Nel's New Day

July 2, 2019

Federal Appointment Replacements Worse for Democracy

Former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has left the White House for Arkansas after holding fewer briefings than during any of the previous five presidents’ terms—probably an average of one every other month. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told her last January not to bother to meet with press conferences. New Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham, will do the job of not meeting with the press while staying on as spokesperson for Melanie Trump and becoming Communications Director, formerly Bill Shine.

Grisham cut her chops at the Korean DMZ Freedom House in an episode called “an all out brawl” with “body blows” as she elbowed and pushed a North Korean security guard. Her elegant diplomacy matches that of her employer when DDT pushed aside Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic at the 2017 NATO summit. 

Lying is another of DDT’s characteristic that Grisham emulates. She claimed that Melania Trump’s jacket stating “I really don’t care. Do U?” was just a jacket with no meaning before the First Lady said that it was “a message.” Trump said she wore it “for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.” In July 2018, Grisham supported DDT’s false claim that he arrived in the UK on June 23, 2016, the day of the Brexit referendum, where he predicted the vote outcome. DDT wasn’t there until the next day. In his report, Robert Mueller documented Grisham’s serial lying.

Grisham has a strong anti-press background. As spokeswoman for the Arizona House of Representatives GOP, she implemented the policy banning reporters from the legislative floor if they “would not consent to extensive background checks.” The policy focused on Arizona reporter Hank Stephenson after he provided evidence that House Speaker David Gowan used state-owned vehicles for his congressional campaign and forced Gowan to return over $12,000 to the state. Misdemeanor trespassing was one reason for barring reporters because Stephenson pled guilty to the charge in 2014. Her policy lasted only a few days because some Republicans expressed concern and no member of the Phoenix press corps would sign the form. While a member of DDT’s transition team, Grisham did no work for Arizona but stayed on the state’s payroll.

In September 2018, Grisham was reprimanded for violating the Hatch Act that prevents White House employees from party-political activities. DDT promoted her with a raise in salary. 

In the EPA, one fossil fuel industry shill was traded for another. Bill Wehrum, formerly a lobbyist trying to destroy President Obama’s safeguards on polluters, could more easily do the job when he oversaw fossil fuel pollution regulations. Wehrum was confirmed with no Democratic votes to focus on “climate change, smog, and power plants’ mercury pollution.” Like his corrupt predecessor Scott Pruitt, Wehrum resigned after 19 months in the midst of a congressional investigation into his improperly helping his former industry clients after the media shined a light on his inappropriate activities. He slowed fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks as well as rewriting methods of calculating costs and benefits to favor fossil fuel requirements. He also wrote the way that more coal-fired power plants could open.

Wehrun’s lack of ethics followed those of other Cabinet members who resigned—EPA’s Schott Pruitt, HHS’ Tom Price, Interior’s Ryan Zinke, and VA’s Davi Shulkin—and FEMA’s William “Brock” Long.” Other current ethics investigations include Interior’s new Secretary David Bernhardt plus six current or former top appointees for behavior like that of Wehrum.

Although at least one climate activist literally danced after Wehrum’s departure, the replacement has not brought joy. Anne Idsal, Wehrum’s deputy assistant, will continue EPA’s destruction and fall in line with DDT’s deregulation. She belongs to the dark ages belief that “climate has been changing since the dawn of time” and has strong ties to the Bush-Cheney administration. Her family owns the ranch where VP Dick Cheney shot a friend in the face while hunting ring-necked pheasants. Her connections extend to George P. Bush, George W. Bush’s nephew, who cleared out 11 top staffers of the General Land Office after he was elected in 2014 to manage Texas’ oil and gas resources. Idsal was one of 29 people hired for Bush’s Land Office without the jobs being posted, and she has ties to industry associations and Exxon Mobil.

Having lost with Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, DDT plans to appoint Christopher Waller and Judy Shelton for the two empty Federal Board seats. Both conservatives want to lower interest rates, and DDT’s close friend and Fed-hater Shelton wants to return to the gold standard, abandoned by Richard Nixon almost 50 years ago.

With White House aide and neo-Nazi Stephen Miller in charge of DHS, chaos continues to reign in the department, designed to protect U.S. security, supports DDT’s politics. Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders for two months leaves after publicity of squalid living conditions for children at border stations that provide no child care, bedding, and hygiene items while submitting the children to sleep deprivation. Yet Sanders was fired because he wasn’t aggressive enough in blocking asylum seekers. In the past three months, DHS has also done away with its secretary (Kirstjen Nielsen), acting ICE chief (Ron Vitiello), acting deputy secretary (Claire Grady), and Citizenship and Immigration Services director (Lee Cissna). The House Oversight and Reform Committee ordered testimony on July 12 from DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and acting Customs and Border Protection Commission Mark Morgan about the deplorable conditions for children held at the southern border. 

Hardliner Morgan, who claims that he can predict future gang members by looking into the eyes of children, left ICE after five weeks to replace Sanders. While head of ICE, Morgan pushed for raids to deport undocumented families. Earlier, McAleenan had opposed Miller’s directive to appoint Morgan head of Customs and Border Protection but caved under pressure. When Morgan disagreed with his boss, McAleenan, he circumvented him by going directly to DDT. Matthew Albence, ICE’s deputy director who was noted for saying that family detention centers are “more like a summer camp,” is now acting director of the agency. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hamedaleaziz/ice-director-matthew-albence-trump-immigration-enforcement

DDT loves officials to be “acting.” Dana Milbank explains: 

“Without stature or protection of Senate confirmation [for officials] … allows Trump to demand absolute subservience from appointees. Because he can replace them at will, they don’t contradict him. But this tentative status also means they lack authority within their agencies and the stature to stand up to Trump when he’s wrong.”

An ”acting” official leads every major border- and immigration-related agency in DHS. DDT said, “I do burn out on people, I do.” McAleenan may be close to DDT’s burnout because of his more reasonable approach toward enforcing immigration, for example opposition to mass ICE raids rounding up migrant families, although he supported DDT’s separation of families.

DDT prefers Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia AG who lost his run for governor, as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services with his record of climate crisis denial, anti-LGBT discrimination, opposition to women’s reproductive rights, censorship for safe sex information, obstruction to the Catholic Church’s care for vulnerable populations, blocks to all gun violence reduction efforts, and anti-immigration. Cuccinelli matches Miller in lack of human decency, for example blaming the man who died with his toddler daughter in the Rio Grande River because he wouldn’t wait for the asylum process. After waiting two months in Mexico for asylum, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez became desperate because of the punitive months-long waiting period.

The union representing federal works with asylum seekers criticizes DDT’s policies, specifically the one returning migrants seeking refuge to Mexico until decisions are made on their applications. In a court filing, the union wrote:

“By forcing a vulnerable population to return to a hostile territory where they are likely to face persecution, the [Migrant Protection Protocols] abandons our tradition of providing a safe haven to the persecuted and violates our international and domestic legal obligations.”

Less compassionate are the 9,500 current and former members of the Border Patrol who joke about the deaths of migrants on a secret Facebook group and share derogatory comments about Latinx lawmakers visiting a detention facility. Calling them “scum buckets” and “hoes,” agents joke about throwing burritos at them and posted a drawing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) having oral sex with a detained migrant. Revelations about these agents, including at least one supervisor, follow an investigation into the hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers connected to extremist Facebook sources, including white supremacist and anti-government groups. House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested information from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the Border Patrol agents secret Facebook group with vulgar sexist and racist content mocking immigrants and congressional members.

After Ocasio-Cortez left one of the facilities, she said that she did not feel safe from the officers. Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings said, “Agents are under a great deal of stress.” After the Border Patrol agents’ Facebook group asked for protesters to come abuse legislators, Ocasio-Cortez needed an escort back to her vehicle. Border agents feel comfortable threatening everyone, including elected members of Congress. 

Welcome to the United States of America under DDT. 

March 8, 2019

Think Equal: International Women’s Day

On March 8, International Women’s Day, 28 members of the world champion United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit regarding the lack of pay equity and working conditions. According to the lawsuit, discrimination against the women athletes not only leaves them with much less than pay than men in the soccer field but also restricts their place of play, training, medical treatment, coaching, and even travel accommodations.

The women, stars for over a decade, head to France this summer to defend the Women’s World Cup that they won almost four years ago. Since their third win of the contest in summer of 2015, they have made some gain—doubled prize money pool for the upcoming tournament, the disappearance of artificial turf, and even a chartered flight. Female soccer teams in other countries such as Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Norway have made a few gains since protests by the U.S. women’s team.

FIFA, pro soccer teams’ employer, still favor the men by give a pool of $400 million to 32 men’s teams compared to $30 million for 24 women’s teams. According to pay schedules for players participating in 20 games a year, men get an average of $263,320 while women get a maximum of $99,000. That’s after the $17 million more in profit for 2016 that women made over the men. Although the male team lost the 2014 World Cup in Round 16, their bonuses were $5.375; after winning the Cup in 2015, women received $1.725 for bonuses.

Women suffer far worse inequities around the world than lack of pay. Poverty, lack of justice and rights, abuse, poorer health, discrimination in education—all these are just a few of the ways that women are wanting in gender equality. But sports is one area that symbolizes the subjection of women to male values. A recent example occurred in a cycling race in Switzerland. In the annual Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, men started two minutes before women—because women are faster. No matter—Nicole Hanselmann took a big lead over the men’s field, that is, before she was told to sit by the side of the road to “neutralise the women’s race in order to restore the gap between” the men and women’s groups. Maybe the men should have had a five-minute head start so that they could win.

Women ride the Tour de France through traffic and without media on the day before men get the attention, and the women’s Olympic race is half the length of the men’s race. Olympic cycling events for women didn’t exist until 1984, the same year that events included a women’s marathon but almost a century after the modern Olympic revivals in 1896 included these events for men.

