Nel's New Day

February 19, 2021

Biden: Mundane Can Be a Relief

Tomorrow celebrates the one-month anniversary of President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, and the contrast to the four years of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) in the White House is overwhelming. Before DDT, much news would have been mundane, reflecting ordinary governance—like now. News about DDT, however, usually reported his alienation of foreign allies, rejection of help for anyone except the wealthy and big business, and complete chaos as he rapidly changed his positions—sometimes before the end of a sentence.

Participating in the G7 summit, Biden pledged full commitment to NATO after DDT cursed it for four years. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. In a major address to the Munich Security Conference, he warned that “democratic progress is under assault” in many parts of the world, including the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. also officially rejoined the Paris climate accord and supports a global effort to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, donating $4 billion over two years for the effort. After cancelation of the G7 summit, scheduled for the United States in 2020, the UK plans the 2021 summit in June at a Cornwall seaside resort. 

Biden also offered to join European nations in diplomacy with Iran and backed away from DDT’s attempt to restore UN’s sanctions on the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported the U.S. plans to join them for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. EU’s deputy secretary general asked the other original signers—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—to bring back the agreement, possibly with the U.S. as observer or guest instead of participant to work with Iran. The U.S. hopes to expand the agreement to control Iran’s growing missile ability as well as the country’s support of terrorist groups and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

After DDT violated the agreement, Iran compiled and enriched nuclear fuel over the 2015 limits. Biden started negotiations by withdrawing DDT’s demand of UN international sanctions against Iran. Other nations had dismissed insistence from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for invoking the “snap back sanctions” because DDT had dropped out of the agreement. Biden is also lifting travel restrictions on Iranian officials allowing them to attend UN meetings in the U.S.

Biden plans to “recalibrate” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, communicating with King Salman instead of his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). Next week, the U.S. will release the report of MBS’s torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and journalist, over two years ago. Biden also cancelled the arms sale to Saudi and criticized Saudi human rights abuses. DDT discounted his intelligence conclusions; protected MBS, a friend of DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; and ignored a law passed by Congress in 2019 to submit an unclassified report about the Saudi involvement in the murder. DDT’s intelligence director John Ratcliffe’s excuse for violating the law was “a marginal ‘public interest’” in the declassification.  

In domestic issues, Biden will appoint Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As a senior CMS official for President Obama, she helped implement the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion and insurance-market reforms. Expanding insurance coverage is a goal of Biden’s administration. Brooks-LaSure also wants to improve health coverage and address high rates of maternal mortality, much worse than in other industrialized nations.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised Congress will approve the $1.9 trillion relief bill by March 14. The House plans to pass the bill next week and send it to the Senate perhaps Friday or Saturday, allowing that chamber to work through issues before returning it for final passage. Current $300 weekly emergency federal employment benefits expire on March 14, and the current bill would increase benefits to $400 until fall.

Also in the bill are $1,400 stimulus checks for those eligible to add to the $600 approved in December; $350 billion for city and states governments with massive revenue shortfalls; $160 billion for vaccines, increased testing and other health care assistance; approximately $130 billion to help schools reopen; food assistance and rent help; and an increased child tax credit. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told GOP  House members to vote “no” and called it “Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He accused the bill of keeping schools closed, bailing out blue states, and paying people not to work.

Although a split between the two parties in voting for the bill may seem to lack the “unity” Biden wants, the country is unified in supporting the relief. Earlier this month, 78 percent of people supported the stimulus checks, including 64 percent of Republicans. The entire bill has overall 68 percent support, and only 47 percent of Republicans oppose the bill. 

Republicans are suffering low polls compared to Biden’s 62 percent approval rating:

  • 19 percent: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • 27 percent: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  • 26 percent: Congressional Republicans job performance
  • 23 percent: Approval of Republican Party direction 

Biden promised help for mayors in at least 17 large Texas cities and other county officials suffering loss of power because of the state grid’s failure and lack of potable water for almost half the state’s population. Republicans failed to get FEMA generators to hospitals so Biden is working with local governments to move them.

On Wednesday, Bill Magness, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), said rolling blackouts started on Monday because the state’s entire power grid providing power to 90 percent of the state “seconds and minutes” from crashing. Without that action, Texas could have suffered uncontrolled blackouts for an “indeterminately long” crisis, possibly for months. Gov. Greg Abbott, who appointed members of the three-member ERCOT board, has called for their resignations. 

