Nel's New Day

April 18, 2017

DDT’s Missing Tax Returns, More IRS Info

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Your federal income tax payment is due today, April 18. Technically, April 15 is the legal deadline, but not when that date is on a weekend. Then the date is pushed back because of Emancipation Day, the anniversary of freeing slaves and celebrated only in Washington, D.C. on April 16 every year. Its public employees had April 17 off because the 16th was on a weekend so taxes were then due on April 18. Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts don’t have to pay state taxes until tomorrow because of Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in April, but their federal taxes are still due today.

April 15 was still a day of protest. In the past, Tea Party members led small groups to oppose payment of taxes for all the government benefits that they receive. This year, opposition came from people representing the 74 percent of the population who want Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to release his tax returns. DDT may have ignored North Korea in his weekend tweets, but he addressed the marches in 200 cities and at least 48 states with at least 120,000 people. The number was probably much higher than that because several cities undercounted its crowds. Seattle and Washington, D.C. each numbered at least 25,000. DDT’s response was that he didn’t need to release his returns because he had already won the election, trying to cover up the continuing ramifications of his massive financial connections including collusion with Russia. He called the marches “small” and accusing the protesters of being “paid.”

The myths of small crowds and paid protesters began with the National Women’s March and the airport protests over Trump’s first Muslim ban during his first two weeks in office and continued for every gathering. Last February, Breitbart started the lie that George Soros is funding the protest movement.

Even hundreds of protesters marched at Mar-a-Lago where DDT vacationed for the seventh of 13 weekends since his inauguration brought out hundreds of people. His trips have cost taxpayers more than President Obama’s trips over his entire eight years, and Palm County (FL) alone has been charged $2 million for his trips. They chanted “Pay! Your! Taxes!” and waved signs calling him “Chicken in Chief” because of DDT’s shift in 40 years by refusing to release his returns. “Chicken Don” symbols replaced the women’s march pussy hats.

Debbie Wehking, a 66-year-old a school principal from Miami, said:

 “He needs to show us his tax returns so that we can tell who’s influencing his decisions, who he owes money to, who he’s doing business with — really so we can figure out whether he needs to be impeached.”

DDT was forced to take a longer route to his golf club to avoid the crowds. In Washington, D.C. a sign stated, “My taxes pay for your golf.” His claim that he cannot release his tax returns no longer holds any water because this is a new return. Also, presidents and vice presidents are automatically audited every year but still made public. In another opaque movement, DDT will no longer release White House visitor logs.

Republicans like Oregon’s representative Greg Walden claim that DDT should have his privacy. Others say that it doesn’t matter or that no one cares contradicted by the marches. Over one million people have already signed this petition.

Last year, individuals paid 49 percent of all federal tax revenues with businesses paying only nine percent of the $3 trillion. Worker and employer payroll taxes, commonly called Social Security and Medicare, account for another 33 percent, and another 3 percent comes from excise taxes with the last five percent labeled as “other.” Business taxes were down from an average of 14 percent last year, and huge corporations like GE and PG&E may pay absolutely nothing. Up to 118 individual breaks benefit companies and the wealthy by almost $1.15 trillion, and 80 corporate breaks net them $185.2 billion.

Technically, the federal corporate income tax is 35 percent, which the GOP wants to drop by over 50 percent. Yet the average taxation for 258 profitable Fortune 500 firms over eight years was 21.2 percent, and 100 of them paid zero taxes in at least one of those years. For example, major polluter North Carolina-based Duke Energy netted $18.2 billion in those eight years and paid no taxes for seven of them while getting $482 billion rebates. That makes their tax rate a minus 2.6 percent.

At least 23 percent of income taxes go to the military, not counting veterans benefits, debt from earlier wars, etc. Yet only 22 percent for this amount is for pay and benefits; almost half of military taxes go to multinational corporations making billions in profits. Domestic needs such as education and the safety net get far less money. [visual] For example, in 2015 taxpayers gave just one corporation, Lockheed Martin, $36 billion, 80 percent of its entire revenues. That money was six times the amount for all foreign aid in 2016.

How government spends your taxes:

  • Defense: 15 percent, not counting veterans benefits and almost 50 percent higher than 20 years ago. [visual]
  • Health care: 13 percent.
  • Interest payments: 6 percent, because of the $20 trillion in national debt largely caused since the George W. Bush tax cuts and wars.
  • Income security: 13 percent, including retirement and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families at its lowest level since 1998.
  • Benefits for veterans: 5 percent for 22 million veterans.
  • Education: 3 percent.
  • Social security: 24 percent.
  • Medicare: 15 percent.
  • Foreign aid: under 1 percent.
  • Other: Under 5 percent, including crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, and national parks.

Republicans want to eliminate many of the programs above, but they would be hurting their own constituents. GOP-managed states, aka red states, typically get more federal money back than they send to Washington. Nine of the 11 states that get more than $2 back for every dollar sent to Washington, D.C. are red, and eight of the ten states most dependent on federal funding are red. South Carolina, the queen of federal welfare, gets the most money: for every $1 that the state pays in federal taxes, it receives $7.87. One legislator said, “If you shut down 25 percent of all the federal dollars coming into South Carolina, the economy of South Carolina would collapse.” The federal $59.4 billion sent to South Carolina in 2014 was nine times the state’s annual General Fund budget. South Carolina was ranked the eighth most dependent state in Social Security payments. The state also has the ninth highest level of poverty with almost 28 percent of its children living in poverty along with a horrible health care system, bad public schools, climate-changing coal fired plants with no regulations, lower drinking water standards and other ways to damage its residents.

Only one of the least-dependent ten states, those receiving less money from the federal government that it sends, is red. In short, the lower the financial benefit of federal government in a state, the more likely it is to vote for federal government.

The practice of sending more federal money to Southern states than the government receives is an inheritance from the 20th century when that region voted Democrat, and senior members of Congress sent federal money to their states with contracts, projects, and installations. The other part of the equation is the extreme poverty in those areas. The need for a “safety net” in red states requires hundreds of billions of dollars annually to help the neediest because their own states won’t provide aid.

GOP-controlled red states belie the fantasy that cutting taxes drives growth. Blue states accomplish growth from investments in education, infrastructure, urban quality of life, and human services. These states have nine of the 10 top-ranked universities in the country, the highest median household income in nine of ten states, the greatest generation of technological innovation, and the highest average life expectancy. Despite globalization, local conditions of education, research and development, and promotion of idea exchange and talent development are vital. North Dakota’s oil helped its economy, but it looks more like Saudi Arabia than Silicon Valley. Hubs of “blueness” like Austin (TX) can exist in red states, but are forced to fight against government repression of wage rules and public investments.

Possibilities for blue states? A Bluexit (“Bloo-ksit”) along the lines of Brexit, the British exit from the European Union. If red states want only the U.S. military, paper currency, and the national anthem determined at the federal level, blue states can keep its resources to build up its cities and states.

Happy Tax Day!

April 16, 2017

Different Kinds of Facts?

 

If the major goal of a newspaper is to create controversy, the Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) seems to have succeeded with Anna Katharine Mansfield’s “Puzzling over Trump’s Truth,” reprinted from the Washington Post. It is the umpteenth attempt to explain to those who don’t support Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) why he’s actually telling the truth—emotional truth, according to Mansfield–and received several “questioning” letters to the editor in response.

