Nel's New Day

August 2, 2017

Congress, DDT Leaving D.C. with Little to Show

The House left Washington, D.C. last week for an extended vacation, but not after they did a bit of harm. In an article for Nation, “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump a Blank Check for Endless War,” John Nichols refers to the House Speaker’s stripping an amendment from the defense budget that unanimously passed in committee. He did it after midnight and with no debate, floor vote, or consultation with anyone except the GOP House leadership. The U.S. Constitution does not give the president power to wage war, but Congress passed a 60-word bill allowing the president to send military forces against groups linked to the 9/11 attacks. DDT no longer restricts his hostile actions against countries throughout the world to fighting ISIS. The amendment would have required Congress to following the constitution by reverting to congressional approval for military action. It even has support from within the Pentagon. Even General Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants the 2001 law revoked.

The title of the article, however, could have been far more general: it could have been just “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump.” Republicans in the House have been largely mum after DDT’s egregious actions and proposals. Even when DDT suggested that he could pardon his family, his associates, and himself, few GOP representatives objected. To accept pardons from the president, people had to admit that they committed the crimes for which they are pardoned. Thus DDT is considering the admission that he committed crimes, but little word from Republicans in the House.

When Democrats requested documents in the House Judiciary Committee about the firing of former FBI director James Comey, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) flipped the proposal into an amendment to ask the Justice Department for documents related to Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email service. The witch hunt is back on to divert attention away from DDT’s Russia collusion. In the new administration, only GOP congressional members are permitted to asked for any documents; no Democrats need apply. The committee passed Gaetz’s amendment on a partisan vote of 16-13.

A failure in the House is the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling that state attorneys general can defend subsidy payments to the insurance industry for certain health care consumers. The GOP House sued in 2014 to stop these payments because Congress had not approved a specific appropriation, and DDT threatens to block the funding because Trumpcare failed. The insurance industry warned that instability could cause a 20-percent increase in premiums for 2018.

The House did buck DDT’s wishes when it passed—by 419-3!—increased sanctions on Russia and decreased presidential authority to change these sanctions. The Senate had already passed the bill by 98-2. The bill also includes sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Ukraine. Furious about the bill, DDT waited a week to sign the bill into law with no ceremony but declared has “clearly unconstitutional provisions.” This from the man who has violated the constitution in so many ways. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the bill will not “be helpful to our efforts.” Russian president Vladimir Putin is so angry that he reduced the U.S. diplomatic staff by 755 people, matching the number of diplomatic Russians in the U.S., and seized two properties used by U.S. diplomats.

Another irritant for DDT may be the Senate bill to protect special investigator, Robert Mueller. Any firing of a special counsel would demand judicial review if the bill passes by a veto-proof margin.

On the other side of Congress, senators have decided to go home tomorrow, or Friday at the latest, after Trumpcare went down in flames. (For a bit of satire regarding the upshot of the Senate Trumpcare vote, check out Andy Borowitz’s column about DDT supporters’ fury for still having healthcare.) In the midst of Trumpcare trauma, they planned to stay into their typical August recess until August 11th. The House is gone, however, and DDT plans to head out tomorrow if the flight restrictions around Bedminster (NJ) from August 3-20 are correct.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has already handed over another blank check from the Judiciary Committee to DDT by not requiring DDT associates—eldest son, Don Jr; son-in-law Jared Kushner; and former campaign manager Paul Manafort—to testify. They just “talked” and gave the committee some documents. One topic from the disappeared subpoenas was the once-secret meeting with a growing number of Russians when Jr, Kushner, and Manafort hoped to get dirt on Clinton. Grassley is also trying to prove that the former intelligence officer who prepared the dossier on Russian meddling really works for Russia, once again in a struggle to protect DDT.

The failure of Trumpcare in the Senate—thanks to “no” votes against it from GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—was followed by a failure for AG Jeff Sessions. The Appropriations Committee blocked the DOJ spending anything to undermine state medical marijuana laws. When Sessions isn’t trying to collect and keep money from innocent people picked up by the police, he has been salivating about destroying state laws regarding cannabis. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed a bill to legalize cannabis because of its ability to solve the opioid abuse and relieve one racist approach toward imprisonment. GOP control of Congress will block Booker’s bill at this time, but approval of cannabis use is growing across the nation. Its use should be legal, according to 61 percent of people in the U.S., and 88 percent favor medical marijuana use. Another 71 percent oppose efforts to stop sales and use in states where it is legal, and 65 percent think that marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. In short, the vast majority of people disagree with Sessions.

The GOP senators have hit rock bottom after the failure of Trumpcare: they are offering to work with Democrats. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senate Health Committee chair, will hold bipartisan hearings when Congress comes back in September to develop a short-term proposal to strengthen individual markets for the Affordable Care Act by mid-September. Female, Democrat Patty Murray (WA) will have a place at the negotiating table for the first time with Alexander’s decision. A bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 43 senators from both parties, praised Alexander for his initiative. Insurers are required to sign contracts by the end of September to sell plans on the exchanges.

Christopher Wray—DDT’s pick for FBI director—has been confirmed, but five senators voted against him. Two of them are from Oregon, making me very proud. After the illegal closing of the George Washington Bridge, Wray defended New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Wray hid Christie’s cellphone, and Christie escaped a guilty verdict. Wray’s law firm represents Russia-owned energy companies, and Wray deleted his representation of an energy company executive in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities from his biography. His career has been spent in defending criminals, not pursuing them, i.e., a major Swiss bank accused of laundering money for terrorists. In the history of confirming FBI directors, only one other senator has ever voted against a director. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against James Comey because of surveillance issues.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) should be praised for introducing the Dream Act of 2017 granting legal status and a path to citizenship for DREAMers. Eight out of ten voters, including more than 7 in 10 Republicans, believe DREAMers should be allowed to remain in the US legally. Ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next 10 years, and remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy.

The question now is what will happen on October 1 if the House doesn’t get around to passing the budget and increasing the debt ceiling. The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29. A shutdown means a stock market crash, surging interest rates, disruption to the world’s financial system, and a recession. Twelve days.

 

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February 1, 2017

Trump Keeps Campaign Promises, Alienates Growing Number of Countries

Have I demoted President Donald Trump (PDT) to just Donald Trump (DT) was a question sent me yesterday. The demotion was accurate because I cannot consider DT a president until he starts acting like one. His actions recently, however, provide a new descriptor for him—Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Over a half century ago, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, describing the dire consequences of the pesticide DDT including cancer and other destructive effects on the planet. In 1972, the U.S. banned the use of DDT for agricultural use in the nation. Donald Trump may be even more toxic for the United States.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice on June 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. Volkswagen has agreed to nearly $15 billion in a settlement over emissions cheating on its diesel vehicles. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

As a dictator, DDT has decided to ignore the U.S. Constitution. Conservative press claims that Sally Yates should have been fired from the Department of Justice because she was insubordinate—that she should do anything the president wants, including supporting his unconstitutional actions. The office of the president can legally fire the Attorney General, but DDT’s action in this case and his petty language smearing her demonstrates his failure to understand that the DOJ is an independent agency. The Attorney General swears an oath to the U.S. Constitution, not to the U.S. president, yet DDT looks at the AG as his personal lackey.

