Nel's New Day

March 15, 2018

Russian Interference in U.S. to Expand Chaos

No matter how bad the Russia collusion and hacking have gotten, the Republicans have seemed rather blasé about this involvement, even supporting Russia over the people in the United States. Will these Republicans change their position if they lose their electric power? Russian hackers have been attacking the U.S. infrastructure, including electricity, water, and transportation as well as nuclear and manufacturing sectors, and the federal government is getting worried. Last summer, the news that Russia had gotten into over a dozen power plants in seven states didn’t get much attention in the first year of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office. Now Russians have moved into dozens of states with their attacks on the infrastructure. Eric Chien, a security technology director at the digital security firm Symantec, said:

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or affect sabotage…. They have the ability to shut the power off.”

Today’s public alert from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned that these hackers have been targeting U.S. infrastructure for the past two years. They started by staging malware and spear phishing at small commercial networks before obtaining remote access in energy sector networks which allowed them to collect information connected with Industrial Control Systems. At least three simultaneous Russian cyber hacking attacks are going into infrastructure controls, stealing documents and using a “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency to spread misinformation on social media for chaos and discord, and focusing on disrupting the infrastructure of U.S. and European countries.

Last summer, Congress passed a law mandating that DDT place sanctions on Russia, but he  ignored the law.  A letter from 140 House Democrats asked DDT to impose these sanctions on Russia, an action that the Treasury Department took after the chemical attack on a Russian double agent in Britain followed by the death of a Russian exile. Even these sanctions are weak, because they are only on the entities and people indicted by Robert Mueller. The State Department also released a condemnation of Russia’s “campaign of coercion and violence” in the Russian annexation of Crimea four years ago this week, but no sanctions.

A serious problem for Republicans this week comes from the House Intelligence Committee GOP announcement that it closed down its investigation into the Russian scandal before finishing its job. The committee issued a brief summary with a 150-page report supposedly to follow, explaining the GOP position that intelligence agencies were wrong in its evidence of how Russia supported DDT in the presidential election. DDT saw the GOP whitewash as a vindication.

Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), forced from leadership of the committee after he briefed White House officials on committee information, has always protected DDT, even leaking information, and announced last June that they wouldn’t find any collusion. GOP members limited topics under discussion and witnesses’ questions while following White House restrictions and refusing to investigate phone and bank records corroborating witness claims. Nunes consistently undermined Robert Mueller’s investigation with false information. The person ostensibly in charge of the House Intelligence Committee investigation claimed ignorance of George Nadar, a key witness about secret meetings in the Seychelles.

The report was so biased that hard-right GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who led the Benghazi/private email server email against Hillary Clinton said that the GOP evidence was “motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm [Clinton’s] candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that “there is evidence” showing the Russians attempted to help President Trump during the 2016 presidential election, contradicting a draft report from the panel. Rooney also warned that the government needs to act to prevent foreign interference in the upcoming midterm elections.

The GOP spin from other committee members, however, is that the intelligence community is wrong about Russian interference just as they were about Iraq weapons—ignoring the fact that the intelligence community denied “specific information” about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction before George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Then, as now with the GOP members of the “no Russian interference” group, the politicians were wrong in their perspective about the documents given them.

Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah made an awkward statement by saying that DDT would have been aware of any such collusion if it did occur. In Shah’s words, proof of collusion would also be proof of DDT’s knowledge about it. Luckily for him, it appears to be an opinion.

Democrats on the committee had not seen the report when it was released and were not told about the conclusion before it was made public. Following the release of the GOP summary, the minority members of the House intelligence Committee released a 21-page “Status of the Russia Investigation.” The majority of the document is composed of four appendices, beginning in Appendix A with the outstanding lines of inquiry which have been partially or not at all addressed:

  • Hacking and dissemination of campaign emails by Russia to determine the specific of this cyber operation.
  • DDT’s campaign knowledge of the email hacks.
  • Elections security—or lack thereof.
  • Russian social media campaign.
  • Financial leverage in DDT’s business deals, perhaps for Russian money laundering and DDT’s actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the election, despite his assertion that he had no business dealings with Russia.
  • Money-laundering and foreign payments, already somewhat revealed by Robert Mueller’s special investigation which includes charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
  • Post-election effects and obstruction of justice, including intervention from and lies by Michael Flynn in U.S. affairs with Russia, DDT attempts to block James Comey to investigate Flynn, and DDT’s writing a memo to cover the June 2016 meeting in which his son Donald Trump Jr. and two other senior campaign advisers intended to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Appendix B lists over 30 key witnesses which had not been interviewed with brief descriptions of their potential involvement which needs further inquiry. Appendix C gives over 20 entities, including Deutsche Bank, which should be sent “indispensable” documents that directly connect to Russian election interference.  Fifteen other people and entities that should appear and/or present documents are in Appendix D. This list includes DDT, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Erik Prince, and the White House. A key line in the most recent report from this committee:

The Minority has a good faith reason to believe that the White House does in fact possess such documentation memorializing President Trump’s conversations with Director Comey.  Subsequent press reporting revealed the existence of a memorandum reportedly composed by President Trump and Stephen Miller that referenced President Trump’s communications with Director Comey.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May says that it is “highly likely” former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England by Russia. DDT refuses to mention the word “Russia” in connection with the poisoning although Secretary of State Secretary Rex Tillerson said that the attack “clearly came from Russia.”

Today, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster used strong language to decry Russia’s actions and blamed the Kremlin for “the abhorrent nerve agent attack” in England. It may be his last speech because rumors from the White House indicate he is to be fired by the end of the month, despite the press secretary’s denial. DDT has told Chief of Staff John Kelly that McMaster is too rigid and his briefings are too long.

Earlier, Nunes tried to protect DDT with a GOP committee memo about the Russian investigation that DDT erroneously used to proclaim exoneration for himself. It was followed by a heavily redacted response from the Democrats showing the GOP’s “distortions and misrepresentations.” Complaints that Christopher Steele’s dossier on DDT were responsible for a warrant to surveil DDT’s associate and suspected foreign agent Carter Page where shown to be totally bogus.

Meanwhile Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation, this week with subpoenas to the Trump Organization for documents, some related to Russia, in its first approach to DDT’s business affairs. Despite DDT’s denial that it has no holdings in Russia, witnesses have been asked about DDT’s business plans to build in Moscow. DDT has talked to Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, about hiring him. Lawyers have advised DDT not to talk with Mueller, but he may be considering an interview if Mueller restricts the scope of questioning and concludes the DDT-involved part of the investigation within 60 days of the interview. Good luck!

Meanwhile Conor Lamb defeated Vladimir Putin in a U.S. House race last Tuesday in the far southwest Pennsylvania district with an almost 96 percent white population and so badly gerrymandered that no Democrat ran against the Republican in the past two elections. DDT won that district by 20 points in the presidential election. The former representative resigned after the publicity that the anti-abortion Republican encouraged his lover to have an abortion. This news was followed by multiple stories of his inappropriate action from his staff. Murphy is a developmental psychologist with a wife and adult daughter.


