Nel's New Day

June 23, 2018

DDT: Week 74 – War instead of Nobel Prize

The one thing that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wanted more than to destroy everything that President Obama had accomplished was to get the Nobel Peace Prize because President Obama did. That chance may be gone after he decided to tear children from their parents. Following global outrage, Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, declared that DDT is “no longer the moral leader of his country or the world.” (I’m not sure when he was.)  The influential Jagland is one of five members on the committee selecting the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. DDT’s withdrawal from the UN Civil Rights Council was also not helpful to”peace.”

That might be why DDT released a warning about North Korea that could lead up to declaring war on NK. On his return from fawning all over Kim Jong-Un, DDT tweeted that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Yesterday he signed a declaration continuing a state of emergency with North Korea:

“The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. Therefore… I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to North Korea declared in Executive Order 13466.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis said that he knows nothing about any North Korean actions to dismantle its nuclear weapons, doesn’t expect to hear anything, and has no information about any future meetings. Yet the Pentagon has stopped planning the August military training exercises. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to tell him that they are friends.

DDT’s threats of tariffs moving a world trade “skirmish” toward “war” includes an addition of tariffs on more solar products in the 25-percent category after adding ten percent to another $200 billion worth of goods. China called his threats “blackmail” and counter threatened tariffs on most imports, including smartphones, computers, toys, television, and household goods. Soybean futures for July delivery dropped over 7 percent to $8.415 a bushel, the lowest level since March 2009. A ten-percent tariff by China could make another 18 percent decrease; a 40-percent tariff could cause a fall of 40 percent. Over half of the U.S. soybeans are sold to China, the world’s largest consumer of the product.

China’s retaliatory tariffs could cost Iowa farmers $624 million, and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that DDT’s trade policies are causing “market price declines” in “corn, wheat, beef, and pork.” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said his state is “hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA) warned that Kraft-Heinz may move its ketchup production to Canada. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) worries about Coca-Cola’s increase in aluminum can costs, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated that his state’s steel fabricator has lost its contracts. DDT said that these people will deal with the “pain” because “they understand that they’re doing this for the country.” Many of the people with “pain” voted for DDT because he said he was a competent.

DDT tweeted that he would impose a 20-percent tariff on cars from Europe in response to its tariffs on goods worth $3.2 billion and the existing 10-percent tariff on European car imports from the U.S. Cars from Europe already have a 2.5-percent tariff coming into the U.S., and 25 percent on light-truck and van imports. According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress controls tariffs so DDT must use only the tactic of “national security” to declare them. His recent threats are ignoring that legal issue. People will pay far more from DDT’s tariffs and rising oil prices will cost consumers than the pittance that most of them receive from his tax cuts. DDT declares tariffs, exempts some countries, and then re-imposes them and others, all according to whim. Nomi Prins wrote, “If trust were a coveted commodity [in] the present White House, it would now be trading at zero.”

https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/18/17477170/zte-ban-senate-vote-reinstate   The Senate voted 85-10 to reinstate a ban on ZTE that prevents the Chinese telecom company from buying U.S. components and using U.S. software, citing ZTE as a national security risk, after DDT lifted the ban to “save jobs in China.” The new ban is an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has passed the House, requiring reconciliation between the two chambers.

The executive order indefinitely imprisoning immigrant families wasn’t the only one that DDT signed this past week. He also repealed protections for oceans and Great Lakes to give priority to “ocean industry … particularly oil and natural gas drilling.” This order follows other destructive ones such as permitting coal mines to dump waste into streams and rivers, removing funding to protect the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, and boosting fossil fuels with taxpayer money.

The Senate voted 48-50 against DDT’s demand to “claw back” about $15 billion in spending that Congress approved earlier this year. GOP Sens. Richard Burr (NC) and Susan Collins (ME) joined 48 Democrats/Independents to sink the bill. White House Budget Chief Mick Mulvaney expressed disappointment that they couldn’t “recapture unnecessary funds” such as ones allotted for federal highway funding and $7 billion in health insurance for children in poverty.

