Nel's New Day

September 6, 2017

Fight Authoritarianism with Humor

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

My partner and I get together every afternoon and talk. I drink scotch, and she drinks fruit juice. We start out with each of us listing three good things that happened to us during the day and then continue with wherever the conversation leads. I sometimes talk about what I’ve been reading, and she asks questions that makes me want to delve further into the topic. Often, the subject is politics, yesterday the tragedy of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rescinding DACA, work permits for children brought illegally and involuntarily into the United States. I segued into how stupid DDT looked when he was trying to load a pickup for a photo op. She asked why it mattered, and we launched into the importance of ridicule to oppose authoritarians.

[Anti-fascist protesters in Wurzen, Germany, last week. Markus Keine/NurPhoto via Getty Images.]

Today, the New York Times published Tina Rosenberg’s opinion piece, “Neo-Nazis in Your Streets? Send in the (Coup Clutz) Clowns,” that followed our discussion. Here are excerpts:

In Olympia, Wash., in 2005, a march of about a dozen brown-shirted neo-Nazis was met by protesting clowns, goose-stepping, Nazi-style. Hundreds of counterprotesters turned the occasion into a celebration of diversity and unity.

Two years later in Knoxville, Tenn., residents countered a white supremacist march with a hastily assembled group calling itself the Coup Clutz Clowns. The clowns pretended not to understand the shouts of “White power!”

“White flour?” the clowns cried, throwing some in the air. “White flower? Tight shower? Wife power!” For wife power, some of them put on wedding dresses.

And in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C., clowns protesting a far-right march held up “Dwight Power!” signs, evoking the Charlotte Hornets player Dwight Howard.

Responding to far-right demonstrators with mockery originated in Europe, where one outstanding recent example took place in the German town of Wunsiedel. Unable to dislodge annual marches with ordinary counterprotests, the town took a new tack in 2014. For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, the town donated 10 euros to an organization that helped people leave right-wing extremist groups. Residents hung silly signs along the route and threw confetti at the end, leaving the neo-Nazis responsible for raising $12,000 against their own cause.

Humor has a long and honored place in American politics as well.

And counterintuitive though it may seem, ridicule and mockery have long been an effective way to disarm protesters who espouse bigotry and racial supremacy. If you want to resist those who would stir up violence, using humor is more effective than staying at home when they march, and far better than rewarding their provocations with a melee in the streets.

Here’s what white supremacists want to do when they stage a rally:

  • Legitimize their views.
  • Strengthen their self-image as part of the downtrodden.
  • Unite their squabbling factions.
  • Attract new people to the movement.
  • Control media coverage.
  • Feel powerful and heroic.

They can accomplish all of those goals when the Antifa, or anti-fascists, respond to violence by throwing fists or rocks.

“For the far-right groups, violence is central to their way of looking at the world,” said Peter Simi, associate professor of sociology at Chapman University. “The idea of having violent confrontation and conflicts fuels and energizes them. They feed off it.

“It also helps perpetuate their own narrative about victimization and persecution —‘Look, we can’t even have a free speech rally without being attacked.’ ”

For the same reasons that violence by counter-protesters helps the far right, mockery hurts. “Ridicule makes the far right look less attractive to the type of people they want to attract,” said Cas Mudde, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “There’s a sizable portion who are there for the thrill. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the broader ideology, but they really enjoy the potential violence. They want to feel dangerous and important. They don’t want to feel like part of a sketch.” He thinks that’s true for the Antifa as well.

After all, which plan is more attractive to young macho men? “We’ll face a small group of masked tough guys” or “We’ll face a large number of men, women and children wearing silly hats and big red noses”?

Humor and mockery are also good strategies for classic political protest — whether against politicians who enable white supremacists, or policies like tax cuts for the rich.

Founded in 1980 as part of the Solidarity movement, [the Orange Alternative in Communist Poland] specialized in surrealist protest, often conducted by people in orange garden gnome costumes. At a protest in 1988, 10,000 people marched wearing gnome hats. One of the group’s common tactics was to mock the state through exaggerated obedience.

On Poland’s annual day honoring the secret police (you can’t make this stuff up), the Orange Alternative carried banners and posters proclaiming complete devotion: “Love the People’s Police!” “Long Life to Undercover Agents!” During the annual celebration of the Russian Revolution, the group shouted Bolshevik slogans, and during a state-supported referendum in the city of Wroclaw, Orange Alternative marchers chanted “Vote Yes Twice!” as they called for a “200 percent voter turnout.”

The police found themselves in a conundrum. They couldn’t let the protesters continue. But by making arrests, they acknowledged that no one could possibly believe in the Communist orthodoxy — and anyone who said they did must have been joking. Most Poles already knew that, of course, but the Orange Alternative forced the state authorities to make it visible.

All of these organizations changed people’s thinking by putting familiar ideas into a disorienting new context….

Soon Congress will be considering proposals to drastically cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor. What’s the message? “No tax cuts for the rich”? “Protect social services”?

Better to do what Billionaires for Bush did during the George W. years. Put on your (fake) mink stole and pearls, or don your tux — look fabulously wealthy, or just fabulous. Carry a cardboard Rolls-Royce door or a Champagne glass and hold a sign that says “Pools, not schools.” Or “Only little people pay taxes.”

The group adopted a logo that cast the Republican Party’s elephant as a piggy bank and described itself as a “grass-roots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses and Halliburton C.E.O.s.” When President Bush made privatization of Social Security the flagship issue of his second term, the Billionaires, tired of waiting, put Social Security on eBay.

It seems too basic to even say, but the rule is violated again and again: Successful political activists are strategic. They ask: “What will reach, and motivate or convince, the people we need?”

Very often, the answer is: Make ’em laugh.

DDT said that he rejected the Paris Agreement because he didn’t want people in the world to laugh at him, failing to understand that he is the laughing stock of the entire world—sometimes openly and other times covertly as in Saudi Arabia where they consider him to be useful. In his first 100 days, DDT was the target of jokes from late night hosts, with 1,000 jokes about him, and the second 100 days just got worse.

Humorist Garison Keillor wrote about DDT:

“The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now….

“Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.”

As we now know, DDT’s adlibs revealed a high level of ignorance and a low level of vocabulary.

People are afraid of humor and satire because they are effective. Hollywood executives fought Charlie Chaplin when he wanted to satirize Nazism and Hitler in The Great Dictator. Arab airlines helped defeat the U.S. electronic ban with sarcasm. “Fake” news is so commonly used now for real faux news that DDT uses the term less and less. As Mel Brooks said, comedy robs people of their “power and myths.” Director Michael Moore told people to “form an army of comedy” to defeat DDT because “he’ll implode”; it’s “his Achilles’ heel.”

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mocked DDT’s small hands and small something else during the campaign, DDT talked at a debate about how he was well-endowed. He may not be reacting as much to the jokes recently because of John Kelly’s tutelage and restrictions of what DDT watches, but John Kelly won’t be in the White House long. The humor will lead to DDT’s destruction.

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August 19, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty – Further Losses

People cheered at the departure of white supremacist Steve Bannon from the White House, but the problems of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) aren’t over. Last Tuesday’s press conference his support of neo-Nazis and denigration of those who want racial equality started a firestorm that lasted the rest of the week. As he blasted the people he called the “alt-left,” Chief of Staff John Kelly, “Trump’s Last Hope” according to a Time cover, stood helplessly by. His words started a domino effect resulting in his isolation.

By now DDT has alienated business leaders, world leaders, Republican leaders, religious minorities, racial minorities, military leaders, Fox network, the intelligence community, and his own staff. All he seems to have left are Sebastian Gorka, Stephan Miller, Saudi Arabia, racist Christian evangelicals, and white supremacists, including their media and David Duke. He doesn’t even have Steven Bannon any more

Only 24 out of 292 GOP members of Congress criticized DDT by name, but most of the others still aren’t happy about the disturbance of their agenda. DDT switched tweet attacks from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to “publicity seeking Lindsey Graham” and “Flake Jeff Flake.” Both had criticized DDT’s espousing an equivalent between white supremacists and their opposition.

DDT’s advisory councils have fallen apart. As CEO members of both the Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum dropped like flies, he disbanded them. He eliminated the Infrastructure Council, created by an executive order, before it was even finalized. The next one to go was the President’s Commission on Arts and the Humanities, created by Ronald Reagan in 1982, as all the members resigned, stating:

“Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed. Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values.”

