Nel's New Day

March 5, 2019

Life for DDT Gets Worse

Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) run of bad news started with the midterm elections putting the House under Democratic control. In just the last week, he’ faces a world of public investigations, his North Korea summit blew up, his highly knowledgeable former fixer Michael Cohen dished him, and Republicans come out against him, most recently opposing his national emergency. Before that, he failed with government shutdown, trade war with China, and signature “tax reform” bill that gave him bad press, and the new NAFTA doesn’t look good. Robert Mueller’s report may arrive soon, and the House might get DDT’s tax returns. His one good day with all those problems came during his two-hour speech to CPAC, but his appearance, ostensibly stoned, has been ridiculed more than any other “performance” he has given.

On top of that, Jane Mayer’s lengthy—and highly specific—report on DDT’s dependence on Fox network for his information and Fox network’s operation similar to state-owned propaganda media went viral. He even reinforced reporting on the day that the New Yorker essay was published by tweeting about Fox programming at least five times using quotes by hosts Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Tucker Carlson and guests Devin Nunes and Ari Fleischer. Fox may have told him to lash out at requests for documents from the House Judiciary Committee to 81 people and organizations in Trumpland the day after he said he would cooperate with the investigation. Here are the names; only daughter Ivanka is missing—for now.

DDT tweeted that House Democratic committee chairs are going “stone cold CRAZY” and claims that the people investigating are all “innocent,” seemingly putting Cohen into that mix. Added to DDT’s fury is the investigation into security clearances that he gave his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka after intelligence vetting turned them down and White House officials refused to push for them. DDT lied about giving them clearances, and Ivanka Trump told ABC News that her father had “no involvement” regarding the clearances. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Don Beyer Jr. (D-VA) have referred Kushner to the DOJ for investigation because of his false statements on security clearance applications and in public interviews.

Using a 1924 law, the House Ways and Means Committee plans to request DDT’s tax returns. He said he would order Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to refuse, but the law does not permit refusal. Last week, Cohen surmised that the returns are not being audited, the reason that DDT always gave for not releasing them. Cohen explained the reason for DDT not releasing his taxes:

“What he didn’t want is to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit, and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on. I presume that he is not under audit.”

Steve Moore, DDT’s economic adviser during the 2016 campaign, said he advised DDT to “never, ever, ever, ever release his tax returns.” He said that people didn’t care about DDT’s taxes, but a Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of respondents think DDT should release the returns and Congress should investigate if he doesn’t. Reasons for examining them include conflicts of interest, inappropriate business relationships and/or influence by foreign governments, and the impact of DDT’s 2017 tax cut legislation on his personal finances.

Cohen’s testimony may have been the impetus for New York insurance regulators to subpoena Aon, Trump Organization’s insurance broker, for DDT’s possible fraud from misrepresentation of assets. The materials are due in two weeks.

At the recent summit in Hanoi, DDT said he believed promises from North Korea President Kim Jong-Un and stopped two large-scale military exercises. Kim didn’t know anything about the torture of U.S. resident Otto Warmbier and he wouldn’t do any testing of weapons, according to DDT. Less than a week after DDT returned, U.S. military analysts and South Korean intelligence officials report that before the summit North Korea started rebuilding facilities in Tongchang-ri to launch satellites into orbit and test engines and other technologies for its intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea may have other fuel-making facilities as well as fissile materials, nuclear warheads, and missiles in secret locations.

While DDT was being kindly toward Kim, North Korean hackers continued to attack sites such as water utilities, oil and gas companies, and “critical infrastructure companies” in the U.S. and among U.S. allies. Most of the U.S. attacks were against banks and fossil fuel companies near Houston. After over four days of blaming Kim for the summit’s failure, DDT used the Democratic scheduling of Cohen’s testimony before the House as his excuse for failing. That won’t work after people find out that no one can take Kim “at his word.”

Since getting back to the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lied about what was said at the summit. National security adviser John Bolton, who gave up over $1 million a year to worry about being DDT’s next punching bag, explained DDT’s comment: “It doesn’t mean that [DDT] accepted as reality; it means that he accepts that’s what Kim Jong Un said.” Yet DDT was clear about believing Kim:

“I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it.”

“I did speak about it, and I don’t believe that [Kim] would’ve allowed that to happen.

The conservative Eugene Register-Guard ran this headline, “Adviser: Trump ‘Gave Nothing Away’ in North Korea Talks,” skipping the word “Says” after “Advisor”—as in “Advisor Says.” Bolton repeatedly said that DDT “gave nothing away. That’s what matters, not my view.” At least he didn’t out and out lie like Pompeo; he just kept answering questions about DDT with “that’s his view.”

A setback for people who believe that Cohen lied is DDT’s payment to him for hush money to Stormy Daniels about her affair with DDT. The New York Times has copies of six of the eleven checks that DDT or his trust wrote while he was in the Oval Office. DDT’s defenders claim that the checks could have been for other purposes, but others close to DDT maintain that he will run for a second term so that he can’t be indicted on this and other crimes. The checks were signed by either DDT or his son Donald Trump Jr. and his company CFO Allen Weisselberg, who will be testifying before the House Oversight Committee. Payments to Cohen were for Daniels to keep her story quiet ($130,000) and for Cohen to control polls to inflate DDT as a businessman ($50,000), to “gross up” ($180,000), to offset Cohen’s taxes for the payments ($180,000), and to provide a bonus ($60,000). DDT said he didn’t know about the payment a month before his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that DDT reimbursed Cohen.

Former Trump Organization executive vice president Barbara Res said that Weisselberg, to be called for testimony, knows of at least five other hush money conspiracies to hide DDT’s affairs. DDT may have signed the checks.

Republicans are upset about DDT’s administration’s coverup probe into the torturing and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even DDT’s sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called it “worthless.” Others described it as “miserable,” “a waste of time,” and “a sham.” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) called DDT “in violation of the Magnitsky Act,” the law that requires investigation into the people responsible for the murder. All this happened in the days before DDT wants the Senate to confirm his latest nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

For almost four years, DDT has fought an off-shore wind power farm near one of his Scotland golf courses because he doesn’t like its appearance. DDT now not only lost his lawsuit in July 2015 but also is now required to pay all legal fees. After other legal challenges, he also agreed to relocate some of the housing at the golf course which has been in the red for at least four years. DDT’s newer Scottish golf course at Turnberry also lost millions of dollars in 2017.

DDT is even in trouble regarding his school records. The headmaster at New York Military Academy was told to bury DDT’s academic records. DDT’s father sent him there for five years because he needed more discipline. The headmaster said that he couldn’t give the records to an influential alumnus as ordered, but he “moved them elsewhere on campus where they could no be released.” The school briefly closed in 2015 because of bankruptcy but reopened after its purchase by a Chinese investor.

Fordham confirmed Cohen’s claim that the school had been threatened about their revealing his grades. DDT bragged that he “was first in my class” at Wharton but doesn’t appear on the dean’s list or any other that would record the top 50 percent of students academically.

DDT, who promised to erase the trade deficit and started a trade war to do it, increased the deficit by 20 percent–$100 billion—since he was inaugurated and added punitive tariffs.

More people believe Cohen than believe DDT, 50 to 35 percent. The man who Jim Jordan, ranking GOP on the House Oversight Committee, called a “pathological liar” has more credibility than the leader of the free world. In addition, two-thirds think that DDT committed crimes before he was elected, and a higher percentage of people believe that he has committed crimes since then than those who think he has not.

Things aren’t going well for DDT.

March 4, 2019

State TV Fox Tied to DDT, Vice Versa

For several years, people have noted the close relationship between Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Fox network as the faux news network has remained a combination of propagandist and feeder of falsities to the man inaugurated over two years ago. DDT has given Fox 44 exclusive interviews, with the number accelerating. In the past six months, DDT has tweeted over 200 Fox items to his 58 million followers. In the New Yorker, journalist and author Jane Mayer has detailed the relationship between DDT and Fox in an 11,000-word essay.

Instead of reflecting the news, Fox radicalizes the people with its fear-mongering. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol, employed by Fox as a contributor until 2012, said, “Before [Trump], it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Sean Hannity has long been known as a confidant for DDT, often freely appearing at his dramatized events to toss him easy questions and one of the nightly triumvirate with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham to scream over guest statements opposing DDT. Called the Shadow Chief of Staff, Hannity talks to DDT every night after his show. Fox Business hosts Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs offer DDT policy advice in the Oval Office. DDT thinks of hosts of Fox & Friends as his personal friends, and they pander to him with unvetted ideas.

Former Fox employees hired in the White House such as disgraced Bill Shine, former head of Fox News’ programming division, further burnish the Fox’s image with DDT devotees. Fox currently pays Shine while he collects his paycheck from taxpayers as part of the coordinated work between DDT and Fox. Former Fox contributors include HUD Secretary Ben Carson, national security adviser John Bolton, former deputy national-security adviser K.T. McFarland, and recently resigned UN Ambassador Heather Nauert. Donald Trump Jr., girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who also left Fox in disgrace works on DDT’s reelection campaign. Hope Hicks, DDT’s formers head of communications, went to Fox, and others such as Sebastian Gorka, are regularly on Fox. [Fox separated from Gorka as of this article’s publication.]

DDT’s political rise matched a shift in tone at Fox. Early on, CEO Roger Ailes opposed Fox being a shill for the Tea Party, but owner Rupert Murdoch created an audience that became the “party of Trump.” Before DDT, Fox ridiculed birtherism, Bill O’Reilly described its promoters as “unhinged,” and Glenn Beck, who hosted a Fox show until he went over the conspiracy edge, called them “idiots.” DDT made birtherism respectable, and Hannity got his way to promote the extremist far-right party. He described President Obama’s negotiations with North Korea “disturbing” but called DDT’s failed efforts a “huge foreign-policy win.” Fox built its audience by elevating Benghazi far above other embassy ambushes causing deaths in its constant attack on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Hannity appeared on stage at a DDT rally with little objection from Fox. Murdoch went from correcting DDT by tweeting that “Mexican immigrants, as with all immigrants, have much lower crime rates than native born” to tolerating Fox’s frequent diatribes about hordes of “illegal aliens.” Murdoch and DDT are both about the bottom line and ratings.

Megyn Kelly asked DDT “tough” questions in the Fox-sponsored presidential debate, but insiders said that Ailes alerted DDT about the questions. Kelly wrote in Settle for More that DDT called Fox executives the day before the campaign to complain about her “very pointed question directed at him.” After the debate, DDT boycotted Fox, driving down until ratings until Ailes groveled.

During the summer when DDT became the GOP presidential candidate, Ailes’ sexual misconduct forced him out, and he joined DDT’s debate team. Fox gained two Ailes loyalists, Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, as co-presidents who turned the network over to DDT propaganda, furthering empowering him and Hannity. At 85, Murdoch claimed the CEO position, but insiders reported that after his serious health issues, “the lunatics took over the asylum.” During DDT’s campaign, a Fox reporter confirmed the story about his affair in 2006 with Stormy Daniels, but Fox editors denied her going public. She told colleagues that Ken LaCorte, then head of FoxNews.com said, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” The same reporter kept digging and discovered that the National Enquirer made a “catch and kill” deal with Daniels in which the tabloid bought the exclusive rights to story before it buried the information.

The story went public when the Wall Street Journal published the details about Daniels and the Enguirer, a year after DDT was inaugurated. The reporter was demoted, she sued the network, and her settlement includes a nondisclosure agreement banning her from talking about her work at Fox. LaCorte, still paid by Fox after he left, said that he squashed the story without talking to superiors because it hadn’t “passed muster.” Blogger Nik Richie called him out for being a “LIAR,” tweeting that he “was one of your sources.” Richie voted for DDT, but he thinks that the story would have swung the election.

Part of Shine’s job at Fox was to handle sexual misconduct complaints. Any woman who complained was gently treated unless she persevered, when Shine would warn her that her career would be destroyed. At least four civil lawsuits against Fox name Shine as defendant, and Fox settled on in 2017 for $90 million. That suit claims Fox spent $55 million to settle sexual harassment claims out of court. Shine was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in a Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s investigation into company funds for these payoffs, but Shine agreed to interviews by prosecutors. The investigation disappeared after Ailes death in May 2017, but Shine was his enabler as shown by payments he signed to accusers’ settlements.

Under Shine’s leadership in 2017, Fox and O’Reilly paid $13 million to five female employees accusing him of sexual misconduct with a sixth $32 million payment in negotiation. After advertiser boycotts and street demonstrations, Fox fired O’Reilly and then Shine. Hannity became Fox’s top-rated star and highest-profile DDT promoter and helped Shine get a job as White House communications director and deputy chief of staff.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has always been close to Murdoch, but Murdoch made up with DDT after calling him “a f**king idiot” to benefit from specialized treatment for his business interests.

  • DDT’s administration approved Fox’s sale of most of its entertainment assets to Disney for $71 billion, with the Murdoch family getting $2 billion and becoming a major stockholder in the combined company that accounts for half the box-office revenue in the United States.  DDT promised the creation of jobs from the deal that has resulted in thousands of layoffs.
  • DDT’s FCC blocked Sinclair Broadcast Group, more conservative than Fox, from buying Tribune Media Company that would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of the U.S. population.
  • DDT’s DOJ stopped AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, owner of CNN, after Murdoch failed to buy Time Warner in 2014. A sweetener for DDT was retaliation against CNN, DDT’s most hated media source. Although DDT claimed that he was “not going to get involved,” he ordered Gary Cohn, then director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the DOJ to intervene in the sale although Cohn knew that DDT’s action was inappropriate for a sitting president and refused. A federal court has ruled against the DOJ and permitted the $85 billion merger—for the second time. [Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said that a president has the right to punish the media by blocking this merger.]

The more DDT does for Murdoch, the more Fox does for DDT. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard Law School professor who co-directs the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said, “Fox’s most important role since the election has been to keep Trump supporters in line.” According to Fox, the only collusion is between Clinton and Russia,  the special investigator is perpetrating a “coup” by the “deep state,” DDT and his associates aren’t corrupt, U.S. courts are corrupt, illegal immigration is an invasion and not at a 15-year low, and all news organizations offering perspectives different from these are “enemies of the American people.” Benkler, author with Robert Faris and Hal Robert of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics, said:

“It’s not the right versus the left. It’s the right versus the rest.”

