Nel's New Day

January 12, 2019

GOP Makes History with Shutdown—Again

Day 22 of government shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has his wish—the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Until today, the longest was from December 5, 1995 to January 6, 1996 when GOP leaders disagreed with the method of determining a balanced budget. Before that, the GOP closed the government from September 30 to October 18, 1978 when Jimmy Carter opposed purchasing the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Details of all shutdowns until the GOP objection on October 1-17, 2013 to the Affordable Care Act are here. In the formerly three longest shutdowns, the Republicans voted to agree with the Democratic presidents.

This past week, members of the Coast Guard risked their lives to rescue three men on a crabbing boat that tried to cross the dangerous Newport (OR) bar, the opening at the end of a jetty between the ocean and Yaquina Bay. Sadly, the boat was lost and the three crew members died, but not because the Coast Guard didn’t do their jobs—although they aren’t being paid. The 41,000 members of the Coast Guard are part of the 800,000 federal workers no longer receiving paychecks because of DDT’s intransigence or government allowances for housing in expensive coastal cities.

Adding insult to injury, a federal website for Coast Guard members published a five-page tip for surviving without paychecks—babysit or dogwalk or serve as a “mystery shopper.” They could sell their belongings at a yard sale. “Bankruptcy is a last option,” according to the website although it’s always been DDT’s first action before he got money from his father or the Russians. To be fair, the recommendations are primarily for the 8,500-person civilian workforce, but its publication is still demeaning, especially the comment, “Stay in charge of the situation by getting a clear understanding of what’s happening.”

Federal workers are already struggling to make up for the missing paychecks by getting supplies at charity food pantries, driving for Uber, and giving blood. They aren’t employable because they may not be staying on the job long. At the same time, states and municipalities are losing revenue by less sales tax, and small businesses are hurting from lack of business.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to address any bill passed by the new Democratic House.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “The goal is not to open up the government. Instead, the Senate focused on a bill The goal is to fix a broken immigration system.” Instead, the Senate worked on a bill giving states the right to punish companies that boycott Israel by refusing to contract with them and adding $33 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years to the $5.5 billion the U.S. enacted in last year’s defense spending bill. The fast-tracked bill bypassed any committee involvement. McConnell’s blocking all bills to reopen the government led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to ask:

“Do you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?”

 

This week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) decided to negotiate a resolution with DDT by reopening the government while letting congressional committees sort out money for the wall. DDT rejected the GOP plan, and Graham said that he’s given up looking for a resolution. In making a “deal” for the wall, each side has to give something to get something. The only “give” that DDT offers is reopening the government—which he has to do anyway. DDT claims “No wall, no deal,” and the only resolution is for two-thirds of each congressional chamber to vote for a continuing resolution—without a wall.

DDT now falsely claims he never said that Mexico would pay for the wall. Not only does video show him making this statement over and over, but his campaign materials state that he expects to finance the wall with “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” from Mexico which his administration would “compel” the country to make.

Trying to avoid bad press and appease friends, DDT promised the illegal actions of sending tax refunds to people and favoring lobbyists in the lending block of the mortgage industry. Yesterday, 800,000 federal workers got paychecks with $0.00, but Treasury officials guaranteed that the IRS will process forms for mortgage lenders. The Mortgage Bankers’ Association CEO, Robert Broeksmit, asked to “make these guys essential” because of “a problem for the lending industry.” The clerks working on Broeksmit’s problem will receive full pay, unlike the vast majority of their colleagues, but the estimated 248,400 veterans working for the shutdown government agencies get nothing.

In 2004, DDT told an audience of graduates at Wagner College how to avoid a wall:

“If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall.”

Thirty-three Wagner professors and over 700 alumni have asked the school to rescind the honorary degree that DDT received for his address.

A saw can be used to cut a hole through DDT’s preferred wall prototype, the “steel bollard.” Even without the hole, the spaces between the slats are wide enough for packages or perhaps people. Or they can just climb the bollards.

 

“Never so many apprehensions ever in our history,” DDT said. Yet the 400,000 apprehensions in 2017 and 300,000 in 2016 are far lower than the past with 19 years over one million people between 1983 to 2006 and topping out at 1,643,679 apprehensions in 2000. And bipartisan support for immigration has grown.

DDT wants to build a wall by taking $13.9 billion in disaster relief in declaring a national emergency, including include $2.4 billion for flood prevention and protection projects in California, $2.5 billion for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, and $4.5 billion for projects in Texas, including those related to 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

Putting this money into a medieval wall is like flushing it down a toilet—or a river—especially in the vast areas of the Rio Grande floodplain, where a 1970 treaty between the United States and Mexico bans the barrier. According to the treaty, the joint U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) “must approve construction of works proposed in either country” along those rivers and prohibits the construction of projects “which, in the judgment of the commission, may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the river or of its flood flows.”

Border experts state that a wall has already been built everywhere possible on the border, but 1,254 miles runs through the middle of the Rio Grande River which routinely floods—more and more since recent climate change. Any barriers will greatly worsen flooding as shown by the flash flood along the 5-mile border fence along the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that poured through the port of entry and damaged businesses, government buildings, and private property. The only solution is to put the fence miles away from the border, leaving privately-owned U.S. land seized through eminent domain on the Mexican side and ceding that land to Mexico.

About walls, DDT declares he’s a “professional at technology.” He said, “I know tech better than anyone.” This statement follows all the other areas in which he considers himself an expert because he knows more about the subjects than “any human being on earth”: science, drones, Osama bin Laden, Cory Booker, borders, campaign contributions, courts, debt, Facebook, guns, visas, infrastructure, the political left, money, horror of nuclear, renewables, steelworkers, taxes, trade, Wall Street bankers, and wedges.

Jeffrey Toobin writes:

“If the President can spend government funds without congressional approval—indeed, if he can do so in the face of an explicit congressional refusal to spend funds for precisely the purpose that he seeks—that fundamentally reorders the relations between the branches. Specifically, it vastly expands the President’s power at the expense of Congress.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) went silent when CNN’s John Berman asked him if a future Democratic president could bypass Congress and declare climate change a “national emergency.” Finally questioning the validity of the claim, Berman pointed out that the Pentagon thinks climate change is a serious problem. Then deaths from guns could be a “national emergency.”

While DDT shuts down the government because of immigrants, U.S. citizens are destroying public land. A prime example is the prized Joshua Tree National Monument, now unstaffed, where “patriots” are cutting down trees (below right), making new roads with four-wheelers, and spray-painting rocks. Paraplegic veteran Rand Abbott has gone to the park almost every day to clean bathrooms, pick up trash, and “kindly persuade people to not destroy the park.”

Federal workers suffering from no pay are scattered throughout the country with the top afflicted places outside Washington, D.C. being Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Idaho. A map with numbers of federal workers without pay is here.

 

DDT’s shutdown is estimated to lose the economy $2.5 billion every week, a 0.1 percent loss in GDP for every two weeks. And that’s low-balling the guesstimate. Congress can stop the shutdown if two-thirds of each chamber votes for a continuing resolution or a budget. That’s 50 Republicans in the House and 15 in the Senate. The House has already picked up 12 Republicans. Maybe that many legislators will learn that a wall won’t stop drugs coming in through tunnels, ports of entries, and international bridges; a wall won’t address the majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who overstay their visas.

June 27, 2018

Democracy in the United States – Gone?

With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation from the Supreme Court and the GOP stolen seat for Neil Gorsuch, no one will have to wonder about decisions from the Supreme Court: they will always favor Christian and business conservatism. Gone are any careful deliberations about the constitutionality of the cases. The five conservative justices will legislate from the bench according to their united radically right-wing ideology. An appointment from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can ban legalized abortions and contraception, reverse LGBTQ rights, promote discrimination against minorities and women, and increase capital punishment and solitary confinement.

Despite Kennedy’s conservative leanings and his decision to appoint George W. Bush as president in 2000, Kennedy was the swing vote to legalize marriage equality and preserve—to some extent—Roe v. Wade.  On the other hand, he overturned DC’s handgun ban, allowed unlimited finance restrictions, and set in place the destruction of equal voting right. Recently he supported discrimination against Muslims and Christian opposition to abortions and birth control. The week of his resignation after 30 years in the U.S. Supreme Court, Kennedy contributed to the taint of the “Robert Court.”

Despite Republicans ranting against legislating from the bench, the conservative justices made conservative law today in deciding against public-sector unions. The decision of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees permits workers to take union protection for free despite the fact that the small fees they paid has no political influence. The takers, including Mark Janus, won. Even conservative Antonin Scalia, who died before he could hear the case, wrote in 1991 that public sector unions could compel agency fees. Forcing unions to help nonmembers who do not pay them, “mandated by government decree,” would be constitutionally problematic. [Left: Janus was the name for a two-faced god of transition.]

For 41 years, public sector unions could levy fair-share fees to pay for workers interests.  The only intention of the five conservative justices is to break the union in their goal to protect large businesses and hurt working people. The loser in this case is the future for women and young people in the nation because union workers have greater wages—up to 20 percent more. The winner is the group of foundations funded by rightwing billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and the DeVos family who want to make money from privatizing the public sector. Their actions cost people more because privatization always costs taxpayers more money. Therefore people have lower wages while paying more money for everything.

The restrictions in Janus follows the courts’ history of blocking worker freedom. Nineteenth-century courts ruled that workers’ collective action infringed on employers’ freedom of commerce guaranteed by antitrust laws. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Lochner v. New York (1905) decided that labor protections such as maximum-hour laws violated workers’ freedom of contract. The Depression of the 1930s encouraged courts to give labor protections, but the GOP soon gained success in destroying these rights, actions that greatly expanded since their success in electing Ronald Reagan.

Although the Janus ruling may feel like doom, Shaun Richman, a veteran union organizer, warned that the ruling might require public employers to allow multiple unions competing for workers instead of negotiating with just one. If unions go to great lengths to show that they are the best worker advocates, the results could be more union militancy and power.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,”  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said two years ago when President Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice eleven months before the next president would be inaugurated. His position was that no nominee should be considered in an election year, and he refused a hearing for the nominee. For over a year, the Supreme Court was sometimes tied because of only eight justices voting on rulings. The next Congress is only six months away, but McConnell has abandoned his former belief. “We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” he said on the Senate floor with no idea of who that nominee will be.

Much has been said about the standard of whether a nominee will overturn Roe v. Wade, but McConnell’s standard is an approval by the NRA. In an interview with Fox, he said that he “can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.” McConnell also told a crowd at a campaign rally:

“One of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.’”

The United States, which claims to be a democracy, now has a bogus president, a bogus Supreme Court justice, and a senate leader who decides which nominees can be confirmed.

Two days ago, the Supreme Court sent a gerrymandering case from North Carolina back to a trial court for further examination. Emboldened by other recent Supreme Court non-decisions on gerrymandering, North Carolina Republicans are asking SCOTUS to use the 2017 map plan that would inordinately favor the GOP.

DDT is fortunate that the media is not concentrating on some of the worst news for the United States because of DDT’s horrific policy separating children and families, his Russian scandals, and the recent disasters of the Supreme Court. During the time of President Obama, conservatives railed against the growing national debt after the president saved the U.S. economy that tanked from George W. Bush’s decreased taxes, $5 trillion wars, and the corruption of subprime mortgages. The last budget from President Obama, the one for 2017, increased the national debt by only $672 billion, a lot of money but much less than the projected deficit from DDT’s first budget in 2018. DDT’s first deficit is $1.233 trillion—almost twice that from President Obama—and his next year is about the same. DDT blamed President Obama for doubling the national debt after he took over Bush’s excesses, but now DDT is doubling President Obama’s debt.

Continuing deficits from tax cuts for the rich and big companies will come with increased dependence on foreign investors that weakens the world power of the U.S. Usually drastic debt increases result because of war and poor economy; the U.S. has neither at this time. After President Obama made progress in decreasing the deficit, however, Republicans’s huge tax cuts moved the nation to higher debt levels and erased its ability to respond to emergencies. Instead of addressing the problem, the GOP wants to make permanent the temporary taxes for individuals after 2026 to create even greater debt. Also contributing to greater debt and decline in the economy is DDT’s trade war with China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.

The GOP solution for the debt in the coming year will be to shred the safety net and established programs that people have paid into for decades. DDT ran on a campaign of preserving Medicare and Social Security, but the 2019 budget proposed by the GOP House now have drastically cuts many programs, including Medicare and Social Security, in order to pay for its tax cuts. Presenting these priorities that hurt the GOP voting block of older U.S. citizens is a brave move less than five months before Republicans try to keep the House majority in the midterm general elections. Republicans knew that the tax cuts could drive up the deficit, but they are now crying that the biggest domestic problem are debts and deficits. The GOP budget, called “A Brighter American Future,” goes back to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) desire of privatizing Medicare which supposedly reduces Medicare by $537 billion over the next decade. Considering that privatization always costs more than government programs, that’s a big slice out of health care for its recipients.

A new law that permits additional Medicare benefits for people with multiple chronic illnesses is a move toward privatization. These benefits may include home improvements such as wheelchair ramps, transportation to doctor’s offices, home delivery of hot meals, and other social and medical services. The catch is that only people with MedAdvantage programs, contracted with private companies, will have this “advantage.” Those who subscribe to traditional Medicare won’t have them available because Congress waived the requirement that all plans offer the same benefits for those with chronic illnesses.

Ryan is blaming God for taking benefits for people:

“Catholic social teaching … cautions us against allowing the state too great a reach into civil society. This is about saving souls, not dollars.”

Ryan’s college education was provided by his survivor’s benefits from the “state” after his father died. At the same time Ryan began “dreaming” about destroying Medicaid when he was “drinking out of kegs.” He plans to spend his last six months taking more money from people like him and ordered his team to provide reconciliation instructions to fast-track the budget without Democratic votes in the Senate—probably in the lame-duck session after the elections.

This June, the Supreme Court ended with a bang.

February 19, 2018

Presidents Day 2018

Today is Presidents Day. It is a good time to consider the prescient speech given by Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, on October 17, 1960:

“In many countries of the free world private enterprise is greatly different from what we know here. In some, a few families are fabulously wealthy, contribute far less than they should in taxes, and are indifferent to the poverty of the great masses of the people. Broad purchasing power does not, therefore, exist, even for the domestic products of the nation. A country in this situation is fraught with continual instability. It is ripe for revolution.”

Three months later, Eisenhower said in his farewell address:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Presidential warnings about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) began with George Washington’s farewell speech. He warned about false patriotism, special interests, extreme partisanship, fake news, disunity, foreign hatreds, and the national debt. His other concerns were foreign influence over the U.S. political system and a despotic president whose avarice and ego transcended the national interest. Washington cautioned about the danger of one group, “sharpened by the spirit of revenge,” gaining dominion over another that could lead to “a more formal and permanent despotism.” Its “disorders and miseries” would push citizens “to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual.” He concluded:

 “Sooner or later, the chief of some prevailing faction, more able and more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purpose of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

In one of his greatest worries, he counseled that hyperpartisanship could lead “to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Every year since 1896, the Senate has marked Washington’s birthday by reading his farewell speech on the floor of the Senate, annually alternating the reading senator between political parties. The House of Representatives stopped this commemoration many years ago because of their lack of interest. The current “dominant” party has no interest in how Russian involvement, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and fake news led to their victory because they are more preoccupied about their own personal interests than protecting democracy in the United States.

The 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey ranks the current occupant of the Oval Office at the bottom of all presidents, replacing James Buchanan and rating 12 points out of 100. Even among only Republican respondents, he came in fifth from the bottom while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were #15 and 16.  In the biggest overall shift, President Obama has gone up to 8 from 18 since 2014.

Today is Presidents Day, and the Great Tweeter led up to the day by making these official statements yesterday:

  1. “Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!” (8:28 am about 60 Minutes segment)
  2. “Thank you to KenStarr, former Independent Counsel, Whitewater, for your insight and powerful words on FISA abuse, Russian meddling etc. Really great interview with @MariaBartiromo” (9:10 am about Fox network)
  3. “The Fake News of big ratings loser CNN” (5:46 am about a cartoon of Wolf Blitzer in 2038 not available)
  4. “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the US then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” (5:11 am)
  5. “Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?” (4:43 am)
  6. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” (4:33 am)
  7. “Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!” (4:22 am)

Today’s tweets were “Have a great, but very reflective, President’s Day!” (13 minutes before his motorcade left for the golf course) and

 “Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”

President Obama took some action about the meddling when he discovered it, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to join him in warning people about Russian interference. Last summer WaPo published an article about how President Obama discovered Russian interference in 2016 and wanted to release the information. He did not speak out publicly because McConnell would not agree to sign a bipartisan statement about Russian meddling. The former president was concerned that without a united front that it would appear he was attempting to illegitimatize the presidential election. Instead he created sanctions against Russia that the newly elected president tried to prevent and expelled Russians from the United States. In the meantime, McConnell kept the voters from knowing that Russia was supporting Hillary Clinton’s opponent. McConnell merely sent out a letter to states about possible hacking into their voting machines.

The question on Presidents Day 2018 is why the man inaugurated over a year ago isn’t doing anything now about the Russian meddling this year.

For his supporters, the best thing about President’s Day is that there’s a 30-percent off sale on all his MAGA merchandise. Get your caps and cups!

August 12, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Nine – Wars to Help His Approval Ratings

With his approval ratings tanking, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may be attempting to model George W. Bush whose ratings rose from 50 percent before the 9/11 attacks to 85 percent—the highest for any president. Six months after W.’s preemptive war on Iraq, the approval dropped back down to 50 percent, but still went back to the White House a year later, with a little help from Ohio computers. If one war is good, then many should be far better, DDT may figure. Thus his attacks on North Korea, Venezuela, immigrants, transgender people, health care, voters, women, the climate, and the Republicans, to mention a few.

North Korea is the most obvious war on DDT’s agenda. During his campaign, he presented Hillary Clinton as a fearsome hawk while he pictured himself as an isolationist. Clinton was touted as the “War Hawk” at the RNC convention, and Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who voted for Trump instead of Clinton, made the same claim. In April 2016, DDT said:

“Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength.”

After killing hundreds and hundreds of civilians in the Middle East and sending in the “mother of bombs” to attack Syria, DDT’s ratings kept plummeting. This past week he started out by promising “fire and fury” against North Korea followed the next days by saying that he wasn’t “tough enough” and then continued about Kim Jung-Un:

“This man will not get away with what he’s doing, believe me. If he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it.”

Then the Dow Jones dropped over 200 points, the second fall in two days.  Thus far, the military is not on his side and has done no preparation, but DDT said that he is “locked and loaded” if North Korea makes a move, probably threatening a nuclear strike that he can do all on his own. Nuclear war could be a distraction from Robert Mueller’s investigation into his finances and connection with Russia.

Twitter users are asking that DDT be blocked from tweeting because his threats of violence violate Twitter’s rules and terms of service. Last month, people accused DDT of the same violation after he tweeted the video clip of himself beating up someone labeled CNN. Individuals blocked from DDT’s Twitter account are suing him because it is a public forum and “official statement.” Blocking them prevents availability to the information and the right of dissent. Toilet paper featuring old DDT tweets are also sold out.

This week marks the 72nd anniversary of the tragic nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. DDT rages against North Korea, but he has failed to the positions of South Korea ambassador, the Head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and the Pentagon, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security to handle global nonproliferation—among many others.

DDT has wanted to bomb North Korea for at least 18 years, as an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press shows. Also obvious in this clip is how much DDT’s ability to articulate issues has diminished since then, a frightening difference if one thinks about DDT suffering from dementia.

Not satisfied with war on North Korea, DDT threatened action in Venezuela. Once again, DDT refused any diplomacy, refusing to take a phone call from President Nicolás Maduro after the outrageous threat to militarily involve itself in the country’s problems. Maduro had warned that the U.S. might try to invade Venezuela, and DDT’s threat makes the action appear a reality.

Furious about the failure of Trumpcare, DDT continued his war against GOP members of Congress with a focus on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). One tweet ordered, “Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!” Later he indicated that he might be replacing McConnell although that’s not his right. In DDT’s pattern of  “tweet first, read later,” he sent out a piece about how “Insurers [are] seeking huge premium hikes on ObamaCare plans” from Fox and Friends, an article that explains DDT’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act as the reason for rising health insurance premiums.

Other tweet wars last week were against the “AmazonWashingtonPost,” the “FailingNewYorkTimes,” Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The New York Times has collected “The 351 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter.” The list is notable for DDT’s limited vocabulary—fail (105 times), fake (105 times), dishonest (91 times), variations of lie (83 times), dumb or dummy (61 times), sad (51 times), terrible (44 times), etc.

Another possible DDT war may be with potential 2020 candidates. Sens. Tom Cotton (AL) and Ben Sasse (NE) have gone to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is considering a visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s full schedule produced the idea that he’s like a vice-president during the last couple of years of a president’s second term. Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ) is touting his book about conservatism unlike that of DDT. While DDT complains to his campaign rally audiences about Hillary Clinton, these prez wannabees work the donors. Pence still vociferously denies any interest in running against DDT and continues to look worshipfully at him in every photo op. DDT may think that he’s protected by Sean Hannity, Tony Perkins, Jim DeMint, and Grover Norquist, but his incessant alienation of Republicans may work against him.

Everyone seems to be a target for DDT except Russia and white supremacists. He praised Vladimir Putin for evicting 755 members of the U.S. embassy in Russia because it would give DDT a “smaller payroll.” These people continue to be on the payroll, however, because they will be employed elsewhere. The reaction to DDT’s statement was so negative that he said he was being “funny”—inappropriate and probably inaccurate. Russia isn’t laughing either.

Despite a DDT’s large number of tweets since the bomb exploded at a mosque in Bloomington (MN) a week ago, not one has addressed this act of terrorism. White supremacist White House aide Sebastian Gorka said that there is no comment because the act may be faked by a liberal. He claims that DDT is waiting until an investigation is finished, something that DDT didn’t do when he accused a robbery during June in the Philippines of being terrorism. Hate crimes against Muslims increased 91 percent during the first half of 2017 compared to the same time period in 2016. DDT did tweet about the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville (VA) today but said that the violence was “on many sides,” meaning that he refuses to blame the white supremacists agitators. A white supremacist killed one and injured nineteen counterprotesters by speeding his car into a large group before repeatedly backing up and attacking them again.

While DDT golfs and tweets, Robert Mueller continues his investigation. On July 26, the day after Paul Manafort appeared before Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, the FBI raided his home for “documents and other materials.” DDT most likely knew about the early morning raid because he released his tweets against the acting FBI director Andrew McCabe and transgender military service members a few hours afterward. Mueller’s large team recently added Greg Andres who specializes in corruption and bribery. Subpoenas have already been issued about the June 9, 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort with a Russian lawyer offering incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are now investigating the ways that DDT is financially benefiting from his current position. They started by requesting documents from 15 cabinet departments and nine independent executive branch agencies about their spending at “businesses owned by or affiliated with the Trump Organization.”

Everyday at 9:30 am and 4:30 pm DDT gets a briefing, but the folders are only positive news about him—admiring tweets, photos of him looking “powerful,” and praise-filled “news,” most likely from Fox. Much as it seems like satire, this information is for real. DDT thinks that the role of a president is to sit in the Oval Office, issue orders to pass legislation, and then sign bills.

Has Time magazine killed hopes for John Kelly staying as chief of staff? He’s on the cover as “Trump’s Last Hope.” Usually this praise above DDT means that the subject will be soon gone. Forty-three years ago this week Richard Nixon resigned. How long will DDT last?

June 11, 2017

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation, allowing a simple majority vote instead of a possible 60 votes in a filibuster. A vote on the bill by June 30 requires that it go to the Congressional Budget by the end of this week. Unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill that has not received CBO scoring. Because the bill will be voted on under the “reconciliation” process, it cannot require any revenue. Because of the possible tax cuts for the wealthy, a leaked version of the bill shows that it includes waivers for states to the ten essential items—including hospitalization—from insurance coverage and enlarges the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers, greatly increasing premiums for many people.

McConnell implemented Senate “Rule 14” last week, the day before Comey’s testimony, to fast-track it by skipping the committee process—and a full senate debate. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Health and Human Services 2018 budget request on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed her concern with McConnell’s invoking Rule 14. She said that the senate health care bill was being written by “group of guys in the back room making all the decisions” and asked Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) if there would be a public hearing on the health bill which has been secret until now. (Hatch is a member of the gang of 13 health care killers.) After a painfully long pause, an aide said into Hatch’s ear, “They’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.” Hatch, helped by an aide talking into his ear, said he didn’t know. As McCaskill commented, “But we have no idea what’s being proposed.” Republicans complained about her “rants and raves,” perhaps because she said that the Republicans were trying to pass the bill with 50 votes and one from the vice president. McConnell plans to make the bill public for only two days before the vote.

One glitch to the bill comes from a ban on people using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough pointed out that the Byrd Rule might prevent that provision for reconciliation because it covers policy and not budget, not permitted under reconciliation. With the anti-abortion provision, the bill may not be allowed under reconciliation, and without that provision it might not pass. David Christensen of the far-right evangelical Family Resesarch Council, said, “Abortion is not healthcare.” A precedent for MacDonough’s position was in a 1995 ruling about attempting to block abortion in a reconciliation bill.

The GOP senators are already divided into factions, three in opposition to the 13 white men devising the plan. Bill Cassidy (LA) and Susan Collins (ME), not members of the deciding 13 senators, oppose the House bill and co-sponsored their version called the Patient Freedom Act. Led by Rob Portman (OH), another group wants Medicaid expansion. Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) are part of the group that wants the House bill.

The abominable baker’s dozen of murderers on the Senate health care plan has an average age of over 60 and an average worth of over $1 million each. (They look very much like the people above celebrating the ending of health care of millions of people in the U.S. after the House bill passed.) Almost half of the 13, six senators, are from three states—Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and Wyoming’s total population of under 600,000 represents less than 0.002 percent of the U.S. population of 321,000,000. Utah isn’t much better with under one percent of the U.S. population. These are the men deciding health care for everyone, including women, minorities, and the poor. The average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of people in the U.S. is almost zero because of heavy losses during the George W. Bush era.

These 13 men of wealth are writing and pushing through a bill for health care that 140 million people in the U.S. directly rely on and one that comprises one-sixth of the nation’s GDP, one that 140 million people in the United States.  This comes from the same party that complained for eight years that Democrats passed health care on a party-line vote and falsely asserted that Republicans weren’t involved in the process. And they admit what they’re doing: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that there was no reason for a committee hearing because Democrats won’t support their bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the bill will go up for a vote without floor debate as soon as there’re 51 votes for it. The senate has 52 Republicans.

The senate promised a kinder version of health care than the House approved, but states would still be forced to end expanded Medicaid programs because of lost federal funds, and poor and near-poor adults losing Medicaid couldn’t afford private coverage. Eight Medicaid-expansion states have laws immediately dropping the program without federal funding, the year 2020 if the bill passes, and other states would see significant increases in costs which they may not be able to afford. Eighty-four percent of the public, including 71 percent of Republicans, support continued current federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

With the philosophy of “kill the ump,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wants to do away with the Congressional Budget Office because it scored the House bill as removing health insurance from 23 million people as well as either raising premiums or reducing health care coverage—or both—for tens of millions more people. He used this information to claim that the CBO is partisan, despite the fact that his own department’s evaluation matched that of the CBO. In addition, the GOP chose CBO’s director, Keith Hall, praised by DDT’s cabinet member Tom Price because of Hall’s “impressive level of economic expertise.”

In addition to telling Christians at the conference that he wants to strip health care for tens of millions of people, DDT is also sabotaging the existing health care plan. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has impacted 10,500 consumers by pulling out of the federal exchange in Ohio; the company blamed DDT, citing “the lack of certainty” about the federal government funding cost-sharing subsidies. Since DDT was inaugurated Ohio’s governor, John Kasich has warned that insurance markets are “slipping into crisis.” DDT is pushing for the health care system to collapse by making the exchanges less stable and discouraging companies from offering plans.

DDT supporters are big losers with Trumpcare. The more likely people were to vote for DDT, the greater they will lose. Those losing more than $1,000 favored him by seven points, and those losing at least $5,000 in tax credits supported DDT by 59 percent to 36 percent. The largest number of losers from voting for DDT are older people and those who live in rural areas. All the benefits of two tax hikes go to people earning $200,000 or more; only ten percent of that demographic voted for DDT.

North Carolina resident Martha Brawley, 55, cast her first ballot in her lifetime for DDT because he said he would bring down the cost of healthcare. “I might as well have not voted,” she said after she discovered that Trumpcare would give her $3,500 to buy insurance instead of the $8,688 subsidy she gets from Obamacare.

Gone with Trumpcare will be any hope for retirement. Tea Partiers who turned the government into one of cruelty almost eight years ago are the same people who are getting too old to find jobs now and won’t have health insurance if they aren’t old enough for Medicare. Before the Affordable Care Act, people were forced to stay in jobs to keep health insurance; “Obamacare” freed many of them. Trumpcare will force people back into a pattern of working long into old age, even those with serious medical issues like cancer. Trumpcare may force people out of their homes. In 2009, medical bills caused 1.5 million people in the U.S. to declare bankruptcies. Medical bills stressed at least 20 percent of all families. By 2013, medical bills put over ten million people into poverty. During the first year of the ACA, over four million fewer people, including one million children, were in poverty.

The 50+ senators who may vote for Trumpcare go home on recess immediately after the vote. Let’s hope that they all have town hall meetings with their constituents who lose the health care.

 

September 19, 2016

Media Focuses on Clinton’s Non-Stories, Largely Ignores GOP Zombie Issues

Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails are two issues that Republicans refuse to let die, despite tens of investigations into each one that fail to prove anything that the Democratic presidential candidate has done wrong. Today, the Clinton Foundation zombie problems returned when a headline referencing a quote from Bill Clinton read “‘Natural’ For Foundation Donors to Seek Favors.” As usual, the media, determined to make something out of nothing, took this headline out of context from Bill Clinton’s response in an NPR interview:

“It was natural for people who’ve been our political allies and personal friends to call and ask for things. And I trusted the State Department wouldn’t do anything they shouldn’t do.”

Leaked emails show that people aren’t getting the favors that they request, and all the aggressive searching by Hillary haters has found absolutely no “pay for play” from the Clinton Foundation that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

While dwelling on Clinton non-stories, Sunday talk shows ignored the real story about the “pay for play” Trump Foundation already fined for illegal campaign donations to Florida’s AG Pam Bondi in exchange for her dropping an investigation into the fraudulent Trump University. A less biased media would have covered the New York investigation into Trump illegally using the Trump Foundation charity funds to purchase at least one oil painting and one football helmet. Trump has not donated one cent to his “foundation” since 2008 while he gets credit for donating funds that other people gave to his foundation. Instead of reporting on Trump’s “pay for play” violations, the media concentrated on Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis and Trump’s infomercial on Dr. Oz’s show.

The same media largely ignored Kurt Eichenwald’s detailed cover story in Newsweek which reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. As Eichenwald wrote, the Trump Organization has been “largely ignored” by media despite its “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions during a Trump presidency. Eichenwald provides information about the Trump Organization’s “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians, and even criminals” and “a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with presidential major national security decisions and negotiations.

GOP members zombies:

Donald Trump desperately wanted to drop the birther issue after claiming for many years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. His giant mistake, however was blaming Clinton for initiating the theory. A strategist had suggested that the 2008 Clinton campaign could use the idea that Barack Obama was “not American,” but Clinton immediately quashed it. There’s no fire where Trump is blowing smoke. Yet campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus repeatedly accused Clinton of starting the birther theory on Sunday talk shows.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went one better. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump hadn’t said anything about the issue “for a long time.” Fortunately, Tapper, a journalist who believes in telling the truth, reminded Christie that Trump continued birthering for five years after the president released the long-form birth certificate to the public in 2011. A lively exchange of “true” and “not true” ensured followed by Christie saying, “It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis.” In fact-checking Christie’s claim, the Washington Post wrote:

“This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face…. [C]learly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.”

Christie should shift to protecting himself. His involvement in the closure of the George Washington Bridge that created havoc and physical danger to people has returned. While his allies and employees have pled guilty or gone to court in this issue, Christie has stuck to his position that “I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.” In today’s trial for two of those accused of closing the bridge, both both prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants agree that Christie “knew his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him.”

In 2013, at the time of the event, Christie ridiculed the controversy because his office would never be so petty and partisan. After evidence proved that it was a petty and partisan vendetta, Christie claimed ignorance. The micromanaging governor swore that he had no idea that his top aides used his name to abuse their power. Today Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna has told jurors that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni “bragged” to the governor directly about the scheme to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in order to deliberately cripple Fort Lee. The trial is against former top Christie aides Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, but Christie may suffer the fallout, perhaps to the point of being impeached. It already lost him being a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate, and last May, Christie’s approval rating had fallen to 29 percent.

Dick Cheney, another zombie, has come to life in the body of GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence who said that his role model is the vice-president who put the United States into the preemptive war with Iraq costing the country millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. Cheney’s career as VP was a time of incompetence, lies, opaque ruling, scandal, missing emails, and deadly bad judgment. When he left office, Cheney’s approval rating was 13 percent, about half Richard Nixon’s support at the height of Watergate. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Cheney an “idiot.” If Trump were elected and followed his plans, Pence, who sees himself a Cheney clone, “would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy” while Trump would focus on “making America great again.”

The zombie of Ralph Nadar, which may have led to George W. Bush’s appointment as president in 2000, may have returned in the name of Gary Johnson. A rumor circulated last week that Bill Weld might drop out of the race as Libertarian vice-presidential candidate because he didn’t want to be another Nadar. “No chance,” says Gary Johnson, top of the Libertarian ticket. Polling at 9 percent, Johnson is far away from the 15-percent threshold for participating in a presidential candidate debate, an advantage for him because he doesn’t interview well and might lose votes in a debate. Asked on public radio whether he was worried about votes for him leading to Trump as a president, he responded that he didn’t care and that it wouldn’t be his problem.

A pattern in GOP campaigning is to have one message in English and a different one in Spanish. For example, during his successful Nevada senatorial run in 2012, Dean Heller put his hardline immigration policy into English with a softer approach in Spanish. Another shift came from the GOP response to the State of the Union address last year when the Spanish version supported immigration reform—opposite to the message in English. This last spring, Kansas printed the wrong voter registration deadline, six days after the deadline, in the Spanish version and omitted the use of a passport for identification.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) brought this zombie to life in his struggling re-election. In Spanish, McCain brags about seeking comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for children brought illegally to the United States; the English skips over these policies and draws an image of McCain as hardcore immigration control. After this “translation” was questioned, a campaign spokesperson said that the website versions were “never intended to be identical.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking the budget bill has aroused the zombie of shutting down the government. Congress has only 11 more days—two “working weeks” before a the government closes down, but McConnell “delayed” a procedural vote until 2:15 pm tomorrow. At least the bill may allow Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood clinic to access federal grants to fight the Zika virus, a provision that had held up the bill for several months. In his arrogant manner, McConnell said that “Senate Republicans stand ready to move forward” and wants Democrats to “complete negotiations,” something that they have been willing to do for some time.

Asked about the agreement, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “Close is relative.” The Dems also want funding for the Flint (MI) water crisis to be in the mix, something the GOP turns down.

Ideally two weeks is enough time, but the bill must be sent to the House, returned, and then reconciled while ultra-conservatives in that chamber demand itty-bitty budget bills instead of an omnibus which go into next year instead of being a stopgap that returns—in zombie fashion—on December 9 this year.

Just a few zombies from people who ignore history.

February 18, 2016

GOP Hypocrisy Expands with Scalia’s Death

Last weekend’s events—the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the GOP presidential candidate in South Carolina less than two weeks before that state’s primary—occupied the media. The Saturday night debate showed the shift in presidential debates: in the past, they focused on the people on the stage, but the crowd attending the debate is now part of the performance. Ugly heckling and booing caused Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard to comment that the show seemed to be “taking place in a Roman coliseum,” and Republican David Frum bewailed that the audience  was “joining in the bloodbath.”

Prominent conservative pundit Rich Lowry called the debate a “train wreck,” and Frum asked if the GOP looks “like a party ready to govern anything.” GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who taught the conservative side how to speak in loaded language that hid their efforts to destroy democracy in the nation, said:

“Seriously, this is insane. The GOP is destroying itself tonight, and they have no one to blame but themselves.”

Trump has set the tone for debates. Kasich tried to stop the demolition derby and Ben Carson commented on how few questions he got, but the other four tried to out-insult the others.

While the candidates battled about other issues, they declared consensus in their firm belief that President Obama lacked the right to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia, who died February 13, 2016, the same day as the debate. An hour after the announcement of Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the president, with 11 months left in his second term, should leave the nomination to the next president and promised that the Senate would not acknowledge the nominee if the president were so foolish as to making an appointment.

Of the 54 Senate Republicans, 33 opposed any appointment this year. They demand that any nominee continue Scalia’s “legacy”—one of the most conservative on the Supreme Court. Eleven senators indicated a possible willingness to consider a nominee, and another ten are silent on the issue. Seven of the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first stop for any judicial nomination, concurred with McConnell by announcing they would not consider any appointment from President Obama.

Only a decade ago, however, McConnell said:

“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration.  But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote. . . . It’s time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.  The stakes are high . . . . The Constitution of the United States is at stake.  Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges.”

He had held this position for the previous 35 years. In 1970, McConnell wrote:

“Even though the Senate has at various times made purely political decisions in its consideration of Supreme Court nominees, certainly it could not be successfully argued that this is an acceptable practice.

“The proper role of the Senate is to advise and consent to the particular nomination, and thus, as the Constitution puts it…This taken within the context of modern times should mean an examination only into the qualifications of the President’s nominee.”

The qualifications, according to McConnell, are competence, achievement/distinction, temperament, ethical behavior, and no criminal record. Nothing about political ideology. McConnell voted for a Supreme Court justice late in a president’s term, supporting Justice Anthony Kennedy, nominated only 13 months before the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. Over a century has lapsed since the president failed to nominate or the Senate failed to confirm a nominee in a presidential year because of the impending election.

In the past, McConnell has stated other rational—and accurate–positions that disappeared after Barack Obama was elected president:

“The President is presumably elected by the people to carry out a program and altering the ideological directions of the Supreme Court would seem to be a perfectly legitimate part of a Presidential platform. To that end, the Constitution gives to him the power to nominate.

