Nel's New Day

May 5, 2019

DDT: More Week 119 – Make America Worse Unless Courts Help

Even in the “Kentuky Derby [sic],” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) thinks that rules don’t matter. The first declared victor, Maximum Security, was subsequently disqualified because the horse tripped another horse. The runner-up, Country House, was then declared the winner. DDT tweeted that sticking to the rules is unfair “political correctness.” Those who held out hope that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wouldn’t be as bad as feared can follow these ways that he’s destroying the country.

April was the ninth-year anniversary of the biggest ocean oil spill in the U.S. when the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people and cost $61.6 billion. DDT’s oil lobbyist/Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt plans to erase offshore drilling regulations designed to stop another Deepwater Horizon. The changes will annually save $98 million for the heavily subsidized oil and gas industry because they no longer will need to test blowout preventers for disasters. The word “safe” was also removed from standards in maintaining the level of down-hold pressure in wells to avoid accidents.

The EPA won’t update federal standards about toxic waste from oil and gas wells, including fracking waste. Companies allow the waste into drinking water, spread it on roads as a de-icer, use it to irrigate crops, and spray it into the air to evaporate. The same product from other industries is designated as hazardous waste and subject to highly regulated tracking and disposal rules. At least 55 chemicals released into the air and water are carcinogenic as well as being linked to asthma, low birth weights, and other health problems.

DDT’s new “healthcare” rule allows hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to deny patients basic medical care because of personal beliefs. He bragged at the National Day of Prayer event how his new rule can allow anyone to refuse healthcare to anyone else for any reason. Those suffering from his decision include LGBTQ people, women seeking contraception, unmarried couples, and all children of couples who are considered unacceptable by healthcare workers. The rule means that taxpayers are required to pay for institutions and individuals who don’t have to provide any services to them.

Two days ago, DDT said that he was fine with Robert Mueller testifying at congressional hearings if his fixer AG Bill Barr agreed. Barr agreed, and Mueller is tentatively scheduled to appear before a House hearing on May 15. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the Senate is not interested. Now DDT says that Mueller should not testify. The question might be whether DDT can block Mueller’s testimony if Mueller no longer works for the government.

DDT brags about his economy, but his threat to more than double tariffs to 25 percent may drive the stock market down. Oil prices also dropped 2.83 percent in today’s Asian trading. Trade negotiations with China were scheduled to return on Wednesday, but DDT says that the process is moving “too slowly.” Threats of increased tariffs may cause China to cancel trade talks, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He may cancel his trip to the U.S.

DDT, members of his family, and his businesses are suing Deutsche Bank and Capital One to keep them from complying with congressional subpoenas. Deutsche Bank is already turning over DDT’s financial documents to New York’s state AG’s office. Among Deutsche documents are DDT’s tax returns.

Without congressional approval, the State Department allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017, a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause. The monthly rent of $8,500 was over 2.5 times the median rent in the surrounding neighborhood. A federal judge turned down DDT’s request to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of violating the constitution’s Emoluments Clause from over 200 congressional members. Also, another recent revelation is that the White House paid Mar-a-Lago $1,000 for DDT staffers’ alcoholic drinks—in addition to many more expenses.

In her acceptance for the conservative Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award, Secretary of State Betsy DeVos announced she would continue her fight for “freedom from government.” Hamilton fought for a strong centralized government control. The Institute might want to reconsider its award’s name.

On the campaign trail, DDT declared himself the “law and order” candidate. In Watertown (NY) a judge gave a man who raped a 14-year-old girl no prison time and ten years probation because he raped only one girl. A Georgia man who kept a teenage girl in a dog cage for over a year and raped her got off with the eight months he spent in a detention center before he was sentenced and ten years probation. Initially the sex between the man and the girl, 15 when she met him on a chat room for people with eating disorders; she was persuaded to live with the man when she turned 16, age of consent in Georgia.

DDT sometimes fails in his anti-immigrant attacks: 

Even non-citizens have the constitutional right to complain about the U.S. government, according to a panel of judges from the 2nd Circuit Court. ICE decided to deport Ravi Ragbir because he criticized their agency.

A federal judge gave DHS six months to identify thousands of children they kidnapped from families at the southern border instead of the two years the government wanted. The deadline is October 25. Emails show that the government cannot match children with their parents because it has no data about children and parents.

A unanimous federal appeals panel upheld California’s misnamed “sanctuary state” law, ruling that the law doesn’t stop enforcement of federal immigration laws or conflict with federal law. California state law requires employers to alert employees before ICE inspections and allows the state AG to inspect immigration facilities.

A federal judge ruled that ICE cannot use an immigration interview as a trap for deportation and ordered a Chinese man to be returned to the U.S. before the flight arrived in China. Wanrong Lin, 31, has lived in the U.S. for 17 years; his wife and three children are U.S. citizens. They own and operate a restaurant in Maryland.

ACLU is suing DDT for the new policy denying bond hearings to asylum seekers proving they face fear in their countries of origin. The new policy deports any arrivals through expedited removal proceedings or indefinitely detail them for years. The suit claims that the new policy denies up to 400,000 people Fifth Amendment due process rights.

Taxpayers are shelling out at least $40 million for two tent cities along the Texas border. Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan calls them “soft-sided facilities.” Visitors to existing “facilities” report that people don’t get showers and live in dirty clothing.

Although cannabis is legal in many states and jurisdictions, green card holders can be banned from citizenship if they are suspected of its use, even for medical purposes.

Last year, DHS used a private intelligence firm, LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, to spy on and track 600 Families Belong Together protests in the U.S., Mexico, and the Netherlands. The data were shared with both DHS and “state-level law enforcement agencies.” The coalition organized over 750 events on June 30, 2018 with over 400,000 participants in all 50 states as well as European and Americas’ countries.

Other lawsuits oppose DDT’s efforts to destroy the United States:

Last month, a judge ruled that Michigan had to redraw its gerrymandered districts; this week a unanimous panel of judges ruled that Ohio’s districts were unconstitutional. That makes federal courts in five states striking down gerrymandered maps while the Supreme Court dithers about the issue. Like Michigan, Ohio must redraw its districts before the 2020 election.

A U.S. district judge has delivered an injunction against the Texas law barring the state from business with companies involved in the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. Bahai Amawi had lost her job as speech pathologist with a local school district because her contractor participated in the boycott. Similar anti-free speech laws have been passed in two dozen other states. Federal judges have also struck down laws in Arizona and Kansas.

Gabby Giffords’ gun-safety group is suing the Federal Election Commission for refusing to act on complaints about the NRA’s illegal coordination of political spending with DDT and other GOP candidates. The lawsuit contends that the NRA hid its illegal expenditure of $35 million for Republicans in three election cycles. Other groups have supplemented a July 2017 complaint against DDT’s 2016 presidential campaign committee for soliciting contributions from foreign nationals after the Mueller report supported their claims. The Mueller report stated that criminally indicting Donald Trump Jr. must meet a high bar, but the FEC has no such bar to level civil penalties against him. The Brennan Center has a new report on ways that the FEC employs a partisan gridlock to stonewall responses to complaints about candidates, parties, and super PACS.

