Nel's New Day

March 31, 2018

Census on Front Burner, Legal Decisions Helping People

The worst event in the past week may be the decision to add a question to the census about immigration status. Republicans have eliminated any questions about LGBTQ people, but they plan to add a question that intimidates people to cut down the number of votes for their own purposes. The question hasn’t been asked since 1950 and will start an immense legal and political war. Twelve states are already suing Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to stop the interrogatory question.

The Constitution requires a count of “the whole number of persons in each State” and says nothing about citizens. The SCOTUS ruling in Evenwel v. Abbott (2016) unanimously stated that legislative maps should be on total population, not the number of citizens.

Commerce Secretary is already lying about the necessity for “more effective enforcement” of the Voting Rights Act, but it’s already asked on the longer American Community Survey which is used to enforce civil rights laws. The census determines the drawing of congressional districts, the number of electoral votes, and the allocation of $675 billion from 300 programs in federal funding to states and localities. Undercounts deny federal resources and representation to Latino populations and shift power to white, Republican regions. An undercount of just one percent, for example, could cause Texas to lose $300 million in federal monies for children’s insurance and Medicaid.

Common Cause is suing Cambridge Analytica for using foreign workers to orchestrate U.S. elections. A 2014 C.A. report described its management of the campaign for GOP candidate Art Robinson in his campaign against Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in violation of the law.

A federal lawsuit in Utah is contesting the state’s decision to prevent a U.S. citizen from Samoa from running for office. The plaintiffs maintain that the 14th Amendment confers citizenship on people born on U.S. soil, whether state, territory, of the District of Columbia.

Three men, DDT supporters, are on trial in Kansas for plotting to bomb a Muslim apartment building to start a holy war. They hoped to slaughter Muslims to inspire other to follow their lead. Despite the political purpose of the plans, the judge refused the claim, and the defense lawyers are attacking the FBI with the claim that FBI entrapment unfairly persuaded the three men to have the terrorist plot. DDT has been silent about the terrorism.

Environmental groups are suing the EPA for removing a policy imposing limits on hazardous air pollutants from factories, plants, and other major polluters.

DOJ’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked to defend Texas gerrymandering maps found by a lower court to be discriminatory. The case goes to the Supreme Court on April 24.

The day after Stormy Daniels’ interview aired on 60 Minutes, she filed a defamation lawsuit against DDT’s personal attorney Michael Cohen for accusing her of lying about an affair with DDT. Demanding a jury trial, the suit also contains the argument that DDT’s non-disclosure agreement is not valid because Cohen’s payment of $130,000 violated federal law and DDT didn’t sign the agreement. A judge has refused to allow a deposition of DDT.

The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices.

Legal Decisions:

A federal judge on Friday evening temporarily blocked DDT from stopping abortions for unaccompanied immigrant teenagers who are or will be in federal custody because it violates the girls’ constitutional rights. HHS are not permitted to obstruct access to abortion, counseling, medical appointments, or other pregnancy-related care.

A federal judge refused to permit an ExxonMobil lawsuit intended to stop New York and Massachusetts’ probe into the company’s misleading investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change.

A federal judge refused to allow a conservative group to purge voter lists of eligible voters.

An appellate judge told Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) that he had to hold an election for empty legislative seats in the third ruling this week, and he gave up. Walker attacked Eric Holder and other Democrats on Twitter but set up the special elections for June 12 to fill seats vacated last year.

Washington, D.C. and Maryland may proceed with a lawsuit against DDT, according to a federal judge. The case alleges that DDT’s business dealings violate the constitutional ban on “emoluments,” payments to the president from states and foreign governments.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris told government officials they must consider climate change in mapping out infrastructure and land use in the Wyoming/Montana Powder River Basin that produces 40 percent of the nation’s coal. He told the BLM that they had to work with environmental groups for future development in the area.

A federal judge cited DDT’s “racially charged language” when he ruled that a lawsuit to protect DACA participants may continue. Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis pointed out that DDT’s many “racial slurs” and “epithets” created a “plausible inference” that his ending DACA violated the constitutional equal protection clause.

Firings/Appointments:

This week saw the disappearance of another Cabinet member. Two days after DDT said he wasn’t firing VA Secretary David Shulkin, he did. Pete Hegseth, Fox & Friends co-host, will have to wait for a DDT appointment; DDT says that he has picked Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, his personal physician who said glowing things about DDT, as the replacement for acting secretary. The media is now revealing that Hegseth has a tremendous amount of baggage that could keep him from confirmed.

Shulkin is not going quietly. He wrote an op-ed for the New York Times and has appeared on various television programs about how DDT surrounded him with staffers working to privatize the VA in opposition to the positions of veterans advocacy groups and lawmakers concerned about the influence of the Koch brothers and other far-right people to destroy public healthcare. Shulkin pointed out that private health care can’t even take care of its own clients now, let alone the number of patients and their specialized needs coming from veterans dumped onto the system.

The VA Secretary was ostensibly fired because of his travel expenses, a claim made invalid by the inordinate costs of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt. Pruitt paid $40,000 cost to take seven aides staff and an undisclosed number of protective staff to Morocco about the nation’s interest in importing liquified nitrogen gas. The Department of Energy and that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are in charge of LNG exports, not the EPA. Last June, Pruitt’s expenses to the G7 environmental summit were $120,000. While there, Pruitt attending one meeting and left early. For much of his first year in Washington, Pruitt lived in a condo owned by co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist which includes LNG exports. He paid about $1,000 a month in the fifth most expensive city in the country and in an area where rentals go for about $5,000 a month.

William Charles “Chad” McIntosh, DDT’s pick to head the EPA office of International and Tribal Affairs, comes from the Ford Motor Company where he failed to stop an industrial spill contaminating groundwater with a carcinogen chemical in a Michigan suburb. McIntosh may be deposed in a lawsuit. He also has a background in rolling back Michigan’s environmental protections.

Hope Hicks may be gone from the White House, but DDT now has Caroline Sunshine (left). The 22-year-old Disney Channel star from Shake It Up is a press assistant. (Remember when DDT said that Stormy Daniels, below, wasn’t his type?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christine Harbin, another anti-clean energy fighter, has been appointed as senior adviser for external affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, primarily dealing with the electricity grid. She worked for the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity since 2012 and, before that, for the Koch-funded ALEC, always in a position to support pollution.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) failed to keep Matthew Masterson on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission despite his cyber abilities to fight Russian meddling in elections, but he’s now been hired for the DHS cyber wing to work on election security. State election officials have praised his ability and leadership.

People are beginning to notice the environment: 59 percent rate quality of environment negatively, 40 percent positively; 61 percent say quality of the environment getting worse, 33 percent say better.

DDT is wasting money by doing away with regulations. In the past decade, the government made from $287 billion to $911 billion each year from regulations while spending from $78 billion and $115 billion to implement them. DDT’s goal is to eliminate 75 percent of the regulations that keep people safe. For years, I’ve asked a Republican friend which regulations she wants to get rid of; she never has had an answer.

Note from yesterday’s post on Laura Ingraham: the conservative host is taking a break from her Fox program, “The Ingraham Angle.” Thus far, at least 16 large companies have dropped their advertising after her attack on the Parkland (FL) survivor, leaving only IBM on Friday night.Now North Carolina Rep. Beverly Boswell (R) used her Facebook page to accuse student protesters at the Washington, D.C. rally of wanting to “murder” gun owners.

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March 30, 2018

DDT: Week 62 – More Golf, Lies

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 10:23 PM
Tags: ,

On the 114th day that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) played golf since his inauguration, here’s a bit of last week’s happenings:

After not being seen for three days following the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels garnering 22 million viewers, DDT gave a speech in Ohio yesterday. He said the U.S. was pulling out of Syria “very soon” just hours after the Pentagon said that troops need to stay in the country. He rambled on about the smell of construction sites and mused that  community colleges were vocational and technical schools. DDT accused President Obama of being “complacent” for not filling over 100 federal judge positions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had blocked, including one for the Supreme Court. In 2015, the GOP confirmed judges at the slowest rate in more than 60 years.

DDT tweeted that construction started on his “big beautiful wall” that he called a “thing of beauty,” but his photos of the event are of the replacement of a fence built in the 1990s in southern California, planned for years, and allocated last year. This month’s omnibus spending bill provides $1.6 billion for border barriers: $251 million for “secondary fencing” near San Diego where fencing is already in place; $445 million for no more than 25 miles of “levee fencing”; $196 million for “primary pedestrian fencing” in the Rio Grande Valley; $445 million is for the replacement of existing fencing in that area; and the rest for planning, design, and technology. Barriers ban DDT’s prototypes. DDT’s latest plan, perhaps from Ann Coulter, is to get the Pentagon to pay for his wall because they are rich, but this building would also require congressional approval.

