Nel's New Day

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?

 

August 6, 2015

GOP Determined to Repeat Past Mistakes

Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act enforced constitution rights for millions of people by removing the rights of states to disenfranchise people from this right. It has been called the most effective piece of legislation ever enacted in the United States. After the Supreme Court struck down some of its provisions two years ago, the number of draconian laws begun with the GOP sweeps in 2010 rapidly accelerated to prevent people from voting by mandating photo IDS, restricting times to vote, and shutting down voter registration drives. Chief Justice John Roberts had written in the majority opinion, “things have changed in the South.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent argued that the justices had stripped the provisions that made the Voting Rights Act a success. She wrote:

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

The rainstorm has flooded the country throughout the past four years. From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in forty-nine states (Idaho is the lone exception). Half the states in the country have adopted measures making it harder to vote.

voting_2011

In the first few weeks of this year, 40 new voting restrictions were introduced in 17 states. The Supreme Court wrote in its ruling that Congress could pass a law to allow people to vote, but the GOP-controlled federal legislature has refused to take any steps in this direction.

As with other issues of inequality, the courts have begun to act. Yesterday, the 5th Circuit Court, one of the most conservative appeals courts in the nation, used what remains of the Voting Rights Act to strike down a voter suppression law in Texas. The unanimous opinion from a three-judge panel and written by a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that the photo ID requirement is illegal under Section 2, because of the negative impact it has on the voting opportunities of minorities and the poor, and that a lower court must reopen the case to determine a legal remedy for the violation. That court must also further examine the law for intentional discrimination by lawmakers.

Judge Catharina Haynes’ ruling agreed with an analysis that “Hispanic registered voters and Black registered voters were respectively 195% and 305% more likely than their Anglo peers to lack” a voter ID in the state of Texas. Texas’ own expert “found that 4% of eligible White voters lacked SB 14 ID, compared to 5.3% of eligible Black voters and 6.9% of eligible Hispanic voters.” Low-income voters are also less likely to have ID: “testimony [showed] that 21.4% of eligible voters earning less than $20,000 per year lack SB 14 ID, compared to only 2.6% of voters earning between $100,000 and $150,000 per year.”

People trying to restrict laws, although sometimes open about their desire to stop votes for Democrats, also claim voter fraud—a situation that rarely exists. In a Wisconsin study, the 2004 election had seven cases of fraud in three million votes, and none of these cases could have been stopped by a voter ID law. Iowa found exactly zero (0) cases of in-person fraud during several elections.

The court’s suggestion was that a lower court either reinstate voter registration cards or allow someone to sign an affidavit saying that they lack an acceptable form of identification before they vote. Last October, a federal judge called the law an unconstitutional “poll tax” that was intentionally discriminatory, but the Supreme Court allowed the law to be in effect of November’s midterm election with over 600,000 Texas unable to vote because they lacked the state-mandated type of voter ID. Gun licenses were acceptable, but student IDs were not.

The court’s decision is not a definite win, but it moves in the right direction. Although the ruling did not explain whether Texas needed to get official permission before changing its election or voting laws, it is the first circuit court opinion against a voter ID law and against the enforcement of it. State officials can either ask for a new review from all judges in the 5th Circuit or go back to the Supreme Court. With the stronger Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act eliminated, plaintiffs must rely on the weaker Section 5 which requires that plaintiffs cannot file until after they have suffered discrimination. Thus they have already lost the constitutional right to vote.

State officials in Texas now have two options:  to seek a new review by the full Fifth Circuit, which would set aside the panel ruling, or to go directly to the Supreme Court as the next step.

In California, tens of thousands of residents will be able to vote after the state dropped its appeal of a court decision that gives voting rights to people who left prison and completed parole and are now under county supervision. When the state shifted low-level offenders into county custody, a former secretary of state, Debra Bowen, ruled that the same state law barring people in prison or on parole for felony convictions applied to ex-offenders under county supervision. The current secretary of state, Alejandro “Alex” Padilla, said:

“No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”

While 113 bills to restrict voting access have been introduced or carried over in 33 states this year, four times as many—464 bills—are circulating in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Only one state, North Dakota, has managed to pass a voter ID bill this year; all others failed. Arizona and North Carolina have ongoing lawsuits.

The grandest law passed came from my home state of Oregon. All eligible citizens with driver’s license and don’t ask to stay unregistered are automatically registered to vote. The state’s “motor-voter” law is now being introduced in 14 other states as well as District of Columbia. Some of these states have bills to automatically register citizens conducting business with other government agencies. Vermont passed a bill to establish Election Day registration, and Indiana enacted a bill to allow state agencies that issue SNAP and TANF benefits to electronically transfer voter registration information to election officials (which is currently in place only at the DMV). A bill to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions passed the Maryland legislature but vetoed by the governor may have enough votes to override the veto.

Yesterday, Rep. Chuck Schumer (NY) introduced three bills to make voting easier for all citizens in every state—online registration, seven days of early voting plus absentee ballots for anyone, and same-day voting for people who moved within the state where they registered.

House Democrats said they would even drop bills against Confederate flags for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act that passed nine years ago and was partially struck down by the Supreme Court. The GOP isn’t interested. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has refused to have an up-or-down floor vote, and the Judiciary Committee chair, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) likes the status quo.

Today is another anniversary, the 70th anniversary since the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Military leaders opposed dropping the atomic bomb, but politicians told President Harry Truman that it needed to be done. Top American military leaders, mostly conservatives, who fought World War II declared that dropping the bomb was unnecessary because Japan was on the verge of surrender and the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral. Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir:

“The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.… in being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

The war hawks seem aimed toward another nuclear disaster, claiming that the president was wrong for not putting more pressure on Iran through sanctions. President Obama responded that other countries—Russia, China, France, Great Britain, and Germany—to go along with that argument. After the existing diplomacy, the only option is military action. His talking points are here. President Obama was more direct in his speech at American University when he talked about how U.S. Republicans hope to give extremist Iranians, who hate the Iran deal, exactly what they want.

Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act made voting a reality for people in the United States; 70 years ago bombing Hiroshima showed people the terror of nuclear warfare. Today, conservatives want to keep millions of people in the U.S. from voting and engage a country in war that could end up with a nuclear weapon dropped on the United States. Those people should read what Padilla and Leahy have to say.

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