Independence of the DOJ is especially vital at this time when some of the president’s associates are being investigated for their communication with Russia regarding the election.  Republican lawmakers understood the mission of the Attorney General when they confirmed individuals under a Democratic president. As with all else in the GOP world, however, fealty to the president is now of paramount importance with a Republican in the office.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote:

“Donald Trump fired the acting Attorney General, Sally Q. Yates, after learning that she had downloaded a copy of the United States Constitution to her computer, Trump told reporters on Monday night. According to the Trump Administration’s code of ethics, established by Steve Bannon, a counselor to the President, ‘possessing, reading, or referring to the United States Constitution’ is a violation that is punishable by termination.

“Suspecting that Yates was in breach of that rule, Bannon seized Yates’s computer at the Justice Department and discovered that she had secretly downloaded a complete copy of the 1789 document. ‘Sally Yates was hatching a covert plot to require my actions to be in accordance with the Constitution,’ Trump said. ‘We caught her red-handed.’

“Trump said he hoped Yates’s firing would send Justice Department staffers the message that ‘if you are caught flagrantly obeying the Constitution, you will be out of here. The American people deserve an Attorney General who will come to work every day ready to flout the Constitution, and in Jeff Sessions, they will have one,’ he said.”

With DDT and the current GOP crop, satire has come close to fact.

In DDT’s exuberance to capture terrorists coming in the country, his Muslim ban led to handcuffing a five-year-old boy and holding him in custody, separated from his parents for at least five hours, because he may have been “a threat to America,” according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) revealed that the child is a U.S. citizen who lives in Maryland and described the incident as “outrageous.” The boy was detained despite authorities having prior knowledge of his arrival. When Van Hollen tried to see if the child had been released, he was refused information by airport authorities.

With his new presidential powers, DDT is carrying out his campaign promises, one of them targeting the families of terror suspects. Although Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated he was not aware of this DDT position, DDT said this on the campaign trail:

“[Y]ou have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

DDT’s first military raid, carried out last Sunday, killed two U.S. citizens, a member of SEAL Team 6 and the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader born in New Mexico and killed in a U.S. strike five years ago. The purpose of the raid in southern Yemen was to gather intelligence, and an official said about the raid, “Almost everything went wrong.” Several other SEALs were injured, some seriously, and the child’s death has been useful for al Qaeda recruitment. Terrorist groups are circulating photographs of children who have been killed by the United States.

DDT attacked its (former?) ally in a telephone call last Saturday to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in that country’s attempt to confirm that the U.S. would honor its pledge to take 1,250 refugees. Before the call, DDT accused Australia of trying to export the “next Boston bombers.” A senior administration official stated that the call to Turnbull was “hostile and charged,” according to the Washington Post. Turnbull had assured that acceptance of the refugees was contingent on vetting, but DDT Trump said that he didn’t see how the U.S. would gain anything by honoring its promise. Although Turnbull tried to move on to discuss Syria’s conflict and other important foreign issues, DDT abruptly ended the call and said it was the “worst call by far.”

DDT’s call with the Mexican president seems even worse. Relationships between DDT and Enrique Peña Nieto have been strained since DDT told the Mexican president that he didn’t need to come to a meeting with him if Mexico wouldn’t pay for DDT’s wall between the countries. In this call, DDT threatened to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there.” Nieto denied that DDT had made this threat, but the Mexican press reported DDT’s statements:

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn announced that the U.S. has put Iran “on notice” for carrying out a medium-range ballistic missile test and attacks by proxy forces on a Saudi frigate:

“The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk.”

The missile exploded when its reentry vehicle failed. Flynn declared that the launch violated a UN resolution, but Iran maintains that it has the right to missile development for protection from Israeli attack.  The UN has not made a decision about whether the launch violated its resolution.

Alienating countries in three continents, DDT has ignored Russia’s aggressive actions in escalating its illegal war in Ukraine.

Last week, DDT directed his irritation toward Theresa May, the UK prime minister who visited the U.S. During a joint press conference, May permitted a British reporter to ask this question:

“Mr. President, you’ve said before that torture works; you’ve praised Russia; you’ve said you want to ban some Muslims from coming to America; you’ve suggested there should be punishment for abortion. For many people in Britain, those sound like alarming beliefs. What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?”

DDT avoided answering the question and then said to May, “This was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship!” It may become further strained with May’s opposition to DDT’s positions. She warned DDT and the Republicans to “beware” of Vladimir Putin and keep the sanctions, cautioned him that the West should stop trying to “remake the world in our own image,” backed the Iranian nuclear deal that DDT threatened to tear up, argued for all “diplomatic means at our disposal” to defeat ISIS, and strongly supported NAFTA.

In the first 24 hours after DDT announced his Muslim ban, over 1.5 million people in the UK, that has a population of 64.5 million, signed a petition opposing DDT’s state visit to their country. The petition reads:

“Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official state visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

In addition, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion condemning the “discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive” travel ban. On February 20, Parliament will debate whether to rescind DDT’s visit. DDT seems intent on alienating every country except Russia.

trumps-visit

September 27, 2016

Presidential Candidate: Trump Normalizes Lies, Abuse

Satire has become more and more difficult as GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump, goes over the edge in his ridiculous behavior as shown in the first presidential candidate debate of 2016. Satirist Andy Borowitz concludes his column, “Trump Threatens to Skip Remaining Debates If Hillary Is There”with this mocking comment:

“’I have said time and time again that I would only do these debates if I am treated fairly,” [Trump] added. “The only way I can be guaranteed of being treated fairly is if Hillary Clinton is not there.’”

Borowitz’s column on the debate is almost factual—probably more factual that the lies that Trump spewed throughout the 90 minutes. NPR provided an excellent 100-word summary with six additional videos:

“The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was a contentious affair with the presidential candidates clashing on the economy, taxes and terrorism. With discipline, Clinton pushed Trump’s buttons, attacking his business practices, accusing him of not paying his contractors and stiffing the American people by not paying federal taxes. Trump replied, “That makes me smart.” Trump was vintage: a visceral debater who touted his business acumen and accused Clinton of being a professional politician — “all talk and no action.” A 30-year career in politics, Trump said, has yielded nothing.”

debate

According to the CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers, 62 percent gave the win to Clinton, and only 27 percent thought Trump was the winner. The majority of two TV focus groups of undecided voters largely declared Clinton the winner after the debate—18 of 20 in a CNN group in Florida and 16 of 22 in a CBS group run by GOP strategist Frank Luntz. In these groups, voters leaning toward Trump had a better opinion of Clinton than the “undecided” voters did. One panelist said that Clinton “took control of the situation.” One alt-right group concluded that Trump “sucked” and gave ideas on how he could improve.

Although Trump has fixated on Clinton’s lack of stamina, he appeared to fade after the first 20 minutes of the debate. He also skipped a post-debate victory part and went home immediately after the debate.

Trump’s own surrogates concentrated on his possible success during the first half of the debate in a rather lukewarm fashion. Some weren’t even that supportive and criticized Trump’s entire part of the debate. On the Fox network, Laura Ingraham complained that the moderator made bad topic choices. In the spin room afterward, former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani said that Trump shouldn’t participate in the remaining two debates because he was treated badly in this one.