Rosanne Barr is a strong supporter, and DDT called her to congratulate her on her 18.2 audience for her television reboot. Several of Barr’s tweets have had to be deleted, however, including her support for the accusation that Parkland (FL) teenage activist David Hogg gave a Nazi salute. She also supports a false theory about top Democrats being a part of a satanic cult that trafficks child sex slaves, lies that evolved from the fake conspiracy theory during the Hillary Clinton campaign. And worse.

In another conspiracy theory, Fox’s Laura Ingraham accused Parkland (FL) activist David Hogg, 17, of being in cahoots with the teenager who killed 17 people in a high school there. Advertisers such as TripAdvisor, Nestle, Hulu, Office Depot, Expedia, Jenny Craig, and Johnson & Johnson began to bail, and 22 hours later she said she did “apologize for any upset or hurt” from her comment in the “spirit of the Holy Week.” Advertisers are still leaving.

The crises surrounding foreign affairs continues. DDT’s warm and fuzzy call of congratulations to Vladimir Putin last week may not keep him out of trouble after his administration joined 24 other countries to expel Russian diplomats. Russia retaliated by expelling diplomats from 23 countries.

Fed up with AG Jeff Sessions’ lying, former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) wrote a detailed piece about Sessions’ testimony under oath.

The leap in donations to the NRA in 2016 led to a McClatchy News report two months ago regarding an FBI exploration into illegal Russian money funneled into the powerful U.S. organization and a FEC investigation into the NRA’s illegal contributions. After weeks of silence, the NRA admitted taking foreign money but claimed that none of it got into their campaign efforts. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the NRA for “a detailed accounting of how foreign funds were used over the past three years, whether they were targeted at particular American audiences, and what its measured impact was” as well as “whether any Russian nationals or foreign individuals had been members of the NRA’s donor programs, and whether the NRA received any money from sanctioned individuals.” NRA’s earlier response if that the group didn’t get foreign money for the U.S. election but doesn’t state that the NRA did not use foreign money in a U.S. election.

John Dowd, DDT’s ex-lawyer who resigned last week, denied that he talked to lawyers for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn last year about presidential pardons. If the accusation is true, however, his hindering an investigation means obstruction of justice if the proposal was part of larger conspiracy to block the special counsel’s work. Now that Dowd is freed from DDT, he’s talking about how “terrific” Mueller is and how he enjoyed working with the special investigator.

DDT finally found another lawyer for his team—a minor Southern prosecutor named Andrew J. Ekonomou, 69 years old.

In November 2015, Vladimir Putin’s media czar, the wealthy Mikhail Lesin, died of blunt force injuries to his head, neck, torso, upper extremities, and lower extremities in his Washington, D.C. hotel room. After almost a year, local police and the FBI released a report that the beatings came from drunken falls in the room. In July 2017, BuzzFeed reported anonymous FBI reports that the death was intentional. A report by Christopher Steele, the same man who prepared a dossier about Russia’s help for DDT’s election, determined that Lesin was beaten to death, possibly by men hired by a Russian oligarch, the night before he was scheduled to talk to the DOJ. Britain is investigating 14 suspicious deaths connected to Russia.

DDT’s campaign aide Rick Gates communicated with a member of the Russian intelligence service in the fall of 2018, according to a government sentencing memorandum in the case of Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan. After pleading guilty of lying to the FBI, van der Zwaan will be sentenced on April 3. His Russian billionaire father-in-law, German Khan, co-founded Alfa Group and recently named in the Treasury Department’s list of Russian oligarchs, is suing BuzzFeed News for publishing the Steele dossier about DDT.

The GOP platform change of language about Ukraine at the 2016 convention to a pro-Russia policy was tracked to DDT, and Mueller is now questioning communications with AG Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador during the convention and earlier in April 2016.

The FBI’s subpoena of Ted Malloch may connect DDT’s adviser Roger Stone and Brexit leader Nigel Farage to the Russian scandal. Stone is a central figure in the WikiLeaks controversy hacking and then releasing Clinton’s campaign emails, probably on orders from Russia.

China has joined Russia in world leadership over the United States. Kim Jong-Un met with Xi Jinping in Beijing, showing that China will shape the agenda for U.S. summits with North Korea. China’s primary goal is stability because Kim’s regime collapse would move refugees and U.S. troops into China.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Europe that they had to pick the United States or Iran as DDT contemplates withdrawing from the Iran deal to control their nuclear weapons.

DDT’s trade war this week and his attack on Amazon drove the stock market into such a roller-coaster that the total was up only 160 points, 1,500 points below the peak in 2018. DDT backed off from tariffs on China, perhaps to benefit people close to him. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may still own $125 million in Navigator Holdings that operates LNG tanker ships benefitting from Chinese-linked firms. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former economic council chair Gary Cohn, and son-in-law Jared Kushner are also profiting from Chinese-owned investments, and both Ivanka Trump and DDT received Chinese trademarks with more pending.

Amazon stock dropped six percent this week after DDT slammed the company for not paying state tax and taking unfair advantage of the post office, neither of these true claims. DDT’s problem with Amazon is its owner, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. The stock was back up one percent higher than the beginning by Friday’s close.

While several companies have cut ties with the NRA, FedEx has a secret deal with large gun manufacturers and dealers to give them a cheaper deal by breaking its policy of required overnight shipping for guns for a favored few. The confidential agreement was discovered in February after FedEx claimed that it no longer gives discounts to NRA members.

Both Mnuchin and DDT failed Government 101 last week in their demands for Congress to pass a line-item veto following the passage of the spending bill. Congress did this law in 1996, and SCOTUS struck it down in 1998.

The retirement of Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) after the primary’s filing deadline brings the total number of Republicans leaving Congress this year to almost 50 thus far, the largest number of retirements since the number of retirements in the 1930s. Half of them have already left or have no jobs lined up. Only ten House Democrats are retiring, and another eight are running for other offices.

A chart showing voter priorities in a Kaiser poll indicates the lack of popularity for building a border wall.

In the same poll, a majority of people in a Kaiser poll supported the expansion of Medicare for everyone who wishes while allowing those with other forms of coverage to keep that coverage if they wish: overall public (75 percent), Democrats (87 percent), independents (74 percent), and Republicans (64 percent).  Another chart showing the unpopularity of wall.

More Week 62 information will cover lawsuits and appointment.

 

March 29, 2018

Did Your Pay Check Go Up?

Filed under: taxes — trp2011 @ 8:45 PM
Tags: ,

Republicans will be running for re-election this year on their signature legislation of the first two years—a tax cut for the wealthy and big business. How’s that working out?

CNBC’s All American Economic Survey from last week found one-third of respondents with more money in their paychecks from the law that will crank up the deficit by $1.5 trillion. Over half—52 percent—found no difference. Of the one-third with more money, under 40 percent—that’s about 13 percent of the respondents–said that the increase improved their finances “a great deal” or “a fair amount.” The remainder of the one-third said that the increase helps a small amount or not at all.

Corporations, however, are having a great time with all their extra money. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) defended her vote to pass the bill by saying:

“The purpose of lowering the corporate rate is to encourage job creation here. It is not to encourage stock buybacks.”

Immediately after the bill was signed into law, a few corporations announced $1,000 bonuses. (That gives workers less than $.28 per day.) Raises are planned by 13.2 percent of companies, and tax savings for 44 percent of businesses will go to acquisitions and new equipment, including robots to replace workers. The rest goes for stock buybacks and dividends, causing the stock market to go up almost 2,000 points before it dropped almost 3,000 points. Workers may have seen little extra money in their paychecks, but the average banker bonus on Wall Street last year was $184,220, the highest since before the financial crisis.

By the beginning of March, just two and a half months after the bill became law, retail companies gave employees bonuses about $3 million while spending $200 billion for stock buybacks, inflating the value of shares by reducing their supply. Executive pay is tied to stock performance, accounting for 82 percent of their pay in 2015. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a Senate floor speech:

“Stock buybacks are windfalls that drive up the value of investment portfolios for CEOs and high-flyers, and they’re coming in at a rate 30 times greater than worker bonuses—30 to one! They’re on pace to double the amount from the first quarter of last year.”

The richest 10 percent of stock owners owned 84 percent of all stock in 2016 while one in four jobs pays below the federal poverty level.

