Nel's New Day

September 8, 2018

More Pieces from DDT’s 85th Week

While Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) creates chaos to stop people from noticing reasons for his indictment, the news keeps churning.

Twitter, who tried to claim its lack of bias in not banning conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars website when other social media did, has “permanently suspended” Jones and his website for violating policies against abuse, including attacks on a reporter outside Kavanaugh’s congressional hearing.

DDT tweeted in mid-August that he was revoking the clearance for John Brennan, but Brennan hasn’t received any notice about the loss of his clearance. This lack of follow-through seems to be a pattern:

  • June: DDT said he “instructed” officials “not to endorse” an official G-7 communique negotiated by member nations diplomats. Nothing happened.
  • April: DDT tweeted that Russia should “get ready” for his military offensive in Syria. Nothing happened.
  • February: DDT asked Defense Secretary James Mattis for military options for Iran. Mattis “refused.”
  • Last summer: DDT tweeted that transgender people were banned from military service. The Joint Chiefs ignored him.

Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, noted that unlike all other administrations, saying, “there is an almost total disconnect between what the president says in public and the actions of the executive branch.” Or maybe his aides really are taking papers off his desk.

With a prediction of a “blue wave,” Republicans have gone beyond their usual fraudulent efforts to win the election such as restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering, false statements about candidates, and maneuvers to put someone on the ballot to benefit themselves, and lying about their credentials. Now they’ve moved on to stolen materials, as in the example of Abigail Spanberger, candidate for Virginia’s 7th House district, who is running against Rep. Dave Brat, who replaced House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Brat is as unpopular as Cantor was , and the district is considered a toss-up between the two parties.

A GOP SuperPAC connected to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released all the private information from a job application completed by Spanberger, including her Social Security number. The Postal Service said that it released Spanberger’s application in error and asked that it be returned, yet the GOP PAC spun the information into lies about Spanberger.

A polling company asked voters if they would be less likely to support the Democratic candidate “if she knew that the candidate had taught at a school funded by the Saudi royal family that had ‘numerous students arrested for terrorism,’” and the GOP put this information into a “news release.” Spanberger substituted at a prep school for a wealthy school after she finished her MA with no record of any students connected to terrorism in any way. The problems cited by the GOP occurred long after Spanberger left the school. Then someone put up fake posters claiming that Spanberger promises to impeach DDT, open the U.S. borders, and abolish ICE—issues when Spanberger opposes.

In Texas, Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke is even in the polls with Sen. Ted Cruz for the general election. Now about 1,000 of O’Rourke’s supporters are receiving false texts that he is “in search of volunteers to help transport undocumented immigrants to polling booths so that they will be able to vote.” The messages came from his campaign by a first-time volunteer who signed up under a false name and were not authorized.

Racist robocalls sent from Idaho went to Florida residents where Andrew Gillum, a black man, is the Democratic candidate for governor against Trumper Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). The message starts with “I is Andrew Gillum” in a minstrel performer voice to background sounds of drums and monkeys before the voice rambles on about mud huts and unfair policing. The recording claims to be provided by the Road to Power, a website with white supremacist and anti-Semitic content.

Other GOP attacks are against veterans—ridiculing tattoos on a Maine candidate who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming that a Colorado candidate who was an Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient was responsible for VA problems, and saying that a Kentucky ex-fighter pilot deals in “execution” instead of “ideas.”

With no accomplishments or positive plans for the future, the GOP has devolved into the Party of Trump. It had hoped to run on their tax cuts, but the Pennsylvania special election proved that a failure. All they have are smear campaigns. This past week, congressional Republicans refused to negotiate on a pact banning both parties from using hacked or stolen materials in campaigning. Republicans said that Democrats had violated an agreement not to publicly talk about the negotiations.

The speeches from DDT and President Obama this past week show the serious difference between the two parties. One speaker introduced and praised candidates with personal anecdotes and plans for what they can accomplish if they are elected. The other one barely mentioned a candidate’s name, instead talking about himself and how people must vote for members of his party to keep him from being impeached. DDT tried to play down any concern about president Obama’s speech, but insiders says that it added to his paranoia.

Hurricane Florence, due to hit the East Coast by the end of next week, can bring disaster back to the United States, but not everyone has forgotten DDT’s inability to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s destruction of Puerto Rico. Last Thursday, House Democrats accused GOP members of failing to investigate DDT’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to protect DDT. Even after the report that 2,965 people died because of the hurricane, almost triple those in Hurricane Katrina, DDT said that he did a “fantastic job.” Republicans held only one hearing on Maria, compared to the nine that they had about federal response to Katrina. They also asked for no records from the White House although they obtained over 500,000 documents from George W. Bush and within five months prepared 569 pages about the government’s failures and suggestions for improvement.

DDT blames Puerto Rico for the deadliest U.S. disaster in almost 100 years despite the refusal of the United States to support its territory. He called its power plant “dead” before the hurricane although it was still functioning and said that delivering aid was difficult because Puerto Rico is an island. The death rate could be as high as 4,645 because emergency responders didn’t provide help in many areas for days. DHS failed to immediately waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico which prevented the island from getting aid and supplies from non-U.S.-flagged ships out of the U.S., and a hospital ship didn’t arrive for nine days. The assistance to Puerto Rico was minimal compared to mainland assistant, $6.2 million on the island and $141.2 million for Texas. Under pressure from U.S. officials, Puerto Rico hired a two-employee company in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown that had once employed his son to repair its electrical grid. The company overcharged for its services before it failed, and much of Puerto Rico was without power for several months. In short, DDT and the U.S. failed Puerto Rico.

Even Israeli military hardliners object to DDT’s removal of funds for Palestinian refugees’ healthcare and schooling plus $200 million in economic aid as they far greater conflict instead of peace. DDT’s new level of hostility toward Palestinian was symbolized last May when Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, walked out of a Security Council meeting to avoid hearing a speech by the Palestinian envoy, going beyond appointing David Friedman, funder of the illegal West Bank settlements, as ambassador to Israel. Christian evangelicals and donors such as Sheldon Adelson want the elimination of Palestinians, but DDT is creating a backlash from a people who have nothing to lose.

A neuroscientist suggests that DDT may be suffering from “narcissistic injury” because of his growing loss of power and control. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders explains that “criticism may haunt these individuals [suffering from this disorder] and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow, and empty.” The reaction is to angrily blame others, as DDT is against Bruce Ohr, Jeff Sessions, John Brennan, etc. “Narcissistic rage” causes much higher levels of bully, threats, and erratic behavior with the sole intent of punishing others.

Just 36% say they approve of the job President Trump is doing, a 5-point drop from last month, according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll. Fifty-six percent disapprove of Trump’s job performance, up from 53% the month before.  Good photo  The broader IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index plunged 11.6% to 40.4. That’s one of the biggest monthly drops since IBD started tracking this index in January 2000. Trump is also net negative among male voters for the first time in 2018, and has no advantage among voters over 65 for the first time since the election.

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.

April 12, 2018

Washington Legislators, Officials Flee

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Just when I think that the GOP world cannot get more bizarre, something happens to amaze me more. Today was one of those days. No, it wasn’t House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) announcement that he’ll stay home with the kids who haven’t had this attention for over a decade. My astonishment came from an earlier GOP House Speaker—John Boehner. Seven years ago, he said that he was “unalterably opposed” to legalizing marijuana. Boehner altered when he joined the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, the cannabis corporation operating in 11 states. He tweeted:

“I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”

Over 60 percent of people in the United States want legalized cannabis, and over 90 percent support legalized cannabis for medical use. Watching Boehner joining these percentages at a time when the DOJ wants to clamp down on cannabis and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to kill all the drug dealers—presumably also those selling cannabis—is nothing short of mind-boggling.

But yes, Paul Ryan finally admitted that he won’t be running for re-election in 2018. He leaves a legacy of close to a $1 trillion deficit this coming year and exceeding $1 trillion every year after that for the next decade. In Ryan’s announcement of his departure, he called the tax cuts, causing much of the deficit, one of his proudest achievements. Abandoning past conservative fiscal policy, he decided that tax cuts and spending increases are good for electing Republicans. Ryan’s current competition in the primary is an anti-Semite white supremacist.

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote that the Koch brothers—who actually gave Ryan’s campaign $500,000 in exchange for his tax cuts—have put Ryan up for sale on eBay with a $500 asking price. The humorist pointed out that Ryan’ “current high bid [is] seventeen dollars.” Borowitz wrote:

“The eBay listing suggested several possible uses for the former House Speaker, including as a Halloween ornament or garden gnome.”

The fight for his job is on, with Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) currently in the forefront while others bolt. One hour after Ryan’s departure announcement, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) said he won’t run for re-election. Retirements in the House are already far above normal, and the general election isn’t for almost seven months. One resignation, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), was made after the deadline to register for candidacy.

DJ Gribbin, DDT’s infrastructure policy adviser, left the White House after Congress largely ignored his plans for private and public partnerships. DDT has also told the GOP that these partnerships for infrastructure funding projects won’t work.

DDT claims that former VA Secretary David Shulkin resigned, but Shulkin disagrees, saying, “I did not resign.” Much was made earlier about his taking his wife with him on a business trip to Europe and his inability to get along with his staff. Yet that one trip was a drop in the bucket compared to other costs by other cabinet members; his conflict came from DDT staff hires who fought to privatize the VA health care. Replacement Ronny Jackson, the fawning doctor who gave DDT his physical examination, had said that he could live 200 years and had “incredibly good genes.” (DDT’s father died of dementia.) The biggest problem with Jackson, however, is his total lack of experience. If confirmed, Jackson will administer 360,000 employees, a $186 billion budget, and health care for nine million veterans. Fortunately for him, Shulkin had already stabilized the VA system of hospitals and health clinics, but Jackson’s sycophantic personality may cause him to dismantle everything. Veterans are coming out en masse in opposition to the privatization of health care that Jackson will rubber stamp for DDT and the Koch brothers.

John Bolton, appointed for National Security Adviser, may not be a shoe-in because of earlier political activity. He supposedly ended political activity with his PACs and stepped down as chair of his anti-Muslim Foundation for American Security and Freedom, but the PACs won’t be dissolved. He may also have a problem in his connection with Cambridge Analytica in electing Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) whose campaign may have been orchestrated by foreign workers. Bolton also appeared in a 2013 video for a Russian gun rights organization.

At least 3,000 Russia-linked ads from Cambridge Analytica reached over 126 million people during the 2016 U.S. election. HuffPo’s profile of white nationalist ”Ricky Vaughn”—28-year-old Douglass Mackey from Waterbury (VT)—shows how influential a few ads can be. C.A. also helped vicious Philippine dictator Roderigo Duterte win his election and participated in elections in Nigeria, Kenya, Trinidad & Tobago, and Latvia by creating ethnic tensions online by creating fear and misinformation online and entrapping political opponents with videos of sex workers.

The arrival of Bolton has led to at least three resignations/firings from the national security council. Tom Bossert may not be a great loss: the day before his firing, Bossert touted the movement of National Guard troops to the Mexico border and said that rape is the “price of entry” for women crossing the border.Michael Anton was known for writing DDT-supporting “American First” blog posts and essays under the pseudonym of Publius Decius Mus. Nadia Schadlow, trusted confidante of the fired H.R. McMaster who helped write DDT’s national security strategy, lasted only a few months after she replaced Dina Powell in January. Her mistake is believing in diplomacy. Here’s a list of people leaving DDT prior to that of Schadlow.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R) announced his resignation as of May 1 after an FBI inquiry into his spending and travel, including a trip to London with payday lending industry representatives. He finds his actions “ethical and lawful” but left as soon as the suggestion came from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R).

Dan Scavino, DDT’s former caddy turned into White House social media director, has replaced Hope Hicks as White House Communications Director. He is the last remaining staffer from DDT’s campaign launch.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, appointed almost a year ago, will stay because she claims that following “sincerely held religious beliefs” don’t break the law. She exonerated Col. Leland Bohannon for his refusal to sign a certificate of spousal appreciation for a retiring gay subordinate because because someone else signed the certificate that recognizes sacrifices of military spouses. Bohannon signs certificates for only heterosexual spouses. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is against policy. Wilson’s history of LGBTQ discrimination as a senatorial candidate includes opposition to a bill reducing anti-LGBTQ bullying.

DDT’s problematic appointments may be directly connected to the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO), DDT’s office to recruit and vet over 4,000 political appointees. In 62 weeks, it has found 309 candidates for 343 Cabinet agency positions requiring Senate approval. Of 1,200 positions requiring confirmation, only 387 from DDT have been approved, compared to 548 for President Obama and 615 for George W. Bush. Several DDT appointees have resigned after problems with comments, backgrounds, and qualifications. DDT’s PPO has a small staff of only 30—less than one-third of previous ones—and a serious lack of experience, mostly young people who worked on DDT’s campaign. They commonly have “happy hours” and held a frat drinking game called “Icing.”

During DDT’s transition, 100 researchers and lawyers under the supervision of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie prepared a list of candidates and hundreds of pages establishing a framework. DDT fired their leader, discarded all the information, and hired political operative John DeStefano as headhunter who required only loyalty to DDT as a job requirement. Even before DeStefano was hired, the database had only 87,000 applicants, compared to President Obama’s 300,000.

One of the most successful member of PPO is 75-year-old Katja Bullock. Her son became deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, his wife is White House liaison at the Office of Personnel Management, and their sons are “confidential assistant” at the Social Security Administration and “staff assistant” at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency that works to end global poverty.

Scott Pruitt is still clinging to his position as EPA Secretary, but his departure could leave Andrew Wheeler in charge if the Senate confirms him for the second-highest-ranking person in the agency. As a coal lobbyist, Wheeler is well known to the GOP senators, especially former boss Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).  His climate denying is so carefully phrased that Democrats haven’t really objected to his positions. Daniel Best, a former pharma insider, will be HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s pick to lower drug prices.

The media has paid little attention to either one of these people. Instead we focus on DDT’s promises to fire missiles at Syria while telling Russia that they can’t stop them. DDT seems to be having a spat with Vladimir Putin that can drive the United States into a war with the Middle East.

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.

September 4, 2017

DDT, GOP Oppose Labor on Labor Day

Filed under: Unions — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
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Labor Day to most people is a time to shop and barbeque, but it has a dark foundation. In 1894, Pullman employees went on strike to increase wages. President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strike, and the riots became one of the bloodiest events in U.S. labor history with 30 deaths. Congress soon declared a federal Labor Day holiday. Oregon had been the first state to celebrate Labor Day as a holiday in 1887. Thirty states followed suit before the creation of the federal holiday in 1894. Holidays were hard won from 37,000 strikes in the last part of the 1800s and 800 killings of workers, mostly by state security forces or the military, between 1870 and 1914.

Five years ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), then vice-presidential candidate, declared that Labor Day celebrated business management and CEOs because business owners were the only Americans working hard and taking risks to make “this country grow.” He completely ignored the federal statement that Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to “make America great again” by cheating workers.  His Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, has shown great disdain for salaried workers, those who are not paid hourly, when he prepared to stop overtime for employees making over $23,660, a figure set by President Gerald Ford and never adjusted for inflation. The rule for overtime under $47,476 covers one-third of full-time salaried workers in the nation, far fewer than the 50 percent covered by Ford. Some people making just below the $47,476 got raises so that their employers wouldn’t need to pay the overtime; now employers can drop these salaries. Acosta called for public comments on the higher amount in July, the first step to eliminating it.

Impacted by this change would be up to 12.5 million which includes 6.4 million women, 4.2 million parents (and, by extension, 7.3 million children), 1.5 million African Americans, 2.0 million Latinos and 4.5 million millennials. White people voting for DDT will suffer from this change. States supporting DDT tend to be poorer, places where salaried, white-collar workers are likely to earn below the $47,476 than in richer states. In West Virginia, the state with the worst economy in the nation, 30.7 percent of salaried workers will lose overtime pay if Acosta rescinds the rule. Other DDT states punished by the change include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The $47,476 amount represents the 40th percentile of salaries in the Southeast, the lowest-paying region in the United States. With the old rule, people making $24,000 without overtime are getting $6.60 an hour if their employee makes them work 70 hours a week.

DDT is spending his first Labor Day in the White House after average working people put him there in an anti-establishment rage. On Election Day, the typical U.S. household was worth 14 percent less than in 1984. The wealthiest one percent owned more than the bottom 90 percent. Last year’s bonus for Wall Street was bigger than annual wages of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The reason given for people now making less than their parents, having less economic security than their parents, the two-thirds who live paycheck to paycheck, and the widening gap in life expectancy between affluent and everyone else has been attributed to digital technology and globalization. But these problems have been paralleled by the shrinking of unions with only 6.4 percent of private sector workers in a union—a decline of almost two-thirds since the late 1970s. Top executives at big companies now make 300 times that of average workers, compared to only 20 times more in the 1980s. Workers in other advanced economies don’t face the economic problems in the U.S. Instead of having universal health care, affordable college, job retraining, public transportation, and higher taxes for the wealthy, however, U.S. workers kept dropping farther and farther behind.

Seventy-six percent of the population think that government is operated by a few big interests, compared to the 60 percent of people in 1964 who thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people.” Then, most people said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks, and financial institutions; now only ten percent has that confidence. DDT makes the problem much worse with undermining health care, backing off from fair pay, and proposed tax cuts for big corporations and rich people.

Across the country, the mis-named “right to work,” which prohibits union security agreements between companies and workers’ unions, is law in 29 states. Supporters of this law touts the “freedom” of workers to not join unions, but the law actually gives employers the “freedom” to pay lower wages and provide far fewer benefits. Any person who supports “right to work” should be asked how workers are better off. Workers in these states make $1,558 less than workers in a union state.

Right to work was developed to keep low-paid Jim Crow labor in the South and fight what “Christians” saw as the Jewish conspiracy. Leader in the movement Vance Muse of the Christian American Association (CAA) was “a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter, a man who beat on labor unions not on behalf of working people, as he said, but because he was paid to do so,” according to Muse’s grandson. On Labor Day 1941, Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles called for a constitutional amendment to block the closed, or union shop and came up with the name “right to work.” Ruggles joined forces with Muse, Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby, and Northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers, including Alfred P. Sloan and the du Pont brothers, using racist reasons to win. In Arkansas, the right-to-work campaign argued that without it, “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes . . . whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” In 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first right-to-work states through rampant election fraud and the refusal to allow blacks to vote.

In the 21st century, right wing activists are campaigning against progressive politicians by eliminating public sector unions. State Policy Network (SPN), with 66 state-based thinktanks in all 50 states, openly determine to remove funding from these unions under the guise of “labor reform” through an $80 million campaign against the 35-percent union membership in the public sector.

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin took collective bargaining from public sector unions in 2010, and Iowa and Indiana followed its lead. Another 15 states have introduced SPN-written legislation. Michigan, long a union state, passed a right-to-work law in 2013.

DDT has not been good for jobs, despite his campaign promises of 25 million jobs in ten years with 4 percent GDP growth. Candidate Trump also promised that he would produce 25 million jobs in 10 years with four percent GDP growth. Thus far, job growth since his inauguration is 15 percent below the same months for last year, and his GDP may be three percent although Hurricane Harvey may reduce it. Last week, he dropped his GDP estimate to three percent and halved job growth to “12 million new jobs.”  Last week, before news of job growth lagging for the month of August, he went back on that promise by claiming that if he can sustain 3 percent growth it will result in “12 million new jobs.” During his two terms Bill Clinton created 21 million new jobs, and Barack Obama managed 14.1 million jobs starting with the year after the loss from George W. Bush’s recession.

DDT celebrated his first Labor Day by firing 800,000 workers. He will end DACA, the program that grants work permits to undocumented workers brought to the U.S. involuntarily as children. Republican legislators have opposed this decision, and they now have a chance to reverse DDT’s destruction of millions of lives. To DDT, the undocumented people are garbage because they won’t be voting for him in 2020.

In 1893, Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, wrote:

“What does labor want? We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revege; in fact more of the opportunities to cultivate our better nature.”

Sixty percent of people in the U.S. view unions favorably, a 25 percent increase since 2015. What have unions done for people in the United States? They fought against child labor, discrimination in hiring, and sweatshops. They strengthened public education and founded Social Security and Medicare. They built the nation’s infrastructure of highways and bridges and airports. Unions fought for 40-hour work week, worker safety, paid vacation time, health and retirement benefits, sick leave, overtime pay, sick leave, right to breaks, minimum wage, workers’ compensation, higher wages, and more. If you have any of these benefits, thank a union. If you don’t, thank DDT and the GOP.

July 18, 2017

U.S. House Produces Mixed Results

Most media attention on Congress has targeted the Senate, but the House keeps chugging along. The 2018 budget plan goes to committee tomorrow with a partial repeal of Dodd-Frank in order to stop protecting consumers plus a reduction of $203 billion for financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, the safety net, etc. to pay for tax cuts and military. Defense spending would increase over the next decade as nondefense discretionary declines to $424 billion from $554 billion. Like senators, representative factions are split between far more cuts to the safety net and opposition to the proposed ones.

Unlike Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) assumption of a four-percent growth, the House Budget Committee expects a 2.6 percent annual average. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 1.9 percent growth in the economy for the next decade.  The House budget plan also assumes that their repeal of the Affordable Care Act will pass.

Last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $20 billion spending bill to fund federal agencies, including $1.6 billion to build DDT’s wall against Mexico. The bill includes a measure preventing the IRS from enforcing the 63-year-old law preventing churches from backing political candidates. Another provision in the bill is taking control of funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the Federal Reserve.

Congress—meaning both chambers—must pass a budget by October 1 to avoid another embarrassing and expensive government shutdown similar to the one in 2013. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), House Freedom Caucus chair, said that his members won’t vote for any budget without constructing the wall. They also claim that they won’t vote for the budget bill because they haven’t seen it. Ryan needs the Caucus because they comprise 31 of the 240 Republicans in the House; passing a bill requires 218 votes. Representatives from districts along the Mexico border are largely opposed to a wall between Mexico and the United States.

The House is still largely ignoring a Senate bill, passed 98-2, that imposes greater sanctions on Russia and limits DDT’s ability to lift them. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the bill should have originated in the House after DDT lobbied the House to weaken the bill. Special interests in energy are now opposing the bill. Despite the Democratic support for the bill in the senate, Ryan is blaming Democrats for the slowdown.

The House did manage to pass two anti-immigration bills. The first cuts off some federal grants from cities that do not go beyond federal law in cooperating with immigration authorities, and the other creates tougher sentences for criminals illegally entering the U.S. several times.  The second bill was based on a woman killed by a man who had been deported to Mexico five times; DDT had used her as a symbol during his campaign. The Senate will probably not survive the Senate, especially the first one opposed by law enforcement groups. The National Fraternal Order of Police wrote House leaders that “withholding needed assistance to law enforcement agencies—which have no policymaking role—also hurts public safety efforts.”

Even GOP representative couldn’t swallow the massive cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget that its ambassador Nikki Haley touted on behalf of DDT. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) pointed out “our leadership is irreplaceable.” Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said the cuts are not “sustainable or advisable” if the U.S. wants to maintain its status as a global leader.

The House did give DDT a bloated defense budget of $696 billion, more than his requested $603 billion. To survive, the budget needs to cut a deal to increase or repeal the sequestration caps that the GOP supported in 2013. A proposal to end the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force remained in the budget, but an amendment passed to require an administration strategy to defeat ISIS and an assessment of whether the 2001 AUMF is adequate to accomplish the strategy.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) lost her amendment to bar the Pentagon from paying for grender transition services when 24 Republicans joined Democrats to kill the measure. Twenty-seven GOP House representatives, including Oregon’s Greg Walden, joined the Democrats to oppose lawmakers who tried expand DDT’s religious profiling and Islamophobic policies. The failed amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense to “conduct strategic assessments of the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging.”

Another loss for the GOP came from 46 Republicans voting against with their caucus to defeat an amendment to the Pentagon’s budget to eradicate language about climate change’s threat. The defense policy calls climate change a “direct threat” to national security and requires analysis about its affect on the military. The House voted 185-234 to keep this language by voting down the amendment. Justification for the language in the Defense Department included the rising sea levels threatening military installations and disasters of drought and floods that exacerbate instability and increase extremist insurrections and war. Defense Secretary James Mattis has already stated that climate change is “a real-time issue, not some distant what-if” and “impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

One House member who may find himself embroiled in the DDT/Russia collusion is Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (SC). His super PAC accepted a great deal of money at the same time that the House Intelligence Committee began his investigation into the collusion. Gowdy defended himself by saying that “it’s not unusual for Russians to contact campaigns.” Yes, it is, and how does Gowdy know about these contacts? He also faces an ethics complaint about the possibility of bribes for his actions connected to Hillary Clinton’s debunked Benghazi investigation.

Gowdy has demanded that every DDT official disclose all communications with Russia before they come “out on the front page of the newspaper.” He wouldn’t admit that there is a problem with Russian collusion, but he wants the distraction to stop. Yet he admitted that “four or five statutes [could be] impacted” and “trusts” special investigator Robert Mueller “to sort all that out.” Mueller has 16 attorneys in his team of 25 people looking into Russian interference.

Things between the House and the White House may grow even more tense, if possible. Devil’s Bargain, a new book from Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, states that white supremacist Steve Bannon, back in WH favor, called Ryan “a limpd**k mother**ker.” Green wrote that the comment from DDT’s chief strategist came from the suggestion of Ryan as a DDT alternative is the RNC were contested. Breitbart.com, Bannon’s former website, launched critical pieces about Ryan. Can this be the first of “kiss and tell” books about DDT—without the kiss?

