Nel's New Day

October 20, 2017

Pence, a Christian Ideologue Who Could Destroy Democracy

[Note: Yesterday’s blog post about not impeaching Donald Trump (DDT) brought a few comments. One is that “DDT” is a pesticide. Yes, it’s a poison that kills humans and harmless creatures, and the man inaugurated as U.S. president in January 2017 displays many characteristics of a dictator. Another one—”Explain to me again why just Pence would be worse than 45 + Pence.” Without DDT, Pence would be unleashed to make the nation a total unconstitutional theocracy. DDT is only interested in benefiting himself; Mike Pence will do anything to spread Dominionism throughout the world. People who still aren’t afraid of Pence after reading the following should go to some of the links for additional information.]

Becoming candidate for vice-president was a personal advantage for Mike Pence because his term as governor of Indiana was up for renewal. He was unpopular with both parties, his favorability down to 40 percent and only four points ahead of his Democratic opponent when 30 percent of the people in the state didn’t know who the Dem was.

Pence is an ideal sidekick for DDT, always willing to lie for him and always looking adoringly at DDT. Joel K. Goldstein, a historian at St. Louis University, calls him the “Sycophant-in-Chief.” Pence brought conservative donors who didn’t trust DDT back into the fold, especially the Koch brothers.

During his campaign for vice-president, Pence denied concern about the “Access Hollywood” tapes when DDT was caught bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy,” but a campaign aide said his wife, Karen, was horrified. Pence wouldn’t take calls from DDT but sent DDT a letter saying that he and his wife were deeply offended and needed to make an “assessment” about whether to remain with the campaign. Pence decided to stay, and DDT dumped New Jersey governor Chris Christie—and his thirty binders of résumés and plans—to make Pence head of his transition team. In his appointments, DDT leaned heavily on Koch-supported people: Scott Pruitt, Patrick Traylor, Don McGahn, Betsy DeVos, and Mike Pompeo. Koch involvement caused DDT base’s priorities to move down, subsumed by the corporate right. Gone are such Koch-opposed proposals as infrastructure reform, “border-adjustment tax,” and higher tax bracket for earnings over $5 million.

Two days after DDT was inaugurated, Stephen Roderick wrote about how Pence and DDT claimed to save jobs in Indiana by preserving 730 jobs at Carrier. Another 550 jobs that were being sent to Mexico. As usual, Pence had given the typical spin about Washington policies driving jobs offshore, but Mexican workers get $6 an hour, $1.75 less than federal minimum wage. As governor, Pence gave Carrier $7 million in state tax breaks. Sarah Palin called it “crony capitalism.”

Pence may be responsible for some of DDT’s current problems. Christie told DDT to avoid Michael Flynn, whose financial ties to foreign interests may have been the impetus for the investigation. Pence hired Flynn with almost no vetting although Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent warned him about Flynn’s questionable ethics: Flynn failed to disclose that he had done paid lobbying work during the campaign for Turkish interests. Pence claimed he didn’t see the letter, but Cummings has an email from the transition staff, promising to carefully review his letter. Flynn’s hiring most likely led to the special investigation surrounding DDT’s connection with Russia.

After DDT fired former FBI director James Comey, Pence again lied, claiming that the firing had nothing do to with the Russia investigation. He had attended a meeting about DDT’s intention to get rid of Comey where a letter connecting the firing to the Russia investigation was distributed. White House Counsel Don McGahn recommended against sending the letter, and the DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein made up an excuse for the firing. Hours after Pence claimed that DDT’s decision was based on Rosenstein recommendation, DDT told Lester Holt in an interview that Russia was the reason for his action. Pence’s lies may be classified as obstructing justice, or “misprision of a felony,” for giving the public a false cover story about a meeting to shut down a federal investigation.

Pence’s Bible-study group for Cabinet members is led by Ralph Drollinger who wrote:

“Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.”

Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband. He said that Pence “has uncompromising Biblical tenacity” and “brings real value to the head of the nation.”

Joan Walsh wrote that Pence is a far worse person than DDT “because of his creepy Handmaid’s Tale patriarchal approach to women’s equality. But also because he usually knows he’s lying about Trump, and their administration’s agenda, and he lies anyway.”

Pence’s argument against athletes taking a knee to protest injustice during the national anthem is the use of “national” in the NFL. He said, as if the NFL belongs to the government, “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that players in the National Football League to stand for our national anthem.”

