Nel's New Day

June 2, 2019

Catching Up on the Last Few Weeks

Looking through my files, I see information about events that has fallen through the cracks. Here’s a bit of “catch up” with links for readers who want to read more about the subject. 

Tariffs/Taxes:

Solar energy, responsible in 2016 for 43 percent of employment in electric power and twice as much as the fossil fuel industry, has lost almost 20,000 jobs since DDT’s inauguration, much of the loss from tariffs.

Increasing tariffs to 25 percent on some Chinese goods could annually tax a family of four $767 and destroy over 934,000 jobs. Tariffs on all Chinese imports, as DDT threatens, would annually tax families $2,294. The combined $72 billion for all DDT’s tariffs constitute one of the biggest tax increases since 1993, and that amount doesn’t include his new tax on all goods from Mexico. People, not companies or countries, pay for tariffs making them a tax increase, the equivalent of a ten-percent increase in Social Security tax for an average family. DDT plans to annually cost every family $100 annually and add to health problems and death rates with enhanced pollution by erasing efficiency standards for light bulbs and causing LED bulbs to be much more expensive. Since President Obama’s action, LED bulbs, which last ten years, dropped 90 percent in price to about $1.

According to DDT’s Commerce Department, the $891 billion merchandise trade deficit last year is the largest in U.S. history, and the trade deficit with China hit a record high of $419 billion after DDT’s tariffs. The 19-percent jump from November and December 2018 to $59.8 billion made the highest monthly trade deficit in 10 years.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), ready to declare war on Iran, told farmers that they’re making far less sacrifices by losing their farms from tariffs than soldiers “in Arlington” make. DDT calls farmers losing everything from his tariffs as “patriot farmers.” Did they know that they were signing up for the war by growing food? Meanwhile, GOP senators up for re-election in agricultural states are getting nervous.

DDT’s tariffs are closing down a South Carolina plant that assembles televisions using Chinese parts with a loss of 126 jobs.

Climate/Pollution:

Earth’s concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has reached 415 parts per million ( ppm). The first 280 ppm took 5,000 years until the Industrial Revolution; the last 5 ppm took two years. Ninety percent of all global fuel emissions have been released in the past 85 years. Excess carbon dioxide is causing men’s testicles to shrink from shortage of sperm. (Chemicals are also shrinking penises.)

The U.S. is one of two nations out of 189 to control movement of its waste across national borders, leaving the U.S. no place to send contaminated and plastic waste without other countries’ consent. 

Of the world’s 425,000 electric buses, China has 421,000. The U.S. has 300.

DDT may be able to escape any climate change penalties on the federal level, but New York is levying millions of dollars against his business because of pollution from DDT’s buildings. Without making improvements, DDT will pay annual fines of $2.1 million from 2030.

Not only has DDT failed to create more coal jobs, but he’s also losing the ones that existed when he was inaugurated. One-thousand jobs are at risk as the third-largest coal company declared bankruptcy because of a weak market, and over 50 coal plants closed under DDT’s leadership. A court ruling voided union contracts for another coal company, and lack of federal funding jeopardizes pensions of $600 a month for almost 100,000 workers. Transition to other jobs is highly problematic because coal workers aren’t well enough to work after leaving the mines.

Data:

DDT’s attempts to control the census by asking about citizenship isn’t the only way that he plans to skew information: poverty and pollution in the U.S. will be less severe once he changes all the numbers. After the EPA reported that DDT’s new energy policy to replace President Obama’s Clean Power Plan kills an additional 1,400 people, DDT ordered the number to be fixed.

DDT will allow oil and gas industry to drill places not within the safe drilling margin through the draft of guidelines that weren’t included for public comment last year.

Legislation:

DDT and the GOP hate net neutrality, which keeps prices lower for internet use, but love the idea of 5G wireless phones to speed up all those tweets. The result may be a 30-percent inaccuracy of weather forecasts because of interference, taking predictions back four decades. That means fewer days to prepare for hurricanes and incorrect tracking of storms’ paths to land. NOAA reported that the proposed 5G system would lose 77 percent data from its satellite’s passive microwave sounders. The FCC continues to auction off wireless spectrum, already making almost $2 billion.

Without legislation, Congressional Republicans will cause these catastrophes: lack of disaster aid; budget caps starting on September 30; not raising the debt ceiling resulting in calamitous financial crisis by the end of summer; government shutdown without passage of 12 appropriation bills by October 1; continued disintegration of infrastructure; no funds for Violence against Women Act which expired three months ago; no defense authorization or flood insurance which depends on the disaster bill; and lack of surveillance from sunsets on gathering metadata on domestic text messages and “roving” wiretaps—which might not be too bad.

DDT doesn’t think his ideas to use public-private relationships for infrastructure improvement “will work.

When the House passed the Equality Act, 173 Republicans voted in favor of discriminating against LGBTQ people. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment and house, and one of those states permits public accommodation discrimination. One Republican legislator compared LGBTQ people to Nazis.

IRS:

Every year, the IRS loses hundreds of auditing agents, so they pursue the poor rather than the wealthy. In 2018, millionaires were 80 percent less likely to be audited than in 2011, but the 43 percent of people receiving the earned income tax credit are audited at a higher rate than anyone except the richest. Highest audit rates are in poor, rural, mostly black, and Southern counties.

 Over 1.3 million college students on scholarships are taxed at higher rates than billionaires, including DDT, thanks to the new GOP “tax cut” law. High tax rates have also hit tribal funds paid to Native American youth for education or living expenses. Republicans have not only fixed the problem but seemed to have deliberately created it.

Education Department:

Republicans plan to renew investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for her emails although she recorded all of them. The GOP will undoubtedly ignore Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s use of personal email accounts for government businesses and her failure to properly save the messages. The practice is common for Republicans, and DDT fails to preserve public records.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that the Education Department is blocking efforts to police the student loan industry and costing borrowers thousands of dollars for those who owe over $1 trillion in these loans by refusing to share information.

As DDT wants to increase the charter school budget, the Network for Public Education reported how charter schools have scammed the federal government for over $1 billion in nonexistent or short-lived schools. With no adverse consequences, one in three schools that have received $4 billion closed, never opened, or hadn’t yet opened. Other charter schools fall short of the charter program’s promise of “high-quality” schools for disadvantaged students.

Ignorance/Bigotry:

Fifty-six percent of people reject the idea of teaching “Arabic numerals”—like 56.

DDT:

DDT likened himself to Hungary’s far-right authoritarian leader Prime Minister Viktor Orbán because of his being “respected all over Europe” and doing a “tremendous job.” 

At this time, 138 nominees are awaiting confirmation in the Senate, and another 132 positions have no nominees. The reason comes from overwhelming turnover in the past two years.

Condo sales in Trump Tower have plummeted, some of them as much as 20 percent, compared to 0.23 percent of Manhattan homes. Occupancy rates dropped even with lower than average rents; net income is 26 percent below banks’s expectations in 2012. DDT still made $434 million last year, especially from the D.C. hotel.

DDT said that he will not use any campaign dirt on his opponents from foreign companies—if he gets the opponents he wants.

DDT’s trial balloon of getting another two years with no election because he was treated “unfairly” has failed: 77 percent of the people don’t agree. Only seven percent of respondents think that he should ignore the 2020 election if he loses, and 90 percent believe that the “peaceful handover of power after elections” and “both parties respecting the results of elections” were essential for the “healthy functioning of American democracy.” Large majorities agree that DDT “does not respect the customs or traditions of the Presidency” and “the laws of the United States.”

April 15, 2019

Tax Day: ‘Cuts,’ Returns

Today is the deadline for paying 2018 taxes, and the amount of taxes that people pay has consumed conversation for over a year, ever since DDT and other Republicans gave the wealthy and big business a huge tax break that cost the United States $1.5 trillion. When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered his rally speeches, he promised that people would get an additional $4,000, but over 80 percent of taxpayers didn’t get this generous bonus. Instead 10,260,263 paid more taxes last year after DDT’s 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, and raises for most people were under $1,000. The law eliminated personal and dependent exemptions, caps on state and local deductions, employee business expenses deductions, etc. The cap of $10,000 on state and local tax deductions was onerous for many people, especially those who have lived in their home for a long time or have high state income tax, although DDT claimed that only the wealthy were hurt.

