Nel's New Day

April 5, 2019

DDT: Week 115 – ‘Zombie’ News Stories

Highlighted with flip-flops from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), new revelations, and retribution, the past week has seen a number of stories that just won’t go away—executions, health care, the southern border, the Barr Report, and more.

Texas determined that people being legally executed will not be permitted to have the company of a spiritual adviser during their last moments after the Supreme Court ruled that Patrick Henry Murphy should be permitted the company of his spiritual adviser, a Buddhist. Murphy, however, can still have his spiritual adviser present because the supreme Court made this decision. The Texas death penalty killed half those executed last year.

Boeing finally admitted that the fault lies with the manufacturer in the problems with its 737 MAX 8 with a report that the Ethiopian Airlines crew followed Boeing recommendations but could still not save the jet from its March 10 crash that killed all 157 people on board. The plane’s uncontrollable dive, like that of Lion Air’s plane with another 189 deaths, was caused by a faulty angle-of-attack sensor. A defective sensor in the earlier crash was replaced, but the replacement may also have been defective. An internal review by engineers not connected to the MAX has pushed back Boeing’s fixes to the software by several weeks. The delay could mean months before the aircraft flies again, and sales have been indefinitely delayed.

The Air Force, also concerned about Boeing’s competency, again refused to accept the manufacturer’s KC-46 Pegasus tankers “because of foreign object debris we found in some closed compartments,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. The tankers were due in 2017, but the Air Force didn’t get its first one until January 2019. The second decision to stop accepting the plans occurred on March 23. Boeing has paid the government over $3 billion for delays and cost overruns. Congress approved $2.4 billion for 25 jets this year, and the Air Force has requested another $2.3 billion for 12 KC-46 tankers in fiscal 2020.

Last week, DDT loved a judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act should be overturned and told his DOJ to support the decision in court. For a week, the panicked GOP tried to talk him out of the idea, terrified that more Democrats could win in Congress with the support of the ACA. After DDT was unable to convince people that he had a “beautiful” new healthcare plan, he gave up—until 2021 following the 2020 presidential election. No matter what Republicans say, surveys show that a majority of people like “Obamacare” when polled on its name and an even larger percentage like its benefits to them such no discrimination against them from pre-existing conditions and caps on payouts. [Visual – healthcare]

Congress and DDT battled throughout last week with each telling the other to write the bill and DDT going farther to tout a proposed bill that didn’t exist. In getting rid of healthcare insurance for tens of millions of people, DDT announced that the Republican Party “will soon be known as the party of health care.” DDT finally caved in when Senate Majority Leader told him that the chamber would not work on any replacement for ACA. A day later, less than a week after DDT  tweeted that placement legislation was “moving forward,” he tweeted that he had never intended to repeal ACA at this time:

“I was never planning a vote prior to the 2020 Election on the wonderful HealthCare package that some very talented people are now developing for me & the Republican Party.”

Polling shows why DDT would put off overturning the ACA.  Fifty-four percent of respondents said that they have a lot or some trust in Democratic lawmakers to protect or improve health care compared to 41 percent who prefer Republicans. A strong majority—59 percent—have little or no trust in DDT regarding health care.

The border was another place for DDT’s backtracking. Last week, he said he would close large parts of the southern border, before changing the terminology to “all” the border. Despite warnings that this action would cost $1.5 billion in trade each day—not to count the disappearance of avocados in three weeks—he stuck to his guns by claiming that security is far more important than the economy. The next day he said that Congress could solve the problem of asylum-seekers in 45 minutes. Get rid of all the judges, he suggested.

By yesterday, he decided he would wait a year to close the border so that Mexico could stop the flow of drugs, DDT’s claim for his reasons to stop asylum-seekers. There seems to be a theme of “wait” for DDT’s changes in “policy.” He explained his flip-flop by saying that Mexico had been doing a good job “the last three or four days.” First, he plans to “put the tariffs on the cars” before closing the border, but hours later he denied that he said the border would stay open for a year.

This afternoon, DDT took a few GOP House members on a short tour of border replacement barriers at Calexico that he calls a “new wall.” He talked about the California politicians complaining about forest fires but did praise the new “anti-climb” wall that “looks fantastic—very see-through.” Calexico, about 40,000 population, is considered a “suburb” of Mexicali, capital Mexico’s state of Baja California, that sends many of its 1.5 million population to the U.S. to shop and work. Instead of security needs, Calexico identifies its serious problems from a polluted river and air plus other health issues such as high obesity and diabetes rates. DDT had a good reason for picking Calexico to talk about the wall: it’s a short trip to his California golf club outside Los Angeles. That’s where DDT headed after a couple of hours at Calexico to look at the wall that President Obama initiated.

House Democrats have filed a lawsuit against DDT’s unconstitutionally taking money for his wall. The suit names Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the departments they oversee. Democrats are using the same position as Republicans who argued that officials couldn’t use federal funds without appropriations. That case tried to eliminate the ACA by not paying insurers. In another lawsuit, the ACLU, the Sierra Club, and 20 states are suing DDT because he tried to use a national emergency to override the congressional refusal to allot him the funding that he demanded. The filing requested a preliminary injunction because of DDT’s “disregard of the will of Congress and violation of fundamental separation of powers principles.” They declare standing because DDT will remove fund from state projects to build his wall. DDT’s declaration resulted in at least five separate lawsuits; the DOJ claims that at least two of them “raise political questions that courts are not equipped to answer.”

The Barr Report is a story that won’t go away for a long time. For almost two years, Robert Mueller meticulously investigated people involved with DDT and their Russian connections before submitting his report to DDT’s lapdog DOJ AG Bill Barr along with summaries for the public. Stephen Colbert’s description of Barr’s four-page “summary” of Mueller’s work:

“That’s like tuning in to see the new season of ‘Game of Thrones,’ and it’s just Barr holding a sign that says, ‘Dragons did some stuff. The end.’”

After more than a week of listening to DDT and other conservatives crowing about the exoneration of DDT by the Mueller investigation, leaks reveal that members of Mueller’s team complained that they had discovered significant and alarming evidence about DDT’s obstruction while he has been in office that Barr excluded from his brief comments. Team members also indicated that information in Mueller’s report is far more damning than the four-page Barr Report reveals.

DDT’s meltdown since Barr released his first statement about the Mueller report hints at DDT’s slow discovery that life might not be as rosy as he hoped. At first, DDT cheered Barr’s report and supporting the release of the complete Mueller report. Then he said he would give Barr the decision whether to release it. A week ago, DDT said “I have nothing to hide.” Four days ago, he complained that “NOTHING WILL EVER SATISY” Democrats, indicating that he doesn’t want them to see the full report.  His earlier “Let the people see” has disappeared. To repeat millions of GOP responses to hiding the Mueller report, why hide the report if it doesn’t damage DDT.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena the unredacted Mueller report if Barr refuses to give it to them, and Chair Jerry Nadler requested all communication documents between Mueller’s office and the DOJ about the report. Meanwhile GOP senators have five times blocked a vote to release the Mueller report after a bill to do so passed the House by 420-0. Their reasons indicate they hope to protect DDT.

More disastrous news tomorrow about DDT’s tax returns, clearances for family and friends, GOP votes against him as well as fallouts from his decisions in Part II.

March 30, 2019

DDT: Week 114 – Off the Rails without Attention to the Barr Report

This week should have been all about the release of the Mueller investigation, now known as the Barr Report after he put out four pages of misleading information for the real report that might have been almost 1,000 pages long. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) did start off with self-congratulatory claims for misleading information but managed to wander off track into the weeds and infuriate the GOP members of Congress.

Presented with a friendly—and irrational—court decision to nullify the Affordable Care Act, DDT ordered his AG lapdog to not defend the law because his own plan is better. He has no plan so he told GOP legislators to prepare one: they are refusing. Republicans even told DDT to drop his elimination of the ACA because healthcare issues brought a majority Democratic House. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called DDT to tell him that his plan won’t work, and two cabinet members, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and AG Bill Barr, disagreed with destroying the ACA. Yet DDT is calling the GOP the “party of health care” when he plans to destroy healthcare for tens of millions of people.

Effects of no ACA and no other health plan:

Two million young people will no longer need to be covered by their parents’ plans.

Twelve million people in poverty could be taken off Medicaid.

The number of uninsured people would increase by 21 million people, or 70 percent. Some states will suffer more; for example, Kentucky, state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will see an increase of 151 percent in uninsured to 379,000 people.