The first letters in each paragraph of the letter spelled RESIST. Following these disasters, DDT announced that he would not be attending the Kennedy Center Honors on December 3.

DDT also lost Carl Icahn as an advisor for regulatory matters after Icahn financially benefitted from his advice. One reason for his departure may be an expose on Icahn’s conflicts of interest and questionable legal actions in the New Yorker.  

At least 16 charity organizations, including the American Cancer Society, have pulled their events from DDT’s resort Mar-a-Lago, and more are leaving every day.

House Democrats introduced a congressional censure resolution because of DDT’s support of the white supremacists. The conservative USA Today published an editorial in favor of the resolution and called for “formal condemnation.” Conservative columnist for the Washington Post Jennifer Rubin stated that “any Republican not willing to sign on [to the censure resolution] should be voted out. Period. It’s the only litmus test that matters.” The only president formally censured in Congress was Andrew Jackson in 1834.

DDT is considering privatizing the war in Afghanistan, with Eric Prince, the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in charge. Prince, who had owned the violent Blackwater security services, wants his workers to be controlled by an appointed “viceroy” who would make all the decisions including spending and contracting.  He’s recommending billionaire Stephen Feinberg for the job. Feinberg was a member of the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college.

After creating chaos in the insurance market with his sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, DDT has reluctantly agreed to make the August subsidy payments to insurance companies. GOP legislators had urged DDT to make these payments because they know they will get blamed for ACA problems. The Congressional Budget Office announced this week that stopping these payments would increase the federal deficit. Ending them would immediately increase insurance premiums and cause other government subsidies to rise. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the health committee, said that congressional members should quickly pass legislations to continue next year’s payments. These payments keep deductibles and co-payments far lower. Without them, premiums would increase by 20 to 25 percent in the next two years. Conservatives have preached doom and gloom about the ACA, but only two U.S. counties don’t have an exchange insurer for 2018. Cutting off the subsidies would cause insurance companies to abandon the exchanges, leaving customers without coverage.

  • A Kaiser poll discovered the following about public opinion surrounding the ACA:
  • About 80 percent want DDT to stop undermining the ACA and take action to make it function.
  • Only 30 percent want the GOP to continue the “repeal and replace.”
  • Sixty percent say that DDT and the GOP are to blame for any upcoming health problems.
  • A solid majority, 52 percent, like the ACA, with only a majority of Republicans against it. That’s a nine-point increase since DDT was elected.

While you were watching Charlottesville:

Opioids: DDT’s press conference on August 8 announced no need to declare an emergency. Then he received bad press about his failure to address the problem and declared an emergency. But he failed to give official notice to Congress which means that there will be movement on the crisis.

North Korea: Kim Jong-Un backed off after China dropped sanctions on the nation, and DDT seemed to take credit.

NAFTA renegotiations: DDT wants more than tweaking, Mexican farmers and workers demand the trade agreement scrapped, and Canada will challenge the rules in favor of its lumber and other trade issues. What can go wrong?

Stock Market: Even a bounce of 60 points after Bannon’s firing didn’t save the DOW from going down over 280 points on Thursday and Friday. DDT probably won’t announce that.

Terrorism in Spain: DDT, the self-identified “fact-seeker, cannot respond to the tragedy of a van driver killing and injuring people in Barcelona, Spain, so he reverted to his lie from the past about General Pershing conquering terrorist Muslims. Late night host Stephen Colbert described DDT’s speech.

Vladimir Putin: In a poll of 37 countries, people in almost half of them declared that they trusted the Russian president more to do the right thing for the world than DDT—and Putin only got 26 percent. Countries with more faith in Putin include Japan, South Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, Germany, France, Greece, and Turkey.

Increased danger for people: Last week, DDT rolled back a regulation requiring truck drivers and train engineers be screened for sleep apnea, blamed for deadly rail and highway crashes. Metro-North in the New York City suburbs had discovered that 11.6 percent of its engineers suffer from this fatigue-inducing disorder.

No flood protections: This week he rescinded flood protections for federally funded buildings and infrastructure, revoking President Obama’s executive order that required new public infrastructure projects such as subsidized housing, hospitals, and fire departments be built a few feet above the “100-year floodplain.” DDT sees no problem with seas rising and is determined to erase President Obama’s entire legacy. The man inaugurated last January said that regulations slow down the approval process and wants to spend $200 billion on projects that can be damaged beyond repair in a few years. Federal flood insurance claims cost an annual average of $1.9 billion.

If President Obama wanted it …:  DDT has taken down a bike sharing station at the White House for its employees. Bike share participants save an average of $631 a year.

Cover coverage: DDT keeps making the covers on major publications.

Lawsuits against DDT:

Five active duty transgender service members are suing DDT for his tweets banning them from the military, having relied on earlier guidance permitting them to be openly transgender in their jobs. The lawsuit asks the courts to immediately block new guidelines that would fire them. The suit states that DDT’s tweets have “already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to Plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis had asked for an extension to an earlier year-long student of implementing the change to ensure that it is smooth.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a class action lawsuit for “unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation” in immigrant deportations of minors. Accusations include the detention and transport of children to detention facilities without notification of parents or lawyers.

Neo-Nazi rally plans: Boston Common, August 19; Laguna Beach, August 20; Phoenix, August 22; San Francisco, August 26; Berkeley, August 27; various cities including Boston, Phoenix, Houston, Upland, Kansas City, and San Francisco, September 9. Participants are so-called America First, Act for America, and Trump Campaign.  On August 19, advocates of racial justice organized groups at over 30 cities, and the “free speech” rally in Boston brought out far fewer white supremacists than the almost 40,000 counter-protesters.

DDT’s tweet about the counter-protesters who supported equality:

“Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.”

Almost 1,000 people rallied in Portland (OR) on August 18 against hate. The best sign: pick a torch.

May 25, 2017

DDT Doesn’t Complete Embarrass U.S.

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

At the half-way mark of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT’s) whirlwind trip to the Middle East, NATO in Brussels, the Vatican, and G-7 in Sicily, he got back to Europe but marked the trip with hypocrisy, rejection of human rights, gaffes, and lots of meetings that have left DDT exhausted.

The people who voted for anti-Muslim, anti-global DDT were unhappy to see him with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi holding a creepy glowing orb in a darkened room for a ceremony opening a global organization. At the same event, he touted the similarities between the United States and the Muslim countries represented by 50 leaders in his audience and reversed all his former positions. No mention of “America First.”

President Donald Trump’s one time campaign adviser and longtime confidante Roger Stone said the royal reception Trump received in Riyadh, including the country’s highest civilian honor, made him want to puke. Both George W. Bush and President Obama received the same award, and both bowed. DDT criticized President Obama for this. Stone said that DDT should insist that Saudi Arabia pay for the 9/11 attacks which they financed. Instead DDT lavished praise on the Saudis. The opulence in Saudi Arabia made DDT comfortable, so comfortable that he made this comment when he was talking to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” (Note that the speaker is the president of the United States.) He gave a speech reversing all his former positions, but he made a lot of money for his friends with their multi-billion-dollar deals in the Middle East plus $360 billion in arms deals. In return, Saudi Arabia wants the repeal of a 2016 law permitting relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom for their deaths. After George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan and Iraq, many people forgot that 15 of the 19 attackers came from Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also gave a news conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, to which only foreign media were invited—not any U.S. media. The UK Daily Mail provided a transcript to U.S. media.

DDT’s hosts were a bit concerned about his visit too. Speeches had to be cut down to a couple of minutes for the man who has a shorter attention span than a five-year-old, and everyone needs to be careful about what they tell him as he’ll tell anybody anything. DDT needs to be complimented and feel that he’s winning.

When DDT landed in Israel, his next stop after Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered his cabinet members to be present. Some of them had planned to skip the event. DDT said to a group of Israeli officials, “We just got back from the Middle East.” The men tried to control their laughs at the man who failed to realize that Israel is also in the Middle East.

