Nel's New Day

March 20, 2018

John Oliver Hops All Over Mike Pence

With all the grim news since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was elected over 16 months ago, a bit of joy is always welcome. For me, it came in the form of John Oliver’s most recent HBO show, Last Week Tonight. The 30-minute comedy/news series typically ends with an in-depth 20-minute segment on subjects of interest such as the bitcoin, national flood insurance, and Confederate monuments. Last Sunday, the topic was VP Mike Pence. As usual, Oliver covered the extreme Christian fundamentalist well, addressing his strong connections with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and his incessant lying to cover his bigotry and his support for DDT’s lying as well as Pence’s anti-LGBQ campaigns in supporting conversion therapy, preventing LGBTQ military members, and legalizing religious discrimination against LGBTQ people while Indiana’s governor. The clips show that Pence is just as dishonest as Trump, for example the confrontation about DDT lying about winning the popular vote. Pence called the lies, “refreshing.” Pence just isn’t as good about lying as DDT is. Three-fourths through Oliver’s segment, however, it came to a sharp turn.

Three-fourths through Oliver’s segment, however, it came to a sharp turn. The Pence family has a beloved bunny pet named Marlon Bondo along with two cats and a snake. DDT, the first president without a pet in 150 years, called it “low class” to take these pets into their residence at the Naval Observatory” and referred to the Pences as “yokels.” Sadly, the cat on the left, Pickle, died last December at the age of 16, but Marlon is thriving with his own Instagram where he is called BOTUS—Bunny of the United States.

Now BOTUS is the subject of a picture book for children, Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice-President, written by Pence’s wife, Karen, and illustrated by their daughter Charlotte (pictured above with Marlon). With details about one day in Marlon’s life, the book is intended as an educational perspective on the role of the vice president of the United States. The Pences are taking a book tour to promote their book with a stop at the Focus on the Family, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The format has been used before, for example in Ted Kennedy’s My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C. featuring Splash, Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog. Many politicians and celebrities have books written about themselves, and they don’t usually make much of a “splash.” John Oliver changed that lack of attention by sponsoring another picture book for children about Marlon. At the end of his segment on Pence, Oliver promoted Last Night Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller. Although some people who both oppose and support Pence call Oliver’s book a “spoof” or “parody” it is neither. Pence’s book was the inspiration for Twiss’ charming children’s book, suitable for children and one with an entirely different story.  The entire Oliver segment is here; you can forward to 15:33 for the animated film from Oliver’s book.

In the Oliver book, Marlon, sporting a multi-colored bowtie, falls in love with Wesley, and they want to get married, but a stink bug (read by John Lithgow in the audiobook) tells them that they cannot be married because they are both boy rabbits. Marlon and Wesley, however, gain support from all the other creatures in the garden with a happy ending, demonstrating to all the “different” children, for whatever reason, that they should have hope. Oliver said during his promotion of the book on the Ellen DeGeneres Show that he wanted to read his two-year-old son a book that “paints the world in the light that you want it to be rather than the way it’s currently being painted.”

 

The publishers of the two Marlon books are as different as the books themselves. Chronicle Books is a small independent publisher, located in San Francisco, that has been releasing quality books for the past half century. Author proceeds will go to The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services LGBTQ young people ages 13-24. and AIDS United, a group working to stop the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. The first printing of 75,000 has been sold out, but another 150,000 will be available in a few weeks. People who don’t want to wait can get the ebook version at betterbundobook.com or by donating $11.99 to either of the two national projects.

The Pence book has been published by a conservative publisher, Regnery Publishing, which has authors such as Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Newt Gringich, Robert Spencer, and DDT. In the 1950s, Regnery published a book sympathetic to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the midst of his anti-communist witch hunt and two books by the founder of the John Birch Society. The Regnery family sold the publishing company 25 years ago, but the former president still sits on the company’s board. Regnery’s 1996 book Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House by Gary Aldrich “painted images of Hillary Clinton hanging crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree and claimed to expose lesbian affairs in the White House basement,” according to Max Blumenthal. Eleven years ago, five authors sued their publisher, Regnery claiming that Regnery fraudulently diverts sales from retail outlets to make more money for parent corporation, Eagle Publishing, causing them to make $.10 per copy instead of $4.25 outside Eagle. They lost because Regnery had forced them to sign contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses.

The Pence family’s book is raising money for Tracy’s Kids, an art program for children with cancer, and A21, an organization that fights human trafficking.

William H. Regnery II, a member of the publishing family, has a long history of anti-immigrant white nationalism and a mission to reconfigure the United States into a white-only homeland. His two white nationalist nonprofits steered money to supporters of the KKK, Holocaust deniers, immigration foes, and eugenics boosters. The mainstream Republicans rejected him for a while, but he’s now becoming effective behind the scenes with his discovery with alt-right, white supremacist Richard Spencer who became the front for the National Policy Institute. Regnery believes that white supremacy will win with Spencer in charge. Although Regnery’s grandfather was a New Deal Democrat, he helped found the far-right America First Committee to keep the U.S. from going to war against Nazi Germany and collected a following of Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites. With DDT’s campaign the America First brand reappeared to open popularity in the far-right spectrum.

John Oliver’s Marlon Bondo book hit #1 on Amazon almost immediately after its release, followed by James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership to be released on April 17 and Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The Pences’ book is at #4. Amazon.com has over 4,000 reviews with an overall five-star rating; the other book has under 100 reviews at a 4.5 star. At amazon you can look at pages from both books.

May the best bunny win!

Advertisements

February 17, 2018

DDT: Weeks 55/56 – From ‘Treason’ to ‘Trumpgust’

 One year ago yesterday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave his only press conference since inauguration. George W. Bush gave five during his first year, and Barack Obama gave eleven. Almost two years ago, DDT tweeted:

“Crooked Hillary Clinton has not given a press conference in more than seven months. Her record is so bad she is unable to answer tough questions!”

Instead of being accountable for directly lying to the people, he leaves the job to staff like Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. His rally speeches give him the chance to spread falsehoods with no questions from the media. Six days after his mildly “presidential” State of the Union address, DDT released his vitriolic anger in a speech to Ohio workers. At the rally, supposedly about the tax bill and the economy, he launched into a furious attack of Democrats as “treasonous” and “un-American” because they did not clap for him at his address the week before. [Treason, as defined in the Constitution, “shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”] Masha Gessen compared DDT’s fixation on applause to that in the Soviet Union.

“Whether I chose to applaud or not applaud is a First Amendment right that our forefathers wrote down and that generations before me have sacrificed many a life for,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “And I would just say the president’s out of line with that statement.” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Iraq War veteran who lost both of her legs in battle, tweeted that she didn’t swear an oath “to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” Four of DDT’s draft deferments during the Vietnam War were for college and the fifth for bone spurs in his heels.

As he bragged about the stock market during the speech, the television screen showed the Dow Jones plummeting 1,177 for the day on top of the 666-point loss the Friday before. [Later DDT, who took credit for the stock market growth, said that it is now rigged against him.]

During his speech, DDT became almost incoherent with a reference to the GOP-drafted memo claiming FBI bias:

“Oh, but did we catch them in the act or what? You know what I’m — oh did we catch them in the act. They are very embarrassed. They never thought they were going to get caught. We caught ‘em! We caught ‘em. It’s so much fun. We’re like the great sleuth.”

DDT told the workers that they would get “thousands and thousands of dollars, and you’re getting it every year,” but a few fortunate ones are getting $1,000 bonuses, $.30 a day for the next ten years. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called that “crumbs,” compared to the tens and hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of dollars given to the wealthy and large corporations, but Sheffer CEO Jeff Norris said that “we consider [the bonus] fine dining.”

Unable to let go of his obsession about his former rival Hillary Clinton, DDT ranted about her destroying discarded smartphones with hammers while she was secretary of state five years ago. Guidelines mandate destruction of discarded technology for security reasons.

Earlier that day, DDT enthusiastically—and erroneously—tweeted that UK people were marching because “their [universal healthcare] system is going broke and not working.” The marches were in support of the National Health Service and calling for more funding.

Two days after his speech, DDT said in the midst of a bipartisan congressional near-agreement for a two-year spending bill, “I’d love to see a shutdown.” He got his wish because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY decided to hold the Senate floor, but it was over in five hours. The bill that ended the shutdown is another “continuing resolution” until March 23, the deadline for Congress determining the specifics of the two-year spending plan.

The little boy in DDT has also demanded a military parade in Washington with costs for heavy tanks damaging streets and movement of equipment to that location while taking the military away from their responsibilities.  The parade will cost taxpayers between $10 million and $30 million. George H.W. Bush’s military parade is a precursor of DDT’s disaster. VP Mike Pence criticized North Korea’s military parade but praised one in the United States.

DDT’s latest infrastructure week was again a disaster, marred by talk about sexual misconduct, missing security clearances, and a horrific school shooting. He waited almost 400 days to announce that he expects states to assume over 80 percent of the costs, a reversal from the past when the federal government provided 80 percent of funding. The $200 billion budgeted for infrastructure for an effort that will cost trillions is offset by his removal of $281 billion from transportation—a loss of $81 billion.

Congress contributed to the disasters of the past week. With a vote of 225-192, the House removed business incentives for improving access for disabled people in the Disabilities “Reform” Act. Twelve Democrats supported the discrimination with 19 Republicans in opposition.

Despite a bipartisan compromise between party leaders, both congressional chambers failed to move forward with an immigration bill. The conservatives want nothing to do with helping DACA recipients, and DDT has refused to sign anything that doesn’t give him $25 for his wall.  Yesterday legislators went home for a week’s vacation, and the State Department closed one-third of its refugee settlement offices across 24 states.

After a year, the disposition of some inaugural funds shows one-fourth of the $107 million went to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania Trump’s friend, who got almost $26 million entertainment, staffing, and a $1.62 for her consultation and executive production. Another $25 million went to event company Hargrove Inc. of Maryland.

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

VP Mike Pence embarrassed the United States at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The man who claims to be a Christian sat next to Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, but refused to even acknowledge her. Pence, who spent taxpayer money to fly across the continent twice in one day to walk out of a sports event after athletes protested, refused to stand when the North Korea and South Korea athletes entered the stadium under their flag. Before the opening ceremonies, Pence kept claiming that the North was trying to “hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games” with its “propaganda,” and he stayed at a VIP reception for less than five minutes. DDT accused Democrats of being “treasonous” because they sat at his address like “death.” Pence looked like “death” at the Olympics and missed the chance to represent sportsmanship and unity that DDT says he wants at U.S. sports events.

DDT got a lot of political play for a border wall by claiming last year that a Border Patrol agent was killed by undocumented immigrants, but the FBI determined that Rogelio Martinez died of an accident after the agencies mobilized 37 field offices in an investigation.

FEMA chalked up another loss; the government agency gave Tribute Contracting LLC a $156 million contract to deliver 30 million meals to people in Puerto Rico. The Atlanta company provided 50,000 meals. It has at least five canceled government contracts, and the company, with only one employee, has no experience coordinating large-scale disaster relief. At least 20 percent of Puerto Rican residents still lack power five months after Hurricane Marie.

The Koch-backed organization National Federation of Independent Business is promoting flu across the nation. They are fighting a Maryland law, passed over the governor’s veto, and an ordinance up for vote in Austin (TX) allowing workers to earn paid sick leave. Flu infection rate decrease with sick days, and two-thirds of restaurants and cooks have served or cooked foot while ill. The organization complain about job-killing costs while they push a policy that is people-killing.

ICE has rescued “Amuricans” from another “bad hombre.” Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, was taken away from his front yard in Lawrence (KS) without permission to say goodbye to his wife and three children.  Over 30 years ago, he came from Bangladesh on a student visa and earned graduate degrees in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering. He changed to an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers and then back to a student visa when he enrolled in a doctoral program. He was on a temporary work permit, teaching chemistry as an adjunct professor at Park University in Kansas City and conducting research at local hospitals, when he was arrested for deportation. “Amuricans” may think they are a bit safer today because this man is captured.

A 1946 law and its regulations allow ICE agents to search any vehicle within 100 air miles of a land or sea boundary. That covers almost two-thirds of the U.S. population—over 200 million people. Agents can have permanent and temporary checkpoints within that area.

Trumpgust” reveals that DDT’s “combover” is far more extensive than most people know.

The number of states where conservatives outnumber liberals declined in 2017 to the lowest in Gallup’s trend since 2008.

February 14, 2018

Shooting, Russian Involvement: Demand Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:20 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today at least 17 people were killed in a school shooting, taking the public attention from other events. Vice President Mike Pence is especially lucky because most people may not notice that he again blatantly lied in an interview of Axios. He said:

“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Pence lied.

Six U.S. intelligence leaders, including Pompeo, Coats, and Wray, testified that Russia had interfered in the last general election, that they plan to do so in the current election, and that DDT has not given any direction to stop the Russian meddling. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the meddling has already started but that there is nothing that the United States can do to prevent any Russian involvement.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said:

“We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said:

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

The intelligence community concluded that Russia “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” Collectively, they made this statement:

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

The intelligence community made no ruling on the Russian affect on the outcome of the election last year when Donald Trump became the president of the United States. Yet Pence said that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Donald Trump’s appointed FBI director, Christopher Wray, thinks that Russia believes its maneuvers succeeded in electing Trump as the president.

The Russians hacked and revised emails that resulted in negative press about Hillary Clinton. It distributed massive communications on social media that lied about Clinton and other progressive candidates. The FBI spread doubt about Clinton just days before the election while it failed to release the information about the Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s campaign, knowledge that they had for months before the election. And Donald Trump got over 60 million votes after he lied to the public about protecting the working people.

The same hackers also got into the email accounts of defense contract workers, and nobody is talking about that. Donald Trump refuses to sanction Russia for its interference.

Today witnessed the 18th school shooting in only 31 days of school in 2018, most of the shootings largely unnoticed by the media. Because of the gun industry and the NRA, conservatives take no action. (Although I wonder if they decide to allow all students over the age of five to take guns to school.) Yet GOP legislators give away trillions of dollars to the wealthy and the huge corporations. They plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on a wall to keep out immigrants and hundreds of billions of dollars to start and continue wars throughout the entire world.

The killer’s choice of weapon, at least one AR-15 style rifle and a large number of magazines, was the usual one for the deadliest mass shootings, including the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre and the November 5, 2017 Texas church shooting. The assault-style rifle was developed for military use, but people use the Second Amendment to force its availability for the general population. Florida has no waiting period for anyone, including those on the terrorist watch list, who wish to buy guns, and the U.S. House has passed a bill making concealed-carry permits in one state valid in any other state.

Within hours after the shooting, officials associated the shooting with mental illness and calling them “evil.” Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County said that nothing can be done about shooters if they are determined to kill people. Others are using the standard statement that shooters are “evil.” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s response was that she would guarantee no “price gouging” for funerals and make sure that the families didn’t have to pay for the funerals of the dead students. Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

People who want to think of the United States as exceptional should know that the U.S. has 270 million guns with 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. In 2009, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. was far higher than other developed countries at 33 per million people. The rate was 5 per million in Canada and 0.7 million in Britain, corresponding with differences in gun ownership. In 2013, Japan had 13 deaths related to guns; U.S. gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides, and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. The chances per capita of a U.S. resident dying from a gun is 300 times more likely than a Japanese person dying in the same manner, and U.S. gun ownership is 150 times as high as that of Japan. Only three countries—Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S.—have the assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns.

Gun ownership is the reason for these gun deaths:

  • The U.S. does not reflect a greater problem with mental health issues than any other wealthy country. Only four percent of U.S. gun deaths might be attributed to mental health problems. Other countries with high suicide rates have low rates of mass shootings.
  • People in the U.S. are no more likely to play video games than in any other developed country.
  • European countries show little association between immigration and other diversity with the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.
  • The U.S. is no more prone to crime than other developed countries—just more lethal.
  • Gun control legislation reduces gun murders, according to an analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

Britain’s 1987 mass shooting and Australia’s 1996 shooting turned the tide of unregulated gun ownership. The U.S. doesn’t care. British journalist Dan Hodges wrote:

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

These are the 1,607 mass shootings in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.

Broward County Public Schools Supt. Robert Runcie said, “This has been a day we’ve seen the worst of humanity.” He may be right, but the worst is coming from people on the internet accusing the shooter of being a DACA recipient and an ISIS supporter with no evidence. The worst of humanity comes from people who refuse to take any action to stop mass shootings. The shooter will be dehumanized as insane, and the dead will be classified as heroes. And the Republicans will block any sane action. Only a shooting by an immigrant or in the name of a non-Christian religion would bring any action.

In their sanctimonious method of controlling gun safety laws, conservatives always accuse people who want to stop shootings as attempting to “politicize” a tragedy. The only way to stop the growing mass shootings and lack of safety at schools is to stop electing Republicans because they are controlled by the NRA and the gun industry. They have no interest in protecting people; they only want to get elected and grow richer and more powerful. Their demands to not politicize tragedies are to guarantee that gun laws grow more lax.

Happy Valentine’s Day, thanks to your GOP legislators, owned by the gun industry, who think that words like “prayers and condolences” are sufficient action. And Vice-President Pence, your intelligence community didn’t say that Russia had no impact on last year’s election that turned the United States away from democracy and toward authoritarianism.

December 19, 2017

Tax Bill a Lump of Coal for the Holidays

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , ,

During his campaign, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised to bring coal back, and he’s lived up to his promise: most people in the United States will get a lump of coal in their holiday stockings, thanks to DDT and the GOP. This morning, 227 Republicans passed a disastrous social reform bill, masked as tax cuts, in opposition to all Democrats and 12 other Republicans. Their desire was to “do something,” just as serial killers want credit for their negative actions. GOP leadership is preening over a bill that has only 33 percent support among the public with 66 percent of the nation knowing that it benefits the wealthy rather than the middle and lower classes.

After its success in the House, the tax bill ran into a small glitch because the rush in the Senate kept it from living up to requirements that would avoid any filibustering. Tonight the Senate is working on a revised bill that will go back to the House after it passes the Senate. There is little hope that the bill will fail.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claims that the GOP made major accomplishments in 2017. Other than potentially passing a bill with less than one-third approval and packing the courts with judges who believe in discrimination, the GOP Congress has no other successes. The greatest accomplishments have been in energizing the Democrats. Thus far they have far more viable candidates than the Republicans and flipped the Virginia House of Delegates with a 50-50 tie between the two parties. The last recount resulted in a Democrat winning by one vote to change 16 seats from red to blue. [Update: After a court decided that one of the the discounted votes is for a Republican, the result is a tie. In that case, the winner may be chosen by drawing a name for a glass bowl. The loser may then seek a second recount. A Republican win would leave the Virginia House of Delegates with a 51-49 majority for the GOP.]

McConnell blamed the negative polling for his tax bill on the press and Democratic resistance. Yet the media, except for the far-right such as Fox and Breitbart, publishes the facts—such as the revisions of the bill to capture both chambers of Congress gives 83 percent of the tax cuts to the top 1 percent by 2027, an increase of 62.1 percent with the original Senate bill. Over one half the people in the United States will pay more in taxes. Even in the bill’s first year, the top 20 percent gets almost two-thirds of the bill’s benefit.

The tax cut fails four Republican rules:

  • It increases the debt by at least $1.5 trillion—or possibly more.
  • It doesn’t benefit the middle class.
  • The wealthiest, including DDT), are the primary beneficiaries.
  • It likely won’t supercharge the economy, according to independent experts in the field.

DDT had promised to get rid of the carried interest loophole that gives massive tax breaks to managers of private equity funds, venture capital funds, and hedge funds. Instead of paying taxes at the higher rate of ordinary income, they can use the low rates of capital gains. The new tax bill allows them to continue saving money with that practice if they hold the investment for at least three years.

House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that the bill would deliver revenue neutrality, simplicity, and fairness. None of those happened—not even simplicity. The tax bill still has seven tax brackets, and the revision of “pass-though” income in businesses confuses even most tax experts. The business revision will create many jobs for people who magically become independent contractors or part of LLCs.

Fairness? The bill gives breaks to businesses owned by trusts. The marriage penalty returns because the maximum deduction of ten thousand dollars for state and local taxes is the same for individual filers and for couples. And far more.

Robert Reich lists other flaws in GOP arguments about their tax plan:

It won’t make U.S. corporations competitive with foreign corporations, which are taxed at a lower rate. (1) With all the loopholes for U.S. corporations, they pay the same as foreign-based corporations. (2) Most other countries require a “Value Added Tax” on top of the tax. (3) Other countries will cut their tax rates to be competitive. (4) Most corporations benefiting aren’t “American” because over 35 percent of their shareholders are foreign, 20 percent of the employees are foreign, and U.S. citizens work for foreign-based corporations. (5) The “competitiveness” of U.S. corporations depends on U.S. workers, diminished in education, health, and infrastructure through shrinking public investments. (6) Profits of U.S. corporations, already at record levels, are used to buy back stocks and raise executive pay—the same thing that corporations will do with the $1 trillion that the GOP is giving them.

Big corporations and the rich won’t use the investment to invest and create more jobs. (1) Job creation doesn’t trickle down as proved by Reagan and George W. Bush’s tax cuts. (2) Demand for goods and services causes corporate expansion and new jobs. The middle class and poor could provide this demand if they had additional money, but the rich, far more benefited by the bill, won’t create this demand. (3) Financing the wealthy by losing health coverage for 13 million low-income people and subsequent cuts in Social Security and Medicare won’t create more jobs.

Small businesses will have no incentive to invest and create more jobs. (1) At least 85 percent of small businesses earn so little they already pay the lowest corporate tax rate. (2) The larger rewards for big business will give them more ability to squeeze out small firms and force them out of business.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated the myth that “wages will go up” because of “lowering business taxes.” Businessman and former mayor Michael Bloomberg said that “sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth.”

A prize last-minute tweak that originally appeared in neither the House nor the Senate costs less-advantaged people $418 billion. Known as the “Corker Kickback,” because Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was against the bill until that provision was put in, allows real-estate developers through LLCs to deduct twenty percent of the income that these properties generate. Corker denies that he knew about that provision in the bill because he hadn’t read it before he changed his vote. Corker said: “Deficits matter. They’re a greater threat to us than North Korea or [the Islamic State].” Now he’s willing to take almost $2 million away from poorer people with his vote for the tax bill. Only the Republicans could turn tax cuts into such an unpopular bill.

Corker isn’t alone in supporting the bill that pays him back. Twenty-three other leading GOP lawmakers responsible for crafting the bill will also see this windfall, but they were supporting the tax bill before the change.

DDT will make even more money off this part of the tax bill. Once the tax bill goes into effect, people who voted for DDT may have concrete proof of how he and the GOP will cheat them just as DDT swindled contractors without promised pay or students at Trump University with dishonest marketing. Without DDT’s releasing his tax returns, people are highly unlikely to believe that his own taxes are going up, a claim that received four Pinocchios for falsehood.

Vice President Mike Pence also lied about the tax bill to avoid going to the Middle East at this time. It’s natural that he would want to avoid the hostility that he would face after DDT claimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Western Wall as belonging to Israel. Thus Pence said he was postponing the trip to break a tie on the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has gone back to Arizona for the holidays and won’t be present for the vote. That leaves 99 people left in the Senate for the vote, making a tie impossible.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to blame Democrats for any of the bill’s problems. The GOP refused to allow any participation from Dems, and it is doubtful that Dems could keep Republicans from paying back all the wealthy donors who have been buying the GOP for years.

DDT supporters are clinging to their choice, many of them even with the possibility of paying higher taxes and health care premiums. Will they stay loyal when DDT breaks another campaign promise and tries to take away some of their Social Security and Medicare?

[Update: After a court decided that one of the the discounted votes is for a Republican, the result is a tie. In that case, the winner may be chosen by drawing a name for a glass bowl. The loser may then seek a second recount. A Republican win would leave the Virginia House of Delegates with a 51-49 majority for the GOP.]

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.

October 17, 2017

DDT’s Expensive Swamp

Cutting the waste in government was a frequent claim of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while on the campaign trail and the subject of an early executive order. DDT said that his executive order on March 13, 2017, would require a “thorough examination of every executive department and agency” to find out “where money is being wasted [and] how services can be improved.” His proposed budget slashes funds for the social network.

DDT should look to himself for waste in government. Although he has spent one night at New York’s Trump Tower since he was inaugurated, the apartment costs millions of dollars. He overcharged the facilities for the Secret Service there, requiring the command post to move to a trailer on the sidewalk in July. Expenditures for DDT’s golf trips are over $72 million, according to Trump Golf Count. At that rate, he’ll spend almost $400 million during his term.

DDT’s current campaigning for 2020 is on the taxpayer tab as well. When he went to Phoenix (AZ) to tout his “wall,” his campaign funds may have paid for the convention center and indoor security, but taxpayers were out almost $500,000 for his campaign event. Just employee overtime expenses for the Phoenix Police Department cost $336,887.

The costs of DDT’s family trips are astronomical. Just one ski vacation for Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, their spouses, their kids and their dogs cost taxpayers $330,000. The State Department paid the cost of $117,489.44 for the car rental charge when Tiffany Trump and her mother vacationed for two weeks in Italy. That was considerably cheaper than the $2 million that DDT cost the State Department during a 48-hour trip to Italy in May.

Secret Service is running out of money to protect DDT and his family of 18. Without congressional approval to increase the budget, 1,100 agents, one-third of them, will have to work overtime without pay. The current expenditure of $30 million is 250 percent more than the past annual cost of $12 million for President Obama and his family. The Secret Service protected 42 people around the clock until Donald Trump, Jr. refused his guard. After he said he wanted privacy, he was found killing moose in Alaska. Kellyanne Conway was also removed from the list.

Sen. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced an amendment the 2018 appropriations bill to prevent Secret Service payment to any businesses owned or operated by DDT:

“None of the funds made available by this Act to the United States Secret Service may be used to purchase, rent, or otherwise acquire goods or services, including hotel rooms, office space, or golf carts, from entities that are owned or operated by the President or the immediate family of the President.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) expanded Schiff’s plan to prohibit federal spending across the government at all “Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and other Trump-owned businesses.” The bills went nowhere but may have been educational.

In addition to DDT’s costs, taxpayers are paying for jetsetting Cabinet members:

  • (Former) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Over $1 million in military and charter flights. When he resigned, Price said that he would reimburse the government $52,000. A millionaire who made stock trade in health-care companies while helping them with laws, Price has been a proponent of taking hundreds of billions of dollars from federal health programs. As HHS secretary, he backed a $6 billion cut to NIH and an overall 18 percent reduction to the HHS budget. His goal is to eliminate “waste.” He also cut 90 percent from the Affordable Care Act’s advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million and almost half of the budget for consumer “navigators.” Price’s excuse for chartering private planes is that he once missed a meeting because of a four-hour delay on a commercial flight. Storms had shut down all flights in Washington, not only Price’s scheduled flight but also private jets which he attempted to get. Price missed dinner on Thursday night but was still available to give his speech the next morning. His destination, a two-day industry conference at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California, brings to question the excuse that he travels to be “connected with the real American people.” Another argument was how busy he was with the hurricanes; most of the chartered flights occurred before they hit the U.S.
  • EPA Director Scott Pruitt: Almost $60,000 for “non-commercial” flights. Pruitt spent 48 of 92 days traveling, most of the flights at least stopping in Oklahoma, possibly laying the groundwork for a senatorial campaign. One charter flight for $14,000 took Pruitt from Tulsa to Guymon (OK) to talk about closing the EPA’s ten regional offices by reassigning staff to state capitals—part of eliminating one-third of the EPA budget.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: Over $800,000 in costs for flights, including a government jet to Kentucky (where he and his wife viewed the solar eclipse) plus his request to take a government jet on his honeymoon to Europe.
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: A number of flights on private and military aircraft, including between St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as paying $12,000 to an oil-and-gas exploration firm for a charter flight instead of a commercial one because he was speaking to a political donor’s professional hockey team in Nevada. Zinke’s wife, manager of the campaign for Troy Downing who is a GOP candidate for a Montana senator, often travels with him as they stop at political fundraisers and donor events.
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin: Payment for his wife’s costs to Europe where they spent half his time, four days, on vacation tours that included four palaces and the championship Wimbledon match. Just weeks earlier, Shulkin told staff to cut back on travel expenses.
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: At least $58,000 for private flights.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: Seven FAA jet flights, including to New York and Paris.

VP Mike Pence may have cost taxpayers approximately $250,000 last week to stage a PR stunt. He flew from Las Vegas to Indiana with a pool of reporters to follow DDT’s orders by walking out of the football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after over 20 players knelt to protest police brutality. From there he flew to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. Worse than his staging this stunt was his statement that he saved people money because he would have flown to Washington, D.C. for the one night if he hadn’t gone to Indianapolis. Evidently no hotel openings in either Las Vegas or LA. Four Green Berets had been killed in Niger, but DDT ignored this tragedy to tweet against peaceful and legal protests by NFL athletes—29 times thus far.

DDT’s Cabinet runs high tabs in areas other than travel. Scott Pruitt’s protective 24/7 detail, triple that of his predecessors, costs $832,735.40 for his first three months, and the agency asked for an exception to DDT’s hiring freeze to hire an additional (number redacted on a memo) security members. In the past, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security received this kind of protection, but DDT has extended it to such dangerous positions as the Secretary of Education and the EPA. Betsy DeVos costs almost $1 million a month for protection from U.S. marshals.

Pruitt also wants a sound-proof booth. He’s paying almost $25,000 for it on the floor where employees cannot take cellphones or take notes. EPA employees say that he already has one but wants it “updated.”

One of Zinke’s staff is paid to go up to the roof and hoist his secretarial flag when Zinke enters the building and reverse the process when he leaves. He is the first White House official to do that for almost a century. His deputy secretary has his own flag to fly when Zinke is gone. Another cost, the amount not identified, is Zinke’s commissioning commemorative coins with his name that he hands out to staff and visitors. Again, the use of personalized coins is unique.

Price had early on asked to reopen the executive dining room, complete with executive chef, but Price has been fired.

And DDT’s executive order attempting to destroy health care for millions will cost the country $20 billion this year.

October 8, 2017

DDT Needs Caretaker

A weekend means interviews on Sunday “news” shows and obnoxious tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). This weekend, DDT declared war on Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), claiming that Corker didn’t have the guts to run for re-election because DDT had refused an endorsement for Corker and turned him down to be Secretary of State after he begged DDT. He also blamed Corker for supporting the Iran deal that keeps Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Both Corker and other sources have said that DDT is lying in his claims about Corker.

DDT’s tantrum came after Corker said that DDT treats his office like “a reality show” with his threats possibly moving the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” Corker said that he is alarmed by a president who acts “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something.” DDT is ignoring his need for Corker’s votes to pass his tax cut legislation and “decertify” the Iranian deal. Corker’s committee also is in control of confirmation hearings for DDT’s ambassadorial appointments. After DDT’s virulent remarks about him, Corker topped off his own tweets with this one:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

On Fox News Sunday, Corker repeated his earlier statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” DDT’s racist comments about neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (VA) earlier caused Corker to say that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Corker said:

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Corker also said that his personal concerns about DDT were shared by almost every GOP senator.

FEMA director, William “Brock” Long, has decided to ignore pleas for help from San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz because he considers them “political.” She tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA_Brock. NOTHING!” Long said on a morning talk show, “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago.” DDT is still congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he is doing with Puerto Rico and said that he was just having “fun” throwing those “beautiful soft towels.”

Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico has joined Germany in sending help to the U.S territory. In spite of two major earthquakes last month, Mexico will send aid to Puerto Rico including water and electricity experts to mitigate damage and help restore the island’s power supply as well as mosquito repellent and 30 tons of bottled water.

While people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying from lack of food, water, electricity, etc., the U.S. House put its priority on  limiting abortion access. It passed a bill, likely unconstitutional and definitely disproportionately affecting low-income women, that bans abortions after 20 weeks and imprisoning doctors performing the procedure for up to five years. The vote was 237 to 189, with two Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting nay.

The IRS has given Equifax, the company that allowed the records of 143 million people to be stolen, a $7.5 million contract. The no-bid contract, posted the last day of the fiscal year on September 30, is to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract.  During a committee hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asked former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?”

Photos of Smith at the hearing have shown Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, seated behind Smith as he testified about the computer breach. He rushed off after she tried to give him a bag of “Get out of jail free” cards after the hearing in a protest of plans that allow banks and financial institutions to take advantage of consumers.

DDT’s third Muslim ban is going to court.

DDT’s need for a majority vote has bled down to the DOJ’s violating federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, states that voter registration maintenance “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Yet AG Jeff Sessions is supporting purging voter registrations because of irregular voting patterns. Ohio, for example, removed 1.2 million voters for infrequent voting. Sessions has not decided that this action is appropriate, despite federal law.

DDT’s magical tax cut plan, labeled as the “middle-class miracle,” has an evaluation from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). According to its study, the plan mostly benefits the rich, raises taxes on some middle-class people, and lowers federal revenue by $2.4 trillion within a decade. Republicans are not happy, but they haven’t offered any evidence of any tax relief to the middle class. The pattern is the same as the GOP plan for healthcare “reform” when Republicans were confused by facts about tens of millions few people having insurance. A chief GOP criticism was that there was no “dynamic” score, meaning one that made up information about an improved economy.

DDT’s latest nominee, this one for the second most powerful EPA position as safety chief, is an employee of the chemical industry. As such, Michael Dourson declared that children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity. His position includes overseeing pesticides and setting safety levels for some of the most dangerous chemicals in use.

Conservationists have had a run of successes in court, a recent one in Washington. A state board overturned two important permits for an immense refinery turning natural gas into methanol because an environmental impact study had not considered greenhouse gas emissions. The product would then be shipped to China to make plastics. The failed project was designated for Kalama (WA), less than an hour north of Portland (OR). This past week a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the reinstatement of a restriction on harmful methane emissions from gas and oil drilling on federal lands after the Interior Department tried to remove it with the excuse that it was a burden to the industry. Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the department had no “reasoned explanation” for allowing energy companies to not capture the polluting methane that wastes about $330 million a year—enough to power five million homes for that year. Before the rule went into effect, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hung over the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado from the oil and gas industry.

Only 24 percent of people think that the U.S. is going in the right directions. The change among Republicans has been the most drastic: only 44 percent support the direction, compared to 60 percent just three months ago. Other areas in which people have a high percentage of disapproval toward DDT are handling race relations, foreign policy, and immigration—all with over 60 percent disapproval.

That drop in support may be the reason that DDT sent Mike Pence to Indianapolis today to attend the game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. The sole purpose of the “reality show” was pandering to DDT’s base with  was a photo shoot when Pence walked out after some of the athletes knelt during the national anthem. Pence was so sure he would be leaving that he didn’t bother to take any reporters with him. A Pence aide said that he might be leaving early. The photo sent to the press of the vice-president in a suit with his hand over his heart was actually taken in 2014 when Pence was governor of Indiana. To attend the game, Pence flew from Las Vegas before he immediately returned to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. (Your taxes at work!)

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tweeted:

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets.”

Constantly accused of disrespecting the flag, kneeling athletes are protesting police racial brutality and injustice. Anyone questioning this brutality should watch the highly graphic video of a Utah police officer fatally shooting a black man in the back after he was stopped for not having a light on his bicycle. The DA exonerated the police officer who killed Patrick Harmon because the officer said he was afraid.

July 22, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Six – ‘Made outside America’

Biggest news of week along with the current failure of Trumpcare and the dissing of AG Jeff Sessions is Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) claim that he can pardon himself as well as his family and associates. The jury is out on that one, but even a DDT success in that arena doesn’t get him out of trouble. By accepting a pardon, DDT—or anyone else he pardons—admits guilt and then has to face state charges. The use of pardons for one’s own crimes can also be considered an abuse of power or obstruction of justice. Similarly, firing special investigator Robert Mueller doesn’t necessarily get DDT out of trouble because state prosecutors can hire Mueller and his team. All this can be done without impeachment or congressional investigation by Republicans. Mueller and his lawyers could also be called as witnesses in the civil litigation about emoluments and the hacking conspiracy.

During his campaign, DDT warned that the nation would face a constitutional crisis with a Hillary Clinton presidency because she would face multiple criminal investigations? That Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders would “sit back and they would laugh and they would smile” during a years-long investigation.

“She would be under protracted criminal investigation and probably a criminal trial, I would say. So we’d have a criminal trial of a sitting president…. Our country will continue to suffer.”

Litigation is spreading over into DDT’s cabinet. Last week the U.S. Treasury fined ExxonMobil $1 million for signing agreements with Russian-owned Rosneft while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO. Exxon filed a legal complaint naming Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as lead defendant.

One other strategy from DDT is impugning Mueller’s character. Even his own team of lawyers reportedly opposes it, and Mark Corallo quit the team after only one day. His departure briefly preceded Press Secretary/Communications Director Sean Spicer as collateral damage from DDT’s administration. Also gone is DDT’s long-time lawyer Marc Kasowitz. That makes at least 19 “resignations” during DDT’s first six months.

On his first day, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci appeared at the first on-camera White House press conference in nine days to declare his and everyone else’s love for DDT and announce Spicer’s leaving. Scaramucci said that he hoped Spicer “goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.” Just two years ago, Scaramucci called DDT a “hack politician” and member of the “Queen County bullies association” but now plans to erase all his negative tweets about DDT. The new press secretary is Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has been holding most of the recent press conferences. White supremacist Steve Bannon almost quit when DDT hired the Goldman Sachs alumnus, nicknamed “The Mooch.”

Four days before DDT’s inauguration, Scaramucci met with Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian $10 billion state-run investment fund, which the U.S. sanctioned in 2015. When Scaramucci criticized the sanctions, DDT said that he might ease them. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during his confirmation hearing that he would ask for an investigation into Scaramucci who also sold his hedge funds investment firm, SkyBridge Capital, to China for $11.5 billion. Scaramucci’s only experience in “political communication” was a few appearances on television. SNL aficionados may miss Spicer, but Scaramucci is sure to make an appearance.

DDT understands that he lacks the power that he thought a president holds, but he’s still exceeding that power. This week he interviewed Jessie Liu before he nominated her to a U.S. attorney seat. His action breaks precedence of separating this position from political influence. If confirmed, Liu would have power in Washington, D.C. where DDT is being sued for his hotel/restaurant’s conflict of interest.

A few DDT losses this week:

DDT’s administration is using taxpayer money intended to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act for a PR campaign to kill the law with video testimonials and social media to damage public opinion of a law works quite well. Tom Price led HHS in producing over 130 videos from almost 30 interviews that occurred at the department’s internal studio. Contractors may have charged $550 an hour for their work from DDT’s request of $574 million for “consumer information and outreach.” Funds also paid for people to travel to Washington, D.C. for this purpose. HHS is also leading the anti-ACA messaging and replaced information on its website about applying for coverage with critical information about ACA encouraging people to use private brokers.

A group suing DDT has gained access to DDT’s Mar-A-Lago visitor logs; they will be publicly released in early September. The suit regarding White House visitor logs is ongoing.

In California, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III denied DDT’s request to strip funding from cities providing haven to undocumented immigrants. Orrick ruled that spending power is vested in Congress, not the president.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is requesting DDT campaign documents about Russian contacts and requested “all communications to, from, or copied to the Trump campaign relating to” a list of 41 individuals that includes presidential candidate Jill Stein.

After spending almost an entire hour telling national security advisers the he didn’t want to preserve the nuclear agreement with Iran, DDT declared that Iran is complying with its agreement. The GOP needs its failure to support their opposition, but DDT has twice confirmed Iranian compliance.

Business is shrinking at DDT’s branded properties, especially in L.A. and the Bronx.

Identification of the eighth person at a collusion meeting with DDT’s son-in-law and oldest son reveals Irakly Kaveladze who may be part of a $1.4 billion money-laundering scheme of Russian and Eastern European money through U.S. banks. The major figure in the meeting, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, denied any connection to the Kremlin, but she represented the Russian spy agency FSB which followed the KGB.  Russian president, Vladimir Putin, worked for the KGB until 1999.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker will block U.S. arms sales to six Middle East nations until they settle the blockade against Qatar. DDT sided against Qatar, but U.S. intelligence found that the conflict started after the United Arab Emirates planted false information on Qatari government news and social media sites.

DDT’s approval rating of 38.8 percent for his second quarter is below all other presidents in over a half century, in some case far below.

DDT’s week theme, “Made in America,” creates media attention to DDT’s “Made outside America” approaches:

Much of DDT-branded products are manufactured offshore—clothing in Mexico and China as well as steel and aluminum in China.  But he’s already coming under fire for the move, given that Trump-branded products are often manufactured overseas.

Ivanka Trump’s fashion lines are produced by low-wage workers in places such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and China. The company said that it won’t be selling clothing and shoes made in the U.S.

DDT has expanded the H-2B visa program for temporary workers from 66,000 to 81,000. Some of these workers will be at DDT’s Florida properties. DDT said that the U.S. suffers from a shortage of workers.

Jared Kushner is still selling visas and green cards for $500,000 to foreigners who invest in his properties.

DDT is slashing funds for a government program that helps U.S. companies stay ahead of foreign rivals. He is also cutting a number of other programs to improve jobs, including ones in manufacturing, in the U.S.

One year ago, DDT said, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” –Donald J. Trump, August, 2016  Zeke Miller, White House correspondent for Time, reports that Trump will be at his Bedminster, NJ golf course from August 3rd to the 20th.  Told senators to stay in town until they gave him a health bill, but he’s headed on vacation for his 200th day—and a lot of others. Trump has already spent $47,378,438 on his wasteful sixteen golfing trips. He’s spent a total of eleven days at Bedminster and twenty-five at Mar-a-Lago. Of his first 200 days, he’s spent 20 at Bedminster (NJ) and 25 at Mar-a-Lago. More DDT/golf stories here. That’s over 22 percent of his first 200 days in the White House. There would be more if he hadn’t spent three weekends or traveling from Europe. DDT complained how much time President Obama spent on the links—once in his first 14 weeks in office. DDT has golfed three times more than the combined golfing of his past three predecessors. Last weekend he bragged in seven separate tweets about seeing the Women’s Open while he spent the time at his Bedminster (NJ) resort.

Losing DDT, however, might exalt VP Mike Pence into the top U.S. position. One example of Pence’s narrow world view is his co-sponsorship of Ralph Drollinger for bible study. Pence and at least six cabinet members have joined congressional members to learn from Drollinger. Beyond his bigotry toward LGBTQ people, Catholics, and females, Drollinger states that God hears prayers only from “Christians”—no Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc. need apply.  He also claims that the bible does not support “influential” separation, that the church should win politicians’ souls or replace them with people who are “strong in Christ Public Servants.” The nation should have “God-fearing righteous judges,” not ones who support abortion or “make up rights for the unrighteous.”

During his campaign, DDT asked blacks what they had to lose by voting for him. For the second year in a row, he has refused to speak at the NAACP conference, the first sitting president who denied the invitation in over 30 years.

May 2, 2017

DDT’s Licence to Discriminate

Filed under: LGBTQ Issues — trp2011 @ 9:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” That’s what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said at the Republican National Convention almost a year ago. Immediately after DDT’s inauguration, his press secretary said:

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

In his 15th week in office, DDT plans to sign another executive order, this one removing all rights that he can from LGBTQ people. It is labeled “religious liberty,” the term that allows anyone to discriminate against not only LGBTQ people but also anyone else based on what people call their “religious beliefs.” DDT waited until after his first 100 days in office to make this move. Supposedly his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, talked DDT out of signing the hateful order in early February, but super-“religions” VP Mike Pence worked with administration officials to “rewrite” the order. New verbiage is very little different from the original, according to people who have seen it. With Pence involved, discrimination is not surprising: when he was governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” bill that had to be redone because of millions in lost revenue to the state.

The grand signing is scheduled for Thursday, National Prayer Day, in front of a proud Pence and other conservative leaders. The original draft order, leaked on February 1, was highly criticized as government-licensed discrimination and quietly disappeared. Thursday is also the day that Leonard Leo, DDT’s adviser to select Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court, receives the annual Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund—a “religious freedom” activist group.

DDT has already shown animosity toward the LGBTQ population through his selection of Cabinet members and other administration leaders. AG Jeff Sessions consistently opposes legal protections for LGBT people and voted against the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protections for LGBT survivors of sexual violence under the Violence Against Women Act, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He led the support for the amendment to a constitutional amendment that would have kept same-gender couples from marrying. Sessions’ Hate Crime Subcommittee protects people only on the basis of “religious beliefs or background.” Sessions also withdrew the lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that included discrimination regarding which bathrooms could be used by transgender people. At the same time, he “persuaded” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke early guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students, stopping lawsuits regarding the rights of transgender students.

Other DDT discrimination against LGBT people:

  • LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency at the same time that other federal websites kept its content.
  • DDT’s Muslim and refugee ban is a death sentence for many LGBTQ people seeking safety in the United States.
  • DDT’s State Department sent two anti-LGBTQ organizations as the only civil society representatives to the UN annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This UN commission is important to LGBT rights because of its recommendations. Both DDT delegations rely on fake science and fabricated data to support their views.
  •  DDT’s appointment to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Roger Severino, has said that transgender equality is “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
  • DDT revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act that removed mandates from companies receiving labor contracts that included the removal of LGBTQ rights. Less than two months earlier, the White House had declared that “the executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
  • LGBTQ questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity disappeared from the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census because, according to the Department of Commerce, there was “no federal data need” to measure numbers of LGBTQ people.
  • DDT nominated for Army Secretary a LGBTQ-hater, Mark Green, who referred to being transgender as a “disease.” If confirmed, Green would replace, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay may to be the Secretary.
  • DDT’s recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-LGBT purge of longtime LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

A leaked copy of an earlier draft executive order, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” may be similar—if not as bad as—the order to be revealed later this week. The four-page draft covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” It creates wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity as well as curtailing women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.” To summarize, the February order said that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

The definition of “religious exercise” extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” It lists specific beliefs and gives governmental protection to those who have those beliefs. The language seems similar to last year’s law from Mississippi, declared in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The original draft exempted people or organizations from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s preventative-care mandate that includes contraceptive coverage and require insurance not be required to cover abortion or “subsidize[s] plans that do provide such coverage.” The government could also not take action against federally funded child-welfare organizations, such as those providing foster, adoption, or family support services, if they deny services based on “the organization’s religious beliefs.” The order would allow federally-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people to the point of removing children from their homes.

The ACLU is prepared to sue whenever DDT signs the order. His mandate violates federal law and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as licensing individuals and private parties to violate federal law. In addition, it could violate the 1st Amendment regarding religion and state. Such an order uses a set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity to control everyone.

As Nico Lang wrote about the upcoming order:

“LGBT people, for lack of a better word, would be screwed. This order, if it were to be signed, would allow employers to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, permit doctors to deny life-saving services to trans people, and enable landlords to refuse housing to same-sex couples. It would realize the worst fears of the LGBT community by relegating us to second-class citizens.”

Conclusions: DDT never keeps his promise unless it gets him money or good press, and one of his basic goals is to overturn anything that President Obama did. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ people—mostly gay white men—voted for DDT because they love guns and hate minorities. We’ll see if DDT keeps their loyalty after he signs the order.

Next Page »

AGR Daily 60 Second News Bites

Transformational News In 60 Seconds; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: