Nel's New Day

September 29, 2018

DDT: Week 88 – His Very, Very Bad Time

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) had another really bad week. It started with members of the UN General Assembly openly laughing at his opening statements on Monday and ended with the failure of his Supreme Court nominee to get the confirmation after a crying, hysterical, weak, bullying Brett Kavanaugh performed badly at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. In addition, a federal judge ruled that 200 congressional Democrats can sue for violating the U.S. Constitution because of illegally doing business with foreign governments while he is in office. Attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Maryland had a similar lawsuit also accusing him of violating the constitution’s emoluments clause. And Robert Mueller continues the investigation of the Russian scandal.

(Photo By Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Thursday, the ten-hour hearing with accuser Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh was a dismaying visual of what Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called a representation of “we the ruling party” instead of “we the people.” DDT spoke the truth when he said that Kavanaugh’s performance, full of white man’s rage, was “incredible”—because the word means “unbelievable … unconvincing … implausible … highly unlikely.” He also said that it was “something we haven’t seen before,” another accurate statement because the hearing was a low point in U.S. history. Despite smears against Democrats by Republicans and temper tantrums, most notably by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a plea from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) led to a one-week hiatus before the floor vote despite the fury of some GOP senators while the FBI investigates the evidence against Kavanaugh. [GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT) and Chuck Grassley (IA) flank Kavanaugh.] Alexandra Petri has an excellent column on the Kavanaugh situation.

UN representatives laughed at DDT when he bragged about already having accomplished more than nearly every other U.S. president.  During his campaign, DDT called President Obama “a laughing stock to the entire World.” The rest of his speech, focusing on U.S. sovereignty, sounded like a subdued version of his campaign rallies, something not well received by that audience. He said that the U.S. will not “tell you how to live and work and worship” so long as “you respect our sovereignty in return” but attacked several countries.

DDT praised India for reducing poverty, Israel for “vibrant democracy,” North Korea for “courage,” Poland for “standing up” for freedom, and Saudi Arabia for its “bold reforms.” He celebrated Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-supported war on Yemen where over 60,000 people have died in only two years, many of them civilians dying in war crimes. Attacks focused on China for unfair trade practices, Germany for its pipeline deal with Russia, and Venezuela for socialism. He also called on the world to isolate Iran, hours after Europe, Russia, and China agreed to a payment deal to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran. DDT also endorsed a strict dependence on fossil fuels.

Some of DDT’s vitriol—and lies—were saved for the International Criminal Court, a concern to DDT because of the investigation into U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Israeli crimes in Gaza. National security advisor John Bolton has been outspoken in his criticisms of the ICC, perhaps because he could be tried for duping the U.S. into the 2003 preemptive war on Iraq that has brought disaster to both countries for the past 15 years. French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country will not enter into any trade deals with countries that have not signed onto the Paris climate agreement. Since every nation signed, the United States is unique in asserting that it is pulling out of the agreement, something that it cannot formally do until November 4, 2020.

WaPo listed 14 of DDT’s lies in his speech, including his inflation of success in legislative acts, economy improvement, jobs creation, tax cuts, building a wall (which he hasn’t), military expenditure. He falsified the trade deficit, North Korea’s secret nuclear production, Iran’s military spending, U.S. foreign aid, China joining the WTO, and rising oil prices that came from DDT’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord and new sanctions, not OPEC and OPEC nations. Dana Milbank wrote that between his lies and his outrageous claims, DDT “spoke as though he had accepted a dare to see how much of the world he could offend in the span of a 35-minute address.” DDT “dissed” “90 percent of the world’s population.”

During the U.N. Security Council meeting, DDT first claimed that China “has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election” before he bragged a few hours later about the great respect he receives from Chinese officials:

“Mr. Pillsbury, the leading authority on China, was saying that China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain.”

Conservative author Michael Pillsbury frequently appears on Fox network. DDT added that the Chinese “are doing studies on Donald Trump.”  China’s state-run media characterizes DDT as a clownish buffoon with many reasons to ridicule him. DDT made no mention of Russia’s interference in the election.

DDT failed to meet his self-imposed deadline to persuade Canada to join his new trade deal with Mexico. Both GOP lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn (TX), and businesses are critical of his failure. The deadline was set to allow current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to sign it on his final day in office, November 30, for fear that the new president will not sign the deal. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shows no interest in accepting DDT’s terms with Mexico, including the increased percentage of vehicles qualifying for duty-free treatment to 75 percent from 62.5 percent and require that much of the vehicle being made by workers with a wage of at least $16 an hour. After the signing, the International Trade Commission has 105 days to evaluate its likely consequences. Congress must approve the new trade deal, and Republicans are very skeptical of a two-country arrangement.

“Trump Effect”:  A 2017 study of middle schools in Virginia found that both teasing and bullying was significantly higher in schools located where a majority of people voted for DDT. No differences were noted in 2013 and 2015. Details here.

The Brett Kavanaugh stories covered the media stories about DOJ Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein possibly being fired because of a NYT story that he had suggested taping DDT, contradicted by people at the meeting who said he was being sarcastic. House Republicans wanted to talk to Rosenstein this coming week, but the House, worried about mid-term elections in early November, is in recess until November 13. Before they left, they kept the government open—without money for DDT’s wall—but failed to agree on the farm bill. Permanently authorized and funded programs such as food stamps aren’t affected but 39 other programs had now lapsed.

DDT’s new plan to reduce the number of legal immigrants is to kill them through starvation and lack of health care. A proposed rule will consider public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing vouchers as “heavily weighted negative factors” in green card applications. The government will give people the choice to die or be deported. Despite claims of a good economy, wages stay low, with one-third of the work force—40 million people—earning less than $12 per hour with no benefits. The rule doesn’t require congressional approval and can go into effect after a 60-day public review period.

Hurricane Florence damaged over 51,000 homes, 11,000 of them by sea level rise. Seas have risen by at least six inches since 1970. The projected 15-inch sea rise by 2050 will double the impact with the same storm surge. At the same time, climate change is making all storms much stronger and wetter. Projected costs by Florence for the National Flood Insurance Program can be as much as $1.2 billion to make a total of $2.8 to $5 billion insurance losses. Seventy percent of the homes hit by Florence were not insured. FEMA flood maps are out of date, encouraging people to re-build or repair in vulnerable places.

Two weeks after Florence hit, thousands of residents still could not get power from coal-fired utilities while solar installations were running the day after the storm.

South Carolina native Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, is raising money for organizations working with hurricane victims, specifically the Foundation for the Carolinas, The One SC Fun, the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, and World Central Kitchen with a new children’s book featuring DDT’s comments about the disaster, including his comment to a survivor about the boat shipwrecked on his property:

“At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.”

Whose Boat Is This Boat? Comments That Don’t Help in the Aftermath of a Hurricane by Donald Trump (accidentally), featuring an image of the boat on the cover, comes out November 6.  [visual]

DDT’s administration reported that the world will be seven degrees hotter in the next 80 years and parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater. DDT is not concerned about climate change: the EPA is dissolving its Office of the Science Advisor who works to ensure that the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies and decisions.

The government lost another 1,488 immigrant children in addition to the 1,475 migrant children separated from families and subsequently lost. DHS said that the government is no longer responsible after they place the children with sponsors. According to recently released memos, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also lied to Congress and the public when she said that the government had no policy of separating families at the border.

DDT started his five-city campaign rally tour in West Virginia where the poverty level increased 12 percent to almost 20 percent. There, he told the crowd that Kim Jong-Un wrote him “beautiful letters” and “we fell in love.”

April 4, 2018

Scott Pruitt – Is He the Next To Go?

