Nel's New Day

May 15, 2020

Just a Few COVID-19 Disasters from DDT

How is Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) coping with COVID-19? An editorial in the respected British medical journal, the Lancet, lambasted DDT for his “inconsistent and incoherent national response.” Several administrations, according to the editorial, used “conservative politics” to erode CDC’s “ability to mount effective, evidence-based public health responses,” and DDT “further chipped away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases.” The editorial listed DDT’s disastrous mistakes for the past few months, “especially on testing in the early stages of the pandemic.” It further stated that “only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency.”

Other “conservative politics” exacerbating the health crisis:

Two months after DDT appeared to take COVID-19 seriously in mid-March, he has announced a “Operation Warp Speed” program to develop a vaccine right after the 2020 election. At his roll-out event, however, he said there may be no need for a vaccine because the virus might “go away.” The last “speed vaccine” was in 1976 for a new strain of swine flu. Concerned about costs and liability, manufacturers persuaded Congress to pass a law waiving liability. By October, reports of deaths and cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome appeared. The program was shut down after 94 reports of paralysis.  

DDT complained about the media not reporting that the U.S. has more cases than other countries because “when you test, you find something wrong with people.” He wants the media to report that “if we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.” He is making the “case” that people have COVID-19 only because they are tested. The media is definitely reporting his statement. As for DDT’s accusation that the U.S. does the most testing, the U.S. ranks 39th in the world in testing people for COVID-19. Testing is not the reason that the U.S. has one-third the number of confirmed cases in the world with under five percent of the population. DDT also said that frontline nurses and doctors “running into death” is “a beautiful thing to see.”

Instead of following advice from medical experts, DDT is “pushing for revisions that could lead to far fewer deaths being counted than originally reported, according to five administration officials working on the government’s response to the pandemic.” With the help of Dr. Deborah Birx, DDT wants the CDC death and case counts to exclude people who likely had COVID-19 but no test confirmation and people with COVID-19 but had other health issues when they died. She fed DDT the idea that CDC inflated the number of deaths as much as 25 percent whereas medical experts believe that the U.S. may have an undercount of up to 100 percent on deaths from the virus. The Abbott coronavirus rapid test, praised by DDT and used in the White House, missed one-third of positive tests in a comparison with the diagnostic company Cepheid.

Hiding information about the virus is DDT’s pattern. Earlier this year, he didn’t want to prepare for the health crisis because the stock market might go down. DDT listened to advice from his son-in-law Jared Kushner instead of scientific experts.

Florida was the first state to blatantly announce it would reduce the number of deaths from COVID-19 by attributing them to something else. Now Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is hiding the number of confirmed cases in the state by no longer publicly sharing announced that state health officials would no longer publicly share the number of workers at the state’s meat packing plants who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The Washington Post stated, “Of the 30 counties in the United States with the highest per capita prevalence of the coronavirus last week, 10 are home to major meatpacking plants. Of those 30 counties, four are in Nebraska.”

Going mask-less at a mask-making plant, DDT repeated his complaint, “cupboards were bare.” He shows a high degree of incompetence for not filling he cupboards after he was inaugurated over three years ago.

DDT has also demanded the cautious CDC guidance on safely reopening states be changed to less definitive statements. Also missing is the statement that reopening would cause resurgences of COVID-19 and customization is vital. The White House plan lacks a comprehensive approach, and CDC guidance was released after some states reopened. 

House Speaker Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to back down from his lie that President Obama didn’t leave a plan for a pandemic—and he did it on Fox. Yet, he didn’t address whether DDT failed to follow the 69-page document, complete with charts, graphs, plans, and decision making rubrics. (You can see it here.) The cover and tables of contents. Press Secretary “I-won’t-lie-to-the-media” Kayleigh McEnany called President Obama’s 69 pages “a thin packet of paper.”

A leaked unreleased White House coronavirus task force report showing spikes of cases across the county contradicts DDT’s claim that cases “are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country.” Cases are rising in nine states, and lack of testing in 28 other states show undercounting of cases. On May 7, the top ten cities saw cases increasing by 72 percent over seven days—for example, 650 percent in St. Louis and Central City (KY). Counties with over 100 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents has grown from 59 at the end of March to over 700 in mid-April. At that time, the majority of residents of counties that becoming high-coronavirus areas are in the South, Midwest and West. Under half reside in urban cores; more than half live in suburban, outer-suburban, small-metro and rural areas. Nearly half of those counties’ voters picked DDT in 2016. This map of COVID-19 flashpoints by county shows the large incidence of increases in the South.   

