Nel's New Day

April 18, 2021

Sunday: Religious Numbers Drop, Court Gives Christianity Preference

On Sunday, fewer people than ever are going to a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious gathering. Pew Research reports that the share of religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S. has been growing across all demographic groups. The “nones”—those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or religion as “nothing in particular”—have become 23 percent of the population, almost 50 percent up from 2007 when 16 percent of people were “nones.” At the same time, the number of “Christians” have dropped from 78 percent to 71 percent.

More Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996) self-identify as “nones,” and the median age of unaffiliated adults is currently 36, down from 38 in 2007 and younger than the 46 years of media age of adults in the U.S. More in the older generations, however, are also becoming unaffiliated: 17 percent of Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are now unaffiliated, compared to 14 percent in 2007.

Of people raised as Christian or another faith, 18 percent now have no religious affiliation, compared to the roughly half of the 9 percent of U.S. adults raised without any affiliation now who identify with a religion, mostly Christianity. More men than women are “nones,” but education, race and ethnicity, and income make no difference. Nearly two-thirds of the seven percent of atheists and agnostics are men who are more educated and more White than the general population.

Two years ago, then-VP Mike Pence announced the nation’s religiosity “has remained remarkably consistent.” Yet a Gallup poll reinforced the Pew Research in its finding that only 47 percent belonged to a congregation in 2020, down from 70 percent in 2000. The percentage of people who think religion is important dropped to 48 percent with the number of people regularly attending worship services even lower.

While the general population becomes less religious, the Supreme Court, because of appointments by Deposed Dictator Trump (DDT) and confirmations by GOP senators, gives preference to Christians. Late Friday night, April 9, 2021, in a “shadow docket,” justices made a 5-4 decision in a case not on the docket and had no oral argument. The Tansom v. Newsom ruling determined that religious groups can gather in homes although other groups are still banned from this practice.

With no signature, the ruling changed the constitutional view of “religious liberty that now permits religious exemptions to situations not discriminating against religion. The court’s new rule, “most favored nation” permits any secular exemption to a law permitting a claim for a religious exemption. The decision stated required permission to gather for Bible study just as they would to get haircuts, food, or pedicures. Any time a government grants any exemption to a law for any reason, it has to grant the same exemption to religion—which in the U.S. typically means Christianity.

These conservative justices have gone far beyond the belief of Justice Antonin Scalia, formerly the most conservative judge of the modern era, when he said this type of ruling should be done “sparingly, and only in the most critical and exigent circumstances,” where “the legal rights at issue are indisputably clear.” The new ruling doesn’t fit these criteria because the high court gave a different meaning to the scope and applicability of the free exercise clause. With no explanation for the court’s decision, five justices are trying to bind lower courts to their personal opinion. The current Supreme Court has used its emergency injunctions seven times, all of them in COVID-19 cases. Before last November, the court had not done so for five years.

DDT used emergency relief from the high court 41 times, winning 28 of those appeals. In contrast, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama together went to the court for this relief only eight times in 16 years. Almost all DDT’s cases requested “stays” pending appeals against a lower court ruling, but the current support for a Christian group froze a government policy losing in the lower courts pending appeal. Scalia pointed out that an injunction “grants judicial intervention that has been withheld by lower courts,” unlike a stay, a short-term delay of a proceeding.

This injunction overrides the lower courts instead of the justices’ position from the past of “a court of review, not first view” as an “appellate tribunal.” The action reverses the function of the Supreme Court and exceeds the justices’ statutory authority to issue such relief—for the seventh time since October. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, the majority relied only on “separate opinions and unreasoned orders” to make a new constitutional rule. Conservative justices “using procedural tools meant to help them control their docket to make significant substantive changes in the law, in defiance not only of their own standards for such relief, but of fundamental principles of judicial decision making,” wrote legal expert Stephen I. Vladeck.

Since the new term began last October, the court has used shadow dockets at least 20 times to make secret rulings with no arguments and no identification of how each justice ruled. The new justices, in control of making law over legislatures and lower courts, remove transparency from the process of law.

The recent ruling agrees with an earlier decision that religion should allow people to infect others with COVID-19 by opening church services in California while other public activities are closed. Last December, SCOTUS also put religion over public health by siding with religious groups in Colorado and New Jersey. At that time, the U.S. had almost 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 and 16.5 million infections.

Over five years ago, Jerry Falwell Jr, then president of Liberty University, endorsed DDT for president which gave him the evangelical vote in 2016. The past few years have not been good for Falwell. After a series of failed to gain traction, the photo of him and his wife’s pregnant assistant in an inappropriate pose on a boat was the tipping point. He lost his leadership position at the university but claimed a resurrection comeback on Good Friday with his belief the “community still embraces him.” Denied a contracted $10.5 million severance package, Falwell, worth over $100 million, told the media the dispute was resolved.

Good Friday passed, and Liberty is now suing Falwell for over $40 million in damages, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty. The lawsuit states Falwell withheld “scandalous and potentially damaging information from Liberty’s board of trustees, while negotiating a generous new contract for himself in 2019 under false pretenses,” according to journalist Ruth Graham. Some of the scandal included an on-going three-some among himself, his wife, and a former pool boy. (More details about Falwell’s scandals.) 

Employees have been ordered to not communicate with either Falwell or his wife Becki Falwell other than any concerns about their daughter, a student. The university also wants Falwell to return its electronic equipment with confidential information. Their oldest son, Trey Falwell was also forced from his vice-presidency at Liberty, while Jerry Falwell Jr’s brother Jonathan Falwell has taken a bigger role at the school.

Also gone from Liberty University is the name for its political “think tank,” Falkirk Center, named after Falwell and DDT’s former pet, Charlie Kirk. Over 400 Liberty students and recent graduates signed a petition to close down the group because the Center “is trying to undo Liberty’s mission.” They rejected the idea they are “people who were educated to become champions for Trump and Western Civilization in the ‘cultural battlefield.’” They also object to the “fellows” using the Center as a “gateway for … people who claim Christ’s name because it is convenient for their personal or political gain.” The Falkirk Center sank $50,000 into political ads for DDT and other GOP candidates before the election.

The Center did not renew Charlie Kirk as a fellow, and he plans to start his own group called Turning Point Faith. Falkirk is now Standing for Freedom Center but kept its political philosophy and some of its questionable “fellows,” such as conservative commentator Eric Metaxas who punched an unarmed anti-DDT protester in the back of his head last year and continues to spread conspiracy theories about voter fraud.  

Liberty’s direction is shown by two new fellows, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both wannabe presidential candidates—Huckabee in the past and Pompeo in 2024. Pompeo, claiming he wants “religious freedom, created many federal groups promoting evangelical Christianity around the world including one educating officials that the Bible mandates them to support back right-wing social, economic, environmental, and criminal justice policies. When in Congress, Pompeo worked with anti-Muslim activists to promote Christian nationalism. Pope Francis denied an audience with Pompeo because of his use of “religious freedom” for political gain.

Pompeo’s background as Secretary of State illustrates his lack of ethics. The Inspector General reported Pompeo violated government federal ethics rules in using the agency’s resources by asking its employees to carry out personal tasks over 100 times, as did Pompeo’s wife, Susan. Pompeo said they were just things friends did for friends—like working all weekend “to envelope, address, and mail personal Christmas cards for the Pompeos” with no compensation.

Just a few reasons that the number of religiously unaffiliated grows every year.

 

April 1, 2021

April Fool – Not! True Stories from the Media on April 1

Today is an annual day to celebrate tricksters, often through the mass media, but this year’s media stories, as ridiculous as many of them may sound, are true. Here’s a sampling of the ridiculous, and accurate, occurrences—many of them involving Republicans.

First commissioned in 1997, the F-35 fighter jet, estimated at a cost of over $1 trillion for the program and not yet ready for prime time, has been a joke. One plane costs $135.8 million, but its problems include catching on fire, rolling during landings, pilot blackouts, software development disasters, premature part failures, and shortage of spare parts to keep the planes flying.

Why did Johnson & Johnson have to throw away COVID-19 doses for 15 million people? Workers in Emergent BioSolutions, a Baltimore manufacturing plant, accidentally mixed its ingredients from those for AstraZeneca. Biologically different, the two vaccines are not interchangeable. Production was delayed by an FDA investigation. FDA has already repeatedly cited Emergent for poorly trained employees, cracked vials, and mold in one facility. The mix-up was not discovered for days, but currently distributed and administrated J&J vaccines in the U.S. were not affected because they were produced in the Netherlands under federal regulator watch. Approved in February, J&J has a 66-percent efficacy fate but only 42.3 percent effective a month after vaccinations for people over 60 with comorbidities.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), already stripped of her committee assignments, entertained herself for a few weeks by putting forward multiple proposals to adjourn the House of Representatives. Members of both parties had to leave important meetings and other duties as they rushed to the chamber floor to vote against her motion. Now the QAnon follower introduced a bill to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s appointed chief medical adviser in a position not even requiring Senate confirmation. Greene’s Fire Fauci Act cuts Fauci’s salary to $0 until “a new NIAID Administrator is confirmed by the Senate.” Which isn’t required. Two days ago, Greene accused the president of Satanism by tweeting any “vaccine passport” is “Biden’s Mark of the Beast.”