Mansfield’s premise disagrees with the accusation that DDT is considered a liar by “much of our logic-based, Enlightment-indoctrinated society” because these people use evidence to determine truth. The professor of winemaking who got her certificate in Christian theology education from Sewanee-University of the South, a place that evidently has sent certificates online, talks about “truths” other than factual ones, which she calls “nonfactual truths.” She explains it as “an ability to understand that stories are true, even when the primary elements of the story are not historical fact.” Evidently that’s where taking DDT “seriously, not literally” emerges.

One of her examples of an “emotional truth” is the belief that DDT, not Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote last November. She continues with another “truth” that the mainstream media isn’t trustworthy because it doesn’t represent the conservative point of view. Going back to President Obama, she tries to explain that the belief that is a Muslim or communist explains how it’s believable that he could interfere with DDT even if there is no proof. Mansfield wrote:

“Tom Forman, chief executive of reality TV shows like ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ said in a recent NPR interview that Trump is a master at ‘being directionally correct.’ Trump knows, Forman said, how to amplify what viewers already know to be true, what they ‘know in their bones.’ That’s emotional truth, and factual truth can’t touch it.”

Mansfield claims that sometimes DDT should tell the truth when “logic is called for” but not in “minor issues” because our society needs “emotion-based truth.” It is highly unfortunate that the leader of the (hopefully) most powerful nation in the world can operate without evidence in any part of his commanding.

Personally, I’m terrified that the country is being led by a philosophy that evidence isn’t important because the “emotional truth” of these people carries the same weight as proof-based information and personal feelings based on nothing are equal to education.

A letter from John Blondigen perhaps better states my concern:

So, in the interests of balance, here are emotional truths that I hold dear:

  • I don’t believe the economic health of the fossil fuel industry is more important than the health of the world’s climate.

  • I don’t believe that in a country this wealthy, people should lack medical care because of an inability to pay. The purity of some congressman’s free market ideology is less important than anyone’s health.

  • I refuse to go back to a time when only heterosexual white men were first-class citizens. I remember those times, and they weren’t great.

  • I won’t lead the cheers for the use of deadly force to prove anyone’s toughness.

  • And I absolutely refuse to renounce fact for the sake of indulging anyone’s emotional truth.

Other comments to the article from the Washington Post:

This is an excuse for wishful thinking and rampant confirmation bias. There are dangers to such sloppy sentimental thinking.

“Emotional truth” as opposed to “factual truth” has, since the Enlightenment, been simply called ignorance.

Donald Trump’s lies don’t qualify as myth. They are, quite simply, lies. If an individual finds “emotional truth” in the statement that “white is black and black is white,” then I am probably more interested in getting him/her a scrip for Thorazine than granting him/her the succor that comes with validating a delusion.

If more citizens of our country sought both spiritual guidance and scientific knowledge, we would not be living with such a narrowly educated and cold-hearted leader in the White House.

[The article] boils down to, if it “feels right” I should believe it, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary, and my opinion should be as valid as any other. If that is true, then Dr. Mansfield, I assume, believes we should give deference to flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers, moon landing conspiracy proponents, and any other believers of things she may be less sanguine about.

The error here is in the false equivalency. Emotional truth is individual. Logical truth is universal. To give equal credence to both would destroy society. My emotional truth is not the same as yours , thus there would be no structure. So, although I will defend to the death, the right of a Jesus person to his own personal truth, for the sake of our country, our society, and our planet, logical proof must prevail.

If tRump supporters hold everyone else in the world to certain moral standards of behavior, yet throw those standards away for their president, then we have no basis for communication. They are willing to accept ANY un-Christian act from him, and still consider him God’s chosen candidate. They ignore all of the lessons of the bible (which is SUPPOSED to be the basis of their faith).

Followers of DDT’s “emotional truth” are losing faith in their leader, shown in Tumblr’s “Trumpgrets” and Facebook’s “IregretvotingforTrump.” The Twitter feed “Trump Regrets” also retweeted those sorry DDT voters. Disappointments: not locking up Hillary Clinton, putting Jared Kushner in the White House, dismissing information about Russia, in general not following his (hot air) promises. They’re also amazed that the GOP health plan raises their premiums and DDT is deporting their family members instead of those “bad hombres.” Their “emotional truth” has now clashed with DDT’s beliefs—military dominance, intimidation, and accruing wealth. The question for their “emotional truth” is whether the economy implodes, resulting in another shift of “emotional truth.”

Some evangelical Christians may not accept DDT’s “emotional truth.” Ten percent left their church by mid-November, and 15 percent of all church-going people left their church because they think that DDT politics has become too divisive. The two groups were DDT supporters with pastors who didn’t and those who disagreed with DDT-supporting pastors. A review of data indicates that progressive and moderate evangelicals left their church after its takeover by the right-wing.

Now I’m just waiting for all those articles that explain to DDT supporters the “emotional truth” of the DDT opposition.

April 15, 2017

DDT: Week Twelve – Successes, Failures

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 9:11 PM
Tags: , , , ,

DDT: Week Twelve Successes, Failures

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) made a few inroads last week in his goal of destroying life for people in the United States:

Elimination of Planned Parenthood: DDT privately signed the congressional revocation of a President Obama order. States may now deny Title X family planning funds to pay Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers although no federal money can be used for abortions. The congressional vote in favor of this overturn was so narrow that VP was called in to break a tie in the Senate.

Follow the Money: DDT is making money off bombing Syria and ruining the health of people, especially children. Each of the 59 missiles fired at Syria to make DDT look better costs over $1 million to replace, and DDT has stock in Raytheon, the company that makes the missiles. Last week, Secretary of EPA Scott Pruitt allowed the continued use of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, described in here. It’s popular on golf courses, but there is no proof that DDT ordered Pruitt to continue its use of chlorpyrifos to please his golf course management.

DDT Staffers: No longer loyal to him, DDT’s staffers become irrelevant. DDT no longer knew who Carter Page and Paul Manafort are after their investigations for Russian involvement. On the same day that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort left the campaign, he received $13 million in loans from two DDT companies, one led by a Ukranian-born billionaire and the other by a DDT economic adviser. About Steve Bannon, his former top staffer, DDT said, “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late.” About the growing friction among White House staffers, DDT said, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.” DDT also lied when he said he didn’t know Bannon until he joined the presidential campaign; they’ve known each other for six years.

Department of Homeland Security Failure: The government demanded that Twitter release the identity of an anonymous user, Twitter sued the DHS, and DHS dropped its demand. DHS wanted to know who was tweeting inside ICE information through @alt_uscis, an account created by current and former Citizenship and Immigration Services employees. Twitter lawyers cited the right to Free Speech, claiming that “identifying the user “would chill the expression of particularly valuable political speech.’” A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed for records about who ordered the DHS demand.

Easter Egg Roll: The lack of organization at the White House even affected the traditional Easter celebration, now scheduled for April 17, the day after Easter: they forgot to order the eggs until a company reminded them. Of the 40,000 ordered (about half those ordered for 2016), the White House will sell 22,000. Tickets weren’t sent out to the usual school children, members of Congress, and the military. And they forgot about entertainment. At the last minute, PBS Kids and the Children’s Television Workshop, programs that DDT’s budget defunds, were asked to send children’s characters. Last year’s audience was 37,000, but only 20,000 are expected this year. Prepare yourself for photos of this year’s attendance complete with competitive arguments about this president had the largest number coming to the event.