Ryan has expressed dismay at the senate failure to pass a healthcare bill after the House found 217 votes for Trumpcare months ago. He said that the House will move forward on tax “reform” (aka cuts for the wealthy). Passing the House health care bill has been profitable from some U.S. representative who bought stock in health insurance companies. As the bill moved forward in late March, GOP congressional members invested, i.e., Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), $30,000 and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), $50,000-$100,000.

Shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pulled the vote on its second bill for Trumpcare, he declared that the Senate would vote for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and then replace it later. That plan didn’t work either. Senators who opposed the harshness of the Trumpcare bill are already voicing their opposition. And one possible GOP vote—Sen. John McCain—is still in Arizona. Plus McConnell will need 60, not 50, votes because a repeal won’t fall under the reconciliation process. Yet McConnell plans to move ahead with a vote next week

Ryan was surprised when some women representatives objected to the enforcement of a dress code preventing sleeveless tops and open-toed shoe. Rep. Jackie Spiers (D-CA) initiated “Sleeveless Friday,” a day when the temperature in Washington, D.C. was 97 degrees. Twenty-five women gathered for a photo op on the steps of Congress. Three-fourths of the women in the House are Democrats, but the protest crossed party lines.

Some people may complain about the women making a big deal of a small thing. At this time, however, the Republicans in the House are making a small thing of a big deal—DDT’s conflicts of interest, lack of tax returns, violent and threatening tweets, Russian connections, etc.

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

Eighteen days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) talked to reporters about the newly introduced health plan written behind closed doors, probably by aides:

 “We will have 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We’ll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor. I can guarantee you that.”

Yesterday, just seven years and one day after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the GOP plan, distorted during the past few days by providing even fewer services than the original, died. House Republicans had entered over 50 bills to kill the ACA, many of them passing after the GOP gained a majority in the chamber, but Ryan was positive that the GOP takeover of both Congress and the executive branch would guarantee his success. Yet the Party of No is helpless in the face of Yes. Their work involved no stakeholders, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed his usual pattern of bullying threats instead of actually selling the bill.

Massive loud protests against the repeal of the health plan, steadily growing in popularity, pushed more moderate representatives to vote against the bill for fear of retaliation in their own district from people who would lose coverage. The Koch brothers’ promised to defend anyone voting no when they ran for re-election after DDT said that no voters would lose the next election. By the end of the debacle, only 17 percent of voters supported Ryan’s plan.

DDT blinked and lost the game of chicken. He canceled the vote rather than suffer the embarrassment of losing, but it’s obvious that he lost. With no experience or clout to lead his party, DDT lobbied 120 congressional members, “left everything on the field” in negotiations, and lost. In his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal, DDT claimed, “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off you’re back.” He repeats that the negotiator needs “to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are.” DDT didn’t realize that legislators aren’t contractors. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) did a training session for the House Freedom Caucus on DDT’s book, complete with poster.

During his campaign, DDT managed to con voters into believing that he knows “the art of the deal,” that he can be the closer. Ezra Klein explains why DDT as president is a loser:

“Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products…. He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.”

DDT wasn’t alone in the Trumpcare con; he had company from Ryan, who Paul Krugman called “The Flimflam Man.” Ryan lied when he said that Trumpcare would lower premiums, end the “death spiral,” and increase choice. Premiums would have skyrocketed unless people chose junk insurance plans with no coverage, and the extra 24 million people without insurance, along with people who couldn’t afford full coverage, would cause a death spiral. Ryan proposed a tax plan for the rich under the name of health care and failed.

The bill began with a high “age tax”—raising premiums and expenses for older, working adults—and added the “mommy tax” that greatly added expenditures for maternity coverage while diminishing its availability. Asked about people living in a state that doesn’t require maternity coverage in insurance, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in.” He clarified his statement by saying he didn’t mean move out of the state but to change the law. Republicans also ridiculed other insurance benefits for over half the nation’s population. For example, Alice Ollstein tweeted about her Kansas senator:

“I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” he snarked.”

Ollstein survived breast cancer discovered during a mammogram for preventative care. These are the people–no estrogen and largely white–who met to decide what services should be cut for women.

[A bit of humor….]

Trumpcare was so bad that Ryan’s only solution in getting it passed was speed. The cruel additions to woo ultra-conservatives by eliminating Essential Health Benefits was added only the day before Ryan hoped to call a vote. Among the items as unnecessary health care are maternity and newborn care, emergency room services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental illness care, laboratory services and pediatric services.

DDT’s “skill” is to always blame someone else. Finger-pointing shifted so fast that digits blurred. DDT with DDT’s his chief of staff Reince Priebus and Ryan, accusing them of faulty content and bad timing. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price also got blamed because he was put in the job to pass Trumpcare—although DDT assigned that job to Mulvaney. DDT claimed he wanted to start with tax reform that would have been “far less controversial.” (We’ll see!) Ryan was a popular scapegoat on the Fox network. The Wall Street Journal blamed the House Freedom Caucus for their “insisting on the impossible over the achievable,” and DDT took after this group too, telling them that he would tell their constituents that they were voting in favor of Planned Parenthood.

Despite 34 no votes from Republican representatives, DDT ultimately settled on the Democrats publicly when he whined that not one of them voted for Trumpcare, despite his failure to ask them for support. DDT and the GOP will continue to exaggerate any problems of the ACA, and the media will most likely focus on problems rather than the successes because a train-wreck films better than a satisfied person.  The GOP may also try to sabotage efforts to improve the ACA.

DDT is failing in office for the same reason that he succeeded in his campaign—weak party leadership. In a little over a day, he took a bill that no one likes and made it worse while alienating more members of his own party. In addition, he may have broken the law in his last-ditch try to save it. Tweets asking DDT supporters to call their representatives to save Trumpcare were sent by White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr, the official @POTUS account, and DDT’s personal account. The use of federal dollars, including paid White House Staff, in directly lobbying Congress to support or oppose a bill is against federal law. Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the Nixonian approach toward law by saying that the law is “not applicable to the president.” Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, disagrees because of the direct appeal to contact representatives in support of Trumpcare.

Hillary Clinton had a grand time tweeting the victories of people who need and like the “Obamacare” that DDT has daily excoriated in his daily message. Watching her is a reminder of how close the United State was to having a president who could “keep America great.”

DDT, Ryan, and the far-right Republicans aren’t the only losers with the downfall of Trumpcare. The wealthy won’t get their billions in tax cuts, and Wall Street won’t get the wealthy’s extra money. Insurance companies are also the losers, outside keeping funding for Medicaid. Big corporations would rejoice over getting rid of consumer protection rules that would have allowed them to vastly increase sales, marketing, and IRS deductions while selling junk insurance that wouldn’t have those “essential benefits”—like hospitalization.

One winner is DDT because Trumpcare would have lost over 1.2 million jobs—some people say as many as two million—that would have hurt his desire to be seen as the “jobs president.” GOP senators are winners because they don’t have to cast any votes on health care, at least in the immediate future. And constituents of Rep. Greg Walden, leader of the committee trying to destroy health care, are winners. In his rural district comprising two-thirds of Oregon, Trumpcare would have taken health insurance from 64,300 of his 684,200 constituents, almost ten percent of the people he represents. The remaining residents would have had far less access to the rural hospitals that need ACA money to stay open.

The next step is for Democrats to fight DDT’s “tax reform” shifting millions to himself and his wealthy friends. Meanwhile Democrats can introduce bills for improving ACA. The GOP won’t vote for them, but people will see that it can be fixed—and maybe vote blue in the next election.

July 8, 2016

We Need to Save Both Blacks, Police

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D-NY) husband was killed in a mass shooting in 1993, the same horrific event that seriously wounded her son. Elected to Congress four years later, she fought for gun safety legislation. Not until 2007 did she succeed—in a small way. During the last session before winter holiday recess that year, Congress passed a law requiring federal agencies to keep up-to-date records on people who might be disqualified from purchasing guns such as those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, and those with documented mental health issues.  Other than a vote to renew a ban on plastic firearms in 2013, that’s the last gun safety legislation that got through Congress. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have died because of firearms, and the number of mass shootings are drastically increasing.

After the 50 deaths from a shooter in an Orlando nightclub on June 12, House Speaker Paul Ryan still refused to bring any gun safety bills to the floor. Fed up with continued inaction on the public health issue of deaths from guns, a majority of the House Democrats began a 25-hour sit-in on the chamber floor on June 22. At this time, Ryan has said that “all options” were being considered to discipline sit-in participants for their protests.

Ryan also promised to bring a gun bill approved by the NRA for a vote but then pulled it. He said, “We’re not going to rush it…. We’re going to get it right.”That was the day after two black men were murdered by police officers and the same day that a sniper murdered five Dallas (TX) police officers and wounded nine other people, seven of them police officers. The same week Ryan changed his mind, family members killed each other, and there were a variety of “smaller” mass shootings.

After a 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Senate voted on four bills–two of them supported by Democrats and the other two that would make no change. All four of them failed when the GOP voted against change and the Democrats refused to support do-nothing bills.

This past week, President Obama has been forced to make two painful speeches about horrific gun deaths—the first one after police killed two black men and the next after the deaths of five law enforcement officers in Dallas. During the second speech, he said that at some point people will need to think about the “powerful weapons” that help these deadly shootings. He said this after he expressed his horror at the “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement” and his support for law enforcement. He will cut short his diplomatic mission to Europe intended to smooth over foreign relations after the British Brexit fiasco in order to visit Dallas.

The president was immediately attacked for getting “political” (Ben Carson) because people need guns to “defend themselves from an overly aggressive government.” Another former GOP presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, wanted the president to emulate President Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster as if killing police and space shuttle disasters are the same. Actually, Reagan supported a universal background check, a seven-day waiting period before buying guns, and a ban on assault-weapons.

Since 2000, an average of 50 police officers have been deliberately killed each year. In contrast, the first six months of 2016 saw police kill 532 people, many of them unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color. About half of them were white, but black people and Native Americans are killed at higher rates than any other ethnic group. For example, 31 percent of people killed by police in 2012 were black although blacks comprise only 13 percent of the population.

The vast majority of these officers who killed people will receive minor or no punishment; not one officer was convicted of murder or manslaughter in 2015 when the police killed 1,200 people. An example is Freddie Gray, apprehended on April 12, 2015 because he allegedly possessed an illegal switchblade. He was alive when he was put into a van with no seatbelt; when the van arrived at the station, he was in a coma from a spinal injury that led to his death seven days later. Thus far, three of the six police officers involved in Gray’s death have been exonerated despite evidence to the contrary.

The most recently publicized death of a black man shot by a police officer was that of Philando Castile. He legally owned a gun and had a concealed carry permit, issued by Minnesota, for the gun. When the police stopped him for a broken tail light, he said that he had a permit. The police officer ordered Castile to show him his ID, Castile reached for his wallet to get it and was instantly shot dead. Castile, 32, had worked for the St. Paul Public Schools for 13 years, becoming a kitchen supervisor two years ago. He was shot and died in front of his girlfriend and the girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in his speech that the killing was at least in part because of Castile’s death.

The NRA, pushed into a statement two days after Castile’s killing, said only that there should be an investigation. The organization most likely wants to avoid controversy about black men who are killed while carrying guns because studies show the relationship between white identity and opposition to gun control. The NRA said nothing about the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge (LA) the day before Castile’s death after Sterling was thrown on the ground by two police officers because he was selling CDs in front of a convenience store. He didn’t draw his gun, but he was killed when the police shot him multiple times.

Sterling’s and Castile’s deaths set off protests, mostly peaceful and without incident, throughout the nation. Even the one in Dallas (TX), with about 800 protesters, was peaceful. After they started to disperse, a lone sniper, an Army veteran with an honorary discharge who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, killed five police officers and wounded seven other people with an assault weapon. The sniper was killed by the police with an armed bomb-disposal robot.

Only one person was involved in the killing although the police announced other suspects. They even posted his photo online asking people to help them find the suspect and left it there for almost 24 hours after he had turned himself in and they decided that he had nothing to do with the killings. His only crime was being a black man with a gun (although open carry is legal in Texas), but he’s now getting thousands of death threats.

In Portland (OR) a well-known Trump supporter pulled a gun on protesters, threatening them with it. He is well known for stalking and harassing people, filming them at leftist protests to put the video online with their names and addresses. The man had a round in the chamber of his gun that he used to sweep the crowd in front of him. He also had five other magazines of ammunition with him. Some of the protesters tried to calm him down and offered to take him out for coffee. As the incident ended, over a dozen police officers arrived in two trucks, and arrested him along with another man.

The Bahamas has issued a travel advisory for the United States, warning young men “to exercise extreme caution” in their “interactions with the police.”

A problem with passing legislation to make the country safer is the low bar for electing members of Congress. House Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) had earlier claimed that the Pulse nightclub, the location of the recent mass shooting, was not a “gay bar” although it described itself as the “hottest gay bar in Orlando.” Now he expresses concern that the Dallas police officers “let their guard down.” Perhaps we can’t expect much from a person who said in 2009 that House Republicans would look at “the Taliban” as a tactical model to take over Congress and that “everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate.”

This philosophy aptly explains the reason behind the gridlock in the U.S. government reinforcing continued deaths from guns. It is guaranteed that Congress will hold a moment of silence for the five Dallas police officers killed this week. It’s probably also a guarantee that they won’t be commemorating the untimely death of Philando Castile—and the other people killed unnecessarily by the police.

“Black Americans shouldn’t be killed in routine traffic stops, and police shouldn’t be killed while protecting and serving their communities.”

Elizabeth Warren’s tweet succinctly provides the goal; now Congress needs to live up to it. They probably won’t.

May 10, 2016

Trump Wins; GOP Falls Apart

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:03 PM
Tags: , , ,

Tonight Donald Trump won West Virginia—not difficult because he has no competition. He actually told people they shouldn’t bother to vote despite the hundreds of people and issues on the state’s ballot. Less than a week ago, Trump’s majority in the Indiana primary finished the GOP candidacy Waterloo for his 16 competitors. Within 24 hours, the last two—Ted Cruz and John Kasich—were gone. It was not done peacefully.

Cruz seemed to survive former House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) description of him a “Lucifer” and the “most miserable son of a bitch.” Cruz tried to cover the problem by saying that he had only “met the man two or three times.” Yet, Cruz was Boehner’s lawyer in 1998 when he sued Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) for violating wiretapping laws after McDermott released a tape of a 1996 call between Boehner and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich to the New York Times. Cruz used the publicity for fundraising and bragged to the Tea Party about taking down a Democrat.

What broke Cruz was Trump’s discussion of a tabloid photograph showing Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father, with Harvey Oswald, who assassinated John F. Kennedy. Cruz called Trump an “amoral pathological liar,” a “narcissist,” and a “serial philanderer” and predicted that “this country could well plunge into the abyss” if Trump were elected. These sound bites will be very useful for Democratic ads this fall as Cruz moved 180 degrees opposite from praising Trump last fall, for example, “I have been glad to praise Donald Trump for speaking out boldly and brashly….”

cruz daughterNothing Cruz did helped him survive in Indiana, not claiming that John Kasich had dropped out of the race or reminding people that Trump defended Tyson when he was convicted of raping a woman in Indiana in 1992. Naming the highly disliked Carly Fiorina as his vice president didn’t help at all. The Internet delighted in putting Cruz’s gaffes front and center—calling a basketball rim a “ring,” ignoring Fiorina when she fell off the stage in front of him, hitting his wife in the face with his elbow when he turned around to hug the man behind him, threatening to spank a boy who yelled “You suck!” (He had also threatened to spank Hillary Clinton a few months ago.) Heidi Cruz said on camera that “Ted is an immigrant.” Even Cruz’s daughter doesn’t want him to hug her.

Cruz ignored the fact that his own party despises him and blamed the media—particularly Fox News—for Trump’s rise. “Network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at Fox News have turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network.”

He might be grateful that the upcoming campaign won’t deal with his fight to put people into prison if they sell dildos in Texas. Badly-worded legislation could have sent a women to jail for up to two years because she sold other women vibrators in her living room. As the state’s solicitor general, Cruz headed a team in 2007 that provided a 76-page rationale for the law, asking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the decision jailing people for selling sex toys. The lower ruling was struck down 2-1, including the judge’s disbelief that selling dildos is comparable to soliciting sex.  As usual, Cruz kept at the case, trying to take the case to the Supreme Court. He should have quit: Craig Mazin, Cruz’s former college roommate, tweeted:

“Ted Cruz thinks people don’t have a right to ‘stimulate their genitals.’ I was his college roommate. This would be a new belief of his.”

Samantha Bee has mixed fact with satire in her goodbye video to Ted Cruz.

With only Trump left on the GOP side and Democrats concentrating on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the religious far-right has no candidate for the third presidential election in a row. John McCain didn’t appeal to them in 2008, and many fundamentalists questioned Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion. Ainsley Earhardt, a host on Fox & Friends, suggested that people should pray instead of voting “and God will pick the right candidate.” It’s the best idea that I’ve heard from conservatives in this election cycle.

Cruz has gone back to the Senate—much to the dismay of his GOP colleagues–and the Republican establishment has to deal with the fallout from Reince Priebus’ declaring that Donald Trump is the party’s “presumptive nominee.”  After that annointment, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), one of the two congressional GOP leaders, said he isn’t ready to support Trump as nominee. Trump’s retort was “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.” Later Trump was stumped when he kept telling people that he would force Ryan to step down as the leader of the GOP convention only to have Ryan announce that he would do that if Trump wanted.

Once Trump was established as heir “presumptive,” half the GOP started spending their energy guessing who he would pick for VP. Trump has indicated that the short list includes Chris Christie, former candidate and current New Jersey governor, although Christie is already heading the transition team as Trump heads for the White House. Another candidate, Ben Carson, said he wouldn’t do it because he would be a “distraction” so he’s on the vetting committee. Rick Perry said he’d be delighted to be chosen even after he earlier referred to Trump as a “cancer.” Another name tossed around is Newt Gingrich, a failure for presidential candidate four years ago.

A possibility is that Trump may play the “woman’s card” by selecting a woman. Govs. Nikki Haley (SC) and Susana Martinez (NM) are running away from him, but Mary Fallin (OK) and Jan Brewer, former Arizona governor, would be delighted. John McCain, who loosed Sarah Palin on the nation, wants Trump to pick pig-castrating Sen. Joni Ernst (IA), and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, leading the anti-Planned Parenthood committee aiming to out all people with any relationship to working with fetal tissue by subpoenaing them, has been suggested as a possibility. When asked about Sarah Palin as a choice, Trump said that she is a “terrific” person but very much a “free agent,” aka “loose cannon.”

Those who aren’t guessing about the VP position are looking for people to run against Trump in the general election. According to the conservative Beltline newspaper, The Hill, these ten names lead the crowd: Mitt Romney, who accepted Trump’s endorsement four short years ago; Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who has made the most noise about a third person run; General John Kelly; former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is the likely Libertarian Party nominee and thinks that a Libertarian who wants to legalize marijuana can beat both Trump and a Democrat; Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI, a Rand and then a Cruz follower; former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK, who resigned his senate position because of cancer; Nikki Haley, who is way too smart to do this; and Rand Paul, who already unsuccessfully ran for the job.

