Nel's New Day

March 2, 2020

DDT: Week 162 – Courts Giveth, Taketh Away

Last week while Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tried to dodge covid-19 problems and bring up the stock market by lying, lots of other things happened. Here’s a listing:

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, 67, was been found guilty of two of five charges: criminal sexual act in the first degree (maximum 4 years) and rape in the third degree (maximum 25 years). His legal woes aren’t over: the LA County DA has charged Weinstein with four felony counts of sexual assault. Weinstein was the center of the #MeToo movement that erupted on October 15, 2017.

GOP-appointed judges on the Ninth Circuit Court permits DDT’s “gag rule” which bans federal funding from the low-income Title X program for clinics that inform patients of places where they can obtain abortions. The ruling overturns lower court injunctions in California, Oregon, and Washington. Plaintiffs argued that the rule violates “nondirective” pregnancy counseling and referrals for patients who request them, a 1996 congressional mandate.

Overturning a lower court, the 2nd Circuit Court ruled that DDT can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement. The decision requires cities and states to give federal immigration authorities access to jails and advance notice before releasing undocumented immigrants before getting grant money. Federal appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco disagree and uphold lower-court injunctions.

In a blow against the U.S. Constitution, the District of Columbia Circuit Court panel overturned a lower court and ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn can defy a congressional subpoena for his testimony. The Democrats can appeal the 2-1 ruling.

On the same day, the 9th Circuit Court reversed DDT’s “remain in Mexico” order, ruling that the administration must stop requiring Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico pending US approval. Since DDT’s order, there have been more than 800 reports of kidnapping, rape and other violent crimes against migrants waiting in Mexico. Another 9th Circuit decision also blocked the program but suspended its decision until tonight so that the government could respond. Plaintiffs have until the end of tomorow.

A Portland (OR) jury accepted a climate necessity defense and refused to convict five Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded a train track use to transport oil. Because one of the six jury members voted to convict, the criminal trespassing cased ended in a mistrial. Multnomah will need to decide whether to re-prosecute the case.

Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, is leading the purge at the White House with the aid of 29-year-old Johnny McEntee. Fired as DDT’s personal aide in 2018 for “serious financial crimes,” he now heads up DDT’s personnel office. Thomas’ group Groundswell sends requests to fire officials classified as “Never Trump” and “Deep State” and recommends the replacements of DDT loyalists, several hired by Fox to tout (aka lie) about DDT’s accomplishments. A top official for McEntee in the Presidential Personnel Office to help him vet employees is a college senior who was earlier HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s confidential assistant. The big purge comes in an administration with 82 percent more turnover in its first three years than any of the previous five presidents. Almost 40 percent of senior positions have two or more replacements.

DDT wants to purge Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He tweeted that they “should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related, matters!” Paul Waldman wrote:

“In other words: A Supreme Court justice who likes me, whom I appointed, who shares my agenda, who rules in my favor at every opportunity, or whose wife acts as an adviser to my White House? Those justices should absolutely be voting in cases involving me personally and my administration. But any hint of disagreement with me over anything means that a justice should be removed from considering any case in which I’m involved.”

DDT appointed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as the new Director of Intelligence to replace Richard Grenell. Ratcliffe was an earlier choice for the job but withdrew his name from appointment because even GOP senators were not pleased with the choice. Ratcliffe falsely took entire credit for a multistate, multiagency operation when he wrote on his website that he “arrested over 300 illegal aliens on a single day.” Prosecutors charged only 45 workers, and six of the cases were dismissed, two of them U.S. citizens. A.J. Irwin, a former immigration investigator involved in planning stages, called the operation “a costly failure, … a waste of money and hype.” In another website claim, Ratcliffe wrote he had tried suspects accused of funneling money to the Hamas terrorist group, but in reality, he investigated side issues related to an initial mistrial but did not prosecute the case. Ratcliffe also promoted a company accused of reprisal against a whistleblower and their cybersecurity efforts in shutting down a critical government cybersecurity office. The company was Ratcliffe’s third-largest campaign donor for his upcoming re-election. DDT tweeted that he “is an outstanding man of great talent.”

House Democrats are looking into why DDT told the VA to “corner the market on a new antidepressant from Johnson & Johnson and whether DDT’s shadow advisory group to VA from Mar-a-Lago have stakes in the company. In 2018, DDT gave the three men influence (aka control) over the VA despite their lack of relevant experience. The drug Spravato was developed as a treatment to stop veterans from committing suicide, but the FDA restricted the drug because of “the risk of serious adverse outcomes” and “the potential for abuse and misuse.” In one trial, six people taking the drug died, including three by suicide. There were no deaths among the patients taking a placebo. The Government Accountability Office is also investigating the Mar-a-Lago trio.