March 14, 2018

Students Protest for Gun Safety, Get No Help for Legislators

Tens of thousands of young people walked out of over 3,000 schools for 17 minutes between 10:00 and 10:17 am today to protest the lack of safety in public schools and mourn those lost in the most recent massacre from high-powered guns at a school. One month ago today—28 days—17 people were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL). Some students either didn’t go to school today or were on lockdown because of threats of violence. Other schools locked school doors or threatened long suspensions to keep students from leaving for 17 minutes. ACLU cautioned that the First Amendment prevents more stringent punishments for protests. that a punishment cannot be more for First Amendment rights than general rules. Many enlightened districts, like my small one on the Oregon coast, supported the students’ protest rights.

Florida GOP legislators initially denigrated the young people who begged them for gun safety laws, but some Republican legislators in Florida condescended to pass a new law, recently signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

The first Florida gun safety law in 20 years provides $400 million for greater school safety, help with mental health, and gun training for teachers who are not limited to classroom duties; a ban on bump stocks that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like fully automatic firearms; permission to remove guns and ammunition with court orders; a three-day waiting period for purchases of long guns; and prohibition of gun sales to anyone under 21 except for law enforcement or correctional officers or military members.

The governor objected to the waiting period and arming teachers but still signed it. The NRA immediately filed a lawsuit against Florida for discrimination because no one under 21 can buy guns.

Several Democrats voted against the bill because it puts more guns in schools by arming teachers. Once again, a teacher, this one in Monterey County (CA) showed the danger when the trained reserve police officer “accidentally” charged his gun during a class on public safety. One student was injured in the neck. The class continued after the incident, and the parents took the student to a hospital after he went home. The teacher said he was pointing the gun at the ceiling to see if his gun wasn’t loaded.

White supremacists, including one middle school social studies teacher in Florida, support recruiting people to take over public schools by become teachers. With the pseudonym of Tiana Dalichov, 25-year-old Dayanna Volitch bragged on a podcast about teaching her students about the myth of different levels of intelligence among races, the importance of “eradication” of all Muslims, and the necessity for “annihilation” of North Korea. She also promotes the conspiracy theory that no one died at the Parkland (FL) school. After Voltich’s suspension from teaching, a large number of “alt-right” women supported her. The new law lets these people have guns in schools.

With every age demographic opposed to arming teachers, peaking at 70 percent opposition among those ages 16-17, the greatest opponents are insurance companies. After a mass shooter massacred children and educators at Sandy Hook (CT), Kansas gave schools the right to concealed-carry, and EMC Insurance Companies, providing coverage to 85 percent of the state’s schools, said they wouldn’t insure schools that permitted employees to carry concealed handguns “to protect the financial security of the company.” Indiana workers’ comp insurers refused to cover school personnel who carried guns on campus. When Oregon considered a similar “guns in schools” initiative, insurance companies promised to surcharge districts for every civilian employee with a firearm in school. The question in Florida is whether they considered this issue when they passed its law arming teachers.

Basically, the new Florida law does what Republicans decry about schools—throw money at them without fixing the problem which is the problem of guns in schools. John Woodrow Cox showed the problem of accessibility to high-powered guns and large capacity magazines in his article about Jesse Osborne, a 14-year-old who killed a six-year old and injured another student and teacher after he had killed his father in their home. Osborne’s hope was to kill as many as 150 people, but he complained that he could get only a .40 caliber pistol. It jammed 12 seconds after he pulled the trigger. Osborne really wanted his father’s the Ruger Mini-14, a semiautomatic rifle like the gun that killed so many people in Parkland. Without that weapon, a firefighter was able to stop him. In court Oborne smiled while prosecutors described his crime. The Florida law won’t teach anyone how to pick out the Jesses from the millions of angry boys and men who love to shoot and succeed in getting guns.

Before the Florida Senate passed the final bill, it banned AR-15s for 15 minutes in an unrecorded voice vote. GOP leadership returned them to their normal state of Florida the “Gunshine State,” and overturned that vote by 21-17. Pro-AR-15 arguments were that AR-15s would protect people from the Nazi Holocaust and that “thoughts and prayers” were more useful than gun bans because people could use explosives to kill people. The Senate kept the AR-15s and then had a moment of silence for the 17 dead people before leaving the chamber.

The Alabama state Senate carried the religious notion event further: it’s “gun-safety” bill authorizes the placement of the Ten Commandments on public property to stop school mass shootings.

Since the Parkland massacre, the media largely ignored an armed school attack in Pennsylvania that left 22 wounded people. The 16-year-old sophomore had no guns—just two large knives. With an AR-15, he could have killed more than the 22 people he wounded. In the two Canadian mass shootings in 2016, a crossbow attack killed three, and a shotgun attacked killed four in two different locations. Yet in another U.S. mass shooting, this one in a Yountville (CA) veterans home, a veteran murdered three women before killing himself. In the first 67 days of 2018, 41 shootings of at least four people have killed at least 72 people. Seven of those shootings were in Florida.

For a month, the GOP Congress dithered about gun safety laws as young people continued to pressure them. Today, the House passed $50 million in unfunded grants for safety protocols and training in schools, ironically called Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act. The theory is to provide “tools and training to recognize warning signs to prevent violence.” The House has no plans for any other legislation unless the Senate sends them bills.

To look as if he were concerned about gun violence in schools, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued his proposal for gun safety, largely similar to the Florida law and House bill although it added some requirements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in her disastrous 60 Minutes interview that she will be leading DDT’s “blue ribbon” commission on school safety. In addition to training teachers with guns, DDT wants to recruit military veterans and retired law enforcement trained with guns to become teachers, perhaps paying them the bonuses that he offered teachers with guns. Basically, watch people to see if they’re a problem (like white supremacists with guns?) and hire gun experts as teachers while studying programs. What’s missing is even his weak promise of increasing the age limit of purchasing high-powered semi-automatic weapons to 21. DDT is now repeating “The NRA happens to be very good people.”

DDT follows the person he talked with last, and in the case of his “school safety” ideas, he talked with NRA representatives last. “A gun-free zone to a killer or somebody who wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for the ice cream,” DDT said after he met with NRA leaders. The United States has some of those “ice cream” gun-free zones:

  • The White House
  • The Republican National Convention
  •  Mar-a-Lago
  • The U.S. Capitol Building
  • Republican Town Halls
  • NRA Conventions

No one gets shot in these places. In fact, when 80,000 people leave their homes for the annual NRA convention, gun-related injuries drop in the U.S. by 20 percent, according to a new study. In the states hosting the NRA convention, the drop in 37 percent is much more dramatic. Lead author of the study, Harvard Medical School professor Anupam Jena, said the reason is “a brief period of abstinence in gun use” when gun owners are away and their gun ranges or hunting grounds are closed. An Emory University epidemiologist suggested year-long NRA conventions to improve gun safety in the United States. (FYI, Dallas is holding the gun-free NRA convention on May 4-6.)