Almost 37 percent of households in the nation are “liquid asset poor,” lacking enough savings to support their families for three months at the federal poverty level if they lose their jobs. The cost of houses has gone up 4.1 percent to $8,000 since last year while the median household income has increased by only 2 percent. Despite workers searching for temporary employment and jobs to supplement their other jobs, 40 percent of households have difficulty paying bills. And the tax cuts have given a pittance—if anything—to these people, less than $60 to families earning under $25,000.

DDT told workers in Ohio that they would receive between $2,000 and $4,000 from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and that more than 300 companies delivered bonuses, raises, or 401(k) investments to over three million people. DDT’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn announced that with another $1,000, a family “can renovate their kitchen, they can buy a new car, they can take a family vacation.” Twitter took on Cohn’s statements; the most accurate one stated, “To Cohn’s credit, he’d be right if this were the 1930’s.”

Republican legislators did well with the new tax law. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) got $500,000 from the Koch brothers and another $500,000 from just five wealthy donors for his tax bill. The bill also gave Ryan a $19,000 tax break with his bill, far more than the $78 that Ryan bragged that a school worker received. The new law threatens affordable health insurance and Social Security, costing people far more than any extra they now receive.

Over 12,000 retail stores are expected to close in 2018, up from the 9,000 that closed in 2017. Two-dozen major chains including Walgreens, Gap, and Gymboree are planning to close over 3,600 stores this year. Last year 50 retail chains filed for bankruptcy. Among 25 major retailers likely to file for bankruptcy are Sears, Bon-Ton Stores, Bebe Stores, Destination Maternity Corp., and Stein Mart. Almost one-fourth of U.S. malls, approximately 310 of 1,300 shopping malls, may lose its anchor tenants, causing other retail stores to flee.

Even the bonuses come with strings such as longevity of service, and they are attached to firings and store closures, like those at AT&T, Lowe’s, Walmart, Pepsi, Carrier, Kimberly Clark, etc.

The new GOP tax law causes huge problems for almost every state. Some blue states are examining the reclassification of state property and income state taxes as charitable contributions because that’s the biggest hit for places such as California, New York, and New Jersey. But almost all 41 states with personal income tax use either federal adjusted gross income or federal taxable income as their starting points for the state income tax. The federal shift can cause big swings in state revenue, causing losses of tax income. The almost-double standard deduction and giveaway to pass-through entities blows up the deficit on both the federal and state levels, and states will hurt even more with cuts in entitlement and safety net funding. Plus states’ responsibility for 80 percent of infrastructure funding will cause more problems. The federal government is taking taxes to give to the wealthy and big corporations leaving states in serious debt to take up the losses. And almost every state must meet a balanced-budget requirement, meaning no deficit from one year to the next the way that the federal government operates. One solution is to “decouple” from the federal code which means trickle-down complexity.

The tax bill was based on lies, such as the one that the tax cuts will pay for themselves and not raise the deficit. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made the claim that his department had run the numbers and found no deficit, but he even lied about the existence of this study. Then Republicans will use the deficit to take away the safety net, including Social Security and Medicare.

Not happy with everything that they have given to the wealthy and large corporations, Republicans are planning another tax cut bill. In the first one they passed last year, cuts for individuals expire in ten years; now the GOP plans to force a vote to make them permanent. If Democrats oppose the bill, the GOP will call them opponents of the middle class.

The GOP plan to corner Democrats with Tax Cut Bill II may turn on them. Making the taxes permanent will add at least another $1.5 trillion to the deficit in the decade after 2025 while reminding people that the GOP favored corporations over them by making taxes permanent for businesses. Another problem for Republicans is that they need at least nine Democrats this time around because of different Senate rules, and they still won’t let Democrats be involved in talks about the bill.

To pass the tax cut law, Republicans promised that everyone would get $1,000 or $2,000 or $4,000 during the next year depending on who was talking and when. People are beginning to figure out that the Republicans lied. The next arguments might not get swallowed as easily. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said, “The proof is in the paycheck. That’s a message we can run on.” It might be easier to use this for an election argument if the paycheck showed more money.

Republicans are still planning to take Social Security and Medicare to pay for the deficit caused by tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said last week, “The name of the game in debt and deficits is entitlements.” The GOP needs older voters who may not vote for candidates who take their living expenses and health care.

March 27, 2018

Conservatism on Trial

Lawyers continue to earn salaries from the outrageous edicts of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and GOP laws. Some of the ones from just last week:

Decisions:

Women may legally bare their breasts in public, according to a federal ruling on a 2015 Fort Collins (CO) law preventing female bare breasts in public except for breastfeeding and girls under the age of ten. Fort Collins said that male and female breasts are different and the law is to prevent disrupting order. The group Free the Nipple won’t disband because Fort Collins isn’t giving up.

For the second time, the Supreme Court rejected a GOP request to stop a Pennsylvania court mandate for redrawing the state’s congressional map in a way that removes some of the massive GOP gerrymandered advantage. State legislators considered impeaching the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of redrawing the map, but the Chief Justice, a GOP appointee, may have embarrassed them out of the idea.

Two class-action lawsuits over contaminated water in Flint (MI) can go to trial, according to the Supreme Court. Federal Judge John C. O’Meara earlier ruled that the federal Safe Drinking Water keeps the cases out of his jurisdiction, but the 6th Circuit Court reversed O’Meara’s dismissal and allows plaintiffs to seek monetary damages.

A unanimous SCOTUS ruling sent a case back to the 5th Circuit Court after it ruled that indigent prisoners must expect success to get funding for investigating a case. SCOTUS disagreed. In Ayestas v. Davis, the petitioner, sentenced to death for his part in a 1995 murder during a robbery, claimed ineffective trial and post-conviction counsel.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a new law in Mississippi banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the strictest limit in the nation that violates the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) refused to hold special elections for empty legislative seats in violation of state law after a Democrat upset in a January special election. A circuit court judge appointed by Walker told him that he will hold the elections. Walker had erroneously claimed that he didn’t need to hold elections because they didn’t occur in an election year. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald plans to get GOP legislators to overturn the judge’s ruling and called on the state Supreme Court to discipline the judge for “politicizing” her ruling.

A federal judge slapped down the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—again—for wrongly dismissing a 2012 complaint against the conservative American Action Network (AAN) that failed to register as a political committee and report the millions of dollars it spent for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2010 campaign.

New York Supreme Court Judge Jennifer G. Schecter ruled that a sexual harassment defamation lawsuit against DDT by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos can proceed. Schecter used the court precedent in a lawsuit against Bill Clinton—that “a sitting president is not immune from being sued in federal courts for unofficial acts”—as the basis for her decision. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal also filed a lawsuit against owner of the National Enquirer, American Media, to be released from her contract to keep quiet about an affair with DDT.

The Supreme Court refused to roll back the ability of federal agencies to interpret their regulations. Under DDT, agencies are pushing abstinence-only regulations affecting women’s reproductive rights, net neutrality, and otherwise burdening people in the U.S. with religious and business-oriented advantages. Even so, ultra-conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch disagreed with the majority.

Ongoing trials:

The “anti-trust trial of the century” has started in the government’s fight against AT&T’s desired $85 billion merger with Time Warner. The merger’s lawyer claimed that they would never charge people more or block any content.

Filings:

Consumer groups are suing DDT for its elimination of standards for treatment of animals if the meat is designated “certified organic.” The Department of Agriculture claims that it lacks the authority and that the regulation would be costly despite the agency’s economic analysis of only minor costs.

Civil rights groups are suing DDT for document about the decision blocking a rule requiring companies with over 100 employees to track wages based on race and gender.

Environmentalist and animal welfare groups are suing DDT on his new stand allowing people to bring elephant trophies into the U.S. after he described big-game trophy hunting as a “horror show.” The new suit is an amendment to an ongoing case against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s lifting the ban last year on lion trophies from Zimbabwe. Zinke’s International Wildlife Conservation Council is composed of “celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers, and well-heeled trophy collectors,” according to AP. One board member, Peter Horn, co-owns a private New York hunting preserve with DDT’s big-game hunting sons, Eric and Donald Jr.

 

 

Pending:

The strangest case comes from a 1990s capital murder case involving two Native Americans that could restore tribal sovereignty to almost half of Oklahoma for the first time in a century. Patrick Murphy, death-row inmate and member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, claimed that the state cannot try him for the murder of another tribal member on land that was part of the Creek Nation’s reservation. In the late 19th century, Congress took courts, governments, and laws from the Creek Nation and forced them to change tribal lands into privately-owned allotments for the tribe’s members before selling surplus land to white settlers.