GOP lawmakers weren’t any happier. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) complained that Trump dragged out his answers and was frequently repetitive in his responses. Others said that he was ill-prepared and appeared too defensive. The only positive thing that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) could say about Trump is that he was “spirited.”

The low bar for Trump for last night’s debate required only that he look “presidential” and “non-sociopathic.” He failed. Trump may have looked moderately successful in a discussion about foreign trade, but his raving and incessant interrupting began immediately after that. The longest one was after Lester Holt gave evidence that Trump had supported the Iraq War at the same time that Clinton voted in favor of giving George W. Bush and ability to attack Iraq. The candidate kept shouting that people would know the Trump’s truth if they only talked to Fox network’s Sean Hannity.

A few of Trump’s failures:

  • He called the $14 million loan from his father “small.”
  • He couldn’t explain why he wouldn’t release his taxes.
  • He claimed that he didn’t pay for contractors because they had done poor work.
  • He justified denying housing to blacks by declaring that he hadn’t publicly admitted guilt.
  • He used the excuse of racist birtherism by saying that he just wanted to force Barack Obama to release his birth certificate despite Holt’s asking why he continued to be a birther. Trump finally said, “Look, it’s all words.”
  • He tried to play the victim—and miserably failed—by saying that Clinton wasn’t nice to him because she quoted many of the sexist comments that he has made about women.

Trump has lied about Clinton’s attempt to eradicate the Second Amendment by tacitly indicating that people should shoot Clinton. The Democratic candidate has consistently argued for sensible gun laws such as universal background checks. Last night, however, Trump argued that the police should take guns from minorities. In talking about his proposed unconstitutional “stop-and-frisk” program, he said, “We have to take their guns!”

Every time Clinton baited Trump, he took the lure. For example, she said, “Donald was one of the people who rooted for housing crisis. He said back in 2006, gee, I hope it does collapse then I can go in and buy some and it did collapse.” In desperation, Trump answered, “That is business.”

Unlike Trump’s opponents in the GOP primary debates, Clinton always appeared dignified and used specific facts for all her arguments throughout the first debate. She appeared to be addressing the television audience with her clear explanations. In contrast, Trump continually interrupted Clinton, accusing her of lying, spoke over her answers, and extending his time over Holt’s protests. Clinton almost always patiently waited until Trump finished, just as a person might do with a petulant small child, before she returned to policy statements. Although he didn’t admit he did a bad job, he complained of having a bad microphone after the debate had finished.

About last night’s debate, the editorial board of the New York Times wrote:

“When just one candidate is serious and the other is a vacuous bully, the term [debate] loses all meaning….

“There was a fundamental asymmetry to the exercise, because of the awful truth that one of the participants had nothing truthful to offer. But seeing them on the same stage distilled exactly who they have been throughout this campaign….

“Standing at the lectern, interrupting and shouting, playing the invisible accordion with his open hands, filibustering, tossing his word salads—jobs and terrorism and Nafta and China and everything is terrible—Mr. Trump said a lot. But as the debate wore on, he struggled to contend with an opponent who was much more poised and prepared than any of the Republicans he faced in the primaries.”

Joe Klein wrote in Time: 

“Her most impressive moments came when she wasn’t talking, when she was on split-screen listening to him. She didn’t waver; she listened with a perfect combination of attention and ironic bemusement, with just the slightest hint of “What a jerk” flickering at the corners of her eyes and her mouth.

“He, by contrast, huffed and puffed and sniffled … and sighed and groaned and mugged and drank water and interrupted, rudely, repeatedly. He made not one solid, specific proposal during the course of the 90 minutes.”

In a Newsweek opinion piece, “Donald Trump’s Sniffling, Humbling Debate Debacle,” Matthew Cooper wrote about Trump’s “smirks and pouts,” his “sniffles” and how he “seemed allergic to facts.”

  • Clinton has been fighting ISIS “her entire adult life.” No, ISIS came out under George W. Bush in 2004, and Clinton was born in 1947.
  • ICE endorsed Trump? No, government agencies don’t endorse candidates.
  • He wanted to protect President Obama with the birther movement? Totally preposterous!
  • The U.S. is a Third World country. No—he’s obviously never been to a real Third World country.

The debate shows a presidential candidate who has no soul. He will cheat anyone to make more money and then take pride in his actions. He even lies about opposing “professional politicians”; he just wants the position of president to make money for his businesses.

The worst part of the debate, however, is that the country is not more horrified by what a presidential candidate openly says to 100 million people. He finished his diatribe about Clinton’s accusations of misogyny was his “defense” by talking about Rosie O’Donnell. In 2006, she criticized him on The View about his affair while he was married and about his bankruptcy. That was ten years ago, and he still obsesses about it. At the end of the debate, Trump said:

 “Somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it, and nobody feels sorry for her.”

These are the same words that abusive men use when they talk about their female victims: “She deserves it.” And the media made very few comments about it because Trump has normalized not only lying but also abuse and violence with the support of over 40 percent of the voters in the United States. This is a tragic commentary on the culture of the country in the 21st century.

April 10, 2016

Bathroom Police Head to South Carolina

Imagine wanting to be picked for vice-president and finding yourself faced with a discriminatory hate law and businesses oppose? That’s Nikki Haley’s problem in South Carolina as the legislature heads to pass a “bathroom police” law.  A legislator introduced the bill on the pretense of “safety” despite the fact that no problems have existed in any of the places where transgender people can legally use the facilities of their gender identities instead of their birth genitals.

Has no one tried to figure out how to enforce the law? Will every public bathroom be forced to be staffed with a security guard who demands birth certificates and visual inspections of genitals before everyone is allowed to go into the restrooms? Would any violation cause a fine? Or jail time? Or both? Imagine the headlines: bathroom sting catches local resident in sting—perp gets six months for peeing.

Haley has good reason to be reluctant for the bill to pass. Massive corporate fallout has hit North Carolina after their hate legislation that hits almost everyone in the state, and the state is losing money and jobs.

Compare the beliefs of people who want these to laws with their feelings about sensible gun laws. In the latter, conservatives protest restriction of the rights of lawful citizens because potential criminals might use guns to break the laws. They also fight any gun control because laws don’t stop criminals. People with guns kill other people as well as themselves. Transgender people who use bathrooms don’t attack anyone else. In addition, the GOP is also virulently against regulations, yet they want to watch people in bathrooms.

lee-bright-x750GOP state Sen. Lee Bright’s bill is similar to that in North Carolina by banning all “units of local government” from enacting any “local laws, ordinances, orders, or other regulations that require a place of public accommodation or a private club or other establishment not in fact open to the general public to allow a person to use a multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility regardless of the person’s biological sex.”

As in North Carolina, the bill could stop federal funding to the state because its policies oppose the current interpretations of federal protections guaranteed to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Unlike North Carolina’s new law, however, Bright’s bill doesn’t go into public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Bright has a history of anti-LGBT actions. One of his bills in 2014 would have allowed public employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples without any punishment. Last year he delivered an anti-LGBT rant during the debate over the state’s flying the Confederate battle flag and said the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling served to “sanctify deviant behavior” and that “the devil is taking control of this land and we’re not stopping him.”

bathroomcop

In a satiric column, Andy Borowitz wrote about a possible scene at the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh where Gov. Pat McCrory swears in 1,000 officers to enforce the new bathroom laws. Borowitz wrote:

“Speaking to the newly graduated bathroom-enforcement cadets, McCrory impressed upon them the gravity of their responsibility. ‘You are the thin blue line charged with protecting the gender sanctity of North Carolina’s bathrooms,’ he said. ‘Be careful out there.'”

After reading Borowitz’s column, Samantha Michaels called North Carolina police departments to see how they plan to enforce the new law. Answers from both Raleigh and Greensboro police departments indicated that they would probably wait for complaints. At the Wilmington Police Department, spokeswoman Linda Rawley said, “So that means people have to go to the bathroom with birth certificates? Yeah, that was curious to me.” Asheville flat out said that lack the police power to check birth certificates. A prime question is whether police can demand birth certificates.

Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counsel for the HRC, said that the law, passed in less than ten hours, is “incredibly poorly drafted” and “not motivated by solving a real problem.” Instead, it’s only “a political statement.”

The new law is civil, not criminal, and doesn’t lay out any civil penalties for violations. Police departments don’t know if they can arrest a person who uses the “wrong bathroom.” The Chapel Hill and Carrboro news site Chapelboro pointed out that hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery allow many transgender women to look like biological women even if they don’t have female birth certificates.

CortneyBogorad400xHate bills and laws are leading to danger for anyone who does not fit a strict male or female stereotype. Almost a year ago, Cortney Bogorad, a woman who identifies as a woman, was thrown out a woman’s bathroom because the security guard marched into the bathroom yelling, “This is a woman’s bathroom, if you are a man, come out! Boys aren’t allowed in this restroom.” He pulled her out of a stall as she opened the door and pushed her up against the wall. Bogorad said that he was about three times bigger than she is. She and a friend kept telling him that she is a woman and offered to show him her identification. He refused to look at it and instead shouted inches from her face, “Get out of the women’s restroom!” Once outside the bathroom, she tried to show her ID to someone she identified as a restaurant manager, but he too wouldn’t look at it. The guard finished by picking her up by her shirt and bra, exposing her upper torso to other customers, and threw her out of the restaurant onto the street. Bogorad is now suing the restaurant chain Fishbone’s for physical injury.

The more laws, the more violent the right-wing has become. After the North Carolina and Mississippi laws, conservative are threatening transgender people by beating them into a “bloody pulp,” slitting their throats, etc. Gun laws in some states could allow violent people to legally shoot and kill transgender people if the conservatives felt “fear.”

Haley has said that her state doesn’t need Bright’s law, but what will she do if the legislature disagrees with her?

June 27, 2015

Subsidies for Healthcare–For Now

The day before the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, it kept the healthcare subsidies for low-income people in King v. Burwell. Thanks to a 6-3 decision, over 6 million people are able to keep their health insurance because the Supremes didn’t allow four words to restrict subsidies to only the states with their own healthcare exchanges. For the second time in three years, conservatives hate Chief Justice John Roberts for retaining the law that expanded health care to an additional 16.4 million people although Justice Anthony Kennedy also voted with the more progressive block of four justices. Roberts wrote, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Hospital operators and insurers largely supported the court’s decision to keep the subsidies that remain in the 34 states using the federal exchange as well as the other states that have either their own exchanges or a combination. The lawsuit was financed by a conservative group, Competitive Enterprise Institute, that found four unlikely plaintiffs who are eligible for subsidies but just don’t like the law. GOP members of the House have voted over 50 times to repeal the law and plan to continue the repeals in lieu of passing laws that would help people.

The court’s decision made the law more secure than if the conservatives had not brought the lawsuit because it holds that the subsidies are a permanent part of the ACA that can be changed only by Congress. Before the ruling, a president might have blocked the ACA by executive action; now changes must be made by a majority vote in the House and a 60-vote margin in the Senate.

Two years ago, Scalia used the term “legalistic argle-bargle” for the court’s rationale in keeping the ACA. In this dissent, he maintained that Roberts’ reasoning was an act of “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” A great irony is that dissenters Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito declared that the ACA intended subsidies for all eligible consumers regardless of state or federal exchanges three years ago in NIFB v. Sebelius. This year the three of them moved 180 degrees away from their earlier position in opposing the ACA.

The conservative viciousness toward the ruling, although not surprising, was still disgusting. Fox host Andrea Tantaros called the “judiciary, John Roberts included, is now just the water boy for the welfare state.” Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro drew his comparison from the erotic novel/movie Fifty Shades of Grey when he tweeted, “The Roberts Court took the ACA to its Red Room of Pain and then alternatively tortured it and made love to it until it complied.” On Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Wayne Allyn Root wrote that Roberts’ decision shows that he is being blackmailed by the Obama administration.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the Supreme Court decisions to give health care to low-income people and legalize marriage equality as “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.” To him, it’s much worse than the Civil War, two world wars, the attacks on the World Trade Center—I could go on and on.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) believes he has found a way to punish the Supreme Court justices for its decision: he has introduced the “SCOTUScare Act,” requiring “the Supreme Court and all of its employees to sign up for Obamacare.” As many other people—including conservative members of Congress—fail to understand, no one “signs up” for the ACA. The law simply protects people from some unreasonable provisions of insurance companies—lifetime caps, denial because of pre-existing conditions, and skyrocketing premiums not used for medical needs.

Former Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is a classic example of the GOP approach toward health care for low-income people. Called out for having the largest number of uninsured people in his state—one out of five Texans without health insurance—he said, “We make access the real issue.” Texan uninsured are four times less likely to have regular health care and more likely to die of health-related problems. Insurance would improve their overall health by 7 to 8 percent.

“Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured,” Perry said. “But that’s what Texans wanted.” By not expanding Medicaid, 1.5 million Texans, with a median income of $833, are denied health care. In that state, non-disabled parents must earn less than $,500 for a family of four to gain the existing Medicaid. Texas has lost about $10 billion a year for the expanded program with Texas paying only seven percent of the cost, but Perry said that even $1 in the name of “Obamacare” was a dollar too much.

Many GOP members in Congress know that the King ruling saved them from disaster because they had no plans if they had won. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) smiled at the ruling, and a GOP congressional member said “that fight could have killed us.” The candidates now  focus on electing a GOP president to get Congress closer to repealing Obamacare. They talk about putting the patient back in charge of their health care—all patients, that is, except women.

Candidates may wish to use caution, however, in using anti-healthcare for their platforms. In April, an Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 56 percent of the people wanted a ruling in favor of subsidies in contrast to the 39 percent opposition. Another 51 percent wanted Congress to subsidize premiums in all states. In CBS News/New York Times polling, 47 percent of people approve of ACA, the highest percentage thus far and more than the 44 percent who oppose the ACA.

