Nel's New Day

May 24, 2019

DDT: Week 122 – One Track Trump

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has had what might be his worst week since he was inaugurated. In retaliation, he has expanded the powers of his fixer AG Bill Barr to use the entire intelligence for investigation of his investigation and declassify any information within the intelligence communityhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/barr-could-expose-secrets-politicize-intelligence-with-review-of-russia-probe-current-and-former-officials-fear/2019/05/24/58f822f8-7e2f-11e9-8bb7-0fc796cf2ec0_story.html?utm_term=.aa26591d6ba7  Barr is comfortable being selective about the release of information to put anyone in a bad light if they don’t 100-percent support DDT, and the end result can be the deaths of people in the U.S. intelligence world as Barr outs them to garner favor with DDT. The man in the Oval Office has proved that he cannot keep important information secret.

In another dangerous move, DDT plans to destroy the media with charges of treason under the Espionage Act against Julian Assange. Two prosecutors involved in the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He would be charged for publishing information about the actions taken by the U.S. government, until now protected by the First Amendment. Almost 50 years ago, a Supreme Court case protected the press in the Pentagon Papers, but DDT wants to overturn that. In its charges, the U.S. is trying to interpret the Espionage Act as any form of communication. https://truthout.org/video/julian-assanges-attorney-decries-espionage-charges-as-threat-to-press-freedom/  Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union said,

“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information.”

If Assange is convicted guilty under the Espionage Act, I could be convicted of reprinting information that the government considers negative to them.

DDT’s week included two big losses in court when two separate judges permitted his tax returns and some of his financial information to be given to the House because of its subpoenas. Last Monday, accountants at Mazars USA were ordered to turn over eight years of DDT’s tax returns to the House Oversight Committee. In the past, Mazars flagged DDT’s financial statements because of his flagrant lies including ten non-existent stories to Trump Tower and 800 acres at his Virginia vineyard. If DDT appeals the ruling within seven days, the case goes to the D.C. Circuit Court led by Chief Judge Merrick Garland, the same judge who McConnell prevented from any hearings for almost a year after President Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, another judge ruled that Deutsche Bank and Capital One should turn over financial documents related to DDT and his businesses after House Democrats’ subpoenas. The judge disagreed with DDT’s argument that the demands for documents lacked a legitimate legislative purpose and declared that the subpoenas “are clearly pertinent.” Wells Fargo and TD Bank, two of nine subpoenaed institutions, have already turned over information to the House Financial Services Committee. Others are Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase.

New York State legislature passed a law to turn over DDT’s state tax returns—similar to his federal ones—to the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, and Joint Committee on Taxation for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.” Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, still wants DDT’s federal returns to investigate “the mandatory presidential audit program at the I.R.S.” The New York law is broad enough that DDT may not be able to successfully fight it.

Another New York bill passed in its General Assembly could hamper DDT: state prosecutors would be permitted to pursue people convicted of federal crimes who receive presidential pardons for federal crimes for the same crimes in the state. These crimes could involve DDT through his Foundation, bank dealings, NRA’s money laundering from Russia for DDT’s campaign, and other DDT donors. DDT is also connected to several other scandals when a private citizen in New York.

By Thursday morning, DDT had a meltdown, refusing to have a previously-planned meeting about infrastructure with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In a press conference, DDT claimed that he called off the meeting because Pelosi was talking about “the i-word,” but the conference looked preplanned because of the optics. Pelosi had met with the Democratic caucus to talk them out of impeachment. He became more enraged after Pelosi said that he was “engaged in a coverup.” A day later, Pelosi called for a family intervention and said that “he flipped yesterday” because he was “crying out for impeachment.”

DDT furiously declared he will not work with Democrats on any legislature while investigations of his campaign, finances and foreign ties continue. According to DDT, he varies from former presidents by being incapable of running the United States while he is being investigated. As Stephen Colbert described his blackmailing comment, “My way or no highways.” In the midst of his anger, he admitted he knew about the Trump Tower meeting in which a Russian lawyer offered Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign members “dirt” on Hillary Clinton to help DDT’s campaign, confessing that he had lied about his ignorance.

In his angry speech, DDT warned that a Republican Congress might impeach a Democratic president and followed up with the statement that “we can’t allow that to happen.” That actually happened 20 years ago—impeach being an investigation. While Bill Clinton was investigated for almost eight years with an impeachment trial in 1998-99, he continued to negotiate in good faith with Republicans throughout the entire process. Later he called up all his aides in front of the television cameras and ordered them to testify to his calmness.

Because conservatives cannot attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on any credible issues, they smear her through such methods as distorting video of her—in this case, slowing down a video 75 percent to make her speech sound slurred. After media outlets, including Fox, reported on the doctored video, DDT’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani described Pelosi as having a “bizarre” speech pattern immediately before he called for “the integrity of … government.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin continues to maintain the IRS is not required to give up DDT’s tax returns, but a confidential IRS legal memo declares that the House is entitled to receive these unless DDT declares executive privilege in hiding them. The memo states that Mnuchin cannot withhold the information is “statutory conditions are met.” The 10-page document explains who and why Congress can access tax returns and how the provision has been interpreted throughout the decades. Even executive privilege may not be sufficient for DDT to hide his tax returns.

The latest DDT associates to receive subpoenas from House Democrats are his former communications adviser Hope Hicks, who said she told “white lies” for DDT, and White House counsel assistant Annie Donaldson. These subpoenas came on the heels of White House counsel Don McGahn’s refusal to comply with his subpoena

By mid-May, DDT was facing at least 29 investigations: 10 federal criminal investigations, 8 state and local investigations, and 11 House investigations.

The DOJ has also offered to give up more of the redacted Mueller report and underlying information to the House Intelligence Committee in exchange for its not enforcing a subpoena against Barr although there is no timeline.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson secretly appeared for seven hours before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last Tuesday to give voluntary testimony. His statements included Russian President Vladimir Putin “seized every opportunity to push what he wanted” and far out-prepared DDT for the meeting in Germany. DDT has always bragged about the lack of importance to prepare for meetings. Tillerson also discussed the inadequacy of DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has aligned himself with the murderous Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to negotiate for peace between Palestine and Israel. Asked to describe Trump’s values, Tillerson said, “I cannot.” http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-isnt-helping-himself-his-latest-shot-tillerson?cid=eml_mra_20190523  In refuting Tillerson’s statements, DDT said:

“I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

DDT looks to Putin for validation and brags about how the U.S. is doing with its foreign policy—verging on war with Iran and Venezuela, in opposition to Russia, while failing to denuclearize North Korea.