After attending the past two dozen Easter Egg Rolls at the White House, Maryland educator Natalie Rebetsky bought 1,000 wood eggs (above) with the message “Protect Our Children’s Future 2017″ and sold them for $15 on her GoFundMe page. All profits went to PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts.

DDT has also canceled the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast. President Obama began the tradition in 2010 by inviting Christian leaders for a service in the East Room to participate in singing, prayers, and a sermon. The president then talked about Easter’s significance to him. The White House did hold a Passover seder last Monday night, but DDT wasn’t there. His Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and her Jewish husband also skipped the event that President Obama started in 2009. The former president hosted the seder every year, and, in 2012, added a video message to Jews throughout the world wishing them Chag Sameach (Happy Festival).

Remarkable story of the week: DDT bombed Syria as a favor to his daughter, Ivanka, according to her brother Eric.

No one is sure why DDT takes the actions he does, but they are frightening. At this time, he’s on the verge of causing World War III with his threats toward North Korea. As two bullies—DDT and Kim Jong Un—play a game of who’s strongest, Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, is urging both of them to back off from a catastrophe:

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage. If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner. It is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.”

Saturday, North Korea celebrated the Day of the Sun on the 105th anniversary of the country’s founder’s birth, by displaying new long-range missiles that could someday threaten continental America while a U.S. aircraft carrier group headed to the region. This morning North Korea defied DDT’s threats of “military options” by firing an unidentified ballistic missile that exploded almost immediately after launch. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that DDT was aware of the test but has no comment, leaving DDT uncharacteristically quiet.

Seoul and Tokyo are at the most at risk if North Korea retaliates to U.S. preemptive actions if North Korea uses a missile with sarin nerve gas. Meanwhile, Russia is moving S400 anti-aircraft missiles to Vladivostok, just eight miles from North Korea, in a massive military mobilization.

After dodging the draft, DDT wants to be a respected part of the military—one reason that he chose many current and past military members for his Cabinet and other senior officials. Having failed at his first attempt to lead  the botched raid in Yemen, he abandoned the responsibilities of a commander-in-chief:

“What I do is I authorize my military. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”

As the U.S. approaches a military junta, DDT’s military has doubled the deployment of forces in Syria in the past month and may send more. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers were sent to Mosul with more in Kuwait, and “military advisers” move closer to the front lines. To avoid asking Congress for permission to wage war, as required by the Constitution, he expanded the areas for conducting military operations without constraints or oversights. Almost three months ago, he gave Mattis permission to declare large areas of Yemen active areas of hostilities, removing the need from the military for any permission for strikes. The result is a much higher level of “acceptable collateral damage” (dead civilians). DDT’s military has executed 70 airstrikes in Yemen, double those in all of 2016. DDT gave the same authorization for Somalia and may also follow that up in Libya. To top off these decisions, DDT gave the Pentagon permission to conceal any information about “forces in or out of Iraq and Syria.”

As DDT inspired the press to talk about 86 Syrian people supposedly killed by a chemical attack from their president, Bashar Assad, he killed 1,472 civilians in his Syria and Iraq during just March. During March a year ago, 196 civilians were killed. DDT’s strikes included those on a school and a mosque in Syria along with a building in west Mosul with the three to five civilian fatalities each day indicating a change in the way the U.S. conducts strikes putting civilians much more at risk.

The result from the increased number of civilian casualties from these U.S. strikes is increased failure in the counterterrorism campaign. Because the U.S. is far more cavalier about who it kills, civilians in the Middle East are afraid of U.S. planes, and jhadi recruitment has a more successful technique. Cuts in the State Department have left little diplomatic efforts. DDT is left with only his bravado and military, a policy guaranteed to make the situation far worse.

Now DDT is also threatening North Korea. In talking about DDT’s threats to North Korea, Wang Yi said:

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent, and there have been storm clouds gathering. If they let war break out on the peninsula, they must shoulder that historical culpability and pay the corresponding price for this.”

DDT loves the military might of the United States—and wants to increase it by at least ten percent. His promise during the campaign was to “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” A war in North Korean is DDT’s way for him to dodge all the bad publicity of budgets, personal finances, loss of safety regulations, etc. He will have created his own 9/11 and Iraq War.

April 5, 2017

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: DDT Defends O’Reilly

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. In keeping with presidents in the past, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued a proclamation to honor this event:

“We dedicate each April to raising awareness about sexual abuse and recommitting ourselves to fighting it. Women, children, and men have inherent dignity that should never be violated…. “As we recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to reduce and ultimately end sexual violence. As a Nation, we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes, including increasing awareness of the problem in our communities, creating systems that protect vulnerable groups, and sharing successful prevention strategies.”

During DDT’s campaign, a 2005 recording shows him bragging about his committing sexual assault in which he said, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p***y.” Eleven women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, and one is currently suing him for defamation after the controversy.

After the sexual-assaulter promised that his administration “will do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence,” DDT defended Fox network host, Bill O’Reilly, after the New York Times’ article about his harassment of women, including the $13 million paid to settle claims to five women. Five days into Sexual Assault Awareness month, DDT declared that O’Reilly is a “good person” and declaimed that “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.” Advertisers were so disturbed with the revelations, that included information from other women who didn’t sue him, that over fifty companies, including major automobile manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, have dropped their advertising for the O’Reilly show. DDT also said, “Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled.”

As a fan of Fox, DDT gets all his false information from them such as all that wire-tapping that didn’t exist. He is so obsessive about watching the cable that his schedule shows that he doesn’t being any presidential activity until almost 11:00 in the morning. DDT has attended baseball games with O’Reilly and been a regular guest on his show, giving him an interview airing on Fox during its Super Bowl pregame bowl.

DDT brags about referring to the Fox owner, Rupert Murdoch, by his first name. Since the presidential election, the two men frequently communicate. In the past, Murdock mentored DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Murdoch’s former wife, Wendi Deng, made DDT’s daughter Ivanka a trustee of the Murdoch children’s fortune until Ivanka dropped out of this role a few months ago.

In saying that he thinks that neither O’Reilly nor Ailes did anything wrong, DDT is probably not lying. He thought that he also did nothing wrong in assaulting women. A 2015 survey found that one in three women have been sexually harassed at work, and 71 percent of them did not report the harassment, partly because powerful men can block their job prospects. Like O’Reilly, DDT denied that he did nothing wrong and would sue women who made claims against him.

Last year DDT defended former Fox CEO Roger Ailes after a number of his female employees reported his sexual harassment.  “I think they are unfounded just based on what I’ve read,” Trump said. “Totally unfounded, based on what I read.” Ailes was forced to resign from Fox News just one week after that interview. Julie Roginsky has recently filed another sexual harassment suit against Ailes. The FBI is investigating him and other Fox executives for using corporate funds to pay off the company’s sexual harassment victims. DDT defended Mike Tyson against his 1992 rape charges as well as billionaire whose private jet was nicknamed “The Lolita Express” and Joe Paterno who ignored Jerry Sandusky throughout years of the assistant coach’s sexual abuse of young boys.