Paul Ryan has said that a third-person run in the upcoming presidential election would be disastrous for the party. Others ask if things can get worse. Even more “interesting” would be if the GOP runs a third person, and Bernie Sanders decides to go out on his own if he doesn’t get the Democratic nod in July. And it’s only been one week!

April 12, 2016

Cruz Worse Than Trump

In a panic about the GOP being represented by Donald Trump, Republican establishment types have moved to the presidential candidate who they hate the most—Ted Cruz. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) shifted from wanting to poison his colleague to just saying that the Republican party is “screwed up.” Part of the GOP argument is that Trump is too “liberal,” but when they complain about his actual positions, they are almost identical to those espoused by other Republicans—particularly Cruz. The GOP has temporarily picked its most mistrusted and hated senator, “a serial liar who led the 2013 government shutdown and called Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a fraud on the Senate floor.”

Trump’s briefly held position about punishing women for having abortions is part of the GOP agenda. John Kasich said that individual states should decide how to punish the women. (It’s the usual GOP statement when candidates or elected officials try to weasel out of answering a question.) Cruz has a much worse position when he says farther by saying that states should ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who still denies that  he wants to be president in the same way he denied wanting to be Speaker of the House, “opposes abortion, period,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. During a campaign, he said that he was willing to let states criminally prosecute women who have abortions.

Troy Newman, one of Cruz’ top advisers, wants to execute abortion providers, and another adviser, Kevin Swanson, wants to execute Girl Scout leaders for “promoting homosexuality.” Cruz’ “no” votes include the Paycheck Fairness Act, raising the minimum wage, and reauthorizing the Violence against Women Act. He has voted to defund Planned Parenthood. All three of the GOP presidential candidates are saying, “Vote for us, and we’ll take away your rights.”

Both Trump and Cruz are competing to prove how much they hate Muslims. All eight people who Trump and Cruz appointed as advisers have connections to the Center for Security Policy, a hate group serving as the anti-Muslim movement’s premier think tank, and half of them hold ranking positions with CSP, including founder Frank Gaffney who works for Cruz. On his radio show, Gaffney called Jared Taylor’s openly racist American Renaissance website “wonderful.” Other major Cruz advisers are Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (Ret.), Executive VP of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council; Claire Lopez, VP for research and analysis at CSP; Andy McCarthy, columnist for National Review and active on the anti-Muslim speaking circuit; and Fred Fleitz, Senior VP for Policy and Programs at CSP.

Trump picked Sen. Jeff Sessions, key politician in the anti-Muslim movement; Walid Phares, anti-Muslim activist and former Lebanese Christian Militia member; and Joseph E. Schmitz, Senior Fellow with CSP. After Trump fired adviser Sam Nunberg for being too racist, Nunberg moved to the Cruz camp.

After Trump promised to “bomb the sh*t” out of ISIS, Cruz promising to carpet bomb the Middle East. Even Fox criticized Cruz’ position, but he was still touting this solution on Easter Sunday, right after talking about salvation. As Jimmy Kimmel pointed out on his late night show, the only difference is that Cruz wants the sand to “glow.”

President Obama reported that he’s “getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about” both Trump’s and Cruz’ “suggestions” including their immigration proposals. Cruz claims that, if elected, he would deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. He also wants the same wall that Trump does and would triple the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Trump and Cruz also show the same positions in issues of no gun control, repealing the Affordable Care Act, picking Supreme Court nominees, and costing taxes by $9.5 trillion through cutting taxes. Jimmy Kimmel shows the striking similarities his late night show.  Both men want religion in government and oppose international agreements.

In his struggle to rise from the bottom, GOP candidate John Kasich summarized their positions although he didn’t give their names:

“a ban on Muslims from entering the country, surveillance of Muslims in the U.S., dropping out of the NATO alliance, allowing nuclear weapons in Europe, and promising to repeal Obamacare ‘simply through the will of a strong man in the White House.’”

USA Today editorial board likened GOP presidential candidate Cruz’ “dogmatic, confrontational and hyperpartisan” rhetoric and tactics to those of Trump.  An analysis of the similarities between Cruz and Trump are striking with the only differentiation that Cruz varies from “generally” to “far” more conservative than Trump.

There is one major difference between Trump and Cruz: Trump backers are proud of their candidate; and Cruz backers are embarrassed by their candidate. John Nichols described Trump as “a crude xenophobic demagogue who has little respect for civil liberties or civil rights and who says terrible things about Muslims, refugees, and immigrants.” Steven Rosenfeld described Cruz as “a conniving, uncompromising, power-hungry demagogue whose policies would serve the richest Americans.” Cruz is just more tied to special interests, rigid, and connected to sleazy campaign tactics.

Cruz also has a super PAC to do his bidding. He claims that “family” is off-limits, but his super PAC started the “war of the wives” by printing a photo of Trump’s wife, causing Trump to retaliate. The difference is that the super PAC didn’t get permission to use a copyrighted photograph whereas Trump pulled his off of a tweet.

Religion is another area in which Cruz is farther away from reality than Trump. Colorado’s Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is on Cruz’ team of leaders in that state, and Cruz has bragged about the man’s endorsement. As a “preacher,” Klingenschmitt has made many videos, including his claim that God made a hurricane because he was thrown out of the U.S. Navy chaplain. His departure didn’t even come from his crazy beliefs; he violated policy by wearing his military uniform at a right-wing political rally. He lost his position on the state House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee after he declared that a viciously violent attack on a pregnant woman removing her fetus was punishment for America’s legalization of abortion. He also tried to exorcize President Obama—although not in person—and tried to cleanse a woman of the” foul spirit of lesbianism.” His objection to gays serving in the military is their “taking breaks on the combat field to change diapers all because their treacherous sin causes them to lose control of their bowels.” Videos of Klingenschmitt’s “preaching” are here.

Much has been said about how Trump is wonderful because he doesn’t follow “political correctness,” which parents call courtesy when they’re teaching the children how to be well-behaved. Trump takes pride in not being civil while Cruz continues with his wax-face smile and speaks courteously. Yet the same vitriol comes from both their mouths—except when Cruz is worse. Asked about a comparison between him and Joe McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator who destroyed tens of thousands of lives through his hearings in the 1950s, Cruz said, that it “may be a sign that perhaps we’re doing something right.”

Robert Reich listed four reasons that Cruz is far worse than Trump: Cruz is more fanatical, more disciplined and strategic, a true believer, and a loner who’s willing to destroy government institutions to get his way.

The only virtue that the GOP can find in Cruz is, in the words of Lindsey Graham, “He’s not Trump.” No, he isn’t. He’s worse.

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