Greene, who accuses Democrats of sex-trafficking, is vigorously defending Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in his investigation regarding alleged sex-trafficking of a 17-year-old and accuses the DOJ of a “witch hunt.” DDT’s AG Bill Barr began the investigation and deliberately avoided being seen in the same place with Gaetz, refusing to attend a meet-and-greet event with the House Judiciary Committee because Gaetz would be present.

Popular with multitudes of Republicans, Greene is the subject of a “RealDoll” patterned after her (left). Abyss Creations, which makes life-size “sex dolls” has sold out of the Greene model. The company’s marketing director Andrew Canard stated Abyss’ success comes from targeting evangelical MAGA fans with these female companion manikins, leading to the design of the Marjorie Taylor Greene Freedom Doll. [Visual – RealDoll Greene]

The entire Matt Gaetz story becomes more and more bizarre. According to reports, he bragged about his sexual exploits with a number of women and showed other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women who he had sex with, some images kept on his phone. The investigation is looking into his possible use of campaign funds to pay for the women’s travel and expenses.

Media has obtained receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay showing how Gaetz used cash apps to send money to women as well as paying them in cash from hotel ATMs.

Gaetz denies paying women for sex, asserting he is just generous, but some women claim he told them to say that money paid for sex was just for dating. During 2019 and 2020, Gaetz and Greenberg told women to meet with them, often at Florida hotels, and told them how much they would pay, according to text messages and interviews. The men met women through Seeking Arrangement, a site of over 20 worldwide members which is self-described as wealthy people finding attractive companions to treat them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.”Before sex, some women and men, including Gaetz, would take ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug. Gaetz also asked the women to find others willing to have sex with him and his friends. Greenberg is not making any comment about the allocations.

Paying for hotels, meals, and other gifts is not illegal, but payments for sex is trafficking the women under “force, fraud or coercion.” Providing drugs in exchange for sex is classified as trafficking because feeding another person’s drug habit can be described as coercion. Giving anyone under the age of 18 anything of value for sex—even hotels or cigarettes—violates the federal child sex trafficking law and carries a ten-year minimum prison sentence. QAnon finally found real alleged sex-traffickers among the ich and famous, but they protect Gaetz and his friends.

The Government Accountability Office reported that Ivanka Trump’s women’s empowerment initiative failed to track funds and didn’t determine the definition of a woman-owned business. According to the GAO report:

“USAID has not developed a process to support compliance with statutory requirements to target MSME resources to activities that reach the very poor and to small and medium-sized enterprise resources to activities that reach enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women. We identified three key gaps that impair USAID’s ability to develop such a process. First, USAID has not identified the total funding subject to the targeting requirements. Second, although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group. Third, although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size.”

During her years in the White House, Trump claimed she tracked spending and efficient use of funds, yet she didn’t know where the money was going or if the recipients were minority-owned.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) cannot escape a $5,000 fine for disobeying a House rule. After some House members tried to carry guns onto the House floor, representatives were required to go through a metal detector. Several GOP representatives refused to comply with security screening, and the House imposed fines for their noncompliance. The first offense is $5,000, and all subsequent offenses are $10,000. Gohmert contested the fine, saying he didn’t know he should use the metal director after going to the bathroom, but the House Ethics Committee upheld the charge. The Texas representative admitted that he refused to comply with a Capitol Police officer’s request to be screened.  

The death of Don Wright, sworn into the U.S. House a month after being sworn into the 117th Congress, left an opening from Texas. A congressional candidate and former DDT official who hopes to win Wright’s seat is campaigning against Chinese immigrants accusing then of not holding “themselves accountable” and causing the pandemic. The candidate? Sery Kim, a Korean-American woman who served in the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the Small Business Administration. She says she doesn’t feel discrimination for being Asian-American because “I blame China.”

An Arizona state representative, Mark Finchem, has started the process to run against the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. The Republican is known for leading the effort to overturn the state’s popular vote for President Joe Biden and invited DDT’s campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a Phoenix event with legislators to support him. Finchem was also invited to speak at a January 6 rally outside the U.S. Capitol to storm the building but claimed he knew nothing about breaching the building despite his tweeting photographs of it. Blaming the insurrection on leftists, he refused to give The Arizona Republic information about his travels to Washington, D.C. at that time. Rural Arizonans for Accountability began a recall effort against him because of his buy in to the “big lie” regarding how voter fraud “stole” the election from DDT. 

March 13, 2021

Biden Spends Successful Week

In a paraphrase of Charles Dickens—it was the best of speeches; it was the worse of speeches. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wanted to appear in control. DDT had blocked testing, but the number of coronavirus case was still at 1,267. For a month, he had compared the deadly disease to the seasonal flu, claiming coronavirus  would just disappear and continued that lie for another seven-plus months as the daily number of U.S. cases rose to over 77,000. 

DDT read from his speech in a monotone when he announced a limit on some world travel, suspending travel from Europe for 30 days which added to bans on parts of Italy and South Korea as well as China and Iran. He exempted the UK, with far more cases than many EU countries, and permitted U.S. citizens to return to the U.S., crowding the airports and spreading infections. DDT said, “The virus will not have a chance against us.”

DDT’s speech misrepresented the administration’s policy in “suspending all travel from Europe” and blocking “tremendous amount of trade and cargo,” which also hadn’t been decided. His boast that the health insurance industry agreed to waive “all co-payments for coronavirus treatments” was also a lie. DDT continued his racist assertion about COVID-19 being a “foreign virus” that “started in China.”

Exactly one year later, March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden’s first prime-time speech excelled in empathy for the U.S. people and hope for the future. He announced all adults will be eligible for the COVID-19 virus by May 1, and his promise of 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days will be achieved by his first 60 days. The increase in vaccinations comes from the purchase of 100 million more doses of the one-time shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Biden also mourned the 545,000+ deaths in the past year from the virus, many of the deaths unnecessary because DDT did little or nothing about stopping the disease.

The far-right frantically searched for ways to criticize Biden’s speech. Tucker Carlson, already in trouble for attacking women in the military, came up with his need for “freedom.” About Biden’s statement that people in the U.S. can safely gather in small groups for Independence Day, Carlson ranted:  

“This is a free people. This is a free country. How dare you tell us who we can spend the Fourth of July with?”

Erik Wemple sarcastically wrote that “only a power-hungry radical would suggest that people hang out with ‘your families and friends’ on a holiday.” 

Biden made the speech on the same day he signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) after its final passage in the House with a 220 to 211 vote. Of the two House Democrats opposing the bill the first time, Jared Golden (ME) voted no the second time while Kurt Schrader (OR) changed his vote to yes.

With the signing a day early before the promised deadline, many of the $1,400 stipends were delivered this weekend. ARPA provides an average tax cut of $3,000 for the low and middle class and a $6,000 cut for families, giving people in this category almost 70 percent of the tax benefits. It will raise after-tax incomes by 3.8 percent. This step is the opposite of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which provided about half the benefits to the top five percent of the population, those who made about $308,000 that year.

Not one Republican voted for ARPA, but at least one of them took credit for it. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi bragged about the approximately $29 billion bailout for the restaurant industry. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “It’s typical that they will vote no and take the dough.” Republicans are now moving forward to repeal the estate tax for the remaining 1,900 people not exempted by the 2017 tax cut bill. The current tax covers only estates worth more than $22 million. Their action doesn’t fit Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) description of the GOP as “the party of steel workers, construction workers, pipeline workers, police officers, firefighters, waiters, and waitresses.”

The 657 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. could pay for two-thirds of ARPA with the $1.3 trillion they acquired in the past year. Three of them—Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg—made enough to pay for the $250 billion of supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 weekly for the upcoming six months. Musk’s increase of $142 billion, a 567 percent increase in assets, could support farmers, small businesses, bars and restaurants, and other industries. Bezos’ $67 billion could fund assistance to renters, homeowners, and veterans with $8 billion left over. [visual – ARPA chart]

Because of current law, the billionaires $4.2 trillion in wealth won’t be taxed during their lifetimes less they sell the underlying assets at a gain. Other laws allow inheritors to escape taxation on the increase.

Biden and the Dems aren’t resting on their laurels after passing ARPA: their next project will be job-creating packages on climate, broadband, and transportation issues. Pelosi expressed hope a transportation system will let them address more needs such as education, housing, and water systems, some of them over 100 years old. With the Senate filibuster requiring at least ten Republicans to support any bills, Democrats ponder another budget reconciliation process for infrastructure and ways to pay for expenditures. One possibility, bringing GOP opposition, is tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, drastically lowered in the 2017 GOP tax cut bill.

More success for Biden during the week came from the Senate confirmation of three more Cabinet members:

Michael Regan: The vote for EPA Secretary, 66-34, allows him to rebuild an agency losing thousands of employees and rolling back dozens of clean air and water protections during the Trump administration. A former EPA employee, he pledged to change years of funding cuts, industry-friendly policies, and rejection of its scientists. Regan has “a special obligation to the underserved and under-represented.” Soon before he took over the agency, the EPA gave his predecessor a 23-page “letter of concern” to Regan’s predecessor reporting racial discrimination from hog-farm pollution resulting from investigation into a complaint. The EPA has “deep concern about the possibility that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans have been subjected to discrimination as the result of [North Carolina] DEQ’s operation of the Swine Waste General Permit program.”

 Merrick Garland: The new DOJ Attorney General, confirmed with a 70-30 vote, will begin investigating whistleblower allegations about political DOJ hiring by acting AG Jeffrey Bossert Clark in the last days before Biden’s inauguration. In late December, Clark and DDT allegedly discussed a method of unseating then acting AG Jeffrey Rosen to advance DDT’s plans for overturning Georgia’s election before the congressional certification of electoral votes on January 6. Garland was greeted with a standing ovation when he took his oath and promised everyone will be treated by the same set of rules.

Marcia Fudge: HUD Secretary was confirmed with a 66-34 majority, thanks to GOP support including that of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.  She needs to overcome the actions of her predecessor, Ben Carson, with his massive exodus of career staff, destruction of fair housing enforcement, and failure to address a nationwide crisis in affordable housing worsened by the pandemic. HUD’s aging issue includes 63 percent of employees eligible to retire, including 50 percent of supervisors and managers.

Although the confirmation of Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary was blocked in committee, the Senate voted 51-48 to bypass the panel for the entire chamber to consider his nomination. Both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have announced their support of Becerra.

With southern border shelters freed up from some pandemic restrictions, Biden has reactivated over 200 beds for unaccompanied immigrant children and eliminated DDT’s agreement causing the arrest of sponsors who want to take them. The former administration had given sponsors’ fingerprints and other information to DHS.

In another immigration change this week, a program reinstated permission for parents legally in the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to ask for their children to come to the U.S.

On International Women’s Day, Biden signed two executive orders. One orders the review of former Education Secretary DeVos’ regulation in handling the process of sexual assault allegations by higher education institution. New Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was directed to consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” agency actions violating the policy of non-discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

The other order establishes the White House Gender Policy Council. The Council will help Biden “ensure that every domestic and foreign policy we pursue rests on a foundation of dignity and equity for women.” A special assistant to Biden will focus on “policies to advance equity for Black, indigenous and Latina women and girls of color.” Co-chair Julissa Reynoso, first lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff, said that the full participation of women and girls in society is “essential to the economic well-being, health and security of our nation and the world. This is a matter of human rights, justice and fairness.”

To complete Dickens’ beginning to A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”

And thus we have the description of life before and after January 20, 2021.

 

March 7, 2021

COVID Relief Bill Passes Senate

Business in Congress is suddenly booming. While the GOP was in charge, most bills reaching the floor renamed buildings. In the two months since Congress went into session, the House passed at least 70 bills and resolutions. The Senate passed nine bills and resolutions, carried out an impeachment trial, and confirmed 13 Cabinet and Cabinet-level appointments. They also took a week’s vacation before President Joe Biden’s inauguration and worked to restructure the Senate after two elected Democratic senators in Georgia created a 50-50 split in the chamber.

Remarkably, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, called the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, passed the Senate despite obstruction from Republicans and, occasionally, a few Democrats. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), trying to decide whether to run for re-election in 2022, tried to get GOP support. Known for his purveying Russian propaganda disinformation, especially while chair of the chamber’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he forced the entire 628-page bill to be read aloud before debate.  

Passed by Democrats in the House, the modified bill lost the hourly $15 minimum wage before a unanimous vote by the 50 Democratic senators. With Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) absent, the remaining 49 Republicans lost the vote without VP Kamala Harris needing to break a tie. The bill returns to the House for a vote on the minor changes before it goes to Biden for a signature. He promised the bill would be passed before March 14 when the federal portion of the unemployment expires, and he may have succeeded. The increase of 379,000 new jobs last month—Biden’s first complete month on the job—may partly come from an optimism about the bill’s passage, but the U.S. has 9.5 million more unemployed workers than before the attack of COVID-19 who need the bill.

Unemployment benefits caused dissension among Democrats when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) threatened for nine hours to join GOP senators in lessening the bill’s weekly benefits. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), “The party that claims to want to help workers on their taxes won’t lift a finger.” Earlier in the year, House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had tried to paint Democrats as “anti-worker.” Then Democrats destroyed dozens of GOP amendments to drastically cut spending and assistance for local government. Republicans didn’t plan to vote for the bill; they only wanted to stall the process as they did over a decade ago with the Affordable Care Act. They also accused Democrats of not wanting unity, but the Dems declared unity with the 76 percent of people, including 60 percent of Republicans, who want the bill.  

Johnson’s ploy backfired at the end of staff members’ reading the bill until 2:00 am on Friday morning. The few Democrats still present passed Sen. Chris van Hollen’s (D-MD) motion to cut the debate time from 20 hours to only three; no Republicans were present to object, and votes on the amendments began Friday morning instead of 17 hours later.

Most Senate bills require 60 votes if someone calls for the filibuster, but Senate rules allow one bill each year under reconciliation for each of three categories: spending, revenue, and the federal debt limit. ARPA was passed under this rule. The filibuster requirement for the remainder of bills, mandating 60 instead of 50 votes, has been so watered down that senators use it for almost all bills. The Founding Fathers were opposed to more than a majority required to pass a bill, but the filibuster, or cloture, was formed with a Senate vote over a century ago when Woodrow Wilson wanted to arm merchant vessels in 1917. For decades, filibustering senators had to continue speaking on the Senate floor to stall bills: then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC) set the record with 24 hours and 28 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 although the bill finally passed. By 1975, the filibuster rule was almost completely diluted: no 60 percent vote to agree on a filibuster, no talking on the Senate floor, almost no effort.

By the 21st century, one person can continue a filibuster without even being present until 60 senators vote against the filibuster. That’s the reason the number of annual filibusters has gone from about one to hundreds per year.

Contents of the bill:  

  • $1,400 checks per person for individuals making under $75,000 and couples under $150,000.
  • Federal unemployment benefits until September 6 at $300 per week with the first $10,200 of benefits for households earning under $150,000.
  • Extension of a 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits from June to September.
  • Rent aid for low-income households.
  • Increase in federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies.
  • Provision of $8.5 billion for rural hospitals and health care providers in financial trouble.
  • Child tax credit of $3,000 for each child ages 6-17 and $3,600 for each child under age 6.
  • Designation of $350 billion for states, cities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories.
  • Tens of billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution and supply chains.
  • $130 billion for reopening schools.

Added provisions to the House bill:

  • $510 million for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program to support homeless services providers for overnight shelter, meals, one month’s rent and mortgage assistance, and one month’s utility payments.
  • Expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit for start-up companies and other businesses hit by the pandemic.
  • Increase in the federal COBRA health insurance program from 85 percent to 100 percent.
  • A $10 billion infrastructure program to help local governments continue crucial capital projects.
  • Coronavirus-related student loans tax-free.
  • Increase of $200 million for Amtrak relief funding.
  • Education funding of $1.25 billion for summer enrichment, $1.25 billion for after-school programs, and $3 billion for education technology

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) quickly corrected Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) complaining lies about undocumented immigrants receiving money from ARPA. Refusing to yield the floor back to Cruz, Durbin said:

“The statement of the senator from Texas is just plain false… In case you didn’t notice, they didn’t qualify in December when 92 of us voted for that measure, and they don’t qualify under the American Rescue Plan. Nothing has changed, and for you to stand up there and say the opposite is just to rile people up over something that’s not true.”

 Debunking other false claims:

Nothing for schools: As can be seen above, hundreds of billions of dollars are being sent to schools, helping them take CDC steps to safely return youth to schools. The amount is six times what Republicans offered in their version of a bill.

Only 9 percent for health care: The largest parts focus on the pandemic’s economic impact, related to health. At least seven percent is directly related to coronavirus and might be closer to ten percent, depending on the GOP definition of “the health care space,” including the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Items such as free lunches for students no physically in school are connected to the COVID crisis. Stimulus checks, government assistance, and unemployment benefits are necessary because of the pandemic. The $140 million originally designated the BART extension, outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) district, brought bitter complaints, but that sum, 0.0007 of the bill’s amount, has been deleted. Only $30 million for transportation for systems suffering from fee revenue, remains. Airlines alone received $25 from Republicans in the CARES act.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) drew attention to herself with two graceless gestures during the vote for ARPA. One of eight Democrats voting against the hourly minimum wage of $15, she made a dramatic thumbs-down movement similar to that of former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) when he voted against killing the Affordable Care Act. The difference was clear: Sinema voted against low-income people, and McCain supported them. Seven years ago, she tweeted:

“A full-time minimum-wage earner makes less than $16k a year. This one’s a no-brainer. Tell Congress to #RaiseTheWage!”

Sinema’s other action accompanying her rejection of raising the minimum wage brought up the supercilious remark “Let them eat cake” about 17th and 18th century European peasants living in poverty who had no bread about European peasants living in poverty. She brought a large chocolate cake into the Senate chamber supposedly for staffers forced to read the entire ARPA. The connection between the cake and her thumbs-down for the poor made poor optics for her. Sinema also wants to preserve the filibuster to keep Republicans in control. As an Arizona paper wrote, “Sinema is holding progress hostage.” Sinema complained that criticism about her flamboyant gesture was sexist.  

For the past two years, the Democratic House passed hundreds of important bills and sent them to the boneyard of the GOP Senate. People knew Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate majority leader for those two years, would ignore the bills, which he knew would expire when a new Congress was sworn in. One advantage of having those bills from the 116th Congress, however, is that the 117th Congress can re-pass them much more quickly. Under the “McGovern rule,” bills brought to the House floor by April 1 can skip over markups if the previous Congress passed them. Two major results of this “rule” are H.R. 1 to return democracy to voting through government and elections reform by 220 to 210 and and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with a vote of 220 to 212. Although both bills have moved on to the Senate, the filibuster may hurt their progress.

The daily cases of COVID-19 and resulting deaths in the U.S. are dropping—58,228 infections and 1,515 deaths yesterday—but the number per capita for cases is above other industrialized nations for cases and still eleventh for deaths.

March 3, 2021

Biden: DDT’s FollowersThreatening Lawmakers

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) was exonerated by 43 Republicans in his second impeachment trial soon after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, despite DDT’s incitement of violence for his followers to breach the U.S. Capitol on January 6, kill and wound many people, and block the election of the next U.S. president by terrorizing congressional lawmakers. Yet DDT’s worshippers, usually QAnon conspiracy believers of DDT’s lies about voter fraud, are again stopping congressional work, this time on March 4, by again threatening to attack. House members had to change their voting schedule, staying late on March 3 to vote on a police reform bill instead of on March 4. This time QAnon believers ignore the 20th Amendment changing Inauguration Day to January 4, ratified in 1933. Convinced DDT will be inaugurated and return to the White House on March, MAGA people plan violence against elected federal lawmakers.

On March 4, the National Guard won’t be subjected to the same restraints to protect U.S. lawmakers as on January 6, when DDT was still in the White House. On March 3, National Guard commanding general Maj. Gen. William Walker testified in a Senate hearing that he was blocked on January 6 for over three hours from getting permission to stop the violent insurrection at the Capitol although he received immediate approval against Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

In the Senate hearing, Walker described how he put National Guard troops immediately on a bus after he received “a frantic call from then-chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund,” with the report “that the security perimeter of the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters.” He also alerted the city so he could quickly move the buses through traffic. Yet, Walker had to wait for “3 hours and 19 minutes” before he received permission to send the Guard. Miller supposedly gave approval for the Guard to support Capitol Police at 4:32 pm—almost three hours after the frantic calls, but no one told Walker for over 30 minutes. Walker said, “Seconds mattered, minutes mattered.”

Miller stalled his approval by demanding a complete explanation of how the troops would be used at the Capitol and what their assignments would be. While he stopped Walker from helping the Capitol Police, insurrectionists broke through window and doors, killed and wounded people, and vandalized the Capitol, inside and out. The officials in charge said they didn’t like the “optics” of the Guard protecting lawmakers. One of those objecting was Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, brother of Michael Flynn, who DDT pardoned after Flynn twice pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election. Michael Flynn also wanted to declare martial law in overturning Biden’s election and promotes QAnon.

The intent to stop Walker from taking any emergency action on his own was evident. On January 5, Walker received an “unusual” letter preventing him from deploying any Quick Reaction Force service members without explicit approval from then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

Acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, also warned Congress that militia groups present at the January 6 riot “want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” when President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress for the first time. Because of this, Pittman said Capitol Police must “maintain its enhanced and robust security posture,” including fencing and National Guard presence. The date for that address by Biden hasn’t yet been decided. MAGA supporters force taxpayers to fund the National Guard in Washington, D.C. for lawmakers’ protections and for the fence around the Capitol, protecting lawmakers, which MAGA members want removed.

The House of Representatives Acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett sent a letter to lawmakers warning of Capitol Police’s “new and concerning information and intelligence indicating additional interest in the Capitol” by a militia group on March 4 through March 6.

In a Senate hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that domestic “militia violent extremists” were responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol and are one of the biggest concerns for the agency. He specified those who “self-identify with the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers” in “white supremacy.” Several GOP senators, including Ron Johnson (WI) and Marsha Blackburn (TN), focused on the anti-fascists opposing white supremacists. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) still claimed anarchists were in the Capitol on January 6 despite Wray’s disagreeing with his position although Wray denied any “antifa” stormed the Capitol.

Wray also reported the number of domestic terrorist cases has doubled to 2,000 since last September because domestic terrorism “has been metastasizing around the country for a long time now.” Democrats criticized the failure of the FBI to highlight the terrorists’ threat of “war” at the Capitol, but Wray said the report was emailed to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force including D.C. and Capitol Police; posted on a law enforcement web portal; and mentioned in a command center briefing in D.C. He didn’t explain why the D.C. police chief was not phoned or why the information was not highlighted.

For months, people have complained about the ignorance of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his insistence at putting Russian disinformation into the congressional record, conspiracies used as propaganda to falsely discredit Democrats. Now he clearly has trouble reading. Johnson plans to force reading of the entire 600-page $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill aloud to the Senate, requiring up to ten hours. He may not realize that 76 percent of voters—including 60 percent of Republicans—support the package. Or may not care that a portion of the money is designated for distributing hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses this spring and summer. The question is how constituents feel about Johnson running for re-election in 2022.

Governors in both Mississippi and Texas have announced the reopening of their states claiming their residents will do the right thing about keeping everyone protected from COVID-19. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, perhaps diverting media from his disastrous power grid during the “big freeze,” said people are protected by vaccinations. By now, seven percent of Texans have managed to get at least one shot. In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves wants to keep media attention from the tens of thousands of people in Jackson who can’t get running or clean water. Over half the states in the U.S. have lower rates of infections and deaths than Texas, and Mississippi is the fifth in the nation in death rates—45 states more successful. Biden has described the decisions to lift requirements for wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as “Neanderthal thinking.” This could be an insult to the Neanderthals because of their adaptability to different ecologies, development of highly functional tools, and survival of injuries and illnesses with the help from others.  

False stories from left-leaning and centrist news publications get fewer Facebook clicks, but lies from far-right publications get more clicks—almost twice as many. Researchers at the cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University reported the rewards for far-right publications posting faulty information.

Protests can succeed. A study in Scientific America reveals police killings dropped 20 percent between 2014 and 2019 in cities with Black Lives Matter protests. Travis Campbell, University of Massachusetts Amherst and the study’s author, concluded:

“BLM protests also increase the probability of a police agency having body-cameras, expand community policing, and reduce the number of future property crime-related arrests, which may partially explain the lethal force reduction.”

More benefits from protests here.

Fox network continues to hire ultra-conservatives to keep its audience, but thus far the strategy has been a failure. In both January and February, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show was the #1 most-watched show, and her network was the #1 most-watched cable news network during the day in February. Sean Hannity’s viewership is down 31 percent, and Fox & Friends dropped 40 percent. Maddow thanked her audience, saying she was “grateful and humbled.” She said, “We will keep doing our best to be worthy of your time and your trust for you tuning in.” For the past year, CNN was up 76 percent, MSNBC increased 37 percent, and Fox News was down 32 percent.

In an attempt to boost ratings, Fox rehired DDT’s former press secretary Kayleigh McEnamy who started her brief tenure in the White House by lying about never lying to the media. Some of McEnamy’s colleagues are not pleased, according to Daily Beast reporters Diana Falzone and Justin Baragona:

“The addition of a known and frequent liar to the Fox News roster set off some alarms within a newsroom that has been ‘purged’ in recent months in favor of right-wing opinion programming and content geared towards keeping a diehard MAGA audience satisfied.”

Earlier this year, Fox fired Political Editor Chris Stirewalt because he called Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Biden won Arizona, but Fox hates facts. The network joined the alternate reality and prefers people who incite insurrection. Its journalists “don’t give a damn about facts and real news.” One Fox News staffer said McEnany was rehired because “the viewers are morons.”

Even in retirement, DDT is contributing to offshoring: his golden statue presented at CPAC by an artist living in Mexico was “made in China.”