O’Reilly has spent two decades at Fox being verbally abuse to female staffers, punishing them for refusing sexual advances, and appearing to masturbate while on the phone with them. Seventeen years ago, producer Andrew Mackris’ sexual harassment lawsuit accused him of describing his sexual fantasies about her and urging her to purchases a vibrator. If she told anyone about this, he said, she would “pay so dearly that [she’d] wish she’d never been born.” Mackris received $9 million by issuing a joint statement with O’Reilly that “no wrongdoing whatsoever” had occurred. She has not worked in television news since then. In 2011 Rebecca Gomez Diamond settled for an undisclosed amount. One of the settlements came because one of the women had recorded telephone calls with O’Reilly.

 

Transcripts from a custody hearing between O’Reilly and his ex-wife in 2014 show that their daughter once saw her father choking her mother and dragging her down the stairs.

In response to the NYT article, O’Reilly played the victim when he said, “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.” His next cover was that he “would do anything to avoid hurting [my children.]” The question might be the identities of “prominent and controversial people” other than DDT.

Last week, DDT “honored” National Autism Day after he spread the falsehoods that vaccines cause “horrible autism” and that there’s a “tremendous increase” in the number of autism cases. After his intense ridicule of journalist Serge Kovaleski, he skipped over honoring Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March. DDT has until September 15 to figure out how to work around Hispanic Heritage Month after his racist attacks, including the ones against a Latino judge.

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

Eighteen days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) talked to reporters about the newly introduced health plan written behind closed doors, probably by aides:

 “We will have 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We’ll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor. I can guarantee you that.”

Yesterday, just seven years and one day after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the GOP plan, distorted during the past few days by providing even fewer services than the original, died. House Republicans had entered over 50 bills to kill the ACA, many of them passing after the GOP gained a majority in the chamber, but Ryan was positive that the GOP takeover of both Congress and the executive branch would guarantee his success. Yet the Party of No is helpless in the face of Yes. Their work involved no stakeholders, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed his usual pattern of bullying threats instead of actually selling the bill.

Massive loud protests against the repeal of the health plan, steadily growing in popularity, pushed more moderate representatives to vote against the bill for fear of retaliation in their own district from people who would lose coverage. The Koch brothers’ promised to defend anyone voting no when they ran for re-election after DDT said that no voters would lose the next election. By the end of the debacle, only 17 percent of voters supported Ryan’s plan.

DDT blinked and lost the game of chicken. He canceled the vote rather than suffer the embarrassment of losing, but it’s obvious that he lost. With no experience or clout to lead his party, DDT lobbied 120 congressional members, “left everything on the field” in negotiations, and lost. In his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal, DDT claimed, “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off you’re back.” He repeats that the negotiator needs “to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are.” DDT didn’t realize that legislators aren’t contractors. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) did a training session for the House Freedom Caucus on DDT’s book, complete with poster.

During his campaign, DDT managed to con voters into believing that he knows “the art of the deal,” that he can be the closer. Ezra Klein explains why DDT as president is a loser:

“Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products…. He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.”

DDT wasn’t alone in the Trumpcare con; he had company from Ryan, who Paul Krugman called “The Flimflam Man.” Ryan lied when he said that Trumpcare would lower premiums, end the “death spiral,” and increase choice. Premiums would have skyrocketed unless people chose junk insurance plans with no coverage, and the extra 24 million people without insurance, along with people who couldn’t afford full coverage, would cause a death spiral. Ryan proposed a tax plan for the rich under the name of health care and failed.

The bill began with a high “age tax”—raising premiums and expenses for older, working adults—and added the “mommy tax” that greatly added expenditures for maternity coverage while diminishing its availability. Asked about people living in a state that doesn’t require maternity coverage in insurance, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in.” He clarified his statement by saying he didn’t mean move out of the state but to change the law. Republicans also ridiculed other insurance benefits for over half the nation’s population. For example, Alice Ollstein tweeted about her Kansas senator:

“I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” he snarked.”

Ollstein survived breast cancer discovered during a mammogram for preventative care. These are the people–no estrogen and largely white–who met to decide what services should be cut for women.

[A bit of humor….]

Trumpcare was so bad that Ryan’s only solution in getting it passed was speed. The cruel additions to woo ultra-conservatives by eliminating Essential Health Benefits was added only the day before Ryan hoped to call a vote. Among the items as unnecessary health care are maternity and newborn care, emergency room services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental illness care, laboratory services and pediatric services.

DDT’s “skill” is to always blame someone else. Finger-pointing shifted so fast that digits blurred. DDT with DDT’s his chief of staff Reince Priebus and Ryan, accusing them of faulty content and bad timing. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price also got blamed because he was put in the job to pass Trumpcare—although DDT assigned that job to Mulvaney. DDT claimed he wanted to start with tax reform that would have been “far less controversial.” (We’ll see!) Ryan was a popular scapegoat on the Fox network. The Wall Street Journal blamed the House Freedom Caucus for their “insisting on the impossible over the achievable,” and DDT took after this group too, telling them that he would tell their constituents that they were voting in favor of Planned Parenthood.

Despite 34 no votes from Republican representatives, DDT ultimately settled on the Democrats publicly when he whined that not one of them voted for Trumpcare, despite his failure to ask them for support. DDT and the GOP will continue to exaggerate any problems of the ACA, and the media will most likely focus on problems rather than the successes because a train-wreck films better than a satisfied person.  The GOP may also try to sabotage efforts to improve the ACA.

DDT is failing in office for the same reason that he succeeded in his campaign—weak party leadership. In a little over a day, he took a bill that no one likes and made it worse while alienating more members of his own party. In addition, he may have broken the law in his last-ditch try to save it. Tweets asking DDT supporters to call their representatives to save Trumpcare were sent by White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr, the official @POTUS account, and DDT’s personal account. The use of federal dollars, including paid White House Staff, in directly lobbying Congress to support or oppose a bill is against federal law. Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the Nixonian approach toward law by saying that the law is “not applicable to the president.” Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, disagrees because of the direct appeal to contact representatives in support of Trumpcare.

Hillary Clinton had a grand time tweeting the victories of people who need and like the “Obamacare” that DDT has daily excoriated in his daily message. Watching her is a reminder of how close the United State was to having a president who could “keep America great.”

DDT, Ryan, and the far-right Republicans aren’t the only losers with the downfall of Trumpcare. The wealthy won’t get their billions in tax cuts, and Wall Street won’t get the wealthy’s extra money. Insurance companies are also the losers, outside keeping funding for Medicaid. Big corporations would rejoice over getting rid of consumer protection rules that would have allowed them to vastly increase sales, marketing, and IRS deductions while selling junk insurance that wouldn’t have those “essential benefits”—like hospitalization.

One winner is DDT because Trumpcare would have lost over 1.2 million jobs—some people say as many as two million—that would have hurt his desire to be seen as the “jobs president.” GOP senators are winners because they don’t have to cast any votes on health care, at least in the immediate future. And constituents of Rep. Greg Walden, leader of the committee trying to destroy health care, are winners. In his rural district comprising two-thirds of Oregon, Trumpcare would have taken health insurance from 64,300 of his 684,200 constituents, almost ten percent of the people he represents. The remaining residents would have had far less access to the rural hospitals that need ACA money to stay open.

The next step is for Democrats to fight DDT’s “tax reform” shifting millions to himself and his wealthy friends. Meanwhile Democrats can introduce bills for improving ACA. The GOP won’t vote for them, but people will see that it can be fixed—and maybe vote blue in the next election.

