Nel's New Day

January 8, 2022

Progress Post-January 6?

Yesterday’s blog post railed against the ignorance of the Fox network. It seems that at least one of the Supreme Court justices is using that ignorance to support his opposition to any mandates for COVID vaccinations. Neil Goruch said during the arguments—on the record—that the flu kills “hundreds, thousands of people every year.” His message is that COVID isn’t really a big deal. CDC reports that influenza kills between 12,000 and 52,000 annually. By the time, Gorsuch made that statement, COVID had officially killed over 850,000 people, 385,000 in 2020 and the remainder in 2021. This figure doesn’t count the deaths that coroners refused to acknowledge as being from COVID or didn’t pay for testing to determine the cause of the people who died. The Economist’s Supreme Court reporter Steven Mazie wrote that Goursuch actually laughed when the U.S. Solicitor General called the coronavirus pandemic “terrible.” The day before Gorsuch made that statement, 870,702 people became infected, and 2,056 people died of COVID–in the U.S. He was also the only justice present who didn’t wear a mask. 

The time of the January 6 anniversary, however, may show some optimism.

Headlines repeat that December added “only” 199,000 jobs, but the they skipped a couple of important—and positive—facts. First the unemployment dropped to a  new unemployment low of 3.9 percent from the 4.2 percent of November, almost to the 50-year-old of 3.5 percent of February 2020. The two jobs reports for October and November, a total of 766,000, were also revised upward by 141,000 jobs. The person in charge of figuring the initial number of new jobs is an appointment by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) has consistently lowballed the numbers for headlines, perhaps to make President Joe Biden look bad, before quietly correcting them later. Biden’s first year averaged 537,000 new jobs per month, making it one of he best years for the labor market in U.S. history. Manufacturing also continues to grow.

Since Biden was inaugurated, an additional four million people have health insurance, and families who have coverage through the Affordable Care Act are saving an average of $2,400 in annual premiums. Eighty percent of ACA consumers are paying $10 a month for good coverage. Under DDT, the number of uninsured increased by seven million. [visual – health insurance Trump]

Justice has been accomplished in the killing of a young Black jogger in Georgia by three White men who chased him in pickups before fatally shooting the unarmed man. Three of them have been sentenced to life in prison, two of them without parole. All three wee convicted of felony murder or committing felonies causing Ahmaud Arbery’s death, and one of them was also convicted of malice murder, intent to kill. They were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

Originally seen as a citizens’ arrest, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery might have gone unpunished if not for the dogged research of a local journalist. The first DA to handle the case faces allegations of bias and instruction against arrest, rare charges. The three convicted killers also face hate-crime charges in a trial to begin next month. The federal indictment includes interference with Arbery’s rights and attempted kidnapping, alleging the defendants used “force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”

Cyber Ninjas, the Florida private company paid $5.6 million by Arizona’s state GOP Senate to count ballots for Maricopa County, faces sanctions of $50,000 a day until it turns over records that the Arizona Republic has requested. On January 6, a court found the firm in contempt of court because the Ninjas had continually refused to follow court orders. Cyber Ninjas has terminated its employees and plans to shut down.

Maricopa GOP officials has issued a 93-page report debunking all frivolous claims of voter fraud and a four-hour livestreamed rebuttal of 76 out of 77 accusations as mistaken, misleading, or completely false. The one claim not rejected involved 50 votes that may have been double-counted. GOP Senate President Karen Fann said Maricopa County finally admitted it had “erred.” The company’s examination of ballots revealed a few more votes for Biden and a few less for DDT. Doug Logan, the Ninjas’ chief executive, began his so-called audit with the false assertion that Arizona’s voting machines were rigged. Of the county’s 2.1 million votes, the ballot count found only 37 possible ballots among the 53,304 labeled suspect; the 37 were referred to the state attorney general.

Devin Nunes is no longer a member of the House of Representatives as he moves to become CEO of DDT’s new tech company, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG). The new minority leader of the House Intelligence Committee, Ohio’s Mike Turner, plans to move away from the past partisanship by being more independent of DDT. In 2019, Turner had signed a letter to oust Rep. Adam Schiff but no longer wishes to do so. Instead, Turner wants “to work across the aisle and to try to advance what’s important to our country.” 

Having been a dairy farmer, Nunes has no experience as either an executive or in the technology industry. TMTG plans to merge with Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC), a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a type of shell business raising money from investors to acquire a private start-up with strong growth prospects, being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Also being investigated by SEC is Arc Capital, the Chinese firm helping DDT take TMTG public. Federal securities regulators allege the firm misrepresents shell companies with no products and few products as ambitious, growing enterprises. Their office locations are usually PO boxes.

Founded in 2015, Arc helped create DWAC that raised over $1.2 billion to complete its merger with TMTG. If the deal is approved by shareholders and regulators, it can make DDT a great deal of month by turning TMTG into a public company overnight. DDT’s name pushed DWAC’s shares to five times the listing price despite no information about the business. Little information about TMTG has been released. A securities lawyer said it’s “a shell company basically merging with another shell company.” In 2017, the SEC topped three Arc-backed companies from publicly selling shares and suspended trading in a fourth Arc-financed business. Mexican entrepreneur Abraham Cinta, Arc’s founder, said U.S. securities regulators are looser in registering companies than those in China and Hong Kong, making it easier to take unproven companies public.  

DDT’s company will present “Truth Social” as a competitor to Twitter and partner with Rumble, a video-sharing site spreading anti-vaxxer and QAnon conspiracy theories for its video and streaming services. The Canadian tech company launched in 2013 saw its popularity skyrocket last year after support by DDT and others such as Dan Bongino. Financial backing comes from Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel and Senate candidate JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy. Rumble’s channels are run by QAnon influencers banned by YouTube and Facebook.

Other DDT ventures have been investigated, including his charitable foundation, shut down by New York’s AG, and Trump University, closed with a $25 million settlement to former students. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is also checking into DWAC’s share trading.

 According to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has provided names in connection with the January 6 insurrection not previously known and “identified some minds of inquiry that had never occurred to me.” Grisham also said she and over a dozen other former DDT officials are meeting next week in an effort to “stop” DDT from destroying democracy and getting re-elected.

According to other reports, DDT laughed at members of Congress when they were relating the trauma of January 6, sometimes accusing them of faking their emotion for attention, and calling some of the police officers at the Capitol that day “pussies.” Grisham said DDT “was in the dining room [on January 6] gleefully watching on his TV as he often did. ‘Look at all of the people fighting for me.’ Hitting rewind, watching it again.”

Republican lawmakers said nothing happened to the Capitol on January 6 because they went back the next day and it looked fine. They ignored the hard work of maintenance people who cleaned the insurrectionists fecal matter off the walls, picked up the debris from destroyed objects, repaired the broken windows and doors, and more. And they weren’t the only ones. Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) not only posted a Twitter thread about his thoughts when he returned to the House chamber after the destruction but also knelt to pick up the glass and other debris. It wasn’t for a photo op, and many reporters passing him didn’t realize the man in the blue suit was a member of Congress. The photographer, AP’s Andrew Harnick, didn’t know Kim’s identity until Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) told him.

June 17, 2021

An Historical Day for the Supreme Court, Congress

The Supreme Court “giveth and … taketh away.” In the giveth, seven justices preserved the Affordable Care Act for the third time by ruling Texas and the other plaintiffs lacked standing in California v. Texas. With no penalty for not having health insurance, no one filing the suit could claim “personal injury.” President Joe Biden lauded the decision: “It remains, as ever, a BFD.” Oddly enough, Clarence Thomas was not one of the dissenters, but Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch disagreed with the failure to rule on the law’s constitutionality. The lawsuit was brought in Texas with the selection of a “friendly” judge. Since DDT appointed 226 federal judges, the people who want to take health care from tens of millions of people have a bigger pool from which to pick. Yet even GOP party leaders still talk about the “failed” healthcare plan, but they have no alternatives and may not want to face a fourth loss.