February 27, 2021

Biden, Democratic Congress Moving Rapidly Forward

The year 2021 marks the 20th year of the U.S. preemptive war in the Middle East, starting with George W. Bush’s attack on Afghanistan. President Joe Biden delivered the latest bombings, seven against two Iran-backed militias smuggling weapons in Syria. The airstrikes hit buildings on a border crossing with Iraq. Iranian state television reported 17 fatalities, but Biden had no exact number. Biden said he intended to “send a message” about the militias’ aggressive actions in Iraq against the U.S. including last week’s rocket attack. Experts have differed on the appropriateness of Biden’s actions, but Biden hopes to keep the path open for renewing an anti-nuclear agreement in Iran.

Years after U.S. intelligence prepared a report on the 2018 torturing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and journalist, in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, the new Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has declassified and released the document. According to the report, available here:

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi… The Crown Prince has absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”

Although Congress mandated the information be made public, former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) had covered up for MBS because of his friendship with Saudi Arabia and took no action about the vicious assault.

On the day before the report’s release, Biden called the 85-year-old Saudi king, instead of his son MBS, the crown prince and heir apparent, who has been giving orders. Biden may have had trouble reaching the king: sources say, “MBS has controlled his father’s switchboard.” The conversation skipped the report, but Biden “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law” and discussed working on “mutual issues of concern.” Biden has eliminated U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The U.S. does not plan to charge MBS of any crimes, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the “Khashoggi Ban,” restricting visas for people acting on behalf of foreign governments directly engaged in “serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work.” The ban can also cover family members and will be applied immediately to 76 Saudis “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.” The Treasury Department also sanctioned a former Saudi intelligence official, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, and the crown prince’s personal protective detail, the Rapid Intervention Force (aka the “Tiger Squad”). Blinken echoed Biden’s earlier statement that the U.S. wishes to “recalibrate” the relationship with Saudi Arabia “to be more in line with our interests and our values.”

The Treasury Department also replaced sanctions on Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler for corruption in Africa after DDT rolled them with no explanation or announcement during his last few days in the White House. Gertler is a close friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden also plans sanctions and other punishments for Russia for the SolarWinds cyber-espionage campaign, interfering in elections, and the Kremlin’s use of a banned chemical weapon against anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny before jailing him.

On Thursday, three Republicans supported the Democratic representatives in a 224-206 vote to expand federal protections for LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Equality Act amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act to include specific protections for LGBTQ people. The Republicans voting for the bill are John Katko (NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), and Tom Reed (NY); the other Republican support discrimination in the name of religious freedom. The legislation passed the House almost two years ago, but then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ignored it. McConnell has become the minority leader, and the Democrats will likely address the House bill.

Early Saturday morning, the House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan by 219-212 with opposition from all Republicans and two Democrats, Kurt Schrader (OR) and Jared Golden (ME).  Although the Senate parliamentarian refuses to allow the hourly $15 minimum wage in the reconciliation bill permitting a 50-50 vote in the chamber without a filibuster, the House included it in their bill.

As usual with a Democratic president, Republicans are arguing for austerity after driving up the national debt with massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Another false argument is that only a small portion of the $1.9 trillion goes to combating the virus, “actually used to put shots in people’s arms,” according to Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO). He ignores the funding for stimulus checks, school openings, unemployment payments, assistance for small businesses, and other types of expenditures the GOP legislators willingly passed while DDT was in the White House.

Biden insisted on changes in the bill’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans after they went to big businesses in the first bill instead of the mandated small business. He wants to guarantee loans to businesses with under 20 employees and restricts applications from these businesses for 14 days so that lenders can prioritize those businesses. Other changes open up loans to people with non-fraud felony convictions and to non-citizen business owners. In the last round, a large number of loans were flagged for potential fraud. A new mandate tackling “waste, fraud, and abuse across all federal programs” requires approval of PPP loans “contingent on passing [Small Business Association] fraud checks, Treasury’s Do Not Pay database, and public records.”

A proposed bill for a special commission probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol, such as the one which investigated the 9/11 attacks, is struggling because of GOP opposition. Objections started when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wanted a majority of Democrats on the commission. If Republicans approached the situation with a lack of bias, the equality might have worked. Yet Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) believes not only that DDT had nothing to do with the insurrection but also that it was a friendly group of people who were coming into the Capitol until the Capitol Police provoked them. Earlier, he had falsely asserted the seditionists were all on the left side, that all of them were not DDT’s supporters. Some GOP legislators, such as Steve Scalise (LA), second in House minority command, still maintain Biden is in the White House illegally and should be removed.

In addition, almost 150 GOP legislators of the 261 Republicans in Congress voted to overturn the legal votes from the electoral college after the far-right attack on the Capitol to stop the vote—almost 40 percent of the number of Republicans in Congress. All those Republicans have a conflict of interest to be on a commission to investigate the insurrection and would likely sabotage its investigation and reporting.

On the Senate side, Republican Mitch McConnell insists the commission also investigate all Black Lives Matter protests. If not that, then it should concentrate only on Capitol security failures, avoiding any white supremacy terrorism issues. The approaches would be like telling the 9/11 Commission to focus only on planes hitting the World Trade towers without reviewing radical Islamist terrorism or focus on all international violence. The mandate of the 9/11 Commission was to examine “the facts and circumstances relating to the 9/11 terrorist attack . . . including those relating to intelligence agencies; law enforcement agencies; diplomacy; immigration, nonimmigrant visas, and border control; the flow of assets to terrorist organizations; commercial aviation; the role of congressional oversight and resource allocation; and other areas determined relevant by the Commission for its inquiry.”

After DDT’s administration ignored reunification of families who they separated at the southern border, Biden appointed a task force to find the parents of 611 children. In less than a month, 105 children have been returned to their families, and the group is working to reunify the others.

Biden revoked the following presidential orders and memoranda signed by DDT:

  • Cutting funding from cities DDT declared as “anarchist” havens.
  • Mandating all new federal buildings be designed in classical aesthetic.
  • Limiting the ability of federal agency employees to make regulatory decisions.
  • Calling for agency heads to review welfare programs and strengthen work requirements for some recipients.

After a month in the White House, Biden has an overall job approval rating of 56 percent with 54 percent for his handling the economy and 56 percent for foreign affairs. His best rating is 67 percent approval in handling the coronavirus. That rating might go up with the FDA approval of a third vaccine, the one-shot vaccination from Johnson & Johnson. In DDT’s last six weeks, people received 12 million vaccinations. Biden promised 100 million in the first 100 days: in his first five weeks, people have gotten 58 million, 1.6 million a day and rising.

On February 26, 2021, the number of daily U.S. infections is down (80,625), but the daily number of deaths is averaging above 2,000—the most recent number 2,216. Total U.S. infections – 29,136,912; deaths – 523,082.      

February 19, 2021

Biden: Mundane Can Be a Relief

Tomorrow celebrates the one-month anniversary of President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, and the contrast to the four years of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) in the White House is overwhelming. Before DDT, much news would have been mundane, reflecting ordinary governance—like now. News about DDT, however, usually reported his alienation of foreign allies, rejection of help for anyone except the wealthy and big business, and complete chaos as he rapidly changed his positions—sometimes before the end of a sentence.

Participating in the G7 summit, Biden pledged full commitment to NATO after DDT cursed it for four years. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. In a major address to the Munich Security Conference, he warned that “democratic progress is under assault” in many parts of the world, including the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. also officially rejoined the Paris climate accord and supports a global effort to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, donating $4 billion over two years for the effort. After cancelation of the G7 summit, scheduled for the United States in 2020, the UK plans the 2021 summit in June at a Cornwall seaside resort. 

Biden also offered to join European nations in diplomacy with Iran and backed away from DDT’s attempt to restore UN’s sanctions on the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported the U.S. plans to join them for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. EU’s deputy secretary general asked the other original signers—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—to bring back the agreement, possibly with the U.S. as observer or guest instead of participant to work with Iran. The U.S. hopes to expand the agreement to control Iran’s growing missile ability as well as the country’s support of terrorist groups and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

After DDT violated the agreement, Iran compiled and enriched nuclear fuel over the 2015 limits. Biden started negotiations by withdrawing DDT’s demand of UN international sanctions against Iran. Other nations had dismissed insistence from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for invoking the “snap back sanctions” because DDT had dropped out of the agreement. Biden is also lifting travel restrictions on Iranian officials allowing them to attend UN meetings in the U.S.

Biden plans to “recalibrate” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, communicating with King Salman instead of his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). Next week, the U.S. will release the report of MBS’s torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and journalist, over two years ago. Biden also cancelled the arms sale to Saudi and criticized Saudi human rights abuses. DDT discounted his intelligence conclusions; protected MBS, a friend of DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; and ignored a law passed by Congress in 2019 to submit an unclassified report about the Saudi involvement in the murder. DDT’s intelligence director John Ratcliffe’s excuse for violating the law was “a marginal ‘public interest’” in the declassification.  

