Nel's New Day

October 3, 2020

DDT: Week 193 – His Worst Week, Thus Far

After his disastrous debate on Tuesday, many people thought the week couldn’t get worse for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). That was until last night when he was airlifted from the White House to Walter Reed hospital. Today, a little more is known about DDT’s health problems after he announced his diagnosis with COVID-19 less than 36 hours earlier. This morning, Sean Conley, the White House doctor, gave a cheery report about DDT although he waffled when a reporter repeatedly asked if DDT had been on oxygen in the hospital. Indicating DDT may have been positive longer than his early Friday morning announcement, Conley referred to “72 hours into the diagnosis” and then tried to back down on the timeline. He also refused to say when DDT was first diagnosed. Pulmonologist Brian Garibaldi told reporters DDT had received an experimental antibody treatment 48 hours earlier

DDT’s chief of staff Mark Meadows gave a different report about DDT’s condition:

“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

Meadows also reported that DDT’s oxygen “dropped rapidly” before he was taken to the hospital. Furious because of Meadows’ report, DDT released a video and photographs of himself working in the hospital.

Conley said the team looks toward the 7- to 10-day mark of the virus’s course which can bring a second phase of symptoms, but the public doesn’t know when that will be. The obfuscation, combined with the administration being well known for lying, indicates future concealment of DDT’s health condition.

DDT didn’t even have a test for COVID-19 before Tuesday’s debate as the candidates agreed. At the very least, he might have tested negative and still been able to infect others; in the worst scenario, he knew he had contracted the disease and hid it. In the latter case, he would have deliberately exposed his opponent, Joe Biden, all Biden’s guests at the debate, moderator Chris Wallace, and anyone else working the event.

More Republicans are reporting positive tests for the virus. Chris Christie, who also attended the “super-spreader” event where DDT nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, now tests positive. The 58-year-old also prepped DDT for his rude, angry performance against Joe Biden at the first—and perhaps only—debate. Also testing positive is the third GOP senator in just a few days, Ron Johnson, 65, has become well known for using false Russian propaganda in a committee report intended to damage Biden’s election responses.

With several GOP senators forced to isolate from COVID-19 and others who should quarantine themselves because of exposure to the virus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recessed the Senate until October 19. He maintains, however, that the Judiciary Committee can meet on a virtual basis to move Barrett to the floor for confirmation. If they do not, McConnell can put the vote on the floor without committee acceptance. Two questions are whether McConnell can carry through with his promise to meet for a vote and whether he will have enough GOP senators out of isolation and/or quarantine to confirm her.

Because Barrett tested positive for coronavirus last summer and now tests negative, it might be assumed she can no longer infect anyone with COVID-19. Coronavirus, however, is highly unpredictable. Senators who met with her in the past week might have some concerns about whether they become infected. On the House side, several representatives traveled with DDT last week before returning to the floor for several votes. Since DDT’s diagnosis, both congressional chambers have had an outbreak of testing.  

Friday, after the announcement of DDT’s and Melania Trump’s positive diagnosis for the virus, HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified the Trump family cannot be expected to follow recommended public health recommendations because “the protective aspect around them is a different situation than the rest of us” and they live in a “protective bubble.” When asked to wear masks at the debate, DDT’s family refused despite it being the rule of the debate and the venue. Azar then claimed the virus spread is a matter of “individual responsibility” and avoided a question from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) about DDT packing his recent rallies where he refused to acknowledge the virus severity. Azar said people should wash their hands, wear a mask, watch distancing, and “evaluate [their] individual circumstances.”

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany looked like a fool after she called the Supreme Court nominee a “Rhodes scholar.” Corrected, she responded, “My bad.” Barrett attended Rhodes College, a Tennessee liberal arts school with approximately 2,000 students; a Rhodes Scholar wins a prestigious scholarship award to attend the University of Oxford in England. Jessica Valenti tweeted, “I’ve been to Rhode Island so I, too, am a Rhodes Scholar.” Other “Rhodes Scholars” wrote about their connections to “roads,” a book report on pro-wrestler Dusty Rhodes, and poet Robert Frost for “The Road Not Taken.”

Over 1,500 Rhodes College alumni signed a letter protesting Barrett’s nomination because “both her record and the process that has produced her nomination are diametrically opposed to the values of truth, loyalty, and service that we learned at Rhodes.” The letter asked the Senate to reject her nomination.

As DDT receives care in the hospital, his EPA is making others sick with new guidelines putting more lead, arsenic, and mercury into the air. With this rollback of a 25-year-old policy, industrial plants and refineries can increase deadly pollution such as carcinogens by no longer using maximum achievable control technology (MACT) during their operations. For decades, plants installed the technology to reduce pollution 95 to 98 percent, but EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former employee of the fossil fuel industry, said rolling back requirements would provide “meaningful incentives for investment that prevents hazardous air pollution.” Translation: permitting corporations to release two to ten times more pollutants will make them want to make restrictions. Another lawsuit in sight.

In a ploy for reelection this year, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) promised to reject Barrett because the process is too close to the election. Her past record shows she’ll cave in again as she broke promises to not vote for tax cuts for the wealthy until McConnell offered something he didn’t provide and not vote for Brett Kavanaugh as SCOTUS justice until he said he wasn’t anti-abortion. His past and current record shows he opposes abortion. Last February, Collins’ super PAC took $150,000 from a group connected to the defense contractor Navatek that Collins helped receive million in contracts. This week, Martin Kao, Navatek’s owner and Collins’ major donor, was arrested for bank fraud and money laundering. He’s also suspected of lying on two applications to get money from the CARES Act PPP for small businesses and may have transferred $2 million of the PPE loans to his personal account. He told the bank he had connections with “multiple unnamed U.S. senators” to get the loans who advised him on the application process and emailed the bank that a U.S. senator and member of the House would be “stepping in, if our application was getting stalled.”

Chad Wolf is chugging his way toward confirmation after illegally serving as acting DHS secretary for almost 11 months. Senate Republicans passed him out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after he lied under oath, this time claiming he didn’t create the family separation program. Internal memos show he did. The consulting firm of Wolf’s wife got millions of dollars from DHS contracts during Wolf’s agency leadership, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI said Wolf “has done a pretty good job based on all the things he has to deal with as secretary.” That includes Wolf’s refusal to follow the Supreme Court’s DACA ruling. While Wolf lied and Republicans approved, a federal judge blocked his policy of asylum fees because Wolf probably doesn’t legally serve in the position.

Yesterday, I wrote about Fox network firing Kim Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr’s girlfriend, on a sexual harassment complaint from her female assistant. DDT had used Guilfoyle’s speech on the first night of his nomination convention to bring back women voters. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, Biden leads DDT in this demographic by thirty percentage points. Jane Mayer’s complete article contains more details

The events of the past week have made media coverage of DDT’s tax fraud largely disappear, but Republicans are starting a probe. House Ways and Means Committee minority leader Kevin Brady (R-TX) plans to investigate the New York Times for criminal activity in obtaining the information. In Just Security, Daniel Shaviro discusses the “grave national security concern” from DDT’s “impending financial liability to unknown lenders, and of pervasive conflicts of interest as president.”

The man inaugurated as president of the United States is in the hospital with a serious case of COVID-19, the numbers of infections are rising throughout the United States, and states have decided to open up businesses and relax other guidelines for a disease that caused 7.6 million infections and almost 215,000 deaths from coronavirus in seven months. No one said the nation’s leaders are “smart.”

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.”

March 4, 2019

State TV Fox Tied to DDT, Vice Versa

For several years, people have noted the close relationship between Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Fox network as the faux news network has remained a combination of propagandist and feeder of falsities to the man inaugurated over two years ago. DDT has given Fox 44 exclusive interviews, with the number accelerating. In the past six months, DDT has tweeted over 200 Fox items to his 58 million followers. In the New Yorker, journalist and author Jane Mayer has detailed the relationship between DDT and Fox in an 11,000-word essay.

Instead of reflecting the news, Fox radicalizes the people with its fear-mongering. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol, employed by Fox as a contributor until 2012, said, “Before [Trump], it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Sean Hannity has long been known as a confidant for DDT, often freely appearing at his dramatized events to toss him easy questions and one of the nightly triumvirate with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham to scream over guest statements opposing DDT. Called the Shadow Chief of Staff, Hannity talks to DDT every night after his show. Fox Business hosts Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs offer DDT policy advice in the Oval Office. DDT thinks of hosts of Fox & Friends as his personal friends, and they pander to him with unvetted ideas.

Former Fox employees hired in the White House such as disgraced Bill Shine, former head of Fox News’ programming division, further burnish the Fox’s image with DDT devotees. Fox currently pays Shine while he collects his paycheck from taxpayers as part of the coordinated work between DDT and Fox. Former Fox contributors include HUD Secretary Ben Carson, national security adviser John Bolton, former deputy national-security adviser K.T. McFarland, and recently resigned UN Ambassador Heather Nauert. Donald Trump Jr., girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who also left Fox in disgrace works on DDT’s reelection campaign. Hope Hicks, DDT’s formers head of communications, went to Fox, and others such as Sebastian Gorka, are regularly on Fox. [Fox separated from Gorka as of this article’s publication.]

DDT’s political rise matched a shift in tone at Fox. Early on, CEO Roger Ailes opposed Fox being a shill for the Tea Party, but owner Rupert Murdoch created an audience that became the “party of Trump.” Before DDT, Fox ridiculed birtherism, Bill O’Reilly described its promoters as “unhinged,” and Glenn Beck, who hosted a Fox show until he went over the conspiracy edge, called them “idiots.” DDT made birtherism respectable, and Hannity got his way to promote the extremist far-right party. He described President Obama’s negotiations with North Korea “disturbing” but called DDT’s failed efforts a “huge foreign-policy win.” Fox built its audience by elevating Benghazi far above other embassy ambushes causing deaths in its constant attack on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Hannity appeared on stage at a DDT rally with little objection from Fox. Murdoch went from correcting DDT by tweeting that “Mexican immigrants, as with all immigrants, have much lower crime rates than native born” to tolerating Fox’s frequent diatribes about hordes of “illegal aliens.” Murdoch and DDT are both about the bottom line and ratings.

Megyn Kelly asked DDT “tough” questions in the Fox-sponsored presidential debate, but insiders said that Ailes alerted DDT about the questions. Kelly wrote in Settle for More that DDT called Fox executives the day before the campaign to complain about her “very pointed question directed at him.” After the debate, DDT boycotted Fox, driving down until ratings until Ailes groveled.

During the summer when DDT became the GOP presidential candidate, Ailes’ sexual misconduct forced him out, and he joined DDT’s debate team. Fox gained two Ailes loyalists, Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, as co-presidents who turned the network over to DDT propaganda, furthering empowering him and Hannity. At 85, Murdoch claimed the CEO position, but insiders reported that after his serious health issues, “the lunatics took over the asylum.” During DDT’s campaign, a Fox reporter confirmed the story about his affair in 2006 with Stormy Daniels, but Fox editors denied her going public. She told colleagues that Ken LaCorte, then head of FoxNews.com said, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” The same reporter kept digging and discovered that the National Enquirer made a “catch and kill” deal with Daniels in which the tabloid bought the exclusive rights to story before it buried the information.

The story went public when the Wall Street Journal published the details about Daniels and the Enguirer, a year after DDT was inaugurated. The reporter was demoted, she sued the network, and her settlement includes a nondisclosure agreement banning her from talking about her work at Fox. LaCorte, still paid by Fox after he left, said that he squashed the story without talking to superiors because it hadn’t “passed muster.” Blogger Nik Richie called him out for being a “LIAR,” tweeting that he “was one of your sources.” Richie voted for DDT, but he thinks that the story would have swung the election.

Part of Shine’s job at Fox was to handle sexual misconduct complaints. Any woman who complained was gently treated unless she persevered, when Shine would warn her that her career would be destroyed. At least four civil lawsuits against Fox name Shine as defendant, and Fox settled on in 2017 for $90 million. That suit claims Fox spent $55 million to settle sexual harassment claims out of court. Shine was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in a Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s investigation into company funds for these payoffs, but Shine agreed to interviews by prosecutors. The investigation disappeared after Ailes death in May 2017, but Shine was his enabler as shown by payments he signed to accusers’ settlements.

Under Shine’s leadership in 2017, Fox and O’Reilly paid $13 million to five female employees accusing him of sexual misconduct with a sixth $32 million payment in negotiation. After advertiser boycotts and street demonstrations, Fox fired O’Reilly and then Shine. Hannity became Fox’s top-rated star and highest-profile DDT promoter and helped Shine get a job as White House communications director and deputy chief of staff.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has always been close to Murdoch, but Murdoch made up with DDT after calling him “a f**king idiot” to benefit from specialized treatment for his business interests.

  • DDT’s administration approved Fox’s sale of most of its entertainment assets to Disney for $71 billion, with the Murdoch family getting $2 billion and becoming a major stockholder in the combined company that accounts for half the box-office revenue in the United States.  DDT promised the creation of jobs from the deal that has resulted in thousands of layoffs.
  • DDT’s FCC blocked Sinclair Broadcast Group, more conservative than Fox, from buying Tribune Media Company that would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of the U.S. population.
  • DDT’s DOJ stopped AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, owner of CNN, after Murdoch failed to buy Time Warner in 2014. A sweetener for DDT was retaliation against CNN, DDT’s most hated media source. Although DDT claimed that he was “not going to get involved,” he ordered Gary Cohn, then director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the DOJ to intervene in the sale although Cohn knew that DDT’s action was inappropriate for a sitting president and refused. A federal court has ruled against the DOJ and permitted the $85 billion merger—for the second time. [Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said that a president has the right to punish the media by blocking this merger.]

The more DDT does for Murdoch, the more Fox does for DDT. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard Law School professor who co-directs the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said, “Fox’s most important role since the election has been to keep Trump supporters in line.” According to Fox, the only collusion is between Clinton and Russia,  the special investigator is perpetrating a “coup” by the “deep state,” DDT and his associates aren’t corrupt, U.S. courts are corrupt, illegal immigration is an invasion and not at a 15-year low, and all news organizations offering perspectives different from these are “enemies of the American people.” Benkler, author with Robert Faris and Hal Robert of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics, said:

“It’s not the right versus the left. It’s the right versus the rest.”

Conservative media outlets focus on confirmation of the audience’s biases and provide propaganda and lies that spread uncorrected to Fox because viewers hate for falsehoods to be disclosed. Fox fired Glenn Beck for baseless conspiracy theories, but Hannity is rewarded for them. Only boycotts of Fox advertisers forced Hannity to drop his conspiracy accusations about murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich.

Alisyn Camerota, former co-host of Fox & Friends, quit because of its lack of standards and wrote the novel Amanda Wakes Up about propaganda on a cable morning show. She said that the show’s producers would “cull far-right, crackpot Web sites” for content and never bothered with second sources. The primary standard was that “this is going to outrage the audience!” Guilfoyle got her information from an avid fan who sent her content for her topics such as “physically weak men” are “more likely to be socialists.”

Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters, thinks that Fox drives DDT more than the reverse. A recent example how DDT caused the 35-day shutdown and declared a national emergency because of Fox ridicule.

“The President’s world view is being specifically shaped by what he sees on Fox News, but Fox’s goals are ratings and money, which they get by maximizing rage. It’s not a message that is going to serve the rest of the country.”

Fox’s problem comes from its one-pony show of DDT to make money, and ratings fall when he looks bad. Fox’s evening ratings have dropped by 20 percent since the midterms with only a spike for DDT’s interview after Michael Cohen’s testimony. A change may be in the wind: much smaller since the Disney sale, Fox will be supervised by conservative Lachlan Murdoch who might move to center right. The test could be the release of Robert Mueller’s findings. At this time, Fox’s hosts and guests are swearing war. The question is whether Fox wants to start the war.

The most frightening part of Jane Mayer’s detailed look at the authoritarian DDT and Fox network is that it’s not as shocking as it should be for a country that prides itself on being a democracy.

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.

 

January 27, 2016

Koch Brothers’ Underhanded Methods to Control U.S.

Jane Mayer, writer for The New Yorker, has just published Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Her personal adventure with the Koch brothers began five years ago when she learned about private investigators digging into her background. She had just published an in-depth piece chronicling the rise of the “Kochtopus,” headlined “Covert Operations,” which brought the Koch brothers in the limelight that they avoided for decades. Her depiction of them as secretive bankrollers warring against President Obama and environmental safety measures enraged the Koch brothers.

Mayer was first accused of plagiarism when David Strong, reporter at the conservative Daily Caller, asked David Remnick, New Yorker editor, this allegation and sent several pieces that attempt to back up his allegation. New York Post reporter Keith Kelly, who received the same allegations, asked the Daily Caller’s editor Tucker Carlson, about the origins. He couldn’t support the information and dropped it, but Strong refused to talk to Kelly about the story. When the purported victims stated that there was no plagiarism, the accusation collapsed. It took Mayer three years to track the origin.

The Koch machine had hired at least six people, working in borrowed space of the lobbying firm operated by former GOP Rep. J.C. Watts, to investigate Mayer . She noted that a source told her, “If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.” An unnamed source also told her that the Koch operatives “thought they had you. They thought they were going to be knighted by the Kochs.” The accusation of plagiarism appeared after operatives failed to turn up anything “truly incriminating,” such as a friend from college who later had problems. As Mayer said, “It was 60 years ago.”

The general counsel of Koch Industries also sent a letter to the American Society of Magazine Editors tried to keep the New Yorker from receiving a National Magazine Award for Mayer’s writing about the Koch brothers. That also failed.

Another firm hired to investigate her was Vigilant Resources International, whose founder and chairman, Howard Safir, had been New York City’s police commissioner under the former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Two other people involved in the operation against Mayer were Philip Ellender, who heads Koch’s government affairs arm, and Nancy Pfotenhauer, who has served as president of a nonprofit advocacy group funded by the Kochs. The only person to speak on the record was Ken Spain, spokesman for Koch Industries, who claims that Mayer’s writings about Koch are “grossly inaccurate.” Asked about if he was saying that Mayer’s investigation had not happened, Spain answered, “We stand by the statement.”

It’s understandable why the Koch brothers would want to smear Mayer’s book. She tells about how their father helped build a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany. Fred C. Koch became successful in business in the years immediately preceding World War II. The oil refinery, third largest in the Third Reich and vital to Hitler’s war machine, came from his partnership with U.S. Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis. Fred Koch admired German discipline so much in the 1930s that he hired a fervent Nazi as a governess for his eldest boys.

In 1938, the same year that Hitler’s new laws seized assets and confiscated property from Jews, Fred Koch said, “Although nobody agrees with me, I am of the opinion that the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy, and Japan, simply because they are all working and working hard…. When you contrast the state of mind of Germany today with what it was in 1925 you begin to think that perhaps this course of idleness, feeding at the public trough, dependence on government, etc., with which we are afflicted is not permanent and can be overcome.” Conservatives can trace their current philosophy back to Nazi Germany.

Mayer also writes about the oldest Koch brother, William, participating in blackmail with Charles and David to force David’s twin, Frederick, to relinquish any claim to the family business. If he had not, the other three said that would tell their father that Frederick is gay. This information comes from the 700-page book Stealth: The History of Charles Koch’s Political Activities, that William commissioned to describe Charles’ secret plan to manipulate U.S. politics.

In the 1990s, Koch Industries admitted that it had pocketed millions and millions of dollars by mis-measuring oil from Indian reservations and stealing it. The Koch brothers said that it was an accident, but no other companies had this problem.

Twenty years ago, Koch Industries environmental technician Sally Barnes-Soliz revealed that their Texas refinery was releasing 15 times more than the legal limit of benzene into the atmosphere. When Koch falsified a report by 1/149th of the amount she calculated, she reported that also. Barnes-Soliz got an empty office with no email access, and Koch Industries paid $20 million. She quit in 1999 with an undisclosed settlement.

Dark Money chronicles how a small sect of the ultrarich—Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the Mellon banking fortune) and Harry and Lynde Bradley (brothers wealthy from military contracts) among them—were largely creators of the current conservative movement, now controlled by Charles and David Koch. With others, these political donors poured hundreds of millions of dollars, usually with little or no public disclosure, into supposedly non-profit organizations for anti-government and anti-tax purposes under the veil of promoting public interest.

The Koch brothers are known for their heavy investment in fossil fuels and their leadership in funding climate change denial. Their “crown jewel” is the Pine Hill Refinery in Rosemount (MN), polluting the air with emissions from heavy “garbage” crude from Alberta’s tar sands by daily importing 25 per cent of the 1.2 million barrels of oil into the U.S.

Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute which issued reports such as “Apocalypse Not: Science, Economics, Environmentalism and the Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn’t Worry about Global Warming.” A non-peer reviewed study claiming that climate change was not endangering polar bears came from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation with funds from ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. Other climate denial reports came from funding provided by Scaife, heir to the Gulf Oil fortune, and John Olin, whose companies have manufactured DDT.

The nucleus of the Koch donors comes from an owner of coal reserves, two fracking pioneers, and a variety of oilmen and coal company owners. Between 2003 and 2010, climate denial groups colleged over one-half billion dollars which came from self-identified tax-exempt, philanthropic endeavour,” according to Robert Bruelle, Drexel University professor of sociology.

The Koch brothers attack on climatologist Michael Mann was more successful than the one on Jane Mayer. Co-author of a 1999 study showing the way that the earth’s temperature shot up in the 20th century, Mann was briefly discredited by a hacker who gained access to internal emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Misconstrued wording in one email about Mann and his research led to congressional Republicans investigating Mann and sending threatening letters to Penn State about their tenured professor. A self-described CIA officer offered Mann’s departmental colleagues $10,000 for any dirt they could find on him. State GOP legislatures withheld Penn State’s funding until the university took action against Mann. He received death threats and opened a letter with white powder. Mann was exonerated, but the episode left a trail of terror for other researchers.

The Koch’s vast network was designed to persuade other wealthy business owners to donate to the Koch-controlled political groups. Scaife, who died in 2014, joined Koch’s cause with over a billion dollars to prevent his inheritance tax by donating its net income to charity for 20 years. Koch-financed groups provided strategies to oppose the Affordable Care Act and climate change mitigation while supporting cuts to Social Security. Mayer reports that in 2011 about then House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) visiting David Koch for help in resolving a debt ceiling stalemate.

The Koch brothers plan to spend almost $1 billion to elect a Republican president this year. And that doesn’t include all the “dark money” that they collect for their ultra-conservative efforts. Jane Mayer describes their recipe for doing this:

“The Kochs have built kind of an assembly line to manufacture political change. And it includes think tanks, which produce papers. It includes advocacy groups, that advocate for policies. And it includes giving money to candidates. And you put those three together, and they’ve pushed against doing anything about climate change on all those three fronts at once. So you get papers that look like they’re real scientific opinions doubting that climate change is real, you get advocacy groups saying we can’t afford to do anything about it, and you get candidates who have to sign a pledge that—their largest political group is Americans for Prosperity.

“They have a pledge that says that if you want to get money from this—from their donors, you have to sign a pledge saying that, if elected, you will do nothing about climate change that requires spending any money on the problem. And 156 members of Congress currently have signed that pledge. So, it sort of is a recipe for how to tie the hands of the country from doing anything on this.”

Charles Koch was a member of the John Birch Society that his father helped found, and both brothers thought that President Eisenhower was a communist and Ronald Reagan was too liberal to be a president. Their attempt to reform the criminal system is based on getting rid of crimes related to pollution, corporate crime, and tax crimes. And they control billions of dollars to push their agenda. That’s what the progressives are facing in this year’s election.

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