Nel's New Day

April 27, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-six – Worsening Quicksand

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:27 PM
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A U.S.-supported Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 20 people at a wedding—most of them women and children—in northern Yemen this week. One of the dead is the bride. The groom was one of 45 wounded taken to a local hospital. Ambulances could not get to the bombing site because jets kept flying overhead. The airstrike was the third in the past few days, including a family of five killed in their home and at least 20 civilian commuters killed in a bus in western Yemen. The UN has accused the coalition of war crimes as their airstrikes his weddings, busy markets, hospitals, and schools. DDT’s distress at killing children in Syria stops when he helps the murders.

A strike against low-income people in the U.S. comes from HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s suggestion that rents be tripled for people receiving housing subsidies and that these people be required to work. Deductions in determining a tenant’s rent would also eliminate medical and child-care costs. At least the change would require congressional approval. When people asked where they would go, Carson responded, “This is a perfect example of what happens when the swamp gets ahold of people.” Nowhere in the country can a person working a full-time minimum wage job afford a two-bedroom apartment, and over half the people in the nation spend over 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.

EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s science cred keeps shrinking. He told forest industry leaders in Georgia that burning biomass such as trees—in EPA policy—is carbon neutral when “used for energy production at stationary sources.” The next day he announced a new EPA rule preventing EPA policymakers from using scientific studies unless all the raw data is made public before posing with Marc Morano in a photo op for his new climate-denying book. This week, Pruitt also gave testimony before two congressional hearings, mostly about his ethics—or lack therof. Pruitt admitted that he knew about the huge salary increases to two staffers after lying about not knowing about it last month. Getting rid of him, however, might not do any good for the environment: his replacement would likely be his deputy climate-denier coal-lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.

DDT and Emmanuel Macron, president of France, shared many touchy-feely times during Macron’s visit this week, despite the refusal of DDT’s wife, Melania, to kiss him or even hold his hand. The “closeness” didn’t stop Macron from warning about the politics of “fear and anger” in his speech to a joint session of Congress. Macron said that the fear policy divides people and “only freezes and weakens us.” The speech also opposed DDT’s tariffs that “will destroy jobs, increase prices and the middle class will have to pay for it.” Macron’s “intimacy” may have come from his desire to persuade DDT not to dump the Iran nuclear treaty, an action that would cause Iran to start developing nuclear weapons. The deadline for DDT’s decision is May 12. DDT’s first state dinner was unique—no Democrats, no media, and only four GOP lawmakers.

North Korea generated news this week after Kim Jong-Un met with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in to talk about ending the Korean War, which has had a 65-year hiatus with an armistice. Kim’s goals are to keep his nuclear arsenal while stopping sanctions against his country and gain global significance. Leaders of North and South Korea signed peace documents in both 2000 and 2007, but neither one endured. In 2012, North Korea called its test missile, banned by the agreement, a “satellite” launch. Kim demands that the U.S. end an alliance with South Korea, where 30,000 U.S. military members are posted, and is highly unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. Three U.S. citizens imprisoned in North Korea have not received any mention in discussions to talks, and DDT has yet to show any of the negotiation skills that he bragged about during his campaign. New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has yet to demonstrate any diplomatic ability or attitudes.

DDT’s telephone call into Fox & Friends yesterday was called “another gift from heaven” by Stormy Daniels’ lawyer. Among other issues, DDT admitted that Cohen was representing him in the Daniels’ situation, something that he has previously denied and admitted that he had stayed in Moscow at least overnight, something else he had denied. Filled with craziness, DDT’s monologue included his claim that he was too busy to get his wife, Melania, a birthday gift so he went on Fox & Friends as a present for her. Here’s the interview. If DDT wasn’t so destructive to the nation, I might even feel sorry for him after hearing his pathetic monologue.

Fox thought they had a coup with the call from DDT, but hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt looked genuinely appalled by the end of his rambling, almost incoherent statements. Kilmeade even had to convince him to hang up by telling DDT that he had work to do. Charlie Pierce asked, “Has a president ever been cut off of an interview before?” Anderson Cooper said that DDT sounded like “a crazy person on a park bench with an onion tied to his belt, just mumbling incoherently.”  Heather Digby Parton has a summary of DDT’s rant if you can’t bear to listen to 31 minutes of his “manic and disjointed” commentary.

