Nel's New Day

June 17, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-One, Any Success Elusive

Two years ago yesterday, a New York businessman rode down an escalator to become the president of the United States who is under investigation for criminal charges. Supporters didn’t believe an article about investigating Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for obstruction of justice, but he angrily tweeted that he is being investigated. Much has been said about DDT invoking executive privilege, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Nixon from using the privilege to withhold evidence in a criminal investigation in 1974. The investigation is also looking into money laundering by DDT associates and the business affairs of DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Russian hackers breached voting systems in 39 different states, according to a new report. This number is almost twice what was previously reported. Russians tried to delete or alter voter data, accessed software for poll worker use on Election Day, and breached a campaign finance database.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers refused to talk about DDT’s involvement with Russia in  a hearing, but Coats told his colleagues in March that DDT asked both him and Rogers to stop former FBI director James Comey in a probe into Michael Flynn. DDT asked Coats in front of CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

DDT’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has clients with Russian connections include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank. Kasowitz also represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him.

Jay Sekulow, with a specialty in “religious liberty” case, is now the television face of DDT’s legal team. Sekulow claims that the president is a “unitary executive” with unlimited national security powers. Former VP Dick Cheney expanded this theory when George W. Bush’s White House Counsel John Yoo justified using torture. The U.S. Constitution does not provide unchecked power for any of the three branches of government.

A Few DDT Failures:

A federal judge has ruled that DDT failed to conduct an adequate environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline. Judge James Boasberg requested further briefings to see if the pipeline should be shut down until a full review of impacts of potential oil spills.

The Senate voted 97-to-2 to stop DDT’s power to unilaterally scale back sanctions on Russia.  Mike Lee and Rand Paul didn’t like the idea, and Secretary of State is not happy about tying “the administration’s hands.”

The ethics office refused a “retroactive” waiver to exempt white supremacist Steve Bannon for all of his infractions since he came to the White House. The “waiver” to nullify ethics claims was neither signed nor dated, raising the question of whether DDT knew anything about it.

The three-judge unanimous panel ruling against DDT’s travel ban in the 9th Circuit Court decided that he didn’t comply with federal immigration law. DDT failed to offer justification to stop the entry of over 180 million people into the U.S. basing its ban on nationality. Judges cited DDT’s tweets as an “authority.” In a case about the ban before the 4th Circuit Court, lawyers want judges to ignore DDT’s statements as president and rule only on the executive order and DDT’s official actions. If the Supreme Court hears the case, it will have to address both this questions and early constitutional issues from the 4th Circuit ruling.

Comey might have been fired earlier if he had refused to meet with DDT. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  said he was fired the day after he refused a call from DDT because he saw direct contact between the president and a law-enforcement official. He reported the call to AG Jeff Sessions on March 9 and was fired “twenty-two hours later.”

Congress is putting the heat on DDT about releasing tapes of his conversations with Comey after DDT accused him of lying under oath.

DDT’s Attempts at Foreign Policy:

In the week since eight Middle East countries have blockaded Qatar, a country that DDT had supported only days before, the U.S. has crossed from one side to another. DDT called the country extremist, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for diplomacy, and the United States completed a sale of 36 fighter jets for $12 billion that President Obama had initiated. Iran, Kuwait, and Turkey have declared themselves on the side of Qatar, and the blockading countries have broken up families. U.S. incompetence can put either Russia or Turkey as broker in the Middle East crisis, and Turkey is already deploying troops to help Qatar

The Philippines military has confirmed that the U.S. will provide “technical support” to fight ISIS in that country, but President Rodrigo Duterte says he doesn’t want the help. If that’s true, it means that the military may have gone rogue, and the U.S. could be in the middle of the mess.

After dumping 194 countries by rejecting the Paris climate agreement, DDT made the United States into a footnote with the G7 group of industrialized nations. The other six reconfirmed a commitment to reducing carbon emissions in a statement after its environment meeting that EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt left early. “G6” countries are already meeting with California in a beginning to work with some states in slowing down climate change. A German fact check of DDT’s speech about saving $3 trillion shows he didn’t account for massive savings in fiscal benefits of avoiding massive climate changes.