March 19, 2017

DDT Supporters Start to Lose—Everything

 

A campaign argument from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to voters was “what do you have to lose?” People voting for DDT almost uniformly said that they wanted a “change.” Now they have a change, and DDT’s policies are proving that everyone except those in the highest income levels will most likely lose.

DDT won with 80 percent support from white evangelical Christians, but some conservative faith leaders are beginning to question the validity of DDT’s policies. Over 100 Christians, many of them conservative, wrote a letter to congressional leaders about how DDT’s cut of $10.1 billion for the International Affairs Budget will damage humanitarian programs abroad.

“With just 1 percent of our nation’s budget, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions; drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

Progressive Sister Simone Campbell wrote that DDT’s cuts “disproportionately affect the same group of people — women, people of color, and all at the economic margins.”

Mick Mulvaney, architect of DDT’s budget and OMB director, has tried to explained that punitive cuts for vulnerable populations are really “compassionate” because people should not pay for services to others unless it’s for a “proper function.” He didn’t explain that this function is for building “the wall” and increasing the military by ten percent. He also said that the cut to Meals on Wheels was only three percent when the federal government actually pays 35 percent.

A five-minute search on the Internet would show Mulvaney positive quantifiable results for Meals on Wheels and another project he wants to slash, after-school programs that provide meals.

Meals on Wheels: 26 of 48 states would save money for Medicaid with an expansion in the program of one percent by keeping seniors out of nursing homes. Florida could trim as much as $11.5 million, and Pennsylvania could save $5.7 million. Overall, the nation would pay only $8 million for this  one-percent expansion.

After-School Meals: feeding hungry children costs $.80 a meal. Several studies show that these programs improve student grades, attendance, and school participation.

DDT has taken five trips to Mar-a-Lago since becoming president for a grand total of about $16.5 million, but there are no concrete results for his personal entertainment. Any meetings there could easily be at the White House. Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year for that amount. After school programs could feed 114,583 poor children for a year for the same amount. Among the 2.4 million people served by Meals on Wheels are 500,000 veterans. The cost for feeding them for a year could be covered by a little over one month supporting DDT’s family in New York.

A tweet: “Trump golfing at Mar-a-Lago costs $10 million/mo. The National Endowment for the Arts costs $12 million/mo. Guess which is being cut?”

Mulvaney’s “compassionate” budget will eliminate the 50-year-old program, National Endowment for the Arts. The basis for this legislation is that a great country comes from an enlightened and unfettered citizenry:

“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster … access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

An early NEA decision was to foster local and regional economies in individual states: the approximately $400 million—25 percent of it targeted to rural communities—returns more than $704.2 billion to the nation’s economy, about 4.23 percent of the GDP. This is more than construction ($619.8 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($483.5 billion). In 2015, NEA funding provided audiences of 33 million people to “30,000 concerts, readings and performances and 5,000 visual and media arts exhibitions,” according to statistics. The NEA makes cities and towns better place to live and extends education, helping students get higher grades and stay in school. Maintaining DDT’s New York home where his wife and son live costs over $4 million a month; NEA costs the average taxpayer $.46 a year.

The budget also used “compassion” to whack $580 million a year from NIH because the 21st Century Cure project gets $480 million to research cures for 10,000 diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Oddly enough, the charge to taxpayers doesn’t go away, but it can’t be spent unless Congress okays it.

What do blacks have to lose with DDT? He answered this campaign trail question in his budget: elimination of the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, SHOP which DDT calls “lower priority programs.” Mulvaney calls this compassion.

The facts belie a demand for the ten-percent increase in military and outright elimination of many programs or cuts of 31 percent to slowing down climate change.

  • The U.S. spends more on military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Germany — combined. Yet the U.S. spends far less per capita than other countries on initiatives that DDT cuts.
  • Eliminated programs are more valuable to West Virginia’s coal miners and Detroit’s single mothers, referenced by Mulvaney as not needing them, than the ten-percent increase in military. DDT’s budget cuts funding for early-childhood education, public housing, transit, food assistance, and job training as well as programs that help people in West Virginia and many surrounding states to find jobs. It also cuts the federal agency, the Chemical Safety Board,  that investigated the 2014 chemical spill outside Charleston leaving 300,000 people without drinking water for five days.
  • On top of DDT’s budget cuts is a huge regressive tax cut which gives money only to the wealthy while Mulvaney talks about worrying about coal miner and single mothers. His argument about trying to protect these people in a budget that takes all their services makes no sense.
  • The budget doesn’t reduce the deficit, which DDT had promised to do.

Mulvaney demands “results,” but the U.S. has spent $4 trillion to establish new regime that don’t work instead of repairing U.S. infrastructure and providing jobs for people in this country. The Pentagon is decades behind in a congressionally-mandated audit, and in 2015 alone Army accounting couldn’t support $2.8 trillion in third quarter adjustments and $6.5 trillion in year-end adjustments. In just that one year, $125 billion in administrative waste was identified, double what DDT budget wants for a Department of Defense increase.

The GOP Trumpcare will kill 17,000 people a year, more people in three months than foreign terrorists have killed in the U.S. since—and including—the 9/11 disaster almost 16 years ago. And far more deaths will ensue from DDT’s budget attack on poor people. Those not forced out of their homes may have no heating assistance.

DDT has joined with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to attack people with student debt by rolling back a regulation from President Obama preventing extortionist fees on student loans for late payments. Before this went into effect, students were charged up to 16 percent even if people paid with 60 days of defaulting. For example, a woman with an $18,000 loan was charged $4,500 in fees when she was 18 days late in paying.

Robert Reich wrote about DDT’s theme of unnecessary cruelty in his policies: his budget attacks the poor at a time when the majority of people suffer greater poverty than they have in almost a century; his Trumpcare adds not only to their poverty of people in the U.S. but also to their deaths; his Syrian refugee and Muslim ban does nothing to protect people from terrorism; and his dragnet approach toward driving immigrants out of the country loses some of the nation’s most productive members and keeps other equally important people from coming to the United States. DDT has no reason for this cruelty other than his business style—create chaos and rule through persecuting people.

Fox’s Howard Kurtz wrote, “The swamp fights back,” referring to the backlash against DDT’s budget, including assistance for food, affordable housing, banking, job training, home heating oil bills, and legal counsel. When DDT said he would “drain the swamp,” people believed that he meant the bureaucracy that destroys jobs and moves money to the wealthy. Evidently the “swamp people” represent people DDT had promised to protect only a few months ago.

There is nothing Christian about any of DDT policies and nothing Christian about conservatives calling those who believe in human rights “swamp people.”

March 16, 2017

DDT’s ‘Skinny’ Budget: America Last

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 9:18 PM
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The top-line draft of fiscal proposals for 2018 from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been released with deep cleaver cuts (except for the military), most of them general items, letting Cabinet members decide specifics. The ones that were specific in the $1.1 trillion budget were mostly small, typically under $500 million. For example, he eliminates the National Endowment of the Arts to save $148 million (29 DDT trips to Mar-a-Lago), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($445 million), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “About 25 percent of NEA block-grant funds go to rural communities and 54 percent to low-income areas,” according to The Washington Post. Devastated local TV and radio stations could no longer show the reality DDT show. These are some of the 19 eliminated independent agencies, those outside federal departments controlled by Cabinet members, to be defunded—including the Appalachian Regional Commission which covers a region of Trumpers that he promised to economically revive.