To avoid the problem of violating the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution, DDT promised that his company will donate all profits from foreign governments to the government. Now he won’t bother figuring out profits because it’s is too much trouble. Legally, DDT must submit a request to Congress to avoid his responsibilities, but I’m not holding my breath until he carries through. DDT’s lawyers are using the same argument against his not carrying through with his promise—he’s above the law.

DDT wants to merge the departments of Education and Labor into one agency to reduce education to vocational training. The plan also shrinks the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), responsible for vetting employees, retirement claims, benefits, and federal workforce policy, an agency that doesn’t seem to be doing any vetting. Other plans to combine assistance for the poor from several different agencies such as housing, food, and energy appear to provide less support for those in poverty.

At the same time, DDT wants to create a sixth military branch by adding the Space Force. None of these ideas can happen without congressional approval. [VP Mike Pence looks on as DDT signs the Space Policy Directive; Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), watches from the background.)

Doing away with the Department of Education might not be a problem because Secretary Betsy DeVos does more damage than good. Her push to change all schools in the United States to private charters with no oversight through the voucher program is designed to make all “public” schools religious, and she dropped 1,200 probes into public school policies of physical abuse, primarily against black students, as discipline for ditching classes, tardiness, dress code violations, and other similar misbehavior. These complaints as well as those of sexual violence in schools and colleges have been closed with no corrective action. The increased leniency of the department’s Office for Civil Rights regards less investigation into discrimination complaints about students with limited English, education needs for disabled students, and racial harassment. DeVos maintains that her agency has consistent legal standards but gave different regions the latitude to drop cases. The NAACP is suing the education department, accusing it of unlawfully dismissing complaints without a full investigation.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and seven members of her family were asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington (VA) after her support in separating migrant children and parents. When she reported what had happened on her official Twitter, Walter Schaub, former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, pointed out that her use of her “official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a).” The owner explains her reasoning for refusing service to Sanders and describes the occurrence.

Huckabee Sanders was more civil than her religious father, Mike Huckabee, who tweeted a photograph of MS-13 gang members with the message that they are part of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) campaign committee.

The number of DDT’s lies is growing. In the first four days of the last week, he tweeted false information seven times about immigration and six times on the IG report about the FBI handling Hillary Clinton’s email server. The baker’s dozen doesn’t include his falsehoods on other issues in tweets and public remarks that reinforce his alternate reality about the G-7 summit, the North Korea situation, crime in Germany, and Democrats in general. Repeated lies become believable when people want these lies to be their personal truth. They even ignore the lies about Mexico paying the wall and his inability to stop separation of children and parents that his Wednesday executive order may have halted. Steve Bannon says that DDT doesn’t lie although an interviewer pointed out that DDT admitted he lied about the Trump Tower meeting. In response, Bannon said that he did not know whether Trump’s comments qualified as a lie.

DDT’s fear of the Russian investigation is accelerating. He tweeted “witch hunt” 72 times in the past year—20 uses in May after the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s offices and home with another 22 in the first three weeks of June. This morning, DDT tweeted that poll numbers have “plummeted” about the “witch hunt,” but Fox polls show that the percentage has increased ten percent to 44 percent who believe that DDT’s campaign colluded with the Russians from a year ago. Sixty percent think he should agree to be interviewed by Mueller. And that’s Fox!

May 28, 2018

Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees. Trying to arbitrate such claims individually would be too expensive to be worth it, and “the risks of employer retaliation would likely dissuade most workers from seeking redress alone.”

Federal labor law permits employees to work together in improving their conditions and fight low wages, harassment, and discrimination, but the court states that companies can use arbitration clauses, forced on employees if they want the job, to ban joining together in legal actions. Employees must now fight individually against violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime, and requirements to work off the clock. Few private attorneys will take cases for so little money.