DDT is afraid to go to Britain if there are large-scale protests. He told current prime minister Theresa May that he’ll wait until the British public supports a visit. UK will save lot of money in not having to break out the gold coach for him.

And a Few Other Pieces:

D.C. and Maryland are suing DDT because of the millions in payments he is receiving in his Washington hotel that violate the Emoluments Clause of the constitution. Government lawyers content that this prohibition doesn’t count for DDT. If a federal court decides whether the case can continue, the plaintiffs will request that DDT’s personal tax returns be publicly revealed. Another 196 congressional Democrats are suing DDT for the same reason.

DDT is blocking more people from his Twitter account, including VoteVets.org, a group representing over 500,000 veterans, family members, and civilian supporters. A record of his more notable blocks, including famous novelist Stephen King, is available here.

DDT’s climate quote of the week: “You’ve got one heck of an island there. Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.” The statement was made to Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge of Tangier (VA) on an island that has about 25 years left before sea-level rise from climate change puts it under the water. Of the 450 population in the town first settled in the 17th century, about 87 percent voted for DDT in the place that is sinking 15 feet each year.

DDT’s wife Melania has reported that she officially moved into the White House with their son Barron.

Anyone watching comedy shows or news have seen clips of DDT’s Cabinet meeting where members and attendees were forced to suck up to the fragile DDT. Former CIA member Ned Price compared the fawning to what could be seen around North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un. Best headline: “Roomful of Pussies Purrs Its Praise At Feral Orange Tomcat.” Only Defense Secretary James Mattis didn’t play the game, instead praising the members of the military. Lesser noticed, however, is the parody that came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Well worth watching! The article is also a detailed debunking of DDT’s claims. If you really want to read the comments ….

Being president makes a lot of money for DDT, and not just from his salary. His recent financial disclosure shows tens of millions of dollars in income from his “Trump” golf courses and resorts that get the biggest boosts from places he personally visits. One of these is Mar-a-Lago that doubled its 2016 incoe to $29 million. DDT visited at least one of his own properties in one-third of his first 108 days in office, 36 times. Details here.

Republican approval of how things are going in the U.S. dropped 17 points from 58 percent last month to 41 percent.

For the first time in his 22 weekends, DDT is not spending time at one of his golf courses or resorts. Instead, he has gone to the presidents’ retreat of Camp David. It may not be a common practice. DDT called Camp David “rustic” and said, “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.” This facility does not require millions of dollars per visit like DDT’s time at his personal business places such as Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster (NJ). DDT should be okay: he’s only going overnight.

January 27, 2016

Koch Brothers’ Underhanded Methods to Control U.S.

Jane Mayer, writer for The New Yorker, has just published Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Her personal adventure with the Koch brothers began five years ago when she learned about private investigators digging into her background. She had just published an in-depth piece chronicling the rise of the “Kochtopus,” headlined “Covert Operations,” which brought the Koch brothers in the limelight that they avoided for decades. Her depiction of them as secretive bankrollers warring against President Obama and environmental safety measures enraged the Koch brothers.

Mayer was first accused of plagiarism when David Strong, reporter at the conservative Daily Caller, asked David Remnick, New Yorker editor, this allegation and sent several pieces that attempt to back up his allegation. New York Post reporter Keith Kelly, who received the same allegations, asked the Daily Caller’s editor Tucker Carlson, about the origins. He couldn’t support the information and dropped it, but Strong refused to talk to Kelly about the story. When the purported victims stated that there was no plagiarism, the accusation collapsed. It took Mayer three years to track the origin.

The Koch machine had hired at least six people, working in borrowed space of the lobbying firm operated by former GOP Rep. J.C. Watts, to investigate Mayer . She noted that a source told her, “If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.” An unnamed source also told her that the Koch operatives “thought they had you. They thought they were going to be knighted by the Kochs.” The accusation of plagiarism appeared after operatives failed to turn up anything “truly incriminating,” such as a friend from college who later had problems. As Mayer said, “It was 60 years ago.”

The general counsel of Koch Industries also sent a letter to the American Society of Magazine Editors tried to keep the New Yorker from receiving a National Magazine Award for Mayer’s writing about the Koch brothers. That also failed.