Researchers found that “half the tax cuts went to the richest five percent, with about a quarter going to the richest one percent. Those among the top five percent got bigger tax cuts not just in dollar terms but even when measured as a share of their total income.” Households making between $500,000 and $1 million had their after-tax income rise by an average of 5.2 percent. Households making less than $50,000 experience only a 0.6 percent increase. In even greater income inequality, W-2 wages fell 2.0 percent in 2018. Bonuses fell $0.22 for 2018, and the average bonus for 2018 was just $0.01 higher than in 2017. Most bonuses came from recruiting because of low unemployment instead of production from company tax cuts.

Big benefits went to Fortune 500 companies: at least 60 profitable corporations will pay nothing—some of them getting back extra money from the government. That number is double from previous years. Instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes on their $79 billion of pretax income, the companies got rebates of $4.3 billion—a GOP gift of over $20 billion used to buy up stock and sock away in hidden offshore accounts. A few corporations with this advantage: Amazon, Chevron. Deere, Delta Air Lines, General Motors, Halliburton, Honeywell International, Molson Coors, and Prudential Financial. Another 51 companies with zero or minus taxes.

Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan’s CEO, bragged to shareholders that tax cuts for the bank add “$3.7 billion to net income.” But the increase “will be erased” so that shareholders won’t expect to get higher profits. The justification for the company’s spending $55 billion in stock buybacks? You have to buy back your own stock at “tangible book value.” And then at “two times tangible book value.” So buy back stock at any price, according to Dimonomics.

DDT surely gained millions—perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars—from DDT’s tax cuts for the wealth as did people he chose for his officials. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified in support of $6.7 billion in education cuts at a congressional hearing, but she saved at least $10 million in taxes for 2018. Amway, her family’s company structured as an S-corporation, dropped its taxes from 39.6 percent to 29.6 percent in what Republicans called a small business cut. The education cut comes from the tax cuts’ failure to continue revenue for the government; instead revenue is plummeting. DeVos’ $10 million in taxes would have supported work-study funding for 5,600 students, Nevada’s entire share of the 21st Century Community Learning Center after school program, or funding for Full Service Community Schools academic and social services at schools in 20 communities—programs that DeVos wants to eliminate because of no revenue. DDT wants to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent with a conservative addition to the deficit of $1 trillion over a decade.

In their effort to convince people that they are paying lower taxes, Republicans have decided to make the withholding form so complicated that they can just say that people aren’t being ripped off. Past forms asked for the number of allowances based on exemptions. The new form requires annual dollar amounts for nonwage income, such as interest and dividends; itemized and other deductions; income tax credits expected for the tax year; and total annual taxable wages for all lower-paying jobs in the household for people with multiple jobs. The new form references 12 IRS publications for its completion and looks like the 1040 for final taxes instead of a simple W-4. The former year’s 1099, pay stubs, or 1040 returns are necessary for making the withholding calculations.

People are required to tell the “primary” employee about all their other income as well as that of their family and will probably need training to fill it out. Productivity will shrink and privacy goes out the window. And states may also require a new withholding form instead of the current W-4. Remember when Republicans said that people could fill out their tax return information on a postcard? It’s not happening.

Polling indicates that only 17 percent of people think that they got any tax cut even if they did. This perception comes from most taxpayers getting only a small cut. Only one-third of people approve of the legislation that DDT saw as his signature legislative achievement. Economic growth, a talking point around tax cuts, is slightly worse than in 2015, and job growth has slowed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said about the tax cut when it was passed:

“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.”

The 77-year-old man is up for re-election next year. He may have the chance for “another line of work.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s tax reform proposal, “Real Corporate Profits Tax,” might force a modicum of honesty on huge corporations. She recommends that companies reporting more than $100 million in worldwide profits pay seven percent on every dollar above the first $100 million claimed in profits to their investors. After CEO’s like Dimon brag about their tremendous profits, companies currently convince the IRS that they make no profits and thus pay no taxes. J.P. Morgan made over $131 billion in 2018 but paid less than $10 million in taxes. Warren maintains that raising the corporate tax rate does no good because the tax code is “so littered” with loopholes. She estimates that charging 1,200 companies subject to this tax would give “smaller” businesses “a fighting chance.” Companies paying no taxes would pay some taxes—Amazon would pay $698 million in taxes and Occidental Petroleum, $280 million. Last year, Amazon got a tax refund of $129 million plus paying no taxes.

For people who complain about costs of Social Security and healthcare, consider another destination for tax money. Of every dollar in taxes, 24 cents go to the military. Of those 24 cents, only 5 cents go to our troops while 12 cents go to corporate military contractors. The average taxpayer gave $1,704 to Pentagon contractors last year but only $683 for military pay, housing, and other benefits except $833 to military health care. The average U.S. taxpayer gave $225 to Lockheed’s executives and shareholders. Its CEO Marillyn Hewson got over $20 million for 2017, but the top pay for a four-star general or admiral is $189,600. The lowest-rank enlisted soldiers make just $20,172. Boeing got $100 from the average taxpayer, the same amount as all of education received.

And a shout out to DDT’s tax returns. Writing that concerns from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “lack merit,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA) has given IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a firm deadline of April 23 to turn over six years of DDT’s tax returns. Two days later, DDT’s personal lawyer wrote the Treasury Department to stop the tax returns from being handed over to House Democrats.

DDT’s tax preparer Mazars USA told House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it would turn over ten years of DDT’s tax returns if the company received a subpoena. In an attempt to hide the returns, DDT’s lawyers have threatened the firm with legal action if it follows the law. The letter accused Cummings of wanting the returns only for political reasons, basically accusing a member of Congress of being a liar.  calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), members of the Oversight Committee, also accused Democrats of requesting DDT tax returns “solely to embarrass President Trump.”

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders passed along the DDT party line of smears and threats about Democrats requesting DDT’s his tax returns when she claimed that Democrats aren’t “smart enough” to look through his returns and that they are on a “dangerous, dangerous road.” DDT was tried twice for civil tax fraud, criticized by judges in both cases, and faced his own tax lawyer testifying against him.

Protesters brought an inflatable figure to the steps of the IRS when they asked for DDT to release his tax returns. The group uses the figure because DDT is “too chicken” to release his tax returns. The first “chicken bearing a resemblance to DDT was 23 feet tall and complete with golden hair pompadour and preening gestures. It arrived at a Chinese mall less than a month before DDT’s inauguration in preparation for the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Questions: If there is nothing wrong with DDT’s tax returns, why would he be embarrassed? If there is something wrong, why isn’t a look at them not warranted?

 

December 28, 2018

DDT: Week 101 – Watch China’s Growing Influence in Middle East

Day Seven of Government Shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may think that his shutdown isn’t successful because he’s now threatening to close the U.S. southern border and stop aid to several Latin American countries without his wall. Having canceled plans for any holiday vacation to Mar-a-Lago, DDT is sitting in Washington, D.C. with nothing to do except tweet. The U.S. has already announced a collaboration with Mexico, providing $10.6 billion to slow migration from South American countries.

  • The shutdown moves toward more debacles:
  • The possible cancellation of a global weather conference with over 4,000 attendees that wastes research and contracts.
  • Closure of all Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo on January 2.
  • “Furlough” of EPA employees.
  • Lack of payments, farm loans, and disaster assistance for farmers.
  • Suspension of FTC investigations and litigation, including those against Facebook.

Fortunately for Mar-a-Lago, taxpayers are still paying for DDT’s holiday bash, even though he didn’t attend, starting with $54,020 for tents on December 19. Individuals paid DDT’s private business $1,000 per person.

Some startling news has received almost no attention in the Western media amidst the shutdown hubbub. DDT, self-proclaimed great negotiator, planned to scare Pakistan’s military into cooperation by suspending billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan. Instead, China is buying Pakistan-built military jets, weaponry, and other hardware, a move that can deepen the two countries’ cooperation in space that China wants to militarize. It can also encourage other countries to buy military equipment from Pakistan instead of the U.S. Only Pakistan has access to China’s satellite navigation system allowing better guidance for missiles, ships, and aircraft. The countries also plan to link a port in coastal Gwadar across 2,000 miles to western China, allowing Chinese goods to have a much shorter and less expensive shipping route and avoid territorial waters of U.S. allies in Asia. China may also militarize Gwadar and other seaports being built in places such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, giving China great geopolitical influence in both commerce and military action.

The first Chinese ship, the cargo ship Zhen Xing Sung, reached Gwadar’s port this week loaded with seafood. Its owner, the China Overseas Shipping Co (Cosco), has a 40-year lease of the port and will export to Central Asia and the Middle East.

