big donors, and big bosses. He was hand-picked by the far-right Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation and has close ties to a conservative billionaire. These are all reasons that he should be opposed. It was rumored that some Democrats would vote to confirm him in exchange for a promise from the Republicans to keep the filibuster for Supreme Court justices. The argument that another candidate might be worse than Gorsuch is invalid because he’s on the far-right edge of current Supreme Court justices’ ideology. In addition, the GOP is not known for keeping its promises.

Keeping the filibuster is of no value if Democrats don’t use it. Democrats should live up to the party’s values and not support a Supreme Court justice who is anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-worker, anti-voting rights, anti-education rights, anti-civil rights, and anti-dignity. I want Democrats to develop the same “intestinal fortitude” as the far-right House Republicans who refuse to vote for the new health care act even after the president threatens them with losing their next election. I disagree with the views of these GOP representatives, but I want Democrats to stand for their values in the same way that these conservatives are doing.

Gorsuch will probably be a Supreme Court justice, but Democrats should not be complicit in putting him in that position.

March 18, 2017

A Few Snippets about DDT

It’s been a hard week for Dictator Donald Trump–nothing is worse for him than ridicule. Here are a few pieces that emerged from the past.

Only Yesterday: To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a visit from Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenney, DDT mispronounced Fionnuala Kenny, the Prime Minister’s wife, and read “Remember to Forget” that he called an “Irish proverb.” It happens to be written by Nigerian poet, Albashir Adam Alhassan. During the same day, he insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The man inaugurated on January 20 managed to offend two world leaders in one day.

How do past Trump supporters feel about their vote? This man tells it all. As James Walker, 31, said: “This is the first step: showing up and being honest.”

Working Is Hard! Rex Tillerson cut his trip short to South Korea due to fatigue after he said that the U.S. might go to war with North Korea: “The policy of strategic patience has ended.” It is only his second trip as Secretary of State. When Hillary Clinton held that position, she traveled Total miles traveled 956,733 miles and 401 days to 112 countries. We know about Tilleron’s actions only from the Korean press because he took only one reporter from an obscure conservative outlet with him and that person is not sending back any reports. Tillerson is 64 years old; Clinton was 66 in the last year of that position and 68 when she ran for president. Perhaps DDT should have selected a younger man—or a woman—for the job.

 

 

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, made this assessment after a recent visit to the Capitol City.

  1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful — than I’ve ever seen it.
  1. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.
  1. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.
  1. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.
  1. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.
  1. The Washington foreign policy establishment — both Republican and Democrat — is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.
  1. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.
  1. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.
  1. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon — unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.
  1. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “How did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends — they give me blank stares.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks if DDT is trying to fail so that he can blame everyone else:

  • A health care bill so gratuitously brutal it seems almost intended to fail.
  • A budget that’s very plainly just a piece of performance art designed to outrage liberals.
  • A new immigration order so similar to the first one that Trump must have known it would be blocked in court.
  • A funding request for a border wall that’s basically a demand for a blank check that Congress will never pass.
  • A string of conspiracy theories (illegal voting, Trump Tower wiretaps, Obama is masterminding leaks) seemingly designed to waste congressional time.
  • And, of course, an endless series of hollow executive orders, bombastic tweets, and sob stories about the media mistreating poor Donald.

DDT’s employees excuse for what they do is right out of childhood. Democrats complained that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly didn’t answer questions about deportation policies, the Muslim ban, and the White House response to Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) white supremacist remarks. Democrats were frustrated because of his false claims when they had photos as proof—that he wasn’t going after Dreamers or that ICE agents were taking immigrants out of churches and hospitals of that he wasn’t separating children from mothers. His comment to reporters:

“I don’t deport anyone. ICE doesn’t deport anyone. The law deports people.”

Sounds like children who say, “I didn’t hit Johnny—the stick hit Johnny.” Now we have the same response from the head of Homeland Security. It sounds as if he might be getting ashamed.

Now we know that DDT’s staff is totally incompetent. On White House’s 1600 Daily, they posted a piece from Washington Post entitled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Reasons:

  1. They can’t read.
  2. They didn’t read it.
  3. They don’t understand satire.

The first two paragraphs:

“Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a ‘hard power budget’ which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

“This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.”

