Nel's New Day

August 13, 2022

DDT’s Difficulty with Generals, Search Warrant

With the danger of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) running for the presidency in 2024, news about his past becomes far more important. An ongoing message from DDT is his love for generals, but appointing them didn’t bring the satisfaction he thought it would. Once, he complained to a former Marine Corps general, his chief of staff John Kelly, that he wanted “totally loyal” generals like World War II generals who served Adolf Hitler. This information is included in The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 by journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. Kelly responded:

“You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?”

DDTd couldn’t believe Kelly and insisted, “No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him.” The book’s authors describe DDT’s military leaders in conflict between resigning in protest and remaining in the administration to prevent more catastrophes. In another conversation with Kelly, DDT said he didn’t want any injured veterans to be part of his Independence Day parade, that “this doesn’t look good for me.” He kept disagreeing with Kelly who told him “those are the heroes.”

A week after the military police fired gas cannisters and used grenades at peaceful racial justice protesters in Lafayette Square, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drafted a resignation letter. DDT’s action to clear the square for his photo op in front of a church caused Miley to do “deep soul-searching,” according to the draft of the letter. He added DDT was “doing great and irreparable harm” to the country and made “a concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military.” Miley felt he could no longer change that.

“You are using the military to create fear in the minds of the people—and we are trying to protect the American people. I cannot stand idly by and participate in that attack, verbally or otherwise, on the American people.”

Milley concluded by writing he “deeply” believed that Trump was ruining the international order and causing significant damage to the United States overseas and did not understand that millions of Americans had died in wars fighting fascism, Nazism, and extremism. He pointed out that DDT “subscribe[s] to many of the principles that we fought against.” Milley never sent the letter because he was persuaded to stay, but he later feared two “nightmare scenarios” from DDT’s clinging to power: the 1933 fire in the German parliament Hitler used to seize German control and a declaration of martial law “or a Presidential invocation of the Insurrection Act, with Trumpian Brown Shirts fomenting violence.” The insurrection on January 6, 2021 was DDT’s failed “Reichstag moment,” the parliament fire. Milley later said about the attack:

“They shook the very Republic to the core. Can you imagine what a group of people who are much more capable could have done?”

Baker and Glasser provided a detailed description of DDT’s relationship with his generals from their book in this article. In response to DDT’s desire to have “the biggest, grandest military ever for the Fourth of July” after watching the one in France for the Bastille Day celebrations, then Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “I’d rather swallow acid.” Authors explained that the difference between DDT and his generals were difference in values, their view of the U.S. Air Force general Paul Selva, the vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that parades in Portugal, where Selva grew up under a dictatorship, “were about showing the people who had the guns.” DDT was surprised that Selva didn’t like his idea.

DDT had avoided going into the military with “bone spurs” [visual] but loved being Commander-in-Chief. As generals continued to disagree with him, however, he called them “very untalented people” and he “did not rely on them” because they weren’t unquestioning loyal to him. DDT then frequently replaced them for no reason other than they weren’t his “loyalists.” He openly said, “I want a yes-man!” The “adults” in the White House were largely gone by 2019. And in his devotion to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he “gave Russia Ukraine and Syria,” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told him.

One of DDT’s infamous questions for Milley was about turning the National Guard on protesters. “Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?” he asked. This question indicates DDT’s increasingly erratic thoughts and behavior, causing Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense and C.I.A. chief, to persuade Milley and then Defense Secretary Mark Esper to stay in their jobs until they were fired. Milley was contrite about his presence at Layfayette Square, but he still participated in the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani without briefing congressional leaders in advance. Pelosi described him as “evasive” and disrespectful to Congress. Milley had followed DDT’s order not to notify lawmakers.

Esper, too, was on the hot seat. DDT’s then chief of staff Mark Meadows threatened Esper for not recanting his opposition to invoking the Insurrection Act after Lafayette Square. Yet Esper was determined “to endure all the shit and run the clock out,” as he put it. He refused to turn the right to deploy troops over to people such as Robert O’Brien or Ric Grenell.

 Both Milley and Esper hung on, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told them that the “crazies” were ascendant in the White House and inside the Pentagon. The day after DDT lost the election, he fired Esper, Defense Secretary, and replaced him with Christopher Miller, an obscure mid-level counterterrorism official at DDT’s National Security Council, surrounded by DDT’s political minions and one of only two people in the U.S. able to launch nuclear weapons. DDT lobbied Miller to preemptively attack Iran.

Milley knew coups required the takeover of the military, the national police, and the interior forces, and he was again persuaded not to retire. He warned Miller and his new people that they were being watched and the newly elected president could put them “behind bars” for any illegal actions. Milley overheard DDT asking Miller if he were ready for the upcoming January 6 protest because “it’s going to be a big deal.” He told Miller to have “enough people to make sure it’s safe for my people.” Milley didn’t see DDT after that.

On January 6, Milley ordered the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol at 3:04 pm. They arrived at 5:40 pm, almost four hours after the attack began, and set up a perimeter by 7:00 pm. Then-VP Mike Pence had also tried to defend the Capitol, but Meadows told him to pretend DDT was the person who took action to give the impression that he “is still in charge.” Milley called DDT both “shameful” and “complicit.”

The search warrant updates won’t go away. More pieces:

  • At least one of DDT’s lawyers signed a written statement in June claiming that all classified material in the Mar-a-Lago storage were returned to the government after a government visit to the club on June 3. The assertion was wrong—or a lie. Therefore the DOJ cited a potential violation of a criminal statute related to obstruction as one basis for the warrant.
  • Material seized by the search warrant contained 11 sets of documents with confidential or secret markings, some of them “classified/TS/SCI”—“top secret/sensitive compartmented information” to be viewed only in a secure government facility.
  • The search was done in the storage areas with boxes of material as well as DDT’s office and residence.
  • DDT said he had declassified the material while he was still in the Oval Office, but there is no evidence that this happened. Right-wing writer John Solomon, designated by DDT as a representative to interact with the National Archives asserted that DDT had a “standing order” during his term that “documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them.” No law permits this order.
  • Surveillance video outside the storage room for two months showed boxes moved in and out of the room while the DOJ was attempting to retrieve the materials.
  • The 30 million documents that DDT claims President Obama has in Chicago are under sole custody of the National Archives in that city.
  • DDT has been barred from receiving intelligence briefings usually provided to former presidents; Biden said DDT could not be trusted because of his “erratic behavior.”

The good news: the U.S. economy recovered all the jobs lost since the pandemic shutdown in 2020, the fastest employment bounce-back in U.S. history. Biden has seen 9.5 million jobs, 3 million more than DDT achieved in his first three years before he lost them all to his mismanagement of the pandemic. Job seekers have their choice of 10.7 million openings.  

Hypocrisy for the day:

Mama Bears, a group of Georgia mothers has been intent on banning library books. One of its members now complains about her being banned from a school board for censorship because she can’t read what she calls sexually explicit passages aloud at the meetings. Mama Bears has tried to ban over 100 books with no evidence they are pornographic. Fifty-one years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.” People upset by language can avert their eyes.

April 7, 2022

Jackson Confirmed as Supreme Court Justice

While the media helps the right-wingers destroy President Joe Biden, jobless claims fell to 166,000 last week, the lowest level since 1968. Revised numbers from the previous week were down 31,000 to 171,000. Corrections in numbers attract much less attention than when the original total as crunched by a Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointee.