Jeremy Scahill wrote about other Pence beliefs:

Pence wants to ban the burning of the U.S. flag and make the Patriot Act permanent. He thinks that law enforcement should not need a FISA warrant for domestic surveillance and voted against requiring any warrant for domestic wiretapping. He wanted to give retroactive immunity to telecom companies involved in warrantless surveillance. Pence said that “enhanced interrogation” has saved lives and doesn’t want congressional oversight of CIA interrogations. He also opposes protections for whistleblowers to prevent retaliation for reporting crimes and misdeeds. Expansion of the military tribunal system and “filling up” Guantanamo Bay are other Pence goals. No matter what, Pence will stand with Israel. Fortunately, he and other legislators failed in making a U.S. policy to use military force to eliminate nuclear threats in Iran.

Roe v. Wade would disappear in a Pence presidency, and he wants 14th Amendment protections for fetuses by declaring them persons. He voted for two-year sentences for doctors performing late-term abortions for any reason except the danger of women’s lives. If this had passed, women would have had to carry dead fetuses to term. According to Pence, “condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”

Pence wants DDT’s “wall” and advocates greater militarization against drugs. He said that “police officers are the best of us” and finds it offensive to “use a broad brush to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism and that really has got to stop.” Stop-and-frisk programs are “on a sound constitutional footing,” according to Pence, who wants these on a nationwide basis.

No-bid contracting should not have restrictions, according to Pence, perhaps because he has a close relationship to Blackwater’s cofounder, Erik Prince, Betsy Devos’ brother. Pence and his Republican Study Committee welcomed Prince to Washington in 2007 after Blackwater operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. The Prince family joined with the DeVos family to fund the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House Speaker in 1994 on the platform Contract with America.

In the Concord Monitor, Robert Azzi wrote:

“I want [Donald Trunp] to stay in office because I fear a President Pence more than I fear Trump.

“While Trump the narcissist is an uneducated wanna-be statesman who seemingly has never read a book, who lacks empathy even for those close to him, and whom I believe couldn’t find Jerusalem on a map – at least not until either he or Jared got a contract to build a new tower or embassy there (a really, really, really beautiful thing – amazing, really!) – there are currently enough Republicans and Democrats (supported by grown-ups like Secretary Mattis and National Security Advisor McMaster) who are equally so revulsed by his lies, his ignorance and his erratic-ness that they’re willing to stand in his way to keep his fingers off the nuclear codes.

“Trump’s ambitions can be deflected (he has the attention span of a gnat); Pence’s can’t, and his elevation to the presidency – either through Trump’s impeachment or resignation – would, I believe, present a clear and present danger to the pluralistic, aspirational, constitutional values upon which this nation relies for its strength and prosperity….

“Pence is the real thing. He’s much smarter than Trump, has better hair, has much more government experience, and he unrepentantly embraces and advocates for an unreconstructed Christian supremacist America…. Pence is the tip of the spear for a Christian Dominionist movement envisioned, as Betsy DeVos says, to “advance God’s kingdom….

“A Pence presidency would herald the rise of an American supremacist Taliban who’ll have their way rolling back the privacy and civil, human, religious and personal rights of Americans whom they believe, both in the present and in the hereafter, are less worthy than they.”

The worst part of impeaching DDT is that the Trumpets would solidify with the GOP party, giving them far more leverage. The U.S. is better off by leaving DDT where he is and controlling his ability to blow up the world. If DDT is impeached, only a Pence impeachment could save the nation—and that would never happen.

I have long believed, like longtime Democratic operative Harold Ickes, that Pence would work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda. Newt Gingrich believes that Pence will be the 2024 GOP nominee. Pence is the first vice-president in history to have his own fundraising effort instead of raising money for the president, the party, and congressional and state-level candidates. He may be aiming at 2020. A Pence presidency would erase what is left of democracy in the United States.

 

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October 19, 2017

Don’t Impeach DDT

Throughout the past year, VP Mike Pence has mostly kept a low profile while more and more people are calling to impeach Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Examining Pence’s past shows such great darkness that I cannot advocate exchanging the volatile, impulsive man currently in the Oval Office for someone who plans to turn the United States into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. People who think that DDT is the worst possible person as the nation’s leader need to consider Pence’s ability to destroy democracy and the entire population of the U.S. except for white men.