The taketh away refers to the unanimous SCOTUS ruling in Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia that requires taxpayers to pay for discrimination against same-gender couples wanting to foster and adopt children. According to the decision, Philadelphia violates the constitution’s First Amendment by not sending foster children to Catholic Social Services, a religious organization refusing to certify same-gender couples as foster parents. This decision is in keeping with the shift from a half-century ago to protecting Christians. The change has been worsened by “Project Blitz,” the religious right flooding of state legislatures with “religious liberty laws” challenging the status quo through the Supreme Court. Targets include LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive rights.

Without support from three progressive justices, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the group “does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” and he pointed out that the city’s non-discrimination ordinance does not apply to foster care. The city also allows unspecified exemptions to the ban on discrimination, giving the Catholic group permission to create their own exemptions “without compelling reason.”

Two lower courts ruled in favor of the city, using the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith requiring any law infringing on religion to be neutral, not targeted at a specific religion, and equally applied to all. The narrow ruling failed to overturn Smith, much to the distress of Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas, making it a small win for “religious liberty” and a small loss (except for same-gender couples in Philadelphia) for the LGBTQ community because it sets no precedents. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote that several justices don’t know what to do if Smith were overturned. A law expert said the win for Catholics was based on the city’s decision-making and not “an automatic right to discriminate.”

Congress passed a bill to make Juneteenth, celebrated for 155 years, a federal holiday on June 19, and Biden signed it earlier today at a White House ceremony. Biden invited Opal Lee (left), who he called “a daughter of Texas, grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a holiday,” to the signing and credited the 94-year-old woman’s organizing efforts. With Lee are VP Kamala Harris, the bill’s cosponsors, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Federal employees will have the day off tomorrow or receive time-and-a-half pay.  https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/558937-federal-government-to-observe-juneteenth-holiday-on-friday   Earlier known as Jubilee Day, Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of slaves on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers made the announcement in Galveston (TX), the last place in the state to hear slavery’s abolishment after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomatox two months earlier. A majority of the states ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery on December 6, 1865.

Although the Senate unanimously supported the bill after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) removed his objection, 14 white men in the House voted in opposition to the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. The same people crying “cancel culture” and fighting against “critical race theory”—without the ability to define the concept—complained that one more federal holiday was too many, the name uses “independence” instead of emancipation, and honoring the end of the Civil War will “polarize” the country. GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale, Montana’s only representative because of its low population, called it “identity politics … to make critical race theory the reigning ideology of our country.” He said he voted no “since I believe in treating everyone equally.” A chief Senate sponsor of the bill, John Cornyn (R-TX), called the excuse “kooky.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) protested the bill was “creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin.” Rep. Brenda Lawrence answered Roy:

 “I want to say to my white colleagues on the other side: Getting your independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country getting independence to rule themselves.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) grumbled that the bill wasn’t passed in a “harmonious” fashion, that Democrats “weaponized” it. Under 3 percent of Congress objected to the bill, and 195 House Republicans voted in favor of it. https://www.theroot.com/tucker-carlson-guest-black-people-succeed-less-because-1847120979   On his show, Tucker Carlson pushed opposition to the holiday, including hosting Charles Murray, who promotes the falsehood that Whites have higher IQs than Blacks by a “dozen” points.  

Biden’s guest at the ceremony, Opal Lee, had a long and arduous journey to passing the bill. When she was 12, Whites burned her Black family’s home. After she retired from being a teacher and counselor, she became involved with the local Black historical and genealogical organization. At 89, Lee started an annual walking campaign in cities between her home in Fort Worth (TX) to Washington, D.C. to promote Juneteenth as a federal holiday. She walked 2.5 miles to represent the 2.5 years between Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and slaves learning they were free. Last September, she brought a petition signed by 1,500,000 people to Congress asking them to legislate a federal holiday. In February, she returned when a bill for the holiday was reintroduced. Tonight, Rachel Maddow’s segment on her show is tear-jerking, especially the scene where the president of the United States kneels before the chair where Lee sits during the White House ceremony.

South Dakota is the only state to not recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, but four states—New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington—declare it a paid holiday. The 12th federal holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. Six states still combine King’s name with others such as Robert E. Lee, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Equality.

Twenty years ago, Congress abdicated its constitutional control of the use of force to the president in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the 9/11 attacks. The next year, Congress passed the second AUMF which George W. Bush used to attack Iran after invading Afghanistan with the 2001 AUMF. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the only member of Congress to oppose the 2001 law. In 2002, she was joined in dissent by 132 representatives and 23 senators. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) used the 2002 AUMF to justify his airstrike against an Iranian target in Iran.

Lee has repeatedly sponsored measures to repeal both war power bills, thus returning authorization to Congress.  In March 2020, Congress passed a resolution to limit the president’s authority for initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval, but it didn’t repeal the AUMF. The GOP-controlled Senate passed the resolution by 55-45, indicating some GOP support for a repeal.

The House has now passed a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF by 268 votes, 49 of them Republicans. Perhaps a majority of Congressional members have reached the breaking point in facing non-stop warfare by the United States.

Crazy for the day: According to a new report, about one-third of election workers feel unsafe because of conservative threats, but conservatives are turning on each other. For example, Florida’s competition for a U.S. representative is heating up. A candidate for one of the state’s most competitive seats was secretly recorded when he told an activist he could make his opponent Anna Paulina Luna “disappear” with “a hit squad…, Ukrainians and Russians.” Politico obtained a recording of the 30-minute call when William Braddock warned the activist not to support Luna in the GOP primary. Braddock said he was paying $20,000 for polling before the primary, and “she’s gonna be gone” if the poll makes her the winner. “For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few.” Asked about Luna’s win, Braddock said his “hit squad” would send him “pictures of her disappearing” in 24 hours. “No, I’m not joking,” he finished. The activist called the police and Luna, who took out a temporary restraining order against Braddock. He said he may sue the activist. Pro-DDT Luna has been endorsed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Braddock sounds crazier than she does.

Question: If GOP legislators like Reps. Matt Gaetz (FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), and Louie Gohmert (TX) believe Tucker Carlson’s claim that FBI agents are behind the January 6 insurrection, why don’t they want an independent commission to find the answers?

March 23, 2021

Mass Shootings Cover Up Good News from Biden Administration

The focus of the news for the past week has been mass shootings—first the eight in Georgia primarily of Asian-American women and then another ten people killed at a grocery store/pharmacy in Boulder (CA). In these seven days, however, were five other mass shootings, defined as one with four or more wounded or dead casualties, in the U.S.: March 17, Stockton (CA) – five people preparing a vigil shot in a drive-by shooting with no life-threatening injuries; March 18, (Gresham (OR) – four victims taken to the hospital; March 20, Houston (TX) – five people shot inside a club, one in critical condition; and March 20, Philadelphia – one person killed and five injured at an illegal party where 150 people fled for their lives. The U.S. keeps no centralized system or database for firearm victims and mass shootings so no one knows whether an average daily mass shootings is typical. In 2019, almost 40,000 people were killed in firearm-related events.

A county judge revoked a ban on assault-style weapons in Boulder only ten days before ten people were killed, and the perpetrator bought his gun only six days earlier. As usual, Republicans opposed even the most popular remedies such as universal background checks, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced the Democrats are to blame for the shootings because they want control to prevent them. 

White supremacists and the extreme right, DDT’s base of voters, celebrated the Georgia mass shooting, including the murder of six Asian-American women, with posts dehumanizing people of Asian descent and praising the killer. Posts on a neo-Nazi Telegram site advocated for violence against Asian Americans, calling the murders “always a good thing.” A Proud Boys media group ridiculed protests against anti-Asian violence and promoted anti-Asian racism. Users of the main 8chan/pol successor forum also praised the attack, one person hoping the violence would force non-Whites to leave Europe and the U.S. A white supremacist strategy spreads footage of violence against people of Asian descent to brainwash Whites, “especially the youth.” White supremacists also celebrated the second anniversary of the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attack by posting the video of the attack, praises of the 51 murders in mosques, and calls for violence against Muslims.  