J. Wesley Boyd, a psychiatry professor specializing in bioethics at Harvard Medical School, cited the drug’s similarity to the anesthetic ketamine and said, “[Spravato] was derived from a very inexpensive drug with a minor chemical tweak and then marketed at an outrageously high price.” DDT was reported to say about Spravato:

“I had seen it somewhere, and I’ve read it, regularly, quite a bit about it. I said, ‘Order — corner the market on it and give it to anybody that has the problem.’”

Trump told a crowd at the Economic Club of New York that his daughter Ivanka has personally created 14 million new jobs. From the New York Magazine:

“The entire U.S. economy has created fewer than 6 million new jobs since Trump took office. So Trump is crediting his daughter with having personally created more than 200 percent of all new jobs in the United States. This is like supply-side economics but for authoritarian nepotism. Exactly how she did this remains a subject of some confusion. The mechanism involves the ‘Pledge to America’s Workers,’ in which the chief executives of various firms promise to create some arbitrary number of training and other opportunities … Some of the companies … admitted they had simply credited all real (or, in some cases, hypothetical) job openings to the Ivanka initiative.”

AG Bill Barr and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention and preached their ideology of making the U.S. into a theocracy. Barr’s speech, sponsored by Save the Persecuted Christians headed by far-right conspiracy theorist and Islamophobe Frank Gaffney Jr, railed against secularism. DeVos called for more government support for religious schools. DDT’s attorney Jay Sekulow, part of DDT’s defense team at the impeachment trial, had to cancel his appearance because of illness.

History may give Stephen Miller an idea to disenfranchise and deport more people. The 1907 Expatriation Act took citizenship from women who married noncitizens; they could become naturalized citizens if their husbands did. This law did not apply to men who married non-citizens. The Supreme Court upheld the law in Mackenzie v. Hare (1915) because women knew the consequence of their marriages. During World War I, U.S. women who married Germans and lost their citizenship were forced to register as enemy aliens. Women’s suffrage in 1920 led to the Cable Act in 1922 allowing women to keep their citizenship if married to men who could become citizens. Married women, however, had to petition the government to regain their citizenship and could be denied if husbands weren’t eligible for citizenship, for example all Asians. Females lost citizenship if married to a non-citizen and living away from the U.S. for two years. In 1931 women kept their citizenship even if they married an Asian although not all Asians gained naturalization rights until 1952. Finally, an act in 1940 provided that all women could regain their citizenship by taking an oath of allegiance, but only if they resided continuously in the U.S. since their marriage.  

October 19, 2017

Don’t Impeach DDT

Throughout the past year, VP Mike Pence has mostly kept a low profile while more and more people are calling to impeach Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Examining Pence’s past shows such great darkness that I cannot advocate exchanging the volatile, impulsive man currently in the Oval Office for someone who plans to turn the United States into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. People who think that DDT is the worst possible person as the nation’s leader need to consider Pence’s ability to destroy democracy and the entire population of the U.S. except for white men.

DDT brought publicity to Pence when he declared that his VP “wants to hang” all gay people. As outrageous as this claim is, Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, didn’t deny that DDT’s claim was wrong. In Pence’s history as a right-wing extremist member of Congress, he has opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, supported a federal constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and opposed a federal hate crimes law. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law permission for businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people, spurring a nationwide backlash. When Pence appeared on television to defend the law, he repeatedly refused to say whether or not the law would allow for discrimination and whether or not he supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. But this bigotry is only the tip of the iceberg.

Early in his political career, Pence used dirty tricks in his first congressional campaign: he showed someone dressed in Middle Eastern garb who accused his opponent of connections to Arabian oil interests, sent a mailer with a photo of a razor and lines of cocaine that accused his opponent of being soft on drugs, and told campaign volunteers to call voters and tell them that Sharp planned to sell his family farm to a nuclear-waste facility. All these were lies. Part of his 1990 election loss in that fight may have been his use of campaign donations for such personal expenses as his mortgage, groceries, and golf tournament fees—nothing illegal but considered unethical.

Losing the election by 19 points, Pence hosted a radio talk show and continued his lies. In criticizing the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, Pence maintained that opponents to the Supreme Court justice nominee used KKK tactics and blamed Indiana senators Dick Lugar and Dan Coats for “standing by while Clarence Thomas is being lynched.” Anita Hill’s assertions about Thomas’ sexual harassment is now largely believed.

Pence’s loss also led him to the presidency of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation promoting free-market policies and giving him access to a network of business-funded conservative nonprofit groups. The financial ties to tobacco companies led Pence to claim in 2000 that “smoking doesn’t kill [that] two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.” Government was a bigger “scourge” than cigarettes, he said. As a board member of the Indiana Family Institute, Pence joined the campaign against LGBTQ rights and for the criminalization of abortion. Vi Simpson, former Indiana senate Democratic minority leader, said that Pence’s goal is to reverse the economic and political advances of women, using denial of birth control access to women as one method.