Medicare beneficiaries, as many as 60 million, would face higher costs for medical care, premiums, and medications. The coverage gap on medications, slowly closing because of ACA, will open up again, and people will pay more for preventive care such as wellness visits and diabetes checks. Cuts in government payment for hospitals and other providers, including private Medicare Advantage plans, will increase premiums. An experimental program to save money for 12 million people may disappear. Medicare’s revenue may drop by $346 billion without the ACA.

As many as 133 million U.S. residents with pre-existing conditions could be denied insurance coverage—52 million people—or face far higher premiums. These include common medical issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Being a woman was a “pre-existing condition” before the ACA because females could be denied health coverage or charged higher premiums. Before ACA, women were charged at least 30 percent more than men but denied maternity coverage.

Up to 171 million people will no longer be protected from caps used by insurers and employers to limit costs in coverage each year or for a lifetime.

Hospitals and doctors can lose $50 billion with the disappearance of health insurance. Rural areas may need to close hospitals, giving people less heath care for more money.

People forced back into junk health plans with little coverage will end up in medical bankruptcy, the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the United States.

The DOJ declaration that ACA is unconstitutional may give $1 billion to a Florida healthcare executive on trial for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Lawyers filed a motion for dismissal for accusations of kickbacks, fraud, and services that were not provided or medically unnecessary with the claim that the DOJ claimed that these offenses are unconstitutional. They want a mistrial. Either prosecutors contradict DDT’s position or agree with the executive’s claim that he should be exonerated. Releasing him from charges could result in everyone else convicted of this fraud under the ACA would demand release.

While DDT waits for the courts to destroy more people’s lives with lack of health care, a judge has struck down DDT’s rule to expand insurance plans not meeting the ACA requirements. The ruling references permission for small businesses and self-employed people to gather for association health plans. Lower costs in the “junk” plan means highly reduced health coverage, something that the ACA originally blocked.

In another health-related case, a federal judge threw out DDT’s Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the purpose of Medicaid is to extend health care benefits to low-income people, and the work requirements don’t fit with this goal.

A federal judge overturned DDT’s attempt to open 120 million acres in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean for fossil fuel drilling and declared his action illegal. Plaintiffs had argued that presidents may issue bans to withdraw from offshore oil leasing and development, but other presidents are not permitted to reinstate that development. Only Congress can take that action. Appeals could face the 9th Circuit Court and perhaps the Supreme Court. Oregon has also passed a law blocking drilling off its coast.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked a lethal injection in Texas because the prison refused to permit a Buddhist priest to be with a man in the death chamber. Last month, the same court allowed the death penalty to be executed on an Alabama convict for the same reason. Brett Kavanaugh changed his position about religious freedom for all religions in a month.

More bad press followed DDT and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with public protests that they had cut the entire $17.6 million budget for Special Olympics. DeVos made a fool of herself trying to defend the action in a congressional hearing and later explaining that she really liked the program after DDT claimed that he had “overridden my people” to give money to the program. DeVos joins at least 19 other DDT cabinet members to end up under the bus. No matter what, the decision isn’t theirs: only Congress can authorize the final budget.

DeVos had not only eliminated 29 education programs essential to kids with disabilities, including after-school programs for low-income kids, professional development for teachers, and mental health services, but is also attempting to convince people that bigger classes sizes are better for students.

After threatening to close “large chunks” of the southern border, DDT now says he will close the entire border to all trade if Mexico “doesn’t immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States.” Five million people can lose their jobs if he goes through with his threat, and millions more can lose their health care and cheaper prescriptions obtained in Mexico. He also plans to slash almost $500 million in aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in a misguided attempt to cut down on the number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. His plans will exacerbate current problems of violence, poverty, and lack of jobs—driving more migrants north. The U.S. doesn’t give funding to the government; it provides for programs, many of them administered by nonprofit groups trying to stop migration.

DDT said that pointing machine guns at immigrants seeking asylum would be more efficient than a wall. He also said, “I wouldn’t want to do it,” but he’s also known for changing his mind hourly—and maybe some of his followers will follow through on the suggestion. DDT is already “housing” immigrants in cages under a bridge.

In a follow-up to the closeness between the airline industry and acting FAA chair Daniel Elwell, ProPublica published emails between Elwell and his industry buddies showing how he protects them. Appointed as deputy administrator on June 26, 2017, Elwell continued his “support” of his former lobbying clients. On his federal financial disclosure, Elwell failed to list clients who paid him $282,500 in 2016 and part of 2017. Unlike other oversight agencies, the FAA both regulates and promotes the airline industry; Elwell takes the latter much more seriously. A Senate committee has scheduled Elwell to testify on airline safety next Wednesday.

“How Donald Trump Inflated His Net Worth to Lenders and Investors,” a must read, details his financial lies that could lead to charges of fraud and corruption.

A federal judge ordered the DOJ and FBI to turn over former FBI Director James Comey’s memos so that he can determine whether to release them to the public.

Twitter, which allows world leaders to violate their terms of service because of being “newsworthy,” may start labeling DDT’s tweets as “offensive” if others would not be allowed to send them.

Putting people at risk of identity theft and fraud, FEMA gave personal data of 2.3 million disaster victims to an outside contractor. Information included birth dates, partial Social Security numbers, full names, addresses, and financial information with details of banking information.

February’s national debt of $234 billion was 46 percent higher than for the entire year 2007, making an average monthly deficit under DDT at $117 billion, higher than the average monthly deficits during President Obama’s both terms. DDT said both said “I love debt” and promised to eliminate the national debt.

Polls in states that supported DDT in January 2017 are now opposed to him, shown by approval ratings above and below 50 percent:

  • Pennsylvania: 1/17: +10; 2/19: -7
  • Ohio: 1/17: +14; 2/19: -5
  • Michigan: 1/17: +7; 2/19: -15
  • Wisconsin: 1/17: +6; 2/19: -14
  • Iowa: 1/17: +9; 2/19: -10
  • Florida: 1/17: +22; 2/19: -2
  • Arizona: 1/17: +19; 2/19: -6
  • North Carolina: 1/17: +17; 2/19: EVEN
  • Georgia: 1/17: +18; 2/19: -1

DDT hoped that the Barr Report would help his ratings, but he’s in exactly the same place he was before its release—42 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval. Nothing seems to help him.

February 1, 2019

DDT: Week 106 – Mass Shootings, Corruption

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:25 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The shutdown is on hiatus, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gets to escape the White House this weekend for a retreat to Mar-a-Lago. DDT spent his week causing making Venezuelans people to suffer while gifting Vladimir Putin by lifting sanctions and encouraging him to make as many nuclear weapons as he wants by removing a treaty. Little noticed by the media, however, is the ongoing slaughter of people in the United States by young white men. Three 21-year-olds each murdered at least three people in three different mass shootings last week:

  • Five women killed in a Sebring (FL) SunTrust bank.
  • Three people shot in a Pennsylvania bar, two of them killed, and an elderly man shot dead in a home where the suspect crashed his car and killed himself.
  • A young woman killed with her brother and father before the murderer shot and killed his parents in their nearby Louisiana home.

Media focus on mass shootings now seems to come only from a location such as a school or religious institution and/or massive numbers of dead. Largely ignored in the first month of 2019 were 32 mass shootings—the shooting of at least four or more people. As the media writes about how ISIS radicalized its recruits, it skips over how young white men in the United States are radicalized and committing more and more mass shootings.

Back, however, to the actions of the nation’s tweeter-in-chief who promotes violence in the United States. Before DDT left for his weekend getaway, he gave an 85-minute interview to the New York Times, which he claims to hate, in which he said that he would proceed with “wall” without congressional negotiations because they were a “waste of time.” About House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), DDT said, “I’ve actually always gotten along with her, but now I don’t think I will any more.” He also denied that he worked on his Moscow skyscraper through his election, saying that former fixer Michael Cohen was lying. According to DDT, outgoing deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, told his lawyers that DDT was not a target of special investigator Robert Mueller.

In a reversal from his temper tantrums how his intelligence leaders had contradicted him, DDT claimed that they told him that the media misinterpreted the testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They said, ‘Sir, our testimony was totally mischaracterized,’” DDT said. “I’m happy with Dan Coats.”

In his intent to take over Venezuela, DDT looks to help from Brazil where 13 Brazilian investors, involved with DDT in a Rio de Janeiro hotel project until 2016, have been arrested and charged with diverting pension money into the scheme. DDT bailed just after his election and just before a criminal investigation into the funding process.