Georgia’s GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had no statement on the mass shooting in her state. Earlier, she had verbally attacked David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland (FL) school shooting killed 17 people and wounding another 17 people for his gun control activism. Greene had also said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) deserves “a bullet to the head.” Colorado’s GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert, who produced a video advertisement with a gunshot at the end, sent prayers in a fundraising email two hours after the killings that encourages people to “tell Joe Biden … HELL NO” to gun control. 

Anyone who believes Boebert’s lie about her reason for carrying a gun needs the true story. She claims a man was beat to death outside her restaurant “by another man’s hands,” and she needs to carry a gun “to protect everyone.” The truth: a man involved in a fight with another man with a prosthetic leg ran from the scene, three blocks away from Boebert’s restaurant. A teenager helped the second man get his leg back, and the second man said the fight was about a woman. The first man ran several blocks away and was discovered after his fall with a glass pipe containing methamphetamine residue. Police saw no blood or other evidence of any deadly fight, and the autopsy report gave “methamphetamine intoxication” as the reason for death.

The news of the two worst mass shootings of the week concealed good news coming out of the White House:

The Affordable Care Act special enrollment period is extended to August 15, 2021, allowing people use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with benefits such as the decrease of premiums after advance payment of increased tax credits up to $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month. Four of five enrollees (up from 69 percent pre-ARPA) can find a plan for $10 or less per month after tax, and over 50 percent (up from 14 percent pre-ARPA) can find a Silver plan for $10 or less per month. One-fourth of ACA enrollees can pay the same or less than formerly to get better out-of-pocket costs. Consumers can use increased premium tax credits on high quality health care plans by enrolling through HealthCare.gov.

President Joe Biden reversed a policy by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by cancelling about $1 billion in student debt for those defrauded by their colleges. The loan forgiveness to 73,000 people eligible for this relief was reduced by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who gave only part forgiveness by changing the cancellation calculation. DeVos had also postponed over 200,000 borrower defense claims for four years by refusing to allow those in debt to hear whether they were eligible for relief.

Biden’s new Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, also granted Puerto Rico immediate access to $912 million in federal funds made unavailable to students in public and private schools by DDT’s restrictions. Funds included $302 million provided by the CARES Act a year ago for COVID-19 relief; other aid came from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. All fiscal year 2019 department program grant funds withheld by DDT totaled $522 million. Puerto Rican schools are now beginning to open.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is withdrawing DDT’s rule barring graduate students from joining a union: DDT had declared these students were not employees even if they were paid for teaching or research. DDT’s regulation took collective bargaining rights from 57,500 unionized graduate students and prevented another 1.5 million graduates from unionizing. In 2000, the NLRB gave graduate students at private universities the right to unionize and then reversed the decision in 2004. Twelve years later, the Board ruled graduate students were employees under the National Labor Relations Act and could thus join unions after students from Columbia University petitioned the NLRB. Graduate students can make as little as $20,000 a year, giving their employers the impression they aren’t workers.

In an ongoing GOP attempt to smear Biden, Republicans are running a campaign pushing the recent immigrant “border crisis” as his personal disaster. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) went so far as to say that the reason behind the attempts to migrants to cross the border comes from the current administration’s decision to treat them “humanely.” Conservative Bill Kristol begs to differ: he describes the situation as a recurring problem made worse by DDT. The history of these surges shows decades-old issues, and Biden inherited DDT’s huge mess after DDT dismantled the asylum system. 

A combination of John Oliver’s piece on Last Week Tonight and the murder of Asian-American women may have awakened Meghan McCain, daughter of deceased Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), to the understanding that words matter. After Oliver’s segment on the vast increase on the abuse of Asian Americans, McCain, often delivering her opinions on The View, apologized for repeating DDT’s racist rhetoric about the coronavirus’ relationship to Chinese people while he refused to contain the pandemic in the U.S.  McCain had said that DDT’s reference to “the China virus” was a clever strategy to win votes. When McCain tweeted last week about ending anti-Asian violence, Oliver clearly pointed out her hypocrisy. On his show, Oliver said:

“Oh good! Meghan McCain doesn’t have a problem with it. Listen, not to the scores of Asian Americans telling everyone that the term is dangerous and offensive. Instead, gather around and take the word of a white woman who’s dressed like she’s about to lay off 47 people over Zoom.”

In response, McCain said:

“I condemn the reprehensible violence and vitriol that has been targeted towards the Asian-American community. There is no doubt Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric fueled many of these attacks, and I apologize for any past comments that aided that agenda.”

The U.S. intelligence community has released a report that the U.S. election infrastructure in 2020 stayed secure despite Russian President Vladimir Putin promotion of DDT and Iran’s work to denigrate DDT. The U.S. has no evidence that any foreign actor tried to change any voting technology, “including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results.” Intelligence did discover Putin’s authorization to “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.” These included lies to undercut Biden.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has asked new AG Merrick Garland to examine how thoroughly DDT’s FBI looked into Brett Kavanaugh for a background check before Republicans confirmed him for the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and several other misconduct allegations, but the four-day investigation was extremely incomplete. One concern was that witnesses wanting to share the accounts were rejected by the FBI, which had not assigned anyone to accept or gather evidence. Whitehouse also said senators were not given any information about processing or evaluating allegations on a “tip line.” In addition, DDT’s FBI Director Christopher Wray would not answer questions about the investigation.

And there’s more good news! Stay tuned in the next few days.

October 14, 2020

Barrett: Polar Opposite of RBG, Part I

This week Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the GOP Senators continued the process of packing the Supreme Court by trying to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed for the 7th Circuit Court in 2017 by a vote of 55-43. She has achieved even more notoriety than thought possible after DDT’s event at the White House to make the appointment is now called either the “super-spreader” or “The Rose Garden Massacre” for its vastly increase in White House COVID-19 cases.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-CA), who appeared to the hearing in person despite his refusal to be tested for COVID-19, opened yesterday’s session by saying the hearing is “to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.” He views the committee’s vote as a done deal, not even pretending the hearing’s purpose is to consider the nomination.

The biggest disappointment among GOP senators was no Democratic mention of religion. GOP senators were ready for that topic but nothing else. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was so desperate to attack his Democratic colleagues for anti-Catholic bigotry he leaped on a comment from Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) about Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision permitting married couples to buy and use contraception. Coons, a Catholic, said nothing about Barrett’s religion. No Republican attacked Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in 2017 when he asked Barrett about Griswold during her earlier confirmation hearing. She said she hadn’t thought about the case because she wasn’t born in 1965, and Kennedy responded:

“Okay. I am going to move on. I get it. I do not agree with the position you are taking where you will not talk to me about the law, but if that is what you are going to want to do, that is your call. It is America. It is a free country.”

Just three weeks before Election Day, Republicans aren’t at all bothered about Barrett’s ignorance regarding a major case for women’s reproductive rights. Asked about it again today, she again professed ignorance about the case.

Much of the GOP fear comes from exposure regarding Barrett’s membership in a fringe religious group called People of Praise, population 1,700. Colin Kalmbacher describes the group as “a right-wing ecumenical group centered on an amalgamation of Catholic scripture and charismatic practice with a male-dominated hierarchy that has been characterized as cult-like.” Like other Pentecostal groups, People of Praise members speak in tongues. Barrett’s history indicates she could be the farthest-right justice in a field of far-right high court members.

Barrett used what she called “the Ginsburg Rule” in refuse answers on vital issues—“no hints, no previews, no forecasts”—but the former Supreme Court justice did offer substantive views about some contentious topics, for example abortion. In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg affirmed Roe v. Wade and said at her confirmation hearing:

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”  

Barrett refused to answer if she agreed with her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Barrett’s history, however, has left a trail of her opinions on issues of immediate concern. Several of these had been left off her questionnaire until the media uncovered them, with the possibility of trying to cover them up.

Anti-abortion:

  • Member of founding group of University of Faculty for Life at Notre Dame: voted “for a letter calling on the university to rescind an award given to then-Vice President Biden because of his beliefs on abortion”; promoted a South Bend (IN) crisis pregnancy center, a clinic misleading women seek abortions and pressuring them to continue their pregnancies with advertising pretending to help women get abortions.  
  • Signature on a 2006 anti-abortion advertisement demanding “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe vs Wade.”  
  • Supporter of St. Joseph County Right to Life which believes life begins at fertilization, wants to criminalize the discarding of unused embryos created for the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, and believes doctors who perform abortions should be charged as criminals.
  • Teaching anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame: lecture and seminar in 2013; talk on Roe v. Wade now “lost” by the university. 
  • Participation in dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Box (2019) about rehearing a case blocking an anti-abortion law before it took effect with the conclusion she would not block the anti-abortion law.