The most efficient way to pass real gun safety laws, not the laws that have commissions and extra money for training, is to use Black Panthers to patrol schools. It worked 50 years ago when they legally carried their guns onto the floor of the California state legislature. They were disarmed, and state legislators outlawed the public carrying of loaded firearms. Within a year, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the first federal gun-control law in 30 years, followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 that amended and enlarged the first law.

March 13, 2018

Fired by Tweet

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) once again avoided saying, “You’re fired!” by tweeting the name of a replacement for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. For almost 60 weeks, he has weaseled out of firing anyone, leaving it to others such as Chief of Staff John Kelly or driving people to resign through humiliation. Early this morning DDT tweeted:

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

According to Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein, Tillerson didn’t know he lost his position until he read the tweet. Goldstein said that Tillerson “did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason” for his firing, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve.” He added that Tillerson had “every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security.” Since then, Goldstein was fired, leaving only one permanent undersecretary out of six. The only one remaining plans to leave when his replacement is confirmed.

DDT said that Tillerson is gone because they don’t agree and that he picked Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director, because they do agree. Recently DDT and Tillerson disagreed about concerned the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Tulia, in Salisbury, England. Tillerson supported British Prime Minister Theresa May by saying that Russia most likely is responsible. He said that the poisoning as part of a “certain unleashing of activity” by Russia that would “certainly trigger a response” and that the nerve agent definitely “came from Russia.” Tillerson told British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that he’s “extremely concerned” about Russia and that his efforts to push the Trump administration to resolve differences with the Kremlin “didn’t get very far.”

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders first repeatedly avoided the mention of Russia in connection with the poisoning and described the attack as “reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible.” Since Tillerson’s firing, DDT has said that he and May need to ask Russia about the poisoning. Typically, DDT accepts Putin’s answer when he refuses to take any blame, i.e., when DDT asked Putin if he meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Nikolai Glushkov’s death in London yesterday also has the marks of Russian involvement. The Russian exile was close to the late oligarch and former Putin close friend Boris Berezovsky, who died five years ago in English where he sought exile after a falling out with the Russian president. A large number of Russian exiles have mysteriously died, considered either murder or unexplained.

The Senate must confirm Mike Pompeo before he takes the position of Secretary of State. If this happens, Pompeo may help DDT to support Russia by leaving the Iranian deal, permitting Iran to resume nuclear empowerment, and follow a hawkish approach toward North Korea. DDT and Tillerson also disagreed about blockading Qatar in support of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. DDT decided to oppose Qatar after his son-in-law Jared Kushner lost a loan from a wealthy resident of Qatar. Tillerson also skipped a visit to Israel in his Middle East tour.

The media started guessing about Pompeo’s replacing Tillerson over five months ago, but DDT kept denying that there was a problem. In secret, however, he criticized Tillerson and listened to those who advocated his firing. Many people thought Tillerson’s position with DDT was in jeopardy, especially after he reportedly called DDT a “moron” last summer. Yet the guess was that that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster would be the next to go. NBC has this record of 25 key departures since January 30, 2017.

A few Pompeo shortcomings while U.S. GOP representative from Kansas and CIA director:

  • For six years, Pompeo was the #1 all-time recipient of Koch Industries, receiving almost $1 million for four elections.
  • A Tea Party member, Pompeo is a major denier of climate science, determined to fight the Paris Climate Accord that is supported by almost 200 nations. During his CIA Director confirmation hearings, he refused to answer any questions about climate change.
  • Openly anti-LGBTQ, Pompeo refused to honor the CIA’s diversity mandate and became openly angry about questions about the CIA commitment to diversity. Pompeo also defended DDT’s “many sides” statements about Charlottesville (VA) protesters by claiming that DDT’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”
  • Pompeo blackmailed Harvard Kennedy School into rescinding its invitation to Chelsea Manning as “visiting fellow” by cancelling an appearance to a Harvard forum in a letter that stated, “I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.” He also said that Edward Snowden should be executed as a treasonous traitor.
  • Although he knew that Michael Flynn was subject to Russian blackmail, he kept briefing Flynn on classified secrets.
  • Overtly political in his defense of DDT, Pompeo first consistently said first that the CIA had not found any information of Russian meddling in the election. He said, “We conducted an election that had integrity.” After Russian meddling became public, he claimed that the intelligence had proved Russian interference did not affect the outcome of the 2016 election. CIA officials had to correct him and explain that the CIA did not conclude anything about the Russian affect on the election.
  • Pompeo blamed Iran for the chaos in Iraq, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East.
  • Inserting religion into public CIA events, Pompeo also described the War on Terror as a clash between Christianity and Islam.
  • Pompeo supports domestic surveillance operations, including against U.S citizens.
  • CIA officials distrust CIA Director Pompeo because of his loyalties to DDT, despite the CIA being an independent agency.

This is the man who could be fourth in the presidential line of succession after vice president, speaker of the House, and Senate president pro tempore.

Gina Haspel is another problematic choice for CIA director. She operated a prison in Thailand that used torture interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and personally participated in the torture. When this was discovered, she then ordered the tapes of the torturing destroyed. Rolling Stone has a description of the torture. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a Berlin-based NGO, has called for Haspel’s arrest for her role in the torture of detainees.

Studies show that torture is not an effective method of obtaining information and often results in the tortured people lying to end the torture. A 2014 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded, “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” Multiple detainees, according to the report, “fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence.”

Also unexpectedly fired today was DDT’s personal aide John McEntee who is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes. The Wall Street Journal described these as online gambling and mishandling of his taxes. Security officials escorted him out of the White House before he could get his jacket and other belongings. DDT immediately hired McEntee as senior adviser for campaign operations.

DDT may fill the swamp with even more hawks if he appoints TV personality Larry Kudlow to replace and former UN Ambassador John Bolton as national security adviser. Gone is the diplomacy in favor of DDT’ bullying manner. Tillerson was blamed for doing very little; Pompeo may do much more, but his actions can be dangerous for the United States.

March 11, 2018

Evangelicals Leaving DDT?

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:52 PM
Tags: , ,

Gay? Horrible! Paying hush money to a porn star for an affair four months after your son was born to a new wife? God forgives all. Robert Jeffress, an evangelical adviser to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), doesn’t’ support sex with adult film actors but doesn’t hold DDT’s affair with Stormy Daniels against him:

“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”

Jeffress’ opinion has shifted in the past decade. Ten years ago, he said:

“Christians need to remember that the kingdom of God is not going to come riding in on Air Force One. The danger in all of this discussion is that Christians sometimes are willing to sacrifice the temporal for the eternal, that in order to get their candidate elected, to enact those laws that they feel are crucial, somehow we fool ourselves into thinking we are going to bring about the kingdom of God here on Earth. We are not going to do that. I’m not willing to trade people’s eternal destiny for some temporary change in the law.”

In the 2012 presidential candidacy, Jeffress called Mitt Romney “a member of a cult” and described Roman Catholicism a “cult-like pagan religion” which represents “the genius of Satan.” Former DDT associate Chris Christie said that any relationship with Jeffress was “beneath the office of president of the United States.”

About evangelicals’ ignoring any of DDT’s flaws, Michael Gerson, former speech writer for George W. Bush, wrote:

“The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.”

Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said about evangelicals on MSNBC’s Hardball:  

“Just shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it…. After telling me how to live my life, who to love, what to believe, what not to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter? The grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter? The outright behavior and lies don’t matter? Just shut up.”

Christian Dominionists, another far-right religion, not only give DDT their votes but also enrich his personal wealth. Last month, their event at DDT’s Trump International Hotel in Washington pursued the Dominionist plan to take complete control of every part of the country—secular, cultural, and political. “The Turnaround: An Appeal to Heaven National Gathering” collected people who believe, like Billy Graham’s son Franklin Graham, that the DOJ and FBI are trying to destroy DDT’s presidency and plan to help DDT with “the turning of the Supreme Court.” The hotel lowered its prices for the group.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Communications Director Rob Boston said about the Dominionists and another fringe group, the Reconstructionists:

“They are at war with much of modern life. They refuse to accept things like women’s liberation, LGBTQ rights, secular public schools, religious pluralism, democracy, modern science, higher education, biblical criticism, liberal Christianity, non-theistic belief systems, and so on. To Reconstuctionists, the 6th century Byzantine Empire is a model society—except, of course, that they would install a fundamentalist Christian emperor and not an Orthodox Catholic one.”

Frederick Clarkson, senior political analyst at Political Research Associates, said that the groups “intend to fill the atmosphere in Washington with ‘biblical decrees’ [in] the ‘divine call to war.'” Top Dominionist leader Chuck Pierce will halt a meeting to receive the word of God, and people are glued to his every message about “enforcing kingdom rule” and an “Army of Special Forces.”

Despite DDT’s amoral behavior, Dominionists proclaim him as God’s instrument. Clarkson said:

“It’s a typical political bargain, and whether this crowd cares to acknowledge it or not, it definitely involved the selling of many souls and the shredding of mounds of moral credibility…. Holding the event in the five-star Trump hotel a few blocks from the White House is plenty of proof of the truth that they are carrying out the will of God and must stand up to Trump’s opponents, who must also be seen as the opponents of God.”

The media paid the Dominionist event almost no attention, preferring to concentrate at CPAC and the mass shooting in Florida, a lack of notice that makes the group even more dangerous. VP Mike Pence has declared that abortion will be outlawed “in our time,” Cabinet secretaries are guaranteeing that abstinence-only (aka “sexual delay”) policy will be mandated for federal funding, and rights for anyone who is not white, Christian, and straight will disappear throughout the nation. DDT is appointing, and Senate is confirming, judges who will carry this legacy for decades. In his destruction of environmental protections, EPA Scott Pruitt told televangelist Pat Robertson that their god gave people dominion over the world’s resources with no limits to human uses—or abuses—of these resources. The Biblical “dominion,” to evangelicals, is mastery to plunder at will.

As the mission of different agencies change to promote discrimination, 22 Senators, with the blessing of the RNC, have reintroduced the “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA) permitting discrimination against marriage equality and sex outside marriage in the name of religious freedom. Anyone who pleads “religious belief” cannot be denied any tax benefit or any access to “any Federal grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, guarantee, loan, scholarship, license, certification, accreditation, employment or other similar position or status.” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said that he wants anyone to be able to discriminate without consequence. Ramifications:

  • Government workers could refuse married same-gender couples and their families such services as processing tax returns, visa and passport applications, and Social Security checks.
  • Employers could refuse family or medical leave to care for same-sex spouses and fire unmarried women who get pregnant.
  • Hospitals could refuse to visitation to same-sex partners and spouses.
  • Social services like homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and adoption agencies could turn away anyone who has had sex outside of a man-woman marriage.
  • Commercial landlords could refuse to provide housing to a single mother.

Lee refutes these concerns, but the legislation would exempt people and groups from following the law to protect unmarried people and LGBTQ couples. Mississippi’s similar law, passed in 2016, remains in effect. All this hatred despite a recent court ruling that “Tolerating [a person’s] understanding of her sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it.”

DDT’s sole religion is becoming more and more wealthy. His “spiritual” adviser, Paula White, preaches the “prosperity gospel,” that God wants people to be rich. According to White, the richer a person is, the more the person is loved by God. Franklin Graham compared DDT to the ancient Persian king Cyrus from the Old Testament. Over four centuries before the birth of Jesus, Cyrus, called the “Messiah,” conquered the Babylonians, released Jewish captives, and decentralized the government. To evangelicals, DDT delivered the righteous from the “whore of Babylon.”

An earlier influence on DDT was Norman Vincent Peale, the pastor who provided the roots to the “prosperity gospel” with the theory that whatever is said long enough will come to fruition. That’s the reason for DDT repeating “Make America Great Again,” the message that the United States isn’t good now but that he alone will create the greatness of the past white nationalism. DDT is operating a Ponzi scheme with short-term returns at the loss of long-term investment. When DDT’s base stop getting these returns, whether emotional of fiscal, they may leave him. Until then, the evangelicals will lead the Republican party by the nose.

Jeffress and Graham may be standing alone one of these days. A February poll shows that 61 percent of evangelicals support him. That’s a high percentage but doesn’t match the 80 percent of evangelicals who voted for him. Black evangelicals are drawing away from white churches.Even worse for DDT, 83 percent of evangelical leaders think that evangelicals should not identify with the percent and policies of DDT, according to a January survey by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in January. Comments show that these evangelical leaders are drawing away from any political platform. It’s a start.

February 23, 2018

Another Friday, More Russian Indictments

After years of denying any Russian influence in his election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is blaming President Obama for not stopping it and claiming that he never denied any Russian meddling—despite hours of video that show he’s lying. Last weekend, DDT tweeted:

“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

DDT has no criticism for Russia and no call for action against them, but he lambasted his own intelligence agencies, security advisor H.R. McMaster, Hillary Clinton, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Democratic Party, the Iran deal—pretty much everybody except Russia. In two days at Mar-a-Lago, just 40 miles away from the site of the tragic shooting in Parkland, he tweeted only once about the killing of 17 people at a school 40 miles away from him, accusing the FBI of missing the call about the Florida shooter because it spent too much time on the Russian collusion. Twelve tweets were about the Russian news.

At the Munich Security Conference, U.S. officials told everyone ignore DDT, causing confusion among European officials. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel asked, “Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” Another diplomat suggested that foreign policy positions from people such as McMaster who serve in the name of protecting the nation are following those of Germany’s elite during Hitler’s rise and expressed concern about nuclear war because of DDT’s attacks on North Korea.

U.S. pundits, including George W. Bush’s conservative speech writer David Frum, called DDT’s lack of responsibility for the Russian interference a dereliction of duty, also the title of national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s book describing the military leaders’ failure to object to presidents who continued the Vietnam War. McMaster stated that evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election is “now really incontrovertible,” and DDT is taking no action about the ongoing cyber attack on the United States. The president takes an oath to protect the country; DDT is failing his constitutional mandate.