The latest fashion in GOP state legislatures is the anti-abortion “heartbeat” approach, making abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat illegal. Laws would also be unconstitutional because they violate Roe v. Wade which permits abortions up to the viability of a fetus at 24 weeks. The law loses its support when people learn that these laws outlaw abortion before women discover they are pregnant. Twelve percent of those polled changed their minds when they discovered the truth, resulting in a majority of people—56 percent—opposing these laws. Laws use the term “heartbeat” to sound sympathetic although a sound at six weeks doesn’t match how people understand a “heartbeat.” About two-thirds of the public want to retain Roe v. Wade.

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

April 21, 2019

Earth Day 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another 30 ways to recycle stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2019

Bill Barr’s History May Show Future Position

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omission 3: International law on abductions in foreign countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 30, 2019

DDT: Week 114 – Off the Rails without Attention to the Barr Report

This week should have been all about the release of the Mueller investigation, now known as the Barr Report after he put out four pages of misleading information for the real report that might have been almost 1,000 pages long. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) did start off with self-congratulatory claims for misleading information but managed to wander off track into the weeds and infuriate the GOP members of Congress.

Presented with a friendly—and irrational—court decision to nullify the Affordable Care Act, DDT ordered his AG lapdog to not defend the law because his own plan is better. He has no plan so he told GOP legislators to prepare one: they are refusing. Republicans even told DDT to drop his elimination of the ACA because healthcare issues brought a majority Democratic House. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called DDT to tell him that his plan won’t work, and two cabinet members, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and AG Bill Barr, disagreed with destroying the ACA. Yet DDT is calling the GOP the “party of health care” when he plans to destroy healthcare for tens of millions of people.

Effects of no ACA and no other health plan:

Two million young people will no longer need to be covered by their parents’ plans.

Twelve million people in poverty could be taken off Medicaid.

The number of uninsured people would increase by 21 million people, or 70 percent. Some states will suffer more; for example, Kentucky, state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will see an increase of 151 percent in uninsured to 379,000 people.

Medicare beneficiaries, as many as 60 million, would face higher costs for medical care, premiums, and medications. The coverage gap on medications, slowly closing because of ACA, will open up again, and people will pay more for preventive care such as wellness visits and diabetes checks. Cuts in government payment for hospitals and other providers, including private Medicare Advantage plans, will increase premiums. An experimental program to save money for 12 million people may disappear. Medicare’s revenue may drop by $346 billion without the ACA.

As many as 133 million U.S. residents with pre-existing conditions could be denied insurance coverage—52 million people—or face far higher premiums. These include common medical issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Being a woman was a “pre-existing condition” before the ACA because females could be denied health coverage or charged higher premiums. Before ACA, women were charged at least 30 percent more than men but denied maternity coverage.

Up to 171 million people will no longer be protected from caps used by insurers and employers to limit costs in coverage each year or for a lifetime.

Hospitals and doctors can lose $50 billion with the disappearance of health insurance. Rural areas may need to close hospitals, giving people less heath care for more money.

People forced back into junk health plans with little coverage will end up in medical bankruptcy, the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the United States.

The DOJ declaration that ACA is unconstitutional may give $1 billion to a Florida healthcare executive on trial for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Lawyers filed a motion for dismissal for accusations of kickbacks, fraud, and services that were not provided or medically unnecessary with the claim that the DOJ claimed that these offenses are unconstitutional. They want a mistrial. Either prosecutors contradict DDT’s position or agree with the executive’s claim that he should be exonerated. Releasing him from charges could result in everyone else convicted of this fraud under the ACA would demand release.

While DDT waits for the courts to destroy more people’s lives with lack of health care, a judge has struck down DDT’s rule to expand insurance plans not meeting the ACA requirements. The ruling references permission for small businesses and self-employed people to gather for association health plans. Lower costs in the “junk” plan means highly reduced health coverage, something that the ACA originally blocked.

In another health-related case, a federal judge threw out DDT’s Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the purpose of Medicaid is to extend health care benefits to low-income people, and the work requirements don’t fit with this goal.

A federal judge overturned DDT’s attempt to open 120 million acres in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean for fossil fuel drilling and declared his action illegal. Plaintiffs had argued that presidents may issue bans to withdraw from offshore oil leasing and development, but other presidents are not permitted to reinstate that development. Only Congress can take that action. Appeals could face the 9th Circuit Court and perhaps the Supreme Court. Oregon has also passed a law blocking drilling off its coast.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked a lethal injection in Texas because the prison refused to permit a Buddhist priest to be with a man in the death chamber. Last month, the same court allowed the death penalty to be executed on an Alabama convict for the same reason. Brett Kavanaugh changed his position about religious freedom for all religions in a month.

More bad press followed DDT and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with public protests that they had cut the entire $17.6 million budget for Special Olympics. DeVos made a fool of herself trying to defend the action in a congressional hearing and later explaining that she really liked the program after DDT claimed that he had “overridden my people” to give money to the program. DeVos joins at least 19 other DDT cabinet members to end up under the bus. No matter what, the decision isn’t theirs: only Congress can authorize the final budget.

DeVos had not only eliminated 29 education programs essential to kids with disabilities, including after-school programs for low-income kids, professional development for teachers, and mental health services, but is also attempting to convince people that bigger classes sizes are better for students.

After threatening to close “large chunks” of the southern border, DDT now says he will close the entire border to all trade if Mexico “doesn’t immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States.” Five million people can lose their jobs if he goes through with his threat, and millions more can lose their health care and cheaper prescriptions obtained in Mexico. He also plans to slash almost $500 million in aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in a misguided attempt to cut down on the number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. His plans will exacerbate current problems of violence, poverty, and lack of jobs—driving more migrants north. The U.S. doesn’t give funding to the government; it provides for programs, many of them administered by nonprofit groups trying to stop migration.

DDT said that pointing machine guns at immigrants seeking asylum would be more efficient than a wall. He also said, “I wouldn’t want to do it,” but he’s also known for changing his mind hourly—and maybe some of his followers will follow through on the suggestion. DDT is already “housing” immigrants in cages under a bridge.

In a follow-up to the closeness between the airline industry and acting FAA chair Daniel Elwell, ProPublica published emails between Elwell and his industry buddies showing how he protects them. Appointed as deputy administrator on June 26, 2017, Elwell continued his “support” of his former lobbying clients. On his federal financial disclosure, Elwell failed to list clients who paid him $282,500 in 2016 and part of 2017. Unlike other oversight agencies, the FAA both regulates and promotes the airline industry; Elwell takes the latter much more seriously. A Senate committee has scheduled Elwell to testify on airline safety next Wednesday.

“How Donald Trump Inflated His Net Worth to Lenders and Investors,” a must read, details his financial lies that could lead to charges of fraud and corruption.

A federal judge ordered the DOJ and FBI to turn over former FBI Director James Comey’s memos so that he can determine whether to release them to the public.

Twitter, which allows world leaders to violate their terms of service because of being “newsworthy,” may start labeling DDT’s tweets as “offensive” if others would not be allowed to send them.