The best news for over half the United States on April 7, 2022 is the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. The vote of 53-47 was comprised of 50 Democrats and three Republicans—Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Mitt Romney (UT). The media blared the announcement of “the first Black woman” on SCOTUS but largely ignored that her high levels of qualification and honor set her above all three of the GOP confirmed appointments by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT).

In his “not the real news” column, however, satirist Andy Borowitz wrote that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “warned” that the Senate has set a dangerous precedent, “the confirmation of a qualified nominee.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may be able to block any future “qualified” appointments. Asked if he would move a Biden nomination to the Senate floor if the GOP took over the chamber next year, McConnell refused to answer. He did state that DDT could commit no crime that would keep him from voting for DDT as president.

Most of the drama of in the Judicial Committee hearings and the floor discussions was missing during the vote. Remaining, however, was the passive-aggressive behavior of Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) stayed in the closet, appearing only in the doorway to make a thumbs down motion. He was joined in the cloak room by Sen. Jim Hohofe (OK) and much later by Sen. Rand Paul (KY) who held up the vote 25 minutes while he supposedly guided a tour throughout the building. All three of them kept off their ties so that they couldn’t go into the actual Senate chamber.

After the vote, all the remaining Republicans in the chamber walked out, leaving Democrats, reporters, and lone GOP senator, Mitt Romney (UT) standing and clapping in an ovation. They were joined several cheering House members. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) then closed the session for “lack of a quorum.” The senators then all left for a two-week hiatus from Washington, some in exultation and others to sulk.

No justice has been approved for almost 12 years since President Obama appointed Elena Kagan. McConnell blocked Obama’s 2016 appointment, Merrick Garland, for almost a year until DDT was elected.

Most Republicans refusing to vote for her cited her “judicial philosophy” of activism and her sentencing in favor of pedophilia. Some congressional members even used the word “pedophile” for those from both parties who voted to confirm. Objectors were particularly offended by Jackson’s position as a public defender 15 years ago for two and a half years, insinuating that this, alone, shapes her position on all decisions. Marshall, replaced by Clarence Thomas 30 years ago, was the last justice with extensive criminal defense experience. Jackson clerked for a federal judge for two years and was a federal judge for eight years before moving to a circuit court for another year.

In an article for the conservative National Review, conservative author Charles Cooke lambasted Cruz’s declaration that he could never vote for a public defender.

“If we are to have a legal system that allows people, institutions, and governments to defend themselves against charges of illegal conduct—and we should have that system—then we are going to have lawyers who defend their clients to the best of their ability. It doesn’t matter whether the defendant is popular, whether the institution is sympathetic, or whether the law is a good one—none of that is the point. The point is that an adversarial legal system requires advocates who will relentlessly press their case, and, in so doing, force the other side to prove its brief to a high standard.

 “There is nothing wrong with people who are willing to become solicitor generals and defend laws they dislike, or with people willing to become corporate lawyers and defend companies they disdain, or with people who are willing to become public defenders and defend clients they suspect are guilty—and to suggest otherwise betrays an unthinking and opportunistic illiberalism.”

As Texas solicitor general, Cruz defended a Texas law prohibiting sex toys although he thought the law was “stupid.” He said he was doing his job, but he thought Jackson was wrong to do her own job. Cooke pointed out Cruz’s hypocrisy:

“For some reason, Ted Cruz seems to believe that the very act of becoming a public defender indelibly marks a person as being intrinsically favorable toward accused criminals, but that Ted Cruz’s having chosen to be a lawyer for the government for half a decade did not indelibly mark him as a statist. Funny, that.”

Republicans’ objection to Jackson’s sentence record for possession of child pornography is a pack of lies. Her record is shared by 70 percent of federal judges, several of them confirmed by the current screaming senators. Her signature on a 2012 report about sentences being too harsh was one of every member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, including a federal judge approved by the same vicious Republicans. One of the loudest senators against her, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), voted against her without objection although her record has not changed since then.

Accompanying the lies was a huge load of hypocrisy. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called Jackson a threat to children, but he was “soft on crime” while prosecuting sex crimes as Missouri’s AG from 2017 to 2019. In one case, a county sheriff admitted to sexually abusing a woman. The sentence called for two years in prison, but Hawley released the sheriff, who had a “violent” history with the victim, on probation with no trial. While on probation, the sheriff illegally used a firearm and failed to complete his sex offender counseling. A member of Hawley’s Human Trafficking Task Force said he leveraged publicity with a focus on offenders rather than protecting survivors. Hawley also rejected a lawyer’s request for an investigation of sexual abuse by priests.  National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy said Hawley’s arguments during the hearings are “meritless to the point of demagoguery.”

Republicans support DDT, a friend of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, and they refused to convict him for crimes during both impeachment trials. They stayed quiet after the discovery that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) sexually abused boys when he was a coach. Republicans supported pedophile Roy Moore in his campaign for senator from Alabama. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) suffered no repercussions from colleagues about concealing his athlete’s sexual abuse when he coached wrestling. Florida’s GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz faces no Republican rejection, despite evidence of his sex-trafficking. The state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, delayed releasing records connected to former state official Halsey Beshears, part of the federal probe into sex trafficking.

Republicans run candidates accused of domestic abuse like Sean Parnell (Pennsylvania) and Eric Greitens (Missouri). Facing alleged child and spousal abuse, Parnell dropped out, but Greitens returned to run for Senate after he resigned from governor. He allegedly forced a woman “to perform oral sex, undressing, kissing and touching her without her consent, and threatening to release a nude photo of her if she told anyone about their encounter.” Now his ex-wife reported having photos and other evidence proving how Greitens physically abused both her and their children.  In Georgia, DDT’s presumptive GOP Senate nominee, Hershel Walker, admitted to his violent behavior toward his ex-wife.

Republicans’ seeming concern for protecting children is relatively new.  During confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel Alito, only then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL) brought up Alito’s support for an illegal strip search of a ten-year-old girl by police officers during a drug raid and his statement that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to minors during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Sessions defended Alito and downplayed any trauma from the strip search.

DDT federal judge Trevor McFadden found a January 6 insurrectionist “innocent” with the excuse that police invited him into the Capitol while others were breaking windows and vandalizing the place. The acquitted man had watched McFadden’s earlier trials to see what he should say to get off. Then the McFadden gave a Texas woman her gun back while she was on probation for illegally entering the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He cited the Second Amendment as her right to defend herself. The woman’s Facebook page showed her attacking the police and claiming she was “proud” of her actions, planning to being “proud everything that I’m a part of at the next one.” Last year, the judge permitted her to take a trip out of the country just weeks after the insurrection.

Never mind Jackson’s impeccable qualifications for Supreme Court Justice, that she doesn’t let her religion guide her decisions as Amy Coney Barrett said she would, and has never been accused of any sexual abuse as Brett Kavanaugh credibly was. Or that she’s in no danger of benefitting both politically and financially from decisions like Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni. To the Republicans, she isn’t a conservative activist justice.

I’ll have more to say about the GOP treatment of Jackson, but for tonight, we’ll rejoice.

March 23, 2022

SCOTUS Confirmation Hearing

The latest confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice began last Monday, and Republicans promised a “respectful” back and forth. From the first GOP speaker on Monday regarding President Joe Biden’s nominee through 13 hours of GOP electioneering and ugly questions on Tuesday, Ketanji Brown Jackson, the only “respect” was on Jackson’s side; the Republicans acted like a bunch of “mean girls” in their verbal attacks on the candidate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opened his questioning of Jackson with the unconstitutional question, “what faith are you, by the way?” (A person isn’t a faith; a person sometimes has a faith.) He continued the illegal badgering by asking if she regularly attends church and “on a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion?” Graham used these questions as revenge for questions for Amy Coney Barrett, but Barrett had written that her religion should influence her judicial opinions. Jackson said the reverse. About Jackson’s response that she is a nondenominational protest, he asked her if she could “fairly judge a Catholic.” No one ever asked the six Catholics now on the Supreme Court how they could deal with non-Catholics.