With more bad news about the Stormy Daniels’ and Russian scandals, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) needs another distraction. Firing his EPA secretary might be the solution, especially since Scott Pruitt is causing a number of scandals on his own. Pruitt came into the job lying at his confirmation hearings about private emails and then taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers for massive security expenses although no one can track serious threats; and construction needs to hide away from his staff. DDT kept him on because he was following DDT’s direction by polluting the nation and killing people with dirty air and water which saved money for DDT’s business friends; and high costs for personal and business travel, sometimes first class, because he is afraid of his constituents. He spent $120,000 to attend the G7 climate conference with seven aides and several security staff where he went to only one meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to postpone Pruitt’s hearings until thousands of emails were released. The day after his confirmation, the emails showed Pruitt’s collusion with the fossil fuel industry bribing him to falsify information supporting fracking. Thousands of concealed emails were released the day after his confirmation showing the his collusion with the fossil fuel industry that bribed him to build cases in favor of fracking companies and electric utilities.

In the last eight months of 2017, 770 EPA employees left the agency. Pruitt is so paranoid that employees may not take notes at meetings or talk about environmental issues. His security cost $830,000 for the first three months, the secret phone booth was $42,000, and special locks were $6,000 each. At the same time, the EPA budget dropped by over 30 percent in one year.

Pruitt’s latest scandal, however, is something that DDT may not be able to bear because it won’t go away. Pruitt’s expensive trip to Morocco regarding liquid nitrogen gas exports last December, something that has nothing to do with the EPA, caused great interest in the media when journalists found that he got a condo rental for $50 per night—when he stayed in—in an area that usually costs up to $5,000 a month for rentals. Pruitt’s renter is the wife of energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart who not only may receive an LNG deal for Pruitt’s cheap rent but also was awarded a huge pipeline expansion for Enbridge although EPA had previously fined the company $61 million for a 2010 pipeline disaster sending “hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and other waterways,” according to the New York Times. The fine was the second largest in almost half a century just behind that for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.  

The most recent scandal about Pruitt surrounds Millan Hupp, the 26-year-old staff member with the 33-percent raise who spent both office and personal hours in an extensive search for a house for Pruitt. Her work on this project constitutes a violation of federal rules that prevents federal officials from asking subordinates to do personal tasks. The White House refused to approve huge salary increases for both Hupp and another staffer, so Pruitt employed them under the Safe Drinking Water Act, permitting Pruitt to hire up to 30 people without White House or congressional approval. These employees do not have to sign ethics pledges about lobbying activities and other conflicts of interest. Pruitt signed off on their employment, but he denied it in a Fox interview today.

The Fox network, usually easy on Pruitt, was more harsh today. Asked about the additional $84,000 in salary for just two staffers, Pruitt said he knew nothing about it until this week. Interview Ed Henry said, “You run the agency. You don’t know who did this?” Until now, Pruitt managed the media by catering to conservative outlets and avoids environmental reporters. By withholding information, such as his schedule, Pruitt he kept out of trouble, especially because he threatens reporters with police removal at his events.

Pruitt began his first year running the EPA by vastly shrinking the agency and trying to destroy any regulations. Because he stopped enforcing civil penalties for companies breaking limits for hazardous chemicals, the amount of fines dropped drastically, about one-fifth of President Obama’s last year.

Pruitt has damaged children’s health and neurodevelopment by returning banned pesticides into the food supply, weakening standards to toxic metals, allowing corporations to release pollutants that increase asthma, permitting implementation of chemicals even if they can be dangerous, and closing an office that tests the effects of chemical exposure.

Pruitt’s drastic attempts to repeal the Clean Power Plan is opposed by a diverse population of coal miners, Missouri grandparents, and Wyoming healthcare workers.

A way for Pruitt to restrict environmental regulations is his proposed policy that all raw data must be made public, and that means personal health information that people want kept private if they participate in studies. Pruitt’s policy will result in narrow, incomplete research. He also ruled that scientists receiving EPA grants may not serve on the agency’s advisory board which blocks expertise about current science. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year.

Pruitt told agency scientists that they cannot speak about climate change. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year. He replaced half the members on a key scientific review board that determines the quality of research.

Last week, Pruitt sent all employees his eight approved talking points about climate change stating that the level of human impact on changing climate is “subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” It added “clear gaps” about the role of human activity “and what we can do about it.”

The EPA programs on climate adaptation and the one that studies effects of chemical exposure on children have been closed, and Pruitt recommends no funding for ones that deal with rising seas and warming temperatures. He also erased climate change from websites.

Pruitt is saving utilities from $31 million and $100 million annually by eliminating rules that tightened restrictions on disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. The toxic heavy metals seep into the groundwater, and living with a mile of a storage pond causes a greater health threat than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Coal ash is the second greatest toxic pollution threat in the U.S.

Pruitt eliminated the policy requiring polluters such as factories and power plants to be designated “major source” after they emit more than 10 tons of hazardous materials or 25 tons of combined dangerous materials in a given year.

Pruitt’s hires are highly questionable. Albert Kelly, banned from working in the banking sector for life, gets $172,000 from the EPA as senior adviser. He has no experience, but he loaned Pruitt money to buy a home and a minor league baseball team when he was an Oklahoma banker. Superviser for superfund cleanups, Kelly has had—and may still have—stocks in Phillips 66, one of the major polluters. Staffers at the EPA also have permission to keep their political consulting side jobs.

Pruitt suggested that global warming—which is causing floods, drought, famine, and war—might be helpful. He also said, “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Pruitt has been useful to DDT’s interest in big business and may save his job that way. This past week, he rolled back gas emissions regulations and just signed an executive order giving himself authority to determine regulations near streams, ponds, and wetlands, determining any possible negative environmental effects for projects such a coal refineries and power plants.

In 2016, Pruitt said, “I believe that Donald Trump in the White House will be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama and that’s saying a lot.” Pruitt became complicit in DDT’s crimes, but he may be on his way out. Asked about Pruitt yesterday, DDT said, “I hope he’s going to great.”

(If you’re not disgusted yet, Google Scott Pruitt. There’s a lot more, including his history while in Oklahoma.)

January 23, 2018

How DDT Claims to Make U.S. Safe

More news from the last week of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) of his first year:

DDT’s request for more foreign workers at his winery could benefit from Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) proposed bill deporting all immigrant workers and replacing them with migrant workers who can be exploited by removing benefits such as housing and transportation, gutting protections and drastically lowering wages. Employers could withhold ten percent of wages to deposit them into a U.S. embassy or consulate in the workers’ home countries.

DDT has stopped a program to help health workers and families identify effective substance abuse and behavioral health programs.

Republicans reauthorized the warrantless surveillance act of Section 702 and added warrantless searches of millions of Americans’ online and phone communications. The bill almost failed when DDT heard Andrew Napolitano tell Fox & Friends that Section 702 was responsible for accusing DDT of Russian collusion, and DDT tweeted against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent 30 minutes on the phone explaining the bill to DDT.

Immigrant-hater Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), favored by DDT, is threatening dissenting constituents with police action even for written communication.

The Pentagon took climate change from its National Defense Strategy, added in George W. Bush’s 2008 report. The term also disappeared from the list of threats in the National Security Strategy. A 1990 U.S. Naval War College report found that its operations could be greatly affected by global climate change. The world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, has routine flooding, even on sunny days, with no plans to fix the problem.

With his new sycophant Mike Mulvaney in charge of the consumer bureau, DDT plans to let the $40 billion payday lending industry prey on the poor after the industry paid $8 million to GOP legislators and part and $1,275,000 to DDT’s inauguration. Mulvaney’s piece to drop payday lending rules got him $55,000 in campaign donations. The Community Financial Services Association of America’s annual conference is scheduled at the Trump National Doral resort in Miami.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) did even better from the new tax bill; he got $1 million–$500,000 from the Koch brothers for saving them 40 percent of their tax bill a special deduction for oil and gas investors and another $500,000 from five other businessmen.

