Nel's New Day

March 12, 2017

Fight Back against Fundamentalist Christian Control

Faith groups came out to protest Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) second attempt last week to ban Muslims from the United States. Throughout the first day of the order, a number of groups condemned DDT’s actions calling it an affront to religious freedom.

  • American Jewish World Service tweeted its solidarity with immigrants.
  • Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson decried “the false narrative that this country is at war with a religion” and the “dramatic spike in Islamophobia, including a rise in hate speech, vandalism, and fires at mosques across the nation.”
  • Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed concern “that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”
  • Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the social justice advocacy group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, stated that DDT “is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer.”
  • Catholic Relief Services issued a lengthy statement condemning the ban that explained refugees already undergo “significant vetting” and stated that “now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated its previous concern “about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war, and religious persecution.”
  • Church World Service unveiled a new grassroots campaign in support of refugees in tandem with the National Council of Churches.
  • The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach reminded people “that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them.”
  • The Conference of Major Superiors of Men stated, “It is completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a potential crime by an individual. We should be asking about the root causes of violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our attention to addressing those concrete situations.”
  • Rev. Allison Liles, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, wrote that it “asks that God look with compassion on the whole human family, taking away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts, breaking down the walls that separate us and instead unite us in bonds of love.”
  • Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, stated that the ban is “bigoted and un-American … fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points—not keep Americans safe.” Moline continued, “Now we look to the courts, Congress and the American people to restore what makes American great — our freedom and diversity.”
  • Other groups making statements in opposition to DDT’s restrictive order included Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Methodist Church, and PICO National Network which stated:

“This [ban] is less about keeping America safe and more likely a step toward the ethnic cleansing of America. Coupled with this nation’s track record of detention, deportation and mass incarceration, the travel ban is a path to reassert white supremacy and dominance in the U.S. It is evil, sinister and stands in stark contrast to a core tenet of faith which asserts that we are all children of God. Even with its revisions, President Trump’s ban on Muslim-majority countries continues a xenophobic false hierarchy of human value. It is not only anti-American, it is anti-Christian.”

White evangelicals, however, are pitying themselves. According to a survey, 57 percent of them believe that they face a great deal of discrimination in the United States while only 44 percent think that Muslims are confronted with the same level of discrimination in the nation. White evangelicals are the only major religious group to think that Christians suffer from heavy persecution.

An example of prejudice against Islamic comes from Oklahoma Rep. John Bennett, who refused to meet with his Muslim constituents on its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol unless they completed a questionnaire from the Islamophobic hate group called ACT for America. Three students from Tulsa’s Peace Academy, a private school, asked to speak to Bennett and were told to answer such questions as these:

“Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”

“The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”

“Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”

In the United States, an average of almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to over 10 million women and men a year. Yet Bennett asks only Muslims if they “beat your wife.”

In his second Muslim ban, DDT demonstrated the same false belief in Islam violence as Bennett does. The executive order includes a provision requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” The United States has fewer than 30 so-called “honor killings” each year, but about 1,500 women are murdered from domestic violence in the same time. DDT’s budget eliminates the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants of $480 that funded 25 programs last year to help victims of domestic violence. Both DDT and his white supremacist and chief strategist Steve Bannon have been seriously accused of domestic assault.

DDT’s provision follows his plan to use federal resource to increase racial panic when he also promised to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week. The program ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people in the United States and that people in the United States are far far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Yet DDT’s federal counter-terrorism program will ignore all extremist groups not composed of Muslims, including violent white supremacists.

Facts have no value for DDT’s policies. As for the DHS report that “citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” a senior administration official said:

 “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

The GOP has increasingly pushed religious freedom for the United States although almost everyone knows that the harder a person pushes for this “freedom,” the more that person means only fundamentalist Christianity. In an evangelical discussion last summer, one of them asked how the Baptists could defend Muslims when they kill and imprison Christians. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore gave a sensible answer—that restrictions on Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. Moore said that people must freely choose their faith.

Pastor John Wofford answered:

“So what I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, I am helping them go to hell. And I do not want to help people go to hell.”

That’s the direction of the United States if we don’t fight back.

March 11, 2017

DDT: Week Seven – Russia, Other Lies

 

Drawn to bright shiny things, the media moved from the lies told by VP Mike Pence and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to the firing of 46 U.S. attorneys general. But let’s move back to Pence and DDT.

Pence and DDT Lie:  The people who need “extreme vetting” are not immigrants—they are DDT and his minions. Nobody checks them for their ties to mobs, Russian oligarchs, their shady investment fraud, or even their jobs like Michael Flynn’s lobbying for Turkey while DDT is also paying him. Although Flynn was not registered as a foreign agent, he and his company were paid $530,000 during DDT’s campaign to influence U.S. policy on behalf of Turkey. DDT’s people, including VP Mike Pence, were shocked to hear about it this week. And DDT’s people, including Pence, were lying. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent Pence a letter on November 18 asking for more information about possible conflicts of Flynn’s lobbying work:

“Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests.”

Before Flynn took the position of National Security Adviser, his lawyer told the DDT transition team that he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey, and Mike Pence was head of the team. Yet he said that he had not heard anything about Flynn’s actions for Turkey until this week. DDT said he fired Flynn because he misled Pence about his work for Turkey, but DDT lied because Pence knew about it when Flynn was fired. Flynn’s attorneys also told DDT’s legal counsel team about his employee registering as a foreign agent before the inauguration and again in the early days of DDT’s term. DDT also lied when he said that he didn’t meet with the Russian ambassador during his campaign.

Either DDT knew and didn’t tell, leaving him inappropriate to be president, or DDT didn’t know, leaving him inappropriate to be president because he should have known. Throughout DDT’s campaign, both Flynn and DDT accused Hillary Clinton of pay-to-play controversies with federal governments. Flynn delighted in the RNC crowd screaming “Lock her up!” He said, “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.” He did.

Legal challenges against DDT’s travel ban mount: The Muslim.ban 2.0 is out, and four states—Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington—joined Hawaii, the first state to sue the president because of the executive order’s blatant discrimination and severe damage to tourism. Oregon added that the order will injure its residents, employers, agencies, educational institutions, and health care system. The order can also be challenged because of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which bars discrimination on the basis of “a person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.”

GOP health care problems rise: A major part of this week’s news has been the desperate move by the GOP to pass its version of healthcare intended to make the wealthy wealthier, release insurance companies from control, and take insurance away from the poor. In the past, I’ve called it “GOPcare,” but it’s acquired the name of TrumpCare, much to DDT’s distress. It’s the first time that he hasn’t wanted his name on something: he’s even applying for trademarks in China to have his name on condoms and escort services. The final plan is pretty much as expected, but there are a few extra perks. For example, it would give tax breaks to any insurance CEO making over $500,000, something that the Secretary of the Health and Human Services, Tom Price, didn’t know until he was asked about it. The marathon hearing before the passage of the bill in committee lacked any witnesses and is opposed not only by Democrats, AARP, and AMA but also by some GOP members and the insurance industry.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) announcement that healthy people pay for sick people indicates that he hasn’t grasped the concept of all insurance: premiums from people who don’t need the benefits pay for the disasters of the others who pay premiums. Every person arguing against the Affordable Care Act use generalities such as “death spiral” and “disaster” with no specifics is problems. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), whose health insurance is paid by the government, claims that other people should be responsible for their own health. His novel approach was the assertion that people should not buy $700 iPhones to find thousands of dollars for health care. Chaffetz gets a government-issued cellphone, and his donors pay for his monthly cellphone charges.