Last summer, however, a three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit Court ruled that Congress had never specifically abolished the Creek Nation’s reservation which left it intact. The panel ruled that Royal v. Murphy had to be tried in federal court like other major crimes between Native Americans. In effect, the ruling returned the territory to the tribe and opened the door to other Oklahoma tribes, including the other four of the Five Civilized Tribes. They were all moved from southeastern U.S. on the Trail of Tears that killed over 4,000 people and promised the Oklahoma land in perpetuity. The land for just the Creek Nation comprises 4,600 square miles with 750,000 inhabitants including most of Tulsa. The five tribes together would take over 40 percent of Oklahoma.

Changing the land to reservation would restrict state criminal jurisdiction to minor offenses such as traffic violations. Federal and tribal courts would be in control of all other crimes. State taxation would also be impacted, and oil companies are concerned. Murphy has a lot at stake in this case: federal government bans the death penalty for crimes on tribal land.

In Solem v. Bartlett (1984), the Supreme Court ruled that each reservations keeps its original boundaries unless Congress specifically changes the borders or completely abolishes the reservation. The 10th Circuit ruled that this had not happened “and if it never did, that post–Civil War reservation is still intact.” [Above map showing 1866 boundaries of the Creek Nation.] That ruling stays unless the Supreme Court decides to take the case.

During March, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the man determined to disenfranchise every Democratic voter, took up eight days in court to defend his state law that requires prospective voters to prove their citizenship before they can register. He tried to present new information after the deadline, tried to testify to a document that he couldn’t find, and couldn’t phrase questions for cross examination or impeach a witness. Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in “gamesmanship” and skirting her orders. Calling the 11 illegal voters of 1.8 million on the voter rolls the “tip of the iceberg,” Kobach kept 35,000 people from voting. Kobach stands accused of violating federal law by refusing to register these legitimate voters who signed up to vote through driver’s license offices.

The question of the trial is whether widespread voter fraud is credible, and Kobach had to admit it isn’t. On the first day of his trial, he said that federal databases cannot identify noncitizens—although that was the mission of DDT’s now-disbanded federal commission he headed up to find illegal voters. His witnesses confessed that their research is unreliable because it isn’t subject to peer review and suffers from flawed methodology. The “expert” who testified that noncitizen voting didn’t change the outcome of the popular vote, in opposition to Kobach’s claim about three million noncitizens voting in 2016, and testified that he identified potential noncitizens in Kansas by how “foreign-sounding” a name was. Another “expert” disclosed that his belief in Kansas voter fraud was entirely based on a list of about 30 voters that Kobach’s office gave him and he used incomplete information which could make it appear that more noncitizens tried to vote than those who existed. He, too, could not name any election swayed by noncitizens. Kobach’s legal opponent, Dale Ho (also a “foreign-sounding” name, concluded, “The iceberg, on close inspection your honor, is more of an ice cube.”

Koback’s latest attempt to remove Democratic voters was to tell DDT that the census should ask about everyone’s immigration status. May Kobach be brought down by creatures that he considered much smaller than himself. May he become afraid.

 

March 26, 2018

The Door Keeps Swinging

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:01 PM
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Left over from last week’s news about the administration of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is the swinging door of federal employees and DDT’s legal team.

In 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in creating the UN created the Commission on the Status of Women in 1946 to promote gender quality and the empowerment of women. DDT thinks so little of women that he sent Bethany Kozma, a self-described stay-at-home mom,” as the U.S. representative for the 82nd meeting of CSW. She has described the UN as a “pro-life nation” and called trans children “gender confused” in her battle to keep them from using bathrooms matching their gender identity by claiming that it leaves students open to “sexual assault or rape.”

According to DDT’s friend Christopher Ruddy, DDT thinks that the White House is operating “like a smooth machine” and has been “perplexed” by news reports of chaos. DDT claims to be keeping Chief of Staff John Kelly and HUD secretary Ben Carson, what he usually says soon before he gets someone to fire them. On vacation in Florida, DDT continues to attack fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by saying that he didn’t have the “brains or energy” for the job.

Emails showing that DDT fires everyone who he considers disloyal to him has caused Democrats on the House Oversight Committee to demand State Department records of internal communications. The agency tried to reassign a staffer after Breitbart and Newt Gingrich complained about her Iranian surname. Independent investigators report that retaliation against career staffers is rampant throughout the government. Because their firings can only be based on merit and work performance, DDT is breaking the law by basing firings on political affiliations or patronage. At the same time Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director Mick Mulvaney, suggested as a replacement for Chief of Staff John Kelly, has worked to replace existing employees with political appointees that can violate civil service laws.

Employees can appeal their firings to the Merit Systems Protection Board, but the one-member board can’t hear cases until two DDT’s appointees are confirmed. At the beginning of 2018, the backlog, the longest in history, is 750 cases.

Conservative congressional members are pushing bills that would give Cabinet members the right to fire anyone they wish. Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s (R-PA) Labor Department Accountability Act would give them the authority to suspend, involuntarily reassign, demote, or remove employees and senior executives. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) has a similar bill.

The most unpopular appointees in March are Gina Haspel for CIA director and John Bolton for national security adviser. A promoter of torture, Haspel destroyed videos with impunity about CIA torture in a black site that she oversaw because the CIA classifies these torture sessions as formal government meetings and exempt from being preserved. Haspel will also claim that any information about her is “classified,” even if it’s already in the public domain, during confirmation hearings.

With H.R. McMaster out and John Bolton in as national security advisor, everyone in the U.S. should prepare for war. All the negative information about Bolton makes no difference because he doesn’t need to be confirmed by the Senate for his position. I’ve written before about Bolton, but the horrifying news keeps emerging:

  • Bolton hired Cambridge Analytica in 2014 for “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging” and knew that the material came from harvested Facebook data.
  • In addition to being a contributor to Fox, Bolton chairs the Gatestone Institute that publishes “fake” news about threats from Islam to Western society. Its anti-Islam vitriol has the sole purpose of establishing bigotry against Muslim immigrants and refugees by spreading racial lies about them that Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and DDT repeated during their presidential campaigns. Bolton also wrote the foreward to a book by anti-Islam conspiracy theorists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. Gatestone, which has paid $310,000 to Bolton, works to sway elections not only in the U.S. but also in European elections through support of far-right, anti-Muslim candidates on social media.
  • As George W. Bush’s policymaker on Iran, Bolton actively conspired from 2002 through 2004 to set up conditions for military action and manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction that he hoped would start a war on Iran with support from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the militantly Zionist casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
  • Bolton is behind DDT’s intention to back out of the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Fifteen years after George W. started the Iraq War with the urging of John Bolton and others, Bolton still thinks that the preemptive strike on Iraq was right.

All we can hope is that Bolton’s typical abusive behavior turns toward DDT who can then shop for a fourth national security adviser.

Other disastrous DDT nominees:

Roger Severino, nominee for HHS Office for Civil Rights, says that as the child of Colombian immigrants he understands discrimination on a first-hand basis, but his education doesn’t apply to LGBTQ people. He believes that health care workers should be able to use their personal religious beliefs in determining who gets treatment. Severino has said that marriage quality is “using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology” and using the right pronoun for transgender students is was the “equivalent to making them say two plus two equals five.”

Robert Redford, nominee for head of the Centers for Disease Control, has been accused of overstating the therapeutic effects of an experimental AIDS vaccine that led to corrections and having an “inappropriate” relationship with the evangelical Christian group Americans for Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP), now Children’s AIDS Fund. Founded by the virulently anti-LGBT and anti-abortion activists Shepherd and Anita Smit, the group promotes abstinence as the only proper prevention behavior and opposes the use of condoms. Anita Smith complained about the “power struggle between homosexual white men who abuse all the government AIDS programs fundamentally to fund their subculture and their political activities.” A devout Catholic, Redford wants churches to take over the care of HIV patients. Nobody has a chance to interview Redford, however, because he doesn’t need to be confirmed.

Peter Wright, nominee for the EPA Office of Aland and Emergency Management (OLEM) could protect big companies, like his former employer Dow Chemical, from having to clean up the 1,300 Superfund toxic cleanup sites, one-tenth of them caused by Dow that gave DDT $1 million for his inauguration fund. The money has already paid off because EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt reversed a ban on Dow’s brain-damaging insecticide.