Following that, he attacked her for her defense of Guantánamo Bay prisoners during her employment with a private firm. To Jackson’s response that she was working for her clients, he pretty much called her a liar. In whining about Michele Childs, his preferred nominee from South Carolina, not being chosen, Graham seemed to accuse her of working with groups asking Biden to not nominate Childs. The preference of several GOP senators, Childs defended large corporations in race and gender discrimination cases, including a beachwear retailer charged with near-daily sexual assault at work.

After Graham used almost all his time to complain and cut off Jackson’s answers, he promised more “questions” about Jackson’s judicial philosophy during the four-day hearing. He also denigrated Jackson’s supporters by calling them wanting to “pack the court,” believing “this court is a bunch of right-wing nuts who are going to destroy America,” and considering “the Constitution trash.” He added that “these right-wing radical groups” will “destroy the law.” He took up extra time not allotted and then stomped off in a huff. Ten months ago, Graham was one of three GOP senators to vote for Jackson when Biden nominated for the D.C. Circuit Court.

After Graham, each senator presidential wannabe carved out his subject: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – the so-called “critical race theory”; Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), like Cruz under ethics investigation for supporting the January 6 insurrectionists – pornography; and Sen. Tom Cotton  (R-AR) – drugs, rape, and murder.  Cruz already drew national media attention for his temper tantrum in the Bozeman (MT) airport that required police intervention; he had arrived too late to check in on his scheduled flight. He was rescheduled and arrived in time for the hearing.

In his speech on Monday, Cruz bemoaned the lengthy process of confirming Supreme Court justices—skipping over former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) refusal to address President Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland for the president’s last ten months in office. Cruz praised the confirmation of Bushrod Washington as justice the day after appointment. Washington had been serving on a temporary basis for over a month, and the slave-owner was confirmed by a Senate in which 58 percent of the members also owned slaves. Cruz also brought up Brett Kanvaugh’s hearing by saying no one would ask Jackson, “Do you like beer?” In fact, Kavanaugh asked that question of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that question.  [visual – Kavanaugh beer cartoon]

Cruz tried to start a conspiracy theory with his claim that the White House not giving Republicans the same documents as Democrats. Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) told him “we completed discovery before we started the hearing” and said Republicans had access to all the information. Yet Cruz kept saying that Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) had information that Republicans didn’t have until Durbin shut him down.

According to a Washington Post factcheck:

“Hawley is still leaving out significant context in his thread. He uses snippets of quotes, pretends a bipartisan recommendation is Jackson’s alone and then ignores a variety of factors—such as probation recommendations and out-of-date guidelines—that might result in lower sentences. In his zeal, he also ignores a long debate within the legal community about whether the current guidelines are appropriate.”

Andrew McCarthy wrote an essay about Hawley’s attempt to smear Jackson for the conservative National Review

“For now, I want to discuss the claim by Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) that Judge Jackson is appallingly soft on child-pornography offenders. The allegation appears meritless to the point of demagoguery….  (Contrary to Hawley’s suggestion, however, she appears to have followed the guidelines, at the low end of the sentencing range, as most judges do.)”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) falsely accused Jackson of calling George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals” when she was “representing a member of the Taliban.” In fact, Jackson, then a public defender, filed a habeas petition on behalf of a Guantánamo Bay detainee alleging that he had been tortured in violation of international law. Bush and Rumsfeld were respondents, required by procedural rules.

Sen. Marcia Blackburn (R-TN) used all the other attack topics before she launched into a transphobic diatribe. She asked Jackson about a definition of a woman and then blocked her answer after Jackson said, “I can’t …” When she could finish, Jackson said, “I’m not a biologist,” and Blackburn continued her verbal assaults. As in many of her other answers, Jackson reminded the questioners that her job would be to interpret the law. Blackburn forgot about Texas law that could declare parents of transgender children guilty of child abuse for their healthcare of the minor when she said:

“And parents want to have a Supreme Court justice who is committed to preserving parental autonomy and protecting our nation’s children.”

On Monday, Blackburn asked Jackson about a “personal hidden agenda” to bring critical race theory into “our legal system” and referred to transgender girls as “biological males.” Two years ago, Jackson had spoken about Nikole Hannah Jones’ “provocative thesis that the American that was born in 1776 was not the perfect union that it purported to be, and that it is actually only through the hard work, struggles, and sacrifices of African Americans over the past two centuries that the United States has finally become the free nation that the Framers initially touted.” About girls sharing locker rooms with transgender girls, Blackburn said, “They’re being treated like second-class citizens.”

Women who want contraception might also be concerned that Blackburn’s rejection of Jackson included her rejection of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 SCOTUS ruling that legalized birth control, as “constitutionally unsound.” If she wants it overturned, she has five conservative justices who might do it.  

Despite Republicans repeatedly repeating questions, such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) demanding an answer to his question about what Supreme Court justice Jackson would emulate, Jackson kept her cool and stuck to her first answer to the question—in this case, that she already has a history of 570 cases while on the bench.

Former Republican Charlie Sykes made two points about the first day of questioning for Jackson’s confirmation.

“(1) The confirmation process is no longer about judicial qualifications, because (2) it’s now all about payback and ideology.”

Jackson’s manner and credentials are so impeccable that all Republicans have are vicious statements and hypocrisy. It’s all theater to attract QAnon followers for the 2024 election. 

Garland wasn’t nominated because Republicans said eight months was too close to an election. Barrett went from appointment to justice in only 31 days—just one week before the election.

A major false charge from the Republicans concerns “dark money” groups supporting Jackson. McConnell has been pushing dark money into politics for decades, and that includes money supporting Barrett. Fox’s Laura Ingraham complained about “the left’s dark money trolls” but didn’t mention her involvement with Independent Women’s Forum, the Koch network dark-money group evolving from the committee defending Clarence Thomas from sexual harassment accusations in his 1991 confirmation hearings. Dark-money propaganda partially comes from the Judicial Crisis network, the conservative nonprofit hiding its donors. Its president clerked for Thomas, and the group, also receiving money from the Koch network, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. JCN also spends millions to elect their state judicial and attorney general candidates and pledge at least $10 million backing Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. An undisclosed donor gave them $17 million.

The conservative Gallup poll found 58 percent approval for Jackson’s approval. Only John Roberts had a higher approval, and that was only one point higher in the past 35 years. Jackson is seven points higher than Amy Coney Barrett, 13 points higher than Neil Gorsuch, and 17 points higher than Brett Kavanaugh who came in at 41 points approval and 37 percent opposed. Barrett was the most controversial with 46 percent in opposition and only three percent having no opinion. 

Wednesday continues the questioning of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with much more mud thrown at her.