In domestic issues, Biden will appoint Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As a senior CMS official for President Obama, she helped implement the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion and insurance-market reforms. Expanding insurance coverage is a goal of Biden’s administration. Brooks-LaSure also wants to improve health coverage and address high rates of maternal mortality, much worse than in other industrialized nations.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised Congress will approve the $1.9 trillion relief bill by March 14. The House plans to pass the bill next week and send it to the Senate perhaps Friday or Saturday, allowing that chamber to work through issues before returning it for final passage. Current $300 weekly emergency federal employment benefits expire on March 14, and the current bill would increase benefits to $400 until fall.

Also in the bill are $1,400 stimulus checks for those eligible to add to the $600 approved in December; $350 billion for city and states governments with massive revenue shortfalls; $160 billion for vaccines, increased testing and other health care assistance; approximately $130 billion to help schools reopen; food assistance and rent help; and an increased child tax credit. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told GOP  House members to vote “no” and called it “Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He accused the bill of keeping schools closed, bailing out blue states, and paying people not to work.

Although a split between the two parties in voting for the bill may seem to lack the “unity” Biden wants, the country is unified in supporting the relief. Earlier this month, 78 percent of people supported the stimulus checks, including 64 percent of Republicans. The entire bill has overall 68 percent support, and only 47 percent of Republicans oppose the bill. 

Republicans are suffering low polls compared to Biden’s 62 percent approval rating:

  • 19 percent: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • 27 percent: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  • 26 percent: Congressional Republicans job performance
  • 23 percent: Approval of Republican Party direction 

Biden promised help for mayors in at least 17 large Texas cities and other county officials suffering loss of power because of the state grid’s failure and lack of potable water for almost half the state’s population. Republicans failed to get FEMA generators to hospitals so Biden is working with local governments to move them.

On Wednesday, Bill Magness, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), said rolling blackouts started on Monday because the state’s entire power grid providing power to 90 percent of the state “seconds and minutes” from crashing. Without that action, Texas could have suffered uncontrolled blackouts for an “indeterminately long” crisis, possibly for months. Gov. Greg Abbott, who appointed members of the three-member ERCOT board, has called for their resignations. 

Biden has been replacing DDT’s incompetent, conservatively biased loyalists, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has two of them at the top of his list—Andrew Saul and David Black, Social Security Administration commissioner and deputy commissioner. Brown said they “cut the benefits that hardworking Americans have earned, attacked the Social Security Administration’s employees, denied beneficiaries due process, and needlessly increased disability reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic.” Current law protects them from firing except for “neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”

To block unnecessary deportations, Biden signed orders and directives to reduce the excuses ICE agents use for deporting people and mandates greater oversight of ICE agents. The order is good for 90 days while the agency develops long-term guidelines, but ICE agents rebelled by attempting to release three men convicted of sex offenses against children, against Biden’s orders, until they were stopped. These orders lead into Biden’s immigration reform bill. 

President Ronald Reagan was responsible for the last big immigration reform bill in 1986 when Republicans believed in passing on “America’s triumph … into the next century and beyond.” Senate passed a bill in 2013 by 68 to 32 when, as Jennifer Rubin wrote, GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (FL) and Lindsey Graham (SC) “still sounded like Reagan.” Since then, Graham’s best friend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) died, and Rubio decided he wanted to be president. And the House killed the Senate bill.

The paths to citizenship including not only Dreamers who arrived in the U.S. as children but also farmworkers and refugees fleeing danger in their home countries provide immediate eligibility for green cards and applications for citizenship after three years. Others will need to wait eight years. all need to have arrived in the U.S. before January 1, 2021. The bill also increases available diversity visas and assigns more funding to immigration courts and technology. Other provisions include “increased border technology to interdict drug traffickers and smugglers, higher penalties for employers who exploit undocumented laborers in the United States, and increased funding for immigration courts.”

The current administration rejected an anti-immigrant agreement signed by illegally appointed Ken Cuccinelli, acting DHS Deputy Secretary, on the day before Biden’s inauguration. The document gave the ICE union veto power over any changes and policies by the new administration. Biden had 30 days to “approve or disapprove” the directive; he denied it Tuesday, hours before the deadline. A whistleblower exposed the document as part of a complaint into Cuccinelli’s corrupt actions.

Biden told Congress the Equality Act has his full support. Adding sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation to protected classes in the Civil Rights Act, the bill provides complete anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community in areas like housing, credit, employment, public spaces and services, and federal programs. LGBTQ+ people have no federal civil rights protections and can be denied the rights of heterosexual people in 29 states. The new bill is the fourth one with these protections since the first one was introduced in 1974. Last June, the Supreme Court ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace also covers sexual orientation and gender identity, but the ruling does not list other areas such as housing, healthcare, and education. The decision also lacks the power of a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

One of DDT’s actions in his last year was to remove conservation of water by passing new regulations against low-flow toilets and increasing water flow in many other household appliances and fixtures. Biden plans reviews of these regulations and other DDT’s energy-wasting rules such as using LED lighting, saving not only resources but also money in utility bills.

January 21, 2021

Biden’s First Full Day at Repairing the U.S.

Last night, I had over six hours of uninterrupted sleep, the first time in many months that led up to the 2020 presidential election and the aftermath of election denial leading up to the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Instead of recording the horrific current acts of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), I look forward to the chronicle of President Joe Biden and a Senate majority working for democracy.

As 34 agency acting directors (complete list) are in place, waiting the Senate to confirm the permanent appointments, Avril Haines is now National Intelligence Director, replacing the statutorily unqualified John Ratcliffe confirmed unanimously by the GOP loyalists. Biden may also leave Christopher Wray as FBI director. Both the House and Senate approved a waiver for Lloyd Austin, appointed for Department of Defense secretary, necessary because he retired from the military under five years ago instead of the required minimum seven years for the position.

On his first full day, Biden designated two more acting positions: Rebecca Kelly Slaughter to chair the Federal Trade Commission and Jessica Rosenworcel to head up the Federal Communications Commission. The FTC will be active in watching Big Tech such as Facebook and Google, and the FCC will address net neutrality with Rosenworcel’s support.

Biden also appointed Dr. Rachel Levin, currently Pennsylvania’s health secretary, to assistant secretary of Health and Human Services. Despite transphobic backlash, Levine pushed the state toward more responsible COVID-19 guidelines. If confirmed, she would become the first openly transgender federal official.

Working with other White House policy councils, the White House Gender Policy Council, co-chaired by Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso, will guide and coordinate government policy impacting women and girls in issues such as economic security, health care, racial justice, gender-based violence, and foreign policy.

Before Joe Biden became president, he and his transition team were not permitted to view the COVID-19 plan. Seeing the plans, they discovered there is no vaccine distribution strategy, according to Jeff Zients, Biden’s virus response coordinator. Instead, everything must start at “square one,” a CNN source said. Biden’s strategy can be found here.  Biden has already issued multiple executive orders to expedite the process:

  • He directed agencies to use wartime powers requiring U.S. companies to make PPE equipment such as swabs and N95 masks.
  • Mask usage is mandated in airports and on many planes, trains, ships, and intercity buses.
  • International travelers need to show a negative Covid-19 test before entering the U.S. and will have to quarantine upon arrival.
  • “A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” will “direct the development of a new Pandemic Supply Chain Resilience Strategy” in an effort to bolster domestic manufacturing of critical supplies.
  • The administration will try to accelerate more funding to local and state officials for vaccine distribution, creating more vaccination sites and launching a national public education campaign.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency will set up 100 community vaccination centers in the next month.
  • The COVID-19 response office and all federal agencies will improve federal data collection and sharing; CDC will publish a dashboard of the coronavirus cases at the county level.
  • Continued treatment research emphasizing diversity in clinical trials will also expand in programs to support recovering patients and increase the healthcare workforce.
  • A new pandemic testing board is intended to discover new types of effective and rapid tests.
  • Schools, businesses, and other settings with gatherings will receive guidance about the best way for widespread testing.
  • HHS is directed to collect data on school reopenings and the spread of COVID-19 to minimize any problems of sending young people back to schools.
  • OSHA will provide clear guidance to employers about safe workplace practices and enforcement.
  • A “COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force” will ensure vaccines, treatments, masks, and other resources for everyone, including communities of color suffering high death rates.

Biden won’t enforce DDT’s lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions to places with coronavirus surges, lobbied by airlines.

