Nel's New Day

July 2, 2019

Federal Appointment Replacements Worse for Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the United States of America under DDT. 

February 11, 2019

How Long Will GOP Radicalize Conservatives

Republicans seem to have grown increasingly tired of pandering to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) after he broke the law in giving Congress a report on the torture and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. After DDT said that he could refuse the demand under the Magnitsky Act to report on the responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October, several GOP congressional members threatened to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led civil war in Yemen.

DDT’s cavalier attitude toward congressional and constitutional law may be part of the impetus for Republicans stating that they may have a compromise with Democrats to forestall this week’s impending government shutdown. The deal offers less money for DDT’s wall—only 55 miles in proscribed places—than what DDT turned down last year. The term is “border barrier” for “wall,” not DDT’s “beautiful” concrete wall.

Tonight, DDT went on the campaign trail to El Paso where he lied to his audience about how much safer they are with the wall and how he’s already building a wall in the middle of the Rio Grande River. Occasionally he wandered off to encourage chants about Hillary Clinton of “lock her up” and question whether he should have a dog in the White House. His accusations came after both the city of El Paso and El Paso County passed resolutions criticizing DDT for his claims about crime in the city. In 2005, before the government decided to build a wall in El Paso, the murder rate in the city across from drug violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was one-half the national rate. Violence increased after the decision to create a wall between the two communities and continued to be worse for two years after a wall was installed. The city resolution stated that “Donald Trump has continuously made inaccurate claims about the United States’ southern border, including El Paso” and noted that data from Customs and Border Protection showed that “no crisis exists” on the border. DDT said that El Paso’s GOP  mayor, Dee Margo, is “full of crap.”

A counter-event led by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) was attended by about 7,000 people, more than attendance at DDT’s rally.

DDT persistently inflates his immigration figures. A bizarre tweet from late January:

“We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168. Cost Friday was $603,331,392. There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous! DHS”

After paying interest on the growing debt, mandatory expenditures on Social Security and health care, and the $700 billion for the military, the U.S. has less than $600 billion left–less than the money that DDT claimed was spent on “illegal immigration” in one day. Instead of using figures from the government, he got the tweet from watching television during his “Executive Time”—this time the far-right One America News Network. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said he doesn’t know where DDT gets his numbers.

Jonathan Blitzer cited the history of immigration for the past 40 years. In 1980, the U.S. accepted more than 200,000 refugees displaced by war and other violence. The number has greatly lessened since then, with President Obama’s 110,000 in 2017 because of Syrians fleeing civil war.

Despite objections from his advisers, DDT has dropped the cap on immigration to 45,000—objections from everyone except Stephen Miller, DDT’s neo-Nazi immigration adviser, who wanted the number to be far lower. Miller is suppressing studies showing that revenue from refugees through local, state, and federal taxes exceeded resettlement costs by $63 billion. According to witnesses, he told the Department of Health and Human Services:

“The President believes refugees cost more, and the results of this study shouldn’t embarrass the President.”

A State Department official said about Miller, “He shut down the U.S. government’s democratic approach to decision-making.” Miller cherry-picked statistics in studies, changed them and then wrote his own paper, often using falsehoods from the anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies. He successfully quashed Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner because he was the only one with government experience and found it easy to create his process because no established set of procedures existed. The conservative Cato Institute called DDT’s immigration reforms “the most severe restriction on legal immigrants since the 1920s.”

While DDT talks about keeping undocumented immigrants, who he calls rapists and criminals, from endangering everyone’s life, he hired them for his businesses, including resorts, because he can pay them less and have more control over them. Many of his employees were illegally brought from one Costa Rica town where a person said, “Many of us helped him get what he has today.” DDT has a long history of employing undocumented immigrants: in 1998, he paid more than $1.3 million for his illegal hiring of undocumented workers to build Trump Tower in 1980.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) echoed DDT’s call to be afraid of immigrants from Democrats who, DDT claims, “want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!” The senators ignored the rationale that ICE should concentrate on violent undocumented immigrants and keep the level of detentions in recent years.

In the time-honored tradition of bullies, DDT and Republicans want to terrorize anyone who disagree with them. According to a 2006 study, conservatives thinking about personal mortality increased their call for military intervention to kill thousands of civilians overseas. A 2017 study determined that encouraging death-related thoughts directly increased support for DDT. The same study found that these participants viewed immigrants moving into their neighborhood as a threat to their existence because the participants have been inculcated with fear.

Fear and aggression are circular: each creates the other with a feedback leading to mass hysteria and collective anger. From that manipulation of fear and aggression come bigotry and racism inflamed by the white supremacy movement. In that way, DDT radicalizes his loyalists into a fearful cult-like following, brainwashing victims much like the radicalized ISIS members by a fundamentalist ideology. DDT is continually radicalizing conservative people in the U.S. by describing immigrants as predatory creatures who threaten safety. Four academic studies disagree with his lies that undocumented immigration increases violent crime.

  • Michael Light, University of Wisconsin, Madison in Criminology: “Increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period.”
  • From the same researchers: The dramatic influx of undocumented immigrants did not increase rates of drug and alcohol arrests or the number of drug overdoses and DUI deaths.
  • The libertarian Cato Institute: In 2015, criminal conviction and arrest rates in Texas for undocumented immigrants were lower than those of native-born Americans for murder, sexual assault, and larceny.
  • U.K. journal Migration Letters: Youthful undocumented immigrants engage in less crime than do legal immigrants or U.S.-born peers.

The Texas side of the southern border has less crime than the state’s larger cities and is much safer than Washington, D.C. and Chicago. El Paso is the safest city in the United States for its size.

DDT stopped trying to radicalize his base with his graphic descriptions of women being silenced with duct tape—a fantasy taken directly from the movie called Sicario: Day of the Soldado, but not until a Border Patrol official, following orders from  Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, emailed agents urgently seeking “any information that you may have (in any format) regarding claims ‘that traffickers tie up and silence women with tape before illegally driving them through the desert from Mexico to the United States in the backs of cars and windowless vans.’” DDT has a pattern of looking for evidence to back up his fabrications.

Evidence of women and duct tape on the border exists, but DDT would probably not want to use it. Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares took three women seeking asylum to a wooded area outside McAllen (TX). Manzanares tied the 14-year-old girl to a tree and covered her mouth with silver duct tape before he sexually assaulted another girl. Then he twisted her neck and the neck of the girl’s mother before he slashed their wrists. Manzanares, father of two, was also a pedophile.

At least ten people in South Texas have been victims of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and/or rape by Border Patrol agents since DDT was inaugurated. One stabbed and killed his girlfriend and their one-year-old son. Another Border Patrol agent fatally shot four women working as prostitutes and tried to kidnap a fifth to kill her. While DDT wants to hire thousands more Border Patrol agents, records show hundreds of agents and CBP officers arrested or charged with corruption-related crimes—embezzlement, human smuggling, theft, bribery, breaking and entering, money laundering, providing false statements, and using firearms during drug-related crimes. Border Patrol agents Raul and Fidel Villarreal made $1 million for smuggling about 1,000 undocumented immigrants into the United States.

In radicalizing his base, DDT touts every violent crime of an undocumented immigrant as proof that Mexico needs to be walled off, but he never mentions the crimes of his own employees who cause a humanitarian crisis on the border.

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