Nel's New Day

June 10, 2019

‘The Best [Corrupt] People’

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got elected, he frequently claimed that he would “surround myself only with the best and most serious people.” These “best people” have proved to be a disaster, even to DDT, and his phenomenal turnover means that at least 50 top officials left him within the past 16+ months since his inauguration.

Some of their names might not be well-known, but their disastrous influence remains. For example, leaving this past week was Kevin Hassett, chair of DDT’s Council of Economic Advisers and advocate of DDT’s tax cuts. Hassett said that his departure has nothing to do with DDT’s disastrous tariff decisions, but he questions a successful forecast in GDP growth for 2019 and is “very much concerned” about the growing fiscal deficit. Other departed economic advisers include Paul Winfree who came from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, Jeremy Katz who also pushed the tax cut bill, Dina Powell who worked with Ivanka Trump on “empowerment of women,” Gary Cohn who was formerly president and COO of Goldman Sachs who wasn’t happy with DDT’s blaming “both sides” in the neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville (VA) and left after dissatisfaction with DDT’s tariff policy, Everett Eissenstat who left to be GM’s senior vice president of global public policy, Clete Willems who dumped a job to negotiate with China to join a law firm public law and policy practice, and Linda McMahon who helped build World Wrestling Entertainment who did stay with DDT to chair one of his super PACs. And these are only some of the people in his economic world.

Staying, of course, is DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who seems to be charge of almost everything because he doesn’t have any other place to go. Almost totally silent for his first two years, he appeared two times in the past few weeks. One was testimony with hardliner neo-Nazi Stephen Miller in a closed Senate session about DDT’s new immigration plan. Kushner managed to avoid most questions and failed to provide solutions while frequently interrupted by Miller. Republicans publicly praised Kushner for the presentation of a merit-based system for the highest skilled people but privately said that he lacked clear answers. He said that immigrants would be required to pass a civics test to get access to the point system but then avowed that the central purpose is to unify immigrant families, including mothers and children. He couldn’t answer a question about what do to with undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Because Kushner rejected the idea of DACA, GOP officials gave the immigration plan as much chance as Kushner’s peace plan in the Middle East—which is zero.

Kushner’s next performance, an interview with Axios, got a lot more media play: 

“Uh when there are things that they don’t do that we do not approve of, we we talk about that with them privately, but we feel like we’re in a position now where there’s a lot of interest that we have that are shared with them.”—about Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who tortured and dismembered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (After Kushner’s interview, DDT said he didn’t blame MBS for Khashoggi’s murder.)

“It’s a horrific thing that happened, and what we’ve done is we’ve called for full transparency.”—about whether the Saudis should return Khashoggi’s body for a proper burial.

“Look, I would not have come into government had there been anything salacious and nefarious that I was worried about.”—about the headline, “Background check chief has ‘never seen’ mistakes and omissions at level of Jared Kushner forms.”

“So, the answer is no, absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. And what I’ll say is that when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country…. Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.”—a statement that he made over and over about whether DDT is a racist, with the example that DDT continually claimed that President Obama was not born in the United States.

“Look, I think that the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign.”—about whether DDT’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims from the U.S. was “religiously bigoted.”

“It doesn’t make a difference.”—about the number of refugees permitted to settle in the U.S.

“I do think this is a terrible thing. Because you want people who have been successful in this country, who have taken advantage of the greatness of the opportunity that America provides, to go into government and to serve their country. When they get harassed and they have their companies looked at and their employees have to deal with this nonsense because people want to push a narrative, I think that’s a terrible thing.”—about whether Deutsche Bank should examine transactions moving cash from companies Kushner controls to Russians.

“[The meeting was] total waste of time, [and] we were not given anything that was salacious.”—about whether he should have called the FBI about Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and whether he would call the FBI if it happened again.

“Look, I’m not here to be trusted.”—about why Palestinians don’t trust him in the peace negotiations.

Kushner owns part of real estate company Cadre that received $90 million in mysterious foreign funding since he became DDT’s senior adviser. The money was funneled from a Cayman Islands through Goldman Sachs. Kushner was refused a security clearance, but DDT demanded that he be given one.

Another Cabinet member is also being investigated for conflict of interest. Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has high-level political connections in China because of her family’s shipping company which helped both Chao and McConnell prosper. Part of Chao’s job is to promote U.S. maritime industry.

Chao’s father James S.C. Chao was once roommate with Jiang Zemin who became president of China. He founded Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company in 1964 and received a big contract with the U.S. government to ship rice to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. In 1984, the Chao family acquired part of a Chinese-owned manufacturer of marine electronic equipment although they can’t remember the investment. With some of its ship-building financed by Chinese loans, Foremost ships over 70 percent of its freight, mostly iron ore, to China for steel manufacturing. DDT has temporarily lifted tariffs on imported steel. Chao’s Transportation Department has cut programs for U.S.-flagged ships and replacing ships to train U.S. mariners. Congress replaced the money, but Chao is still being questioned for her connections and status to boost Foremost’s reputation and visibility. In her confirmation hearings, she failed to mention her family’s deep ties to the Chinese maritime industry and her accolades China gives her, a violation of her questionnaire. Thirteen members of the Chao family donated over $1 million to McConnell’s campaigns and PACs. James Chao gave the couple at least $25 million.

McConnell himself also has problems with taking campaign money from Russians–$3.5 million from oligarch Oleg Deripaska. When DDT wanted to lift sanctions last year against mafia-esque Deripaska, Vladimir Putin’s friend, McConnell pushed the Senate into following DDT’s directions although the GOP House voted 362-53 to keep the sanctions in place. Lifting sanctions allowed Deripaska’s aluminum company Rusal and its parent company En+ back into the U.S. Within four months of McConnell’s favor to Deripaska, who also worked with DDT’s convicted former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Deripaska’s Russian aluminum company Rusal sent $200 million for a $1.7 billion aluminum plant in northeastern Kentucky. Part of the action came from Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), known for his ethical problems with prostitution. Vitter’s wife, one of DDT’s judicial nominees, was not been able to get confirmed for over 18 months—partly because she didn’t support Brown v. Topeka, the Supreme Court case that just celebrated its 55th anniversary for overturning public school segregation. Soon after Sen. Vitter told McConnell about brokering the deal to pour Deripaska’s money into Kentucky, wife Wendy Vitter was confirmed for her lifetime federal judicial term. And the payoffs are all out in the open, no need to hide any of the quid pro quo.