The Supreme Court declared that the redrawing of North Carolina’s GOP-oriented gerrymandered districts on hold during an appeal. In a state with a bare majority for Republicans, they took ten of thirteen House positions in the last election.

A month ago, DDT congratulated the LGBTQ  Log Cabin Republicans on their 40th anniversary and declared them “equal” under the law and the constitution. This week, he continued his persecution of LGBTQ people by promoting the discriminatory practice of healthcare workers denying treatment of LGBTQ patients for moral or religious reasons through a new division of the civil right office. Before President Obama, an ambulance driver’s refusal to take a transgender woman to a hospital led to her death, lesbian couples were denied fertility treatment, and children of same-gender couples were denied health care. The Department of Education is already refusing to hear civil rights complaints from transgender students.

The new guidelines can discriminate against other people, including denying access to abortions, “assisted suicide,” sterilization, in vitro fertilization, contraception, and other “certain health-care services.” Some people have access only to Catholic-based healthcare, which controls over 14 percent of the hospitals in the United States and 40 percent of the hospitals in five states.

The investigation into Russian involvement with DDT still moves forward.

The National Rifle Association is now involved in the Russian connection after the discovery that Russia gave them money in their work to elect DDT. Other suspicious activities are connected to financial activity with Russia during crisis times for that country in Ukraine.

Steve Bannon so infuriated the House Intelligence Committee by saying that the White House wouldn’t let him answer questions that they slapped him with a subpoena on the spot. Only a president can use executive privilege to not answer questions; anyone else must use their 5th Amendment rights. Bannon did slip up and admitted that he talked to Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Mark Corallo about Donald Trump, Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russians in the Trump Tower. Bannon’s lawyer was on the phone with a White House official during the testimony, possibly an obstruction of justice. Special investigator Robert Mueller also subpoenaed Bannon to testify before a grand jury. Bannon dressed up for his House appearance.

The week’s maybe most bizarre story fits into a thriller novel. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, was warned a year ago about his friendship with Wendi Deng Murdoch because she might be using him to promote China’s business interests. Wendi Deng is the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, divorced after a purported affair with UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, and a close friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump. Wendy Deng lobbied for a $100 million Chinese garden fewer than five miles from the Capitol and the White House that included a tower tall enough to be used for surveillance. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, broke the story.

Appointments:

The good news! Because of his vicious racist, sexist, and homophobic statements, Carl Higbie has resigned as nominee for chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that manages programs such as AmeriCorps and other volunteer services.

Kenneth Marcus’ nomination to head up the Office for Civil Rights will have a full vote after the party-line vote of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. Over 200 civil rights organizations opposed his confirmation after his statement that he could not think of any situation in which he would disagree with DDT’s positions on women’s rights or civil rights. Marcus opposes affirmative action and equal opportunity, stating that evidence of racial disparities in student discipline, i.e., black students suffering harsh discipline at much higher rates than white students, comes from paperwork errors. He also supports the reversal of guidance on campus sexual assault and opposes the Commission on Civil Rights’ investigation of human rights violations against the LGBTQ community. The Office for Civil Rights is responsible for protecting students from discrimination.

Ten of 12 members of the National Park Service Advisory Board quit after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to meet with the committee. Created in 1935, the board helps preserve American heritage by designating historic or natural landmarks. Zinke previously disbanded the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science.

Sexual Misconduct:

Another woman, Alana Evans, has claimed that DDT offered her money to “party.” Recent revelations of cover ups show that DDT is willing to lie about his sexual affairs (a given), making him vulnerable to blackmail and extortion. DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid porn queen Stormy Daniels through a shell company that he created in Delaware.

The Missouri GOP governor in trouble for blackmailing a woman after having an affair with her and then taking nude photographs of her under duress is in more trouble. Eric Greitens refused to resign, despite bipartisan pressure, and used a state-paid lawyer to try to make the problem go away. A GOP state senator tweeted, “Stick a fork in him.”

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) has been removed from the Ethics Committee after it was reported he used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a misconduct complaint by a decades-younger former staffer. The Ethics Committee will investigate Meehan.

Tennessee megachurch pastor Andy Savage chuckled through his description of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old congregant and called it consensual and “flirtatious.” His congregation had previously applauded his “confession,” but his publisher pulled his book and he’s on a leave of absence from his pastor position.

Almost 140 girls and women have given testimony against Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics medical coordinator, in a sentence hearing about his sexual assaults conviction. Nassar, 54, already has a 60-year federal sentence for a child pornography conviction and pled guilty to several state sexual assault charges. An NCAA investigation is exploring why Michigan State refused to address repeated reports of sexual abuse by their former university faculty member and practicing physician at the school’s sports medicine clinic from 1997 until he was fired in 2016. A cross country runner was told that he “knew what he was doing” when he penetrated her vagina for a hamstring “treatment.” All other complaints were dismissed.

The GOP supporting “family values” has gotten rid of one “bad hombre”: Jorge Garcia, brought to the U.S. involuntarily 29 years ago, is married to a U.S. citizen, has two U.S. citizen kids, and has no criminal record. He regularly reported to his ICE check-in and spent $125,000 trying to legally stay in the country. This week ICE deported him on Martin Luther King Jr Day. And he’s not the first in that situation to be separated from his family.

Another loss is Lukasz Niec, 5 years old when his parents brought him and his sister legally to the United States from Poland in 1979, two years before the country’s authoritarian communist government declared martial law. He is married to a U.S. citizen and has visited Poland only once when he was a teenager. With a green card, Niec became a legal permanent resident and a doctor, like both his parents. ICE arrested the 43-year-old man at his home and detained him in a county jail. As a teenager, he had two misdemeanor convictions of malicious destruction of property under $100 and receiving and concealing stolen property over $100. The second offense had been expunged from his criminal record.

DDT: Make our country safe.

January 16, 2018

Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ Precursor to Today’s Fascism

The most popular expression in 2017, according to the Washington Post, was “fake news,” and Merriam-Webster announced that “feminism” was the term with the most internet searches. Cambridge Dictionary highlighted “populism” because Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) claimed to support the working people, and Dictionary.com selected “complicit.” The real Word of the Year might be #, as in hashtag, such as the #MeToo movement. A term for current politics could be “faux populism” or “nationalism” because of the mushrooming acceptance of white supremacists in the United States. Gone are terms such as “diversity” and “togetherness.” The President’s Challenge Coin even lost the term “E pluribus unum,” the U.S. motto meaning “out of many, one.”

Throughout foreign affairs this past year, up is down and war is peace. “Normalization” used to mean making the abnormal conform to the standard perception, but DDT has changed it to acceptance of deviancy as the new normal. “Pivot” once meant turning but now means a pretense. The biggest reversal may be the word “fake.” Defined as “counterfeit” until the time of DDT, its meaning is now “I deny your reality” or “hoax.” Evidence and reason are now “fake science” or “fake news.” Those who lack any support or background for their arguments simply assert “fake …” to make facts vanish or “alternative facts,” introduced by Kellyanne Conway in an attempt to cover DDT’s lies.

Conservatives know how words can hurt their causes. A theme of the ruling class in George Orwell’s novel 1984, is “ignorance is strength.” The phrase “climate change” disappeared from the White House website minutes after DDT was inaugurated, and accurate science, climate, energy, and environment information has been erased on federal websites. References to rising sea levels, worsening wildfires, and threatened wildlife have disappeared. The Interior Department eliminated links to 92 national parks’ climate action plans.

EPA officials are ordered to eradicate the term “climate change” in grant solicitations and funding for initiatives. Public communications information also cannot use “climate change.” Colorado College environmental science professor Miroslav Kummel was told that he would need to revise his syllabus for his class, “Introduction to Global Climate Change” at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument because “all references to [climate change] in future documents, orientation talks, etc. will not be allowed.”

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention distributed a “language guidance” document to employees and contractors listing words and phrases to be avoided and accompanied by acceptable alternatives. For example, “underserved youth” are now “all youth.” “Substance abuse disorder,” no longer a disease, was replaced with “substance abuse issue.” Youths who have committed crimes are defined only as “offenders.” Last year, a request for grants to mentor child victims of sex trafficking specifically cited LGBTQ youths, one-third of the trafficked population; this year the requrest does not mention LGBTQ.

Providing more censorship, DDT’s administration is stopping the use of such words as “vulnerable, “entitlement,” and “diversity” in the Department of Health and Human Services budget. During a meeting, CDC employees were told to avoid “fetus,” “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Only the last two terms were given an alternative: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” “Abstinence-only” programs are being rebranded as “sexual risk avoidance” to acquire government funds. The government knows that these programs fail to work. Violence Against Children surveys from eleven countries “showed that an average of 1 in 3 young women had a first sexual experience that was forced or coerced,” according to a State Department report.

Humpty Dumpty told Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.” Alice asked him how a word can have so many definitions, and Humpty Dumpty replied, “The question is which is to be master, that’s all.” Centuries later, Orwell agreed when he wrote that meaning is about power. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once defined truth as “the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”

Many of the words popularized in the new administration, including DDT’s latest vulgar term “shithole countries,” smack of authoritarianism supporting white supremacy and ethnic cleansing evidenced by fascist dictators leading up to World War II. They gained their power through suppression of the media just as DDT is trying to do. He is also using the one-party system in Washington and the tactics of Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists to control the nation.

Words that reveal injustices and encourage critical analyses disappear when people who use them are punished. Orwell’s “Newspeak” in 1984 has gone from fiction to the GOP standard operating procedures, especially since all scientific evidence and dissent is regarded as “fake news.” According to DDT, the critical media is the “enemy of the American people.” He maintains that he is the only person who can “Make America Great Again,” the only one who can save the nation. Repetition of these positions has led to almost a third of people in the nation believing that the media—except the Fox network and other more conservative sources—are false. DDT now declares Fire and Fury a “fake book.”

Authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat noted that fascism starts with words. Language normalizes brutality and cruelty with metaphors of racial purity, expulsion, war, and dehumanization. In The Third Reich in Power, Richard J. Evans wrote:

“The German language became a language of superlatives, so that everything the regime did became the best and the greatest, its achievements unprecedented, unique, historic and incomparable …. The language used about Hitler … was shot through and through with religious metaphors; people ‘believed in him,’ he was the redeemer, the savior, the instrument of Providence, his spirit lived in and through the German nation…. Nazi institutions domesticated themselves [through the use of a language] that became an unthinking part of everyday life.”

Adolf Hitler banned words, books, and authors while he made people disposable. The GOP goal is to destroy ways to protect vulnerable people and plunder the world’s resources for their personal gain.

DDT’s initial statement in his campaign on June 16, 2015, described the people coming into the United States as human garbage, the same message that he has repeated during the past two and a half years. In a speech to FBI graduates in December, he described immigrants coming by lottery as the “worst people …. the worst of the worst.” With no outrage from people, he normalized evil, just as authoritarianism does, in his statements about how immigrants (except those from Norway) despoil the (white) United States by raping and killing (white) women. Nobody was shocked until he used the word “shithole”; for many people it is only the word and not the policy behind it that is heinous.

Gina Apostel wrote, “When norms shift, one of the first things to change is language. In a fascist world, shocking neologisms become everyday speech.” She continued in a description about her experiences when Philippines’ late dictator Ferdinand Marcos decreed martial law in 1972 and compared that to today’s life under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who killed more people in his first year of martial law than Marcos did in a decade. “Extrajudicial killings” is a polite term for being killed by the police, and being “ka-DDS,” meaning “fellow-Davao Death Squad” rallies Duterte’s supporters, just as DDT’s supporters adopted the term “deplorables.” A new eatery north of Manila has a menu that includes “handcuffed pork belly” and “tortured pork chops,” referring to the people who Duterte kills. Another item is “the ham that fought back” because police can kill any suspect who resists arrest.

DDT praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job” in combating the illicit drug trade. Duterte called reporters “spies” when he met with DDT. Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here about the rise of an authoritarian fascist leader in the U.S. parallels DDT’s admiration dictators around the world.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” In this way, DDT uses words that make this passage from 1984 as the theme of his administration.

May 27, 2017

DDT: ‘Danger to the World’

A White House strategy for keeping Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in line while he traveled the world was to keep him so busy that he didn’t have time to get to his Twitter. The authoritarianism, opulence, and subservience in the Middle East also delighted  him. By last Thursday, however, his keepers had largely gone back to the United States, and he was in Europe where his favoritism of Russian was not as popular as in Saudi Arabia. In Brussels, where he attended the NATO summit, the familiar DDT showed up, with the customary picture of an unstable and embarrassing bully.

Perhaps no image demonstrates DDT’s superior attitude better than his pushing aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, representing a country which will join NATO in June to the displeasure of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It has to be seen to be believed! In his speech he  whined about NATO allies not paying their share and snarked about the expense of the new NATO building. Notable also is the way that DDT rejected the U.S. press. News about him—and there was plenty—came from the foreign press. Many people here and abroad will agree with Germany’s highly-respected Der Spiegel newspaper description of DDT:

“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

“He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.”

It’s not as if his comments were unscripted, the way that other DDT insults are. In a prepared speech in the ceremony to dedicate the new NATO headquarters, he talked about terrorism such as the Manchester bombing just three days earlier:

“These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct … in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share.”

DDT is demanding that NATO members pay two percent of their GDP as a “bare minimum.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left with DDT) was polite about DDT’s comments, but a senior diplomat said:

 

“This was not the right place or time. We are left with nothing else but trying to put a brave face on it.”

DDT also told the organization to limit immigration in its goals and failed to commit to its founding Article V rule, mandating that an attack against one ally is an attack against all. He is the only president who has not specifically endorsed the agreement. The only time that NATO has invoked Article V since its founding in 1949 was when the United States was attacked on 9/11. Over 1,000 NATO soldiers were killed in George W. Bush’s war against Afghanistan. DDT made his comments to NATO while standing next to wreckage from the Twin Towers. Last year, he had threatened to abandon the organization if they didn’t pay more while he was catering to Russia, a non-NATO member. Some current NATO countries were in the Soviet Union; Putin called its “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

NATO members did not respond well to DDT, as the above photo shows. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron went so far as to swerve away from him to first greet Germany’s Angela Merkel and others before DDT.

DDT’s continuing ignorance was on full display at the NATO summit. For example, he told Jean-Claude Juncker, EU president that “the Germans are bad, very bad” and said that he plans to stop the sale of their cars in the U.S. Yet he was told at least 11 times when Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited the U.S. that the EU makes trade deals, not individual EU countries. Even if he stopped the sale of German cars in the U.S., many people here would lose their jobs because the U.S. manufactured German 281,519 vehicles in the first four months of 2017. In a meeting with Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, DDT complained about the difficulty of building golf resorts in the EU.

NATO members have a more serious reason for their response to DDT. As he actively encourages racist nationalists in the U.S and allies himself with Putin to bring down Europe, he is also willing to start a war to regain popularity. This approach has already been seen in his preemptive bombing of Syria when he searched for a greater support from people in the U.S. He also has exhibited a pattern of carelessness about intelligence that can endanger the rest of the free world.

From Brussels, the U.S. leader moved his disaster to Italy where he met with other members of the G7, the seven major advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund. These countries represent more than 64% of the net global wealth ($263 trillion). Russia was a member of G8 for seven years until the country was ejected for annexing Crimea. DDT threatened them with backing out of the Paris Agreement, a position that he has taken off and on since he began campaigning. This action would put the U.S. on a par with Nicaragua and Syria, the only two countries that did not sign the agreement. DDT has said that the U.S. will not work to slow down climate change if it costs the country money. Withdrawing from the agreement will make China a leader in global environmental policy and new green technologies.

While DDT is making America “great” again by removing regulations, China is on its way to be the world leader in efficiency standards for coal-fired power plants while that nation shifts to renewable energy as shown in this issue brief. While the nation’s new coal-fired power plants are cleaner than any in the U.S., its emission standards are stricter than U.S. ones. China’s air quality is on a political par with economic growth and corruption. If the U.S. doesn’t improve its regulations, all the coal plans would be illegal to operate in China by 2020.

Another argument DDT started with G7 leaders was about migration and famine. He wants only a short reference to the first and to eliminate a five-page statement recognizing migrants’ rights and their positive contribution. The Italian plans on human movement and food security were intended to be the centerpiece of the summit which was in Taormina (Sicily) to symbolize the concern for refugees’ plight. DDT offered its own statement on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis affirming “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security.” He also wants refugees to be settled close to their home countries, letting him off the hook to take the “Muslims.”

By the ninth day of his whirlwind trip, DDT was fed up. He didn’t even bother to listen to a translation of the G7 speech from his host, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni  The man who brags about his stamina was unable to walk 700 yards for a photo shoot; he had to wait for a golf cart. Four of the seven leaders of the G7 are attending their first summit. The only bright spot DDT gave the other six leaders is that he showed up; as usual, he gets a very low bar of performance.

DDT described his trip as “historic,” an accurate word for the way that he pandered to the Middle East for oil and money for his friends while he alienated NATO and G7 allies. At home, however, the attitude toward Islam is same-o, same-o. Rex Tillerson refused a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, a custom for almost 20 years.

Back home, DDT faces increasing pressure—Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russian collusion, a son-in-law in trouble, falling already bad approval ratings, legislative problems to get his tax reform through, the 2018 elections, and his Twitter addiction. White supremacist Steve Bannon is running the “war room” to protect DDT from criminal charges.

Conservatives who complained about a $12,000 dress that Michelle Obama wore to a state dinner probably won’t bat an eye at the Melania Trump’s $51,000 floral coat and matching $1,630 purse by Dolce & Gabanna. The 2015 median household income in the U.S. was $55,775, meaning that half the households in the U.S. have an income comparable to or less than what Melania Trump paid for a casual jacket and purse.

A bit of humor: an illustrated tale of Emmanuel Macron’s handshake with DDT.

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recovered from her DDT NATO experience with a joy-filled breakfast meeting with President Obama and an event at the Brandenburg Gate. The former president was invited a year ago to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

 

April 23, 2017

Earth Day 2017

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:59 PM
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For centuries, indigenous peoples around the world understood the importance of caring for their environment—that “there is no Plan B” for our planet. Smaller religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism appreciate the interdependence between humans and the Earth. Hebrew scriptures, used for Jewish and Christian religions, recognize God’s ownership of the earth, and 750 reference to ecology in the Qu’ran explain caring for the environment. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si (“Care for Our Common Home”), the connection of human behavior to global warming, and defined a sustainable environment as a moral imperative. The Dalai Lama endorsed the pope’s pronouncement.

The European invasion of America was one of destruction. They considered the American natives to be inferior to Anglos and found the two continents’ vast resources useful only for their all-consuming need to become more and more wealthy. In the nineteenth century, men plundered the massive buffalo herds, necessary for life in North America, and left the carcasses to rot. Farmers depleted the soil land and moved on to another area when it no longer supported crops. The result was the devastation in the huge Midwest “Dust Bowl” during the economic depression of the 1930s.

Science provided the education for protecting the land, but it also gave huge companies such as Monsanto, the corporation that developed the devastating Agent Orange, a way to control farmers through its magic seeds that could be used only once without permission for Monsanto and other similar companies. The pesticides also developed by these companies destroyed both wildlife and domestic beings, including humans.

The 21st century has had three leaders in the United States. The first one followed the rapacious desires of advisers who wanted to take over the Middle East for more wealth, and the second tried to reverse some of the assaults on the planet from earlier leaders. His successor has spent less than 100 days in overturning anything done in the last eight years, including its attention to reducing the destruction of the Earth.

On Earth Day 2017, April 22, the current leader denies climate change and actively promotes an annihilation of our only planet through appointments of officials, proposed budget cuts, legislation and executive orders to eliminate environmental and public health protections, suppression of information, and opposition to any cleanups of earlier devastation. He has attempted to eradicate any scientific evidence in make policies. His goal is to break the chain of knowledge that has moved us forward in the past century.

In an immense extinction, the planet loses about 27,000 species every year, and in just three years the number of wild animals living on Earth will drop by two-thirds in the past half century largely because of habitat loss, uncontrolled hunting and fishing, and pollution. Humanity is dependent on nature for air, water, and food, and leaders of the United States are destroying nature.

Every year, I published some magnificent photos by Ann Hubard. Last year, I talked about the advances of overcoming climate change. Yesterday hundreds of thousands of people marched to “Make Earth Great Again.” Otherwise Earth Day 2017 has very little good news; these photographs show what we can lose with our current leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 20, 2017

Join the March for Science

The GOP War on Science is not new, but it gained massive traction with the election of a Republican president and Congress with the possibility of a totally Republican Supreme Court. The idea that science is vital to protecting humanity through effective decision-making is now passé among federal government leaders with the mighty dollar—or billions of them—leading the way. Draconian budget cuts to the EPA, National Institutes of Health, NOAA, NASA, and BLM aren’t enough to satisfy these people; all that funding is going to nuclear weapons and the military. In addition, leadership is muzzling people, attacking evidence, and erasing information about climate change from websites.

This coming Saturday is the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. Instead of sitting by and letting conservatives destroy the planet, scientists are coming out of their labs and research areas for the March for Science. The main one is in the U.S. capital, but 200 organizations are planning another 500 marches around the world—all kicking off a week of action culminating in the People’s Climate March on April 29. According to the March for Science website, organizers are “advocating for evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

The March’s Facebook page is 850,000 strong with information about people, posters, slogans, science and “misinformation” that the anti-science Heartland Institute sends to schools and science teachers. The March’s participants vary from a neuroscientist marching “for the thousands of people suffering from spinal cord injury” to SF fans marching “because you can’t have science fiction without science!”

One segment of the marchers is protesting the current policy regarding drug use in the United States overturning gains in the last eight years for an evidence-based drug policy. Throughout the nation’s history, drug laws have criminalized minorities: opium laws in the 1800s targeting Chinese immigrants, marijuana laws directed toward Hispanics in the early 1900s, and then crack laws of the 1980s disproportionately incarcerating black men. Research shows that drug prohibition contributes to worse health and higher mortality rates among drug users while growing an illicit drug market. Targeting minorities negatively affects family and social support and eliminates economic opportunity.

Fear-based drug control tactics fail to provide information in their efforts to terrify policymakers and the public in opposition to success for drug control demonstrated in other countries that expand treatment access and decriminalize drugs. The current administration ignores research on these successes for a racial “law and order” position, always a failure.

According to the federal government, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, the highest level of “potential for abuse” and no medical value. It is considered more dangerous than meth, opium, or cocaine. With cannabis in this category, medical researchers are helpless to examine studies from other countries that refute the U.S. position. Across the nation, this one “drug” is legal in 28 states for medical purposes and in another eight states for recreational use. Its popularity has caused companies to develop synthetic “look alike” drugs that increase the chance of overdoses and other negative side effects.

Earth Day’s goal, 47 years ago and now, is to mobilize people around environmental issues. The first march of 20 million people led to the Environmental Protection Agency, created by GOP President Richard Nixon, and vital environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Earth Day revolution began at a time of dangerous air pollution, rivers on fire, genetic changes in wildlife, and children with diseases and birth defects in the United States. Last year the nation signed the Paris Climate Agreement with 174 other countries.

