Nel's New Day

April 20, 2019

DDT: Week 117 – Brief Euphoria Leads to Fury

AG Bill Barr’s release of the Mueller Report—at least pieces of it—consumed the news last week with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) going from euphoria when he thought he was exonerated to fear and anger after the public and Congress saw a partial report. Despite Barr’s desperate lies and omissions to convince people that DDT was off the hook, questions about his conflicts of interest also damage his spin on DDT’s “innocence.” In the past, Barr worked for a law firm representing Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company with long-time business connections with Russia. He also received dividends from Vector Group with deep financial ties to Russia that brought DDT to Moscow to discuss investments there. Deutsche Bank, the only one recently willing to lend money to DDT and implicated in money-laundering schemes, holds up to $250,000 of Barr’s assets. These facts were largely overlooked in the Senate confirmation hearings, but the House is guaranteed to dig deeper into Barr’s Russian relationships—likely finding a web of people involved in both the scandal and attempts to bury it in addition to Barr’s past history of lying.

Noted journalist Jane Mayer also wrote an article of how Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and Blackwater founder, funded an attempt to determine “the authenticity of [Clinton’s] emails” that DDT requested from Russia. Michael Flynn told Mueller that DDT repeatedly asked to get the emails, and Flynn asked many people who might be able to get them, including Peter Smith who helped finance investigations into Bill Clinton’s sexual relationships in Arkansas. Smith wrote emails explaining that his work on Clinton’s emails was “in coordination with” DDT’s campaign, and Prince helped fund the operation. Smith’s death in May 2017 was ruled a suicide. Barr stated that disseminating stolen information was not a crime unless the person initially stole the information. Another “Trump Defense” that adds to nothing criminal for people who are angry and  fail.

While lying about the Mueller report, Barr issued a ruling that asylum seekers won’t be eligible for bond even they face credible fear in their countries of origin. Instead they’ll be held indefinitely, sometimes years, while immigration courts determine their fate. The ruling means taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private companies that house people who could find productive work and pay taxes. Last year’s charge was at least $730 million. Barr justified his authority by stating that he can do this because federal circuit courts have this right—although the DOJ has nothing to do with the judicial system. compared his authority to that of a federal court:

One of Barr’s goals may be to get rid of DDT’s former undocumented housekeeper at DDT’s golf resort in Bedminster (NJ), Victorina Morales, who blew the whistle on DDT’s employees’ penchant for hiring undocumented migrants and then blackmailing them with their status. Morales brought her son to Guatemala after they witnessed a group of men slashing her father-in-law with a machete in an attempt to extort him for money. The AG can refer any cases he wishes to her purview as a political tool to control the immigration system. In greater politicization, Barr is considering an expansion of his power to refer cases to himself that are being considered in addition to those determined by immigration judges.

An DHS advisory group wants Congress to pass “emergency legislation” to detain more children at the southern border. The goal is to block asylum seekers.

DDT, who tried to strongarm the Japanese president into nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize, vetoed the non-binding resolution to leave the war in Yemen causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Bombing is leaving 14 million Yemenis at risk of famine. One year ago, DDT claimed peace with North Korea. This week, its president, Kim Jong-Un, announced a test-firing of “tactical guided weapon,” showing the world that his nation is moving forward with weapons development. His media also said that North Korean officials won’t accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s participation in nuclear talks, requesting someone “more careful and mature in communicating.” Pompeo declared that he’s staying on, that its “my team,” illustrating that North Korea might be right. And once again, a Republican in the Oval Office has failed after triumphantly crying “Mission accomplished.”

Although DDT ignored the three black churches burned down in Louisiana in the past few weeks, he had enough time to give advice to firefighters battling the inferno at Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame—use “flying water tankers.” His suggestion was ignored to preserve the structural integrity of the 850-year-old building. DDT’s pattern of ignoring the plight of non-white people in the U.S. continues his failure to follow through to get clean drinking water in Flint (MI), taken by Republicans in 2014, and provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria over 18 months ago. Cages for migrant children at the southern border were built with fund designated for Head Start, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and the National Cancer Institute.

A directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration prevents ICE from arresting people inside courthouses without judicial warrants or orders. With 178 of these arrests in New York state courthouses last year, over 100 times as many as the 11 in 2016, immigrants are increasingly fearful of going to courts. ICE uses administrative warrants, signed by ICE agents instead of judges, to pick up immigrants.

The SEC is requiring ExxonMobil to permit a shareholder vote on a resolution that would require the corporation disclose its political spending, including “dark money” to advocacy and trade organizations. Another vote mandated by the SEC is on a shareholder-proposed resolution to create a committee that reviews and oversees Exxon’s climate change strategy. The votes will be taken at the May 29 annual meeting.

Soon after his inauguration, DDT proudly ordered a new Office within the VA Department to protect whistleblowers from reprisal. The VA is now investigating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for assisting in retaliation against whistleblowers. For example, an engineer who reported contracting violations to supervisors and OAWP was stripped of responsibilities and assigned to an office without heat or air conditioning. Others described OAWP’s inactivity and betrayal.

A president cannot put tariffs on items unless the purpose is for national security, but DDT has threatened to put these fees on French wine and cheese after putting high tariffs on soybeans. Now DDT is trying to figure out whether uranium is connected to U.S. security. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) thinks that Congress needs to take back its constitutional power to be in control of tariffs. Maybe the farmers who lost big time on soybeans have some influence on their senator.

In his first campaign, DDT ran on the economy, saying that he would bring back the $2 trillion that wealthy people and corporations have stashed overseas and raise the GDP growth to four percent or over. He’s failed to bring back the money but added his $1.5 trillion tax cut to give money to the rich beneficiaries. At the same time, he’s driving away the immigrants who support his economy and work force.

DDT also runs his trade war in an attempt to help the economy. Exports did slightly climb 1.1% to a four-month high of $209.7 billion, inflated by a 60 percent surge in commercial aircraft to $5.8 billion, but a repeat performance is unlikely after the Boeing 757 MAX planes were grounded. Last year, the trade deficit was the highest in ten years and the second highest in history. Slower growth in imports doesn’t spell victory if people worried about the economy are cutting back on spending. Last year’s trade deficit was over $72 billion more than President Obama’s highest trade deficit in 2013 but $120 billion lower than George H. Bush’s highest deficit in 2006.

DDT sometimes “jokes” to send up trial balloons about the success of his statements. This time, he said he could be in the White House for another ten or 14 years because Chinese President Xi Jinping for doing away with term limits.

The White House was finally a happy place—before the pieces of the Mueller Report were released.  DDT’s aides were sure that he would be re-elected to keep from being indicted, and the statute of limitations would run out before DDT’s second term. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that immigrations controversies are “really smart” controversies, and DDT planned to get a special investigator for Clinton’s emails and other manufactured scandals. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, is running the White House, the RNC, and DDT’s campaign. Whatever DDT doesn’t tell Kushner to do, he offers to his daughter and Kushner’s wife Ivanka, known as “Baby” in meetings. Because DDT considers her qualified to do anything, he suggested she could be UN ambassador and then director of the World Bank. “She’s very good with numbers,” he said.

The smart ones around DDT, however, figured that the euphoria would vanish when the report came out—and it did. By yesterday, his rants were even more profane than usually, calling the Mueller report “bullshit” and retweeting a message from sports fantasy Scott Atkins about the DNC “circle jerk.” Maybe he learned something—like his approval rating going down three points in one day after the Mueller report release. The 37 percent approval is his lowest this year and down six points from when Barr released his lying letter about the report less than a month ago.

July 19, 2018

The News for July 19, 2018

Today is the 170th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, when about 300 people–mostly women–gathered to address “the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” They persisted, and one of those who attended managed to vote for the first time when women gained the right to vote 72 years later. On this day 170 years later, the current administration is attempting to rapidly reverse the accomplishments of the 21st century.  Following is an overview of a few political highlights for today, July 19, 2018:

Once again, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been forced to back down, this time from his anti-U.S. intention to turn U.S. government employees over to Vladimir Putin. As the Senate prepared to vote on a resolution opposing DDT’s honoring Putin’s request, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that DDT “disagrees” with the “proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin.” He had suggested swapping the 12 Russians indicted last week for 11 current former U.S. officials. The resolution stopping many government officials from being turned over to Russia for questioning passed the Senate by 98-0. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) were absent for the vote. Republicans did reject efforts to support the intelligence community’s assessment, Mueller’s probe, and implementation of congressional sanctions. None of these resolutions would have been binding on DDT.

Republicans plan to keep Russian meddling: the House refused to increase election security spending. The GOP prefers voter ID to stop non-existent voter fraud and repress non-GOP voting. The commission administering the election security grant program is missing half its four members. Without a quorum, it cannot approve testing of voting systems for required standards, and the patchwork of voting systems has differing degrees of reliability. It’s a policy to “Keep American Republican.”

Two years ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stopped President Obama from making public the information about Russia’s hacking and election interference with accusations that it was a partisan move. No more. Despite the indifference of Republicans in Congress, DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein has a new policy to tell the U.S. companies, organizations, and others who are being attacked by foreign hacking and disinformation campaigns. He said, “The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda.” A Microsoft executive told the audience at the Aspen Security Forum today that Russia has target at least three candidates this year.

In another interview at the Aspen Security Forum, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explained that removal of thousands of children from their parents is “to protect children.” She added that the courts—that actually require her to reunite children—are preventing families from staying together. In another noble move on her part, “we give a pregnancy test at DHS to every girl over 10.” It is her agency that imprisons pregnant girls to keep them from having any abortions unless courts manage to allow them to see doctors. Her claim that DHS gives aid to members of radical extremist groups who want to be non-violent is negated by her administration rolling back funds for this rehabilitation. The outstanding part of her responses was the support for “both sides” being to blame for the Charlottesville violence: “It’s not that one side is right, one side is wrong.” The official DDT administration position is that white supremacists are not wrong.

DDT has found another way to get rid of people he considers undesirable. Applicants for asylum visas no longer have 30 days to take care of missing or inaccurate information on their applications. The new policy is to immediately deport them with no advance warning—just a final statutory denial. They will be treated like criminals, who are also deported on a fast-tracked basis. [If only we could automatically reject DDT’s nominees who provide forms with missing or incomplete information!] The new policy politely states that it is “not intended to penalize filers for innocent mistakes.” AG Jeff Sessions also disallows domestic and gang violence claims as bases for asylum; those seeking asylum must provide evidence that they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion. Fear of death doesn’t count.

On Fox’s Tucker Carlson show, DDT accused Montenegro of being responsible for starting World War III if it joins NATO because its people are “very aggressive.” Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic came into the limelight a year ago when DDT aggressively pushed him out of his path at the 2017 NATO meeting. [Full video here.] The country of 630,000 alienated Russia because it planned to join NATO: the Kremlin may have meddled in its elections, and pro-Russian militants planned a failed 2016 coup. NATO has an agreement that the other 28 members will support any one member attacked from outside. In its 69-year history, that agreement has been invoked only once—when 28 members went to the aid of the United States after the 9/11 attack. NATO members are still in Afghanistan after 17 years of the U.S. war there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convinced DDT to drop out of the Iran deal, according to a video of Netanyahu’s speech to his Likud party.

Poverty is no longer a problem in the United States. At least, that’s what DDT’s administration claims. A few facts they missed:

  • About 40.6 million people—12.7 percent of the population—lived below the official poverty line in 2016.
  • The Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that 14.5 percent of people in the U.S. are impoverished.
  • Over 20 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty.
  • The United States was second only to Israel of the richest countries with the percentage of people in poverty in 2014.

DDT maintains that income data doesn’t reflect poverty because poorer people underreport their income, and interviews about consumption make poverty in the U.S. disappear. In that way, DDT can declare “mission accomplished” on the War on Poverty and do away with the entire safety net. Refuting this claim is a study tracking economic adversity, including reports of difficulty in paying for food, utility bills, rent, or medical care that comes out about the same as official poverty rates. DDT’s method shows a decline in poverty as more households struggle with costs of food and shelter. The chart below shows the how DDT’s system skews the facts:

Reasons for the inaccuracy of DDT’s report:

  • Poor people finance their spending with debt—payday loans, second mortgages they can’t afford, etc.
  • The cost of living for DDT’s report is adjusted more slowly than the official Consumer Price Index, making household spending appear to be growing faster.

EPA Scott Pruitt and his corruption may be gone, but the United States still has Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. After several reports of his illegally using taxpayer money, his own department’s IG is investigating the man responsible for protecting public lands about his real estate deal with Halliburton Chair Davi Lesar. The foundation run by Zinke and his wife granted Lesar’s real-estate development the permission to put a parking lot on land donated to the foundation for a Veteran’s Peace Park in Whitefish (MT). Zinke is also under investigation for a violation of the Hatch Act after tweeting himself wearing socks with DDT’s face and “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Halliburton is one of the world’s largest fracking and offshore drilling companies; Zinke repeatedly opened up federal lands and coastal waters for fossil fuel drilling.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), known for his frequently obnoxious grilling of Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, Peter Strzok, and others regarding their possible connections with foreign countries, has been revealed as a beneficiary of foreign monies for his election from his superpacs, including Great America PAC, that may also fund Russia’s attack on the U.S. election. The PACs’ major donors have direct ties with Cambridge Analytic, now defunct, that helped elect DDT through data collection, hacking, and social media manipulation. As chair of the Oversight Committee, Gowdy refused members 52 times to request subpoenas for interviews in the Russia probe. He will not be running for re-election.

ALEC, the powerful organization that writes conservative legislation for lawmakers, has lost ExxonMobil after Ford, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and many others left the group. The biggest oil and gas company in the world followed BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips in abandoning the Koch Brothers’ group after a disagreement about an ALEC resolution that would ask the feds to reconsider its findings that greenhouse gasses are harmful to human health. A major contributor to the secretive organization since 1981, Exxon has given millions to promote the conservative corporate agenda. Its departure comes in the midst of state investigations into its connection with hiding evidence about its climate impact from its shareholders as well as the public.

The classic for today comes during an interview at the Aspen Security Forum when NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell tells Director of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats the breaking news that Vladimir Putin is coming to Washington this fall. The video is not to be missed. The best part may also be that McConnell said that Put will not be coming to Congress. I’m sure that DDT wants to be alone with Putin anyway. The question is how long Coats will keep his job.

And that’s just one day for DDT’s administration.

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