Nel's New Day

June 4, 2020

Is ‘Divide & Conquer’ Working?

What a bizarre week! And to say that after the chaos created by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for almost four years is not done lightly. In the space of two days, DOD Secretary Mark Esper claimed that he had no idea why he was walking after DDT for a photo-op, opposed deploying the military against protesters through the Insurrection Act of 1807, said he would send city police forces and National Guard back to their home bases, wouldn’t send them back after talking to DDT, and then changed his mind—again—to say he would send 700 troops home. And he decided he did know that he was going with DDT to his photo-op at the church across the street after firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters. His other confusion was who was responsible for the flight of helicopters flying low over the streets to kick up debris that can physically hurt peaceful protesters. He could have read the media: Ryan McCarthy, Army secretary, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army chief of staff, organized the attack from an FBI command center complete with maps.

Then there’s the bunker fiasco. Angered by looking weak, DDT lied about seeking safety in the White House protective area last Friday and said that he was giving it an “inspection.” Anyone who read Andy Borowitz’s satiric piece about the “inspection” might think it was a joke. Borowitz wrote that DDT “discovered that the underground facility was covered in dust because Barack Obama never used it.” In the humor piece, Borowitz said that President Obama was “disrespectful to the bunker” for not using it. In the satire, DDT also pointed out that Barack Obama “never used the Insurrection Act of 1807,” concluding, “I don’t even know why Obama wanted to be President… Obama is a mess.” DDT really did lie about the fact that he was sent to the bunker for safety, resulting in a number of protest signs reading “Bunker Bitch.”

Military leaders, past and present, are fed up with DDT’s politicizing the military and violating law and the Constitution by threatening to send the military to fire on protesters. In a Foreign Policy piece, John Allen, retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general, and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, vigorously opposed DDT’s divisive and bragging comments about how his MAGA supporters “love African American people. They love black people. MAGA loves the black people.” Allen wrote:

White supremacists have murdered, lynched, tortured, terrorized, oppressed, and discriminated against black Americans from the beginning of the idea of America. They have killed black Americans by the thousands, often in the most horrific ways imaginable. Far more damage to the United States has come from these terrorists—fascists, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis, all feeling newly empowered today—than those who have opposed them.”

Allen continued about the irony of a president who called himself the “ally of peaceful protesters” who uses tear gas to attack a peaceful demonstration with no provocation.

DDT wasn’t finished with co-opting St. John’s Episcopal Church for his Monday photo-op; he told federal police to block clergy from using the same church by closing a street. Bishop Mariann Budde planned a vigil today to show solidarity for protesters on the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre when the authoritarian Chinese government used military to kill hundreds or thousands of protesters gathering peacefully for democratic reforms. Without a vigil, she held a sit down and discussion. At the nearby AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, protesters had water, snacks, and other supplies for people in the 90-degree weather.

The DEA also has complete authority to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on people participating in protests. The statute limits DEA to enforcing drug-related federal crimes, but Timothy Shea, Barr’s close friend, said he has approval for the DEA “to perform other law enforcement duties” Barr may “deem appropriate.” Barr said the FBI, DEA, US Marshals, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be “deployed to support local efforts to enforce federal law” blaming, with no evidence, “anarchistic and far left extremists.” Agents are to share intelligence with state and local law enforcement authorities.

Barr already militarized prison guards and possibly others to move through Washington, D.C. revealing neither their affiliation nor their personal identities. No one knows what assignments any of these people have. They do belong to a military operation, however—“Operation Themis,” meaning “Divine Law and Order.” And they have bayonets as well as riot gear. The Lincoln Monument, honoring the president who freed the slaves, now has military troops to protect the president who wants to enslave black protesters. 

The FBI has found no evidence that Antifa, the far-left people Barr and DDT blamed for the protests, has any involvement. Reports indicate that white supremacist groups pretend to be Antifa. Twitter has already taken down a troll account belonging to the far-right white nationalist group Evropa called ANTIFA_US and claiming to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Three former servicemen, active in the far-right “boogaloo” movement to create chaos through violence with racist civil war as the goal, were arrested for attempting that in Las Vegas. Antifa, meaning anti-fascism, has no organization but a common purpose of opposition to the far-right authoritarianism. The White House got caught accusing “professional anarchists” of “staging bricks and weapons to instigate violence,” but the cage of bricks was a security measure to protect the Chabad of Sherman Oaks (CA) from being rammed by anti-Semitic car ramming attacks. The same lies were made about bins of blocks left on a street corner seven miles away from protests.

Most GOP legislators, as cowardly as DDT, used dodge and duck to avoid questions about DDT’s behavior. Only three Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), and Ben Sasse (NE)—criticized DDT’s actions. Even those three didn’t mind gassing people to get a photo-op at the church. Murkowski and Romney came around after the Atlantic published James Mattis’ criticism about DDT. The rest of GOP senators? It’s the media’s fault. Didn’t see it. I have to go to lunch. No comment. Photographer Jerry Avenaim tweeted about Ron Johnson’s (WI) hadn’t seen DDT’s statements:

“This was the same response in Nazi Germany.”

In The New Republic, Adam Weinstein wrote that the fear of speaking truth among DDT’s GOP parallels the slide toward fascism of Hitler and Mussolini almost a century ago. Weinstein added:

“The message of this federal government is unambiguous. The message is: Join the fascist party. We’re winning.”

Robert Reich described the lack of condemnation as simple cowardice.

To most Republican legislators, government overreach is being able to not get a haircut—not attacking, injuring, and arresting members of the media and other U.S. residents, sometimes for just a photo-op.  

Tens of thousands of protesters are still marching every night, breaking curfew but being much more law abiding as some law enforcement are going after the far-right white supremacists trying to infiltrate the demonstrators and violently incite a racial civil war. Other groups are stepping in to support the attempts to preserve democracy in the United States. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the unwarranted federal use of force at the peaceful Washington, D.C. protest naming DDT, AG Bill Barr, and other federal officials as defendants.

In Minnesota, the charges against the police officer killing George Floyd with his knee has been raised to 2nd-degree murder, and the watching officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The state of Minnesota filed a human rights complaint against the Minneapolis Police Department for the murder. For decades, the city police department has faced allegations of brutality and other discrimination against blacks and other minorities, even from within the department

The ACLU is also filing lawsuits throughout the country because of attacks, assaults, and arrests of journalists.

Minneapolis Public Schools, University of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to end their relationships with the police department. Schools will no longer use law enforcement as school resource officers, and the park police uniforms will be redesigned so that they don’t look like police uniforms.

Los Angeles is cutting the police department budget by to $150 million while investing in marginalized communities, including housing, health, education, and environmental projects. Before the police brutality before the protests, the proposal was an increase of seven percent. The police get 54 percent of city funds.

Throughout DDT’s declaring war on the U.S. people, he ignores COVID-19, with deaths over 110,000 and infections closing in on two million at 1,924,051 on June 4. The U.S. is almost at the top of larger countries at the per capita confirmed cases, slightly below Spain. 

July 15, 2015

April 14, 2014

GOP Continue Bashing Women

Equal Pay Day, the day of the year that marks the additional time women need to work in order to match men’s pay the previous year, usually goes by with not much attention. Most people probably don’t even know that it happens. Not so this year, partly because of the Paycheck Fairness Act that failed in the Senate with 54 votes. The mere thought of equal pay released a firestorm of negative reactions from conservatives. These are some responses to gender equity pay from the far-right:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “[The Democrats just want to blow a few kisses to their powerful pals on the left.” It’s all part of the Dems’ “never-ending political road show.” [Is that what he’ll say when he runs against a woman this fall—if he wins his contested primary?]

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX): “This whole thing is really backfiring on the administration and on our Democratic friends because people are seeing it for what it is: It’s a transparent political campaign. It isn’t actually about solving problems, because the law of the land is already paycheck equity.” [No, it isn’t.]

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS): “[The bill is] “condescending . . . Some folks don’t understand that women have become an extremely valuable part of the workforce today on their own merit, not because the government mandated it.” [Translation: My pay is equal. Why should I care about anyone else.]

GOP Senate hopeful from Michigan Terri Lynn Land: “Well, we all like to be paid more and that’s great. But the reality is that women have a different lifestyle. They have kids, they have to take them to get dentists’ appointments, doctors’ appointments all those kinds of things, and they’re more interested in flexibility in a job than pay.” [And she expects women to vote for her?]

RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski: On a television talk show, she couldn’t manage to answer a question about what pay equity policies her party would support. [Probably because there aren’t any.]

Fox stalwart Bill O’Reilly: “I’m not buying this inequality business.” [No, but the women do.]

Another Fox … Megyn Kelly: “Now they think you’re anti-woman if you question that meme about equal pay.” [The position of a woman who Sheryl Sandberg, busy touting her new business-friendly book Lean In for Graduates, calls a “good friend.”]

Executive director of the Texas Republican Party Beth Cubriel: Women will get better pay when they learn to negotiate like men. [Then they’ll be called bitches.]

Leader of Red State Women Cari Cristman: Women are too busy to need equal pay laws.  [They might have more time if they received equal pay.]

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): Avoiding reference to gender equity pay, he wants Democrats to “put the politics aside” and talk with Republicans about “things that we can do together, things that disproportionately impact women, without playing politics.” [As if the pay gap doesn’t “disproportionately impact women”!]

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): His budget, just passed in the House by all except 12 Republicans disproportionately cut women’s benefits. [There’s that “disproportionately” again!]

Host of Fox Business, Melissa Francis, has the most bizarre rationale for women being paid less. For her, the gender pay gap is positive because women were better able to keep their jobs during the recession than men. To her, the less that women make, the better off they are. She’s even wrong with her belief that women kept their jobs because they get paid less. The recession hurt men more because jobs in the male arena were more likely to disappear. The rapidly-growing service industry employs a large number of women whereas manufacturing, mining, logging, and construction hire more men. And Francis is the host of a business program!

Republicans have found other ways to drive women away from the GOP:

Charles Murray, education advisor to GOP Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, said he has found no “evidence” to prove that any woman had been a “significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions.” In his speech at the University of Texas, Murray also declared that women’s brains are smaller than men’s. Like most other Texas Republicans, he thinks that the gender pay gap is a “myth.” Abbott is now avoiding the press.

George Bush’s CIA director Michael Hayden, disturbed because the committee led by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) approved the release of a report on U.S. torture of prisoners, referred to her as “emotional.” He was talking about a report, passed 11-3, that he hasn’t seen and that is well supported by documents about the “interrogation techniques.”

The Florida House considers words such as “uterus” to be “inappropriate” language for young interns, who were all sent out of the chamber while the Republicans discussed more draconian measures against women’s reproductive rights. The teenagers were allowed back in to hear about “bleeding chest wounds” during a discussion on guns.

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA), caught kissing his aide six weeks after his election last fall, solved his problem by firing her. Married for 16 years with five children, the highly religious man plans to stick it out for the fall election despite opposition from his governor, Bobby Jindal, and the leader of the state GOP. On the other hand, the GOP stuck by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) who was re-elected after he admitted “serious sins” with hookers.

Detroit News’ editorial page editor and columnist, Nolan Finley, wrote about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schnauer’s running mate, Lisa Brown. “She’s still milking the vagina business and is a minor celebrity among feminists.”

The GOP has one solution to help women get more money: marry a wealthy man. A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research called “Marry Your Like: Mating and Income Inequality” places the blame for the ongoing increase of inequality on “assertive mating,” the tendency of similar people marrying each other. Their conclusion is that extreme income inequality will only grow worse because people with similar incomes marry each other. The paper does skip the disappearance of the middle class from lower wages and lack of job access and policies that favor the top one percent. Women should just marry up.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) also believe–wrongly–that marriage makes women wealthier. Ralph Reed makes it even simpler. His solution is to stop making divorce so easy.