TrumpCare passed the committee vote without anyone knowing the estimate economic cost or the number of people who would lose insurance. In the past, Republicans asked first about any bill’s price tag, but they don’t care about this one. In charge because DDT took Price out of the loop, DDT’s budget chief, Mike Mulvaney, said that “insurance is not really the end goal here.” Republicans don’t care how much taxpayers will be on the hook or how much people will lose. They don’t consider how many jobs will be lost or how disastrous their changes will be to the economy. Republicans don’t care that health experts from the all sides agree that TrumpCare won’t work. Some of them even say that the bill could unravel the individual insurance market.

Read the fine print in DDT promises: DDT justifies his Muslim ban and draconian immigrant orders because he’ll do everything he says he’ll do. He promised to use only U.S. steel in “all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipelines” inside the U.S. His fine print, however, stated “to the maximum extent possible.” Therefore the Keystone XL Pipeline won’t be built with U.S. steel. DDT made the excuse that the pipeline is already being constructed, but the real reason is that TransCanada will drop its $15-billion lawsuit against the U.S. with NAFTA that it suspended last week after DDT okayed the pipeline project. The company had alleged that the U.S. government failed to protect Canadian investor in accordance with international law.

DDT’s negotiations don’t work with Planned Parenthood: DDT told Planned Parenthood he would guarantee federal funding for their services if they stopped providing abortions. PP’s president, Cecile Richards, immediately said no. No federal funds pay for abortions at PP, and the offer sets a horrible precedent to threatening all hospitals with no federal funds if they provide any abortions. At this time, only 28 percent of people want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

DDT’s tweets calm down: Kept in the White House for the first weekend since the one immediately following his inauguration, DDT’s Twitter account still sent lies (“Obamacare imploding” and “great progress with health care”). Earlier in the week, he tweeted, “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield.” Actually, the George W. Bush administration sent 113 of them back. DDT did manage to get his ninth round of golf in this weekend since his inauguration, an average of one every five days.

DDT faces another lawsuit: D.C. restaurant Cork Winebar filed a lawsuit against Trump’s D.C. hotel claiming unfair competition because people are trying to curry favor with DDT. The owners are not seeking damages, only an order barring the DDT’s D.C. hotel from continuing to operate while President Trump still owns it.

Which one is bigger? Compulsive about comparing himself to President Obama, DDT insisted that the National Park Service produce photographs of his inauguration crowd size to prove that his was bigger than that of President Obama. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from media outlets, these official photographs of the National Mall, one in 2009 and the other eight years later, show a huge difference between the 1.8 million for President Obama and the generous guess of 800,000 for his successor. At least DDT had more than the 300,000 people who turned out for George W. Bush’s first inauguration.

For a little cheer, check out Cocktails for Survival Over 50 drink recipes for DDT survival include drinks like “The Wall,” “The Bad Hombre,” “Trumple Thinskin,” and “The 400 Pound Hacker.” There’s also Putin’s Puppet, half a dozen Twitter Beefs (page 29), and a Pussy Grabber or two. Also available is a blog with a recipe for “The Sessions.”

Finish off with the best of Stephen Colbert’s humor from The Late Show when he gets help from construction experts to assess costs for his “big, “powerful,” “impenetrable,” “physical” and “beautiful” wall in order to meet DDT’s promises.

 

 

March 10, 2017

Trump’s Vouchers Will Kill Education

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited a Catholic school in Florida last Friday before his anti-Obama tweet storm. The mission of Orlando’s St. Andrew Catholic School is “developing the students’ spirituality and creativity in order to be disciples of Christ in the 21st century.”With him were his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is close to former Florida governor Jeb Bush. While governor of the state, he instigated the tax credit program requiring taxpayers to provide money to religious schools.

For some people like DeVos and DDT, Florida represents the poster child of charter/private schools with vouchers/tax credits (aka public money taken away from public schools). DDT used Denisha Merriweather at his address to Congress ten days ago to prove that people need tax credits to attend private religious schools. Vouchers are state-issued coupons used for students to attend religious schools, difficult in some states that prohibit taxes going to religious schools. Tax credits provide a loophole to these laws because they are given to people and corporations who get this money for donations while they give scholarships to students. The system can be so lucrative for these donors that they sometime make money. That’s why DeVos and DDT like the tax credit system.

Merriweather attended the Esprit de Corps Center for Learning, established in 2001 and “birthed from the mind of God in the heart of Dr. Jeannette C. Holmes-Vann, the Pastor and Founder of Hope Chapel Ministries, Inc.” Its A Beka curriculum, frequently used in Christian schools, teaches the Bible as literal history. Among other misconceptions, the curriculum teachers about the inferiority of Africa and its people, justifying Southern slavery. Before attending the Christian school, Merriweather barely attended any public schools because her mother was constantly moving from place to place. Her attendance at the private school began when she started living with her grandmother.

An investigation of Florida private schools, however, found the program to be a “cottage industry of fraud and chaos.” Schools don’t require accreditation, oversight, transparency, or even curriculum. The only data that schools must make public is attendance. Some school staffers have been convicted of drug dealing, kidnapping, and burglary. In one “business management” class, students took to the streets and shook cans for coins. In 38 schools suspected of fraud, 25 of the allegations were substantiated, and at least one school used corporal punishment. Students with disabilities can participate in the Florida private school program only if they sign away their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Florida is not unique in its massive deficiencies in private education. Other states also force students with disabilities to waive their rights before attending these schools, and schools in other states don’t even accept students with learning disabilities. In addition, school districts in other states that use vouchers are among the lowest performing in the nation, and the concept frequently fails at the ballot box. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, the risks to school systems with voucher programs “outweigh insignificant gains in test scores and limited gains in graduation rates.” The answer to better education is not private schools but supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools.

A 2015 study showed that tens of thousands of Indiana voucher students transferring to private schools under Mike Pence suffered significant losses in mathematics achievement and no improvement in reading.

Another voucher study by the conservative choice-supporting Thomas B. Fordham Institute and financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation, studied Ohio’s large voucher program. Researchers found that “students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.”

The Louisiana program used a lottery system to admit students to private schools, and students at the 50th percentile in math in public schools dropped to the 26th percentile in the first year of transfer to private schools. These students also suffered negative results in reading also showed negative results, according to Professor Martin West at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, that were “as large as any I’ve seen in the literature” throughout the history of U.S. education research.

Milwaukee (WI) has been totally a “choice” school district for 20 years, and over one-fourth of students in that city attend private schools with vouchers. In that city, blacks comprise about two-thirds of the student body. The eighth-graders score lower in math than those in 12 other urban areas except Detroit, which also has a high level of school choice. In reading, Milwaukee eighth-graders are worse than even the ones in Detroit.

Because of DeVos’ push to privatize all schools in her state, Michigan has more low-performing charter schools than any other state: 38 percent of them are in the bottom of achieving schools. Michigan students have continually made the least improvement nationally of scores since 2003 and are in the bottom ten in proficiency growth in the four measures of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests: mathematics, reading, writing, and science.State law has no way of improving or shutting down failing charters. Almost anyone can open a charter school if they have the money, and it’s almost never held accountable. In DeVos’ Michigan, students “have no fundamental right to literacy,” according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s lawyers. Seven Detroit students are suing on the basis that schools should deliver “access to literacy, and 47 percent of Detroiters were illiterate in a report five years ago.

People argue that the voucher program is cheaper. Yet it could raise costs by 25 percent of more because of the additional students, record keeping, transportation, information to parents, and dispute adjudication. Expanding the charter schools in Michigan has also been disastrous for school budgets. Once school districts are in dire consequences, the state can take control of the school district under the emergency management law. Once the state takes over, emergency managers close schools, lay off staff, cut salaries, outsource services, and even transfer the entire district to private for-profit charter management companies. Detroit has the second highest percentage of students attending charter schools; only New Orleans has a higher number in private schools.

This article explains how Betsy DeVos took over Michigan—and how she can take over the United States.

Rural communities, the places where DDT got a large number of his votes, would suffer disproportionately from vouchers because of sparse population and small districts lacking enough schools for a viable voucher program. Such a shift would destabilize not only the schools but also the communities that use schools as a nucleus. Of the 13,000 school districts across the nation, almost 9,000 have four or fewer schools where voucher proposals could largely destroy the public system, and another 2,200 districts with five to eight schools risk harm in serving its millions of students. That’s almost 90 percent of the districts that can fail because of DDT’s and DeVos’ voucher system.

Not all voucher programs are disasters. Findings indicated that well-regulated Massachusetts charter schools have a positive impact on test scores. But both DeVos and DDT are allergic to regulations. The best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools that accept all students are accountable to public authorities.

The only argument supporting the voucher system is ideology. People say they want individual choice even if the choice has a worse outcome. As with many conservatives, data makes no difference; it’s belief that matters. DeVos believes that any non-government school is better than any public school no matter the success rate of either one.

Watch DDT invest in for-profit charter school companies. Oh, that’s right! You can’t because he won’t reveal his tax returns.

March 9, 2017

Betsy Devos: Huge Danger to the Nation

Billionaire activist Betsy DeVos and her family have given over $4 million to Republicans who have now confirmed her for Secretary of Education. Of that sum, $250,000 went directly to members of the education committee, $950,000 were given to 21 senators who voted to confirm her, and another $2.25 million was sent last fall to the Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) super PAC. The National Republican Senatorial Committee got another $900,000. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who promised to keep a rein on DDT, took $98,000 from DeVos and paid her back with his vote.   She followed the same process in Michigan, paying state Republicans $1.45 million in seven weeks after they passed the no-accountability charter school law. DeVos has said that she no longer takes offense at the accusations of buying politicians because “we do expect something in return.”

Before the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, I posted about how she would be a disaster for education in the nation. Her blunders during the first few weeks on the job show that she is worse than many people may have predicted. In summary, she is a billionaire who wants all children to be force-fed her brand of Christianity in charter schools that massively profit already wealthy people—like her.

Her gaffes began on her first day as head of the education department when she tweeted, “Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? :)” Most schools in the United States are so poor that teachers have to buy their own pencils.

Devos’ actions thus far:

  • insulted teachers at a middle school for not helping students succeed
  • supports the idea of her department being erased
  • says that critics want “to make my life a living hell”
  • misspelled W.E.B. Du Bois in a tweet for Black History Month—and then had to fix the tweeted apology that stated “our deepest apologizes”
  • ignored the first Twitter chat that she held for teachers
  • asked teachers to make up for children’s troubles at home such as absent fathers
  • made U.S. marshals protect her and ran away because protesters blocked her entrance to a DC school
  • accused protesters of “keeping kids in and new thinking out,” “how hostile some people are to change and to new ideas”
  • sold out transgender students to allow AG Jeff Sessions to discriminate against them in using facilities corresponding to their gender identity
  • and, surprise, gave her top priority as “school choice” that destroys public schools

DeVos’ responses to the hearings were so bad that her  confirmation required Mike Pence to be the first vice president in history to break a 50-50 tie to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

Her job may not last long. A House bill, HR 899, dissolves the Department of Education and another, HR 610, provides educational vouchers and repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, including nutritional standards for school meals. The only responsibility left to the department—if it continues to exist—would be to award block grants to states with the $20 billion for vouchers that DDT wants. There may not be enough support to shut down the Education Department, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants $20 billion for vouchers, most of the department’s budget for local communities largely used for low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable children.  

After trying to compliment teachers at Washington’s Jefferson Academy by calling them “wonderful,” she told them that they were “not going to bring success to an individual child” because they were in “receive mode, waiting to be told what they have to do.”

DeVos tried to help DDT woo blacks for the 2020 election in her statement:

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) … are the real pioneers when it comes to school choice.  They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

Her revisionist history purports that the Jim Crow education system of legal segregation gave black students “more options” as if they had the option of attending all white schools before the Supreme Court ruling that began to eliminate permissible racial discrimination. The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo’s analogy:

“To paint historically black colleges as pioneers of ‘school choice’ is like saying the Montgomery bus boycott was a transportation startup.”

There was much controversy about the perch of Kellyanne Conway, DDT’s counselor, during the meeting with HBCU leaders. Some photographs show her taking a photo, but her real insult was that she couldn’t even get the name for the group correct when she talked to Lou Dobbs on his TV program. In addition, the photo op, proposed at the last minute to show DDT’s comfort with blacks, left those attending with little time to communicate with the man in the White House about the current state of these institutions. DDT plans to fund only the private sector instead of directly supporting HBCUs and requested that the White House Initiative on HBCUs be removed from the Department of Education.

In reality, DeVos has little power because Congress weakened the power of the executive department two years ago. Congress will be the one to create a voucher system and remove more standards for education in the nation. But she can create trouble by taking no action in other areas that creates more difficulty—for example, not investigating, complaints in the area of sexual assaults and reverse rules requiring colleges to use a lower standard of proof in determining sexual assault. DeVos might also ignore part of Title IX, reversing the progress of female athletes in schools. One way is to divert funds to the Office of Civil Rights which leaves the Department of Education unable to address IX complaints even if DeVos chooses to do so. The percentage of female high school athletes has gone from seven percent to 42 percent since the law was implemented. Title IX isn’t just about sports and transgender issues: it protects “pregnant and parenting students, women in STEM programs, and victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” according to Neena Chaudhry, Director of Education and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.

DDT will definitely “relax” the past crackdown on for-profit colleges, including a new regulation relieving students of loans if they prove their college defrauded them. Under DDT, Trump University might not have had to pay $25 million. An indicator is the way that stocks have shot up—DeVry over 40 percent, Stayer’s 35 percent, and Grand Canyon Education over 28 percent. The GOP will also try to disappear the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that tries to protect consumers from predatory for-profit colleges.

About Betsy DeVos, education historian and researcher Diane Ravitch wrote:

“She was never a student, a parent, an educator, or school board member of public schools. It is her life’s work to tear down public education. She does not respect the line of separation between church and state. She supports for-profit charter schools…. She is ignorant of federal law, federal programs and federal policy. When asked at her Senate hearing about the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, she did not know it was a federal law. She had given no thought to lessening the burden of debt that college students bear, which now exceeds $1 trillion. At a time when the federal role in aiding students with the high cost of college needs to be redesigned, she knows nothing about it.

“… DeVos has financial conflicts of interest which she refuses to divest. She told the Senate committee that she had no role in her mother’s foundation, which has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, but her name appears on 17 years of the foundation’s audited tax returns. She told the committee that online charter corporations produce stellar results, but researchers demonstrated with facts that she was wrong.

“Choice policies in Michigan have caused the test scores in that state to decline. Detroit, overrun with charters and choice, is a chaotic mess….

“She personifies the privatization movement. She is the leader of the Billionaire Girls Club, spreading her millions across the land to reward and enrich allies in Congress, on state and local school boards, and in any setting where she could tout school choice as a magical remedy for poor performance. Charters and vouchers, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is her sole idea. She has singlehandedly stripped bare the ‘reform’ movement, showing it to be not a civil rights movement but a privatization movement funded by billionaires and religious zealots.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told his protesting constituents at a town hall meeting that they cared so much about Betsy DeVos that she probably had too much power. Our conservative representatives don’t want people to care about what happens in the government.

In a country that almost never recognizes the name of the Secretary of Education, almost half of the people have an opinion—and two thirds of them have an unfavorable opinion of Betsy DeVos. Her lack of approval at 31 percent is worse than that for Jeff Sessions (23 percent) and Mike Pence (28 percent).

The greatest danger that DeVos might do to education in the United States is the proposed voucher program—the subject for the next blog post.

March 7, 2017

Wear Red!

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. Yesterday, the Senate voted to remove President Obama’s executive order Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. With a party line of 49 to 48, three senators didn’t vote: Flake (AZ), Isakson, (GA), and Sullivan (AK). Five women—Capito (WV), Collins (ME), Ernst (IA), Fischer (NE), and Murkowski (AK)—voted against women’s rights. Recently, Kellyanne Conway, Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) counselor, said that feminists hate powerful women. She’s wrong: feminists hate the actions of powerful women in keeping all women from having rights.

Companies bidding on federal contracts worth $500,000 or more will not need to disclose their history of federal labor or civil rights laws violations of workplace safety, minimum wages, and overtime laws. Companies with contracts of $1 million of over can force employees into arbitration for claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other discrimination. Wrongdoings can’t be publicized by keeping the claims out of court and refusing to allow employees to tell anyone else, even in the case of sexual harassment and assault. Workers reporting discrimination or harassment are sent to private proceedings arbitrated by people chosen and paid for by employers. Proceedings, filings, and decisions are secret.

The GOP repeal of President Obama’s regulations guarantees that workers, especially women who are in the majority of low-wage jobs, lose their “day in court” just by taking a job. People cannot regain their rights until Congress passes a law to reinstate their protections.

A report from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shows what women have lost.

Action: Call your senator (202-224-3121) and say either thank you for voting against the bill—as I will in Oregon—or say that you are disappointed because the senator voted for H.J. Res. 37 that significantly harms victims of sexual harassment and workers.  

Other activities: Women are striking, but 9thers cannot because they can lose their jobs, cause serious problems for others, or suffer abuse in their own homes. Simple protests are not spending money except at small, women- and minority-owned businesses. Another action of solidarity for A Day without a Woman is to wear red.  

Male allies can care for children, do housework, and talk with workplace decisionmakers about family-friendly policies such as paid leave or flexible scheduling.

Yesterday Republicans unrolled its new repeal attack on the Affordable Care Act that includes defunding Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the nation annually serving 2.5 million women, men, and adolescents at its 650 health center. Nearly 80% of these people had incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level and prevents an estimated 579,000 unintended pregnancies each year. In 2016, 26% of patients at a Planned Parenthood site said it was the only place they could go for the services they required. Abortions comprise only three percent of its services, and taxpayer money pays for absolutely none of these. Videos used by Republicans in their attacks on Planned Parenthood were proved to be bogus, and even VP Mike Pence couldn’t find any wrongdoing in his state of Indiana.

Defunding” is a misnomer because Planned Parenthood gets paid for its work. The only month that the organization receives is reimbursement for non-abortion health services such as birth control, Pap smears, breast exams, and STI tests, through Medicaid and the Title X family planning program. The bill only prevents Medicaid from working with Planned Parenthood. People could no longer choose Planned Parenthood for health care. Their clinics work like very other health care provider, including hospitals in obtaining reimbursement. People would no longer be allowed to choose Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. In many cases, Planned Parenthood doesn’t receive reimbursements for all the costs of their services.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lied when he said that there are 20 federal community health centers for every Planned Parenthood. This would only be true by counting every dentists’ offices, homeless shelters, food banks, mental health clinics and cosmetic surgeons as “community health services.” The truth is that only qualified health centers number only one-third of Planned Parenthood clinics, and the wait is twice the time–a death sentence for the need for immediate care.

Doubters need to know that Resistance does work, no matter how small. Andrew Puzder, a major violator in sexual harassment, discrimination, and wage violations, won’t be labor secretary. Women who protested the loss of their health care at town hall meetings made GOP members of Congress so nervous that seven Republican senators are no longer strong supporters of repealing health care. One North Carolina school district need to cancel classes for tomorrow because of female teachers’ plans to strike.

The reason for a strike on International Women’s Day is to show how much women contribute to the work force. Visibility makes a huge difference, as shown by the women’s marches, estimated at almost four million people, on the day after DDT’s inauguration.

Actions on International Women’s Day are taking place around the world, for example one in London on budget day. The English movement has adopted the broom as a symbol because together the bristles are strong. Nina Lopez, a coordinator for the Global Women’s Strike, said:

“International Women’s Day feels very different this year. Women are spearheading a global movement for change–this is feminism of the 99%. It’s not just about breaking through the glass ceiling or getting in the boardroom, it’s about recognizing the value of caring and unpaid work. Women throughout the world are doing double the work [of men] because the majority do the work of the home, yet they are still being paid less. That has to end.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is closing the Tower Bridge for the women’s march because, he said, it is “unacceptable that in 2017 in London, the most progressive city in the world, your gender can still determine how much you get paid.” He encouraged men and boys to join the march.

Men, in case you think that tomorrow is a sexist event, you have an International Men’s Day on November 19. I’m curious what missing rights you would want.

Some people object to strikes, boycotts, or other actions that aren’t “ladylike.” A letter to an Oregon newspaper objected to “pussy hats” but didn’t protest DDT’s blatant comments about “grabbing [women] by the pussy.” Without protests, however, women’s work is largely invisible and women’s rights are non-existent. In the home, women have more chores and child care duties than men, and at work women are more likely to have tasks that men don’t want to do. Women get paid less or nothing for their extra efforts while their work is taken for granted. A popular book a few years ago was Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, purporting to show how women can gain ground. Most women who “lean in,” however, just get fired from their jobs. Significant social change doesn’t come without protests—and that includes strikes and boycotts.

Women in the United States by the numbers:

  • 59 countries have had female presidents or prime ministers in the past century, but not the United States.
  • 20 percent of the seats in Congress are held by women, compared to 30 percent in Europe.
  • 10 percent of U.S. mutual fund managers are female, compared to 20 percent elsewhere.
  • 19 percent of women in the U.S. are self-made, compared to 50 percent in Asia.
  • 1 year ago the U.S. Army denied burial rights at Arlington National Cemetery to female World War II pilots because they had never been true soldiers. A second act of Congress was required to restore their rights—again.

In response to DDT’s boast about sexually assaulting women with impunity, Michelle Obama said:

“It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how . . . even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.”

In the last presidential election, 53 percent of white women voted for DDT and many of them supported Republicans. They are now amazed that the GOP plans to take away their health insurance. It’s time for women to wake up and see what they are losing by voting for people who promise to take away women’s rights.

International Women’s Day Message: Wear red, down tools, and buy local.

March 6, 2017

DDT Issues Second Travel Ban

Filed under: Immigration,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:44 PM
Tags: , ,

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has shown that he cares about only three things: making money, revenge, and being admired, but there’s actually a fourth—looking better than his predecessor. From the lies about the size of his inauguration crowds to his level of accomplishments since then, DDT has tried to convince people that everything about him bigger and better than President Obama. DDT’s failures sent him into a rage last weekend that ended up with libelous tweets about the former president being a “bad (or sick) guy.”

At this time of his first term, President Obama had proposed, negotiated, renegotiated, and signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that brought the nation back from the brink of a deep economic depression. That was after he signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act during his first two weeks. DDT has signed a few bills overturning earlier regulations that make the country worse and given money to corporations and wealthy people. And the Muslim ban that wreaked havoc before it was overturned by the courts required a replacement.