Putting people at risk of identity theft and fraud, FEMA gave personal data of 2.3 million disaster victims to an outside contractor. Information included birth dates, partial Social Security numbers, full names, addresses, and financial information with details of banking information.

February’s national debt of $234 billion was 46 percent higher than for the entire year 2007, making an average monthly deficit under DDT at $117 billion, higher than the average monthly deficits during President Obama’s both terms. DDT said both said “I love debt” and promised to eliminate the national debt.

Polls in states that supported DDT in January 2017 are now opposed to him, shown by approval ratings above and below 50 percent:

  • Pennsylvania: 1/17: +10; 2/19: -7
  • Ohio: 1/17: +14; 2/19: -5
  • Michigan: 1/17: +7; 2/19: -15
  • Wisconsin: 1/17: +6; 2/19: -14
  • Iowa: 1/17: +9; 2/19: -10
  • Florida: 1/17: +22; 2/19: -2
  • Arizona: 1/17: +19; 2/19: -6
  • North Carolina: 1/17: +17; 2/19: EVEN
  • Georgia: 1/17: +18; 2/19: -1

DDT hoped that the Barr Report would help his ratings, but he’s in exactly the same place he was before its release—42 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval. Nothing seems to help him.

March 28, 2019

Boeing Crashes, Tries to Recover

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:26 AM
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The problems that Boeing has consistently had with its new 737 MAX 8 since it came on the market flew mostly under the radar because of media obsession with the shutdown and the impending release of the Mueller investigation report. But public notice has grown exponentially since the plane model killed 189 people in the Java Sea and seemed to come to a head with the 157 dead in Ethiopia just weeks ago.  The last country to ground that model, the U.S., waited three days until public pressure caused Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) claimed that he was personally taking that action for “psychological” reasons.

The danger of the model is more than psychological as two Southwest pilots made an emergency landing soon after takeoff from Orlando International Airport while moving one of the grounded fleet to Victorville (CA). No passengers were aboard. Pilots reported “a performance issue with one of the engines.” Previous concerns about the plane had been with the automated anti-stall system, not the engine. The “safety” feature forces the nose of the plane lower if automation predicts the plan may stall. This experience supports early warnings from pilots before the crashes who expressed concerns about the plane model’s flaws.

Recently, pilots simulating problems with the first deadly flight discovered they had less than 40 seconds to override the Boeing’s automated system after one sensor failed and triggered the software to prevent a stall. Without the override, the system couldn’t be disengaged to stop the unrecoverable nose dive. The pilots doing the simulation, however, had been given training and background of the software problems, which made the issues expected.With limited training before the actual flights, pilots lacked the time; the Lion Air flight captain searched a technical manual to find the cause of the dive.  No one at a meeting discussing upgrades to the software addressed when the plane was equipped with such flaws.

Boeing does have two safety features for the cockpit, but they charged extra for them. Because they weren’t required, many airlines chose not to buy them. The FAA required neither of these features. Boeing will make one of them standard, but not the option of angle of attack indicator. The FAA also does not mandate other “optional” safety features such as backup fire extinguishers in the cargo hold. Boeing does not provide the complete list of optional safety features for the MAX or their cost. One of these, however, was $6,700 additional for the crew’s oxygen masks.

Last fall, Dominic Gates, aerospace reporter for the Seattle Times, wrote about the problems with the MAX 8 until he sent requests for comment to Boeing and the FAA about the flawed safety assessment on March 6. Boeing said it would work on getting answers, and four days later, 157 people were killed when the same model of plane crashed in Ethiopia. Boeing minimized the control of the system in flight and didn’t explain the influence on the system’s behavior by the pilot’s actions. The FAA permitted Boeing to make the decision that pilots didn’t need training on the new flight control system or mention that information in flight manuals.

Both congressional chambers have begun hearings into the plane crashes—the Senate Aviation and Space Subcommittee led by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the House Transportation and Infrastructure chaired by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). One issue examined is a 2003 law allowing the FAA to give companies authority to issue certification in lieu of the FAA. Boeing has this permission, and DeFazio said he wants the FAA to have opinions from outside experts before allowing the 737 MAX planes to again take to the skies. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) plans to introduce legislation reforming the delegation system which “is so fatally riddled with flaws.” The company spent more than $70 million on lobbying legislators since 2015, and Cruz is the #1 recipient.

FAA justified their relinquishment by claiming it would save the aviation industry approximately $25 billion from 2006 to 2015. Airworthiness representatives, perhaps working for the manufacturer, were responsible for deciding whether to ground an aircraft for safety concerns. The situation became worse after the 2016 presidential election with the close friendship between DDT and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg. The FAA should have made the decision to ground the planes, but DDT took the lead to sound important. He only backed off after criticism of waiting too long. On the day that the U.S. grounded the Max 8, acting FAA director Dan Elwell said that the FAA’s decisions on the Boeing was made “in constant consultation” with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who is up for re-election next year.

The DOJ have issued several subpoenas in an investigation into Boeing’s FAA certification and marketing of the MAX, seeking information on safety and certification procedures, training manuals for pilots, and aircraft marketing. Although the Air Force doesn’t fly the MAX, its chief of staff ordered a review of training procedures for military pilots of large cargo and transport planes, including Air Force One, to ensure that military pilots are trained in handling emergency procedures and automated pilot systems.

The creation of the MAX came in 2011 from competitive pressure by Airbus, the world’s other major aircraft manufacturer, in bidding for American Airlines. Boeing’s frenetic pace to build the plan resulted in sloppy blueprints, and internal assembly designs for the MAX still have omissions such as no information about which tools to install specific tires leading to faulty connections. A requirement for engineers was to limit changes for an earlier plane model so that pilots won’t have to be trained in a flight simulator to fly the MAX. A team wanted to redesign the information layout giving pilots more data easier to read, the they couldn’t because of the no new pilot training requirement. The alternative was decades-old gauges to avoid costs.

The need to refit the older model with larger engines in competition with Airbus altered the plane’s aerodynamics, causing it to sometimes pitch up. That change led to software that forced the nose down, a change that Boeing didn’t bother explain to pilots who weren’t required to train in simulators. Boeing was also not accustomed to the new push for automation because pilots had been more in control of the plane in the past.

Boeing engineers who worked on the MAX are devastated by the crashes, and the company has offered them trauma counseling. At the same time, airlines are reconsidering their orders and asking for compensation.

In the past 20 years, Boeing donations have concentrated on members of the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees responsible for the allocation of federal defense money and more recently on Republicans because they controlled Congress. Other major Boeing focuses were their tax cuts and weakening the Clean Air Act. The company got $1.1 billion from the tax cuts, putting much of into buying its stock. Boeing represents 11 percent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Recent years have seen much greater Boeing donations to PACs, including the “Senate Leadership Fund.”

In the last decade, Boeing has hired 19 officials from the Department of Defense as well as former congressional aides and executive branch officials while DDT took Elwell and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan from Boeing. Shanahan has disparaged Boeing’s competitors, such as Lockheed Martin, and promoted his former employer. After an ethics complaint, the Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating Shanahan’s actions.

