Nel's New Day

May 3, 2020

DDT: Week 171 – Time for Good News

While the macho protesters threatened lawmakers with assault rifles and forced their way into the Capitol, a small virus (right) moved through the scene by remote control. Video here.

The Post Office will deliver all ballots without the correct postage.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that insurance companies should be provided $12 billion from the federal government in unpaid claims from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The mandated remuneration period was for the first three years of ACA’s startup, but GOP members of Congress capped payments from 2014 through 2016. Insurers argued that this was a “bait and switch”; except for Justice Samuel Alito, the court agreed. Alito called the ACA a “massive bailout” for companies that “bet unsuccessfully on the success” of the ACA. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called the fund a “bailout” during when GOP began its efforts to eliminate the ACA in 2013. The ACA stated that the government “shall pay, and eight justices ruled that the government should honor its obligations.

The GOP refusal to obey the ACA for three years cost both people and the government a great deal of money. Paying the $12 billion on time would have restrained premium increases and health company failures. Republicans, however, wanted these problems to prove that the ACA was broken; unfortunately for them, the system stabilized and became popular.  

In another ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed a New York gun rights case because the law had been rescinded. Three justices—Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch—claimed that the case was not moot and that “the court permits our docket to be manipulated.” Four justices, however, want to examine whether lower courts have wrongly upheld gun control measures. The fourth justice is Brett Kavanaugh.  

The Supreme Court also decided, 6-3, that pollution discharged directly into navigable waters requires permits and returned the case to a lower court. The majority ruled that the Clean Water Act applies to some pollutants that reach the ocean and other protected waters indirectly through groundwater. DDT’s administration had filed a brief in favor of the Maui (HI) wastewater treatment plant that daily disposed of four million gallons of treated sewage by pumping it into groundwater a half-mile from the Pacific Ocean. The 9th Circuit Court ruled the the pollution was “fairly traceable” to the plant. Thompson, Gorsuch, and Alito all dissented.

A federal judge in California ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “identify and track” every person in ICE detention at an elevated risk of complications from COVID-19 and to consider releasing those detainees, regardless of their legal status. Risk factors include pregnancy, age over 55, and chronic health conditions. ICE reported 220 confirmed COVID-19 cases among custody and 20 among employees in detention facilities. The judge wrote, “[ICE has] likely exhibited callous indifference to the safety and wellbeing of [detained immigrants at risk.] The evidence suggests systemwide inaction that goes beyond a mere ‘difference of medical opinion or negligence.’”

The 7th Circuit Court upheld two lower court rulings against DDT’s blackmail attempt to withhold millions of dollars from so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that don’t go above and beyond the law in helping to deport immigrants. DDT has said he might restrict COVID-19 aid to states and cities with “sanctuary policies.” Two of the three judges on the panel said the ruling is nationwide although one of them wanted it limited to Chicago, which brought the lawsuit. There may be an appeal to the Supreme Court.

A federal judge ruled last month that tens of thousands of immigrants denied medical care and disability accommodations by the federal government can proceed with their lawsuit against ICE. He also denied the separation of the lawsuit into 15 separate cases in eight different district courts and refused ICE’s motion to strike the 200-page complaint.

A federal judge ruled that DDT again violated the agreement requiring the government to release migrant children detained at the border and kept in unlicensed facilities within 20 days. The children were ordered released because the government had stopped allowing children to go to parents, relatives, or potential guardians in New York, California, and Washington. Plaintiffs also argued that delays endangered children from COVID-19.

People married to immigrants without Social Security numbers are suing DDT because the IRS mandated people living in a household with any person not having a Social Security number are not eligible for the $1,200 disaster relief checks. The plaintiff would have qualified for a $1,200 stimulus check, but he files taxes with his immigrant spouse, who uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The lawsuit also names Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as defendants. The couple’s children are also excluded because one parent is an immigrant. The lawyer presenting the case said:

“If you are discriminating on the basis of marriage, the government has to show there is a compelling government interest that justifies this exclusion. It’s a very high burden to meet.”

A federal judge blocked the government from giving $8 billion in COVID-19 relief funding designated as assistance for Native American communities to for-profit corporations owned by Natives. These corporations act as holding companies for businesses benefiting from Native lands. Alaska has about 237 of these corporations. Native American tribes need the funding to “continue essential government services,” according to Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). Judge Amit Mehta agreed no evidence exists that the for-profit companies provided public services during the health crisis and said it was “unlikely” that the Treasury Inspector General could just take back improperly distributed money, as the government claimed. People on one reservation, the Navajo Nation, test for the virus at a rate nine times more than people in Arizona, and medical supplies and care are woefully inadequate. 