All states are at risk from electronic interference in voting systems as shown by this highly detailed state-by-state report on the status of election security in the United States. Ratings were from B to F: no state received an A, and 17 states were assigned a D or F. A complete explanation for each state’s grade is useful for contacting state elected representatives about specific concerns. Fixing these problems would cost the government $1.2 billion, the same price as one military plane.

Revelations and indictments during the past week bring DDT closer to the Russian involvement.

  • Alex van der Zwaan, an attorney whose firm was accused of cooperating with former DDT campaign manager Paul Manafort in whitewashing the human rights abuses by former Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovych, has pled guilty to lying to Mueller about his communications with Gates about their work for the Ukrainian government.
  • New charges against Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and campaign worker, has led to Gates pleading guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He worked for DDT almost a year, beginning before DDT’s nomination as the GOP candidate and continuing as deputy chairman of DDT’s inaugural committee.
  • Part of Gates’ lies include his hiding the involvement of Russian-friendly Rep. Dana Rohrabacker (R-CA) with Manafort in lobbying on behalf of Russia-backed former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.  In 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said in a meeting that he thought was secret, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Viewing Rohrabacker as a valuable source, Russian intelligence had assigned him a code name.
  • This week also brought additional indictments against Paul Manafort—twice—along with Mueller’s request to increase his $10 million bail. Manafort is still claiming innocence despite all the evidence.

Another danger to DDT could be Russian journalist Lyudmila Savchuk who went undercover into the Russian “Troll Factory,” the group masquerading as U.S. residents to produce and send pro-DDT propaganda. Savchuk and her Internet World team of 15 anti-trolling experts saw how the Factory hired “bot drivers” to create slanted or completely fictitious posts for automated networks that could go viral in social media.

In a discussion about whether DDT is a traitor, James Risen has listed “four important tracks” in the Russia story:

  • Whether there is reliable evidence that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was to help DDT win.
  • Whether DDT or his associates was involved with Russia to assist in his electoral success.
  • Whether these people tried to obstruct justice by blocking a federal investigation of collusion.
  • Whether Russians are helping DDT obstruct justice in continued efforts to discredit Robert Mueller.

Risen also points out that the U.S. media helped the Russian interference by not reporting on how the emails about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party were revealed and distributed. He wrote that the media ignored this part of the story “because it was so easy for journalists to write about Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.”

Now the world knows what Russia was doing, despite two years of DDT’s claims that it was a hoax and calling Hillary Clinton a “puppet” of Russia. Twice, DDT said that he took Vladimir Putin’s word that he wasn’t meddling in the presidential election over his own intelligence agencies. Now the conservative media is blaming President Obama because it started in 2014, but DDT was considering a presidential run before then with his 2012 trademark application for “Make America Great Again” and his praise for Putin in 2013 while DDT was in Moscow. In 2014, he referred to his run for president. DDT claims vindication because the indictments show no collusion with Russia, but the indictments are not the end of the investigation.

Thomas Friedman wrote:

“President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.”

DDT’s latest diversion from blame is attacking Jeff Session [sic] for not prosecuting President Obama because of Russian interference in the election. The former president had closed two Russian diplomatic facilities after he learned of the meddling, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked him for making the information public and threatened to retaliate against President Obama if he released any information.

Nicholas Kristof laid out a dozen pieces of the DDT puzzle:

  1. Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
  2. DDT has longstanding business interests in Russia.
  3. DDT has consistently displayed a soft spot for Putin. [Kristof puts this point very mildly!]
  4. DDT picked people with ties to Russia during his campaign, and his aides tweaked the GOP platform to please Russia.
  5. DDT aides secretly met with Russians.
  6. A DDT ally secretly communicated with a Russian mouthpiece.
  7. WikiLeaks, presumably representing Russian interests, engaged in secret correspondence with Donald Trump Jr.
  8. Jared Kushner met a Putin ally and asked about using Russian equipment for secret communications with the Kremlin.
  9. DDT aides consistently and falsely denied contacts.
  10. Russian bots are still joining DDT supporters in tweeting hashtags like #MAGA and #FullOfSchiff.
  11. This is not normal!

Meanwhile 57 percent of people in a recent poll disapprove of DDT’s response to the threat of Russian interference in the 2018 elections and agree that he isn’t fit to serve as president. Over three-fourths believe that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 elections, and 68 percent worry that they may do it again.

A little noticed DDT connection with Russia is his support of so-called “anchor babies.” While he opposes immigrants from the other side of the Mexican border, he promotes those from Russia. Pregnant Russian women frequently book his Miami properties to give birth while they are in the U.S., giving babies dual citizenship with Russia and the right to vote in just 18 years. Miami properties called Little Russia are bundling housing and medical services for a few months, and many companies advertise DDT’s lodgings for these “birth tourists.” The Sunny Medical Center “openly advertises citizenship as one of the primary benefits their clients receive.”

Paul Manafort put VP Mike Pence into the White House, according to GOP strategist John Weaver. Manafort has said that he connected DDT with Pence by manufacturing a story about a mechanical problem for DDT’s plane that forced the team to say over night in Indianapolis because Manafort believed that Pence “had value to Trump as a potential VP nominee.” DDT dumped New Jersey governor Chris Christie for vice-president after he talked with Pence and conferred with his son-in-law, the anyone-but-Christie Jared Kushner. Pence ran the transition team and filled the swamp with people like ousted Michael Flynn for national security adviser. After Flynn’s illegal activities were uncovered, Pence played the “I know nothing” game although Rep. Elijah Cummings (R-MD) revealed that Pence knew about Flynn’s relationship with Turkey and Russia when Pence put Flynn into his “security” position. If DDT goes, the nation is left with a worse alternative—Mike Pence.

February 20, 2018

Dead Children: A ‘Reprieve,” the Price of Freedom

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited a visit to Parkland (FL) last Friday, he was all smiles. He never mentioned the word “guns” and largely ignored the victims’ families while focusing on first responders. On Valentine’s Day 2018, a mass shooter killed 17 people at a Florida high school with a legally purchased assault-style rifle. The day after the shooting Florida Republicans tried to loosen background check laws for guns by putting the provision into an agricultural bill. Along with oyster harvesting and water standards in vending machines came granting a concealed weapons permit within 90 days even without a full background check.

The day after the killings, Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio went to the U.S. Senate floor to explain that they shouldn’t ban the AR-15, the weapon of choice by mass shooters. That’s the conservative mentality for these tragedies. Republicans have had several other mass shootings that they use to choreograph their responses. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeated his argument against the “knee-jerk” political response to mass shootings, his same statement after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting killing 14 and the Umpqua Community College (OR) killing of nine the same year. Ryan got $177,000 from the NRA in 2016; his first successful bill last year was rescinding barriers to gun ownership for the mentally ill. Other GOP legislators repeat “knee-jerk” in the midst of their call for “thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan’s “knee jerk” comment did add the possibility of collecting “the facts and the data” that can’t happen because Republicans won’t remove the funding ban for this collecting. removed all funding for getting this information. Two decades ago, gun research in the United States stopped after the GOP threatened to take all funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if it funded research on firearm injuries and deaths. No one has a basis for any gun safety laws. The author of that law, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), regrets his action, but the NRA hasn’t allowed any changes.