During eight months beginning on the day of DDT’s election, Michael Cohen, DDT’s former fixer, communicated 1,180 times through telephone and text with Andrew Intrater, the CEO of  U.S. money-management firm Columbus Nova LLC controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Reports show that Columbus paid Cohen over $500,000 after the election. He also exchanged communication and was paid $300,000 on a $1.8 million contract to help Kazakshstan’s BTA Bank JSC. An investigation show that Cohen was involved in persuading White House officials to lift sanctions on Russians in exchange for payment through Essential Consultants, LLC, a company he set up in October 2016.

Tomorrow, DDT retreats to Japan for some positive attention after the stress of his past week. Officials said that the trip is light on substance while DDT is wined (Coked?) and dined. One of DDT’s problems is his rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership while Japan moved ahead to liberalize the market access for beef, pork, and other agricultural products for Australians, Canadians, and the EU through the Eu-Japan trade deal. That means higher tariffs for U.S. exports. At least DDT has the “Trump Cup,” a new trophy he will award to the winner of the first Sumo wrestling tournament of the new Japanese imperial era.

April 24, 2019

‘A Serious Crime against America’

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has declared war on the U.S. Congress while treating members as if they work for him instead of being in a separate and equal branch of the government. The Robert Mueller investigation closed down soon after the Senate confirmed DDT’s new fixer, Bill Barr, as the U.S. attorney general—a position that is supposed to be independent of the President of the United States. Now DDT is trying to block every House investigation into his actions.

Details in DDT’s Finances: DDT’s accounting firm Mazars USA told House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it would give him ten years of DDT’s financial statements if they received a subpoena after DDT’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, said that DDT had participated in possible bank fraud by inflating or deflating his assets to get loans and avoid real estate taxes. First, DDT’s lawyers threatened the firm with legal action if it follows the law and then sued Cummings to block the subpoena using the 1880 Supreme Court ruling in Kilbourn v. Thompson. That case was overruled by a 1927 decision.

Testimony from DDT’s Former White House Counsel: Trying to block Don McGahn’s testimony from Don McGahn by invoking executive privilege, DDT had earlier told McGahn that he could talk freely with Robert Mueller and failed to claim executive privilege in the release of the Mueller report. McGahn testified to Mueller that DDT told McGahn about DDT’s attempt to fire Robert Mueller. Not only does McGahn work in the government now, he worked for the people of the United States, not DDT. About McGahn’s declaring executive privilege, former federal counsel Jessica Roth said, “That ship has sailed.”

DDT’s Tax Records: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is still dragging his heels in turning over DDT’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, saying that he will decide by May 6. Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA) has a century-old law for his request. DDT’s lawyer wrote the Treasury Department to stop the tax returns from being handed over to House Democrats.

DDT’s Security Clearance Process: The Oversight Committee is also investigating whether people with drug, criminal, or financial problems received top-secret security clearances because of DDT’s demands. DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is one of the clearance recipients. The House subpoenaed Carl Kline, the person responsible for giving clearances after people failed the vetting, who also retaliated against the woman who reported his actions. DDT told Kline, as he told other aides, to ignore all subpoenas to appear before the House committee. Cummings warned that Kline could be held in contempt if he doesn’t appear.

Today, the Washington Post published an op-ed about the need for a response to DDT’s actions that was written by former First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today’s House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump’s recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

This week, DDT said, “I’m the most transparent president in history” while he objects to all subpoenas about his taxes and financial affairs, vetting for security clearances, testimony for the Mueller investigation, and holds secret meetings.

George Conway, husband of top White House official Kellyanne Conway, said about Clinton’s op-ed: “I’m with her.” So am I.

October 20, 2017

Pence, a Christian Ideologue Who Could Destroy Democracy

[Note: Yesterday’s blog post about not impeaching Donald Trump (DDT) brought a few comments. One is that “DDT” is a pesticide. Yes, it’s a poison that kills humans and harmless creatures, and the man inaugurated as U.S. president in January 2017 displays many characteristics of a dictator. Another one—”Explain to me again why just Pence would be worse than 45 + Pence.” Without DDT, Pence would be unleashed to make the nation a total unconstitutional theocracy. DDT is only interested in benefiting himself; Mike Pence will do anything to spread Dominionism throughout the world. People who still aren’t afraid of Pence after reading the following should go to some of the links for additional information.]

Becoming candidate for vice-president was a personal advantage for Mike Pence because his term as governor of Indiana was up for renewal. He was unpopular with both parties, his favorability down to 40 percent and only four points ahead of his Democratic opponent when 30 percent of the people in the state didn’t know who the Dem was.

Pence is an ideal sidekick for DDT, always willing to lie for him and always looking adoringly at DDT. Joel K. Goldstein, a historian at St. Louis University, calls him the “Sycophant-in-Chief.” Pence brought conservative donors who didn’t trust DDT back into the fold, especially the Koch brothers.

During his campaign for vice-president, Pence denied concern about the “Access Hollywood” tapes when DDT was caught bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy,” but a campaign aide said his wife, Karen, was horrified. Pence wouldn’t take calls from DDT but sent DDT a letter saying that he and his wife were deeply offended and needed to make an “assessment” about whether to remain with the campaign. Pence decided to stay, and DDT dumped New Jersey governor Chris Christie—and his thirty binders of résumés and plans—to make Pence head of his transition team. In his appointments, DDT leaned heavily on Koch-supported people: Scott Pruitt, Patrick Traylor, Don McGahn, Betsy DeVos, and Mike Pompeo. Koch involvement caused DDT base’s priorities to move down, subsumed by the corporate right. Gone are such Koch-opposed proposals as infrastructure reform, “border-adjustment tax,” and higher tax bracket for earnings over $5 million.

Two days after DDT was inaugurated, Stephen Roderick wrote about how Pence and DDT claimed to save jobs in Indiana by preserving 730 jobs at Carrier. Another 550 jobs that were being sent to Mexico. As usual, Pence had given the typical spin about Washington policies driving jobs offshore, but Mexican workers get $6 an hour, $1.75 less than federal minimum wage. As governor, Pence gave Carrier $7 million in state tax breaks. Sarah Palin called it “crony capitalism.”

Pence may be responsible for some of DDT’s current problems. Christie told DDT to avoid Michael Flynn, whose financial ties to foreign interests may have been the impetus for the investigation. Pence hired Flynn with almost no vetting although Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent warned him about Flynn’s questionable ethics: Flynn failed to disclose that he had done paid lobbying work during the campaign for Turkish interests. Pence claimed he didn’t see the letter, but Cummings has an email from the transition staff, promising to carefully review his letter. Flynn’s hiring most likely led to the special investigation surrounding DDT’s connection with Russia.

After DDT fired former FBI director James Comey, Pence again lied, claiming that the firing had nothing do to with the Russia investigation. He had attended a meeting about DDT’s intention to get rid of Comey where a letter connecting the firing to the Russia investigation was distributed. White House Counsel Don McGahn recommended against sending the letter, and the DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein made up an excuse for the firing. Hours after Pence claimed that DDT’s decision was based on Rosenstein recommendation, DDT told Lester Holt in an interview that Russia was the reason for his action. Pence’s lies may be classified as obstructing justice, or “misprision of a felony,” for giving the public a false cover story about a meeting to shut down a federal investigation.

Pence’s Bible-study group for Cabinet members is led by Ralph Drollinger who wrote:

“Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.”

Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband. He said that Pence “has uncompromising Biblical tenacity” and “brings real value to the head of the nation.”

Joan Walsh wrote that Pence is a far worse person than DDT “because of his creepy Handmaid’s Tale patriarchal approach to women’s equality. But also because he usually knows he’s lying about Trump, and their administration’s agenda, and he lies anyway.”

Pence’s argument against athletes taking a knee to protest injustice during the national anthem is the use of “national” in the NFL. He said, as if the NFL belongs to the government, “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that players in the National Football League to stand for our national anthem.”

Jeremy Scahill wrote about other Pence beliefs:

Pence wants to ban the burning of the U.S. flag and make the Patriot Act permanent. He thinks that law enforcement should not need a FISA warrant for domestic surveillance and voted against requiring any warrant for domestic wiretapping. He wanted to give retroactive immunity to telecom companies involved in warrantless surveillance. Pence said that “enhanced interrogation” has saved lives and doesn’t want congressional oversight of CIA interrogations. He also opposes protections for whistleblowers to prevent retaliation for reporting crimes and misdeeds. Expansion of the military tribunal system and “filling up” Guantanamo Bay are other Pence goals. No matter what, Pence will stand with Israel. Fortunately, he and other legislators failed in making a U.S. policy to use military force to eliminate nuclear threats in Iran.

Roe v. Wade would disappear in a Pence presidency, and he wants 14th Amendment protections for fetuses by declaring them persons. He voted for two-year sentences for doctors performing late-term abortions for any reason except the danger of women’s lives. If this had passed, women would have had to carry dead fetuses to term. According to Pence, “condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”

Pence wants DDT’s “wall” and advocates greater militarization against drugs. He said that “police officers are the best of us” and finds it offensive to “use a broad brush to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism and that really has got to stop.” Stop-and-frisk programs are “on a sound constitutional footing,” according to Pence, who wants these on a nationwide basis.

No-bid contracting should not have restrictions, according to Pence, perhaps because he has a close relationship to Blackwater’s cofounder, Erik Prince, Betsy Devos’ brother. Pence and his Republican Study Committee welcomed Prince to Washington in 2007 after Blackwater operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. The Prince family joined with the DeVos family to fund the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House Speaker in 1994 on the platform Contract with America.

In the Concord Monitor, Robert Azzi wrote:

“I want [Donald Trunp] to stay in office because I fear a President Pence more than I fear Trump.

“While Trump the narcissist is an uneducated wanna-be statesman who seemingly has never read a book, who lacks empathy even for those close to him, and whom I believe couldn’t find Jerusalem on a map – at least not until either he or Jared got a contract to build a new tower or embassy there (a really, really, really beautiful thing – amazing, really!) – there are currently enough Republicans and Democrats (supported by grown-ups like Secretary Mattis and National Security Advisor McMaster) who are equally so revulsed by his lies, his ignorance and his erratic-ness that they’re willing to stand in his way to keep his fingers off the nuclear codes.

“Trump’s ambitions can be deflected (he has the attention span of a gnat); Pence’s can’t, and his elevation to the presidency – either through Trump’s impeachment or resignation – would, I believe, present a clear and present danger to the pluralistic, aspirational, constitutional values upon which this nation relies for its strength and prosperity….

“Pence is the real thing. He’s much smarter than Trump, has better hair, has much more government experience, and he unrepentantly embraces and advocates for an unreconstructed Christian supremacist America…. Pence is the tip of the spear for a Christian Dominionist movement envisioned, as Betsy DeVos says, to “advance God’s kingdom….

“A Pence presidency would herald the rise of an American supremacist Taliban who’ll have their way rolling back the privacy and civil, human, religious and personal rights of Americans whom they believe, both in the present and in the hereafter, are less worthy than they.”

The worst part of impeaching DDT is that the Trumpets would solidify with the GOP party, giving them far more leverage. The U.S. is better off by leaving DDT where he is and controlling his ability to blow up the world. If DDT is impeached, only a Pence impeachment could save the nation—and that would never happen.

I have long believed, like longtime Democratic operative Harold Ickes, that Pence would work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda. Newt Gingrich believes that Pence will be the 2024 GOP nominee. Pence is the first vice-president in history to have his own fundraising effort instead of raising money for the president, the party, and congressional and state-level candidates. He may be aiming at 2020. A Pence presidency would erase what is left of democracy in the United States.

 

October 19, 2017

Don’t Impeach DDT

Throughout the past year, VP Mike Pence has mostly kept a low profile while more and more people are calling to impeach Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Examining Pence’s past shows such great darkness that I cannot advocate exchanging the volatile, impulsive man currently in the Oval Office for someone who plans to turn the United States into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. People who think that DDT is the worst possible person as the nation’s leader need to consider Pence’s ability to destroy democracy and the entire population of the U.S. except for white men.

DDT brought publicity to Pence when he declared that his VP “wants to hang” all gay people. As outrageous as this claim is, Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, didn’t deny that DDT’s claim was wrong. In Pence’s history as a right-wing extremist member of Congress, he has opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, supported a federal constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and opposed a federal hate crimes law. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law permission for businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people, spurring a nationwide backlash. When Pence appeared on television to defend the law, he repeatedly refused to say whether or not the law would allow for discrimination and whether or not he supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. But this bigotry is only the tip of the iceberg.

Early in his political career, Pence used dirty tricks in his first congressional campaign: he showed someone dressed in Middle Eastern garb who accused his opponent of connections to Arabian oil interests, sent a mailer with a photo of a razor and lines of cocaine that accused his opponent of being soft on drugs, and told campaign volunteers to call voters and tell them that Sharp planned to sell his family farm to a nuclear-waste facility. All these were lies. Part of his 1990 election loss in that fight may have been his use of campaign donations for such personal expenses as his mortgage, groceries, and golf tournament fees—nothing illegal but considered unethical.

Losing the election by 19 points, Pence hosted a radio talk show and continued his lies. In criticizing the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, Pence maintained that opponents to the Supreme Court justice nominee used KKK tactics and blamed Indiana senators Dick Lugar and Dan Coats for “standing by while Clarence Thomas is being lynched.” Anita Hill’s assertions about Thomas’ sexual harassment is now largely believed.

Pence’s loss also led him to the presidency of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation promoting free-market policies and giving him access to a network of business-funded conservative nonprofit groups. The financial ties to tobacco companies led Pence to claim in 2000 that “smoking doesn’t kill [that] two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.” Government was a bigger “scourge” than cigarettes, he said. As a board member of the Indiana Family Institute, Pence joined the campaign against LGBTQ rights and for the criminalization of abortion. Vi Simpson, former Indiana senate Democratic minority leader, said that Pence’s goal is to reverse the economic and political advances of women, using denial of birth control access to women as one method.

After Pence won a seat in the U.S. House in 2000, he became popular on the conservative talk circuit where he spoke for unlimited gun rights, property rights, pro-life, and pro-Israel positions. Michael Leppert, an Indiana Democratic lobbyist, said:

“His politics were always way outside the mainstream. He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl…. He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth.”

Far to the right of the George W. Bush administration, Pence didn’t author one successful bill during his 12 years in Congress. He opposed Medicaid expansion for prescription drugs and the emergency bank bailout. He not only opposed LGBTQ rights but also argued that the AIDS resources bill, the Ryan White Care Act, should fund “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In 2006 he fought for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Pence wants to erase the science of the world. In 2002, he stated that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory” in opposition to “intelligent design,” that maintains life on Earth is too complex to emerge through random mutation. Pence called the latter the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

In 2008, Pence helped found the Tea Party, opposing taxes and government, and became more militant. In 2011, he threatened to shut down the federal government if it didn’t defund Planned Parenthood. In his arguments against funding Planned Parenthood, he referenced Lex Cornelia, ancient Roman laws that included one sentencing providers of abortion potions to work in the mines. Pence supported “personhood” legislation to ban any abortion under all circumstances except to protect the life of the mother and sponsored a failed amendment to the Affordable Care Act allowing government-funded hospitals to turn away dying women who needed abortions.

The Koch brothers learned to count on Pence when he persuaded 156 congressional members to sign a pledge of “No Climate Tax” that allowed the Koch brothers to annually dump 24 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In 2009 bill Pence sponsored a bill to prevent native-born children of illegal immigrants from becoming American citizens. Like DDT’s recent executive order, he wants to use his personal moral convictions to control the nation, whether constitutional or not.

Pence became governor of Indiana with only 49 percent of the vote in 2013 because the center didn’t trust him. They were right. Pence had promised to follow former Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative who wanted to avoid divisive social issues. He created “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history” (according to Pence) in a state with one of the lowest income taxes in the nation. His plan had the same result as the proposed DDT tax cuts: people earning $50,000 a year gained about $3.50 a month. Pence again lied about the cut stimulating the economy. Since Pence left, Indiana had to increase the gas tax by ten cents per gallon to fix its infrastructure.

As a new governor, Pence tried to solve his state’s fiscal crisis by cutting tens of millions for higher education, social agencies, and human services. He blocked local governments from raising the minimum wage or requiring better benefits from businesses. Pence privatized government services in infrastructure and education, rolled back energy efficiency standards, and declared the state pro-coal. He allowed people to keep guns in their cars on school grounds, recruited the NRA to train the state’s National Guard, and stopped Gary (IN) from suing gun manufacturers whose weapons were illegally sold.

In 2014, a year after he was elected governor, Pence killed an application for an $80 million federal grant to start a statewide preschool program because of conservative objections to secular public education. At the same time, he traveled the country to build support for a presidential run.

Pence signed a bill stopping women from aborting physically abnormal fetuses and requiring fetal burial or cremation, even after miscarriages. The law has been found unconstitutional, and Indiana is now permanently barred from enforcing a restriction that would have banned abortions sought because of a fetus’ genetic abnormalities, race, gender or ancestry.

Another Pence disaster was the serious spike of HIV cases in southern Indiana from the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics, none of which performed abortions, and the refusal to legalize a syringe exchange. The state health commissioner called the outbreak a public-health emergency, and Pence permitted a temporary exchange program as an emergency.

Although pro-life, Pence refused to save the lives of a Syrian refugee family who had undergone extreme vetting and was fleeing violence and terror by allowing them to settle in the state. They had relatives in Indianapolis along with the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Indiana. The family was sent to Connecticut, and the federal courts eventually struck down Pence’s executive order as discriminatory.

Pence also declined to pardon Keith Cooper, in prison for nine years for an armed robbery he didn’t commit. Without the pardon, Cooper could be released only if he admitted guilt for something he didn’t do that kept him getting a decent job.

Although opposed to gambling in a state that bans political contributions from casino operators, Pence received donations from gambling sources through the Republican Governors Association with its major donors of casino companies.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence also tried to establish a taxpayer-funded state-run new agency to spread his propaganda and used a private email account for official state business. He claimed that it was different from Hillary Clinton’s private server but cost taxpayers $100,000 in legal fees. Taxpayers also paid for private attorneys so that Pence could join Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan before DDT’s election.

That’s how a Christian ideologue rules. To be continued.

November 27, 2016

Trump Makes Money from Presidency

In a letter to Eugene’s Register-Guard, self-identified “deplorable” further proved that Donald Trump (DT) supporters live in a fantasy land when she concluded by stating that “we can all agree that President-elect Trump is not in it for the money.” And she was being serious. A run-down of DT’s conflicts of interest show how wrong she is.

DT’s extensive global business dealings brings the total to 150 companies in at least 25 countries. The true extent is not known because of DT’s refusal to release his tax information. Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, said:

“If we’ve got to talk to a foreign government about their behavior, or negotiate a treaty, or some country asks us to send our troops in to defend someone else, we’ve got to make a decision. And the question becomes: Are we going in out of our national interest, or because there’s a Trump casino around?”

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte has named Jose E.B. Antonio, DT’s partner in a $150 million tower in Manila, a special envoy to the U.S. Antonio met with DT’s children for a private meeting after the election, and his son, Robbie Antonio, said that his father and the Trumps plan other Trump-branded resorts in the country. Duterte wants U.S. troops out of his country; he has killed thousands of suspected criminals without trial.

South Korea: As partner in a South Korean company involved in nuclear energy, DT wants the country to take care of its own military defense rather than counting on the U.S.—including the development of nuclear weapons.

Brazil: The beachfront Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro—financially branded but not owned by DT—is part of an investigation regarding illicit commissions and bribes resulted in favoritism by two pension funds invested in the project.

Argentina: DT reportedly asked President Mauricio Macri to approve long-delayed permits for the Buenos Aires Trump high rise. Although DT denied doing this, permits were granted the next day.

India: Builders on DT’s real estate ventures are tied to the country’s most important political party. With more projects underway than in any other location outside the U.S., DT can obtain special government favors, including reductions in loans from state-owned banks, as low as 8 percent from the typical 15 percent. A week after he was elected, DT and his children met with their Indian business partners who said that they discussed the expansion of their Trump dealings because he is the president-elect. An official said that meeting with the U.S. president’s son can be the same as a meeting with the president. One DT project is under investigation for fraudulent permits. Black money—money on which taxes have not been paid—is commonly invested in real estate, and special political favors leads to windfall profits. Bribes are so common that bureaucrats have rate sheets showing how much to each official.

trump-hindu-sena

[DT as member of “Hindu Sena,” or Hindu Army, a local organization. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)]

Ireland: DT wants a flood-prevention sea wall on the coast that would endanger an endangered snail’s habitat and sand dunes near the course, both protected by European Union rules.

Britain: DT has spoken with British politicians in opposition to wind farms that he believes will mar the view from his golf course in Scotland.

Turkey: Officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, had demanded that DT’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. DT suggested that Erdogan can crack down harshly on dissidents after the recent, failed coup, and Erdogan’s calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped. In his offshore manufacturing, DT maintains his partnership in a company making luxury furniture and sold under the Trump Home Collection. DT has said that he has “a little conflict of interest [in Turkey].”

Saudi Arabia: During his campaign, DT started eight hotel projects in this oil-rich Arab kingdom that he said he “would want to protect.” Citing all the money that people from Saudi Arabia give him, DT said, “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Russia: DT made millions with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. In 2008, DT, Jr., said that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” adding that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

U.S.: DT is urging diplomats to stay at his new Washington, D.C. hotel when they are in town for official business. He owns a government lease for the hotel although the lease states that it cannot be held by a government official. His on-going labor disputes in Nevada may be solved by his appointments of all five members of the National Labor Relations Board. DT also owns stock in the company building the pipeline where protesters are trying to protect water and Native American sacred land in the Dakotas.

Other Global Issues: DT has a failed project in Toronto which was funded by Chinese investors and a dispute with Deutsche Bank, also owing them possibly billions of dollars. The bank is negotiating with the U.S. after lying to investors about its involvement in subprime mortgages during the housing crisis and ensuing global recession. The DOJ opened with $14 billion, but the deal could be sweetened in exchange for lessening DT’s loans, especially because the bank is being investigated for shady equity trades benefiting Russian clients.

Ivanka Trump plans to make money off DT’s election. After the family appeared on 60 Minutes, her business urged reporters to write about the $10,800 gold bangle bracelet she wore during the interview. She has also participated in conversations with at least three world leaders: Turkey, Argentina and Japan. DT was given a gold driver worth $4,000 at the meeting with Japanese officials.

Another issue is identifying responsibility for protecting Trump properties, possibly against terrorism, around the world. David J. Kramer, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the George W. Bush administration, said DT’s financial situation could stop the government from using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that attempts to prevent contractors from paying bribes to secure government work abroad.

Even without overt DT action, officials in foreign countries may feel pressured to support his businesses by moving forward building permits or pushing more business to DT’s hotels or golf courses. DT’s diplomats may also not wish to frustrate his business partners or political allies.

Republicans were virulently opposed to Hillary Clinton’s potential involvement in the Clinton Foundation, and at least one representative, Justin Amash from Michigan, is now calling on DT to be transparent. Amash tweeted, “If you have contracts w/foreign govts, it’s certainly a big deal, too. #DrainTheSwamp.” As DT rearranges the alligators in the deepening swamp, almost no Republicans are mentioning the murky morass. Instead they plan to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

DT has already pointed out that there is no law against his conflict of interest. At this time, he is ignoring the Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9) in the U.S. Constitution, “emolument” meaning compensation for labor or services. The clause states that “no person holding any office of profit or trust” shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” unless Congress consents. This provision could go as far as preventing DT from renting space in his New York tower to the Bank of China or hosting foreign diplomats in one of his hotels.

When President Obama took office, David J. Barron, a Justice Department official who is now a federal appeals court judge in Boston, declared that the clause “surely” applies to the president and money can be barred if it comes from a foreign state. Barron added, “Corporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”

The Supreme Court has no rulings about this clause because no previous president has refused to give up his businesses when taking over the office. The question is who would have standing to challenge the President of the United States. Violations may require impeachment and not a lawsuit, something that a GOP-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to do. Yet Virginia Gov. Edmund Jennings Randolph stated during a Constitutional debate in June 1788 that a violation of the provision by the President would be grounds for impeachment.

Legal scholars are calling on Electoral Voters to not make DT the next president unless he follows earlier presidents in selling his companies and putting the proceeds in a blind trust. Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, a preeminent constitutional scholar, said, “[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors.” Painter and Norman Eisen, President Obama’s Chief Ethics Counsel, joined Tribe in this opinion. DT could agree to have his businesses audited and any payment from a foreign government turned over to the United States, Painter suggested, but Tribe does not think this action would actually cure the Constitutional violation. DT won’t do this anyway.

If DT makes no changes before he takes the Oath of Office, he would immediately violate his promise not to be “indebted to, or otherwise the recipient of financial remuneration from, any foreign power or entity answerable to such a power.” Taking the oath would qualify him for one of the “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” that would require him to be “removed from Office.” The only alternative is for Congress to “endorse Trump’s exploitation of public office for private gain and authorize his emoluments as the Constitution allows,” according to Eisen.

Eisen summarized the situation perfectly: Swearing in DT without his selling his properties would force the U.S. into a “wholesale oligarchic kleptocracy of a kind that we have never seen before in our history.” Without taking action, the GOP can find itself in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

November 21, 2014

President Infuriates GOP with Immigration Executive Order

Last night, mainstream television stations refused to run President Obama’s speech, but the message still came across loud and clear: the president is moving forward on immigration reform because the GOP House won’t take action. In the first minute of the speech, he announced that about 4.4 million undocumented immigrants—parents, children, and others who have lived at least five years in the country—will not be forced out of their homes.

Undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent children can legally stay in the country and work if they pass a background check. His 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy will be expanded by removing the top age limit of 31 and applying to all those who came to the U.S. before January 1, 2010. Relief from the deferred action will be three years, an increase from the two-year DACA program. Executive orders are temporary, made on a case-by-case basis, can be revoked, and do not put immigrants on a path toward citizenship. They are required to pay taxes but won’t be eligible for most government benefits including the Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Other benefits focus on those illegally crossing the border since the beginning of the year, convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and possible threats to national security. The president’s new executive order will broaden opportunities for highly skilled workers and change how visas are distributed. Parents of DACA recipients and agricultural workers are not included in this relief, but they may be eligible for reprieve from other factors. Any person granted deferred action can get work authorization by demonstrating “an economic necessity for employment” and can obtain Social Security numbers.

As expected, the Party of No has doubled down on its threats to block the president and avoid helping the people of the United States:

Shut down the government: That GOP suggestion included talk on last Sunday shows. Although Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had earlier acknowledged that this move “doesn’t solve the problem,” he hasn’t rejected the option.

Defund the immigration plan: Rescission is a parliamentary procedure that lets legislators pass a budget bill and then return to cut out whatever they don’t want. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded through fees, however, not congressional appropriations, meaning that Congress can’t take this route.

Block confirmation of all nominees, including the U.S. Attorney General and judges: This threat isn’t new; the GOP senators have been doing it during the past two congresses. They will continue, however, because they’re hoping for a Republican president in two years to pack the courts and other federal seats.

Refuse to pass any immigration legislation through Congress: It’s not as if the GOP House has been willing to do pass any legislation anyway.

Impeach the president: Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) have all suggested this action, useless because it requires a two-thirds vote in the senate. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) even wants to send the president to prison. He suggested the possibility that “the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America” which carries “a five-year in-jail penalty.”

Sue the President: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a presidential wannabe, called the executive action a “cynical ploy” to distract Republicans from other agenda items. Because the Republicans haven’t moved anything forward for years, this doesn’t set up an unusual situation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has finally found a lawyer who took the case after rejection from two others. The current filing uses the Affordable Care Act as its basis but just asks for a ruling without any request for relief, injunction, or change.

The House may fail in suing the president for his executive order on immigration.   The Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States (2012) ruled “broad discretion” for the executive branch in immigration matters because removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. The law reads that undocumented people “may” be removed, not “must”; thus the executive branch “must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all” on a case-by-case basis. Immigration law does require custody for those who have committed a serious crime or previously “engaged in a terrorist activity.”

One reason that Republicans want to block the immigration executive order is that the president’s actions will improve the economy. With about 5 million more people obtaining work permits, wages will be increased by an average of 8.5 percent and raise an additional $3 billion in payroll taxes for just the first year and $22.6 billion for the first five years. GDP will go up by 0.9 percent, about $210 billion, and the federal deficit will shrink by $25 billion through this growth. The senate bill would have had far greater economic benefits, but it was kept from a House vote.

Immigrants do not have a negative impact on earnings of native-born workers because the two groups usually have different skill sets and look for different kinds of jobs. As new immigrants move to the U.S., the number of jobs lost to offshoring actually decreases, keeping more jobs for native-born workers and greater demand for such services as transportation of these goods throughout the country. Getting immigrant labor for lower-skilled jobs moves native-born workers in those jobs up the job ladder, giving them higher-paid jobs. Immigrants also do not displace U.S. workers because many of them start their own businesses.

Republicans ignore the executive actions on immigration taken by 11 U.S. presidents, every president both Republican and Democrat since President Dwight Eisenhower. Reagan granted deportation relief to minor children of parents who benefited from a 1986 immigration reform, and George H.S. Bush gave the same relief to about 1.5 million “family members living with a legalizing immigrant [] who were in the U.S. before passage of the 1986 law.” As the president said in his speech:

“To those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

President Obama’s actions are not an amnesty. Reagan was the president who strongly supported amnesty. In a presidential debate in 1984, he said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

The farthest-right members of Congress rant about the president’s actions because they think the GOP now has a mandate to take over the country. They forgot that they completely ignored any “mandate” from the 2012 election when both the elected president and Senate were Democratic and the majority of votes for the House were Democratic although gerrymandering provided a majority of GOP representatives. GOP congressional members have proceeded during the past six years with its only goal–to stop any action from the president.

While the Republicans threaten the president, they also call on violent action from people across the country by trying to terrify them. For example, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has said, “You could see violence.” He seemed to give people the right for anarchy when he explained how people think:

“If the law doesn’t apply to the president and it’s not affirmatively acted upon us as a group, like you’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri then why should it apply to me?'”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the anti-immigrant movement, said during his Sunday radio program that it’s possible that a Hispanic majority in the U.S. could conduct an “ethnic cleansing.” In a game of “us versus them” played against imagined enemies, conservatives, like terrorists such as ISIL use this method to control people and keep them from being free.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, the GOP immigration plan for the past 30 years is to “make America somewhere no one wants to live.” Immigrants have come to the United States to improve their standard of living. That hope is gradually disappearing through the GOP’s plans to decrease wages, eliminate health care, increase imprisonment, and expand the number of unwarranted deaths through unimpeded gun violence.

Older GOP legislators refuse to pay attention to historic and economic facts just as they reject science. Their only plan is the same one that they’ve used for the past six years to stop the president: do nothing.

June 21, 2013

The IRS Argument Deflates

The GOP has been working the IRS manufactured scandal hard for the past month, trying to convince people that President Obama was directly responsible for the use of the term “tea party” to audit organizations in the 501(c)4 category.  Fox and GOP minds ignored the fact that many other organizations—including progressive ones—were audited,  many of the groups audited were certainly political, and that Fox was so eager to disenfranchise progressive groups with the IRS that they asked viewers to file fraudulent complaints.

But the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) charged along, inciting the base and cheering them on.  On a Sunday ABC news panel before the case had been investigated, George Will promoted the idea of impeachment by equating President Obama and Richard Nixon and reading a passage from Nixon’s articles of impeachment. He wasn’t alone in his suggestion.

Issa thought he had the proof to back the president into a corner. Weeks ago, he promised to release the full transcripts from the IRS controversy hearings in the Oversight Committee. Then he leaked edited pieces and said he wouldn’t release the rest of them for a very long time, giving the impression that he didn’t have the goods to blame the president.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) took offense at the way that Issa was trying to smear the president with the edited transcripts and asked him to release the full ones. Issa sent Cummings a letter scolding him for getting out of line, Cummings responded by saying that Issa had to release transcripts by last Monday or he would, Issa didn’t do it, and Cummings released the full transcripts on Tuesday, leading to Issa’s anger.

The release of the full transcripts backed Issa into a corner. They show that the White House had no involvement in any of the audits.

Although Issa did start his attempt to make hay out of straw in the IRS controversy until a few weeks ago, he knew about the issue years ago. He also knew that a George W. Bush appointee was head of the IRS at the time that he raised the issue with the IRS. But nothing appeared before the presidential election last fall.

Issa’s recent history of manufacturing scandals in the hope of creating problems for President Obama include Solyndra’s loan guarantees, “Fast and Furious,” Benghazi—all Issa’s inventions. What many know less about is Issa’s past.

During his meteoric rise to wealth and power, he was indicted for car theft, arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon, and accused of arson. The accusations of deliberately burning down a building for profit and threatening a former employee with a gun did not result in formal charges, but there is enough information to substantiate some of his criminal actions. After Issa was in a car accident, he told the woman he had hit that he didn’t have time to wait and left before police arrived. The woman had to be hospitalized. There were no charges, but he made an out-of-court settlement after being sued.

The chair of the House Oversight Committee entrusted with investigating government wrongdoing and lying claimed to have the “highest possible” ratings during his Army career. In truth, he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.” He also lied when he said that he provided security for President Nixon in 1971 and won a national Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Once Issa’s allegations were punctured, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) picked up the IRS scandal banner.  At the conservative American Enterprise Institute today, he admitted the president was probably not directly responsible for the audits. Yet in covering for Issa, McConnell tried to connect the president with the so-called scandal by accusing President Obama—wrongly—of personally trying to prove he was innocent. Then McConnell claimed that the situation is part of a government assault on free speech as part of a “culture of intimidation.” Somebody has to be blamed for these audits, so McConnell picked the unions as the responsible party.

McConnell cherry-picks the Constitution like some people do the Bible. In his concern about free speech and intimidation, he ignored the House Rules Committee’s rejection of an amendment that would cut back the NSA’s ability to collect data on U.S. citizens. First Amendment protecting speech good; Fourth Amendment guarding against search and seizure bad—according to the GOP. Although the GOP isn’t happy with the other part of the First Amendment that protects freedom of religion.

The Tea Party bitterly complained—and the GOP House members picked up the cudgel—that more of them had been targeted than progressive organizations. That’s true, mainly because there were far more conservative groups wanting non-profit status for their political spending than progressive ones. The percentage for both sides was most likely the same. But conservatives have succeeded in making the IRS afraid. The GOP doesn’t want justice; it wants destruction of anyone who opposes it.

Now that GOP House members may have to give up salivating over the possibility that they could bring down President Obama with their IRS accusations, they should be concerned with IRS reform. After the Supreme Court gave people what seemed to be unlimited donation power with Citizens United, the criteria for 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits got even fuzzier. Frustrated by the flood of applications from the so-called nonprofits, some IRS low officials decided that using terms to find these would be useful.

The ambiguity of rules saying “social welfare” is okay but “political intervention” isn’t, gave a great deal of discretion regarding approval to these low-level staffers. The group can be tax exempt if political activity “less than primary.” Staffers had jurisdiction to decide what “primary” is. The inability of the Federal Elections Commission to be effective threw election law oversight into the IRS ball court.

What the GOP managed to largely conceal in all the discussion is that the groups claiming to be social welfare consistently got involved in politics with 80 percent of the advertising money from these groups going to Republican candidates and issues. No wonder, the House GOP has so diligently tried to protect them. In examining over 100 applications for IRS recognition, ProPublica found—surprise!—that the applications consistently said they were not spending money on elections and then did just the opposite. The American Future Fund, a conservative, self-identified nonprofit, spent millions of dollars on campaign ads since 2008—even before it mailed is fraudulent application.

The real disgrace—read “scandal” is not the Tea Party situation. It’s the fact that the IRS favors the wealthy. As Donald Dayen wrote in Salon:

“IRS audits of the largest and richest corporations have steadily declined since 2005, down 22 percent in the ensuing four years and even more from 2011-2013. In the same period, the agency accelerated its scrutiny of small and midsize corporations. Since 2000, the IRS has been more likely to audit the working poor, individuals and families making under $25,000 a year, than those making over $100,000 annually. The middle class received disproportionately more audits throughout the past decade as well. An IRS unit formed in 2009 called the Global High Wealth Industry Group, designed to give special attention to tax compliance of high-wealth individuals, performed exactly two audits in 2010 and 11 in 2011.”

Since 2002, the IRS budget has shrunk 17 percent while being saddled with more responsibilities, including Obamacare and offshore accounts. The indiscriminate 5 percent sequester cut will make the IRS problems only worse. One answer when employees are to do more work with fewer resources is shortcuts to keep up with the workflow. If the GOP wants the IRS to do their job, they should give them the funding to do this. The money spent in that area will help reduce the deficit. But the GOP wants to benefit the wealthy so they will keep the IRS from successful audits of them.

March 26, 2013

Scalia Needs to Resign

In the past, no one knew how many of the Supreme Court justices would vote in many decisions. They didn’t even consistently follow follows the politics of the presidents who appointed them. For example, the progressive ruling on Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion in the United States was supported by justices appointed by Richard Nixon.

For the past few decades, however, SCOTUS decisions have rarely been surprising. Perhaps now people can more accurately guess who justices will vote on almost any issues because of the rapid increase of communication about justices’ backgrounds and perspectives that contributes general understanding about their opinions or separate takes on constitutional issues. Or maybe the lines are so delineated that people can guess the decisions.

This year, people interested in the marriage equality are wondering how several justices will rule on the two cases being heard today and tomorrow, one regarding Proposition 8 in California and and the other DOMA (Defense of Marriage).  Both Prop 8 and DOMA ban same-sex marriage. Six justices are in play for the decision, which will probably be issued in June. Justice Samuel Alito is almost certainly a vote for the status quo of no marriage equality, but there is no question about two justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

Scalia has been more open than any other justice in his opposition to marriage equality. Some of his offensive comments have been made in connection with earlier cases regarding homosexuality.

scalia

In response to Romer v. Evans when SCOTUS held that Colorado could not have a constitutional amendment motivated completely by animus towards LGBT people, he said, “I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct.” He also said that giving LGBT people second-class status is like any other law “disfavoring certain conduct,” such laws disfavoring “drug addicts, or smokers, or gun owners, or motorcyclists.”

In Lawrence v. Texas, Scalia agreed that an outright ban on “sodomy” “undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty,” but “so do laws prohibiting prostitution” or “recreational use of heroin.” Also in rejecting the Lawrence majority’s conclusion that private sexuality between consenting adults receives “substantial protection” under the Constitution, he responded “[s]tates continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes by adults ‘in matters pertaining to sex’: prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity, and child pornography.” Later in his decision, he compared gay sex to bestiality.

Scalia also suggested that the bond between two men or two women in a committed relationship is no greater than the bond between two “roommates.” After all animosity, he concluded his Lawrence dissent with this assertion: “Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals.”

One of Scalia’s arguments when he wrote the minority dissent for the 6-3 decision in Lawrence, was that this case set the scene for legalized marriage equality. “Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” Scalia wrote.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion said the Court’s ruling against anti-sodomy laws “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”

Scalia’s retort: “Do not believe it.”

“This case ‘does not involve’ the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court,” he wrote.

The Reagan-appointed justice accused the majority on the Court of having “taken sides in the culture war” and having signed on to the “homosexual agenda.”

Although it’s been years since Scalia equated laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder, he still supports this position. Speaking at Princeton University late last year, he explained his statement by saying, “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective.” He also repeated his earlier argument: “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against these other things?” 

Earlier last year, he again compared homosexuality to abortion and murder. At a speech before an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. last October, he said, “The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.”

As Bill Press wrote, there was a time when Supreme Court justices were “seen and not heard,” but now a few of them are “spouting off all the time.” He added that it is “pretty scary to have someone like this on the Supreme Court” and that Chief Justice John Roberts should force Scalia to recuse himself from the two marriage equality cases facing the Supreme Court.

Yet Scalia claimed at the Southern Methodist University earlier this year that he never expressed personal views on gay marriage in public or in his rulings. He also said that a crucial part of his post as Supreme Court justice is reaching decisions, even if they contradict one’s personal beliefs. After SMU professor Bryan A. Garner pointed out that he and Scalia had differing opinions on some issues such as marriage equality and gun control, Scalia retorted, “I haven’t expressed my views on either of those. You’re a bleeding heart.”

Scalia has admitted to a fear of and possible loathing for gays and lesbians but insisted in a Fox News interview that he leaves personal feelings at the door of the courtroom . . . or possibly the university lecture hall.

Because Scalia believes that the U.S. Constitution is not a living document, that it’s “dead, dead, dead,” he is bound to vote against marriage equality because gay rights are not specifically protected by that document, drafted in the eighteenth century.

As a Supreme Court justice, Scalia isn’t legally bound by the rules of judicial conduct that apply to judges in all other U.S. courts. He has the legal—if not ethical—right to say anything he wants regarding cases before the court. He doesn’t have to obey the rules of conduct that require judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety, defined as “when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge’s … impartiality … is impaired.”

The only way that Scalia can be removed from the Supreme Court bench is for the House of Representatives to indict him for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate to convict him of such lack of “good behavior.” Technically, Scalia has done nothing illegal; he just behaves in an unethical manner. Only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached, Samuel Chase, and that was over 200 years ago.  Although the House indicted him, the Senate found him not guilty.

When Scalia became a judge, he said that he would retire at the age of 65 because that was the age necessary for full salary in retirement. He loves the power and won’t quit, but it’s far past time for the 77-year-old justice to hang up his robe.

February 18, 2013

Thoughts about the Presidents

Today is Washington’s Birthday, a federal holiday created in 1880. Technically George Washington’s birthday isn’t until Friday, but in 1968 Congress moved all federal holidays to Mondays. Back when I was in school, we celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. Now people call the Monday before the 22nd “President’s Day” and ignore Lincoln’s birthday, but Congress never changed the name.

It’s a quiet day today. Congress has disappeared for ten days and can’t do any damage except for the stupid comments that keep coming out of their mouths. Because there’s the feeling that all presidents are commemorated on this day, here are a few facts about past presidents, sort of a mini-history/trivia lesson.

Although history books teach that George Washington was the first president of the United States, he was actually the eighth. The “Presidents under the Articles of Confederation” had the official title of “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” Before these seven presidents there were 16 Presidents of the Continental Congress, but John Hanson was the ninth of these and the first to hold the title “President of the United States.” Hanson’s Birthday would postpone the federal holiday almost two months to April 14.

Although the Constitution requires that presidents be born U.S. citizens, the first seven presidents were not “natural-born citizens” of the United States, as the Constitution requires. Of course, that was because they were all born before there was a United States. Since then, however, controversies have arisen from time to time about this constitutional requirement.

Because the Constitution does not define “natural born,” the law has had to create a definition. The first one came from the Naturalization Act of 1790: “The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.” Later Title Eight of the U.S. Code filled in some gaps.

The argument about presidential citizenship flared up after “birthers” declared that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii and thus ineligible for the presidency. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) sent a memo, dated April 3, 2009, to Congress echoing the Naturalization Act and claiming that the definition of “natural born” would “include a person born abroad to parents who are United States citizens.”

President Obama was not the first president whose citizenship was questioned. The one other president who had only one U.S.-citizen parent, Chester A. Arthur, was rumored to have been born in Canada. Arthur became president after President Garfield was shot and killed.

If the place of birth were at issue, eligibility could have been questioned for Vice-President Al Gore, born outside of the United States in Washington, D.C. and for candidates Barry Goldwater, born in Arizona Territory, and George Romney, born in Mexico. The birthers never questioned the eligibility of John McCain to become president, who was born either at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station or in a civilian hospital in Colon City, Panama, according to his birth certificate. Neither place was identified as United States territory at the time although a 1937 law retroactively conferred citizenship on people born in the Canal Zone after February 26, 1904 and in the Republic of Panama after that date who had at least one U.S. citizen parent employed by the U.S. government or the Panama Railway Company.

One president was not even a U.S. citizen when he died. John Tyler, the 10th president, died in Virginia on January 8, 1862, as a citizen of the Southern Confederacy.

Over two dozen federal legislators have proposed constitutional amendments to change the requirement of natural-born citizenship for the presidency, usually because of a preference for a candidate. Rep. Jonathan Bingham (R-NY) introduced one in 1974 to allow Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to become eligible, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) presented the Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment in 2003 to make then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) eligible for the office.

By the 21st century, people expected the president to have college degrees, but ten presidents have not earned one, the most recent being Harry S. Truman. While in office, eight presidents owned slaves before it became illegal, and another four others also owned slaves while they were not sitting presidents. The last president to own slaves while in office, Zachary Taylor, had 100 on a Mississippi plantation. Ulysses S. Grant, freed his slave, William Jones, in 1859.

Only one president, James Buchanan, was never married. He was described as nearly inseparable from Alabama senator William T. King, who was known as “his wife.” Documents show that Buchanan was undeniably “the first gay president,” not Barack Obama as a sensationalist Newsweek cover proclaimed.

Four presidents became president after they lost the popular vote, the most recent being George W. Bush. The others were John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison—all in the 19th century. Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached and acquitted, and a third, Richard Nixon, resigned before the impeachment process moved to trial.

In this case, history is stranger than fiction when one considers the frenzied impeachment of Bill Clinton during the last few years of the 20th century.

In honor of my left-handed partner, I want to add that eight presidents, including President Obama, have also been left-handed.

As of 2013, not one woman has served as U.S. president, unless you include the powerful wives of Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan. In the rest of the world, women have been elected president in Argentina, Finland, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Liberia, Malawi, Malta, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. Another 50 countries have had women heads of state. Another 13 countries have had women representatives of heads of state. Six Muslim countries have elected women heads of state. 

Yellow: Female head of government; Blue: Female head of state; Light Green: Female head of state/government (combined); Dark Green: Female head of state and female head of government

Yellow: Female head of government; Blue: Female head of state; Light Green: Female head of state/government (combined); Dark Green: Female head of state and female head of government

Rumors proliferate, however, that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with an approval rating of over 70 percent, may be a 2016 presidential candidate. Would she run against Ryan? Or Rubio? Or Christie? Or another Bush? Or another Paul? Or, or, or?

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