Nel's New Day

June 20, 2019

DDT’s People Need Vetting

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders should have been left to tell the lies of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) instead of going back to Alabama: she does a better job. Patrick Shanahan’s nomination to serve as Donald Trump’s new Defense secretary collapsed yesterday after revelations surrounding incidents of domestic violence within Shanahan’s family. A journalist asked:

“Does that make you concerned then about the White House vetting process if you had just heard about it yesterday?”

DDT answered:

“No, we have a very good vetting process. And you take a look at our Cabinet and our Secretaries — it’s very good. But we have a great vetting process.”

DDT is a disaster at vetting anyone. Last month, DDT’s nominees for the Federal Reserve, Stephen Moore and Herman Cain, had to withdraw their names. They are on the top of a long list of non-vetted nominees. Appointments are going to get only worse because fewer and fewer people are willing to be involved in DDT’s administration.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, formerly a Boeing executive, resigned after an FBI investigation further delayed his confirmation hearings. He took over after James Mattis resigned in December before DDT fired him. Shanahan’s ex-wife has made accusations of abuse and was arrested as part of a domestic dispute. DDT tweeted the spending “more time with his family” for Shanahan departure. Some Republicans kept Shanahan’s problems from Democrats because they didn’t want the situation to become another Kavanaugh debacle. Democrats discovered the domestic abuse surrounding Shanahan after the information was published in the newspaper.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, DDT’s replacement for Shanahan and another lobbyist, will be more to DDT’s satisfaction. Unlike Shanahan, Esper doesn’t worry about the deployment of thousands of military member to the southern border eroding readiness for combat, and he’s close to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who currently seems to be announcing military strategy regarding Iran, and David Urban, DDT’s close friend and adviser to the Pennsylvania presidential campaign in 2016. Esper was also the top lobbyist for Raytheon, now a U.S. defense contractor embedded in Saudi Arabia.

DDT has lost support from the vastly wealthy and powerful Mercer family who helped him get elected in 2016 with $15.5 million and data mining by Cambridge Analytica. DDT’s inauguration fund also got $1 million from the Mercers. Some of the Mercers’ disillusionment came from DDT’s exile of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer’s elimination as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, “really spooked” by the FBI’s investigation of Cambridge Analytica. The Mercers originally preferred Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as the presidential candidate but supported DDT in preference to Hillary Clinton. Robert Mercer also feels that he lost his privacy because of his support for DDT.

Matthew Kacsmaryk slipped through as a lifetime judge with 52 votes because GOP senators will confirm almost any judicial nominee. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who believed Brett Kavanaugh’s statement of support for Roe v. Wade, either learned her lesson or worries about re-election next year; she was the only GOP senator to vote him. Kacsmaryk:

  • Opposes employment, housing, and health care protections for LGBTQ people
  • Opposes including LGBTQ people in the Violence against Women Act.
  • Wrote that being transgender is “a delusion.”
  • Defended county clerk Kim Davis for refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples in opposition to the law.
  • Opposes employer contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
  • Played a lead role in opposing a Washington state law requiring pharmacist to give birth control to women with prescriptions.
  • Criticized the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade giving women the right to abortions.
  • Labeled the Equality Act a “public affirmation of the lie that the human person is an autonomous blob of Silly Putty, unconstrained by nature or biology, and that marriage, sexuality, gender identity, and even the unborn child must yield to the erotic desires of liberated adults.’”

Tony Perkins, a leader of the infamous hate group Family Research Council, has been named to chair the U.S. Commission on International Freedom. It’s purpose is to review violations of religious freedom and make policy recommendations to the president, Secretary of State, and Congress.

Kelly Craft, formerly U.S. ambassador to Canada and now nominee for the UN ambassador, had the reputation for rarely being in Canada. Her absence for over 300 days between October 23, 2017, and June 19, 2019 means that, like Congress, she was missing for about half the time. A spokesperson said she had permission to be away but declined to give details. Craft reportedly left her job to a deputy while attending to personal business and domestic U.S. politics. Her husband’s private jet, used by Craft, made round trips between Canada and the U.S. about once a week, such as travel to the Kentucky Derby and a media interview for an event for her coal billionaire husband. Both Craft and her husband are supporters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who lobbied for her appointment. Her answers at the confirmation hearing showed an ignorance of UN workings.

Katharine Gorka, political appointee as press secretary at Customs and Border Protection, remains in the government although her husband, Sebastian, known for white supremacist connections, has gone. Both are openly anti-Muslim, and Gorka worked to stop a DHS grant for Life after Hate, a group trying to stop white supremacist groups. DHS has refused to release documents about her through the Freedom of Information Act.

Jerome Powell, chair of the independent agency Fed Reserve, would likely be on the chopping block if DDT could figure out a way to get rid of him. Although the stock markets are currently going up, their volatility partly comes from DDT’s trade wars. Yet DDT blames the refusal to drop interest rates as the only reason. Last February, he checked with lawyers to see if he could demote Powell and said two weeks ago that the board is “not my people.” Three of the five are DDT’s nominees, and DDT appointed Powell as chair. The seven-member board is still missing two people, and all four of DDT’s nominees have failed confirmation—difficult to do with the current GOP senate. Powell said he’s not going anywhere.

VP Mike Pence isn’t any better than DDT at vetting people. Pence’s former national security advisor, Andrea L. Thompson, now undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, had close relationships with confessed Russian agent Maria Butina and her boyfriend, veteran GOP activist Paul Erickson. Butina’s job was to infiltrate the NRA and GOP to help Russia. In June 2017, Butina attended Thompson’s wedding where Erickson officiated. A year later, Thompson’s connection to Butina wasn’t mentioned at her confirmation hearings despite Mueller’s investigation, including Erikson’s allegedly trying to establish “secret backchannels to the Kremlin.” Thompson’s job is negotiating with Russia on arms control treaties, but she never discussed her Butina ties. After 18 months in prison, Butina will be deported to her home in Russia.  

Hope Hicks, DDT’s former communications director, may have testified for almost eight hours before the House Judiciary Committee, but six White House, DOJ, and private lawyers blocked the questions 155 times in the closed hearing. Their excuse was the non-existent “absolute immunity,” applying to “anything about her knowledge of anything during the period of time in which she was employed in the White House.” She didn’t answer even simple answers such as the location of her office in the White House and the existence of any conversation with DDT during lunch time.

Hicks could answer questions before and after she was in the White House and had a few revelations. Under repeated questioning, she said DDT was wrong in possibly accepting political dirt from a foreign power on an opponent, and she agree that the Russian government hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Hicks also found it “odd” that DDT asked Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager but not an employee, to tell former AG Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal in overseeing the Russian investigation. She knew about the hush money that DDT paid to two women that DDT denied.  Hicks’ testimony also shows that DDT and his team knew about possible tapes of DDT with “Russian hookers, participating in lewd activities” (pp. 196-197) soon after the release of Access Hollywood tapes in late October 2016, long before former FBI Director James Comey briefed him on it in January 2017. At that time, DDT appeared shocked about the tapes.

The oddest aftermath of Hicks’ testimony is Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) false claim that “old, pervy” Democrats asked her personal questions about her love life, a message that went viral on the fake conservative media. He wasn’t present, but he claimed to have “sources” that were “inside,” that people “would be ashamed if they knew what actually happened in that room.” With the transcript released, people can find out “what actually happened” if they read the document—which they most likely won’t. I read all 273 pages. It’s filled with factual questions about Hicks’ professional activities, 155 “objections,” and some whining from Republicans who still want to protect DDT. Once again, conservative media consumers will believe the “fake news.”

May 6, 2019

Back to the Swinging Doors of DDT’s Administration

People keep moving in an out of the administration:

Stephen Moore is the latest person to be fired before hired. Once a recommendation by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) alongside Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve Board, he lasted longer than Cain. DDT said that he had pulled his name, but two hours earlier Moore had claimed that DDT was “full speed ahead” and that Moore is “all in.” The same thing happened to Cain who was positive that he was the nominee until DDT’s tweet told a different story. For the past month, Moore complained about a “sleaze” campaign that cited his writings from years ago. Yet the day before DDT dumped him, he talked about higher wages for women than for the “breadwinner” causing the “family instability.” Moore has much more going against him currently than his lack of experience, ignorance, racism, and misogyny. His leadership of the Koch-backed ALEC proved his austerity and anti-labor positions promoting income inequality, stagnant incomes, and suppressed wages.Ten years ago, Moore said, “I’m not even a big believer in democracy.”

Like Nixon, DDT is trying to politicize the Federal Reserve Board to lower interest rates and get re-elected. Nixon got his wish in a booming economy, but his scheme led to double-digit inflation.

Oil lobbyist David Bernhardt lasted four days without being investigated after he was confirmed as Interior Department Secretary from Senate Republicans. This coming week, both his investigator and the agency’s top lawyer face Senate confirmation hearings for their posts. The lawyer, who formerly advised the Koch brothers, advised both Bernhardt and his predecessor, Ryan Zinke, regarding legal and ethical issues as well as serving as chief public records officer. This connection erases any separation between politics and Freedom of Information in an agency that works hard to hide their actions. The lawyer said his “job is to protect the Secretary.”

Bernhardt is being investigating for involvement in policies affecting former clients. The Department admitted that Bernhardt’s staff deliberately failed to record his controversial meetings with representatives of fossil fuel, timber and water interests on his public calendar by citing “internal protocol.” They also confirmed he used a personal itinerary overwritten by his scheduling staff after denying that it happened for several months. Many entries were simply described as “internal” or “external.” An agency officer told Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chair of the Oversight Committee, that Bernhardt’s calendar was “deleted at the end of the day.” These practices also violate federal record laws. Later a Department spokeswoman said these practices didn’t exist.

The investigation in the Interior Department includes a total of six of DDT’s appointees who may have conflicts of interest by engaging with former employers or clients about the business of the Department. These include Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech, White House liaison Lori Mashburn, three top staffers at the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, and the department’s former energy policy adviser. The Assistant Secretary kept interacting with his former employer, a conservative think tank, after he joined the Interior Department to discuss pending lawsuits that were settled in his former employer’s interests. Another investigation concerned a former lobbyist for the NRA who participated in issues about his former clients after he joined the Department. He also got recreational shooting opened up in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Mark Morgan is DDT’s pick for the head of ICE. He supports DDT’s wall on the southern border and denied that children were held in “cages.” Earlier this year, DDT has named Ronald Vitiello for the position but dropped him, saying that “we’re going in a tougher direction.” Matthew Albence, currently acting ICE director, had said that immigration detention is like “summer camp.” A former senior official said, “Matt never met an undocumented immigrant that he wouldn’t deport.”

Morgan is a good match for Kevin McAleenan, new acting DHS secretary, who promoted family separation to “protect families and children,” even separating legal asylum seekers at legal ports of entry. Last December, McAleenan broke the law by failing to notify Congress with 24 hours of the deaths of two children. Then he forced migrant families to sleep underneath an El Paso bridge in dangerous, unhealthy conditions. McAleenan was in charge of firing tear gas at asylum-seekers. His agents were also well known for ethnic profiling, illegal searches, seizure of religious items, and sometimes, murder and rape.

Julie Kirchner, former leader for the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, is DDT’s consideration to head U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if DDT fires Francis Cissna in Stephen Miller’s purge of the federal government. Founded by a white supremacist, FAIR has been labeled a hate group. Currently Kirchner investigates individuals’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities for USCIS. If confirmed for the head of the agency, she would control the adjudication of applications for asylum, green cards, citizenship, and renewals for protective programs like DACA and TPS.

Patrick Shanahan remains acting as Secretary of Defense as more and more bad news comes from and about his former employer and friend, Boeing. The latest is Boeing’s admission that warning lights were “optional” on the 737 Max commercial jetliners that killed hundreds of people in the last few months. Earlier Boeing tried to blame pilots for their lack of performance. Now the company claims that the lights had no impact on the planes’ safety. Only 20 percent of ordered planes had this upgrade to activate the warning sensor. Neither pilots nor the FAA safety inspectors and supervisors were told about the lack of this safety feature. DDT has suggested that Boeing can solve all its problems with the 737 Max 8 jets by renaming them.

Less than two weeks ago, an internal investigation cleared Shanahan of conflicts of interest although Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson expressed three concerns: his decision to accept the problematic KC-46 tanker, his meeting with Space X CEO Elon Musk, and possible inappropriate sharing of classified information from Boeing programs. Shanahan also incessantly praised the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Internal documents about the Dreamliner production as well as interviews with employees show the same kind of shoddy work on the 737 Max. A quality manager who pointed out problems was moved to other parts of the South Carolina plant where Boeing moved manufacturing despite a lack of comparable work force to that in the Seattle area. As a “right-to-work” state, South Carolina employees can be paid less than in Washington, and the state gave Boeing $1 billion. Fortunately, the Dreamliner has not had a crash yet although it was grounded for a time because of overheating batteries.

Last week, a Boeing 737 slid off a Florida runway into the St. Johns River.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is one of the subjects named by Sears in a lawsuit against its former CEO Edward Lampert, claiming that Mnuchin was part of the board members who helped Lampert and his hedge fund strip Sears of over $2 billion. Lampert and Mnuchin were roommates at Yale University and worked together at Goldman Sachs.

Jared Kushner has done his daddy-in-law proud with his extremely rare public appearance at the Times 100 Summit. He downplayed the Russian election interference from the Mueller report as “a couple of Facebook ads.” Kushner missed the part about the “expansive and expensive” Russian attack, as described by Steve Benen, including “public events, advertising, rallies, p.r. stunts, outreach to domestic allies, and an aggressive social-media component [that] reached as many as 126 million people.”

John Kelly, once DHS Secretary before becoming DDT’s chief of staff, has found a way to make money off his attitudes about immigrants and still avoid DDT. Kelly is now a board member of Caliburn International, the company owning the biggest detention centers for unaccompanied migrant youth. Caliburn received $222 million from taxpayers for a year, but their centers’ capacity has increased from 1,250 beds to 3,200 beds in just one detention center.

Scott Walker, loser as presidential candidate and Wisconsin’s most recent gubernatorial race, found a new job: he’s honorary chair of The Center for State-led National Debt Solutions—aka pusher for a constitutional balanced budget amendment. Ostensibly a Republican, Walker seems to be on the opposite side of congressional Republicans who are driving the national debt sky high. In every date, including Wisconsin, the infrastructure is collapsing while wealthy individuals and corporations received massive tax cuts.

Before he left Wisconsin, Walker put the state’s taxpayers on the hook for $4.1 billion to employ 13,000 people at Foxconn’s manufacturing plant. The deal was announced with DDT; a photo may show the only work DDT has done. Foxconn backed out of the manufacturing plant, and the number of employees dropped to 1,000 workers—about $4 million for each job. Manufacturing the product in China will “be more profitable” for Foxconn, according to one of its officials. Last year, the company hired 178 people, 82 fewer than needed for its first $10 million tax cut. On the campaign trail a week ago, DDT asked Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, to be more “optimistic and hopeful” about Foxconn. Without re-negotiation, which Foxconn hasn’t supported, Wisconsin taxpayers are totally screwed.

Thanks to Walker and his Republicans, almost 15 percent of Wisconsin’s dairy farms aren’t milking or have disappeared. Despite oversupply, Walker tried to beat California in milk production and dropped milk prices by over 25 percent. Other losses included less immigrant farm labor and DDT’s trade war.

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

 

 

December 28, 2018

DDT: Week 101 – Watch China’s Growing Influence in Middle East

Day Seven of Government Shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may think that his shutdown isn’t successful because he’s now threatening to close the U.S. southern border and stop aid to several Latin American countries without his wall. Having canceled plans for any holiday vacation to Mar-a-Lago, DDT is sitting in Washington, D.C. with nothing to do except tweet. The U.S. has already announced a collaboration with Mexico, providing $10.6 billion to slow migration from South American countries.

  • The shutdown moves toward more debacles:
  • The possible cancellation of a global weather conference with over 4,000 attendees that wastes research and contracts.
  • Closure of all Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo on January 2.
  • “Furlough” of EPA employees.
  • Lack of payments, farm loans, and disaster assistance for farmers.
  • Suspension of FTC investigations and litigation, including those against Facebook.

Fortunately for Mar-a-Lago, taxpayers are still paying for DDT’s holiday bash, even though he didn’t attend, starting with $54,020 for tents on December 19. Individuals paid DDT’s private business $1,000 per person.

Some startling news has received almost no attention in the Western media amidst the shutdown hubbub. DDT, self-proclaimed great negotiator, planned to scare Pakistan’s military into cooperation by suspending billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan. Instead, China is buying Pakistan-built military jets, weaponry, and other hardware, a move that can deepen the two countries’ cooperation in space that China wants to militarize. It can also encourage other countries to buy military equipment from Pakistan instead of the U.S. Only Pakistan has access to China’s satellite navigation system allowing better guidance for missiles, ships, and aircraft. The countries also plan to link a port in coastal Gwadar across 2,000 miles to western China, allowing Chinese goods to have a much shorter and less expensive shipping route and avoid territorial waters of U.S. allies in Asia. China may also militarize Gwadar and other seaports being built in places such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, giving China great geopolitical influence in both commerce and military action.

The first Chinese ship, the cargo ship Zhen Xing Sung, reached Gwadar’s port this week loaded with seafood. Its owner, the China Overseas Shipping Co (Cosco), has a 40-year lease of the port and will export to Central Asia and the Middle East.

DDT became so angry with former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ resignation letter—once the media explained to him what it meant—that he had his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney immediately fire Mattis instead of allowing for a transition period until late February. Mattis’ deputy, Patrick Shanahan, is the temporary replacement until the Senate has time to confirm him. Shanahan worked for the U.S.’s most profitable defense contractors Boeing for thirty years, quitting as senior vice president of supply chain and operations to join the Pentagon. Former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) expressed concern when Shanahan was selected as Deputy Secretary of Defense and said, “I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.” Shanahan promised to recuse himself from any financial interests related to Boeing.

One reason for Shanahan’s selection as Defense Secretary may be his enthusiasm about DDT’s Space Patrol control outer space, an idea that has been soundly ridiculed. DDT may find Shanahan useful because he has neither military nor foreign policy experience. Shanahan finds the position useful because Boeing has been successful in winning competitive contracts since he joined the Pentagon. The Air Force wants F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed, but the Pentagon is requesting F-15X fighters from Boeing, thanks to Shanahan’s involvement in funding.

DDT is facing not only investigations but also liens against his properties. A third lien, this one from AES Electrical, brings the total to over $5 million against his Washington hotel after the company assigned 45 workers to 12-hour shifts for almost 50 consecutive days to get it open when he wanted. The hotel opened on time, and DDT stopped paying AES. Plumbing firm Joseph J. Magnolia Inc. and Northern Virginia company A&D Construction also filed $2.98 million and $79,700. DDT claims that he’s worth $10 billion, but he has a long-time reputation of stiffing his workers at all levels.

Elected politicians are causing a “collapse in pay for the bottom 90 percent” of the labor market since 1979 by giving power to employers through weakening unions, damaging minimum wage, and prioritizing low inflation over full employment. The bottom 90 percent of wage earners lost $1.53 trillion in income–$10,800 for every U.S. household—in 2015 alone. As a result of these policies, productivity has rapidly slowed since the 1970s, growing half as fast between 1973 and 2017 as it did from 1948 to 1973.

As DDT rails against Jerome Powell, the man he picked as chair of the Federal Reserve, the media is reminding people that he fired the former chair, Janet Yellen, because she is “too short.” Janet L. Yellen was considered the most qualified Federal Reserve chair perhaps ever, but DDT he broke a long-standing bipartisan tradition of retaining the Fed chair if they wanted to stay and were good at the job. Yellen fit both these criteria.

DDT is helping drug companies make more money from opioids by recommending that people with prescription for opioids also get prescriptions for an antidote. The health care costs will run over $1 billion. The recommendation came from DDT-appointed Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir. A two-dose kit of Naloxone nasal spray costs about $125. An automatic injector runs $4,000 per kit.

EPA has approved the Monsanto’s pesticide dicamba, an airborne chemical that can kill crops for miles away. Corn and other grass crops can tolerate the weed killer, but it kills soybeans, tomatoes, and other broadleaf plants. In 2017 and 2018, dicamba damaged almost 5 million acres of soybeans in 24 states, primarily in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois, except for Monsanto’s genetically engineered soybeans. Dicamba drift has killed millions of dollars in pecan and peach trees plus destroying bees because they cannot survive on plants damaged from dicamba.

A new proposed EPA rule purports that a little pollution is good for people in order to erase regulations on toxic chemicals. Today, the EPA proposed a reversal of the clean-up of toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired plants. Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities, and other birth defects in children, and the pollutants enter the food chain.

After 17 people were shot and killed in a Parkland (FL) school last spring, DDT put Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in charge of an all-white committee to solve the gun problem. Her first solution was to use federal funds to buy guns for schools, but she moved back from that move because of the backlash. In her next step, she admitted to Congress that her commission on gun violence would not study the role of guns in school shootings. Ten months after the tragedy, DeVos will use the “school safety commission” to discriminate against blacks and other minority students, permitting schools to use race in punishing them because of her claim that are the cause for an increase in school violence. The racial difference is already dire: black girls are suspended six times more than white girls, and black boys are suspended three times more than white boys. The commission was created because of killing by a white teenager, and most mass shootings at schools are by white males.

Almost 40,000 people died in shootings across the United States in 2017 during DDT’s first year after his inauguration, the highest number in 20 years. The U.S. now has 12 deaths per 100,000 people from guns compared to 0.2 per 100,000 people in Japan, 0.3 in the UK and 0.9 in Germany.

Last week, a second Guatemalan child died on Christmas Eve in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and DHS Secretary clings to her story that parents are at fault. Yet on December 23 to 25, ICE officials dumped 600 hundred asylum seekers in the cold outside a Greyhound bus terminal in El Paso where they had no housing or food and local shelters were not warned. Many of them were ill. The only other time that this has occurred was the week before the 2018 midterm elections.

Gallup poll’s most admired man for 2018 is Barack Obama, and the winning women is Michelle Obama. Barack tops the list for the 11th year in a row, one place short of tying Dwight Eisenhower for the record. Michelle has broken Hillary Clinton’s 17 year run. DDT came in second to Barack, and Melania Trump is fourth after Oprah Winfrey and Clinton.

Katherine Walker, the TV producer who oversaw the first five seasons of The Apprentice, said that workers “struggled to make Trump seem coherent.” She added that he frequently commented on women’s bodies in a derogatory fashion. Walker believes—like many of us—that DDT would not have been elected president if not for that show. A piece in the New Yorker describes how Mark Burnett, former executive producer of the show, gave DDT the appearance of a tycoon. Voters bought the image, not the real person.

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