Biden has been replacing DDT’s incompetent, conservatively biased loyalists, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has two of them at the top of his list—Andrew Saul and David Black, Social Security Administration commissioner and deputy commissioner. Brown said they “cut the benefits that hardworking Americans have earned, attacked the Social Security Administration’s employees, denied beneficiaries due process, and needlessly increased disability reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic.” Current law protects them from firing except for “neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”

To block unnecessary deportations, Biden signed orders and directives to reduce the excuses ICE agents use for deporting people and mandates greater oversight of ICE agents. The order is good for 90 days while the agency develops long-term guidelines, but ICE agents rebelled by attempting to release three men convicted of sex offenses against children, against Biden’s orders, until they were stopped. These orders lead into Biden’s immigration reform bill. 

President Ronald Reagan was responsible for the last big immigration reform bill in 1986 when Republicans believed in passing on “America’s triumph … into the next century and beyond.” Senate passed a bill in 2013 by 68 to 32 when, as Jennifer Rubin wrote, GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (FL) and Lindsey Graham (SC) “still sounded like Reagan.” Since then, Graham’s best friend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) died, and Rubio decided he wanted to be president. And the House killed the Senate bill.

The paths to citizenship including not only Dreamers who arrived in the U.S. as children but also farmworkers and refugees fleeing danger in their home countries provide immediate eligibility for green cards and applications for citizenship after three years. Others will need to wait eight years. all need to have arrived in the U.S. before January 1, 2021. The bill also increases available diversity visas and assigns more funding to immigration courts and technology. Other provisions include “increased border technology to interdict drug traffickers and smugglers, higher penalties for employers who exploit undocumented laborers in the United States, and increased funding for immigration courts.”

The current administration rejected an anti-immigrant agreement signed by illegally appointed Ken Cuccinelli, acting DHS Deputy Secretary, on the day before Biden’s inauguration. The document gave the ICE union veto power over any changes and policies by the new administration. Biden had 30 days to “approve or disapprove” the directive; he denied it Tuesday, hours before the deadline. A whistleblower exposed the document as part of a complaint into Cuccinelli’s corrupt actions.

Biden told Congress the Equality Act has his full support. Adding sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation to protected classes in the Civil Rights Act, the bill provides complete anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community in areas like housing, credit, employment, public spaces and services, and federal programs. LGBTQ+ people have no federal civil rights protections and can be denied the rights of heterosexual people in 29 states. The new bill is the fourth one with these protections since the first one was introduced in 1974. Last June, the Supreme Court ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace also covers sexual orientation and gender identity, but the ruling does not list other areas such as housing, healthcare, and education. The decision also lacks the power of a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

One of DDT’s actions in his last year was to remove conservation of water by passing new regulations against low-flow toilets and increasing water flow in many other household appliances and fixtures. Biden plans reviews of these regulations and other DDT’s energy-wasting rules such as using LED lighting, saving not only resources but also money in utility bills.

August 27, 2019

DDT Home from G7 after Alienating Allies

Last year, world leaders were surprised when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tried to sabotage the G7 Summit in Canada. Robin Wright wrote:

“He fumed over the agenda. He left a day early. He backed out of his pledge to sign the joint communique. And, as his plane flew off, he tweeted that the Canadian host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was ‘very dishonest & weak.’”

This year, G7 host and president of France, Emmanuel Macron, was ready for him with no belief in any joint resolution—the second time since the organization began 44 years ago. Macron now refers to the organization as G6+1, with DDT making the U.S. an outlier. DDT even complained that he had to attend last weekend’s G7 summit.  

DDT said he was congenial with the leaders, but he caused trouble by pushing the readmittance of Russia to the group. In heated exchanges over dinner, he rejected other leaders’ position that the G7 should be an association of liberal democracies. DDT evidently pushed harder in private for Putin’s return. As he became more insistent and the pushback became stronger, a senior official decribed his body language as more belligerent with crossed arms and a more combative stance.  [DDT’s appearance with Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau. Below,Jai FLOTUS Melania Trump seemed to have a better relationship with Trudeau.]