This weekend Ryan was at a fundraiser 50 miles away from the shooting in Key Biscayne. When teacher Maria Thorne criticized him for his response to the killings, he told her he “didn’t want to talk politics.” She was removed from the facility. An activist tweeted a photo of people at the Ritz-Carlton and wrote, “This is @SpeakerRyan’s version of Thoughts and Prayers. Odd, it looks like a donor event in the tropics.”

The White House response to the killing of 17 people was one of relief. Aides said that the tragedy gave them “a distraction or a reprieve” from the media attention on coverups for wife-beating, Cabinet secretaries’ luxury travel, payments for DDT’s paramours, and, most especially, the Russian investigation. [The White House may have more “reprieves”: three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in nation’s history have occurred in the past five months.] DDT hid out at Mar-a-Lago for the long weekend where he hosted a disco party immediately after spending a few minutes with victims of the Parkland shooting. DDT had heavily criticized President Obama for playing after the ISIS beheading of a journalist, but DDT was back on the links Monday at the same time as the funerals just 40 miles away for children killed in the shooting.

Through his speech after the shooting, DDT spread more propaganda and lies. In addition to not mentioning the word “gun,” he talked about “defenseless students and teachers,” a line to support the NRA by encouraging guns in every school. The site of the shooting had armed security personnel who never encountered the shooter. His promise of doing “anything we can … assist in any way we can” is false because communities are asking for closed loopholes on buying guns, background checks, and bans on assault-style weapons. DDT also elevated the “thoughts and prayers” to “we hold on to God’s word in Scripture.” In his commitment “to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” he avoids the problem of gun ownership for all. Millions of people suffer from mental health, but they aren’t shooting people. Millions of other people aren’t classified as mentally ill, but they are violent.

DDT’s budget for 2019 eliminates funds for school counselors and violence prevention programs. The $25 million cut, 36 percent of funding for school safety activities, eliminates the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) and Project Prevent Grant programs. DDT’s budget also reduces funding by 16 percent that helps states report domestic and violence crimes for the national background check database for gun purchases. The man who killed 26 people at the Sutherland Springs (TX) church legally purchased his gun because his conviction of domestic abuse had not been entered into this check system. DDT’s constant judicial nominations of gun-happy conservatives will make life for people more dangerous for decades.

The NRA has been praised for its programs teaching young people how to shoot. The teenager who killed 17 people last week sharpened his marksmanship in a NRA-supported school program that received $10,000 from the pro-gun organization in 2016. While he was a member of JROTC, the shooter talked about his AR-15; he was described as “a very good shot” with one of the “air rifles special-made for target shooting.” The NRA gave $2.2 million in grants promoting gun use to schools including “elementary and middle schools” for “youth shooting sports.”

Teenagers refuse to wait to talk about gun safety. The last few days they have been protesting and giving speeches that received national media notice. They also plan these events:

  • March 14: National school walkout
  • March 24: March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
  • April 20: National school walkout

Stories from these young people are powerful. Carly Novell, 17, sent this message about herself and her grandfather, Charles Cohen, with this photo:

“This is my grandpa. When he was 12 years old, he hid in a closet while his family was murdered during the first mass shooting in America. Almost 70 years later, I also hid in a closet from a murderer. These events shouldn’t be repetitive. Something has to change.”

In response to conservative claims that the shooting was about mental illness and people, not guns, Carly wrote:

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

The conservative New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has reversed its position on assault-style weapons, now calling for a ban on them. The ten-year ban passed in 1994 banned features on semi-automatic rifles such as large capacity and detachable magazines as well as high-caliber bullets. The New York Daily News also has a cover attacking him.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida real estate developer who contributed millions of dollars to Republicans, said that he will no longer donate any money to organizations and candidates who don’t support a ban on selling military-style firearms to civilians. Buying an assault-style gun is easier that getting birth control or purchasing Sudafed.  Every state requires an ID to register to vote, but 39 states, including Florida, permit the sales of these weapons with no ID. At least 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. are purchased with no ID. People can buy as many guns at one time that they wish, and Florida gun sellers need no license to sell weapons.

Russians again flooded social media with “bot” propaganda, this time opposing any gun safety laws. Much of the propaganda pushed the concept of the crazy lone wolf shooter with possible terrorist connections, a device that blocks action on gun safety laws. The sole purpose of Russian involvement is creating chaos to widen divisions and freeze any action. DDT helped the chaos by first blaming the students for not reporting the shooter’s behavior (they did) and then the FBI for ignoring the tip they got because they concentrated on—according to DDT—the non-existent Russian collusion.

Kali Holloway has the solution for ending mass shootings: arm all black men. As in the past, armed black men would move white conservative legislators to endorse gun control. “Racism [can] move American political mountains,” Holloway wrote. The first gun control law, passed in Virginia in 1640, banned blacks from owning guns, and the 1857 Dred Scott decision banned blacks from citizenship because it conferred the right “to keep and carry arms.” Following the Civil War, “Black Codes” made gun ownership by blacks illegal. Martin Luther King was denied an open carry permit. California under Gov. Ronald Reagan ended public carry when the Black Panther Party for Self Defense patrolled Oakland with weapons, and the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, the first federal gun law in almost 30 years, came after race riots.

This list of congressional legislators shows which ones are profiting from supporting the NRA in its opposition to gun safety laws.

Millions of people throughout the United States demand unlimited gun ownership as their definition of “freedom.” The price of their freedom is dead children.

February 19, 2018

Presidents Day 2018

Today is Presidents Day. It is a good time to consider the prescient speech given by Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, on October 17, 1960:

“In many countries of the free world private enterprise is greatly different from what we know here. In some, a few families are fabulously wealthy, contribute far less than they should in taxes, and are indifferent to the poverty of the great masses of the people. Broad purchasing power does not, therefore, exist, even for the domestic products of the nation. A country in this situation is fraught with continual instability. It is ripe for revolution.”

Three months later, Eisenhower said in his farewell address:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Presidential warnings about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) began with George Washington’s farewell speech. He warned about false patriotism, special interests, extreme partisanship, fake news, disunity, foreign hatreds, and the national debt. His other concerns were foreign influence over the U.S. political system and a despotic president whose avarice and ego transcended the national interest. Washington cautioned about the danger of one group, “sharpened by the spirit of revenge,” gaining dominion over another that could lead to “a more formal and permanent despotism.” Its “disorders and miseries” would push citizens “to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual.” He concluded:

 “Sooner or later, the chief of some prevailing faction, more able and more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purpose of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

In one of his greatest worries, he counseled that hyperpartisanship could lead “to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Every year since 1896, the Senate has marked Washington’s birthday by reading his farewell speech on the floor of the Senate, annually alternating the reading senator between political parties. The House of Representatives stopped this commemoration many years ago because of their lack of interest. The current “dominant” party has no interest in how Russian involvement, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and fake news led to their victory because they are more preoccupied about their own personal interests than protecting democracy in the United States.