  • A 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations: Iraq was the only one of the original seven countries that has been exempted because it agreed to improve the quality of travel documentation and share more information about Iraqis coming to the United States.
  • Exceptions not in previous versions: legal permanent residents of the United States, dual nationals who use a passport from another country, and people who have been granted asylum or refugee status. The exception for religious minority groups has been removed.
  • Suspension of refugee program for 120 days.
  • Details of categories of people able to apply for waivers: those previously admitted to the United States for “a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity,” those with “significant business or professional obligations” and those seeking to visit or live with family.
  • Acceptance of fewer than 50,000 refugees a year, down from the former number of 110,000. Only 15,000 people can enter for the remainder of fiscal 2017 because 35,000 refugees have already been settled in the U.S. Another 67,000 refugees have been approved by DHS out of 65 million displaced people in the world.
  • March 16 start.

Unlike DDT’s signings in his early days, this one was not public, and names of those at the signing were not released. He waited to sign he order until his staff explained it to him.

State Department, Homeland Security and Justice Department officials said that the ban would improve public safety because Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen were either state sponsors of terrorism or safe havens for terrorist groups. The “justification” for the order was that 300 people who entered the country were the subject of counterterrorism investigations, but they refused to name the countries of origination or any additional evidence.

A DHS report questions the need for the ban because citizenship is an “unreliable” threat indicator and people from the banned countries have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism.

The ban will definitely go back to court, and a serious problem for DDT is that the 9th Circuit Court ruled that intent can be considered in determining the possibility of a First Amendment violation. DDT aide Stephen Miller has already said that there is no difference between this ban and the first one that was overturned. Other proof of intent comes from DDT’s campaigning promises which he has continually confirmed he will keep—his promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” That statement was followed by DDT advisor Rudy Giuliani saying on Fox that DDT had asked him about the best method of doing a Muslim ban “legally.”

“OK. I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when [Trump] first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’ … And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on.”

The DDT claim that his ban will make the U.S. safer has doubters. Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed in a failed raid in Yemen the day after DDT issued his first Muslim ban, singling out seven countries including Yemen. Owens’ father speculated about whether friendly forces were alienated by the order and decided to release information to jeopardize the mission. Al Qaeda fighters were tipped off before the raid. The question is whether missions will continue to be compromised because of DDT’s antagonism toward countries where the U.S. counts on “friendlies” for support.

Danger doesn’t seem to be an issue for DDT: he has promised a new ban for a month. After his speech last week on Tuesday, plans were delayed to retain its “positive reception.” That warm and fuzzy feeling for Trumpers lasted less than 24 hours before the revelation about AG Jeff Sessions’ communication with Russia exploded and totally dissipated with DDT’s tweets accusing, with no evidence, that his predecessor had bugged the Trump Tower.

An argument in support of the ban is that the 120-day timeline won’t slow down the refugee program. Once again the supporters are wrong. Each vetting step has a specific timeline from three to 15 months, and a delay that causes these clearances to expire sends refugees back to the beginning of the process and subject them to death sentences, especially those coming to the U.S. for medical treatment. Organizations who resettle families in the United States will also be subject to longer backlogs because they have to stop their work. Closing down these organizations will halt their ability to serve refugees already in the country. One resettlement agency, World Relief, recently laid off over 140 staff and closed five of its offices.

A classic case of the craziness surrounding DDT’s Muslim ban: Gold Star father Khizr Khan, whose son Army Captain Humayun Kyan was killed in service in Iraq, was forced to cancel a speaking engagement in Canada about tolerance, unity, anbecause his travel “privileges” are being “reviewed” by the federal government. A citizen of the U.S. for 30 years, Khan has exhibited DDT’s requirement of “loving America.” He was not told why he could not travel to Canada, but he did speak at the Democratic convention last summer and criticize DDT.

The United States is likely to be in far more danger from his response to North Korea that launched four missiles this morning after testing a solid-fuel rocket supposedly part of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States. North Korea said that the goal of the new missiles is to attack U.S. bases in Japan. Despite DDT’s admiration for Kim Jung-un, the U.S. is considering taking direct action against North Korea, a horrifying consideration.

North Korea’s regime also may have assassinated the leader’s half brother with a banned nerve agent classified as a weapon of mass destruction. DDT has not tweeted about any concern.

Conservative commentator Peter Wehner defined the real danger for the United States:

“We have as president a man who is erratic, vindictive, volatile, obsessive, a chronic liar, and prone to believe in conspiracy theories. And you can count on the fact that there will be more to come, since when people like Donald Trump gain power they become less, not more, restrained.”

The best quote of today about immigration: Ben Carson, new Secretary of HUD, told agency employees in his introductory speech that slaves are “immigrants” who “worked even harder for less.”

March 5, 2017

Trump: ‘Deflector in Chief’

“The time for trivial fights is past.” – Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during his first address to Congress last Tuesday evening.

donald-trumpDDT’s semi-presidential appearance didn’t last long. Left without his keepers at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, DDT worked to deflect all his bad press resulting from this week’s scandals about Russia about that country’s participation in the presidential election with angry, libelous tweets. Between his rants about firing Arnold Schwarzenegger were accusations about President Obama tapping his phones at the Trump Tower. The adolescent sending the tweets couldn’t even spell “tapp” correctly: he gave the word an extra p. The excuse his handlers gave DDT was a vague statement in fake Breitbart news about Barack Obama’s “police state” tactics. With no evidence, could be sued for libel, disseminating damaging false information.

Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D-CA) summary of DDT’s problems:

“Either @realDonaldTrump is paranoid like Nixon, or judge found probable cause of crime for #wiretap. Either way our President is in trouble.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:

“It’s beneath the dignity of the presidency. It is something that really hurts people’s view of government.”

Growing concern has developed because DDT will be hosting Angela Merkel next week after accusing her of “ruining Germany.” Schumer echoed Lieu’s conclusion about the allegations either being false or providing probable cause to search for broken laws.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described DDT as “deflector in chief.” She said about DDT’s accusations:

“It’s called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge. It’s a tool of an authoritarian.”

Two issues about Russia that DDT wants to conceal are the way that his new AG, Jeff Sessions, committed perjury in saying that he had no communication with the Russians and the question of whether a special prosecutor should be assigned to address DDT’s campaign involvement with Russia instead of letting the partisan Congress investigate the matter.

Concerns about Russian involvement in the campaign has been released in dribbles and drabs for almost a year as DDT continued to express his unadulterated admiration for Vladimir Putin as a leader. The most recent activity before DDT’s tweet was when Sessions tried to jump out of the frying pan by finally recusing himself from any investigations into the FBI and hoping to save himself from resignation. He’s in a risky situation because Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) wants Sessions to go back to the Senate to explain his statements made earlier under oath.

sessions-putinSessions’ problems began when he answered a question that no one asked him. Franken asked Sessions what he would do as AG if the connections between DDT and Russia were true. Sessions didn’t answer that question, but he said that he had “been called a surrogate” in the campaign and that “I did not have communications with the Russians.” By now the media has made clear that his answer was not true (aka a lie) because he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice while the White House was working on sanctions against Russia. When these meetings were publicly revealed, Sessions said he couldn’t remember if he talked politics with the ambassador. Russia is now in control of Sessions’ future because the ambassador can blackmail him. Saturday Night Live opened with a spoof about Sessions, played by Kate McKinnon.

Franken sent a letter to Sessions telling him that his not mentioning Russian involvement in the election “strains credulity.” The letter asked why Sessions had failed to mention the communication and what all his and his staff members’ communications with “Russian officials and their associates during the presidential campaign of 2016” are. As Franken wrote:

“If it is determined that you lied to the [Judiciary] Committee and the American people under oath during your confirmation hearing, it is incumbent upon you to resign from your position as attorney general.”