DDT became so angry with former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ resignation letter—once the media explained to him what it meant—that he had his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney immediately fire Mattis instead of allowing for a transition period until late February. Mattis’ deputy, Patrick Shanahan, is the temporary replacement until the Senate has time to confirm him. Shanahan worked for the U.S.’s most profitable defense contractors Boeing for thirty years, quitting as senior vice president of supply chain and operations to join the Pentagon. Former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) expressed concern when Shanahan was selected as Deputy Secretary of Defense and said, “I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.” Shanahan promised to recuse himself from any financial interests related to Boeing.

One reason for Shanahan’s selection as Defense Secretary may be his enthusiasm about DDT’s Space Patrol control outer space, an idea that has been soundly ridiculed. DDT may find Shanahan useful because he has neither military nor foreign policy experience. Shanahan finds the position useful because Boeing has been successful in winning competitive contracts since he joined the Pentagon. The Air Force wants F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed, but the Pentagon is requesting F-15X fighters from Boeing, thanks to Shanahan’s involvement in funding.

DDT is facing not only investigations but also liens against his properties. A third lien, this one from AES Electrical, brings the total to over $5 million against his Washington hotel after the company assigned 45 workers to 12-hour shifts for almost 50 consecutive days to get it open when he wanted. The hotel opened on time, and DDT stopped paying AES. Plumbing firm Joseph J. Magnolia Inc. and Northern Virginia company A&D Construction also filed $2.98 million and $79,700. DDT claims that he’s worth $10 billion, but he has a long-time reputation of stiffing his workers at all levels.

Elected politicians are causing a “collapse in pay for the bottom 90 percent” of the labor market since 1979 by giving power to employers through weakening unions, damaging minimum wage, and prioritizing low inflation over full employment. The bottom 90 percent of wage earners lost $1.53 trillion in income–$10,800 for every U.S. household—in 2015 alone. As a result of these policies, productivity has rapidly slowed since the 1970s, growing half as fast between 1973 and 2017 as it did from 1948 to 1973.

As DDT rails against Jerome Powell, the man he picked as chair of the Federal Reserve, the media is reminding people that he fired the former chair, Janet Yellen, because she is “too short.” Janet L. Yellen was considered the most qualified Federal Reserve chair perhaps ever, but DDT he broke a long-standing bipartisan tradition of retaining the Fed chair if they wanted to stay and were good at the job. Yellen fit both these criteria.

DDT is helping drug companies make more money from opioids by recommending that people with prescription for opioids also get prescriptions for an antidote. The health care costs will run over $1 billion. The recommendation came from DDT-appointed Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir. A two-dose kit of Naloxone nasal spray costs about $125. An automatic injector runs $4,000 per kit.

EPA has approved the Monsanto’s pesticide dicamba, an airborne chemical that can kill crops for miles away. Corn and other grass crops can tolerate the weed killer, but it kills soybeans, tomatoes, and other broadleaf plants. In 2017 and 2018, dicamba damaged almost 5 million acres of soybeans in 24 states, primarily in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois, except for Monsanto’s genetically engineered soybeans. Dicamba drift has killed millions of dollars in pecan and peach trees plus destroying bees because they cannot survive on plants damaged from dicamba.

A new proposed EPA rule purports that a little pollution is good for people in order to erase regulations on toxic chemicals. Today, the EPA proposed a reversal of the clean-up of toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired plants. Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities, and other birth defects in children, and the pollutants enter the food chain.

After 17 people were shot and killed in a Parkland (FL) school last spring, DDT put Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in charge of an all-white committee to solve the gun problem. Her first solution was to use federal funds to buy guns for schools, but she moved back from that move because of the backlash. In her next step, she admitted to Congress that her commission on gun violence would not study the role of guns in school shootings. Ten months after the tragedy, DeVos will use the “school safety commission” to discriminate against blacks and other minority students, permitting schools to use race in punishing them because of her claim that are the cause for an increase in school violence. The racial difference is already dire: black girls are suspended six times more than white girls, and black boys are suspended three times more than white boys. The commission was created because of killing by a white teenager, and most mass shootings at schools are by white males.

Almost 40,000 people died in shootings across the United States in 2017 during DDT’s first year after his inauguration, the highest number in 20 years. The U.S. now has 12 deaths per 100,000 people from guns compared to 0.2 per 100,000 people in Japan, 0.3 in the UK and 0.9 in Germany.

Last week, a second Guatemalan child died on Christmas Eve in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and DHS Secretary clings to her story that parents are at fault. Yet on December 23 to 25, ICE officials dumped 600 hundred asylum seekers in the cold outside a Greyhound bus terminal in El Paso where they had no housing or food and local shelters were not warned. Many of them were ill. The only other time that this has occurred was the week before the 2018 midterm elections.

Gallup poll’s most admired man for 2018 is Barack Obama, and the winning women is Michelle Obama. Barack tops the list for the 11th year in a row, one place short of tying Dwight Eisenhower for the record. Michelle has broken Hillary Clinton’s 17 year run. DDT came in second to Barack, and Melania Trump is fourth after Oprah Winfrey and Clinton.

Katherine Walker, the TV producer who oversaw the first five seasons of The Apprentice, said that workers “struggled to make Trump seem coherent.” She added that he frequently commented on women’s bodies in a derogatory fashion. Walker believes—like many of us—that DDT would not have been elected president if not for that show. A piece in the New Yorker describes how Mark Burnett, former executive producer of the show, gave DDT the appearance of a tycoon. Voters bought the image, not the real person.

November 13, 2018

Lawyers Winners of Elections, Other Lawsuits

The real winners of the midterm elections and the first 662 days of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office are the lawyers. Nowhere has this been more obvious in the past week than in the South where Georgia and Florida Republican officials—candidates for offices—are screaming “fraud” and charging off to the courts.

During a campaign rally a few days before the 2016 presidential election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win.” He won and accepted the electoral vote although not the popular vote—which he lost. Now he’s losing in at least three states and refusing to accept the midterm election races.

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over his opponent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) dwindles, Scott, also the U.S. Senate candidate, has been joined by Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to echo DDT’s cry of voter fraud despite disagreement from the state secretary of state, a Scott-appointed Republican. Scott didn’t object to GOP counties breaking his own emergency order when predominantly GOP Bay County, hit hard by a recent hurricane, allowed voters to illegally cast ballots by email.

Scott filed at least five lawsuits trying to defeat Nelson, including not counting all ballots received after Election Day which disenfranchises all overseas voters including veterans. Florida voters are now suing him for illegally abusing his position as governor to win his race for U.S. senator by stopping the counting of legal votes. Despite Scott’s lawsuits, Florida has started a machine recount of the vote and may have a manual vote if the difference in that election drops below 0.25 percent. Scott is ahead by about 12,000 votes in 8 million plus ballots before all have been counted; Florida’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is behind GOP Ron DeSantis by about 40,000 votes.

In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who resigned when he falsely declared himself governor-elect, has lost a lawsuit to block ballots. In this election of almost four million voters, his Democratic opponent, Stacy Abrams, is behind by about 58,000 votes, but a judge has ruled that provisional ballots must be counted because Kemp, in charge of elections, has not maintained voter information security, increasing the risk that his purge of over 700,000 names on the registered rolls was illegally “manipulated or mismanaged.” The court orders mandated publicity about a website for provisional ballot voters to find information about whether their provisional ballots had been counted and why. The judge stated that the ballots were rejected “through no fault of their own.”

Under Kemp, Georgia voter updates by people getting or renewing state driver’s licenses never moved into the state’s voter database, and they didn’t know that Georgia had illegally failed to register them to vote. State law mandates that provisional ballots are counted only if names are on the voter registration list where they may have been removed because of Kemp’s actions. The Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) requires the provisional ballots be counted if voters are eligible to vote.

Another judge ordered Georgia to count 5,000 ballots rejected because voters didn’t complete date of birth when signing mail-in ballot envelopes and ordered the state’s vote counting to continue until Friday instead of ending today. As of Sunday, Abrams needed 19,000 more votes to trigger a recount and 21,000 more to force a December runoff. The almost 22,000 provisional ballots plus over 2,000 ballots coming from overseas and military brings the total of uncounted ballots to nearly 29,000.

