Nel's New Day

July 29, 2019

More Fodder for DDT’s Swamp

Determined to surround himself by incompetent sycophants, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) found a candidate for his intelligence chief, in charge of 16 agencies, after getting rid of Dan Coats, a Republican who served in that position for over two years. The new loyalist pick, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), auditioned for director of national intelligence when he slammed special investigator Robert Mueller during last week’s House committee hearings and showed himself to be comfortable with protecting DDT through ignoring Russian interference in U.S. elections. Ratcliffe denied that DDT committed obstruction of justice and criticized Mueller for addressing it in his report. GOP senators will almost likely confirm the nomination.

Like most of DDT’s other appointments, the partisan Ratcliffe has little background for the position for which he is nominated, in this case a position which should be independent. For Ratcliffe, his ignorance is not a huge problem because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, formerly CIA director, sets the agenda for the intelligence agencies.

The order creating the office after 9/11 requires military or intelligence experience for the director. Ratcliffe lacks both. He was a private practice lawyer until he became Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for part of Texas for a few years in the early 2000s. During that time, he was also mayor of a city with a population of 8,000 people. In his third term for the U.S. House, he has been on the Intelligence Committee since January. His website states that he “put terrorists in prison,” no evidence exists that he has prosecuted a terrorism case. In opposition to the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling, Ratcliffe claimed that any interference benefitted Hillary Clinton. Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) summed up Ratcliffe’s experience for leading 17 intelligence agencies:

“The sum total of his qualifications appears to be his record of promoting Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the investigation into Russian interference and calling for prosecution of Trump’s political enemies.”

GOP senators seem lukewarm about Ratcliffe’s appointment, and they may face more problems with DDT’s appointment of Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten as the next vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Army Col. Kathryn A. Spletstoser renewed her assertion that he sexually assaulted her in a California hotel room. The episode allegedly came after a number of unwanted touchings in 2017. She reported his behavior, but Hyten denied that it happened. During an inquiry, his wife said that his private-sector lie-detector test “did not go well,” and Hyten refused to take one for the Department of Defense. Yet investigators found “insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct.” The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings for Hyten this week after meeting with him and Spletstoser in closed sessions.

After an appointment as chief of naval operations, Admiral William Moran, confirmed in May by a Senate voice vote, declined the position for an early retirement, perhaps because of emails between him and Cmdr. Chris Servello who retired in disgrace. Servello was investigated for allegedly acting inappropriately toward women during a Pentagon holiday party in 2016. The Navy found that his harassment didn’t constitute “criminal sexual harassment,” but Servello retired. He had been chief spokesman for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson who was found to take little disciplinary action for not censuring Servello earlier when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) began an examination into hundreds of sexual assault and harassment complaints in the armed forces. Richard will stay on as Chief until a replacement is confirmed.

DDT has followed his pattern of appointing people to cabinet positions who oppose the agencies’ missions with his nomination of Eugene Scalia, son of a former Supreme Court justice, to lead the Labor Department after Alex Acosta left during the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. The anti-labor lawyer tirelessly worked for large corporations to circumvent regulations and stop employees organizing efforts. His legal efforts benefitted Ford Motor, MetLife, American Petroleum Institute, Steve Wynn’s casinos, and major telecommunications and retail industry trade associations. Other Scalia successes are defeating the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Labor Department, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Federal Communications. Commission.

Thanks to Scalia, Walmart won its case against a Maryland law requiring companies with over 10,000 workers to either spend eight percent of payroll costs on health care of pay into a state Medicaid fund. Another Scalia win was against unions arguing that Boeing violated labor law in threats to open a South Carolina assembly plant if the union didn’t agree to a no-strike contract clause. Scalia also worked to protect Wall Street from the Dodd-Frank Act. DDT’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, wanted a far more aggressive anti-labor leader to head up the Labor Department.

Seventeen years ago, George W. Bush appointed Scalia the acting solicitor at the Labor Department in a recess appointment after Democrats opposed Scalia for his opposition to protecting workers from job-related repetitive stress injuries. Scalia was also AG Bill Barr’s special assistant under George H.W. Bush and wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan’s education secretary, William Bennett.

Mark Esper, top lobbyist for Raytheon receiving $18.1 billion in unclassified defense contracts last year, easily received confirmation despite his refusal to recuse himself from Raytheon issues. He also declined to commit to not working for a private defense company for four years after he leaves the Pentagon. Only eight senators voted against him, half of them women. A friend and former classmate of Pompeo, he will make a formidable team with the Secretary of State against national defense secretary John Bolton. As Open Secrets shows in this article, DDT seeks out lobbyists for his administration.

The FAA has moved from administration by Boeing to Delta in the Senate’s confirmation of a longtime Delta Air Lines executive Steven Dickson along party lines. He replaces acting secretary Daniel Elwell who had been a lobbyist for Boeing. Democrats opposed Dickson because of the company’s whistleblower retaliation while he was senior vice president of flight operations. Although Dickson said that safety would be a priority for him, Delta pilot Karlene Petitt was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and barred from flying after she spoke out on safety issues, specifically inadequate pilot training and lack of pilot rest. Her whistleblower claim is before an administrative law judge who said that he was “really troubled” by her case. Dickson had failed to mention the case in his questionnaire and downplayed his involvement during the hearings. A medical expert at the Mayo Clinic said that “the evidence … does support an organizational/corporate effort to remove this pilot from the rolls.”

When DDT is not hiring lobbyists and industry officials, he shops for new people at Fox. Monica Crowley, who lost her chance to be on DDT’s National Security Council because of plagiarism, is now the Treasury Department spokesperson as assistant secretary for public affairs. Crowley spread conspiracy theories about President Obama being a secret Muslim on the side of Islam terrorists and being not born in the United States. She follows Morgan Ortagus who recently became the new spokesperson at the State Department who replaced former Fox anchor Heather Nauert. Just before that, former Fox reporter Lea Gabrielle became leader of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. Cabinet members Ben Carson and Elaine Chao were also on Fox. The “joke” is that people can feed DDT information if they get on Fox—like the video that elicited DDT’s series of racist tweets for the past ten days. More Fox folk for DDT here.

Michelle Moons, White House correspondent for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart, has moved to the office of Domestic Policy Council.

As DDT hires lobbyists and journalists, professionals are moving out of his administration. Former State Department intelligence official Rod Schoonover resigned “in protest” for DDT’s blocking him from presenting evidence and data on the impacts of climate change in Congressional testimony. The excuse in cutting scientific information was that it did not fit with DDT’s official position. Critics of the testimony included National Security Council senior director William Happer who finds carbon dioxide beneficial. Schoonover quit after a decade of federal service at the same time that DDT blocks climate research from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and DDT’s new plan to help polluters, in opposition to EPA assessment that the plan will annually kill 1,400 people.

Lack of support by the UK new prime minister, Boris Johnson, caused Sir Kim Darroch to resign as British ambassador to the U.S. because of Darroch’s uncomplimentary statements about DDT. Even conservative MPs called Johnson’s conduct “contemptible.” Darroch will stay on the job until a new ambassador is appointment which doesn’t look eminent at this time. 

June 23, 2019

DDT: Week 126 – Other Than Iran

In an authoritarian move, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ordered the DOJ to investigate the CIA because it looked into the 2016 Russian election interference. In democracies, investigations come from evidence of serious wrongdoing; in authoritarian regimes, powerful politicians investigate situations that displease them—like chants of “lock her up” for Hillary Clinton with no evidence of criminal behavior. Republicans, especially DDT, have good reason to block investigations into Russian interference: the Russians elected them. The GOP has no interest in protecting the U.S. from undermining Western democracies. DDT uses law—and sometimes lawbreaking—to protect his and his supporters’ law violations while using the law as a weapon to defeat opponents. DDT emulates his mentor Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by attacking people like James Comey, John Kerry and Joe Biden while keeping protecting people like Kellyanne Conway who break the law. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, also admired by DDT, begins corruption investigations to discredit opponents immediately before elections.  DDT now has an AG fixer with few scruples, Bill Barr, to carry through his authoritarian policies.

DDT issued a rule for HRAs, a health reimbursement account (HRA) for employers to reimburse employees’ medical expenses not company insurance covered, causing people to change their doctors. Republicans used that problem of the Affordable Care Act to defeat Democrats in 2016. DDT has not only weakened the ACA but also forced people to change their doctors.

In a U.S.-led meeting in Bahrain, quietly announced on a weekend with only a White House website posting, Jared Kushner will present his proposal for spending $50 billion, provided by Gulf states and private investors, to supposedly economically help Palestinians. Over half goes to the West Bank and Gaza, largely illegally taken over by Israel, with the remainder to Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that a Palestinian state should be discussed before the economic issues. Israel and Palestine were not invited, but Israel plans to send a delegation. Saudi Arabia will attend with lukewarm responses, greater uncertainty, and no confirmation from the others. The Arab League announced that “whatever is rejected by the Palestinian or the Arab side is unacceptable.” Its solution is a Palestinian state based on June 4, 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.”  Almost a year ago, DDT stopped foreign aid to Palestine. After DDT illegally gave the Syrian Golan Heights to Israel, Israel’s temporary prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu put DDT’s name on the place. 

Since DDT’s debacle about attacking Iran, his supporters are pushing for him to fire Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his advice to move toward war and put DDT into a corner.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. is “stepping up digital incursions [hacking?] into Russia’s electric power grid.” DDT may not have been briefed about the “implants,” software code that can be used for surveillance or attack inside the Russian grid, because officials can’t trust him to keep his mouth shut. After DDT learned about the information from the article, he called it “a virtual act of Treason” and “ALSO, NOT TRUE!” because the media is “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.” [Caps in DDT’s tweets.] Both treason and false?

DDT told agencies to get rid of at least one-third of its advisory committees, eliminating people in the top of their fields who provide important technical advice. Boards qualifying for these cuts include considerations of EPA’s regulation of cancer-linked chemicals PFAS and bans on studies that don’t make underlying data public. In another anti-science attempt, DDT tried to move USDA researchers to Kansas City which would causing them to resign. They’re fighting back.

Elected only a few months ago, DDT’s South American lookalike, Jair Bolsonaro, is facing mass disruption in Brazil from trade union strikes a week ago, hours before a showcase football tournament. The strike against Bolsonaro’s pension reform plans has negatively affected 63 cities’ transportation with demonstrations in another 20. At least 45 million people belong to the trade unions in a country of over 200 million. Bolsonaro’s popularity has plummeted since the election, and his family and associates have been accused of the corruption that he promised to clean up. 

As David Axe wrote, “America Is Stuck With a $400 Billion Stealth Fighter That Can’t Fight.” Lockheed Martin leveraged the Pentagon into billions of dollars of unnecessary costs for taxpayers in attempts to build the F-35 fighter plane, long surrounded with scandal. The Pentagon may reclassify dangerous deficiencies as acceptable to get the F-35 into the air. Another fiscal disaster for taxpayers is the Navy’s Littoral Combat ship. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) proved that asking questions helps when defense contractor TransDigm refunded $16.1 million in price-gouging overcharges after Khanna asked for an investigation.

India has joined DDT’s trade war by raising tariffs on U.S. imports such as apples, almonds, lentils, and some chemical compounds in response to U.S. increased tariffs on India’s aluminum and steel. Over 600 retailers, including Walmart and Costco, wrote DDT about the damage of his tariffs onthe economy with a request to remove these taxes on U.S. consumers. DDT can assign tariffs only with the excuse of national security, making his taxes on washing machines, vacuum cleaners, toys, televisions, and other household needs a mystery. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says that additional costs for people will be minimal; a study shows a family of four will pay an additional $2,000 for DDT’s 25-percent tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods. These taxes hit DDT’s voter base, the most economically vulnerable in the nation.

China is the biggest producers of bibles, and DDT is raising their tariff by 25 percent. Evangelicals are not happy.

The poor are benefitting from DDT’s trade wars driving farmers into bankruptcy. DDT’s bailout package spending $1.2 billion for agricultural products in farmers’ storehouses after plummeting market prices increases donations of fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat to U.S. food banks. His second bailout will add additional millions of pounds of food to banks.

DDT’s new EPA pollution plan—to allow coal plants to pollute at will—will kill 1,400 people a year. Despite DDT’s lies about improving air quality, 2018 had 15 percent more days with dirty air than the average between 2013 and 2016. State AGs are joining environmental groups to sue the EPA about its decision to pollute the United States with the new coal plan.

Until two years ago, EPA Secretary Andrew Wheeler, replacement for the scandal-ridden Scott Pruitt, was lobbyist for Murray Energy, one of the nation’s biggest coal companies. He still is. DDT said at his campaign rally last Tuesday:

“We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests, who made a living bleeding our country dry. That’s what we’ve done.”

DDT stared Wheeler and others down and hired them: new acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper was a Raytheon lobbyist until 2017 and replaced Boeing executive Pat Shanahan; Interior Secretary David Bernhardt lobbied for the energy industry; HHS Secretary Alex Azar oversaw lobbying for giant pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and worked with former drug industry lobbyist Joe Grogan who shaped DDT’s drug-pricing plan and went on to the Domestic Policy Council; and the rest of the Cabinet is filled with former executives and others highly connected to companies which they supposedly oversee.  

Two weeks away from July 4, Washington, D.C. can’t plan for DDT’s great event in town because he hasn’t told them what’s happening. He does plan a 10-block-long military parade.

The Supreme Court has a week to announce whether DDT’s bogus citizenship can be added to the 2020 census, but attorneys filed information to the Maryland U.S. District Court that a GOP strategist, now deceased, pushed the idea through private email with the chief of staff to the director of the U.S. Census Bureau. The documents provide evidence refuting defendants’ assertion that no link between the Secretary and the strategist “can be shown.” The recently revealed information shows that the government intended to discriminate against immigrants, Latinos and Asian Americans.

A Ukrainian-Russian developer complained he was bilked out of $200,000 for buying what he thought were VIP tickets to DDT’s inauguration and filed a lawsuit. Foreign nationals, such as Pavel Fuks who discussed a Moscow real estate deal with DDT, cannot legally buy tickets from committees hosting events connected to U.S. presidential inaugurations although U.S. donors can invite foreigners to attend.

In DDT’s formal kick-off to his 2020 campaign, the current liar-in-chief of the U.S. promised to end cancer and HIV if elected for a second term. DDT’s speech opener, Donald Trump Jr., ridiculed former VP Joe Biden for saying that he wants to cure cancer.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that the new Harriet Tubman $20 bill wouldn’t be released until 2028 because of production problems. But the currency, scheduled to be released next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, was almost done before DDT blocked it. The 19th-century formerly enslaved abolitionist leader would replace Andrew Jackson, and DDT likes the slaveholder “Indian killer.” During his 2016 campaign, DDT called the use of Tubman as “pure political correctness.” 

Corporate tax revenue dropped 31 percent in 2018, twice what the GOP thought would happen. Treasury officials promised a spike in 2019, but the decline has increased by another nine percent because companies moved deductible expenses into 2017 for more impact. Republicans promised more bonuses with decreasing the taxes for big business by 40 percent, but last year’s wages dropped.

After DDT’s own polls didn’t look good for DDT, he lied about the data, told people to “mislead” the public about the results, and fired his pollsters.  

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