DDT’s response to Sessions’ recusal was a “ballistic” rant in which he used “a lot of expletives” and “nobody has seen him that upset.” That may be the reason that Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus didn’t go to Florida with DDT—thus the tweets. And DDT’s demand for a special prosecutor into the non-existent wiretaps. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has consistently maintained that there’s no need for an investigation into Russia’s involvement in DDT’s campaign, said that the Intelligence Committee “will make inquiries” as per DDT’s demand. On the other hand, FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject DDT’s claims about the former president’s wiretaps of Trump Tower.

Democrats—including seven of the nine on the Senate Judicial Committee—are calling for a special prosecutor into Russian interference while Republicans continue to squirm about its possibility. Doing so would allow a nonpartisan person instead of an acting deputy attorney general to leads an investigation. DDT’s nominee for that position, Rod Rosenstein, could be asked about a commitment to naming a special prosecutor before his final vote. The historical precedent for an appointment is during the Watergate scandal in 1973 when the Judiciary Committee demanded that Nixon’s nominee name the prosecutor before the vote as well as asking questions about the prosecutor’s level of independence. Other special prosecutors occurred for investigation into Bill Clinton’s Whitewater affair and George W. Bush’s Valerie Plame affair.

Almost two decades ago, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions defined the standard for assigning a special prosecutor. The issue was whether Gore lied during an investigation into the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign’s fundraising. Sessions said that an independent investigator should be appointed any time that an AG is asked to investigate the president because of the president’s power over the AG. Now Sessions may face criminal charges for perjury and leads the same agency, the Department of Justice, that would ordinarily investigate alleged violations of federal law. For all the time before he finally recused himself, he was in the same power that the AG faced in the case where he set up the standard.

In its continued support for DDT, the FBI may be concealing information from Congressional committees attempting to investigate communication between DDT’s people and the Russian officials. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said that the intelligence community has not been forthcoming, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, ‘‘We know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows.” Asked about transcripts that the FBI refused to share with Democrats, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tried to “deflect” the issue by refusing to discuss them, indicating that they do exist. The issue of transcripts is interesting because U.S. citizens, including Michael Flynn, can be taped without FISA warrants. Transcripts of Flynn–or anyone else–would  indicate evidence of wrongdoing.

After DDT’s accusations about President Obama’s wiretapping one of his homes, he moved on to tweets stating that the former president had Russian ties and that Democrats didn’t want to help the FBI investigate the Russian cyberattacks.

DDT’s “relationship” with Russia seems to be cooling in the light of continued criticism from people in the U.S.—something that DDT cannot handle. One indication is that his pick for top Russia adviser is Fiona Hill whose book Mr. Putin, Operative in the Kremlin alludes to Vladimir Putin’s history as a KGB operative. There are also rumors that Putin didn’t want DDT to win; he just wanted to create chaos in the United States. On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, New Yorker editor David Remnick said:

“Everybody expected Hillary Clinton to win. You expected her to win. The polls expected her to win. So they succeeded, in some sense, beyond their wildest dreams, and now they’re freaked,” Remnick added ominously. “If you talk to people in Moscow now, there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse. There was an order sent down to Russian television, ‘enough with the celebrating about Trump!’”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that the Kremlin is waiting for “some kind of actions” to understand what the future holds because “we have heard different statements from President Trump.” Even Russia understands that DDT’s volatility is untrustworthy.

The weekend is almost over, and DDT will get his keepers back when he returns to the White House. His handlers there may temper his tweets.

Should we be obsessed with the Russia story? Of course! This is bigger than Watergate, and it sets the direction for the United States for decades to come. An additional issue surrounding the White House is that eight Russian operatives connected to DDT have already been found dead. We need to overcome the “deflector in chief.”

March 3, 2017

DDT Week Six: The ‘Trump Slump’

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 11:00 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The joint speech to Congress last Tuesday was supposed to be Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) victory lap. It lasted for less than 24 hours before the country switched to focus on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ connection with Russia during his campaigning for DDT. The man inaugurated for president only 31 days ago was so desperate that he tried to connect Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) with Vladimir Putin by showing a photo of the pair from 2003 that has been promoted on conspiracy websites such as Gateway Pundit and Infoward.

Muslim Ban

The Muslim ban rolled out a month ago had to be carried out instantly, according to DDT, so that no more “bad dudes” could get into the United States. Once it was overturned, there was supposed to be first an appeal and then a new ban for the same reason. Nothing happened for weeks, and DDT announced that there wouldn’t be one for a few days after his speech to allow his speech to bask in the glory from DDT’s performance, to permit the speech “to breathe.” The desperate need to keep the nation safe had dissipated.

By now, DDT has a problem with any immigrant ban after a report from the Department of Homeland Security revealed that banning immigrants may be worthless:

“We assess that most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.”

Combined with DHS findings that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” there is no evidence to prove the necessity of greater vetting for immigrants than has been used in the past. DDT’s aide Stephan Miller indicated that the ban may be to protect U.S. workers from foreign competitors.

The Russian Connection

Like Richard Nixon, DDT has promised a leadership of “law and order.” And also like Nixon, DDT is displaying an administration of corruption and criminality within his own circle. He began by maintaining his conflicts of interest, nominating corrupt people for his cabinet, and then losing his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who lied about meeting with the Russians. This week’s poster “child” for breaking the law is newly confirmed Jeff Sessions, who lied to Congress about not having met with the Russians while he was a part of DDT’s campaign. As the new U.S. attorney general, Sessions has been excited about his power–exonerating police for any criminal action and cracking down on marijuana users, among others. His career has become greatly tarnished with the discovery that he committed perjury while testifying in his confirmation hearings on January 10.

DDT has always claimed that he knows about no one who talked to Russia during his campaign, but six of his aides have also admitted to talking with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year. Three of his national security advisers also talked to the ambassador at the RNC in July. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and also a senior adviser, also met with the Russian ambassador last December at the same time as Michael Flynn.

In an attempt to exonerate himself, Sessions told reporters than he met the Russian ambassador in his senatorial capacity, but one of the meetings was at the RNC conference when Sessions used campaign funds for his travel. He also said that he had forgotten about meeting with the ambassador. Until yesterday, he had flatly refused to recuse himself from any investigation into DDT’s campaign team involvement with the Russians, but now he’s backed down from that assertion—most likely to keep from being forced to resign from his brand new position. If he ends up losing that job, it’s unlikely that he can go back to the Senate because he’s already been replaced.

Another blow against DDT this week, temporarily hidden by the much worse news for him, was the confirmation that he was responsible for softening language toward Russia in the GOP platform. J.D. Gordon, DDT’s national security policy rep at the RNC, earlier said that DDT wasn’t involved in the change that called for the U.S. to provide “appropriate assistance,” rather than lethal weapons, to Ukraine to push back against Russian intervention. Gordon talked to the Russian ambassador too.

Cabinet Members Perjury

Sessions wasn’t the only confirmed Cabinet member who lied under oath during confirmation hearings.

  • EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, Education Secretary stated in testimony that he had never used a private email account to conduct business while he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.
  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that she has not been involved in her family’s foundation, which has given millions of dollars to group that oppose LGBT rights. She denied that she sat on the board, but her tax filings list her as vice-president of the board for 17 years. DeVos claimed it was a “clerical” error.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin denied in his written testimony that his former bank had used “robo-signing,” but it was a frequent practice , and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price insisted that his discount for a biotech stock was “available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.” Fewer than 20 investors in the nation were offered the same discount.

EmailGate

For years, GOP members of Congress have been obsessed with two Hillary Clinton issues, Benghazi and emails. During DDT’s Tuesday speech, he lauded himself for a failed raid in Yemen that killed a Navy SEAL. Later this week, VP Mike Pence was found to have used a public server, AOL.com, for sensitive government messages. Pence said that his email server use was entirely different from that of Hillary Clinton He is correct in at least one way: AOL was hacked; Clinton’s server was not. Clinton openly provided emails when asked, but Pence has fought the release of his emails through judicial means. DDT’s new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, also communicated with his staff on private email when he was Oklahoma attorney general and then lied about doing that while under oath by telling Congress that he always used a state email account for government business. Conservatives have yet to demand that Pence and Pruitt be locked up.

GOPcare

The GOP health care plan still seems to be missing. After the promise to release it last Wednesday, the day after DDT’s speech, it stays in the basement of an office building next to the Capitol where only House Republicans are allowed to see it. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tried to make copies, but he wasn’t permitted into the room where the plan is being kept.

Immigration Policy

Despite the part of DDT’s speech that his immigration policy going after only the “bad ones,” he has decided that women and children are the “bad ones.” The Department of Homeland Security is considering the separation of mothers from their children at the border to keep them from migrating to the U.S. Toward that end, the current 3,000 prison beds for undocumented women and children will be expanded to 20,000.

The policy would detain parents while complying with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals order that immigrant children must be released from detention as soon as possible. The excuse for this action is protection because “the journey north is a dangerous one.” No consideration has been given to the fact that living in the countries these people flee may be more dangerous.

Vacation for DDT

In the meantime, DDT is taking another $3 million trip to Mar-a-Lago to recover from the week’s stress. He has gone every weekend since the week after his inauguration, and taxpayers have picked up the tab for four of the trips. Taxpayers are also paying for a Marine One helipad being built at Mar-a-Lago. At least DDT is not finding his new job too much work for him.

Disappearing Visitors to U.S.

Travel guru Arthur Frommer calls it the “Trump Slump.” While DDT makes money illegally for his businesses and lives off the taxpayers, international travel to the U.S. is suffering because of his immigration policies with a projected fewer 300,000 visitors coming to New York this year as compared to 2016. It would be the first drop since the 2008 recession. Philadelphia lost 3,000 attendees to an international meeting that will go instead to Canada or Mexico. Another company reports that books are down 6.5 percent thus far this year compared to last. With international travel a key to tourism, the industry generates $2.1 trillion in economic output and supports 15.1 million jobs. An op-ed piece in the Toronto Star newspaper encouraged Canadians to “boycott vacations to the U.S.” until Trump is no longer president.

March 2, 2017

Resist!

Filed under: protests — trp2011 @ 9:12 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“Protests don’t do any good.” That’s what a progressive friend of mine said yesterday. I launched into my monologue, including the protests against the Vietnam War and for civil rights which we’re both old enough to remember. By the time I finished, he agreed with me—although perhaps out of exhaustion. Earlier this week, “hundreds” of Trump supporters gathered across the country but failed to display much energy. At the same time, the Resistance Movement is overwhelming the nation.

Unlike the Vietnam War protesting, this activism is not around a single issue. The “women’s march” was about far more than women; it showed how all of us need to come together to fight back against the authoritarian regime from the federal government. Everyone needs to know that we are not alone while we are all at risk.

A question after that first march on January 21 was what would happen after the event that went around the world. The outrage demonstrated by hundreds of thousands of people is vital, and retention of that energy is crucial. While conservatives tell protesters to “get over it,” something they never did with Barack Obama, and others call for compromise, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has shown that there is no benefit in conciliation because Republicans consistently prove that they will settle only for their own way, always refusing to cooperate. They have zero interest in democracy.

One benefit for protesters is that DDT has made radical promises about finding jobs for people that he cannot possibly fulfill. The unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent—in my state of Oregon, the lowest in 50 years at 4.3 percent. Another problem for conservatives is the false claim that GOPcare will give a better deal to people than “Obamacare,” which now enjoys a 54 percent approval rating. DDT supporters will have less money after the tax “reform” gives away the money only to the wealthy. Others will lose Social Security and Medicare if congressional Republicans get their way.

Until these disasters come to fruition, however, the United States is already on its way to an autocracy, Paul Krugman’s polite term for dictatorship, and our only path is fighting back:

“A crucial part of the story is that the emerging autocracy uses the power of the state to intimidate and co-opt civil society—institutions outside the government proper. The media are bullied and bribed into becoming de facto propaganda organs of the ruling clique. Businesses are pressured to reward the clique’s friends and punish its enemies. Independent public figures are pushed into collaboration or silence. Sound familiar?”

A great beginning was Indivisible, the grass roots movement that started with a guide to protesting. The presence of these people was noticeable whenever the Pledge of Allegiance was recited at the town hall meetings during the congressional recess as the crowd emphasized the word in “one nation indivisible.”

Michael Moore also has a “ten-step program” to rally people that echoes much of the Indivisible document. His first directive is calling Congress—every day! Dial 202-225-3121 (or 202-224-3121 if busy). Or directly call senators and representatives. There’s even an app called “5 Calls” that directly dials numbers. Make it part of your daily routine, Moore writes, just after waking up, brushing teeth, walking dog or staring at cat, and making coffee. Members of Congress are commenting on the number of calls they are receiving. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said that he received 20,000 in one week instead of the normal 2,500.

Item #9 is even easier for people who hate to make telephone calls. With the current DDT obsession on suppressing the media, do it yourself. Moore suggests that everyone establish their own “media empire” by sharing progressive articles on all their social media. Some of my favorite outlets are americanprogress.org (including thinkprogress.org), alternet.org, dailykos.com, truthout.org, readersupportednews.org, reprohealthwatch.org, and msnbc.com/maddowblog. You probably have other favorites.

The last item on Moore’s list feeds into DDT’s terror of being ridiculed. Share humor with people—all those clips from SNL, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Andy Borowitz, and your other favorites. Those of you think that mocking the president is not fair need to consider his greed, misogyny, bigotry, narcissism, authoritarianism, and ignorance that should remove his right to lead the nation.

Follow your congressional members by subscribing to these sites.

  • FiveThirtyEight, the respected blog that crunches political numbers for analyses of politics and economics, has the Trump Score to show how individual members of Congress compare to DDT’s positions. It’s a start.
  • GovTrack has more detailed information and provides alerts on individual congressional members’ votes and updates on bills that they sponsor. It’s a good way to look at voting records and follow bills and committees.
  • Countable gives pro and con positions about specific bills and stances from political organizations about specific issues.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, suggests boycotting retailers that carry Trump products as an act of protest. Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have dropped Trump items, and Macy’s, which dropped DDT products, is now being pressured to eliminate the Ivanka Trump line. Activism caused Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, to resign from DDT’s economic counsel. This website contains telephone numbers for Trump-carrying businesses to call about dropping your purchasing power.

Immediately after DDT was inaugurated, people trying to call the White House comment line found it disconnected, but it seems to be operating now between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm EST at 202-456-1111. When it was not operating, White House Inc., created by Revolution Messaging, began connecting people to DDT’s businesses. The person may ask about making reservations or setting up a tee time, but you can still ask for management and talk about the issues.

DDT and the Republicans legislators claim that they have sworn off regulations, but they will certainly create ones that make lives worse. At this time, everyone can comment on proposed rules. After laws are passed, executive agencies can fill in the details within the boundaries of the law. These regulations must be shared with the public before public adoption in a comment period.

The first step is to go to the list of proposed regulations. For example, one of the ones listed is called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization.” Reading the draft rules shows that the government wants to reduce open enrollment for the ACA from two months to two weeks—November 1 to December 15. The end of the comment period for this proposed regulation is March 6, 2017. There are directions on how to comment.