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, “Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, is ‘arrogantly forcing the residents of her state to remain alive,’ Attorney General William Barr charged on Friday.” After armed protesters demanding the state open up shut down the Michigan capital in a third event, the number of COVID-19 cases jumped over 1,000 on that day along with 73 more deaths. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is gradually opening up the state, but the protesters demanded it be done immediately and completely. About the protest, Whitmer said:

“When people are showing up with guns, when people are showing up with things like Confederate flags, it tells you this really isn’t about the lockdown or about a perception of a stay-home order. It’s really an organized political statement.”

As Whitmer pointed out, the fringe protesters, 14 percent of the public, and Republicans such as the Wisconsin state Supreme Court can hurt the economy and extend the time for staying at home because it will cause spiking numbers of cases. DDT says they are “responsible” people. Three weeks ago, flyers announced an anti-shutdown rally on Staten Island telling people to “bring your children,” “no mask” was needed, and come “if you’re sick.” Only the police showed up.  

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker pointed out that nationwide protests for opening up the states is fading because big money behind them is disappearing. She wrote “the Koch network … decided to run with scientists instead of the gun-toting provocateurs trampling the spring-green grass around state capitols.” Spiking cases from ignorantly reopening state will hurt their businesses.

Like the Tea Party movement of a decade ago, the protesters are controlled by wealthy far-right organizations who want to create chaos. The Convention of State—backed by politicians such as Ken Cuccinelli (acting director of immigrations services), Ben Carson (HUD secretary), Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ adviser Greg McNeilly—is behind the protests.

Truckers have been protesting for over two weeks because of the lack of stimulus aid, inadequate PPE, and low shipping rates. Today, they drove by DDT’s press briefing at the White House to express their frustration, but DDT said they were showing him “a sign of love.” Yesterday, they drowned out DDT’s interview with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo as truck horns drowned out their conversation. Shipping rates are lower 54 percent for April 2020 from April 2019, and truckers got no help from the $2.3 trillion disaster bill. About 20 percent of truckers are independent, and many others work for small companies desperate for help.  

DDT is also fighting to take food stamps from people during the pandemic by appealing a court ruling protecting hundreds of thousands of people’s access to food stamps during this time of crisis. Children, elderly, and disabled are the majority of food stamp recipients.

From Rasmussen, the country’s more conservative mainstream polling service, 23 percent of Republicans don’t want DDT as the GOP nominee. As DDT pushed the country to open up, his approval rating fell from 49 percent in February to 45 percent in April. Approval rating among voters over the age of 65 fell 20 points between March and the end of April, perhaps he said that they should die to save his economy. Only 23 percent of people trust what he says about COVID-19—maybe a reaction of his recommendation to swallow bleach for a cure.

Almost all governors have an excellent approval rate for their handling the health crisis with three states the exception. In those states, people thought governors lifted restrictions too quickly: Florida (48 percent), Texas (59 percent), and Georgia (65 percent.) The only governor rating below DDT, Georgia’s Brian Kemp was one of the last to close the state and one of the first to reopen it.

With a rough average of 2,000 additional deaths each day, the U.S. has 1,484,285 confirmed cases (until Birx changes the way CDC computes them) and 88,507 deaths as of May 15.

November 29, 2019

The Completion of Thanksgiving

For several weeks, the media has obsessed about Thanksgiving dinner—specifically how to get along with people gathering around the groaning board. Culture since the election of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has made this an all-consuming issue.

With his typical cruelty, DDT’s son Donald Trump Jr has this recommendation: “trigger a liberal” at Thankgiving dinner with the goal of encouraging fights among families at the family gathering. He tweeted, “Trigger a liberal thanksgiving” and offered an autographed copy of his book for winners who send him photos or videos of “something/someone triggered maybe with my book.” Jr is listed as author of Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us:

“This is the book that the leftist elites don’t want you to read — Donald Trump, Jr., exposes all the tricks that the left uses to smear conservatives and push them out of the public square, from…”

Triggered became a best seller after the RNC and the Trump Organizations spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase copies of the book that promotes lies through conspiracy theories and encourages Jr’s social media followers to engage in bad behavior. Conservatives, however, may be more “triggered” by a discussion of the facts and their lack of defense for their beloved leader.

On Thanksgiving Day, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) unexpectedly visited troops in Afghanistan after pardoning three war criminals who were blamed of their crimes by their Navy Seal colleagues. Once again DDT created chaos by announcing peace talks with the Taliban, after dumping the idea just two months ago after a period of negotiations, and demanding a cease-fire that negotiators had already rejected and that the U.S. has no leverage to enact. DDT claimed that the Taliban wants a ceasefire, but he also claimed that Turkey wouldn’t kill the Kurds. The Taliban negotiating team was surprised at DDT’s statements. A member said, “Our positions remain the same.” With DDT removing troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. has even less leverage than earlier.

Since he was inaugurated almost three years ago, DDT had previously made no trips to Afghanistan and only one to a war zone, a secretive trip to Iraq almost a year ago. That time, plane spotters saw Air Force One crossing Britain; this time, he took a military plane with only five people, including Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). DDT ate with Barrasso and a commander based at Bagram.