The 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey ranks the current occupant of the Oval Office at the bottom of all presidents, replacing James Buchanan and rating 12 points out of 100. Even among only Republican respondents, he came in fifth from the bottom while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were #15 and 16.  In the biggest overall shift, President Obama has gone up to 8 from 18 since 2014.

Today is Presidents Day, and the Great Tweeter led up to the day by making these official statements yesterday:

  1. “Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!” (8:28 am about 60 Minutes segment)
  2. “Thank you to KenStarr, former Independent Counsel, Whitewater, for your insight and powerful words on FISA abuse, Russian meddling etc. Really great interview with @MariaBartiromo” (9:10 am about Fox network)
  3. “The Fake News of big ratings loser CNN” (5:46 am about a cartoon of Wolf Blitzer in 2038 not available)
  4. “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the US then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” (5:11 am)
  5. “Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?” (4:43 am)
  6. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” (4:33 am)
  7. “Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!” (4:22 am)

Today’s tweets were “Have a great, but very reflective, President’s Day!” (13 minutes before his motorcade left for the golf course) and

 “Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”

President Obama took some action about the meddling when he discovered it, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to join him in warning people about Russian interference. Last summer WaPo published an article about how President Obama discovered Russian interference in 2016 and wanted to release the information. He did not speak out publicly because McConnell would not agree to sign a bipartisan statement about Russian meddling. The former president was concerned that without a united front that it would appear he was attempting to illegitimatize the presidential election. Instead he created sanctions against Russia that the newly elected president tried to prevent and expelled Russians from the United States. In the meantime, McConnell kept the voters from knowing that Russia was supporting Hillary Clinton’s opponent. McConnell merely sent out a letter to states about possible hacking into their voting machines.

The question on Presidents Day 2018 is why the man inaugurated over a year ago isn’t doing anything now about the Russian meddling this year.

For his supporters, the best thing about President’s Day is that there’s a 30-percent off sale on all his MAGA merchandise. Get your caps and cups!

February 14, 2018

Shooting, Russian Involvement: Demand Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:20 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today at least 17 people were killed in a school shooting, taking the public attention from other events. Vice President Mike Pence is especially lucky because most people may not notice that he again blatantly lied in an interview of Axios. He said:

“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Pence lied.

Six U.S. intelligence leaders, including Pompeo, Coats, and Wray, testified that Russia had interfered in the last general election, that they plan to do so in the current election, and that DDT has not given any direction to stop the Russian meddling. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the meddling has already started but that there is nothing that the United States can do to prevent any Russian involvement.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said:

“We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said:

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

The intelligence community concluded that Russia “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” Collectively, they made this statement:

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

The intelligence community made no ruling on the Russian affect on the outcome of the election last year when Donald Trump became the president of the United States. Yet Pence said that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Donald Trump’s appointed FBI director, Christopher Wray, thinks that Russia believes its maneuvers succeeded in electing Trump as the president.

The Russians hacked and revised emails that resulted in negative press about Hillary Clinton. It distributed massive communications on social media that lied about Clinton and other progressive candidates. The FBI spread doubt about Clinton just days before the election while it failed to release the information about the Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s campaign, knowledge that they had for months before the election. And Donald Trump got over 60 million votes after he lied to the public about protecting the working people.

The same hackers also got into the email accounts of defense contract workers, and nobody is talking about that. Donald Trump refuses to sanction Russia for its interference.

Today witnessed the 18th school shooting in only 31 days of school in 2018, most of the shootings largely unnoticed by the media. Because of the gun industry and the NRA, conservatives take no action. (Although I wonder if they decide to allow all students over the age of five to take guns to school.) Yet GOP legislators give away trillions of dollars to the wealthy and the huge corporations. They plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on a wall to keep out immigrants and hundreds of billions of dollars to start and continue wars throughout the entire world.

The killer’s choice of weapon, at least one AR-15 style rifle and a large number of magazines, was the usual one for the deadliest mass shootings, including the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre and the November 5, 2017 Texas church shooting. The assault-style rifle was developed for military use, but people use the Second Amendment to force its availability for the general population. Florida has no waiting period for anyone, including those on the terrorist watch list, who wish to buy guns, and the U.S. House has passed a bill making concealed-carry permits in one state valid in any other state.

Within hours after the shooting, officials associated the shooting with mental illness and calling them “evil.” Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County said that nothing can be done about shooters if they are determined to kill people. Others are using the standard statement that shooters are “evil.” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s response was that she would guarantee no “price gouging” for funerals and make sure that the families didn’t have to pay for the funerals of the dead students. Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

People who want to think of the United States as exceptional should know that the U.S. has 270 million guns with 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. In 2009, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. was far higher than other developed countries at 33 per million people. The rate was 5 per million in Canada and 0.7 million in Britain, corresponding with differences in gun ownership. In 2013, Japan had 13 deaths related to guns; U.S. gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides, and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. The chances per capita of a U.S. resident dying from a gun is 300 times more likely than a Japanese person dying in the same manner, and U.S. gun ownership is 150 times as high as that of Japan. Only three countries—Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S.—have the assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns.

Gun ownership is the reason for these gun deaths:

  • The U.S. does not reflect a greater problem with mental health issues than any other wealthy country. Only four percent of U.S. gun deaths might be attributed to mental health problems. Other countries with high suicide rates have low rates of mass shootings.
  • People in the U.S. are no more likely to play video games than in any other developed country.
  • European countries show little association between immigration and other diversity with the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.
  • The U.S. is no more prone to crime than other developed countries—just more lethal.
  • Gun control legislation reduces gun murders, according to an analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

Britain’s 1987 mass shooting and Australia’s 1996 shooting turned the tide of unregulated gun ownership. The U.S. doesn’t care. British journalist Dan Hodges wrote:

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

These are the 1,607 mass shootings in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.

Broward County Public Schools Supt. Robert Runcie said, “This has been a day we’ve seen the worst of humanity.” He may be right, but the worst is coming from people on the internet accusing the shooter of being a DACA recipient and an ISIS supporter with no evidence. The worst of humanity comes from people who refuse to take any action to stop mass shootings. The shooter will be dehumanized as insane, and the dead will be classified as heroes. And the Republicans will block any sane action. Only a shooting by an immigrant or in the name of a non-Christian religion would bring any action.

In their sanctimonious method of controlling gun safety laws, conservatives always accuse people who want to stop shootings as attempting to “politicize” a tragedy. The only way to stop the growing mass shootings and lack of safety at schools is to stop electing Republicans because they are controlled by the NRA and the gun industry. They have no interest in protecting people; they only want to get elected and grow richer and more powerful. Their demands to not politicize tragedies are to guarantee that gun laws grow more lax.

Happy Valentine’s Day, thanks to your GOP legislators, owned by the gun industry, who think that words like “prayers and condolences” are sufficient action. And Vice-President Pence, your intelligence community didn’t say that Russia had no impact on last year’s election that turned the United States away from democracy and toward authoritarianism.