Congressional members have said that the budget is “dead on arrival,” setting up the scene for an internecine fight.

The general cuts, including many that hurt DDT supporters who believed that he would make their lives better:

Environmental Protection Agency: $300 million under earlier estimates which was 31 percent less than 2016 and which fires 3,200 employees. With over 50 EPA programs would be completely eradicated, DDT “discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts.” Secretary of EPA, Scott Pruitt, removed a request to determine the extent to which methane oil and gas producers are leaking because he doesn’t believe that CO2 causes climate change. Industry requests caused him to consider the removal of a rule to prevent explosions and accidents at refineries and other industrial sites.

Department of Energy: The 5.6 percent cut is accompanied by the move of $1.4 billion, another five percent, to other programs to boost “nuclear capabilities.” Eliminated programs include the Weatherization Assistance Program, the State Energy Program, and the Energy Star program which sets energy standards and saves taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Co-sponsored by the Department of Defense, the Energy Star program cut equals two trips to Mar-a-Lago. Also gone is the DOE loan program for “limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities” because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research.” Tesla was developed from one of these loans.

Department of Justice: The four-percent cut combines with increases in other DOJ programs such as incarceration and deportation.

Department of Labor: The $2.5 billion in cuts, a 21 percent drop, will significantly reduce funding for job training programs for seniors and disadvantaged youth. Gone will be the Senior Community Service Employment Program ($434 million) that helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. DDT said that only half the participants find unsubsidized jobs.  Job Corps, a program providing workplace training for disadvantaged youth, will be forced to close centers.

State Department and UAAID: The cut of 28 percent from last year eliminates U.S. funding to UN climate change programs including the Green Climate Fund. The $500 million committed for 2017 supports low-carbon and resilience project in developing nations. DDT will withdraw the $2 billion funding for the Paris climate program.

NASA: This agency, which studies climate and space, reports directly to the White House which has cut $102 million, four “Earth science missions.”

Department of the Interior: The agency that includes the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management which are vital to oil, gas, coal, wind, and solar energy development has lost 12 percent of its budget.

Department of Agriculture: The 20-percent cut in this budget eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; the Community Services Block Grant; and NeighborWorks America, which supports neighborhood organizations that develop and maintain affordable housing. The agency’s water and wastewater loan and grant program, costing $498 million, has been cut.

The lucky ones—sort of:

Department of Defense: The only department with more money, DDT has allotted this one an additional $52 billion, an almost ten-percent increase.

Department of Commerce: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will keep its satellite program but lose “over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant,” although the department got a ten-percent budget increase.

Only defense, homeland security against immigration, and commerce survived the giant whacks to the budget. Many voters, including those for DDT, decried the trillions of dollars sent to fight in the Middle East. Now DDT wants to siphon money to drastically pour into the military and immigration. Today, DDT asked Congress for $3 billion dollars for his mass deportation agenda that causes fear and chaos across the nation. Half the money would start building “the wall.” He wants to use the money for “the wall,” that even GOP congressional members don’t want and the private prison industry. As usual, DDT lives in a fantasy land because DDT had estimated the cost at $10 billion during his campaign and DHS had put it at $21.6 billion. Investment research firm Bertstein Research assumed higher, at $25 billion. Other speculations are even higher than that. Despite DDT’s promise that the money would come from Mexico, Mulvaney said about the $1.5 billion, “It’s coming out of the Treasury.”

What $3 billion could do to “make America great”: 45,000 new middle-class jobs in infrastructure; 184 new elementary schools; over 55,000 new kindergarten and elementary school teachers; tuition for almost 311,000 people at a four-year college per year; $10,000 in child care subsidies for 300,000 working class families; almost 337,000 Head Start slots for children; preservation and protection of 12,000 at-risk wildlife and plant species in the U.S. every year for the next 2.3 years; solar energy for almost 2.1 million households with solar energy; weatherization of 460,000 homes to save each household $283 each year; over 153,000 new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers; 10 million life-saving HIV/AIDS treatments under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; or one new Curiosity-type Mars rover with money left over.

Ways that DDT’s budget hurts rural U.S. (aka DDT supporters):

Fewer Job Prospects: The budget slashes $2.6 billion in infrastructure mostly in small communities, cuts subsidies for wind energy that has provided 102,000 jobs primarily in rural communities and pays rural landowners, and scaremongers immigration delivering essential roles in rural communities and tax bases.

Health Damage: Doctor shortages and hospital closures will increase in rural areas through DDT’s proposed Trumpcare as well as cuts in programs for rural primary care providers and anti-immigration programs. Affordable Care Act repeal will also worsen the opioid epidemic with only $500 million in his budget to tackle this addiction. DDT is also draining resources from this issue by eliminating the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Cuts to Basic Living Standards Such As Education, Affordable Housing, and Nutrition: The $1.4 billion increase in school vouchers will send students to failing private schools while his 15 percent cuts to successful programs such as teacher training, federal work-study, and after-school and summer-school programs for low-income students will damage public education. The $6 billion cut for affordable housing, including the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant, removes opportunities for repairing crumbling housing stock; helping seniors, veterans, and struggling individuals and families stay in their homes; and maintaining critical infrastructure systems that preserve residents’ access to clean water and protect them from toxic waste. Even a ten-percent cut in USDA rental assistance (see Department of Agriculture above) could make 27,000 families homeless, and two-thirds of NeghborWorks America serves rural United States.

More Hunger for Rural Children and Seniors: A high percentage of the three million people Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2015 for food live in rural communities. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price advocates slashing this program. DDT’s budget severely cuts Meals on Wheels; eliminates $200 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and threatens other nutrition initiatives with a 21 percent cut to the USDA.

Reduction to Access to Justice and Jeopardy to Safety: DDT may eliminate grants to support intimate partner violence; survivors in rural areas have special difficulties from isolation and lack of transportation. The elimination of legal aid services would particularly impact rural communities and small towns. For example, the three principal legal aid service providers in Texas serve almost 140,000 low-income people, including almost 62,000 children, to protect them against wrongful eviction and denial of public assistance and services.

Other damaging cuts:

  • $3.9 billion from the Pell grant program proving tuition assistance for low-income college-bound students.
  • $2.4 billion that funds over 40,000 teacher positions.
  • $6 billion—a 20-percent cut—from cancer research.

Obviously, DDT lacks the competence and work ethic to prepare such a budget. It likely came from OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who said that climate change research is “a waste of your money” and  “we can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good” about Meals on Wheels that feeds seniors. Mulvaney, worth $6.8 million in 2009, didn’t  pay over $15,000 in payroll taxes for a nanny because she just “helped my wife with the kids,” wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, claims that President Obama “manipulated” jobs data, and thinks that not raising the debt ceiling will have no “negative consequences.” He said that it wasn’t fair for coal miners or single mothers to pay the $1.38 a year for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I guess he thinks that they don’t watch public broadcasting or listen to public radio.

There is far more news about the budget such as these 80 programs that lose funding.

 

March 12, 2017

Fight Back against Fundamentalist Christian Control

Faith groups came out to protest Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) second attempt last week to ban Muslims from the United States. Throughout the first day of the order, a number of groups condemned DDT’s actions calling it an affront to religious freedom.