DDT brought publicity to Pence when he declared that his VP “wants to hang” all gay people. As outrageous as this claim is, Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, didn’t deny that DDT’s claim was wrong. In Pence’s history as a right-wing extremist member of Congress, he has opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, supported a federal constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and opposed a federal hate crimes law. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law permission for businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people, spurring a nationwide backlash. When Pence appeared on television to defend the law, he repeatedly refused to say whether or not the law would allow for discrimination and whether or not he supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. But this bigotry is only the tip of the iceberg.

Early in his political career, Pence used dirty tricks in his first congressional campaign: he showed someone dressed in Middle Eastern garb who accused his opponent of connections to Arabian oil interests, sent a mailer with a photo of a razor and lines of cocaine that accused his opponent of being soft on drugs, and told campaign volunteers to call voters and tell them that Sharp planned to sell his family farm to a nuclear-waste facility. All these were lies. Part of his 1990 election loss in that fight may have been his use of campaign donations for such personal expenses as his mortgage, groceries, and golf tournament fees—nothing illegal but considered unethical.

Losing the election by 19 points, Pence hosted a radio talk show and continued his lies. In criticizing the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, Pence maintained that opponents to the Supreme Court justice nominee used KKK tactics and blamed Indiana senators Dick Lugar and Dan Coats for “standing by while Clarence Thomas is being lynched.” Anita Hill’s assertions about Thomas’ sexual harassment is now largely believed.

Pence’s loss also led him to the presidency of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation promoting free-market policies and giving him access to a network of business-funded conservative nonprofit groups. The financial ties to tobacco companies led Pence to claim in 2000 that “smoking doesn’t kill [that] two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.” Government was a bigger “scourge” than cigarettes, he said. As a board member of the Indiana Family Institute, Pence joined the campaign against LGBTQ rights and for the criminalization of abortion. Vi Simpson, former Indiana senate Democratic minority leader, said that Pence’s goal is to reverse the economic and political advances of women, using denial of birth control access to women as one method.

After Pence won a seat in the U.S. House in 2000, he became popular on the conservative talk circuit where he spoke for unlimited gun rights, property rights, pro-life, and pro-Israel positions. Michael Leppert, an Indiana Democratic lobbyist, said:

“His politics were always way outside the mainstream. He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl…. He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth.”

Far to the right of the George W. Bush administration, Pence didn’t author one successful bill during his 12 years in Congress. He opposed Medicaid expansion for prescription drugs and the emergency bank bailout. He not only opposed LGBTQ rights but also argued that the AIDS resources bill, the Ryan White Care Act, should fund “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In 2006 he fought for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Pence wants to erase the science of the world. In 2002, he stated that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory” in opposition to “intelligent design,” that maintains life on Earth is too complex to emerge through random mutation. Pence called the latter the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

In 2008, Pence helped found the Tea Party, opposing taxes and government, and became more militant. In 2011, he threatened to shut down the federal government if it didn’t defund Planned Parenthood. In his arguments against funding Planned Parenthood, he referenced Lex Cornelia, ancient Roman laws that included one sentencing providers of abortion potions to work in the mines. Pence supported “personhood” legislation to ban any abortion under all circumstances except to protect the life of the mother and sponsored a failed amendment to the Affordable Care Act allowing government-funded hospitals to turn away dying women who needed abortions.

The Koch brothers learned to count on Pence when he persuaded 156 congressional members to sign a pledge of “No Climate Tax” that allowed the Koch brothers to annually dump 24 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In 2009 bill Pence sponsored a bill to prevent native-born children of illegal immigrants from becoming American citizens. Like DDT’s recent executive order, he wants to use his personal moral convictions to control the nation, whether constitutional or not.

Pence became governor of Indiana with only 49 percent of the vote in 2013 because the center didn’t trust him. They were right. Pence had promised to follow former Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative who wanted to avoid divisive social issues. He created “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history” (according to Pence) in a state with one of the lowest income taxes in the nation. His plan had the same result as the proposed DDT tax cuts: people earning $50,000 a year gained about $3.50 a month. Pence again lied about the cut stimulating the economy. Since Pence left, Indiana had to increase the gas tax by ten cents per gallon to fix its infrastructure.

