Nel's New Day

October 7, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-seven – Raking Up Big Numbers

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can now take credit for the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history—59 59 dead and at least 527 people in Las Vegas this week. These are the “secret” White House talking points in an effort to stop any talk about common sense gun laws, as indicated in a leak: pray and monitor; wait for any “political debate” until facts are known; protect the people through the Second Amendment; can’t stop a “mad man” with “new laws” because “they will curtail the freedoms of law-abiding citizens; don’t need guns for terrorist attacks; allow people to protect themselves with concealed carry; and don’t “rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.” In other words, legislative business as usual—tax cuts!

Another leak this week that hit the comedy routines was DDT’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling DDT a “moron” in a Pentagon meeting last July. Tillerson was forced  to call DDT “smart” in a press conference, but he didn’t deny that he used that term for DDT. The comment was made after DDT’s appearance at the Boy Scouts Jamboree; Tillerson was its leader from 2010 to 2012.

Tillerson has also been frustrated because DDT’s publicly undermines him, for example, the dispute when Middle Eastern countries blockaded Qatar, sanctions on Venezuela, aid to Israel, and, most recently, DDT’s tweet that Tillerson should not negotiate with North Korea. The day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached out to North Korea for talks, DDT tweeted that he was “wasting his time” and “we’ll do what has to be done!”  Just 37 percent trust Trump to responsibly handle the North Korea standoff.

In opposition to Tillerson, DDT indicated that he will back out of the Iranian agreement, leaving them free to develop nuclear weapons. The Nobel Committee cited this as one reason to award its Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its efforts in advancing negotiations leading to the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms. The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies—including the United States—boycotted the negotiations, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis threatened Sweden with retribution if the country supported the treaty. Fifty-three UN member states signed the treaty, and three of them have formally ratified it since the process started on September 20.

Tillerson has formed a “pact” with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Treasury that all three will resign if DDT fires one of them.

DDT did get to Puerto Rico almost two weeks after Maria was the second hurricane to hit the island, stayed in populated areas, and left an hour early. [Right: DDT shows a different kind of “compassion” to hurricane victims.]

While there, DDT:

  • Refused to mention or communicate with the mayor of San Juan;
  • Complained about the cost of the two hurricanes’ damage while saying how happy he is to spend “hundreds of millions” on the F-35, a plane has never flown a mission and “you can’t see” (according to DDT);
  • Said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe like Katrina;
  • Ignored the devastation on the island;
  • Threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd of survivors in a church, perhaps appearing to “distribute” supplies;
  • Praised the place for its beautiful weather;
  • Told hurricane victims to “have a good time”;
  • Said he was doing an “A+” job.

DDT has not yet submitted a request for aid to Puerto Rico. As he bragged about the wonderful response to the disaster, over half the people have no clean drinking water, and 95 percent of them have no electricity. DDT handed out flashlights but said that the people didn’t need them. Only one of the island’s 69 hospitals is fully operational, 59 of the 69 hospitals are operating on generators. Local officials talked about the lack of assistance. The mayor in a city of 54,000 said that they had received 10,000 meals, and one woman in the city said she had seen no supplies except for a case of water after 11 days. DDT waited ten days to waive the requirement that food stamps be used only in grocery stores despite the inability of these facilities to process the stamps.

After he returned from Puerto Rico, DDT said that he might wipe out the territory’s $72 billion debt, mostly held in huge hedge funds, but his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said, “We’re absolutely not going to bail them out.” As the U.S. seems incapable of helping Puerto Rico, Germany is donating 15 microgrids around the island for power emergency centers that combine solar panels and batteries.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no for a resolution calling on countries to not use the death penalty for discrimination in cases of consensual adultery and same-gender relations. Twenty-seven countries supported the resolution while the U.S. was one of 13 countries, primarily those in the Middle East and Asia, that opposed it. Seven countries abstained. Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted about the vote, “Not even Russia and Iran stooped as low as we did.” The U.S. does use the death penalty as discrimination against minorities, women, and poor people.

The congressional conclusion that Russian attempted to hack into U.S. voting machines and influenced U.S. voters through social media has been followed by DDT’s request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the U.S. press. DDT’s constant attacks on the media as “fake news” has a benefit for the media. The 48 percent of people who have confidence in the press is up nine percent since last November whereas the same 48 percent having a measure of faith in DDT is down three percent.

Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is also being investigated for his reassignment of Joel Clement after Clement showed how climate change affects Alaska’ Native communities. An earlier probe came from his threats to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in an attempt to get her vote for the health care bill.

Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. are in the hot seat with their emails, including publicity about how they barely evaded indictment on felony fraud charges in 2012 regarding their failed project, Trump SoHo, but donations to a campaign saved them. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made prosecutors drop the case after DDT’s attorney Marc Kasowitz gave $25,000 to the DA’s reelection campaign with another $50,000 from DDT and other donors later on.

The use of official emails on Ivanka’s and Don Jr.’s personal accounts may have compromised national security:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shared official White House materials on the Kushner family’s private domain, in a third private account recently discovered. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said. Kushner set up ijkfamily.com when he joined DDT’s administration.

Apps on Kushner’s and Ivanka’s private email automatically deleted communications for official matters, an illegal action that other of DDT’s White House officials have also taken.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to White House counsel last week requesting more information about the White House staff use of private email addresses for official business, including disappearing message apps.

Both Kushner and Ivanka moved their email accounts to Trump Organization after the letter stating that the records not be destroyed, modified, or transferred. Cummings pointed out that their action also violates their pledge to not be a part of Trump Organization.

https://www.mediaite.com/online/rachel-maddow-reports-that-secret-service-is-banning-mobile-devices-from-west-wing/  More problems arose after it was discovered that the cell phone of John Kelly, former National Security Advisor and current chief of staff, was compromised with the establishment of new guidelines. Personal mobile devices—including tablets, cell phones, and smart watches—are to be prohibited from the West Wing. The question is whether DDT’s cell phone is part of this ban.

ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit against the government after AG Jeff Sessions announced that businesses and organizations can use religious belief or “moral conviction” to avoid providing free birth control on its insurance plans. A majority of people, even Republicans, disagree with DDT. The same excuse can also be used to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The ACLU is also suing to lift unreasonable FDA restrictions on Mifeprex, a safe and effective method of ending an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks, from pharmacies.

DDT may also be able to take credit for the worst hurricane destruction of any president. The fourth major storm to hit the U.S. in less than nine months has killed 30 people in Central America and has now hit the Louisiana coast. Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. Over 40 percent of the Gulf’s staffed oil- and gas-producing platforms were evacuated. The storm, now a Category One, still has winds of about 100 mph and possible storm surges of 10 feet but should weaken on land. It may be the worst hurricane in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005.

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October 4, 2017

A Needed Conversation on Race

Filed under: Discrimination — trp2011 @ 11:34 PM
Tags: ,

My small community on the Oregon coast is a mix of active progressives who fight for human rights and conservatives who pray to the Second Amendment. The local newspaper is a popular venue of discussion, some of it strongly opposed to public education, LGBTQ rights, and healthcare for all. (Many from the latter group are firmly attached to their Medicare because retired people compose a large percentage of the population.)

The tragedy of 59 deaths and at least 527 wounded people in Las Vegas earlier this week has consumed much of the media space, but the slow careful reading of condolences by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doesn’t erase his antagonism toward a majority of people in the United States. His recent behavior in Puerto Rico when he was off teleprompter was indicative of his dismissal of anyone who doesn’t have his white skin. His throwing packages of towels at a group of survivors after the destruction of their second hurricane in a few weeks and his insistence that they grovel for assistance demonstrated his belief that, to him, Puerto Rico, is an inferior colony.