September 27, 2020

Supreme Court Nominee: Destroy Workers’ Rights, Rig the Election

Today, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) put a radical right Christian cult member on the Supreme Court while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t even put to rest in her grave at Arlington Cemetery. The pick by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Amy Coney Barrett, has espoused:

  • Roe v. Wade: an “erroneous decision.”
  • Sexual assault against college students: Barrett’s appellate decision allowing students, mostly male, to ease challenges against university cases in accusations against them. 
  • Legal career: a means to “building the kingdom of God.”  
  • Catholic judges: obligated to “to adhere to their church’s teachings on moral matters.” 
  • Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit: an “assault on religious liberty.”
  • Immigration: supports DDT’s rule blocking green cards if people may need future public assistance.
  • LGBTQ rights: paid a speaking fee by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit defending forced sterilization for transgender people and been dubbed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. She would not answer a questions about whether she would overturn marriage equality.
  • Brett Kavanaugh: good choice for the Supreme Court.
  • Religious beliefs: member of People of Praise, calling female leaders “handmaids” until the publication of the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, and believing in supernatural occurrences such as prophecy, miraculous healing, and speaking in tongues. Group members swear to uphold so-called “covenants,” are held accountable to advisors, and believe dark forces abound in the world. (Comments from someone who escaped the cult.) 

While much has been said about Barrett taking reproductive, LGBTQ, and healthcare rights from people, DDT has an even darker reason for selecting Barrett—other than her youth. DDT and GOP senators care nothing about abortion and marriage equality, but they use those subjects to push their real agenda, bringing in donations from businesses for campaigning and, in DDT’s case, more money for his businesses. [Explanation for Sauron.]

Businesses can make more money by denying workers’ rights and regulations, and DDT’s judicial appointees will help them. One of his appointments in Pennsylvania used Lochner v. New York to open up all the businesses in the state, despite spreading COVID-19, with the position that the U.S. Constitution has no provision for controlling businesses. Using Lochner, other conservative justices, Barrett and other conservative justices, claiming to be “originalist” and “textualist” unless they prefer the other side, can destroy labor unions, environmental regulations, minorities’ voting rights, safety of food, education, and government health care while allowing the wealthy to purchase politicians with unlimited secret donations. In the future, DDT’s conservative judges can rule to eliminate minimum wages, equal pay, number of hours worked, union rights, etc.

Corporations can return to their golden days of the early 20th century with sweatshops, enforced labor for children, etc. Businesses started plotting in the 1930s after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” gave workers’ rights and help for the poor. Incomes improved by the 1950s and 1960s. After the 1964 Civil Rights Act women gained more employment rights: companies could no longer choose men over women for jobs just because gender.

In the 1970s, Bob Dole persuaded evangelical Christians to drop its policy of staying out of politics and put them together with corporations. The radical right Christians, enraged by the Supreme Court legalizing abortions, were used by corporations to elect conservatives. Corporations gave conservatives large campaign donations, and candidates used “moral” issues to get elected. By the 1990s, conservatives blasted the conservative Bill Clinton, who managed to bring the country back to a balanced budget for a short time, and in 2000 the Supreme Court chose George W. Bush to it in the Oval Office despite an examination of Florida’s “hanging chads” giving the majority to Gore.

To keep their voters happy, conservative politicians went farther and farther right, and Democrats had to follow along. The political philosophy of Democrats today is the same as that of Republicans in the 1950s, and the Republicans have dropped below the bottom of the charts for conservativism.

DDT, firmly entrenched with about 40 percent of the voters, has total control over GOP congressional members with his vicious habit of retaliation against anyone who disagrees with him. On Trump TV (Fox & Friends) he threatened retribution at the ballot box for anyone who didn’t vote for his choice. DDT doesn’t care about abortion or LGBTQ rights: his only concern is money, and he’ll do anything to make more of it. The same goes for almost all the Republicans in Congress. They can’t afford to give up donations from businesses, and they spout conservative values to keep getting the money for their coffers.

Poll numbers continue to be lower for DDT than those for Joe Biden, and DDT is terrified he will lose the election. The loss means courts can look into DDT’s finances, which are extremely suspicious, and he might even go to prison. At the least, DDT’s adoring public will discover the kind of shyster and con artist he is. For that reason, he is desperate to seat his next Supreme Court nominee before November 3. He will cause so much chaos at the ballot box that the high court may give him another four years.

It’s the GOP rule of thumb: take power at any cost. The GOP senators did that four years ago when they blocked President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, almost eight months before the election and are working on perfecting it now when DDT made his appointment under six weeks before Election Day. David Axelrod called the appointment “a tyranny of the minority.” If DDT’s replacement succeeds, the majority of Supreme Court justices will have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote and confirmed by senators who represent under half the country.

A fact-checker about the lies Republicans use to excuse their hypocrisy:

Four years ago when several GOP senators looked for a “rationale” to refuse Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court nominee, they claimed Joe Biden had proclaimed no nominee should be considered in the last year of a president’s term. Biden actually said he might question making a nomination after the primaries began in the last year of a president’s term. DDT’s nomination today came over three weeks after people started voting in the general election. Contrary to the false claim of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) about no justices being appointed in an election year, at least 14 Supreme Court justices were confirmed during an election year with three others nominated in the December lame duck session after the election. 

Four years ago, the Republican senators made a big deal of letting the people decide by voting for the president. Now will of the people makes no difference to Republicans, who discount people having a choice in the process if the Senate majority and the president belong to the same party. Once again, Republicans moved the goal posts to win.

GOP senators are saying they didn’t “block” Garland’s nomination, but most of them, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), refused Garland even the courtesy of meeting with him.

GOP presidents have not always been completely partisan in their selection of justices. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower worked for equal justice when he nominated five Supreme Court justices who opposed discrimination. School desegregation, unanimously determined in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, came in 1953 when Earl Warren was chief justice. (One of DDT’s confirmed judicial appointments, Wendy Vitters, would not agree that Brown was correctly settled.) Other equality decisions included the requirement that state voting districts be roughly equal in population. At that time, Nevada had one district with 127,000 and another with 568 people. Under Warren’s court, the Miranda decision required police to give charged people their rights, Loving v. Virginia decriminalized interracial marriage, and Griswold v. Connecticut legalized birth control for married couples. (Single women couldn’t get birth control pills until seven years later.)

Although Richard Nixon had less interest in people’s rights, the 1973 Roe v. Wade was passed 7-2 with an all-male Supreme Court. Five of the GOP-appointed justices supported Roe.

Evangelical Christians voted for Ronald Reagan, and he frequently complained about “judicial activism,” a problem for conservatives who object to human rights. Right-wingers don’t describe decisions benefiting the radical right as “activism.” Reagan loaded the Supreme Court with appointments he claimed would strictly follow the Constitution with their “family values.” His confirmed nominees of 4 Supreme Court justices and 368 federal court judges is, at this time, an even higher number than DDT, but he had eight years in which to do it.

Republicans became angry when David Souter, appointed by George H.W. Bush, was moderate, but Clarence Thomas, the replacement for civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall, has been much more satisfactory to the anti-civil rights activist GOP. After 29 years, Thomas remains the most conservative justice on the high court.

At this point, it’s a miracle the United States has made any progress in a half century: a majority of justices for the last 50 years have been nominated by Republican presidents who become increasingly conservative. In addition losing individual rights, people will suffer huge losses to feather the nests of big business and the wealthy.