The day after this Supreme Court ruling, the National Labor Relations Board delivered an opposing position, that employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively and “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” According to the Board’s interpretation of Section 8, an employment agreement requiring employees to resolve disputes by arbitration or on an individual basis is an unfair labor practice. The question now will be what opinions supersede others.

In a Supreme Court’s decision that states can legally bet on college and professional sports, Justice Samuel Alito said that each state has the right to act on its own if Congress does not regulate sports gambling. Next year, the Supreme Court will hear a case on when federal law trumps state law.

After churches in Morris County (New Jersey) received almost $5 million for repairs, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution forbids using public money for religious purposes. A year ago, the Supreme Court allowed taxpayer monies to be used for repair of a church’s playground in Missouri, but the ruling did not address houses of worship. The case may go to the Supreme Court.

A federal court in California ruled Friday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in deciding that the agency violated privacy laws by using the Social Security Administration to analyze loan forgiveness for students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. The court ordered debt collection from defrauded students to stop after DeVos stated that only part of federal loans would be forgiven. DeVos is supporting other for-profit colleges. She appointed the dean of DeVry to head a team to investigate these schools, including DeVry. She has also frozen protections for students and reduced loan forgiveness relief for students defrauded by these schools.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, fought for years to use the bathroom in high school, and a federal judge ruled the school officials of Gloucester County (VA) violated his constitutional rights for stopping him from using the bathroom matching his gender identity after the 4th Circuit Court sent the case back to the lower court.

Judge Orlando Garcia, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that the state must comply with the federal National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) (or “motor voter” law) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Construction on the final 18 miles of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in St. James (LA), located in an area called Cancer Alley, has been halted after a judge ruled that state regulators violated guidelines in issuing a coastal use permit. Town residents would have no way to evacuate after an explosion or other pipeline failure emergency, a fact not considered in the state’s permit. The company building the pipeline faces a legal challenge for its U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permit through the Atchafalaya Basin, a National Heritage Area and massive river swamp. The 5th Circuit Court began to hear this case the beginning of May, but pipeline builders are already cutting down old growth cypress trees.

DDT cannot block people from his Twitter account, according to a federal judge who wrote:

“The President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.”

DDT can mute people’s accounts so that he doesn’t have to look at their comments.

Another DDT sign came down when a New York State judge ruled that the name “Trump Place” can be removed from a high-rise condo. The bad news is that the condo cannot change its name, and the sign will stay until two-thirds majority of the condo association agrees to remove the signs. DDT’s name has already been removed from three Manhattan buildings and hotels in New York, Toronto, and Panama.

A New York appeals court refused to allow DDT to stay a defamation case by Summer Zervos regarding her claim that DDT sexually assaulted her. At this time, DDT can be deposed in the case, and lawyers can proceed with pretrial discovery, including demands for documents. In addition, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he’s vetting two more women on their claims that DDT gave them large hush-money payments. Zervos will subpoena documents from the Trump Organization about DDT’s alleged mistreatment of women, recordings from the archives of the president’s former reality show, and surveillance footage from the hotel in which Zervos says she was attacked.

The third federal judge has ruled against DDT over cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. The judge wrote that ending grants two years early was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The 73 organizations receiving grants will have to follow DHS’ new requirements to focus on abstinence programs for continued funding while the eight suing organizations will not.

White supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin has been found guilty of malicious wounding, nine months after he battered a young black man in a Charlottesville (VA) garage before his victim, 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was attacked by other white supremacists who broke his arm and injured his spine. Other attackers are awaiting trial. At the same event, another white supremacist deliberately drove into a crowd, killed Heather Heyer, and injured more than another dozen people. Two days after Goodwin’s guilt was established, white supremacist Alex Michael Ramos was found guilty of “malicious wounding” in the same attack. Both men face 20 years in prison. Two other men face trials for the assault.