Desperate because of its losses, Boeing has just announced that the fixes—that it said could take until the end of April—are finished. The originally optional warning system at an extra charge will be standard, but Boeing claims that this is not an admission of responsibility for crashes. It will also upgrade the software that made the plane nose dive by disabling the feature if sensors get conflicting information. The new plans also include training pilots instead of asking them to watch a video.

Ten Boeing blunders resulting in a nose dive: inadequate of pilots’ training; incomprehensive flying manual; excessive automation; regulatory laxity and incompetence; flawed safety analysis; design flaw; delays in issuing a software update; putting profits before lives; assumptions; and turning standard safety features into extras. The company recovered from four crashes of its 727 in the 1960s, but that was before the rapid communication on the internet. And the FAA has a long way to go to regain its reputation of supporting safety.

When the Ethiopian plane crashed, over 300 MAX airplanes were in operation with 5,000 more on order. The president is quick to say he is acting first on behalf of the safety of the American people. That is unless it interferes with American business.

February 28, 2019

Good News across the U.S.

The week has been filled with testimony from Michael Cohen about the corruption of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and DDT’s failure—and its GOP spin—at the highly vaunted summit with North Korea. Across the United States, however, bits of good news gleam from time to time.

Thanks to Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services, Deutsche Bank is cooperating in an investigation into DDT’s finances.

The House has passed its second gun control bill within two days, this one closing the “Charleston loophole.” A white supremacist was able to kill nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church because a background check couldn’t be finished within three days. Three Republicans joined Democrats in the vote of 228-198. Before yesterday, the last gun control bill to pass the house was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act 25 years ago. In 2017, over 6,000 guns were sold to people with criminal histories or other factors prevent sales because of the three-day deadline, 50 percent up from 2016. Also in 2017, the three-day deadline kept the FBI from completing 310,232 gun background checks.

After almost 50 years, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are finally legally married in the eyes of Social Security. They had successfully obtained a marriage license in Minnesota in 1971 because the clerk didn’t realize it was for two men, and the state didn’t request that the marriage be dissolved. Minnesota just pretended the marriage wasn’t valid. On September 18, 2018, a district court in Minnesota declared their marriage “in all respects valid.”

Overturning a State Department decision, a federal judge has ruled that Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks, twin boys born to a surrogate mother for a gay couple, have the same rights as U.S. citizens. One egg donor is a U.S. citizen, the other an Israeli, and they married in Canada in 2017. When one father applied for U.S. passports for both boys before moving to the U.S., immigration officials refused to recognize that the U.S. citizen was the legal father of both children and demanded a DNA test for the twins’ citizenship. The U.S. consulate in Toronto provided citizenship for only the one twin biologically related to the U.S. citizen and required him to sponsor the other twin as his “step-son” although he is listed on the birth certificate as the boy’s father. The two men sued for recognition of their marital status, and the judge ruled that federal law “does not require a person born during their parents’ marriage to demonstrate a biological relationship with both of their married parents.” The judge cited two court cases which clearly state the word “parents” is not limited to biological parents,” meaning that the twins will be allowed to stay together and with their married parents.

Another family is still fighting for their legal rights. U.S. citizen Allison Blixt married Italian citizen Stefania Zaccari in London because the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act had not yet been struck down. Blixt’s son was recognized as a U.S. citizen, but the State Department used a policy about unwed mothers to deny citizenship to Zaccari’s son. Both children were born after the two women were legally married, but Blixt was told that she had to register her son, born to Zaccari, as her “step-son.”

The State Department language on its website, that transferring a parent’s U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad requires “a biological relationship, or blood relationship,” violates the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits children to inherit married parents’ U.S. citizenship if the adult lived in the U.S. for at least five years and meets other requirements. The State Department appears to ignore the legal marriage of same-gender couples.

A federal judge ordered Texas to stop its purge of electoral rolls because evidence shows no widespread voter fraud in Texas. He described the planned purging “ham-handed” and “threatening.” Writing about the blatantly inaccurate numbers of non-citizens voted, the judge stated:

“It appears this is a solution looking for a problem…. [The policy] exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.”

Two weeks ago, 80-year-old Goodloe Sutton, the editor and owner of the 140-year-old Democrat-Reporter in Linden (AL), population 2,123, wrote an editorial asking the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” into communities of Democrats who consider raising taxes before he advocated lynching for his political opponents in an interview with the Montgomery Adviser. Both Alabama senators called for his resignation, the Alabama Press Association censured him, and the University of Southern Mississippi removed him from its Hall of Fame. Sutton, known for his racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic editorials, has now stepped down to be replaced by Elecia R. Dexter, a black woman, as the newspaper’s publisher and editor. In a recent interview, Sutton said the publicity was worth $10 million and that Democratic lawmakers are “terrible” while the KKK is “the nicest.” Dexter has no journalism background and started working at the newspaper two months ago as a clerk.

The New York legislature, now controlled by Democrats, may pass a law requiring DDT to release his state income tax returns. The NY TRUTH Act would require all statewide elected officials, including the president and vice president if they file taxes in the state, to publicly release their taxes each year.

With a pledge from new Dem Gov J.B. Pritzker to make Illinois the “most progressive state in the nation … for women’s reproductive rights,” state Democratic legislators introduced two measures to expand abortion access, repealing parental notification requirements for minors and restrictions for late pregnancies. The act would also require private insurance in the state to cover abortions like any other reproductive healthcare for women and allow advance-practice nurses to perform abortions. A 1975 law criminalizing doctors who perform abortions would be abolished. Former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner had signed legislation permitting Medicaid and state health insurance coverage to be used for abortions.

The Wisconsin National Guard is reviewing whether Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) violated the law when he criticized Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, in tweets and on Fox for withdrawing troops from the southern U.S. border. Hours before Evers issued an executive order for the troops, Zinzinger questioned in a tweet whether the governor’s decision was “based solely on politics.” Federal laws and Wisconsin laws call for “any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice-president, members of Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of homeland security, or the governor or legislature of the state of Wisconsin” to be punished. Kinzinger has the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard; as governor, Evers is his commander-in-chief. A spokeswoman for Kinzinger says that he can say anything he wants when he’s “off-duty,” but a First Amendment law expert disagrees.

New Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, canceled the sale of a former state prison site to a for-profit private prison company that planned to detain hundreds of immigrants in the facility. The company would not guarantee that the prison “would not be used to detain adults who had been separated from their children or other family members.”

Thanks to grassroots activists and the state of Illinois, the cost of telephone calls for prisoners has gone from the most inflated in the U.S. to under a penny a minute, the lowest cost in the country, although some costly fees put a 30-minute call at $2. DDT had overturned FCC regulations for prisoners’ telephone prices.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the “liberals” to order a review of the death penalty for an inmate suffering from dementia so severe that he cannot understand why he is being punished. The decision requires a lower court to examine whether Vernon Madison’s strokes and vascular dementia leave him unable to remember his crime and the reason that the state wants to execute him. Earlier the court had ruled that people suffering from schizophrenic and psychotic delusions may not be put to death; in her opinion for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan stated that the same logic applies to dementia. He had been on death row for 33 years. Brett Kavanaugh did not vote because he was not confirmed when the case was argued.

May we have more good news.