September 21, 2020

A View on RBG’s Replacement

“It’s Not Hypocrisy: Mitch McConnell’s Machinations Are Something Far More Degrading”—Lili Loofbourow, Slate  

I was watching the president of the United States suggest to a mostly maskless crowd that a Democratic congresswoman had married her brother when the news broke that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. The shock of her death sledgehammered a country teetering on an ugly and desperate edge. It came in waves. It wasn’t merely the loss to the country, or the sadness that a champion of equal rights had died. Nor was it the fact that an increasingly corrupt Republican Party is very close to forcing through the judicial supermajority it needs in order to lock in minority rule and overturn American women’s right to reproductive choice. (You will no doubt hear often in the coming weeks that, of the five conservative Supreme Court justices, four were nominated by presidents who had lost the popular vote.) There was a flashback to the contempt and grief Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing aroused in so many appalled onlookers. And then there was the dread of realizing that a citizenry breaking—financially, politically, even cognitively—under five different kinds of instability was going to have to endure more. We have been in a bad way for a long time, but this is the hurricane on top of the wildfire that follows the earthquake.

What’s enraging is that we shouldn’t be here. We have institutions and norms and precedents, so what should happen next is almost absurdly plain. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his thinking on the subject quite clear back in 2016, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, nine months before the election. “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” There shouldn’t have been any mystery about what Mitch McConnell—of all people—would do when a Supreme Court vacancy opened up six weeks (rather than nine months) before Election Day of 2020.

And there wasn’t. Shortly after Ginsburg’s death was announced, McConnell declared his intentions: Trump’s nominee would receive a vote in the Senate, and though he left the timing slightly unclear, he has no intention of letting the will of the American people (who have already started voting) determine what should happen. He made quick work of the optimists on Twitter suggesting that he surely wouldn’t be so hellbent on total power that he’d risk destroying the country by breaking the precedent he himself had articulated. Wrong. He would. And anyone who took him at his word when he rejected Merrick Garland’s nomination was made a fool when he reversed himself on the question of whether (to quote the man himself) “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”

I want to pause here to note, humbly, that it is wounding to watch a public servant reduce those who take him at his word to fools. I mention that not because it “matters” in any sense McConnell would recognize but because it is simply true that this nation’s decline accelerates when the conventional wisdom becomes that believing what the Senate Majority Leader says is self-evidently foolish. The chestnut that politicians always lie is overstated—a society depends on some degree of mutual trust. One party has embraced nihilism, pilloried trust, and turned good faith into a sucker’s failing in a sucker’s game.

Many of us are coping with that lacerating redefinition by knowingly rolling our eyes. Ginsburg’s death hurts, but more than one strain of political grief is operative. This is why so many political reactions at present seem to orbit around the question of whether an unwanted outcome was unexpected. “And you’re surprised?” is a frequent response to some new instance of Trumpian corruption. This brand of cynicism has spread, quite understandably: It’s an outlook that provides some cognitive shelter in a situation that—having historically been at least somewhat rule-bound—has one side shredding the rules and cheering at how much they’re winning. Folks who at one point gave Republican declarations of principle the benefit of the doubt (I include myself) feel like chumps now. Conversely, the cynical prognosticators who used to seem crabbed and paranoid just keep getting proven right. Whatever the worst thing you imagine McConnell doing might be, he can usually trump it.

Just by way of example: A former White House official told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer for a piece in April that McConnell reassured donors that he would install a Supreme Court justice for Trump regardless of how close to the election Ginsburg’s death might be. He apparently referred to the prospect of replacing Ginsburg in the event of her death as “our October surprise.” In 2019, McConnell gleefully tweeted a photo of some tombstones, one of which had Merrick Garland’s name on it—hours after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in which 23 people died. He has said that stopping Garland’s nomination is the proudest moment of his career. It’s uniquely painful that this is the person architecting Ginsburg’s replacement in violation of his own contemptible theories.

I am not saying anything new here. But what I am interested in, because I think it must be understood, and because the stakes of it have never been higher, is what McConnellizing does, affectively, to so many American citizens. What it feels like, in other words. We are overdue for a real reckoning with what it means to be degraded by our own leadership. And make no mistake: It is degrading when people lie to you openly and obviously. Leaving the polity aside for a moment, it’s the kind of emotion we humans aren’t great at coping with. Sometimes we react by snorting at anyone who expects any better (that is again the “you’re surprised?” cynicism). But if you can’t cover it with cynicism, it simply hurts.

Shall we experience being degraded together? Here is the justification McConnell offered shortly after Ginsburg died for violating his own rule:

In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.

This last sentence—which you will recognize as the heart of McConnell’s argument—is a lie. But before I supply the dull fact proving that it is a lie, I’d like us to pause and notice the extent to which whatever I am about to say will not factor into how you feel reading the above. Whatever I say, it will not provide you relief for me to demonstrate that this tortured reasoning McConnell supplied is horseshit. You are already meant to understand it as horseshit. That’s the insult. That’s where one part of what I guess we could call patriotic pain comes from.

OK, now for the dull facts: What McConnell says in that statement is not true. In 1988 (an election year!), the Democratically controlled Senate confirmed Anthony Kennedy—President Ronald Reagan’s nominee to the Supreme Court. McConnell tried to circumvent this reality by crafting his new rule to exclude any vacancy “that arose” in an election year (Lewis Powell retired in late 1987).

Does an exercise like this leave us anywhere? I think it might. I think we have a habit of misnaming political experiences in ways that help us metabolize loss. I think, for example, that we have a bad habit of calling McConnell’s double standard—which will be devastating to a country already struggling through various legitimacy crises—“hypocrisy.” And sure, step onto Twitter after Lindsey Graham also unabashedly went back on his own word and you’ll see many a person rolling their eyes at anyone pointing out that Republicans are hypocrites, as if it matters. One can sympathize with the eye-rollers—of course hypocrisy doesn’t matter. But that’s mostly because hypocrisy isn’t the word for what this is. Hypocrisy is a mild failing. It applies to parents smoking when they advise their kids not to for their own good; it does not apply to parents lighting the family home on fire for the insurance money while high-fiving each other over how stupid their fleeing children were for thinking anything they told them was true.

When Ginsburg died, those whose rights she championed were caught in a cruel double bind. Raging against the indecent replacement effort feels wrong, because raging before it happens can feel like implicitly conceding. Treating the matter dispassionately, on the other hand, sensibly pointing out that McConnell has stated clearly what should happen, means granting him a good-faith reading he does not deserve. Thanks to the swiftness with which he declared his intentions, we are no longer under any obligation to attempt the latter. All that remains is to let honest anger do what it must.

It will not help to call the leadership we have right now hypocrites; they will not care, and I doubt the charge will motivate the people who need to be motivated much. But insofar as our own reactions are concerned—and while we think about how to counter an obvious and ugly attempt to steal the Supreme Court seat of a feminist champion of equal rights even as Americans have already started voting—it may help to register the lies they tell you as the calculated insults to your intelligence and to your citizenship and to your country that they are. Fully witnessing and registering insults and degradation is more painful than sneering that you aren’t surprised. But I’ll be blunt: People are more willing to fight people who insult and degrade them than they are to fight mere “hypocrites.”

We deserve better than this. I confess I had no personal feelings about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing; my admiration and gratitude were purely professional and civic. But I found this quote—a response to Irin Carmon asking her how she’d like to be remembered—deeply moving: “Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”

February 12, 2019

GOP Builds on Former Hypocrisy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) listed “American Indian” on her 1986 application for the Texas bar because he family had told her of her Native American background. We’re shocked, despite her DNA shows some Native American ancestry generations in the past.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) family received $7.6 million in government contracts for its company, Vortex Construction, through a program with no-bid contracts for “disadvantaged minorities.” McCarthy’s brother-in-law William Wages told the Small Business Administration that he’s one-eighth Cherokee in the Northern Cherokee Nation with “no federal or state recognition as a legitimate tribe.” The media largely ignored this fraud.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may have posed for a photograph over 30 years ago either in blackface or in a KKK costume, and the country is questioning whether he should resign.

DDT called neo-Nazi’s at the Charlottesville (VA) racist marches “very fine people” even after they caused the death of Heather Heyer, severely beat a man, and terrorized thousands of others. After his racist comments, DDT was described as appointed by God. He also demanded the death penalty for the young black and Latino men, the Central Park Five, and refused to apologize after their convictions were vacated. DDT continually—and falsely—accused President Barack Obama of being born in Kenyan, called undocumented immigrants rapists and murderers, ridicules Native Americans, and made more racist remarks.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel. When she was accused of being anti-Semite for her factual statement, she immediately apologized:

“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar said. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

DDT—who made multiple racist comments—called for Omar’s resignation, and Republicans demanded that she be stripped of her committee appointments. While campaigning, DDT accused Jewish donors of wanting to control politicians and called them “negotiators.” The Anti-Defamation League, which censured Omar, defended DDT. The “very fine people” who DDT protected in Charlottesville (VA) were shouting “Jews will not replace us.” He uses the anti-Jewish slur “globalist” to describe his opposition and vilified Holocaust survivor George Soros, as did McCarthy who called for sanctions on Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), another Muslim who criticized Israel. No Republican criticized McCarthy when he accused Soros of  trying to “buy the election,” a statement that sent a bomb to Soros’ home.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who supported DDT’s anti-Muslim travel ban that blocked entry to the U.S. for everyone from Omar’s native country of Somalia, has harassed Omar since the 116th Congress was sworn in. His attacks on her led to his claim that he would declare her as a hateful anti-Semite if she didn’t vote for the bill penalizing anyone boycotting Israel and has worked for over a month to have her removed from the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations because of her religion. Not one Republican complained about Zeldin’s disgusting comments. (In researching this piece, I also discovered that using terms such as hypnotize, manipulate, and conspiracy are anti-Semitic. Who knew?!)

Steve King may be the most amazing case of GOP hypocrisy. Despite the GOP representative’s ongoing racism, Republicans did nothing about King’s bigotry until he declared that the term “white supremacy” might be acceptable.

2002: In the Iowa State Senate, King filed a bill requiring schools to teach that the U.S. “derived it strength from … Christianity,” and sponsored a law making English the official language of Iowa.

2005: In the House, he introduced the bill to make English the official language of the U.S.

2006: King advocated a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and falsely claimed that 25 people in the U.S. died daily because of undocumented immigrants, a statement that DDT has repeated. His prototype of the wall, which he showed on the House floor, called for electrified wire on the top. King said, “We do that with livestock all the time.”

2010: On the House floor, King said that law enforcement can spot undocumented immigrants by “what kind of clothes people wear … what kind of shoes people wear, what kind of accent they have … sometimes it’s just a sixth sense they can’t put their finger on.”

2011: King opposed the coverage of contraception in the Affordable Care Act because “birth control is “not constructive to our culture and our civilization.”

2012: He described multiculturalism as “a tool for the Left to subdivide a culture and civilization into our own little ethnic enclaves and pit us against each other.”

2013: In opposing legal status for Dreamers, brought into the country as children, he said:

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

2015: King invited the far-right, anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders to Washington and appeared with him at the Capitol, praising him for having “the guts to speak out.” Wilders has called Islam “not a religion,” said the Quran was “worse than Mein Kampf,” and called for the closing of mosques. The two men posed in front of a portrait of Winston Churchill.

2016: At the RNC, King avowed that nonwhite groups have not contributed as much to civilization as whites. Days later, he said:

“The idea of multiculturalism, that every culture is equal — that’s not objectively true … We’ve been fed that information for the past 25 years, and we’re not going to become a greater nation if we continue to do that.”

Meeting again with Wilders and Frauke Petry, the leader of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, in Amsterdam, King tweeted, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.” Endorsing Wilders in the Dutch elections, King tweeted, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In Austria, King also met with leaders of the far-right Freedom Party founded in the 1950s by former Nazis, including Heinz-Christian Strache and Norbert Hofer.

2017: On Iowa talk radio, King recommended The Camp of the Saints, a 1973 racist 1973 novel about an invasion of Europe by nonwhite immigrants. He also tweeted agreement with Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian leader: “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”

2018: Mr. King wanted to block Somali Muslims from working in Iowa meatpacking plants saying, “I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.” He also reinforced his belief in The Camp of the Saints:

“This narrative should be imprinted into everyone’s brain. When you are importing people, even importing one single person, you are importing their culture.”

He also supports the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory positing that an international elite, including prominent Jews such as George Soros, are plotting to make white populations minorities in Europe and North America. King endorsed Faith Goldy, a neo-Nazi supporter, for Toronto mayor.

2019: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in an interview with the New York Times. At that point, McCarthy, House Minority Leader, and GOP House members stripped King of his committee appointments, but that may not be permanent.

King was a national co-chairman of Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential effort and of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 2018 election. House leadership made him chair of the subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice, and DDT boasted from the Oval Office that he raised more money for King than for anyone else. Only when King questioned why “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became “offensive,” did Republicans think they should take a bit of action—and even then, there was no talk of censure. King described his being stripped of committee assignments as a political witch hunt, a popular claim by racists these days.

And Rep. Ilham Omar (D-MN) was damned because she told the truth about AIPAC donating money to U.S. lawmakers.

Congressional Republicans:

  • Hate “socialized medicine” but insist on keeping their own “socialized” federal insurance.
  • Praise “democracy” while keeping people from voting and removing elected leaders from other countries.
  • Call for “humanitarian crisis” aid while killing thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East.
  • Laud family values while pandering to a serial adulterer in the Oval Office who gained his position through lying, fraud, and bigotry.
  • Fight for barriers on the border while hiring undocumented immigrants to work for them at slave wages.
  • Demand law and order while supporting access to assault rifles for psychopaths and terrorists.
  • Ban guns except for their own personal protection.
  • Claim they want local over central government unless they don’t like local laws.
  • Oppose all abortions unless they are for their girlfriends and mistresses.
  • Object to crime unless it’s by a GOP candidate violently attacked a reporter, choked him, and then lied to the police about his crime.
  • Call for neither deficit nor national debt unless the money goes to the wealthy and big business.
  • Mandate an investigation into FBI supposed partisan views while putting unqualified partisan hacks into federal positions and on the nation’s courts.
  • Criticize any Democratic delay in confirming appointments after delaying a Democrat’s Supreme Court appointment for almost a year as a gift to a GOP president.

And that’s the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg.

May 22, 2017

‘Pay for Play,’ Or Women ‘Empowerment’ in Saudi Arabia

The first stop on a world trip by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) garnered big bucks for his daughter Ivanka. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates gave her $134 million for her new initiative to “benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe.” Women Entrepreneurs Fund seems to be the sort of “pay for play” activity that DDT accused Hillary Clinton of running in the Clinton Foundation. Last year DDT was furious that the Clinton Foundation accepted money from Saudi Arabia because they treat “women as slaves” and “kill gays.” He added, “Hillary must return all money from such countries!”

About the countries who just donated money to Ivanka’s fund, DDT said to Clinton during a debate last year:

“You talk about women and women’s rights. These are people that push gays off business — off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly, and yet you take their money. So I’d like to ask you right now. Why don’t you give back the money that you’ve taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly? Why don’t you give back the money. I think it would be a great gesture.”

Of course, this was because the countries had donated to the Clinton Foundation, which did not accept any donations from Saudi Arabia while Clinton was Secretary of State. Donations to DDT’s daughter is just fine.

Scrutiny of Ivanka’s project caused her to claim that the World Bank would manage the investment fund. Yet it is widely known by both domestic and foreign officials that Ivanka has an office in the West Wing, meets with foreign leaders, and advises her father on many presidential matters. Writing her a check can make Ivanka’s father very happy. Ethics experts have objected to Ivanka’s leadership in gathering funds. Kathleen Clark at the Washington University in St. Louis said that it was unclear whether Ivanka had “any governmental authority” to make such requests. Richard Painter, Bush’s ethics czar, declared:

“It absolutely cannot be a private fund. She can’t be at the White House soliciting money for a private foundation. We went through this with Hillary Clinton, who resigned from her foundation when she took a job as secretary of state.”

Presidents and their families can be legally involved in philanthropy, but their efforts are subject to a lengthy approval process to guarantee there is no special access or influence or influence for donors. One example is “Let Girls Learn,” a Michelle and Barack Obama charity that supports educational opportunities for teen girls in developing countries. In 2016 the World Bank invested $2.5 billion in the project, stating that the empowerment of girls was “central” to the group’s development efforts. Earlier this year, DDT’s White House sent a memo to Peace Corps employees ending the program. After public outcry, a White House official indicated that it would continue the work—just not the name or probably any connection to the Obamas. Yet Jennifer Rigg, executive director of Global Campaign for Education-US (GCE-US), said, “We haven’t seen any new commitments, partners, or projects of Let Girls Learn announced since the start of the current administration.” DDT’s new budget provides deep cuts for Peace Corps–as well as everything else except the military.

During Clinton’s campaign, DDT attacked her for connections to Goldman Sachs, which is now deeply entrenched in the White House with at least six high-level officials. Dina Powell, who headed up the investment bank’s project to provide business education for women throughout the world, 10,000 Women, is working with Ivanka on this fund-raising. Ivanka’s chief of staff is Julie Radford, previous leader of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business initiative, which invested in small U.S. businesses. Information about Ivanka’s project is very sketchy, and Dan Primack has several questions:

  • Do these investments need a financial return, or are they are a grant or loan?
  • Who is on the investment committee, and will they get paid?
  • How are the people behind the project actively soliciting contributions from private institutions and foreign governments, and has White House counsel signed off on the project?
  • Will the fund get capital from U.S. state pension funds, similar to other private equity funds?
  • How will the fund balance interests of U.S. companies that might receive direct competition from foreign startups that receive investment?

In her speech about women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia, Ivanka glowed about how well the nation treats women, saying that the country’s “progress” in its treatment of women “is very encouraging.” Journalists were asked to leave the room before problems of women’s inequality could be brought up, such as women not having the right to drive, go anywhere alone, or be included in public life. U.S. officials also ignored these issues. Women reporters were banned from most of Ivanka’s event on women’s empowerment with Princess Reema bint Bandar.

In Saudi Arabia, adult women must have permission from a male guardian to travel, marry, work, and have access healthcare. Without a male relative, they also struggle with transactions such as renting an apartment or filing legal claims. Saudi women who attempt the restrictions of male control are jailed. Restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia extend to their garb. Even most foreign visitors—although not Melania and Ivanka Trump—are required to wear floor-length black dresses—no pants—that cover all the body including arms and legs. A head scarf should cover their head and hide their hair. More conservative women wear veils that also cover their faces, save for a slit that makes their eyes visible. In the past, First Ladies of the U.S. have dressed modestly but not in conformance with the mandated dress for Saudi women. DDT was highly critical when Michelle Obama failed to wear a scarf, accusing her of creating enemies.

Although 38 women were elected in December 2015 for a total of 3,159 municipal positions, Saudi Arabian councils are segregated by sex: women participate only through a video link in a separate room. Women are also denied the opportunities given males in sports: women were not allowed to attend or participate in national tournaments or state-organized sports leagues until last summer when four women represented Saudi Arabia in the Rio Olympics.

Aziza al-Yousef, a 58-year-old activist, said, “If Ivanka is interested in women empowerment and human rights, she should see activists, and not just officials.” As Ivanka wrote in her 2009 book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, “Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.”

The donation to Ivanka Trump raises a few question:

  • Is it just a coincidence that Ivanka gets $134 million at the same time that Saudi Arabia is able to buy at least $110 billion in lethal weapons from the United States and she travels to the country as “assistant to the president of the United States”?
  • Is it now acceptable that Ivanka receive at least $134 million from countries that her father describes as abusers of women and killers of gays?
  • And is $134 million enough for Ivanka to describe herself as an “advocate for the education & empowerment of women & girls” while ignoring the donor that lacks these values?

Time will tell.

April 6, 2017

GOP Senators ‘Break’ an Institution

The Republicans loved the filibuster. They used it to create an unprecedented blockade of President Obama’s nominees for judge and executive branch positions, leaving key positions unfilled. But that was four years ago with a Democratic president. Today, GOP Senators voted to get rid of the filibuster for the Supreme Court so that lying plagiarist 49-year-old Neil Gorsuch could be confirmed as a life-time justice. No longer does a permanent member of the Supreme Court need at least 60 bona fide votes to make law for the United States. Fifty-one votes are just fine, according to Republicans.

The decision to erase the filibuster for the Supreme Court was made less than a year since the Republicans, the majority of the 115th Congress, refused to even give a hearing to President Obama’s justice nominee, Merrick Garland. [The above cartoon is thanks to Robert Hulshof-Schmidt, husband of blogger Michael Hulshof-Schmidt.] In the past, Republicans maintained that a rule change, such as doing away with the filibuster for judges, requires a two-thirds super-majority, and that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) decided to “break the rules to change the rules.” Over 60 percent of these senators who made these protests are still in the 115th Congress. The comments below from their opposition four years ago show that rules are in the eye of the beholder—in this case Republicans.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) used an example of a football game to whine that the Democratic majority just changes the rules if they don’t allow the result that they want.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) claimed that ditching the filibuster would be “irreparably damaging the Senate.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) called the change four years ago a “power grab” that allows Democrats “to make decisions all on their own about every federal judge.” [Change Democrats to Republicans to show that the GOP senators did today.]

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) described the “Senate Majority” change as “an act of desperation.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) cited the removal of the filibuster as “unchecked power by the Executive Branch” and accused the removal of the filibuster as a “way to pack the courts with judges who agree with them” with “lasting damage to bipartisanship, the Senate, and the nation.”

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) complained about “embarking on a path that would circumvent the rights of the minority to exercise its advice and consent responsibilities provided in the Constitution.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) talked about her opposition to the 2005 GOP plan in erasing the filibuster, giving the majority part “unprecedented power to limit debate and block Senators from offering amendments” and opposed the Democrats taking the same action with a Democratic majority.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) described the change four years ago as “brute, raw force.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) referred to the change four years ago as “breaking the rules of the Senate in a raw exercise of partisan political power.”

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that the change would “break the rules to change the rules and force through a number of executive nominations” and demanded 67 votes to change the rule

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talked about how losing the filibuster “damaged the Senate” with “President Obama’s lawless disregard of our statutes and Constitution.”