Anti-LGBTQ rights:  

  • Defense of the dissenters to Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case legalizing marriage equality in a lecture at Jacksonville University and calls transgender women “physiological males.”
  • Signature of letter in 2015 including her belief about “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”
  • Recommendation of lawmakers’ review of Title IX rights for transgender people because “this kind of transgender bathroom access … does seem to strain the text of the statute to say that Title IX demands it.”
  • Devoted follower of late Justice Antonin Scalia’s approach who ruled against LGBTQ rights, including the overturned Texas sodomy.  
  • Board member of private school enacting a policy prohibiting students with unmarried parents, that includes same-gender couples at the time.
  • Hearing testimony: use of term “sexual preference” indicating it is a choice, and her experience with an anti-LGBTQ groups was “wonderful” including her links with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) supporting criminalization of consensual sex between LGBTQ adults. (She said she wasn’t aware of ADF’s attempts to criminalize LGBTQ people or repeal marriage equality, cited on its website.)

Voting/Gun Ownership Rights:

  • Past dissent opinion (Kanter v. Barr) that states can ban felons from voting but cannot ban them from owning a firearm. Barrett argued for restricting participation in political rights to people not deemed “virtuous.”  

Affordable Care Act (ACA):  

  • Author of academic article in 2017 criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the majority opinion upholding the ACA.
  • Signature on petition protesting the ACA’s coverage of contraception.  
  • Denial that a majority opinion in the current Supreme Court case to erase the ACA would also erase pre-existing conditions.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) angered Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) by tying him to the Senate’s rushing to put Barrett on the high court before hearing arguments to strike down the ACA on November 10.

“The district judge in Texas who struck down the ACA in the case now headed for the court is a former aide to the senator, who has become what the Texas Tribune calls the favorite for Texas Republicans seeking big judicial wins like torpedoing the ACA. The senior senator from Texas introduced in committee the circuit court judge who wrote the decision on appeal striking down the ACA.

“Sen. Cornyn has filed brief after brief arguing for striking down the ACA. He led the failed Senate charge to repeal the ACA in 2017. He has said ‘I’ve introduced and cosponsored 27 bills to repeal or defund Obamacare and I’ve voted to do so at every opportunity.'”

Republicans have tried to convince the public for two days of hearings Barrett wouldn’t dream of taking away their health care. Tuesday morning, Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) punctured that myth in his introduction, “All of you want to impose Obamacare in South Carolina — we don’t want it. We want South Carolina-care, not Obamacare.” He claimed the ACA was “a disaster for the state of South Carolina” and expressed outrage South Carolina got less money than some other states. He concluded that the issue “has got nothing to do with this hearing.”

The uninsured rate in Graham’s state dropped by more than one-third within the first three years of ACA. Eliminating ACA would uninsure hundreds of thousands in his state, and many more would lose current benefits and protections. Other states get more money because South Carolina refuses to take the Medicaid expansion which would insure more low-income families.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed “no one” seriously expects the Supreme Court to tear down the ACA. Two weeks ago, DDT demanded that would happen. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said at the hearing that Barrett would tear down the ACA because, as a mother of seven children, she understands the importance of health care. Her mentor, who had nine children, voted twice to destroy healthcare. Republicans voted 70 times to eradicate, and they surely had hundreds of children.

Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Sasse also didn’t do his homework. Accusing Democrats of using the ACA only for political purposes, he claimed that changing jobs is the Number One reason for being uninsured. Of uninsured nonelderly adults, 45 percent stated they were uninsured because the cost is too high, and another 13 percent said they had lost their Medicaid. Only 21 percent listed losing jobs or changing employees as a reason.  

With DDT’s case going to the Supreme Court on November 10, 57 percent disapprove.

Republicans know how unpopular their positions are. Only one-third of the people want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and over 60 percent favor marriage equality. To deflect the Democrats’ questions, GOP senators talk about Barrett’s darling family, her motherhood, and her impressive résumé. With them, however, the basic issue is getting her vote to put DDT back into the Oval Office and destroy conditions for workers. More later!

September 25, 2020

DDT Runs against Democracy for His Reelection

Because Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has no accomplishments during his first term to use in campaigning, his only reelection strategy has been to run against the election and impede democracy in the voting process. Republicans began a decade ago by placing draconian restrictions on voters through photo IDs, loss of early voting, elimination of polling places in places with minority voters—even refusal of Sunday voting to prevent black churches to take buses of people to the polls. DDT laid the foundation for the current voting crisis by packing the courts with his radical right followers who perceive the law as far-right Republicans and not obeying the U.S. Constitution.

As Joe Biden rose in the polling and DDT dropped, DDT used his rallies to create an election “emergency,” first through casting doubt on the credibility of mail-in voting and then by slowing down the postal service. Once voting started, DDT’s supporters, reinforced by his refusal to condemn violence from the radical right, intimidated people standing in line to vote. Thanks to DDT, only the Republicans threaten violence, tell others to bring guns to the polls, support law enforcement action for only the radical right—all tactics by the racists in the last century.

DDT and his government loyalists report, without evidence, dirt on opponents and use unsubstantiated personal attacks on them while they compare public health policy to slavery and force federal scientists to reverse public health guidance. To please DDT, agency directors suppress information about Russian interference in the election, support violent radical right members who attack and kill peaceful protesters, and encourage further violence if people protest killings of Blacks who have minor infractions of the law—if any. DDT’s “GREAT PATRIOTS” are those who create chaos to make demonstrators look violent. Any GOP officeholders who dare to disagree with DDT are threatened with retribution at the polling place.

This past week, DDT has moved higher on the scale of being dictator when he talked about a transition of administrations after the election:

Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

Fewer than six weeks before the election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is telling the world he plans a coup to stay in the White House, even if voters award Joe Biden an Electoral College majority, and the steps DDT will take to accomplish it. Cautious, even conservative, publications are writing about his strategy. In The Atlantic, Barton Gellman details the evidence about DDT’s army of lawyers and activists planning every shyster legal maneuver ever considered. Before that, Amanda Marcotte (Salon) described DDT’s scheming, and Slate released another piece by political scientist Richard L. Hasen about DDT’s system in destroying democracy. Nate Silver in fivethirtyeight.com saw a possible coup as ridiculous just hours before DDT said, “Get rid of the ballots.” Silver changed his mind, tweeting, “OK this is real bad tho.”

Ratcheting up the lies about the upcoming election, DDT talked about an ongoing investigation into discarded ballots after AG Bill Barr briefed him about a situation in Pennsylvania. DDT first said “six,” and then followed it by “eight.” Forced into revealing information by DDT’s statements, a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania reported the discovery of nine ballots in a dumpster cast for DDT but later changed to seven with the other two resealed into the original envelopes. In a press release from the attorney’s office:

“Our investigation has revealed that all or nearly all envelopes received in the elections office were opened as a matter of course. It was explained to investigators the envelopes used for official overseas, military, absentee and mail-in ballot requests are so similar, that the staff believed that adhering to the protocol of preserving envelopes unopened would cause them to miss such ballot requests.”

DDT’s campaign won its suit in Pennsylvania to discard any ballots not enclosed in two separate envelopes, a secrecy envelope within the mailing envelope. Ballots may have been discarded after the ruling in favor of DDT’s campaign to exclude these “naked” ballots. DDT’s campaign falsely tweeted, “Democrats are trying to steal the election.” A temporary independent contractor worker had thrown away the ballots, and all the garbage during her three days working for the county was searched. The county where the ballots were allegedly found wet for DDT by 20 points in 2016.