A question is why so many people are opposed to the ACA when so few people are actually affected by it. The relentless pounding from conservatives against the law is a big reason, but even more, people blame the ACA for any problem in the health care system. Too few doctors? Rising costs of premiums and health care? Deductibles too high? It must be Obamacare. Premiums go up every year, but the cost has increased less since the law went into effect. Out-of-pocket costs are going up faster than wages, but that didn’t start with the law. Higher deductibles began before the law. Most people don’t remember the problems before the ACA’s protections went into effect, and the conservatives work every day to erase their memories.

uninsured

The SCOTUS ruling helped over 6 million people, but it didn’t do anything for the 4.3 million people prohibited from getting coverage in the 22 states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Ten of these states are former Confederate states, and most are former slaveholding states. About 61 percent of the people in the Medicaid gap live in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. In the states with expanded Medicaid, early detection and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes saves money from more advanced costs. Hospitals in states with expanded Medicaid save money by reduced uncompensated costs of treating the uninsured. Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid Center (Louisiana) recently had to close its emergency room. It’s also notable that many GOP presidential candidates come from states that reject healthcare for low-income people.

Another 36 million people earn too much for Medicaid eligibility and can’t afford health insurance. The solution for this would have been the single-payer system that the Republicans proposed over two decades ago but refused under President Obama because they didn’t want to make him look successful.

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a column four years ago, entitled, “Republicans: Trillions Could Be Cut from Budget if We Eliminate Empathy – Humanity Also on Chopping Block.” The problem with satire is that it is sometimes true. Borowitz has brilliantly described the GOP position of 2015. He attributed this statement to then Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who lost his position to another legislator with even less humanity, but the problem remains:

“Once congressional Republicans eliminate such empathy-laden budget items as lunches for poor children, medicine for the indigent and oxygen for seniors, … we can move from cutting empathy to cutting humanity.”

“With humanity removed from the budget, he said, ‘That’s where the real savings come in.’

“By eliminating the food, medicine and oxygen necessary to sustain human life, ‘We will reduce the single biggest drain on the U.S. economy: people.’”

In a supreme touch of irony, Chief Justice John Roberts held up the marriage laws of Kalahari Bushmen, the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians, and the Aztecs as examples of “a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia.” The Bushmen are Botswana’s poorest citizens, the Chinese are hated by most conservatives, the Aztecs believed in human sacrifice, and the Carthaginians followed a polytheistic religion—possibly with infant sacrifices.

With these societies used as models for the conservatives, the GOP has truly lost its humanity.

June 17, 2015

Jeb for President? Part III

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 7:25 PM
Tags: , , ,

Jeb cartoon

jeb-bush-logo-hed-2015 with BushJeb (short for John Ellis Bush) Bush is trying to rebrand himself as a new man, a person disconnected from the Bush dynasty, but his logo is old-school, left over from his 1994 unsuccessful run for Florida governor. The lack of last name didn’t go unnoticed. David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote, “The most important thing about the Jeb logo isn’t the exclamation point that is there. It’s the last name that isn’t there.” At least, the logo is producing a lot of fun about Bush’s declaration of his candidacy.

jeb1 logoIn declaring his candidacy—finally!—Jeb Bush said, “I’ll break away from the GOP pack.” He won’t escape the Bush name, but his personal family scandals show that he’s already separated from the other GOP candidates:

1994: Bush’s eldest son, George P., broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house, fled the father, and then returned to drive his SUV into their front lawn. The ex said that young George had “been a problem” since the breakup.

1999: Bush’s wife, Columba, was fined for declaring only $500 worth of goods to U.S. Customs on her return from Paris where her purchases were almost $20,000. (Bush was Florida governor between 1999 and 2007.)

2000: Jeb, Jr. was caught having sex with a 17-year-old girl in a mall parking lot.  The police reported the incident of sexual misconduct, but he wasn’t arrested.

2002: Daughter Noelle, 24, was arrested for prescription fraud while trying to buy a tranquilizer, Xanax. In rehab, she was caught with a “white rock like substance” thought to be crack cocaine. Between 1995 and 2002, she had racked up seven speeding tickets, five other traffic violations, and involvement in three wrecks.

2005: Son Jeb Jr., 21, was arrested in Texas for public intoxication and resisting arrest.

Throughout Jeb’s political career, he has touted his business acumen. Recently in Iowa, he boasted that he’s actually “signed the front side of a paycheck,” defining himself as superior to all those drudge blue collar and government workers such as teachers and firefighters who only endorse checks that someone else signs. Much of his ability to sign the front of the check comes from the name that doesn’t appear on his logo, and much of his dealings can be described as “shady.”

1986: Camilo Padreda, past counterintelligence officer for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, hired Bush to find tenants for office buildings financed with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-backed loans. Bush ignored the fact that four years earlier Padreda had been indicted for embezzling $500,000 from a Texas savings and loan. After the charges were dropped, Padreda pleaded guilty to defrauding HUD of millions of dollars.

1986: Jeb Bush convinced Health Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler to intervene in a federal regulation stating that no HMO could get more than 50 percent of its revenue from Medicare. Thanks to his intervention, Miguel Recarey, long-time business associate of Tampa organized-crime figure Santos Trafficante, managed to get away with embezzlement of government funds. Recarey’s International Medical Centers, the largest health maintenance organization for the elderly in the U.S., had been supported from $1 billion in payments from the Medicare program before it went bankrupt in 1988 and left $222 million in unpaid bills. Recarey fled the U.S. facing three separate indictments for labor racketeering, illegal wiretapping, and Medicare fraud Medicare fraud and is an international fugitive.

1988: Recarey’s company gave Jeb Bush’s real estate company $75,000 to help it find a site for a new corporate headquarters.

1988: Bush used White House ties to form a company with GOP donor David Eller to market water pumps manufactured by Moving Water Industries, another Eller business, to foreign countries. In 1992, at the behest of MWI, the Export-Import Bank approved $74 million in US-backed loans to Nigeria to buy water pumps from Eller’s company. The Justice Department later alleged in a 2002 civil suit that about $28 million of those loans were used to bribe a Nigerian official.

1990: Bush defaulted on a loan from Broward Federal Savings and Loan. He and his partner Armondo Codina were required to pay only $500,000 of the $4.5 million loan while retaining ownership of the building that had been the collateral. In 1991, Bush and Codina sold the building for $8 million.The FDIC sued Broward, using Bush’s loan as an example of the bank’s negligent lending practices that cost the taxpayers $285 million.

2007: Jeb Bush joined InnoVida as a $15,000-a month-consultant, leading to board membership and stock options. The company’s CEO, Claudio Osorio, was sent to prison in 2013 for over 12 years for a $40-million investment fraud and an additional $10 million from a federal government program between 2006 and 2011 to build 500 homes in Haiti after its devastating earthquake in January 2010–a project that Osorio touted to promote his company, but which never broke ground. Bush did pay back over half the $470,000 paid him for three years as a consultant in a secret agreement in 2011. He claimed that he had vetted the company, but years of wrongdoing on the part of Osorio and other top officials were obvious. [obvious] Nine months before Bush joined the company, it was evicted from its factory space for not paying rent.

2007: Five months after he left the governor’s mansion in 2007, Bush joined Lehman Brothers as a “consultant.” Bush’s job was to go to Mexico and convince (trick) a telecom mogul into making a large investment. It failed. Within a year, Lehman went broke, leaving Florida with about $1 billion worth of bad mortgage investments.

2013: Bush pushed states to approve fracking while failing to tell them about his part-ownership in FracStar Logistics, a company that provides sand for fracking. At the time, it was raising $40 million to acquire fracking wells. The company’s name has been changed to Proforce Energy Services; Bush’s son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, helped found FracStar, and Jeb is co-owner of the managing group, De Soto Partners, with his son Jeb, Jr.

2014: Bush blasted President Obama for normalizing relations with Cuba while he made over one million dollars a year from Barclays, the bank that had to settle criminal charges for violating sanctions that included Cuba. In 2010, Barclays agreed to forfeit $298 million to the U.S. for illegal transactions on behalf of customers from Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and other sanctioned countries. Bush started at Barclays in 2008, after these actions. After Bush’s decision to run for president, he resigned his Barclays position.

Now Bush is hoping that his name will get him Florida, yet University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith found that “nearly three-quarters of Florida’s 12.9 million currently registered voters have never even seen Bush’s name on a ballot.” Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio, another GOP presidential candidate, is far better known in the state. Then there’s Bush’s need to overcome his being the son of a failed president and the brother of a colossal failure of a president.

Jeb says that he’s running on his record as Florida governor.  He increased mandatory minimum sentences for juvenile offenders and kept harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenders despite his regular use of marijuana as a teen. In 2002, he opposed a ballot measure that would have let drug offenders enter treatment programs instead of prison. He eliminated over ten percent of jobs in state government by privatizing public services such as foster care, adoption services, legal representation for death row prisoners, human resources, and state parks.  At the same time, he cut billions of dollars in tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest in the state. While he was in office, the state debt went from $15 billion to over $23 billion. He initiated the murderous Stand Your Ground law, shamed women, accelerated the death penalty, privatized schools and prisons–the list goes on and on. (Check out Part II of this series.)

Bush is pro theocracy, war, death penalty, gun, privatization, prisons, racism, deception, fraud, pollution, killing, and control of elections and people’s lives. He’s also anti-woman, anti-education, anti-environmental protection, and anti-affirmative action.

Last year, Jeb’s mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, said that her son would be “by far the best qualified man, but…we’ve had enough Bushes.” She was half right. Others may agree. In March, Bush was at 21 percent in the Washington Post/ABC poll, eight points above his closest rival, Scott Walker. By May he lost over half the percentage in the same poll, tied at 10 percent with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and behind Walker and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), tied at 11 percent. Another poll puts him below Ben Carson.

CORRECTION published Sunday, June 14, 2009: A photo cutline on Page A11 Saturday should have said former President George H. W. Bush poses with his sons former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. It was a photographer's error. -- Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: -- George H.W. Bush is flanked by his sons George W. Bush and (Neil Bush)* after completing a parachute jump in Kennebunkport on Friday, June 12, 2009 for his 85th birthday. -- Correct id: JEB BUSH* (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

CORRECTION published Sunday, June 14, 2009: A photo cutline on Page A11 Saturday should have said former President George H. W. Bush poses with his sons former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. It was a photographer’s error. — Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: — George H.W. Bush is flanked by his sons George W. Bush and (Neil Bush)* after completing a parachute jump in Kennebunkport on Friday, June 12, 2009 for his 85th birthday. — Correct id: JEB BUSH* (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

[If you need a bit of humor after all this info about Jeb, check out satirist Andy Lebowitz’s latest column: “Scientists Believe They Have Isolated Gene for Failure.”]

December 4, 2014

Conservatives Blame Police Killings on Big Government

Some conservatives have joined progressives in decrying the lack of an indictment for a police officer who killed a 43-year-old Staten Island man with a chokehold. Last July, Daniel Pantaleo joined other police officers in taking down Eric Garner while he was standing on the street. Within minutes Garner was dead, as a video of the tragedy shows. After the grand jury released its decision not to indict Pantaleo, people across the country filled streets in protest.

Conservatives objection, however, comes from their belief that big government is responsible for Garner’s death. Without high cigarette taxes in New York, Garner would not have died, according to Lawrence McQuillan in the Washington Times:

“[E]very vote for higher taxes gives police increased authority to exert more force on citizens in more situations. Higher excise taxes inevitably lead to more violent clashes between police and smugglers…. Eliminating punitive cigarette taxes would shrink the underground market and help redirect police resources to combating real crimes of force and violence, rather than empowering police to employ violence in the name of tax collection.”

Those who question such taxes fail to understand the benefits of a law that gives people a better quality of life through reducing smoking. Libertarians argue that these taxes are an undemocratic intrusion into private lives. Yet McQuillan’s logic requires the elimination of all taxes because they use police resources “to employ violence in the name of tax collection.” He fails to understand that no taxes means no government services—including police.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), potential presidential candidate, followed the same distorted line of reasoning last night when he appeared on Chris Matthews MSNBC program, Hard Ball. After expressing initial dismay about the video of Garner crying out “I can’t breathe” multiple times, Rand concluded:

“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground by making them so expensive. But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.’ And for someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it. But I do blame the politicians.”

Rand ignored the fact that Garner died because a police officer violated NYPD rules by putting Garner in a chokehold and holding his head against the ground.

It’s not the first time that Rand has exonerated police action by blaming “politicians” and “the war on drugs.” In a Time op-ed piece published after the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO), Rand wrote:

“Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.”

According to Rand, Brown was responsible for his own death because he failed to participate in “self-discovery.” Nowhere did Rand mention that Brown was only one month away from attending a vocational education school after having graduated from high school—those pieces of “education” and “work.”

Rand also got his information wrong. According to his op-ed, “In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft.” Much of the information released before the grand jury proved that Wilson didn’t know that Brown had participated in an alleged crime. Brown’s crime was jaywalking.

According to conservatives, the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had nothing to do with racism: it was only because of the liberals’ insistence on the “nanny state.” Without taxes and handouts, the poor would disappear, and the police would have no need to kill those who they are employed to protect.

Yet conservatives ignore the problem of police across the United States who evidence racial prejudice in their community. Five officers in Montgomery County (OH) are being investigated but are still being paid, three of them remaining on the job, for such text messages as “I hate n*ggers. That is all” and “What do apples and black people have in common? They both hang from trees.”

Brown and Garner aren’t the only black men recently killed by white officers. John Crawford is dead after he shopped in Walmart and picked up a toy gun; Darrien Hunt was killed with multiple shots in his back for carrying a toy sword; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland because he openly carried a toy gun—legal in Ohio.

According to footage, Rice was shot within two seconds of the police officer’s pulling up in his car. The killer, Timothy Loehmann, had been judged unfit for police work two years ago by his then-employer, Independence (OH), that cited his “dismal” handgun performance. An investigation into Cleveland’s police division for the past 18 months revealed that officers “carelessly fire their weapons, placing themselves, subjects, and bystanders at unwarranted risk of serious injury or death.” Two examples were police shooting an unarmed hit-and-run suspect in the neck and firing 24 rounds in a residential neighborhood, hitting 14 parked cars and another six hits of houses. A police chase two years ago used at least 62 vehicles and 137 bullets to kill two unarmed black suspects, each sustaining over 20 gunshot wounds.

Last spring, a police officer, 47-year-old Frank Phillips, was photographed choking a drunken student at an end-of-the-year party at the University of Tennessee. Two other police officers handcuffed the man. Within hours of the photo being published in the UK Daily Mail, Phillips was fired, and the officers handcuffing him were placed on leave. The choked man is white and still alive.