Another firm hired to investigate her was Vigilant Resources International, whose founder and chairman, Howard Safir, had been New York City’s police commissioner under the former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Two other people involved in the operation against Mayer were Philip Ellender, who heads Koch’s government affairs arm, and Nancy Pfotenhauer, who has served as president of a nonprofit advocacy group funded by the Kochs. The only person to speak on the record was Ken Spain, spokesman for Koch Industries, who claims that Mayer’s writings about Koch are “grossly inaccurate.” Asked about if he was saying that Mayer’s investigation had not happened, Spain answered, “We stand by the statement.”

It’s understandable why the Koch brothers would want to smear Mayer’s book. She tells about how their father helped build a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany. Fred C. Koch became successful in business in the years immediately preceding World War II. The oil refinery, third largest in the Third Reich and vital to Hitler’s war machine, came from his partnership with U.S. Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis. Fred Koch admired German discipline so much in the 1930s that he hired a fervent Nazi as a governess for his eldest boys.

In 1938, the same year that Hitler’s new laws seized assets and confiscated property from Jews, Fred Koch said, “Although nobody agrees with me, I am of the opinion that the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy, and Japan, simply because they are all working and working hard…. When you contrast the state of mind of Germany today with what it was in 1925 you begin to think that perhaps this course of idleness, feeding at the public trough, dependence on government, etc., with which we are afflicted is not permanent and can be overcome.” Conservatives can trace their current philosophy back to Nazi Germany.

Mayer also writes about the oldest Koch brother, William, participating in blackmail with Charles and David to force David’s twin, Frederick, to relinquish any claim to the family business. If he had not, the other three said that would tell their father that Frederick is gay. This information comes from the 700-page book Stealth: The History of Charles Koch’s Political Activities, that William commissioned to describe Charles’ secret plan to manipulate U.S. politics.

In the 1990s, Koch Industries admitted that it had pocketed millions and millions of dollars by mis-measuring oil from Indian reservations and stealing it. The Koch brothers said that it was an accident, but no other companies had this problem.

Twenty years ago, Koch Industries environmental technician Sally Barnes-Soliz revealed that their Texas refinery was releasing 15 times more than the legal limit of benzene into the atmosphere. When Koch falsified a report by 1/149th of the amount she calculated, she reported that also. Barnes-Soliz got an empty office with no email access, and Koch Industries paid $20 million. She quit in 1999 with an undisclosed settlement.

Dark Money chronicles how a small sect of the ultrarich—Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the Mellon banking fortune) and Harry and Lynde Bradley (brothers wealthy from military contracts) among them—were largely creators of the current conservative movement, now controlled by Charles and David Koch. With others, these political donors poured hundreds of millions of dollars, usually with little or no public disclosure, into supposedly non-profit organizations for anti-government and anti-tax purposes under the veil of promoting public interest.

The Koch brothers are known for their heavy investment in fossil fuels and their leadership in funding climate change denial. Their “crown jewel” is the Pine Hill Refinery in Rosemount (MN), polluting the air with emissions from heavy “garbage” crude from Alberta’s tar sands by daily importing 25 per cent of the 1.2 million barrels of oil into the U.S.

Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute which issued reports such as “Apocalypse Not: Science, Economics, Environmentalism and the Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn’t Worry about Global Warming.” A non-peer reviewed study claiming that climate change was not endangering polar bears came from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation with funds from ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. Other climate denial reports came from funding provided by Scaife, heir to the Gulf Oil fortune, and John Olin, whose companies have manufactured DDT.

The nucleus of the Koch donors comes from an owner of coal reserves, two fracking pioneers, and a variety of oilmen and coal company owners. Between 2003 and 2010, climate denial groups colleged over one-half billion dollars which came from self-identified tax-exempt, philanthropic endeavour,” according to Robert Bruelle, Drexel University professor of sociology.

The Koch brothers attack on climatologist Michael Mann was more successful than the one on Jane Mayer. Co-author of a 1999 study showing the way that the earth’s temperature shot up in the 20th century, Mann was briefly discredited by a hacker who gained access to internal emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Misconstrued wording in one email about Mann and his research led to congressional Republicans investigating Mann and sending threatening letters to Penn State about their tenured professor. A self-described CIA officer offered Mann’s departmental colleagues $10,000 for any dirt they could find on him. State GOP legislatures withheld Penn State’s funding until the university took action against Mann. He received death threats and opened a letter with white powder. Mann was exonerated, but the episode left a trail of terror for other researchers.

The Koch’s vast network was designed to persuade other wealthy business owners to donate to the Koch-controlled political groups. Scaife, who died in 2014, joined Koch’s cause with over a billion dollars to prevent his inheritance tax by donating its net income to charity for 20 years. Koch-financed groups provided strategies to oppose the Affordable Care Act and climate change mitigation while supporting cuts to Social Security. Mayer reports that in 2011 about then House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) visiting David Koch for help in resolving a debt ceiling stalemate.

The Koch brothers plan to spend almost $1 billion to elect a Republican president this year. And that doesn’t include all the “dark money” that they collect for their ultra-conservative efforts. Jane Mayer describes their recipe for doing this:

“The Kochs have built kind of an assembly line to manufacture political change. And it includes think tanks, which produce papers. It includes advocacy groups, that advocate for policies. And it includes giving money to candidates. And you put those three together, and they’ve pushed against doing anything about climate change on all those three fronts at once. So you get papers that look like they’re real scientific opinions doubting that climate change is real, you get advocacy groups saying we can’t afford to do anything about it, and you get candidates who have to sign a pledge that—their largest political group is Americans for Prosperity.

“They have a pledge that says that if you want to get money from this—from their donors, you have to sign a pledge saying that, if elected, you will do nothing about climate change that requires spending any money on the problem. And 156 members of Congress currently have signed that pledge. So, it sort of is a recipe for how to tie the hands of the country from doing anything on this.”

Charles Koch was a member of the John Birch Society that his father helped found, and both brothers thought that President Eisenhower was a communist and Ronald Reagan was too liberal to be a president. Their attempt to reform the criminal system is based on getting rid of crimes related to pollution, corporate crime, and tax crimes. And they control billions of dollars to push their agenda. That’s what the progressives are facing in this year’s election.

June 28, 2013

‘Moral Monday’ Gives Hope

While legislators in North Carolina have systematically taken state resources from most of the taxpayers and transferred tax cuts to the wealthy, a group of protesters have continued to make their objections clear during the past two months, even to the point of being arrested. Called “Moral Monday,” the protest gathered the largest crowd this past week, about 5,000 people gathered. Of those 120 were arrested.

Although the GOP legislators would like to dismiss these protesters as “crazies,” many of them do their organizing in mainstream churches. Volunteers hand out green strips of fabric for people who are willing to be arrested. Those who have already been arrested are discouraged from signing up for arrest because of the weightier charge for repeat offenders.

For the most recent protest, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday protests, asked during his invocation, “How do you say cutting 500,000 people’s health care is the moral thing to do?” He continued, “When you hurt the poor, you are not faithfully executing the constitution.” All the people standing behind him in this photo were arrested last Monday.

Armenta Eaton spoke about the reason that her 92-year-old mother, Rosanell Eaton, was willing to be arrested for her protests:

“What brought her out was the possibility of requiring voter ID. She was required when she was 21 years old to repeat the preamble to the Constitution in order to register. She did it! She didn’t even know she had to do it, she was just smart. They would yank you around back in those days. She was valedictorian of her class, she knew all that stuff. It’s what she had to go through. She thought things were smooth sailing. She’s seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Now she’s seeing the ugly again. She fought for civil rights, she was a civil rights worker, and now she sees that it’s going backward.”

Chris Carter talked about how the rules protecting water quality have been “stripped away and are under attack.” Darlene Burns said she was doing it for her grandchildren.

“I want a better state for them to grow up in. I’ve got three that are still in the public schools. They’re decimating education and it’s not fair to the kids. It’s attacks on the unemployed, it’s turning down the Medicaid. It’s too many things to list. I’m nervous. I’ve never done this before. But it’s too important not to.”

Charles Warren explained that “it’s about the cause. So much to hurt the middle class, the unemployed, taking Medicaid away from 500,000 people, reducing unemployment. This is terrible for our state. Terrible for the people who’re going to be laid off. I’m really in favor of kicking all these legislators out.”