Before his bizarre final comments, DDT skipped the discussion on climate and biodiversity that included talks about dealing with the Amazon rainforest fires and ways to cut carbon emissions. After the climate meeting, he said that “we’re having it in a little while” and later lied about missing it to meet with India and Germany leaders. They were at the Climate meeting. The G7 agreed to immediately pay at least $20 million to help fight the Amazon rainforest wildfires and create a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest and two countries offered more money, bringing the total to $43 million.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro had complained about lacking funds to fight fires, but he turned down the money, suggesting that Europe could use the money to plant trees on its territory and stop “interfering” with Brazil. Then, with no evidence, he blamed his critics for lighting the ranchers’ fires for illegally clearing land for cattle.  Bolsonaro’s campaign promoted destruction of the rainforest, and he’s keeping his promise. After that, he said he might take the money if Macron apologized about lying that Bolsonaro has no commitment to environmental concerns. Bolsonaro’s flip-flopping earns his nickname as the “Trump of South America.”

White House officials called members of the White House press at the Summit to leak negative comments about Macron, falsely accusing him of filling the summit agenda with “niche” subjects such as climate change and equality with his own domestic audience in mind rather than focusing on global economics and trade. Officials also false reported that DDT forced a session on economics and trade.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told DDT that there would be no third-party mediation on the Kashmir conflict between his country and Pakistan, ruling out DDT’s participation after DDT had claimed three times that India asked him to play that role.

DDT fought with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe over whether North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un broke international law with recent missile launches and threatened sky-high tariffs on Japanese car manufacturers. For over a year, both Japan and the EU have argued about the illegality of attempts to put an extra 25 percent tariff on their car exports for “reasons of national security.” Part of the U.S. agreement with Japan will supposedly sell U.S. corn to Japan after DDT issued waivers to 85 ethanol plans to not buy four billion gallons of renewable fuel using corn.

Some Iowa ethanol leaders say they no longer support DDT because of these waivers. Fifteen ethanol plants, including one in Iowa, have shut down, and others are cutting production. If gasoline no longer contains ten percent ethanol, farmers will lose sales for 1.4 billion bushels of corn, hurting small rural towns and business the most. Democratic representatives from Iowa Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne are calling for federal investigations into the ethanol exemptions which are now granted to giant businesses such as ExxonMobil and Chevron as well as small, financially distressed oil companies. “They screwed us,” said Iowa’s GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley about granting waivers “to people who really aren’t [experiencing] hardship.” Japan buying corn doesn’t reopen ethanol plants, and the country would buy a small percentage of what China would.  

The “deal” with Japan is not as complete as DDT wants people to think. Takeshi Osuga, press secretary of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied that it was “an agreement in principle” as DDT claimed and added unresolved issues still exist. A final deal wasn’t assured. Osuga said, “We are calling it a conference of views on the core elements.” Don’t start shipping the corn yet.

After the stock market’s plunge last week, DDT claimed that China had called him about new talks over the trade war, causing the Dow Jones to go up 270 points on Monday. He changed from calling Chinese President Xi Jinping an “enemy” to describing him as a “great leader” and “a brilliant man.” China stated that it knows nothing about any telephone calls to DDT.

Former diplomat and current president of the China Moon Strategies consultancy Jeff Moon said:

“Trump’s contradictory statements and erratic decision-making reflect the fact that he is an undisciplined, tactical thinker who deals with issues and events one-by-one and is guided by no fixed principles or long-term strategic vision.”

DDT also refused to speak Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who came at the invitation of French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian. French officials said that Zarif came to continue efforts to defuse tensions in the Gulf. DDT went so far as to say that he might talk to Iran but also threatened the nation. Macron said that the leaders had agreed at the dinner before Zarif’s arrival that he could be the G7 messenger to Iran, but DDT said he didn’t agree to anything. DDT’s response to questions about Zarif at the Summit was a rare “No comment.”

U.S. terms for an Iranian deal, according to DDT, are “no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles, and a longer period of time” on so-called sunset clauses on Iran’s nuclear program. He said, “Very simple. We can have it done in a very short period of time.” Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, had different ideas. He said:  

“First, the U.S. should act by lifting all illegal, unjust, and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran. Washington has the key for positive change. . . . So take the first step. Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked. If someone intends to make it as just a photo op with Rouhani, that is not possible.”

DDT continually repeated his lie that Putin “outsmarted” and “embarrassed” President Obama by annexing Crimea from Ukraine. He accused President Obama of “helping Ukraine” and not stopping Russia’s taking Crimea with the “right whatever.”