The piece continues by delineating all the outrageously unreasonable cuts in DDT’s budget and then finishes:

“Feed children just to feed them? What are we, SOFT? No. No we are not.

“AMERICA WILL BE STRONGER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN! Anyone who survives will be a gun covered in the fur of a rare mammal, capable of fighting disease with a single muscular flex. RAW POWER! HARD RAW POWER GRRRRRR HISSS POW!

“It will be great.”

This excerpt from the author, Alexandra Petri, is about the White House posting:

“The White House believes in me, and the White House is not full of careless people who skim headlines looking for the ones that sound sort of positive and then send them out in their daily briefing newsletter hoping for the best haaa ha ha nope ha ha these are the minds who control war and peace and the budget and things ha ha ha it’s fine ha ha oh god help.”

Unfortunately, postings on the White House 1600 Daily missed this delightful piece of satire regarding the bigly crowds at the inauguration.

Two months after DDT’s inauguration: 497 positions are awaiting nomination, 36 are awaiting confirmation, and 20 nominations have been confirmed. Maybe DDT is just waiting for a recess so that he can put everyone into these positions without bothering without confirmations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 14, 2017

Trumpcare: The GOP Killer Plan

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with the numbers for Trumpcare (excuse me, The American Health Care Act), and here’s the good news. The deficit could be lowered by $33.7 billion a year. Of course, that accomplishment come from moving costs to the state as well as taking people off Medicaid and government subsidies. For example, Oregon will have to pay 35 percent of health costs instead of the 95 percent that the federal government now covers.

The bad news for Trumpcare by the numbers:

  • 54 million individuals uninsured in ten years, double projections for ACA, according to a leaked White House analysis.
  • 24 million fewer people with coverage by next year.
  • 14 million more uninsured people in one year.
  • 14 million fewer people with Medicaid coverage in 10 years.
  • 7 million fewer people with employer-sponsored coverage in 10 years.
  • 2 million fewer people not buying health insurance each year.
  • 15-20 percent higher premiums in the first year than with ACA.
  • $880 billion cut from Medicaid over 10 years.
  • 15 percent of low income people without services to help women avert pregnancy because of defunding Planned Parenthood that results in thousands of more births. (Savings of $178 million for no care for these women would be offset by increase in Medicaid that pays for 45 percent of all U.S. births.)

Older Americans pay “substantially” more. At the same time, Trumpcare also takes away from the Medicare fund, causing it to become insolvent three or four years earlier than formerly projected unless positive action is taken.

Health insurance companies are encouraged to pay CEOs more because Trumpcare removes the ACA limit on corporate tax deductions for compensation. Under ACA, health insurance companies could deduct only $500,000 of the pay for each top executive making deductions for the companies only 27 percent instead of 96 percent. This limitation has been enough to buy dental insurance under the ACA for 262,000 people or pay the silver plan deductibles for 28,000. The 10 biggest insurance companies paid their top 57 executives a total of $300 in 2013. The provision to give them back the 96 percent was buried in six lines on p. 67, and even Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, seemed unaware of it until reporters inquired.

Republicans, claiming to be the part of smaller government, also have a provision in Trumpcare that employees without genetic testing as part of their workplace wellness programs can face large penalties in premiums. Existing federal laws don’t have this power because genetic privacy is protected. For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation could charge an additional $5,443 in annual premiums employer-sponsored family health coverage.

An oddity in Trumpcare is its obsession with lottery players, mentioned 11 times, the same number as Medicaid. Six of the 67 pages in the replacement plan focus on lottery winnings. Anyone getting at least $80,000 from the lottery or lotto would be kicked off Medicaid. To give you an idea of the savings, Michigan’s plan, withholding part of lotto winnings over $1,000 and not $80,000—saved $2 million.

Republicans have spent lots of time and energy criticizing the mandate that everyone purchase insurance. Trumpcare’s new system allows insurance companies to charge a 30-percent penalty after a break in purchasing coverage. It’s still a penalty: the only difference is that the money goes to insurance companies and not to the government. It also threatens destabilization of the individual insurance market.