Kellyanne Conway is running DDT’s new “opioids cabinet,” and her first action was to drive out drug policy professionals and replace them with political staff who call for the border wall and a “just say no” campaign. A quote from her speech to college students:

“On our college campuses, your folks are reading the labels, won’t put any sugar in their body, they don’t eat carbs anymore, and they’re very, very fastidious about what goes into their body — and then you buy a street drug for $5 or $10 and it’s laced with fentanyl, and that’s it. So I guess my short advice is, as somebody double your age: eat the ice cream, buy the French fry, don’t buy the street drug.”

About the rumor that VA Secretary David Shulkin is on his way out, DDT denies it—another dangerous sign for employment. A possible replacement is Fox & Friends host Pete Hegsweth.

The scariest thought is that EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt might see his continuing wish fulfilled to replace AG Jeff Sessions.

DDT’s frantic reaction to Robert Mueller’s investigation into his involvement resulted in rapid shifts in his legal team’s membership. Two new DDT hires after team leader John Dowd bailed, Fox contributor Joe diGenova and his wife Virginia Toensing, disappeared in less than a week. A senior official said the couple’s disheveled appearance at their first meeting with DDT caused him to decide that they didn’t belong on his team.

DiGenova is a conspiracy theorist with a lot of baggage who thinks that the FBI and DOJ are framing the president by inventing the Russia scandal to keep DDT from being president. Leader of DDT’s legal team, Dowd quit because DDT didn’t follow his direction to fire Mueller. Not only does DDT not pay attention to his lawyers, but he also has a reputation for not paying them. DDT’s loss of lawyers gives him a team of oneJay Sekulow—who is little more than a PR person.

The U.S. House of Representatives has an extra Democrat after the GOP candidate in PA-18 admitted defeat to Conor Lamb. The Republicans put over $10 million into the race where DDT won by over 20 points in 2018. Democrats spent less than $3 million. The amateurish GOP ads tried to tie the Democrat to a sheep, reminiscent of the horrible 2010 demon sheep ads, but the Lamb (left) won anyway.

The “Exposed” DDT image is featured on this week’s New Yorker in artist Barry Blitt’s 15th image of the president for the magazine’s covers as he faces the media. Blitt said, “I wanted to address President Trump’s stormy relationship with the press” and called DDT the “gift that keeps on grifting.”

March 25, 2018

‘Be Outraged’

Almost 55 years ago on May 2, 1963, thousands of young people marched in Birmingham and changed the nation. They were bombarded with water from fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, beaten with police batons, and jailed, but others took their place. These young people  took part in the Children’s Crusade because they knew that adults who marched would lose their jobs and homes if they marched for integration. Children took their parents’ places. Martin Luther King, Jr told them, “What you do this day will impact children who have not been born.”

Yesterday young people marched again when over a million people, many of them young people as young as nine years old, participated in the March for Our lives in at least 800 places covering all 50 states throughout the United States and around the world. Cameron Kasky, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student (Parkland, FL), described their mission when he called on politicians to pass universal background checks and ban the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. At the speeches, young people registered others to vote.

Signs from protests.

The Park Service no longer estimates the number of people attending protests, and there were no aerial photographs until the event finished. CBS lowballed the figure in Washington at 200,000 while a better estimate might be 800,000.

Congressional legislators went home Friday morning, so today some young people went to them . Inspired by the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery (AL) during the civil rights movement, 40 high school activists in Wisconsin are marching 50 miles from Madison to Janesville, home town of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), in a call for gun safety laws. Ryan did not respond to the students’ attempt to contact his office. In February, he said, “We shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens.” A rally is planned at Traxler Park when the march reaches Janesville on March 28.

In his Palm Sunday sermon today, Pope Francis cited World Youth Day, begun by Pope John Paul in 1986 to inspire a community of different cultures and encouraged young people to lead.

Syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts had powerful messages about gun safety in two recent columns:

“Last week, a puppy died in an airplane overhead bin. Three days later, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy introduced a bill to safeguard pets. But after Columbine and Aurora, after the Navy Yard, Sandy Hook and West Paducah, after Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and San Bernardino, after Charleston, after Tucson, after Fort Hood, after Sutherland Springs, we settle for a thin gruel of cliches — thoughts and prayers, good guys with guns and now is not the time.

“Sure, puppy lives matter. But human lives do, too.”

“And someday, when America is sane, when future generations wonder how it ever was we protected guns more than we did children, or that a disturbed 19-year-old was able to legally purchase a weapon of war, or that carnage became routine, or that some of us said this routine carnage was the price of freedom, maybe we will look back on this as the pivot point. Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and every other politician who accepts money soaked in blood from the extremist NRA should consider themselves on notice.”

Conservatives can argue that Pitts is one of those “liberals” (ugh!) who don’t understand the Constitution. One of the most determined originalists about the document from the Founding Fathers and one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court also disagrees with the “guns at any cost no matter how many people dead” philosophy of conservative gun owners. Ten years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion of Heller v. D.C. that regulation of gun ownership is compatible with the Second Amendment:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…” It is “… not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller [an earlier case] said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

Meanwhile the NRA voices grow more shrill, claiming that young people aren’t smart enough to do any organizing, that all the marches were created by “gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites.” On NRA TV, Colion Noir said to Parkland students if their friends hadn’t died, “no one would know your names.” The NRA is justifying its “good guys” theory at a school with a shooting at Great Mills High School Maryland when a teenager shot and killed his former girlfriend because “only” one person died. Both that school and Parkland had school security officers. Over Great Mills students joined the Washington protest for gun safety laws.

The conservative Arizona Republic misrepresented the 20,000 people at the Phoenix March for Our Lives, first with a headline about a “Clash” with people opposed to gun safety laws and then changing it to “Faced Off” after readers objected. About two dozen people in the anti-March group received half the video coverage, mostly with adults and not the young planners of the March, with vacuous comments about the Second Amendments.

Young advocates of gun safety laws have persevered despite smears about their credibility, insults about their intelligence, and outright death threats. Out-spoken survivors of the Florida school shooting are also receiving death threats. Fox network concentrated its Saturday reports on one Parkland student who supports the NRA.

A Fox survey, however, shows that a majority of respondents, 53 percent, think preventing gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights, compared to the 40 percent how disagree. In other results, 91 percent want criminal background checks to buy a gun, 84 percent ask for mandatory mental health checks, and almost three-fourths believe in raising the minimum age to 21 for buying guns. Fifty-seven percent oppose arming teachers.

Young people are doing more than marching and speaking to the media to make their schools safer. Students against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) have over 315 clubs in 40 states to oppose bullying and encourage inclusiveness. The SAVE philosophy is that an accepting culture in which students don’t feel left out can greatly reduce violence. The program connected with Sandy Hook Promise, started by parents who lost children in the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown (CT). Almost 2.5 million students and adults in schools in all states have been trained in at least one of the four Know the Signs programs, beginning with the Start with Hello. The others—Say Something, Safety Assessment and Intervention, and Signs of Suicide—are designed to help protect children from suicide, bullying, and gun violence. Say Something includes anonymous online bullying reporting of suspicious behavior. Grants are available for hosting community-wide events and spread anti-violence and anti-bullying messages. As written in the bible, “A little child shall lead them.”

A few weeks ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said he would rush into the high school without a gun to face a shooter with an AR-15 to save the students; yesterday he took a detour back from his golf course to avoid student protesters.

Rule #4 of Masha Gessen’s primer on surviving in an autocracy: “Be outraged.”  Young people are following that rule, and we should follow them.

March 24, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-one – Tweeting, Hiding from Protests

Late Friday evening has become the time for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to drop bombs, usually in order to steer the media away from news that he doesn’t like. DDT’s news last night before the massive March for Our Lives gatherings today was to once again ban transgender military members in the military. His ban of several months ago has been overturned in court, but DDT executed an order supporting the new memo from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that disqualifies U.S. troops who have had gender confirmation surgery because “military service requires sacrifice.” Transgender troops without surgery can stay if they have been medically stable for 36 consecutive months before joining the military or if they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria after President Obama’s end of the ban in 2016. Four lawsuits are already opposing DDT’s earlier ruling.

Facebook’s providing Cambridge Analytica with data consumed much of the news during the past week. Clips of C.A.’s officials were caught on a hidden camera explaining their blackmail to put conservative candidates into office. Last Sunday, CBS reported that DDT’s campaign never used any data from Cambridge Analytica, but suspended C.A. CEO president Alexander Nix disagreed, saying that C.A. put DDT the winner in the presidential election. Brad Parscale, DDT’s current campaign director, worked with C.A. to turn women and black voters against Hillary Clinton with fake stories.

