Nel's New Day

February 2, 2020

DDT: Week 158 – Beyond Impeachment

For 18 years, the U.S. has been bombing Afghanistan. The increase to 15,000 in the past two years came after former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis changed the rules of engagement so that coalition forces could open fire on the enemy without close contact. The bombings have also spiked the number of civilian deaths—more in the first half of 2019 than insurgents.

More civilians will be killed because of DDT’s decision this past week to allow landmines anywhere and rescind President Obama’s 2014 order to limit these weapons to the Korean Peninsula, a policy closer to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Over 160 nations ratified this treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention. The U.S. is one of 32 UN member states not ratifying the treaty. The majority of 130,000 people killed by landmines between 1999 and 2018 were civilians. Once again, DDT ignored Congress in making this decision. The U.S. has not used landmines since the first Gulf War in 1991. Experts, including U.S. defense officials, say that anti-personnel landmines are not helpful in war.

DDT can also kill more people with his new “low-yield” nuclear warhead, the W76-2, on a submarine patrolling the Atlantic Ocean. With a yield of five kilotons, the warhead has one-third the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima (Japan) in 1945 that instantly killed 80,000 people and tens of thousands of people after that from radiation.

Six more countries have been added to the seven already on the travel ban with the reason that conditions, especially terrorism, should keep citizens from moving to the U.S. The U.S. government, however, sells weapons to five of the six countries, everything from handguns and automatic weapons to light attack aircraft. Nigeria is one country buying millions of dollars in weapons since DDT moved into the Oval Office—weapons frequently lost to Boko Haram. The Arms Sales Risk Index of 0-to-100 has gone from 41 during George W. Bush’s terms to 69 under DDT. In his travel bans, DDT focuses on countries with sizeable Muslim populations, not on those with terrorism. The bans for Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria are only for permanent residency, not for visitors. 

DDT’s win in the Supreme Court this week is a loss for the U.S. economy when conservative justices approved DDT’s proceeding with his public charge rule. His order to deny immigration if an official predicts a person might use specific benefits for 12 months with a future 36-month period reduces legal immigration to the U.S. by hundreds of thousands and drastically reduces the labor force. Economists predict that the U.S. would not have the majority of economic growth between 2011 and 2016 following the recession without the contributions of immigrants. Morgan Stanley’s chief global strategist Ruchir Sharma said, “In the past decade, population growth, including immigration, has accounted for roughly half of the potential economic growth rate in the United States.” The law already prevents immigrants from receiving major federal public benefits during their first five years in the country, but the rule satisfies Stephen Miller’s obsession to block ethnic minorities from the United States. The public charge rule stays in effect while lawsuits work through lower courts.

The State Department has issued new rules to stop “birth tourism” in which wealthy women, many from China and Russia, visit the U.S. to give birth to U.S. citizens who can then sponsor their family members for U.S. visas. As they grow up, these babies can have other advantages such as advantages in scholarships. The scale of births, 33,000 annually, is small and block pregnant women who have legitimate reasons to study or work in the U.S. or come with their spouses. Restrictions would also block pregnant women from visiting families and needed medical treatment. https://www.thedailybeast.com/russians-flock-to-trump-properties-to-give-birth-to-us-citizens  Ironically, DDT has made money off “birth tourism” because pregnant women have rented his Florida condos at huge costs to Russians and paid to go to his nearby International Beach Resort.

Agricultural Department secretary Sonny Perdue, DDT’s appointment, says that farm workers are overpaid because a law requires their wages match the prevailing rate in the farm areas to keep from undermining wages of nearby workers. Perdue’s goals are to increase temporary immigration with no path to citizenship and cut their wages. Although wages for farm workers have slightly increased, they are still less than 40 percent below those of other non-supervisory U.S. workers–$24,620 annual average wage in 2018. A federal survey reported that “farm workers’ mean and median personal incomes the previous year were in the range of $17,500 to $19,999.” Perdue is also championing the removal of 700,000 people from any food assistance by reducing food stamps and pushed the rollback of healthier public school lunches. Over 20 million children need the National School Lunch Program for almost half their daily calories and 40 percent of their vegetable intake.

DDT also has a plan to segregate public housing by using esoteric changes in low-income housing. The change is so clever that 1968 Fair Housing Act violations would be hard to prove. The complex explanation is here

When he signed a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, DDT hoped that his trade deals would overcome the bad publicity from his impeachment trial. Despite signing “phase one” of his China deal, he failed. Since his 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and the 10 percent tariff on aluminum, the imports of these products have declined while products made from these metals “significantly increased.” His solution is to expand tariffs on products made of steel and aluminum on February 8 with the hopes that the flailing manufacturing in the U.S. will recover. Every time his tariffs fail, he raises them somewhere else.

Emails show that DDT’s appointees are making money for big business logging in forests through claims that climate pollution comes from California wildfires instead of fossil fuels. James Reilly, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, wrote scientists, asking them to “gin up” emissions figures and give him ones for a “decent sound bite” and make “a good story.” Scientists said that at the best, Reilly cherry picked data and at worst exploited a disaster by manipulating data. Numbers from the interior department significantly overestimate greenhouse gases from the fires, and logging wouldn’t prevent or lessen wildfires. Instead logging could stop the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide.  

DDT announced that he plans more and higher tariffs on European products after while people already complain about increases in wine from earlier tariffs. At the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) DDT insisted on talking to leaders about his trade “deals” although the conference was about climate change and cooperation. Gone is the 70-year connection between the United States and Europe to promote democracy and capitalism; DDT is now creating conflicts about climate change, trade, taxation, privacy, Iran, and defense funding as he threatens European leaders with tariffs. He’s using the same shakedown tactics with Europe that he does with China.

The UN determined that an internet account belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman collected a huge amount of data from the cell phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos after he was sent an infected video. The 2018 hack occurred before MBS’ torture and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Kamal Khashoggi but after Bezos’ newspaper ran an article critical about MBS’ regime and its “new ways of repression.” The video sent to Bezos, purported to be a promo on Saudi’s economic success, contained malicious code.

The release of information about the hacking came just before the showing of The Dissident, a Sundance documentary about Saudi Arabia and the killing of Khashoggi. The movie ends with a critique of U.S. companies still working with Saudi Arabia, empowering Khashoggi murderer. 

AG Bill Barr has sworn in the 18 members of DDT’s commission on policing to study how to “make American law enforcement the most trusted and effective guardians of our communities.” Like DDT’s “voter suppression” commission almost three years ago, the commission skews toward highly conservative goals, this time expanding police forces, modernizing training, and countering criticism and “reform.” Seventeen of the 18 members belong to law enforcement or are prosecutors and judges. The 18th one has a background in police enforcement. Almost all the members are white males. From largely small and southern departments, they represent philosophies of criminalizing small crimes, using tasers, attacking protesters, opposing marijuana legislation, using false forensic science, fighting voting rights of people convicted of nonviolent felonies, battling police oversight boards, and covering up killings by police officers—in short, Barr’s ideology of authoritarianism. These “social ills” will be the commission’s focus. Barr said:

“The group should specifically evaluate how under-enforcement of the criminal law in certain jurisdictions affects public safety; perception of law enforcement and the laws they enforce; police resources and morale; and rule of law.”

Facebook came closer to merging with the Fox network when it hired Jennifer Williams, former developer of DDT’s favorite program Fox & Friends, to build the FB “news video component.” Williams has pushed such conspiracy theories as President Obama being educated at a “madrassa,” Ebola concerns, and the familiar—and non-existent—war on Christmas. Before he hired Williams, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the news would be curated by humans instead of algorithms. He has enabled right-wing propaganda and filled key positions with GOP operatives. Perhaps a new name for FB such as “FakeBook.”