After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointed a climate-change denier for EPA Secretary, he signed a directive to reverse President Obama’s progress toward slowing down climate change. DDT’s goal is to promote oil, coal, and natural gas over all other objectives at a time when fossil fuel companies are switching to renewable energy sources. The order mandates suspension, revision, or rescinding any policies that “burden” the production of domestic energy resources, including nuclear power. Gone are the order to consider climate change in environmental reviews, including locations of oil drilling, and the one to factor in the potential economic damage from climate change. DDT’s order also removes the moratorium on new coal leases on federal land and remove regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Fracking companies will also not be required to seal off waste water in storage tanks and to disclose chemicals they pump underground. Methane emissions from oil and gas operations no longer need to be reduced.

Other DDT “climate crimes” include his reinstatement of two pipelines (at a profit to himself), allowing lead ammunition on federal lands and waters, ordering the EPA to reconsider car emissions requirements, and all his appointments.

Scott Pruitt, DDT’s EPA Secretary, set the new “tone” in his speech a week ago at a coal mine that was fined for contaminating waterways with toxic materials. His “back to basics” agenda devolves oversight of clean air and water in exchange for jobs in industries such as coal, oil, and gas. The new direction is support of the coal industry. The company owing that mine had almost entirely divested itself of West Virginia coal mines and is looking for buyers for this last one to be completely out of the business.

According to the EPA website:

Our mission is to protect human health and the environment.

 

EPA’s purpose is to ensure that:

  • all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
  • national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
  • federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
  • environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • all parts of society — communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments — have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

Demographics – Electric power generation and fuels, Q4 2016

In addition to Prutt failing to meet his agency’s mission and purpose, he claimed that ending regulations will boost the economy and create jobs. Last month, however, the Institute for Policy Integrity released a study showing that environmental regulations have essentially no effect on the employment rate in the long term. The government would be better economically to support jobs in renewable energy as shown by the chart on the right

A four-year EPA review shows that three pesticides–chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion–“pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied.” Dow Chemical claimed that these substances are safe, and Pruitt sided with Dow against his own agency in the case of chlorpyrifos and is poised to agree with Dow on the other toxic substances. Dow gave DDT $1 million for his inauguration, and the company’s CEO is a presidential adviser.

When questioned during his confirmation hearings, Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified that “science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change.” After his confirmation, the agency’s staff was told to never use phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” and “Paris agreement” because these terms would cause a “visceral reaction.” Instead, DOE employees are to use words such as “jobs” and “infrastructure.”

New banners for the Bureau of Land Management demonstrate the shift from environmental concerns to coal. The image of two hikers looking over a magnificent vista of green mountains capped by snow has been replaced by these banners:

 

Can’t march? You can participate through livestreaming Washington, D.C.’s event from Democracy Now starting at 10:00 am ET.

 

March 31, 2017

DDT: Week Ten

Other than the fallout from failing to pass Trumpcare and the increasing—and damning—news about Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) connection to Russia, the biggest news was his rollback to President Obama’s orders regarding the climate.

Climate: DDT ordered the EPA to repeal the Clean Power Plan by removing new limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants. He claimed that it was for the economy, energy security, and jobs, but the entire coal industry employs fewer people than Arby’s. DDT is preening, but the provisions weren’t to take place until 2022. In addition, a 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases count as a potential air pollutant, requiring the EPA to regulate them. DDT’s order won’t reverse the decline of the coal industry that has fewer employees than clean energy. Coal’s enemy is natural gas.

Conflicts of Interest: Remember DDT’s blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest? Middle son, Eric, has corrected the blindness: he will apprise his father of his business’s progress every week. DDT’s daughter Ivanka Trump is following the same pattern: she has an office in the West Wing as “assistant to the president” but will continue to supervise her business. She is also being sued by Modern Appealing Clothing in an action for unfair competition. Just one more lawsuit against the Trump family as one of them uses their recently elected positions to make money.

Muslim Ban: U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii extended his order blocking DDT’s travel ban until the lawsuits goes through the courts. State AG Douglas Chin had argued that the ban’s message is like a “neon sign flashing ‘Muslim ban, Muslim ban'” that the government didn’t bother to turn off.

Trump University: U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego finalized the $25 million settlement in the Trump University litigation, giving a 90-percent refund to about 3,700 students. DDT can still appeal.

More Tweets?: Andrew Napolitano, missing from Fox network for two weeks after FBI Director James Comey denied his accusations, is back. The “legal analyst” stands by his misinformation that President Obama asked British intelligence officials to spy on DDT, a lie that led DDT to angrily tweet this information as fact. Hoping for a Supreme Court appointment from DDT, Napolitano, 66, has not been on the bench for over 30 years when he was a New Jersey Superior Court judge. He still is a 9/11 truther, a movement of conspiracy theorists who think that the explosions were permitted by the U.S. to curtail civil liberties and perhaps even done from within by controlled demolition.

No Condemnation for Killing by White Supremacist: Journalist April Ryan asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer if he had any comment about 28-year-old James Harris Jackson traveling to New York City and killing Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old black man, with a sword. Spicer repeatedly refused to answer, saying that he was “not going to reference any particular case before the DOJ right now” and later said he didn’t “know all the details.” Spicer comments only on killings that can be classified as “terrorist” because they are not by white people. Jackson said he to New York “to kill as many black men as he could.”

To Russia with Love: The prevalence of DDT/Russia stories deserve an entire book, but a major story this week concerns Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who is supposed to head up an investigation into the connection. After just the open hearing with FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) called off all meetings for the “Intelligence” Committee to protect DDT. The Senate Intelligence Committee is moving forward while Nunes and the White House are getting lots of bad press about getting information from the White House and then taking it back to the White House without telling any of his committee members. The most remarkable statement about Nunes’ behavior came from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) when he said that Nunes did the right thing because the member of Congress “works for the president.” Later he said that he misspoke, which probably means that he shouldn’t have openly told the truth.

Licking His Wounds: Last weekend DDT sulked about his loss of Trumpcare with two days of golf in Virginia. Is Mar-a-Lago losing its appeal? DDT’s expensive resort has been sold out, however, because Gov. Rick Scott is being honored as Statesman of the Year. Today, DDT is back to playing golf on one of his properties when his calendar indicated that he was in a meeting. He has visited his own-branded properties at least once every three days, at least 18 percent of his time while part-time president. He criticized President Obama for always playing golf, but the former president didn’t get in a game until 65 days into his first term.

“Quite a Story to Tell”: The lawyer for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn wants immunity to tell what he knows—sort of like Oliver North three decades ago. He doesn’t have any takers yet, but the question is whether he is trying to avoid prison. After all, he did say last summer than no one asks for immunity who isn’t guilty.

Changing Directions of Trumpcare: The direction of Trumpcare shifted in the high winds since House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called off the vote on the bill last Friday. A week ago, Trumpcare was dead, and DDT blamed Democrats. By Saturday he accused the GOP Freedom Caucus of sabotage and swore he would get those representatives defeated in 2018. They weren’t impressed. By Monday, the House was considering bringing health care back, and DDT was talking about getting Trumpcare passed with the support of Democrats. Tuesday Pence was sent to Capitol Hill to bring back health care reform, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said it was over. Wednesday, Ryan clearly stated that he wouldn’t work with Democrats. “I don’t want that to happen,” he said. On Thursday, both Democrats and conservatives were at fault, according to DDT. By yesterday, Greg Walden, chair of the committee responsible for getting health care to the floor, said, “We’re approaching the Easter season. Some things rise from the dead.” I wonder what evangelicals think about comparing a House bill to Jesus.