Worse news from C.A.: key players have a new company, Emerdata, with C.A. primary funder Robert Mercer’s daughters, C.A.’s suspended CEO Alexander Nix as director, C.A.’s chief data officer Alexander Tayler, and Julian Wheatland, chairman of Cambridge Analytica parent firm SCL Group. Connected to Emerdata is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and now chairing the private security firm operating mostly in Africa. Prince is the brother of Secretary of State Betsy DeVos. George Nadar, who organized a meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince and a high-level Russian banker to set up a secret DDT-Russia back channel, has been granted immunity and is now singing to Mueller. Before he became FBI Director, discovered that Prince had probably broken the law by trying to sell secretly modified paramilitary attack aircraft to Azerbaijan’s military.

DDT’s keeps tweeting continual denial that “there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), minority leader of the House Intelligence Committee, responded:

“Mr. President, the Committee reached no such conclusion — only Republicans. In fact, we did find evidence of collusion, despite GOP members being more interested in protecting you than learning the truth. When accusing others of lying, best not to misrepresent facts yourself.”

DDT’s increasingly frantic tweets about Mueller indicates that he is closing in on the truth about DDT’s corruption, fraud, and Russian collusion. The messages from DDT, stuck in the White House for last weekend, hit a new high for him, and desperate aides took him to a golf course after the Sunday morning tweet storm. DDT came back with more vituperative tweets by Wednesday.

Excited about Vladimir Putin’s being “re-elected” for another six years, DDT called the dictator to congratulate him, ignoring warnings from his national security advisers. Briefing materials stated “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” and condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted:

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election.”

DDT took pride in being on good terms with the Russian president and not bringing up anything negative such as the Kremlin’s murders and meddling in the U.S. elections. Republicans such as retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) treated DDT’s turning his belly up to Russia as the new normal. Videos showed ballot-stuffing at polling stations; earlier, viable candidates were either arrested on sham charges or killed. The story escalated when DDT became furious about his actions becoming public, and he is again determined to discover who did the leaking, calling it criminal.

Although the White House staff does not work for him personally, DDT has required them to sign “non-disclosure” agreements with threats if they reveal anything about him. Earlier DDT failed to force reporters to sign NDAs when they traveled with VP Mike Pence. As rumors run rampant, some people think that Chief of Staff John Kelly is behind the leaking because of past inappropriate statements to the press. DDT took pride in being on good terms with the Russian president and not bringing up anything negative such as the Kremlin’s murders and meddling in the U.S. elections.

More revelations about Russia’ interference in the U.S. elections:

The hacker that stole Democratic National Committee emails, Guccifer 2.0, was “an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU),” connecting the hack to the Kremlin.

Andrew McCabe, fired by the DOJ with the blessing of AG Jeff Sessions, had authorized a criminal investigation into Sessions last year because he “lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives.” Sessions said under oath that he had no contacts with any Russian officials during the campaign until he began to remember that he talked to the Russian ambassador twice. After Mueller was appointed as special investigator, McCabe’s investigation moved on to him. Other Sessions’ “lack of candor” comes from his claim under oath to the House Judiciary Committee that he “pushed back against a suggestion to meet with Russians during DDT’s campaign. Three people have told investigator Robert Mueller that Sessions never objected to arranging a meeting with Russia. Emails show that DDT’s campaign urged George Papadopoulos to reach out for a “partnership with Russia.” Although Sessions recused himself from all things Russian, he fired McCabe to defend DDT from Mueller’s Russian investigation. Former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has written a thought-provoking description of Sessions’ “lack of candor.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has called for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about McCabe’s firing. Even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that McCabe should have been allowed to finish his last 26 hours.

As GOP congressional leadership shy away from protecting the investigation into the Russian scandal, the conservative WashPo chides their refusal to declare Robert Mueller off-limits from DDT’s firing machine:

“The president treats government as purely a tribal battle between one side and the other and expects public servants to put loyalty to him before loyalty to country or the rule of law. Republican congressional leaders should not remain complicit in this debasement.”

Columnist Eugene Robinson wrote:

“If Trump does try to fire Mueller, [Ryan] and [McConnell] should get much of the blame. They have given Trump no reason to believe they will ever stand up to him.”

This past week, DDT hosted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who gained his new position in a coup that involved torture and imprisonment of his family members. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster expressed concerns about the relation of Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, with MBS who bragged about having Kushner “in his pocket.” MBS may also have used classified information from DDT’s daily briefings to determine who MBS imprisoned. Tillerson and McMaster are gone; Kushner remains in the White House, and the Senate failed to stop the U.S. part in a bloody, three-year war in Yemen. Despite a bipartisan effort, 45 GOP and 10 Democratic senators voted to continue its support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing missions.

With Jared Kushner head of his family business, it filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in a three-year period ending in 2016 lying about the rent-regulated tenants in its buildings to make it easier to push them out and sell a building with higher rents.

The Dow Jones index dropped 1,460 points this past week after the Feds raised the prime rate a quarter of a percent, Facebook suffered from public knowledge that it provided information to Cambridge Analytica, and DDT escalated the trade war by placing tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese goods and limiting China’s freedom to invest in U.S. tech. China threatened tariffs on $3 billion in U.S. goods, most of them agricultural, hitting the states that voted for DDT. The 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act may be a harbinger of our future. Yet DDT caved on most of his steel and aluminum tariffs, exempting countries for two-thirds of steel and over half of aluminum imports.

Capping the week was March for Our Lives, a movement by young people protesting unlimited gun ownership with the message “Enough Is Enough.” Millions of people, almost one million just in Washington, D.C., marched around the world with 800 different protests in the United States alone. DDT escaped to Mar-a-Lago before the event this morning, detouring around any protesters on his way back from the golf course. Most legislators went home yesterday immediately after a $1.3 trillion spending bill passed Congress. [Above: the view from the Washington, D.C. stage.]

Two GOP congressional members gave lukewarm praise for the young people although Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) misrepresented their mission. Others idly commented about sports, farmers, and praise for the spending bill and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Democrats were seen attending the marches. For the first time in almost two decades, more people have a negative view of the NRA than positive, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. It found that 37 percent see the NRA in a positive light with 44 percent viewing it negatively. The greatest drop came from white married women.

March 23, 2018

What’s in the Omnibus Spending Bill?

Filed under: Budget,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cried crocodile tears about the poor Dreamers and blasted Congress for passing the 2,233-page spending bill that they hadn’t read as if he didn’t cause the DACA disaster and ever read any of the bills he signed. DDT ended DACA nearly 7 months ago and continually sabotaged solutions by rejecting multiple popular bipartisan solutions. He’s demanding line-item veto power for spending bills that SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional 20 years ago and the end to the Senate filibuster rule, but he kept the United States from the shutdown that he earlier said he wanted. DDT also bragged about the $1.6 billion for his “wall”—although he had demanded $25 billion—but that money doesn’t build his “big beautiful wall.” Funding goes to levees, existing fencing repair, and double fencing for existing barriers. Not one additional foot of the wall because the law prevents DDT from making any of the wall prototypes he has admired.

DDT had said he would sign the bill but then threatened to change his mind after watching Pete Hegseth denouncing it on Fox & Friends. (Hegseth may have even more control over DDT if he becomes Veterans Affairs Secretary.)  Several congressional members have already left town for their two-week vacation as the drama unrolled. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was already back in Wisconsin when he made the call to DDT about signing the bill.

The House passed the bill 256-167, with 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats voting yes, and 90 Republicans and 77 Democrats voting no.  The Senate passed the 2,232-page spending bill 65-32 with 23 Republicans, eight Democrats, and one Independent voting against the bill. The $1.3 trillion spending law puts $700 billion into the military, a ten percent increase from last year, and $591 to the people in the U.S. in another ten percent raise. Republicans don’t expect to pass any other major legislation before the midterm elections, but this law expires in six months.

On the GOP side, conservative are furious about the deficit despite promoting it with their tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, hawks are pleased with the biggest increase in defense in 15 years, and moderates are accepting. Democrat leaders are happy about the domestic funding, moderates believe in compromise, and all of the Dems are disappointment about missing major movement in guns and immigration issues.

Losers:  

Lack of Affordable Care Act market stabilization: The GOP refusal to compromise on their anti-choice positions will bring large increases in health premiums.

Immigration: Nothing about DACA because the GOP won’t compromise.

Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID): He held up the bill for hours because he didn’t want a federal wilderness area named after a dead political rival, Cecil Andrus, a Democratic governor of Idaho and Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter.