“Even though the Senate has at various times made purely political decisions in its consideration of Supreme Court nominees, certainly it could not be successfully argued that this is an acceptable practice.

“The true measure of a statesman may well be the ability to rise above partisan political considerations to objectively pass upon another aspiring human being.”

Reagan supported replacement of justices in the last year of a presidential term:

“The Federal judiciary is too important to be made a political football. I would hope, and the American people should expect, not only for Judge Kennedy’s confirmation but for the Senate to get to work and act on 27 other judicial nominations that have been left in limbo for quite awhile now.”

In July 2008, during the last year of George W. Bush’s second term, Republicans convened a hearing entitled “Protecting American Justice: Ensuring Confirmation of Qualified Judicial Nominees” in reaction to the “Thurmond Rule,” a demand from racist senator, Strom Thurmond, that a president be limited by time to nominate a justice. Almost half a century ago, Thurmond tried to make this mandate in retribution to President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act by blocking the president’s nomination of Justice Abe Fortas as Chief Justice in 1968. No rule was passed, and Thurmond said gave the last six months as the timeline for no nominations. Comments from participants in the 2008 hearing:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):

“[The idea that July 2008 would trigger the] Thurmond Rule ­­– that’s just plain bunk.  The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.”

Eight years later, Grassley said:

“The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year… it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in 2008:

“There’s no excuse for not considering and voting upon a well­ qualified judicial nominee in the United States of America today…  [J]ust because it’s a presidential election year is no excuse for us to take a vacation.  And we’re here.  We’re ready to go to work.”

Now, Alexander wants to allow the next president to fill this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), in 2008, wanted the two parties to work together “to confirm qualified men and women to the federal bench” in an election year–“to establish that regardless of the next president’s party, the nominees will be treated fairly and on the basis of their qualifications, and not on the basis of ancient political squabbles.”

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed these ideas:

“I think it’s clear that there is no Thurmond Rule.  And I think the facts demonstrate that.”

GOP Sen. John McCain said in 2005 that if Democrats should “win the next presidential election,” they should choose Supreme Court nominees because “that’s the way the system works.” McCain has now reversed this opinion.

In the Washington Post, Paul Waldman wrote about the change in the GOP:

“[Republicans] haven’t just grown more ideologically conservative in recent years, they’ve also grown more procedurally radical. Again and again, they’ve decided that the system of formal and informal norms that make the government work can be discarded if it becomes inconvenient.”

Republicans started out with the argument that there is no history of a president nominating a Supreme Court justice in his last year. Once that excuse was totally debunked, they decided it would be cruel to the nominee because Senate will destroy that person’s reputation. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said:

“I think that hearing would end up very politicized. And I don’t think it would be fair to the nominee.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) made a similar argument:

“[I]t might be just as well not to have a hearing that would, sort of, might mislead the American people into thinking that this is just about the qualifications of the candidate, because it’s bigger than that.”

One reason for the shift in attitude may be a fear of the Senate reverting to a Democratic majority. Of the 36 senatorial positions up for grabs in the 2016 election, 24 are Republican. Of those 24, six are in for difficulty in being re-elected.

Another concern may be popular opinion, as seen in the results of the conservative Rasmussen poll indicating that 51 percent of likely voters believe that Obama should nominate Scalia’s successor, and 53 percent believe the Senate should not “reject or refuse to consider” the nomination. Only 35 percent favor McConnell’s blocking the president’s constitutional duty to appoint Scalia’s replacement.

Yet the cracks appearing in McConnell’s control of his Republicans seem to be disappearing,  and GOP senators are turning toward rejecting any nominee. For example, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) earlier stated that the Senate should hold hearings. Her shift in opinion was revealed in tweets urging President Obama to “follow a tradition embraced by both parties” by yielding to the next president:

“If [the president of the United States] ignores precedent, I believe extraordinary circumstances give the Senate every right to deny the nominee an up or down vote.”

The biggest irony about the argument surrounding an appointment to replace Scalia this year comes from the justice’s famous “originalist” view of the Constitution, his belief that laws and judicial rulings in the 21st century should following the text of the Constitution exactly as the Founding Fathers intended. Article II Section 2 of the Constitution states that the president is responsible for nominating members of the high court. Nowhere does the Constitution state “except when a Democratic president has almost a year to serve.”

As Frank Rich wrote:

“By refusing to act on the Scalia vacancy, the [GOP] party will once again brand itself as the party of obstructionism, government dysfunction, and animosity toward the growing majority of Americans who do not fit its predominantly white male demographic.”

August 1, 2015

Planned Parenthood Not Breaking Law

In 1993, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted to legalize fetal tissue donations for the research of cures for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and miscarriage. He was in good company: Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and John McCain (R-AZ) also voted in favor of this law that passed 93-4. Instead of debating that issue, however, they want to defund an organization that follows the law that they passed, and Republicans manifest outrage that Planned Parenthood is doing exactly what Congress authorized the group to do.

Fetal-tissue research is vital and helps many people, but maybe conservatives may see their 1993 legislation as a mistake. If so, they can have a renewed debate on this research instead of attacking Planned Parenthood for following the law that they supported 22 years ago. Planned Parenthood only donates tissue if the women wish.

Salivating about an issue that might bring votes and donations to the Republicans, McConnell used Rule 14 to fast-track legislation to defund Planned Parenthood legislation, bypassing committee involvement, and plans to put the bill up for a vote early next week before the August recess. It can’t pass the Senate without votes from all 54 Republicans and another six Democrats.

McConnell doesn’t even have unanimous GOP agreement. GOP Sens. Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) have already said that they won’t vote to defund the organization. Pro-choice Collins said:

“In my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women’s health services in certain parts of my state. [I] don’t know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.”

Kirk said:

“I do not plan to cut access to basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have no other resources.”

At least one GOP governor also opposes defunding an organization that provides health care for women in his state. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said that an investigation in the state has cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

Two GOP senators running for president are using the fraudulent videos for campaign fodder. Behind Donald Trump by 16 points, Rubio grandstands instead of participating in the senate: thus far he has an attendance rate this year of 70 percent and has missed 69 votes, more than any other senator. The other fire breather candidate, Ted Cruz (R-TX), is close behind with 55 missed votes and 77 percent attendance from his being out on the presidential campaign trail. (On average, senators miss about 3 percent of their votes with an attendance rate of 97 percent.)

Cruz is leading the cry to shut down the government  if his colleagues won’t defund Planned Parenthood. He plans to attach an amendment to the fall appropriations bill, due by October 1, and persuade his colleagues to stop the spending bill if the conservatives don’t get their way. The last time he used this idea—two years ago—the country lost $24 billion during his shutdown. Cruz, however, is counting on Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who led 17 other House members to start the shutdown in the House.

Fortunately, the Los Angeles Superior Court blocked the fraudulent group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing more video footage of employees who work at StemExpress, after three heavily edited videos resulted in a conservative call to defund Planned Parenthood. California law requires the consent of all parties before a “confidential conversation” is recorded. After the court order, CMP released a fourth video that was not recorded in California.

Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, wrote:

“These extremists created a fake business, made apparently misleading corporate filings and then used false government identifications to gain access to Planned Parenthood’s medical and research staff with the agenda of secretly filming without consent–then heavily edited the footage to make false and absurd assertions about our standards and services.”

She skipped the part that the people in the video used fake names. One of them may have also used a credit card without the owner’s permission, and the California driver’s licenses presented by supposed BioMax employees at a Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate may have been forged.

Consultants to GOP candidates, particularly men, advise them to not mention women when addressing the topic of abortion and Planned Parenthood. Instead, politicians should focus on ultrasounds, fetuses, and graphic details of the procedures to frame opposition to abortion rights. Rape is another topic that should not be mentioned because more and more bills oppose rape victims from having abortions. Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that the “patient” in an abortion is the “unborn baby.” In essence, GOP politicians are told to address pregnancy and abortion as having no connection to a body.