Orders other than COVID-19:

  • Deportations for many undocumented immigrants with final orders of removal will be halted for 100 days. This order does not apply to those not in the U.S. before November 1, 2020, voluntarily waiving rights to remain, and having engaged in suspected terrorism. DDT deported over 185,000 people for the 2020 fiscal year. ICE officers are to focus arrests only against people who are national security threats, arrested at the border after November 1, 2020, and deemed public safety threats who have been convicted of an aggravated felony. Earlier, Biden rescinded DDT’s memo making almost every undocumented immigrant a deportation priority.
  • Agent officials will conduct a review and issue recommendations to “address aspects of immigration enforcement, including policies for prioritizing the use of enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets; policies governing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion; policies governing detention; and policies regarding interaction with state and local law enforcement.”
  • The rule reversing DDT’s discrimination against LGBTQ people states:

“It is the policy of my administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” 

Biden also plans to reverse DDT’s policy preventing U.S. funding for nongovernmental groups (NGOs) providing or referring patients for abortions. Dr. Anthony Fauci told the World Health Organization executive board that Biden will revoke the Mexico City Policy “as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.” The Mexico City Policy increases the abortion rate because it reduces access to contraception. DDT had also cut off federal Title X family planning funding to domestic health care providers performing or referring patients for abortion.

Two weeks before the expiration of the New START pact with Russia, Biden is working on a five-year extension for the treaty limiting both countries’ nuclear arsenals. He also plans to impose new costs on Russia for their recent aggressive actions in the U.S. election interference, the poisoning of Vladimir Putin’s opposition leader Alexi Navalny, and bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. DDT had failed to reach any agreement because of his attempt to include China in the accord. Biden also asked new Intelligence Director Avril Haines for analysis of the massive cyberattack on the federal government blamed on Russia.

Biden will examine an agreement with the United Arab Emirates, signed an hour before his inauguration, selling them 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones.

In another focus, Biden began overturning over 100 of DDT’s actions damaging the environment. A new rule from the Interior Department orders sign offs from a top appointee for new oil and gas lease or drilling activity. With John Kerry as his climate envoy, Biden plans to go much farther than just reversing DDT’s aggressively prioritizing the fossil fuels industry at the cost of fighting climate change or protecting imperiled animals. During his term, DDT attacked over 200 environmental protections by trying to abolish or scale them back. Of DDT’s 64 policies weakening or overturning ways to curb air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, 1 has been overturned, 22 targeted, and another 41 not yet targeted. DDT also has 27 policies about wildlife and 23 relating to infrastructure and planning. Details about DDT’s orders are here. The day before Biden’s inauguration, a federal court struck down the DDT’s rollback of regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Beginning on the day of Biden’s inauguration, the White House plans press briefings five days a week. Aaron Rupar described the first one by Press Secretary Jen Psaki as a “breath of fresh air.”

“There were no angry outbursts. No insults. No conspiracy theories pushed from the briefing room lectern. Just civil, if largely unmemorable, exchanges with reporters.”

He noted the “starkest possible contrast” with DDT’s first on four years ago when then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer lambasted reporters for “accurately covering the relative smallness of Trump’s inaugural crowd size.” Rupar described past briefings—when they occasionally occurred—as “more like professional wrestling events than they were good-faith efforts to inform the American public.” Major networks have assigned women to the White House beat: ABC, Cecilia Vega; CNN, Kaitlan Collins; CBS, Nancy Cordes, and NBC, Kristen Walker joining Peter Alexander. Sean Spicer has applied to be in the White House press corps because he has a show on the far-right Newsmax.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The day of the presidential inauguration was also the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 death in the U.S. The night before, Joe and Jill Biden attended a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial with VP Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Looking at the 400 lights representing the 400,000 people who have died of the coronavirus in the past year, Biden talked about the importance of remembering in order to heal. Since the memorial, about 9,000 people have died in the U.S. of the virus, bringing the total to 420,285. On January 21, the day after the inauguration, the number of infections in the U.S. surpassed 25 million.

January 12, 2021

Six Days since Mob Attacks Capitol

As thugs stormed the Capitol on January 6, Rep. Lauren Boebert, newly-elected conspiracy theorist from Colorado, tweeted details about the attack in violation of orders to not make any social posts. Her live tweets included the removal of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from the chamber, alerting attackers to her location. Before the mob broke into the Capitol, Beobert announced she was the “voice” of those fighting the police, and her former campaign manager praised the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist hate groups attacking the Capitol. Originally Boebert claimed conservatives weren’t in the mob. The conservative National Review called her tweet, “Today is 1776,” “reckless and incendiary.”

A current member of Congress, Boebert has access to highly classified information with no security clearance, a problem if she, along with other conspiracy theorists such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), decide to indiscriminately reveal what they learn. Until recently, congressional members were considered trustworthy with “allegiance to the U.S. Government and Constitution of the United States at a bare minimum,” as Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) describes the requirement. The maximum penalty for revealing classified information, which requires a two-thirds vote by the House, is expulsion. Concern for clearance, even disqualifying factors, include attempts to overturn a free and fair election, fostering lies to foment insurrection, and stoking a crowd to use force. People who exhibit bad judgment should not be dealing with classified information, according to Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy. Although legal, supporting a vote to overturn an election assists the lie about widespread election fraud, and lawmakers making false congressional and frequently religious messages about combatting fellow lawmakers, who they call corrupt, incite violence.

After congressional members reinforced beliefs in election fraud, they justify their anti-democratic behavior by using vague claims about “voting integrity” or being a “voice” for their constituents’ concerns. Almost all senior GOP members on the Armed Services Committee overseeing national security programs voted to overturn the election, and four Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted for the election’s overturn. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), also on the Armed Services Committee, called on DDT’s crowd at the rally preceding the attempted coup to “fight” against a “godless, amoral, dictatorial, socialist” enemy, meaning his colleagues and the duly elected U.S. president and vice-president. He said:

“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you. Are you willing to do the same?”

The Voice of America, the government broadcaster designated as an independent agency, has become DDT’s tool with his appointment of loyalist Michael Pack. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expanded the current use of VOA as a propaganda machine by ordering it to broadcast that the U.S. is “the greatest nation in the history of the world and the greatest nation that civilization has ever known.” His message was broadcast throughout the world on 47 foreign language channels, video streams, its website, and social media after a mandatory virus superspreader event for VOA employees.

Pack fired career managers, put in more loyalists, and dictated news coverage by overriding journalists, in opposition to the organization’s guidelines. Amanda Bennett, who resigned as VOA director soon after Pack’s takeover, said the VOA charter isn’t “intended to promote American exceptionalism.” She added, “It was intended to demonstrate the American value of a free press . . . to model one of our best freedoms, see what happens, and how good it is when you have it.” No journalists, including those from VOA, were permitted to ask questions after Pompeo’s speech. He claimed “wokeness, political correctness … points in one direction—authoritarianism.” According to Pompeo, “it’s time that we simply put woke-ism to sleep.” The slang term “wokeness” means attention to important issues, but the far-right has twisted the meaning to criticize people opposing ignorance. With no evidence, Pompeo also announced that Al-Qaeda has its home base in Iran.

On January 1, Pompeo initiated daily tweets claiming the U.S. is “much safer” now than four years ago because of DDT’s foreign policy. He cancelled this week’s trip to Europe because top officials, including Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, would not meet with him. Pompeo’s schedule had no meetings before the cancellation, and allies were “embarrassed” by Pompeo after the January 6 siege on the Capitol. Asselborn called DDT a “criminal” and a “political pyromaniac.” Pompeo also lost a private dinner with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at his private residence before meeting Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes. The EU opposes the U.S. “America First” policy, and Pompeo gave speeches advising countries to tear up the European Union. The rejection does not bode well for Pompeo’s anticipated presidential candidacy in 2024.

In the wake of impending violence this coming weekend leading up to the inauguration on January 20, military leaders issued a condemnation of the Capitol invasion last week. They reminded service members they were to defend the Constitution and reject extremism, sedition, and insurrection. The statement is highly unusual because the military avoid any political stances. The U.S. Army is working with Secret Service to find National Guard members, responsible for the security during the inauguration, who might have far-right extremist views. Additional training is also provided to service members about reporting inappropriate messages to the chain of command.

This reporting shows DDT’s delight in live TV he created with the help of other Republicans on January 6. The photo shows what a broken democracy could be.

The FBI first said it didn’t know anything about the planned siege on the Capitol and then claimed it didn’t report dangers about violence on January 6 because of concerns about “free speech.” Although willing to issue Special Event Bulletins about ISIS or Al-Qaeda terrorists threats, the FBI doesn’t want to exchange information about domestic terrorism. The agency will also put foreign terrorists under surveillance but not domestic terrorists. The FBI had numerous warnings about the possibility of violence, including from police departments, but claimed at first it had no intelligence. Later the bureau changed its positions to say it had some information about possible violence.

The day before the violence at the Capitol, however, an FBI office in Virginia warned about extremists going to Washington to commit violence and “war.” The internal document told of people sharing a map of the facility’s tunnels and rally points for conspirators in a number of states before traveling to Washington. It reported online calls for violence:

“Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”

Pantifa is a derogatory term for antifa. The Norfolk FBI shared the information within 45 minutes, including the Washington field office. It was not immediately clear how many law enforcement agencies outside the FBI were told, but the information was briefed to FBI officials at the bureau’s Washington field office the day before the attack, this official said.