DDT: No money for his wall and no attention to his personal budget while Congress increased spending for items that he had slashed, including seed cash for a New York-New Jersey tunnel project that he tried to kill.

Winners:

Immigration: The GOP didn’t get 1,000 more beds for immigrant deportees and an additional 500 ICE agents to 1,000 and border agents to an additional 500. They lost detention beds and got only 328 more border agents. And ICE can’t fill the current quota of border agents even with a $10,000 hiring bonus. So-called “sanctuary” cities and states didn’t lose funding.

Low-income housing: The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program doubles the number of public housing units. Despite HUD Ben Carson’s inability to track financing for public housing repairs in 1.1 million units and enforce tenants’ rights, the law lifts the cap from 225,000 to 455,000.  Expansion of the tax credit to build more affordable housing came in exchange for fixing the “grain glitch” in the GOP tax cuts that gave more tax deductions to farm coops such as Ocean Spray Cranberries instead of privately-owned farms.

IRS: An extra $196 million to help with the new tax law.

Education: Education Secretary Betsy Devos didn’t get her $1 billion moved from public to private religious schools. The law also allocates an additional $8.5 million to the Office of Civil Rights, keeps before and after school programs, retains the grant program for school-based mental health services, and boosts education funding by $3.9 billion. Congress also kept the grant program for low-income students to attend college, slightly raised the ceiling for Pell Grant awards, and boosted the federal work-study program. DeVos’ hoped-of budget cuts turned into increases.

Government Data: The Census Bureau gets an additional $1.34 billion for its nationwide survey. It also requires the Congressional Research Service to post all its reports online. 

Gun Background Checks: The law increases enforcement of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), expands requirements for updating records, gives incentives for NICS reports, and penalizes agencies that don’t add records to NICS.

The National Institutes of Health: A $3 billion funding increase.

The Community Development Block Grant: The program nearly doubled from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion after DDT tried to eliminate it to help fund projects such as Meals on Wheels.

TIGER: The grant program for transportation projects is tripled to $1.5 billion.

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018: Increased grants for security training, metal detectors, stronger locks, emergency notifications, and other efforts meant to improve school safety.

Gun Violence Research: The law lifts funding bans for research about firearms imposed with the 1996 Dickey Amendment. The sponsor of this law has since regretted his action.

Tipped Workers: Workers won’t have to give up their tips to their employers, as DDT wanted although employers can require them to share with other workers if they are paid the full minimum wage, $2.13 for tipped workers who would have lost $5.8 billion a year if DDT had succeeded. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called Risch’s delaying tantrum “the most like a Saturday Night Live skit” she’s ever witnessed in her 12 years in the Senate.

Government Workers: The military gets a 2.4 percent pay raise, and civilian personnel get a 1.9 percent bump.

Funding for the EPA/Energy: The law kept the EPA’s $8.1 billion budget despite DDT’s desire to cut it by one-third. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, eliminated in DDT’s budget, got a $47 million increase to $353 million, and the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, on DDT’s chopping block, increased 15 percent to $2.3 billion. There were a few losses regarding energy: the declares biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source, still debated by scientists, and livestock are now unfettered because they are exempted from the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

Election Security Grants to States: Funded by $380 million.

Opioid Treatment/prevention: An increase of $3 billion.

Libraries: Restoration and increases of almost $400 million with another $700 million for Title IV education which could help school libraries.

Social Security Administrative Budget: A $480 increase for general operations.

Funding for public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Art.

Mammograms: Women can continue this procedure with no insurance copay.

Title X: The federal family planning program that helps provide contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings and STI and HIV testing to a diverse, low-income population continues, but DDT’s abstinence-only Title X chief, Valerie Huber, is in charge of the funds. The law does not end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood or ban life-saving research on fetal tissue donated from abortions and does not expand discriminatory abortion restrictions into the private insurance market.

Republicans complained about the process, but they were in charge. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused them of accelerating the process to leave town before the March for Our Lives about gun control in Washington tomorrow.

Buried deep in the 2,232 pages are stiff new sanctions against Russia, barring a number of federal agencies from dealing with Russia and sanctioning Russia for a large number of grievances. The law punishes Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea by barring funds from supporting all countries that back the annexation and directing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to push Americans on certain financial boards to disallow funds from flowing to programs supportive of Russia’s annexation. It also blocks federal funds from “enter[ing] into new contracts with, or new agreements for Federal assistance to, the Russian Federation” and allocates $250 million to the Countering Russian Influence Fund—a 150 percent increase from last year. Nobody knows who put these sanctions into the bill, but they have wide bipartisan support.

Something else may crawl out of the law’s 2,232 pages, but right now I’m with the moderates. It could have been worse.

March 22, 2018

Could ‘NIFLA v. Becerra’ Change Free Speech, Abortion Law?

The past week has been again filled with chaos—firings of the national security council, resignation and appointments of the legal team for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), continued lawsuits against the federal government, additional information about DDT’s sexual misconduct as more women join Stormy Daniels, and concerns regarding the retention of special investigator Robert Mueller. No wonder that a case before the Supreme Court last Tuesday got little attention from the media. In normal times that case would have been front and center on television because it’s one of seven cases thus far this judicial year that addresses free speech—two of them major lawsuits.

Last December the religious legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the federal government argued before SCOTUS that a cake in Colorado is free speech because the baker is an “artist.” A ruling in his favor and opposing service for a gay couple would permit rampant discrimination across the United States, not only against LGBTQ people but also anyone else who offended the religious and moral sensibilities of everyone in all businesses—retail, health care, food services—everyone.

Last Tuesday’s case, NIFLA v. Becerra, the federal government joined ADF to oppose a California law that requires community clinics to post notices about their licensing (or lack thereof), the availability of a medical provider, and patients’ access to abortion and other family planning services in the state. The 2015 California Reproductive FACT Act mandates that licensed community clinics whose “primary purpose is providing family planning or pregnancy-related services” disclose to all patients that California offers “free or low-cost” contraception, prenatal care, and abortion. These clinics must provide a telephone number that patients can call for more information about state-funded services. Clinics focusing on pregnancy or family planning but are unlicensed must clearly provide a warning in the clinic and in advertising that they have “no medical provider.”

Many of California residents are unaware of expanded funding for prenatal and family planning services from the Affordable Care Act, and many clinics, especially the anti-abortion crisis pregnancy clinics (CPCs) pressure women to not have an abortion. Many CPCs hide religious affiliations and claim that they provide more services than available in the clinics. Owners and employees of the CPCs use “free speech” to object to the law by arguing that it makes them “complicit in facilitating an act they believe hurts women and destroys innocent lives.” They maintain that the FACT Act is “gerrymandered” to “commandeer” their expression, “manipulat[ing] the marketplace of ideas” to favor abortion in violation of the First Amendment.

The argument from Michael Farris, a member of ADF, is that not all doctors are required to post the information, only community clinics with pregnancy-related services. He wants to move the law to heightened judicial scrutiny, which raises the legal bar for California to keep the law. Justice Samuel Alito bought the argument that the “crazy exemptions” of the law creates “a very strange pattern.” California Solicitor General Joshua Klein explained that the law targets community clinics where millions of low-income Californians get health care and exempts private physicians because they usually don’t have poorer women patients.

Jeffrey Wall, the deputy U.S. solicitor general who joined Farris on behalf of the federal government, tried to persuade the justices that informing pregnant women about alternatives to abortion are necessary only when medical procedures are provided and that unlicensed clinics don’t provide medical procedures. Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out that CPCs sometimes provide medical procedures such as ultrasounds and pregnancy tests and give pregnancy counseling, much like doctors’ medical advice in discussing abortion procedures.

The case also addresses whether clinic users should know which clinics are licensed and provide a full range of subsidized medical options. Sotomayor described Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center’s website:

“There is a woman on the homepage with a uniform that looks like a nurse’s uniform in front of an ultrasound machine. It shows an exam room. It talks about ‘abortion,’ ‘your options,’ and ‘our services,’ advertising ‘free ultrasounds.’ But in fact, the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center is an unlicensed CPC. If a reasonable person could look at this website and think that you’re giving medical advice, would the unlicensed notice be wrong?”

Sotomayor compared NIFLA to Planned Parenthood v. Casey that allows states to pass “informed consent” laws forcing abortion providers to deliver a state-approved anti-abortion canned statement before the procedure even if the information is false. Both situations mandate information for women, one on alternatives to the clinics and the other about termination of pregnancies. Justice Stephen Breyer dubbed this issue “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Denying California the right to require postings at all community clinics regarding availability of free and/or inexpensive family planning services could give free speech to only one side of the abortion argument.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court after a federal district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court denied an injunction in favor of CPCs. Both lower courts maintained that California’s law was constitutional in the same way that Pennsylvania could require doctors to tell abortion patients about the “nature” of the procedure and the “probable gestation age” of the fetus.

Observers watching the negative comments from some justices believe that at least part of the FACT Act will be struck down; the question is how much and on what grounds. Mandatory disclaimers in multiple languages on advertising for unlicensed CPCs may be unconstitutional. Requiring clinics to tell patient about a lack of license seems legal. The middle ground is the crux: whether states can force CPCs to tell patients about services elsewhere.

A serious problem in this case comes from dangers in CPCs that promise medical assistance but have the sole purpose of forcing a woman to carry a fetus to full term. Over 2,700 CPCs throughout the nation lure pregnant women into their facilities and then terrify them with lies about their future if they have abortions.

States like Texas are using public funds from bona fide community clinics to unlicensed CPCs exempt from regulations or credentialing because they provide only non-medical services such as self-administered pregnancy tests or parenting classes. One-fourth of Texas’ 200 CPCs are funded by federal taxpayer money through the $38 million operating budget of “Alternatives to Abortion” for low-income women. With no government oversight, the “Texas Pregnancy Care Network” subcontracts with 51 CPCs with most money going to “counseling,” a term with no definition. Another $739,000 went to advertising. When asked if the CPCs were medically licensed, a state spokesperson said that they are not medical clinics.

People who go to CPCs don’t know they won’t get any medical care. Austin (TX) tried to pass an ordinance requiring that clinics state whether they have doctors. A federal judge struck down the ordinance with the argument that it violated CPCs’ due process. Texas law does require doctors to lie to women about medical risks of abortions, a procedure with less risks than pulling wisdom teeth or taking out tonsils.

In his 12 years as Chief Justice, John Roberts has greatly expanded the definition of free speech for corporations. To him and a majority of the justices in Citizens United, all money is free speech meaning unlimited anonymous corporate donations to political candidates, a ruling later expanded in McCutcheon v. FEC. These cases, and others such as Hobby Lobby allowing corporations to deny birth control to employees using faulty scientific information, shows that Roberts’ defense of the First Amendment protects only corporations. He uses the same argument to give corporations benefits in cases involving drug advertising and trademark regulations as well as removal of unions’ rights. A recent case argued whether state laws can permit mandatory fees for workers to pay for the support services that unions are legally to provide all employees.

The ruling in NIFLA, most likely in June, will either leave the California law in place or give pro-choice activists the grounds to argue against laws in other states that require doctors to give pregnant patients the false information that abortions cause breast cancer and infertility. The NIFLA lawyers argue that posting information “unconstitutionally compels [the clinics] to speak messages that they have not chosen, with which they do not agree, and that distract, and detract from, the messages they have chosen to speak.” A ruling in their favor might take the shackles off abortion providers and other doctors so they can deliver “the messages they have chosen to speak.” Breyer said that the court’s most important job is “to keep sauces the same.”

March 20, 2018

John Oliver Hops All Over Mike Pence

With all the grim news since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was elected over 16 months ago, a bit of joy is always welcome. For me, it came in the form of John Oliver’s most recent HBO show, Last Week Tonight. The 30-minute comedy/news series typically ends with an in-depth 20-minute segment on subjects of interest such as the bitcoin, national flood insurance, and Confederate monuments. Last Sunday, the topic was VP Mike Pence. As usual, Oliver covered the extreme Christian fundamentalist well, addressing his strong connections with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and his incessant lying to cover his bigotry and his support for DDT’s lying as well as Pence’s anti-LGBQ campaigns in supporting conversion therapy, preventing LGBTQ military members, and legalizing religious discrimination against LGBTQ people while Indiana’s governor. The clips show that Pence is just as dishonest as Trump, for example the confrontation about DDT lying about winning the popular vote. Pence called the lies, “refreshing.” Pence just isn’t as good about lying as DDT is. Three-fourths through Oliver’s segment, however, it came to a sharp turn.

Three-fourths through Oliver’s segment, however, it came to a sharp turn. The Pence family has a beloved bunny pet named Marlon Bondo along with two cats and a snake. DDT, the first president without a pet in 150 years, called it “low class” to take these pets into their residence at the Naval Observatory” and referred to the Pences as “yokels.” Sadly, the cat on the left, Pickle, died last December at the age of 16, but Marlon is thriving with his own Instagram where he is called BOTUS—Bunny of the United States.

Now BOTUS is the subject of a picture book for children, Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice-President, written by Pence’s wife, Karen, and illustrated by their daughter Charlotte (pictured above with Marlon). With details about one day in Marlon’s life, the book is intended as an educational perspective on the role of the vice president of the United States. The Pences are taking a book tour to promote their book with a stop at the Focus on the Family, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The format has been used before, for example in Ted Kennedy’s My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C. featuring Splash, Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog. Many politicians and celebrities have books written about themselves, and they don’t usually make much of a “splash.” John Oliver changed that lack of attention by sponsoring another picture book for children about Marlon. At the end of his segment on Pence, Oliver promoted Last Night Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller. Although some people who both oppose and support Pence call Oliver’s book a “spoof” or “parody” it is neither. Pence’s book was the inspiration for Twiss’ charming children’s book, suitable for children and one with an entirely different story.  The entire Oliver segment is here; you can forward to 15:33 for the animated film from Oliver’s book.

In the Oliver book, Marlon, sporting a multi-colored bowtie, falls in love with Wesley, and they want to get married, but a stink bug (read by John Lithgow in the audiobook) tells them that they cannot be married because they are both boy rabbits. Marlon and Wesley, however, gain support from all the other creatures in the garden with a happy ending, demonstrating to all the “different” children, for whatever reason, that they should have hope. Oliver said during his promotion of the book on the Ellen DeGeneres Show that he wanted to read his two-year-old son a book that “paints the world in the light that you want it to be rather than the way it’s currently being painted.”

 

The publishers of the two Marlon books are as different as the books themselves. Chronicle Books is a small independent publisher, located in San Francisco, that has been releasing quality books for the past half century. Author proceeds will go to The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services LGBTQ young people ages 13-24. and AIDS United, a group working to stop the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. The first printing of 75,000 has been sold out, but another 150,000 will be available in a few weeks. People who don’t want to wait can get the ebook version at betterbundobook.com or by donating $11.99 to either of the two national projects.

The Pence book has been published by a conservative publisher, Regnery Publishing, which has authors such as Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Newt Gringich, Robert Spencer, and DDT. In the 1950s, Regnery published a book sympathetic to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the midst of his anti-communist witch hunt and two books by the founder of the John Birch Society. The Regnery family sold the publishing company 25 years ago, but the former president still sits on the company’s board. Regnery’s 1996 book Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House by Gary Aldrich “painted images of Hillary Clinton hanging crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree and claimed to expose lesbian affairs in the White House basement,” according to Max Blumenthal. Eleven years ago, five authors sued their publisher, Regnery claiming that Regnery fraudulently diverts sales from retail outlets to make more money for parent corporation, Eagle Publishing, causing them to make $.10 per copy instead of $4.25 outside Eagle. They lost because Regnery had forced them to sign contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses.

The Pence family’s book is raising money for Tracy’s Kids, an art program for children with cancer, and A21, an organization that fights human trafficking.

William H. Regnery II, a member of the publishing family, has a long history of anti-immigrant white nationalism and a mission to reconfigure the United States into a white-only homeland. His two white nationalist nonprofits steered money to supporters of the KKK, Holocaust deniers, immigration foes, and eugenics boosters. The mainstream Republicans rejected him for a while, but he’s now becoming effective behind the scenes with his discovery with alt-right, white supremacist Richard Spencer who became the front for the National Policy Institute. Regnery believes that white supremacy will win with Spencer in charge. Although Regnery’s grandfather was a New Deal Democrat, he helped found the far-right America First Committee to keep the U.S. from going to war against Nazi Germany and collected a following of Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites. With DDT’s campaign the America First brand reappeared to open popularity in the far-right spectrum.

John Oliver’s Marlon Bondo book hit #1 on Amazon almost immediately after its release, followed by James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership to be released on April 17 and Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The Pences’ book is at #4. Amazon.com has over 4,000 reviews with an overall five-star rating; the other book has under 100 reviews at a 4.5 star. At amazon you can look at pages from both books.

May the best bunny win!

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