Some organizations, for example the Sierra Club, have pages for its supporters to submit public comments on issues of their concern; signing up for email lists from the organizations that champion your causes is useful. This process goes beyond signing petitions because your comments must be reviewed. The most useful comments are those that provide facts, analyses, and impacts, and the number of voices always matters.

folding-chair

Why do protests make a difference? They make causes more visible, demonstrate power, give a sense of unity, build relationships, and provide a sense of energy and hope. If protests didn’t work, conservatives wouldn’t bother trying to make them illegal in at least 18 states. No significant social progress has ever occurred without protests. The most amazing part of Michael Moore’s ten steps is the Resistance Calendar with daily protest postings—almost 20 for just today, March 2. As Shirley Chisholm said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.” Pick up your folding chair and join the resistance!

March 1, 2017

DDT’s Speech: Lies, Contradictions

Donald J. Trump President Donald Trump address Joint Session of Congress, Washington DC - 28 Feb 2017 Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28. Traditionally the first address to a joint session of Congress by a newly-elected president is not referred to as a State of the Union. (Rex Features via AP Images)

(Rex Features via AP Images)

The performer, the grifter, the liar, the manipulator elected president of the United States proved last night that he’s become better at reading from a teleprompter and has a better speech writer than during his campaign. Supporters of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) are proudly commenting on his “change” although they still admit that he’s better only if one judges him against his own past and not against others. Some even raved about his speech, his first to a joint meeting of Congress. Slate’s Jacob Weisberg’s tweet was on target about praise from the media:

“Enemies of the people giving Trump positive reviews for not sounding like a ranting dictator.”

Tom Perez, new DNC chair, described it well when he said that the speech was “Steve Bannon on steroids with a smile.” The only change was stylistic after DDT finished trying to soften the audience by condemning the anti-Semitic threats and violence, followed by his first mention of two Indian immigrants shot in a Kansas bar a week ago. Earlier in the day, however, he had suggested that the Jewish people were making the calls themselves to make his supporters look bad. Another of his conspiracy theories is that President Obama is setting up protesters to make him look bad. DDT—always the victim. He spoke of support for blacks the same week that his Justice Department determined that it will support suppression of the vote by minorities in Texas.

Despite a few cheery words of hope and optimism sprinkled throughout the speech, DDT consistently talked about the horrors of the United States at this time. The only way that he can maintain his dictatorship is to convince his audience that life now in the United States is hell and that they need all his actions to make life better.

DDT’s claim that over 43 million people now lives in poverty ignores the fastest drop in almost 50 years. His repeated misrepresentation of 94 million people “out of the labor force” ignores the unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, only seven percent of the mythical number of 94 million that includes all the people who don’t want jobs—students, disabled, stay-at-home parents, retirees, etc. as well as the over two million people in prison. Using this demographic is dangerous for DDT’s statistics because trends will increase the number by the time that he’s up for re-election.

The attack on undocumented immigrants launched into “America First” rhetoric while DDT bragged about the deportation of “bad ones”—barely a step up from his references to “bad dudes” or, worse, “bad hombres.” His announcement of a new office to support victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants brought a groan, at this time the only “victims” of interest to DDT. Before the speech, DDT has suggested that he considered providing legal status to undocumented immigrants who had not committed serious crimes, but the white supremacist who wrote his speech ignored this idea.

DDT used his common theme, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in another nine years, as another part of his anti-immigrant message. What brought America together, in the words of DDT’s speech writer, was “that America must put its own citizens first, because only then can we truly make America great again.” DDT asserted that only immigrants who come with money will be legally allowed into the country. The fewer, richer immigrants “will be very, very happy, indeed,” according to DDT.

DDT falsely cited a 2016 report, stating that the U.S. immigration system “costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.” The report found exactly the opposite, that immigration helps the economy and has little impact on the employment status and wages of native-born workers. Economists agree that DDT’s new deportation rules would cost the economy trillions of dollars. He is also wrong about what immigrants can enter the country. Immigration law has clearly stated for over a century that people coming into the U.S. cannot be impoverished and that those who are public charges will be deported.

H.R. McMaster, the new National Security Advisor, warned against using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” but DDT defiantly emphasized the words when he said that he would be signing a new Muslim ban. In addition, he repeated the lie that “the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” A 2015 report found 50 Islam-inspired deaths—not all by people from “outside the country”—and the man who killed 50 people in Orlando last summer was born in the United States. “Right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.” White supremacists are influencing DDT to investigate any right-wing extremist terrorism.

“One of the highest [tax] rates in the world”? Nowhere near. The U.S. is one of the top ten tax friendliest countries in the world and not even in the top 30 worst ones.

DDT’s declared that he will bring jobs back from overseas by doing away with trade treaties, yet only 13.4 percent, about 750,000 jobs, have been lost to trade. The rest of them have been lost to automation or other factors “attributable to productivity growth.” Of the 70,000 jobs he bragged about creating, 68,800 were planned before the election, and 700 were the result of President Obama’s policies. In addition, some of these, such as the Intel jobs in Arizona came after the company had fired a larger number of people in Oregon.

While Republicans vigorously applauded at every sentence, especially his support of their GOPcare health plan, DDT made costly promises that must have made them shudder:

“Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways, gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.”

He also promised “massive tax relief for the middle class,” the return of “millions of jobs,” “a better health-care system for all Americans,” and lower corporate taxes. In fact, DDT’s tax plan raises taxes on single parents while disproportionately benefiting the richest Americans.

The most embarrassing part of the speech was the introduction of Carryn Owens, the widow of the Navy Seal who was killed in DDT’s first counterterrorism attack that he casually authorized over a dinner with GOP leaders such as white supremacist Steve Bannon. While she sat crying in the gallery for what seemed to be an infinity, he talked about the raid’s success (a lie) and then ad-libbed, “And Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.” It was vintage DDT—lying and bragging about acclamation for a grieving widow. Two parts of the failed raid were not mentioned: the Seal’s father refused to meet with DDT when his son was returned and demanded an investigation; and the commandos knew they had lost the element of surprise but were still ordered to complete the compromised mission. In addition, DDT may have claimed at the speech that the raid was a success, but earlier in the day he blamed the generals earlier for its failure.

Missing from the speech was any mention of climate issues although DDT promised to “promote clean air and clear water.” That was a few hours after he signed an executive order to eradicate the Clean Water Rule, affecting waterways that 117 million people in the U.S. rely on for drinking water.

Steve Benen described the substance-free speech as “a sugar high than political sustenance.” Like a campaign speech, it promised voters everything with no explanation of how he would deliver. The purpose for a speech to Congress is to give it direction, badly needed help in the severely divided GOP that is fighting over such issues as health care, tax code, military, infrastructure, and “the wall.” DDT confirmed his campaigning goal with a letter on his website designed to raise money for 2020 by stating that last night was the FEC deadline for the quarter and that he would be given a list of donor names. Every action that DDT takes for as long as he lasts as president will be to either gain votes or make money for himself.

51-lies-in-61-minutesDDT lied at least 51 times during his 61-minute address—too many lies to clarify in such a short space. Suffice it to say, he continues to lie at least three-fourths of the time. When he isn’t lying, he’s changing his position. He cannot be trusted in any way.

Attention for DDT’s speech may be ephemeral since tonight’s disclosure that U.S. Attorney General failed to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he talked with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. twice last year while he was a U.S. senator from Alabama and “surrogate” for DDT’s campaign. DDT’s desired pivot from last night’s speech has made a far right turn back to his possible connection to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and adventurers.

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

www.occupydemocrats.com/

Moving America FORWARD

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: