Nel's New Day

August 3, 2018

DDT: Week 80 – Lies, Disagreements, Attacks

As Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) becomes more unhinged, his administration disagrees with him:

  • DDT promotes a government shutdown this coming fall if he doesn’t get his border wall. Both congressional leaders, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), say there will be no shutdown.
  • DDT says he’ll talk to Iranian leaders any time with no conditions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out the conditions for any talks with Iran.
  • DDT says he’s doing fine with Kim Jong-Un, but Pompeo says North Korea is far from denuclearization and still violates UN Security Council resolutions. GOP congressional members doubt that DDT made a good deal with North Korea. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) pointed out that “these guys cheated on every single agreement,” and the nation is building at one or two intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) from his classified materials. Satellite images show North Korean construction of missiles.
  • DDT upped his trade war on China, increasing tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of goods because China wouldn’t do what he wanted. In order to impose tariffs, DDT must prove that they concern national security, according to a 1962 law because the U.S. Constitution put Congress in charges of tariffs. Some of the products in the tariff are dog food and furniture. A bipartisan group of senators led by Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced legislation to restrict presidential power to impose tariffs.
  • White House officials announced that Russian meddling in U.S. elections is serious and ongoing, DDT said it’s all a “witch hunt” and “hoax,” and GOP congressional members are trying to ignore the whole issue by refusing to provide funding to stop it. House members are gone for five weeks, and McConnell is fixated on approving Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court justice.

While Paul Manafort’s trial for money laundering and fraud finished its fourth day this week, Roger Stone’s longtime former aide Andrew Miller will be required to testify before Robert Mueller’s grand jury after losing his appeal and produce subpoenaed documents. DDT’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani gives DDT illogical arguing points to add to his ranting about witch hunts. He contends that obstruction of justice must be secret because no one would obstruct justice out in the open and that collusion is not a crime because the law doesn’t use that word. “Conspiracy to defraud the United States” and “Contributions and donations by foreign nationals” are crimes. This week, Giuliani obsessed between the words “should” and “must,” that DDT didn’t order AG Jeff Sessions to end Mueller’s investigation because DDT’s tweet said “should.”

DDT started waging war on the Koch brothers, maintaining “I never sought their support because I don’t need their money….” At the same time, he considers making them wealthier with his unilateral plan to cut $100 billion in taxes mostly for the rich by allowing people to figure their capital gains by adjusting the original price to inflation. The Koch brothers won’t support anyone who supports DDT. Two reasons: either they don’t like the possibility of a recession from DDT’s tariffs or they think that Democrats will win in the fall and are hedging their bets. Or both. In the last tax cut, no one got DDT’s promised $4,000 raise in wages, and his tariffs are destroying the economy for farmers.

During the last couple of week, DDT accelerated his war on the media, perhaps because of his new hire and confidante Bill Shine. Last week, Shine banned CNN Kaitlan Collins from a press conference because she asked questions—a reporter’s job—and then said that he had only “disinvited” her.

Fox network president, Jay Wallace, stated:

“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.”

DDT’s attacked the New York Times after he misrepresented a July 20 conversation its publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, after the White House told the publisher not to tell anyone about the meeting. Sulzberger set the record straight about the conversation in this article, and DDT became furious.

This week, CNN’s Jim Costa appeared to be threatened at one of DDT’s rallies where he added a few “fakes” to his statement about “fake media.” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended DDT’s treatment of the media, although she claimed it wasn’t violent, and lied about their reporting regarding Osama bin Laden. DDT also retweeted his “like” for a video showing Acosta’s mistreatment.

DDT hates CNN so much that he was furious at Melania Trump turning the television on Air Force One to the network. He ordered two additional televisions on the airplane with a streaming device that will permit himself and the first lady to watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel. DDT’s television must be automatically turned to Fox; the first lady watches “any channel she wants,” according to her spokesperson.

Requests using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal past cracks in DDT’s administration. Last fall then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke that DDT’s cancelation of Temporary Protected Status for 300,000 Central American immigrants would “likely drive increased illegal migration to the United States and the growth of MS-13 and similar gangs.

Other newly released emails from FOIA expose Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ lies when she said that DDT had told the Pentagon about his red line for Syria last summer. He failed to communicate with the Pentagon before it issued a statement about a possible Syrian chemical attack.

A FOIA filing followed by a lawsuit disclosed that DDT lied to the public in an official speech to Congress in February 2017 when he claimed that the DOJ provided data that “the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” The DOJ has no corroborating data.

DDT’s rallies are rapidly adding his daily average of lies, now up to 7.6. The increase of 978 in the past two months brought the total for his 558 days to 4,229 as of July 31, 2018. Immigration and trade top the subjects of lies, followed by taxes and NATO spending.

Despite media complaints, the White House failed for nine days to correct its “official record” of the Helsinki press conference to include the part in which Putin answered “yes” to questions about whether he directed officials to support DDT in his campaign. At least, the media nagged the White House into the correction; the Russian version left that part out.

Finished being a tool for right-wing union busters, Mark Janus, the central figure in a Supreme Court case, quit his job days after the decision was announced in late June that all workers receive union support whether or not they pay fees. Janus falsely claimed that his fees to the union, that protected his rights, would go to political activism. The ruling overturned the 1977 SCOTUS decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. 

The White House will no longer keep any record of DDT’s phone calls to foreign leaders.

The next time you hear that 80 or 90 percent of the Republicans support something—like DDT—remember that Republicans comprise only 24 percent of the nation, down almost 10 percent in a year. Ninety percent of the Republicans means under 22 percent of the nation. “Three-fourths” of Republicans means only 18 percent of the people in the U.S. Of the 42 percent independents in the U.S., only 36 percent approve of DDT, down seven points from June. The independents also prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress by over 20 points, 48 to 26 percent. This article gives a number of charts showing the increase of disapproval for DDT and the GOP by the large voting block of independents. The GOP may like the idea of $1 trillion deficit this year with only 21 percent disapproving, but 56 percent of people disapprove the handling of budget deficit—81 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents.

The one piece of good news for DDT is the job market. Although July’s job increase was only 157,000, which was 37,000 under predictions, the Labor Department upgraded job additions for May and June to make the three-month average at 224,000. Wage growth, however, is still at 2.7 percent, and most of the jobs added are in low-wage sectors.

Good news for others is that the National Rifle Association has been unable to renew its media liability insurance which could force the group to close its TV network, NRATV, and a number of print publications. Lack of insurance would also mean that it “cannot maintain its physical premises” or “convene off-site meetings and events.” The NRA blames New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo for pressuring insurers. The state levied over $8 million in fines against the insurance companies supporting the NRA’s “Carry Guard” self-defense program in New York State by insuring participants for legal fees and liabilities caused by self-defense shootings. The NRA ended 2016 with a $43 million debt and an additional 40 million in pension liabilities because people are no longer afraid of federal gun control, and the NRA counted on “Carry Guard” to bail them out of their fiscal problems.

Best DDT quote of last week: “Just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Best quote of this week: In a GOP senators’ press conference whining about Democrats wanting to see paperwork on Brett Kavanaugh, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, “Frankly, we didn’t treat their candidates for these positions the way [Democrats are] treating ours.” In one way, he’s right: Democrats are willing to talk with DDT’s nominee for Supreme Court justice; Republicans wouldn’t even speak to President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, let alone consider him for a hearing.

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.

May 30, 2018

Democracy on Memorial Day

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:41 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the real Memorial Day and the final blog post in a series of vanishing democracy in the United States. News from the last few weeks:

When the cost of healthcare premiums skyrocket next year, people need to thank Republicans and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Vice President Kris Haltmeyer said that the rise will come from the GOP failure to shore up the market after a bill collapsed during Republican arguments about abortion restrictions. In last week’s briefing, Haltmeyer said, “With the repeal of the individual mandate and the failure of Congress to enact stabilization legislation, we are expecting premiums to go up substantially.”  He put the average increases in the “low teens” with costs in some areas of up to 70 or 80 percent.

The NRA found the “good guy with the gun” vital to their propaganda, but the organization blocked all guns at their convention earlier this month. People in the United States were safer for a few days while almost 90,000 gun fanatics gathered in one place without their weapons. The group made Oliver North its new leader. He can be remembered as an important figure in illegally selling weapons to Iranians for the release of U.S. prisoners before using the money to illegally finance a war in Central America. His convictions of multiple felonies were later overturned on appeal. It’s the new conservative world. In a recent appearance on Fox, he claimed that all Iranians are liars.

North joins the “convict caucus,” politicians who came out of prison to take important positions or run for office. (Technically, he was only convicted but never behind bars.) Other members are two candidates for U.S. Senate and one for the House in GOP primaries. Don Blankenship, imprisoned for violating workplace safety in the deaths of 29 coal miners, already lost his run for the senator from Kentucky but plans to run as an independent for the Constitution Party, despite the “sore loser” law preventing his candidacy. The other two primaries are August 28 when former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio runs in Arizona for the Senate, and June 26 when Michael Grimm runs for a representative from New York.

Grimm claimed to be a close friend of DDT, but DDT endorsed his opponent. One reason for the endorsement was Dan Donovan’s vote for the tax cut, but Donovan really voted against the bill. Grimm is running on his record of admittedly hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities, and making false statements under oath. After Grimm’s aide filed fraudulent candidate petitions in Donovan’s name, he may be headed back to the hoosegow.

The former Boy Scouts decided to recruit girls in an effort to increase its members, but the Mormon church pulled all its members world-wide, instantly reducing the 2.3 million membership by 20 percent. All boys who were part of the 30,500 congregations automatically became part of the Boy Scouts.

DDT’s swamp deepens. Busy with foreign affairs, he has not made many appointments lately, but this one is a doozy. Ronald W. Mortensen, a strong anti-immigration activist, is DDT’s pick to lead the State Department agency overseeing refugee and immigration issues. Normally GOP Senators would automatically confirm him, but his writings have attacked senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) and John McCain (AZ). Mortensen has worked for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and said that DACA gives amnesty to “criminal illegal aliens.” As assistant secretary of State for the bureau of population, refugees and migration, Mortensen’s mission would be to “provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world,” according to its mission statement.

After assigning immigration judges quotas for their employment, AG Jeff Sessions ordered all immigration judges to not temporarily remove cases from their dockets without issuing decisions. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that this practice will create problems, and Trina Realmutto, attorney with American Immigration Council, called the decision “bad law, bad policy.”

As if DDT’s appointments aren’t bad enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is adding to the sewer by appointing Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to the Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated FRC as a hate group. The commission’s job is to review violations of religious freedom and make policy recommendations to Congress, Secretary of State, and president. Perkins is best known for his virulent hatred of LGBTQ people.

Gordon Hartogensis, Mitch McConnell’s brother-in-law, is DDT’s pick for the Department of Labor’s pension agency, responsible for paying back dissolved pensions after companies cannot meet their obligations. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is already the Transportation Secretary. Hartogensis has no public service experience or understanding of his job’s responsibilities of protecting pensions for 1.5 million people with a deficit of $76 billion.

Andrew Smith, a former lawyer for payday lenders, has been confirmed as the director of the FTC’s consumer protection unit that acts as watchdog over private companies.

Richard Grenell, the new ambassador to Germany, lived up to concerns that he will offend Germans. An hour after his arrival, he issued the order that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” DDT had said that he wanted all countries to join him in sanctions against Iran, but Germany, along with four other countries, don’t plan to back out of the denuclearization agreement. Just as many people predicted, Germans found Grenell to be offensive. He matches the inappropriate selection of Pete Hoekstra, ambassador to the Netherlands, who lied about having said that the country has “no-go” areas where Muslims set cars and politicians on fire. Hoekstra then denied claiming “fake news” after he discovered the video footage of his statements. Since Grenell’s statement, he’s been fairly low-key although he told Fox that he didn’t want to be a “typical diplomat,” that he would “dig” into policy.

A few commencement speeches this year focused on the loss of democracy in the United States. Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) spoke to graduates of the Harvard Law School “about our democratic norms and how hard-won and vulnerable they are” with the lessons to be learned about today’s administration. At the University of Maryland, Al Gore encouraged his audience “to reclaim the integrity of American democracy.” Economist Alice Rivlin agreed, telling people at Indiana University, “Only you can fix American democracy.”

No address got as much attention as the one that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered to graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don’t take action. His warnings didn’t mention DDT by name, but the intent was obvious:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth—even on what may seem the most trivial of matters—we go wobbly on America.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector—and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector—then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.

“But a warning to you as you leave this place—a place where the person sitting on either side of you shares that understanding. You will now enter a world where, sadly, that is not always the case. And your commitment to this high standard of ethical behavior and integrity will be tested.”

According to Tillerson, truth is the “central tenet of a free society.”

Tillerson was complicit in an administration that displayed the opposite of the ideas he presented after he participated in a huge cover-up of climate change when he was CEO of a huge company in the fuel industry. We can only hope that he benefits from 20/20 hindsight and can help others understand how destructive the current administration and their followers are to the values of the U.S. people say they prize. And we hope that the youth of the United States will want to bring back a form of democracy to the nation and attend to the U.S. Constitution.

May 26, 2018

DDT’s Problems with Russia

Filed under: Russia — trp2011 @ 11:45 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Monday is the day that people are to celebrate Memorial Day—instead of the actual day of commemoration on May 30—so that people can have a three-day weekend and forget the day’s meaning. The tradition of honoring those who died in the service of the country goes back to Civil War days, and the purpose of the day now is to remember those who died to preserve freedom—and presumably—the U.S. Constitution in the United States. Toward that end, the blog posts for the next few days will catch up on events that threaten to take rights from the people of the U.S. and those in which people are fighting back.

Despite raising issues with China and North Korea, Russian news still fills the media. Except for a breakdown from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) regarding James Clapper’s interviews about Russia throwing the election to him, DDT has been quiet. For example, he made no comment about the investigation from a five-country coalition team concluding that the Russian military fired the missile hitting the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 and killed all 298 people on the plane.

DDT also failed to comment about the news that intermediaries for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko paid $400,000 to DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen Michael Cohen in exchange for a meeting between Poroshenko and DDT last year. Cohen has more problems with his former business partner, Evgeny “Gene” Freidman (aka the “Taxi King”), reaching a plea deal for his false tax returns. The Soviet immigrant managed taxis owned and controlled by Cohen when he failed to remit the 50-cent-per-ride tax to the state. Freidman is a position to know Cohen’s wrong-doings. And then there’s the discovery that Cohen met Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in Trump Tower less than two weeks before Trump took office. Head of the Russian investment firm Renova Group, Vekselberg co-founded Columbus Nova that paid over $1 million to Cohen’s Essential Consultants with $400,000 going to Cohen to arrange a meeting with DDT. The meeting was one of two before the third meeting between Vekselberg and Cohen on Inauguration Day.

News in May also came from House Republicans, especially Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), trying to cover up DDT’s Russian involvement in direct contrast to results from the Senate Intelligence Committee. The results of that investigation agreed with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help then-candidate Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The chair of the Senate committee, Richard Burr (R-NC), released the conclusion that “there is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.

John Bolton, new national security adviser, isn’t concerned: he eliminated the cybersecurity coordinator position on the National Security Council.

One person who claimed that she didn’t know if Russia wanted to help DDT win the presidential election is Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, looking like a “dumb blonde” (right) during congressional briefings about election security. DDT’s angry words toward Nielsen have continued for months, including one time in front of the entire cabinet, and Chief of Staff John Kelly is no longer defending her as DDT blames Nielsen for higher numbers of people cross the Mexico border. Nielsen hasn’t been silent about DDT, complaining that he fails to understand the nuances of immigration law While DDT accuses her of being a George W. Bush Republican, not a compliment. DDT wants instant results for

Special investigator Robert Mueller has started zeroing in on Roger Stone, former campaign staffer and longtime friend of DDT, who talked about his prior knowledge regarding WikiLeaks hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Subpoenas have been issued to Stone’s social media director and Twitter specialist Jason Sullivan and John Kakanis, Stone’s driver, accountant and operative. Jeffrey Yohai, Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law, has also cut a deal with Mueller regarding the criminal probes, including those surrounding DDT’s one-time campaign chair. Former DDT campaign adviser Sam Nunberg predicted that Stone will be indicted for “some stupid financial thing.” Mueller’s investigation has brought 19 indictments and five guilty pleas.

DDT’s major ploy to stop Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling with the presidential election was to demand that the DOJ investigate the FBI and DOJ that may have “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”  Pundits were split between whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had caved in to DDT by asking the DOJ inspector general to review the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for any political motivations during the campaign or whether he was stalling. By searching for “anyone” who might have infiltrated or surveilled “participants in a presidential campaign,” Rosenstein may also investigate infiltration into Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

DDT is incensed because FBI agents sent an informant to talk to two DDT campaign advisers after the evidence that they had connections with Russians during the campaign. The FBI also got a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor former DDT campaign aide Carter. The FBI had good cause to investigate DDT’s campaign for communication with Russians. Rachel Maddow pointed out some people connected to Russian intelligence: Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and others who were aware. Some of these people have already pled guilty to these communications after lying to the FBI. Other ties with Russia come from DDT’s family members, friends, and business associates. These connections are over a year old; a newer article lists more. At least 15 blanket denials of contact have proved false, and Mueller’s indictments reveal at least 75 contacts between DDT’s team and Russia-linked operatives amid consistent denials.

The purpose of the FBI is to look for crimes, and it discovered that DDT’s campaign was connected to Russian meddling in the election, causing the FBI to investigate the situation. DDT’s accusation that the FBI wanted an “October surprise” to defeat him in the election was bogus because the agency didn’t release any of their information before he was elected. Hillary Clinton, however, did suffer from FBI’s “investigation.” DDT’s attacks are on organizations that protected him immediately before the election while exposing false, damaging information about DDT’s opposition, Hillary Clinton.

In protecting DDT, the RNC has paid almost $500,000 in legal fees to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and others in the ongoing Russia investigations.

Donald Trump, Jr. is also  in hot water after the release of the  2,500 page transcript from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the June 9, 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower intended to obtain information from the Russians that would cost Hillary Clinton the presidential election. The documents provide testimony from five people who attended the meeting: Donald Trump, Jr.; Rob Goldstone; Irakly (Ike) Kaveladze, an employee of the Agalarovs; Rinat Akhmetshin, the consultant; and Anatoli Samochornov, the interpreter for Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.  Also released were notes from a meeting that Manafort took on the phone, and Veselnitskaya’s written answers to its questions. Jr. keeps saying that he didn’t tell his father about the meeting, but evidence indicates that he might be lying.

The discovery that Jr. had another secret meeting at Trump Tower eight weeks later on August 3, 2016 with an Israeli social media manipulation specialist, an emissary for two Arab princes, and a private security contractor for the Middle East. Erik Prince, former head of Blackwater and brother to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, arranged the session on August 3, 2016. Emissary George Nadar told Jr. that the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were enthusiastic to help DDT win the election, and Israeli Joel Zamel said his company could give an edge to DDT’s political campaign. Nadar went on to frequently meet with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, who was promoting a secret plan to destabilize Iran with private contractors. After the election, Nadar paid Zamel money, as much as $2 million, at least partly for Zamel’s participation in social media campaigning. U.S. law forbids the involvement of foreign governments or people in U.S. elections. Zamel’s companies also have links to Russian oligarchs and president Vladimir Putin.

If that isn’t enough trouble for Jr., the FBI have recordings from the Spanish police between Jr. and Alexander Torshin, an official at Russia’s Central Bank with close ties to the NRA, and Alexander Romanov, a Russian who was convicted of money laundering. Those conversations are connected to Torshin’s meeting with Jr. at the NRA convention in May 2016. Spanish prosecutor José Grinda said, “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.” Torshin was one of 17 Russians sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, and documents show that donors may have used the NRA to help DDT and his campaign.

Yet DDT and far-right Republicans keep claiming that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” DDT’s tweets today continue to rant about Russia with the same tired lies that he always uses. His demands that the DOJ and FBI must turn over everything to him about the investigation into him along with his claim that he is control of those agencies is an erosion into democracy and fails every person who died to protect the United States.

 

March 6, 2018

CPAC Represents Today’s Republican Leadership

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is past, but there is no doubt that it represents the Grand Old Party of Republicans. Embarrassed by the radical performance at this year’s annual conference, a National Review writer tried to justify CPAC’s racism and attempted to whitewash this statement from Ian Walters, the fundraiser’s communications director from the podium at the Ronald Reagan Dinner:

“We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do.”

The first black chairman of the Republican National Committee, Steele served from 2009 to 2011. Five years later, two percent of registered Republicans were black—the same percentage as in 1992 and down from 11 percent in 2012. DDT got eight percent of the black vote.

Last year, the GOP was good for white supremacists; they had a 20 percent increase of neo-Nazi groups over 2016. Anti-Semitic events increased almost 60 percent last year with much of the increase in schools. K-12 schools saw a 94 percent increase from 2016, and anti-Semitism on college campuses were up 90 percent. Because many students don’t report being bullied, the number could be double.

It’s impossible to cover up the flagrant racism at CPAC. It brought Marion Marechal Le Pen from France who wants to unite standard conservatives with “Identitarians,” including white supremacists and fascists. Matt Schlapp, the man who invited Le Pen to address CPAC members, pretended to not understand her politics.  Standard U.S. fringe conservatives Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity joined the lesser known Le Pen as did Nigel Farage, supporter of the economically disastrous Brexit.

The NRA had a strong message at CPAC.

  • Dana Loesch said that “many in the legacy media love mass shootings.”
  • Wayne LaPierre declared Democrats aim to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”
  • Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told his crowd that Democrats would repeal the 2nd Amendment and bizarrely asked the crowd if they preferred tax cuts or the 2nd Amendment.

Over four decades ago, 400 conservatives met during the crisis of Watergate and Richard Nixon, arguing whether to dump the president. Honored speaker in 1974 was Ronald Reagan, and an honored guest was POW John McCain, who DDT insulted at the 2018 CPAC. In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich led the group farther right, and DDT brought the conspiracy theory surrounding President Obama’s place of birth to CPAC in 2011. Last year, Dan Schneider, executive director for the American Conservative Union, banned the “alt-right” from CPAC, and the RAISE act to eliminate almost all immigration was considered outside the mainstream. This year white supremacists were largely accepted, and the creator of the RAISE Act, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), has led the charge against DACA legislation. CPAC and the GOP require a superiority, even hatred, toward Muslims and almost all people of color.

CPAC members have given up pretending that the conference about “ideas” and the “conservative agenda.” Star Dinesh D-Souza explained their mission in his book Letters to a Young Conservative:

“One way to be effective as a conservative is to figure out what annoys and disturbs liberals the most, and then keep doing it.”

That statement epitomizes DDT’s rallies, and he used the CPAC audience for a rally. After trashing his prepared remarks, he admired his hair in the monitors and returned to lies about how much he has accomplished.

Speakers who wanted to address the importance of conservatism were booed.  Columnist and author Mona Charen decried the “sophomoric clownishness” of the movement when she appeared on Morning Joe. She said:

“But there’s this ethic, this mood of trolling the opposition, that if you can create liberal tears, then anything goes. And even to the point of inviting the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, a Nazi, an anti-Semite from France. And what was the point of inviting her? It was again to create a response, to jab a needle in the eye of liberals. And they think this is a game, it’s not. It’s not a game.”

At her CPAC speech, the crowd jeered when she called out Republican “hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women.” Her criticism was directed at “sexual harassers and abusers of women, who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women — and because he happens to have an ‘R’ next to his name we look the other way.” Charen needed security to get her safely out of the room. Her impressions of the event are here.

CPAC used to be a big deal, but the media attention for this annual event has waned even more than its attendance. Missing this year were most elected officials including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and libertarian-when-it-serves-him Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Instead DDT’s appointees, including four Cabinet members, dominated as speakers. Front and center was VP Mike Pence, who tried to defend DDT’s agenda and rally activists for the 2018 elections. White House counsel Don McGahn told his audience that DDT picked judicial nominees who he “could relate to.” Other speakers included Mike Mulvaney with other high-level DDT officials such as Kellyanne Conway, three far-right governors, and a sprinkling of minor congressional members. Sebastian Gorka, the gone but not forgotten White House aide beloved by neo-Nazis, called DDT “only accidentally the GOP candidate” and claimed that the GOP is “riding his coattails.”

Conservative celebrity Ben Shapiro, who started writing his political blog as a teenager and now claims that the Florida teenagers advocating gun safety laws have no insight, did complain to CPAC about DDT’s lying, calling it “nonsense” and “immoral.” But he was an outlier and received little publicity. Radical anti-Muslim Pamela Geller canceled her panel after her sponsor, American Principles Project, told her to pull Jim Hoft, founder of the right-wing fringe website The Gateway Pundit, who spread false conspiracies about the Florida shooting survivors being paid “actors.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), headed for the 2020 presidential election, complained about how reporters’ questions are “never about substance,” after his inability to successfully answer questions about the shutdown and the easy accessibility to AR-15s. His speech comparing characters on the animated TV show The Simpsons was far from substance. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-simpsons-main-characters-137323  His argument that Homer, Bart, Marge, and Maggie are Republicans describe his party as greedy, stupid, juvenile, vandals, and—in the case of Marge—enabling these characteristics. Witty and over-achieving Lisa, defined by Cruz as the Democrat, looks out for others. She doesn’t compromise her values but doesn’t force them on others, and she refuses to be a corporate shill. (Okay, maybe then she isn’t a Republican.)

Also “substance” from Cruz’s speech, “We can stop [the shootings] by going after criminals,” and “freedom works.”

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote:

“Now CPAC encapsulates the GOP. Adherents of President Trump’s brand of Republican politics do not bother to disguise their extremism, conspiracy theories, paranoia or xenophobia. In a real sense, the party of CPAC and Trump — who is scheduled to speak on Friday, and will surely feel entirely at home with the hyperventilating rhetoric and contempt for facts on display — have displaced the rest of the party. The GOP used to contain, cool and generally outvote the extremists who showed up to CPAC each year for a ritual display of their ideological fervor. Now, the extremists — spitting venom and brandishing the Fox News view of the world (in which the FBI not Russia is the bad actor) — are the predominate voice in a party that has shed intellectual and moral integrity, as well as any pretense of concern for serious policy.”

Bill Kristol said:

“About CPAC, what needs to be said was said by Eric Hoffer: ‘Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.’”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism, called this year’s gathering like “a carnival of conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and mainstream Republicans all uniting under President Trump.” HuffPo shows some of them. The SPLC continued:

“In many ways, CPAC has become an annual measure of how far the radical right has moved into the mainstream of the conservative right, especially in recent years as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT groups have found political friends in the United States and Europe.”

Fifty-five years after George Wallace blocked a school door to keep black students from going in, CPAC celebrated its legacy of racism, led by DDT, who was supported by almost every Republican speaker. The group continued to ridicule Hillary Clinton, as if she were president, and brought out the cry, “Look her up!” The American Conservative Union gives a platform to the new “normal” of the Grand Old Party that spreads hatred and rejects anyone except white men as leaders of a multi-cultural country.

March 4, 2018

Gun-Lovers Flock to Pennsylvania Church

In this gun-loving country, weapons are caught up in the Christian religion. The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland (PA), about 20 miles southeast of Scranton, views the AR-15 as the “rod of iron” in the Bible’s book of Revelation. Therefore, about 600 people gathered together last Wednesday for a blessing ceremony that featured their beloved rods. Wearing bullet crowns, the worshippers “drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows,” according to an Associated Press report.

The religious group, led by Rev. Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, is an off-shoot of the Unification Church, founded by Moon’s father, Sun Myung Moon who died in 2012. Another Moon son, Moon Kook-jin (aka Justin Moon), founded Kahr Arms, a firearms manufacturing company nearby that sold AR-15s to anyone who didn’t bring one for the ceremony. David Konn, a ceremony participant who drove from Florida, said that he has several rifles bought an AR-15 because he didn’t own one. “I think it retails for $689,” he said.

Part of the religion’s weeklong “Festival of Grace,” the ceremony’s name was the Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing to follow god’s will in honoring the 2nd Amendment. Moon (wearing long blue velvet robes below with officials dressed in pink) talked about the “last days” and fighting socialism and communism while he wife held an AR-15. The week included a “President Trump Thank You Dinner” on Saturday.

Moon calls himself the “Second King” and anointed heir to the “True Father”; he calls on his followers to use guns in defending their families, communities, and “the nation of Cheon Il Guk,” the kingdom of God the church believes is prophesied in biblical Scripture. He told people that everyone without a weapon or a $700 coupon from a gun store proving they will buy one, couldn’t come to the ceremony.

“OK, you may be able to sit in the back and receive the blessing like the ungrateful punk that you are, the ungrateful piece of shish that you are. And you’ll know that you’re a piece of cr*p. Will you go to hell, will you lose salvation if you don’t bring a crown and a rod of iron? No. Will you be a b**** if you don’t? Yes.”

Teddy Hose, who grew up with the church but left with his entire family, said, “Sean was a bully.”

The Moon multibillion-dollar conglomerate includes the founding of the conservative Washington Times and is now called the Tongil Group. The pro-gun rhetoric has recently become a major part of the empire and received attention from politicians. In 2016, Eric Trump spoke at the opening of Tommy Gun Warehouse, a Tongil gun store.

The AR-15 is known as the favorite weapon of mass shootings, most recently used to kill 17 people on Valentine’s day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL

The Unification Church, a combination of Christianity and Moon-created Divine Principles, started in 1954 and gained fame in the 1970s U.S. with the premise that true enlightenment comes from marriage, sometimes arranged to other Unification members. His followers, sometimes called “Moonies,” were known for public mass weddings of thousands of couples, often complete strangers. The financial success of the enterprise led to ownership of such businesses as a cable TV network and a shipbuilding studio. Moon used his profits for political lobbying.

In 1976, an investigation found that Moon’s church may have been used for Korean government interests, and during the 1980s, Moon served 11 months in prison for tax invasion. Moon created a large network of right-wing organizations with alliances starting with Ronald Reagan’s administration. This week’s gun-worship ceremony in Pennsylvania is a blend of Christian and corporate pro-gun sponsorship. Their techniques, such as “home churches,” has been incorporated into the mainsteam evangelical community that also fetishizes guns with ritual significance.

Of white evangelicals, 77 percent feel safer with a gun in hand, a percentage far higher than any other religious group. Highly religious gun owners are twice as likely to belong to the NRA as less religious gun owners (24% vs. 12%), and one-fourth of gun-owning white evangelicals are members of the NRA.

Opposition to gun safety laws didn’t lessen after 26 people were killed in a Sutherland Springs (TX) Baptist church, but the Florida shooting may be shifting their opinion. Like most other people, white evangelicals hide behind the “mental illness” fix for gun violence, but 80 percent of them also favor expanded background checks and match others with banning assault-style weapons with a 68 percent favorability rating for this practice. Fifty-eight percent of evangelicals in general were more likely than the 46 percent of conservatives and the 45 percent of Republicans to support gun safety reform.

Last week, even Pat Robertson advocated banning automatic weapons and using background checks to screen people before they purchasing guns. These are the people in the Republican base. GOP legislators may need to reconsider their allegiance to the NRA.

Highly religious gun owners are twice as likely to belong to the NRA as less religious gun owners (24% vs. 12%). Gun owners who worship weekly are also more likely to join the NRA (23%) than those who don’t worship as often (18%). A quarter of gun-owning white evangelicals are members of the NRA.

This op-ed in the Oregonian, however, shows that not all NRA members follow the organization’s party line. Rural Oregonian Rusty Munn, an NRA owner, debunks the NRA partyline:

  • Myth 1: The government is trying to take our guns away. Not true….
  • Myth 2: Because of our frontier history, all Americans are good with guns. Not true….
  • Myth 3a: This one is widespread. I call it the Hollywood myth, in which a bad guy is vanquished by a good guy with a gun…. In real life, even well-trained police personnel have difficulties making the correct decision on when to use deadly force. Most people don’t have the training, judgment or instincts to make the right decision in a split second, chaotic situation.
  • Myth 3b: The way to stop school shootings is to arm teachers. Read 3a and add the fact that many teachers do not want to carry a gun.
  • Myth 4: The NRA speaks for all gun owners. Not true. The NRA doesn’t speak for me. The NRA wants license — the ability to do what they want when they want no matter the effect on others and society. Freedom requires responsibility for your actions. License does not….

“The second amendment does not confer unlimited rights. It states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The founders acknowledged the need for regulation…..

“Violence is a cancer in our society and there are many things we must do to address it. One step is to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who would do violence. If that inconveniences me, I’m willing to put up with that. Regulations are coming….

“It makes sense for gun owners to be involved in the development of those regulations. If we gun owners don’t get out in front of this, we won’t like the results.”

Thank you, Mr. Munn. May the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary become more of an outlier.

February 20, 2018

Dead Children: A ‘Reprieve,” the Price of Freedom

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited a visit to Parkland (FL) last Friday, he was all smiles. He never mentioned the word “guns” and largely ignored the victims’ families while focusing on first responders. On Valentine’s Day 2018, a mass shooter killed 17 people at a Florida high school with a legally purchased assault-style rifle. The day after the shooting Florida Republicans tried to loosen background check laws for guns by putting the provision into an agricultural bill. Along with oyster harvesting and water standards in vending machines came granting a concealed weapons permit within 90 days even without a full background check.

The day after the killings, Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio went to the U.S. Senate floor to explain that they shouldn’t ban the AR-15, the weapon of choice by mass shooters. That’s the conservative mentality for these tragedies. Republicans have had several other mass shootings that they use to choreograph their responses. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeated his argument against the “knee-jerk” political response to mass shootings, his same statement after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting killing 14 and the Umpqua Community College (OR) killing of nine the same year. Ryan got $177,000 from the NRA in 2016; his first successful bill last year was rescinding barriers to gun ownership for the mentally ill. Other GOP legislators repeat “knee-jerk” in the midst of their call for “thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan’s “knee jerk” comment did add the possibility of collecting “the facts and the data” that can’t happen because Republicans won’t remove the funding ban for this collecting. removed all funding for getting this information. Two decades ago, gun research in the United States stopped after the GOP threatened to take all funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if it funded research on firearm injuries and deaths. No one has a basis for any gun safety laws. The author of that law, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), regrets his action, but the NRA hasn’t allowed any changes.

This weekend Ryan was at a fundraiser 50 miles away from the shooting in Key Biscayne. When teacher Maria Thorne criticized him for his response to the killings, he told her he “didn’t want to talk politics.” She was removed from the facility. An activist tweeted a photo of people at the Ritz-Carlton and wrote, “This is @SpeakerRyan’s version of Thoughts and Prayers. Odd, it looks like a donor event in the tropics.”

The White House response to the killing of 17 people was one of relief. Aides said that the tragedy gave them “a distraction or a reprieve” from the media attention on coverups for wife-beating, Cabinet secretaries’ luxury travel, payments for DDT’s paramours, and, most especially, the Russian investigation. [The White House may have more “reprieves”: three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in nation’s history have occurred in the past five months.] DDT hid out at Mar-a-Lago for the long weekend where he hosted a disco party immediately after spending a few minutes with victims of the Parkland shooting. DDT had heavily criticized President Obama for playing after the ISIS beheading of a journalist, but DDT was back on the links Monday at the same time as the funerals just 40 miles away for children killed in the shooting.

Through his speech after the shooting, DDT spread more propaganda and lies. In addition to not mentioning the word “gun,” he talked about “defenseless students and teachers,” a line to support the NRA by encouraging guns in every school. The site of the shooting had armed security personnel who never encountered the shooter. His promise of doing “anything we can … assist in any way we can” is false because communities are asking for closed loopholes on buying guns, background checks, and bans on assault-style weapons. DDT also elevated the “thoughts and prayers” to “we hold on to God’s word in Scripture.” In his commitment “to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” he avoids the problem of gun ownership for all. Millions of people suffer from mental health, but they aren’t shooting people. Millions of other people aren’t classified as mentally ill, but they are violent.

DDT’s budget for 2019 eliminates funds for school counselors and violence prevention programs. The $25 million cut, 36 percent of funding for school safety activities, eliminates the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) and Project Prevent Grant programs. DDT’s budget also reduces funding by 16 percent that helps states report domestic and violence crimes for the national background check database for gun purchases. The man who killed 26 people at the Sutherland Springs (TX) church legally purchased his gun because his conviction of domestic abuse had not been entered into this check system. DDT’s constant judicial nominations of gun-happy conservatives will make life for people more dangerous for decades.

The NRA has been praised for its programs teaching young people how to shoot. The teenager who killed 17 people last week sharpened his marksmanship in a NRA-supported school program that received $10,000 from the pro-gun organization in 2016. While he was a member of JROTC, the shooter talked about his AR-15; he was described as “a very good shot” with one of the “air rifles special-made for target shooting.” The NRA gave $2.2 million in grants promoting gun use to schools including “elementary and middle schools” for “youth shooting sports.”

Teenagers refuse to wait to talk about gun safety. The last few days they have been protesting and giving speeches that received national media notice. They also plan these events:

  • March 14: National school walkout
  • March 24: March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
  • April 20: National school walkout

Stories from these young people are powerful. Carly Novell, 17, sent this message about herself and her grandfather, Charles Cohen, with this photo:

“This is my grandpa. When he was 12 years old, he hid in a closet while his family was murdered during the first mass shooting in America. Almost 70 years later, I also hid in a closet from a murderer. These events shouldn’t be repetitive. Something has to change.”

In response to conservative claims that the shooting was about mental illness and people, not guns, Carly wrote:

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

The conservative New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has reversed its position on assault-style weapons, now calling for a ban on them. The ten-year ban passed in 1994 banned features on semi-automatic rifles such as large capacity and detachable magazines as well as high-caliber bullets. The New York Daily News also has a cover attacking him.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida real estate developer who contributed millions of dollars to Republicans, said that he will no longer donate any money to organizations and candidates who don’t support a ban on selling military-style firearms to civilians. Buying an assault-style gun is easier that getting birth control or purchasing Sudafed.  Every state requires an ID to register to vote, but 39 states, including Florida, permit the sales of these weapons with no ID. At least 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. are purchased with no ID. People can buy as many guns at one time that they wish, and Florida gun sellers need no license to sell weapons.

Russians again flooded social media with “bot” propaganda, this time opposing any gun safety laws. Much of the propaganda pushed the concept of the crazy lone wolf shooter with possible terrorist connections, a device that blocks action on gun safety laws. The sole purpose of Russian involvement is creating chaos to widen divisions and freeze any action. DDT helped the chaos by first blaming the students for not reporting the shooter’s behavior (they did) and then the FBI for ignoring the tip they got because they concentrated on—according to DDT—the non-existent Russian collusion.

Kali Holloway has the solution for ending mass shootings: arm all black men. As in the past, armed black men would move white conservative legislators to endorse gun control. “Racism [can] move American political mountains,” Holloway wrote. The first gun control law, passed in Virginia in 1640, banned blacks from owning guns, and the 1857 Dred Scott decision banned blacks from citizenship because it conferred the right “to keep and carry arms.” Following the Civil War, “Black Codes” made gun ownership by blacks illegal. Martin Luther King was denied an open carry permit. California under Gov. Ronald Reagan ended public carry when the Black Panther Party for Self Defense patrolled Oakland with weapons, and the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, the first federal gun law in almost 30 years, came after race riots.

This list of congressional legislators shows which ones are profiting from supporting the NRA in its opposition to gun safety laws.

Millions of people throughout the United States demand unlimited gun ownership as their definition of “freedom.” The price of their freedom is dead children.

June 21, 2016

Senate Gun Vote: NRA – 2, U.S. Residents – 0

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

NRA scored more victories yesterday as Republicans turned down two measures that might have made the United States safer for everyone except killers with guns.

A 15-hour filibuster led by Chris Murphy (D-CT)—a real filibuster with his standing in front of the Senate and not the wimpy “I don’t like the bill” one—“inspired” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to put out four gun “control” measures for a vote. Just eight days after 50 people died in Orlando because a mass shooting, almost all Senate GOP members protected the NRA. Democrats wanted background checks for almost everyone and the prevention of gun sales to people on the terror watch list. Republicans wanted a 72-hour check for people on the watch list and more funding for a background check that didn’t check any more purchasers.

Democratic proposals followed by GOP versions:

Murphy Amendment #4750 on background checks: The filibuster’s measure requires a background check for all gun sales, including at gun shows and online, with some reasonable exceptions such as transfers by law enforcement, private security professionals, armed forces, loans or gifts to close family members; temporary transfer to prevent imminent bodily harm; temporary transfer for hunting trips or firing ranges. [Lost 44-56; Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV) and Jon Tester (MT) voted no with GOP; Mark Kirk (IL) yes with the Dems. ]

Grassley Amendment # 4751 on background checks: Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment fails to close the private sale loophole but adds funding for background checks. It would allow an individual to regain the ability to buy a gun immediately upon release from a period of involuntary psychiatric treatment and let veterans who suffer from mental illness to legally buy guns. [Lost 47-53; all GOP except Kirk voted no.]

Feinstein Amendment #4720 on terror gap: Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill gives the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to a known terror suspect based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in, preparing for, or providing material support to an act of terrorism. This amendment provides a process for individuals erroneously denied a gun on this basis to seek to have that determination reversed and their gun rights restored. [Lost 47-53; Heitkamp again votes with the Republicans and GOP Kirk and Kelly Ayotte (NH) vote with the Democrats.]

Cornyn Amendment #4749 on terror gap: John Cornyn (R-TX) would permit people on the terror watch list to buy guns unless the Attorney General can prove in court that the suspect will actually commit an act of terrorism. If the procedure is not complete within three days, the person is welcome to buy as many guns as they wish. [Lost 47-53; same as Grassley amendment.]

Gabby Giffords, the former representative shot in the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson (AZ), said the Senate “chose to do the unimaginable: nothing at all.” Giffords wrote:

“Five years ago, I was shot point blank in the head, and the Senate did nothing. When 20 young children and six educators lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut, the Senate did nothing. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Navy Yard, Charleston, Isla Vista — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is searching for a “moderate compromise” to let the GOP off the hook for voting to sell guns to people on the terror watch list. Her proposal allows the attorney general to prevent people on two specific lists–the “no-fly” list and selectee list requiring additional screening–from buying a weapon. No one knows how many other lists there are. People denied the right to purchase a gun can challenge the decision. Those who win are to have their legal costs paid by the government. Collins also suggested requiring the FBI to notify law enforcement if someone on the list any time during the past five years if they try to buy a gun. It still doesn’t mean that they can’t buy a gun.

At this time only three Republicans support Collins idea—not enough to get the 60 necessary votes. Democrats aren’t happy with the proposal. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, “Her alternative is not enough to close the loophole that creates this terror gap.” On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated opposition to gun purchase restrictions for anyone on the terror watch list—and he’s the gatekeeper for bills to get to the floor of that chamber.

Even knowing his reluctance, House Democrats are calling on Ryan to hold a vote on an assault weapons ban before Congress adjourns for the summer recess, according to a letter from 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The seven-week recess begins on July 15. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and other Democrats are focusing on the “no fly, no buy” gun provision connected to the terror watch list, and expanded background checks for gun sales, but they also want a vote on Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, a bill with 139 co-sponsors. The Orlando shooter used an assault weapon—a Sig Sauer MCX rifle—that folds up for concealment.

The Terror Watch List:  Between 2004 and 2014, people on this list passed background checks and could to legally buy guns 2,043 times. With lax gun laws permitting loopholes for millions of people, many more people on the list most likely bought firearms through unregulated private purchases. The terrorists in the Middle East are right: they can easily access guns from the United States. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including 82 percent of gun owners and 77 percent of Republicans, supports closing the terror gap.

Background Checks:  Only 60 percent of gun sales happen through federally licensed firearm dealers; the other 40 percent of gun sales happen without any background check. They usually occur online—Craigslist is a big gun clearinghouse—or through newspaper classified ads or at gun shows. The GOP continues its excuse of trying to prevent a federal gun owner registry. The 55 senators who voted for either Cornyn’s or Feinstein’s measures, but not Murphy’s background checks, said that it is bad for suspected terrorists to buy firearms. Yet they want background checks for that population to be voluntary—sort of like making airport screening procedures optional.

Gun deaths: Between 2001 and 2013 (the last year the CDC has records for), 406,496 people died from being shot, whether by homicide, suicide, or accident. During the same time, 2,96 people died of terrorism on U.S. soil–2,902 on the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Donald Trump’s solution for mass shooting is racial profiling. CNN Van Jones suggested that to do so would require demographics of shooters. Far more mass shootings in the United States are caused by white, mostly young Christian men. Fitting this profile is the 19-year-old man arrested at a Trump event for trying to take a gun from a law enforcement office to use it on Trump. Jones said, “You are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist — a racist or an anti-government nutjob—seven times more likely than a Muslim.”

The Orlando shooting finally pushed the American Medical Association over the edge. The AMA, composed of some very smart people, is now calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and urges Congress fund research into the problem. The group will press Congress to overturn the 20-year-old, NRA-pushed legislation that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the AMA called US gun violence a crisis that requires a comprehensive response and solution.

Steven Stack, AMA president, said:

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivalled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In 1993, the NRA complained that research was biased toward gun control because CDC found that people in homes with firearms were at an increased risk for homicide in the home. By 1996, Congress almost totally eradicated funding for research into gun violence. Between 1996 and 2013, CDC funding for firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent, down to $100,000 in the CDC $5.6 billion budget.

Although NRA claims that the purpose of CDC research was to do away with unlimited gun rights, some research has sneaked through the restrictions. The ten states with the worst gun violence: Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. These states have at least four criteria in common: fewer gun restrictions, more guns, more gun sellers, and a higher incidence of violent crime than in most of the United States. No wonder the NRA tries to quell the evidence that this nation has far more violence from guns because it has far more guns and unfettered ownership and use of them.

June 14, 2016

Toxic Masculinity Leads to Killings from Guns

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:50 PM
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We could never get to the moon. We could not possibly do away with (fill in the name of a disease). We could never build highways across the United States. Planes will never fly. These are some of the statements proved false during the past century. Why, then, do we think that we can’t do away with gun violence? The reason comes from the disease of toxic masculinity controlling gun laws.

Guns are “manly.” Yes, the killer in the recent Orlando shooting suffered from internalized homophobia and he may have tried to blame his action on his religion. But he also loved his guns, having two different concealed carry licenses. The FBI investigated him in 2013 after he made threats to a coworker, and before that he physically abused his wife. He was so controlling that her father had to rescue her. His job at the private security firm, G4S, allowed him to be controlling and dominant. The company is known to be abusive to immigrants, children, and other inmates.

Mention toxic masculinity, and some men whine about feminists condemning all men. Amanda Marcotte explains that the term “toxic” changes the definition of masculinity. She writes:

“It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”

Conservatives push disasters like the Orlando shooting as done by either a crazy person or a “radicalized” Muslim. They ignore the self-appointed heavily-armed militia that took over public land in Oregon  and the head of a self-appointed Arizona border patrol who molested five- and six-year-old girls as well as the men who attack and kill people at abortion clinics.

Men suffering from toxic masculinity are terrified of appearing tender or soft—being less than “manly.” The far-right white conservatives, concerned that they might be emasculated by a lack of racist beliefs, developed the term “cuckservative” for anyone who thinks that non-white, non-heterosexual people have the right to live in the United States. “Manly” men aren’t worried about Muslims killing people in the United States; they worry about them—and all other people not in their “manly” group of forming the majority of the population.

Toxic masculinity ends up with a man killing his family because it’s the only way he can control them, to show that he has power over them. And thanks to legislatures controlled by the “manly” men, they have the military weapons to carry out the murders. They argue that they need guns to “protect” themselves, but the “manly” George Zimmerman didn’t need his gun for protection. He stalked Trayvon Martin despite the police telling him not to do it and executed a 17-year-old boy. That’s toxic masculinity.

Just one or two guns for defense isn’t enough. They stockpile more and more of them, taking pride in how much control they give them. And toxic masculinity demands that the guns be capable of shooting 100 or more people. “Manly” men develop an attachment to their guns. They sit and stroke them–and sometimes shoot themselves in the process. Any imagined threat that they can’t buy as many as they want sends them into hysterics. Just thinking about LGBT people sends these “manly” men into more fear and hysteria because they compare non-heterosexual people to be feminine.

The more fear that “manly” men experience, the more they threaten others—sometimes carrying out their threats. Donald Trump is an example of toxic masculinity, shouting for “toughness” and calling for his supporters to beat up protesters. His only strategies are to bomb the enemy—whoever they are—and keep people who don’t look like him out of the country. And to make sure that everyone has enough guns to keep killing innocent people.

The “manly” gun-lovers complain about the gay bar in Orlando being a “gun-free” zone because Florida law doesn’t allow guns in bars. An off-duty police officer hired as armed security at Pulse tried to stop the killer but failed to succeed against the military weapon that the killer brought with him. There was “a good guy with a gun,” that miracle that gun-lovers call for, and the “solution” failed.

“Manly” men say that mass shootings are not that common so there should be unlimited ownership of guns. They’re wrong, and between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife. Just last year almost one-third of mass shooting deaths was related in some way to domestic violence. The majority of mass shootings in this country take place inside the home where men target the women and children in their intimate life.

Male entitlement makes “manly” men think that violence and coercion are part of romantic relationships. If abusive men were blocked from obtaining guns, the number of killings could shrink. The Orlando killer abused his wife and threatened co-workers–and still got concealed carry permits.

Other shootings from “toxic masculinity”:

Mainak Sarkar killed a professor at UCLA earlier this month. Before his trip to California where he also planned to kill another professor, he climbed through a window to kill his estranged wife in Minnesota.

Cedric Larry Ford killed three co-workers at Excel Industries in Hesston (KS) last February after he was issued a restraining order by someone he had abused. Women in past romantic relationships were afraid of Ford, and one said that he tried to strangle her.

John Russell Houser killed two people in a Lafayette (LA) movie theater last July after his family had talked about his violent behavior. His wife had gotten a temporary protective order against him in 2008.

Robert Lewis Dear killed three people at a Planned Parenthood last fall after a long history of preying on women. Dear’s wife said he pushed her out a window in 1997, and a neighbor took out a restraining order in 2002 after he made “unwanted advances.”

Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed fourteen people in San Bernardino (CA) last December, grew up in a violent home where his father abused his mother.

Elliot Rodger killed six people in Santa Barbara (CA) in a rampage because he claimed that women romantically rejected him. He perceived his virginal state as the fault of women and pledged to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see” inside the “hottest sorority house of UCSB.”

Cho Seung-Huim killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Two women had complained that he was stalking them, and Cho left behind a “rambling note raging against women.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Florida has some of the nation’s laxest gun laws in its support of NRA’s crusade of guns everywhere:

  • No waiting period except for a handgun.
  • No background check for the sale of weapons between two private parties.
  • No state permit requirement to sell guns.
  • No license requirement for gun ownership.
  • No registration for guns.
  • No regulation on the sales of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines.
  • No limit to the number of guns a person can buy at one time.

The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issues concealed carry licenses for applicants who meet basic qualifications.

After two days of silence after the Orlando shooting, NRA broke its silence with “Gun laws don’t deter terrorists” in Rupert Murdoch’s publication USA Today. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action misrepresented statements from the president, skipped over the common use of the AR-15 assault weapon for mass shooting, and blamed Islamic extremists. Like other conservatives, Cox accused the Obama administration’s “political correctness” for the shooting.

The NRA promotes toxic masculinity through its crusade to put multiple guns in every home:

  • Opposition to background checks;
  • Support for restoration of gun rights to convicted felons;
  • Protecting the arsenals and gun rights of domestic abusers;
  • Making it harder for courts to review—and uphold—gun laws.

As conservatives and their leader, Donald Trump, continue to push toxic masculinity, “manly” men will push their agenda through the NRA, more guns will be sold, and more people will die. If we can go to the moon, cure diseases, build highways, and fly huge plane, we can stop gun violence.

June 13, 2016

Orlando Aftermath: Lots of GOP Talk, No Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

As the people in the United States try to cope with the killing of 49 people in an Orlando gay bar early yesterday morning, the craziness of a polarized country goes on. President Obama “has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency,” according the nonliberal Jeffrey Goldberg, but Donald Trump is calling for the president’s resignation “in disgrace” if the president doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” Conservatives fail to remember that the presidential position that “we ought to avoid the language of religion” goes back to George W. Bush’s “Counterterrorism Communication” guidelines. They’s just happy attacking all Muslims–and of course, they think that President Obama is one.

Donald Trump’s drive for attention led to his making increasingly insane comments during the past 36 hours. He started out yesterday by patting himself on the back in wanting to ban Muslims from the United States and by this morning insinuated that the president may be colluding with terrorists. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable,” he said in Trumpese. As Politico’s Blake Hounshell summarized, “This morning, Trump implied President Obama is a terrorist sympathizer.” Politico’s Jake Sherman added, “The Republican Party’s nominee for president seems to be saying it’s possible the POTUS is in cahoots with terrorists.”

In this case, Trump isn’t the only Republican to criticize for the belief. Within the past few weeks, GOP leaders have started falling in line behind their presumptive presidential candidate. As Michael Gerson wrote, “Since Trump now owns [Republican leaders], they now own his prejudice.”

Trump is not alone in stupidity; he has lots of company in Congress. Whether the killer has ever been on a terrorist watch list is still in question, but, thanks to the GOP, being on this list would not prevent him from legally buying a gun. Although people on the list are not legally permitted to purchase plane tickets in the U.S., they can legally purchase guns, including the assault rifle that the killer used. Last December, Republicans defeated a measure to prohibit those on the terrorist watch list from legally purchasing guns. Senate Republicans up for reelection this year—including vulnerable candidates Kelly Ayotte (NH), Ron Johnson (WI), Pat Toomey (PA), and Rob Portman (OH)—voted with the NRA to gun rights for the suspected terrorists’ gun rights.

Florida’s Marco Rubio, whose term is up and who may be running again although he promised not to do so—has strongly argued that guns had nothing to do with the killings. It was the ideology. The man who said that he hated being in the Senate and rarely showed up for votes indicated that the Orlando shooting may have inspired him to run. Hugh Hewitt urged Rubio to run, citing his “foreign policy” knowledge. That must include his opposition to opening trade with Cuba and his determination to destroy any agreement with Iran. Rubio’s foreign policy is very scary.

Terrorists are well aware that the United States is a candy store of guns for them. For at least five years, they have encouraged their followers to purchase assault-style weapons and shoot people in the United States made easy with the extremely lax gun laws in many of the nation’s states. An al Qaeda spokesperson said in that 2011 video:

 “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

From 2002 to 2014, 85 percent of people killed by terrorists in the U.S. were killed from guns. Every terrorist attack in the U.S. last year when someone other than the perpetrator was killed involved guns. Building a bomb isn’t easy, and hijacking airplanes has become almost impossible, but accessing guns is quite simple, thanks the GOP support for terrorists purchasing guns. Yesterday, Santa Monica (CA) police stopped a white man from Indiana, who had an NRA symbol on his license plate, on his way to a gay pride parade with “assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals used to make explosives” in his car. Nothing was said, however, about his ideology.

Always direct with its covers, the NY Daily News has one placing the blame for the Orlando shootings square on the NRA. The organization makes millions and millions of dollars from the gun manufacturing industry and then uses the money to lobby legislatures for more lax gun laws that will allow the industry to sell more and more guns. The marketing strategy is brilliant: when men aren’t buying enough guns, advertising is directed to women. When that market seems saturated, guns sales for small children are pushed. Not one person can figure out a reason why private individuals have a need to own an assault-style weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in as short of a time as possible–but the U.S. lets them buy these military weapons.

Daily News cover

Ted Cruz may be the only Republican leader who openly recognized that the killer targeted the LGBT community. His purpose in doing so, however, was to call on Democrats “to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.” He defined the killers as members of “ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars).” In other words, he wants the Democrats to join the Republicans in banning all Muslims—and probably other immigrants—from the United States.

Aside from the fact that the U.S. does not send “taxpayer dollars” to Iran, Cruz ignores the Christian ideology that promotes the execution of gays. At least one of these Christian leaders who wants to kill gays is Cruz’s colleague, Kevin Swanson, who spoke immediately before Cruz in Des Moines (IA) where Swanson hosted a “National Religious Liberties Conference.” Swanson did say that homosexuals should not be sentenced with a death penalty until they’ve had time to repent.

Speakers at the same conference were other Christian supporters for killing gays–Phillip G Kayser, pastor of Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska, and Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision. McDurmon criticized Uganda for backing off the death penalty in its anti-LGBT legislation.  Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father and a strong campaigner for Ted’s presidential candidate, is a preacher in the Dominion Church. Ted Cruz follows many of that church’s beliefs.

Congress called today for a moment of silence regarding the killings. That’s what they do best—silence in adversity. My hero for the day is Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) who refused to participate in today’s moment of silence and walked off the House floor after calling them “obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence.”

In an interview with Slate, Himes said:

“’Thoughts and prayers’ are three words that cost you nothing. I’m sick of it. Show some courage. There’s an array of pathetic arguments with the ideologues you hear, that we can’t ever end gun violence. That’s true. We’re not going to end polio or cancer, either, but we can take some huge strides.”

After Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held the pro forma moment of silence, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) tried to ask the Speaker when he would consider bills curbing gun use. Before he finished, Ryan ruled his question out of order and directed the House to move to the next vote. Democrats responded by shouting, “Where’s the bill?” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Democrats have “had enough” of moments of silence after mass shootings when Congress does not act to tighten gun laws.

People talk and write a great deal about the killer being “radicalized.” This may be true. But what is the term for Christians who kill? Will we ever talk about Christians who want to kill innocent people being “radicalized”? If Christians kill innocent people, can we call it “domestic terrorism”? Or “radical Christian terrorism”? And will there ever be enough brave people to stand up and say that the killings couldn’t happen without guns?

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