The husband/wife team work well together. Chao designated a special liaison, McConnell’s advance man Scott Inman in McConnell’s 2014 election, to help with grant applications and other priorities from the Transportation Department for McConnell’s state of Kentucky, providing him with at least $78 million for his projects as he runs for re-election in 2020. No other state has this advantage. Earmarks are supposedly no longer legal, but McConnell has found another way to funnel a large amount of money into his state as these details prove. As McConnell said, “All 100 senators may have one vote, but they’re not all equal. Kentucky benefits from having one of its own setting the agenda for the country.” And set it, he does.

May 10, 2019

DDT: Week 120 – Fear in the White House

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is busy trying to divert people from what he fears most—open proof that he has committed crimes, especially against the United States. He claimed that the Mueller investigation and report prove “a strong no collusion conclusion,” but he doesn’t want the report released or testimony from Robert Mueller. By Friday he moved on to “essentially, no obstruction.” The man who ran his presidential campaign as the best businessman for the job has been terrified to release his tax returns. DDT has good cause because new discoveries show that his business ventures lost over $1 billion in the decade between 1985 and 1994 at the same time his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal was published. Later he whined that no one was doing well at that time—no one except his father, Fred Trump, who made $53.9 million in 1990 and 1991 with only one serious loss, $15 million invested in DDT’s apartment project. In several years, DDT lost more money than almost any other individual taxpayer. He claimed “almost all real estate developers did” what he did to “show losses for tax purposes.”

DDT called the information about his business failures “inaccurate Fake News” but didn’t refute specific reporting. He confirmed that he was created a huge “tax shelter” and considered it “sport” to play with tax returns and financial dealings. He’s also suing to keep his tax returns from going to the House, tax returns that could vindicate his claim if he isn’t lying. And DDT kept Fox. Brian Kilmeade said that the report “shows that he lost a lot of money over the course of 10 years—if you consider a billion dollars a lot of money” and that it shows he’s “a bold businessman.”

What DDT wants people to ignore:

Twice in the past month, White House officials, at DDT’s direction, asked DDT’s first White House counsel, Don McGahn, to say that he believes the president never obstructed justice in order to calm down DDT. McGahn won’t. DDT initially told McGahn to tell Mueller anything for the investigation and is now ordering McGahn to illegally refuse to appear for congressional testimony after receiving a subpoena.

DDT said that he would let his fixer AG Bill Barr decide whether Mueller would testify after DDT said that Mueller should not testify after DDT said that he would let Barr decide. Mueller has postponed his formerly scheduled testimony on May 15. The DOJ controls any Mueller testimony until Mueller quits. Then DDT would probably claim “executive privilege” as he did with Mueller’s report.

In less than a year, the U.S. national debt rose from $21 trillion to $22 trillion.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-16 to declare Barr in contempt for not providing them with the full Mueller report.

Almost 800 former federal prosecutors from both political parties have signed onto a letter stating that Mueller’s report shows anyone not protected “by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President” would face “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to testify about the Russian interference in the 2016 election, especially his earlier testimony about a June 2016 meeting with Russians. Some GOP senators and DDT are highly upset about the testimony.

The New York state Senate voted in favor of legislation allowing them to give DDT’s state tax returns to congressional committees.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) announced that he subpoenaed DDT’s tax returns from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in accord with federal law Sec. 6103 of the tax code. Mnuchin said that Barr told him what to do.

The FBI is investigating DDT’s associate, Cindy Yang, to see if the Chinese are funneling money to DDT’s re-election campaign after DDT’s friend, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, was arrested for soliciting prostitution in one of Yang’s former Florida massage parlor. Details here.

DDT lost an attempt to stonewall a House subpoena for financial records from his accounting firm: a federal judge agreed to fast-track the full case for an appeals court to hear the case by summer. The firm Mazar had agreed to provide these records if the House were to subpoena them.

The House passed a $17.2 supplemental billion disaster bill by 257-150 over DDT’s opposition because he doesn’t want to give more than $11 billion to Puerto Rico. He lies about giving the U.S. territory $91 billion and about giving Puerto Rico more than any state. Thirty-four GOP representatives voted for the bill.

DDT’s pick for FBI director, Christopher Wray, said that the investigation into the Russian involvement with the election and DDT is not “spying” as Barr declared under oath.

The House holds the nation’s purse strings, and its Oversight Committee has threatened to withhold wages from Interior Department employees preventing interviews with people who blocked lawmakers from interviewing employees about Secretary David’s Bernhardt’s complying with recordkeeping laws. Committee chair Elijah Cummings stated that salaries would not be paid to any “federal officer or employee who prevents another federal officer or employee from communicating directly with any member, committee, or subcommittee of Congress.”

New Treasury Department requirements reveal more about DDT’s money laundering for the ruling Sassou-Nguesso family of Congo, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, former Transportation Minister Ziya Mammadov of Azerbaijan, former Kazakhstani official and oligarch Timur Kulibayev, former Almaty mayor Viktor Khrapunov of Kazakhstan, special Philippines envoy to the U.S. for Trade, Investment, and Economic Affairs Jose E.B. Antonio, vice presidential candidate and billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo (Hary Tanoe) of Indonesia, and former Soviet official Tevfik Arif. There might be many more.

National “security” adviser John Bolton is looking for a war for the U.S. Last Sunday, he falsely claimed that a long-scheduled deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the Middle East was to oppose Iran. His comment comes on top of intensifying sanctions against Iran. Bolton also wants a war with Venezuela’s legally-elected president, but DDT disagrees after his long telephone call with Vladimir Putin. Another DDT reason to quit attacking Nicholas Maduro is DDT’s sale of a luxury ocean-view property in the Dominican Republic to a “mysterious shell company” possibly connected to the Maduro regime.

The “fake news” about Iran has come from Israel that will do anything to cause trouble between Iran and the U.S. In return to increased sanctions and other threats from the U.S. to eliminate oil experts through the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has threatened that if the U.S. chokes off its oil exports that exit the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, Iran will close the Strait to other nations. Because 30 percent of the world’s oil shipments use this route, Saudi Arabia could benefit, but a global crash could ensue. Nixon’s gas price surge from his rescue of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War accelerated the drive for his impeachment. Two weeks ago, oil prices shot up to a six-month high after the U.S. refused to renew all Iranian oil waivers and warned China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey of sanctions if they didn’t comply: China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joked about “the idea of a coup” in Iran.