As a new governor, Pence tried to solve his state’s fiscal crisis by cutting tens of millions for higher education, social agencies, and human services. He blocked local governments from raising the minimum wage or requiring better benefits from businesses. Pence privatized government services in infrastructure and education, rolled back energy efficiency standards, and declared the state pro-coal. He allowed people to keep guns in their cars on school grounds, recruited the NRA to train the state’s National Guard, and stopped Gary (IN) from suing gun manufacturers whose weapons were illegally sold.

In 2014, a year after he was elected governor, Pence killed an application for an $80 million federal grant to start a statewide preschool program because of conservative objections to secular public education. At the same time, he traveled the country to build support for a presidential run.

Pence signed a bill stopping women from aborting physically abnormal fetuses and requiring fetal burial or cremation, even after miscarriages. The law has been found unconstitutional, and Indiana is now permanently barred from enforcing a restriction that would have banned abortions sought because of a fetus’ genetic abnormalities, race, gender or ancestry.

Another Pence disaster was the serious spike of HIV cases in southern Indiana from the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics, none of which performed abortions, and the refusal to legalize a syringe exchange. The state health commissioner called the outbreak a public-health emergency, and Pence permitted a temporary exchange program as an emergency.

Although pro-life, Pence refused to save the lives of a Syrian refugee family who had undergone extreme vetting and was fleeing violence and terror by allowing them to settle in the state. They had relatives in Indianapolis along with the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Indiana. The family was sent to Connecticut, and the federal courts eventually struck down Pence’s executive order as discriminatory.

Pence also declined to pardon Keith Cooper, in prison for nine years for an armed robbery he didn’t commit. Without the pardon, Cooper could be released only if he admitted guilt for something he didn’t do that kept him getting a decent job.

Although opposed to gambling in a state that bans political contributions from casino operators, Pence received donations from gambling sources through the Republican Governors Association with its major donors of casino companies.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence also tried to establish a taxpayer-funded state-run new agency to spread his propaganda and used a private email account for official state business. He claimed that it was different from Hillary Clinton’s private server but cost taxpayers $100,000 in legal fees. Taxpayers also paid for private attorneys so that Pence could join Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan before DDT’s election.

That’s how a Christian ideologue rules. To be continued.

October 17, 2017

DDT’s Expensive Swamp

Cutting the waste in government was a frequent claim of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while on the campaign trail and the subject of an early executive order. DDT said that his executive order on March 13, 2017, would require a “thorough examination of every executive department and agency” to find out “where money is being wasted [and] how services can be improved.” His proposed budget slashes funds for the social network.

DDT should look to himself for waste in government. Although he has spent one night at New York’s Trump Tower since he was inaugurated, the apartment costs millions of dollars. He overcharged the facilities for the Secret Service there, requiring the command post to move to a trailer on the sidewalk in July. Expenditures for DDT’s golf trips are over $72 million, according to Trump Golf Count. At that rate, he’ll spend almost $400 million during his term.

DDT’s current campaigning for 2020 is on the taxpayer tab as well. When he went to Phoenix (AZ) to tout his “wall,” his campaign funds may have paid for the convention center and indoor security, but taxpayers were out almost $500,000 for his campaign event. Just employee overtime expenses for the Phoenix Police Department cost $336,887.

The costs of DDT’s family trips are astronomical. Just one ski vacation for Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, their spouses, their kids and their dogs cost taxpayers $330,000. The State Department paid the cost of $117,489.44 for the car rental charge when Tiffany Trump and her mother vacationed for two weeks in Italy. That was considerably cheaper than the $2 million that DDT cost the State Department during a 48-hour trip to Italy in May.

Secret Service is running out of money to protect DDT and his family of 18. Without congressional approval to increase the budget, 1,100 agents, one-third of them, will have to work overtime without pay. The current expenditure of $30 million is 250 percent more than the past annual cost of $12 million for President Obama and his family. The Secret Service protected 42 people around the clock until Donald Trump, Jr. refused his guard. After he said he wanted privacy, he was found killing moose in Alaska. Kellyanne Conway was also removed from the list.

Sen. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced an amendment the 2018 appropriations bill to prevent Secret Service payment to any businesses owned or operated by DDT:

“None of the funds made available by this Act to the United States Secret Service may be used to purchase, rent, or otherwise acquire goods or services, including hotel rooms, office space, or golf carts, from entities that are owned or operated by the President or the immediate family of the President.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) expanded Schiff’s plan to prohibit federal spending across the government at all “Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and other Trump-owned businesses.” The bills went nowhere but may have been educational.