 

 

January 22, 2019

Sue Hardesty: Wall–‘Have We No Shame?’

Day 32 of government shutdown: Last Saturday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) offered to sell Democrats a small part of what he took last year in exchange for $5.6 billion to build wall and reopen the country. In a TV speech, he offered DACA recipients a bit of relief for three years—unless he changed his mind—before they again lose their rights. People outraged with DDT’s weak offer may be angrier with other parts of DDT’s bill:

Remove eligibility for asylum from Central American minors. All these asylum seekers, who must have a parent or guardian in the U.S., would have to stay in their home countries and go through State Department processing centers there. DDT’s bill restricts the number of qualifying children to 15,000.

Eliminate all African countries and predominantly Muslim countries such as Syria and Yemen from the ten countries offered temporary protected status because of violence of damage by natural disasters. This change leaves only El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua out of the list of ten.

Restrict temporary protections to immigrants already legally in the U.S. Almost people in this category would lose their eligibility.

Create stricter penalties for Dreamers wanting a status change. The crime of making “any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements” would also allow prosecution for minor errors, even ones that the applicants unwittingly made.

Extend temporary DACA protections for those currently covered and who renew their applications. No new applications will be accepted, renewal application fees would be doubled, and income requirements would be added.

Add penalties for wrong information in applications to asylum applicants and limit applicants’ abilities to defend themselves. Applicants with fraudulent documents because of corruption in their home countries would suffer from these penalties.

Require that asylum applications be “consistent with the national interest.”

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal workers have missed their second paycheck. Many are on the same infamous “breadlines” common during the Great Depression. One of these soup kitchens are free meals (below) provided by chef José Andrés and his nonprofit group that served millions of free meals to needy people after natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires. Conservatives are fond of saying that people need this kind of charity because they aren’t willing to work. These people—almost half of them still on the job—have employment, but conservatives deny them their paychecks. 

On her Facebook page, Sue Hardesty has published this piece on DDT’s wall:

I have to take one deviation from my fun writings on Yaquina Bay and surrounding areas to do a bit of a rant. To be honest, it’s really a big rant, so those of you who are fed up with hearing about Trump’s wall, delete me. I swore to myself I would stay out of politics on Facebook, and I do know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. I just need to say it.

I grew up and spent most of my adult years close enough to the Arizona/Mexico border. I have crossed it in many places many times and have observed the damage the present walls have done in polluted lands, decreased water equality, loss of business in small towns on both sides of the border. When the border wall of the town of Boquillas del Carmen (Texas) was closed in 2001, the town was economically devastated and abandoned. Millions of dollars in border trade has been lost which will only get worse. The environment of more than one hundred species of wild animals will continue to be catastrophically damaged, and animals along 650 miles of the Rio Grande will be blocked from life-sustaining water.

Winston Churchill once said he believed in democracy until he spent five minutes talking to a voter. I have often been ignorant about politics having little energy left over after a long workday to think on our national crises. I figured that was what the guy I did vote for was supposed to do. And I don’t have a problem with that either unless those in power are as ignorant as the average voter and intend to stay that way. Seems to me anyone thinking about completing the wall on our Mexico/U.S. border would at least check out the historical successes or failures of walls, especially when millions of lives and billions of dollars are at stake. How long would that take?

So I decided to find out. Starting with the Great Wall of China I learned it was over 5,000 miles long and was built to stop inner Asia nomads from entering China. It did not. Then there was Hadrian’s Wall built across northern England to stop barbarians. It did not. Oh, and let’s not forget our modern-day Berlin Wall, built originally to stop invaders from the west but ended up attempting to stop deflectors from the East. It did not. The presently successful Israel/Egypt wall is Trump’s model. This “apartheid wall” or “anti-terrorist wall,” depending whose side you’re on, is 152 miles long and costs Israel $260 million per year for maintenance. Walls, like fences, help us feel safe. But that’s about all they do.