Three of DDT’s children—Ivanka, Eric, and Don, Jr.—are being sued for their endorsement of a fraudulent scam promoted on DDT’s reality show, The Apprentice. The Trumps received millions of dollars in secret payments from 2005 to at least 2015 from ACN persuading people to sell a “doomed” desktop video phone service. The video phone, which connected calls among only ACN customers, lost to Skype and smart phones.

Three House committee chairs have asked for documents surrounding Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s lifting sanctions from Russian companies, giving Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs millions of dollars to spend on election interference. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has also asked about Mnuchin’s possible conflicts of interest with his ties to the oligarchs because he refused to recuse himself from the sanctions discussions.

When Mnuchin took his current government position, he sold his shares in RatPac-Dune Entertainment for $25 million to Len Blavatnik and Oleg Deripaska. Blavatnik co-owns Sual Partners with another sanctioned oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, and Sual “is a major shareholder” of Rusal, one of Deripaska’s companies that benefited from Mnuchin’s lifting the sanctions. Blavatnik, who donated $1 million to DDT’s inaugural fund, formerly served on Rusal’s board. SUAL will own 22.5 percent of Rusal after the restructuring, and the rise in Rusal’s stock price with the lifting of the sanctions increased the value of SUAL Partners’ holding in the company by about $800 million. When questioned earlier about lifting the sanctions, Mnuchin testified in a House committee hearing that legislators should just “trust” DDT.

Part of the agreement to lift the Russian sanctions was for the Rusal to change its board of directors. Now one of DDT’s presidential transition team, Christopher Burnham, sits on Rusal’s board. Burnham is a former official at Deutsche Bank, the financial institution involved in money-laundering scandals with strong ties with DDT’s funding for his projects. The sanctions were quietly lifted last Sunday as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her presidential candidacy to a crowd of over 20,000 in Oakland.

Russian oligarchs support U.S. Christian fundamentalists in their fight to make the United States a theocracy. As the keynote speaker for the 2014 National Organization for Marriage gala, Ben Carson mixed with such notables as Alexey Komov, fascist-supporter, anti-Semite, and key employee of sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. In his speech, Carson said that Marxists were “using LGBT rights to destroy American unity and impose the ‘New World Order.’” The process of “Making America Christian” includes partnering with U.S. homeschool organizations and working closely with Christian movie reviewers. Malofeev funded eastern Ukrainian pro-Russian “separatists” who are believed to shoot down Malaysian Air Flight MH17 and kill all 283 passengers and 15 crew members.

Campaign groups connected to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY), instrumental in making sure the sanctions were lifted, received $7 million to elect Republicans, starting with $3.5 million to a PAC connected to McConnell. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also received hefty donations.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Armed Services Committee, received $1,000 in “unused campaign funds” from former Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) on the day that a McKeon associate met with an Inhofe staff on behalf of the Saudi Arabians. The Saudis paid McKeon $450,000 three days after they killed U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The House has also directed the Pentagon to complete a report on climate change that ommitted requested details such as specific cost estimates to protect or replace the ten most vulnerable bases from each of the military services. The Pentagon report already released expressed security concerns about climate change although it listed no Marine Corps installations. Four months before the release of the report, Hurricane Florence cost Camp Lejeune, the biggest Marine base on the East Coast, over $3 billion in damages. Also omitted was Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida where Hurricane Michael destroyed 95 percent of the buildings. Patrick Shanahan, former Boeing executive, became acting DOD Secretary after Jim Mattis left.

DDT is sending thousands more troops to the border with Mexico because of the “caravans” coming from the south, and he agrees with the majority of people that a physical barrier will not stop the migrants. Told that the border for much of Texas is the middle of the Rio Grande River, DDT agreed that people just had to “touch the land.” He was wrong when he said that criminals “are released into our country.”

A caravan of millions is actually crossing the Mexico border for health care—but it’s going south. In just Yuma (AZ), 6,000 people cross into Los Algodones every day for healthcare, especially dental care. In the U.S., 74 million people, one-fourth the population, have no dental insurance, and most people with that insurance are not covered beyond regular checkups and filings that have a cap of $1,500. Getting dental work in Mexico saves people between 67 percent and 80 percent. One reason for less cost is lack of student debt: dentists pay the government for tuition with one year of free service. [Below: U.S. cars heading into Tijuana.]

More people are going to need healthcare with DDT’s plans to weaken regulations for beryllium exposure, causing lung cancer and symptoms such as difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, joint pain, cough, and fever. The disease also leads to disability and death.

DDT may be watching too many Star Trek reruns on television. He offered NASA unlimited funding if they can put the U.S. flag on Mars by 2020. An astronaut surprised DDT by reminding him that DDT had already set the timeline for the 2030s. Unhappy with that revelation, DDT suggested that NASA drop all other priorities and focus on a trip to Mars, which is 200 times farther than the moon. Even private efforts for a Mars journey were set back last week after a storm flipped the test vehicle SpaceX in progress at Boca Chica (TX). In his new book Team of Vipers, Cliff Sims described a conversation in the White House when DDT was pushing for a trip to Mars in the coming year.

The Senate passed nonbinding bipartisan legislation objecting to DDT’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria. Women in Afghanistan fear control by the Taliban who may subject females to forced marriages, domestic violence, inability to leave their homes without a male relative, and mandatory full-length burqas that cover their faces.

To keep DDT happy, his campaign team used Republicans to poll 10 GOP-leaning House districts that Democrats took in 2018 and supposedly found that a plurality of voters endorsed DDT’s wall. The purpose is to convince DDT that he has a good chance of being re-elected. Unfortunately for DDT’s peace of mind, 56 percent of people say they would “definitely not vote for him.” Majorities of independents (59 percent), women (64 percent), and suburbanites (56 percent) said they won’t support DDT for a second term. It is early to determine his chances, but another shutdown won’t be good for his reputation.

January 25, 2019

DDT: Week 105 – The ‘Dealmaker’ Caves

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) blinked not once but twice this week—the first time when he discovered that he cannot go to the House without its permission and the second time this morning when he reopened the government—for three weeks—without his wall money. He did deliver a threat about a “very powerful alternative” if he doesn’t get his wall money by February 15—likely meaning a “national emergency” to bypass Congress and added this probably illegal and not-so-oblique threat:

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

Republicans followed DDT’s today’s bidding, and both congressional chambers unanimously passed a bill—that DDT has already signed—to fund the government for three weeks while working on DHS funding. Conservatives pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh scuttled the same bill to start the shutdown five weeks ago. DDT the dealmaker got nothing in return for reopening the government.

After 35 days of criticism and sinking ratings, DDT changed his May 2017 statement when he said, “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September.” After 18 months calling for shutdowns and driving the country downhill, DDT achieved his desired goal and didn’t like it.

DDT still isn’t off the hook. FBI Director Christopher Wray is furious—and he’s a DDT appointee. In a video, Wray told agents and other employees, “It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time.” He called the government shutdown “mind-boggling” and “short-sighted.”

For two years, terrified Republicans demonized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to convince her caucus that she shouldn’t be Speaker. The most conservative Dems, some belonging to a DDT-supporting group, accused her of being too old. Nancy, DDT’s “nickname” for the speaker, won, just as she did in passing the Affordable Care Act, now popular with a majority of people. Earlier, Pelosi quashed George W. Bush’s plan for privatizing Social Security and sent his ratings into the tank. Pelosi stays firm and holds her caucus together.

Republicans blame Mick Mulvaney, DDT’s acting chief of staff, for their shutdown troubles after he lobbied them to give DDT his $5.7 funding for “wall.” One Republican said that Mulvaney “seems to have screwed this up and put us in a box.” Another said that DDT “wants a chief of staff who isn’t in charge of anything. Mulvaney is the right man for the job.”

For the past five weeks, DDT’s approval ratings have tanked, and confidence in the economy has dropped. His supporters continually wailed about “bad optics,” and the FAA’s brief closure of flights at LaGuardia, where DDT keeps his private jet, caused ripples of delay across the nation. Ten percent of air traffic controllers called in sick, and 3,000 TSA screeners didn’t come to work last Sunday.

Roger Stone, the DDT friend who created the monster of “wall” as a campaign gimmick, became Robert Mueller’s 37th arrest in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home and been charged with seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction. As intermediary between DDT’s campaign and WikiLeaks’ hacking Democratic emails in he latter part of DDT’s 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, his indictment tightens the connection between the Russia connection and DDT. Federal officials believe that DDT ordered his former fixer, Michael Cohen, to benefit his campaign with other secret duties.

The indictment accuses Stone of false testimony to the House, and his threats toward associates come straight out of a Godfather movie. DDT didn’t refute the charges against Stone; he just ranted and lied that the FBI had alerted CNN, which had a stakeout at Stone’s house. Stone claimed he would never testify against DDT, something that Cohen promised before he testified against DDT. The New York Times is keeping tabs on all charges and their dispositions from Mueller’s investigation.

In 2017, Foreign Policy reported that the newspaper owned by DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, published all of WikiLeaks releases and sent a freelancer in 2014 to meet with founder Julian Assange, avoiding arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The New York Observer published laudatory articles about Assange and stories refuting Russia’s involvement in DDT’s presidential election.  

The best headline about Roger Stone’s arrest comes from Charles Pierce: “FBI agents arrested Roger Stone for Free. I would have, too.” The reference is to lack of paychecks during the government shutdown, and the article is well worth reading.

DDT is rapidly sinking in the polls—as low as his 34 percent approval rating in the AP poll and down eight points from his 42 percent a month ago. [visual poll] With women, he’s up to 71 percent disapproval, from 58 percent disapproval only a month ago.

Other events of the past week:

The GOP party is so afraid that someone will run against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the 2020 primaries that a committee has passed a resolution to do away with them because of his “effective presidency.” The resolution is headed for the full GOP governing body. South Carolina’s GOP had already considered this possibility.

To build his wall, DDT wants to use the civil forfeiture asset “slush fund,” money that law enforcement takes from people and keeps even if they are never charged with any crimes.

The DOJ changed the definitions of “domestic violence” and “sexual assault” to only physical harm constituting a felony or misdemeanor and eliminating emotional abuse to eliminate asylum seekers and reduce investigation into college sexual assault victims.

Four women who left water and food in the desert to keep migrants from dying were convicted of trespass and littering with sentences of $500 fines and six months in federal prison. With no jury, the judge ignored their defense of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act and misrepresented the area where the women left help, false accusing them of being in a place “littered with unexploded military ordnance” and an uncited federal law that they needed permits to enter the property. The last prosecution for this offense was from George W. Bush’s second term; a 2009 conviction was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court. Border Patrol agents regularly destroy food and water, and DOJ prosecutes only volunteers of No More Deaths.

In story straight out of a mob movie, DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen has postponed his testimony to the House Oversight Committee because of threats to his family. He has now been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee for mid-February.

In DDT’s “nobody is sure” defense that he used for the killing of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia royalty, DDT said that “nobody is sure” who killed the four U.S. citizens in a suicide bombing last week. ISIS took responsibility for the killings in Syria, and the bombing was shortly after DDT bragged about pulling out all the troops with his rationale that ISIS was “defeated.”

DDT and Rudy Giuliani claim that there were no plans for DDT’s Moscow Trump Tower, but Buzzfeed has proved they are lying by releasing hundreds of business documents, emails, text messages, architectural plans, and its goal to be “the tallest building in Europe.”

Other memorable Giuliani comments from the past week:

  • Failed to say that no DDT campaigner colluded with Russia before he added, “If the collusion happened, it happened a long time ago” and finished by asserting that it “wouldn’t be a crime.”
  • Quoted DDT as saying that talks to build a Trump Tower Moscow were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.”
  • Suggested that DDT talked to Michael Cohen about his false testimony to Congress before saying that his statements were “hypothetical” and “not based on conversations I had with the President.”

The General Services Administration rented a federal property to DDT for his Washington hotel even knowing that it might violate the U.S. Constitution.

Last April, the day after T-Mobile announced its $26 billion merger with Sprint to double T-Mobile’s value, nine top staffers stayed at DDT’s hotel for up to three days and making repeated visits while they curried support from DDT for the merger. The Senate Commerce Committee is calling for another hearing on T-Mobile’s proposal.

Since DDT was inaugurated, 7 million more people are without health insurance, going to a four-year high from 10.9 percent in late 2016 to 13.7 percent.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar allowed Miracle Hill Ministries, a federally funded Protestant foster care agency in South Carolina, to deny foster children to Jewish families because of the South Carolina agency’s “strict religious requirements.” Texas AG Ken Paxton, several times indicted, is working on a federal waiver allowing discrimination against both religion and LGBTQ people.

Penalties for polluters in the last fiscal year dropped 85 percent from $500 million to $72 million, the lowest level since 1994.

The best thing from the past week was Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) response to Democrats rejecting DDT’s bill demanding his “wall” and adding punitive measures to immigration. His 30-minute speech went far more than lambasting Republicans for perpetuating the shutdown into a history of how they blocked Democrats from a $46 billion measure for border security and the intrinsic problems of the current Congress. Everyone should watch this video.

January 13, 2019

A Picture of U.S. Income, Health in 2018

Filed under: Income inequality — trp2011 @ 9:05 PM
Tags: ,

Since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, he has evaluated the economy through the unemployment rate, the GDP, and the stock market. Yet the progress of United States is far more complicated that these few markers as conservative policies are destroying all except the wealthiest in the nation.

Lack of Equality in Wages: The low unemployment rate looks good, but wages don’t. Since Ronald Reagan was elected, the schism through wages for the wealthiest and the rest of the U.S. population has only increased in disastrous differences that have built since Ronald Reagan became president.

Inequality by States: Every state demonstrates serious inequality in income between the top one percent and the other 99 percent, with the ratio higher than 26.3 to 1 in at least eight states and Washington, D.C. Inequality in the United States has gone past the Gilded Age of the 1920s—gold on the outside but dross under the cover—as working people lose any bargaining power.

Unions: As corporations and conservative policies destroyed unions, income inequality ballooned. Workers who have more ability to negotiate with employers have a much better chance of staying out of poverty; corporations and policymakers who care only about profits have eroded this capacity. Support for unions is essential for a reversal of mass poverty in the United States.

Black/Hispanic Poverty Rates: Today’s federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is 25 percent less than at its peak in 1968. The current federal minimum wage was last increased to $7.25 in 2009. That amount is worth ten percent less than ten years ago while inflation has gone up almost 17 percent. A connection between inflation and an increase in minimum wage from 1968 would lower the black and Hispanic poverty rate by 14 percent from the actual 17.4 million to 15.1 million, bringing at least 2.5 million of these minorities out of poverty. Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would take 7.4 million blacks and Hispanics out of poverty with the $12.47 minimum wage equivalent to 1968. This policy would save taxpayers billions by removing them from the safety net and strengthening the economy.

Teaching Wages: In the past few years, teachers have gone on strike in several states, many of them red, and 30,000 LA teachers are scheduled to follow suit tomorrow. In some states, teachers have run for legislature and won against the policymakers who starved education. Part of the problem is the teacher wage penalty—the difference between teachers and other college graduates. In every state, public school teachers are paid less, from 3.1 percent in Wyoming to 36.4 percent in Arizona.

Growing control by corporations in raising prices to benefit shareholders continues to transfer money from lower- and middle-income families to the wealthy, according to new research. Because the bottom 80 percent of the country owns just 10 percent of the shares but spends 60 percent of the money, they are the losers while the top 20 percent, the wealthy, make money. Shares alone took three percent of national household income from the bottom 80 percent in 2016 to give to the top 20 percent. One solution would be a cap on prices, something that conservatives oppose.

As income inequality increases, so does the rate of suicide. Researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett found the stress, anxiety, and addiction connected to suicide also comes from the inequality. Rising suicide rates are one reason for the downward trend of life expectancy in the U.S. for three years. Maternal death increased again this past year, putting the U.S. in the same category as Afghanistan and Swaziland. Infant mortality rates haven’t decreased significantly for five years, staying far higher than rates for other developed countries. These trends come from lack of access to healthcare, especially the reversals in coverage since DDT’s inauguration. Forty percent of adults don’t have the savings to cover a $400 emergency, and over 25 percent skipped a medical treatment because of the cost in 2017.

In worldwide happiness, the United States fell for the second time in two years to 18th place. The Gallup-Sharecare Index reported significant declines in well-being in 21 states in 2017, the largest drop since the 2008 recession with six states more than in 2008. At least two-thirds of these 21 states voted for DDT. Not one state improved in well-being during 2017. Every morning I wake up, wondering what disaster has happened since I left the Internet the night before and then become grateful because DDT hasn’t declared World War III. And I’m not alone. That is life in the new world of “normal” in the United States.