Ethan Couch is still alive after he killed four people and injured two others in a drunken joy ride. He is now safe in an upscale rehab facility and facing another nine years of rehabilitation and probation. Kevin Miner, who kicked an officer and broke his hand when found hiding in a stranger’s basement, was arrested with no one shot or otherwise hurt. Cliven Bundy is considered a hero after he organized an army in Nevada that threatened government officials with high-powered weapons. All these men are white. White people are inconvenienced; black people are killed. Much more information is available at hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite where white people are recording their easy escapes from police action after committing crimes.

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a solution for the grand jury lack of indictment: supply them with eyes. Dorrinson is a mythical senator used in several of Borowitz’s columns. In this one he said:

“Body cameras are an important part of the solution. But I strongly believe that if you take video evidence and add eyes, the combination would be unstoppable.” [In response to the request for working brains:] “Yes, in a perfect world, all grand juries would have brains. But progress is an incremental thing. Let’s start with eyes and eventually work our way up to brains.”

Even former RNC chair Michael Steele understands the problem in the United States when white police officers can kill black people with impunity although evidence shows that the police are in the wrong. He said that “a black man’s life is not worth a ham sandwich” to grand juries and the prosecutors who are hired to fight for an indictment.

Those who are convinced that there was no racial motivation in no indictment in the Garner case should imagine the response from Fox and other far-right sources if the police officer had been black and the victim a wealthy white man.

November 21, 2014

President Infuriates GOP with Immigration Executive Order

Last night, mainstream television stations refused to run President Obama’s speech, but the message still came across loud and clear: the president is moving forward on immigration reform because the GOP House won’t take action. In the first minute of the speech, he announced that about 4.4 million undocumented immigrants—parents, children, and others who have lived at least five years in the country—will not be forced out of their homes.

Undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent children can legally stay in the country and work if they pass a background check. His 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy will be expanded by removing the top age limit of 31 and applying to all those who came to the U.S. before January 1, 2010. Relief from the deferred action will be three years, an increase from the two-year DACA program. Executive orders are temporary, made on a case-by-case basis, can be revoked, and do not put immigrants on a path toward citizenship. They are required to pay taxes but won’t be eligible for most government benefits including the Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Other benefits focus on those illegally crossing the border since the beginning of the year, convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and possible threats to national security. The president’s new executive order will broaden opportunities for highly skilled workers and change how visas are distributed. Parents of DACA recipients and agricultural workers are not included in this relief, but they may be eligible for reprieve from other factors. Any person granted deferred action can get work authorization by demonstrating “an economic necessity for employment” and can obtain Social Security numbers.

As expected, the Party of No has doubled down on its threats to block the president and avoid helping the people of the United States:

Shut down the government: That GOP suggestion included talk on last Sunday shows. Although Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had earlier acknowledged that this move “doesn’t solve the problem,” he hasn’t rejected the option.

Defund the immigration plan: Rescission is a parliamentary procedure that lets legislators pass a budget bill and then return to cut out whatever they don’t want. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded through fees, however, not congressional appropriations, meaning that Congress can’t take this route.

Block confirmation of all nominees, including the U.S. Attorney General and judges: This threat isn’t new; the GOP senators have been doing it during the past two congresses. They will continue, however, because they’re hoping for a Republican president in two years to pack the courts and other federal seats.

Refuse to pass any immigration legislation through Congress: It’s not as if the GOP House has been willing to do pass any legislation anyway.

Impeach the president: Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) have all suggested this action, useless because it requires a two-thirds vote in the senate. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) even wants to send the president to prison. He suggested the possibility that “the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America” which carries “a five-year in-jail penalty.”

Sue the President: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a presidential wannabe, called the executive action a “cynical ploy” to distract Republicans from other agenda items. Because the Republicans haven’t moved anything forward for years, this doesn’t set up an unusual situation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has finally found a lawyer who took the case after rejection from two others. The current filing uses the Affordable Care Act as its basis but just asks for a ruling without any request for relief, injunction, or change.

The House may fail in suing the president for his executive order on immigration.   The Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States (2012) ruled “broad discretion” for the executive branch in immigration matters because removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. The law reads that undocumented people “may” be removed, not “must”; thus the executive branch “must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all” on a case-by-case basis. Immigration law does require custody for those who have committed a serious crime or previously “engaged in a terrorist activity.”

One reason that Republicans want to block the immigration executive order is that the president’s actions will improve the economy. With about 5 million more people obtaining work permits, wages will be increased by an average of 8.5 percent and raise an additional $3 billion in payroll taxes for just the first year and $22.6 billion for the first five years. GDP will go up by 0.9 percent, about $210 billion, and the federal deficit will shrink by $25 billion through this growth. The senate bill would have had far greater economic benefits, but it was kept from a House vote.

Immigrants do not have a negative impact on earnings of native-born workers because the two groups usually have different skill sets and look for different kinds of jobs. As new immigrants move to the U.S., the number of jobs lost to offshoring actually decreases, keeping more jobs for native-born workers and greater demand for such services as transportation of these goods throughout the country. Getting immigrant labor for lower-skilled jobs moves native-born workers in those jobs up the job ladder, giving them higher-paid jobs. Immigrants also do not displace U.S. workers because many of them start their own businesses.

Republicans ignore the executive actions on immigration taken by 11 U.S. presidents, every president both Republican and Democrat since President Dwight Eisenhower. Reagan granted deportation relief to minor children of parents who benefited from a 1986 immigration reform, and George H.S. Bush gave the same relief to about 1.5 million “family members living with a legalizing immigrant [] who were in the U.S. before passage of the 1986 law.” As the president said in his speech:

“To those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

President Obama’s actions are not an amnesty. Reagan was the president who strongly supported amnesty. In a presidential debate in 1984, he said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

The farthest-right members of Congress rant about the president’s actions because they think the GOP now has a mandate to take over the country. They forgot that they completely ignored any “mandate” from the 2012 election when both the elected president and Senate were Democratic and the majority of votes for the House were Democratic although gerrymandering provided a majority of GOP representatives. GOP congressional members have proceeded during the past six years with its only goal–to stop any action from the president.

While the Republicans threaten the president, they also call on violent action from people across the country by trying to terrify them. For example, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has said, “You could see violence.” He seemed to give people the right for anarchy when he explained how people think:

“If the law doesn’t apply to the president and it’s not affirmatively acted upon us as a group, like you’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri then why should it apply to me?'”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the anti-immigrant movement, said during his Sunday radio program that it’s possible that a Hispanic majority in the U.S. could conduct an “ethnic cleansing.” In a game of “us versus them” played against imagined enemies, conservatives, like terrorists such as ISIL use this method to control people and keep them from being free.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, the GOP immigration plan for the past 30 years is to “make America somewhere no one wants to live.” Immigrants have come to the United States to improve their standard of living. That hope is gradually disappearing through the GOP’s plans to decrease wages, eliminate health care, increase imprisonment, and expand the number of unwarranted deaths through unimpeded gun violence.

Older GOP legislators refuse to pay attention to historic and economic facts just as they reject science. Their only plan is the same one that they’ve used for the past six years to stop the president: do nothing.