  • American Jewish World Service tweeted its solidarity with immigrants.
  • Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson decried “the false narrative that this country is at war with a religion” and the “dramatic spike in Islamophobia, including a rise in hate speech, vandalism, and fires at mosques across the nation.”
  • Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed concern “that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”
  • Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the social justice advocacy group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, stated that DDT “is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer.”
  • Catholic Relief Services issued a lengthy statement condemning the ban that explained refugees already undergo “significant vetting” and stated that “now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated its previous concern “about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war, and religious persecution.”
  • Church World Service unveiled a new grassroots campaign in support of refugees in tandem with the National Council of Churches.
  • The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach reminded people “that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them.”
  • The Conference of Major Superiors of Men stated, “It is completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a potential crime by an individual. We should be asking about the root causes of violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our attention to addressing those concrete situations.”
  • Rev. Allison Liles, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, wrote that it “asks that God look with compassion on the whole human family, taking away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts, breaking down the walls that separate us and instead unite us in bonds of love.”
  • Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, stated that the ban is “bigoted and un-American … fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points—not keep Americans safe.” Moline continued, “Now we look to the courts, Congress and the American people to restore what makes American great — our freedom and diversity.”
  • Other groups making statements in opposition to DDT’s restrictive order included Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Methodist Church, and PICO National Network which stated:

“This [ban] is less about keeping America safe and more likely a step toward the ethnic cleansing of America. Coupled with this nation’s track record of detention, deportation and mass incarceration, the travel ban is a path to reassert white supremacy and dominance in the U.S. It is evil, sinister and stands in stark contrast to a core tenet of faith which asserts that we are all children of God. Even with its revisions, President Trump’s ban on Muslim-majority countries continues a xenophobic false hierarchy of human value. It is not only anti-American, it is anti-Christian.”

White evangelicals, however, are pitying themselves. According to a survey, 57 percent of them believe that they face a great deal of discrimination in the United States while only 44 percent think that Muslims are confronted with the same level of discrimination in the nation. White evangelicals are the only major religious group to think that Christians suffer from heavy persecution.

An example of prejudice against Islamic comes from Oklahoma Rep. John Bennett, who refused to meet with his Muslim constituents on its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol unless they completed a questionnaire from the Islamophobic hate group called ACT for America. Three students from Tulsa’s Peace Academy, a private school, asked to speak to Bennett and were told to answer such questions as these:

“Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”

“The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”

“Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”

In the United States, an average of almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to over 10 million women and men a year. Yet Bennett asks only Muslims if they “beat your wife.”

In his second Muslim ban, DDT demonstrated the same false belief in Islam violence as Bennett does. The executive order includes a provision requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” The United States has fewer than 30 so-called “honor killings” each year, but about 1,500 women are murdered from domestic violence in the same time. DDT’s budget eliminates the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants of $480 that funded 25 programs last year to help victims of domestic violence. Both DDT and his white supremacist and chief strategist Steve Bannon have been seriously accused of domestic assault.

DDT’s provision follows his plan to use federal resource to increase racial panic when he also promised to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week. The program ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people in the United States and that people in the United States are far far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Yet DDT’s federal counter-terrorism program will ignore all extremist groups not composed of Muslims, including violent white supremacists.

Facts have no value for DDT’s policies. As for the DHS report that “citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” a senior administration official said:

 “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

The GOP has increasingly pushed religious freedom for the United States although almost everyone knows that the harder a person pushes for this “freedom,” the more that person means only fundamentalist Christianity. In an evangelical discussion last summer, one of them asked how the Baptists could defend Muslims when they kill and imprison Christians. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore gave a sensible answer—that restrictions on Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. Moore said that people must freely choose their faith.

Pastor John Wofford answered:

“So what I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, I am helping them go to hell. And I do not want to help people go to hell.”

That’s the direction of the United States if we don’t fight back.

February 7, 2017

Bannon Runs U.S. While Unhappy Trump Takes Heat

“Trump has skin thinner than his wife and an ego bigger than my ass,” Helen Philpot wrote on her insightful blog to her friend Margaret. At the same time, Donald Trump (DDT), who desperately needs accolades, suffers from popular culture’s ridicule and criticism. Comedians’ humor and magazine covers’ condemnation highlight the elevation of DDT’s chief strategist to de facto President of the United States.

In two memorable skits from Saturday Night Live last weekend, the one featuring Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a particular embarrassment to DDT because he hates weakness—and women, to DDT, are weak. Even worse for DDT, allies found the representation to be accurate. After McCarthy’s success, Rosie O’Donnell has offered to play Steve Bannon on SNL.

alec-baldwin-bannonAnother SNL skit last week portrayed Bannon as the Grim Reaper who pulls the strings for DDT’s actions. Playing DDT, Alec Baldwin alienates leaders of U.S. allies, and the Bannon character says, “It was just according to plan.” The Bannon figure moves to the president’s desk at the end of the skit while the DDT character becomes child-sized.

trevor-noahHarsher than SNL, Trevor Noah played “Who’s the Real President” on The Daily Show. His pick is, of course, Steve Bannon. Noah used the Bannon image on the Time cover as evidence that “even the ‘dishonest media’ recognizes that Bannon is the ‘real power behind the throne.’” Time titled Bannon as “The Great Manipulator.”

der-spiegelIn the past, DDT has (falsely) bragged about his appearances on the cover of Time. Thus far he hasn’t tweeted anything about his image on the cover of Der Spiegel with the words “America First.” The artwork shows how the United States is rising to the top—by beheading Lady Liberty.

der-spiegel-2-ny-daily-newsThis cover is a classier version of the New York Daily Post illustration in December 2015 after DDT first called for a complete ban on Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

 

cover-economistThe cover of The Economist, illustrated an unusually radical editorial:

 

“The bleak cadence of last month’s inauguration was still in the air when Donald Trump lobbed the first Molotov cocktail of policies and executive orders against the capital’s brilliant-white porticos. He has not stopped…. His grenade-chuckers-in-chief, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, have now carried that logic into government… The secrecy and confusion of the immigration ban are a sign not of failure, but of how his people shun the self-serving experts who habitually subvert the popular will. Trump’s politics of conflict extends, of course, to foreign policy, and that is where they see serious problems looming.

“A web of bilateralism and a jerry-rigged regionalism are palpably worse for America than the world Mr. Trump inherited. It is not too late for him to conclude how much worse, to ditch his bomb-throwers and switch course. The world should hope for that outcome. But it must prepare for trouble.”

MSNBC Joe Scarborough, known for his campaign support for DDT, broadcast a clip of the Alec Baldwin skit and the cover from Time on The Morning Joe Show. During his monologue, he asked if Bannon was “calling the shots.” An hour later, DDT tweeted:

“I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it.”

Not everyone. The day before the tweet, Madeleine Albright, secretary of State for Bill Clinton, told CNN that she assumed Bannon was “the person that’s pulling the strings.” Other pundits and politicians have suggested the same idea.

DDT’s ego is suffering from the belief that he is not in control and the fact that a mere member of his staff has taken the place on Time that he thinks should belong to him. A White House source said, “I assume President Trump was not pleased with the Time cover, because that is reserved for Donald Trump.” Trump-supporter and GOP strategist John Feehery said, “Any time you have staff members on the cover of Time magazine, that’s a problem.”

trump-bannon-big-boyBannon’s presidential duties include writing vague, confusing executive orders with no professional vetting, ones that DDT sometimes signs without reading them. A prime example is the one that put Bannon on the National Security Council while removing career military and intelligence people. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence are allowed to attend only when issues concern their “direct areas of responsibilities.” Crazy torturer Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor, stayed.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “This is a ‘Holy Crap’ moment.” One of these happened with Bannon’s involvement in the disastrous Yemen raid that killed a Navy Seal and many civilian women and children but leaving its target, Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi, still alive and taunting DDT.

Sen. Susan Collin (R-ME) said:

“What I’m concerned about is the president’s executive order reorganizing the NSC in a way that removes the director of national intelligence, the only person who can provide a comprehensive overview of intelligence on a policy issue, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the only one who has the comprehensive view of the military consequences of a particular policy from the principal’s committee.”

The danger of Steve Bannon as president goes far beyond his ignorance. His goal, according to past writings and speeches, is to put the United States in the midst of a global war using DDT as “a blunt instrument for us,” possibly the white supremacists. Bannon has been praised for his similarity to Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite propagandist and his racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and Islamophobic voice.

Bannon’s friends have cited his aggression and obsession with war and aggression as he looks forward to social chaos, the purpose of his executive orders. His goal is to demolish the United States and recreate a Tea Party-led version of the Bolshevik Revolution. He has predicted that He predicts that “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.” Despite Bannon’s hatred for Islam, that he calls the “most radical” religion in the world, the Middle East isn’t Bannon’s only warring focus; he also aims at “war in the South China Sea.” He also wants to depose Germany’s Angela Merkel to create a white supremacy in Europe.

In Bannon’s attack on the free press, he described the media as a “fifth column,” defined as a group that fights for a nation’s enemies. The position parallels the actions of dictators and tyrants who manipulate by “owning” information through “alternative facts” by scattering doubt and confusion about truth. Toward that end, Bannon persuades people that he opposes the “elites” who work in media. He said:

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Bannon found satisfaction in the turmoil and condemnation of the Muslim ban that raised huge protests and media attention. He sees the publicity as a PR win. It was Bannon’s decision “to include green card holders in the president’s temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries,” according to Raw Story’s David Edwards. Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox pointed out that Bannon responsible for “fuel(ing) Trump’s firefight with the media, discrediting and undermining the mainstream voices opposed to his anti-immigrant and anti-trade agenda.”

bannon-trumpJust as DDT refused to repudiate the Ku Klux Klan, he has refused to condemn Bannon’s Islamophobic remarks and sent a message to white supremacists the he’s on their side. DDT has been delighted to pass his presidential obligations to someone else because of his short attention span and no interest in public policy. His specialty is marketing shady real estate deals and making money off declaring bankruptcy. All he wants is to preen in front of hand-picked crowds that approve of his boorish behavior and make up information that has no reality in real life. Whenever he finds himself criticized, he angrily tweets and then leads the crowds into another diversion before he calls another country’s leader to alienate them.

A question is how long Bannon will last with constant derision of Bannon’s control. And how close to the sun will hubris take Bannon and DDT before they fall into the sea, just as Icarus did in Greek mythology.

December 24, 2016

Happy Hanukkah!

Today, the United States is being taken over by an insecure, anger-ridden megalomaniac who rose to power through lies and election assistance from a foreign country. He’s already using his position for personal financial gain and nominating federal officials who will help him create further poverty and deprivation for 99.99 percent of the people in the nation. His opposition to any press that he doesn’t control violates the First Amendment, and his plan to stop any protests against him violates the constitutional right of assembly. Democracy as people in the United States is in great danger.

Today is also the first of an eight-day Jewish celebration for the defeat of an insecure narcissist ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, known for his excessively extravagant display of riches and cruelty over two millennia ago. Initially appearing congenial toward his subjects, he felt contempt for them and sold political positions to benefit only the wealthiest in the country. His quick anger earned him the nickname of “madman.” After he forced the Jewish people in his kingdom, which included Judea, to follow the country’s primary religion and culture, Judah Maccabee and his followers revolted. Through their skill and knowledge, they took back their freedom from Antiochus and showed that a minority can fight back against a repressive regime through intelligence and the ability to work together. The exact date of this Jewish festival of lights changes each year because it is tied to the lunar Hebrew calendar.

Last week, Michele and Barack Obama hosted their last Hanukkah party at the White House. His observations about the event demonstrate the articulate graciousness of the current President of the United States at a time when non-Christians are targeted by hatred and bigotry. I will miss President Obama and his leadership in the coming years.

“Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons: How a small group can make a big difference. That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time. How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation. It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have. The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world. So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.

“This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom. The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it—to publicize the mitzvah. And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here.

“Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition. Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be—and defending the rights of others to do the same—that’s our common creed. That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window—not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

“The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance—these are one and the same. Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody. In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah. And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays. A stunned Elie asked him, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?” And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz. The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year. We lost a keeper of our collective conscience….

“Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled. Each wick an answer to the wicked. Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.

“Jewish leaders from the Maccabees to the Wiesels, to the college students who proudly sing Hebrew songs on campus, reaffirm our belief that light still drives out darkness, and freedom still needs fighters.

“As many of you know, the name ‘Hanukkah’ comes from the Hebrew word for ‘dedication.’ So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”

A video of President Obama giving these comments is here.

Fomented by Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.com, much has been said in the conservative media about the president’s “stabbing Israel in the back” by abstaining from the UN resolution to keep further encroachment into Palestine’s West Bank by Israel. Hillel Schenker wrote this in the Times of Israel:

“Thank you President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. And thank you New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia for moving forward with the resolution.  And thank you Egypt for drafting the resolution. The passing of yesterday’s UN Security Resolution on the settlements is the best Hanukkah gift you could have given to the people of Israel, and it provides a glimmer of light on the horizon amidst the current darkness.  It reaffirms the international commitment to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based upon a two-state solution, the only realistic solution to the conflict that can provide security and peace to both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.”

Schenker explains that, as the resolution states, “the status quo is not sustainable.” He also agrees with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power who said that continued settlement building “undermines” Israel’s own security. Schenker pointed out an appreciation from many Israelis who understand that “it was done in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948”:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The Declaration also requires that Israel “extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples” and “do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” It added that Israel will “cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947.”

The resolution passed with a 14-0 vote after the U.S. abstained. It states that Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory since 1967 are not legal and calls for a stop to “all Israeli settlement activities.” At this time, almost a half million from Israeli have claimed ownership of Palestine land and another 200,000 live in east Jerusalem, the area that Palestinians view as their capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to stop the vote with an appeal to Donald Trump (DT), who will not be U.S. president until January 20, 2017. DT also contacted Egypt, asking them to delay the vote indefinitely although he has no legal right to control the current president’s foreign policy. Egypt did so, but four other countries sponsored it.

With strongly pro-settlement David Friedman as his pick for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, DT is following his plan to move the nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, an act which should instead be determined by peace talks. At this time, DT doesn’t understand—or refuses to accept—that the United States has only one president at a time as he continues his thrust to support far-right Israelis in their journey toward creating strength that diminishes the power of oil-producing companies in the Middle East. In this way, DT can both win back evangelical Christian support and join Israel to take over oil fields.

As people have said about the next four years, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Meanwhile we can appreciate President Obama’s last four weeks in supporting the people of the United States. Happy Hanukkah!

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