February 13, 2019

Tax Cuts Go to Wealthiest, Others Angry

Almost 14 months ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised people would pay $4,000 less on their taxes this year and “have a nice, simple form.” Neither is true. An additional ten percent of tax filers will owe the IRS money since the “tax reform,” and average refunds were 8.4 percent smaller, down to $1,865 because of the same “tax reform.” And that’s from a week ago. In addition, filing taxes is as complicated as in the past. IRS refunds sent out are also down about 24 percent because of the shutdown.

People hoping to pay for their cars will be disappointed. Seven million people are at least 90 days behind on their car loans, a record and a red flag for the economy. Auto loans are the first payment that people make; delinquencies show serious economic problems for low-income and working-class people in the U.S. The nation suffers from more than a million more “troubled borrowers” now than in 2010 when unemployment hit ten percent and the car loan delinquency rate peaked. After George W. Bush’s recession, the government restricted mortgages so that people could make the monthly payments, but car financers could continue predatory practices because they have few restrictions . Subprime borrowers with low credit scores, increasing from 28 percent of the market in 2009 to 39 percent in 2015, may pay interest rates between 14.5 and 20 percent.

Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, wrote about people plan buying big purchases or paying off large debts with their refunds. Some are so desperate that they pay extra to get advance lending on their refunds. Last year, 102 million taxpayers received an average of $2,778 in tax refunds, and most people spent this money, helping the U.S. economy. Lower refunds mean less spending and a shrinking economy. If people use their refunds for necessities, problems are worse than a slowing economy.

Fox & Friends told their watchers to stop whining about owing money to the government because they should have taken out more withholding—for a tax cut. The government’s guidelines did provide for less withdrawals from wages to get people to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections, a ploy that failed for many House members. But the reference to everyone’s “fatter paychecks” by Fox & Friends’ hosts applies primarily to higher income earners: most people didn’t see a significant increase in their paychecks.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), lead author of the tax bill, told taxpayers to be grateful for much smaller or no refunds because they have nothing to do with their overall tax bill. He falsely claimed that 90 percent of the middle class got a $2,100 average tax cut. Another tax cut backer, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), tried to convince people that refunds are less because most people “owed less income tax.” The Tax Policy Center estimated that earners in the bottom 20 percent might each see a total of $60 less tax for the year, and the next 20 percent might expect a $380 total cut. The top 0.1 percent of people in the U.S. saved an average of more than $190,000—each.

Meanwhile, the government ran a $14 billion deficit in December—just one month—as we lost revenues because of the “tax reform” law. The U.S. has run into the red by $319 since the beginning of the fiscal year in October, up 41 percent from the $225 deficit of the same time period last fiscal year. Corporate taxes fell 17 percent, and those from individuals dropped by 4 percent. We’re not spending more: we just aren’t collecting money partly because of the tax cuts for the wealthy and big businesses, ending in a larger deficit for the previous fiscal year—almost $900 billion added to the debt. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that “nobody cares” about the debt.

DDT’s supporters are learning that the Democratic position on the failure of tax cuts was right and that Republicans lied. Most of the people aren’t getting any extra $4,000, businesses haven’t changed their capital investment and hiring, and tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses aren’t paying for themselves. In addition, the economic growth is slowing instead of building. The GOP promised that corporate tax breaks wouldn’t go into stock buybacks; they did, which is the only reason that the stock market has not gone much below its level a year ago.

Instead of putting their tax breaks into higher wages for employees, companies in the S&P 500 spent almost $800 billion of their tax windfall on buybacks for the 2018 fiscal year that started nearly three months before the tax “reform” bill passed into law. The Dow Jones spiked until it went back to the same level as the beginning of 2018. The 2019 buyback projection is about $900 billion, almost all one third of all corporate cash spending and up 25 percent from 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-authored an op-ed for the New York Times with former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that criticized the tax law and suggested the prohibition of a public company from buy back shares “unless it invests in workers and communities first, including things like paying all workers at least $15 an hour, providing seven days of paid sick leave, and offering decent pensions and more reliable health benefits.” They also suggested other ways to require companies to invest in workers, including a change in tax rates on dividends.

A divided Congress with a Republican president can’t pass these laws, but the ideas have generated discussion. Lloyd Blankfein, former head of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that money doesn’t vanish with stock buybacks, that money “gets reinvested in higher growth businesses that boost the economy and jobs.” Sanders retorted that Blankfein was right in his claim that money “doesn’t vanish” but it Mr. Sanders quickly responded on Twitter that Mr. Blankfein was correct that the money buybacks “doesn’t vanish” but it “increases the wealth of billionaires” like Blankfein.

Republican leaders who financially benefit from the buybacks lambasted the buyback proposals as “socialism.”  The GOP case against “socialism” ignores the difference between pure socialism and “Democratic socialism.” Republicans plan to use the term as a one-word meme slamming Democrats during the 2020 election campaign after they failed with “witch hunt.” Today, the White House blared the headline, “Not one more person should suffer under socialism.” Republicans’ definition for socialism may be anything that doesn’t benefit themselves. [In the chart to the left, you could add flood protection, sports coliseum, “freedom of religion,” a 40-hour work week, child labor laws, Social Security, Medicare–the list is quite long.]

Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon asserts that the tax cuts will never pay for themselves and no one ever believed that they would. The increase in the national debt is faster than pessimists predicted at the time the GOP pushed through the cuts, and the CBO estimates that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion beginning in 2022. It’s almost there now. DDT campaigned with the promise that he would immediately eliminate the deficit, but in two years, he’s increased the national debt from under $20 trillion to $22 trillion. Salmon added that the nation is “awash in debt” with trillions in student loans, credit card debts, and car loans. Asked about the debt, DDT said that he’ll “get rid of” the entire debt “fairly quickly,” “over a period of eight years,” “paying off that debt like water.”

DDT plans to unleash predatory payday lenders on the majority of people receive less in tax refunds by gutting rules from President Obama’s era that shield people from “easy” loans with interests over 400 percent. If people borrow the money for the two weeks between paychecks, they pay $75 for a $500 loan. Over 60 percent of 12 million borrowers took out seven or more consecutive, digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt, and a majority of borrowers paid more in interest than the money borrowed.

In charge of making these changes is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which Budget Director Mick Mulvaney destroyed before he moved on to help DDT spike the national debt and works at failing as acting chief of staff. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, described the result of the change in rules for payday loans:

“This decision will put already struggling families in a cycle of debt and leave them in an even worse financial position. This administration has moved the CFPB away from protecting consumers to protecting the very companies abusing them.”

Almost 80 percent of people in the U.S. live from one paycheck to the next, and wages remain stagnant when inflation is taken into consideration, even dropping in the second quarter of 2018. Almost all the gains in the country go to the top—chief executives of big companies, financiers, and creators in the digital world. If the average wages go up at all this year, it will be due to the 18 states that raised the minimum wage although the increases in almost half these states were $.20 or lower—about 2 percent.  The GOP system makes the vast majority of people in the United States more and more desperate.

February 6, 2019

State of the Union 2019

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) managed to last 82 minutes in his State of the Disunion (SOD) address last night as he moved from Tweeter Trump to Teleprompter Trump, but he couldn’t outlast Bill Clinton’s 88-minute speech at 88 minutes. DDT failed to keep on his message of “unity while he maintained the record for the most lies—or “misrepresentations”:

Economy:

DDT announced that he had an “unprecedented economic boom,” but his economic record is behind those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. And the economy is slowing down.

The “lowest rate” of “unemployment” for “half a century” that DDT quoted is actually at an 18-year-old low and is going up to where it’s matches the rate at the beginning of 2018. January’s unemployment rate rose to 6.8 percent from its low of 5.9 percent in May 2018. Latinx and Asian-American unemployment rates are also increasing.

“Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades,” according to DDT who ignored any adjustment for inflation. The actual increase in wages, 1.3 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, is the largest since August 2016.

DDT’s figures for new jobs and new manufacturing jobs were inflated: the last year saw almost 4.9 million jobs, not 5.3 million, and 436,000 in manufacturing, not 600,000.

Importers, not exporters, pay DDT’s tariffs, thus far increased by about $6.7 billion, and then pass along the cost to consumers, in essence raising taxes for people in the U.S. In addition, taxpayers are ponying up $12 billion to support farmers, some of them wealthy, for being hurt by DDT’s tariffs.

The reduction of estate-taxes benefits the wealthy and almost never on farms or small businesses, only 80 out of the 5,500 estates in 2017.

Foreign Affairs:

DDT did withdraw from the Iran agreement, but the deal still exists with other countries, making his action largely symbolic. He claimed that Iran won’t be building nuclear weapons because we have no agreement to stop them.

Instead of the U.S. spending “$7 trillion in the Middle East,” this sum covers only estimates future obligations through 2056 for veterans’ care, including George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DDT’s claim that he has “liberated virtually all [the 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS]” does not consider the ISIS comeback from a hasty U.S. departure predicted by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

NATO countries started spending more money on defense before DDT was elected, unlike his claims that he made them pay more.

DDT’s supposition that without him, the U.S. would be at war with North Korea has no evidence. He also ignores the new missiles that North Korea continues to build.

Healthcare:

Despite his declaration that he will “protect patients with preexisting conditions,” DDT has refused to defend these conditions in a lawsuit and then celebrated the ruling against these protections.

DDT completely misrepresented the abortion legislation in New York that finally matches Roe v. Wade. The Virginia bill still requires a doctor to agree that the pregnancy would kill the woman or impair her mental or physical health.

Immigration:

DDT’s claim that apprehensions along the Mexico border have been drastically reduced in areas of a wall ignores that ALL apprehensions, including those in areas with no barrier. As for the “tremendous onslaught” at the border, the 304,000 apprehensions are an 81.5 percent decline since the 1.6 million in 2000. The Congressional Research Service reported that the San Diego fence, mentioned by DDT, “did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border.” Suspected in-country overstays of visas are twice those of southern border apprehensions.

DDT’s claim of “humanitarian assistance” in the bill he sent to Congress gave no help for Central American children but was intended to keep them from escaping violence and poverty by coming to the U.S. He also said, “I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.” In reality, DDT wanted to cut legal immigration rates in at least half while eliminating immigration based on family ties—the way his in-laws came to the U.S.—and the visa lottery.

DDT’s inflated figures of “criminal aliens” and charges or convictions fail to consider multiple counts and doesn’t separate charges and convictions. His claims about the MS-13 gang are equally dubious: they are concentrated only in three areas—Los Angeles, Long Island, and Washington, D.C. areas.

He promised that wall “will stop much of the drugs from pouring into this country,” but most drugs come through legal entry points.

Praise that DDT gave El Paso for cutting its violent crime ignored the fall in violent crime before the building of the wall, crime that rose for four years after Bush authorized the wall and it was built.

DDT’s accusation about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants ignores research that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born population and that immigration is a net positive for the U.S. economy and to workers overall.

DDT’s statement about 1-in-3 women being “sexually assaulted on the long journey north” did not come from a random sample, but from a Doctors without Borders report which addressed the 12 percent of females in 500 people treated by these doctors. These 56 women, likely not representative of all migrant women, said they were “sexually abused,” not “sexually assaulted.” DDT’s statistic is derived from the experiences of 56 women and cannot necessarily be considered representative of all migrant women.

Domestic Affairs:

Of the 3.6 million, not 5 million, people who have stopped getting food stamps, many may have lost this benefit because DDT allowed recession-era waivers allowing some adults to retain the benefit for longer periods of time, and immigrants fear DDT’s new policies. The number of people collecting benefits has also been shrinking since 2014.

DDT is right that more women are in the workforce, but more people are in the workforce because of the U.S. increasing population. Female labor participation rate was 60.3 percent in April 2000, below DDT’s 57.5 percent. DDT’s praise of women’s electoral gains in the 2018 midterms was awkward because the increase is for Democrats. The Senate gained two female GOP members but lost a dozen Republicans in the House. New female House members, dressed in white to celebrate women’s suffrage, laughed and danced at DDT’s words.

The U.S. “revolution” in energy started with President Obama in 2009, in opposition to DDT’s claim.

Beyond lies and “misrepresentations,” DDT threatened the Democrats by saying that the United States cannot have peace if he’s investigated in the United States. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” This morning, Pelosi responded:

“The president should not bring threats to the floor of the House. He said he wasn’t going to cooperate unless we didn’t exercise our constitutional responsibility to oversight.”

Philip Bump (WaPo) compared DDT’s line about “ridiculous partisan investigations” to Richard Nixon’s statements in his 1974 State of the Union speech when Nixon said, “One year of Watergate is enough.”

Hardcore conservatives—DDT supporters—were unhappy with the speech:

Ann Coulter: DDT’s speech was the “lamest, sappiest, most intentionally tear-jerking” State of the Union ever.

Rick Santorum: It was “probably the worst delivered speech” he’d heard DDT deliver.

A few subjects missing from DDT’s speech: Russia, the shutdown, tax cuts, “clean coal,” China trade war, farmers, the Me Too movement, election fraud, the press, Iraq or Afghanistan, the ongoing disaster in Puerto Rico, and the climate. He gave 14 seconds to infrastructure. DDT also failed to allow the Speaker of the House to introduce him in a violation of protocol.

While she sat behind–and above–DDT during the address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) wore a smaller version of the Mace of the Republic or the Mace of the US House of Representatives which she can order the Sergeant of Arms to present before an offender to restore order in the House.

The Mace was last used during the first world war when white supremacist Rep. J. Thomas Heflin, uncle of former Sen. Howard Heflin, accused colleagues of being unpatriotic in voting against entering the war. The Sergeant of Arms carries the four-foot-long mace ahead of the speaker to the rostrum at each session of the House.

DDT called for unity and cooperation last night, but today he called Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) a “political hack.” At least yesterday, before giving his speech, he trash talked political figures on both sides—maybe his definition of bipartisanship.

January 9, 2019

Crisis in the Oval Office

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:04 PM

Day 19 of the government shutdown: Last night the wooden Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) replaced the angry bombastic one after he conned major networks into televising his speech with no new information. These outlets are the same ones that refused President Obama’s 2014 about executive actions in November 2014 because it would be “political.” NBC also aired a rebuttal to DDT’s false claim of a “crisis” about not having a border wall from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who emphasized the importance of operating the government.

Fact checking DDT’s speech is a waste of space because nothing he said was the truth. And nothing was new—he just followed former talking points and those of VP Mike Pence and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who were sent out on the media trail to reinforce his lies. No GOP members of Congress are putting themselves out front to pass on DDT’s lies. WaPo published a series of DDT’s lies with factual information refuting his entire case for a wall.

NBC published statistics in response to Sanders’ claimed that the border patrol picked up nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists trying to cross the Mexico border into the U.S. Her figure was inflated by almost 4,000 as shown by data that Customs and Border Protection gave to Congress for October 2017 through March 2018:

  • CBP found six immigrants at U.S.-Mexico ports of entry whose names were on a federal list of known or suspected terrorists. They may or may not have been dangerous.
  • Of the 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database encountered at the southern border, 35 were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  • CBP stopped 91 people on the northern border with Canada who were listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

People are stopped under the existing system, without a wall, and twice as many people are apprehended on a border with no proposed wall. DDT wants people to be very afraid—but just of brown people.

Even VP Mike Pence doesn’t argue that DDT is believable and honest. Before tonight’s speech, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked Pence how DDT can be trusted on his demands for the border wall, that this is a crisis, when he has told so many lies about the crisis. Pence answered:

“Well, look, the American people aren’t as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what’s really happening at the border.”

All four living presidents denied DDT’s claim that they privately agree with him on building a wall, but Pence said that DDT had received the “impression” that they wanted the wall.

Yesterday, Schumer said, “We don’t govern by temper tantrum.” Today DDT stomped out of a negotiations meeting with congressional leaders this morning when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told him that she wouldn’t fund his wall although the House has passed bills to reopen the government. Earlier DDT had a private lunch with Republicans. [Right: DDT shakes hands with his employee Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who refuses to address any bill that DDT doesn’t like, destroying the Senate’s independence.] Fifty-one percent of people blame DDT for the shutdown—up from 47 percent just two weeks ago.

DDT continues to say that he will declare a “national emergency” only if Congress won’t give him his wall. In essence, there is no emergency—just a strategy because time is not important. For weeks, experts have argued the legality of DDT’s threat. would be legal. Current law has no criteria for this situation, but such action would face lawsuits. the money would come from the military budget.

Funding for a national emergency would need to come from the military budget, but the military cannot enforce domestic law without congressional authorization. The statute mandates that construction must be done to support the use of armed forces. The purpose of the wall is the reverse: it’s to employ the military. DDT has also not proved that an emergency exists, and he would face opposition in seizing large areas of private, state, and tribal lands. The Constitution requirement that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law” was reinforced by the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA) stating that government employees may not “make or authorize an expenditure or obligation exceeding an amount available in an appropriation or fund for the expenditure or obligation.” Violation of this law results in prison time.

DDT’s idea for a wall came from two political strategists who used it to remind him to talk about immigration in his speeches. He found that his proposal of the wall made him look important with his conservative voting base. According to economist Mark Thornton, walls are a symbol of a successful standard of living like a large corner office despite their representation of isolation and contribution to a civilization’s decline. History has many failed walls:

  • The Great Wall of China, over 5,000 miles, was to block immigration and trade. Chinese scholar Arthur Waldron described the great losses, both financial and human, in building the wall and its failure to block people from crossing into China when the solution was to trade with the Mongols on the other side. WaPo‘s Ishaan Tharoor wrote that the Great Wall’s significance is best understood “not as a security barrier, but as a work of political propaganda.”
  • Hadrian’s Wall, built across northern England by fearful Romans, was to prevent invasions from barbarians but also failed.
  • The Berlin Wall led to a rapidly growing economy on one side because of progressive ideals and the fall into decline on the other side that resulted in the failure of communism. Like DDT’s highly vaunted wall proposal, the Berlin Wall came from a lie as East Germany claimed the “Anti-fascist Bulwark” protected communists from Western invaders instead of a desire to keep people from defecting to the West.

People support walls because they make them feel secure and keep them from having to solve problems. Jane Loeffler, architectural historian who studied fortifications of U.S. embassies said:

“A wall is so primitive. You can dig under it, go over it, catapult yourself over it. A wall is more symbolic than a real defense. A wall is fear in three dimensions.”

In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost first and last lines,“Good fences make good neighbors,” ironically depict how walls separate people and describe his wall-building neighbor as unthinking, “like an old-stone savage armed.”

Last Friday, the WaPo pointed out how DDT’s administration failed to understand the consequences until two weeks after its start. After 14 days, senior officials, understanding part of the shutdown’s scope, frantically started their attempt to eradicate the bad optics of making life worse for his supporters.

  • The oil industry still chugs along in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the government allowing pipelines and drilling rigs near wetlands sustaining caribou and threatened birds. BLM is holding public meetings about oil although its staff has been furloughed. EPA staff is processing new permits to drill in coastal waters because federal agencies decide what to do.
  • Farmers filing deadlines for payouts are extended, and checks from the $12 billion buyout after tariffs are still being mailed to wealthy farmers,  including members of Congress.
  • IRS tax refunds will be mailed despite this action’s questionable legality.
  • DDT is asking landlords to give up their income by not charging federal workers without paychecks. (Nothing has been said about banks delaying mortgage payments.)

Problems:

Although DDT may have trouble explaining his failure with shutdown if it’s still in effect in 21 days when he attends the economic summit in Davos (Switzerland), the government is still paying the bills for his trip. Almost two weeks before the event, hotel bills were almost $3 million with DDT’s entourage of eight cabinet members and dozens of officials and aides including his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. The U.S. taxpayers are still on the hook even if DDT cancels because of strict policies. Over one-half million for renting vehicles and other lodging brings the total to about $3.6 million which doesn’t include the $2.2 million for flying DDT to Davos. Last year’s lodging cost only $1.8 million.

The one bright spot for DDT is that the National Park Service still staffs the clock tower in the “old post office” housing DDT’s Washington hotel.

November 17, 2018

DDT: Week 95 – ‘Sound & Fury’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:08 AM

The midterm elections changed Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Despite his declaration that the Democratic takeover of the House and many more state elected officials, including governors, the sullen DDT roars like a wounded bear.

During the past ten days:

  • DDT fired Jeff Sessions as DOJ Attorney General.
  • He tried to protect himself from Robert Mueller’s investigation by appointing a possible crrok and “constitutional nobody,” in the words of George Conway, the husband of DDT’s legal counsel Kellyanne Conway.
  • The Wall Street Journal published information about how intelligence found evidence that he personally broke campaign laws.
  • DDT created a war with French president Emmanuel Macron before his trip to Paris.
  • He attacked UK Prime Minister Theresa May who had called him to congratulate him on his “election victory” by telling her that she isn’t doing enough to contain Iran, questioning her work on Brexit, and complaining on trade deals.
  • He couldn’t be bothered to commemorate the dead soldiers that U.S. sent to World War I that ended 100 years ago.
  • DDT didn’t bother to walk with the other 60 leaders attending the Paris Peace Forum but enthusiastically greeted Vladimir Putin.
  • He’s sent hysterical tweets, accusing voter fraud in Arizona and Florida after Democrats narrowed the gap in voters from the Republicans.
  • DDT’s wife fired his deputy national security advisor, John Bolton’s second in command on the National Security Council, over a conflict regarding airplane seats during her Africa trip. FLOTUS’ action has led to a new verb, as in “You’ve been Melaniad.”
  • Kim Jong-Un, who DDT claims sent him “beautiful letters” after the two of them “fell in love” (DDT’s words), keeps building undeclared missile operating bases used to disperse mobile launchers for ballistic missiles, at least 20, after DDT announced they had agreed Kim would not continue.
  • Robert Mueller’s investigation shows increased interest in Dmitri Rybolovlev, the Russian oligarch, who bought Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion in 2008 for $95 million and never lived in the mold-infested property after he was detained and questioned in Monaco on charges of corruption.
  • DDT’s national debt just topped $1 trillion, headed to $1.3 trillion for the year—145 percent increase from 2017. This from the man who promised to eliminate the national debt.
  • DDT-appointed Judge Dabney Friedrich refused to drop Mueller’s charges against Russian firm Concord Management and Consulting for attempting to swing public opinion for the U.S. election through social media posts.
  • GM and Honda are ignoring DDT’s proposed rollback of fuel-economy standards and plan to proceed with its zero-emission vehicle sales program instead of manufacturing one type of car for 13 states, including California, with higher standards and another set for the other states.

Fox network is also deserting DDT. Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro did give partisan speeches at a campaign rally before the midterm elections, but last month Fox’s chief anchor Shepard Smith said that the caravan from Central America—which hasn’t been mentioned since the election—isn’t an invasion. He said, “No one is coming to get you.” Ralph Peters, longtime Fox military analyst, quit. He gave the three divisions for the network: those who see DDT as “the new messiah”; cable news opportunists who fell in line; and respectable hosts who are “disgusted by what goes on there.” Fox filed an amicus brief in support of CNN when it sued the White House for pulling press credentials from its reporter, Jim Acosta.

Federal Judge Timothy Kelly, a DDT appointee, ruled that Acosta must temporarily be returned his pass to White House briefings until next week’s decision about the case. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had taken the pass with the lied that he “laid hands” on an intern who was trying to take Acosta’s microphone. Kelly determined that White House procedures likely violated the Fifth Amendment, with the constitutional commitment “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” suggesting that the White House needed to provide a reason and the opportunity for the reporter to contest the action. The precedent comes from Sherrill v. Knight, in which the Washington editor of The Nation was denied a pass. A judge determined that after the White House must guarantee freedom of the press because it “voluntarily decided to establish press facilities for correspondents who need to report therefrom.” Any refusal required notice and the opportunity to respond. No pass can be denied for “less than compelling reasons” because of the First Amendment. “He’s annoying” is insufficient. The White House used a doctored video for its justification; the judge called the intern claim “likely untrue” and “partly based on evidence of questionable accuracy.”

A huge disaster for DDT is the CIA report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the torture and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its embassy in Instanbul last month. DDT wants to keep MBS’s friendship to keep getting oil from his country and continues to support him. Part of DDT’s strategy to appease Turkey for not punishing Saudi is to return Fethullah Gulen, a 77-year-old ailing religious scholar who has sought asylum for 20 years, to Turkey for possible torture and assassination by President Recep Erdogan. The White House says that he has no plan for this, but the State Department is looking into Gulen’s return—although it’s just a coincidence and has nothing to do with MBS or DDT. The spokesperson for the State Department said that the case is handled by DOJ that says it knows nothing about extraditing Gulen to Turkey.

According to the conservative Wall Street Journal, Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., met with Erdoğan’s associates to plot the kidnapping of Gulen and deliver him to Turkey in exchange for $15 billion. At the time, Flynn was first DDT’s campaign surrogate and then his National Security Advisor.

DDT’s solutions:

  • He threatened to withhold federal funding from the disastrous California wildfires that have now killed over 70 people.
  • He threatened France with tariffs.
  • He blamed aides, especially Deputy White House Chief of Staff Zachary D. Fuentes, for not telling him that he would look bad if he didn’t attend the 100th anniversary of World War I at a cemetery near Paris.
  • His Twitter attacks on France occurred on the anniversary when 130 people were killed in Paris from an extremist attack. He sent no condolences for the tragedy.
  • He encourages his followers to be violent against Antifa protesters.
  • He claimed before the election that he would finish a “very major” new tax cut—that congressional members knew nothing about—but, like the caravan in Mexico, no one talks about it now.
  • He justifies voter ID by saying that no one can buy cereal without an ID.

More DDT problems:

DDT’s “improvement” in the GI Bill is now blocking housing, loan, and tuition for tens of thousands of veterans, a situation further complicated by his closing the VA’s Office of Economic Opportunity and resulting in “dire circumstances” for veterans. Even worse, VA officials testified that they had no idea when the information technology system, also blocking GI Bill benefits, will be updated. With delayed or never delivered payments, some veterans face debt or homelessness. A large number of veterans have been waiting over 60 days. The VA said that they didn’t expect payments to be delayed in the spring—months from now—but veterans may receive the wrong amount of money.

DDT can’t explain—even to the troops—why the military is deployed on the southern U.S. border at a cost of at least $220 million by the end of the year. All Defense Secretary James Mattis could find for an answer is that he’ll get them an answer when they see what happens. Over 5,000 service members are looking for something to do in the southern U.S. while people are need to help with the huge wildfires in California where over 1,000 people are missing.

Almost 14 months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, causing at least 3,000 deaths and leaving many of the residents without electricity, DDT continues to destroy the U.S. territory. He now lies that its government is using federal disaster funding to pay its debts.

Hate crimes rose 17 percent in 2017 from the year before to 7,106 reported single-bias hate crimes:

  • 59.6 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias;
  • 20.6 percent were targeted because of sexual-orientation bias;
  • 1.9 percent were targeted because of gender identity bias;
  • 0.6 percent were targeted because of gender bias.
  • Of 1,679 religious hate crimes reported, 58.1 percent were anti-Jewish and 18.6 percent were anti-Muslim.

A new conspiracy theory from GOP voters: the California fires are caused by “directed energy weapons”—government-directed lasers bent on destroying homes, property, and lives.

Soybeans are a left-wing conspiracy to emasculate men and estrongize their bodies—a recent conspiracy theory from the white supremacists. That follows the belief that juice boxes are feminizing male children by keeping them from handling stress (DDT?), becoming “low energy” (DDT?), and behaving childishly (DDT?). These people need to find a day job.

The latest reason that DDT could not go out in the rain to honor veterans—his hair.

Horror novelist and Hollywood writer-producer Stephen King wrote that DDT’s tweets during the past nine days gives “a “window into an increasingly disordered mind.” He added, “Since we are all to some extent his hostages, I find this dismaying and rather frightening.” As DDT’s power diminishes, his rage grows, endangering the entire United States.

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