Nel's New Day

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.

 

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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: LGBT 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.

April 17, 2017

Pence, A Scary Dude

The far-right and even a few liberal pundits had a meltdown a few weeks ago about ridicule and outrage directed toward VP Mike Pence. The subject was the “Billy Graham Rule” of 1948 that banned men from certain social and business situations. A man cannot have dinner alone with another woman: he must take his wife with him. In addition, a man cannot be without his wife if he is with other people where alcohol is served. I don’t know if a man can have coffee alone with a woman; I haven’t read the complete code.

In the 21st century, the United States vice president has a behavioral code that diminishes women to sluts who will all attack a man if they are alone with him at a dinner. And he’s not alone in this belief: females are frequently made responsible for all male transgressions toward them—infidelity, sexual assault, etc. Beyond demeaning women, the “rule” removes women from all professional interactions in networking, mentoring, and one-to-one time. An anonymous 2015 National Journal survey of female staffers in Congress showed that exclusion from one-on-one time with their male bosses was a “huge impediment to moving up.”

For centuries, women have been “protected” from opportunities in education and the job market. The discrimination starts early with school dress codes only for girls. For example, a dress code in a North Carolina public charter school requires girls to wear skirts and bans their wearing pants. The school’s founder, Baker Mitchell, explained that the mandate is “to preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men” and that a woman is “a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor.” A school board supported the requirement as preparation for workplaces with gendered clothing, beginning with an example of the restaurant Hooters.

All school dress codes for girls follow Pence’s example—that they are a “distraction” to males: it’s the female responsibility to control men’s “baser urges.” Enforcement is then used to shame and victim-blame girls. Another solution in schools for “protection” is single-sex classrooms, following the Pence Plan. School officials reason that teenage boys are “distracted” from school work by the presence of girls. The program is not intended to teach young people to work together as equals because in a Pence World, there is no need.

A serious disadvantage of the Pence Plan for more secular people is that, as a far-right evangelical Christian, he thinks that everyone should behave in the way that he does. “Religious freedom” allows anyone to deny everyone else anything if the “religious” person disagrees with the beliefs or actions of the other person. If a Muslim, such as Keith Ellison, were to refuse to have dinner alone with a woman not his wife, evangelicals would be grabbing their petitions to prevent Sharia Law. The former CEO of the blog RedState agreed with the Pence Plan saying that his eating alone with woman not his spouse is acceptable only for “planning your spouse’s surprise party or funeral and that is it.” He is a strong supporter of the party that elected the man who rejoiced in his right to grab “pussy” whenever he wished.

Melania Trump, almost invisible in her role as First Lady, said in a speech at the state department’s International Women of Courage Awards:

“We must continue to fight injustice in all its forms, in whatever scale or shape it takes in our lives.”

Yet that same week during Women’s History Month, Press Secretary Sean Spicer ordered reporter April Ryan not to shake her head at him, and Fox host (maybe) Bill O’Reilly, known for his sexual assaults, ridiculed Rep. Maxine Walters’ (D-CA) hair. DDT asked a group of women if they had ever heard of Susan B. Anthony. In Iowa, a legislator wants a pregnant woman to carry her dead fetus to term because it “saves babies’ lives.”

The day after he addressed a “Women’s Empowerment Panel” at the White House, VP Mike Pence cast the 51st deciding vote to stop mandates for states to deliver family planning services to people with low income through Planned Parenthood—about four million patients across the nation. Spicer said that DDT “made women’s empowerment a priority,” but Pence took away women’s empowerment to get contraceptives, well-woman exams, and cancer screenings. Pence, like DDT, has meetings with no or few women present. Far-right males love this position because of their anger about losing their rightful superiority to women and minorities. Their ticket won with the biggest gender gap in a presidential election while men wore “Trump That Bitch” T-shirts. Pence has joined DDT in removing the ability of women to decide their futures—even when or if to have children. The game plan is to win the next election with male-domination.

Those who want to impeach DDT need to think about the fact that DDT is the only person blocking the United States from male Christian domination by the Family or the Fellowship, an evangelical cult with an office on Capitol Hill.  In his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Jeff Sharlett writes:

“The enemy, to them, is secularism. They want a God-led government. That’s the only legitimate government. So when they speak of business, they’re speaking not of something separate from God, but they’re speaking of what, in Mike Pence’s circles, would be called biblical capitalism, the idea that this economic system is God-ordained.”

An example of Pence’s determination to overcome government officials is his hiring a private law firm when Indiana’s attorney general refused to join a lawsuit to overturn President Obama’s executive order about immigrants, charging taxpayers for the cost, and then hiding information about it. When a citizen filed a public records request for the cost and other communications, Pence argued that the courts had no control over what he chose to reveal. An appeals court rejected Pence’s argument but agreed with Pence that the information was privileged attorney-client communication. The basis of the lawsuit, originated by Texas senior official Daniel Hodge, is its attempt to control executive orders—which should be embarrassing for a man who works for a president who constantly signs executive orders. Before DDT, Pence agreed that “the unchecked expansion of executive authority … threatens the constitutional balance of power.” That argument has disappeared with a Republican president. Another Pence problem is the scrutiny regarding his use of a private email account to conduct state business while he was Indiana’s governor. Pence frequently criticized Hillary Clinton for her private email server.

Pence’s issues go far deeper than the problems listed above. Following is my letter published in the Eugene Register Guard:

People who believe that the “scientific method … is in no danger from Vice President Mike Pence’s … religion” should consider his history. As governor of Indiana, he signed a bill into law forcing women to carry non-viable pregnancies to term. Not only anti-abortion in all cases, he also cosponsored legislation to ban common forms of contraception, stem-cell research, and in vitro fertilization. Believing that LGBT people can be made heterosexual, he supported electroshock therapy for LGBT children and fought marriage equality. His opposition to HIV/AIDS programs started a full-blown epidemic in his own state.

In his refusal to believe science, he said “global warming is a myth” and thinks that smoking isn’t harmful to health because only one-third of smokers die from a smoking-related illness. According to Pence, even the smallest quantity of cannabis possession should be a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Pence refused to comply with federal rules to reduce prison rape, tried to ban state agencies from bringing Syrian refugees into his state, and defended the Iraq War, calling it a “victory.”

Mike Pence is anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-elders, anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-nonChristian, anti-media, anti-science, and pro-war. He is more dangerous than the current president because he is a religious zealot, determined to force everyone in the nation to follow his far-right non-scientific evangelical Christian view of the world. None of his beliefs have any connection with “the scientific method.”

More information about Pence is here and here.

Mike Pence is now playing president in Asia, claiming that “the era of strategic patience is over” with North Korea and that the bombing of Syria and Afghanistan shows our “strength and resolve.” No matter how tough Pence tries to look, he’ll have trouble out-bullying Kim Jong-Un. The result may be another war in Korea—if we don’t expire from nuclear weapons. But then Pence loves a good holy war. At least the military–not Pence or DDT–is making all decisions regarding strikes, bombings, and other warlike activities. Even with all the civilians who they have killed, the Pentagon may have more sense than the two men elected vice president and president.

March 11, 2017

DDT: Week Seven – Russia, Other Lies

 

Drawn to bright shiny things, the media moved from the lies told by VP Mike Pence and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to the firing of 46 U.S. attorneys general. But let’s move back to Pence and DDT.

Pence and DDT Lie:  The people who need “extreme vetting” are not immigrants—they are DDT and his minions. Nobody checks them for their ties to mobs, Russian oligarchs, their shady investment fraud, or even their jobs like Michael Flynn’s lobbying for Turkey while DDT is also paying him. Although Flynn was not registered as a foreign agent, he and his company were paid $530,000 during DDT’s campaign to influence U.S. policy on behalf of Turkey. DDT’s people, including VP Mike Pence, were shocked to hear about it this week. And DDT’s people, including Pence, were lying. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent Pence a letter on November 18 asking for more information about possible conflicts of Flynn’s lobbying work:

“Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests.”