One of DDT’s lies in his closing comments joins his falsehood classics. “With respect to North Korea, Kim Jong Un … the first lady had gotten to know Kim Jong Un, and I think she’d agree with me—he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.” Melania Trump has never met Kim. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tried to cover by stating, “While the First Lady hasn’t met [Kim], the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”

DDT will select guests next year when he hosts the G7 Summit and wants the Summit to meet at his own Doral resort in Miami. A guest at the resort has settled a lawsuit after the 63-year-old received dozens of bites from bedbugs in a $300-per-night room, and guests have reported bedbug bites in at least six Trump-branded properties. At the Doral, the Summit would meet at a resort in the middle of hurricane territory in the middle of hurricane season. Tropical Storm Dorian is headed for the Florida coast this week.

AG Bill Barr won’t be protecting the constitutional Emoluments Clause that prevents DDT from making money from foreign governments at the summit: his holiday party at DDT’s D.C. hotel will give DDT at least $30,000. Representatives from over 20 countries have already given DDT money at his properties since he was inaugurated, and more properties make money from anonymous shell companies, many of which could be foreign governments.

Money from the Summit would help DDT’s finances. The Doral lost $17 million between 2015 and 2017, supposedly from its “Trump” branding, and income went farther down since his inauguration with income of $76 million in 2018 down from $116 in 2016. timeshare huckster when he glowingly talked about his property in the final press conference to the G7 Summit.

U.S. taxpayers spent millions to send DDT to France where he acted like a high school student—ditching meetings to watch television and showing up late for meetings. German Chancellor Angela Merkel waited two hours for her scheduled one-on-one with DDT. He pushed people around, threatened them, and made himself generally obnoxious. And he came home with no results: no trade deals with China or Japan, no timeline for getting an agreement with the Taliban, and no climate crisis solution. At least he thinks that he’ll make tens of millions of dollars by forcing the next summit participants to pay for staying at his personally owned resort.

DDT continues with his “Art of the Deal”: Negotiate alone, from a position of weakness; be in a big hurry; turn close allies into adversaries.   

August 24, 2019

DDT: Week 135 – Gone Crazy

August used to be a slow time for federal politics. Congress went back to their constituents, and the president went on vacation. Little happened. Not with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Jennifer Rubin summarized the past seven days in her Washington Post column:

“In the last week or so, we’ve witnessed President Trump deny there is a threat of recession; blame the Federal Reserve chairman for raising interest rates too high (!); deny, then admit, and then finally reject consideration of cuts to either payroll taxes or a capital-gains taxes. We’ve seen him seriously consider ‘buying’ Greenland, then cancel a trip to Denmark, and then finally insult Denmark’s female prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, whom Trump characterized as ‘nasty’ (his all-purpose insult to women who won’t do his bidding), and claimed that when she says his idea about purchasing Greenland was ‘absurd,’ she is offending the United States. He’s called Jews disloyal on consecutive days and proclaimed himself the ‘chosen one’ (or should it be ‘Chosen One’?), though he still insists the trade deficit means China has ‘sucked’ hundreds of billions of dollars out of our economy. He insists that kicking Russia out of the Group of 8 for its invasion of Ukraine was an overreaction by President Barack Obama (I guess that is what he means) and should be reversed.”

Dana Milbank pointed out that “along the way, he used shooting victims for self-promotion, said he wanted a medal for military valor, and more.” 

DDT also said he might sign an executive order to overturn part of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guaranteeing U.S. birthright citizenship. For over 150 years, the constitution has declared:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality birthright in 1898. Despite DDT’s lies, over 30 countries have birthright citizenship.  More details here.

DDT may intend these insane actions as a distraction from publicity about his lies regarding his 2018 filings about the profit and value of his Scotland golf courses by $165 million. He claimed an income of $23.8 million, $31.1 million more than the loss of $6.3 million filed in Edinburgh. Instead of the over $50 million profit filed in the U.S., the balance sheets filed in the UK show debt exceeding assets by $64.8 million. DDT’s U.S. disclosure statement omitted $199.5 million in loans he made to those resorts, $54.9 million from himself personally to Trump International, Scotland in Aberdeenshire and $144.6 million from his trust to Trump Turnberry in Ayrshire. False or incomplete information on the U.S. form violates the Ethics in Government Act punishable by up to a year in jail. Alan Garten, Trump Organization Chief Legal Officer Alan Garten, responded that the two forms are filed under different accounting and legal standards. DDT has consistently filed forms with false and missing information.