In order to guarantee the Supreme Court would select DDT to stay in the Oval Office for the next four years, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reneged on his 2016 and 2018 promised to be ethical about not replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court after his “rationale” about not allowing President Obama a chance to put Merrick Garland on the high court. Now he doesn’t understand why his opponent, Jamie Harrison, would receive $100 million in donations when Graham spent only $13 million in his 2014 reelection campaign. Graham whined to Fox network’s Ainsley Earhardt, “This money is because they hate my guts.” The latest poll puts the two candidates at 48 percent each. “I want you to use my own words against me,” Graham said in 2018, and people are following that wish.

In another anti-democratic statement, Graham told Fox network the courts, not the voting public, will decide the presidential election.

“I promise you as a Republican, if the Supreme Court decides that Joe Biden wins, I will accept the result.”

After the debacle about selecting a new Supreme Court justice, people also know that his “promises” are worthless.

Despite some states permitting mail-in-ballots up to 19 days after Election Day, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced legislation requiring every state to report its final results “within 24 hours after polls close on Election Day.” Yet Electoral College members don’t meet until the Monday after the second Wednesday of December; in 2020, the date is December 16—almost six weeks after the election. According to law, the federal government does not oversee elections; they are conducted and certified by local officials according to state law. Scott wrote he wants all states to be consistent, but he shows no concern for laws regarding absentee voting restrictions, photo IDs, etc.

Worried about unfair election procedures within the state, authors of the U.S. Constitution gave Congress permission to “make or alter” state regulations, but the Election Clause (Article I, Section 4) was never intended to create unfair election procedures. The Elections Clause confers power to regulate congressional elections on the “Legislature” of each state, meaning both government and public referendum.

In one more desperate campaign scam, DDT signed an executive order describing his healthcare “plan” after announcing he would do it since his last campaign. About the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said:

“I’m in court to terminate this really, really terrible situation. If we win, we will have a better and less expensive plan that will always protect individuals with preexisting conditions. If we lose, what we have now is better than the original — the original version of Obamacare, by far. Much better. Much better. Again, we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.”

DDT was right about one thing: it might be “less expensive.” It won’t be “better,” and it won’t “always protect individuals with preexisting conditions.” Effects of DDT’s “winning” the lawsuit to destroy the ACA will take 20 million people off coverage, increase charges for millions more by removing subsidies for affordable coverage, cost people on Medicare far more by returning its “doughnut hole” in prescriptions, lose insurance for young people who stay on their parents’ insurance, and—vital in the time when COVID-19 is considered a preexisting condition—eradicate protections for people with preexisting conditions. Back to health insurance will be the lifetime cap of payments by insurance companies and permission for them to use much less of the premiums for health care costs and quality improvement activities. More profit for companies and less health care for people.

Yet with all these losses in healthcare for people, DDT’s “plan” has no specifics. Like his rally speeches, he claims it is fantastic before he states it will lower costs and expand access. Paul Waldman compared the order to DDT’s real estate secrets revealed when people give a fortune to enroll at Trump University so that they can learn how to be a billionaire: Step One: Become a billionaire.”

The policy states:

“Sec. 2. Policy. It has been and will continue to be the policy of the United States to give Americans seeking healthcare more choice, lower costs, and better care and to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.”

If that’s true, DDT doesn’t need to make changes. 

The full executive order is here.

In addition, DDT promised the government will send cards to all 33 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries for $200 in prescription drug discounts. The $200 won’t cover the loss of cheaper insurance premiums with guaranteed preexisting conditions and no lifetime cap on payments. Last week, he tried to scam the drug industry out of sending these “Trump cards.” They refused, and the deal for cheaper drugs collapsed. Now he’s taking $6.6 billion out of Medicare for a reelection strategy. The Obama/Biden administration lengthened Medicare for a decade; DDT already shortened it by four years.

 

June 25, 2020

COVID-19 Hits the News After Massive Increases in Infections

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has doggedly avoided the COVID-19 disaster while the pandemic worsens, especially in the United States. On June 24, the U.S. reportedly had its highest number of new infections—45,557 cases—which brings the total number in the nation to almost 2.5 million. The high daily count of over 9,000 more than the second highest number—25 percent more—was traced to southern and western states’ reopening businesses for Memorial Day.

By contrast, the Northeast demonstrated significant decreases in cases using social distancing and mask wearing. To keep the number of infections down, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut require 14-day quarantines for travelers from eight states having spikes in their COVID-19 numbers. DDT plans to violate the new ruling when he goes to his Bedminster golf club this weekend after having gone to Arizona, one of the travel advisory states, earlier this week, where he also violated a city ordinance by not wearing a mask. He claims that he’s “not a civilian.” Only New York will punish violators, specifically with fines beginning at $2,000. The quarantine also applies travelers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas.

In northern Phoenix (AZ), Dream City megachurch, where DDT gave a speech to an audience of 3,000 seated closely together mostly without masks, bragged about the installation of a product killing “99.9% of COVID within 10 minutes. Created by some church members, the technology used bogus advertising: the analysis was on Coronavirus 229E—responsible for the common cold—in empty rooms, not with crowds of 3,000 in proximity shown in this photo. Dr. Philip Tierno, clinical professor of pathology at New York University, responded to the church’s claim:

“You will ABSOLUTELY NOT BE SAFE AND PROTECTED. When you are dealing with hundreds or thousands of people in an AUDITORIUM, some of whom will carry the virus you WILL NOT BE absolutely PROTECTED.”

Evangelical religion is still killing people, and Billy Graham’s son Franklin Graham is promoting these deaths. In an attack on Dr. Anthony Fauci, leading expert on COVID-19 in the U.S., Graham said,

Science isn’t truth. God is.”

Thanks to DDT, the COVID-19 crisis is so horrific in the U.S. that Europe is considering a travel ban from the U.S. this summer because it “has failed to control the scourge” along with visitors from Russia and Brazil.

DDT’s definition of “zero” seems to be 16,600, the number of ventilators “on the shelves” when he was inaugurated. Although DDT also complained how ventilators were obsolete, they couldn’t be used for the epidemic because DDT didn’t pay for their upkeep. Even VP Mike Pence wrote last week that the stockpile had 10,000 ventilators on hand.

States with high spikes are suffering from overwhelming hospital use. Florida, with the worst spike per capita, has only 21 percent for adult intensive care units, and only 12 percent of Arizona’s ICU beds are available.

According to CDC Director Robert Redfield, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is probably ten times higher than those reported. He added that the recent surge in the South and West is driven by young people. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has promoted the re-opening of his state, announced a pause in the process and suspended elective surgeries in four counties.

Sick workers can’t stay home because 40 percent of essential workers—69.4 million people—aren’t covered by the congressional paid sick leave law passed in March. The number includes 17.7 million healthcare workers. One-third of these healthcare workers are people of color, and 75 percent are women. Thus far, 40 percent of all COVID-19 related deaths—over 50,000—are nursing home residents and workers.

Larry Kudlow is still spreading misinformation by saying he doesn’t expect a second wave of the virus. People “just have to live with” the new hot spots across the country, he said. The day before, virus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci testified that the U.S. is still in the first wave and used the term “disturbing surge” for new cases in states such as Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

Meanwhile, DDT is still pushing the myth that the numbers increased because of “GREAT TESTING,” a theme at his Tulsa rally where he said he told his people to “slow down the testing.” Despite Republicans’ attempt to protect him by saying it was a joke, DDT said it wasn’t. He held up the $14 billion Congress allotted for testing three months ago and removed support from 13 testing sites in five states, including seven sites in Texas. Dr. Anthony Fauci also said the federal government abruptly canceled funding to important research on bat coronaviruses by the National Institutes of Health. The project collaborates with a virologist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In opposition to conspiracy theorists, scientists claim that the WIV is not the source of COVID-19.

Expert statistician Nate Silver tweeted the positive percentage of infections from testing went up to 5.3 percent on June 21, up from 4.4 percent a week earlier on June 14. Even GOP senators think that more testing is important.

Creative scammers are endangering the health of people in the U.S. For example, a Silicon investor and his business partner hired workers to take Chinese KN95 masks from packages labeled “MEDICAL USE PROHIBITED” and put them into packages without the warning which were then sold to Texas. Masks filter as little as 39 percent of particles, and China was blamed for sending faulty products. Details of the scam are here.

