Nel's New Day

June 11, 2019

How to Create More Problems with Immigration

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) purged the Department of Homeland Security, many people blamed his aide, neo-Nazi Stephen Miller, for the firings. Even GOP senators were upset about Miller’s ascension in DDT Land: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called Miller the “guy behind the curtain.” Miller was behind DDT’s executive order banning Muslims from the United States and the family separation policy at the southern border. He crafted DDT’s anti-immigrant speeches, and his ideas mesh well with DDT’s bigotry toward people of color in an excuse of “law and order.”

During Miller’s high school at Santa Monica High School and college days at Duke University, he spread his philosophy of “Americanism,” especially in his push for English-speaking first. In a column for the college newspaper, he argued that multiculturalism threatens U.S. identity. In Washington, D.C., he worked for congressional members, such as then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) before he became senior policy adviser for DDT’s presidential campaign. Richard Painter, a White House ethics lawyer during President George W. Bush’s administration, called Miller “the most notorious racist in the Trump White House.”

According to former DHS officials, Miller got rid of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen by leaking information about asylum seekers at the southern border to the Washington Examiner and then giving copies of the newspaper reports to DDT. Nielsen was joined in April DHS departures by Randolph Alles, director of the Secret Service, and the White House withdrawal of Ron Vitiello’s nomination for head of ICE. On June 1, Miller dumped Lee Cissna, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) former staffer as head of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Pushing out Cissna irritates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) because he, along with other establishment senators, hates DDT’s replacement, Ken Cuccinelli. Cissna is a knowledgeable immigration hawk; Cuccinelli has only loyalty to DDT. Under Cissna, his department created systems to delay approvals and increase denials for immigrants, participating in DDT’s attempt to get rid of DACA and sunset Temporary Protected Status designations for several countries. Cissna was in charge of cracking down on asylum-seekers that returned thousands of them to Mexico where they remain in danger.

DDT needs Republican senators, including McConnell, to get Cuccinelli confirmed, but the former Virginia AG has no experience in immigration law and regulation. He also leads the Senate Conservatives Fund with the goal of defeating incumbent Republicans in primaries. Two years ago, Cuccinelli signed a letter calling for McConnell to step down.

Cuccinelli does have experience in persecuting immigrants by restricting them access to public services, employment, and citizenship. In 2010, he supported the Arizona law permitting police to investigate the immigration status of any person stopped by law enforcement and issued a legal opinion expanding a policy to include any suspected undocumented immigrant in Virginia. In the state senate, Cuccinelli proposed a law allowing employers to fire employees who didn’t speak English in the workplace and deny them unemployment compensation. Another of his bills would permit businesses to sue competitors for economic damages if they believed the employers hired undocumented immigrants plus $500 “for each such illegal alien employed by the defendant.” In 2008, he encouraged Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of amending the 14th Amendment of the constitution by excluding citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants.

After trying to hide his anti-immigrant past during his lost run for governor, he appeared on conservative media advocating the militarization of the border and prevention of all immigrants from Central America. He also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner to support the deployment of troops to the southern border.  

As AG, Cuccinelli crusaded against the Affordable Care Act and fought to keep Virginia’s sodomy law, struck down by the Supreme Court a decade earlier. Equating being gay with pedophilia, he started the website VAChildPredators and listed the names of everyoneone convicted of sodomy. Despite his claim to protect children, the anti-sodomy law was only for consensual oral or anal sex between adults—no matter what gender. The Supreme Court struck down his attempts.

In other attacks on LGBTQ people, he fought to keep same-gender couples from adopting and tried to eliminate nondiscrimination protections in colleges and universities. If he heads immigration and citizenship, he can continue to block children born overseas to same-gender parents from becoming citizens. His appointment will be the destruction of same-gender families and death sentences for LGBTQ asylum seekers.

Cucinelli also opposes all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and the mother’s health. To Cuccinelli, any information about sexuality—even in higher education—is symptomatic of the “moral depravity that has crept across this commonwealth and this country.” The Catholic Church creates a “culture of dependency on government, not God,” according to Cuccinelli, because they want to care for the poor, immigrants, and uninsured. He ridiculed a Catholic diocese newspaper for putting these issues in its voter guides.

A vehement climate change denier, Cuccinelli frequently tells audiences to exhale carbon dioxide together to “annoy the EPA.” He investigated former University of Virginia climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann for fraud because Mann sought government funding for climate change research. Much of Cuccinelli’s funding came from fossil fuel companies that he inappropriately helped in coalbed methane extraction rights, according to a state judge and Virginia’s inspector general. He followed the “birther” conspiracy about President Obama’s birth place falsely being in Kenya and then asserted that the president was re-elected through voter fraud. At the site of the Virginia Tech mass shooting where 32 people were killed, he bragged about his NRA “A” rating.

In addition to Cuccinelli being a truly awful nominee, his appointment may be illegal. The 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act requires that nominees to lead agencies must have had another federal government position in the executive branch, G-15 or above, for at least 90 days before the vacancy or in another Senate-confirmed role. DDT slipped Cuccinelli into a newly invented “principal deputy director” position to carry out his nefarious activities for at least two years as “acting” and not requiring confirmation.

Cuccinelli’s competitor, Kris Kobach, is even crazier than Cuccinelli. A few weeks ago, Kobach was a media joke for the demands he made for being “immigration czar”: access to a government jet 24 hours a day; an office in the West Wing; a staff of seven; walk-in privileges with DDT; Assistant to the President rank with commensurate high pay; security detail; face of DDT’s immigration policy; guaranteed weekends off for family time; orders that secretaries of DHS, Defense, Justice Ag, Interior, and Commerce immediately follow his directives without question; and the promise that he would be appointed DHS Secretary by November. Kobach wrote anti-immigration laws, used faulty computer software to suppress the vote, and acted as adviser to the even crazier former Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

To suppress the U.S. vote, Kobach led DDT’s “election” commission, disbanded in 2018. The same year, Kobach lost his run for Kansas governor to a female Democrat—in Kansas! Now he’s considering a run for U.S. senator after Pat Roberts plans to not run again. Republicans are so unhappy about the possibility that National Republicans said they will “make sure he doesn’t make it past the primary.”

DDT seems to be bringing undocumented immigrants to the southern border in far greater numbers than President Obama. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) holds DDT responsible. In April, he said:

“I called up all the folks I’ve been working with on this, what’s going on. They said, well, there’s a couple of small reasons and one big reason. The small reasons are the elections in Guatemala and better bus travel from southern Mexico to northern Mexico. But the big reason? As Trump rants about the border, so many people are saying, ‘I’m in this terrible situation; if I’m going to go, I’d better go now.’ It’s all Trump-generated.”

Numbers at the southern border have increased since then. DDT advertises his wall and announces elimination of aid to Central America to improve the political and economic conditions. In 2014, U.S. aid to El Salvador drove down violent crime in the country, and migration dropped. Since then, climate warming and rainfall decrease eradicates corn crops in Honduras and loss of agriculture in Guatemala. DDT’s rejection of climate change and its problems will mean more “climate refugees.” He also may be causing worsening economic conditions in Central America forcing refugees as a rallying point for his 2020 election. Illegal immigration fell for eight years under a Democratic president before it steadily rose after the Republicans took over all three branches of government.

In DHS’ and privatization’s latest failure, photos of airport passengers and other personal data including license plate information collected by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have been stolen in computer hacking. The surveillance facial-recognition program, sold by Amazon, has thus far been proved to be faulty, especially for women and people of color. The private firm Perceptics, most likely the target of the attack, is part of an initiative to verify identities of all travelers at the border. Just another evidence of encroaching authoritarianism in the United States.  

June 10, 2019

‘The Best [Corrupt] People’

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got elected, he frequently claimed that he would “surround myself only with the best and most serious people.” These “best people” have proved to be a disaster, even to DDT, and his phenomenal turnover means that at least 50 top officials left him within the past 16+ months since his inauguration.

Some of their names might not be well-known, but their disastrous influence remains. For example, leaving this past week was Kevin Hassett, chair of DDT’s Council of Economic Advisers and advocate of DDT’s tax cuts. Hassett said that his departure has nothing to do with DDT’s disastrous tariff decisions, but he questions a successful forecast in GDP growth for 2019 and is “very much concerned” about the growing fiscal deficit. Other departed economic advisers include Paul Winfree who came from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, Jeremy Katz who also pushed the tax cut bill, Dina Powell who worked with Ivanka Trump on “empowerment of women,” Gary Cohn who was formerly president and COO of Goldman Sachs who wasn’t happy with DDT’s blaming “both sides” in the neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville (VA) and left after dissatisfaction with DDT’s tariff policy, Everett Eissenstat who left to be GM’s senior vice president of global public policy, Clete Willems who dumped a job to negotiate with China to join a law firm public law and policy practice, and Linda McMahon who helped build World Wrestling Entertainment who did stay with DDT to chair one of his super PACs. And these are only some of the people in his economic world.

Staying, of course, is DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who seems to be charge of almost everything because he doesn’t have any other place to go. Almost totally silent for his first two years, he appeared two times in the past few weeks. One was testimony with hardliner neo-Nazi Stephen Miller in a closed Senate session about DDT’s new immigration plan. Kushner managed to avoid most questions and failed to provide solutions while frequently interrupted by Miller. Republicans publicly praised Kushner for the presentation of a merit-based system for the highest skilled people but privately said that he lacked clear answers. He said that immigrants would be required to pass a civics test to get access to the point system but then avowed that the central purpose is to unify immigrant families, including mothers and children. He couldn’t answer a question about what do to with undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Because Kushner rejected the idea of DACA, GOP officials gave the immigration plan as much chance as Kushner’s peace plan in the Middle East—which is zero.

Kushner’s next performance, an interview with Axios, got a lot more media play: 

“Uh when there are things that they don’t do that we do not approve of, we we talk about that with them privately, but we feel like we’re in a position now where there’s a lot of interest that we have that are shared with them.”—about Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who tortured and dismembered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (After Kushner’s interview, DDT said he didn’t blame MBS for Khashoggi’s murder.)

“It’s a horrific thing that happened, and what we’ve done is we’ve called for full transparency.”—about whether the Saudis should return Khashoggi’s body for a proper burial.

“Look, I would not have come into government had there been anything salacious and nefarious that I was worried about.”—about the headline, “Background check chief has ‘never seen’ mistakes and omissions at level of Jared Kushner forms.”

“So, the answer is no, absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. And what I’ll say is that when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country…. Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.”—a statement that he made over and over about whether DDT is a racist, with the example that DDT continually claimed that President Obama was not born in the United States.

“Look, I think that the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign.”—about whether DDT’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims from the U.S. was “religiously bigoted.”

“It doesn’t make a difference.”—about the number of refugees permitted to settle in the U.S.

“I do think this is a terrible thing. Because you want people who have been successful in this country, who have taken advantage of the greatness of the opportunity that America provides, to go into government and to serve their country. When they get harassed and they have their companies looked at and their employees have to deal with this nonsense because people want to push a narrative, I think that’s a terrible thing.”—about whether Deutsche Bank should examine transactions moving cash from companies Kushner controls to Russians.

“[The meeting was] total waste of time, [and] we were not given anything that was salacious.”—about whether he should have called the FBI about Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and whether he would call the FBI if it happened again.

“Look, I’m not here to be trusted.”—about why Palestinians don’t trust him in the peace negotiations.

Kushner owns part of real estate company Cadre that received $90 million in mysterious foreign funding since he became DDT’s senior adviser. The money was funneled from a Cayman Islands through Goldman Sachs. Kushner was refused a security clearance, but DDT demanded that he be given one.

Another Cabinet member is also being investigated for conflict of interest. Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has high-level political connections in China because of her family’s shipping company which helped both Chao and McConnell prosper. Part of Chao’s job is to promote U.S. maritime industry.

Chao’s father James S.C. Chao was once roommate with Jiang Zemin who became president of China. He founded Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company in 1964 and received a big contract with the U.S. government to ship rice to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. In 1984, the Chao family acquired part of a Chinese-owned manufacturer of marine electronic equipment although they can’t remember the investment. With some of its ship-building financed by Chinese loans, Foremost ships over 70 percent of its freight, mostly iron ore, to China for steel manufacturing. DDT has temporarily lifted tariffs on imported steel. Chao’s Transportation Department has cut programs for U.S.-flagged ships and replacing ships to train U.S. mariners. Congress replaced the money, but Chao is still being questioned for her connections and status to boost Foremost’s reputation and visibility. In her confirmation hearings, she failed to mention her family’s deep ties to the Chinese maritime industry and her accolades China gives her, a violation of her questionnaire. Thirteen members of the Chao family donated over $1 million to McConnell’s campaigns and PACs. James Chao gave the couple at least $25 million.

McConnell himself also has problems with taking campaign money from Russians–$3.5 million from oligarch Oleg Deripaska. When DDT wanted to lift sanctions last year against mafia-esque Deripaska, Vladimir Putin’s friend, McConnell pushed the Senate into following DDT’s directions although the GOP House voted 362-53 to keep the sanctions in place. Lifting sanctions allowed Deripaska’s aluminum company Rusal and its parent company En+ back into the U.S. Within four months of McConnell’s favor to Deripaska, who also worked with DDT’s convicted former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Deripaska’s Russian aluminum company Rusal sent $200 million for a $1.7 billion aluminum plant in northeastern Kentucky. Part of the action came from Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), known for his ethical problems with prostitution. Vitter’s wife, one of DDT’s judicial nominees, was not been able to get confirmed for over 18 months—partly because she didn’t support Brown v. Topeka, the Supreme Court case that just celebrated its 55th anniversary for overturning public school segregation. Soon after Sen. Vitter told McConnell about brokering the deal to pour Deripaska’s money into Kentucky, wife Wendy Vitter was confirmed for her lifetime federal judicial term. And the payoffs are all out in the open, no need to hide any of the quid pro quo.

The husband/wife team work well together. Chao designated a special liaison, McConnell’s advance man Scott Inman in McConnell’s 2014 election, to help with grant applications and other priorities from the Transportation Department for McConnell’s state of Kentucky, providing him with at least $78 million for his projects as he runs for re-election in 2020. No other state has this advantage. Earmarks are supposedly no longer legal, but McConnell has found another way to funnel a large amount of money into his state as these details prove. As McConnell said, “All 100 senators may have one vote, but they’re not all equal. Kentucky benefits from having one of its own setting the agenda for the country.” And set it, he does.

March 18, 2019

Some Republicans Briefly Oppose DDT

Congress is on a week-long recess this week—why, I don’t know—but last week it made two historic moves when GOP Republican senators voted against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—twice. Both of them are resolutions that opposed DDT’s power, and one has already been vetoed.

The first has been returned to the House for approval after the House already voted in favor of a similar bill. The War Powers resolution would eliminate U.S. military support for the assault on Yemen in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Since 2015, U.S. forces have provided targeting and refueling support to Saudi and United Arab Emirates warplanes that deliberately bomb civilian targets. A complete failure, the Saudi war against Houthi rebels has created the worst cholera epidemic in modern times and “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Fourteen million Yemenis are on the edge of starvation. Saudi needs U.S. support to continue the war, and DDT’s administration plans to continue its support despite bipartisan opposition to DDT’s loyalty to the murderous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Senate does have a bill to stop U.S. sales of weapons to Saudi and place sanctions on Saudi after MBS’s torture and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Passing the resolution with a 54-46 vote, the Senate supported the resolution for the second time in three months. Last December, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) refused to allow a vote after the Senate passed it 56-41, but the House now passed it by 248-177. Congress has not withdrawn U.S. forces from an authorized war for 45 years.

The second historic congressional action was the 59-41 vote to overturn DDT’s national emergency wall-building order after the House had passed the bill by 245-182, a bill that DDT almost immediately vetoed. Twelve Republicans voted against DDT after he spent almost two weeks begging them to support him. GOP lawmakers voting against DDT’s executive order know that the Constitution grants Congress, not the president, spending control.

Caving in to DDT’s threats to campaign against them in 2020, all GOP senators running for re-election except Susan Collins (ME) voted for his emergency declaration although several of those who voted against the resolution said that they supported it. Last month, Thom Tillis (SC) said he would vote for the disapproval, writing in an opinion piece for the WaPo that there would be “no intellectual honesty” in supporting DDT’s executive overreach when he had opposed that action under President Barack Obama. He lost his “intellectual honesty” and supported DDT’s executive overreach with the excuse that DDT will stop presidential powers with changes to the National Emergencies Act.

One new senator asked for a bribe in exchange for her vote. Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) told VP Mike Pence that she’ll vote against the bill blocking DDT’s emergency declaration if he gives her more money for the military in Arizona. She may have to vote for more Pentagon funding because the Pentagon wants more funding if it has to pay for wall.

Democratic representatives plan an override vote on March 26 although Republicans will most likely not vote to oppose DDT’s emergency declaration. The Senate would need eight more votes to override the veto, and 21 are under DDT’s thumb if they run for re-election. Only one, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, has said he won’t run for re-election. Schumer has suggested that Democratic senators may attach Rep. Juan Castro’s (D-TX) disapproval resolution language as amendments to larger bills, including spending and defense funding reauthorization. Republicans who allow DDT to pluck money from the military for his wall may be in trouble with their constituents with the loss of jobs for the projects.

After voting to abdicate their responsibilities to determine expenditures, some Republicans are considering changes to the National Emergencies Act to more easily stop future emergency declarations as an end run around Congress—possibly as a control on a Democratic president. DDT opposes restrictions on his powers, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “Republican Senators are proposing new legislation to allow the President to violate the Constitution just this once in order to give themselves cover.”

Twenty states are suing the administration in opposition to DDT’s order to build his wall. Three issues to be considered:

For “standing” to be able to sue, plaintiffs must prove they are harmed. The states argue that the funding will be diverted from state-based projects, and landowners can sue for seizure of their property. Democratic legislators can also sue with the precedent of Republicans suing President Obama for payouts to insurers under the Affordable Care Act that were not approved by Congress.

The question of whether an emergency at the southern border must be proved, and DDT said, “I didn’t need to [declare an emergency].” Other arguments against the emergency include data about lower crossings, less crime from immigrations, and drugs moved through official ports of entry can also be argued. Congressional majority votes against the executive order also factor into this decision.

The third point argued in the lawsuit is whether the wall construction is a “military” project. Border enforcement is typically a civilian project, and leaders of the military complex have already said that it is “security,” not “military” as DDT’s acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Four days after Congress passed the resolution to overturn DDT’s executive order, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan provided a list to Congress with several hundred construction projects costing $12.9 billion in dozens of states and U.S. bases around the world that would be impacted shortly after DDT’s acting chief in staff Mick Mulvaney said that no list exists. The release of the list to the media has resulted in a hornet’s nest of papers across the United States furious about the losses to military construction projects.

Republicans promised Democrats that this bipartisan effort to lead the country is a short-term thing. In their efforts to placate DDT, they said that they’ll be back on his side after the two votes this week. The House has passed many bills in their two months of the 116th Congress, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised that they won’t “see the light of day.”

McConnell’s power hasn’t brought him popularity. He’s up for re-election next year, and 61 percent of people in Kentucky think it’s “time for someone new.” Only 32 percent think he “deserves to be reelected.” Before January, McConnell was the third more unpopular senator in the country: Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) retired, and Claire McCaskill (MO) were voted out of office. McConnell’s state disapproval rating of 47 percent last year went up to 56 percent in February. Nation-wide, 40 percent of people gave him an unfavorable rating.

Hundreds of youth activists from the Sunrise Movement protested at McConnell’s office where 42 of them were arrested. The group claims that McConnell does not answer their emails; he did not speak to them at the protest. Destine Rigsby, a 17-year-old from Louisville, said of McConnell: “You line your pockets while we die in floods and choke on the air we breathe, yet you don’t even have the decency to look us in the eyes.”

DDT’s base and GOP legislators wanting to get re-elected seem to be the only ones defending DDT’s wall. Four-star Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, tasked with troops at the southern border, told Congress that Russia is the main threat facing the U.S. No mention of Mexico, caravans, or drugs. He added that “the threats to our nation from our southern border are not military in nature.” At least, DDT may have decided not to take $1 billion from military pay and pensions for his wall.

Sixty percent of Texas voters disapprove of President Donald Trump using emergency powers to fund the wall; 52 percent of voters said they don’t believe undocumented immigrants crossing the border amounts to a national emergency. According to 57 percent of Texas voters, a wall on the Mexican border would not “significantly decrease violent crime in the U.S.” while 54 percent said the wall would not “significantly decrease the amount of illegal drugs in the U.S.” In the general population, an average of 64 percent polling oppose the national emergency. Only 27 percent of poll respondents oppose a veto override; 46 percent support the override.

Another of DDT’s broken promises: Mexico isn’t paying for the expensive, unneeded wall.

DDT’s re-election campaign is asking for donations to the “Wall Defense Fund” with the money going directly into the campaign general funds. From there, it goes to DDT’s businesses and lawyers who defend his family members and some of his former officials. [Above: the wall that Nogales doesn’t want]

 

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.”

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