Conservatives keep writing letters with the message of “get over it” in their attempt to normalize DDT’s behavior. There is nothing normal about his behavior or his actions, and we can’t buy in to a need for this normalizing. Below is an op-ed to the local newspaper in response to letters supporting DDT’s racism. The author is right in stressing the importance of dialog about issues surrounding racism in the United States. Keep educating yourself, and keep talking!

A rash of letters here has begun to supply a needed conversation on racism. The public should be grateful to the editor for providing a venue for this. It’s time to step back and consider the whole issue more objectively.

The issues which set off this debate were the actions of neo-Nazis (which they proudly call themselves) at Charlottesville, Trump’s defense of them, and his equation of peace activists and leftists with the various neo-Nazi, KKK, and other white supremacists groups which began the provocation.

Trump’s obvious sympathy for groups of this kind was long preceded by his bigoted attacks on women, Blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, and Muslims. This was followed by the pardon of Joe Arpaio, guilty of abusing his office, racial profiling, contempt of court, and violating the Constitution. Trump’s pardon excuses these things and undermines the rule of law.

As a result, there have been letters attacking Trump’s racism and letters defending him. The letters attacking Trump refer to facts, i.e. 74% of hate crimes in the last 10 years have been committed by right-wing hate groups, 24% by Islamists” and only 2% by “leftists.” Letters defending Trump rely on name-calling, using words such as “haters,” “dims,” and even “Californians.” Anything to avoid the facts of the argument. Always, they promote the idea that Trump’s critics are a radical extreme.

The facts are different. Trump has been denounced not only by Democrats, but by noted Republicans, his own Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, former party chairs, etc. Across the world, people are appalled as well.

One of the letters which sparked special local outrage was one in which the author said that “if you stand with Trump, you stand with the Nazis.” Even some progressives thought this was a bit too much. Really? In criminal law you would talk about “aiding and abetting,” in military law, you would talk about “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

People trying to stop hate speech aren’t as “hate-filled” as armed thugs shouting, “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil.”  The blood part of that chant refers to the idea that human “goodness” resides in the “purity” of your “blood.”  Do such utterances not deserve loud and very clear denunciation?

My point is that this really is about race, not political correctness.  Our community needs to talk about it. And I hope that readers note the quality of the arguments on both sides.  On one side, there are denunciations of real faults; on the other deflections and denial.

The bottom line is, lots of Germans supported Hitler, not because they were members of the Nazi party, or because they hated Jews or foreigners, but because they liked some of what Hitler said, especially the idea that he was “making Germany great again.” These supporters and others who just kept quiet helped him along, and they rightly share the blame for what happened.

Trump is a package deal—in the end you will be responsible for the whole ugly package.

Diane Eckstein

September 29, 2017

Puerto Rico a Disaster, DDT Indifferent

Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico (PR) nine days ago today. With almost no help from the U.S. government, people are without food, drinking out of creeks, and dying in hospitals because of no fuel for generators. Living conditions in Puerto Rico are dire.

The disaster has taught Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) about geography. He’s learned that PR is “an island…an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean. It’s a very big ocean.” DDT likes repetition; he continued, “This isn’t like Florida…This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Since John Kelly became DDT’s chief of staff over a month ago, Elaine Duke has been acting security of Homeland Security. She called the hurricane as “really a good news story” because of “our ability to reach people.” Duke may think this is true from about 1,600 miles away, but people living on the island have a better perspective. Most of the supplies that came to the island are from private donors because of the archaic Jones Act, and what has arrived is rotting in port because of lack of leadership and infrastructure problems.

Five days after the disaster, Philip Carter wrote about DDT’s “Katrina”:

“So far, the Trump administration has dispatched an anemic Federal Emergency Management Agency mission and sundry military units to assess the situation and provide support. But in some cases it took the federal government days to even contact local leaders in Puerto Rico’s major cities, let alone deploy aid. Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

Carter also reported that 80 percent of the agriculture in PR has been destroyed along with its food source and economy. People cannot call for help, something the federal government told them to do, because 95 percent of the cell-phone towers are out.

Vox added to the catastrophe’s description:

“More than three million U.S. citizens [are] facing the prospect of living up to six months without power. According to some estimates, damage could exceed $30 billion. Our fellow Americans are in crisis. Since the disaster, House Republicans, led by Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-R), have unveiled a $10 billion proposal … for Donald Trump’s racist border wall and immoral mass deportation force.”

After a visit to PR three days ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talked about the possible “humanitarian crisis.” He said that help for PR required “a lot more hands-on federal engagement.” Like Rubio, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) compared the lack of response to that in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast. Five days ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted:

“President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.”

The administration waited another two days before saying it would deploy the USNS Comfort, an 890-foot-long naval hospital ship, and longer until it sent more personnel and called on truck drivers to go to PR. The ship didn’t leave until today and will take another five days to arrive. A Defense Department official said the ship hadn’t been deployed because of no request from FEMA. Forty-nine of the island’s 69 hospitals are without electricity or fuel to run backup generators. Twenty percent of PR’s 3.5 million population has a disability including half those over the age of 65, and 13 percent of the residents have diabetes, compared to 8.7 percent on the mainland. Insulin requires refrigeration that is at an extreme shortage.

At the same time that a doctor desperately tweeted from San Jorge children’s hospital in downtown San Juan about lack of fuel for generators, U.S. Senate Republicans were trying to eliminate health care for tens of millions of people. DDT tweeted about that rather than PR because it would give money for tax cuts to the wealthy. Then he began arguing for his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Within a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Florida, DDT had managed a massive relief bill. For PR, he said that he would get a request for aid to Congress within a week or two (his term in the past for never) and complained about PR’s debt, seemingly accusing them of the disaster. Part of that debt comes from the $33 million that DDT kept by declaring his golf course in PR bankrupt immediately after he announced his most recent campaign for president.

Shipping limitations from the Jones Act were immediately waived after Texas and Florida were hit by hurricanes a few weeks ago, but DDT refused to do the same for PR until eight days after the disaster. (Texas and Florida voted for DDT, but Puerto Ricans cannot vote for a U.S. president.) DDT might not have waived the law at all except for his public embarrassment for saying that “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry…don’t want the Jones Act lifted.” The family of Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation and wife of the Senate Majority leader, owns a shipping company. The 1920 law, enacted to protect the U.S. from German U-2 boats, requires that goods going from one place in the United States to another must be on ships owned, build, and crewed by U.S. companies. PR pays an excessive amount for goods coming from the mainland because of this law.

Another serious problem in disseminating goods is that military personnel sent to unload containers and drive trucks across the capital are minimal compared to the people sent to other disasters. Only two ships were deployed to PR in the first six days after Maria. Because the federal government is insisting on centralized distributions, donations sent on charter planes by individuals and charitable groups are not reaching people. U.S officials decided that people should drive to San Juan, despite the severely limited fuel situation, to tell them what was needed.

DDT is also trying to control news coming from PR by restricting congressional members from making official visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and evaluating conditions there. The San Juan Airport is functioning at this time, and DDT has said that he plans to visit the island.

The Jones Act permits goods—water, food, fuel, medicine, etc.—can be shipped via foreign registry vessel to PR if the country pays import quotas and many other costs, or by going through Jacksonville (FL) where everything is unloaded, put onto a U.S. ship, and then sent to PR at an increased cost of 15 to 20 percent. For example, cars cost $6,000 more in PR than in Florida. Goods cost about twice as they do on neighboring islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands which is not subject to the Jones Act. Although the cost of living is 13 percent higher than 325 urban areas in the U.S., the per capita income is about $18,000, half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states. In 2012, the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy from 1990 through 2010. PR’s pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, proving 30 percent of the island’s gross domestic product and 90,000 jobs, is shut down.

Today DDT said he didn’t know if the government would help to repair PR’s public infrastructure. His disaster declaration for Texas promised federal funding of up to 75 percent of costs to repair “damaged public facilities” including roads, bridges and schools. FEMA said it would clear debris and other emergency relief.

Billionaires and celebrities are helping Puerto Rico residents by lending their planes to deliver food, water and critical medical supplies. One billionaire, however, has not stepped up to the plate. DDT’s fleet of a large commercial sized plane, a corporate jet, and two helicopters, sits at La Guardia. DDT hasn’t even asked people to donate to this crisis. All during the crisis, he has bragged how he protects the United States from athletes and how well he’s doing in Puerto Rico. He’s wrong on both counts.

The first federal senior administration officials didn’t go to PR for five days. DDT spent the first four days of the hurricane at his golf resort in Bedminster (NJ) except for a brief rally for his failed senatorial candidate in Alabama. Today, DDT said “We will not rest until the people of Puerto Rico are safe” before he flew back to his golf resort.

September 25, 2017

Divider-in-chief Attacks Athletes, Ignores Presidential Issues

Forty percent of the states in the United States have a population less than 3.4 million—the population of Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory that is completely without power—perhaps for another six months—after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Seventy-thousand people are in danger of the Guajataca dam’s breaking. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may send a disaster aid request to Congress in another few weeks while Puerto Rico suffers a humanitarian crisis. Texas got help within a week.

DDT tweeted over a dozen times this past weekend about athletes not kneeling during the national anthem but presidential. Nothing about Puerto Rico. Or North Korea’s claim that DDT has declared war and they will shoot down U.S. even if they’re not in North Korean airspace. Or that DDT is getting deeper into the Russia influence on the presidential election. And certainly nothing about DDT’s most recent problem, that his family and aides—Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Gary Cohn—used government business while he continues to accuse Hillary Clinton of doing this. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was a prime fixture in DDT’s campaign against her, and he’s still promoting the “lock her up” argument, as recently as last week’s rally in Alabama.

At the same rally when DDT sort of supported GOP Sen. Luther Strange for election to his appointed position, DDT started a firestorm by demanding the firing of sports players who kneel instead of stand during the national anthem in protest to racial injustice in the country. (You may have heard about this; there are almost 40 million links to the story.) DDT also suggested an NFL boycott and referred to those who kneeled as a “son of a b—-,” an insult the players’ mothers. On ABC’s Sunday news show, This Week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tried to cover for DDT by saying that he means NFL players “can do free speech on their own time.” Mnuchin added that the president is saying “that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem.” To DDT’s profane slur, Mnuchin said that “the president can use whatever language he wants to use.”

The protests moved to London where several Ravens and Jaguars players knelt during the national anthem. Shadid Khan, the billionaire owner of the Jaguars who donated $1 million to DDT’s inauguration, demonstrated solidarity with his players by linking his arms with them. Several professional teams stayed in the locker room during the anthem yesterday, and coaches and owners supported them. The responses from over 30 pro NFL teams is here.

America First Policies, a DDT-supporting PAC, is disseminating an anti-NFL ad called “Turn Off the NFL” on social media to boost DDT’s criticisms. It encourages NFL fans to watch a patriotic movie instead of NFL games.

DDT attacked the NBA as well as the NFL.  LeBron James called DDT a “bum,” and Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, called DDT “an embarrassment in the world.” After the NBA champion Golden State Warriors waffled about accepting an invitation to the White House, DDT said that he was disinviting them although he had not sent them one. DDT personally attacked Warriors star Stephen Curry, who said that DDT’s comments to “target certain individuals … rather than others” are “beneath” his office.

Non-pro teams protested as well.  Garfield’s Bulldogs, including the coaches, knelt during the anthem before the team’s 52-9 Metro League win against West Seattle. A coach asked why people talked about the flag instead of the issues (listed here) surrounding the players’ actions. The third verse of the anthem ridicules black men for seeking freedom from U.S. slavery by joining the British, stating that “the hireling and slave” cannot find “refuge.”

DDT, who avoided military service with “bone spurs,” has tried to make his battle against sports figures about patriotism. He tweeted, “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it!” In a classic blog, Margaret wrote her friend Helen that a sports player has as much right to “taking a knee” as DDT has to say that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) isn’t a war hero because he was captured.

The White House and DDT are trying to avoid the racial overtones of his criticism. DDT overlooked the refusal of Tom Brady, a white player, to accept an invitation to the White House but lambasted Stephen Curry, a black player, for doing the same thing. Colin Kaepernick started the movement over a year ago to protest police brutality against people of color, but this morning DDT tweeted that the protests have nothing to do with race. His war started in a place known for segregation, and conservatives have praised DDT for his brilliant strategy. Yet the statements may have come from DDT’s impulsivity, not his thoughtfulness. He loved the attention he received, however, and continued to dominate the press with his tweets.

The massive internet exchange on the issue of kneeling during the national anthem is reminiscent of events a half century ago during the civil rights protests. Moderate Republicans currently think that blacks should politely sign a petition instead of taking up the cause at the sports games; in 1964, 74 percent of people thought that “mass demonstrations by Negroes” would “hurt the Negro’s cause for racial equality.”

DDT also repeated his argument at the same rally that pro football isn’t violent enough for him. Part of his disjointed babblings in the speech described a “beautiful tackle” and made sarcastic comments about a referee’s wife “sitting at home …. so proud of him” when the ref throws a penalty flag. He said:

“Today if you hit too hard — 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.’’

In USA Today, Tim Sullivan called DDT’s statement “callous, short-sighted and without nuance, the kind of barstool bluster you hear from those wired to react without research or reasoning.” The calls for more violence came the same week as the revelation that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered from a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Just days before that discovery, a study showed the same brain disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players who had died.

In another study released last week, men who played football before they were 12 have a doubled risk of “problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive functioning” and a tripled danger of “clinically elevated depression scores.” The increased risk is dependent on the number of years playing football and the number of reported concussions. Key brain development in males occurs between ten and 12 years of age, but earlier first exposure to football is connected to worse clinical function.

CTE begins with headaches and loss of concentration and moves to depression, mood swings, short term memory loss, and explosive behavior. The disorder moves to language difficulties, impulsive behavior, and thoughts of suicide as well as cognitive impairment and ends with memory loss combined with dementia. Common causes of death in people suffering from CTE are respiratory failure, cardiac disease, suicide, overdose, and symptoms associated with end-stage dementia and malignancy.

DDT’s latest campaign is to promote violence and concussions for his personal entertainment with indifference to the possibility that the majority of men in the United States will develop symptoms of CTE. Future polls and NFL ratings will determine his success.

September 21, 2017

Don’t Go Away, Hillary!

Much of the coverage of a book released in September, What Happened, has been extremely negative as both right and left media tell her to go away. They treat her as badly as they did during her campaign and blame her for her election loss after a perfect storm of opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Russian influence, incessant lying about her, and the release of negative information from former FBI director James Comey less than two weeks before the election despite the his refusal to release evidence about Russians colluding with the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT).

Heather Digby Parton, however, has a different perspective, as the following article shows:

I’m not going to review Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened, since there are approximately 12,576 reviews out there already, with more to come. But I do want to discuss one issue that came up in the book that has been addressed in a couple of those reviews. That would be the fact that the press regularly and tiresomely slags Clinton for her failures in the 2016 campaign but have still completely failed to acknowledge their own.

There are many aspects of this story that are unique to Clinton. As Politico’s Jonathan Allen, then of Vox, wrote at the beginning of the campaign, there was an establishment media groupthink about her that was obvious, although the press itself seemed completely oblivious to it. (I wrote about this on Salon in real time as it unfolded and after the race was over. )

Allen put it bluntly:

“The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.”

Indeed they did. (As it turns out, maybe some members of the Russian government did too.) And one aspect of the coverage verged on outright corruption: the “deal” The New York Times and The Washington Post made with a Steve Bannon associate to publish excerpts of a book of lies called Clinton Cash that set the tone for much of the coverage to come.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows addressed the press obsession with the Clinton email story in his review of What Happened:

“No sane person can believe that the consequences of last fall’s election — for foreign policy, for race relations, for the environment, for anything else you’d like to name (from either party’s perspective) — should have depended more than about 1 percent on what Hillary Clinton did with her emails. But this objectively second- or third-tier issue came across through even our best news organizations as if it were the main thing worth knowing about one of the candidates.”

David Roberts at Vox took on the subject by analyzing in depth the way the media reported one particular incident in the campaign: Hillary Clinton’s alleged “coal gaffe,” which he described as “navigating a hall of mirrors.” Her comment about putting coal miners out of business was poorly phrased, but as it was reported, it was also truncated and taken out of context. The way her response was then distorted by the GOP and the press as an illustration of Clinton’s disqualifying character flaws was the real crime, Roberts writes:

“Mainstream news outlets should stop treating ‘how it looks’ as though it’s some fact in the universe that they discover. They are the arbiters; they decide how it looks. They build and reinforce narratives. They seek out confirming evidence and ignore disconfirming evidence. They amplify some voices and not others. They direct attention, which is the coin of the realm in modern politics. If they draw attention to a bullshit scandal, they are the ones ensuring that it damages the campaign. If they play along with the ludicrous notion that Clinton loves firing coal miners, they are sanctioning and disseminating misinformation. They are not doing their jobs.”

Whether you are convinced by these arguments or not, it’s tempting to write them off as something that only pertains to Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that the narratives spun around her in the campaign and for years prior were informed by systemic sexism. The press is no different from the rest of society in being unable to grapple with that reality. But in fact, this wasn’t the only time this happened.

The coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign, and to a lesser extent the 2004 campaign as well, had similar characteristics. In the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the media mercilessly abused the latter with a series of shallow character attacks that were both unfair and untruthful. Roberts’ analysis of Clinton and the “coal gaffe” is exactly the same sort of prejudicial coverage the media gave Gore for his “I invented the internet” and “Love Canal” gaffes, among a dozen others.

One vivid illustration of journalists’ collective disdain for Gore was reported in Time’s article about an early New Hampshire debate between Gore and his Democratic primary rival, Sen. Bill Bradley:

“The 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out. Whenever Gore came on too strong the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of fifteen-year-old heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.”

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank explained why the press corps was so hostile:

“Gore is sanctimonious, and that’s sort of the worst thing you can be in the eyes of the press. And he has been disliked all along, and it was because he gives a sense that he’s better than us — he’s better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he’s better than us as reporters. Whereas President Bush probably is sure that he’s better than us — he’s probably right, but he does not convey that sense. He does not seem to be dripping with contempt when he looks at us, and I think that has something to do with the coverage.”

Reporter Margaret Carlson explained in her book that one of the reasons the media gave Bush such good coverage was that he served Dove bars and designer water on the press plane, while Gore only offered granola bars and sandwiches.

As far as I know, the media have still never given their coverage of that campaign a second thought. Four years later, John Kerry was mocked for ordering the wrong cheese and drinking green tea and otherwise being a snobby New Englander without the common touch of George W. Bush, originally of Kennebunkport, Maine. And then there was 2016 and “her emails.”

None of this is to say that these candidates weren’t flawed or bear no responsibility for the outcome of those races. The point is that the press corps made a collective decision that they didn’t “like” these people and obsessively covered them in a trivial manner, as if they had been running for homecoming queen instead of president of the United States. With fake news and social media and foreign propaganda distorting our democracy, it’s past time for the press to stop behaving like the mean girls of D.C. High.

Parton’s comments above demonstrate the control that the media has over elections. Canadian Kristen Pyszczyk also published a piece discussing the disproportionate scrutiny Clinton received as a woman. Mitt Romney used private email when he was the Massachusetts governor and then destroyed them when he left office. Congress ignored the 13 attacks on U.S. embassies killing 65 people, and embassy attacks during the Reagan presidency killed hundreds. Pyszczyk wrote:

“We live in a culture where women are shamed for speaking up, seeking power and existing successfully in the public eye. (Check out the comments section to this piece if you don’t believe me!) The mere fact that Clinton is still speaking out is incredible.”

Pyszczyk was 100-percent right about the comments. She also repeated Carly Fiorina’s “joke” on the campaign trail:

“If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton.”

Here are a few:

First ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley College. Distinguished graduate of Yale Law School. Former Director of the Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic. Former civil litigation attorney. Former Law Professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Former First Lady of Arkansas. Former First Lady of the United States, and the first FLOTUS in US History to hold a postgraduate degree. First ex-FLOTUS in US History to be elected to the United States Senate. Elected by the… State of New York to serve two terms in the United States Senate. Former US Secretary of State. GRAMMY Award Winner.

And a few more. Clinton:

  • Laid the groundwork for today’s healthcare plan supported by a majority of people.
  • Helped develop State Children’s Health Insurance Program for poor children.
  • Helped create the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act.
  • Successfully fought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and asthma at the National Institute of Health (NIH).
  • Spearheaded investigations into mental illness plaguing veterans of the Gulf War revealing Gulf War Syndrome.
  • Championed the Violence Against Women Act
  • Helped create the DOJ office on Violence Against Women.
  • Worked to secure over $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment after 9/11.
  • Drafted the first bill to compensate and offer the health services for 9/11 first responders after taking a leading role in the investigation of these health consequences.
  • Introduced the Pediatric Research Equity Act to alleviate over-dosages for children with chronic diseases like epilepsy and asthma.
  • Proposed a revival of the New Deal-era Home Owners’ Loan Corporation to help homeowners refinance their mortgages in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster.
  • Brokered human rights with Burma and acted as a major proponent of ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
  • Called for the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that led to his death.
  • Constantly traveled as Secretary of State in diplomatic missions.
  • Co-founded the Clinton Foundation that improves living conditions for nearly 400 million people in over 180 countries.

Before that:

  • Founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to educate the public on children’s issues.
  • Chaired Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, which created new state school standards.
  • Founded Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Pre-School Youth.
  • Helped created Arkansas’ first neonatal intensive care unit.

This article has more.

And Carly Fiorina? She was fired as an executive because of serious problems at the company. Clinton has spent her life helping women, children, veterans, etc. while DDT who lies, bullies, cheats, and destroys everyone except the wealthy.

September 17, 2017

When Evangelicals Take Over the Government

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got to the White House with 80 percent of the Christian evangelical vote, and he’s repaid them with multiple appointments from their following. One of these is former Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) who moved into the position of CIA director. He started by using his Christian faith to defeat any other religion. In an early speech, he said that Islamist terrorists will “continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.” God and Christianity continued to be frequent references in his trip report while overseas.

Establishing chaplain services for CIA members was Pompeo’s next move. He consulted with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a guarantee that chaplains will focus only on Christianity. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FRC an anti-gay hate group. CIA employees have registered complaints about Pompeo’s religious pressure with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Its director, Michael Weinstein, said:

“In the intelligence community, we see supervisors wanting to hold Bible studies during duty hours [and] inviting lower-ranking individuals to their homes for Bible studies.”

Weinstein said that agency employees are afraid to be public about their concerns because of retribution of accusations of leaking. Officials’ signing off with “have a blessed day” is “straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale, Weinstein said.

Pompeo raised further concerns with his refusal to honor the CIA’s diversity mandate. He is openly anti-LGBT, even talking about this position on college campuses, and he has become openly angry about questions directed toward  the agency’s commitment to diversity. Pompeo defended DDT’s “many sides” statements about Charlottesville (VA) protesters by claiming that DDT’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”

Recently Pompeo blackmailed Harvard Kennedy School into rescinding its invitation to Chelsea Manning as visiting fellow. The position is not an honorific, but Pompeo could not tolerate the transgender woman being included in the ten selected for this fall. Pompeo canceled his appearance at a Harvard forum in a letter that included:

“I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Two people offering their wisdom as visiting fellows to Harvard are former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who constantly lied for DDT, and former DDT campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who physically attacked protesters at DDT’s rallies. These are two of the people offering their wisdom to Harvard students this fall.

Cabinet members are also determined to turn the United States into a theocracy. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is determined to destroy public education and move all students into private religious schools at taxpayers’ expense. A few months before he became attorney general, Jeff Sessions said that the constitution allows states to “establish a religion.” Other Cabinet members such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry have joined DeVos and VP Mike Pence in sponsoring weekly bible study classes at the White House. Pastor and leader Ralph Drollinger is part of conservative Capitol Ministries, with the goal to “evangelize elected officials and lead them toward maturity in Christ,” and has set up biblical ministries in state capitols across the country as well as in the House of Representatives. A climate-change denier and ferociously anti-LGBT, Drollinger believes that mothers who work while leaving children at home are sinful and Catholicism is the “world’s largest false religion.”

While Oklahoma AG, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt fought to keep a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol that the state Supreme Court ordered removed in 2015. Tom Price, Health and Human Services director, is an anti-reproductive-choice zealot.

DDT wants transgender people out of the military. Are non-Christians next? U.S. Air Force chaplain Sonny Hernandez claims that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members’ right to practice other faiths. He “ministers” to thousands of military members at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio by telling them they rely on Christ, not the Constitution:

“Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

Hernandez ignores the oath that all members of the U.S. military, including military chaplains, take when they sign up for the Armed Services:

“I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’

Hernandez is not alone. Noncommissioned officers at one Air Force base reported that their superiors told them Trump would make it USAF policy that in order for “disbelieving Jews” to be allowed into the USAF or be deemed fit for promotions, they would have to show via objectively established behavior that they were at least honestly “considering the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The wife of a combat-decorated Muslim U.S. Naval officer was surrounded with her children in the commissary before being spat on and accused of not being a “true American and being a spy and a terrorist.” Army Major General Julie Bentz, spoke at the 56th Annual Kansas Prayer Breakfast and stated:

“But my greatest privilege is standing in front of my king and my God, carrying every member of my organization to his throne and asking for his protection, his mercy, his love on each of them and their families and whatever are their concerns and burdens of the day.

Complaints, doubled since DDT’s election, are going to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) because targets fear retaliation by going through their chain of command. Approximately 84 percent of military chaplains, and about one-third of these are fundamentalists who believe they don’t need to conform to the U.S. Constitution, Department of Defense directives, or law. DDT is increasingly seen as a savior for them, especially with his selections of evangelicals for vice-president and at least nine Cabinet members. De-frocked, ex-felon Jim Bakker, back to televangelizing, said that criticism of DDT is “satanic,” that critics are channeling the spirit of the Antichrist.

On the campaign trail, DDT promised to do away with “political correctness”—his term for the U.S. Constitution—and put Christianity back into the military.

The House also supports DDT’s Christian agenda. Hidden within the $1.2 trillion spending bill passed in mid-September by a 211-198 vote is a provision partially blocking the tax code prohibiting places of worship from endorsing political candidates. It stops funding IRS attempts to penalize churches violating tax law in these endorsements by mandating that any funds enforcing this law requires agents to notify two congressional committees, wait 90 days, and then get IRS commissioner permission. At this time, the existing law is rarely enforced but much discussed in churches. The provision doesn’t apply to nonprofits that are not faith based. If the Senate agrees, the law would transform tax-exempt churches into Super PACs.

Seventy-one percent of people, including majorities among white evangelicals, are opposed to church’s endorsing candidates, and some faith-based groups have strongly lobbied against the idea. A letter from 4,000 faith leaders against the endorsement of candidates read in part:

“Changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship. We must not allow our sacred spaces to be transformed into spaces used to endorse or oppose political candidates.”

The Senate went the opposite direction from the House when the Appropriations Committee moved to reinstate funding for the UN  Population Fund and overturn the global gag rule, known as the Mexico City Policy, a longstanding GOP policy forbidding U.S. support for international health organizations that offer or discuss abortion services. Those denied resources including family planning funding, nutrition, child health, and disease control. Two GOP female senators voted for the bans removal and Democratic Joe Manchin (WV) wanted to keep the ban.

Christianity is the U.S. majority religion and have the greatest privileges, but white evangelical Christians suffer from a massive persecution complex. They think that they face more discrimination than blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, atheists, or Jews, a belief reinforced by their bible. The book they use for worship tells them that they will be hated, flogged, persecuted, excluded, insulted, rejected, and imprisoned. They will suffer from others’ jealousy, conspiracies, hardship, famine, danger, and deception. People striving to be superior have learned that the way to the top is claiming to be a victim—something that is a constant from the minority of Christian conservatives who increasingly take rights from others in the nation. The more than non-evangelicals fight for equality, the more than these Christians oppress anyone not in their tribe.

September 6, 2017

Fight Authoritarianism with Humor

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

My partner and I get together every afternoon and talk. I drink scotch, and she drinks fruit juice. We start out with each of us listing three good things that happened to us during the day and then continue with wherever the conversation leads. I sometimes talk about what I’ve been reading, and she asks questions that makes me want to delve further into the topic. Often, the subject is politics, yesterday the tragedy of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rescinding DACA, work permits for children brought illegally and involuntarily into the United States. I segued into how stupid DDT looked when he was trying to load a pickup for a photo op. She asked why it mattered, and we launched into the importance of ridicule to oppose authoritarians.

[Anti-fascist protesters in Wurzen, Germany, last week. Markus Keine/NurPhoto via Getty Images.]

Today, the New York Times published Tina Rosenberg’s opinion piece, “Neo-Nazis in Your Streets? Send in the (Coup Clutz) Clowns,” that followed our discussion. Here are excerpts:

In Olympia, Wash., in 2005, a march of about a dozen brown-shirted neo-Nazis was met by protesting clowns, goose-stepping, Nazi-style. Hundreds of counterprotesters turned the occasion into a celebration of diversity and unity.

Two years later in Knoxville, Tenn., residents countered a white supremacist march with a hastily assembled group calling itself the Coup Clutz Clowns. The clowns pretended not to understand the shouts of “White power!”

“White flour?” the clowns cried, throwing some in the air. “White flower? Tight shower? Wife power!” For wife power, some of them put on wedding dresses.

And in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C., clowns protesting a far-right march held up “Dwight Power!” signs, evoking the Charlotte Hornets player Dwight Howard.

Responding to far-right demonstrators with mockery originated in Europe, where one outstanding recent example took place in the German town of Wunsiedel. Unable to dislodge annual marches with ordinary counterprotests, the town took a new tack in 2014. For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, the town donated 10 euros to an organization that helped people leave right-wing extremist groups. Residents hung silly signs along the route and threw confetti at the end, leaving the neo-Nazis responsible for raising $12,000 against their own cause.

Humor has a long and honored place in American politics as well.

And counterintuitive though it may seem, ridicule and mockery have long been an effective way to disarm protesters who espouse bigotry and racial supremacy. If you want to resist those who would stir up violence, using humor is more effective than staying at home when they march, and far better than rewarding their provocations with a melee in the streets.

Here’s what white supremacists want to do when they stage a rally:

  • Legitimize their views.
  • Strengthen their self-image as part of the downtrodden.
  • Unite their squabbling factions.
  • Attract new people to the movement.
  • Control media coverage.
  • Feel powerful and heroic.

They can accomplish all of those goals when the Antifa, or anti-fascists, respond to violence by throwing fists or rocks.

“For the far-right groups, violence is central to their way of looking at the world,” said Peter Simi, associate professor of sociology at Chapman University. “The idea of having violent confrontation and conflicts fuels and energizes them. They feed off it.

“It also helps perpetuate their own narrative about victimization and persecution —‘Look, we can’t even have a free speech rally without being attacked.’ ”

For the same reasons that violence by counter-protesters helps the far right, mockery hurts. “Ridicule makes the far right look less attractive to the type of people they want to attract,” said Cas Mudde, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “There’s a sizable portion who are there for the thrill. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the broader ideology, but they really enjoy the potential violence. They want to feel dangerous and important. They don’t want to feel like part of a sketch.” He thinks that’s true for the Antifa as well.

After all, which plan is more attractive to young macho men? “We’ll face a small group of masked tough guys” or “We’ll face a large number of men, women and children wearing silly hats and big red noses”?

Humor and mockery are also good strategies for classic political protest — whether against politicians who enable white supremacists, or policies like tax cuts for the rich.

Founded in 1980 as part of the Solidarity movement, [the Orange Alternative in Communist Poland] specialized in surrealist protest, often conducted by people in orange garden gnome costumes. At a protest in 1988, 10,000 people marched wearing gnome hats. One of the group’s common tactics was to mock the state through exaggerated obedience.

On Poland’s annual day honoring the secret police (you can’t make this stuff up), the Orange Alternative carried banners and posters proclaiming complete devotion: “Love the People’s Police!” “Long Life to Undercover Agents!” During the annual celebration of the Russian Revolution, the group shouted Bolshevik slogans, and during a state-supported referendum in the city of Wroclaw, Orange Alternative marchers chanted “Vote Yes Twice!” as they called for a “200 percent voter turnout.”

The police found themselves in a conundrum. They couldn’t let the protesters continue. But by making arrests, they acknowledged that no one could possibly believe in the Communist orthodoxy — and anyone who said they did must have been joking. Most Poles already knew that, of course, but the Orange Alternative forced the state authorities to make it visible.

All of these organizations changed people’s thinking by putting familiar ideas into a disorienting new context….

Soon Congress will be considering proposals to drastically cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor. What’s the message? “No tax cuts for the rich”? “Protect social services”?

Better to do what Billionaires for Bush did during the George W. years. Put on your (fake) mink stole and pearls, or don your tux — look fabulously wealthy, or just fabulous. Carry a cardboard Rolls-Royce door or a Champagne glass and hold a sign that says “Pools, not schools.” Or “Only little people pay taxes.”

The group adopted a logo that cast the Republican Party’s elephant as a piggy bank and described itself as a “grass-roots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses and Halliburton C.E.O.s.” When President Bush made privatization of Social Security the flagship issue of his second term, the Billionaires, tired of waiting, put Social Security on eBay.

It seems too basic to even say, but the rule is violated again and again: Successful political activists are strategic. They ask: “What will reach, and motivate or convince, the people we need?”

Very often, the answer is: Make ’em laugh.

DDT said that he rejected the Paris Agreement because he didn’t want people in the world to laugh at him, failing to understand that he is the laughing stock of the entire world—sometimes openly and other times covertly as in Saudi Arabia where they consider him to be useful. In his first 100 days, DDT was the target of jokes from late night hosts, with 1,000 jokes about him, and the second 100 days just got worse.

Humorist Garison Keillor wrote about DDT:

“The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now….

“Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.”

As we now know, DDT’s adlibs revealed a high level of ignorance and a low level of vocabulary.

People are afraid of humor and satire because they are effective. Hollywood executives fought Charlie Chaplin when he wanted to satirize Nazism and Hitler in The Great Dictator. Arab airlines helped defeat the U.S. electronic ban with sarcasm. “Fake” news is so commonly used now for real faux news that DDT uses the term less and less. As Mel Brooks said, comedy robs people of their “power and myths.” Director Michael Moore told people to “form an army of comedy” to defeat DDT because “he’ll implode”; it’s “his Achilles’ heel.”

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mocked DDT’s small hands and small something else during the campaign, DDT talked at a debate about how he was well-endowed. He may not be reacting as much to the jokes recently because of John Kelly’s tutelage and restrictions of what DDT watches, but John Kelly won’t be in the White House long. The humor will lead to DDT’s destruction.

September 4, 2017

DDT, GOP Oppose Labor on Labor Day

Filed under: Unions — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Labor Day to most people is a time to shop and barbeque, but it has a dark foundation. In 1894, Pullman employees went on strike to increase wages. President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strike, and the riots became one of the bloodiest events in U.S. labor history with 30 deaths. Congress soon declared a federal Labor Day holiday. Oregon had been the first state to celebrate Labor Day as a holiday in 1887. Thirty states followed suit before the creation of the federal holiday in 1894. Holidays were hard won from 37,000 strikes in the last part of the 1800s and 800 killings of workers, mostly by state security forces or the military, between 1870 and 1914.

Five years ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), then vice-presidential candidate, declared that Labor Day celebrated business management and CEOs because business owners were the only Americans working hard and taking risks to make “this country grow.” He completely ignored the federal statement that Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to “make America great again” by cheating workers.  His Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, has shown great disdain for salaried workers, those who are not paid hourly, when he prepared to stop overtime for employees making over $23,660, a figure set by President Gerald Ford and never adjusted for inflation. The rule for overtime under $47,476 covers one-third of full-time salaried workers in the nation, far fewer than the 50 percent covered by Ford. Some people making just below the $47,476 got raises so that their employers wouldn’t need to pay the overtime; now employers can drop these salaries. Acosta called for public comments on the higher amount in July, the first step to eliminating it.

Impacted by this change would be up to 12.5 million which includes 6.4 million women, 4.2 million parents (and, by extension, 7.3 million children), 1.5 million African Americans, 2.0 million Latinos and 4.5 million millennials. White people voting for DDT will suffer from this change. States supporting DDT tend to be poorer, places where salaried, white-collar workers are likely to earn below the $47,476 than in richer states. In West Virginia, the state with the worst economy in the nation, 30.7 percent of salaried workers will lose overtime pay if Acosta rescinds the rule. Other DDT states punished by the change include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The $47,476 amount represents the 40th percentile of salaries in the Southeast, the lowest-paying region in the United States. With the old rule, people making $24,000 without overtime are getting $6.60 an hour if their employee makes them work 70 hours a week.

DDT is spending his first Labor Day in the White House after average working people put him there in an anti-establishment rage. On Election Day, the typical U.S. household was worth 14 percent less than in 1984. The wealthiest one percent owned more than the bottom 90 percent. Last year’s bonus for Wall Street was bigger than annual wages of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The reason given for people now making less than their parents, having less economic security than their parents, the two-thirds who live paycheck to paycheck, and the widening gap in life expectancy between affluent and everyone else has been attributed to digital technology and globalization. But these problems have been paralleled by the shrinking of unions with only 6.4 percent of private sector workers in a union—a decline of almost two-thirds since the late 1970s. Top executives at big companies now make 300 times that of average workers, compared to only 20 times more in the 1980s. Workers in other advanced economies don’t face the economic problems in the U.S. Instead of having universal health care, affordable college, job retraining, public transportation, and higher taxes for the wealthy, however, U.S. workers kept dropping farther and farther behind.

Seventy-six percent of the population think that government is operated by a few big interests, compared to the 60 percent of people in 1964 who thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people.” Then, most people said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks, and financial institutions; now only ten percent has that confidence. DDT makes the problem much worse with undermining health care, backing off from fair pay, and proposed tax cuts for big corporations and rich people.

Across the country, the mis-named “right to work,” which prohibits union security agreements between companies and workers’ unions, is law in 29 states. Supporters of this law touts the “freedom” of workers to not join unions, but the law actually gives employers the “freedom” to pay lower wages and provide far fewer benefits. Any person who supports “right to work” should be asked how workers are better off. Workers in these states make $1,558 less than workers in a union state.

Right to work was developed to keep low-paid Jim Crow labor in the South and fight what “Christians” saw as the Jewish conspiracy. Leader in the movement Vance Muse of the Christian American Association (CAA) was “a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter, a man who beat on labor unions not on behalf of working people, as he said, but because he was paid to do so,” according to Muse’s grandson. On Labor Day 1941, Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles called for a constitutional amendment to block the closed, or union shop and came up with the name “right to work.” Ruggles joined forces with Muse, Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby, and Northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers, including Alfred P. Sloan and the du Pont brothers, using racist reasons to win. In Arkansas, the right-to-work campaign argued that without it, “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes . . . whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” In 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first right-to-work states through rampant election fraud and the refusal to allow blacks to vote.

In the 21st century, right wing activists are campaigning against progressive politicians by eliminating public sector unions. State Policy Network (SPN), with 66 state-based thinktanks in all 50 states, openly determine to remove funding from these unions under the guise of “labor reform” through an $80 million campaign against the 35-percent union membership in the public sector.

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin took collective bargaining from public sector unions in 2010, and Iowa and Indiana followed its lead. Another 15 states have introduced SPN-written legislation. Michigan, long a union state, passed a right-to-work law in 2013.

DDT has not been good for jobs, despite his campaign promises of 25 million jobs in ten years with 4 percent GDP growth. Candidate Trump also promised that he would produce 25 million jobs in 10 years with four percent GDP growth. Thus far, job growth since his inauguration is 15 percent below the same months for last year, and his GDP may be three percent although Hurricane Harvey may reduce it. Last week, he dropped his GDP estimate to three percent and halved job growth to “12 million new jobs.”  Last week, before news of job growth lagging for the month of August, he went back on that promise by claiming that if he can sustain 3 percent growth it will result in “12 million new jobs.” During his two terms Bill Clinton created 21 million new jobs, and Barack Obama managed 14.1 million jobs starting with the year after the loss from George W. Bush’s recession.

DDT celebrated his first Labor Day by firing 800,000 workers. He will end DACA, the program that grants work permits to undocumented workers brought to the U.S. involuntarily as children. Republican legislators have opposed this decision, and they now have a chance to reverse DDT’s destruction of millions of lives. To DDT, the undocumented people are garbage because they won’t be voting for him in 2020.

In 1893, Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, wrote:

“What does labor want? We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revege; in fact more of the opportunities to cultivate our better nature.”

Sixty percent of people in the U.S. view unions favorably, a 25 percent increase since 2015. What have unions done for people in the United States? They fought against child labor, discrimination in hiring, and sweatshops. They strengthened public education and founded Social Security and Medicare. They built the nation’s infrastructure of highways and bridges and airports. Unions fought for 40-hour work week, worker safety, paid vacation time, health and retirement benefits, sick leave, overtime pay, sick leave, right to breaks, minimum wage, workers’ compensation, higher wages, and more. If you have any of these benefits, thank a union. If you don’t, thank DDT and the GOP.

September 3, 2017

Not All Religions Save People

 (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Religion entered the stories about the flooding in Houston after Hurricane Harvey when Joel Osteen, “prosperity gospel preacher,” refused his church as a shelter for displaced people.  Early in the flooding a week ago, Lakewood Church posted that the building was “inaccessible” due to flooding and told people to go somewhere else. It was a lie. Former home of the Houston Rockets, the facility holds 16,800 people and could shelter thousands of people whose homes were flooded. That directive went viral on Twitter the next day. The church created a website sending donations to relief efforts, but Osteen’s Twitter account blocked people who criticized him or asked whether the church would take in needy people. By late Monday, writer Charles Clymer said he had heard the church was readying to accept impacted people. Osteen said on Tuesday that the church would offer baby food and formula. A church spokesman announced Tuesday that it was prepared to shelter displaced people ― “once the cities and county shelters reach capacity.”

By Wednesday, Osteen said on NBC’s Today show that the church had always been open before he reversed his statement a few minutes later. He said, “We were just being precautious [sic], but the main thing is the city didn’t ask us to become a shelter then.” By Wednesday when Osteen was permitting people to shelter in his magnificent church, he passed the collection plate among them.

Joel Osteen has come full circle after a week, telling Fox that the building was unsafe a week ago, but they still took in three people. In today’s service, he made this announcement and blamed a security company for possibly turning people away. Osteen also preached that Hurricane Harvey is part of God’s divine plan using platitudes such “God knew that Houston could handle the hurricane,” and “Quit being upset by something you can handle.” He added, “God is in control of the universe and what he has spoken over your life will come to pass.”

Osteen’s actions spoke far more loudly than his words: People cannot rely on religious leaders to do the right thing. His expensive church with its renovation price of $95 million exemplifies the words of Dallas pastor Jim Jeffress who spent $130 million on his church. He claimed it glorified “the splendor and majesty of God” in “these tough economic times.” Osteen told Oprah Winfrey, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a nice place to live and being blessed.” His organization has an annual budget of over $70 million; Osteen himself, the fifth wealthiest pastor in the nation, lives in a 17,000-square-foot $10.5 million mansion and is worth about $40 million. He may have overlooked Matthew 19:24, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is pretty much off Osteen’s radar. In his tweets, he mentions the savior’s name only around Easter—not even at Christmas. In the past three years, his hundreds of tweets used either “Jesus” or “Christ” only 14 times. Last year a satirical article wrote about Osteen apologizing for mentioning Jesus in a sermon, and people took it seriously.

Osteen’s refusal to help people in Houston’s floods has gone viral and created a PR nightmare.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) won the presidential election with 80 percent evangelical support, and no part of Christian evangelism in the United States represents DDT more than the prosperity gospel worshipping money. Like DDT, prosperity gospel values are indifferent to the poor, put magical belief over reasoning, and follow the cult of personality. God blesses those with faith and gives them wealth, according to prosperity gospel. Its theology promotes material and physical prosperity as God’s will and requires donations to demonstrate faith—a “Christian” self-help pathway to prosperity.

Osteen says:

“I don’t think it’s God’s best [to be poor.] Some people have this poverty mindset, and I’m a Christian, and I’m supposed to suffer. That’s just not how I see it.”

Prosperity gospel teaching pressures people into giving money to a pastor for a “thousand-fold “harvest” or guilts them into donating money that they need themselves. When people fail to get any return, they are told that they lacked faith. Prosperity evangelist Paula White, close DDT friend who bought a $3.5 million condo from him, told a television audience after DDT’s white supremacist support following Charlottesville (VA) that opposing DDT is anti-God. According to White, DDT has been appointed by God. She also wants people to “sow your prophetic seed of $77 or more” for their own “special, anointed prayer cloth as a point of contact for this prophetic word!” The con is similar to DDT wearing his “Official USA 45th Presidential Hat,” which sells on his reelection website for $40.

In 2007, the Senate Finance Committee investigated White and five other televangelists regarding use of tax-exempt donations for personal enrichment. The investigation went nowhere. Followers of prosperity preachers allow them to continue their improprieties, just as DDT followers ignore or praise his sexual assaults and unconstitutional actions.

Other faith communities rushed to offer aid from the beginning of the crisis. Mosques that had been attacked by anti-Islamists opened their doors, and churches canceled services to house people. At least one preacher checked submerged cars for trapped people. Congregation Beth Israel synagogue was surrounded by four feet of water, but the rabbi promised to open as a shelter when the water receded. Sue Deigaard, whose house was threatened with flooding, got a key to St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church where she and friends set up camp. About 40 residents waded to the church, and some of them floated a pregnant woman and her family to safety in a canoe.

Even businesses were far more supportive that the “Christian” Lakewood Church. Jim McIngvale known as “Mattress Mack,” a business owner, not only took refugees into his two huge Houston furniture stores but also sent his trucks to pick up people who needed help getting to the locations. He posted a video online inviting people with their pets and gave out his personal phone number. People slept on the furniture that he was selling–recliners, couches, and hundreds of mattresses, and he provided them food. Thousands of people performed rescues and voluntarily gave shelter. Joel Osteen kept his church doors closed until he was embarrassed into offering shelter.

 

DDT has declared today a National Day of Prayer for people harmed by Hurricane Harvey. At the same time, he indicated that he might break the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea and stop trade with any countries doing business with North Korea, including China, Russia, and India. DDT also suggested that the U.S. could stop trade with countries doing business with North Korea, but that includes China and India. The tweets were in response to North Korea’s claim that its latest nuclear test is a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on an intercontinental ballistic missile. An H-bomb has far more power than the destructive atomic bombs in the 1940s, but one expert thinks that the test was a “boosted” atomic bomb. It did cause a 6.3 magnitude earthquake,however, making it five to six times stronger than NK’s previous test. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has shifted from “fire and fury” to “we’ll see” in response to a reporter.

DDT may have to create far more National Days of Prayer if he gets the nation into World War III. Or maybe one in a couple of weeks if Hurricane Irma hits our mainland.

September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s Disasters

First a Category 4 hurricane followed by a 1,000-year rain/flood. What can be worse? Explosions!  After EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt delayed rules for chemical plants, organic peroxide at the Arkema chemical facility in Crosby, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, continues to blow up because of refrigerator loss from flooding. Arkema officials refused to keep the chemicals from exploding because it would then be unsalable. They aren’t even required to tell first responders what chemicals are at Arkema to provide safety for the firefighters. In more explosions, the “extremely flammable” chemical will just have to “burn itself out,” producing “incredibly dangerous” fumes, according to a facility spokesperson.  Interview with Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Dempsey regarding Arkema’s refusal to talk.

The rules that Pruitt delayed came after a 2013 explosion at a chemical facility in West, 200 miles north of Houston, that killed 15 people. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is erasing any federal responsibility in disaster response and discouraging corporate investment in new infrastructure. The newest refinery is 60 years old. Millions of pounds of pollutants have been released from flooded and shut-down refineries and chemical plants. Two nuclear reactors are still operating at Bay City, 65 miles southeast of Houston, where people have been evacuated, and flooding could cause electrical fires leading to core damage as well as a meltdown from loss of cooling water inventory.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez lied about the explosion, describing them as a “pop” followed by smoke; FEMA director, Brock Long, said a plume of chemicals leaking from the plant was “incredibly dangerous.”

Rebuilding in Texas will fail because DDT rescinded the requirement that future building company meet tougher flood standards set by President Obama. A bipartisan plea to keep the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard was overwhelmed by real estate developers and builders. DDT announced his change in an executive order at his August 15 press conference when he ranted support of white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) wife and Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, will be implementing DDT’s order. She is a former banker with Citicorp, vice president of Bank of America Capital Markets Group, and board member of Wells Fargo.

DDT’s lack of personnel and budget cuts will also ensure worse flooding and other disasters in the future. The U.S. has no director for either NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, nor DHS. Two FEMA deputy directors await confirmation. DDT’s budget slashes $667 million from FEMA programs and grants, including cuts to the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, which provides funding states and cities to better withstand the impact of hurricanes and coastal storms. He wants the funding moved to “the wall.” Proposed NOAA cuts: 16 percent overall; 32 percent to the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the agency’s main ocean, weather and climate research office; computer modeling of storms and observation of storms and data dissemination; and 22 percent to NOAA’s satellite division used for weather prediction.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) submitted an amendment to the federal government’s 2018 spending bill preventing funds for the government’s National Climate Assessment.

Texas wants FEMA money but turned down other aid. People of Quebec offered blankets, beds, and water as well as other relief effort such as equipment and crews to help restore power, but Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos refused everything. He asked for “prayers from the people of Quebec” instead. Mexico has also offered help, but the U.S. has not yet accepted.

Both GOP Texas U.S. senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, begged DDT for “any and all emergency protective measures available by a major disaster declaration.” Along with over 20 GOP Texas representatives in the House, they voted against the emergency aid package for Sandy that hit the East Coast. Thirty-nine GOP senators and 179 GOP representatives opposed money for Sandy, and senators stalled for 91 days.

After two months on the job, FEMA Director Long explained that he didn’t order an evacuation of Houston because it would take too long to get people out of the city. People left in the city sat in water if they couldn’t get out on their own—like these women in a Houston nursing home.

As usual, DDT treated the hurricane disaster as his own television reality show. Balanced on a ladder between two fire trucks in Corpus Christi, he held up a Texas flag and said to a few hundred people, “What a crowd, what a turnout!” He talked about the “ratings” from Hurricane Harvey and bragged that FEMA Director Long “has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.” He seemed self-congratulatory when he tweeted, “WOW – now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” DDT even lied in his tweet about “witnessing first hand the horror & devastation.” In Texas for only three hours, he went to Austin and Corpus Christi, met with the Texas governor, and was briefed at a Corpus Christi firehouse. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to cover for DDT by saying, “He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster.”

The piece missing from his impromptu speeches was any reference to the people who died in the storm or were forced to leave their homes from the floods. As a germaphobe, DDT may not have been able to touch any of the victims.

DDT did advertise the items for sale on his campaign website through product placement. The “USA” hat that he consistently wore is available for only $40.

While people in Texas were suffering, DDT concentrated on forcing transgender service members out of the military, pardoning white supremacist Joe Arpaio, advertising racist David Clark’s new book, and demanding his “wall.” At no time did he ask for donations for the people in the disaster areas. President Obama did that.

DDT promised to donate $1 million to an unspecified Harvey relief fund, but it is unlikely that he will. Although Sanders said the money might come from the Trump Foundation, donations from other people, that might be difficult because the Foundation is under investigation. When DDT collected money for veterans during his campaign, he didn’t release the money until the media embarrassed him into giving at least part of it to veterans. His statement that he had given $1 million of his personal money turned out to be false.

From Amy Goodman:

“Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical depression as it moves over Louisiana and into Mississippi. In Houston, floodwaters have begun to recede, revealing corpses and mass devastation. Texas officials say at least 44 people [now 47] have been killed by the storm. Nearly 100,000 homes are damaged by flooding. More than 30,000 people remain in shelters. Health officials are taking steps to minimize the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and nearly 150,000 homes have been told to boil their water. East of Houston, in hard-hit Beaumont, drinking water is completely shut off, and emergency workers are evacuating Beaumont’s main hospital. Meanwhile, flooding continues in North Houston as the Neches River surged beyond its banks and is expected to rise another foot by Friday afternoon.”

In another segment on Democracy Now, guest Renee Feltz talked about the release of waters from reservoirs that increases flooding and one of the polluted areas that EPA is still trying to clean up. Houston is home to over a dozen Superfund sites requiring cleaning up from pollutants, and DDT has cut that budget by almost one third.

Five public health problems after flooding in Houston: contaminated water, especially because of the release of pollutants by the oil and gas industry and explosions from the Arkema chemical plant; mosquitoes, bred in standing water and spreading disease; lost medicines left in evacuated homes, perhaps when people don’t know the names of their medications; mold from underwater conditions in many homes and other buildings; spread of infectious diseases from close contact in shelters; and long-term mental issues such as depression.

Eric Holthaus (Politico):

“Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously.”

Michael Mann (The Guardian):

“Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction. In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).”

Two high pressure systems kept Harvey in place longer than any other tropical storm in history. The disaster is consistent with last decade’s trend with nine of the past 11 years of Atlantic hurricane seasons producing more storms than normal. And now, Hurricane Irma, suddenly turned into a Category 3 hurricane, is headed for the U.S.

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