In addition to DDT’s costs, taxpayers are paying for jetsetting Cabinet members:

  • (Former) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Over $1 million in military and charter flights. When he resigned, Price said that he would reimburse the government $52,000. A millionaire who made stock trade in health-care companies while helping them with laws, Price has been a proponent of taking hundreds of billions of dollars from federal health programs. As HHS secretary, he backed a $6 billion cut to NIH and an overall 18 percent reduction to the HHS budget. His goal is to eliminate “waste.” He also cut 90 percent from the Affordable Care Act’s advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million and almost half of the budget for consumer “navigators.” Price’s excuse for chartering private planes is that he once missed a meeting because of a four-hour delay on a commercial flight. Storms had shut down all flights in Washington, not only Price’s scheduled flight but also private jets which he attempted to get. Price missed dinner on Thursday night but was still available to give his speech the next morning. His destination, a two-day industry conference at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California, brings to question the excuse that he travels to be “connected with the real American people.” Another argument was how busy he was with the hurricanes; most of the chartered flights occurred before they hit the U.S.
  • EPA Director Scott Pruitt: Almost $60,000 for “non-commercial” flights. Pruitt spent 48 of 92 days traveling, most of the flights at least stopping in Oklahoma, possibly laying the groundwork for a senatorial campaign. One charter flight for $14,000 took Pruitt from Tulsa to Guymon (OK) to talk about closing the EPA’s ten regional offices by reassigning staff to state capitals—part of eliminating one-third of the EPA budget.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: Over $800,000 in costs for flights, including a government jet to Kentucky (where he and his wife viewed the solar eclipse) plus his request to take a government jet on his honeymoon to Europe.
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: A number of flights on private and military aircraft, including between St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as paying $12,000 to an oil-and-gas exploration firm for a charter flight instead of a commercial one because he was speaking to a political donor’s professional hockey team in Nevada. Zinke’s wife, manager of the campaign for Troy Downing who is a GOP candidate for a Montana senator, often travels with him as they stop at political fundraisers and donor events.
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin: Payment for his wife’s costs to Europe where they spent half his time, four days, on vacation tours that included four palaces and the championship Wimbledon match. Just weeks earlier, Shulkin told staff to cut back on travel expenses.
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: At least $58,000 for private flights.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: Seven FAA jet flights, including to New York and Paris.

VP Mike Pence may have cost taxpayers approximately $250,000 last week to stage a PR stunt. He flew from Las Vegas to Indiana with a pool of reporters to follow DDT’s orders by walking out of the football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after over 20 players knelt to protest police brutality. From there he flew to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. Worse than his staging this stunt was his statement that he saved people money because he would have flown to Washington, D.C. for the one night if he hadn’t gone to Indianapolis. Evidently no hotel openings in either Las Vegas or LA. Four Green Berets had been killed in Niger, but DDT ignored this tragedy to tweet against peaceful and legal protests by NFL athletes—29 times thus far.

DDT’s Cabinet runs high tabs in areas other than travel. Scott Pruitt’s protective 24/7 detail, triple that of his predecessors, costs $832,735.40 for his first three months, and the agency asked for an exception to DDT’s hiring freeze to hire an additional (number redacted on a memo) security members. In the past, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security received this kind of protection, but DDT has extended it to such dangerous positions as the Secretary of Education and the EPA. Betsy DeVos costs almost $1 million a month for protection from U.S. marshals.

Pruitt also wants a sound-proof booth. He’s paying almost $25,000 for it on the floor where employees cannot take cellphones or take notes. EPA employees say that he already has one but wants it “updated.”

One of Zinke’s staff is paid to go up to the roof and hoist his secretarial flag when Zinke enters the building and reverse the process when he leaves. He is the first White House official to do that for almost a century. His deputy secretary has his own flag to fly when Zinke is gone. Another cost, the amount not identified, is Zinke’s commissioning commemorative coins with his name that he hands out to staff and visitors. Again, the use of personalized coins is unique.

Price had early on asked to reopen the executive dining room, complete with executive chef, but Price has been fired.

And DDT’s executive order attempting to destroy health care for millions will cost the country $20 billion this year.

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