Muslim-American Yonas Fikre is suing the government for putting him on its no-fly list to blackmail him into being an FBI informant to provide information about his place of worship, Portland’s largest Sunni mosque. His lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, has asked a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court to continue the suit that had been dismissed after the government removed Fikre’s name from the list stopping him from returning to his home in the U.S. Judges were irritated by the DOJ sudden offer to stop the appeal by promising that Fikre won’t be put back on the list for the same reasons as in 2010. They asked why the DOJ does not think that Fikre deserves declaratory relief after his marriage was destroyed and his business was disrupted. Mayfield has been awarded a $2 million settlement after the FBI wrongly arrested him as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings and subjected him to the same unconstitutional actions as the government did to Fikre.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, is the next cabinet member to be sued. A rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration established in 2015 mandated assessment of local segregation patterns, barriers to fair housing, and planning to correct the problems. Carson called desegregation efforts “failed socialist experiments” and suspended the rule. The lawsuit asserts that Carson did not provide for public notice or comment opportunity. Carson said that the process was too burdensome. In addition, the lawsuit claims that HUD violated its duty to guarantee that federal funds promote fair housing—for example, giving millions in HUD grants to white suburbs in Westchester County that refuses affordable housing.

The next branch to be covered is the legislature.

March 9, 2017

Betsy Devos: Huge Danger to the Nation

Billionaire activist Betsy DeVos and her family have given over $4 million to Republicans who have now confirmed her for Secretary of Education. Of that sum, $250,000 went directly to members of the education committee, $950,000 were given to 21 senators who voted to confirm her, and another $2.25 million was sent last fall to the Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) super PAC. The National Republican Senatorial Committee got another $900,000. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who promised to keep a rein on DDT, took $98,000 from DeVos and paid her back with his vote.   She followed the same process in Michigan, paying state Republicans $1.45 million in seven weeks after they passed the no-accountability charter school law. DeVos has said that she no longer takes offense at the accusations of buying politicians because “we do expect something in return.”

Before the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, I posted about how she would be a disaster for education in the nation. Her blunders during the first few weeks on the job show that she is worse than many people may have predicted. In summary, she is a billionaire who wants all children to be force-fed her brand of Christianity in charter schools that massively profit already wealthy people—like her.

Her gaffes began on her first day as head of the education department when she tweeted, “Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? :)” Most schools in the United States are so poor that teachers have to buy their own pencils.

Devos’ actions thus far:

  • insulted teachers at a middle school for not helping students succeed
  • supports the idea of her department being erased
  • says that critics want “to make my life a living hell”
  • misspelled W.E.B. Du Bois in a tweet for Black History Month—and then had to fix the tweeted apology that stated “our deepest apologizes”
  • ignored the first Twitter chat that she held for teachers
  • asked teachers to make up for children’s troubles at home such as absent fathers
  • made U.S. marshals protect her and ran away because protesters blocked her entrance to a DC school
  • accused protesters of “keeping kids in and new thinking out,” “how hostile some people are to change and to new ideas”
  • sold out transgender students to allow AG Jeff Sessions to discriminate against them in using facilities corresponding to their gender identity
  • and, surprise, gave her top priority as “school choice” that destroys public schools

DeVos’ responses to the hearings were so bad that her  confirmation required Mike Pence to be the first vice president in history to break a 50-50 tie to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

Her job may not last long. A House bill, HR 899, dissolves the Department of Education and another, HR 610, provides educational vouchers and repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, including nutritional standards for school meals. The only responsibility left to the department—if it continues to exist—would be to award block grants to states with the $20 billion for vouchers that DDT wants. There may not be enough support to shut down the Education Department, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants $20 billion for vouchers, most of the department’s budget for local communities largely used for low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable children.  

After trying to compliment teachers at Washington’s Jefferson Academy by calling them “wonderful,” she told them that they were “not going to bring success to an individual child” because they were in “receive mode, waiting to be told what they have to do.”

DeVos tried to help DDT woo blacks for the 2020 election in her statement:

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) … are the real pioneers when it comes to school choice.  They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

Her revisionist history purports that the Jim Crow education system of legal segregation gave black students “more options” as if they had the option of attending all white schools before the Supreme Court ruling that began to eliminate permissible racial discrimination. The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo’s analogy:

“To paint historically black colleges as pioneers of ‘school choice’ is like saying the Montgomery bus boycott was a transportation startup.”

There was much controversy about the perch of Kellyanne Conway, DDT’s counselor, during the meeting with HBCU leaders. Some photographs show her taking a photo, but her real insult was that she couldn’t even get the name for the group correct when she talked to Lou Dobbs on his TV program. In addition, the photo op, proposed at the last minute to show DDT’s comfort with blacks, left those attending with little time to communicate with the man in the White House about the current state of these institutions. DDT plans to fund only the private sector instead of directly supporting HBCUs and requested that the White House Initiative on HBCUs be removed from the Department of Education.

In reality, DeVos has little power because Congress weakened the power of the executive department two years ago. Congress will be the one to create a voucher system and remove more standards for education in the nation. But she can create trouble by taking no action in other areas that creates more difficulty—for example, not investigating, complaints in the area of sexual assaults and reverse rules requiring colleges to use a lower standard of proof in determining sexual assault. DeVos might also ignore part of Title IX, reversing the progress of female athletes in schools. One way is to divert funds to the Office of Civil Rights which leaves the Department of Education unable to address IX complaints even if DeVos chooses to do so. The percentage of female high school athletes has gone from seven percent to 42 percent since the law was implemented. Title IX isn’t just about sports and transgender issues: it protects “pregnant and parenting students, women in STEM programs, and victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” according to Neena Chaudhry, Director of Education and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.

DDT will definitely “relax” the past crackdown on for-profit colleges, including a new regulation relieving students of loans if they prove their college defrauded them. Under DDT, Trump University might not have had to pay $25 million. An indicator is the way that stocks have shot up—DeVry over 40 percent, Stayer’s 35 percent, and Grand Canyon Education over 28 percent. The GOP will also try to disappear the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that tries to protect consumers from predatory for-profit colleges.

About Betsy DeVos, education historian and researcher Diane Ravitch wrote:

“She was never a student, a parent, an educator, or school board member of public schools. It is her life’s work to tear down public education. She does not respect the line of separation between church and state. She supports for-profit charter schools…. She is ignorant of federal law, federal programs and federal policy. When asked at her Senate hearing about the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, she did not know it was a federal law. She had given no thought to lessening the burden of debt that college students bear, which now exceeds $1 trillion. At a time when the federal role in aiding students with the high cost of college needs to be redesigned, she knows nothing about it.

“… DeVos has financial conflicts of interest which she refuses to divest. She told the Senate committee that she had no role in her mother’s foundation, which has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, but her name appears on 17 years of the foundation’s audited tax returns. She told the committee that online charter corporations produce stellar results, but researchers demonstrated with facts that she was wrong.

“Choice policies in Michigan have caused the test scores in that state to decline. Detroit, overrun with charters and choice, is a chaotic mess….

“She personifies the privatization movement. She is the leader of the Billionaire Girls Club, spreading her millions across the land to reward and enrich allies in Congress, on state and local school boards, and in any setting where she could tout school choice as a magical remedy for poor performance. Charters and vouchers, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is her sole idea. She has singlehandedly stripped bare the ‘reform’ movement, showing it to be not a civil rights movement but a privatization movement funded by billionaires and religious zealots.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told his protesting constituents at a town hall meeting that they cared so much about Betsy DeVos that she probably had too much power. Our conservative representatives don’t want people to care about what happens in the government.

In a country that almost never recognizes the name of the Secretary of Education, almost half of the people have an opinion—and two thirds of them have an unfavorable opinion of Betsy DeVos. Her lack of approval at 31 percent is worse than that for Jeff Sessions (23 percent) and Mike Pence (28 percent).

The greatest danger that DeVos might do to education in the United States is the proposed voucher program—the subject for the next blog post.

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: