Nel's New Day

June 11, 2018

Supreme Court Permits Vote Purging, Other Court Actions

Monday in June means the dribbling of decisions from major Supreme Court cases for the year. Today’s ruling in a 5-4 vote legitimizes the purging of registered voters from rolls if they miss elections. Ohio’s law may be unethical (my opinion) but not against federal law (Samuel Alito’s opinion). The National Voting Rights Act prevents the removal of voters because they fail to vote but requires states to keep accurate rolls. The court’s justification for the ruling comes from the lack of response to a postcard followed by four years of not voting. Cases still waiting for announced decisions concern DDT’s travel ban, gerrymandering, internet sales taxes, union fees, mobile phone privacy, and credit card fees.

Policies promulgated by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) are crossing the line into illegal. Despite DOJ AG Jeff Sessions’ claim that all children are removed from parents when immigrants try to cross the southern border, HHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refused to be specific about this aim in a Senate hearing and avoided the term “deterrence” because she knows that this policy is illegal. A federal judge blocked President Obama in 2015 from locking up Central American immigrant mothers and their children without bond to stop others from crossing the border, and the 1997 Flores settlement bars locking up children in detention centers. To avoid this problem, the DOJ takes children from parents and treats them as if they came by themselves. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit and asked for a nationwide injunction to stop DDT’s family separation policy.

The DOJ lawyer claimed that they weren’t systematically separating mothers, but three days later Sessions announced that the “zero tolerance” police included mothers with their children. The judge ruled that the case against the policy can move forward because it “arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child. Such conduct, if true, as it is assumed to be on the present motion, is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”

Until the World of Trump, the DOJ defended federal law, no matter the political views of the DOJ and the sitting president. Now AG Jeff Sessions is supporting lawsuits from 20 GOP states to invalidate the provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandating that all people buy insurance and thus removing the requirement that healthcare provide for pre-existing conditions. The 17 Democratic-led states have filed a brief to argue for the retention of the ACA, and three career DOJ attorneys refuse to back DOJ support. Instability will cause higher charges for healthcare premiums in 2019. The DOJ controls the nation’s laws by deciding which ones to defend—legal decisions by caprice.

Doing away with the ACA could be a GOP ecological approach to reducing population and make Republicans an endangered species. Although a majority of die-hard Republicans oppose the ACA, 54 percent of people have a favorable view with strong support by independents. Support for the law grows each time that the GOP tries to repeal it.

Philadelphia will keep its status as a so-called sanctuary city after it won its lawsuit against the federal government. The DOJ had pulled a grant because the city would not allow ICE agents into city prisons, notify them when undocumented immigrants leave prisons, and give them information about their immigration status. The city argued that its police force is not an arm of federal agencies, and the judge wrote that the refusal was based in “reasonable, rational,” and “equitable” logic.

Arizona has agreed to allow voters to register without providing proof of citizenship at the time of registration.

The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a Phoenix ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop. The three-judge panel wrote: “[A]llowing a vendor who provides goods and services for marriages and weddings to refuse similar services for gay persons would result in ‘a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services and public accommodations.’” They added that the law “regulates conduct, not speech.” The baker won his case not to sell one wedding cake to a gay couple but the opinion essentially ruled in favor of LGBTQ rights.

The 9th Circuit Court has just ruled that Maricopa County (AZ) is liable for the racist traffic stop policies of former Joe Arpaio, now a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. After the federal district court ruling, Arpaio was found in civil contempt of court and criminal contempt for continuing his discriminatory practices after a court order not to enforce federal immigration law on a local level. DDT pardoned him on the civil contempt charges, but the cost to the county is almost $100 million. Maricopa County claimed it wasn’t liable for his actions because he was a policymaker for his own office or the entire state—not the county. The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit Court disagreed.

DDT’s NFL problem with keeping players from kneeling during the national anthem won’t go away: Colin Kaepernick is suing the NFL for collusion against him because he was blacklisted for leading the NFL players’ protest of police brutality against blacks. Kaepernick’s lawyers plan to request subpoenas for DDT, VP Mike Pence, and White House officials in seeking the DDT administration’s involvement in making players stand during the national anthem. DDT suggested pardoning Ali when he said that he was looking at “thousands of names” of people he can pardon. A lawyer for Ali already turned down DDT, stating that there is no crime for DDT to pardon. Ron Tweel pointed out that the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction in 1971 for Ali’s resisting the draft in June 1967. DDT’s comment was made after he made his appeal to black voters by pardoning Alice Marie Johnson, who has already served 21 years of a life term for nonviolent offenses, a week after he met with Kim Kardashian West. Johnson was convicted on money laundering, one of the charges against Paul Manafort. About DDT pardoning Muhammad Ali, his wife said that “the pardon should go to those who kneel.”

The number of lawsuits surrounding Stormy Daniels has increased after Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti discovered that other women were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements for extramarital affairs with DDT At least one of them was represented by Daniels’ previous lawyer, Keith Davidson. The new lawsuit claims that he “colluded” with DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen to get Daniels on Sean Hannity’s Fox program to falsely deny that she had an affair with DDT. The lawsuit also alleges that DDT was aware of the two lawyers’ coordination but Daniels wasn’t. Another allegation is that Davidson broke client confidentiality by telling Cohen that Daniels was getting a new lawyer and announcing that she had an affair with DDT. Texts show that the two lawyers agreed that Daniels would have no interviews except through Davidson. DDT and Sean Hannity may be called as witnesses.

Davidson retaliated with his own lawsuit against Daniels and Avenatti with a separate one against Cohen for illegally recording phone calls with Davidson. He claimed that he only communicated with Cohen after instructed by his client.

The DOJ seized phone and email records from New York Times reporter Ali Watkins in its investigation into James Wolfe, formerly Senate Intelligence Committee’s director of security, who was indicted for lying to investigators. Watkins said that they had a personal relationship, but he was not a source for her. It is the first case of DDT seizing a reporter’s records, and Wolfe was not charged with passing classified information despite DDT’s inuendos. Leaking unclassified government information is not illegal. DOJ rules require officials to exhaust all of possibilities and negotiate with the reporter before taking legal action to get the records. There was no negotiation, and other actions before taking the records were not made clear. Watkins broke the news about DDT’s associate Carter Page meeting with a Russian spy in 2013.

The UN is demanding an immediate stop to the U.S. removal of children from families at the border because it violates their right and international law. The U.S. refuses to stop the practice and declares all entries as illegal although families requesting asylum, not an illegal entry, are also being separated. The A.C.L.U. has filed a class-action lawsuit, demanding a stop to the separation and reunification of families.

In the UN, the U.S. vetoed an Arab-backed Kuwait measure with ten votes to protect Palestinians from Israelis. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s resolution to condemn Hamas for Israeli violence in Gaza got only the U.S. vote. Israelis have killed 124 Palestinians, including journalists and medics, and wounded over a thousand more along the fence to Gaza where two million poor Palestinians, displaced by Israelis in 1948, live. No Israelis have been killed.

The Treasury Department has threatened governments and private companies if they trade with Iran. Under Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker said:

“Companies doing business in Iran face substantial risks, and those risks are even greater as we reimpose nuclear-related sanctions. We will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”

This website tracks court cases in which citizens, tribal nations, state and local governments, business owners, and others are standing up for U.S. conservation laws, common-sense energy rules, and ethics and transparency standards at the Department of the Interior.

June 1, 2018

A Week of Lying, Incoherent Tweets

In a speech this week about “the importance of team work, social skills,” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said:

“Do I have social skills? I don’t know. I have social media, that’s for sure. I don’t know about skill, but I have a lot of media.”

He added that the education in “patience, and perseverance, hard work, and determination … can’t be replicated on a cell phone [but] have to be learned and lived on the field of practice, with lots of sweat, lots of hard work, and lots of determination.”

DDT’s use of social media was in full bloom this last week of May as he practiced tweeting on his cellphone. He lowered the stock market by announcing massive tariffs on allies, raised it by announcing classified information about job numbers, and kept dropping pieces of the North Korea talks. Other tweets were unhinged, sometimes incoherent.

In a lead-up to Memorial Day, DDT acknowledge the “so-called Russian Meddling” but blamed it on Democrats who lost the election because of Russian actions.

“Why didn’t President Obama do something about the so-called Russian Meddling when he was told about it by the FBI before the Election? Because he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win, and he didn’t want to upset the apple cart! He was in charge, not me, and did nothing.”

Fox inspired an early tweet on Memorial Day:

“We now find out that the Obama Administration put the opposing campaigns presidential candidate, or his campaign, under investigation. That raises legitimate questions.”

DDT’s way to honor fallen soldiers:

“Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!”

A veterans’ group responded:

“Self-promotion on a day to remember the fallen, and wishing those remembering their deceased loved ones a ‘happy’ holiday is appalling.”

Another Memorial Day remembrance:

“Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.  Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.”

Facts:

  • Democrats have nothing to do with separating children from their parents.
  • The separation comes from DDT’s policy, not law.
  • DDT moved the treatment of children from his own DHS to his own DOJ.
  • DOJ announced the separation as part of “zero tolerance” on the border.
  • Democrats are not protecting “MS-13 thugs.”
  • Many MS-13 gang members were born in the United States.
  • The wall will not stop chain migration—the system that brought DDT’s in-laws to the U.S.
  • Democrats have nothing to do with separating children from their parents.

During the first two weeks of the DOJ policy, 658 children were separated from their parents, some of them as young as 53 weeks old, one week past the baby’s first birthday. Laura St. John of the Florence Project said she has “seen months where a parent had no idea where their child was after the US government took their child away.” Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project added that they are waiting for a decision to a lawsuit regarding a woman who has waited seven months thus far for ICE to return her seven-year-old daughter.

The government lost 1,475 undocumented children in its custody, almost 20 percent of children who officials tried to find. The U.S. becomes guardians of all the minors in ICE custody, but HHS assigns some children to human traffickers who threaten them with bodily harm if they don’t work at hard labor for long hours each day.

Media ignored the Border Patrol treatment of migrants. Many minors are physically and sexually assaulted, their pressing medical issues sometimes ignored for days. With no requirement that they receive legal help in their hearings, they go into court alone to plead their case, sometimes at ages below five years old. One witness saw a 53-week-old baby alone in court for a hearing about how the U.S. would “dispose” of her.  Treatment will be even worse now that DDT describes these minors as “animals,” subhuman beings.

That’s Memorial Day, 2018.

A week ago, James Clapper objected in strong terms to DDT’s claim that Clapper agreed about “Spygate”:

“He deliberately spun it, distorted it. I mean this is George Orwell — up is down, black is white, peace is war. That’s exactly what I didn’t say. I took aversion to the word spy, it was the most benign version of information gathering. The important thing is the whole reason the FBI was doing this was concern over what the Russians were doing to infiltrate the campaign, not spying on the campaign.”

Media turned from “Spygate,” however, after Rosanne Barr’s racist tweets that led to ABC discontinuing her television program. In a bizarre explanation, Barr blamed Ambien for calling senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett an ape and accusing Holocaust survivor George Soros of being a Nazi collaborator who stole Jewish property and killed other Jews. Her tweet also blamed “memorial day.” Medical experts and the drug maker, Sanofi, stated that racism isn’t a side effect of the medication although it can lower inhibitions. When Barr later begged her boss, Ben Sherwood, she told him that she thought that Jarrett, who she had called an “ape” is white, that “she looks like my family.” ABC is considering renewing the show without Barr.

After ABC cancelled Barr’s show, it suspended the sitcom’s campaign for the Emmys, her talent agency fired her, and Viacom and Hulu are pulling reruns of Roseanne which go back to 1988. Both DDT and his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders used Barr’s firing as an excuse to falsely attack the media after trying to ignore the problem for at least a day.

The act of NFL players’ kneeling during the national anthem hasn’t gone away after owners caved into DDT’s pressure by threatening to fire players if they don’t kneel—although they can stay in the locker room during that time. One tweet refutes DDT’s accusation about players protesting the flag:

“Rosa Parks was not protesting the bus. Gandhi was not protesting the food. The colonists were not protesting tea. Players are not protesting the flag of the anthem. They are protesting injustice.”

More DDT’s tweets from this week:

Why didn’t the crooked highest levels of the FBI or ‘Justice’ contact me to tell me of the phony Russia problem?”  [Documents show he was briefed about the possibility of Russian meddling in his campaign on July 19, 2016.]

“Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia!” [During an interview with Lester Holt immediately after the firing, DDT announced to the world that Russia was one of the reasons for the former FBI director’s firing.]

“I wish I did [pick someone other than Jeff Sessions for AG].” [DDT wants an attorney general to protected him from any investigation for wrongdoing.]

Yesterday’s vehement tweet storm came after comedian Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t” on a segment of her show about Ivanka’s inaction on the current administration’s cruel treatment of undocumented children. Bee apologized, but DDT, who never criticized Roseanne Barr’s racist comments, called for Bee to be fired for the same term he used against at least three women. Bee attacked Ivanka as DDT’s appointed government official, not as his daughter although conservatives have compared the attack to one on Chelsea Clinton.

Sally Fields fanned the flames with her tweet about Bee’s statement, “I like Samantha Bee a lot, but she is flat wrong to call Ivanka a cunt. Cunt’s are powerful, beautiful, nurturing and honest.” The debate continued, with one pundit writing “racism trumps crudeness.” Bee apologized; Barr tried to lie her way out of her racism.

DDT uses a large number of his tweets insulting people and nations, stating policy that he sometimes reverses, threatening action for imagined affronts, and frequently out-and-out lying. If DDT is offended by Bee’s use of the word, he must look to his own comments and the people he supports that are setting the current tone of the country. DDT has protected staff members who abuse their wives, express gratitude because those opposed to his policies are dying, seek help with foreign countries to get himself and other GOP candidates elected, denigrate non-Christians, plot to take rights from everyone except white men, move all assets to the wealthiest, promote conspiracy theories including the birther movement—the list goes on and on. He has fostered the cultural climate in the United States that is now turning on him.

If the tweets below aren’t enough for you, New York Times has “The 459 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List,” and CNN has “All the President’s Tweets” in chronological order.

The greatest tragedy is that conservatives are incensed about Bee’s use of one word while they ignore the thousands of deaths in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria, the children taken from people crossing the border for no other purpose than punishment, and the way that DDT uses the United States as his personal toy. Conservatives search for insults while they ignore their personal behavior as subhuman.

May 27, 2018

U.S. Minorities Fight for Constitutional Rights

The calamitous and chaotic foreign affairs creating a debacle during the past week have pushed disastrous decisions of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) into the background. One of the worst is DDT’s new “gag rule” that prevents federal funds from any institution that mentions abortion. https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trump-pushing-domestic-gag-rule-stop-some-doctors-discussing-abortion-nyt?src=newsletter1092354  Until now, the “gag rule” by the federal government has been for only foreign women, but DDT plans to withdraw any federal family planning funds if healthcare workers indicates abortion as an alternative to pregnancy. The man making this decision is so ignorant about health that he doesn’t know the difference between HIV and HPV, even after Microsoft founder Bill Gates explained it to him—twice. (HIV is the virus that causes the disease known as AIDS, and HPV is the human papillomavirus causing genital warts and cancer.)

As DDT plans to put high tariffs on car imports, he forgets that some of these are “Made in the USA.” Foreign automobile companies employ people in Southern “right-to-work” states because car manufacturing is cheaper there than in their own countries. As usual, the battle is between hardline trade adviser Peter Navarro and his opponents, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett. DDT is on his customary pattern of intimidating people and distracting the media from his personal problems.

Minimum wages in Mexico are part of the NAFTA negotiations. Imported cars to the U.S. are tariff-free if 62.5 percent of the content comes from North America, but DDT wants to make that 75 percent and then require 40 percent of a car to be made by works earning at least $16 per hour. The question is whether U.S. workers would get $16 hourly wage too, especially because 21 states use the federal $7.25 minimum wage.

DDT is making Europe the leader in international carbon monitoring by canceling the NASA greenhouse gas monitoring program. Supporting 65 projects, the program costs $10 a year—about three of DDT’s weekends in Mar-a-Lago.

The DOJ has removed language about press freedom and racial gerrymandering from its manual of policy priorities. The first changes in over two decades removed the section called “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” which included “the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused.” Employees are now required to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” This section was also removed:

“The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find…that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.”

Fox has put the press for sale. Donald Trump Jr.’s new girlfriend is Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle who sells Jr.’s daddy, the man in the Oval Office.

DDT is investigating the possibility of using a Korean War-era law to support coal and nuclear industries. The Defense Production Act of 1950 allows a president to nationalize private industry to guarantee resources during wars or after disasters and classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material.” Taxpayers will pay the bill. In his bid for re-election, blue-dog Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is asking that the statute be invoked for the “security of our nation.” If he is successful in creating a manufactured crisis, pro-coal politicians can make customers pay for profits and shareholder values of failing coal companies and owners of nuclear fleets. (I think it’s called a “bailout.”)

Israeli lawmakers have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the authority to declare war with only the defense minister’s approval. DDT is surely paying attention with the possibility that he will get the same authority.

Transgender prisoners are more accessible to sexual abuse, assault, death and all forms of discrimination after DDT ordered the Bureau of Prisons to assign housing by “biological sex.” Guidance on medical care and hormone therapy now includes the word “necessary.” New DDT/VP Mike Pence orders conflict with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by George W. Bush.

The NFL has ruled that football players cannot kneel on the field although they can stay in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In addition to the First Amendment violations of this ruling, several states “have laws that bar private employers from retaliating against employees because of their political activity,” according to law professor Eugene Volokh. In 1934, a German football team was banned from playing because it wouldn’t give the Nazi salute. In 2017, 19 state legislatures considered bills to make protesting illegal; three of the states passed these into law.

DDT’s signature on a resolution repealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s auto-lending guidance revokes protection for minority customers from predatory practices. For the first time, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to pass a resolution revoking a federal agency’s informal guidance. The resolution also prevents any protection in the future. Minority customers frequently suffer from higher dealer markups than white customers with similar credit profiles.

White House staff must use cell phones with security features, but DDT refuses any cellphone that cannot easily be hacked. DDT criticizes Hillary Clinton’s private email service, but at least six of his officials follow her practice. GOP House members continue to investigate Hillary Clinton’s secure email server.

DDT insisted that dumping chemicals into clean water will keep “clean, clean water … the cleanest,” but a report proved him wrong, leaving  big companies and the Defense Department liable to huge clean-up costs and reevaluation of water system safety. EPA Scott Pruitt announced the results of the report after three months of concealing the problem of water contaminants, but reporters were banned from attendance. One reporter was shoved out the door, but the information still got into the media.

Most of southeast Wisconsin has been exempted from any federal limits on lung-damaging smog pollution as a favor to Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign centering on his new Foxconn Technology Group factory. Pruitt overruled his agency to stop requirements making improvements in Foxconn’s electronics plant just north of the Illinois border. Pruitt also added to Chicago’s unhealthy pollution problems by reducing the list of counties with dirty air in Illinois and Indiana. Walker blames Chicago for the bad air in Wisconsin.

Water is a concern for DDT appointee Brenda Burman, head of the Bureau of Reclamation that manages the water in the western U.S. The lack of runoff from the Rocky Mountains into the Colorado River, just 42 percent of normal, continues a 19-year dry spell that ranks as the driest on record for the Southwest, part of a drought that also covers the United States. The Colorado River provides drinking water for 40 million people and waters millions of acres of farmland. Arizona may get a 20-percent cut in water allotment by 2020. Burman didn’t say “climate change,” but she’s worried.

CBS News’ Lesley Stahl said DDT told her why he attacked the press:

“You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

In DDT’s continuing “LieGate” to discredit organizations—pollsters, law enforcement officials, courts, Congressional Budget Office, etc.—he ranted about the New York Times reporting that “’a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist” said that a meeting with Kim Jong-Un on June 12 was impossible because of “lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” On Thursday, that official, ordered to be called a “senior White House official,” briefed dozens of reporters in person and on a conference call about DDT’s cancellation of the meeting. DDT’s false accusation led reporters to circulate videos of Matt Pottinger delivering the message that DDT denies. The man who DDT said “doesn’t exist” overseas Asian affairs in the U.S. National Security Council.

Rudy Giuliani, DDT’s lawyer, has admitted that DDT’s “spygate” is a con to keep him from being impeached. On last Sunday’s CNN State of the Union, he said that it’s for “public opinion” and to “defend the president” by making people “question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation].”

After DDT’s wife spent five days in the hospital for a procedure that usually requires just an overnight stay, he welcomed his wife home by misspelling her name as “Melanie.” At least he didn’t make that mistake on Mother’s Day. DDT praised his late immigrant mother as “incredible” but made no mention of his current immigrant wife and mother of his youngest son. Even DDT’s son Donald Trump Jr. complimented his wife, who he is divorcing. We’ll see what Melania says about Barron’s father.

Three mobile billboards with art by Michael D’Antuono circled the Capitol earlier in May. Tourists interviewed for a media documenting the artist’s caravan agreed with his message, that people need to worry more about protecting democracy and less about covering up DDT’s offenses. Respondents may have been thinking about DDT’s removal of the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, voting rights, price equality, reproductive rights, clean water–or any water while DDT lies incessantly about his dishonest behavior.

October 14, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-eight – More Unraveling, Part 2

The attempts of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to unravel the benefits of the past two presidential terms includes limiting assistance for Puerto Rico after two hurricanes. Although the Pentagon has issued private emails explaining a positive spin on U.S. non-assistance to its territory, DDT foils the attempt with such statements as his threat to remove FEMA because of PR’s financial struggles in the past.

Over three weeks after the second hurricane hit PR, 91 percent of the island is without electricity after yesterday’s power plant failure in San Juan, and 36 percent of the population lacks potable water. People are dying from such waterborne diseases as leptospirosis, and Puerto Ricans are drinking contaminated water from superfund sites because no other water is available.

FEMA sends information about sources of help through non-operational media sources; only 37 percent of cell towers function. Only 392 miles of Puerto Rico’s 5,073 miles of roads are open. FEMA cannot stay there forever—as DDT said—but it did stay in New Orleans for six years after Hurricane Katrina.

Criticized for the lack of support for people in Puerto Rico, FEMA said that it is not their job to distribute food and water. Their officials are there only to help people fill out paperwork. Mayors, who lack trucks, gas, and satellite phones, are responsible for getting these supplies to people. This photo to the right was taken this week in downtown Santurce, population of almost 100,000).

One senior FEMA official admitted that the agency is about 1.8 million meals short per day to feed people on Puerto Rico. Chef José Andrés had managed to deliver about 90,000 meals a day through a network of local chefs. His contract ended earlier this week with no urgency from FEMA to renew it.

Meanwhile, government workers are hiring Puerto Ricans for pedicures and massages on their “spa day” during work hours. An experienced senior doctor working for the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) in coordination with DHS quit after the FEMA disaster relief employees “used the triage tents that are supposed to be for medical care.”

Members of the White House administration are still geographically challenged. DDT said that he spoke to the “president of the Virgin Island” who is technically Donald Trump. DDT described Puerto Rico as being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: it’s in the Caribbean Sea. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, as a “country” during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.

Russian trolls are distributing false information on social media about “excellent” conditions on the island.

DDT has withdrawn from Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known for its designation of World Heritage sites. Its missions include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women with the largest literacy program in Afghanistan. The excuse is that the organization is “anti-Israel,” meaning that it accepts Palestine.

DDT is threatening NFL with increased taxes if they don’t stop athletes from kneeling during the national anthem. The NFL has no federal tax breaks, but it benefits from tax-exempt bonds used by governments to finance new stadiums, about $13 billion since 2000 for NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA. DDT could demand a ban on these tax-exempt bonds.

After Richard Nixon fought the seizure of his records, a court case, followed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, mandated that all records of presidents and vice-presidents are public and cannot be destroyed. DDT, his White House staff, and his family are being sued for the preservation of all presidential records. According to DDT’s DOJ, “courts cannot review the President’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act.” DOJ lawyers also argue that judicial review is wrong even if DDT deletes secret recordings or his staff purges phone records because they expected to be subpoenaed in connection with various investigations.

After DDT said he was overturning DACA, the law allowing work permits to young people brought involuntarily into the country, he said that Congress should reform the law to permit them to stay. This week he issued his conditions for DACA: money for his wall on the Mexican border, laws to send undocumented immigrants including unaccompanied children to their home countries, elimination of sanctuary cities and other areas, refusal to allow immigrants to sponsor extended family members, rejection of children fleeing violence in Central America, use of the E-Verify program by businesses to find undocumented immigrants, and a fifty-percent cut on entry of unskilled workers through a “merit”-based immigration system. DACA members would also not be allowed to apply for citizenship. The demands indicate the fine hand of Stephen Miller, a white supremacist White House member.

One of the first bills that DDT signed after his inauguration was to make it easier for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. People on Social Security for mental illnesses and deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs are again permitted to purchase weapons. Law enforcement officials are beginning to view the man who killed 58 people and injured over 500 people in one shooting as mentally ill.

In this week’s fourth set of talks for NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada, DDT turned against businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce an enemy. The Chamber called DDT’s proposals “unnecessary and unacceptable” and “highly dangerous.” Businesses know that withdrawal from NAFTA means higher tariffs, losses in jobs, higher consumer prices, failure to create new trade deals, and forfeiture of any leadership in exports. Congressional members of Congress are also expressing frustration with their lack of involvement in negotiations because are responsible for any changes, additions, and/or deletions to trade agreements.

New language in the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018-2022 strategic plan: its mission is “serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.” This guideline may lead to contraceptives becoming illegal because some religious groups think that they produce abortions.

The EPA has issued a 43-page document to replace the Clean Power Plan with the Dirty Power Plan without any information on how his plan impacts air pollution. The document justifying the Dirty plan discounts any global costs or danger to future generations. The public is invited to comment on alternatives for replacing it, without the EPA proposing any replacement of its own. Secretary Scott Pruitt seems to think that he would have trouble with actually repealing the Clean plan because he’s asking for public input—a delaying tactic that allows him to maintain the Dirty plan.

In the “perfect storm” that elected DDT, Cambridge Analytica, an “election management agency” partly owned by conservative hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, crunched data for DDT’s campaign after Ted Cruz lost. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is now investigating the company for possible collusion between DDT’s campaign and Russian operatives. Social media delivered Russian propaganda to white voters, but the information about voters may have come from Cambridge, an outgrowth of the British SCL Group which ran a campaign dividing Latvians and ethnic Russians in Latvia with false statements and fake social movements. DDT’s data team followed the same social, ethnic, and racial divides, pushing the idea of discrimination against the white middle class.

DDT’s new anti-science nominees are Kathleen Hartnett-White for White House Council on Environmental Quality and Barry Myers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Hartnett-White, from a Koch-funded foundation, believes that carbon dioxide is “not a pollutant” and argues that developing fossil fuels is “moral.” Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, wants to privatize the National Weather Service to benefit his company and has no advanced degree in science.

DDT continues his goal to be “unique.” This week he was the first person inaugurated as president who spoke to the hate group Values Voters Summit with its collections of anti-LGBTQ white supremacists and religious zealots. Another speaker was white supremacist and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, now beloved because he was wounded in a mass shooting. He is still opposed to LGBTQ rights although a married lesbian police officer saved his life. In a panel discussion, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) said that religious freedom laws would “unshackle the voices on the right,” admitting that these laws are about politics, not religion.

Ignorance or lying? DDT said that he has reduced the national debt by $5.2 trillion because the stock market has increased that much since he was inaugurated. News for DDT: national debt is what the nation has borrowed; stock market is how much more businesses are worth. No relationship! DDT has made 1,318 false or misleading claims over 263 days.

People who think that impeachment is a solution to the problems that DDT brought to the U.S. should consider this statement yesterday from VP Mike Pence:

“President Donald Trump has restored the credibility of American power. Today our nation once again stands, without apology, as leader of the free world. That’s what American leadership on the world stage looks like.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) hasn’t let up on DDT. Yesterday Corker talked about DDT’s forced choices between going to war with countries like North Korea and Iran or allowing those countries to obtain nuclear weapons. Corker said, “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice.” He continued by saying that DDT’s actions are causing all Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “phenomenal” work to “fall apart.” Thus far DDT hasn’t tweeted back at Corker’s accusations; he’s busy bragging about healthcare stocks going down after his continued sabotage of the Affordable Care Act.

Our future?

 

September 30, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-six – ‘Mind-bogglingly Bad’

Every week for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has given him losses, but the first week of his ninth month may have topped the previous 35 weeks. On Tuesday, he lost the Alabama GOP senatorial primary for Luther Strange against a rabid religious right-winger, Roy Moore, but deleted his tweets supporting Strange after the election, probably illegal for a person in the Oval Office to do. The Affordable Care Act lost for a fourth time since he was inaugurated although he said that Trumpcare was on track. Again he threatened North Korea with “devastating” consequences.

DDT also faced the overwhelming media coverage of government waste by his Cabinet members who love to use charter jets to the tune of over $1 million in unnecessary expenditure. One of them, former HHS Secretary Tom Price quit after DDT expressed great displeasure. A question is whether DDT dumped him for spending less money than DDT does on flights or whether the departure was because of Price’s inability to pass Trumpcare. At a Boy Scout’s jamboree last summer, DDT had threatened to fire Price if the secretary didn’t bring in the necessary congressional votes.

All these disasters were overlaid by DDT’s failure to help Puerto Rico after he was hit by two hurricanes in only two weeks. Frustrated by the lack of U.S. federal support, the mayor of San Juan (PR), Carmen Yulin Cruz, resorted to begging for assistance, saying that she has “one goal and that’s to save lives.” DDT had spent the nine days since Hurricane Maria hit the island by telling everyone that he was doing a great job. In retaliation to Cruz, he tweeted that she has “poor leadership ability” and “they want everything to be done for them.” He complained about her “nasty criticism” and blamed Democrats who “has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. DDT included criticism of the media, naming CNN and NBC, for their coverage of the relief effort in a series of at least insulting six tweets in less than an hour that he started a little after 4:00 am. The war against Cruz continued late this afternoon.

DDT also received ridicule for his new tax cut proposal that benefits the wealthy and penalizes the poor, despite his claims that the information isn’t true. His grand plan would drop taxes for the wealthy by ten percent and increase the bottom tier by 20 percent. When questioned about his statement that the upper class will have no tax cut, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he made that statement but that “it was never a promise … never a pledge.” Even Goldman Sachs opposed the “trickle-down” justification for tax cuts, reporting that DDT’s plan adds only 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent to America’s economy in 2018 and 2019, far less than the boon that DDT predicts.

On the Russian front, bad news keeps nipping at DDT: 

  • Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election.”
  • DHS finally notified 21 states that Russian hackers targeted their election systems during the 2016 election after having that information for several months.
  • Russia continues its work to influence people in the U.S. as shown through identification of  80 news stories promoted by 600 Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations just between September 16 and September 22, 2017.
  • DDT has refused to provide documents connected to the firing of former FBI director to the House Intelligence Committee. He may receive a subpoena for them.
  • Fake news from Russian sources saturated battleground states during the campaign that DDT barely won.
  • Russian-funded Facebook ads during the general election worked to elect DDT by praising him, criticizing Hillary Clinton, and promoting Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders after Clinton was chosen at the Democratic convention.
  • Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg said, “After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.”
  • The IRS has given special investigator Robert Mueller information on top
  • DDT officials, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
  • Twitter found and shut down 201 accounts connected to Russian operatives posting thousands of political ads on Facebook.

Meanwhile, DDT tweeted:

“Facebook was always anti-Trump.The Networks were always anti-Trump hence,Fake News, @nytimes(apologized) & @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion?”

Pundits are now talking about the possibility that DDT will attack North Korea to protect himself from the Russian investigation.

Acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Chuck Rosenberg, a prosecutor for George W. bush and appointed by Barack Obama, quit because DDT has “little respect for the law.”

DDT spent the entire week trying to cover all his problems with his firestorm of inflammatory remarks about sports athletes. He did recognize that his statements were overboard because he later told reporters that he was not calling on supporters to boycott the NFL. In a separate tweet, he wrote that players who locked arms during the anthem were doing something “good,” despite players said they were demonstrating their unity against the president’s statements.  Trump’s political strategy follows the pattern of past offensive positions: take a divisive stand between himself and those who he describes as unpatriotic elites. He uses the controversy to dominate the news cycle, try to place himself as a strong leader, and maintain that he fights for regular working Americans nostalgic for an earlier time in the country’s history.

DDT’s war against the NFL goes back decades when he failed to buy his way into the league in 1984. The story is here. Forty years later he failed in his attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and wants his revenge.

Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to defend DDT by saying that it’s always “presidential” behavior and appropriate for DDT to lie and call a black athlete a “son of a b*****.” Respect the flag and disregard the Constitution is a common conservative position. Sanders said that anything the president does is “presidential.” Questioned further, Sanders said that the issue about protesting during the national anthem was “pretty black and white.” Tomorrow the NFL games—and the “black and white” issue–accelerate.

More DDT problems needing smoke-screens:

DDT invented a mythical hospitalized senator for the most recent failure of Trumpcare but claimed that they still had the votes to pass the bill.

A new travel ban has kept the old one from being argued before the Supreme Court this fall. DDT added Chad, North Korea, and government officials and their families from Venezuela to divert attention from the ban being against Muslims. North Korea won’t let their people coming into the U.S., making that country a no starter, and DDT can’t explain the problem with Chad. Even his order calls the country an “important and valuable counterterrorism partner.” DDT removed Sudan from the banned list, an odd choice because of its international terrorism and ethnic killings. Sudan, however, does have the support of the United Arab Emirates. Asked about the removal, DDT said:

“As far as the travel ban is concerned, whatever it is, I want the toughest travel ban you can have. So I’ll see you in Indiana.

DDT has nominated John Adler, former Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president, for the Department of Justice’s director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. His resume includes several years on the advisory board of the Heroes Health Fund, a group offering support for ‘firefighters, police, EMTs, veterans, and others harmed by toxic exposures in the line of duty’ using a detoxification program developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

DDT loyalists are reaping a rich reward with appointments to the Department of Agriculture. DDT campaign staff and volunteers hired for these positions include a long-haul truck driver, a country club cabana attendant, and the owner of a scented-candle company. Some of them lack requirements, such as a college degree, for the higher government salaries. The truck-driver may not be a college graduate, but he will be developing overseas markets for U.S. agricultural trade goods, a position requiring a master’s degree. A landscaper is assigned to helping farmers, ranchers, and forest managers use conservation practices.

Polls don’t look good for DDT:

  • Climate change: 55 percent of respondents said that climate change had made Hurricanes Irma and Harvey worse. That’s up from the 39 percent who said climate change contributed to Hurricane Katrina when asked 12 years ago. (DDT is a vociferous climate denier.)
  • Lowering corporate taxes: 65 percent of people believe that corporations pay too little in taxes, and only 11 percent think that they pay too much.
  • DDT’s Russia fees: 64 percent of the people think that DDT should pay for his own legal fees in the Russia collusion issue rather than asking the people to do this by contributing to his campaign.

Humorist Samantha Bee has gathered the conservative positions on acceptable forms of protest.

September 25, 2017

Divider-in-chief Attacks Athletes, Ignores Presidential Issues

Forty percent of the states in the United States have a population less than 3.4 million—the population of Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory that is completely without power—perhaps for another six months—after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Seventy-thousand people are in danger of the Guajataca dam’s breaking. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may send a disaster aid request to Congress in another few weeks while Puerto Rico suffers a humanitarian crisis. Texas got help within a week.

DDT tweeted over a dozen times this past weekend about athletes not kneeling during the national anthem but presidential. Nothing about Puerto Rico. Or North Korea’s claim that DDT has declared war and they will shoot down U.S. even if they’re not in North Korean airspace. Or that DDT is getting deeper into the Russia influence on the presidential election. And certainly nothing about DDT’s most recent problem, that his family and aides—Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Gary Cohn—used government business while he continues to accuse Hillary Clinton of doing this. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was a prime fixture in DDT’s campaign against her, and he’s still promoting the “lock her up” argument, as recently as last week’s rally in Alabama.

At the same rally when DDT sort of supported GOP Sen. Luther Strange for election to his appointed position, DDT started a firestorm by demanding the firing of sports players who kneel instead of stand during the national anthem in protest to racial injustice in the country. (You may have heard about this; there are almost 40 million links to the story.) DDT also suggested an NFL boycott and referred to those who kneeled as a “son of a b—-,” an insult the players’ mothers. On ABC’s Sunday news show, This Week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tried to cover for DDT by saying that he means NFL players “can do free speech on their own time.” Mnuchin added that the president is saying “that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem.” To DDT’s profane slur, Mnuchin said that “the president can use whatever language he wants to use.”

The protests moved to London where several Ravens and Jaguars players knelt during the national anthem. Shadid Khan, the billionaire owner of the Jaguars who donated $1 million to DDT’s inauguration, demonstrated solidarity with his players by linking his arms with them. Several professional teams stayed in the locker room during the anthem yesterday, and coaches and owners supported them. The responses from over 30 pro NFL teams is here.

America First Policies, a DDT-supporting PAC, is disseminating an anti-NFL ad called “Turn Off the NFL” on social media to boost DDT’s criticisms. It encourages NFL fans to watch a patriotic movie instead of NFL games.

DDT attacked the NBA as well as the NFL.  LeBron James called DDT a “bum,” and Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, called DDT “an embarrassment in the world.” After the NBA champion Golden State Warriors waffled about accepting an invitation to the White House, DDT said that he was disinviting them although he had not sent them one. DDT personally attacked Warriors star Stephen Curry, who said that DDT’s comments to “target certain individuals … rather than others” are “beneath” his office.

Non-pro teams protested as well.  Garfield’s Bulldogs, including the coaches, knelt during the anthem before the team’s 52-9 Metro League win against West Seattle. A coach asked why people talked about the flag instead of the issues (listed here) surrounding the players’ actions. The third verse of the anthem ridicules black men for seeking freedom from U.S. slavery by joining the British, stating that “the hireling and slave” cannot find “refuge.”

DDT, who avoided military service with “bone spurs,” has tried to make his battle against sports figures about patriotism. He tweeted, “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it!” In a classic blog, Margaret wrote her friend Helen that a sports player has as much right to “taking a knee” as DDT has to say that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) isn’t a war hero because he was captured.

The White House and DDT are trying to avoid the racial overtones of his criticism. DDT overlooked the refusal of Tom Brady, a white player, to accept an invitation to the White House but lambasted Stephen Curry, a black player, for doing the same thing. Colin Kaepernick started the movement over a year ago to protest police brutality against people of color, but this morning DDT tweeted that the protests have nothing to do with race. His war started in a place known for segregation, and conservatives have praised DDT for his brilliant strategy. Yet the statements may have come from DDT’s impulsivity, not his thoughtfulness. He loved the attention he received, however, and continued to dominate the press with his tweets.

The massive internet exchange on the issue of kneeling during the national anthem is reminiscent of events a half century ago during the civil rights protests. Moderate Republicans currently think that blacks should politely sign a petition instead of taking up the cause at the sports games; in 1964, 74 percent of people thought that “mass demonstrations by Negroes” would “hurt the Negro’s cause for racial equality.”

DDT also repeated his argument at the same rally that pro football isn’t violent enough for him. Part of his disjointed babblings in the speech described a “beautiful tackle” and made sarcastic comments about a referee’s wife “sitting at home …. so proud of him” when the ref throws a penalty flag. He said:

“Today if you hit too hard — 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.’’

In USA Today, Tim Sullivan called DDT’s statement “callous, short-sighted and without nuance, the kind of barstool bluster you hear from those wired to react without research or reasoning.” The calls for more violence came the same week as the revelation that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered from a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Just days before that discovery, a study showed the same brain disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players who had died.

In another study released last week, men who played football before they were 12 have a doubled risk of “problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive functioning” and a tripled danger of “clinically elevated depression scores.” The increased risk is dependent on the number of years playing football and the number of reported concussions. Key brain development in males occurs between ten and 12 years of age, but earlier first exposure to football is connected to worse clinical function.

CTE begins with headaches and loss of concentration and moves to depression, mood swings, short term memory loss, and explosive behavior. The disorder moves to language difficulties, impulsive behavior, and thoughts of suicide as well as cognitive impairment and ends with memory loss combined with dementia. Common causes of death in people suffering from CTE are respiratory failure, cardiac disease, suicide, overdose, and symptoms associated with end-stage dementia and malignancy.

DDT’s latest campaign is to promote violence and concussions for his personal entertainment with indifference to the possibility that the majority of men in the United States will develop symptoms of CTE. Future polls and NFL ratings will determine his success.

February 2, 2014

Super Bowl – Expensive, Deadly

The highest annual worship of football started at 3:30 pm today in New Jersey, as the Seahawks battle the Broncos in New Jersey. Lest you wonder about my use of the word “worship,”  the event represents religion for many of its fans. A national survey from Public Religion Research reveals that about half of the people from the United States who watch sports are under the impression that supernatural forces are at work in the games’ outcomes which are susceptible to prayer, curses, and/or rituals.

“As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans–as many as 70 million Americans–believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome,” said Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones. “Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game.”

Football fans are most likely to resort to prayer; 33 percent of them ask God to give them the winning team. They are also more likely to think their teams were cursed (31 percent compared to 18 percent) and to take part in rituals before or during games (25 percent to compared to 18 percent). The same survey found that a plurality of Americans (48%) believe religious athletes are rewarded with good health and success.

Team members join the fans in these religious beliefs, holding prayer circles before, during, and after games. After the Super Bowl, as any other football game, expect players to say “God was with me” or “I give thanks to God.” As for health, the average life expectancy for NFL players is 58 years, compared to 78 for the general male population in the U.S. The suicide rate of NFL players is six times the national average.

The NFL is the real winner of the Super Bowl and pro football. Host cities of the annual event see less than a $60 million increase in their economies while the NFL rakes in big bucks from NFL-generated events and NFL-branded memorabilia. The NFL makes $9 billion each year and pays no taxes because it is declared a non-profit organization.

One person is fighting NFL’s extortion. When New Jersey resident Josh Finkelman found that the cheapest price for a $500 seat is $2,000, he filed a class-action complaint in federal court. According to New Jersey law, tickets can be sold for only 5 percent more than “all available seating for the event.”  Only 1 percent of the 80,000 seats are directly available to the public; 75 percent are distributed among the NFL’s 32 teams, and the NFL keeps the others for officials, media, and important corporate sponsors. Last week seats cost between $2,900 and $962,000 for corporate suites. New Jersey law would dictate that 95 percent of the tickets would be directly available to the public for the tickets’ face value. A class-action suit could involve tens of thousands of people.

The biggest problem with football, however, are the brain injuries. For over a century, there have been whispers about the physical dangers of playing football. In November 1905, 17-year-old Vernon Wise was buried on the field by a number of Hyde Park opponents. The fourth casualty of the game happened when Wise’s replacement was kicked in the head. Wise regained consciousness, told his mother he would give up the game, and died two hours later of a broken back.

Alarmed by the large number of deaths from football that year, President Theodore Roosevelt worked to make the game safer. Over 50 years later, significant equipment and rule changes tried to make the game safer again after an increasing number of head injuries. Greater safety from these changes was short-lived because regulations provide little protection against concussions. The skull may not fracture, but the brain bounces around and hits bone, a worse impact than fracturing.

The NFL makes money on spectacular high-impact play. As players became bigger, stronger, and faster, the danger of concussion grew worse. It is common for players to endure hits that are the same as a 25-mph car crash. Although individual hits cause injuries, the biggest problem is the quantity. Concussions come from a totality of blows, according to a Purdue study.

The danger isn’t only at pro-football level. Neurologists surveyed several hundred high school football players in 2002 and concluded that athletes with three or more concussions were almost ten times more likely to experience persistent amnesia. A 2004 study revealed that football players with multiple concussions were 7.7 times more likely to experience a “major drop in memory performance” and that three months after a concussion they continued to experience “persistent deficits in processing complex visual stimuli.” Athletes with two or more brain injuries demonstrate statistically significant lower grade-point averages than students without concussions.

The damage to the three-pound organ in the skull isn’t determined by the severity of the hit: players can walk away from vicious hits while getting felled by incidental impact. No one knows the length of time the brain requires to heal although the latest surmise is 10 days for adults. Adolescents need longer. During restoration, the brain damage’s side effects are painful bright lights, fragile memory full of holes, and impossible focus. With even a secondary impact during this time, the damage to the brain can be permanent. Teenagers are far more susceptible to these problems because their brains are still developing, particularly in the frontal lobes responsible for self-control and abstract reasoning.

The biggest danger from frequently smashing the brain into the skull is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms can be indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s—memory loss, mood disorders, and depression. CTE can be definitely diagnosed only after death through dissection of the cortex. A 2009 study, however, found that former players between 30 and 49 have severe memory-related diseases nineteen times the rate of the general population. Ann McKee of Boston University autopsied 15 former players who suffered from various mental conditions, including memory loss and depression, and found CTE in fourteen of them. She also found the irreversible CTE in a multiple-concussed 18-year-old football player, the earliest evidence of CTE ever recorded.

Although more than 60,000 concussions are diagnosed among precollegiate players every year, the true incidence may be approximately 50 percent higher. According to a 2009 study, more than 40 percent of athletes go back on the field too quickly. Sixteen percent of high school football players who lost consciousness went back on the field the same day.

Current equipment can’t stop concussions. Jeffrey Kutcher, chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s sports section, told U.S. Senators, “No current helmet, mouth guard, headband, or other piece of equipment can significantly prevent concussions from occurring … It is extremely unlikely that helmets can prevent concussions the way they prevent skull fractures.” He criticize claims by helmet manufacturers suggesting otherwise, noting that even Riddell’s specialized anti-concussion helmet has only been shown to reduce the rate of concussions by 2.6 percent. Even with better helmets, players would respond with even riskier behavior.

The past whispers of brain injuries from football are developing into a muted shout. The Fox network is broadcasting today’s Super Bowl to a possible 110 million people, but two of their leading athlete/employees, Troy Aikman (Dallas Cowboys) and Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers), have gone on record about the game’s dangers. Bradshaw concluded he wouldn’t let a son of his play football, and Aikman said he wouldn’t “be real inclined to encourage” a 10-year-old boy to participate. Boxing faded after people noted its dangers.

Tony Dorsett, Cowboys Hall of Fame running back, was diagnosed with CTE last November. He is 59 and has the same buildup of the protein consistent with what dissection reveals in the brains of players with CTE. Former player Dave Duerson committed suicide, leaving a note asking that his brain be examined. He was 50 and had CTE. The same thing happened with linebacker Junior Seau. He was 43 and had CTE. Offensive tackle Rayfield Wright told the New York Times that he is suffering from dementia. He is 68. A year ago, Truth-Out published an article profiling Duerson, Seau, and seven other victims of football CTE.

Dorsett and Wright are among 4,500 plaintiffs suing the NFL for not revealing what it knows about the dangers of repeated head hits. The NFL agreed to settle for $765 million, but a federal judge put the settlement on hold, for fear that it won’t be enough to settle all claims.

Pop Warner football membership is down almost ten percent from 2010., and head injuries are the top reason for decline in participation. Patrick Johnson II, 12, is still playing. His father, president of the North Texas Pop Warner program, said, “Kids are kids. They can get hurt anywhere.” NFL rookie Ryan Swope, 22, has far more sense than Patrick’s father. After three concussions he retired, citing his history with head injuries.

While the NFL tries to get information about CTE quashed, the Major League Baseball (MLB) is working to reduce the number of collisions between catchers and base-runners at home plate. Fans aren’t happy about trying to reduce CTE: 61 percent of voters in an ESPN.com poll said that they are “not OK with” these reforms.

The sports fans of the United States are part of a violent culture.They aren’t interested in the skill of sports and will be satisfied with nothing less than violence. For more information about the result of football violence, check out these Frontline reports.

Now I’m hoping for a roar about the unwarranted deaths of football players.

October 28, 2013

Corporate Pinkwashing

As the weather turns cooler across the United States in preparation for winter, October turns pink from its designation as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In its 28th year, the event is prime time for corporations to claim that they are giving part of purchase prices for pink objects to prevent breast cancer. As NFL games feature pink-clad participants and landmark buildings have pink illumination, cosmetic companies invite customers to buy pink products.

Estée Lauder, for example, claims that it has provided more than $48 million for breast cancer research and education. The company, however, keeps secret that their products, including the pink stuff, includes toxic ingredients known to cause cancer and a host of other reproductive, endocrine, and neurological problems.

Of the 15 beauty brands “devoted to defeating breast cancer” in the “We’re Stronger Together” pamphlets, 12—including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Coach, Darphin, Estée Lauder, Lab Series Skincare for Men, Lamer, Origins, Prescriptives, and Smashbox—sell products containing known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. Aveda, Bumble and Bumble, and Clinique use the carcinogens formaldehyde—linked to leukemia, lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal cancers—and 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. National Toxicology Program links to cancers of the gallbladder, kidney, lungs, nasal cavity, skin, and breast. In fact, 22 percent of all cosmetic products may contain 1,4-dioxane, including those designed for children.

Products like Bobbi Brown Blush contain titanium dioxide, also linked to cancer. Darphin’s gels, balms, and moisturizers contain chemicals linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and neurotoxicity. Estée Lauder uses parabens, preservatives that mimic estrogen in the body and can, over time, disrupt hormone function, cause developmental and reproductive toxicity, and may lead to a substantially higher risk of breast cancer. Estée Lauder asks people to raise breast cancer awareness by spending $29.95 on its limited edition Pink Ribbon lip collection although it might contain BHT or Tocopheryl Acetate, both linked to cancer.

Most cosmetics ingredients easily penetrate the skin, products used on lips and hands can be ingested, and sprays and powders are often inhaled. Yet federal oversight of cosmetic manufactures is  non-existent. The FDA cannot require that companies test products for safety or review the majority of products and ingredients before they’re on sale. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review said in 2008 that it would take another two and a half centuries to effectively review all the products currently on the market. It should be noted that the oversight organization for chemicals in cosmetics is composed of cosmetic corporations.

Even Susan G. Komen for the Cure has sold products that can lead to cancer. Only public protest forced the organization to drop Its “Promise Me” perfume, that included chemicals benzyl salicylate, benzophenone-3 (aka oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreens), and coumarin, which were found, respectively, to cause endocrine disruption, to cause cell damage that could lead to cancer, or to be outright carcinogenic.

Estée Lauder, Avon, and Revlon are three of the largest companies marketing the pink ribbon in the United States. In 2005, while using pink ribbon campaigns to gain attention for their brands, Estée Lauder, Avon, and other cosmetic companies even fought California legislation requiring them to notify the state when their products use chemicals linked to cancer or birth defects.

Breast Cancer Action calls this hypocrisy “pinkwashing.” No one is sure how many of the 80,000 chemicals used in the United States are dangerous because only about 200 of them have been tested for human safety. Earlier this month, however, another study showed an even stronger link between BPA and breast cancer than  previously thought.

Founded over 20 years old, BCAction launched the “Think Before You Pink” project in 2002 with its campaign “Who’s Really Cleaning Up?” targeted at companies that used pink ribbon products to raise their profit margin. Since then, the project has shifted to environmental causes of breast cancer. This year’s campaign,“Toxic Time Is Up,” calls for legislation to ban toxins in products that cause cancer and other health-related issues.

The Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) not only failed to test the vast majority of chemicals existing before the law went into effect but also allowed chemical manufacturers to keep the ingredients in some chemicals secret. This secrecy applies to almost 20 percent of the 80,000 chemicals commonly used in everyday environment.  The law doesn’t even restrict the use of asbestos. According to TSCA, the government has to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a chemical, therefore assuming chemicals are safe until found that they aren’t.

Some legislators want an updated TSCA, but corporations want their own law called the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. This bill not only weakens existing federal law but weakens state laws that are stronger than federal law.

Meanwhile, people buy pink ribbon products without knowing whether the ingredients are carcinogenic or if the company actually donates money to prevent breast cancer. For example, the NFL donated only about $3 million since 2009, a small amount of the $9.5 billion revenue—in only one year.

ehrenreichOver a decade ago, Barbara Ehrenreich, noted feminist author, gave a talk at Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco (CA) after she published a long article in Harper’s Magazine that was sharply critical of the “breast cancer movement” of pink ribbons. She addressed the issue that corporations and organizations usually talk about the “cure,” and say nothing about the cause of breast cancer.

“This omission makes sense: breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate charities if its complexion changed from pink to green. But by ignoring or underemphasizing the issue of environmental causes, the pink-ribbon crowd function as willing dupes of what could be called the Cancer Industrial Complex: by which I mean the multinational corporate enterprise which with the one hand doles out carcinogens and disease and, with the other, offers expensive, semi-toxic, pharmaceutical treatments. Breast Cancer Awareness month, for example, is sponsored by AstraZeneca (the manufacturer of Tamoxifen) which until 1999 was also the fourth largest producer of pesticides in the United States, including at least one known carcinogen….

“We don’t need more ‘awareness’ of breast cancer—we’re VERY aware, thank you very much. We need treatments that work, and above all, we need to know the cause of this killer, so we can stop it before it attacks another generation.

“And we certainly don’t need a breast cancer culture that, by downplaying the possible environmental causes of cancer, serves as an accomplice in global poisoning—normalizing cancer, prettying it up, even presenting it, perversely, as a positive and enviable experience.”

Those who really want to prevent cancer need to push their legislators into passing  a strong law that prevents corporations from using dangerous chemicals in their products—especially in ones that are ingested or used on the body.

You can start by signing a petition from BRAction.

 

September 28, 2013

News Hiding among GOP Shutting Down the Government

The news media has been fixated about the possibility of the U.S. government shutting down with a sideways glance at the first conversation between a U.S. president and an Iranian president in 34 years. The latest comes from The Hill which reports that the House voted to move more quickly on the Continuing Resolution that the Senate sent back to them yesterday. (The article reports that “just a handful of Republicans and Democrats” voted against changing the rule: that “handful” is actually 191 votes—44 percent of the members.)

Rapid voting won’t help because the GOP is adding two amendments to the Senate’s version of the CR, one delaying Obamacare for one year and the other repealing the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices in Obamacare. Another addition is a “conscience clause,” meaning that anyone, for example pharmacists, could refuse preventative care for women. This evening they’re just sitting around delaying the vote. It’s gone beyond ideological to thumbing their noses at women’s rights.

One governor who wants Obamacare is Kentucky’s Steve Beshear who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “My State Needs Obamacare. Now.”  Pointing out that Kentucky is among the sickest, most unhealthy state in the nation, he credits the Medicaid expansion and Kynect health exchange for providing affordable coverage to more than 600,000 Kentuckians, creating 17,000 jobs, and saving the state $800 million. He writes to his GOP senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and others:

“So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, ‘Get over it.’ Get over it … and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.”

Here’s other news that hasn’t receive attention because of the concentration on Ted Cruz’s and the Tea Party’s games:

The best news is that 32-year-old Marissa Alexander will receive a new trial after serving of her 20-year prison sentence in Florida. Over three years ago, her husband  broke through a locked door into the bathroom where she was hiding, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her to the floor. She escaped into the garage but couldn’t escape. When she returned  into the house with a gun, her husband said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” She fired the gun into the ceiling. The jury took 12 minutes to refuse her claims of self-defense. Firing a gun during a felony gives a mandatory 20-year sentence in Florida.

A state appellate panel reversed the conviction because the court had instructed the jury that she had to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The “stand your ground” law puts the burden of proof on the prosecutor. That’s the reason that the jury failed to award George Zimmerman a guilty verdict for killing Trayvon Martin. The appellate court also stated that Alexander didn’t have to prove she had been injured by her husband because he was not hurt in the shooting.

Alexander, who had no criminal record, had never been arrested, and she had a restraining order against her husband. She was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in the Zimmerman case.

The next time that conservatives snarl about the current president having used illegal drugs in the past, think about their hypocrisy. According to an advocacy group trying to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), at least 100 million “successful Americans” have used marijuana and “even more” think it should be legal. These include such high-profile conservatives as presidential wannabes Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and George W. Bush.

The same conservatives who want a “War on Drugs” also think that federal surveillance is important for their safety. A new audit of the Department of Justice finds that the statistics of terrorism have been overstated (aka falsified). In 2009, figures for terrorist convictions were inflated by 13 percent; in the next year, that rate of exaggeration doubled to 26 percent. The Department of Justice branch responsible for these figures, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), gave the reason as human error and “shoddy recordkeeping”—counting terrorists twice or counting those with dismissed charges as convictions. Convictions for non-terrorist crimes such as bank robbery, drug dealing, and animal fighting were also incorrectly classified as terrorist convictions. The insistence that NSA’s surveillance program disrupted 50 terrorist plots is equally false.

By not paying taxes, giant corporations have the money to sue countries around the world. Philip Morris has lawsuits against the Australian government to overturn public health laws aimed at reducing teenage smoking. Chevron has hired 2,000 lawyers in an attempt to avoid paying Ecuador $19 billion in damages due for the horrific oil spills they inflicted. Bayer is suing Europe to overturn their ban on bee-killing pesticide—all while investing millions with Monsanto to defeat an effort to label GM foods in the U.S.

While going through my email requests for petition-signers, I came across this gem. The National Football League (NFL), a $9 billion a year industry, is tax-exempt because it claims to be a non-profit organization. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes almost $30 million a year, more than the heads of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart; the NFL controls more than $50 billion in contracts with television networks. Taxpayers fund stadiums where NFL teams play. The Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association aren’t tax-free: the NFL should have to pay taxes.

Allen West, famous for his sexist language while he was a one-term U.S. GOP representative from Florida, has left his job at Pajamas Media. There are two versions about why. West said he resigned. Others said that he was fired after he told a female staffer to “shut up” and called her a “Jewish American princess.” West described it as “an exchange.”

In closing most of its women’s clinics in Texas, legislators used the falsehood that the reason was women’s safety. Texas Tribune has now officially debunked that lie with a review of state inspection records for 36 clinics that provided abortions. Although auditors found 19 regulatory violations they claimed were risks to patient safety at six of the clinics not ambulatory surgical centers, none was severe enough to warrant financial penalties. The facilities’ corrective actions were sufficient to protect the patients. In the past five years, the Texas Medical Board took action for just three doctors who performed abortions, all for administrative infractions. During the past 15 years, however, the maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled.

The tiniest blip on the radar is probably the most dangerous news for people in the U.S. and the world. Secret negotiations for the proposed “free trade” agreement among over 12 countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to be concluded in October, will destroy the U.S.’s ability to make laws protecting the country. A drastic consequence is the dissolution of our internet freedoms. Provisions in this agreement, according to leaks, deal with intellectual property, including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and Internet intermediary liability. If passed, the TPP provisions will infringe on privacy, freedom of expression, and innovation on the Internet.

Specific risks would include blocking deaf and blind people from existing uses of the Internet; forcing service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards; kicking entire families off the Internet for minor copyright infringements; giving media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use and remove online content—including entire websites; and creating a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.

After individuals and organizations began protesting TPP, the negotiations went farther underground with no meeting announcements from the U.S. Trade Rep. There may have been one in September in Mexico City during which countries resistant to U.S. demands to sign onto the standards may have been strong-armed into doing so. .

Congress members in Peru have presented a motion to demand a thorough and public debate on current TPP proposals and for trade delegates to give a comprehensive report on the ongoing negotiations. Chilean Senators recently called for a public debate on TPP, requesting the President to provide “timely and accurate” information on the affects of the agreement on their country. In New Zealand, a Parliamentary member is demanding answers from the Prime Minister about the secrecy of the agreement and how its provisions could undermine consumer protection laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Don Davies has called on the Prime Minister to give Parliamentary Member access to the TPP, especially in light of documents revealing how a small group of industry associations have had special access to Canada’s negotiating position. The Malaysian Cabinet released a statement saying that it would not be bound by a fixed timeline on TPP and calling for more transparency in the process.

At this point, the timeline for TPP’s conclusion is ambiguous. The U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman continues to claim that the U.S. will not force countries to rush a deal by any particular deadline, while also stating that the Obama administration has placed top priority on concluding the TPP before the end of the year.

My favorite: Two weeks ago when First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to encourage people to drink more water, Rush Limbaugh did his usual attack against her: “This is really absurd.  Drink more water?  It’s none of their business.  Why do they care?  You drink when you’re thirsty.” Hopefully, no one looks at Limbaugh as an example of someone in good health. At this point, one way to kill off conservatives would be for Michelle Obama to recommend breathing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to drink more water. It’s my personal protest against the right-wing conservatives.

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