October 11, 2018

United States, A Banana Republic

“Banana Republic” is a term to describe governments with countries that suffer from lack of democracy and corruption. How the United States fits the description of a “banana republic”:

An extremely stratified social class with a large impoverished working class and an ultra-rich ruling-class plutocracy with a lack of a middle class and lack of upward mobility: The U.S. has had the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world for several years, and it keeps worsening.

Government’s corrupt connection with big business: As in fascist countries, U.S. conservative politicians have supported the merger of state and corporate power by removing regulations, giving corporations billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies, and putting banks and corporations above the law. The person occupying the Oval Office is profiting with millions—possibly trillions—from domestic groups and foreign government encouraged to use his businesses despite his constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause.

A male business, political, and military elite controlling the nation: In a circular pattern, politicians take money from business for campaigns in exchange for subserviency, and conservative politicians vote for increased military expenses to keep money flowing into their states. Lack of regulations moves wealth offshore while workers suffer. Conservative politicians put white conservative males into control on the courts, protecting only white males and big business and permitting illegal tax evasion. All new DDT judicial nominees are male, recognizing that “we the ruling males” are in charge instead of the constitutional “we the people.” Less than one-third of the U.S. population is white male, but they still control the nation.

Police corruption and expanding police state: The frequent pattern of using military equipment for police actions is like military actions in Iraq, and law enforcement increasingly kill people in “accidents” or badly orchestrated sting operations. Laws since 9/11 permit warrantless wiretapping and other tactics common in dictatorships.

Highest incarceration rate in the world: The 716 prisoners per 100,000 residents in the U.S. far exceed the 114 in Canada, the 79 in German, and even the 162 in Saudi Arabia. Privatized prisons have greatly increased the number of prisoners because the government gets kickbacks from these businesses for their campaigns that keep them the ruling party.

Lack of access to healthcare: Despite the Affordable Care Act, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) created a path to health insurance that doesn’t provide for pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, maternal care, and other health needs by conning them into believing that they save money. DDT’s newest plan is like a person paying less for a car that doesn’t run. People in the U.S. pay more than most developed countries for healthcare expenses and are reduced to medical bankruptcies but are convinced that universal health care is evil.

Much shorter life expectancy in poor than wealthy: In one West Virginia county, life expectancy for males is 63.9 years compared to 81.6 years, 17.7 years higher, in affluent Fairfax County (VA)—a difference of 27 percent. Bangladesh life expectancy is higher than McDowell County (WV). U.S. women’s life expectancy was #41 in 2010.

Hunger and malnutrition: Banana republics are associated with food insecurity, but the need for food stamps in the U.S. has increased from one in 50 during the 1970s to one in eight with 50 million people, including 12 million children, suffering from food insecurity.

High infant mortality: Fifty-seven countries have a smaller infant mortality rate than the U.S. In first-day death rate, babies dying the day that they are born, the U.S. has the highest rate in the industrialized world, twice as many as in the European Union.

One idealistic view of saving the United States is to vote, and millions of people want to exercise their right to select their representatives in this republic. Yet conservative politicians block the ability for millions to vote. Beyond white males rigging the districts so that a state with a majority of Democrats will elect almost all Republicans for state and federal elected officials, voter ID laws that prevent people from voting. The following states have created these ways to keep people from voting:

Arizona: Secretary of State Michele Reagan won’t be required to update voter registration addresses of 384,000 Arizonans who moved since the last election, even if the Motor Vehicle Division system won’t change addresses until people “opt-in” to update their information in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act. When people show up at the wrong polling place because of Reagan’s inaction, the voter can go to the new address and cast a provisional ballot. The state, however, has a record of destroying these without recording them. Reagan said that she’ll fix the system sometime next year—after the midterm election. Maybe.

Florida: Whether prisoners and released felons can vote is dependent on state law. A few states don’t have restrictions against voting after the felons serve their sentence, but a few rely on “individual petitions.” Of the 6 million people with felony convictions permanently barred from voting, about 1.5 million of them are from Florida, and over 20 percent of them are black. Gov. Rick Scott is in charge of deciding whether each one can be permitted to vote, and he has granted only 8 percent of those requesting the right to vote with a backlog of over 10,000 not yet reviewed.

Georgia: Brian Kemp is the state Secretary of State and in charge of elections. Kemp is also running for governor. He is keeping 53,000 voter applications from being processed because of typographical errors. The list has a disproportionately high number of black voters. Kemp’s opponent is Stacey Abrams, a black woman. Because Kemp is in charge of elections, there is no proof that he legitimately won the primary to become candidate in the general election, especially after indications of voting corruption within the past few years. Kemp is also being sued for using a racially-biased methodology to purge 700,000 voters from the rolls in the past two years and failing to send notices of the removal to voters. That’s ten percent of registered voters. Kemp also kept the state from having a paper trail to its woefully inadequate digital voting system, allowing him more election corruption.

North Dakota: A state law, challenged but approved in court, mandates that all voter IDs have residential addresses. Even the Supreme Court thinks that people without street addresses should not have the right to vote. This law takes voting rights from the homeless and people living on Native American reservations who lack the “residential address.”

Texas: Delivering a letter demanding that Waller County address its problems with rejecting registrations of students at Prairie View A&M resulted in the arrest of the campaign staffer presenting the missive to a clerk. Jacob Aronowitz, a field director for Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, photographed the clerk taking the letter, and the clerk objected. When he was arrested, Aronowitz called Siegal who heard Aronowitz asking why he was being held and telling the detaining officer that his lawyer, Siegel, was running for office. Aronowitz was asked for Siegel’s political party, and the officer kept Aronowitz’s phone with his records when he was released. The county gave students the address to use for registration because all students use one post office box and then refused to accept it on the last day to register, jeopardizing the registrations. The letter demanded that the county update the existing registrations because students had followed the county’s direction. Waller County is uncomfortable with students voting because the student body is 82 percent black while the county is 70.5 percent white. It opposed students’ right to vote until a 1979 case in the U.S. Supreme Court upheld students’ right to register at their college address. The county wouldn’t obey the high court ruling, declaring in 2004 that students were ineligible to vote because they failed to meet the residency requirement. The campus did not get a polling place until 2013. So the county, which does not want the students to vote, gave them the wrong address for registration, refused to accept the address they gave students, arrested a person obtaining verification that he delivered a letter of complaint, lied about his not identifying himself, asked for the political party of the person objecting, and refused to return the arrested party’s possessions when he was released.

Voting could help move the United States from a banana republic—if citizens get the permission to cast a ballot and their ballots are counted. Until that time, the U.S. will remain a banana republic.

August 6, 2018

Feds on the Losing Side in Court

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is desperately trying to put himself above all laws, even appointing a nominee for the Supreme Court who believes a Republican president doesn’t have to go to court, but some of the recent lawsuits go against DDT’s wishes.

A huge win is a federal judge’s ruling that a lawsuit can move forward to determine whether DDT has broken the law against officials accepting emoluments from domestic and foreign governments. AGs from Maryland and Washington, D.C. maintain that DDT’s profit from his businesses such as his hotel and restaurant violates the constitutional clause that prevents any business transactions giving DDT a “profit, gain or advantage.” The judge agreed.

According to law professor John Mikhail, dictionaries published from 1604 to 1806 use a “broad definition” for emoluments, including “profit,” “advantage,” “gain,” or benefit.” Mikhail added, “Over 92 percent of these dictionaries define ’emolument’ . . . with no reference to ‘office’ or ’employment.’” Thus the emoluments clause stops any benefit or profit to a president from any government whether in his capacity as president or in any other role, such as the owner of a hotel like the Trump International Hotel in Washington. DDT wants the emoluments clause to narrowly refer to compensation for official services, making it a bribery clause.

DDT desperately wants to stop the case because the legal discovery in the lawsuit allows extensive knowledge of his business and financial records, possibly his tax returns which he has kept secret.

A federal judge ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program must be fully restored. The judge wrote that DDT’s administration had again failed to justify closing down the program but delayed his ruling for 20 days for an appeal. The opinion stated that DDT’s decision “was arbitrary and capricious” with legal judgment that was “inadequately explained.” His full ruling shows more of his irritation with the government’s arguments. The judge appointed by George W. Bush is the third federal judge to reject DDT’s excuse for closing the program.

The 9th Circuit Court gave DDT a tiny win when it ruled that a judge can’t overrule DDT’s withholding federal funding for sanctuary regions for the entire nation and sent the case back to the lower court. The circuit court did declare that the order is unconstitutional for its nine states because it exceeded DDT’s authority because Congress is in charge of spending. In his order, DDT attempted to require local law enforcement to carry out federal responsibilities.

A federal judge invalidated the Federal Election Commission regulation permitting donors to “dark-money” groups, including 501(c)4 non-profits, to remain anonymous. The ruling may lead to requirements forcing nonprofits to disclose people who donate $200 or more toward influencing federal elections. The suit began when Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS didn’t disclose sources for the $6 million used to defeat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in 2012. The FEC has 45 days to issue interim regulations or appeal, but an appeal would require a unanimous vote from commissions—probably impossible.

In another donor issue, Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock is suing the IRS because of its new policy that politically active nonprofit groups don’t need to tell the IRS or other government entities about their major donors. Bullock maintains that the new guideline undermines nonprofit regulations and policing of illegal spending in political campaigns. According to the lawsuit, the government failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act, the same law used for other suits regarding DDT’s executive orders. It evades the public comment mandate and rewrites policy by calling it a “revenue procedure.”

A judge refused a request from Michael Cohen’s lawyer to put a gag order on Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to stop him from making public comments about Cohen. Avenatti has said that honoring that request could mean a judge might put a gag order on DDT. In connection with his lawsuit about DDT’s allegedly paying Stormy Daniels “hush money” before the 2016 presidential election, Avenatti said that he now represents three more women with the same claim.

A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit against DDT’s question about citizenship in the 2020 census can go forward because of evidence that the decision was driven by discrimination. He allowed DDT’s negative tweets and statements about immigrants, including the one about “shithole” countries. Plaintiffs from 28 states and a coalition of immigration rights groups allege that the question is designed to drive down census responses in immigrant communities.

A federal judge blocked Defense Distributed from releasing 3D printed gun plans online, and the case goes back to court on August 10. The 3D guns have no background checks or serial numbers and are illegal in the U.S. because they evade metal detection.

The 9th Circuit Court ruled that new California gun safety laws are constitutional. One requires new models of semi-automatic handguns to have identifying information stamped on bullet casings. Another is a requirement to prevent accidental discharges of handguns, and a third bans concealed carry on school grounds.

An Iowa judge issued a temporary injunction on the state’s new voting law and returns the absentee early voting period to 40 days from the new law’s 29 days. The injunction also blocks some ID requirements on absentee ballots. Secretary of State Paul Pate, who is up for re-election, plans to immediately appeal the decision on legislation that he promoted.

A federal judge ruled that Florida’s college campuses can be used for early voting sites because the state’s ban is unconstitutional.

The 7th Circuit Court has ruled that a transgender woman denied hormone therapy while in custody may pursue her lawsuit, overturning a lower court decision that dismissed her case. Lisa Mitchell wasn’t assessed by Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections for over a year; clinicians then recommended the hormone therapy. Without any policy justification, she was still denied treatment because she was due to be released within a month, and parole officers, after her release, stopped her from any hormone therapy and forced her to dress and present like a man.

Four cities—Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Baltimore—filed a lawsuit against DDT and his cabinet for “waging a relentless campaign to sabotage and, ultimately, to nullify” the Affordable Care Act. The tipping point for the suit was DHHS’ decision to keep substandard health insurance plans for up to three years instead of three months. DDT earlier expanded association health plans not required to cover basic health benefits, eliminated the individual mandate, vastly reduced funds to advertise the ACA, and refused to defend the ACA in court, arguing that pre-existing conditions protection are unconstitutional. Part of the lawsuit’s justification are DDT’s claims that he will get “rid of Obamacare” by destroying it. Without the ACA, cities are forced to pay more for uninsured people. The “take care” clause of the ACA requires the president to ensure that the ACA is faithfully executed.

Last year, 18 states filed a lawsuit opposing DDT’s attempt to block federal cost-sharing subsidies to make the ACA affordable for low- and middle-income people. The case was dismissed, but 12 states filed a lawsuit last week against DDT’s expansion of association health plans. Yale University law professor Abbe Gluck said:

“No scholar or court has ever said the president can use his discretion to implement a statute to purposely destroy it. If there’s ever going to be a violation of the ‘take care’ clause, this is it.”

Nineteen attorneys general have joined California AG Xavier Becerra opposing DDT’s plans to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks through 2026, refuting the need to improve public health, combat climate change, and save consumers money. DDT will also try to revoke California’s legal waiver to set its own tailpipe restrictions granted under the 1970 Clean Air Act and restrict the dozen states from following California’s lead. His own administration refutes DDT’s “fake” information: an analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety and the EPA estimates a savings of $500 billion “societal costs,” thousands of fewer highway fatalities, and $2,340 lower cost on each new car. Officials at an internal EPA presentation warned that DDT’s proposal contained “a wide range of errors, use of outdated data, and unsupported assumptions.” Enthusiasm for DDT’s proposal, meant to bring the Koch brothers back onto his team, came only from the oil and gas industry.

Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who received an extremely light sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in 2016, is back in court asking for his conviction overturned. A lawyer claim to a panel of three judges that Turner only wanted “outercourse” and cannot be convicted of rape because it was a “version of safe sex” with no “penile contact.” Justice Franklin D. Elia said, “I absolutely don’t understand what you are talking about.” Witness reported that the victim’s dress was pulled up over her waist and she was not moving. At the time, Turner admitted to digitally penetrating her.

On the same day that Washington State AG Bob Ferguson joined other AGs to block posting 3D gun blueprint on the computer, he and three other AGs warned DDT against defunding Planned Parenthood. Ferguson’s 10-0 record of wins with only three that can be appealed. He called DDT’s administration “sloppy in how they do their work” and that it typically breaks federal laws. State AGs have worked together to file about 56 multistate lawsuits against DDT, almost as many as the 60 filed against President Obama in all eight years.

DDT’s rush to overturn every move by President Obama has been delayed not only by lack of quality but also by his bombastic public comments.  His incompetence may save the nation.

July 21, 2018

DDT: Week 78 – Walking Back

The meeting at Helsinki with Vladimir Putin was supposed to be a high spot of the first 18 months for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) after he was inaugurated. Instead it was his worst week thus far: he spent four days walking back his statements before escaping to his Bedminster (NJ) resort. After denying his rejection of intelligence information about Putin’s election meddling which may have made the presidential election illegitimate, DDT invited Putin to Washington in the fall, but the GOP head of the Senate said that Putin would not be welcome in Congress. DDT’s actions are increasingly called treasonous.[visual new York cover]

Doug Heye, former communications director for the RNC, said:

“Helsinki was such a disaster that we have lost sight of the disasters that came before that in Brussels and London. Then, from a PR perspective, obviously the back and forth they’ve had this week has also been a disaster—and not how crisis communications is handled, to put it mildly.”

Even Rupert Murdoch’s the Wall Street Journal slammed DDT about Helsinki, questioning his loyalty to the country in a “Trump First Doctrine.” The editorial suggested that the GOP join Democrats to check DDT’s diplomatic powers. “Political isolation concerning a foreign adversary is a weak and dangerous place to be,” according to the editorial.

Republicans worked hard to use Peter Strzok as a tool to get rid of the Mueller investigation, grilling him 21 hours in two days—the second day televised. They pushed the falsehood that he was trying to keep DDT from being elected, something he could have done if he had announced before the election that DDT’s campaign was being investigated for Russian collusion—which he didn’t.

Shortly before DDT left for his weekly vacation, he faced reports about a secretly recorded tape between him and former lawyer Michael Cohen two months before the election about a hush payoff for his affair with Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/us/politics/michael-cohen-trump-tape.html  Earlier DDT denied his almost year-long affair with McDougal that began soon after Melanie Trump gave birth to their son Barron. DDT’s lawyers permitted the tape’s release, and Rudy Giuliani said that it shows no wrongdoing.

Giuliani remains DDT’s legal mouthpiece on television, but he keeps working for foreign clients, including Brazil, Colombia, and a Iranian dissident group listed by the State Department as a terrorist group. Giuliani has not registered with the DOJ, claiming that he doesn’t directly lobby the U.S. government and doesn’t charge DDT for his “services.” An authority said that Giuliani’s speeches to the group require his registration. Since Giuliani became DDT’s lawyer in April, and has given opinions on Iran, North Korea, and other issues outside his position while divulging details about discussions with both DDT and Robert Mueller’s office.

Russia still dominates other disasters for DDT. Documents from the DOJ about a secret FISA warrant to surveil DDT’s foreign policy adviser Carter Page show that he is “an agent of a foreign power” recruited by Russia to “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law.” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) had accused the FBI and DOJ of using a dossier by a private British citizen for its surveillance, but information debunked that claim. The 412 pages, obtained by Gizmodo with a Freedom of Information Act request filed 15 months ago, are heavily redacted but damaging to Page, who plans to refute the application’s claims on CNN’s State of the Union tomorrow.