The GOP also has a new initiative to attract women voters, the “14 in ‘14.”  The Republican National Committee wants to recruit and train women under 40 to talk about the GOP message in the last 14 weeks of its campaign. Candidates should put their wives and children in their advertising, make sure that women attend their events, and establishing a database of women who will campaign for them. The project started with “Project GROW”—which didn’t—in which the GOP would recruit women candidates for Congress. With fewer GOP women running this year than in 2012, the women will be the wives in the television commercials.

According to a CNN poll, 55 percent of people, including 59 percent of women, think that the GOP doesn’t understand women’s problems in current times. In addition to opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act, Republicans refuse to consider a hike in minimum wage. The GOP wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which helps far more women than men.

Because of the GOP, both in their policies and the way that they have forced Democrats to the right, the United States is #23 in the world behind Barundi and Lesotho. This information comes from the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report that “examines the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment.” Of the 110 countries in every report since the initial report in 2006, 95 have shown improvement over the last four years. Globally, women are living longer and healthier, gaining more access to education, and participating more in political decision making.

One state is trying to make a difference for women and families. The Minnesota House has passed Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) on to the Senate despite a complaint from one GOP member who said it make women look as if they were “whining.” The bill improves parental leave, affordable childcare, gender pay gap, retirement security, and economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. It’s not a done deal, but it’s a start.

May 31, 2012

ALEC Continues Downhill Slide

ALEC used to be the secret right-wing group that provided millions of dollars to write conservative laws such as “stand your ground,” voter repression in the name of identifying fraud, and unconstitutional anti-choice laws. I say “used to be” because  the American Legislative Exchange Council was forced out of the closet into the light of media’s day last month. Until today the list of corporations running away from ALEC had included 19 large corporations such as amazon.com, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have dropped from ALEC. Nonprofits like the gigantic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also separated themselves from the far-right Koch-sponsored organization. Today both retail giant Wal-Mart and Medtronic, a medical device company, dumped ALEC.

ALEC has more than 2,000 legislative members, primarily Republican, from all 50 states, nearly one-third of all sitting legislators and more than 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered “alumni.” Approximately 300 corporate, foundation, and other private-sector groups are other, higher paying, members. ALEC’s chair, currently David Frizzell (IN)  rotates with a new legislator appointed to the position each year.

Wisconsin under Gov. Scott Walker is the poster-child for ALEC with its anti-consumer, union-busting, voter-repression laws while giving huge tax cuts for corporations and the richest of its citizens. Of the 132 legislators, 49 are ALEC members, including top leadership in both houses.  Walker began his devastation with an ALEC “omnibus” tort bill, making it harder for Wisconsin residents to hold corporations accountable after dangerous products injure or kill people.

Another poster-child, albeit much quieter than Wisconsin, is Louisiana. Gov. Bobby Jindal used ALEC bills that advocate for the privatization of traditionally public services, like health care, prisons and education based on the misguided conservative belief that the results will be more efficient and competitive. Privatization is far more costly and less efficient as seen by the replacements in the military and prisons.

In Louisiana, laws were rushed through without any thought, for example the “parent trigger” law that allows a majority of parents connected with one school to change it into a charter school. There is no evaluation for the converted school, either before or after, and no way for failed charter schools to be “re-triggered.” Student placement is also limited. ALEC advice is to push a large quantity of bills very fast, to get them passed before people notice.

One influential trade association staying with ALEC is the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) that represents companies providing water services to almost 73 million people in the country. That’s almost one-fourth of the population. The goal of NAWC and ALEC is to legislate loopholes for water protections and federal oversight of fracking, a method of extracting oil that forces millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into the ground. This practice not only puts drinking water resources at risk but also may be the reason behind the increasing number of earthquakes in the Midwest.

Another powerful corporation—and ALEC member—pushing for fracking is ExxonMobil. Model legislation from ALEC, based on a Texas law, gives guidelines for the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through fracking. The model bill has loopholes allowing energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, meaning that companies—like ExxonMobil—are then allowed to use any contaminants that they want without anyone knowing what these are.

One organization dropping ALEC last month is the national certifying body for teachers in the United States, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Supposedly a non-profit organization focusing on teacher certification, NBPTS also takes positions on political positions affect teacher certification.

Some legislators seem incredibly naïve about how ALEC truly lobbies. For example, state Rep. Paul Bandy, co-chair of the New Mexico branch of ALEC, said in an interview that he didn’t solicit donations from ALEC, that money just appears in his mailbox from ALEC-connected corporations. I guess he considers himself really lucky. He did understand that the ALEC laws might not pass if people know their origin. Bandy opposes the use of tax-deductible money for political purposes but didn’t seem to object using ALEC’s tax-deductible money for political purposes.

The South Carolina legislature is so supportive of ALEC that it has created a special ethics exemption for the organization. Lobbying rules that govern how public officials can interact with lobbyists prevent legislators from having their lodging and transportation provided by lobbyists—with the exception of ALEC—because “the outings that ALEC organizes for politicians are essential to its influence. At these retreats, ALEC officials work with state lawmakers to craft new legislation.” They certainly do!

When ALEC’s activities became widely known last month, there seemed to be a slight bit of hope after the organization announced that they would eliminate its Public Safety and Elections task force. Hope was short-lived, however, after the task force’s chair, state Rep. Jerry Madden (R-TX) said many of the issues would be transferred to other committees. ALEC’s definition of “public safety” is passing laws allowing people to go after others if they “feel threatened” and kill them if necessary, as happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida a year ago.

Disturbed when ALEC dropped its voter suppression arm, the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) stepped in and formed a “Voter Identification Task Force.” The NCPPR also criticized ALEC for withdrawing the voter-oppression task force after losing only 11 corporate sponsors. Part of NCPPR’s past activities have been to help Jack Abramoff launder millions of dollars and to raise funds by “bombarding senior citizens with ‘fright mail,'” money used to do things like help Exxon Mobil oppose efforts to address climate change.

One organization is fighting back against ALEC through its fraudulent tax-exempt status. The watchdog Common Cause has obtained hundreds of pages of documents and shared these with the New York Times. They are also using these documents and public records to support its Internal Revenue Service complaint, stating that ALEC does not deserve its tax-exempt status because it is a lobbying organization. ALEC denies that it is writing laws, but its membership brochure bragged that the group introduces over 1,000 bills annually and passes about 17 percent of these.

ALEC also sends talking points to its lawmakers to use when speaking publicly about issues like President Obama’s health care law. Alan P. Dye, a lawyer for ALEC, acknowledged that the group’s practice of communicating with lawmakers about specific bills could meet the federal definition of lobbying. His justification is that these communications were a result of “nonpartisan research and analysis.” Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy disagreed, stating that as of last August, all but one of 104 leadership positions within the organization were filled by Republicans and that the policies ALEC promoted were almost uniformly conservative.

Common Cause has made progress in at least one state. The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board will investigate ALEC for lobbying violations in that state. The board will likely address the complaint in July. In Minnesota, Common Cause also filed a complaint with state Attorney General Lori Swanson alleging that ALEC has misrepresented its role by filing as a 501 (c) (3).

The icing on the cake is within the IRS procedures: According to IRS policies, an analyst in the Whistleblower Office must consider the information provided by Common Cause. Common Cause could receive between 15 and 30 percent of any taxes, penalties and interest collected, if certain requirements are met. Only the IRS can challenge a nonprofit organization’s tax-exempt status because of court rulings.

The only thing better than ALEC having to pay taxes is for a watchdog organization to get some of it!

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