Native Americans achieved another victory in North Dakota. Many of them lost the right to vote in the 2018 election because a new state law required everyone, including people living on the reservation, to have street addresses. They also lacked driver’s licenses, and the state disqualified IDs issued by the tribes. The state has settled two lawsuits because a federal court refused to dismiss one of the challenges; North Dakota will now guarantee that Native voters without a street address will be permitted to vote.

A panel from the 10th Circuit Court struck down a Kansas law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration and delivered a rebuke to its creator, former state Secretary of State Kris Kobach who is now running for U.S. senator. The 2013 law, blocked by a federal trial judge, had no basis in accusations of voter fraud although DDT made Kobach in charge of his commission on voter fraud, disbanded in 2018. Kansas could appeal the case to the entire 10th Circuit Court. The Kansas GOP is so concerned about Kobach being the winner in the primary—and thus losing in the general election—that it has asked two of his five opponents to narrow the field by dropping out. The GOP primary for U.S. Senate is on August 4, 2020. In a crowded contest, Kobach won the party’s 2018 gubernatorial race but lost in the deep red state to Laura Kelly, a Democratic woman.

The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities issued a ruling prohibiting all employers and insurers from denying coverage for transgender people’s health care needs relating to gender transition.

Republican senators aren’t abandoning DDT, but they understand that a connection to him may not help their campaigns. A memo from the National Republican Senatorial Committee has contributed to DDT’s temper tantrums:

Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban—attack China.”

The memo came from a political consulting firm advising Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), unopposed for his 2020 re-election and aiming for the GOP presidential candidate in 2024. DDT’s political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that candidates following the memo’s advise won’t have the support of the reelection campaign. GOP candidates “who want to win will be running with the president.”

DDT’s justification for doing nothing about the health crisis for months is that he knew nothing about the problem. Yet in over a dozen classified briefings during January and February, U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in the President’s Daily Brief, designed to alert a president to the most significant global developments and security threats. DDT downplayed any problems from the virus until the middle of March, over two weeks after fatalities of COVID-19 were documented, and was outraged at the warning from Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, that virus was spreading so rapidly that “we need to be prepared for significant disruption in our lives.” He was worried that the news would adversely affect the stock market. Now people have proof the DDT did not take “early, aggressive historic action,” as DDT’s deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley claims.

As of May 3, the United State has at least 1,188,384 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 68,600 deaths in a little over two months. The numbers are much lower than reality because some conservative jurisdictions—including Florida—aren’t reporting the cases and deaths. In addition, these numbers apply only to tested people, and the U.S. has a severe shortage of testing supplies.        

December 5, 2012

Conservatives Meet to Work against Majority

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council responsible for creating such laws as those that promote anti-immigration, stand-your-ground, and voter suppression, met a couple of weeks ago to decide how to destroy the people in the United States. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk discussed “how to limit union influence,” and the finance committee heard a presentation on “The Effects of Dodd Frank on the States,” sure to be an unhappy perspective on ways to help consumers.

Task force documents showed that the meeting concentrated on which of its destructive bills to “sunset” and retain, perhaps a response to the past year’s intense criticism when over 40 large corporations cut their links with ALEC. The organization also suffers from multiple complaints that it has violated its charitable 501(c)(3) status allowing special interest groups to write off lobbying expenses. As people became more savvy about ALEC’s actions, they got more vocal about elected officials who are more accountable to special interests than to their voters.

Before last year, ALEC successfully moved to privatize everything from schools to prisons and put legislators under corporate control. It was when identical bills popped up in a large number of states that journalists started looking into the background of these bills. By November, negative publicity caused 117 ALEC members to lose their elections.

Starting last April, ALEC struggled to erase trails for their most controversial legislation, and in July they promised to expand membership among “underrepresented segments,” probably meaning people of color and progressives. They hid their activities by sending members a link, that expires in 72 hours, to an Internet drop box instead of communicating through emails that might be discovered through an open records request.