After Pence won a seat in the U.S. House in 2000, he became popular on the conservative talk circuit where he spoke for unlimited gun rights, property rights, pro-life, and pro-Israel positions. Michael Leppert, an Indiana Democratic lobbyist, said:

“His politics were always way outside the mainstream. He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl…. He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth.”

Far to the right of the George W. Bush administration, Pence didn’t author one successful bill during his 12 years in Congress. He opposed Medicaid expansion for prescription drugs and the emergency bank bailout. He not only opposed LGBTQ rights but also argued that the AIDS resources bill, the Ryan White Care Act, should fund “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In 2006 he fought for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Pence wants to erase the science of the world. In 2002, he stated that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory” in opposition to “intelligent design,” that maintains life on Earth is too complex to emerge through random mutation. Pence called the latter the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

In 2008, Pence helped found the Tea Party, opposing taxes and government, and became more militant. In 2011, he threatened to shut down the federal government if it didn’t defund Planned Parenthood. In his arguments against funding Planned Parenthood, he referenced Lex Cornelia, ancient Roman laws that included one sentencing providers of abortion potions to work in the mines. Pence supported “personhood” legislation to ban any abortion under all circumstances except to protect the life of the mother and sponsored a failed amendment to the Affordable Care Act allowing government-funded hospitals to turn away dying women who needed abortions.

The Koch brothers learned to count on Pence when he persuaded 156 congressional members to sign a pledge of “No Climate Tax” that allowed the Koch brothers to annually dump 24 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In 2009 bill Pence sponsored a bill to prevent native-born children of illegal immigrants from becoming American citizens. Like DDT’s recent executive order, he wants to use his personal moral convictions to control the nation, whether constitutional or not.

Pence became governor of Indiana with only 49 percent of the vote in 2013 because the center didn’t trust him. They were right. Pence had promised to follow former Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative who wanted to avoid divisive social issues. He created “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history” (according to Pence) in a state with one of the lowest income taxes in the nation. His plan had the same result as the proposed DDT tax cuts: people earning $50,000 a year gained about $3.50 a month. Pence again lied about the cut stimulating the economy. Since Pence left, Indiana had to increase the gas tax by ten cents per gallon to fix its infrastructure.

As a new governor, Pence tried to solve his state’s fiscal crisis by cutting tens of millions for higher education, social agencies, and human services. He blocked local governments from raising the minimum wage or requiring better benefits from businesses. Pence privatized government services in infrastructure and education, rolled back energy efficiency standards, and declared the state pro-coal. He allowed people to keep guns in their cars on school grounds, recruited the NRA to train the state’s National Guard, and stopped Gary (IN) from suing gun manufacturers whose weapons were illegally sold.

In 2014, a year after he was elected governor, Pence killed an application for an $80 million federal grant to start a statewide preschool program because of conservative objections to secular public education. At the same time, he traveled the country to build support for a presidential run.

Pence signed a bill stopping women from aborting physically abnormal fetuses and requiring fetal burial or cremation, even after miscarriages. The law has been found unconstitutional, and Indiana is now permanently barred from enforcing a restriction that would have banned abortions sought because of a fetus’ genetic abnormalities, race, gender or ancestry.

Another Pence disaster was the serious spike of HIV cases in southern Indiana from the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics, none of which performed abortions, and the refusal to legalize a syringe exchange. The state health commissioner called the outbreak a public-health emergency, and Pence permitted a temporary exchange program as an emergency.

Although pro-life, Pence refused to save the lives of a Syrian refugee family who had undergone extreme vetting and was fleeing violence and terror by allowing them to settle in the state. They had relatives in Indianapolis along with the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Indiana. The family was sent to Connecticut, and the federal courts eventually struck down Pence’s executive order as discriminatory.

Pence also declined to pardon Keith Cooper, in prison for nine years for an armed robbery he didn’t commit. Without the pardon, Cooper could be released only if he admitted guilt for something he didn’t do that kept him getting a decent job.

Although opposed to gambling in a state that bans political contributions from casino operators, Pence received donations from gambling sources through the Republican Governors Association with its major donors of casino companies.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence also tried to establish a taxpayer-funded state-run new agency to spread his propaganda and used a private email account for official state business. He claimed that it was different from Hillary Clinton’s private server but cost taxpayers $100,000 in legal fees. Taxpayers also paid for private attorneys so that Pence could join Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan before DDT’s election.

That’s how a Christian ideologue rules. To be continued.

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