Paul Manafort is still in jail after violating his bail agreement for contacting witnesses. An appeal by his lawyers to delay the trial scheduled for July 25 in Virginia caused his move to a new prison from his old VIP one that provided him two computers, the second one used to read and write emails that his legal team takes from jail to transmit the emails permitting him to continue witness intimidation. Manafort also had a private, self-contained living unit with personal bathroom and shower facilities, a personal telephone, and a workroom available to him between early in the morning until late in the evening. His laptop had an extension cord so that he can use it in his cell after 10:00 pm. The lawyers tried to withdraw their concerns because of “safety” in the new jail, but the judge turned them down. Judge T.S. Ellis, a Reagan appointee, said that the Alexandria facility has experience with inmates such as “foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors.”

Manafort pleaded not guilty to Robert Mueller’s charges that he dramatically understated his income on federal tax returns from 2010 through 2014 and allegations of bank fraud totaling more than $20 million tied to loans he applied for in connection with various homes he owns. The prosecution plans to present over 500 pieces of evidence regarding his wealth. Manafort’s trial in Washington, D.C. for money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for his work in Ukraine is scheduled for September. So who’s paying for Manafort’s lgal team?

DDT’s obsession with “fake news” may come from his obsession in watching the Fox network. The Fox News morning show Fox & Friends claimed in a tweet that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation “still hasn’t tied anyone from the campaign to the probe.” Several people from the campaign, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort, have been “tied” to the investigation. Direct guilty pleas came from George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, who briefly became DDT’s national security adviser. The Fox tweet has been removed.

DDT’s most recent pardons are for two Oregon ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, convicted for setting fire to federal land when they were trying to cover up illegally poaching seven deer. Firefighters had to be airlifted out of the area to save their lives. The Hammonds had a 28-year history of permit violations and unauthorized fires on 45,000 acres. According to witnesses, Steven Hammond “handed out ‘Strike Anywhere’ matches because they were going to ‘light up the whole country on fire.’” The pardon goes far beyond pandering to white supremacists, however; it leads to privatizing public land for mining and drilling so that private companies can plunder resources without paying royalties. During his first year, DDT concealed the identities of the benefitting firms with these giveaways by obscure online methods. Not even the fabled Grand Canyon is safe.

GOP House members supported DDT in removing sanctions from the Chinese company ZTE guilty of violating sanctions by selling U.S. goods to Iran in violation of sanctions, and senators agreed. DDT was concerned about a possible closure of the company with his tweet, “Too many jobs in China lost.”

Unions received another blow from DDT’s administration after the Supreme Court said that they had to provide services to employees for free. DDT eliminated a regulation requiring employers to report information about the union-busting consultants that companies hire. Although federal law mandates companies to report hires of “persuaders” who talk to workers about not unionizing, they no longer have this mandate if their lawyers and consultants don’t directly talk to employees.

DDT has also shut down guideline.gov, the National Guideline Clearinghouse, which has provided an online database of best health care practices from medical groups and researchers. Doctors used this source to relevant guidelines from what was considered the world’s most comprehensive and reliable repositories. Republicans claimed that the Clearinghouse was too expensive, but its cost was roughly equivalent to HHS Secretary Tom Price’s expenditures on travel during his 240 days.

DDT continues to decimate the Affordable Care Act. Earlier in July, he stopped annual payments to even out costs for insurers when clients need expensive medical services. This permanent risk adjustment was part of the law. With the threat of higher premiums and failure of small insurance companies, DDT may have to reverse his position. He will, however, continue his recent policy of 90 percent cuts in advertising to encourage participation and 40 percent cuts for “navigator” programs that help consumers sign up. Rupert Murdoch’s USA Today opposes DDT’s determination to kill the ACA that has “until now … been a success.”  The editorial concludes:

“Republicans should be held accountable for their handiwork — even if they do it in a bureaucratic dark alley instead of openly in the halls of Congress.”

DDT is even opposed to providing accurate information about breastfeeding. At the World Health Assembly in late May, the U.S. supported infant formula manufacturers and threatened trade wars and cessation of military aid targeting Ecuador if it didn’t drop the resolution to provide scientific information about breastfeeding. Ecuador caved in, followed by at least a dozen African nations, most of them poor, that feared retaliation. The U.S., however, did not threaten Russia when it introduced the breastfeeding measure, and the resolution passed. It cites scientific evidence that infants are healthiest with breastfeeding and tries to block infant formula manufacturers from lying to consumers. A 2016 study found that breast-feeding could prevent 800,000 child deaths a year and save $300 billion because of reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for breastfed infants.

The European Union and Japan on Tuesday signed a major trade deal eliminating most tariffs. The United States has lost more of its influence.

May 30, 2018

Democracy on Memorial Day

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:41 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the real Memorial Day and the final blog post in a series of vanishing democracy in the United States. News from the last few weeks:

When the cost of healthcare premiums skyrocket next year, people need to thank Republicans and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Vice President Kris Haltmeyer said that the rise will come from the GOP failure to shore up the market after a bill collapsed during Republican arguments about abortion restrictions. In last week’s briefing, Haltmeyer said, “With the repeal of the individual mandate and the failure of Congress to enact stabilization legislation, we are expecting premiums to go up substantially.”  He put the average increases in the “low teens” with costs in some areas of up to 70 or 80 percent.

The NRA found the “good guy with the gun” vital to their propaganda, but the organization blocked all guns at their convention earlier this month. People in the United States were safer for a few days while almost 90,000 gun fanatics gathered in one place without their weapons. The group made Oliver North its new leader. He can be remembered as an important figure in illegally selling weapons to Iranians for the release of U.S. prisoners before using the money to illegally finance a war in Central America. His convictions of multiple felonies were later overturned on appeal. It’s the new conservative world. In a recent appearance on Fox, he claimed that all Iranians are liars.

North joins the “convict caucus,” politicians who came out of prison to take important positions or run for office. (Technically, he was only convicted but never behind bars.) Other members are two candidates for U.S. Senate and one for the House in GOP primaries. Don Blankenship, imprisoned for violating workplace safety in the deaths of 29 coal miners, already lost his run for the senator from Kentucky but plans to run as an independent for the Constitution Party, despite the “sore loser” law preventing his candidacy. The other two primaries are August 28 when former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio runs in Arizona for the Senate, and June 26 when Michael Grimm runs for a representative from New York.

Grimm claimed to be a close friend of DDT, but DDT endorsed his opponent. One reason for the endorsement was Dan Donovan’s vote for the tax cut, but Donovan really voted against the bill. Grimm is running on his record of admittedly hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities, and making false statements under oath. After Grimm’s aide filed fraudulent candidate petitions in Donovan’s name, he may be headed back to the hoosegow.

The former Boy Scouts decided to recruit girls in an effort to increase its members, but the Mormon church pulled all its members world-wide, instantly reducing the 2.3 million membership by 20 percent. All boys who were part of the 30,500 congregations automatically became part of the Boy Scouts.

DDT’s swamp deepens. Busy with foreign affairs, he has not made many appointments lately, but this one is a doozy. Ronald W. Mortensen, a strong anti-immigration activist, is DDT’s pick to lead the State Department agency overseeing refugee and immigration issues. Normally GOP Senators would automatically confirm him, but his writings have attacked senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) and John McCain (AZ). Mortensen has worked for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and said that DACA gives amnesty to “criminal illegal aliens.” As assistant secretary of State for the bureau of population, refugees and migration, Mortensen’s mission would be to “provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world,” according to its mission statement.

After assigning immigration judges quotas for their employment, AG Jeff Sessions ordered all immigration judges to not temporarily remove cases from their dockets without issuing decisions. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that this practice will create problems, and Trina Realmutto, attorney with American Immigration Council, called the decision “bad law, bad policy.”

As if DDT’s appointments aren’t bad enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is adding to the sewer by appointing Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to the Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated FRC as a hate group. The commission’s job is to review violations of religious freedom and make policy recommendations to Congress, Secretary of State, and president. Perkins is best known for his virulent hatred of LGBTQ people.

Gordon Hartogensis, Mitch McConnell’s brother-in-law, is DDT’s pick for the Department of Labor’s pension agency, responsible for paying back dissolved pensions after companies cannot meet their obligations. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is already the Transportation Secretary. Hartogensis has no public service experience or understanding of his job’s responsibilities of protecting pensions for 1.5 million people with a deficit of $76 billion.

Andrew Smith, a former lawyer for payday lenders, has been confirmed as the director of the FTC’s consumer protection unit that acts as watchdog over private companies.

Richard Grenell, the new ambassador to Germany, lived up to concerns that he will offend Germans. An hour after his arrival, he issued the order that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” DDT had said that he wanted all countries to join him in sanctions against Iran, but Germany, along with four other countries, don’t plan to back out of the denuclearization agreement. Just as many people predicted, Germans found Grenell to be offensive. He matches the inappropriate selection of Pete Hoekstra, ambassador to the Netherlands, who lied about having said that the country has “no-go” areas where Muslims set cars and politicians on fire. Hoekstra then denied claiming “fake news” after he discovered the video footage of his statements. Since Grenell’s statement, he’s been fairly low-key although he told Fox that he didn’t want to be a “typical diplomat,” that he would “dig” into policy.

A few commencement speeches this year focused on the loss of democracy in the United States. Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) spoke to graduates of the Harvard Law School “about our democratic norms and how hard-won and vulnerable they are” with the lessons to be learned about today’s administration. At the University of Maryland, Al Gore encouraged his audience “to reclaim the integrity of American democracy.” Economist Alice Rivlin agreed, telling people at Indiana University, “Only you can fix American democracy.”

No address got as much attention as the one that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered to graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don’t take action. His warnings didn’t mention DDT by name, but the intent was obvious:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth—even on what may seem the most trivial of matters—we go wobbly on America.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector—and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector—then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.

“But a warning to you as you leave this place—a place where the person sitting on either side of you shares that understanding. You will now enter a world where, sadly, that is not always the case. And your commitment to this high standard of ethical behavior and integrity will be tested.”

According to Tillerson, truth is the “central tenet of a free society.”

Tillerson was complicit in an administration that displayed the opposite of the ideas he presented after he participated in a huge cover-up of climate change when he was CEO of a huge company in the fuel industry. We can only hope that he benefits from 20/20 hindsight and can help others understand how destructive the current administration and their followers are to the values of the U.S. people say they prize. And we hope that the youth of the United States will want to bring back a form of democracy to the nation and attend to the U.S. Constitution.

January 4, 2018

What Government Shutdown? GOP Needs Democrats

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 8:04 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In Congress, last September was supposed to be a difficult time—except Republicans put off the hard decisions until December. Busy with the destructive tax bill, they moved it to January. It’s January. Without passing a long-term spending bill by January 19, the government shuts down. The GOP can’t agree on what they want to do so both congressional chambers need Democrats, especially because the Senate requires 60 votes to move the spending bill forward unless Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kills the filibuster. The new year has brought another Democratic senator to Washington, making the GOP majority 51-49. And the world is focused on a new “tell-all” book about how the friends of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) thinks he is a fool, an idiot, or mentally deranged–or all three.

Major problems for Congress:

Spending Caps:

The strict sequestration law to control the budget passed in 2011 and needs congressional approval for any increases. Part of congressional members wants to lift the cap to help people, and others want far more money to throw at the military. A third segment of legislators don’t want to raise the caps at all. DDT wants an extra $100 billion over the existing $549 billion for the Pentagon. To support this increase, Democrats want the equivalent sum for domestic spending such as housing programs, Pell grants, and food and job assistance. Without a decision on spending caps, Congress cannot make any decisions about the spending bill.

“Dreamers”:

Some Republicans say that they want to help the young people who were illegally brought to the United States involuntarily, but they have shown no evidence of following through, many of them afraid that constituents opposing the idea won’t re-elect them. At risk is the DACA program, eliminated by DDT last fall, that permits vetted young undocumented immigrants to get jobs and go to school. At the start of December, 34 House Republicans signed a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) calling for a vote before the end of 2017 on legislation to protect DACA recipients, but Ryan promised to take up the issue in January if they passed the tax bill. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) helped pass the horrible tax bill because he was told that he could stay in the room during any discussion of the issue.GOP Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) joined Flake (AZ) in supporting Dreamer legislation, but they both have a reputation for caving in at a crisis vote.DDT waffles about saving the Dreamers—as he does with all other policy—and now demands his wall in exchange for protecting them. Over two years ago, Paul Ryan promised he would not bring any immigration bill to the House floor that wasn’t supported by a GOP majority, but he wasn’t facing a government shutdown then.

Children’s Health Insurance Program:

CHIP, the program for nine million children close to poverty, was saved until March while the tax bill was in play. For some Republicans, helping children is one of those programs that they oppose.

The Affordable Health Care Act:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pried a vote for the tax bill from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) by promising that people would be keeping their health care. Without the yes votes from Flake and Collins, the tax bill would have failed. Conservatives who hate domestic spending reject the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization bill, which has lost some of its value after the tax bill removed the individual mandate for everyone to purchase health care. Collins wants two years of cost-sharing reduction payments and a “reinsurance” programs. Like Flake, she isn’t going to get what she was promised for her vote.

Disaster Relief:

Another postponed issue from last year is the $81 billion package to give aid for Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, and Texas after a series of destructive hurricanes and the massive wildfires in California. While DDT held an opulent party at Mar-a-Lago for hundreds on New Year’s Eve, one-half the people in Puerto Rico are still without electricity.

Surveillance Reform:

Because of disagreements, Congress passed a short-term extension of electronic surveillance in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The conservative Freedom Caucus voted for the tax bill with McConnell’s promise that they could offer amendments to a FISA reauthorization that limits the collection of communications of foreigners abroad with people from the U.S. without a warrant. The Freedom Caucus maintains that this law violates constitutional protections.

Infrastructure:

Even worse in January is the possibility that DDT may introduce infrastructure into the swampy mix. The GOP has already given $1.5 trillion that they don’t have to the wealthy and corporations, leaving nothing for infrastructure so that DDT’s “infrastructure package” relies heavily on state expenditures. States have been increasingly impovrished as the federal government lays more fiscal responsibilities on them while giving money to the military and wealthy. The reduction of deductions for taxpayers in the new tax bill benefiting the wealthy and corporations will make them more unable to pay additional taxes to states.

Debt Ceiling:

Once Republicans survive the spending bill—or shut down the government again—they need to move forward to raise the debt ceiling by March. They have just increased the debt by $1.5 trillion, but the conservative caucus will certainly balk at an increase in the debt ceiling without spending cuts. The current leadership think that not increasing the debt ceiling is not a big problem because the U.S. can refuse to pay the bills that it already incurred or offer to pay less. If Congress passes the spending bill in January but fails to deal with raising the debt ceiling, the country faces another government shutdown in March. DDT has said that a “good shutdown” can benefit the nation. Even the possibility of failing to meet the nation’s fiscal responsibilities in 2011 led to a four-percent drop in the stock markets and a first-time ever downgrading of ratings which increased the percentage of loan interest. Support for the controlling GOP decreased, and the international community criticized the “dangerously irresponsible” actions of the U.S. government. 

Cuts to Entitlement, including Those That Are Earned:

Republicans bragged that the $1.5 trillion deficit would not exist because of magnificent growth in the economy, but they plan to cover the money with cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. That may be the big fight this year when the white people who supported DDT and other Republicans discover that their vote means less money for living and health care.

The top four GOP and Dem congressional leaders met yesterday and said that the meeting was “positive and productive,” meaning “pointless.” A major question is whether the Republicans can convince people to put off the Dreamers and other issues by promising them that they will pass legislature in this area. DDT has slowed down negotiations on the spending bill because he hasn’t issued specific demands for his wall while the DHS talks about technology and personnel instead of a 30-foot high wall for 2,000 miles. Republicans hope that the spending bill will be independent of immigration; Democrats are pushing for its inclusion. Hopefully, the Democrats understand that not including the Dreamers in the spending bill will leave them in the cold and headed toward Mexico.

Since McConnell pushed through the GOP-owned punitive tax bill for most of the people in the U.S. by keeping the Democrats away from any participation, he is asking for “a renewed spirit of comity, collegiality and bipartisanship.”

Republicans plan to spend $10 million selling the new tax plan so that they can get re-elected in 2018. The above chart comparing the tax cuts from President Obama’s first full year and DDT’s tax bill make be difficult to spin as an advantage of DDT’s bill:

Congress has two weeks before a possible government shutdown. If the GOP operates as usual, they’ll wait ten days to do anything about the spending bill and then panic while blaming the Democrats.

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