January 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2018

DDT: Week Fifty-one – ‘Unhelpful’

Almost 29 months ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave this speech to kick off his campaign for the U.S. presidency. About people coming across the border from Mexico, he said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. When he became the last standing GOP candidate and then won the Electoral College, well-meaning people said to give him a chance, that he’s not an ideologue. In a few more days DDT will have been in control for a year, and he is an ideologue, never deviating from that first speech on June 16, 2015. Yesterday he continued to define his immigration policy in a meeting within the Oval Office:

“Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?”

“Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

At that same meeting, he said, “We should have more people from Norway,” DDT said. Top in the world for happiness and personal freedom as well as one of the richest per capita, Norway has conception-to-death health care and other public assistance, unlike the United States which ranks 23rd in income inequality and 21st in personal freedom.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did report, “I said my piece directly to [Trump] yesterday,” and Graham told Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) that the revelations made by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) are essentially “accurate.” Other isolated voices disturbed by DDT’s remarks are Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ). Yet most of the GOP responses to DDT’s comments are appalling: two Republicans attending the meeting suffered amnesia, two stayed mute, and one merely said he attended the meeting. White House spokesman Raj Shah defended DDT by saying, “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.” Some White House staffers believe that DDT’s racist remarks will resonate with his base. Ann Coulter supported this belief when she said that DDT’s comments showed that “he’s trying to win me back.”

Today, DDT participated in a White House event with King’s nephew, Isaac Newton Farris, Jr. to honor Farris’ uncle, Martin Luther King, Jr. DDT refused to answer questions from the press, but Farris said that he talked with DDT about his comments before the ceremony. He denies that DDT is a racist and called him “racially ignorant.” Definition of racist: “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.”

The GOP leadership was pitiful. RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had no comments. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called DDT’s remarks “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.” “Unhelpful” may become the popular response; it is the same word that Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) used in an interview about DDT’s statements.

Two days before DDT’s temper tantrum about immigration, he concluded in a filmed 55-minute meeting with about two dozen legislative leaders from both parties that he would accept anything that Congress wanted. During the meeting, DDT kept changing his position and agreed with the last person who had spoken. He first agreed with Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) about DACA being a clean bill with no other issues. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reminded him about border security (aka wall), the end to “chain migration” or family-based migration, and the elimination of the diversity visa lottery so he added those to the “clean” DACA bill. His proposal became a comprehensive immigration deal which he earlier said could be postponed.

People surmise that he allowed filming of the meeting to disprove the allegations in Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury. Yet his incoherence was obvious, and the book’s publisher has shipped over 700,000 copies with another 1.4 million copies on order.

DDT’s immigration policy is illustrated by his deporting 200,000 El Salvadoran immigrants, some of them here since 2001, through ending their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This action may break up families as parents may leave their 190,000 U.S.-born children instead of taking them back to the extremely dangerous El Salvador. A third of the people who DDT plans to deport are homeowners; mayors of Houston, Los Angeles and other cities with large number of Salvadorans are urging DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to consider the contributions of TPS recipients. The loss of TPS recipients will also cost U.S. employers almost $1 billion in hiring and retraining new employees. Over the past decade, TPS recipients have contributed $6.9 billion to Social Security and Medicare.

Another way to get rid of legal immigrants, Operation Janus revokes citizenship for naturalized citizens who lack proper fingerprint records. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) failed to appropriately use fingerprint records for 315,000 people, and they may be subject to having their citizenship revoked.

DDT’s “unhelpful” statements will be useful to overturn bans on refugees as it was in California when U.S. District Judge William Alsup blocked DDT’s removal of protections for undocumented “dreamers” brought to the U.S. as children. When Alsup also left safeguards against deportation in place for almost 700,000 participants in the DACA program, he cited DDT’s support for the program as part of his justification. In September, DDT tweeted:

“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the decision “outrageous” because DDT, who rules by executive order, “is committed to the rule of law.”

During his speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation, DDT lied about how small farmers will be getting a great deal of money from the $5.5 trillion tax package, another lie, and told them:

“Oh, are you happy you voted for me! You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”

He also asked for a standing ovation. Economists at the Department of Agriculture project lower farm output and increased taxes on the lowest-earning farms. Withdrawing from trade pacts will also hurt farmers if DDT follows through with his threats.

Unhelpful to DDT and the GOP was Sen. Diane Feinstein’s release of the Glenn Simpson’s ten-hour testimony about Fusion GPS, investigator Christopher Steele, and the investigation of DDT before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Earlier, its chair, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made Steele the first person accused of wrongdoing in the Russian connection when they lied about Fusion’s being involved only with Democrats. The action was taken without any Democrat’s involvement. For almost a year, the conservative Washington Free Beacon, financially supported by GOP Paul Singer, paid for the investigation before DDT took the lead for the GOP candidate in April 2016 and Democrats paid for the investigation. Grassley had reneged on a promise to release the testimony if Fusion was amenable.  Feinstein explained the testimony’s release:

“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”

Clarification of key GOP errors regarding the testimony:

  • Despite Sanders description of Fusion GPS as linked to Democrats, the company has many GOP clients.
  • Steele has “a Sterling reputation” for not exaggerating or fabricating who felt professional obligated to approach the FBI about his information because a security threat if a presidential candidate is being blackmailed by information from Russian cameras in luxury hotel rooms.
  • The FBI already had other intelligence, some of from inside DDT’s campaign, that supported Steele’s information.
  • Steele severed his connection with the FBI after the New York Times reported that the FBI had found no DDT connections to Russia a few days before the election for fear that the DDT’s people were manipulating the FBI for political ends.
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) became involved through his advisor David Kramer because Simpson and Steele “were mutually concerned about whether the United States had just elected someone who was compromised by a hostile foreign power.”
  • DDT’s publicity described Carter Page as “a zero, a lightweight” (Simpson’s words), but he was discovered “to be an espionage suspect who was, in fact, someone that the FBI had been investigating for years.”
  • Simpson said, “Most importantly the allegation that we were working for the Russian government then or ever is simply not true. I don’t know what to say. It’s political rhetoric to call the dossier phony. The memos are field reports of real interviews that Chris’s network conducted and there’s nothing phony about it. We can argue about what’s prudent and what’s not, but it’s not a fabrication.”
  • The investigation concentrated on character and competence with no concern regarding political views. It was a search for the truth.

In short, the infamous Steele dossier was originally contracted by anti-DDT Republicans and shared with the FBI before the election, an agency that ignored any publicity about it while they widely publicized and debunked Anthony Weiner email connection with candidate Hillary Clinton only three weeks before election day. To cover for DDT, Republicans are still lying about the factual information in the dossier and former FBI director James Comey relationship with investigator Robert Mueller. Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz is peddling the lie that hiring a foreign national to do work for a campaign is illegal. News about the testimony’s release faded after DDT’s “shithole” description of many of the world’s countries, but the GOP will have more difficulty lying about its authenticity.

Much more happened in the past week. Tune in tomorrow.

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