DDT seems to be almost as afraid of North Korea’s president, Kim Jong-Un, as he is of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. After giving Kim everything he wants—propaganda, stature, and cessation of military exercises—Kim continues making and test-firing a “tactical guided weapon.” Meanwhile, DDT falsely tells reporters that “there’s been no tests.” After the tests, DDT tweeted that dictator Kim “knows that I am with him.” North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles at least twice this week, the second time while DDT’s special envoy was in the country and both based on a Russian design. The U.S. also seized a North Korean ship flouting sanctions by carrying banned exports of coal. China has said that it will not take part in three-way nuclear talks with the United States and Russia.

China seems to be ahead in DDT’s trade war. He’s so desperate from his failure in negotiations that he’s claiming that he will give all the money he gets from tariffs to buy U.S. agricultural products—supposedly more than China would buy—and sent this food to other countries where people are starving. All the people in the U.S. paying more for products from China to cover tariffs send food away from starving people in the U.S. Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue said he doesn’t know anything about more aid for farmers.

DDT seems to have dumped Kim Jong-Un for Xi Jinping. After bragging about “beautiful letters” from the North Korean president last year, DDT now says that the president of China sent him a “beautiful letter.”

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

March 15, 2019

DDT Promises Violence If Investigations Continue

During Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee, the former fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) warned of violent consequences if DDT doesn’t get elected president. He said:

“I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

DDT may be moving up the timeline. He began promoting violence at an August 2016 rally in North Carolina when he said that “the Second Amendment people” might have a way to stop Hillary Clinton “if she gets to pick her judges.” He continued his call for violence since he was inaugurated with his statement about “tough people” like “law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump,” adding that he hopes they stay peaceful. Since then he has used the same subtle statement, but he was much stronger in calling for violence in an interview with the far-right Breitbart website. Referring to the same “tough people” in talking about investigations into him, DDT added, “They don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” [Photo from a Bikers for Trump event at his Bedminster (NJ) golf resort on August 11, 2018; image by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.]

The calls for violence go beyond promising to pay for his audience’s lawyers if they initiate violence against protesters to the point of claiming that he will order violence from armed military and allies to physically defend himself against “Democrats” who investigate him.

As the investigations accelerate, especially after the Democratic control of the House, DDT’s terror about investigations become more manifest, for example this morning’s tweet that “there should be no Mueller report.” DDT may also have made Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin afraid of him. In the past, Mnuchin has said that he will comply with the law if members of Congress legally request DDT’s tax returns. During a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Mnuchin added that “we will protect the president” to his earlier claim that he will “follow the law.” The two statements are opposite because the law states he will “furnish” the returns upon request of the committee’s chair.

Current White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has told Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that two of DDT-associated attorneys, former White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino and his personal attorney Sheri Dillon, won’t be available to the House Oversight Committee. Cummings said that the two attorneys “may have provided false information” about hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

Cohen has given the House Intelligence Committee documents about DDT’s secret deal-making with Russia over a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow and returned to testify. The documents show edits to the false written statement he submitted to Congress in 2017 made by DDT’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, who encouraged Cohen to lie under oath. Cohen also claims that attorney Abbe Lowell, representing Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, had also reviewed his 2017 statements to Congress. Sekulow denied that DDT’s lawyers had either reviewed or changed Cohen’s earlier testimony. Cohen’s earlier testimony already implicated DDT in at least 11 separate felonies:

Russia Conspiracy Case: Links to hacked Democratic emails stolen by Russian spies.

Lying to Mueller: Falsehoods in writing from DDT about his conversation with Roger Stone regarding the hacked emails.

Suborning Perjury: Orders to Cohen that he lie to Congress under oath about trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign and DDT’s personal lawyers who “reviewed and edited” Cohen’s congressional statement before submission, including the “length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive.”

Campaign Finance Violations: DDT’s directive to organize hush-money payments during the campaign with evidence from a check signed by DDT for reimbursement of payout to Stormy Daniels.

Election Fraud: Hush-money payments to silence women and conceal DDT’s affairs from the voters that thwarted a fair election.

Insurance Fraud: DDT’s false claims to insurance companies that inflated the size of his assets in a ploy to reduce his premiums. [Visual on desktop]

Witness Tampering: DDT’s threatening intimidation of Cohen to “persuade” him from testifying against DDT.

Bank Fraud: DDT’s inflation of personal wealth while trying to borrow money from Deutsche Bank in a failed attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014. (Cohen said that DDT almost doubled his statement of finances by claiming that putting his name on anything is worth $4 billion.)

Tax Fraud: DDT’s deflation of “assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” for example claiming that he claimed, for tax purposes, that the National Golf Club Jupiter in Florida was worth “no more than $5 million” when he valued it at over $50 million on his financial disclosure forms. (The New York Times’ investigation found DDT “participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.”

Financial Disclosure: The conspiracy of false accounting entries of the Trump Organization by DDT’s failure to disclose his debt to Cohen for making the hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, probably to conceal the reimbursement.

Misusing Charitable Funds: DDT’s use of his charity’s money to buy a painting of himself after driving up the bid and then keeping the painting.

And More Undisclosed Crimes: Criminal allegations from prosecutors for the Southern District of New York about additional lines of investigation.

The New York attorney general’s office subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for financing records connected to four of DDT’s business projects in Washington, DC, Chicago, and outside as well as failure to buy the NFL Buffalo Bills in 2014. Michael Cohen, DDT’s former fixer, has suggested that DDT illegally inflated and deflated his personal wealth for gain. In 2011 and 2012, for example, DDT’s debt load may have seemed smaller on his Statements of Financial Condition because he omitted a Chicago hotel with a high debt. Fraud against financial institutions is fraudulent and one of the convictions for Paul Manafort and part of Cohen’s prison term.

Democrats in the House continued to terrify DDT, recently with the hire of a former Manhattan prosecutor who specialized in Russian organized crime. Daniel Goldman will be working for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) who is coordinating with House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to investigate DDT’s relationship with Deutsche Bank which has paid multimillion-dollar penalties for working with Russian money launderers.