DDT demonstrated his obsession with impeachment during the traditional ceremony of pardoning a turkey. The two fowl, Bread and Butter, will not reside on a table but instead safely live out their natural lives because of the selection. DDT’s statement:

“Thankfully, Bread and Butter have been specially raised by the Jacksons to remain calm under any condition, which will be very important because they’ve already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff’s basement on Thursday. It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey, but Bread and Butter — I should note that, unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met.”

DDT added that the news media would find the pardon “very popular” because “turkeys are closely related to vultures.”

Although both turkeys were saved, only Butter received a “pardon.” One joke was that Butter received the pardon because Bread got more votes.

Although the DDT base may have found humor in the comments about impeachment, satirist Andy Borowitz gave another perspective about the pardon in his humor column, “Trump Refuses to Pardon White House Turkey After Accusing It of Working for Soros”:

“In a startling break with Thanksgiving tradition, Donald J. Trump refused to pardon the White House turkey after claiming that it was working as a secret operative of the billionaire George Soros.

“A group of fourth graders from Bethesda, Maryland, who had gathered on the White House lawn for the annual turkey-pardoning ceremony appeared unprepared for the anti-Soros outburst that Trump unleashed on the Thanksgiving bird.

“’That turkey was sent by Soros to spy on me,’ Trump said, angrily turning on the fowl. ‘A lot of people are saying this.’

“While the oblivious turkey pecked desultorily at the ground, an increasingly enraged Trump spewed a stream of conspiracy theories linking the feathered animal to global élites, election fraud in Florida, and Jim Acosta.

“Trump attempted to lead the fourth-grade class in a chant of ‘Lock It Up,’ apparently directed at the Thanksgiving delicacy, but the students slowly backed away from him in silence.

“Tracy Klugian, one of the children who witnessed Trump’s meltdown, said that he found it ‘sad.’

“’I get that he’s upset about Mueller and the midterms, but he shouldn’t take it out on a turkey,’ he said.”

Background on the turkey pardon: residents of the White House typically ate the donated turkeys until 1989 with the exception of Abraham Lincoln giving the turkey in 1863 to his son Tad and President Kennedy’s refusal to eat the turkey in 1961. Richard Nixon freed the turkey but gave no pardon. George H.W. Bush began the official presidential turkey pardon tradition. The pardon got attention in 2007 when the turkey found back during the ceremony of H.W.’s son, W.

As my vegetarian friend said, maybe next year’s turkey could be named “Tofu.”

And now the conservative Christians can launch into their mythical persecution and their fantasy of the “war on Christmas.” If you get together with conservatives at the winter holiday dinner, here are some talking points. Just change the title.

February 10, 2019

Constitutional Religious Freedom Restricted to Fundamentalist Christians

The U.S. Supreme Court just proved that “religious freedom” is only for Christians. In a 5-4 ruling (you can guess the names), Domineque Ray must die without his spiritual adviser available to give him comfort because he is a Muslim. Until this ruling, a cornerstone for the high court’s religion jurisprudence prevents the government from discriminating among faiths. Larson v. Valente (1981) determined that a Minnesota statute treating religious organizations differently violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The conservative members of the Supreme Court justified their vote by stating that Ray waited until ten days before his execution to ask for the presence of his iman. The prison warden did not deny Ray’s request to have his imam present until five days before the suit, a time when Ray went through the prison’s administrative channels for his request.

Even some conservatives disagree with this religious bigotry and agreed with Justice Elena Kagan who wrote:

“That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”

From Seth Mandel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine:

“As a conservative who opposes both the death penalty and religious discrimination I find this story appalling.”

Southern Baptist minister Alan Cross tweeted:

“Every time we want the state to favor Christianity over other religions, the result is a loss of religious freedom for all.”

In another Christian-focused government action, at least six states are using the current administrative protectorate in an attempt to legislate Bible (aka Christian) classes in public schools. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cheered on their efforts after seeing a segment on Fox & Friends. This practice was common in the 19th century but waned when the federal government took a greater part in public education in the 20th century. In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Supreme Court sided with the First Amendment to declare that states cannot use public education to promote “religious faiths or sects.” Later, the ruling of Engel v. Vitale (1962) decreed that compulsory prayer in public schools violated the constitution. Now DDT is using the Bible, about which he is largely ignorant, to club non-conservatives over the head.

Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, may have gone deaf: he said that he has never heard a lie out of DDT. DDT told at least 8,158 false or misleading claims in the two years after his inauguration. Perhaps Graham has a different sense of “objective truth,” that is “Jesus is the savior of the world and died for our sins.”

DDT does have a “spiritual adviser.” Paula White came to his reality TV show The Apprentice to pray over him, and they maintained a friendship as she became a popular televangelist. At the beginning of 2019, she asked people to send her money or face divine consequences. Her rationale for donating to her ministry was that of “first fruit,” that all firsts belong to God including the first month of a person’s salary. She said that if people didn’t donate, “I don’t know what you’re going to face.” In 2007, she was one of the subjects of Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) investigation into finances of ministries that solicit millions of dollars in donations.

In its move toward allowing laws that mandate Christian beliefs, the Supreme Court slashed reproductive rights for women in Hobby Lobby. Current Courts are now using “Justice” Clarence Thomas’ opinion in NIFLA v. Becerra, removing disclosure requirements for “crisis pregnancy centers” that block abortion, to attack laws preventing the torture and abuse of minors through “conversation therapy” that people falsely claim will make them cisgender instead of Q (sexual minority). With Thomas statement that “[free speech] is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals,” he has enshrined the position that the First Amendment protects all lies by “professionals.” In that way, the Supremes leads lower courts in their effort to strike down anti-conversion therapy laws in 15 states, 50 cities and counties, and Washington, D.C., laws supported by every mainstream medical association in the United States.

Conversion therapy is more horrific than most people can imagine. “Christian” therapists force naked children to touch their genitals while others watch, have “group cuddling sessions,” use a tennis racquet to beat effigies of their parents, and grab two oranges from the other side of a human chain while others hurl gay slurs at them. Some of the therapists are closeted gay men who force their male clients to kiss them. Conversion therapy can lead to suicide. At the very best, conversion therapy causes depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal,  substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. Therapy cannot change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almost five years ago,Thomas openly supported the ability of states to avoid the First Amendment freedom of religion and create a “state-mandated religion” in the 2014 Greece v. Galloway ruling permitting prayers at a city public meetings.

DDT’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now echoing evangelical leaders who say that God picked DDT to sit in the Oval office. Satirist Andy Borowitz picked up on Sanders’ statements in “Did God Want Trump?” [Ivy Close Images/Alamy]

“Partially confirming Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s theory of divine intervention in the 2016 election, Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and strife, revealed on Friday that she had wanted Donald J. Trump to be President.

“Speaking from her temple on Mt. Olympus, the usually reclusive deity said that Trump was ‘far and away’ her first choice to be President in 2016.

“’I’d been following his career for years,’ the goddess of disorder and ruin said. ‘The bankruptcies, the business failures. There was a lot for me to love.’

“She complained that the media had given Vladimir Putin ‘way too much credit’ for Trump’s ascent, asserting, ‘Who do you think made Putin President of Russia?’

“Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Eris said that she was officially undecided about which candidate to back for President, but that she was leaning toward Howard Schultz. ‘What a shit show that would be,’shesaid.

Has anyone else noticed the difficulty of identifying between satire and fact in the current climate?

The evangelicals may have an opponent in their support of conservatism and DDT. Like progressive Christians in the 19th century who fought to end slavery, some 21st-century Christian leaders are supporting immigration rights, universal health care, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. The coalition Faith in Public life, with almost 50,000 members, is a part of these civil rights movements.

Tara Agnew Harris, member of Myers Park Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC), believes that “Jesus talked about reaching out to the poor, reaching out to the marginalized, reaching out to the oppressed.” She said that “traditional Christian beliefs have been hijacked,” that people connect it to “a certain fundamentalist mindset.” She acts on her faith by visiting a detention center for undocumented immigrants in Lumpkin (GA).

Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life leader and an ordained Presbyterian minister, said:

“There are over a hundred verses of Scripture that say we are to welcome immigrants and welcome strangers. Faith in Public Life] is driven by our moral values and not by politics.”

Despite a smaller base among liberal Christians, Butler cites an advantage in building bridges. Religion can also bring passion to a movement as in the case of William Barber, the black North Carolina preacher who started the “Moral Majority” movement. He calls himself “an evangelical Biblicist” for a nation in need of “moral defibrillators” to work on its weak heart:

“We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all!”

Since Russians have joined the evangelicals to take over the United States, democracy needs a way to fight against the fundamentalist conservatives. At the end of 2018, hackers discovered emails and documents from Russian officials, oligarchs’ confidants, and leaders in interference effort that revealed their connections with the Bradley Foundation, a primary financier of right-wing groups including anti-immigrant organizations. Its mission is “to restore, strengthen, and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism.” In other words, to make America great again by taking away the rights of most people. Another Russian connection is with the Home School Legal Defense Association, the most influential right-wing homeschooling group in the United States. Another Russian goal with these groups is to support pro-Russian “separatists” in Ukraine so that Vladimir Putin can take over the country and move on to more of Europe. Part of their belief is also anti-Semitism and pro-fascism. Basically, the U.S. evangelicals are supporting the same philosophy that caused the rise of Adolf Hitler and led to World War II.

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.

 

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.

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