After those disasters, DDT flew to France for what French President Emmanuel Macron, leader of the G7 Summit, calls the G6+1 Summit because of DDT’s refusal last year to sign the group’s joint resolution—the first time the group lacked consensus since it was formed in 1975. Macron doesn’t expect a unanimous joint resolution this year, citing “a very deep crisis of democracy” and calling it a “pointless” exercise. Joining DDT and Macron at Biarritz (France) are leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Much to DDT’s dismay, Russia was removed from the former G8 after he militarily annexed Crimea and continues to support anti-Kiev rebels fighting the Ukrainian government. DDT’s sole goal at the summit is to reinstate Russia despite Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections, past and present. DDT blames President Obama for Russia’s loss of membership “because he got outsmarted.” 

DDT bragged that the EU will give him anything he wants if he threatens to tariff European cars. Earlier this year, DDT made a deal to send U.S. beef to Europe duty-free in an effort to make up for the tariffs for his trade war with China.

According to Macron, a chief issue at the summit will be Brazil’s 85 percent increase in fires, half of them in the Amazon, which he called an “international crisis.” Water vapor from the Amazon rainforest help circulate water and weather patterns around the world, and it provides 20 percent of oxygen in the world. Loss of the rainforest causes acceleration in higher temperatures in the world and huge erradication of species found only there. Many of the 74,155 illegal fires in the rainforest—one new one each minute—are likely caused by cattle-farmers trying to clear more land. An avid deforester, Brazil’s far right president Jair Bolsonaro, called “the Trump of South America,” nicknamed himself “Captain Chainsaw.” Furious about the interference in his fires, he reluctantly said he would send in the military to fight fires for a month after Macron threatened to cancel a major trade deal between European and South American countries. 

While DDT tries to keep his voting base, polls ranking him overall between 36 percent and 43 percent all show an average two-percent reduction in his approval. that his approval is dropping. According to a recent AP poll, he is also underwater in approval about his handling these specific issues:

  • Economy (before his problems the past few days) – 46 percent
  • Immigration – 38 percent
  • Health care – 37 percent
  • Foreign policy – 36 percent
  • Gun policy – 36 percent

Other polls show that fewer racially intolerant people want to vote in the 2020 election that voters who don’t believe that whites are superior to blacks. In the midst of DDT’s racist rants, people in the U.S. are less likely to have feelings of racial anxiety and more likely to empathize with blacks, even among the demographics of white citizens and whites without college degrees. Whites are also 19 percent more supportive of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrations and four percent less supportive of increased deportations than in 2015. Only 29 percent of whites agreed that “America must protect and preserve its White European heritage,” down seven points from August 2017 and nine points down from August 2018. Fewer whites and white Republicans think “white people are currently under attack in this country.”

While DDT causes more problems with his trade war, almost two-thirds of people want free trade now. The 27 percent of people who oppose free trade is down ten points since DDT started his trade war with China in 2017. Only eight percent of voters think DDT kept all his promises. Half of them, including 60 percent of independents think the reason is that he’s “distracted by other unimportant priorities like petty disagreements and Twitter.”

State polls give a darker picture than overall one. His approval rates are below disapproval in at least ten states where he got 189 electoral votes in 2016, several of the difference over ten points. In 2016, DDT took his winning 46 electoral votes in the three states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin where he won by only 77,744 popular votes for all three states. 

DDT’s two main points for his campaign are immigration and the economy. His immigration policies are becoming increasing unpopular, and the economy is headed for serious problem unless he stops his trade war—an unlikely solution for him. He also returns from France to face calls for gun safety legislation. Enthusiastic about fighting mass shootings after two of them in one weekend, he has dropped the idea after several long talks with NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre. Over 70 percent of people support laws that would allow the removal of guns if the owners were considered by courts or law enforcement of being in danger of harming themselves or others.

A poll of suburban white women, a demographic that DDT wants back, reveals the following:

  • 72 percent: Gun laws should be stricter. said they think gun laws should be stricter, compared to four
  • 90 percent: Gun sales at gun shows and other private sales should require universal background checks; all gun owners should file with a national firearms registry.  
  • 88 percent: A 48-hour waiting period should be mandated between a firearm purchase and taking possession.  
  • 84 percent: Law enforcement should be permitted to temporarily retain firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
  • 76 percent: Purchase and use of semi-automatic assault-style weapons like the AK-47 and the AR-15 should be banned.
  • And 72 percent: Sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before needing to be reloaded, should be banned.

The 2020 campaign may pick up in the next few months: four Republicans—radio host Joe Walsh, former Arizona senator Jeff Flake, former South Carolina governor and representative Mark Sanford (think Appalachian Trail), and former Ohio governor John Kasich—consider joining former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld in opposition to DDT’s candidacy for the 2020 presidency.

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