Gaffes before the trip to Israel also riled his host there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped that the U.S. embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, giving Israel ownership over the city occupied by four distinctly separate groups. DDT decided against the move, however, because Jordan’s King Abdullah told him not to do it. DDT refused to go to the ancient mountain fortress of Masada because he would have to take a cable car instead a helicopter. The White House had told Netanyahu that he couldn’t go to the holy Western wall because it was in the West Bank although part of it is in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. The map used for the trip showed Israel’s pre-1967 borders, excluding East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza strip. In his appearance at the Jewish Western Wall where he seemed to be either doing exercises or maintaining his balance. DDT was afraid to speak to Israel’s Parliament because he might be interrupted. He limited his visit to the famous Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, to 30 minutes, and much has been made of the difference between his statement at the site compared to the one that President Obama wrote.

Truly embarrassing was DDT’s giving highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians while DDT chatted with two high officials in the White House Oval Office. Israel’s bitter enemy Iran is one of Russia’s closest allies. In child-like manner, DDT blurted out at a press conference that he never told the Russians that the information had come from Israel—something no one had been accused of doing. “Never mentioned the word Israel.” This response was to a question directed toward Netanyahu about any concerns regarding intelligence cooperation with the United States.

As for the Palestine visit, DDT had reported that his meetings with leaders in their territory were in Israel— another map issue. He skipped Islam’s Holy Sanctuary, where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to the heavens, and his brief remarks to the Palestinians during his one-hour visit made no reference to a “two-state solution” between the two rival countries. As Hanan Ashrawi, senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said, “He’s still on a learning curve, and peacemaking is not a business deal.” Palestinians in Bethlehem joked that the greatest achievement was that the streets had been cleaned for the visit.

Iran commented on DDT’s constant criticism of the country. PressTV in Iran quoted Americans who wonder, “Why is the Saudi monarchy our friend but not democratic Iran?” Mehdi Hassan, based in the U.S., criticized Trump for speaking to a room full of “autocrats, dictators and despots.”

From Israel and the Middle East, DDT moved on to the Vatican; this photo shows the beginning of the meeting although Pope Francis did relax a bit by the end of the hour. DDT left the 30-minute private meeting, saying that he’ll remember what the Pope had said.

DDT took an extensive entourage with him although Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon were returned to the U.S. after just two days. DDT claimed that this was planned, but rumors included that they’re out of favor, anti-Semitic Bannon was dropped off the tour before Israel, they need to work with the budget, and—my favorite—they need to do something about the steady drip of Russia involvement with DDT.

Wilbur Ross returned with Priebus and Bannon, glowing about the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia. The Commerce Secretary raved, “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there.” Becky Quick, the CNBC anchor interviewing him, pointed out that the country is a police state and bans protesting. But he  knew better: “The mood was a genuinely good mood.” Saudi state security personnel had given him “two gigantic bushels of dates” which was “a from-the-heart, genuine gesture,” Ross said.

In 2015, more than a dozen activists, members of the Shia minority, were in prison, convicted for peaceful activities. Waleed Abu al-Khair has a 15-year sentence from his peaceful criticism in media interviews and on social media. The writer Zuhair Kutbi was jailed for discussing peaceful reform on television. Others are sentenced to death. In November 2016, the Saudis executed a partially blind and deaf man for protesting. His family said he was tortured into confessing. He was accused of “sending texts,” but he was too poor to own a cell phone. Earlier in January, 47 protesters were executed in one day, and the total number of beheadings by July was 108. In addition, people break the law if they “distort the reputation of the kingdom” or “break allegiance with the ruler.”  A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including “calling for atheist thought,” “contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom,” and “seeking to disrupt national unity” by calling for protests. Dissenters are tortured in prison as well as publicly flogged and sometimes beheaded.

Those praising DDT on his trip have used the low bar that he hasn’t embarrassed the United States. He did support all the actions that found wrong with the Obama: his wife didn’t wear a head covering in Saudi Arabia, and DDT bowed to the Saudi Arabia king. He also supported a global organization and praised the Islam faith. He violated all his promises to his base. Now he has four more days in Europe.

One more thing. From videos of the couple, DDT and his wife, Melania, may not have a close relationship. She preferred to stay in New York when he moved into the White House, and he largely ignores her, never returning to his Trump Tower home. She rarely travels with him although she is on this trip with him. There was one moment that some have called “the slap heard ‘round the world.” As the couple deplaned onto the red carpet in Tel Aviv, he reached out for her hand, and she swatted it away—in front of the dignitaries and news cameras while they walked to a photo op with Netanyahu and his wife. It’s not the first time, but it was the least subtle. this time it was less subtle.

May 6, 2017

DDT: More Week Fifteen

The spin on health care keeps coming. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) claims that she would never hurt people with pre-existing conditions because she has a special-needs child. According to Rodgers, states can have “new models for better patient outcomes” and criticizes health insurance for relying “on younger, healthier people subsidizing the costs of the older and sicker.” That’s why it’s called “insurance.” People whose houses don’t burn down subsidize people whose houses burn down. That’s insurance. The GOP is now officially “the party of death.”

Lucky for Rodgers, she’ll still have insurance if the rest of the nation doesn’t. And her need for “new models” didn’t extend to state retirement plans that can help the national retirement savings crisis. Republicans vote for states’ rights as long as they benefit only the wealthy.

About ten percent of the Republicans who voted to take health care from people are facing their constituents at town hall meetings, and their audience isn’t swallowing what their representatives are serving. A crowd loudly jeered Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) when he claimed that nobody dies from a lack of access to health care. A study published in 2009 by the American Journal of Public Health shows that lack of health insurance is linked with 45,000 deaths annually, about 2.5 times higher than the estimate from the Institute of Medicine in 2002. Uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993. Labrador probably isn’t aware of research surrounding health care because he probably didn’t even read the bill he supported.

The Republicans claim that no one should have to pay for other people’s health insurance, but they make sure that we pay for the GOP war that George W. Bush started over 14 years ago. Taxpayers also pay for the extended DDT family‘s travel around the world, touting their businesses. The budget that DDT just signed into law includes an extras $120 million for security that includes reimbursements to law enforcement in Manhattan and Palm Beach and another $73 for “necessary expenses for presidential security.” Between the election and inauguration, New York paid $24 million for Trump Tower security, and Palm Beach County has spent $4.5 million in overtime pay for presidential protection. DDT has not spent one weekend in the White House since his inauguration, and each of DDT’s seven trips—25 days—to Mar-a-Lago has cost over $600,000 for just the flights. None of these costs shows the loss to the economy as small businesses are badly damaged by restrictions from DDT’s presence.

DDT’s businesses are profiting. His frequent trips to his properties, including his Washington hotel for dinner and his Virginia golf course, has increased their income by 30 percent. Taxpayers also give DDT $1.5 million a year to rent the floor below DDT’s penthouse, and he still appears on ads his new condominium building on Uruguay’s coast. The Trump Organization is using Mar-a-Lago’s taxpayer-provided helipad for Marine One, and the club’s promotional magazine features quotes about DDT’s last presidential campaign and an advertisement for Ivanka’s jewelry.

During his campaign DDT was highly critical of costs for President Obama’s vacations and the time that he played golf. A DDT broken promise: “I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” In eight years, the former president spent $96 million–$8 million a year, a sum that DDT blew through in less than three weeks. Although he tries to hide his games, DDT has played golf on the average of three times that the former president did.

Some other happenings from last week:

The Heritage Foundation has fired Jim DeMint from his position as president. One reason was was tension between DeMint and Ed Feulner, his predecessor, who was concerned that the DeMint-era emphasis on political activism overshadowed the institution’s role in the intellectual development of the conservative movement.” Feulner will replace DeMint on an interim basis. But the reasons behind the coup against DeMint might be deeper.

Be careful where you laugh. CodePink member Desiree Fairooz, 61, could face up to a year in prison. Her crime was laughing after Sen. Richard Shelby said during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings that the nominee had a history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” She didn’t disrupt the proceedings until she was arrested and dragged out of the Senate chambers. No one was arrested for laughing when Sessions “joked” about disagreements with his wife. Each of two men wearing KKK costumes at the Sessions hearing could also be in prison for a year each.

Current administrative officials treat leadership like a joke. Last week, Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, described the U.S. preemptive bombings on Syria as “after-dinner entertainment” for guests at the Mar-a-Lago club on 6 April. His audience of the wealthy and powerful at the Milken Institute Global Conference laughed. Ross continued by saying, “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.” Actually, taxpayers shelled out about $100 million for the “entertainment.” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) referred to the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” five times when he talked about the bombing.

DDT touted the Energy Star program, which honors businesses and organizations that excel in energy efficiency, as “America’s resource for saving energy and protecting the environment.” Then he announced that he will eliminate the 25-year-old program. Energy Star posts information on appliances about their energy efficiency, and over 1,000 U.S. companies call it a model for successful collaboration between public and private sectors. DDT’s properties, also evaluated by the Energy Star program, typically get low ratings: eleven of his 15 skyscrapers in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco are less energy efficient that comparable buildings. On a scale of 1 to 100, his Mayfair Hotel, now converted into condos, received a 1. Follow the rubles.

As a campaigner, DDT said he’d label China a currency manipulator. Now he says they aren’t because he made China to stop manipulating the currency as soon as he was inaugurated. He didn’t know that China’s currency manipulation ceased in 2014. The question is whether DDT is delusional or merely ignorant.

DDT has abdicated another responsibility of “commander-in-chief.” The Pentagon is now in charge of setting troop levels in Iraq and Syria where over 5,000 military members are employed.

DDT looked forward to terminating the trade agreement like a Christmas gift to himself until his brand new Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, showed him a map of how the farmers who voted for him would be hurt. DDT changes his mind based on maps as well as what hurts blue states and who talked with more recently.

Guns were banned at the annual NRA meeting in Georgia where DDT made a campaign speech. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Guns should be available everywhere with no restrictions. And NRA members are all responsible gun owners who would never kill people. Right!

Sean Hannity’s question about DDT’s biggest accomplishment brought a variety of responses. My favorite: Not getting impeached.

DDT wants to change libel laws  so that he can sue journalists and the media for articles that DDT considers inaccurate and “win lots of money.”

Why would DDT call for “a good shutdown”? Maybe because he wants to know how far he can go and still have support. A year ago he said that he could kill someone in the street, and he would still get elected president. Now he’s called president—although he wasn’t sure about it at a recent speech. Fill the Cabinet with billionaires who hate their agencies? Sounds good. Shut down the press? No problem. Buddy up with the world’s tyrants while rejecting the nation’s allies? Just fine. Now he wants a “good shutdown” in September to fix the “mess” in government. He blames the constitutional checks and balances:

“I think the rules in Congress – and in particular the rules in the Senate – are unbelievably archaic and slow moving. And in many cases, unfair. In many cases, you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make. You’d make a much different kind of a deal. You’re forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.”

To change the “rules of the Senate” is because “for the good of the nation things are going to have to be different.” A major goal is to do away with the Senate filibuster of 60 votes if more Republicans aren’t elected. He’ll have to do more than that because of the serious split in the GOP.

DDT ran on a campaign promise of changing Washington, D.C., yet 54 percent of voters say that he’s made no progress. I disagree: he’s made it much worse.

May 1, 2017

Three Massive Protests, NYT’s Paid Climate Denier

Donald Trump Jr. is known for killing large animals in Africa such as elephant, leopard, kudu, civet cat, waterbuck, crocodile, antelope, buffalo, and great warthog. Last weekend he changed his sights to Montana and the fierce prairie dog, a species that supports entire ecosystems. They can’t be used for food, and killing them doesn’t provide wildlife management. Right now is the breeding system when female prairie dogs are most likely to be pregnant or nursing. For fun, Jr. went killing with U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte, who thinks it’s fun to use high-powered rifles that make the animals explode with “body parts severed and sent flying.” That’s what the son of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) did on Saturday, the same day that 200,000 marched in Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March.

 

The People’s Climate March was the second of three massive marches in the nation in just nine days, following the March for Science on April 22, Earth Day. The city was hot—91 degrees that tied the record high for April 29 in 1974—but people joined the 300 other marches in the United States and around the world. Here are photos of signs from WaPo.  The size eclipsed the crowds from the March for Science, one week earlier. Paul Getsos, the national coordinator for the People’s Climate March, said:

“It’s not just an enviro event. We have 43 labor union buses, we have indigenous [groups], we’ve been organizing communities of color, we have a big faith and youth contingent. … we are part of a larger resistance.”

A visual time-lapse of the march in Washington is available here along with more signs.

Science supporters are always important, but this year more than any other time in the modern era they are vitally needed. The Republican president, 142 representatives, and 38 senators who reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity causes climate change have received a total of $82,882,725 in donations from coal, oil and gas industries. Only seven states have no climate deniers in their delegations, and I’m proud that Oregon is one of those seven. The other six are five New England states and Delaware.

The Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the week after Earth Day “updating” its website with “language to reflect the approach of new leadership.” The Secretary is a permanent climate denier, and DDT thinks that the Chinese perpetrated the science of climate change as a hoax. This ideology will be reflected in the EPA’s “to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first.”

Adding to climate denial promotion, the New York Times has hired a known climate denier, Bret Stephens, to write about the climate. Stephens came from the Rupert Murdoch-owned, climate-denying Wall Street Journal where he was deputy editorial page editor. It’s expected that the conservative publication would hire a climate denier, but the NYT has long been considered so progressive than my Republican friend wouldn’t read it.

James Bennet, the newspaper’s editorial page editor, justified the action by saying that there are “millions of people who agree with him.” He added, “There’s more than one kind of denial,” indicating that he might agree with more than one kind of truth. Millions of people, many of them DDT-supporters, deny climate change, but far more believe that climate change exists and it’s caused by humans. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say they are worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming, up from 55 percent at this time last year and the highest reading since 2008. In addition, 68 percent of people think that there is climate change and that it’s caused by humans.

Pro-Israel war hawk Stephens once wrote a column on “the disease of the Arab mind” and thinks anti-racists are the real racists. He said that people who accept climate change science are motivated in part by the “totalitarian impulse” and they worship “a religion without God.” According to Stephens, “global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time.” In 2015, Stephens described climate change a “mass hysteria phenomenon” for which “much of the science has … been discredited” and that global warming — along with hunger in America, campus rape statistics, and institutionalized racism — are “imaginary enemies.” He dismissed the well-documented “vanishing polar ice” as based on “flimsy studies.” The NYT itself has documented the problem of melting ice at the poles.

Stephens started his first column for NYT by explaining that scientists could be wrong about climate change because the polls projected a win for Hillary Clinton. First, the polls were right on target with their projections, but the Electoral College process put DDT into the presidency. But more important, scientific analysis isn’t the same as taking surveys. Science isn’t about opinions, it’s about evidence.

In an interview with Vox, Stephens explained that he doesn’t worry about climate change because he knows a climate change activist who “just had a baby.” His belief is that “if he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates and there will be tens of millions of people being displaced, presumably including himself, at the most apocalyptic level, then presumably he wouldn’t be having children.” So there you have it: people who have children know that climate change doesn’t exist.

His column was so bad that reporters and news editors from the NYT have panned it. Andy Revkin, former NYT climate reporter and blogger quoted twice in Stephens’ first column as justification for his ideas, tweeted that the column featured “straw men” and other flaws. Stephens used reports to support his position, but the report was opposite to what Stephens wrote. The rate of warming, cited by Stephens as “modest,” is 50 times greater since 1880 than the rate of cooling in the previous 5,000 years and drastically increases to probability of destructive catastrophes such as Superstorm Sandy.

The degree of global warming in upcoming decades depends on carbon pollution. Taking immediate action to cut these emissions can limit the warming to perhaps four degrees along with the accompanying climate consequences. Stephens, however, discourages people from doing this by cutting off any discussion about future climate crises.

Both the liberal and the conservative sides of media criticize people who slam the NYT for presenting Stephens’ columns as valid for debate. Yet how far are those “free speech” arguers willing to go in supporting the employment of people who present “alternative facts”? Would the NYT give space to columnists who argue that the world is flat? Or that the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were faked by the government? At one time, the NYT provided credible journalism. Now it seems to just go with the flow—and the flow is sharply downhill. As Matt Gertz wrote about the NYT after DDT’s election, “The paper sold new subscribers on providing vigorous resistance to the ‘alternative facts’ that fueled his rise. Now, it’s publishing them.”

More protesters marched today, May Day. The White House website noted May 1 as “Law Day” and touted the importance of the Constitution and the partnership of law and liberty. It ignored the theme of the American Bar Association for this year’s Law Day, “Transforming American Democracy,” celebrating the 14th Amendment that “advanced the rights” of all people in the United States “through its Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection clauses” as well as “extending the reach of the Bill of Rights to the states.” And it ignored other meanings of May 1, for example International Workers Day and the labor protests in the United States that go back to Haymarket Square 131 years ago.

Although the White House website made no mention of any other meaning to May Day, it might take note because of the huge and angry protests in the United States joining those around the world. This year, the focus was a denunciation of DDT’s crackdown on and deportation of undocumented immigrants, many of them working in low-paying, non-unionized jobs—agriculture, fast-food, hospitality, child care, and other services. Others attacked his Muslim and refugee ban. Some protesters didn’t go to work today, and immigration-run convenience stores and other businesses closed in solidarity. A rally in front of Manhattan offices of Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase protested their dealings with private companies that build and/or manage government detention centers.

The term Mayday is also used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure. Considering DDT’s actions in his first 100 days, people may need the term.

April 29, 2017

DDT: Nel’s 100 Day Report

“No administration has accomplished more in its first 90 days.” Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) statement might be right. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Jan. 21: The largest protest in history of the nation with the Women’s March
  • Jan. 28: Huge protests over Trump’s first Muslim ban.
  • Jan. 30: Order from Sally Yates for Justice Department to not defend Trump’s Muslim ban.
  • Jan. 31: Protests over Trump selection of Gorsuch for Supreme Court.
  • Jan. 31: Statehouse rallies to protest Trump’s immigration policies.
  • Feb. 2: 314 Action formed to promote science and scientists in politics.
  • Feb. 4: National judicial injunction against first Trump Muslim ban.
  • Feb. 7: National movement begins after Elizabeth Warren “persists.”
  • Feb. 7: First time in history that a VP had to break a tie for cabinet appointment.
  • Feb. 7: Launch of “Let America Vote.”
  • Feb. 9: Protest against Andy Pudzer’s nomination as secretary of labor.
  • Feb. 10: Rally for reproductive rights.
  • Feb. 13: Resignation of Michael Flynn as national security advisor.
  • Feb. 15: Withdrawal of Andy Puzder as nominee for labor secretary.
  • Feb. 15: “Day without Immigrants” protest.
  • Feb. 17: EPA employees protest against Scott Pruitt as Secretary of EPA.
  • Feb. 22: Millions of faxes to congressional offices supporting Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
  • Feb. 25: Protests supporting transgender rights for students.
  • Feb. 25: Protests supporting the Affordable Care Act.
  • Feb. 25: Protests supporting a free press.
  • Feb. 27: Democratic win in Delaware special state senate election.
  • Feb. 28: Democratic win two of three Connecticut special elections.
  • March 2: Recusal of Jefferson Sessions III recuses from DDT-Russia connection investigations.
  • March 2: Protest march calling for resignation of Jefferson Sessions as attorney general.
  • March 15: Second Muslim ban blocked in court.
  • March 21: David Trott an example of GOP members of Congress afraid of their own “town hall” events.
  • April 5: Steve Bannon removal from the National Security Council.
  • April 6: Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court while GOP changes Senate rules.
  • April 6: Recusal of Devin Nunes from House investigation into Trump–Russia connections.
  • April 11: GOP bare win in Kansas special election, one of the reddest districts in the nation.
  • April 12: Continuation of GOP members of Congress running from their own town halls.
  • April 13: Vulnerable GOP congressman slammed at his town hall.
  • April 13: Children and Youth “Stand up to Trump” rally at White House.
  • April 17: Tax day protesters calling for Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
  • April 18: Democratic candidate within two points of majority, forcing runoff, in Georgia election for Newt Gingrich’s old district.
  • April 18: Protesters calling for removal of Bill O’Reilly for sexual assault.
  • April 19: Fox network firing of O’Reilly.
  • April 22: Hundreds of thousands of protesters in March for Science. [find sign from Ann]
  • April 24: Thousands of people at town hall meetings during the past two weeks for GOP members of Congress discouraging them from voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. https://business.facebook.com/AmericanProgressAction/videos/10154593852870847/
  • April 26: Failure to pass his budget that was postponed for another seven day
  • April 28: Failure put Trumpcare up for a vote.
  • April 29: People’s Climate March.
  • And much more!

DDT has been inspirational for country although he failed to pass any legislation, and almost all of his 30 executive orders were toothless–just setting up reviews or making comments. Others were blocked by the courts. The Guardian describes DDT’s signatures on “25 executive orders, 24 memorandums and 20 proclamations” during his first 93 days as “more cosmetic than substantive.”

The emphasis on the first 100 days of a U.S. president began with Franklin D. Roosevelt who faced a country in crisis on his first day, compared to DDT who inherited a growing economy and shrinking unemployment. A week after his inauguration, FDR reopened the banks and then restored public confidence in financial institutions with the Glass-Stegall Act, overturned 20 years ago. In his first 100 days, FDR signed 15 major pieces of legislation to alleviate the suffering in the nation and went on to create 250,000 jobs with the Civilian Conservation Corps and the predecessor of Social Security with the Federal Emergency Relief Act. His early successes led to the federal minimum wage, federal employees’ rights to unionize, the SEC, the Labor Relations Board, and on and on.

President Obama also inherited a disaster after the gigantic losses caused by George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and expenditures for two enduring wars. A stimulus plan to stop the horrific loss of jobs and increases in home foreclosures was passed in eight days, and President Obama moved on to pass a budget resolution and major legislation on worker’s rights and health care that had been stalled or vetoed under Bush. At President Obama’s 100-day mark, polls showed an approval rate of 65 percent with only 29 percent disapproval.

What DDT has done:

  • Bombed two countries without provocation and alienated at least nine allies.
  • Overturned most of his promises for the “first 100 days” and charted up the greatest number of flip-flops.
  • Achieved the lowest approval rate during this time of any other president.
  • Collected a cabinet full of members who universally work to overturn their agencies’ missions.
  • Continued making money off his businesses in violation of the constitution’s emoluments clause.
  • Lost at least 16 of his nominations and hirings because of ethics problems, Breitbart smears, or “disloyalty.”
  • Revoked several orders from President Obama such as now giving “hunters” permission to kill bear cubs in their dens during hibernation while on federal lands.
  • Spent more on personal travel in less than 70 days than President Obama did in eight years.
  • Golfed more times—at least 17—than his predecessors put together.

Leonard Pitts wrote:

“The 12 weeks since January 20 have seen more scandal, international incidents, incompetence, instability, lies and jaw-dropping embarrassments than the previous 12 years combined. America is threatened as it has never been before.”

Mark Sumners list of DDT’s “Bans, Bombs, and Chocolate Cake” shows that no modern president has promised more and provided less. He sees his work as occasionally talking with foreign leaders, signing orders, and leaving all his responsibilities to others–primarily his son-in-law Jared Kushner. DDT’s total accomplishment has been to create a culture in U.S. leadership, law enforcement, and society of cruelty, polarization, and fabrication of facts while putting a person with the same philosophy on the Supreme Court. People in the United States now live in an atmosphere of hatred, fear, violence, and prejudice.

DDT promised to do the following on his first day: repealing President Obama’s healthcare, fixing the VA, putting a 35-percent tariff on companies that move offshore, designating China a currency manipulator, reverse every Obama executive order, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress, and starting work on the wall. He promised a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days. DDT reversed his opinion on China, signed one executive order on the VA, failed to repeal the health car, and has only enough money to build seven miles of the 2,000-mile wall. There is no plan to defeat ISIS.

On the campaign trail DDT described the United States as a dystopia and said that he would “make America great again” so quickly that “your head will spin.” People will get tired of winning, he claimed, but “I alone can fix it.” The only problem in the nation, according to DDT, was the problem of “stupid” leaders who didn’t know how simple these issues are. DDT discovered after his inauguration that some of these issues were “hard” and “complicated,” so much so that he has no legislative victory during his first 100 days even with a GOP-controlled Congress. There is no winning yet.

DDT’s economic plans are tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the powerful, and wage suppressions the rest of the people. His overarching goal is to create the dystopia that he described. His white supremacist adviser Steve Bannon promised to “deconstruct” the United States, and the result is to destroy the essence of the nation by blending kleptocracy, government by leaders seeking only wealth and power, and kakistocracy, government by the worst leaders. EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt is a prime example because he plans to return the U.S. to a land of contaminated water and smog-filled air—in short, a plan unfit for habitation. DDT’s friend Carl Icahn picked Pruitt for the job because Pruitt opposed an ethanol rule that cost one of Icahn’s refineries over $200 million a year. Pruitt had already sued the EPA 14 times, 13 of them on behalf of his campaign donors and workers. DDT’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, says that climate science expenditures are “a waste of money…. We’re not spending money on that anymore.” DDT tried to build his supporter base by executive orders with the promise of bringing back coal jobs, but a few thousand jobs weren’t enough to raise his approval rating.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who vowed to do away with the agency if he could remember its name, administrated one of the worst states in the nation in terms of health and education. Texas’ schools are among the worst in the nation, and the rates of teen mothers and uninsured people are among the highest. Perry is a strong supporter of pipelines; the two approved will provide 75 permanent jobs but create billions in losses for taxpayers from oil spills.

The latest Gallup poll gives DDT 41-percent approval rating, the lowest at this time of any presidency since polling on this issue started. Almost half of respondents—45 percent—told an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that DDT is off to a “poor start” in office. Forty percent said “good” or “great” start compared to 54 percent who said the same thing about President Obama for his first 100 days. Only 25% of people in a NBC News poll consider Trump honest and trustworthy, and only 27 percent consider him “knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency.” Only 21 percent said he had the “right temperament.” Fifty-seven percent said that the government should do more to solve problems compared to the 39 percent who think government does too much—the most progressive response since the poll began asking the question 20 years ago. About having his daughter and son-in-law in his administration, 61 percent disapprove.

Yes, DDT, no other administration did more in the first 90 days in vulgarity, lying, fraud, uncaring ignorance, and vindictiveness. He doesn’t even have the courage to go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner today; instead he’s holding a rally to campaign for 2020. Peter Dreier pointed out on The Nation, DDT revitalized Alec Baldwin’s career and expanded Melissa McCarthy’s visibility on Saturday Night Live.

More sources about DDT’s first 100 days: A list;  damage to the workers; more harm to workers; business giveaways; failures in the Middle East; disasters in Asia/Pacific; harm to women and familiescorporate government; and   environmental damage.

About the presidency, DDT said, “I thought it would be easier.” It’s harder on the rest of us.

April 20, 2017

Join the March for Science

The GOP War on Science is not new, but it gained massive traction with the election of a Republican president and Congress with the possibility of a totally Republican Supreme Court. The idea that science is vital to protecting humanity through effective decision-making is now passé among federal government leaders with the mighty dollar—or billions of them—leading the way. Draconian budget cuts to the EPA, National Institutes of Health, NOAA, NASA, and BLM aren’t enough to satisfy these people; all that funding is going to nuclear weapons and the military. In addition, leadership is muzzling people, attacking evidence, and erasing information about climate change from websites.

This coming Saturday is the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. Instead of sitting by and letting conservatives destroy the planet, scientists are coming out of their labs and research areas for the March for Science. The main one is in the U.S. capital, but 200 organizations are planning another 500 marches around the world—all kicking off a week of action culminating in the People’s Climate March on April 29. According to the March for Science website, organizers are “advocating for evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

The March’s Facebook page is 850,000 strong with information about people, posters, slogans, science and “misinformation” that the anti-science Heartland Institute sends to schools and science teachers. The March’s participants vary from a neuroscientist marching “for the thousands of people suffering from spinal cord injury” to SF fans marching “because you can’t have science fiction without science!”

One segment of the marchers is protesting the current policy regarding drug use in the United States overturning gains in the last eight years for an evidence-based drug policy. Throughout the nation’s history, drug laws have criminalized minorities: opium laws in the 1800s targeting Chinese immigrants, marijuana laws directed toward Hispanics in the early 1900s, and then crack laws of the 1980s disproportionately incarcerating black men. Research shows that drug prohibition contributes to worse health and higher mortality rates among drug users while growing an illicit drug market. Targeting minorities negatively affects family and social support and eliminates economic opportunity.

Fear-based drug control tactics fail to provide information in their efforts to terrify policymakers and the public in opposition to success for drug control demonstrated in other countries that expand treatment access and decriminalize drugs. The current administration ignores research on these successes for a racial “law and order” position, always a failure.

According to the federal government, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, the highest level of “potential for abuse” and no medical value. It is considered more dangerous than meth, opium, or cocaine. With cannabis in this category, medical researchers are helpless to examine studies from other countries that refute the U.S. position. Across the nation, this one “drug” is legal in 28 states for medical purposes and in another eight states for recreational use. Its popularity has caused companies to develop synthetic “look alike” drugs that increase the chance of overdoses and other negative side effects.

Earth Day’s goal, 47 years ago and now, is to mobilize people around environmental issues. The first march of 20 million people led to the Environmental Protection Agency, created by GOP President Richard Nixon, and vital environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Earth Day revolution began at a time of dangerous air pollution, rivers on fire, genetic changes in wildlife, and children with diseases and birth defects in the United States. Last year the nation signed the Paris Climate Agreement with 174 other countries.

After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointed a climate-change denier for EPA Secretary, he signed a directive to reverse President Obama’s progress toward slowing down climate change. DDT’s goal is to promote oil, coal, and natural gas over all other objectives at a time when fossil fuel companies are switching to renewable energy sources. The order mandates suspension, revision, or rescinding any policies that “burden” the production of domestic energy resources, including nuclear power. Gone are the order to consider climate change in environmental reviews, including locations of oil drilling, and the one to factor in the potential economic damage from climate change. DDT’s order also removes the moratorium on new coal leases on federal land and remove regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Fracking companies will also not be required to seal off waste water in storage tanks and to disclose chemicals they pump underground. Methane emissions from oil and gas operations no longer need to be reduced.

Other DDT “climate crimes” include his reinstatement of two pipelines (at a profit to himself), allowing lead ammunition on federal lands and waters, ordering the EPA to reconsider car emissions requirements, and all his appointments.

Scott Pruitt, DDT’s EPA Secretary, set the new “tone” in his speech a week ago at a coal mine that was fined for contaminating waterways with toxic materials. His “back to basics” agenda devolves oversight of clean air and water in exchange for jobs in industries such as coal, oil, and gas. The new direction is support of the coal industry. The company owing that mine had almost entirely divested itself of West Virginia coal mines and is looking for buyers for this last one to be completely out of the business.

According to the EPA website:

Our mission is to protect human health and the environment.

 

EPA’s purpose is to ensure that:

  • all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
  • national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
  • federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
  • environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • all parts of society — communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments — have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

Demographics – Electric power generation and fuels, Q4 2016

In addition to Prutt failing to meet his agency’s mission and purpose, he claimed that ending regulations will boost the economy and create jobs. Last month, however, the Institute for Policy Integrity released a study showing that environmental regulations have essentially no effect on the employment rate in the long term. The government would be better economically to support jobs in renewable energy as shown by the chart on the right

A four-year EPA review shows that three pesticides–chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion–“pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied.” Dow Chemical claimed that these substances are safe, and Pruitt sided with Dow against his own agency in the case of chlorpyrifos and is poised to agree with Dow on the other toxic substances. Dow gave DDT $1 million for his inauguration, and the company’s CEO is a presidential adviser.

When questioned during his confirmation hearings, Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified that “science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change.” After his confirmation, the agency’s staff was told to never use phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” and “Paris agreement” because these terms would cause a “visceral reaction.” Instead, DOE employees are to use words such as “jobs” and “infrastructure.”

New banners for the Bureau of Land Management demonstrate the shift from environmental concerns to coal. The image of two hikers looking over a magnificent vista of green mountains capped by snow has been replaced by these banners:

 

Can’t march? You can participate through livestreaming Washington, D.C.’s event from Democracy Now starting at 10:00 am ET.

 

March 12, 2017

Fight Back against Fundamentalist Christian Control

Faith groups came out to protest Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) second attempt last week to ban Muslims from the United States. Throughout the first day of the order, a number of groups condemned DDT’s actions calling it an affront to religious freedom.

  • American Jewish World Service tweeted its solidarity with immigrants.
  • Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson decried “the false narrative that this country is at war with a religion” and the “dramatic spike in Islamophobia, including a rise in hate speech, vandalism, and fires at mosques across the nation.”
  • Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed concern “that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”
  • Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the social justice advocacy group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, stated that DDT “is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer.”
  • Catholic Relief Services issued a lengthy statement condemning the ban that explained refugees already undergo “significant vetting” and stated that “now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated its previous concern “about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war, and religious persecution.”
  • Church World Service unveiled a new grassroots campaign in support of refugees in tandem with the National Council of Churches.
  • The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach reminded people “that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them.”
  • The Conference of Major Superiors of Men stated, “It is completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a potential crime by an individual. We should be asking about the root causes of violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our attention to addressing those concrete situations.”
  • Rev. Allison Liles, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, wrote that it “asks that God look with compassion on the whole human family, taking away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts, breaking down the walls that separate us and instead unite us in bonds of love.”
  • Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, stated that the ban is “bigoted and un-American … fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points—not keep Americans safe.” Moline continued, “Now we look to the courts, Congress and the American people to restore what makes American great — our freedom and diversity.”
  • Other groups making statements in opposition to DDT’s restrictive order included Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Methodist Church, and PICO National Network which stated:

“This [ban] is less about keeping America safe and more likely a step toward the ethnic cleansing of America. Coupled with this nation’s track record of detention, deportation and mass incarceration, the travel ban is a path to reassert white supremacy and dominance in the U.S. It is evil, sinister and stands in stark contrast to a core tenet of faith which asserts that we are all children of God. Even with its revisions, President Trump’s ban on Muslim-majority countries continues a xenophobic false hierarchy of human value. It is not only anti-American, it is anti-Christian.”

White evangelicals, however, are pitying themselves. According to a survey, 57 percent of them believe that they face a great deal of discrimination in the United States while only 44 percent think that Muslims are confronted with the same level of discrimination in the nation. White evangelicals are the only major religious group to think that Christians suffer from heavy persecution.

An example of prejudice against Islamic comes from Oklahoma Rep. John Bennett, who refused to meet with his Muslim constituents on its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol unless they completed a questionnaire from the Islamophobic hate group called ACT for America. Three students from Tulsa’s Peace Academy, a private school, asked to speak to Bennett and were told to answer such questions as these:

“Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”

“The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”

“Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”

In the United States, an average of almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to over 10 million women and men a year. Yet Bennett asks only Muslims if they “beat your wife.”

In his second Muslim ban, DDT demonstrated the same false belief in Islam violence as Bennett does. The executive order includes a provision requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” The United States has fewer than 30 so-called “honor killings” each year, but about 1,500 women are murdered from domestic violence in the same time. DDT’s budget eliminates the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants of $480 that funded 25 programs last year to help victims of domestic violence. Both DDT and his white supremacist and chief strategist Steve Bannon have been seriously accused of domestic assault.

DDT’s provision follows his plan to use federal resource to increase racial panic when he also promised to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week. The program ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people in the United States and that people in the United States are far far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Yet DDT’s federal counter-terrorism program will ignore all extremist groups not composed of Muslims, including violent white supremacists.

Facts have no value for DDT’s policies. As for the DHS report that “citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” a senior administration official said:

 “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

The GOP has increasingly pushed religious freedom for the United States although almost everyone knows that the harder a person pushes for this “freedom,” the more that person means only fundamentalist Christianity. In an evangelical discussion last summer, one of them asked how the Baptists could defend Muslims when they kill and imprison Christians. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore gave a sensible answer—that restrictions on Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. Moore said that people must freely choose their faith.

Pastor John Wofford answered:

“So what I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, I am helping them go to hell. And I do not want to help people go to hell.”

That’s the direction of the United States if we don’t fight back.

March 2, 2017

Resist!

Filed under: protests — trp2011 @ 9:12 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“Protests don’t do any good.” That’s what a progressive friend of mine said yesterday. I launched into my monologue, including the protests against the Vietnam War and for civil rights which we’re both old enough to remember. By the time I finished, he agreed with me—although perhaps out of exhaustion. Earlier this week, “hundreds” of Trump supporters gathered across the country but failed to display much energy. At the same time, the Resistance Movement is overwhelming the nation.

Unlike the Vietnam War protesting, this activism is not around a single issue. The “women’s march” was about far more than women; it showed how all of us need to come together to fight back against the authoritarian regime from the federal government. Everyone needs to know that we are not alone while we are all at risk.

A question after that first march on January 21 was what would happen after the event that went around the world. The outrage demonstrated by hundreds of thousands of people is vital, and retention of that energy is crucial. While conservatives tell protesters to “get over it,” something they never did with Barack Obama, and others call for compromise, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has shown that there is no benefit in conciliation because Republicans consistently prove that they will settle only for their own way, always refusing to cooperate. They have zero interest in democracy.

One benefit for protesters is that DDT has made radical promises about finding jobs for people that he cannot possibly fulfill. The unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent—in my state of Oregon, the lowest in 50 years at 4.3 percent. Another problem for conservatives is the false claim that GOPcare will give a better deal to people than “Obamacare,” which now enjoys a 54 percent approval rating. DDT supporters will have less money after the tax “reform” gives away the money only to the wealthy. Others will lose Social Security and Medicare if congressional Republicans get their way.

Until these disasters come to fruition, however, the United States is already on its way to an autocracy, Paul Krugman’s polite term for dictatorship, and our only path is fighting back:

“A crucial part of the story is that the emerging autocracy uses the power of the state to intimidate and co-opt civil society—institutions outside the government proper. The media are bullied and bribed into becoming de facto propaganda organs of the ruling clique. Businesses are pressured to reward the clique’s friends and punish its enemies. Independent public figures are pushed into collaboration or silence. Sound familiar?”

A great beginning was Indivisible, the grass roots movement that started with a guide to protesting. The presence of these people was noticeable whenever the Pledge of Allegiance was recited at the town hall meetings during the congressional recess as the crowd emphasized the word in “one nation indivisible.”

Michael Moore also has a “ten-step program” to rally people that echoes much of the Indivisible document. His first directive is calling Congress—every day! Dial 202-225-3121 (or 202-224-3121 if busy). Or directly call senators and representatives. There’s even an app called “5 Calls” that directly dials numbers. Make it part of your daily routine, Moore writes, just after waking up, brushing teeth, walking dog or staring at cat, and making coffee. Members of Congress are commenting on the number of calls they are receiving. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said that he received 20,000 in one week instead of the normal 2,500.

Item #9 is even easier for people who hate to make telephone calls. With the current DDT obsession on suppressing the media, do it yourself. Moore suggests that everyone establish their own “media empire” by sharing progressive articles on all their social media. Some of my favorite outlets are americanprogress.org (including thinkprogress.org), alternet.org, dailykos.com, truthout.org, readersupportednews.org, reprohealthwatch.org, and msnbc.com/maddowblog. You probably have other favorites.

The last item on Moore’s list feeds into DDT’s terror of being ridiculed. Share humor with people—all those clips from SNL, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Andy Borowitz, and your other favorites. Those of you think that mocking the president is not fair need to consider his greed, misogyny, bigotry, narcissism, authoritarianism, and ignorance that should remove his right to lead the nation.

Follow your congressional members by subscribing to these sites.

  • FiveThirtyEight, the respected blog that crunches political numbers for analyses of politics and economics, has the Trump Score to show how individual members of Congress compare to DDT’s positions. It’s a start.
  • GovTrack has more detailed information and provides alerts on individual congressional members’ votes and updates on bills that they sponsor. It’s a good way to look at voting records and follow bills and committees.
  • Countable gives pro and con positions about specific bills and stances from political organizations about specific issues.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, suggests boycotting retailers that carry Trump products as an act of protest. Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have dropped Trump items, and Macy’s, which dropped DDT products, is now being pressured to eliminate the Ivanka Trump line. Activism caused Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, to resign from DDT’s economic counsel. This website contains telephone numbers for Trump-carrying businesses to call about dropping your purchasing power.

Immediately after DDT was inaugurated, people trying to call the White House comment line found it disconnected, but it seems to be operating now between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm EST at 202-456-1111. When it was not operating, White House Inc., created by Revolution Messaging, began connecting people to DDT’s businesses. The person may ask about making reservations or setting up a tee time, but you can still ask for management and talk about the issues.

DDT and the Republicans legislators claim that they have sworn off regulations, but they will certainly create ones that make lives worse. At this time, everyone can comment on proposed rules. After laws are passed, executive agencies can fill in the details within the boundaries of the law. These regulations must be shared with the public before public adoption in a comment period.

The first step is to go to the list of proposed regulations. For example, one of the ones listed is called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization.” Reading the draft rules shows that the government wants to reduce open enrollment for the ACA from two months to two weeks—November 1 to December 15. The end of the comment period for this proposed regulation is March 6, 2017. There are directions on how to comment.

Some organizations, for example the Sierra Club, have pages for its supporters to submit public comments on issues of their concern; signing up for email lists from the organizations that champion your causes is useful. This process goes beyond signing petitions because your comments must be reviewed. The most useful comments are those that provide facts, analyses, and impacts, and the number of voices always matters.

folding-chair

Why do protests make a difference? They make causes more visible, demonstrate power, give a sense of unity, build relationships, and provide a sense of energy and hope. If protests didn’t work, conservatives wouldn’t bother trying to make them illegal in at least 18 states. No significant social progress has ever occurred without protests. The most amazing part of Michael Moore’s ten steps is the Resistance Calendar with daily protest postings—almost 20 for just today, March 2. As Shirley Chisholm said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.” Pick up your folding chair and join the resistance!

February 20, 2017

DDT’s First Month

Comparisons of work during the first month are always popular in the first term of any president, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes the job more interesting than in the past. During his first month as president, Barack Obama had addressed the financial crisis by passing a stimulus bill totaling almost $1 billion dollars, approved a bill to prevent pay discrimination, expanded children’s health insurance, banned torture, started the foundation for major health care and financial regulation bills, and saw his approval ratings increase by 27 percent. The current Congress is fighting among the majority party, and DDT has largely signed mostly meaningless executor orders largely “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Narcissist DDT, however, has preened himself regarding his accomplishments. At his 77-minute press conference last week, he said, “There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time.” He continued to lie by claiming that his administration is a “fine-tuned machine” and “had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban.”

Gallup poll ratings of 40 percent for DDT make Bill Clinton’s 51 percent at this time in his presidency look very good. Instead of spiking during his first month, DDT’s ratings went down from 45 percent when he took office to 40 percent and is now 21 points lower than the average 61 per cent for other a half century.

DDT’s “accomplishments”:

  • His signature policy, the Muslim ban, was overturned in court.
  • His national security had to resign in disgrace.
  • His nominee for secretary of the Labor department had to withdraw his name in disgrace.
  • His vice-president had to break a tie for the 50 percent vote that his Secretary of Education for the first time in history in confirming a cabinet appointee.
  • He and his campaign staff are being investigated for involvement in Russia’s influence on the presidential election while he equates Russia and the U.S. in being “killers.”
  • He nominated activist Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice to swing that court to the far right.
  • He denied the value of a two-state solution in the Middle East, possibly denying the beleaguered Palestinians their country.
  • He has declared war on the intelligence community, the press, the judicial system, and possibly Congress.
  • He lied three-fourths of the time.
  • He made untold profits on his private business and more money by overturning the restriction on building the Dakota pipeline because he owns stock in the contractor.
  • He signed two bills, one to allow coal companies to despoil 6,000 miles of streams and the other to permit bribery by foreign governments to the oil industry for favors.
  • He signed the Mexico City Policy to deny millions of women in third-world countries reproductive health care.
  • He and his family spent $12 million in travel, the same amount that President Obama and his family spent in a year. That amount doesn’t include the maintenance of his home for his wife and son in Manhattan.
  • He alienated countries such as Mexico and Australia, formerly U.S. allies.
  • He is making India great again by rejecting the best and brightest tech talent that might emigrate to the United states, according to Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
  • He is making China great again by conceding economic influence and abandoning U.S. moral leadership, especially after he caved and agreed with the one-China policy with nothing in return for the U.S.
  • He promised to raise costs of goods for people in the United States with a tariff, that is now being called a “border adjustment tax.” The result would make foreign-held debt far more valuable, raising the U.S. debt by hundreds of billions of dollars without any more borrowing.
  • He made White House affairs less secure by keeping an unsecured phone and holding sensitive conferences in front of the public.
  • He filled the White House press corps with people so-called reporters well known for publishing truly “fake news,” including the newest addition of Lucian Wintrich, who started his blog two months ago. Wintrich gained fame with his “Twinks4Trump,” photographs of mostly shirtless gay young men wearing DDT’s red Make America Great Again baseball caps. Headlines at his new Gateway Pundit include “OMG! More Liberal #FakeNews – Claim of Trump Anti-LGBT Bill Is Complete Crap.” Conservative blogger Erick Ericsson called Gateway Pundit a “cesspool of fake news” and said that inviting Wintrich to press briefings does “a great disservice” to the American people. It represents DDT’s new “journalism.”
  • He has a budget draft hit list of programs that includes the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation (civil-court legal aid program), AmeriCorps, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, and the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. (His projected growth is also about 3.5 percent every year after the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget office project growth at 2 percent.)
  • He played a lot of golf—at least six times in his first month although he tries to hide his games because he incessantly criticized President Obama, who averaged under 40 rounds of golf a year throughout his two terms. During his campaign, DDT told audiences that he wouldn’t have any time to play golf because he would be working for the people.
  • He brought together people in the United States in gigantic protest actions.

(I’m sure I’m missing many more “accomplishments” during DDT’s first month.)

What’s missing:

  • Appointments for 515 positions out of 549 that need to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • Anything about infrastructure improvements, health care reform, jobs. or tax reform.
  • Help for people.
  • Leadership.

Another Do-Nothing Congress:  Republican legislators always promise that all they need to stop gridlock is to have a majority in Congress, but all they have done thus far is overturn a few Obama-era resolutions that benefited the people in the country and confirmed some racist billionaires for DDT’s cabinet. DDT promised action the first day, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a 200-day agenda for only health care and tax reform. That takes Congress close to the fall season of the first year to take action.

Meanwhile Ryan’s plan to put tariffs on imports has caused savvy billionaire Warren Buffet to dispose of 90 percent of his Walmart stock. The Senate is not on board, and even DDT calls it too complex. At the same time, Buffet is putting his money into Boeing that is expanding its sales of military aircraft to India—perhaps up to $12 billion in sales.

Never Mind What DDT Says: The job of DDT’s officials at this time is to tell the world that the United States won’t do what DDT says. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced in Baghdad that “we’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil” after DDT said on his first full day that the U.S. might “have another chance” to keep the oil. Nikki Haley, DDT’s ambassador to the United Nations, insisted, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.” A bipartisan group of senators told Australian officials to ignore DDT’s rejection of the country. Jon Finer described the situation as “an unprecedented degree of policy incoherence on virtually every major issue the country faces.”

VP Mike Pence, who claimed he was speaking on behalf of DDT to NATO, swore that the U.S. is committed to European security and the transatlantic partnership. He also assured attendees at a news conference that both he and Trump “support a free and independent press” the day after DDT called the news media the “enemy of the American people.” As Eugene Robinson said, “They’re sweeping as fast as they can,” referring to cleaning up after elephants in a circus parade.

The uniting of people in the U.S. is reminiscent of 2010 when conservative leadership, including Dick Armey, guided the Tea Party into protesting the Affordable Care Act and gained a majority in the U.S. House. Because of these tactics, Republicans think that progressive protesters are being paid, but the marches and other protests against conservative policy is truly grassroots. Much of the organization of groups started after the posting of the Indivisible Guide, a civic engagement manual written by former congressional staffers. Within a few weeks of the guide’s posting on the internet, over a million copies had been downloaded, and over 6,000 protest groups had been formed.

posterPeople all over the nation are demanding that congressional legislators represent them instead of the top one percent. The Senate received an average of 1.5 million telephone calls each day in the week after the inauguration—the heaviest in history. The protests have so frightened legislators that they have largely stopped having town hall meetings. From 212 meetings during the same time last year, the number has dropped to 88, and one person alone is having 35 of those. In my state of Oregon, one senator alone is having seven town hall meetings this week, and my representative is having two, showing that vast majority of the 535 members of Congress are hiding from their constituents.

Protesters are planning a number of marches during the next few months. This past weekend, people commemorated Presidents’ Day with “Not My President” marches. Three marches are scheduled for April: Tax Day March, demanding that DDT release his tax returns (April 15); Science (April 22); and Climate (April 29). These are followed by the Immigrants March on May 6 and National Pride March on June 11. These are marches of the people, by the people, and for the people–not made up of paid protesters.

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