Conservative media outlets focus on confirmation of the audience’s biases and provide propaganda and lies that spread uncorrected to Fox because viewers hate for falsehoods to be disclosed. Fox fired Glenn Beck for baseless conspiracy theories, but Hannity is rewarded for them. Only boycotts of Fox advertisers forced Hannity to drop his conspiracy accusations about murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich.

Alisyn Camerota, former co-host of Fox & Friends, quit because of its lack of standards and wrote the novel Amanda Wakes Up about propaganda on a cable morning show. She said that the show’s producers would “cull far-right, crackpot Web sites” for content and never bothered with second sources. The primary standard was that “this is going to outrage the audience!” Guilfoyle got her information from an avid fan who sent her content for her topics such as “physically weak men” are “more likely to be socialists.”

Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters, thinks that Fox drives DDT more than the reverse. A recent example how DDT caused the 35-day shutdown and declared a national emergency because of Fox ridicule.

“The President’s world view is being specifically shaped by what he sees on Fox News, but Fox’s goals are ratings and money, which they get by maximizing rage. It’s not a message that is going to serve the rest of the country.”

Fox’s problem comes from its one-pony show of DDT to make money, and ratings fall when he looks bad. Fox’s evening ratings have dropped by 20 percent since the midterms with only a spike for DDT’s interview after Michael Cohen’s testimony. A change may be in the wind: much smaller since the Disney sale, Fox will be supervised by conservative Lachlan Murdoch who might move to center right. The test could be the release of Robert Mueller’s findings. At this time, Fox’s hosts and guests are swearing war. The question is whether Fox wants to start the war.

The most frightening part of Jane Mayer’s detailed look at the authoritarian DDT and Fox network is that it’s not as shocking as it should be for a country that prides itself on being a democracy.

March 3, 2019

Religion, GOP’s Desperate Hypocrisy for Control

Yesterday, I wrote about the values of Republicans who attacked Michael Cohen, former fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during testimony before the House Oversight Committee hearing. Walter Einenkel, social media editor and writer on Daily Kos, has produced a compilation of their specific values. The following are all GOP committee members who attacked Cohen’s character. Their behavior reflects their personal values:

  • Jim Jordan (R-OH): He denies the allegation of complicity in multiple sexual assaults against athletes while he was assistant coach, but the accusations are credible. The other congressional Republicans protected him.
  • Clay Higgins (R-LA): He resigned his job as an Opelousas (LA) police officer to avoid disciplinary action for using “unnecessary force on a subject during the execution of a warrant and later lied during an internal investigation.”
  • Virginia Foxx (R-NC): She claimed that she didn’t know that “tar baby” is a racial slur and that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime, but instead “a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing [hate crimes] bills.”
  • Jody Hice (R-GA): He wants to remove Muslims from any First Amendment protections with the claim that Islam is not a religion.
  • Mark Green (R-TN): He said that people should get their health care from God, not Medicaid, and his disparaging comments about Muslims and LGBTQ people are so extreme that he had to withdraw his nomination for DDT’s Secretary of the Army.
  • Paul Gosar (R-AZ): His seven siblings opposed his election and supported his opponent, perhaps because he subscribes to conspiracy theories such as Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros funded and organized the neo-Nazi movement in the U.S., including the violent rallies in Charlottesville (VA) and most recently said that climate change doesn’t exist because of “photosynthesis.” He’s the one who said, in his adult fashion, “liar, liar, pants on fire” to Cohen during the hearing.
  • Thomas Massie (R-KY): He met with Maria Butina, arrested for being a Russian spy.
  • Mark Meadows (R-NC): He lied about having a college degree and claimed that he wasn’t a racist during the hearing although he campaigned as a “birther” while President Obama was running for a second term.
  • Ralph Norman (R-SC): He pulled out a gun at a townhall meeting and left it lying on the table in front of him in violation of state law, but high-level friendly officials exonerated his actions.
  • Bob Gibbs (R-OH): He compared serving in Congress to serving in the military to wipe out his veteran opponent and sent fliers to influence the Democratic primary.
  • Glenn Grothman (R-WI): He has a long history of saying crazy things such as marriage equality should be illegal because it does a disservice to men who fought in the Civil War and college Pell Grants “discourage marriage.”
  • James Comer (R-KY): He was sued for threatening a senior state legislative staffer who reported allegations of sexual harassment to his superiors while they were both in state legislature.
  • Kelly Armstrong (R-ND): He has a history of driving infractions—a DUI conviction in 2001 that he tried to get out of and more recent citations for using a wireless communication device while driving and speeding in North Dakota.

That’s over two-thirds of the GOP members of the Oversight Committee who failed to defend DDT’s actions in exchange for smearing Cohen throughout his testimony. The other five members are new—first or second term—and standard far-right, Christianity only, gun-loving, climate deniers.

Christian Republicans elsewhere are standing up for their religion.

Some of them celebrated West Virginia GOP Day with a poster connecting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the terrorism of 9/11 because she is a Muslim. The arguments about the image in the capitol rotunda became so heated that the state House’s sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned after her anti-Muslim remark and another person was injured. Last month, a West Virginia legislator was called on to resign after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.” It’s the state that believes in freedom of religion—if the religion is Christianity.

In December 2018, a girl was bullied after her mother sued the Mercer County School District for teaching the Bible as fact.

Fundamentalist Christians have become so rigid that they think even Catholics don’t deserve religious freedom. DDT’s waiver permitting a South Carolina foster care agency to discriminate kept same-gender parents from becoming caregivers for children; now the agency is discriminating against a Catholic because of her faith. The Catholic woman was not only rejected as a foster parent but also told that she could not volunteer with the agency because it wanted only the “right type of Protestant church.” The biggest foster care agency in the state, Miracle Hill Ministries refused to work with a Jewish family in 2017. The governor rescued them with an executive order allowing the government-supported agency to discriminate, and Miracle got its federal waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services in January. This sentence in Miracle’s foster care manual may need revision:

 “In accordance with Federal and State laws and South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) policy, this agency and contracted providers for foster care and adoption services are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability.”

During the past ten years, the number of South Carolina home placements has been flat while the number of children in foster care has spiked. In addition, South Carolina law requires that foster children receive religious education “in accordance with the expressed wishes of the child’s natural parents.” The exemptions for Miracle permits it to “effectively terminate biological parents’ rights to direct their children’s religious upbringing while those children are in the care of the child-placement agency or a foster family,” according to a lawsuit. Another lawsuit is challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” law for adoption agencies.

The evangelical legal service Alliance Defending Freedom is suing on the behalf of homeless shelter Hope Center in Anchorage (AK) for the “right” to deny assistance to transgender people. The shelter wants an exemption from the city to discriminate in violation of its law and say that charities should be able to deny access if they want. Assistant municipal attorney Ryan Stuart said that the suit has not proceeded because Hope Center refused to cooperate with the investigation. Rather than being threats, transgender people are the most likely targets of physical and sexual abuse.

In his speech at last week’s conservative CPAC conference, VP Mike Pence said that “freedom of religion” is under attack, and the above examples prove that he’s right. What he wants, however, is freedom of evangelical religion to oppress all others. Pence’s religion is attacking LGBTQ rights, denying health care to people, limiting medical providers to communicating only his own non-medical beliefs, keeping children from finding good homes, rejecting scientific education for young people, in short, complete control of all people in the United States with his far-right Christian sexist, racist, homophobic beliefs.