Trump himself once said, “Is there a brick wall getting in your way? Fine. That happens. But you have a choice. You can walk away from the wall. You can go over the wall. You can go under the wall. You can go around the wall. You can also obliterate the wall. In other words, don’t let anything get in your way.” As Jane Loeffler, architectural historian who studied fortifications of U.S. embassies, said, “A wall is so primitive. You can dig under it, go over it, catapult yourself over it. A wall is more symbolic than a real defense. A wall is fear in three dimensions.” In truth, what really happens? The first and last lines in Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” reads “Good fences make good neighbors,” ironically depict how walls separate people and describes his wall-building neighbor as unthinking, “like an old-stone savage armed.”

As to the illogical argument we are overcrowded now, 39.8% of the land in the U.S. is privately owned with 1.14 million miles in farmland, mostly unpopulated as is most of the 60% publicly owned land. The U.S. is a very big place. If you think we don’t have jobs for all these undocumented, that is also not true. During the 1990’s the U.S. Congress provided the H-2A work visa to stop criminals from entering the U.S. and prevent farmers from hiring immigrants if a U.S. resident could do the work. The loss of so many workers with the passing of this act was devastating to many businesses in most of the states.

Some states such as Georgia passed even more highly restrictive laws against immigrants. As a result, an estimated 40 percent of Georgia state’s agricultural workforce disappeared, and $140 million worth of crops were lost. It was a lesson no one learned. Desperate for workers, Alabama founder/CEO of Grow Alabama, Jerry Spencer, decided to train local white workers in a month-long experiment. At the end, all but three workers were gone. I understand why it failed. As a kid, I decided to earn money by chopping weeds in my brothers’ cotton fields. I lasted four hours: I had no idea how much bending, kneeling, chopping, pulling, and bleeding it took. I was lucky I could get an education and move on.*

But the most tragic result of wall building is that when we began hunting each other we turn the hunter and hunted alike into animals as violent as any criminal. We teach each other there are undesirables among us, resulting in refuge seekers and innocent indigenous people getting beat up and left lying in the hot sun in their own blood and vomit, wives and daughters raped, and homes savaged.

The opportunity to openly hunt with little repercussion along the 1954-mile border has already attracted self-appointed groups like the American Border Patrol who call themselves a watch group, the Civil Homeland Defense, Tea Baggers, white supremacist vigilantes, Minute Men, National Socialists, and Ranch Rescue. And my favorite, Joe Arpaio copycat Walking Tallers. In the middle of this crazy mix are the cartel, Coyotes, drug traffickers, undocumented workers, and on the Mexican side, the Federales. On the American side we have our own Border Patrol with its Forward Operating Camps.

When we do run down the undocumented, we throw them into cages, separating parents from their children, and don’t even pretend to care what happens to them. The old adage, “violence never resolves who’s right. Only who’s left,” has never been more frightening. I cannot help but ask what happened to our humanity. Have we no shame?

Sources:

https://talkpoverty.org/2019/01/03/already-border-wall-environmental-disaster/

https://www.newsweek.com/what-history-tells-us-about-building-wall-solve-problem-381875

https://www.summitpost.org/public-and-private-land-percentages-by-us-states/186111

https://www.Wikipedia

https://www.america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/12/visual-activism

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/world/middleeast/

*The situation was worse in Georgia and Alabama than Hardesty described. After an anti-immigrant law caused 11,000 Latino farm workers to leave, farmers tried to hire others looking for jobs. In Georgia, the new non-immigrant “workers” picking cucumbers had one-sixth of the output that migrant workers did because of less effort, longer breaks, and quitting early. Throughout the states with these punitive laws, farmers retired or switched from growing food to planting trees. When Alabama potato farmer Keith Smith lost his immigrant workers, most of the new employees not only displayed the same problems as listed in Georgia but also showed up late with some quitting after less than a day. These problems existed in 2011 with a higher unemployment rate. In 2019, far fewer workers are willing to endure the backbreaking work.

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