Some current House inquiries and requested sources for testimonies:

Campaign finance from illegal donations: Michael Cohen

Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion with DDT’s campaign: Felix Sater (DDT’s Russian born business partner the mafia ties)

Family separation of migrants on the southern border from DHS’s “zero tolerance” policy: Kirstjen Nielsen (DHS Secretary), Bill Barr (AG), and Alex Azar (HHS)

Obstruction of justice: Donald Trump Jr. and 80 others

Security clearances: White House

Shutdown and its affect on the Coast Guard, Indian Country, damage to public lands, and delayed back pay

DDT’s tax returns: Steve Mnuchin (Treasury Secretary)

Trump Organization, including possible money laundering, mismanagement of charitable funds, and revenue from its DC hotel violating the Constitution

Ethics violations such as activities by former EPA director Scott Pruitt, HHS Tom Price, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as well as current expenditures

Census attempt to add a citizen question: Wilbur Ross, who committed perjury but no Republican called him a liar

Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Don Beyer Jr. (D-VA) have also referred Jared Kushner to the DOJ for investigation because of his false statements on security clearance applications and in public interviews.

The Senate is also looking into DDT’s security clearances. After discovering that DDT overruled security clearances about 30 times, Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are introducing the Integrity in Security Clearance Determinations Act to stop this abuse. Among the 30 are the clearances DDT gave to daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner after they failed FBI checks but politically retaliated against former CIA John Brennan by removing his clearance because Brennan criticized him.

The House must be doing the right things. Fox network, the same one that squashed the story about the Stormy Daniels affair before the 2016 election, is pushing to get rid of five of these investigations.

As Rafi Schwartz wrote, “It says a lot about the state of the country when the President of the United States can make a laudatory, if oblique, reference to having fascist goon squads commit violence on his behalf, and it’s not the biggest headline of the day.”

March 3, 2019

GOP Values Reflected in People They Choose

Michael Cohen’s testimony this week uncovers the nature of the man who has been elected president of the United States, but it also clearly shows the nature and values of the people who support Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). During the hearing, Republicans constantly called Cohen a liar—sometimes a “pathological liar”—yet ignored the pathological liar who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office. Republicans said almost nothing to refute what Cohen said but repeated, ad nauseam, that Cohen had admitted to lying to Congress and to committing multiple felonies.

Before the testimony, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is not a member of the Oversight Committee allowed to question Cohen, sent a threatening tweet that attempted to intimidate Cohen. DDT even called to praise Gaetz for his action, which raises the question of whether DDT fed Gaetz negative information about Cohen. Gaetz, Jim Jordan (R-OH), and other Republicans decided 18 months ago to actively undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation through reinvestigating Hillary Clinton and the origins of the FBI investigation of Flynn and other DDT associates as well as smearing the FBI.

Sean Hannity, Fox propagandist and DDT’s BFF, said that Cohen had told him that DDT had nothing to do with the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels for a secret affair. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted:

“Sean Hannity is now volunteering himself as a witness. I look forward to his testimony.”

National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss said, “Hannity just made himself a witness in a congressional inquiry and the SDNY [Southern District of New York] probe.”

The people who DDT selects to surround him and who are confirmed by the Republicans in the senate demonstrate their own values. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continually tries to destroy public education, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney wanted to destroy consumer protection, and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wanted to destroy public lands. Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt took over from Zinke, and former pharmaceutical executive leads the Department of Health and Human Services. The replacement for former Secretary of Defense James Mattis is former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has been accused of protecting a sex trafficker who molested teenage girls.

Shannon Lee Goessling, DDT’s pick for director of the Office of Violence against Women at DOJ, is the most recent example of DDT’s desire to select appointees imminently unsuitable for every position. She has fought to keep Alabama’s driver’s license exams only in English, bringing concerns that she would provide domestic violence resources in any non-English languages as well as probability that she could not handle policies for survivors’ immigration statuses and eligibility for public support. Also questionable is her respect for cultural differences in domestic violence. Goessling has also opposed marriage equality and advocates greater gun ownership to prevent violence against women, perpetuating the myth that women with guns can prevent “a completed rape.” According to a study, firearms in the home are more likely to be used against a woman and/or her family than as defense against outside intruders. Victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abusers have access to firearms. Her history is obviously anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-racial justice, and anti-activists opposing sexual violence.

Andrew Wheeler, who became acting EPA director and is now confirmed for a permanent position, came from the coal industry, the largest water polluter responsible for 73 percent of toxic water contamination in the U.S. Last August, Wheeler planned to weaken automobile fuel economy standards before he destroyed a power plant regulation that, according to the EPA, will cause 1,400 more premature deaths each year. Scientists from 13 federal agencies, including the EPA, confirmed findings that U.S. temperatures will be nine degrees higher within less than a century, but Wheeler refused to recognize the study’s validity without reading it. In December, he recommended loosening carbon dioxide emissions reductions at coal-fired power plants and finished 2018 by announcing that he will promote the release of mercury and other dangerous pollutants from coal-fired plants. A recent Wheeler project is to slow down the elimination of toxic, cancer-causing “forever chemicals” contaminating drinking water across the country. Wheeler was confirmed by 52 to 47: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined all Democrats except Krysten Sinema (AZ) who did not vote. In 2017, Wheeler had held a fundraiser for John Barrasso (R-WY), who presided over the confirmation.

For the first time in history, the Senate confirmed a federal judge over the opposition of both senators from the appointee’s home state. Eric Miller’s lifetime appointment to the 9th Circuit Court was completed after a brief hearing during a congressional recess with only two GOP committee members present. Miller does not agree with the U.S. Constitution that all children born in the U.S., even those of undocumented immigrants, should have U.S. citizenship and made his name fighting the rights of Native Americans. Two prominent Native American organizations, the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund, objected to Miller’s confirmation—only the third time that either group has opposed a federal judicial nominee. Miller, however, fits both DDT’s requirements: young and bigoted.The Senate was close to this historical first with the nomination of Oregon’s Ryan Bounds until the one black GOP senator, Tim Scott (SC), opposed Bounds because of his previous racist writings. Last November, McConnell said, “Confirmation is a political decision based on who controls the Senate.” To him, party is all and democracy is gone.

As Shanahan comes to the government from Boeing, DDT’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley goes to Boeing’s board of directors. She joins 19 former high-level military officers hired by Boeing after their retirement. Lockheed Martin, builder of the notoriously dangerous F-35, tries the same strategy: in just 2018, the contractor hired 55 former senior government officials as executives, directors, or lobbyists. Former employees for Lockheed include Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and John Rood, undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who lied about the reasons for and methods of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, violated his ethics agreement when he inaccurately reported stock holdings on his 2018 financial disclosure form. He reported selling stock that he kept. The refusal to certify Ross’ report has never happened before, but the Ethics Office had earlier warned Ross about his “failure to comply with his ethics compliance agreements.” In 2018, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, asked then-AG Jeff Sessions to review Ross’s disclosures for “potential criminal violations.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson plans 17 EnVision Centers, as a one-stop place for low-income residents needing social services such as job-placement programs and education. Unfortunately, he didn’t designate any funding for his plan.

Ryan Zinke, who resigned from his Secretary of Interior gig at the end of last year in the hopes of not being investigated, may face a grand jury for lying to federal investigators about not granting commercial casino petitions by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The Connecticut tribes’ lawsuit claims that Zinke caved to GOP Nevada legislators, Rep. Mark Amodei and then Sen. Dean Heller who has received large contributions from MGM Resorts International. The government is not commenting on Zinke’s other scandals, including at least 17 ethics probes.

As if one Bill Barr in the administration isn’t bad enough, his son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, will leave the DOJ to join the White House council where he will “advise” DDT on legal issues—presumably the Russia investigation. The jobs seem to “intersect” (aka provide a conflict of interest). Barr’s oldest daughter, Mary Daly, will leave the DOJ for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to give Dad more heads-up about Russia.

After the military concluded—several years ago—that climate is a serious national security threat, DDT appointed William Happer to lead his Committee on Climate Security to refute his own agencies’ research. Happer claimed that carbon pollution benefits people and compares scientific evidence that carbon dioxide causes global warming to Nazi “propaganda” like “demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” He calls science a “cult.” An article from the New York Times lists disasters from climate change in the near future.

DDT found a replacement for Heather Nauert, who resigned as acting ambassador to the UN for illegally hiring a nanny after Nikki Haley resigned. Kelly Knight Craft, Ambassador to Canada and another science denier, has no qualifications to recommend her, but she and her husband donated millions of dollars to DDT’s presidential campaigns. They are also from Kentucky, and Craft has been “highly recommended” by other Kentuckians Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, who is also Transportation Secretary.

In selecting the most unqualified ambassadors in modern history, DDT chooses those who donated almost as much money to his campaign as the ambassadors picked by Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama in their nine presidential terms.

The only people worse than DDT in his appointments are the Republicans—and a few Democrats—who confirm them for lifetime positions. Their values go from simple reward of incompetence to sinking deep into corruption and fraud.

February 9, 2019

Brexit, ‘Executive Time,’ More

The media has not released any jaw-dropping news about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) today, so it’s time for catch-up with outrageous happenings during the past few weeks.

With the ongoing disasters in the United States, including a 35-day government shutdown, many people ignore events “across the pond.” In 47 days, the United Kingdom is scheduled to separate from the European Union, and, like in many U.S. debacles, the UK has no plan for the separation. In a world-wide promotion of chaos, Russia “encouraged” people to vote in favor of Brexit, a British exit from the EU, a few months before the U.S. chaos resulting from DDT’s election. The deadline for departure, with or without a plan, was scheduled for March 29, 2019—which seemed a long time away in summer of 2016. As the deadline arrives in less than seven weeks, UK has no agreed-upon plan.

The UK has been bleeding industries and jobs since the vote, and the momentum is building. Companies are making up backup plans as well as stockpiling products and looking for new shipping routes, and international banks have shifted thousands of jobs from Britain to the EU. Of 1,200 surveyed business leaders, 16 percent already have relocation plans, and another 13 percent are considering moves. That’s in addition to the ones which have already gone. The Netherlands reported that its government is talking to over 250 companies about moving their operations from the UK before Brexit. Forty-two companies or branch offices moved 1,923 jobs from the UK last year. Britain’s economy is 2.3 percent smaller than if voters had agreed to stay in the EU, and investment in the automobile sector plunged by almost 50 percent in 2018.

The World Travel and Tourism Council warned Britain that leaving the European Union without an agreement could cost 308,000 UK-based jobs and another 399,000 jobs in the EU from loss of tourism. An analysis from the International Monetary Fund also projects a 7.7 percent decline in economic activity with a total cost to Europe of over £40 billion.

Recently, the HM Revenue and Customs told 145,000 businesses that without a deal between UK and EU, it won’t check goods from the European Union. The average trailer has 400 consignments, each requiring ten minutes for the 40-answer declaration, requiring nine people eight hours to process just one trailer. Ferry operators and Eurotunnel were ordered be accept the word of “reasonable belief” customers. To avoid traffic jams at 20 of the busiest ports, haulers can declare the loads later, and companies can postpone paying import duties for up to a year.

Some people envision security problems from this decision. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid refused to disagree with claims that a no-deal Brexit would make the country less safe. The head of criminals records office, Rob Price said that dangerous criminals might be free in Britain if law enforcement cannot access European conviction records.

An indication of how frightening the Brexit may be for the UK comes from the report about plans for the emergency evacuation of Queen Elizabeth if rioting ensues. People in UK are already stockpiling groceries, medicines, and other supplies, and a possible lack of cash and imports could result in civil unrest. Compounding the problem is that Brexit disagreement is based on “identity politics” from white nationalism instead of economics.

Back in the U.S., DDT is in a rage about a recent White House leak. He raved about how much he liked “doing it” when asked if he would run for a second term, but  a White House leak shows that about 60 percent of DDT’s schedule since the midterm elections was “Executive Time,” even the month when he claimed he was working hard to reopen the government and facing crises in his cabinet and Syria. DDT’s first five hours in the day are “Executive Time” (aka down time) almost always in his residence “watching TV, reading newspapers and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.” Salon’s Heather Digby Parton wrote, “Fox has become Trump’s de facto kitchen cabinet and unofficial communications office, creating a tight feedback loop between the far right and the White House.” Compared to this executive time, 77 hours of DDT’s time has been in meetings for policy planning, legislative strategy, and video showings.

Madeleine Westerhout, DDT’s personal secretary, tweeted about “the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday [sic].” If she is right, why were all these omitted from an official schedule?

The DDT’s defense from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“[DDT] has a different leadership style than his predecessors, and the results speak for themselves.”

According to Sanders, DDT’s over 300 hours of unstructured time is “to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history.” Newt Gingrich went farther to defend DDT by comparing him to Winston Churchill.

Beyond the fact that DDT doesn’t work much—not a new revelation—is that a White House staffer is willing to release this information. DDT is frantically searching for the leaker. DDT’s schedules since the 2018 midterm elections have been published here.

DDT’s aides are also unhappy with their boss. A revolt against DDT’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Pascale, is imminent, especially after he misrepresented the DDT’s polling regarding the shutdown, representing them as a political winner for DDT. Corey Lewandowski, DDT’s first campaign manager in 2016, blames Pascale for the Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms.

Having destroyed two federal agencies and failing at his job as “acting” White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, unhappy with his current gig, wants to move on to ruin something else—either the Commerce Department, which already has a Secretary, or president of the University of South Carolina. Still the Office of Management and Budget director, Mulvaney briefly headed up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which may need to change its name to Corrupt Business Protection Bureau after a few months with Mulvaney. In a complete 180-turn from two years ago, Mulvaney said “nobody cares” about the deficit. Congress will be required to address raising the debt limit in March after over a $1 trillion deficit last year—at the latest in Summer 2019. Perhaps Mulvaney wants to be gone by then.

Deutsche Bank refused to loan money to DDT in 2016 when he was funding his presidential campaign and expanding his business at the same time, specifically asking for a loan against a Miami property to pay for work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. DDT still owes at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, and bank officials are concerned about DDT defaulting on the loan if he is elected as president. The choice would be losing the money or seizing assets of the President of the United States.

The EU is investigating Deutsch Bank for possible money laundering by Danske Bank’s moving cash abroad. Democrats in the U.S. are carefully watching this investigation as they follow the “Trump money trail.” Deutsche Bank has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for allowing Russian money laundering of massive sums. The bank also sold financial products to the Mercer family who bankrolled DDT’s campaign. The Mercers are now negotiating with the IRS because they used Deutsche Bank to dodge more than $6 billion in taxes to the United States.

Maryland prosecutors have subpoenaed financial documents about DDT’s golf courses in Scotland in their investigation a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution as DDT profits from his businesses. An investigation into expenditures by DDT’s inaugural committee may do the same with the revelation that it paid $700,000 to DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel for events over four days when other venues donated their premises for the inauguration.

A Russian-born lobbyist at the investigated Trump Tower meeting with Don Trump Jr. and others in June 2016 received half a million dollars in payments before and after the meeting. The large cash deposits to Rinat Akhmetshin were deemed suspicious transactions by bank investigators.

In a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Commander Jonathan White, in charge of overseeing migrant children shelters, said he was unaware of the “zero tolerance” policy causing separation of children and parents until he saw the news on television after being told that the policy didn’t exist. Government officials say that children are still being separated, with situations such as lying to an eight-year-old boy who was told he would see his father at a shelter over 2,000 miles away. ICE gave the wrong baby to a mother who had lost all four of her children.

DDT may think that the border needs another 3,700 soldiers to confine a caravan of about 2,000 at the southern border, but New Mexico’s governor Michelle Lujan ordered the withdrawal of most of the National Guard troops deployed on the border. She declared the “crisis” to be bogus because the state’s border towns are some of the safest in the country. Texas has also sent 500 state troopers to the border. New law enforcement outnumbers the immigrants 2 to 1.

September 21, 2016

CEO John Stumpf, Candidate Donald Trump Caught Scamming

“Eight rhymes with great.” That’s the reason that Wells Fargo demanded that its employees squeeze eight accounts out of every customer—and the reason that employees were fired if they failed. (Do you have eight bank accounts with your bank of choice?) Then, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) emphatically announced during a Senate hearing, CEO John Stumpf fired employees for “cheating” employees and went off to get hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. CEO John Stumpf claims that Wells Fargo knew nothing about these scams until the LA Times published information about it in 2013 although it appeared to have started as early as 2011.

The scam came to light when it was discovered that battered employees opened unneeded accounts for customers, ordered them credit cards without their permission, and forged client signatures. Employees begged family members to open ghost accounts and opened duplicate accounts for themselves. A homeless woman was talked into opening six checking and savings accounts with fees of $39 per month. When the forced scams were discovered, Wells Fargo fired 30 workers just in southern California, and other workers were put on leave. A total of 5,300 lower-level employees had to leave Wells Fargo. Senior-level executives kept their jobs.

The purpose of the scam was to drive up stock value, and Wells Fargo reported a $5.6 billion quarterly profit last year in October. The bank averaged 6.15 financial products per household—almost four times the industry average. A former branch manager said that if he didn’t make his goal that he was “severely chastised and embarrassed in front of 60-plus managers in your area by the community banking president.”

Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $185 million in fines but won’t admit wrongdoing. It claims that the company will end its aggressive sales targets in another three months by January 1.

Carrie Tolstedt, the executive in charge of the division causing the problems, retired—instead of being fired—in July with a payout of $100 million and the hopes that more compensation throughout the coming year. Stumpf said that he talked to her weekly during the three years after the fake accounts were revealed and employees were being fired. Despite the illegal activity, he didn’t fire her because she did well with branding and improving customer loyalty.

Asked if the bank plans to “clawback” compensation for these acts from the top-level bank employees who make millions, Stumpf said that the responsibility lay with the bank’s board. He is the board chairman but said that he could not get involved and doesn’t plan to “prejudice their process.” Also asked how the bank will help customers with damaged credit ratings from the fake accounts or whether the case is one of fraud, Stumpf said that he was not a lawyer, a compensation expert, or a credit consultant. After being a micro-manager for many years, Stumpf now depicts himself as an innocent bystander.

Warren showed 12 transcripts of Wells Fargo earnings in which Stump “personally cited Wells Fargo’s success at cross-selling retail accounts as one of the main reasons to buy more stock in the company.” When Stumpf refused to answer how much his Wells Fargo stock holdings had gained during these three years, she said that his 6.75 million shares had increased by $30 each during that time—more than $200 million in gains from employees forcing customers to each have the “Great Eight” accounts. Much of Stumpf’s increase in wealth came from the creation of 200 million fraudulent accounts. As Warren announced in the hearing, Stumpf is not resigning, not returning any of his earnings from fraudulent actions, and not firing any senior executives.

In chastising Stumpf’s actions, Warren said:

“Here’s what really gets me about this, Mr. Stumpf. If one of your tellers took a handful of $20 bills out of the crash drawer, they’d probably be looking at criminal charges for theft. They could end up in prison. But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket. And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multi-multimillion-dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich.”

In yesterday’s hearing, Warren accused Stumpf of “gutless leadership” and called for his resignation. She also demanded that he return his personal compensation and face criminal investigation. Hillary Clinton wrote, “We need to make sure that no financial institution is too big to manage. And if any bank can’t be managed effectively, it should be broken up.” According to Democratic legislators, Wells Fargo and Stumpf highlight the reason for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that GOP leaders want to dismantle.