Politicians are also told to claim that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, not true according to medical associations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Presidential candidates Scott Walker and Rick Perry are showing 20-week ultrasound images of their children, and Marco Rubio tells that the ultrasound shows that “they were children—and they were our children.” Those ultrasounds, a “really cool” thing according to Walker, can show a severe fetal anomaly, but Walker’s new law doesn’t allow the parents to make a decision about their future. A federal appeals that struck down a North Dakota law banning abortion as early as six weeks asked the Supreme Court for a review to Roe v. Wade with the statement that fetal survival outside the womb “is better left to the states.” Again politicians ignore women—as well as medical recommendations.

Planned Parenthood

The Hyde Amendment prevents the government from funding any abortions, and only three percent of Planned Parenthood activities are connected to abortions; far more of its job is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, do educational outreach and keep people alive and well. Defunding Planned Parenthood denies women access to cancer screenings, STI tests, and other essential preventative care are noticeably absent from the picture. Services are also for men as well as women.

The attack on Planned Parenthood may be dangerous for the Republicans. Only 28 percent of voters want to strip the funding, and only 25 percent said they prefer a candidate who would do this. Even after the release of the videos, 52 percent of the people support Planned Parenthood.

A big objection to the videos is that the impersonal language—just like other surgeons use when they’re discussing surgeries. In her blog, Helen Philpot from Texas shares her perspective with her best friend, Margaret Schmechtman of Maine, who she’s known for over 60 years:

“Margaret, this Planned Parenthood scandal seems to be all hat and no cattle–something I’ve come to expect more and more from the religious right. If honesty isn’t your best policy then join the Republican party….

“I’m a nurse so I get that doctors in particular don’t have the best bedside manners when it comes to talking about the science of healthcare. Yes. It’s a science. I didn’t so much appreciate the way they talked about my breasts when I was diagnosed with cancer. They were my breasts after all, but the way my doctor talked about them you would have thought they weren’t attached to my body. So I get it.  My late husband, Harold, felt the same way about testicular cancer.

“But that isn’t a crime…. Do I wish that the doctors in those videos displayed a little more compassion? Sure. But do I think the greater show of compassion is respecting the privacy and personal decisions of women to manage their own healthcare? Damn right I do.”

People who want to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood continue to forget that abortion is still legal and that Planned Parenthood isn’t breaking any laws. Taking away funding will cause more abortions because fewer women will have contraception. In addition, most defenders have just one concern—that a fetus emerge to breathe. After that many of them are indifferent to the welfare of these breathing creatures.

Sister Joan Chittister said it best:

nun quote

If you are a pro-life defunder, then adopt children and donate lots of money to feed, clothe, and house the children—even if you think that this is the parents’ responsibility. Stop religious people from blocking contraceptives for women. Picket courts and prisons to stop executing people who may not be guilty or who may be rehabilitated. Expand your horizons beyond making sure that a fetus can take one breath. Life is not for one second.

November 1, 2014

GOP Hopes to Exchange Fear for Votes

Filed under: Elections,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:40 PM
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Halloween is gone for 2014, but the GOP is still pouring on the fear to garner votes this next Tuesday. If they can’t stop people from voting by mandating photo IDs, then they hope to terrify them into voting for conservatives.

Conservative candidates try to convince people that ISIL is working with Mexican drug cartels to get into the United States. Senate candidates David Perdue (Georgia) and Tom Cotton (Arkansas) are pushing this thoroughly debunked idea even if their states aren’t on the border. Cotton went so far as to use his ads to disseminate terror footage provided by ISIL.

The most popular false claim just three days before the general election is that Ebola can be stopped only by banning all travel from West Africa. Scott Brown, GOP senatorial candidate in New Hampshire, is running ads that diseased people will be pouring across the southern border, ostensibly with all those ISIL warriors.

Pushing his conservative credentials, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has joined the “party of stupid” by claiming that human-caused climate change is a “Trojan horse” that liberals invented to push their economic agenda.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK ) invented the story that the new Common Core curriculum is an invention of socialism. Rep. State Rep. Charles Van Vant added that Common Core will cause children to be “homosexual.”

GOP Joni Ernst, ahead in the Iowa battle for U.S. senator, claims that the president is a dictator who is a threat to Congress. The Affordable Care Act is so frightening to Ernst that she wants to arrest the officials who implement it. Liberals are trying to kill innocent eggs, according to Ernst, so she wants to give them “personhood” rights and end not only abortion but also contraception. The immigrants are so fearsome that she wants to make English the official language of the United States. Her solution for people who displease her is to shoot them.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) talked about how people commit suicide because they lack support from friends and family at Wasilla High School where a student had recently killed himself. He followed this statement the next day by saying the handouts from the government also make people kill themselves.

Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s GOP candidate for the senate, wants people to be afraid of criminals and blacks. As state House Speaker, he supported the repeal of a law allowing death-row inmates to appeal their sentences with evidence of racial bias because it didn’t honor white Republicans. He also agrees with Ernst in banning contraception and any abortion as well as agreeing with Jindal in the “Trojan horse” of a belief in human-caused climate change.

Other terrors spread by conservatives are the fear of an increase in the pay equity although Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is now claiming that he supports it in his campaign re-election. He actually did away with it in Wisconsin.

Fear of freedom of religion is a focus of Jody Hice, running for a U.S. representative from Georgia. Lack of religion in the schools has caused the mass shootings, according to Hice. He’s also opposing the “judicial terrorists” who want to give religious rights to everyone in the United States. In his book It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America, he spreads the fear of Muslims, who “[don’t] deserve First Amendment protection,” and gay people who try to “sodomize” children and persecute Christians.

Another fear that Hice spreads is that of federal officials trying to make people obey the law. He praised the armed militia groups at the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada who threatened violence against law enforcement officers. His position is that everyone should have the right to “any, any, any, any weapon that our government and law enforcement possesses,” including “bazookas and missiles,” to fight the government. He also spreads fear of Central American children fleeing violence in their home countries and coming into the United States, proposing militia groups at the country’s southern border.

Glenn Grothman, candidate for U.S. representative in Wisconsin, campaigns on fear of unions because they fight for a five-day work week and paid sick leave. Water disinfection programs are another fear that Grothman spreads. Another fear is “women” because “gals” are ruining the United States in their “war on men.” Single motherhood is terrifying because it is “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

Not content with just opposing gay rights in the U.S., Grothman also defended a Ugandan law that makes homosexuality a crime punishable by sentences including life in prison. He even suggested that “unbelievable” American criticism of Uganda’s law would prompt God to punish the United States. Homosexuality needs to be controlled by life imprisonment.

As an Oregon resident, I have the opportunity to oppose Monica Wehby for senator. Although she claims to be pro-choice and pro-marriage equality, she didn’t support these issues until after she had won the primary, indicating that it’s a short-term position. Her other positions are echoed by most GOP candidates across the country:

  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act
  • Support the Hobby Lobby decision that takes contraception from women
  • Oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Incentivize businesses in sending jobs offshore
  • Reduce taxes, including those for corporations
  • Eliminate federal minimum wage
  • Set all school curriculum at local level
  • Leave “all options on the table” regarding Social Security (meaning get rid of it)
  • Secure the border before any immigration reform; deport most undocumented immigrants
  • Stop new EPA regulations
  • Protect forestry industry from lawsuits
  • Oppose expansion of background checks on gun purchases
  • Send ground troops to Middle East
  • Avoid the U.N. Arms Treaty

A few months ago, David Sarasohn, my favorite Oregonian columnist, wrote that Wehby had hit the trifecta of candidate disasters: “embarrassing revelations, plagiarized positions and debate refusals.” Wehby copied material from conservative websites and from her primary opponent for her own website. She first refused to debate her opponent, before she changed her mind to do one debate in the less-populated southern part of the state. And reporters found that she was the subject of three police calls for domestic disturbance against both an ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend.