ALEC is also using a public relations firm to examine public interest groups seeking information about its activities and then libel these groups to its legislative members.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, when the killer claimed to be self-defense, brought information about ALEC to the forefront. Now another black 17-year-old has been killed, and again the killer is using ALEC’s law as his justification. As Jordan Russell Davis sat in his car with friends, 45-year-old Michael David Dunn fired nine shots into the car after complaining that their music was too loud. None of the teenagers was armed.

Even if ALEC just stuck to economic issues, it would cause great damage to the people. A study released last week by the Iowa Policy Project and Good Jobs First shows the correlations between ALEC policies and less prosperous state economies and concludes: “A hard look at the actual data finds that the ALEC…recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies — the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. ”

According to the study, instead of boosting states’ fortunes, ALEC’s preferred policies provide “a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression, and stagnant incomes, and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity.”

As if ALEC wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) have joined forces to destroy the new health care act. Because they receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the insurance industry, they need to keep funneling money to private insurers. Currently they want to repeal a provision imposing a fee on some insurance policies to help subsidize coverage for millions of uninsured low-income people.

If they succeed, insurers can sell a highly profitable insurance product to small employers with mostly young and healthy male workers, allowing these employers to avoid the future state insurance exchanges for worker coverage. The employers would be exempt from complying with important consumer protections in the health law and make coverage only affordable and available to those stay healthy.

The Chamber and the NFIB took their fight to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that just finished meeting in Washington. There, the Chamber pressured the NAIC to ease the way for insurers to sell this “stop-loss” coverage to small businesses which could then side-step state regulations. Stop-loss means that the employer assumes the risk of paying medical claims, but only to a previously-negotiated amount when the stop-loss insurer pays. The policy would be a disaster for employers with young female and older workers; doing this would drive up costs for small businesses who have these employees.

Leading the charge is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce with some of the biggest sellers of stop-loss insurance–WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Cigna—on its board. Part of NAIC understands that this will subvert the purpose of the health care act; another committee is keeping NAIC from voting it down by asking another committee to gather more information.

Today’s Asides from the News: Walmart could have prevented November’s fire in Dhaka that killed over 100 people if they had signed a contract agreeing to pay higher prices so the 4,500 Bangladesh clothing factories could afford fire safety improvements. The company met with others purchasers of the factories’ clothing—Gap, JC Penney, Sears, etc.—in April when Walmart set the tone by refusing to do this. According to a study by the Worker Rights Consortium, the cost to Walmart would have been less than 10 cents per garment. PVH Corp., which owns the Tommy Hilfiger brand, and the German retailer Tchibo signed on to the fire safety measures memorandum. You can sign a petition asking that Walmart meet basic safety and human rights for its workers. 

There were a few places where Arizona governor Jan Brewer wasn’t this week: she didn’t attend the state ceremony certifying the delayed election results, and she couldn’t be found among members of the National Governor’s Association who met with the President to discuss how the “fiscal cliff” will impact states. It seems she was found in Afghanistan. Is it possible that she now knows that she can’t run for a third term as governor and is aiming for the president’s position?

Mitt Romney  found a job—back with Marriott, the company that got in trouble with the IRS because of the ways it avoided taxes in the 1900s. Romney headed the audit committee in 1993 to 2001 when Marriott had a tax shelter known to attorneys as “Son of BOSS.” Marriott lost their court rulings in both 2008 and 2009.

Good news for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)! He just finished paying off his student loans.  He said that when he graduated from law school in 1996 he had almost $150,000 in student debt, a sum ridiculed by wealthy Republicans who think that it’s outrageous that students are allowed to run up debts like this. Two years ago, he had between $100,001 and $250,000 in debt, but now he’s paid back the student loan—with the proceeds of his book, An American Son, which he touted at the Jack Kemp Foundation Awards dinner as “the perfect holiday gift and available on Amazon for only $11.99.” I wonder if he had copies there to sell.

The most amazing news of the day is that the Senate passed the $631 billion defense authorization bill, The National Defense Authorizations Act, unanimously with a vote of 98-0. The bill restores threatened Pentagon biofuels programs, issues new sanctions against Iran, and changes U.S. detention policy for American citizens. A unanimous vote has occurred for the defense bill in the Senate only twice in 51 years. The Pentagon policy bill now heads to a House-Senate conference committee, where there are numerous differences that must be resolved including a ban on same-sex wedding ceremonies on military bases. It’s not a done deal yet!

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