Disappearing Privacy: Last week, Congress made billions of dollars for Internet Service Providers by allowing them to sell personal information about all their subscribers. DDT’s constituents—white men, Ku Klux Klan, etc.—are not happy with  their vanishing anonymity. They’re screaming the usual “attack on freedom” and asking if they can still support DDT if (when?) he signs the bill. Progressive activist Adam McElhaney has found a way to resist: he established a GoFundMe page, “Purchase Private Internet Histories,” to collect donations to buy the internet histories of everyone—legislators, executives, and their families—who supported the bill to repeal the FCC’s privacy protections–and provide easily searchable information. McElhaney said it will include “everything from their medical, pornographic, to their financial and infidelity.”

Indifference to Human Rights: The State Department dropped “human rights improvement” as a condition for the sale of fighter jets to Bahrain, abruptly reversing an Obama-era decision that required the tiny island monarchy curb its human rights abuses and its crackdown on dissidents.

Melania Trump’s Residence: New Yorkers are tired of paying for DDT’s third wife and son to live in Trump Tower’s gold-plated penthouse. Almost 500,000 people have signed a petition, “Make Melania Trump Stay in the White House or Pay for the Expenses Herself,” asking for her to be forced to leave because of their $50 million a year cost. Taxpayer expenses would go up at least $10 million if DDT were to spend weekends at his New York City home.

DDT’s Murders: After the terrible fiasco of DDT’s first sortie into Yemen, he turned the process of killing people in the Middle East over to the Pentagon, and they have taken off with vengeance. Earlier this month, a “precision” unstaffed drone bomb strike in Mosul killed 200 civilians, but the Pentagon wouldn’t admit this for weeks. The horrific disaster has now been covered up with the news about Russia and health care. Many of them died slowly because they were buried under the rubble. They stayed in their homes because they were told not to leave. It came from the fact that DDT “relaxed” the rules of engagement in the war against ISIS. The U.S. has dropped over 2,000 bombs on Mosul just in March and killed 1,500 civilians in Iraq and Syria. DDT said, “The results are very, very good.”

One area in which the gender gap is disappearing is between men and women disapproving of DDT. Approval among men dropped seven points in March, now down to 44 percent. Women are down to 34 percent approval with overall approval at 39 percent. The GOP dropped four points, and independents six. DDT’s support is below 50 percent among men, people over 50, married people, and all non-Hispanic whites. The Gallup poll of 37 percent has now dropped to 35 percent.

December 19, 2016

Rex Tillerson: Oil in Trump’s Swamp

Kakistocracy: a fine English term going back to 1829 that means government by the worst element of a society, a government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. Forbes writer Michael Lewitt explains its usage: “Corrupt, dishonest and incompetent politicians, regulators and bureaucrats were put in charge by self-absorbed, selfish and ignorant citizens.” Trump cabinet nominees collectively have more wealth than a combined one-third of American households. They are the most conservative, very white, and very male with almost no experience. In addition, they resemble DT—egotistical, megalomaniacal, bumbling liars. The nation’s future government will be a blend of “nepotism, oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy, demagoguery, alt-right values and a disturbing tendency toward fascist white nationalism.” (Quote from Sophia A. McClennen, professor of international affairs and comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University.)

The Electoral College has voted, and Donald Trump (DT) is now the formal president-elect of the United States. In building his kakistocracy, DT has appointed a number of inexperienced oligarchs for his cabinet. A series of postings on this blog will begin with Rex Tillerson, nominee for the Secretary of State.

rex-tillerson

AP Photo / Manuel Balce

tillerson-putinThe outrage against Tillerson from both Democrats and Republicans began with the nominee’s extremely close relationship with Vladimir Putin. Exxon missed the U.S. fracking boom and moved to the Russian and Arctic oil fields, perhaps 20 percent of the world’s untapped resource. Toward that end, the company signed deals between 2011 and 2013 with the Russian state-owned oil company, Rosneft, for exploration in the Black Sea, development of shale resources in western Siberia, and drilling in the Arctic. According to Rosneft, these areas could contain more oil than the Gulf of Mexico. The year after Tillerson and Exxon signed the deal with Rosneft, Russian president, Vladimir Putin gave the country’s Order of Friendship medal to Tillerson. (Above: Russia President Vladimir Putin (R) and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (L) attend the signing of an agreement between Rosneft and ExxonMobil in the Black Sea port of Tuapse on June 15, 2012. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Exxon is so wealthy and powerful that it’s like a country of its own with its own foreign policy. Its pockets are deep, and it employs such Tillerson advocates as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Robert Gates. President Obama’s sanctions on Russia’s oil industry for its 2014 “participation” in the Ukraine and annexation of Crimea smashed Exxon’s dreams—until DT was elected last November. Russia needs Western expertise to drill in places such as the Arctic, and DT can give it to them.

Tillerson’s connection with Rosneft also connects him with oligarch Igor Ivanovich Sechin, head of the oil company. A close relationship with oligarchs from major world powers puts Tillerson into a position to set up his own U.S. oligarchy and what better place to do it than the White House. He has been open about his goals. Asked in March 2013 what he would do if he worked in the White House, he laughed and said, “My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that’s what I want to do.” His idea of international diplomacy—the Secretary of State’s job—is that it “is an enormous amount of interference with that process of discovery and perfection and improvement.”

Improvement to Tillerson doesn’t mean controlling global warming. Exploitation of the Russian and Arctic resources would vastly increase warming above four degrees, but he doesn’t worry about climate change. He has said, “To say that you’re addicted to oil and natural gas seems to me to say you’re addicted to economic growth.”

For almost the entire four decades of Tillerson’s tenure at Exxon, the company has lied about their awareness of catastrophic effects from climate change and spent millions of dollars to block any bills that address the problem. Forty years ago, the company took the problem of climate change seriously and developed programs to explore the issue. Within a few years, however, Exxon started dismantling its own climate change programs and moved on to suppress evidence, spread doubt about science, and block any action to control greenhouse gases. It also created the misnamed Global Climate Coalition to stop any government action to curb fossil fuel emissions.

By the beginning of the 21st century, Exxon used the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of corporations that writes measures for U.S. legislators, to block emissions control. Tillerson was CEO for 12 of those 17 years. In addition, Tillerson’s block of Exxon shareholders successfully opposed a measure from the Rockefeller family to expand the company’s investment in alternative energy sources.

Tillerson’s current position on climate change is that it’s merely an “engineering” issue because, he claims, people can adapt to anything. Asked about models of greenhouse gas concentrations, he replies that “models simply are not that good.” He has no answer for what to do if the sea levels surge and freshwater pulses into the ocean from a collapse in the West Antarctica.

Yet Tillerson’s egregious business dealings go much farther than just his pandering to the Russian government which recently arranged for the release of hacked emails in order to get Tillerson’s possible new boss elected to his leadership position of what people like to call the most powerful country in the world.

Many people are unaware that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Tillerson and Exxon. Under his leadership, the company failed to accurately value its oil reserves in order to keep stocks high. A correct disclosure of its lower valuations would cost Exxon billions of dollars if the initiation of drilling is more costly from the “price of carbon” or regulations that force reductions to greenhouse gas emissions. With this high cost, Exxon might have to drop projects, and that shrinks its profitability. Even if Tillerson manages to get DT to leave the Paris climate accord, Exxon’s worldwide business may lose money because it does business with other countries that remain in the pact.

The SEC is also investigating the reason that Exxon does not record its reserves values when oil prices drop. The price of a barrel of oil dropped from $115 in 2014 to under $28 by last February, but that the company didn’t include that loss in future calculations. Fabricating future profits not based on fact is an act of securities fraud against investors.

DT as president would greatly benefit Exxon because the investigation could get stymied with Tillerson as Secretary of State. The SEC could also be remade with DT as president. Seven top officials, including chair Mary Jo White, have already resigned, and DT can appoint three new commissioners on the five-member panel. Whether Tillerson becomes Secretary or stays Exxon CEO, the oil company benefits. Last week DT referred to the free market as the “dumb market,” indicating that government should be in control, a total reversal of past GOP philosophy.

Another lawsuit plaguing Tillerson and Exxon accuses the company of discrimination against LGBTQ people in its hiring practices. ExxonMobil is the only corporation in history to get negative ratings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index for lacking any protections for LGBTQ employees in 2012 and 2013. President Obama’s executive order barring federal contractors from anti-LGBT employment discrimination—probably to be soon revoked by DT—caused the company to adopt an LGBT non-discrimination policy, but the lawsuit is still pending. Exxon has received over $1 billion in federal contracts during the past decade.

Tillerson’s conflicts of interest are overwhelming. He personally owns at least $218 million in Exxon stock and holds a pension worth $70 million. At least he wouldn’t have to pay any taxes if he has to sell them for a Cabinet position because divesting stocks based on a potential conflict interest for this position is tax-free.

In another connection with Russia 20 years ago, Tillerson became a director  and then president of Exxon Neftegas, a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas, a country with zero corporate taxes where Exxon has registered at least 67 companies. Exxon reported that Tillerson was no longer a director after he became Exxon’s CEO in 2006, but the secrecy of the nation may cause difficulty in determining Tillerson’s investments. Conflict of interest may be somewhat legal for the president and vice president but definitely not for Cabinet members or other government officials.

Oh yes, and Tillerson has literally no background in diplomacy or public service—just like DT.  With pushing from oil oligarchs like Dick Cheney and deep-pocketed campaign donor Robert McNair as well as Gates and Rice, skeptical GOP senators like Marco Rubio are showing signs of falling into DT’s swamp—the one filled with oil.

August 21, 2016

‘God’s Catastrophes’: The New Normal

Far-right Christian fundamentalist have a pattern of blaming all disasters on LGBT people. At first, it was just natural disasters such as the California drought of 1978, but then gays blamed for health pandemics. The only time that Ronald Reagan publicly spoke about AIDS just before the end of his second presidential term in 1987 was in his first year in office when he said, “May be the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

Finally evangelical leaders blamed LGBT people for every problem, including the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In Pat Robertson’s eyes, they shared responsibility with “pagans,” “abortionists,” “ACLU,” and everyone else “who have tried to secularize America.” Pope Benedict XVI expanded the blame by warning that same-gender marriage will “threaten … the future of humanity itself.”

Republicans, however, may be suffering from these disasters. Four years ago, Hurricane Isaac forced the GOP to shorten their convention in Tampa. This month, the disastrous Louisiana deluge flooded the home of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and his Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.  Forced to flee his home in a canoe, Perkins failed to see the event as a punishment but instead “an incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise … with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

An increasing number of people, however, are realizing that human-created climate change cause recent natural disasters. Belief that climate change is caused by human activities has reached an all-time high of 65 percent, up almost 20 percent from 55 percent last year. Even 40 percent of Republicans understand that climate is caused by people, up nine points from last year. This poll was taken almost six months ago before the massive fires and floods of the summer and the discovery that July was the hottest month in history. Other drastic climate-related effects include glaciers’ melting, permafrost thawing, and sea levels rising.

Yet GOP politicians are panicking about the EPA “suggestion” that federal agencies consider the impact on climate when making decisions such as mine permits, dam installations or removal, and roads construction near protected habitats. Their position is that this “guidance” has “no legal basis,” as summarized by GOP chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, known for using a snowball to prove that climate change doesn’t exist.

Some of these Republicans may hate Trump for what he’s doing to their political party, but they agree with him in denying climate change. Editors of Scientific American, who have always tried to be apolitical, call the 2016 election “something special,” that “it takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain.” Trump slammed global warming as a “Chinese plot,” threatened to eradicate a climate agree that’s taken 20 years to create, and promised to eliminate the federal agency that tries to provide clean air and water for U.S. residents.

The flooding in Louisiana is the most recent disaster from climate change. With 6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week—and more than 31 inches of rain in 15 hours at one location—the calamity is the worst since the 2012 Superstorm Sandy. Part of the catastrophe is the housing crisis. Damage to over 100,000 homes has left 102,000 people thus far applying for federal disaster aid across 20 parishes. The shortage of habitable homes for rent only makes their situation worse as water rises in some places as it drains south across the flat land. FEMA offers grants of up to $33,000 in disaster areas for repairs, but many people have lost everything because they didn’t have flood insurance.

The flood is called “a 1,000-year event,” but that prediction is based on the climate a century ago and not today. At the University of Washington, Eric P. Salathé studies the intersection of climate change and flooding and explains that the issue is the temperature. Warmer air—as experienced in July—carries more water than cooler air, causing much more rainfall in storm. According to a federal government meteorologist, the Louisiana storm would have produced little rain 40 years ago before the current climate warming. For those who think the disaster has abated, storms and flash floods have moved into Texas.

One way to protect residents in the area is stricter zoning laws, something that conservatives avoid, especially when a similar disaster might not happen for 50 years. Communities have the choice of rejecting development opportunities in the immediate future or putting citizens in danger in the long term—and they usually pick the immediate gratification. Especially when they think that God is the cause of this misery and they can do nothing to protect themselves!

As people suffer from the flooding, Republicans use the situation as a political football instead of working to help them. They deride President Obama for not immediately taking an entourage to the state, causing more expense and confusion. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that he would never ask the president not to visit, but he did say this to the president and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisor:

“I asked them to let us get out of the response mode where we were still conducting searches of houses, and we were still making rescues. I didn’t want to divert these police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers and other essential resources and assets to providing security for the president while they were needed in this region to undergo those—or to undertake those response activities. And I asked that if he could wait until the response was over and we got into the recovery phase, which I predicted we would do over the weekend and certainly next week would be a better time for us to visit. But the president is welcome to come to our state anytime that he wants to.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, drained these resources while ridiculing President Obama for waiting until the appropriate time for a visit. As Trump spent only 49 seconds in Baton Rouge unloading Play Doh from a truck, he obviously wanted only a photo-op. At the same time, President Obama ensured that people receive immediate federal resources and disaster relief.

Edwards’ office commented about Trump’s visit:

“Gov. Edwards wasn’t informed of the Trump campaign’s visit to the state or the schedule. We welcome them to Louisiana, but not for a photo-op. Instead we hope they’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”

After talking with Edwards, Hillary Clinton asked people to donate to either the Red Cross or the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

In another “once in a lifetime event,” the Blue Cut fire in California went from a few acres to 30,000 in just 24 hours and forced the evacuation of 82,000 people. As the fire continued to spread, it destroyed at least 96 single-family homes and 213 outbuildings as well as an iconic inn. The extremely hot temperatures also causes the perfect conditions for wildfires. Usually fires this large don’t happen until fall, but climate change has caused the season to be much longer and much worse.

A year ago, a study a year ago reported that worsening wildfire seasons will occur within the coming years. Between 1979 and 2013, the average length of the season became 18.7 percent longer. Like the flooding in the United States, longer seasons are a “new normal.” In the decade before 2015, the U.S. paid $1.7 billion dollars to suppress wildfires. In California alone, the cost of fighting fires went from a few million dollars in the late 1970s to $550 million in 2015 alone. The carbon emitted by fires also hastens climate change, and forests will be less capable of taking CO2 from the atmosphere.

Fires have increased 500 percent on public land since the late 1970s. This year, the fire season started much earlier in California because a heat wave sent temperatures up to 120 degrees in southern parts of the state. Since 1970, summer temperatures have risen almost one-half degree every decade. The worst is yet to come between the end of September and December with the Santa Ana winds from the desert. The state’s fifth year of drought is also creating tinderbox forests.

Basically, people who think that they have no part in causing catastrophes because they come from God, deny any support to remediate climate change, refuse to support any regulations that would make their lives better, fight against “big government,” and try to take away any human rights that don’t fit in their religion want the rest of us to give them money when climate change bites them in ….  They hate President Obama but whine about his not rushing to Louisiana as soon as the flooding started. Hmmm.

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