Many times, I’m proud to live in Oregon, and this week is one of those times. The City Council for the state’s largest city, Portland, unanimously approved a measure giving civil rights protections for atheist, agnostic, and other nonreligious residents in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Madison (WI) may be the only other city in the United states with similar protections.

What a strange country where people have rights–or no rights–based on where they live.

 

GOP Values Reflected in People They Choose

Michael Cohen’s testimony this week uncovers the nature of the man who has been elected president of the United States, but it also clearly shows the nature and values of the people who support Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). During the hearing, Republicans constantly called Cohen a liar—sometimes a “pathological liar”—yet ignored the pathological liar who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office. Republicans said almost nothing to refute what Cohen said but repeated, ad nauseam, that Cohen had admitted to lying to Congress and to committing multiple felonies.

Before the testimony, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is not a member of the Oversight Committee allowed to question Cohen, sent a threatening tweet that attempted to intimidate Cohen. DDT even called to praise Gaetz for his action, which raises the question of whether DDT fed Gaetz negative information about Cohen. Gaetz, Jim Jordan (R-OH), and other Republicans decided 18 months ago to actively undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation through reinvestigating Hillary Clinton and the origins of the FBI investigation of Flynn and other DDT associates as well as smearing the FBI.

Sean Hannity, Fox propagandist and DDT’s BFF, said that Cohen had told him that DDT had nothing to do with the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels for a secret affair. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted:

“Sean Hannity is now volunteering himself as a witness. I look forward to his testimony.”

National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss said, “Hannity just made himself a witness in a congressional inquiry and the SDNY [Southern District of New York] probe.”

The people who DDT selects to surround him and who are confirmed by the Republicans in the senate demonstrate their own values. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continually tries to destroy public education, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney wanted to destroy consumer protection, and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wanted to destroy public lands. Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt took over from Zinke, and former pharmaceutical executive leads the Department of Health and Human Services. The replacement for former Secretary of Defense James Mattis is former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has been accused of protecting a sex trafficker who molested teenage girls.

Shannon Lee Goessling, DDT’s pick for director of the Office of Violence against Women at DOJ, is the most recent example of DDT’s desire to select appointees imminently unsuitable for every position. She has fought to keep Alabama’s driver’s license exams only in English, bringing concerns that she would provide domestic violence resources in any non-English languages as well as probability that she could not handle policies for survivors’ immigration statuses and eligibility for public support. Also questionable is her respect for cultural differences in domestic violence. Goessling has also opposed marriage equality and advocates greater gun ownership to prevent violence against women, perpetuating the myth that women with guns can prevent “a completed rape.” According to a study, firearms in the home are more likely to be used against a woman and/or her family than as defense against outside intruders. Victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abusers have access to firearms. Her history is obviously anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-racial justice, and anti-activists opposing sexual violence.

Andrew Wheeler, who became acting EPA director and is now confirmed for a permanent position, came from the coal industry, the largest water polluter responsible for 73 percent of toxic water contamination in the U.S. Last August, Wheeler planned to weaken automobile fuel economy standards before he destroyed a power plant regulation that, according to the EPA, will cause 1,400 more premature deaths each year. Scientists from 13 federal agencies, including the EPA, confirmed findings that U.S. temperatures will be nine degrees higher within less than a century, but Wheeler refused to recognize the study’s validity without reading it. In December, he recommended loosening carbon dioxide emissions reductions at coal-fired power plants and finished 2018 by announcing that he will promote the release of mercury and other dangerous pollutants from coal-fired plants. A recent Wheeler project is to slow down the elimination of toxic, cancer-causing “forever chemicals” contaminating drinking water across the country. Wheeler was confirmed by 52 to 47: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined all Democrats except Krysten Sinema (AZ) who did not vote. In 2017, Wheeler had held a fundraiser for John Barrasso (R-WY), who presided over the confirmation.

For the first time in history, the Senate confirmed a federal judge over the opposition of both senators from the appointee’s home state. Eric Miller’s lifetime appointment to the 9th Circuit Court was completed after a brief hearing during a congressional recess with only two GOP committee members present. Miller does not agree with the U.S. Constitution that all children born in the U.S., even those of undocumented immigrants, should have U.S. citizenship and made his name fighting the rights of Native Americans. Two prominent Native American organizations, the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund, objected to Miller’s confirmation—only the third time that either group has opposed a federal judicial nominee. Miller, however, fits both DDT’s requirements: young and bigoted.The Senate was close to this historical first with the nomination of Oregon’s Ryan Bounds until the one black GOP senator, Tim Scott (SC), opposed Bounds because of his previous racist writings. Last November, McConnell said, “Confirmation is a political decision based on who controls the Senate.” To him, party is all and democracy is gone.

As Shanahan comes to the government from Boeing, DDT’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley goes to Boeing’s board of directors. She joins 19 former high-level military officers hired by Boeing after their retirement. Lockheed Martin, builder of the notoriously dangerous F-35, tries the same strategy: in just 2018, the contractor hired 55 former senior government officials as executives, directors, or lobbyists. Former employees for Lockheed include Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and John Rood, undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who lied about the reasons for and methods of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, violated his ethics agreement when he inaccurately reported stock holdings on his 2018 financial disclosure form. He reported selling stock that he kept. The refusal to certify Ross’ report has never happened before, but the Ethics Office had earlier warned Ross about his “failure to comply with his ethics compliance agreements.” In 2018, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, asked then-AG Jeff Sessions to review Ross’s disclosures for “potential criminal violations.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson plans 17 EnVision Centers, as a one-stop place for low-income residents needing social services such as job-placement programs and education. Unfortunately, he didn’t designate any funding for his plan.

Ryan Zinke, who resigned from his Secretary of Interior gig at the end of last year in the hopes of not being investigated, may face a grand jury for lying to federal investigators about not granting commercial casino petitions by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The Connecticut tribes’ lawsuit claims that Zinke caved to GOP Nevada legislators, Rep. Mark Amodei and then Sen. Dean Heller who has received large contributions from MGM Resorts International. The government is not commenting on Zinke’s other scandals, including at least 17 ethics probes.

As if one Bill Barr in the administration isn’t bad enough, his son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, will leave the DOJ to join the White House council where he will “advise” DDT on legal issues—presumably the Russia investigation. The jobs seem to “intersect” (aka provide a conflict of interest). Barr’s oldest daughter, Mary Daly, will leave the DOJ for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to give Dad more heads-up about Russia.

After the military concluded—several years ago—that climate is a serious national security threat, DDT appointed William Happer to lead his Committee on Climate Security to refute his own agencies’ research. Happer claimed that carbon pollution benefits people and compares scientific evidence that carbon dioxide causes global warming to Nazi “propaganda” like “demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” He calls science a “cult.” An article from the New York Times lists disasters from climate change in the near future.

DDT found a replacement for Heather Nauert, who resigned as acting ambassador to the UN for illegally hiring a nanny after Nikki Haley resigned. Kelly Knight Craft, Ambassador to Canada and another science denier, has no qualifications to recommend her, but she and her husband donated millions of dollars to DDT’s presidential campaigns. They are also from Kentucky, and Craft has been “highly recommended” by other Kentuckians Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, who is also Transportation Secretary.