Geographically, Trumpcare is disastrous for DDT supporters. The plan’s elimination of 0.9 percent for additional Medicare tax on wages and 3.8 percent surtax on investment income are only people in the top income stratum. John McCormick’s independent analysis of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan for Bloomberg states:

“Counties that backed him would get less than a third of the relief that would go to counties where Hillary Clinton won. The two individual tax cuts contained in the Republican plan to replace Obamacare apply only to high-earning workers and investors, roughly those with incomes of at least $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples. Taxpayers in counties that backed Trump would see an annual windfall of about $6.6 billion, (an) analysis of Internal Revenue Service data shows. In counties that backed Clinton, it’d be about $21.9 billion.”

The refund of this tax to the wealthy is what keeps the deficit reduction only $33.7 million when the massive cuts to benefits, including Medicaid, should come to much more. Getting rid of ACA’s taxes and annual fees would reduce revenues to the federal government by $592 billion over ten years. Just one person in the top 0.01 percent, for example, will get an extra $197,000 if the bill passes, and people in the top one percent will each get $33,000.

How Trumpers—and people at the same income level—will suffer from Trumpcare: A 64-year-old person with an annual income of $26,500 pays $1,700 a year in annual insurance premiums. Trumpcare will change that annual premium to $14,600 for equivalent insurance. The math makes it an increase of $12,900.

Ryan has made two strategic problems. He tried to push the bill through the House in three weeks; the ACA took over 16 months to pass after four months of groundwork. He also failed to involve any stakeholders. To pass ACA, Democrats developed support by convening health-care groups, largely the same groups that now strongly oppose Trumpcare. In retaliation, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is trying to minimize opposition from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as just another flawed interest group. Their 37 million members comprise over one-third of the U.S. population over 50 years of age and are likely to be DDT voters. Bush’s 2005 struggle to privatize Social Security failed after AARP’s opposition.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-the-white-house-isnt-sharing-health-care-numbers-its-own?cid=eml_mra_20170314   The White House has its own analysis of Trumpcare. A leaked report from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shows numbers are even grimmer than those from CBO with 26 million people losing coverage within the next decade instead of CBO’s 24 million. Although the White House called that report wrong, it hasn’t released anything in its place. GOP-confirmed OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, in charge of the health care legislation instead of the Secretary of Health, called the CBO estimates “just absurd” and said that “I don’t believe facts are correct.” DDT may have moved Price because Mulvaney, a founding member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and former South Carolina U.S. representative, is more conservative than either Ryan or Price.

Congress may also take both health insurance and pensions from retired coal miners. After 22,600 miners retired, the company in charge of their health care gave it to another company that declared bankruptcy and was relieved of responsibility for retiree health care. Both companies finally agreed to pay into a special fund for retiree health care benefits, but one of them stopped contributing. In addition, UMWA’s multi-employer pension plan, serving more than 90,000 retirees and their widows, became severely underfunded. The Miners Protection Act (MPA) uses federal funds to pay for threatened health benefits and strength the pension plan, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked its inclusion for his own constituents in an omnibus budget bill. The four-month extension of health benefits is due to expire on May 1, 2017 if Congress doesn’t act on the bill. Democrats wrote DDT for support in January, but he didn’t respond.

Yesterday Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talked to some of these miners during a panel discussion in West Virginia. One of them thanked Sanders for his support regarding the bill and said to applause:

“I never dreamt that I’d get to thank you personally for the bill that you are co-sponsoring. I’m one of those miners that will lose his health care at the end of April if they don’t pass that law. I think it’s kind of ironic that a senator from the northeast takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell.”

Sanders told the crowd:

“The Republican bill, it should not be seen as a health care bill, because throwing millions of people off of health care [is not] health care legislation. What it should be seen as is a huge tax break for the wealthiest people in this country.”

Two months ago, DDT promised “insurance for everybody.” He and other Republicans claim insurance access to all—probably the same way that everyone has access to buy a Mercedes-Benz but don’t have the money. Price claimed that Trumpcare would “cover more individuals at a lower cost.” The only way that they can be right is for people to be consigned to crappy insurance plans that may not even cover hospital costs, just as they were before the ACA. To show how obvious DDT is about killing ACA, he sent out an email asking people to “share your Obamacare disaster story.” They have no interest in any success stories or needs from “hard-working Americans like you,” but people have been sending them anyway.

The clearest description of Trumpcare has been provided by comedian John Oliver..

 

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