Since January 6, law enforcement officials have discussed whether the danger was minimized because most of the involved people were White supporters of DDT. Law enforcement took the position that pro-DDT protesters are not likely to commit violence, overlooking the imminent grave risk. The Pentagon is still calling the mob attack on the Capital a “First Amendment Protest.”

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), a 75-year-old cancer survivor, tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering on January 6 with lawmakers refusing to wear masks. Attending physician to Congress and the Supreme Court had warned about exposure to someone with the virus. A video shows GOP congressional members refusing masks and sitting close together during the lockdown in barricaded rooms. Despite her fear of the rioters, Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA) said she had left a secure location because of dangers in contacting the virus from her maskless GOP colleagues. She was right. At least two other Democrats, Reps. Brad Schneider (IL) and Pramila Jayapal (WA), contacted COVID-19 after Republicans’ refusal to wear masks and maintain social distancing because of political reasons. Rep. Susan Wild said half the hundreds of lawmakers in a lockdown refused to wear masks even if they were offered them. In rejecting a mask, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) explicitly refused to take a mask, saying, “I’m not trying to get political here.”

DDT’s speech openly incited violence, according to 63 percent of the people in the U.S. A majority of voters also think GOP lawmakers especially Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), share responsibility to the mob attack on January 6. Over half the people think DDT should be impeached because of his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and inciting riots. The attack on the Capitol dropped DDT’s approval rating to 33 percent. Sixty percent believe DDT is undermining democracy. Thus far, DDT’s low approval rating is higher than only those for Harry Truman and Richard Nixon at the end of their presidencies since F.D. Roosevelt.

Just one week before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for U.S. president and vice-president, the day’s death rate from COVID-19 was 4,281–10,379 short of 400,000. New infections on January 12, 2021 were 223,628, three days from a total of 24 million.

 

December 29, 2020

Biden Waits, DDT Sabotages

Ignoring security for the United States, the lame-duck administration of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the GOP continues its roadblocks against the new Biden/Harris administration, depriving people in the U.S. of safety, including members of the military.

Vital information about budgets, U.S. military forces, troop withdrawal, and the Russian cyber espionage is being withheld from the transition team of President-elect Joe Biden. The result, the most contentious presidential transition in decades, means danger for U.S. interests in both domestic and foreign issues. DDT frequently talked about his conversation with President Obama about sensitive national security matters but refuses to meet with Biden and anyone from Biden’s transition team for the same purpose.

A senior Pentagon official admitted the Defense Department is deliberately keeping budgetary data from Biden, who said he needed “a clear picture” to “deter our enemies.” Although saying that the Pentagon had been “completely transparent … on fiscal 2021 budget” and “topline information on the fiscal 2022-2026 program,” a spokesperson said the Office of Management and Budget hasn’t authorized the release of the full details of the FY22-26 program.” Answers to follow-up questions from the transition team demand a lengthy process. Biden also said the Defense Department refused to brief the transition team on last week’s huge cyberattack on government agencies and private U.S. companies. The department also continues to “deny and delay” meetings with transition members.

DDT’s officials admit they don’t want to give Biden any help in dealing with DDT’s priorities, such as building a wall on the southern U.S. border. Biden has vowed to stop the building of the wall upon his inauguration as DDT has charged ahead to damage and degrade the land with little planning. McAllen (TX) has more illegal crossings than other regions but almost no construction because ranchers and other landowners oppose the wall impacting their property. DDT brags about the miles of wall he has built, but only 40 of the 440 miles is new barrier. The remainder replaces or upgrades existing fences and bollards. No one know if DDT’s fence blocks migrants, but they are destroying natural habitats and species, some of them endangered. Biden’s plan to stop wall construction saves the nation $2.6 billion after about $700 million winds up current construction contracts. The funding can be returned to building projects on U.S. military bases.

At least a dozen existing construction contracts in Texas are on land the government doesn’t own, costing the government $1.6 million while contractors wait around. In this area, the administration planned 110 miles but finished only 15 miles. The Army Corps of Engineers won’t award contracts until it has the land, but high-level decision can override the agency. After the government awards the contract on land it doesn’t own, it goes to court to demand the land because it’s being penalized for not beginning construction. The court must give permission before building begins. In Texas, 70 condemnation cases have been filed since September; 53 are in one county where the government filed 25 lawsuits since Election Day. Much of the property has been in the families for generations. One owner came into the U.S. over 40 years ago as an undocumented immigrant on the same property he bought 30 years ago after he became a legal U.S. resident. His ranch would be behind the wall on the Mexican side.

After the inauguration, Biden faces other crises such as the slowing global economy, dangerous climate change, and accelerating racial problems, especially with DDT’s increasing promotion of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. DDT has played down the cyber attack, refusing to admit it could be by Russians because his entire focus has been on the mythical election fraud and developing strategies to overturn the nation’s majority win for Biden.

In opposition to the upcoming administration, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia completed regulations allowing federal contractors to discriminate against racial and religious minorities, women, and LGBTQ people by calling the rules “religious liberty.” The new regulations affect about 4 million employees and follow Scalia’s refusal to protect employers from infection and death in the COVID-19 crisis. By removing language from statutes and court decisions, Scalia classifies almost all contractors as “religious, permits them to discriminate based on the employers’ belief in “religious tenets,” and removes the ability to identify lawbreaking. The contractors can select employees based on their religion, also breaking the law.

Throughout his past three years, DDT also wants to consider mandating agencies to delineate policy goals and show progress in the achievement for budgeting purposes to restrict Biden from his own budget processes. Circular A-11, a thousand-page document, must be used to justify funding requests. It would, however, remove strategic planning and performance measures from budget guidelines as required in a 1933 congressional law. The same order mandating Circular A-11 also permits a new classification of federal employees who aren’t permitted civil service protections. Federal employee unions are suing to stop the new class of workers.

Other DDT infiltration of Biden’s administration is filling multi-year positions left empty for years with DDT’s loyalists. 

DDT also continues his plan to overturn the election. Following DDT’s strategy, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is suing VP Mike Pence, demanding he not count electoral votes from states DDT wants to exclude. The Constitution does not permit Gohmert’s demand, but Gohmert and his Arizona cohort Kelli “Chem Trail” Ward got the idea from a meeting with Pence and DDT last week to plot keeping DDT in the Oval Office. The case was filed with DDT-appointed Judge Jeremy Kernodle in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The text of the Twelfth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

“The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted.”

Steve Benen wrote about the party that ran on following the U.S. Constitution and appointing “textual originalists” to the Supreme Court bench:

“In 2020, an elected member of Congress not only believes a vice president should have the unilateral power to decide the outcome of a presidential election, that same lawmaker expects the federal judiciary to make it happen. We are now watching people who call themselves conservatives argue that vice presidents should have unilateral power to decide presidential elections.”

DDT becomes increasingly angry with judges, especially Supreme Court justices, who refuse to overturn the election in his favor. Yesterday, he called the three he appointed “totally incompetent and weak” as well as chicken-hearted. A look at the rulings against DDT’s evidence-free election fraud claims.

With under ten percent of the promised 20 million vaccinations before the end of the year just two days before the deadline, Biden has been warned about delays for mass distribution, already experienced, worsening after his inauguration. One concern is whether DDT’s team has provided unrealistic expectations and no organization after Biden is inaugurated. DDT failed to order additional doses beyond the original one million earlier this year; a new order of 100 million doses for 50 more million people won’t be available until July 31, 2021. 

Biden is delivering difficult news either ignored or denied by DDT. Unable to take charge for another three weeks, Biden passes along the same news as many governors and medical experts about “this dark winter of the pandemic.” Last week, he said, “Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us.” Tuesday, he described the months ahead as “a very tough period for our nation” and asked people to make sacrifices to destroy the virus. Biden said, “It’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done.” Yet he has a plan to give 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days

Almost 70 percent of people in the U.S. support a mask-wearing mandate on federal property, and 72 percent want masks required in public places. Two-thirds of the respondents believe masks should be required with anyone outside the household. The poll shows a majority for both Democrats and Republicans.

Two GOP leaders, Massachusetts GOP leader Tom Mountain and Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-LA), suffered from their lack of masks. Mountain now recognized his mistake of attending a White House Hanukkah Party where the 100+ mingled closely, mostly without masks. He spent days in the hospital, close to needing a ventilator, and still suffers after over two weeks. His wife, who wisely didn’t attend the party, still contracted coronavirus along with Mountain’s son, daughter-in-law, and mother-in-law. Letlow, 41, died after testing positive for COVID-19 eleven days ago. Married, he had two young children.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 400,000 deaths in the U.S. before Biden’s inauguration in three weeks. Past deaths in the U.S.: 100,000, May; 200,000, four months later; 300,000 in three months. Weekly deaths are expected to rise through January 16, 2021. By tomorrow, the number of infections will go above 20 million and deaths about 350,000. December 29, 2020: new cases in U.S. – 194,460; new deaths – 3,398.

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