The November 27 run-off for U.S. Senate pits Mississippi candidates Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) against Mike Espy, behind by 8,000 votes, for the final two years of a senate term because neither candidates garnered 50 percent of the vote. At a campaign rally four days before the midterm elections, Hyde-Smith responded to a man who praised her, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi recorded at least 581 lynchings of black people, about 12 percent of the 4,743 between 1882 and 1968 and the most of any state in the country. DDT-supporter Hyde-Smith repeatedly refused to answer questions by saying that she had issued a statement calling the remark an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

DDT already lost the U.S. Senate position in Arizona that went to the Democrat Krysten Sinema. Opponent Martha McSally was gracious in her concession, perhaps because she expects to be appointed to former Sen. John McCain’s position if Jon Kyle leaves in January.

A sour-grapes failed GOP candidate for the Arizona legislature is suing her winning opponent, U.S.-born Latina Raquel Terán, accusing her of not being a U.S. citizen. Alice Novoa already sued Terán in 2012 for the same (non)offense, and the case was dismissed because her attorney provided the birth certificate. Novoa avoided $650 in court fees with her claim that she doesn’t work and has no income.

Nonelection lawsuits:

Maryland opened to door to lawsuits involving DDT’s unlawful appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting AG for Jeff Sessions replacement. Brian Frosh, Maryland AG, asked a federal judge to remove Whitaker from that position because the appointment is unconstitutional. This request is part of the state’s ongoing lawsuit to force DDT to retain a key provision of the Affordable are Act, including protections for people with pre-exiting conditions. Maryland AG Brian Frosh declared that any action Whitaker takes regarding the ACA for the federal government would be invalid because he cannot legally serve as acting AG and asks for an immediate injunction. In 2014, Whitaker maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the ACA was one of the worse rulings in its entire history.

DDT believes that he is protected in Whitaker’s appointment by the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, stating that a president may temporarily fill a vacancy for a position requiring Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. Another statute makes the deputy attorney general next in line at the DOJ. The lawsuit maintains that a more specific law takes precedence over a more general law. The AG also argues that DDT should have less flexibility in replacing the AG because a president under investigation could install a “carefully selected senior employee who he was confident would terminate or otherwise severely limit” the inquiry. Whitaker is justifying his position with an 1898 Supreme Court Case supporting the appointment of the acting U.S. consult in the country that is now Thailand when no one else was available after the Senate-confirmed consult was sick. The argument against this case is that the AG office did not become vacant through an unexpected emergency and several Senate-confirmed DOJ officials are available.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has also called for hearings to address “serious questions” about his appointment because of Whitaker’s outspoken opposition to the Robert Mueller investigation.

In a First Amendment lawsuit, CNN is suing the White House for stripping Jim Acosta’s of his press credentials. Acosta was targeted after false accusations of “laying hands” on a press intern. The accurate video shows her stepping into his space to grab his microphone and his saying, “Pardon me, ma’am.” Also included in the suit are tops aides John Kelly, Sarah Sanders, Bill Shine, the head of the Secret Service, and the officer who took Acosta’s pass. After a complaint was filed, the White House claimed that Acosta lost his credentials because he refused to give up his microphone.

The DOJ has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop lawsuits in three courts of appeal—the 2nd, the 9th, and the D.C.—to block President Obama’s DACA program where these courts allow the program to continue.

DDT’s administration is also facing a lawsuit accusing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a top deputy of sexism in determining their policy decisions. Filed in January, the lawsuit argues against DeVos’ prevention of Title IX guidance on handling campus sexual assault cases; the current filing adds that her decision was impacted by discriminatory and stereotyped views of women, based on evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These records show that the Department of Education obtained input from sources pushing inflated and widely discredited statistics about false rape allegations. Another source came from Candice Jackson, who provided a book  Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (Laura Kipnis), that falsely described the Title IX guidance permitting women to seek legal recourse for “awkward sexual experiences” and then ask for protection from “sexual bogeymen.” Jackson also received information from Gordon Finley, part of the National Coalition for Men, who referred to the former Title IX guidance as a “war on men,” and she falsely maintained that 90 percent of sexual assault accusations come from misunderstandings or drunken regrets. Other sources provided prejudicial information to the department’s leaders about claims regarding sexual assault. DDT’s statements and behavior toward women also figure into the lawsuit’s amendment on sexism.

Two weeks ago, DeVos lost her court battle after she tried to end regulations helping defrauded students receive federal loan forgiveness and keep colleges from mandating arbitration for complaint resolution instead of going to court. President Obama’s consumer protections are now in effect.

June 10, 2018

People Come, People Go

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
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A few appointments by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) focus only on protecting the wealthiest people, for example, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) interim director Mick Mulvaney’s firing his consumer advisory council, created to identify problems for people treated unfairly by financial firms. The majority of DDT’s picks, however, are selected for their anti-immigrant, pro-white nationalist, pro-evangelical positions.

Arrivals:

Steve Bannon’s friend Michael Pack, the proposed nomination to lead the Broadcasting Board of Governors, would disseminate DDT’s conservative views through federally funded media outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe in the nation’s biggest public diplomacy program. Its audience of 278 million people speaking 61 languages reaches over 100 countries. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, DDT’s appointee already on the BBG told friends he wants to make the agency a “Bannon legacy.”

Fred Fleitz, John Bolton’s new chief of staff on the national security council and longtime senior staffer at Center for Security Policy, joins the anti-Muslim think tank in contending that mosques and Muslims are working to “Islamize” the U.S. in a “stealth jihad” taking advantage of pluralism and democracy. Hawk Bolton accused Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin of being a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a Russian “truther,” Fleitz claims that the U.S. intelligence reports about Russian election meddling was “rigged” and DDT should “pardon everyone” under investigation. Having published a book advocating aggression toward North Korea, Fleitz claims his concern is groups that promote hate.

Gary Bauer, DDT’s appointment for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wants anti-LGBTQ and anti-Islam laws. He calls the left the American Taliban because they hate America. Bauer joins DDT’s “anti-immigrant army” that is “infiltrating every part of the federal government,” including agencies whose purposes include advocating for immigrants and refugees, according to Julissa Arce.

Richard Grenell, conservative ambassador to Germany, continues to offend his hosts. First he ordered Germany to stop trading with Iran; then he said he’ll work on policy, not diplomacy. In his latest interview with Breitbart, he said that he plans to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.” Germany has demanded a formal explanation from the U.S. about the meaning of Grenell’s statement that he promised to use his office to help far-right nationalists take power in Europe. In his praise of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, connected to the Freedom Party created in the 1950s by a former Nazi officer, Grenell was described as behaving less like a diplomat than “an extreme-right colonial officer.” Political members in Germany and Belgium expressed a number of criticisms about Grenell, and some have recommended that he be expelled from German. All this after Grenell promised during his confirmation to stay out of German politics.

Called upon to explain why Grenell plans to “empower” Europe’s anti-immigrant conservatives, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said:

“We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany….  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany.”

On D-Day, 2,499 people from the United States were killed in the fight to liberate France from Nazi German forces. Grenell’s criticism of the “left” in Europe further strains relationships after DDT’s withdrawals from both Iran deal and the Paris climate accord before the imposition of tariffs on U.S. allies. Nauert’s later statements appeared to support Grenell’s comments.

Diane Foley, who ran a Christian organization operating two Colorado anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers,” or fake clinics, was quietly installed on Tuesday as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, where she will lead the office responsible for the Title X federal family planning program.

A list of White House staff changes.

Departures:

On the anti-climate change side, Scott Pruitt is hanging on to his job as EPA secretary despite almost daily scandals, but his staff is dropping like flies. Sarah Greenwalt, Scott Pruitt’s senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, Pruitt’s director for scheduling and advance, bailed, and Pruitt’s top public affairs official Liz Bowman left Pruitt last month for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who called Pruitt as “about as swampy as you get.” She voted for his confirmation after he promised to protect the ethanol industry. Other EPA resignations include Samantha Dravis, Albert Kelly, and Pasquale Perotta.

Greenwalt and Hupp had received inordinate raises that Pruitt lied about before he had to admit that he set their salaries. Hupp quit the day after Pruitt used her sister, Sydney Hupp, to try to get a franchise for Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn, with Chick-fil-A. Pruitt asked Hupp to email Dan Cathy, head of Chick-fil-A, asking for a meeting about to discuss “a potential business opportunity.” An earlier request was setting up a talk between Pruitt and the head of the non-profit organization Concordia who paid Marlyn $2,000 plus travel expenses to help organize the group’s annual conference nine months ago. The EPA started preparing Hupp’s resignation papers after she testified to the House about the personal tasks that she was asked to do for Pruitt, including buying a used mattress from the Trump Hotel.

Emails released from a Freedom of Information request show a large variety of Pruitt’s improper use of his staff. One of them concerns his assignment to his security detail to obtain a special moisturizer available for Ritz-Carlton hotels. Available online for $27.20 a bottle, the lotion has “sweet notes of ylang ylang, jasmine and uplifting bergamot.” Another responsibility for his security personnel, costing $3.5 million a year, is picking up dry cleaning.

Pruitt needs all the aides he can get. A judge has ordered him to submit evidence by July 11 that supports his position that humans are not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He has missed an earlier deadline, calling the legal action “a trap” and a “fishing expedition.”

Kelly Sadler, the White House aide who claimed that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) vote didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway,” no longer has a job “within the Executive Office of the President.” She may not have completely disappeared: Kellyanne Conway indicated that she might find another job in DDT’s administration. While she still had her job, she blamed Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, of leaking her comment.

Sadler is not alone. White House deputy chief of staff Joseph Hagin, who organized the North Korea summit, is leaving as soon as he returns from the meeting with Kim Jong-Un.  Drew Maloney, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, has a new job in the finance industry. Also gone are Mark Inch, chief of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Tom Ziemer, the National Security Council’s head of Global Health Security; Richard Johnson, the State Department’s acting assistant coordinator for Iran Nuclear Issues; and Cliff Sims, a special assistant to the president who oversees White House message strategy. An update of the departed DDT hires is here.

DDT can’t find anyone willing to take the associate AG position, third in charge at the DOJ and responsible for firing Robert Mueller if Rod Rosenstein won’t take action on this. Jesse Panuccio, acting associate AG since Rachel Brand left several months ago, would be acting AG if Sessions and Rosenstein were to leave. The DOJ is already missing permanent leaders for five DOJ units including criminal, civil, and tax divisions.

Problems:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, named head of a commission to study school safety after the mass shooting at Parkland (FL), said that the commission will not study gun safety at schools. When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked her why not, she said:

“We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the murders on Valentine’s Day, tweeted:

“You just gave every parent who actually cares about school safety a reason to vote in November.”

DeVos said that the commission will also not look at best practices of foreign countries with much lower rates of gun violence. The school safety commission is composed of four Cabinet secretaries: DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. After criticism because the first commission meetings were not public and didn’t include teachers, school leaders, or students, the group had a listening session, but none of the commission members was present.

Confirmations for DDT’s nominees may slow down after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) put holds on Treasury nominee Isabel Patelunas and possibly other Treasury nominees. The Treasury Department has refused to give him materials about DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his firm’s relationship with Novartis and other clients.

One of DDT’s major appointments, Chief of Staff John Kelly, calls the White House a “miserable place to work,” and the question is how long he and other aides will remain. DDT is already serving as his own chief of staff, spokesman, and human resources manager.

 

May 13, 2018

Pence Aims to Control All through His Evangelical Belief

Since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, the Washington Post has kept track of his lies—what the New York Times sometimes calls “reversed his position” as in when DDT said he did pay hush money to Stormy Daniels after he said he didn’t pay her off. Or sometimes from the NYT, “contradicts earlier claims.” After at least 3,001 “false or misleading claims” in his first 466 days in the Oval Office, however, the question might be how long people can stay in denial about DDT’s incessant lying. That 6.5 lies per day is an increase of 32.6 percent over the average of 4.9 daily lies during his first 100 days. One of his prime lies is that he keeps his promises. The Post also noted that DDT “kept only 23 percent of 60 key promises and broken 27 percent.”

A high percentage of DDT’s lies are to make himself appear superior, especially to earlier presidents. For example, his statement to the Celebration of Military Mothers and Spouses Event when he bragged about his raises for the military were “first time in ten years” in his continuing attempts to make President Obama look bad. Except DDT’s wrong. The military received raises every year since the inception of the all-voluntary military—45 years ago.

With so much attention focused on DDT’s lies, the media generally ignores VP Mike Pence’s history of lying, including this list from Politifact. Pence will do anything to do what the person in authority requires, including lying for him. Since Pence rejected a coup against DDT after the “pussy” video was released, Pence has been sycophant in chief—“servant to authority”—supporting all DDT’s lies including DDT’s false claim that he had no collusion with Russia.

Conservative columnist George Will became fed up with Pence’s lies and sycophancy after Pence’s full-throated support of former Maricopa County (AZ) sheriff and current U.S. senator candidate Joe Arpaio as “a tireless champion … of the rule of law.” Will’s opinion of Arpaio differs from that of Pence. Instead of Pence’s hero, Arpaio to Will is “a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, [who] is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices.” Will concluded his column about Pence:

“Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”

The entire column is well-worth reading, if only for an amazingly extensive use of vocabulary.

In his attempt to assume the role of authority in another few years, Pence works to retain support from evangelical voters and donors, including his commencement address to Hillsdale College, the small, private, far-far-right wing Christian school in Michigan. Pence’s message was that more people in the U.S. believe in God because DDT was elected to the nation’s highest office. “President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of Hillsdale College,” Pence said. Considering the fraud, corruption, destruction of the planet, and robbery of poor people, the question might be what principles are taught at the Christian school.

A look at the recent Gallup poll shows that Pence is “misrepresenting” the involvement of religious involvement in today’s United States. The poll indicates an increase in the number of people who express dissatisfaction with religion and want less influence by organized religion. Fewer people in the United States believe that the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally, and more people see the Bible as fables. Fewer people believe in God. (Further statistics here.)

A Pew Research poll from April 2018 revealed that 80 percent of people believe in “God,” but only 56 percent believe in the God of the Bible. One-third of the population believe in some other higher power.

Hillsdale is important to Pence because of its ties to wealthy family of Betsy DeVos. Both she and her brother Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security services company paid millions by the U.S. government, are graduates, and Prince is a member of its board. Other alumni work for DDT, including as speechwriters. As an article in the Hillsdale Collegian states, “Hillsdale Alumni Take over the White House.” Conservatives Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), both aiming for House Speaker, have Hillsdale graduates on their staffs. After DDT’s national security spokesman left the White House, he found a job at Hillsdale. Quite astonishing for a college of only 1,486.

Hillsdale gained notoriety last year when a GOP amendment would have exempted the school from a tax on university endowments. The proposed amendment was written so that Hillsdale would have been the only college in the nation with that exemption. Four GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), John Kennedy (LA), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—joined Democrats to vote down the amendment.

DDT has pushed a theocracy in his first 68 weeks, but Pence would be even worse in continuing to support far more people like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. After trying to allocate most educational funds to religious charter schools, she wants to give more taxpayer monies to religious colleges and universities, a possibility after the Supreme Court ruled last June against denying government grants to religious institutions for secular purposes. That case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, was about surfacing playgrounds; DeVos will move the bar far lower to education. The DOJ also plans to greatly expand support for religious groups in “employment, contracting, and programming,” according to AG Jeff Sessions. Sessions and DeVos intend to permit unrestrained discrimination to federally-funded institutions.

A coalition of Christian right groups, including those from Congress, has created Project Blitz, a legislative initiative to pass connected Christian nationalism bills on the state level for a “dominionist” nation. Basically, they want a Sharia law for Christians to subjugate everyone to their perception of family structure, gender identity, marriage, and all other societal issues. The 71 bills introduced in states have innocuous “feel-good names” such as the Child Protection Act.

Joining the evangelical movement to take over the United States is Focus on the Family, founded by Roy Moore supporter James Dobson. This movement that proudly claimed to focus on “family values” focuses only on white men. By declaring itself a church, the organization can avoid taxes and audits through IRS standards that a religious organization does not need to meet all the requirements. Supposedly tax-exempt religious status mandates “a recognized creed and form of worship,” “a formal code of doctrine and discipline,” “regular religious services,” “Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young,” and “schools for the preparation of its ministers.” Yet Focus on the Family has no congregation and “rites of various parts of a person’s life,” according to Gail Harmon, an attorney who advises nonprofits on tax law. VP Mike Pence has promised Focus on the Family the administration’s unwavering support.

Liberty Counsel also escapes filing IRS forms by declaring itself a “church auxiliary.” Lawyers in this group represented Kim Davis in her losing fight to illegally deny same-gender couples marriage licenses and is awaiting the Supreme Court “wedding cake” decision about whether businesses can discriminate against anyone they don’t like. The DOJ is filling up with members of the Liberty Counsel, those who aren’t traveling the world to help countries legislative draconian anti-LGBTQ laws.

The dual evangelical goal is to force non-evangelicals to pay for their institutions by not paying all taxes and control the actions of the entire population of the United States, no matter what their beliefs.

September 24, 2017

Christian Goals against ‘Others’ Fail to Protect ‘Us’

The travel ban may be extended to eight countries as Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues his battle against terrorists from a religion other than Christianity. “We cannot gamble with American lives,” said John Kelly last January when he was secretary of Homeland Security. Since 9/11, an average of one person has died each year on U.S. soil because of Islamic terrorists both foreign and U.S. Using the excuse of keeping the nation safe, the government has spent at least $4 trillion on wars, veterans, and interest on the expenditures.

Yet 16 people have been killed in only two mass killings thus far this year in the U.S., eight each in Plano (TX) and Bogue Chitto (MS). The reason for both was domestic violence. Most people don’t even know about these tragedies—or the thousands of other deaths in U.S. mass murders. The recent, non-lethal bombing at the London tube consumed the media for days, but the Plano tragedy that occurred about the same time got less than less than 5 percent of internet links.

In 2015, 1,686 women were killed by men in “single victim/single offender” incidents. Ninety percent of the victims knew their offenders, and of those who did, 64 percent were wives or other intimate acquaintances of their killers. Three women are murdered every day by a current or former intimate partner.

The news coverage of the London bombing fits the U.S. obsession with “Islamic terror” driven by conservatives. Fear is the motivation for their successful elections. When they become legislators, they make guns more accessible, again using the motivation of fear.

During the past two days, the issue of kneeling during the national anthem has consumed the media. Conservatives are on television bitterly complaining about the “disrespect” for the flag. Yet domestic violence and sexual assault by prominent sports figures are overlooked or explained by blaming women. In the past 14 years, 80 football players had been involved in 87 arrests.

Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice was suspended for two NFL games for knocking out his fiancé—now his wife—in an elevator. Giants kicker Josh Brown was suspended for one game in 2015 for assaulting his wife, Molly. She had been assaulted almost two dozen times, once when she was pregnant, according to police and court records. A sheriff said that the NFL never asked him for records in their investigation. Brown’s journal revealed that he abused his wife and saw her as a slave. “I have controlled her by making her feel less human than me,” Brown wrote.

Brown used the same tactic that white supremacists use against the Muslims, people of color, and other minorities: white conservatives consider everyone else as less humans. One way to do that is to overemphasize the violence of “others,” and de-emphasize the violence of “us.” That way white conservatives can maintain their feelings of superiority and ignore the suffering of others.

DDT is a master of “othering.” His selection of nominees shows his prejudices with white male far-right religious conservatives dominating his appointments to courts, cabinet, and staff. For example, Jeff Mateer, DDT’s pick for a Texas federal judgeship, is a classic symbol of LGBT hatred. He not only advocates for nondiscrimination laws but also calls transgender children as “part of Satan’s plan.” Mateer is a former high level staffer for the religious right organization Liberty Institute, now known as First Liberty Institute (FLI). The organization founded to ban marriage equality represents conservative Christians and opposes separation of church and state. While working there, he advocated against nondiscrimination laws that included LGBT people, lamented the increase in states banning the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy,” and described transgender children as “part of Satan’s plan.” Mateer, who has no judicial experience, thinks the separation of church and state is not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Federal judges are appointed for life.

Another nominee with no judicial experience, Matthew Kacsmaryk, is also associated with FLI. Federal judges are appointed for life. Russell Vought, pick for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote that Muslims have a “deficient theology” because they “do not know God.” And the list goes on.

Another DDT appointee who was confirmed with only 50 votes, Department of Education Betsy DeVos, is also protecting white males against everyone else. She has rescinded the college sexual assault policy to help rape victims in favor of their rapists. DeVos said that rapists should be expelled from a school only when found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” not when the preponderance of evidence is against them. Schools can also use informal mediation for sexual assault accusations, forcing victims to meet face-to-face with their rapists for an “amicable” solution. The only advantage is that—thus far—universities don’t have to follow DeVos’ new guidelines.

DeVos got her information from men’s organizations, including the National Coalition for Men that publishes names and photos to women whose cases were dismissed. Another of her consulting organizations, SAVE, wants a victim’s sexual history used as evidence.

Candace Jackson, appointed by DeVos as her civil rights official, claims she was a victim of discrimination because she is white. She also said that 90 percent of rape accusations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.” There is no evidence for Jackson’s claim. Jackson also believes that all the women accusing DDT of sexual assault were lying “for political gain.”

Early in the summer, DeVos cut back investigations of civil rights issues so that there will be no check into systemic problems. DDT’s budget removes over 40 employees from the investigation staff.

As part of his Christianizing the U.S., DDT officially proclaimed September 3, 2017 as a National Day of Prayer in violation of a judge’s ruling on separation of church and state in 2010. His announcement told people to “go to your church and pray”—no synagogue, mosque, or other place or worship and no provision for people who choose to have no place of worship. A president’s direction to “pray” is also exclusionary and endorses a religious message.

The base of the GOP is the white Christian. There is no guarantee that changing demographics mean changing numbers of elected Democrats, but there’s some hope and whites will stop hating the “others.” An example of that is the Christian church that is “tithing for trans people,” raising money to help people obtain gender affirmation medical care. Faithfully LGBT wants to repair the damage of right-wing pretend Christians who discriminate against trans people and encourage violence. The church started its project after 150 evangelical leaders signed the “Nashville Statement” that rejects transgender identity, homosexuality, and feminism in its need to reestablish the “Christ-defined” roles of men as household leaders.

White Christians are going to be fighting even harder now that they are in the minority—43 percent of the population to be exact. That’s a little over half the number 40 years ago when eight of ten people identified as white Christians. During the past several decades that demographic has elected presidents, locked in Congress, and taken over the majority of state governors and legislatures. The percentage of white Christians shrinks with younger voters: two-thirds of seniors are in that category whereas only one-fourth of those 18-29 are white Christians.

 

May 12, 2017

DDT: Week Sixteen, Moving into Paranoia

The week began with all eyes on testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee from former Attorney General Sally Yates, but attention rapidly segued to Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) firing of James Comey, the FBI director who refused to stop investigation his involvement with Russia. The third senior Justice Department officials investigating DDT who was fired in less than four months, he follows DDT’s victims Sally Yates and Preet Bharara. Less media attention, however, was paid to DDT’s hosting Russian officials in the White House the day after Comey’s unorthodox firing. U.S. journalists were banned from the event, and the only visuals of the meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were photographed by the Russian state-owned news agency. The Washington Post raised questions about a security breach, citing issues about listening devices or other surveillance equipment being brought into the Oval Office. Intelligence officials noted that standard screenings might not identify an espionage device. The White House claimed that they were told the photographer worked for Lavrov, not that he worked for the Russian agency. A White House official, “They tricked us.” Either it’s true, which is scary. Or it wasn’t true, which is scary. A White House spokesman explained that DDT hosted the meeting “because Putin asked him to.” Again, scary.

Melissa McCarthy has already started preparing a Saturday Night Live sketch imitating Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes from reporters. A group of journalists caught him after he finished up a short interview with the friendly Fox business folks and met with his staff behind a tall hedge, but a groups of journalists wanted to ask him about Comey’s firing. He came out of the shrubbery and shouted, “Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off…. Can you just turn that light off?” Since WaPo issued the following correction about its story:

“Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”

How many FBI officials does DDT need to fire for control?  Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI had not lost faith in Comey, contradicting a DDT reason for Comey’s firing. He added that it was the “greatest privilege” of his professional career to work with Comey. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to quit because DDT presented him as the architect of the firing. And DDT now contradicts everything that his White House officials and VP Mike Pence have presented to the media. In an interview with Lester Holt, DDT said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself … this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Firing someone to deliberately block an investigation is an impeachable offense. After the Holt interview, in which DDT called Comey a “grandstander” and “showboat,” the FBI disinvited DDT to FBI Headquarters, saying that “the optics would not be good.”

The Senate has subpoenaed fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to appear at a hearing about Russian interference in the recent election. The joint chairs of the Intelligence Committee had requested materials from him on April 28, but he refused. Flynn had previously offered to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but he didn’t find any takers. Among Flynn’s problems are his taking payments from Russia and Turkey while giving them information. The committee has received only two responses in requests for documents from DDT associates.

In DDT’s attempt to find those three million voters who voted for Hillary Clinton last year and gave her a majority, he signed an executive order for a commission to review fraud and voter suppression in the nation’s election system with the possible intent of rigging the 2018 elections. If he were sincere, he could find almost zero of the first and a massive amount of the second—mostly through state legislation. After the election, ABC contacted officials in all 50 states and found that voter fraud was “very” or “extremely” rare. DDT’s leader, however, is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is extremely successful in finding voter fraud everywhere in places where it doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of voter suppression.

In another action, DDT broke a century-long tradition requiring senators to approve judicial nominees who sit on federal courts in their states. To ensure a right-wing court system, he has nominated ten unvetted lawyers for lifetime judges on federal courts without consulting any senators.

A few days after DDT defunded members of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), claiming it was “unconstitutional,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed when she gave the graduation address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach (FL). DeVos has her own issues with HBCUs, referring them as a sort of pilot program for schools of choice while ignoring the fact that people went there not out of choice but because they weren’t permitted into white schools. In the speech, the billionaire who forced legislation to move many Michigan students into failing religious schools funded by taxpayers said:

“We must first listen and then speak with humility to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don’t immediately or instinctively agree.”

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index lost half the gains it made since DDT’s election, going from +16 to +3. Fewer Americans last week said the economy was “getting better” (45%) than said it was “getting worse” (49%), leaving the economic outlook component at -4, its worst score since Nov. 7-13, when it measured -5. The rating is almost 20 points below its recent high of +15 set in early March. DDT is down to a 36 percent approval, and that was before he fired Comey. The percentages for his characteristics are also very low.

No matter the intention behind Comey’s firing—distraction, avoidance, shock, chaos—scholars on authoritarianism agree that DDT’s goal is to “uproot the system,” according to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at NYU. We’ve watched his obsession with issuing executive orders, his aggressive opposition toward the media, and his love for “alternative facts” while GOP politicians enable him for their own personal advantage. In a recent event, a reporter was arrested for asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether or not domestic violence survivors would have difficulty getting insurance under Trumpcare.

Ben-Ghiat said, “Democracy is threatened in drips.” She draws parallels between DDT and authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Hungary who undermine society by chipping at democratic institutions while greatly expanding their power. The people of the United States, however, may be developing a bit more savvy about DDT’s techniques after 16 weeks: 54 percent of the people think that the firing was inappropriate, and only 24 percent think that the reason was Hillary Clinton’s emails, DDT’s original stated reason.

Progressives had one win this week. After a spate of successful bills overturning President Obama’s regulations, the Senate voted against a resolution to nullify a clean air regulation the last day before the GOP could do this without a filibuster. In the 51-49 vote, Sens. John McCain (AZ), Susan Collins (ME), and Lindsey Graham (SC)  joined the Democrats. The Congressional Review Act, successfully used only once before DDT allows repeal of regulations within 60 days of being submitted to Congress, has been used in he past 100 days to reverse 15 regulations from President Obama.

The regulation that stayed updates 30-year-old regulations about venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas on public and Native American lands to help stop waste of natural resources. It helps protect the climate while saving taxpayers $330 million a year. Colorado, one of the two states that already have this regulation, have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents, including Republicans, and increased both job production and natural gas production, a contradiction to arguments from the conservative opposition.

DDT didn’t wait until this weekend to issue crazy tweets. First he threatened to stop press briefings from the White House after the media pointed out all the inconsistencies regarding DDT’s method and reasoning for firing Comey. He ratcheted up his paranoid almost to the level of former President Richard Nixon when he threatened Comey:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

DDT has not denied that he taped meetings or records conversations in the Oval Office. Witness intimidation is a crime, and DDT threatened former Attorney General Sally Yates before she testified last Monday to a Senate hearing:

“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council [sic].”

DDT also violated the Presidential Records Act by attempting to scrub the tweet with the misspelled tweet and replacing it with the corrected version. All his tweets must be kept as official records of his public remarks. DDT may still not know that all his tweets belong to the people of the United States.

Hard to believe that these are the actions of a man supposed to be the leader of the “free world.”

March 19, 2017

DDT Supporters Start to Lose—Everything

 

A campaign argument from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to voters was “what do you have to lose?” People voting for DDT almost uniformly said that they wanted a “change.” Now they have a change, and DDT’s policies are proving that everyone except those in the highest income levels will most likely lose.

DDT won with 80 percent support from white evangelical Christians, but some conservative faith leaders are beginning to question the validity of DDT’s policies. Over 100 Christians, many of them conservative, wrote a letter to congressional leaders about how DDT’s cut of $10.1 billion for the International Affairs Budget will damage humanitarian programs abroad.

“With just 1 percent of our nation’s budget, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions; drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

Progressive Sister Simone Campbell wrote that DDT’s cuts “disproportionately affect the same group of people — women, people of color, and all at the economic margins.”

Mick Mulvaney, architect of DDT’s budget and OMB director, has tried to explained that punitive cuts for vulnerable populations are really “compassionate” because people should not pay for services to others unless it’s for a “proper function.” He didn’t explain that this function is for building “the wall” and increasing the military by ten percent. He also said that the cut to Meals on Wheels was only three percent when the federal government actually pays 35 percent.

A five-minute search on the Internet would show Mulvaney positive quantifiable results for Meals on Wheels and another project he wants to slash, after-school programs that provide meals.

Meals on Wheels: 26 of 48 states would save money for Medicaid with an expansion in the program of one percent by keeping seniors out of nursing homes. Florida could trim as much as $11.5 million, and Pennsylvania could save $5.7 million. Overall, the nation would pay only $8 million for this  one-percent expansion.

After-School Meals: feeding hungry children costs $.80 a meal. Several studies show that these programs improve student grades, attendance, and school participation.

DDT has taken five trips to Mar-a-Lago since becoming president for a grand total of about $16.5 million, but there are no concrete results for his personal entertainment. Any meetings there could easily be at the White House. Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year for that amount. After school programs could feed 114,583 poor children for a year for the same amount. Among the 2.4 million people served by Meals on Wheels are 500,000 veterans. The cost for feeding them for a year could be covered by a little over one month supporting DDT’s family in New York.

A tweet: “Trump golfing at Mar-a-Lago costs $10 million/mo. The National Endowment for the Arts costs $12 million/mo. Guess which is being cut?”

Mulvaney’s “compassionate” budget will eliminate the 50-year-old program, National Endowment for the Arts. The basis for this legislation is that a great country comes from an enlightened and unfettered citizenry:

“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster … access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

An early NEA decision was to foster local and regional economies in individual states: the approximately $400 million—25 percent of it targeted to rural communities—returns more than $704.2 billion to the nation’s economy, about 4.23 percent of the GDP. This is more than construction ($619.8 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($483.5 billion). In 2015, NEA funding provided audiences of 33 million people to “30,000 concerts, readings and performances and 5,000 visual and media arts exhibitions,” according to statistics. The NEA makes cities and towns better place to live and extends education, helping students get higher grades and stay in school. Maintaining DDT’s New York home where his wife and son live costs over $4 million a month; NEA costs the average taxpayer $.46 a year.

The budget also used “compassion” to whack $580 million a year from NIH because the 21st Century Cure project gets $480 million to research cures for 10,000 diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Oddly enough, the charge to taxpayers doesn’t go away, but it can’t be spent unless Congress okays it.

What do blacks have to lose with DDT? He answered this campaign trail question in his budget: elimination of the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, SHOP which DDT calls “lower priority programs.” Mulvaney calls this compassion.

The facts belie a demand for the ten-percent increase in military and outright elimination of many programs or cuts of 31 percent to slowing down climate change.

  • The U.S. spends more on military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Germany — combined. Yet the U.S. spends far less per capita than other countries on initiatives that DDT cuts.
  • Eliminated programs are more valuable to West Virginia’s coal miners and Detroit’s single mothers, referenced by Mulvaney as not needing them, than the ten-percent increase in military. DDT’s budget cuts funding for early-childhood education, public housing, transit, food assistance, and job training as well as programs that help people in West Virginia and many surrounding states to find jobs. It also cuts the federal agency, the Chemical Safety Board,  that investigated the 2014 chemical spill outside Charleston leaving 300,000 people without drinking water for five days.
  • On top of DDT’s budget cuts is a huge regressive tax cut which gives money only to the wealthy while Mulvaney talks about worrying about coal miner and single mothers. His argument about trying to protect these people in a budget that takes all their services makes no sense.
  • The budget doesn’t reduce the deficit, which DDT had promised to do.

Mulvaney demands “results,” but the U.S. has spent $4 trillion to establish new regime that don’t work instead of repairing U.S. infrastructure and providing jobs for people in this country. The Pentagon is decades behind in a congressionally-mandated audit, and in 2015 alone Army accounting couldn’t support $2.8 trillion in third quarter adjustments and $6.5 trillion in year-end adjustments. In just that one year, $125 billion in administrative waste was identified, double what DDT budget wants for a Department of Defense increase.