DDT’s determination to expand COVID-19 in Tulsa has been a success. Despite six DDT campaign staffers infected with COVID-19 pulled from attending the rally, another two infected people were in attendance. Now, dozens of Secret Service officers (the ones who DDT calls “SS) are in self-quarantine because of exposure. Two Secret Service agents were among the first six discovered with the virus among the advance staff and ordered to stay away. The day before their diagnosis, they met with dozens of other staff, and another two campaign staffers tested positive. When campaign spokesman said “no COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today’s rally or near attendees and elected officials,” he evidently didn’t consider a meeting to be “immediate contact.” Yesterday, four days after DDT’ campaign rally, Tulsa had a new record number of new infections. With no evidence, the city’s GOP mayor said the 259 newly infected people got it from “people going to weddings and funerals and family gatherings and bars and other things like that, that are causing this uptick.” Another week will provide more information.  

In a devastating turn of events for the unemployed and those on furlough, insurance companies don’t have to pay for COVID-19 test required to return to their jobs. DDT signed the Families first Coronavirus Response Act in March which mandates insurers and employer-provide plans cover “Covid-19 testing and related services without cost-sharing.” In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated employers are legally permitted to force employees to take Covid-19 viral tests to determine whether it is safe for them to return to the workplace. The administration’s guidance, however, maintains that the law covers only “medically appropriate” coronavirus screenings, not tests “conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety (such as employee ‘return to work’ programs).” Several states, including New York and New Jersey, require the hot spots of nursing homes to test employees, but these places tried to bill insurance companies because they couldn’t pay for the costs. Some insurance companies refuse.

Last night, DD’s administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act in an effort to leave more people without insurance. It’s another attempt to destroy health care during a surging pandemic.

For a second day, COVID-19 surged across the U.S. to 40,184 new coronavirus infections and a spike of 2,500 deaths. Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Nevada reported daily highs.

Sixty percent of Jacksonville (FL) residents don’t want DDT to bring the GOP convention there in late August, and 61 percent, including a majority of Republicans, believe that doing this will cause a new coronavirus outbreak. A newer poll from the University of North Florida surveying Duval County voters upped the concern to 71 percent who are “very or somewhat concerned” the convention would result in COVID-19 transmission.

Two months ago, VP Mike Pence, then head of the coronavirus task force, predicted that the epidemic will be “largely past” by Memorial Day weekend. It isn’t. Pence will lead the first press briefing in almost two months tomorrow afternoon at HHS. With the November election looming, DDT wants to distance himself as much as possible with his failure in managing the epidemic.

June 25: number of COVID-19 cases – 2,504,588; number of COVID-19 deaths – 126,780. Or more.

January 30, 2020

Health on Downward Slide under DDT

While many people fixate on the impeachment trial of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), he is further destroying health care while causing illnesses. After polling shows that Democrats received higher approval for healthcare than Republicans, DDT attacked his HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Then he tweeted:

“I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare. I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

DDT fought to take healthcare protections for people in his repeal-and-replace proposals and in his support for a federal lawsuit that removes pre-existing protections in healthcare. When DDT couldn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he moved to take Medicaid from millions of people by giving states block grants for Medicaid that caps federal funding for coverage. The badly named “Healthy Adult Opportunity” allows states to turn away qualified applicants, deprive people of needed medication, and limit health benefits. Medicare/Medicaid administrator Seema Verma, who wants to remove as many people as possible from Medicaid, said, “This policy is about helping people achieve the American Dream.” Her argument is that people who can’t get Medicaid is a “good outcome” because “they don’t need the program anymore.” DDT’s plan will force many people out of nursing homes.

The GOP and DDT hope that they can wait until after this year’s election to deal with the Affordable Care Act so people won’t know that they will lose their health care with no replacement by electing GOP control. A majority of the Supreme Court has helped by denying a request to expedite the challenge to the ACA from the House of Representatives and Democratic-led states. 

A serious problem with current healthcare in the U.S. is that it allows health insurance that provides little more than “thoughts and prayers”—and the purchasers don’t know that the companies may not pay for their medical costs. “Traditional” insurance has legal requirements because of the ACA, but “alternative” coverage doesn’t have these regulations, many of them from “faith-based” providers. This fake insurance will expand with DDT’s possible new rules with workplace Health Savings Accounts. Denial of payment can come from “lifestyle” choices, “preexisting conditions” prevented in traditional insurance, and caps in coverage. For example, the Aliera plan requiring purchasers to belong to a religious group and oppose abortion, appears to have coverage. One client, however, was told to “trust in God” when the company refused to pay the $200,000 for back surgery after it told the purchaser that the cost was covered. “Faith-based” healthcare sharing “ministries” take monthly contributions from over a million people and work like GoFundMe programs. These inexpensive plans use misleading—sometime fraudulent—advertising because DDT’s executive orders give them that permission.

The religious plans were exempted from the ACA individual mandate to get votes from Democratic senators representing conservative states, and DDT succeeded in repealing the individual mandate in 2017. He also took executive action to promote insurance with substandard coverage, and the plans flourished with little or no oversight. They can refuse any claim and define “pre-existing” any way they wish, such as a broken arm. Preventative and mental health care are also not covered. Their customers lack any recourse because of no regulations and the contracts they sign.

Even people with traditional insurance pay higher premiums than anticipated from the ACA because the law lost the individual mandate that everyone have health insurance. “Healthy” people decide to not get health insurance, with their assumption that they will never need it. When they need care, they go to emergency rooms and leave the costs to the hospitals or the government.

An increasing number of people with traditional health care can’t afford medical care such as visits to doctors and medication. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that more people in the U.S. lack funds for medical care than twenty years ago. Problems come from the rise of “narrow networks, high-deductible plans, and higher co-pays.” Between 1998 and 2017, the share of adults 18-64 unable to visit doctors increased from 11 percent to 16 percent, and those with health insurance, the share rose from seven percent to almost 12 percent. Adult Canadians reported only 1 percent of adults over 45 with a chronic disease unable to meet medical needs because of high costs compared to 18.7 percent in the U.S.

Last year, 25 percent of people in the U.S. said that they or a family member postponed treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of cost, compared to 19 percent in the previous year. Another 8 percent reported a delay for a less serious condition, bringing the total to one-third of the U.S. population. The percentage tied that in 2014, the first year of complete ACA implementation.

Meanwhile, health insurance and drug industries make a huge profit. Insurance premiums increased 22 percent since 2014 and 54 percent in the past decade while wages remained largely flat. Deductibles increased by 36 percent since 2014 and 100 percent in the past decade. In 2018, people in the U.S. borrowed $88 billion for healthcare costs, and healthcare costs–the leading cause of bankruptcies–force 530,000 people to annually go into bankruptcy. 

Many people prefer for-profit “Medicare Advantage” plans because they get dental and eye coverage that people on traditional Medigap plans lack. This year, the program added even more “advantages” to help older people. Those who use these plans, however, may be unfamiliar with government audits showing that Medicare Advantage plans pose “an imminent and serious risk to the health of… enrollees” and overcharge taxpayers by $10 billion a year. Another report shows that the plans are not submitting accurate claims data, and they may be paid for services that they provide.  Last year, six senators described wrongdoings by several corporations including UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna and Humana—tens of billions of dollars in overcharges, failure to cover required care, inaccurate provider directories, etc.

Conservatives argue against single-payer health care with two primary reasons—they want freedom to not have health care and the system costs too much. In just 2017, U.S. insurers and healthcare providers spent $812 billion on paperwork and other administrative activities, according to a study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. These costs are 34.2 percent of U.S. total national health expenditures in that year and twice what Canada spends on healthcare administration in the same year. U.S. insurers and providers pent $2,497 per person on healthcare administration in 2017 compared to Canada’s cost of $551 per capita. The study found that “Medicare for All” could save over $600 billion per year, just on bureaucracy.