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) claimed that weakening the filibuster will “weaken the Senate itself,” making it “more susceptible to the demands of a smaller majority.” He also called the action “incredibly short-sighted,” which could be very true in 2017.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) said that destroying the filibuster would “destroy the very character of the [Senate] by citing a story from Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to design the Senate  “as a deliberative body to produce thoughtful policy. The solution to Senate gridlock is not changing the rules.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called the earlier change “a sad day in the Senate when Democrats are willing to ignore 225 years of precedent.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reiterated the term “raw power grab” that “washed away” the “advise and consent clause” for executive and judicial branch nominations. [Actually, Republicans buried that clause last year by refusing to consider Garland.]

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also repeated the “naked power grab” and asked why this moment was chosen “to hand the keys to the kingdom over to the President, a President with less check on his authority.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lamented the “pre-scripted parliamentary hit-and-run, over in a flash and leaving Senate tradition and practice behind like so much confirmation roadkill.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) asked whether this decision would “apply to future legislation.” [McConnell claims it won’t, but he is unreliable in the truth sector.] Heller expressed his concern about protecting his state from a majority decision to move nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. He should remain concerned.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) wanted to take a measured approach because “to break the rules means you have no rules.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) commented that overturning the filibuster “made the Senate’s constitutional role to advise and consent on nominations merely ceremonial.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) declared that the result would be “a runaway Senate” much like “a runaway House” and “that’s not good for the country.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) decried that “the rules are being changed in the middle of the game” in “a partisan political grab.” Republicans are specialists in doing this.

Mike Lee (R-UT) said that changing the filibuster “serves no other purpose than to stymie the rights of the American people to have their voices heard.”

Sen John McCain (R-AZ) declaimed:

“I feel this is a dark day for the Senate. I don’t know how we can get out of it. It is the biggest rules change — certainly since I have been in the Senate, maybe my lifetime, and maybe in the history of the Senate — where it has changed by a simple majority by overruling the Chair…. Senator Reid says: I appeal the ruling of the Chair. I ask my colleagues in the Senate to overrule the rules of the Senate, by a simple majority vote, to overrule the Parliamentarian and the Presiding Officer of the Senate. This is what happened. When our rules say to change the rules of the Senate, it takes a two-thirds vote.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that without the filibuster that “advice and consent” means “nothing.”

Jerry Moran (R-KS) complained about breaking Senate rules.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was “saddened” more than angered because the “change will fundamentally alter our operations and lead us to being a less tempered body.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called the action bullying and breaking the rules and hundreds of years of precedent, “causing ore discord and disharmony.”

Jim Risch (R-ID) predicted that “the rule changes will have far ranging implications for the United States Senate and our democracy. “

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) claimed that “our rules have always ensured a voice for the minority in this body” and “cannot be changed without their consent — unless, of course, the majority decides it wants to break the rules to change the rules.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said that the change will “carry implications.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, “If Democrats think that they deserve more power, they should earn it from voters at the polls in 2014, not swipe it with a drastic rule change in the Senate today.”

Sen.  John Thune (R-SD) also complained about breaking the rules of the Senate.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) described the change as “raw abuse of power” and “purely partisan efforts” that tarnished the integrity of the institution by ignoring 225 years of precedent and trampling the rights of the minority party and the millions of Americans we represent.”

In addition, a former senator called the change a “sad day” when the majority caused “the greatest alteration of the rules without proper procedure that we have probably seen in the history of the Republic.” That former senator is now Donald Trump’s Attorney General.

By removing the filibuster for Supreme Court justices, the Senate has encouraged presidents to pick ideologically extreme nominees, further politicizing the highest court in the nation. For many people, the Senate decision may be a blip on the disastrous media coming from the new rule of Dictator Donald Trump, including possible war with North Korea and Syria, but 55 Senators have voted to allow an unethical judge to make decisions for everyone in the United States for a possible up-coming 40 years. According to their own words, the Republicans have “broken” the Senate.

March 1, 2016

Check Out Margaret & Helen!

If you follow just one blog, you might want to consider “Margaret and Helen,” subtitled “Best Friends for 60 Years and Counting.” Helen Philpot learned to blog so that she could blog with her best friend, Margaret Schmechtman. Philpot lives in Texas, and Schmechtman lives in Texas. Their last names have been changed because, as Helen wrote, “We got a few scary emails when I first wrote about Sarah Palin.”

Today’s post, as always, tells it like it is: “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and hates immigrants, gays and people of color then what you have is a Republican duck.”

Thank you, Helen! You rock!

Margaret, once again I find myself stating the obvious – of course the KKK is a part of the Republican base.  Are Republicans really trying to suddenly be outraged by that?  When you hate immigrants, hate gays, question the patriotism of the first black President, use war to solve all your problems… Well hell, Margaret, I could have just used those exact same words to actually describe the KKK rather than the current Republican party.

The entire Republican leadership is culpable for the rise of Trump.  For years they have suppressed minority voters, denied rights to gays, and vilified immigrants.  How in the hell can the party of Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, Sarah Palin, Paul LePage, Mike Huckabee, Jason Rapert, Jon Hubbard, Loy Mauch, Bob McDonnell, Haley Barbour, Jeff Sessions,  Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, George Allen, … suddenly be offended by Donald Trump?  Hell, the list of racist, homophobic, immigrant-hating Republican politicians is so long, I haven’t even scratched the surface.  And who do you think voted them into office?

The numbers speak for themselves.

The KKK thinks Obama is a Muslim.

Almost half of the Republican Party thinks Obama is a Muslim.

The KKK is anti-immigration.

A majority of Republicans support a ban on all Muslim immigration and over half support an increase in the deportation of Mexican immigrants.

The KKK promotes hate crimes against homosexuals and is adamantly opposed to same sex marriage.

Almost 2/3 of Republicans do not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same sex marriage.

The KKK believes African Americans are second class citizens.

Republican controlled state houses have systemically passed laws to suppress the African American vote.

The KKK, small as it is, seems to do best in the Deep South where Republicans do best.  Coincidence?  Oh honey, bless your heart.  I have lived most of my life next door to women who cook and think like Paula Deen.

The Republican leadership can wish all it wants that Donald Trump isn’t their front runner, but in reality they can put wishes in their right hand and shit in their left hand and I promise you that the left one will always  fill up first. If they thought Donald Trump was electable the GOP would be blaming CNN for a faulty earpiece.

In truth, for the first time in my life I have enjoyed watching a few minutes of Fox News.  Those folks are so bent out of shape over this they could kiss their own behind while enjoying the sunshine on their face.  If Bill O’Reilly and company were to be totally honest, they aren’t quite sure what to do right now considering the KKK is probably a ratings point or two for the network.

I have no problem saying what the journalists seem unwilling to say. Until GOP voters demand that the party change its platform, to be a Republican today means you have more in common with the KKK than you probably care to admit.

Donald Trump was endorsed by a legitimate portion of the Republican base and the party leaders are upset that their little secret got out. I mean it.  Really.

Thanks, Margaret and Helen! And I’ll add the kerfuffle about Trump’s taxes. Furious with his refusal to release the information, Rubio and Cruz bragged about releasing their own—but only their summaries for the past few years, not the tax returns, were made public. As the Washington Post stated, “Without the full returns, key details about Cruz’s and Rubio’s family financial dealings – such as precise sources of income, deductions and amounts donated to charity – were not revealed.” Tax lawyer Martin Schenkman said, “The gross numbers without the schedules don’t tell you anything.” Cruz said he was just doing what Rubio did and didn’t plan to release any more tax information at this time.

As Trump and Cruz continue their battle after Super Tuesday’s wins today—and Rubio trying to moving into the big guys’ arena–there will be far more hypocrisy in the GOP.



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