Bobbi Gibbs entered the Boston Marathon in 1966 without an application after being told that was told that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” She beat over half the field in 3 hours, 21 minutes. The next year, Kathrine Switzer entered the marathon under her initials and beat her boyfriend. Her time of 4 hours, 20 minutes might have been better if the race co-director had not physically attacked her during the race. Not until 1972 did the AAU allow women to run more than a mile and a half.

Other sports still have the  gender restrictions: women play two out of three sets in tennis, but men play three out of five. Men said that the rules are meant to protect women’s “reproductive organs” from undue endurance. In the beginning, women’s cycling threatened men because women gained independence with their own transportation. The lack of chaperones caused people to refer to bicycles as “prostitution on wheels.” The reason for gender inequality is to show women that we are inferior.

Other inequalities in sports:

In the U.S., 40 percent of sportspeople are women, but only six to eight percent of the total sports media coverage is devoted to them. Women-only sports stories comprise just 3.5 percent of all sports stories in the four major US newspapers.

Each year, male athletes get $179 million more in athletic scholarships—50 percent more—than female athletes receive.

Colleges and universities spend only 24 percent of their athletic operating budgets on female sports and just 16 percent of recruiting budgets for women.

Coaches for college women’s team sports earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by head coaches of men’s teams.

The 2015 Women’s World Cup soccer final was the most watched soccer match—male or female—but its players were far less compensated than male soccer players. In professional soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League has a pay ceiling per player of just $37,800 compared to an average of more than $300,000 and a median of about $100,000 for men’s Major League Soccer. Each team in the NWSL has a salary cap of just $265,000—compared to more than $3 million for men.

Of total commercial investment, 0.4 percent goes into women’s sport.

People who discriminate against women in sports claim that they won’t receive any attention, that the public wants to watch only men play. This attitude, however, comes from the top. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes news with male championship sports teams, either being rebuffed by them or feeding them fast foods like hamburgers and pizza. Yet he has not invited one female championship team to the White House to honor them on a solo visit—not the 2018 women’s NCAA basketball champions Notre Dame, not the 2017 WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, nor the 2018 WNBA champion Seattle Storm. The latest invitation, however, was a men’s lower-division NCAA football championship team, the first one invited since Bill Clinton’s time. Every other president going back to Ronald Reagan invited the women’s NCAA basketball champions. Here’s President Obama with the 2016 NCAA winners.

Politics this year has brought out the worst—thus far—in conservative misogyny. From the minute that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected a Democratic U.S. representative from New York, journalists stalked her, intent on photographing her from behind, questioning how much she pays for her clothes, why she took an Uber instead of the subway. A Texas city council member called her a “bimbo,” and one of her congressional colleagues yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!”  Conservative pundits call her a “little girl” and fantasize about dating her. On The View, Meghan McCain said she was “really surprised” that Ocasio-Cortez had asked an intelligent question at Michael Cohen’s House hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has the same political views, but it’s the conservatives who cried at CPAC that Ocasio-Cortez wants to “take your hamburgers” and replaced incessant smears of Hillary Clinton to those directed at Ocasio-Cortez.

The hatred and sexism directed toward Ocasio-Cortez moved to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after she criticized the control of Israel over U.S. policy. For decades, GOP congressional members and conservative media protected rampant racism from colleagues and now fail to call out their racist president while becoming livid about Omar’s suggestion that candidates receive millions of dollars to oppose Palestine and support Israel. The attacks didn’t start with her supposed anti-Semitic remarks used to revile her; threats against her began before she was sworn into the 116th Congress also because of her Islam religion. Every word she uses, even “hypnotize,” is classified as an “anti-Semitic trope” while DDT and other white male GOP congressional members escape any criticism. Yet 23 of them voted against all expressions of prejudice such as racism, Islamophobia, and anti-LGBTQ rights except for anti-Semitism. Omar is even being blamed for the spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes that began with DDT’s election.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, said that while anti-Semitism is a “hateful and dangerous ideology,” it must not be confused with criticism of Israel’s government under the right-wing leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) joined Sanders in defending Omar because they, too, have suffered from the misogyny, especially since the women declared their candidacies for the 2020 presidential election. After condemning Hillary Clinton for being too “icy,” pundits slam Warren for being “aloof” and Harris for connecting with audiences “too much.” For weeks, opinionists agonized over whether the women presidential candidates were “authentic” and found stories to show that they are phonies. Warren’s oral history of Native American background from the 1980s appears again and again—and again. (The same people overlook DDT’s 9,000 lies.) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was attacked for talking about how to eat fried chicken, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar is “mean.” Authenticity for women is being a secretary or staff member.

The theme for the 2019 International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” Almost half the Democrats running for president in 2020 are women, and a pro sports team is suing for equality. Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are making changes in Congress along with the other 108 Democratic women plus their allies. These changes plus millions of others may bring women into the 21st century.

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