While DDT removes healthcare from people, he makes health worse in the United States. For decades, health professional believe that exposure to radiation can cause cancer; now DDT wants to “relax” regulations for radiation in the U.S. to “have a positive effect on human health.” According to a witness at a congressional hearing, exposure to radiation and other carcinogen that stress the body makes people healthier by putting bodies’ repair mechanisms work better, like exercise and exposure to sunlight. DDT’s transition team member Steven Milloy, who supports this idea, also denies human-made climate change and any health risks from tobacco. Milloy, a Fox consultant, also supports the use of pesticide DDT and asbestos.

DDT makes people sick in other ways. Anxiety, depression, and anger are the highest since 2007. People in the U.S. have a 20 percent higher stress rate than most of the 143 countries in the 143 countries in the Gallup poll, including Venezuela and Rwanda. For the first time, counselors see patients in therapy because of politics.

A report from the New York University Law Schools State Energy and Environmental Impact projects that the rollback of about 100 environmental protection rules will cause, in the next decade, “1,630 more incidences of premature deaths, 120,000 additional asthma attacks, and 140,000 missed school days and 48,000 lost work days.” The EPA estimates an additional 300 to 1,500 human death each year from air pollution.

A 2019 study shows that fracking is tied to skin, genital, and urinary diseases. Researchers theorize that drilling activity may be related to risky sexual behaviors. Disruptions to buried bacteria and chemical exposures in drinking water may be an affect. Other studies show links to cardiovascular and respiratory issues such as asthma.

DDT has also scrapped regulations to define “organic” beef, pork, and chicken and loosened inspections for pork which can also affect health.

A major problem from DDT’s focus rejection of education about sexual and reproductive health is the spike in rates of STI (sexually transmitted infections) within the United States. For example, gonorrhea infections increased by 82.6 percent within a decade. Almost half the states lack both sex education and HIV education, and Title X funding has been taken from many health care providers. DDT’s administration increased the budget for abstinence-only programs by 67 percent although these programs don’t work.

Much less health care with increased illness. What can go wrong?

July 4, 2019

Will the Judicial Branch Protect Democracy?

July 4—the date that people in the United States celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. For the past 243 years, some people have tried to protect the nation from the erosion of democracy, a far more difficult task in the past two years as Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) destroyed U.S. relationships with all countries except those run by autocrats and dictators. Setting himself up as the supreme ruler with no checks, DDT is enabled by congressional Republicans. Although the third branch of government, the judicial branch, has tried to protect democracy, DDT is loading lifetime judgeships with mostly young white men who follow his authoritarianism.

DDT’s latest move outside the law came from his determination to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. A week ago, the Supreme Court decision gave DDT two options: print the census without the question or go back to court to with a better reason and fewer lies to include the question. Over the weekend, DDT’s administration looked for ways to stall—with DDT even suggesting that the constitutionally mandated census might be delayed.

Four days later, the DOJ said it would not return to court, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (bottom left) announced that the census forms were sent to the printers without the question. Yet DDT tweeted that the question would be on the 2020 census, catching the attention of a judge. Yesterday, the judge convened a telephone conference with government and Maryland immigrant-rights groups lawyers to address DDT’s declaration that the government was “absolutely moving forward” with its citizenship question plan for the 2020 census, defying a Supreme Court ruling and contradicting the DOJ and Commerce Department statements. Josh Gardner, DOJ’s civil division lawyer, said he knew nothing about DDT’s position until he read the tweet. Assistant AG Jody Hunt told the judge that DOJ lawyers “have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision” to include the question. The DOJ also warned the New York court ruling opposing the question that it might again appeal the case to the now-recessed Supreme Court. 

Lawyers from the rights groups requested a court order requiring the government to agree that “there will be no further effort to inquire about citizenship status as part of the 2020 census.” They also asked the judge to compel the administration to “publicly counter any such misinformation that comes from government officials.”

The judge said that he might not be able to “enjoin the President of the United States from tweeting things” but ordered the DOJ to explain by tomorrow at 2:00 pm EST whether the government would still try to add the question to the 2020 census forms. DOJ lawyers asked if they could have until Monday. The judge said, “No.” Lawyers for the rights groups reminded the judge that DOJ lawyers previously insisted the printing process for census forms begin by last Monday. The Census Bureau already botched a contracting process when the Government Publishing Office awarded its single largest printing contract to a bankrupt company. 

On Independence Day, DDT’s latest ploy is to overturn the Supreme Court decision by ordering the citizenship question through an executive order.

Judges across the country are opposing DDT’s positions. A federal judge in Seattle blocked AG Bill Barr’s order [Barr: right of Ross] to keep thousands of migrants indefinitely detained while waiting for asylum case decisions. Denying migrants a bail hearing is unconstitutional, according to the judge; a bond hearing must be granted within seven days or migrants will be released. DHS has raised fees for asylum seekers, slowed the processing and forced over 13,000 migrants to wait in Mexico for movement on their legal cases. Barr’s order is one reason for the seriously overcrowded facilities.

DDT claims that living conditions in his detention camps are “better than where they came from,” but a report from his own DHS Inspector General tells of horrific conditions with filth and overcrowding at the migrant detention centers. People lie in cages on bare cement floors with nothing to do, and men are held for weeks in a room with standing room only—88 of them in a room designed for 40. Children have no access to showers, clothing changes, laundry facilities, and hot meals. 

A federal judge ordered lawyers representing detained migrants and US Customs and Border Protection to rapidly resolve allowing health experts to examine children and inspect detention facilities inside a Florida migrant facility. The order covers all CBP’s El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors. Children lack access to soap, clean water, toilets, toothbrushes, medical care, and adequate nutrition and sleep. With infants and pregnant women, they “are dirty, cold, hungry and sleep-deprived,” according to the court filing. Children are required to care for infants and toddlers, some of whom show signs of illness. John Kelly, former DHS director and DDT’s chief of staff, is on the board of the company owning the Florida facility.

A federal judge expanded a previous ruling to block DDT from taking billions of dollars in military funds for his southern border wall in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas. DDT claimed “national emergency”; the judge said that there was no new evidence for changing an earlier decision. He also stated that the wall would cause “irreparable harm” because it “will harm [the plaintiffs’] ability to recreate in and otherwise enjoy public land along the border.” A 2-1 vote in a 9th Circuit Court panel denied DDT’s request to halt the order blocking military funds for a border wall.

The 9th Circuit Court sent a decision against DDT’s transgender ban in the military back to federal judge, Marsha Pechman, ruling that she should have given the military’s judgment more deference. The Supreme Court lifted lower court injunctions blocking the ban from going into effect although it didn’t address the ban’s legality. Pechman was one of four federal judges ruling against the ban on the basis of the constitution’s equal protection guarantee. DDT’s used inaccurate figures in a claim of “tremendous medical costs”; no one in the military has cited DDT’s claim of “disruption” regarding transgender military members.

The 9th Circuit Court also vacated a unanimous three-judge panel decision allowing DDT’s gag rule on facilities serving low-income women seeking abortions. DDT’s orders prevented clinics receiving federal funds from making abortion referrals and sharing space with abortion providers. Injunctions against DDT’s declaration will continue in Oregon, Washington, and California as the issue works its way throughout the courts.

The 9th Circuit Court denied an appeal from three University of Oregon basketball players who were expelled from the school for rape allegations. They had originally sued in 2015 on the basis of gender discrimination; a federal court threw out their lawsuit.

The 4th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act applying severe criminal penalties for violent acts motivated by race, religion, and other protected classifications applies to workplace assaults. A defendant lost his claim that the law didn’t apply to his punching a gay co-worker in the face.

A Montana district court blocked Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals Inc. from exploring for gold just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Scott Warren, an Arizona activist on trial for saving the lives of migrants in the desert, was acquitted by a hung jury. Federal prosecutors plan to seek a retrial for Warren, hoping to put him in prison for several years for giving food, water, clean clothes, and beds to migrants in the desert. 

A last-minute change in testimony exonerated Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher in the 2017 murder of a 15-year-old captive in Iraq. Given immunity, medic Corey Scott changed his previous statements and claimed he killed the boy after several Navy Seals testified they saw Gallagher stab the boy to death. Gallagher had texted a photo of himself posing with the body and the message, “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.” DDT had previously arranged for Gallagher’s release from confinement and suggested he would pardon him.