Senate Republicans, especially those up for re-election, didn’t defend Stumpf’s wrongdoing. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) called it “fraud,” but last year he fought to eliminate the CFPB. Republicans claim that Stumpf is an example of their belief that regulations don’t do any good.

Stumpf’s tentacles go much farther than just Wells Fargo: he serves on the Federal Advisory Council, 12 bankers who guide the Federal Reserve’s board members on U.S. financial policy and act as the nation’s leading bank regulator.

Donald Trump has said nothing about John Strumpf; he has his own fraud issues. Weeks ago, a few media sources published information about the illegal campaign donation from Trump’s charitable foundation, totally composed of other people’s money, to keep the fraudulent Trump University from being investigated in Florida. More recently, Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold revealed much greater wrongdoing. Using the Trump Foundation as his personal slush fund, Trump took $258,000 to again benefit himself, this time to pay his businesses’ fines. Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington, said, “I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen.” Trump has been known to say, “There’s nothing like doing things with other people’s money.”

GOP VP candidate, Mike Pence, attempted to defend his new boss. After the Trump campaign accused the article about the “slush fund” of being “peppered with inaccuracies,” MSNBC Brian Williams asked Pence what they were. Pence couldn’t identify any. The campaign staff couldn’t name any specific “inaccuracies” either.

GuideStar, an organization that tracks nonprofits, compared the foundations connected with the presidential candidates and found that the Clinton Foundation is he more transparent of the two. It tracks the Foundation’s philanthropic programs to determine the number of people benefitting, such as women getting job training. The Trump Foundation has no such tracking; the report said that it would “appear to indicate an unfocused generosity.” The Clintons also most likely donated more money to charity than the Trumps—who haven’t donated more than $10,000 in the past several years. But no one knows for sure because Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns.

Asked about their candidate’s use of a charitable foundation to illegally satisfy his personal needs, House Republicans who skewered the Clinton Foundation either said that they hadn’t heard anything about problems with the Trump Foundation or that the conservative Washington Post is a Democratic propaganda machine. Once again, Clinton is judged by a different standard as the Clinton Foundation, which has not been found of any wrongdoing, is used against her, and the illegal activities of the Trump Foundation are ignored by millions of people.

August 29, 2014

Campaign Fever: Kentucky U.S. Senators

mcconnellJust 67 days before the general election, the U.S. Senate Minority Leader is blaming the tight race between him and Democratic contender, Alison Grimes, comes from all the donations she’s received. The race may go over $100 million, but Mitch McConnell has three times as much as Grimes. McConnell has a much greater problems now–a Mitt Romney experience of being taped while promising wealthy donors and corporate leaders all he will do for them (and against the country) if they just give him enough money.

McConnell’s promise to shut down the president’s legislative agenda—and maybe the country—was no secret. He had openly said this in an interview. He failed to mention that he had secretly made the same promises–and many more–two months earlier at a gathering called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society” for conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers.

These are some of McConnell’s statements following his session entitled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights”:

“In the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it…”

“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage (inaudible)—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.” [McConnell voted 17 times against the minimum wage for 16.5 million people and 12 times against extending unemployment benefits for 1.7 million people.]

“Not everybody needs to go to Yale.”

Students should look into for-profit colleges.

“All Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.”

The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold [campaign finance] into law in the early part of his first Administration.” [Worse for McConnell than the deaths on 9/11 and the disastrous 2008 housing meltdown.]

“The best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory …. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech…. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.”

“I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”

Koch Industries executive Kevin Gentry assured those attending that their political contributions would remain secret. Gentry formerly served as an advisor to former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, now on trial on charges that he failed to disclose gifts from a well-heeled supporter.

The Affordable Care Act, that McConnell has worked to repeal, dropped the uninsured in Kentucky more than any other state—almost by half to a little over 12 percent. Unfortunately, polls in that state show that while they love their state version they have “Obamacare,” which is nothing more than their state version.

None of the news above is suprising, but the news is about to get worse for McConnell. Kent Sorenson, the former Iowa state senator who pled guilty to taking $73,000 for switching from presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s campaign to the one for Ron Paul almost three years ago, has a McConnell connection. Dimitri Kesari, the man who literally handed Sorenson a check in a restaurant men’s room, is a political consultant for McConnell.

McConnell’s campaign chairman is Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s Deputy National Campaign Manager. Sorenson said that “Jesse knows” about the bribe; Benton says, “I don’t know anything about that.” If there’s a paper trail for Benton, and Kesari, the FBI may find it.  An FBI raid on Sorenson’s home likely turned up more information about Benton’s and Kesari’s involvement.

Then there’s the problem with the Rand family. Benton worked for Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign and lived in his basement. He’s also married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter. McConnell brought in Benton to satisfy Paulites and Tea Partiers in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s other GOP senator, Rand Paul, isn’t running for election for two years, but he’s recently raised a few eyebrows. Disagreeing with George W. Bush while he was president was “unpatriotic” and scandalous for legislators while traveling abroad, but disagreeing with President Obama is the “job” of legislators now. That’s Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) take about his meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina when Paul condemned the U.S. president’s actions for the U.S./Mexico immigration crisis and undermined U.S. foreign policy. Paul’s condemnation of the president as the “abdication of responsibility for securing our border” comes after border security has improved to levels not earlier experience in U.S. history.

Rand Paul may not be tremendously popular in his home state. He’s made no secret of his hopes to run for president in 2016, but he wants to stay senator in case he loses to the dozens of other candidates. Kentucky, however, doesn’t let a person be a candidate for two separate political offices in the same election. Paul’s idea was to just change the law; after all, Lyndon B. Johnson did just that in Texas when he was John F. Kennedy’s running mate. Other VPs did the same thing, Lloyd Bentsen and Joe Lieberman for example. Even Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) got to do it. Joe Biden got permission from Delaware to run for his senate seat in 2008.

Paul interpreted state law as two statewide offices, not national offices. The state GOP-controlled Senate passed the bill for Paul by 25-13. The Kentucky House, however, is controlled by Democrats. Speaker Greg Stumbo said, “We kind of take the position over here that a man (who) can’t decide which office he wants to run for isn’t fit to hold either office.” Instead of voting against it, House members just waited until the legislative session was done.

Like his father, Rand Paul thinks that the federal government is a tyrannical entity and firmly believes in state’s rights. Kentucky’s law is that a candidate can’t run for two different offices at the same time. Maybe it will stay that way.

As an addendum to yesterday’s blog about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the week got even worse. After bragging up the surplus, the state will most likely have a big deficit. Walker wanted people to think that they had a tax cut so he changed the amount of withholding in pay checks. He figured nobody would find out until after the fall election when they owed big bucks for taxes in the spring. The state also ran short after Walker refused to accept federal Medicaid expansion money and he had to pay state money for health care and to hospitals. Then there are the federal funds that never came to the state because Walker turned down a high speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison. The Potawatomi tribe is also withholding $25 million because of a casino dispute. Maybe he thinks he’ll approve the casino only if the tribe members vote for him?

The state’s rainy-day fund has enough money right now to pay for lagging taxes, but the state can’t use it without passing a law. Low taxes for a state is like low starting salaries for workers: it can hurt future growth in income. Walker should provide a fuller picture of Wisconsin’s fiscal woes on October 15—and that’s still before the election. Estimates for the two-year shortfall are projected at $642 million.

And those are only a few of the Republicans in trouble!

 

May 8, 2014

Is Rick Perry Smarter Wearing Glasses?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is worried about me. I found that out when he talked on Sunday’s Meet the Press about his “family … the “90 million people that are out of work.” What he doesn’t know, however, is that in April the United States had 9.8 million unemployed people—a horrifying statistic but 80.2 fewer people than Perry cited.

Rick Perry

The Bureau of Labor Services did show 92.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 15 who were “not in the labor force.” I’m one of those because I retired several years ago. And I don’t plan to look for a job. Perry doesn’t need to worry about me.

I’m in good company: 36 million other people are 65 or older. Another 11 million teenagers, age 16 to 19, are unemployed—not looking for jobs. In the 20- to 24-year-old catgory, 6.8 million people, many of them still in college, aren’t looking for jobs. The rest are stay-at-home parents and/or spouses, early retirees, people who may have inherited money, and anyone else who doesn’t need or want to work.

To be officially “unemployed,” someone without a job had to make an effort to get one within the four weeks before the BLS survey. Right now the unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, evenly divided among those who haven’t looked for employment in the past year and those who have searched for work in the past year but not in the past four weeks.

Of those 9.8 million people, 6 million are actively searching for jobs, and 2.2 million are “marginally attached” to the labor force, those who looked for work within the past year and not the past four weeks. Others are “discouraged workers” who quit looking for jobs because they think there’s nothing available.

Perry leftPerry is also worried because “there are more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history, that’s just not right.” He’s correct: it’s not right. It’s the lowest rate since 1988, but the women’s labor force participation is almost twice as much as it was in 1948. Just like the overall labor force participation rate, the percentage of working women peaked in early 2000 and declined after that because the country’s population is aging. The decline is expected to continue because of that reason.

If Perry wants to worry, he should consider employment in his home state of Texas. Although he boasted about 95 percent of Texas workers earning above the minimum wage, the state was tied for first with Mississippi in 2010 for the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage. At that time, 9.5 percent of people in Texas earned at or below minimum wage. By 2013, Texas got better, moving to fifth worst among 50 states with the percentage dropping to 6.4. States with higher percentages are Tennessee (7.4 percent), Idaho, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Perry, however, is worried only about the “maximum wage,” not the minimum wage.

The appearance on Meet the Press—and the new glasses—are just part of the governor’s attempt to reinvent himself for the 2016 election after the gaffes of 2012. He’s been on Jimmy Kimmel, traveled out of the country, and appealed to the Conservative Political Action Conference. He even spent some time at MSNBC with Joe Scarborough.

The “oops” times of cuddling a bottle of maple syrup in Vermont and the inability to remember three items—a traditional check for Alzheimers—might disappear if he had figured out how many people in the country are unemployed. That’s not likely to happen with comedians like Jon Stewart tracking such moments like the ones on last night’s The Daily Show. About Perry’s transition to a wiser man, Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant, said, “The margin for error is small. He needs to outperform those perceptions immediately and dramatically or he looks like the same guy in ’12.”  Last night he did.

His current problems may not be as serious as those for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who closed an important bridge and failed to spend a large percentage of funds for Superstorm Sandy after over a year, but he’s still being investigated by a grand jury. He wanted to unseat Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and thought that he could succeed after her arrest for drunk driving. She refused to quit, and, as punishment, he vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public-integrity unit that traces fraud and corruption.

The Texas GOP has put the dismantling of the Public Integrity Unit into its platform for over three decades. One of its cases was the criminal case against former Rep. Tom DeLay for money laundering to hide corporate donations to state GOP candidates. Getting rid of Lehmberg would also mean that Perry could have named her replacement.

Lehmberg’s office was investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, a pet project of Perry’s, when he decided that she had to go. Eighteen scientists, including the Nobel laureate director, had resigned in protest from the multibillion-dollar agency, claiming that investment decisions were made without scientific review with tens of millions of dollars going to Perry supporters and donors for their business ventures. A pending case concerns the indictment of an agency executive for an improperly awarded $11 million grant.

Prosecutors only need to show that Perry offered considerations in return for actions by District Attorney Lehmberg for him to be determined guilty of breaking a state law. A Travis County judge said that Lehmberg was told that funding would be restored, even after the veto, if she resigned. Grand jurors could easily see this behavior as bribery or coercion. Last year Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint for alleged abuse of power. That grand jury’s term expired, and a new one has been seated.

Technically, a guilty charge would put Perry in a worse position than Christie because obstructing justice is determined worse than blocking a thoroughfare. Unless, of course, the federal government discovers that Christie offered favors in exchange for Superstorm Sandy funds.

perry 1

Perry’s latest move is to pay Toyota $40 million to move from California to Texas. That’s $10,000 for each job, the highest rate of corporate welfare in a decade. The last time Texas was in fiscal trouble, Perry used billions of dollars in federal money for a bailout. His refusal to take Medicaid, however, stops him from using that solution again.

Humorist Andy Borowitz wrote, “With an eye toward a Presidential run in 2016, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is hoping that a two-pronged strategy of wearing glasses and not speaking will make him appear smarter to voters.” Perry forgot the second suggestion.

Decisions for both Christie and Perry may decide the fate of Jeb Bush. With them out of the way, the GOP might be forced to consider a third Bush for a presidential candidate.  But then Rick Perry can stop worry about me.

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