Although Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, was touted as a medical expert, her health care plans were lifted from Karl Rove. When asked about this, her spokesperson said,”Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry.” She wasn’t. Even after she took her website down to remove the copied material, there was still more when the website became active again.

Sarasohn missed the one about her investment in a company that owes $100,000 in back taxes. Throughout her campaign she used her private sector experience as a doctor to prove that she can “create jobs” in a small business.

Republicans likely selected the unknown Monica Wehby because of her gender, hoping that women would rally around her in the largely blue Oregon. As of last week, only 22 percent of women polled are supporting Wehby.

Almost exactly six years ago on the night that Barack Obama was elected president for the first time, Sen. Mitch McConnell secretly gathered his minions and declared, ““Our No. 1 priority is to make this president a one-term president.” Today, he promised to end gridlock if the people elect enough GOP senators to dominate the chamber. The Minority Leader of the Senate is promising that a GOP minority in the senate will continue to take hostages until the country gives in to his blackmail. This is the real fear that voters should have, electing terrorists to Congress.

October 15, 2014

How Outrageous Can GOP Politicians Get? Part I

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 10:04 PM
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The GOP has been able to naysay much of President Obama’s agenda during his past six years, but it has accomplished one major achievement other than the massive gridlock disgusting all facets of the U.S. population. Through the GOP’s constant negativity, it has convinced many people that they would do better if people under them in the income food change made even less money. Instead of looking up at the people who get richer and richer because of their abusive behavior toward the middle class, they look down with contempt on the poor to justify denying them anything. People who work hard but can’t even make a living are blamed for their poverty. Thanks to conservatives, hard work no longer has any dignity. They believe that if people want more money, they should just work harder to better themselves.

Through massive donations to elect conservatives and wide-spread gerrymandering after the 2010 election, congressional GOP candidates are making big plans about what they will do after they take over the Senate and House in less than three weeks. No matter what they are saying on the campaign trail, they intend to carry out the following if they get into control:

Slash Spending: No money to protect the country except for defense and draconian cuts everywhere including health care and Social Security.

Roll Back Financial Reform: No Wall Street regulation despite the popularity of that move and loss of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created to protect customers.

Repeal Obamacare: Eradication of such benefits as no pre-existing conditions, children remaining on parents’ health insurance until the age of 26, no caps, no subsidies for the poor—on and on.

Shut Down the Country: Another debacle like the last one that cost the economy $700 billion in economic activity and two million jobs.

Around the country, GOP candidates are spewing their hatred for a large segment of the U.S. population, beginning with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who hopes to be Majority Leader in a few short weeks.

His state was one of the most successful in obtaining health care for people. Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the nation, 39th in the nation followed by ten other Southern states, and a massive education campaign allowed hundreds of thousands of people to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. In just that state, 531,000 people signed up for health care through the Affordable Care Act, 75 percent of them previously uninsured. That’s almost ten percent of the state’s population with health insurance who did not have it before “Obamacare.”

McConnell wants to destroy this although he said, “It’s fine to have a website, yeah.” Evidently, he wants to do away with the federal subsidy that makes insurance more affordable for most of his constituents but keep the website. McConnell also said that “Obamacare” would cost the nation 2.5 million jobs. What the nonpartisan CBO said, however, is that the law allows 2.5 million people to leave the workforce because they don’t have to be afraid of health costs.

Another big issue in Kentucky is the minimum wage: Mitch McConnell is opposed to even a modest $10.10 per hour. Opponent Alison Grimes accused him of getting “rich while consistently voting to keep Kentucky poor and we can’t have a senator like that any longer.” McConnell justified his wealth by saying that he inherited it with no mention of his $193,400 annual salary. With a net wealth of $22.8 million, he’s also in the top 10 percent of wealthiest senators. His wife’s inheritance came from her father who imported Chinese goods into the United States. Identifying himself as a member of the “party of the private sector,” McConnell has never had a private sector job.

Among all the offensive actions of GOP candidates, my vote for the worst goes to former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, now running for the same position in New Hampshire after he lost to Elizabeth Warren two years ago. His opponent is again a woman, this time incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. This video at the University of New Hampshire shows how he smiled while his audience shouted such epithets as “F**k Jeanne Shaheen,” “F**k Elizabeth Warren,” and “F**k her right in the p**y.” There were also references to one of the two women as a “c**t.” Tweets indicated that Brown also gave beer to undergrads at the event. Brown also displayed sexism toward earlier opponents, Warren and Martha Coakley.

AP A NH USA Democrats BucklyAnother New Hampshire misogynist, state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, wrote that U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) will likely lose her House seat because she’s “ugly as sin” and “looks matter in politics.” His diatribe continued by saying, “I hope I haven’t offended sin.” Vaillancourt finds Kuster’s GOP opponent, Marilinda Garcia (left), the right level of attractiveness—not too much and not too little. Even Garcia was appalled at these statements.

marilinda-garciaann-mclane-kuster

Some religious people claim that the new rulings in favor of marriage equality are responsible for Ebola, but Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) has another reason: President Obama has brought the virus to the United States to take control of the country through emergency powers. The legislator has made up “Executive order 1332 or 33” and claims that the information is in Forbes. Last week, conservative columnist Morgan Brittany may have planted the seed for Stockman’s conspiracy theory by writing, “My fear is that this has all been orchestrated from the very beginning.” Only one person in the country has died from Ebola. That case was in Stockman’s state of Texas where bad health protocol sent away a man with a temperature of 103 degrees who said that he had come from a country where Ebola is killing people.

Adding to the “I’m not a scientist” response to avoid answers about human-caused climate change, denier Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) says, “I am a scientist.” After a BS in biology 40 years ago, he went on to graduate from medical school and now works as general surgeon. Denying pays well: the oil and gas industry was his third biggest donor for the past election. He claims he hasn’t found any scientific evidence about human-created climate change although peer-reviewed science literature has a 97-percent agreement that carbon emissions—caused by people—are a major cause of climate change.

Jim Bob Duggar isn’t running for anything except maybe greatest procreator (19 children with wife Michelle and counting), but he has been an Arkansas state representative. He explains that “the pill can allow women to get pregnant, but then it can be aborted.” He learned that from a “Christian doctor.” As some doctors in Congress prove, they can be very ignorant.

Georgia GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, David Perdue, felt that the North Carolina-based textile maker Pillowtex and its largest financial backer, Oaktree Capital Management, had no understanding of “the vulnerability that I was in.” The former Pillowtex CEO squeezed at least $1.2 million upon his leaving when the company went bankrupt and 7,600 people lost their jobs. Of that sum, $700,000 went to pay taxes because his Reebok stock did so well.

Running as a “job creator,” Perdue wants to create jobs in other countries instead of the United States. When asked about his career of outsourcing, he said, “I’m proud of it. This is a part of American business, part of any business. Outsourcing is the procurement of products and services to help your business run. People do that all day.”

GOP Jeff Bell is 20 points behind his opponent, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, among women voters. This statement might explain why:

“I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and looked at a lot of different polls, I think it has more to do with the rise in single women. Single mothers particularly are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party.”

Some GOP legislators are so far over the edge that the Republicans don’t know what to do. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has consistently been on TV to tell people that ISIS militants are coming to the U.S. across the Mexican border. Both the U.S. and Mexico have claimed that he’s 100 percent wrong, but Hunter claims he has a “secret source.” When asked about it, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), 2016 presidential possible, answered, “It could happen.” Not a very useful answer. Then he said that they should get answers from the administration. But they already have: DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called the allegations “categorically false.”

There’s more about outrageous GOP candidates tomorrow in Part II.

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