In selecting the most unqualified ambassadors in modern history, DDT chooses those who donated almost as much money to his campaign as the ambassadors picked by Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama in their nine presidential terms.

The only people worse than DDT in his appointments are the Republicans—and a few Democrats—who confirm them for lifetime positions. Their values go from simple reward of incompetence to sinking deep into corruption and fraud.

March 1, 2019

DDT: Week 110 – Really Bad Week

Following Wednesday’s day-long open testimony before the House Oversight Committee by Michael Cohen, one-time fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), about how DDT runs his business, the grand summit in Vietnam with North Korea ended with a splat when a luncheon signing ceremony was canceled after the table was set. DDT’s tone about Kim Jong-Un was much cooler than his earlier declaration about the love affair with Kim Jong-Un. The U.S. had already stopped the need for a full accounting of North Korea nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. U.S. intelligence agencies continually maintain that North Korea does not intend to fully denuclearize.

As he earlier said about Vladimir Putin, DDT said, “I will take him at his word,” this time about Kim’s professed ignorance regarding U.S. citizen, Otto Warmbier, who was tortured in North Korea and was returned with severe brain damage. Warmbier died soon after his release. DDT failed to follow through with his promise to press Kim about human rights abuses: North Korea uses torture and “disappears” people accused of political crimes to prison camps where they cannot communicate the outside world. Before going to the summit, DDT asked Russia for advice on how to deal with North Korea, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was present in Hanoi during the summit. DDT also said he takes Kim “at his word” when he says he won’t be doing any testing of weapons. Kim one of several world dictators who DDT supports, sometimes believing them over U.S. intelligence: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Journalists suffered from DDT’s ire, first forced to move their filing center from the hotel where they stayed because Kim wanted them out. DDT banned four reporters from covering an event—Associated Press, Bloomberg, LA Times, and Reuters—because questions were asked about Cohen’s testimony, showing a dictator that DDT has weakened the constitutional freedom of the press.

Before DDT went to North Korea, he said that he’s in “no rush” to denuclearize North Korea. His aides, including national security adviser John Bolton, predicted the summit would fail, and  Bruce Klingner, analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, sees “no tangible progress” toward denuclearization since DDT’s meeting with Kim in Singapore. Klingner pointed out that periods of testing moratoriums were longer in previous administrations, and U.S. intelligence notes that North Korea is still building missiles. MIT nuclear expert Vipin Narang said, “We are nowhere. Which is probably exactly where the North Koreans want us to be.”

No longer is DDT falsely claiming that the U.S. has no nuclear threat from North Korea, as he did after the first meeting with Kim. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may have stopped this claim because he had to lie to CNN’s Jake Tapper about the first time that DDT made this outrageous statement. DDT kept asking Pompeo to explain details of the summit at the press conference before he left Hanoi.

Although DDT complained that the Cohen testimony took attention away from his North Korea summit, he should have been grateful because of his failure in Hanoi. He bragged that Michael Cohen had said “no collusion,” but Cohen reported that DDT knew about the Trump Tower meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, Roger Stone got the Democratic emails from Julian Assange, and nothing went on at the Trump Organization—and probably the campaign—without DDT’s approval.

DDT’s most recent failure comes the disclosure of memos from two White House officials refuting his claim that he had nothing to do with the highest-level security clearance given to his son-in-law Jared Kushner in spite of intelligence officials’ warning against it. Former chief-of-staff John Kelly wrote a memo about how he was “ordered” to give a clearance to Kushner, and former White House counsel Don McGahn wrote a memo about security concerns regarding Kushner that had been raised by the CIA and a recommendation that he not be granted the clearance. Both of those men are gone, but Kushner is still harvesting the highest-level classified information for his personal financial benefit. Kushner also advised the Saudi Crown Prince how to avoid the blame for his murdering U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and amid this week’s controversy, Kushner had a friendly meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince. This fiasco is not just another of DDT’s peccadilloes; it’s a national security disaster.

The stock market is still sagging despite DDT’s claim about improved trade relationships with China. He supposedly backed off from more tariffs on Chinese goods but provided no details and has no signed official agreements. South Dakota’s GOP governor, Kristi Noem, said DDT’s trade wars have “devastated” her state. She warned that the agriculture disaster can touch “every main street business, everybody that has another entity out there that relies on a successful ag industry.” Over 60 percent of voters in the state hoped for a better future with DDT when they voted for him.

DDT is also backing down on steel tariffs, excusing 370 U.S. companies from paying them on imports of up to 4.1 million tons from China, Japan, and other countries. The almost 14,000 exemptions, 59 percent of them for firms with a foreign corporate parent, cover eight percent of the total from China and almost 30 percent from Japan.

In a backlash against DDT’s wall declaration, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Udall (D-NM) co-sponsored a resolution to terminate the national emergency because it is “an end run around Congress’s power to appropriate.” Collins quoted Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the Federalist Papers about the power of the purse being reserved for the legislature as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people.” She said that Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) support the joint resolution.

More than a month after the longest government shutdown in US history ended, a significant number of Transportation Security Administration employees still have not received all of their back-pay.

A former staffer on DDT’s presidential campaign filed a lawsuit against him for sexual misconduct outside a rally in Tampa. His behavior followed his claim to a pattern in 2005: “Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” She is the first woman to accuse him of sexual misconduct after he announced his run for president.

White supremacist hate groups have increased by 50 percent to 148 in the two years since DDT was inaugurated. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the “Proud Boys,” in its category of “general hate” and supported by Republicans, as “the most relentless campaign of rightwing street violence in recent memory” in its attendance at frequently violent street rallies. The organization has 44 chapters in 31 states, and its chairman, Enrique Tarrio, was seen in a place of pride at DDT’s Miami rally last month. Tarrio also visited Roger Stone after his arrest by the FBI, and the Proud Boys have a video of Stone’s initiated into their group. The SPLC report also names DDT and his Twitter account for pushing “noxious anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views.”

As DDT prepares to hand over nuclear power to Saudi Arabia, leave nuclear power in North Korea, and invade Venezuela, he desperately wants a Nobel Peace Prize because President Obama got one. He bragged about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominating him for the award, avoiding the fact that Abe was asked to do so, probably by Jared Kushner. Abe has not yet verified that he sent a nomination to the Nobel committee. Last year, two “nominations,” both forgeries, came from the same person. Abe has not verified that he sent a nomination to the Nobel committee.

Another Manhattan condo association voted to take the Trump name off the building, the fifth in one neighborhood. In the 11 properties keeping the Trump name, the square footage brings less than in non-DDT-named places.

Release of 2018 ratings for world leadership shows that the U.S. went up only one percent after dropping from 48 to 30 percent between 2017 and 2018. Disapproval is still up 12 points since DDT’s inauguration.

Public opinion is heading in the opposite direction from GOP leadership: Russia is considered the chief enemy of the U.S., and 73 percent of people look at Russia unfavorably—both highs in Gallup polls. In a poll about affirmative action, 65 percent want programs for women, up from 60 percent, and in another high 61 percent want affirmative action for minorities. White people are behind the increase in voting for the need for minorities. DDT is rapidly losing his popularity with Republicans and independents.

February 28, 2019

Good News across the U.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May we have more good news.

February 27, 2019

U.S. House Keeps Busy Despite Jim Jordan’s Complaints

For people who have been watching the situation with former fixer Michael Cohen for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), his testimony today before the House Oversight Committee held few surprises. Points from today:

  • Republican committee members did not try to refute anything he said; they just tried to smear him.
  • The GOP smears against Cohen—that he’s a “pathological liar”—can also be said about DDT, the man who Republicans were defending.
  • Cohen said that he had tried to cover for DDT during the past ten years in the same way that Republicans are doing now.
  • With this comment about protection, he added, “The more people that suffer Donald Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I did.”
  • Reporters following DDT in Vietnam for his meeting with North Korea president Kim Jong-Un were banned from his presence after asking questions about the Cohen testimony.

Pieces of Cohen’s testimony that many people already assumed:

  • DDT is a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat.”
  • Cohen quoted DDT as saying that black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and during a drive through a poor section of Chicago said that “only black people could live that way.” Cohen added, “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ “In private, he is even worse.”
  • Cohen has checks (which he produced), evidence “as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” directed by his son and the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg, to quiet a former adult film actor.
  • DDT told Cohen to lie about his affair with the actor to his wife, Melania.
  • Cohen said he presided over “several” “catch-and-kill” arrangements between David Pecker and DDT for the National Enquirer to purchase exclusive rights for stories damaging to DDT and then suppress the stories.
  • DDT inflated his wealth to appear on lists of rich people rich lists and falsely reduce it to avoid paying taxes.
  • To a question from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cohen said that DDT’s tax returns would be helpful in showing how DDT sharply reduced his tax costs by undervaluing his parents’ real estate holdings.
  • Cohen believes that DDT’s tax returns were not being audited in 2016 although that’s what DDT claimed.
  • DDT told Cohen that he didn’t release his tax returns because he might get audited and face big taxes and penalties.
  • Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks for the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 presidential election.
  • DDT knew about the June 2017 Trump Tower meeting among members of his campaign with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT used his charity’s money to pay for portrait of himself after driving up the price to impress people.

Cohen finished his testimony by saying:

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen’s described DDT as a mobster-like president, who told Cohen to shortchange suppliers, keep schools from releasing his student grades by threatening them, and deal with negative media about DDT’s Vietnam War draft dodging. Cohen said he had probably threatened a person because of DDT’s instructions at least 500 times. “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not make his country great,” said Cohen. “He ran to market himself and build his wealth and power.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under investigation by the Florida Bar because of a tweet that appears to be an attempt to intimidate DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen the day before he started his open testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Gaetz’s tweet:

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a former DA and federal prosecutor, asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet because it “clearly defines witness tampering and intimidation.” Her request that could lead to an official investigation and possibly a reprimand, censure or fine. An expulsion would require a two-thirds majority of the House. Asked about why he wrote the tweet, Gaeta said, “The tweet speaks for itself.” Later he deleted the tweet and apologized for sending it.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) during the hearing, falsely accusing him of using his first hearing to start removing DDT from office. Cummings ended the session by talking about the committee’s earlier hearings. The first hearing was on January 29, 2019 concerned the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs; Cummings noted that a young man had died because of these escalating costs. He also told Jordan that they had a hearing on H.R. 1, which was about voter suppression and executive branch ethics. That one was on February 6, 2019. “We can do more than one thing,” Cummings said. “And we have got to get back to normal.” The GOP House was notable for not having hearings before votes.

Credibly accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes while he was assistant coach at Ohio State University, Jordan’s accusations of Cohen’s lying and lack of remorse rang hollow to many watchers. Jordan claimed that Cummings had “stacked the deck against the truth” and ranted about Hillary Clinton conspiracies, calling Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis a “Clinton operative.” Then he raged about Democrats doing what Tom Steyer tells them and that Steyer had organized a town hall in Cummings’ Maryland district.

Asked if he believed Cohen, Cummings referenced his history with the law when he said he found him “credible” and that it “appears” that DDT committed a crime. Cummings added, “I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop.”

The House has been far busier than Republicans might like. This week, representatives passed a resolution to overturn DDT’s emergency declaration that takes money for various sources to build his wall without congressional approval. Thirteen Republicans voted with Democrats in the 245-182 vote. According to law, the Senate will be required to vote on the House resolution within 18 days, a March 18 deadline. Three GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC)— have indicated they will vote for the House bill, and others are questioning the sensibility of the national emergency, especially if a future president is a Democrat. Two more GOP votes are needed for a simple majority if all Democrats and independents vote in favor of it. A veto from DDT for any bill passed requires two-thirds support in each congressional chamber.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Rules, read a complaint about the lack of time for representatives to review the 70-word bill although Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion, 1,097-page tax bill a few hours after it was completed.

The House also passed a bipartisan bill requiring all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm sales by a 240-190. With five GOP co-sponsors, the bill received eight GOP votes and lost two Democrat votes. It expands background checks on private sales, including those at gun shows, on the internet, and through classified ads. The bill is the first significant gun control vote since the Senate failed to pass similar bipartisan legislation in 2013. Another bill is due for a vote that would extend the review period on gun sales.

Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents about the separation of families at the southern border. Cummings said that the documents submitted to the committee were not sufficient and failed to answer committee questions. Two Republicans, Justin Amash (MI) and Chip Roy (TX), voted with Democrats for the subpoenas. Again Jordan attacked Cummings, saying: “You just wanted to be first.” Cummings pointed out that the request was the same as the bipartisan request from eight months ago.

Other House actions:

The House is doing a lot to make Jim Jordan angry.

February 24, 2019

More Need for Wall on Religion

At the beginning of a four-day conference regarding clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to solve the behavior of the Church’s leadership. After four days of speeches about the need for action and the “outrage of the people,” Francis closed the summit by calling for an “all-out battle” but few concrete remedies. Sometimes avoiding the purpose of the meeting, Francis larded his speech with data regarding abuse in schools, at athletic facilities, and within families, talking about the dangers of the digital world.

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes about the problems of Christians who claims to be superior to all others:

When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.

“Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” The Chronicle reported.

Leathers told me he is glad he wrote the 2002 article, even if it cost him his career. He expressed frustration at Southern Baptist priorities: The church leadership would expel a church that appointed a woman as senior pastor, even as it accepted sexual predators.

The indifference to criminal behavior is an echo of what has been unearthed in the Roman Catholic Church over the decades. The latest sickening revelations are of priests getting away with raping nuns and with assaulting deaf students.

These new scandals provoke fresh nausea at the hypocrisy of religious blowhards like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who thundered at the immorality of gay people even as their own Southern Baptist network tolerated child rape.

I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

But then conventional hierarchies asserted themselves, and women were mostly barred from religious leadership.

After The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptists have promised greater training and more background checks, but what’s needed above all is accountability and equality.

“Prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity,” Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard, told me.

Baptist women have been ready to be heard for a century. I know because my great-grandfather John Howard Shakespeare was the leader of Baptists in Britain from 1898 to 1924 and practiced his sermons on his wife. When she once insisted that she had something else to do, he locked her in an upstairs room.

My great-grandmother Amy, wearing a long dress, then climbed out an upper window and onto a tree branch, and finally clambered down the tree to the ground.

Perhaps inspired by such a strong woman, Shakespeare favored the ordination of women. “That women are not yet permitted to take their proper share in the life and work of our churches is, to our thinking, a relic of barbarism,” he wrote in 1901.

So much has changed for women since then, yet even today a majority of religious women still belong to denominations that do not ordain women. And as long as inequality is baked into faith, as long as “men of God” are unaccountable, then sexual assaults will continue.

The problem is not just wayward pastors and priests. Rather it is structural, an inequality and masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.

And, perhaps, embarrasses God.

February 23, 2019

Hope from Elections, Courts

In a desperate move last fall after Democratic governors and state legislators were elected, several GOP-dominated state legislative bodies passed laws that would hamstring the elective preferences of the people. The Wake County Superior Court has determined that the illegally gerrymandered North Carolina General Assembly cannot put constitutional amendments on the ballot because it lacked the full will of the state’s people. The court voided two of these amendments related to a photo voter ID requirement and lowering of the state income tax cap. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that many of North Carolina’s legislative districts were illegally drawn on racial lines and required that 117 districts be redrawn by the 2018 election. Legislators from the illegally-drawn lines passed the two amendments that tend “to favor white households” and would “reinforc[e] the accumulation of wealth for white taxpayers,” according to a lawsuit.

North Carolina is also the only state without a seated representative in the U.S. House from the 2018 election. This past week, the state election board unanimously required a new election for the seat that Baptist pastor Mark Harris claimed to have won by 905 votes after he stepped down. The election board had investigated Harris and his employee who had been accused with “stuffing the ballot box” by requesting, collecting, and completing absentee ballots in favor of Republicans. A closer look at Harris’ actions shows more anomalies. One was Harris’ testimony that he paid the employee through a PAC, a violation of election laws, and then tried to retract that statement several times later in the day. North Carolina has never addressed the type of voter fraud that Harris exhibited, concentrating instead of non-existent “in-person” voter fraud in the GOP attempts to restrict Democratic voting.

Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman is bringing investigation findings of the 9th District election fraud in both 2016 and 2018 to a grand jury next month. She took the case from Marion Warren, the director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, after it was discovered that Warren had introduced Mark Harris to his employee, who is now under scrutiny. Warren has announced a new job at Regent University School of Law in Virginia next month.

David Whitley, Texas’ acting Secretary of State, needs to have two-thirds of a vote for confirmation. His problem is that he inaccurately stated that 95,000 possible noncitizens registered to vote in the state before checking his facts—that tens of thousands of them are citizens. He did apologize for his “mistake,” but 12 Democrats are refusing to vote for him in committee, which would sink his nomination requiring a two-thirds state Senate vote for success. Whitley still hasn’t retracted the list although one of his deputies said the office knew that flagged voters included names of naturalized citizens. The office used outdated driver’s license data to determine citizenships so there is no accurate count of voter fraud. The state is now facing three federal lawsuits over Whitley’s actions, at least one of them about voter disenfranchisement for the March 2, 2019 election. Verifying Whitley’s misinformation is a nightmare, especially for large counties, because Texas law mandates voter registration on paper only. Verifying naturalization also causes problems because data on ceremonies is limited to counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court made an amazing decision this past week—and did it unanimously. All nine justices ruled that states cannot ignore the Constitution when imposing fines or confiscating people’s property in civil or criminal cases. Although to many of us, the ruling sounds like common sense, but states have been confiscating money and property for centuries, but the profits made by governments accelerated with a 1978 federal law. Although the law may seem reasonable on its surface, law enforcement officials have been taking money from people even if they aren’t charged with any crime and then keeping it. By 2018, the DOJ had about $1.5 billion in its forfeiture fund. Reporters have found several cases when people were pulled over with no justification and had their money taken with no proof of a crime. After the police took $11,000, a college student’s life savings, he had to fight in court to get his money returned.

The high court heard Timbs v. Indiana, a case in which police kept a $42,000 Land Rover purchased with legal funds after Tyson Timbs was charged in selling two grams of heroin to an undercover officer. The maximum fine for the infraction was $10,000—four times less than the value of his vehicle that he lost. Indiana is one of four states that claims that the Constitution didn’t cover state law. The justices found that keeping the Land Rover violated the Eighth Amendment’s “excessive fines clause” that applies to state and local courts as well as federal ones.

In a win for Montana, after the Supreme Court wiped out its campaign finance law in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock (2012), the high court let stand the state’s Disclose Act requiring the disclosure of donors to groups spending money or mentioning a candidate with 60 days of a state-level elections. A lower court had ruled the law constitutional, and the Supreme Court declined to take the case. Montana is the third state after New York and California to have disclosure laws for dark money.

A federal judge in Seattle told the Defense Department that it may not require soldiers who are naturalized citizens to undergo “continuous monitoring,” security checks every two years if the military doesn’t scrutinize U.S.-born soldiers in the same way. The 17 plaintiffs are among the 10,000 who enlisted in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program that recruits immigrants with critical foreign language or medical skills in exchange for a fast track to citizenship. In mid-2018, the Pentagon began discharging MAVNI participants but reversed the policy a month later.

The research into which whities wore blackface in the past went deep after a photo allegedly with Virginia Ralph Northam (D) initiated the media examination during Black History Month. Most of the photos lacked captions, but 78 USA Today reporters, assigned to the search, found one in the 1989 Arizona State University’s yearbook. Their current editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll was editor of that yearbook and designer of the page with the blackface photo. She has apologized.

Oregon is considering a bill that would drop the voting age from 18 to 16. If the legislature passes the measure, it would be on the 2020 ballot for a vote by the people. My first thought was that 16-year-olds are too young to vote—until I read this article about a 12-year-old journalist. This past week, Hilde Kate Lysiak visited Patagonia (AZ) on the trail of a stories including resident’s opinions about the Border Patrol and the proposed border wall when Joseph Patterson, who passes for the small town’s police chief, stopped her and asked for ID. She gave him her telephone number and address before she told him that she was a member of the press. Patterson said, “I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom-of-the-press stuff.” He also threatened to have her arrested and thrown into juvey. [Photo by James Moorehead]

Lysiak decided to tape him when she asked him what she was doing that was illegal. Patterson sat in his white Chevy Silverado truck and said, “You taping me? You can tape me, okay, but what I’m going to tell you is if you put my face on the Internet, it’s against the law in Arizona.”

The conversation continued as he accused her of lying to him and disobeying his commands. He finally told her, “I’ll be getting a hold of your parents” before he drove off. When Lysiak posted the video to her blog later, she explained that the first Amendment protects recording a law enforcement official in a public place that no law prevents her actions. She also posted her story about the wall.

Lysiak reported on a murder in her hometown when she was nine and has reported on bank robberies, alleged rapes, and other crimes in her Orange Street News, which she helped found almost five years ago and publishes from her parents’ home in Selinsgrove (PA).

Patagonia has taken action against Patterson but won’t say what that is. This is not the first time that Patterson has threatened people with arrest after they started to video him, but it’s the first time that he went after a 12-year-old—and the first time that he had to back down. Lysiak’s taping of Patterson’s threats has received almost 250,000 views and almost 1,000 comments.

I’d pick 12-year-old Hilde Lysiak as an educated voter over Joseph Patterson any time.

February 22, 2019

DDT: Week 109 – Disregard from Allies, Corruption

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has lost—again. In VP Mike Pence’s attempt to turn Europeans against the 2015 Iran anti-nuclear deal at the 55th annual Munich Security Conference, he faced stony silence, starting when he said he brought greetings from DDT. Joe Biden received cheers for his speech. The French foreign minister asked why DDT can be so firm about opposing Iran while pulling troops out of Syria that helps Iran.

Like U.S. intelligence agencies, European nations have found no indication of Iran building nuclear weapons. Last month, Europe created a plan to purchase Iranian energy, stopping damage from U.S. sanctions, while not suffering U.S. financial reprimands. Even anti-Iran countries in the Middle East couldn’t agree at the meeting because of the Saudi-operated boycott of Qatar. With war-hungry national security adviser John Bolton, DDT wants a war with Iran, but his only follower may be Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “war with Iran.” The blasts against DDT came at the heels of a failure in a U.S.-led meeting about Iran in Warsaw where European nations sent only low-level delegations, if anyone.

No longer is Roe v. Wade being chipped away; it’s being chopped away with a hatchet. DDT’s newest rule takes Title X funds from family planning clinics that provide abortions, refer patients for abortions, or promote or support abortion for family planning. Funds will be directed to religious places, such as phony Crisis Pregnancy Centers, for women seeking reproductive health care—care which many CPCs promise but don’t provide. Title X covers reproductive health care for 4 million women every year at a cost of $286 million.

Former FBI deputy Andrew McCabe is providing the public with news about his conversations with DDT. A major revelation is that DDT believes that North Korea’s missiles can’t reach the U.S., despite intelligence to the contrary, because “[Vladimir] Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles.” On the day before its release, McCabe’s The Threat was #1 on the bestseller list.

Earlier this week, North Carolinian Baptist pastor Mark Harris, who paid a contractor to request and pick up absentee ballots that were either marked Republican or destroyed if for Democrats, said he knew nothing about what his employee was doing in an attempt to get seated in the U.S. House. Harris’ son said that he had told him about what was happening, but Harris said he ignored his son, a federal prosecutor, because he was only 27 years old at the time. The father described his son as a “very judgmental” person who “has a taste of arrogance.” A quantity of incriminating emails between Harris and his employee of them show that he lied about his ignorance. That issue seems to be the tipping point: Harris has asked for a new election. Harris excused himself by saying that he is recovering from an infection that led to sepsis and two strokes and therefore cannot deal with the “rigors” of the state election board hearing. The “rigors” of the election will start all over, beginning with a primary.

Most of DDT’s former Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, including VP Mike Pence, stayed silent about this fraud after their attempts to suppress poor and minority voters. The only GOP response came from election lawyer J. Christian Adams who scolded fellow commission member Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlop for a WaPo op-ed, “Why Doesn’t the ‘Voter Fraud’ Crowd Care about What Happened in North Carolina?” In a tweet, Adams called Dunlop a “charlatan.”

DDT deflected questions about the North Carolina  fraud by mentioning California and Texas. Told that these accusations had been disproved, he moved on. At the same time, DDT has been highly vocal about the revelation that Jussie Smollett allegedly paid two brothers $3,500 to fake a racist attack on him. Also missing from DDT’s prolific tweets is commentary on the arrest of a Coast Guard lieutenant, Christopher P. Hasson, for a domestic terrorist plot to kill prominent Democrats, CNN and MSNBC journalists, and “almost every last person on earth.” The self-identified white nationalist (aka supremacist), obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views, has stockpiled weapons and ammunition since 2017 to sow destruction and chaos. He also planned biological attacks targeting the food supply. Hasson got many of his ideas from books by Harold A. Covington, whose books, along with other white supremacist polemics, are  available on Amazon. Covington, who popularized the concept of a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest, died in 2017.

Federal authorities concealed the arrest for five days until a private citizen discovered information in a documents search about extremism. Another Coast Guard member was reprimanded and removed from the response to Hurricane Florence after the public complained that he flashed a white-supremacy sign last September during a televised interview with another officer.

The current cultural and political climate will most likely result in punitive measures for Smollett, concerns about the mental state of Hasson, and exoneration for Harris.

One DDT game is which Cabinet secretary is the next to go. Maybe Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta? Eleven years ago, Acosta, then U.S. Attorney for southern Florida, was sued for giving Jeffrey Epstein federal immunity on child molestation and trafficking charges, blocking an FBI probe into Epstein who may have trafficking young girls in Florida but also from other states and Europe. For his leadership in abusing scores of underage girls, Acosta received only 13 months of prison time, most of it on work release and the rest in a special suite separate from other prisoners. Epstein’s lawyers, including Ken Starr who led Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying, were largely allowed to set the terms of their client’s plea deal. Acosta had this evidence but complained that he would have trouble convicting Epstein.

The Miami Herald has been working on the story for months and reported yesterday a judicial ruling that Acosta and federal prosecutors “broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey.” The judge wrote that prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims Rights Act when they didn’t tell the victims but also misled the victims into believing that the case, secretly closed after the plea bargain was sealed, was ongoing. For the first time, a judge has ruled that Acosta illegally hid the agreement from Epstein’s victims although the only follow-up is that the victims have 15 days to settle the issue with the government. Acosta was so convincing during his confirmation hearings—even calling the Epstein deal a “point of pride”—that he gained the votes of all the GOP senators plus 8 Democrats and one independent.

Asked about Acosta, DDT said:

“I really don’t know too much about it. I know he’s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago.”

Sex trafficking in DDT’s mind exists only as a device to get votes through his wall on the southern border.

DDT doesn’t mind troops in Syria—he just thinks they shouldn’t be from the U.S. After he announced his pullout of the U.S. military, he asked Europe to send in more soldiers to replace them, raising questions of whether he thinks that Syria is safe enough to be left on its own. EU allies refused DDT’s request. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), separated himself from DDT by shouting at the DOD acting secretary Patrick Shanahan who supports the pullout by April 20. “That’s the dumbest f—ing idea I’ve ever heard,” Graham yelled. he said that ISIS would return, Turkey would attack Kurdish forces, and Iran would have the advantage. Shanahan agreed with Graham but said he would do what DDT wants. Maybe DDT listened to Graham: today he plans to keep 400 soldiers on the ground in Syria, up from the 200 that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced yesterday.

The leakiest White House in history has mandatory non-disclosure agreements for all employees—at least for now. Former DDT staffer Jessica Denson is suing to nullify the NDAs, claiming that their broadness allows retaliation against employees with legitimate workplace grievance. The lawsuit describes the NDAs as “unenforceable” and “unconscionable.” The class-action suit covers thousands of DDT’s employees and volunteers, including for his campaign, that prevented them from making any disparaging comments about DDT, the campaign, and his family.  Staffers aren’t even allowed copies of the NDAs that they sign that include a $10 million penalty for each infraction.

Roger Stone groveled after he sent out a tweet incorporating a gun target symbol with a photo of his judge and his criticism of her, but his abject apology wasn’t enough. She just placed a full gag order on him.

Spin—twisting negative events to make them sound positive—has reached an artistic high in a conservative Wall Street Journal editorial. Attorney David Rivkin and “legal theorist” Elizabeth Foley purported that criminal allegations against DDT are so many that he should not be investigated. One concern was taking time away from DDT’s “work”—aka “Executive Time.” Investigating DDT’s money laundering and other business fraud might take away from the unscheduled calls he makes to GOP legislators to talk about his television watching or golf or whatever.

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