One man explained that next week 71,000 North Carolinians will lose federal extended unemployment benefits because of a new state law that reduces the maximum benefit an individual can receive. North Carolina is the only state to reject these federal benefits, which come at no cost to the state.

Sen. Thom Goolsby (R) calls them “Moron Mondays,” and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) accuses protestors of not being from North Carolina. McCrory and the legislature rejected an expansion of Medicaid in their state, despite the fact that the federal government would be footing the bill. As a result, 500,000 poor North Carolinians will not receive health insurance.

In 2010, one person was largely responsible for giving both houses of the North Carolina to the legislature for the first time since 1870.  Jane Mayer reported for the New Yorker in 2011, “three-quarters of the spending by independent groups in North Carolina’s 2010 state races came from accounts linked to” wholesale baron Art Pope. When McCrory replaced Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue last January, the GOP had total control of the state.

Here are Art Pope’s dream bills going through the legislature:

Voter Suppression: In addition to requiring voter ID, the state cut early voter hours and eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Another bill would raise taxes on families with college students if the child registers to vote at school rather than at home. The state would no longer consider the child a dependent even though the parents pay all the bills.

Fewer Taxes for Wealthy: The bill would erase all individual and corporate income taxes and replace them with higher sales taxes that disproportionately burden lower-income taxpayers. A similar bill in Louisiana would raise taxes for 80 percent of the people while giving those in the top 1 percent an average tax cut of $25,423.

Anti-Abortion Moves: New restrictions such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic would seriously hamper the work of the clinics. Conservatives claim that this is a safety measure, but hospitals refuse these doctors privileges. Also the House has just passed a bill requiring teachers to tell their students that abortions will increase risks of future premature births, despite the fact that this is a lie.

Anti-Worker Constitutional Amendment: Legislators want to lock the prevention of collective bargaining into the state constitution, making it even easier for companies to pressure workers against unionizing.

Subsidizing Home Schooling: A bill would give families a $1,250 per semester tax subsidy if they home school their children.

Judges for Sale: The bills would allow attorneys and special interest groups the ability to provide campaign funds for judges.

State Sponsored Religion: A GOP-backed resolution proclaimed that the U.S. Constitution “does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional,” and then decreeing that North Carolina could establish its own state religion. That one failed, but it didn’t put anything into effect even if it passed.

Climate Change Denial: The state is banned from basing coastal policies on the most recent scientific predictions of sea level rise.

There are many more laws, some of them very strange, including preventing Tesla Motors from emailing its customers and banning “foreign law” in the state. Fracking in the state is legal now, however, because an exhausted senator pressed the wrong number. State law prevents her from changing her votes if it changes the result of the vote.

Only a few hundred protesters could fit inside the building. Orders of magnitude more waited outside. The others waited outside. Inside, people chanted, sang songs, and gave speeches.

North Carolina has no collective bargaining rights in North Carolina, even for public employees unions. One police officer thanked those arrested at the detention center for helping him get more overtime pay. Another officer described protesters as “very nice,” “orderly,” and “great to deal with.”

After the first bus headed off to jail with protesters, the crowd chanted, “You’re gonna need another bus ’cause baby there are more of us.” Some of the protesters went back to the church where they had gathered earlier for a potluck and planning for next week.

bus

Eaton was released from the detention center at around 9pm as well-wishers cheered her on. Many protesters returned to the Pullen Baptist Church afterward for a potluck where they traded stories and began to think about what more they can do next week.

The first people arrested on Moral Monday over eight weeks ago were to appear in court last Monday and expected to plead not guilty. Almost all the protesters have been charged with second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse, and violating building rules. NAACP legal advisor Irv Joyner, also a law professor at N.C. Central University, said that many of those charged with breaking building rules by displaying signs were not holding one. He also said:

“On public property, people can’t be directed to disperse or leave unless someone is engaged in unlawful activity. You can apply the same rational to the trespassing charge, which is the same idea. If you have a right to be there, that’s not trespassing.”

In addition, building rules allow visitors to move about freely unless they create disturbances.

Moral Monday gives me hope for change in this country.

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