Before Flynn took the position of National Security Adviser, his lawyer told the DDT transition team that he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey, and Mike Pence was head of the team. Yet he said that he had not heard anything about Flynn’s actions for Turkey until this week. DDT said he fired Flynn because he misled Pence about his work for Turkey, but DDT lied because Pence knew about it when Flynn was fired. Flynn’s attorneys also told DDT’s legal counsel team about his employee registering as a foreign agent before the inauguration and again in the early days of DDT’s term. DDT also lied when he said that he didn’t meet with the Russian ambassador during his campaign.

Either DDT knew and didn’t tell, leaving him inappropriate to be president, or DDT didn’t know, leaving him inappropriate to be president because he should have known. Throughout DDT’s campaign, both Flynn and DDT accused Hillary Clinton of pay-to-play controversies with federal governments. Flynn delighted in the RNC crowd screaming “Lock her up!” He said, “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.” He did.

Legal challenges against DDT’s travel ban mount: The Muslim.ban 2.0 is out, and four states—Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington—joined Hawaii, the first state to sue the president because of the executive order’s blatant discrimination and severe damage to tourism. Oregon added that the order will injure its residents, employers, agencies, educational institutions, and health care system. The order can also be challenged because of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which bars discrimination on the basis of “a person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.”

GOP health care problems rise: A major part of this week’s news has been the desperate move by the GOP to pass its version of healthcare intended to make the wealthy wealthier, release insurance companies from control, and take insurance away from the poor. In the past, I’ve called it “GOPcare,” but it’s acquired the name of TrumpCare, much to DDT’s distress. It’s the first time that he hasn’t wanted his name on something: he’s even applying for trademarks in China to have his name on condoms and escort services. The final plan is pretty much as expected, but there are a few extra perks. For example, it would give tax breaks to any insurance CEO making over $500,000, something that the Secretary of the Health and Human Services, Tom Price, didn’t know until he was asked about it. The marathon hearing before the passage of the bill in committee lacked any witnesses and is opposed not only by Democrats, AARP, and AMA but also by some GOP members and the insurance industry.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) announcement that healthy people pay for sick people indicates that he hasn’t grasped the concept of all insurance: premiums from people who don’t need the benefits pay for the disasters of the others who pay premiums. Every person arguing against the Affordable Care Act use generalities such as “death spiral” and “disaster” with no specifics is problems. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), whose health insurance is paid by the government, claims that other people should be responsible for their own health. His novel approach was the assertion that people should not buy $700 iPhones to find thousands of dollars for health care. Chaffetz gets a government-issued cellphone, and his donors pay for his monthly cellphone charges.

TrumpCare passed the committee vote without anyone knowing the estimate economic cost or the number of people who would lose insurance. In the past, Republicans asked first about any bill’s price tag, but they don’t care about this one. In charge because DDT took Price out of the loop, DDT’s budget chief, Mike Mulvaney, said that “insurance is not really the end goal here.” Republicans don’t care how much taxpayers will be on the hook or how much people will lose. They don’t consider how many jobs will be lost or how disastrous their changes will be to the economy. Republicans don’t care that health experts from the all sides agree that TrumpCare won’t work. Some of them even say that the bill could unravel the individual insurance market.

Read the fine print in DDT promises: DDT justifies his Muslim ban and draconian immigrant orders because he’ll do everything he says he’ll do. He promised to use only U.S. steel in “all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipelines” inside the U.S. His fine print, however, stated “to the maximum extent possible.” Therefore the Keystone XL Pipeline won’t be built with U.S. steel. DDT made the excuse that the pipeline is already being constructed, but the real reason is that TransCanada will drop its $15-billion lawsuit against the U.S. with NAFTA that it suspended last week after DDT okayed the pipeline project. The company had alleged that the U.S. government failed to protect Canadian investor in accordance with international law.

DDT’s negotiations don’t work with Planned Parenthood: DDT told Planned Parenthood he would guarantee federal funding for their services if they stopped providing abortions. PP’s president, Cecile Richards, immediately said no. No federal funds pay for abortions at PP, and the offer sets a horrible precedent to threatening all hospitals with no federal funds if they provide any abortions. At this time, only 28 percent of people want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

DDT’s tweets calm down: Kept in the White House for the first weekend since the one immediately following his inauguration, DDT’s Twitter account still sent lies (“Obamacare imploding” and “great progress with health care”). Earlier in the week, he tweeted, “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield.” Actually, the George W. Bush administration sent 113 of them back. DDT did manage to get his ninth round of golf in this weekend since his inauguration, an average of one every five days.

DDT faces another lawsuit: D.C. restaurant Cork Winebar filed a lawsuit against Trump’s D.C. hotel claiming unfair competition because people are trying to curry favor with DDT. The owners are not seeking damages, only an order barring the DDT’s D.C. hotel from continuing to operate while President Trump still owns it.

Which one is bigger? Compulsive about comparing himself to President Obama, DDT insisted that the National Park Service produce photographs of his inauguration crowd size to prove that his was bigger than that of President Obama. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from media outlets, these official photographs of the National Mall, one in 2009 and the other eight years later, show a huge difference between the 1.8 million for President Obama and the generous guess of 800,000 for his successor. At least DDT had more than the 300,000 people who turned out for George W. Bush’s first inauguration.

For a little cheer, check out Cocktails for Survival Over 50 drink recipes for DDT survival include drinks like “The Wall,” “The Bad Hombre,” “Trumple Thinskin,” and “The 400 Pound Hacker.” There’s also Putin’s Puppet, half a dozen Twitter Beefs (page 29), and a Pussy Grabber or two. Also available is a blog with a recipe for “The Sessions.”

Finish off with the best of Stephen Colbert’s humor from The Late Show when he gets help from construction experts to assess costs for his “big, “powerful,” “impenetrable,” “physical” and “beautiful” wall in order to meet DDT’s promises.

 

 

February 20, 2017

DDT’s First Month

Comparisons of work during the first month are always popular in the first term of any president, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes the job more interesting than in the past. During his first month as president, Barack Obama had addressed the financial crisis by passing a stimulus bill totaling almost $1 billion dollars, approved a bill to prevent pay discrimination, expanded children’s health insurance, banned torture, started the foundation for major health care and financial regulation bills, and saw his approval ratings increase by 27 percent. The current Congress is fighting among the majority party, and DDT has largely signed mostly meaningless executor orders largely “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Narcissist DDT, however, has preened himself regarding his accomplishments. At his 77-minute press conference last week, he said, “There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time.” He continued to lie by claiming that his administration is a “fine-tuned machine” and “had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban.”

Gallup poll ratings of 40 percent for DDT make Bill Clinton’s 51 percent at this time in his presidency look very good. Instead of spiking during his first month, DDT’s ratings went down from 45 percent when he took office to 40 percent and is now 21 points lower than the average 61 per cent for other a half century.

DDT’s “accomplishments”:

  • His signature policy, the Muslim ban, was overturned in court.
  • His national security had to resign in disgrace.
  • His nominee for secretary of the Labor department had to withdraw his name in disgrace.
  • His vice-president had to break a tie for the 50 percent vote that his Secretary of Education for the first time in history in confirming a cabinet appointee.
  • He and his campaign staff are being investigated for involvement in Russia’s influence on the presidential election while he equates Russia and the U.S. in being “killers.”
  • He nominated activist Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice to swing that court to the far right.
  • He denied the value of a two-state solution in the Middle East, possibly denying the beleaguered Palestinians their country.
  • He has declared war on the intelligence community, the press, the judicial system, and possibly Congress.
  • He lied three-fourths of the time.
  • He made untold profits on his private business and more money by overturning the restriction on building the Dakota pipeline because he owns stock in the contractor.
  • He signed two bills, one to allow coal companies to despoil 6,000 miles of streams and the other to permit bribery by foreign governments to the oil industry for favors.
  • He signed the Mexico City Policy to deny millions of women in third-world countries reproductive health care.
  • He and his family spent $12 million in travel, the same amount that President Obama and his family spent in a year. That amount doesn’t include the maintenance of his home for his wife and son in Manhattan.
  • He alienated countries such as Mexico and Australia, formerly U.S. allies.
  • He is making India great again by rejecting the best and brightest tech talent that might emigrate to the United states, according to Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
  • He is making China great again by conceding economic influence and abandoning U.S. moral leadership, especially after he caved and agreed with the one-China policy with nothing in return for the U.S.
  • He promised to raise costs of goods for people in the United States with a tariff, that is now being called a “border adjustment tax.” The result would make foreign-held debt far more valuable, raising the U.S. debt by hundreds of billions of dollars without any more borrowing.
  • He made White House affairs less secure by keeping an unsecured phone and holding sensitive conferences in front of the public.
  • He filled the White House press corps with people so-called reporters well known for publishing truly “fake news,” including the newest addition of Lucian Wintrich, who started his blog two months ago. Wintrich gained fame with his “Twinks4Trump,” photographs of mostly shirtless gay young men wearing DDT’s red Make America Great Again baseball caps. Headlines at his new Gateway Pundit include “OMG! More Liberal #FakeNews – Claim of Trump Anti-LGBT Bill Is Complete Crap.” Conservative blogger Erick Ericsson called Gateway Pundit a “cesspool of fake news” and said that inviting Wintrich to press briefings does “a great disservice” to the American people. It represents DDT’s new “journalism.”
  • He has a budget draft hit list of programs that includes the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation (civil-court legal aid program), AmeriCorps, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, and the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. (His projected growth is also about 3.5 percent every year after the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget office project growth at 2 percent.)
  • He played a lot of golf—at least six times in his first month although he tries to hide his games because he incessantly criticized President Obama, who averaged under 40 rounds of golf a year throughout his two terms. During his campaign, DDT told audiences that he wouldn’t have any time to play golf because he would be working for the people.
  • He brought together people in the United States in gigantic protest actions.

(I’m sure I’m missing many more “accomplishments” during DDT’s first month.)

What’s missing:

  • Appointments for 515 positions out of 549 that need to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • Anything about infrastructure improvements, health care reform, jobs. or tax reform.
  • Help for people.
  • Leadership.

Another Do-Nothing Congress:  Republican legislators always promise that all they need to stop gridlock is to have a majority in Congress, but all they have done thus far is overturn a few Obama-era resolutions that benefited the people in the country and confirmed some racist billionaires for DDT’s cabinet. DDT promised action the first day, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a 200-day agenda for only health care and tax reform. That takes Congress close to the fall season of the first year to take action.

Meanwhile Ryan’s plan to put tariffs on imports has caused savvy billionaire Warren Buffet to dispose of 90 percent of his Walmart stock. The Senate is not on board, and even DDT calls it too complex. At the same time, Buffet is putting his money into Boeing that is expanding its sales of military aircraft to India—perhaps up to $12 billion in sales.

Never Mind What DDT Says: The job of DDT’s officials at this time is to tell the world that the United States won’t do what DDT says. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced in Baghdad that “we’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil” after DDT said on his first full day that the U.S. might “have another chance” to keep the oil. Nikki Haley, DDT’s ambassador to the United Nations, insisted, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.” A bipartisan group of senators told Australian officials to ignore DDT’s rejection of the country. Jon Finer described the situation as “an unprecedented degree of policy incoherence on virtually every major issue the country faces.”

VP Mike Pence, who claimed he was speaking on behalf of DDT to NATO, swore that the U.S. is committed to European security and the transatlantic partnership. He also assured attendees at a news conference that both he and Trump “support a free and independent press” the day after DDT called the news media the “enemy of the American people.” As Eugene Robinson said, “They’re sweeping as fast as they can,” referring to cleaning up after elephants in a circus parade.

The uniting of people in the U.S. is reminiscent of 2010 when conservative leadership, including Dick Armey, guided the Tea Party into protesting the Affordable Care Act and gained a majority in the U.S. House. Because of these tactics, Republicans think that progressive protesters are being paid, but the marches and other protests against conservative policy is truly grassroots. Much of the organization of groups started after the posting of the Indivisible Guide, a civic engagement manual written by former congressional staffers. Within a few weeks of the guide’s posting on the internet, over a million copies had been downloaded, and over 6,000 protest groups had been formed.

posterPeople all over the nation are demanding that congressional legislators represent them instead of the top one percent. The Senate received an average of 1.5 million telephone calls each day in the week after the inauguration—the heaviest in history. The protests have so frightened legislators that they have largely stopped having town hall meetings. From 212 meetings during the same time last year, the number has dropped to 88, and one person alone is having 35 of those. In my state of Oregon, one senator alone is having seven town hall meetings this week, and my representative is having two, showing that vast majority of the 535 members of Congress are hiding from their constituents.

Protesters are planning a number of marches during the next few months. This past weekend, people commemorated Presidents’ Day with “Not My President” marches. Three marches are scheduled for April: Tax Day March, demanding that DDT release his tax returns (April 15); Science (April 22); and Climate (April 29). These are followed by the Immigrants March on May 6 and National Pride March on June 11. These are marches of the people, by the people, and for the people–not made up of paid protesters.

December 1, 2016

The Plague Returns

It has been exactly 25 years since the identified beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Initially it was called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), but the name morphed into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the last stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV). Originally thought to be non-existent until 1981, research now shows that its development may have come for the harsh colonial practices in French Equatorial Africa of forced labor, unsafe injections and vaccinations with unsterilized needles, and the use of “bushmeat” for food during the beginning of the 20th century.

A false sense of morality kept conservatives from stopping the onslaught of the disease during Ronald Reagan’s reign because they thought that AIDS was limited to gay men despite the fact that half those infected were non-gay. As president, Ronald Reagan didn’t even use the term “AIDS” in public for almost five years in spite of the thousands of people dying from the disease, and he failed to give a speech on the epidemic for another two years. Federal laws even kept people with AIDS from being permitted to fly on commercial airplanes.

In the past 25 years, 650,000 people in the United States died of AIDS and hundreds of thousands more were stigmatized. More people might have died if AIDS activists had not taken to the streets to force research on drugs, awareness policies, and help from the government. A new book from David France, How to Survive a Plague, chronicles the pain, frustration, anger, and work from activists over the 15 years in which the government fought them from saving lives following his Oscar-nominated documentary film four years ago.

Andrew Sullivan writes in The New York Times:  

“Here again are the manifestations of terror: the purple cancerous lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, fatal when they migrated to your lungs; toxoplasmosis — a brain disease that turned 20-somethings into end-stage Alzheimer’s patients; pneumocystis carinii, which flooded your lungs until you drowned; cytomegalovirus, which led to blindness, so that young men in AIDS wards were ‘hugging walls and scraping the air to find their nurses’; molluscum contagiosum, covering the body in ‘small, barnacle-like papules’ that oozed pus; peripheral neuropathy, with which a mere brush of a sheet against your skin felt like an electric shock; and cryptosporidiosis, a parasite that took over people’s gastrointestinal tract, slowly starving them to death. It’s been over a decade since those Latin nouns were household words in gay life, and reading them still traumatizes.”

The brave activists fought for help, and the fight extended survival time from 18 months to 22 months after a long nine years. Deaths geometrically increased as drugs failed and researchers refused to try new ones. Yet the gay men stayed at the center of organizing drug trials and meeting with pharmaceutical executives after they made their point by taking over their offices.

Author France not only writes brilliantly but also exhaustively researches his subject. As a journalist, he was a part of the fight during these 15 years, first at the biweekly New York LGBT newspaper Native and later undercover at the New York Post where he was soon fired after the editor “found out you’re gay.”

Cynthia Carr writes:

“France’s book focuses on the science: the work of early caregiver-researchers like Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and his activist-patient Michael Callen; the search by AIDS patients for illegal—or even homemade—cures; the dithering at agencies like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that were supposedly studying treatments. Ultimately, center stage goes to the small group of activists who created the Treatment Action Group (TAG), an offshoot of ACT UP, and who managed to work their way inside the pharmaceutical industry. By 1996, fifteen years after the first reports of a “gay cancer,” antiretroviral drugs called protease inhibitors were allowing many patients to manage an HIV/AIDS infection. What becomes clear in How to Survive a Plague, above all, is that it needn’t have taken so long—to put it mildly.

plague“Unknown to any doctor or patient, at that point, scientists had already discovered the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Yes, early in 1983, at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. I’ve always found this to be one of the most shocking stories to emerge from the plague years, and France is not the first to tell it: how American scientist Dr. Robert Gallo tried to take the credit for this discovery after French scientist Dr. Luc Montagnier sent him samples of what would later be called HIV. Long story short, this delayed both meaningful research and the release of an antibody test.

“Then, when that first antibody test did become available, in 1985, most gay men refused to take it for fear that they would lose their jobs, their housing, and their health insurance. Most cities, including New York, had no gay-rights legislation in place. In fact, gay sex was still illegal in many states. That year, twenty state legislatures debated quarantining people with AIDS, while Republican congressman William Dannemeyer introduced a raft of homophobic legislation, including a bill that would give a long prison term to any gay person who tried to donate blood. There was simply no upside to taking the test. There were no treatments.”

“Say No to Drugs” was the mantra of the 1980s thanks to Nancy Reagan, and just owning syringes was illegal in many states.  Other countries controlled the AIDS epidemic. The German government provided funding to gay community NGOs and invited them to develop their own prevention projects. Britain publicized the problem through a campaign of “AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance.” Western countries created needle-exchange programs, distributed free syringes, and developed opiate-substitution treatment. Germany had needle-vending machines, and England and Wales distributed 25 million free syringes each year by 1997. In the United States, however, where 40,000 people develop HIV annually, the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges remained until 2009 and then was replaced in 2011 after the Tea Party swept over Congress.

With the new Trump/Pence administration, HIV and AIDS cases could soar. People would lose their medications through the disappearance of the “pre-existing condition” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Southern states have had the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses but refused federal Medicaid funding which could provide HIV meds.

When Mike Pence became governor of Indiana, the state experienced its worst HIV outbreak in its history, worsened by Pence’s decision to maintain the state ban on needle exchanges and slash funding for HIV testing facilities. This is the same governor who just gave away $7 million of public taxes to keep 1,000 jobs at Carrier in the state. Pence also tried to defund Planned Parenthood, a key HIV test source. Blamed for the HIV outbreak, Pence prayed about the problem.

Pence campaigned for Congress in 2000 by promising he would take funding away from HIV/AIDS drug research to put into organizations that would prevent LGBT behavior. He wrote, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” His policy is to “cure the gay” and ignore HIV.

If Tom Price is confirmed for health secretary, he would control federal programs responsible for conducting HIV/AIDS research, education, treatment, and prevention. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is tasked with developing policy to combat HIV nationally. Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that questions whether HIV causes AIDS. He also wants to erase the ACA, slash Medicaid funding, and privatize Medicare.

When Ebola became a threat in the United States with a very few cases, President Obama took action and stopped it. The first observed case of AIDS in the United States was followed by 15 years of ignoring the issue or joking about it. The new administration, backed up by an ultra-conservative Congress, will most likely cause HIV diagnoses and AIDS deaths to soar.

Today is the 29th annual World Aids Day, always on December 1, dedicated to raising awareness of the disease caused by HIV. You can commemorate the day by reading How to Survive a Plague, because the election of Trump and Pence pretty much guarantees that the epidemic will return.

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