Federal prosecutors went into court immediately after the Fox program, and an hour later, a federal judge ruled that the documents seized from Cohen should be turned over to an independent “special master,” a reviewer to evaluate them for violation of attorney-client confidentiality rules before prosecutors or Cohen’s lawyers can see them. Federal prosecutors argued that DDT’s comments about Cohen enhance their claim that Cohen’s documents won’t be protected by attorney-client privilege and made the same argument about Sean Hannity who separated himself from Cohen.

A federal judge also rejected Paul Manafort’s lawsuit against Robert Mueller’s power in the Russian investigation.

Even Republicans know how dangerous DDT is. Five Republicans joined the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill to protect Robert Mueller from being fired without good cause.

In other parts of the country:

Black humor in the new DDT normal: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), facing felony counts from blackmailing a former mistress and misusing his veterans’ charity for his political interests, is keynote speaker at a St. Louis area police chiefs’ association prayer breakfast. Like DDT, Greitens blames the media.

In last week’s special election, a Republican won in a heavily GOP district by only five points where DDT had come in 21 points ahead less than two years ago. Republicans poured almost $1 million into the campaign, but the Republican might have been helped because Maricopa County failed to send out 140,000 ID cards for voters. Adrian Fontes, the county recorder who oversees elections in Maricopa County, called the issue a “little hiccup in printing.”

Teacher strikes are moving across the country’s red states with Arizona and Colorado the most recent entries. The first winner in increasing wages, West Virginia, brought out Gov. Matt Bevin’s hostile remark that the strike was causing sexual attacks against children left alone at home. Most of the states lack taxes to pay a decent wage at the low end because of drastically cut taxes and refusals to tax the fossil fuel industry. Paul Krugman has provided an overview of the funding crisis that pushed teachers into poverty.

DDT’s new minimal coverage in short-term health plans doesn’t include maternity care from two large private insurance companies in 45 states and Washington, D.C. Another 43 percent fail to cover mental health services; 62 percent don’t cover substance use disorder treatment; and 71 percent don’t cover outpatient prescription drugs. Republicans are right about these plans being cheaper: they lack even basic coverage in some areas.

DDT may not vet nominees, but he has a questionnaire for candidates before he will support them in the primaries. Loyalty evidently means ending foreign aid to Pakistan, supporting his Muslim ban and tariffs, repeal the healthcare individual mandate, and, of course, building DDT’s wall. Questions are here. Not all candidates are getting the questions although they are also sent to influential Republicans such as state-level committee members.

A white man kills four people of color in a Tennessee waffle house, and a black man saves lives of many people by single-handedly disarming the white man without a gun. DDT says nothing. As they say in golf, par for the course.

A study on DDT’s voters showed that their support for him came from a fear of losing their dominance in the United States, not threats to economic well-being. According to the researcher, DDT supporters see that society should come from hierarchy with themselves at the top.

Reporters without Borders has dropped the United States to 45th among 180 nations for press freedom, down two from U.S. ranking last year. DDT’s mentor, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, caused that nation to drop to 133rd. North Korea with a leader who DDT called “very honorable” is in last place.

May 27, 2017

DDT: ‘Danger to the World’

A White House strategy for keeping Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in line while he traveled the world was to keep him so busy that he didn’t have time to get to his Twitter. The authoritarianism, opulence, and subservience in the Middle East also delighted  him. By last Thursday, however, his keepers had largely gone back to the United States, and he was in Europe where his favoritism of Russian was not as popular as in Saudi Arabia. In Brussels, where he attended the NATO summit, the familiar DDT showed up, with the customary picture of an unstable and embarrassing bully.

Perhaps no image demonstrates DDT’s superior attitude better than his pushing aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, representing a country which will join NATO in June to the displeasure of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It has to be seen to be believed! In his speech he  whined about NATO allies not paying their share and snarked about the expense of the new NATO building. Notable also is the way that DDT rejected the U.S. press. News about him—and there was plenty—came from the foreign press. Many people here and abroad will agree with Germany’s highly-respected Der Spiegel newspaper description of DDT:

“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

“He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.”

It’s not as if his comments were unscripted, the way that other DDT insults are. In a prepared speech in the ceremony to dedicate the new NATO headquarters, he talked about terrorism such as the Manchester bombing just three days earlier:

“These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct … in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share.”

DDT is demanding that NATO members pay two percent of their GDP as a “bare minimum.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left with DDT) was polite about DDT’s comments, but a senior diplomat said:

 

“This was not the right place or time. We are left with nothing else but trying to put a brave face on it.”

DDT also told the organization to limit immigration in its goals and failed to commit to its founding Article V rule, mandating that an attack against one ally is an attack against all. He is the only president who has not specifically endorsed the agreement. The only time that NATO has invoked Article V since its founding in 1949 was when the United States was attacked on 9/11. Over 1,000 NATO soldiers were killed in George W. Bush’s war against Afghanistan. DDT made his comments to NATO while standing next to wreckage from the Twin Towers. Last year, he had threatened to abandon the organization if they didn’t pay more while he was catering to Russia, a non-NATO member. Some current NATO countries were in the Soviet Union; Putin called its “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

NATO members did not respond well to DDT, as the above photo shows. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron went so far as to swerve away from him to first greet Germany’s Angela Merkel and others before DDT.

DDT’s continuing ignorance was on full display at the NATO summit. For example, he told Jean-Claude Juncker, EU president that “the Germans are bad, very bad” and said that he plans to stop the sale of their cars in the U.S. Yet he was told at least 11 times when Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited the U.S. that the EU makes trade deals, not individual EU countries. Even if he stopped the sale of German cars in the U.S., many people here would lose their jobs because the U.S. manufactured German 281,519 vehicles in the first four months of 2017. In a meeting with Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, DDT complained about the difficulty of building golf resorts in the EU.

NATO members have a more serious reason for their response to DDT. As he actively encourages racist nationalists in the U.S and allies himself with Putin to bring down Europe, he is also willing to start a war to regain popularity. This approach has already been seen in his preemptive bombing of Syria when he searched for a greater support from people in the U.S. He also has exhibited a pattern of carelessness about intelligence that can endanger the rest of the free world.

From Brussels, the U.S. leader moved his disaster to Italy where he met with other members of the G7, the seven major advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund. These countries represent more than 64% of the net global wealth ($263 trillion). Russia was a member of G8 for seven years until the country was ejected for annexing Crimea. DDT threatened them with backing out of the Paris Agreement, a position that he has taken off and on since he began campaigning. This action would put the U.S. on a par with Nicaragua and Syria, the only two countries that did not sign the agreement. DDT has said that the U.S. will not work to slow down climate change if it costs the country money. Withdrawing from the agreement will make China a leader in global environmental policy and new green technologies.

While DDT is making America “great” again by removing regulations, China is on its way to be the world leader in efficiency standards for coal-fired power plants while that nation shifts to renewable energy as shown in this issue brief. While the nation’s new coal-fired power plants are cleaner than any in the U.S., its emission standards are stricter than U.S. ones. China’s air quality is on a political par with economic growth and corruption. If the U.S. doesn’t improve its regulations, all the coal plans would be illegal to operate in China by 2020.

Another argument DDT started with G7 leaders was about migration and famine. He wants only a short reference to the first and to eliminate a five-page statement recognizing migrants’ rights and their positive contribution. The Italian plans on human movement and food security were intended to be the centerpiece of the summit which was in Taormina (Sicily) to symbolize the concern for refugees’ plight. DDT offered its own statement on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis affirming “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security.” He also wants refugees to be settled close to their home countries, letting him off the hook to take the “Muslims.”

By the ninth day of his whirlwind trip, DDT was fed up. He didn’t even bother to listen to a translation of the G7 speech from his host, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni  The man who brags about his stamina was unable to walk 700 yards for a photo shoot; he had to wait for a golf cart. Four of the seven leaders of the G7 are attending their first summit. The only bright spot DDT gave the other six leaders is that he showed up; as usual, he gets a very low bar of performance.

DDT described his trip as “historic,” an accurate word for the way that he pandered to the Middle East for oil and money for his friends while he alienated NATO and G7 allies. At home, however, the attitude toward Islam is same-o, same-o. Rex Tillerson refused a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, a custom for almost 20 years.

Back home, DDT faces increasing pressure—Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russian collusion, a son-in-law in trouble, falling already bad approval ratings, legislative problems to get his tax reform through, the 2018 elections, and his Twitter addiction. White supremacist Steve Bannon is running the “war room” to protect DDT from criminal charges.

Conservatives who complained about a $12,000 dress that Michelle Obama wore to a state dinner probably won’t bat an eye at the Melania Trump’s $51,000 floral coat and matching $1,630 purse by Dolce & Gabanna. The 2015 median household income in the U.S. was $55,775, meaning that half the households in the U.S. have an income comparable to or less than what Melania Trump paid for a casual jacket and purse.

A bit of humor: an illustrated tale of Emmanuel Macron’s handshake with DDT.

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recovered from her DDT NATO experience with a joy-filled breakfast meeting with President Obama and an event at the Brandenburg Gate. The former president was invited a year ago to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

 

May 7, 2017

DDT’s Executive Order: ‘Religious Bigotry’

Many conservatives are unhappy with the “religious liberty” order that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed last Thursday: they wanted more discrimination. They don’t believe DDT when he declared to dozens of Judeo-Christian leaders in the Rose Garden ceremony that the “threat against the faith community is over.” Instead, they think that his executive order is useless at best and harmful at worst—sort of like most of his other vague orders. In the National Review, David French called the order “constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect.” He added, “[DDT] should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.” Meaning that it can’t be used for discrimination.

An earlier draft of the order leaked in February was twice the length of the final one and described as “staggering” and “sweeping,” one which could be challenged in the courts. After last week’s signing, the ACLU called it nothing more than an “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

Conservative criticisms of DDT’s executive order:

The order’s declaration that the executive branch will “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”: Complaint – the state only repeats that the government should enforce existing laws.

The directive to the Treasury Department to not enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment from 1954 banning nonprofit religious institutions from endorsing political candidates and parties: Complaint – as law, the Amendment requires a change in Congress or the courts. Also, permission to be involved in politics could encourage churches to elect progressive candidates. Orders are good only as long as presidents support them; a future president could reverse the directive.

Instructions to government agencies to “consider issuing amended regulation” to address “conscience-based objections” to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate: Complaint – That’s already happened with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. The contraception mandate stays on the books, and lawsuits are flooding the courts.

A pledge to “provide regulatory relief”: Complaint – This “promise” is so vague as to mean nothing in law.

Far-right anger to DDT’s executive order:

Brian Brown (left) of the National Organization for Marriage and World Congress for Families denounced the president for his “failure to directly fulfill his repeated campaign promises” and then asked for money.

Bryan Fischer told listeners of his American Family Association radio show that it’s “ultra-liberal” Ivanka Trump’s fault because she “likely leaked the February draft to a liberal rag (The Nation) in order to stir up enough intense outrage from the LGBT community to strangle this baby in the cradle.”

Troy Newman, president of anti-abortion Operation Rescue emailed, “We are really feeling betrayed right now.”

The ACLU may go to court yet. Far-right radio host Todd Starnes reassured his listeners that the order gives anti-LGBTQ, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions a directive to write—in DDT’s words—“new rules” for the purpose of religious discrimination. A case in point is proposed Texas law echoing one in South Dakota that prevents the state from punishing adoption agencies that deny LGBTQ families services and child placement for “religious” reasons. If it passes, Texas state- and private-funded agencies could reject potential parents seeking to adopt children with such “religious objects” to couples’ being Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, single, or interfaith couples. Five other states already have this law, but only for faith-based adoption organizations that do not accept government funding. If the Texas law passes, agencies can also reject people who want to foster children, and child welfare organizations can force LGBTQ children to have so-called “conversion therapy,” to “take away the gay.”

Once again, after losing the voter ID law, Texas could go to court for not treating all people equally. This time, however, they have Jeff Sessions who translates the constitutional separation of church and state as prohibiting the favoring of one Christian church over another. He thinks that the First Amendment does not stop establishing Christianity as the national religion.

Christian protection for conservatives by DDT’s Christian order comes from its encouragement to break the law by telling the IRS to violate the Johnson Amendment and not penalize churches for political candidate endorsements and donations. In more “normal” times, these churches and other faith-based nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates or donating to their campaigns, but Sessions most likely won’t be doing this. The order, however, exempts only nonprofit religious nonprofits and churches; other nonprofits will still be prohibited from political endorsements and donations.

Federal law also requires that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraceptives at no cost to the employee unless the organizations—or “religious” corporations—obtain government exemptions. Sessions will probably not force this requirement. The IRS is already breaking the law by not collecting fees from people refusing to purchase health insurance. Again the Justice Department, headed by Sessions, is responsible for enacting the laws of the land.

While the media has concentrated on LGBTQ losses, the order and Sessions interpretations could negatively impact at least half the people in the United States . In addition to losing birth control, female employees of all “religious” organizations and corporations could lose all forms of preventative care—screenings for sexually transmitted infection, IV, and domestic violence along with well-woman visits. Any business could refuse to hire women or pay them less, based on its “religious convictions.”

With the wealthiest Cabinet in history, DDT has put the icing on the cake for corporations who joined religious groups in the 1930s to fight President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For decades, the United States leveled out the financial playing field by developing a middle class that enjoyed the 40-hour workweek, lack of child labor, environmental protection, work safety laws, rural health care, and education. Unions, a safety net, and higher taxes for the wealthiest reigned until corporations used evangelicals as a front to elect Ronald Reagan. Princeton scholar Kevin Kruse has described the corporate historical background in his book One Nation under God as the country continues to be more and more extremist. As Rev. William J. Barber II, creator of Moral Mondays fighting against the immoral political excesses in North Carolina, wrote about DDT’s signing of his executive order:

“If today is the fulfillment of the corporatists’ National Day of Prayer, it may also be its undoing. The God of justice hears the cries of those this executive order targets, along with the prayers of all who suffer under this administration. A religious liberty that gives license for discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community is nothing more than lust for power dressed up in a thinning religious garb. The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency has inspired a moral resistance that is not going away, but is building a movement that will bend the arc of our common life toward justice for years to come. This, too, is an answer to prayer. And it may yet save the heart of our democracy.”

Barber said that the executive order is not about religious liberty. “It’s about religious bigotry.”

Public Citizen, a group that favors strict campaign finance limits, plans to bring a lawsuit against the order in court because churches and other religious charities that do not disclose their donors could be used to launder dark money. Its president said, “This executive order may go down in history as the Citizens United of church/state separation in the context of political spending.” Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition. “Politicians could funnel untold sums of money into churches, and it would all be completely untraceable.”

DDT may have pleased no one. Even worse for the evangelicals, however, might be a backlash from those who don’t want to hear political speeches in about candidates when they go to their house of worship. The past decade has seen the biggest growth of “nones,” especially those among the younger generation who have no affiliation to organized religion. Almost 30 percent of those who left disapprove of religious homophobia, another 16 percent claim their churches became too political, and 19 percent cited clergy sex abuse scandal in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Ninety percent of evangelical leaders think that pastors should not endorse candidates, and 72 percent support the Johnson Amendment. Even 66 percent of DDT-voters want the amendment left as is. Instead DDT is promoting the controlling authoritarianism of religion that many people—except the white men surrounding him—don’t like.

One piece of temporary joy for the day. Frances’s DDT imitator, Marie Le Pen, lost the election to Emmanuel Macron, despite the last-minute drop of negative information about him for “unknown” (aka Russian?) hackers. As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, one more reason for the French to declare their superiority over the United States.

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