The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that going on someone else’s land without their permission is trespassing. Two people sued a giant corporation for building roads and drilling a well without permission to get gas from adjacent lands.

For almost a decade, Republicans worked to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Some are now getting nervous about their re-elections of they succeed in the goal. With two conservative judges on a panel who might strike down the ACA, the GOP state AGS asked the 5th Circuit Court to delay oral arguments, but the court gave them one business day until July 9. The court will begin by deciding whether states and the House of Representatives have standing to defend the ACA.

House Democrats, led by the Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA), are suing the IRS and Treasury Department to gain access to DDT’s tax returns. Both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig consistently refused to obey the 1924 law requiring them to release DDT’s tax returns. One reason given for obtaining the tax returns is DDT’s incessant complaining about how unfair the audit process is. House members need to see his returns to evaluate his complaints.

This year, the Supreme Court couldn’t decide Carpenter v. Murphy; it is “restored to the calendar for reargument.” The question is whether Oklahoma can prosecute major crimes committed by Native Americans on reservation land for the Five Civilized Tribes, covering the eastern half of the state including Tulsa. Deciding for the defendant, Patrick Murphy, would threaten the validity of past convictions—something that didn’t bother conservative justices in other decisions this year—or replace past law regarding the dissolution of Native American reservations. States have something to look forward to next year because Oklahoma may not be alone in backlash to the decision.

April 11, 2019

Barr, Others Face Congressional Hearings

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has done one smart thing for himself: with the help of corrupt GOP, he put Bill Barr into the DOJ leadership. Much has been written about Barr’s protection of DDT for the past two days in hearings about his “Barr Report,” a bastardized interpretation of Mueller’s investigation. But before that, Barr put DDT above the Constitution. Thanks to Barr, DDT’s financial benefits from foreign payments to his hotels, resorts, condos, and trademarks have been exempted from the emolument clause: foreign countries can pander to DDT as much as they want by paying inflated prices at his facilities. The justification is that DDT doesn’t get the money because of his “official capacity” because it’s related only to his private business.

Barr also supports DDT by lying for him. “I support the president’s policy, which is we’re not going to separate families,” Barr said two days before DDT fired his DHS secretary for refusing to separate families. About the Affordable Care Act, Barr said that DDT supports protections for people with pre-existing conditions while Barr goes to court to eliminate the ACA. Today, Barr continued his lying during testimony before House Appropriations Committee and its chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), ignoring how transparent his falsehoods are. He claimed that DDT had no warning about Russia targeting DDT’s first presidential campaign despite media coverage to the contrary. From NBC reporting on December 18, 2017:

“In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, according to multiple government officials familiar with the matter. The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said.”

Like a squid shooting ink, Barr tried to cover up for DDT and Republicans though his obfuscations and lies. He told committee members that he was “concerned” that the government during President Obama’s administration had “spied” on DDT’s campaign although he admitted he had no evidence. Going beyond protecting DDT with redactions, Barr plans an investigation into Russia’s “spying” against DDT’s first presidential campaign.

About his claim, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote under the heading of “Trump Toady”:

“This is the language of a PR spinner, not the attorney general of the United States. As my colleague Aaron Blake points out, ‘spying’ is a loaded phrase and a political accusation.”

Congressional members were disturbed by Barr’s bizarre allegations:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that Barr’s words contradicted previous Department of Justice communications and asked for an immediate briefing to clarify the issue.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said he had been told nothing about any spying on DDT’s campaign and that “almost seems to be endorsing one of these theories that has been debunked time and time again.” Warner added that Barr’s comments are “disrespectful” to Department of Justice employees.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, argued “the top law enforcement officer of the country should not casually suggest that those under his purview engaged in ‘spying’ on a political campaign” and that Barr’s “partisan talking point … strikes another destructive blow to our democratic institutions.”

Barr couldn’t even answer questions on issues other than the Mueller investigation.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) asked in the hearing about people losing health care coverage if Barr succeeds in helping to overturn the ACA because there is no replacement. Barr said, “If this is such a hokey position to have, what are you worried about?” Adding that healthcare is a policy issue, Barr added, “I’m a lawyer. I’m not in charge of health care.”

Barr didn’t know that the DOJ, his own department, found a 17-percent rise in hate crimes in 2017.

At least the redacted pages won’t be all black. Barr plans to color-code his redactions and add “explanatory notes” for each redaction. He plans to redact information in four categories: classified information, current investigations, and peripheral people not charged with a crime. Barr denies that DDT would fit into this category, but he also lies. “Executive privilege” might also be redacted. Barr won’t ask a federal court to allow Congress to see grand jury material. If Nadler wants to see it, he can ask the court, Barr said.

Some salient comments from Barr’s hearing yesterday:

Asked specifically whether the investigation was a witch hunt, Barr said, “it depends on where you sit.”

Asked if the White House has seen or been briefed on Mueller’s report, Barr said, “I’m not going to say anything more about it.” [Sounds like, “Yes, but I don’t want to admit it.” Richard Nixon’s AG John Mitchell went to prison for 19 months for conducting obstruction on Nixon’s behalf by briefing him on investigations.] Earlier he had said that he had not consulted

Barr plans to release his [heavily] redacted report “within a week” but won’t talk about it until then. Congress is on recess for the next two weeks.

Barr’s misrepresentation in his four-page summary of the Mueller report that clears DDT of obstruction of justice has disturbed members of the investigative team who found “alarming and significance” evidence of this obstruction. They also found that evidence of collusion was “compelling.” Barr said that Mueller did not review the Barr Report before he submitted it to Congress.

The “Spygate” that Barr intends to “investigate”started with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) when he maintained that the surveillance of Carter Page, which started over a year before DDT announced his first campaign, was politically motivated. Nunes had a lot to say but never read the intelligence surrounding the FISA issued for Page by four GOP-appointed judges. Investigation of the infamous Steele dossier, created through an investigation to find damaging information about DDT and other GOP candidates by conservative Paul Singer, also revealed that it did not trigger the FBI investigation into Russian influence over the U.S. election. Singer pulled his funding for the project after Sen. Marco Rubio pulled out of his presidential campaign.

Jubilant about Barr’s testimony, DDT repeatedly shouts, “They spied. They spied!” He also asserted, “I have not read the Mueller report. I won. No collusion, no obstruction. I won. Everybody knows I won.” A majority of people, 56 percent, think that DDT and his campaign have not been exonerated. The investigation is still in play. DDT commonly claims that “everybody knows ….” Here are 30 examples.

Barr wasn’t the only person testifying to Congress this week. Jeffrey Rosen faced fire at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for a position to replace Rod Rosenstein as deputy AG by refusing to firmly commit to making special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia probe public.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a contentious appearance before the House Financial Services Committee when he tried to give weak excuses for the IRS breaking the law by failing to give Congress six years of DDT’s tax returns. Mnuchin said that DDT already won the 2016 election and had disclosed some information about personal finances. He also said that Kevin Brady hadn’t requested specific returns; President Obama voluntarily disclosed his tax returns every year. A GOP chair obtained tax returns in 2014 from conservative and liberal nonprofit groups claiming tax-exempt status.

When Mnuchin maintained that he had to leave for an “important meeting,” the back and forth erupted into Mnuchin petulantly telling Chair Maxine Waters with appropriate hand gestures, “Please dismiss everybody. I believe you’re supposed to take the gravel [sic] and bang it.” The exchange is well worth watching.

About releasing his tax returns, DDT’s excuse is “the people don’t care.” A majority of people, 51 percent, want Democrats to require DDT to release his returns. Even more, 64 percent, want DDT to voluntarily release his tax returns. IRS officials said that being under audit, DDT’s excuse, does not prevent people from releasing returns. DDT’s assertion, that there’s “no law whatsoever” for turning over his tax returns, also doesn’t hold water. A 1924 statute gives some congressional leaders access to anyone’s tax returns.  in this area, he’s overlooking one inconvenient statute. The only reason to hide DDT’s tax returns is if they contain incriminating information.

March 30, 2019

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

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

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

Effects of no ACA and no other health plan:

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

Twelve million people in poverty could be taken off Medicaid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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