November 13, 2014

President Strikes Deal GOP Wants; GOP Furious

President Obama cut a deal with China while the GOP was crowing about the election, and the Republicans are livid. Following nine months of discussion, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced a deal on carbon emissions.

The U.S. pledges to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025, building on its current target of 17 percent reduction below that baseline by 2020. China promises to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 and peak its overall carbon dioxide emissions that same year. The country will also deploy an additional 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon energy, approximately all the electricity generated in the U.S., by 2030. The U.S. part of the deal is doable under existing law. Emissions have already declined, and the president has created new rules on tailpipes and power plant rules. The European Union has also agreed to cut its emissions 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030.

The conservatives had argued that there was no reason for the U.S. to take action as long as China didn’t do anything. The president has argued that the U.S., as the world’s second-largest emitter, can’t expect other countries to step forward if this country doesn’t take action. Now China has stepped up, and the GOP lost its argument.

As both conservatives and environmentalists have pointed out, the language of the deal has wiggle room. These goals are statements of “intent”; the parties do not promise or even “agree” to accomplish these targets. The president can’t do anything on his own because foreign treaties require a two-thirds majority from the U.S. Senate for ratification.  The White House release refers to these goals as statements of “intent.” They don’t promise or even “agree” to hit these targets, they merely “intend” to.

Even before the president’s trip to China, members of the 114th Senate pledged to roll back the existing measures on the environment. The House has already voted to repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and the new GOP senate will also pass the bill. It’s a guarantee that there could be no successful vote for an emission-reduction treaty.

The senate’s new Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, was quick to criticize the Beijing pact. “This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” he said. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) followed the party line with complaining about loss of jobs, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the climate denier who will be head of the Environment and Public Works Committee in January, called the arrangement between the United States and China a “charade.”

Yet the senate cannot stop an announcement between China and the United States of this agreement of intentions.

Together, China and the United States produce over 40 percent of the carbon emissions for the entire planet. While China currently relies on coal and non-renewable energy to develop its economy, the United States is fighting against changing to alternative energy resources from traditional ones.

Global Carbon missionsByCountry

Republicans are already screaming about how the U.S. has to reduce emissions more steeply than previously planned while China does not have to immediately begin its reductions. Longstanding development and wealth in the United States, however, have caused this country to produce 29.3 percent of global cumulative carbon emissions, compared to only 7.6 percent from China. In the dea;, China’s plan is a model for emerging economies such as India, Brazil, and Indonesia.

cumulative pollutions

Watching the Fox network shows the real world what is being said in Conservativeland. The day before the president announced the deal, far-far-right Charles Krauthammer said that Obama should get a climate agreement with China. He said, “If we get one with China we have something real.” The week before, Krauthammer said, “If [President Obama] gets an agreement with China, which he won’t, but that’s the one area it would be historic.”

Immediately after the announcement from the president about the deal, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy asked Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, “Is the agreement just a sign that China has a hold on us?” She said that the president is giving China a pass on important issues such as cyber attacks, bootleg software, and handbags. Doocy joined the China- and Obama-bashing. “You want to talk about climate change? First let’s talk about how you’re stealing everything from us!”

Later Doocy slipped when he said that China’s participation in cutting emissions might clean the air so “they might be able to breathe for the first time.” Bartiromo brought him back to the Fox message that cleaning air doesn’t mean cleaner air.

Fox Business commentator Stuart Varney led with “Climate Deal with China Blasted as ‘War on Coal.” He listed the year of 2030 as the peak in China’s carbon emissions as “a total cave on the part of President Obama.” Both Doocy and Varney blamed China for all the pollution. In addition to the U.S. history of emitting more pollution, we have only one-fourth the population as China but still produce almost the same emissions.

Reporter Ben Adler gave four reasons that the Republicans are in such a snit about the president’s climate deal with China:

President Obama shows that he’s not backing down on the climate issue, even after the GOP thinks its in control.

The GOP loses its “we can’t do anything because China won’t” argument

The deal is another death knell for the coal industry after China seems to want to see their sky rather than export coal.

The Republicans’ increasing isolation makes them appear increasingly foolish. Only the European Union has led the U.S. in carbon regulation until now. China’s decision might draw in other countries, leaving only Russia on the conservatives’ side.

 

Foolishness doesn’t concern Republicans, however. Almost two-thirds of them would rather destroy the country than have anything to do with the current president. After the election, 62 percent of Republicans said in a Pew Research poll that they didn’t want the Republican leaders to work with the president at all. This followed all the verbiage from next year’s GOP leaders that they were ready to “compromise.”

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a humorous—but accurate—take on the position of Republicans in Congress:

“President Obama is under increasing pressure to work closely and coöperatively with a group of people who are suing him in federal court, the people suing him confirmed today.

“ ‘Over the past six years, President Obama has been stubborn, arrogant, and oppositional,” John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said. “His refusal to work with people who are suing him is just the latest example.’

“Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, echoed the Speaker’s criticism, adding, ‘Time and time again, the President has refused to pick up the phone and talk to me, despite my saying that I was doing everything in my power to make him a one-term President.’

140316003WM001_BOEHNER_AND_ [The country’s new leaders: Boehner (left) and McConnell (right)]

“Other members of the G.O.P. caucus blasted the President for being aloof and frosty to Republicans who had questioned his American citizenship, the authenticity of his birth certificate, and the legitimacy of his Presidency. ‘That’s no way to get things done,’ Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, said. ‘He’s got a real attitude.’

“Boehner concluded his comments, however, with an olive branch of sorts for Obama. ‘Mr. President, we Republicans are eager to sit across the table from you and get to work for the American people,’ he said. “Otherwise, get ready to be impeached.’ ”

Borowitz summarized the GOP position about China with the first sentence of today’s column:

“The election of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the Senate Majority Leader was announced on Thursday by a puff of toxic black coal smoke rising from the United States Capitol.”

Borowitz is right. We will surely see far more toxins in the environment with the GOP in control of Congress.

September 17, 2014

Borowitz on the Paycheck Fairness Act

Filed under: Discrimination,Women's issues — trp2011 @ 8:50 PM
Tags: ,

The four female U.S. senators voted against equal pay for women two days ago because maybe women didn’t deserve it, or it was political to support women, or maybe women already get equal pay. Satirist Andy Borowitz highlights the hypocrisy of their position in the New Yorker.

Borowitz-Female-GOP-690

Two days after voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that would help women to obtain equal pay, the four female Republicans in the United States Senate co-sponsored a bill that would slash their salaries to seventy-one per cent of what their male colleagues earn.

The senators—Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)—said that the best way to take a stand against big government’s intrusive attempts to mandate equal pay for women was to take a twenty-nine-per-cent pay cut themselves.

“The days of the federal government forcing us to earn as much as male senators are over,” Ayotte said. “We will not stop fighting until we make twenty-nine per cent less.”

Fischer said that after voting down paycheck equity for women across America, the female Republican senators realized that they themselves were “burdened by the tyranny of equal pay” in the U.S. Senate.

“All we are asking for is the same freedom from equal pay that other American women enjoy,” Ayotte said.

Though the bill was just proposed on Wednesday morning, Murkowski said that it already has the unanimous support of male Republicans in the Senate.

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