The GOP Trumpcare will kill 17,000 people a year, more people in three months than foreign terrorists have killed in the U.S. since—and including—the 9/11 disaster almost 16 years ago. And far more deaths will ensue from DDT’s budget attack on poor people. Those not forced out of their homes may have no heating assistance.

DDT has joined with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to attack people with student debt by rolling back a regulation from President Obama preventing extortionist fees on student loans for late payments. Before this went into effect, students were charged up to 16 percent even if people paid with 60 days of defaulting. For example, a woman with an $18,000 loan was charged $4,500 in fees when she was 18 days late in paying.

Robert Reich wrote about DDT’s theme of unnecessary cruelty in his policies: his budget attacks the poor at a time when the majority of people suffer greater poverty than they have in almost a century; his Trumpcare adds not only to their poverty of people in the U.S. but also to their deaths; his Syrian refugee and Muslim ban does nothing to protect people from terrorism; and his dragnet approach toward driving immigrants out of the country loses some of the nation’s most productive members and keeps other equally important people from coming to the United States. DDT has no reason for this cruelty other than his business style—create chaos and rule through persecuting people.

Fox’s Howard Kurtz wrote, “The swamp fights back,” referring to the backlash against DDT’s budget, including assistance for food, affordable housing, banking, job training, home heating oil bills, and legal counsel. When DDT said he would “drain the swamp,” people believed that he meant the bureaucracy that destroys jobs and moves money to the wealthy. Evidently the “swamp people” represent people DDT had promised to protect only a few months ago.

There is nothing Christian about any of DDT policies and nothing Christian about conservatives calling those who believe in human rights “swamp people.”

March 9, 2017

Betsy Devos: Huge Danger to the Nation

Billionaire activist Betsy DeVos and her family have given over $4 million to Republicans who have now confirmed her for Secretary of Education. Of that sum, $250,000 went directly to members of the education committee, $950,000 were given to 21 senators who voted to confirm her, and another $2.25 million was sent last fall to the Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) super PAC. The National Republican Senatorial Committee got another $900,000. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who promised to keep a rein on DDT, took $98,000 from DeVos and paid her back with his vote.   She followed the same process in Michigan, paying state Republicans $1.45 million in seven weeks after they passed the no-accountability charter school law. DeVos has said that she no longer takes offense at the accusations of buying politicians because “we do expect something in return.”

Before the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, I posted about how she would be a disaster for education in the nation. Her blunders during the first few weeks on the job show that she is worse than many people may have predicted. In summary, she is a billionaire who wants all children to be force-fed her brand of Christianity in charter schools that massively profit already wealthy people—like her.

Her gaffes began on her first day as head of the education department when she tweeted, “Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? :)” Most schools in the United States are so poor that teachers have to buy their own pencils.

Devos’ actions thus far:

  • insulted teachers at a middle school for not helping students succeed
  • supports the idea of her department being erased
  • says that critics want “to make my life a living hell”
  • misspelled W.E.B. Du Bois in a tweet for Black History Month—and then had to fix the tweeted apology that stated “our deepest apologizes”
  • ignored the first Twitter chat that she held for teachers
  • asked teachers to make up for children’s troubles at home such as absent fathers
  • made U.S. marshals protect her and ran away because protesters blocked her entrance to a DC school
  • accused protesters of “keeping kids in and new thinking out,” “how hostile some people are to change and to new ideas”
  • sold out transgender students to allow AG Jeff Sessions to discriminate against them in using facilities corresponding to their gender identity
  • and, surprise, gave her top priority as “school choice” that destroys public schools

DeVos’ responses to the hearings were so bad that her  confirmation required Mike Pence to be the first vice president in history to break a 50-50 tie to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

Her job may not last long. A House bill, HR 899, dissolves the Department of Education and another, HR 610, provides educational vouchers and repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, including nutritional standards for school meals. The only responsibility left to the department—if it continues to exist—would be to award block grants to states with the $20 billion for vouchers that DDT wants. There may not be enough support to shut down the Education Department, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants $20 billion for vouchers, most of the department’s budget for local communities largely used for low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable children.  

After trying to compliment teachers at Washington’s Jefferson Academy by calling them “wonderful,” she told them that they were “not going to bring success to an individual child” because they were in “receive mode, waiting to be told what they have to do.”

DeVos tried to help DDT woo blacks for the 2020 election in her statement:

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) … are the real pioneers when it comes to school choice.  They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

Her revisionist history purports that the Jim Crow education system of legal segregation gave black students “more options” as if they had the option of attending all white schools before the Supreme Court ruling that began to eliminate permissible racial discrimination. The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo’s analogy:

“To paint historically black colleges as pioneers of ‘school choice’ is like saying the Montgomery bus boycott was a transportation startup.”

There was much controversy about the perch of Kellyanne Conway, DDT’s counselor, during the meeting with HBCU leaders. Some photographs show her taking a photo, but her real insult was that she couldn’t even get the name for the group correct when she talked to Lou Dobbs on his TV program. In addition, the photo op, proposed at the last minute to show DDT’s comfort with blacks, left those attending with little time to communicate with the man in the White House about the current state of these institutions. DDT plans to fund only the private sector instead of directly supporting HBCUs and requested that the White House Initiative on HBCUs be removed from the Department of Education.

In reality, DeVos has little power because Congress weakened the power of the executive department two years ago. Congress will be the one to create a voucher system and remove more standards for education in the nation. But she can create trouble by taking no action in other areas that creates more difficulty—for example, not investigating, complaints in the area of sexual assaults and reverse rules requiring colleges to use a lower standard of proof in determining sexual assault. DeVos might also ignore part of Title IX, reversing the progress of female athletes in schools. One way is to divert funds to the Office of Civil Rights which leaves the Department of Education unable to address IX complaints even if DeVos chooses to do so. The percentage of female high school athletes has gone from seven percent to 42 percent since the law was implemented. Title IX isn’t just about sports and transgender issues: it protects “pregnant and parenting students, women in STEM programs, and victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” according to Neena Chaudhry, Director of Education and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.

DDT will definitely “relax” the past crackdown on for-profit colleges, including a new regulation relieving students of loans if they prove their college defrauded them. Under DDT, Trump University might not have had to pay $25 million. An indicator is the way that stocks have shot up—DeVry over 40 percent, Stayer’s 35 percent, and Grand Canyon Education over 28 percent. The GOP will also try to disappear the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that tries to protect consumers from predatory for-profit colleges.

About Betsy DeVos, education historian and researcher Diane Ravitch wrote:

“She was never a student, a parent, an educator, or school board member of public schools. It is her life’s work to tear down public education. She does not respect the line of separation between church and state. She supports for-profit charter schools…. She is ignorant of federal law, federal programs and federal policy. When asked at her Senate hearing about the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, she did not know it was a federal law. She had given no thought to lessening the burden of debt that college students bear, which now exceeds $1 trillion. At a time when the federal role in aiding students with the high cost of college needs to be redesigned, she knows nothing about it.

“… DeVos has financial conflicts of interest which she refuses to divest. She told the Senate committee that she had no role in her mother’s foundation, which has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, but her name appears on 17 years of the foundation’s audited tax returns. She told the committee that online charter corporations produce stellar results, but researchers demonstrated with facts that she was wrong.

“Choice policies in Michigan have caused the test scores in that state to decline. Detroit, overrun with charters and choice, is a chaotic mess….

“She personifies the privatization movement. She is the leader of the Billionaire Girls Club, spreading her millions across the land to reward and enrich allies in Congress, on state and local school boards, and in any setting where she could tout school choice as a magical remedy for poor performance. Charters and vouchers, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is her sole idea. She has singlehandedly stripped bare the ‘reform’ movement, showing it to be not a civil rights movement but a privatization movement funded by billionaires and religious zealots.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told his protesting constituents at a town hall meeting that they cared so much about Betsy DeVos that she probably had too much power. Our conservative representatives don’t want people to care about what happens in the government.

In a country that almost never recognizes the name of the Secretary of Education, almost half of the people have an opinion—and two thirds of them have an unfavorable opinion of Betsy DeVos. Her lack of approval at 31 percent is worse than that for Jeff Sessions (23 percent) and Mike Pence (28 percent).

The greatest danger that DeVos might do to education in the United States is the proposed voucher program—the subject for the next blog post.

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