Nel's New Day

January 24, 2019

Shutdown Bills Fail; House Investigates Kushner

Day 34 of government shutdown: Both of today’s Senate bills designed to reopen the government failed when neither one met the 60 votes necessary. In a 51-47 vote, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AL) voted against their party in opposing the measure proposed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to get his $5.7 billion for 200 miles of wall, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) supported DDT’s bill with the wall. The second bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to open the government with a continuing resolution until February 8 had one more supporting vote, 52-44, with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Lamar Alexander (TN), Johnny Isakson (GA) and Mitt Romney (UT) joining Democrats.

Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that he doesn’t understand why federal employees without paychecks don’t get loans instead of using food banks. He claimed that financial institutions just give them loans against “the 30 days of pay that people will be out.” Ross added that even if these 800,000 people never got their pay, they’re “about a third of a percent on our GDP. So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

DDT, another billionaire, had a peculiar reaction to Ross. He thought that Ross was accurate in his assertion that federal employees, either furloughed or working without pay, don’t need to get emergency help from homeless shelters and food pantries because—drum roll!—grocery stores will give these paycheck-less people food without paying for it. He said:

“Local people know who they are. Where they go for groceries and everything else. If you have mortgages, mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along. That’s what happens in times like these. They know the people. They’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along.”

Two months ago, DDT was telling people that they needed IDs to buy a box of cereal.

Republicans are getting so desperate that they are yelling at VP Mike Pence. In a private meeting two days ago, several senators harangued Pence, who said that the White House was working on a strategy to reopen the government and that they should not vote for the Democrat-offered bill that got six GOP votes today.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said they gave Pence an “earful” because “we’re all hearing from our constituents who are working for no pay.” Other members criticizing Pence included GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell (KY), Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Boozman (AR), Johnny Isakson (GA), and Jerry Moran (KS). Two of them voted for the Democratic-supported bill.

Fly at your own risk during the shutdown is the message from representatives of air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants. Making things worse, they report that the FAA “has frozen hiring and shuttered its training academy, so there is no plan in effect to fill the FAA’s critical staffing need.” Certification requires two to four years, and the U.S. has the fewest number of air traffic controllers in 30 years.

According to CEOs, DDT is hurting business with the shutdown and low immigration with lack of investment in research and development, education, and entrepreneurship. The National Science Foundation has not issued any grants for over a month, and government researchers in agencies such as NOAA, the EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey don’t get paychecks. Hundreds of postdoctoral fellows don’t get their stipends. Loss of immigration is destroying U.S. innovation.

In a “what if” piece, Rachel Maddow suggests a “Worst Case Scenario” in which Russia’s Vladimir Putin is behind the government shutdown. At one time, this idea would be too far-fetched, but Robert Mueller’s investigation has found hundreds of links with DDT’s campaign; ties with Russia and national security adviser John Bolton, Maria Butina, the NRA; threats against Michael Cohen’s family to keep him from testifying; and Oleg Deripaska’s Belarusian escort, who claimed to have information about DDT, was returned to Russia and may be in early states of poisoning. Putin wanted interference in the presidential election to cause chaos within the United States.

Now federal agency employees who were called back to work without pay—TSA agents, meat inspectors, prison guards, IRS workers, etc.—are starting to walk off their jobs, adding to the impact of jobs not being done by furloughed employees. Imagine if people can no longer trust safety in flying, food, and water and from crime while not receiving their tax refunds in addition to millions losing income from the missing paychecks for 800,000 federal employees. DDT is behind the shutdown and shows little urgency in reopening the government. He is also the focus of the biggest criminal and counter-intelligence investigation of any sitting U.S. president.

DailyKos has ideas for what a U.S. leader following Putin’s strategy could do to weaken the United States:

  • Relax sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs to give them more money.
  • Antagonize U.S. allies.
  • Polarize the U.S. with ugly divisive rhetoric.
  • Attack U.S. institutions, especially the judiciary, and replace the leadership with his cronies.
  • Pull the U.S. out of multinational trade and security alliances.
  • Excessively praise Putin.
  • Implement irrational economic trade sanctions to weaken U.S. economy.
  • Use excessive measures to conceal communications with Putin.
  • Consistently repeat Putin’s propaganda talking points.
  • Shut down the U.S. government for a ridiculous rationale and continue to cripple the U.S. with huge political, security, social, and financial damage.

Two years ago, this scenario would have seemed impossible. Now some might like to think it’s improbable, but every DDT action makes the proposition appear more likely.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), new chair of the Judiciary Committee, has an answer for the crisis facing many people in the U.S. during the shutdown: investigate Hillary Clinton’s email server, specifically the FBI’s handling of the situation and the FISA warrant application targeting DDT’s campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI investigated Page after the possibility that he conspired with Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Graham believes that the FBI was “in the tank” for her campaign and accused them of a double standard in the agency’s handling of the two presidential campaigns. In actuality, he’s right: the FBI helped swing the election to DDT by publicizing non-existent problems with Clinton and hiding real investigations into DDT.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) laughed at Graham’s plans and compared them to the ”thrilling days of yesteryear.” Durham said:

“This is going to be like the History Channel, it turns out. Instead of taking a look at the current issues, Lindsey Graham wants to go back and answer important questions about the Bermuda Triangle and Hillary Clinton.”

Durbin added that Graham may want to investigate Jimmy Carter next. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a judiciary committee member, joked that Graham might want to “investigate Benghazi some more.”

The House Oversight Committee plans an investigation into “grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump Administration” with the focus on White House handling of classified information, including DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Over 130 political appointees in DDT’s office lack permanent security clearances as of 2017, include Kushner and DDT’s daughter Ivanka.

The House committee has even more grist for its mill since the revelation that Kushner’s application for a top secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists because of FBI concerns about possible foreign influence on him. Overruling this decision from an investigation, the specialists’ supervisor, Carl Kline, approved the clearance. In unprecedented behavior, Kline, a DDT appointee, repeated this overruling 30 times despite unfavorable information on each of the applicants. Sources indicated that “the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.”

Kushner, who had to redo and correct his application clearance 40 times, received questions about foreign contacts, travel, and meetings as well as his family’s business. After Kline gave Kushner secret and top secret clearances, Kushner went to the CIA seeking a higher that allows him to access “sensitive compartmented information” that includes transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and CIA source reporting. Kline even stopped credit checks on security clearance applicants.

The CIA reviewed Kushner’s materials and questioned even the “top secret” clearance giving Kushner access to material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries. Officials are questioning whether the White House overruled the CIA refusal for the SCI clearance. A year ago, WaPo reported that officials in at least four countries—United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico—talked about how they could manipulate Kushner though his lack of policy experience, financial difficulties, and business arrangements.

The House needs to work fast!

September 4, 2018

Kavanaugh, Woodward, Plus More News

Democrats may not win the fight to keep Brett Kavanaugh out of the Supreme Court, but they’re putting up a good show. Only two nominees—Robert Bork and Harriet Miers—had lower poll ratings, and neither one was confirmed. Only 38 percent of people want Kavanaugh on the high court, and 39 percent think he should not be confirmed. Women in particular dislike him in their 46 percent opposition. One reason might be that he tried to imprison a 17-year-old immigrant pregnant from a rape although the Supreme Court has ruled that she had the right to one. Rachel Maddow has a 21-minute segment about Kavanaugh’s behavior on the bench that doesn’t match his assurance to gullible Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” In her opening statement at the hearing, Sen. Diane Feinstein explained how Kavanaugh has already ruled against Roe v. Wade. [visual]

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Kavanaugh started today, less than 15 hours after the White House finally released 42,000 pages of documents about him. In a fit of speed-reading, Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) claimed that he and his staff had reviewed all these documents in less than three hours. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) still withholds 93 percent of the records from the time when Kavanaugh was White House counsel and staff secretary for George W. Bush by invoking presidential privilege although Bush cleared the records for release. Some of these may have had to do with Kavanaugh’s support for torture. The White House alerted reporters to the Democrats’ comments, perhaps to show their obstruction. But instead the message may have been that an unindicted co-conspirator has nominated a justice for the nation’s highest court, one who he hopes will exonerate him by ruling that the president is above the law and refuses to release the nominee’s records.

Kavanaugh may also face questions about his possible lying under oath in an earlier confirmation hearing.

In a bad photo op for Kavanaugh, he refused to shake hands with the father of Jamie Guttenberg who was murdered at the Parkland (FL) high school earlier this year. Feinstein had introduced Fred Guttenberg (left) in the committee chambers so Kavanaugh knew who he was. Kavanaugh stared at him for a short time before he turned and walked away. When Kavanaugh returned, he bragged about coaching his daughter’s basketball team. Footage of the interaction with Guttenberg shows that the White House lied to cover up for Kavanaugh’s rude behavior.

Just when people thought that DDT had stopped fighting with AG Jeff Sessions, DDT spent the last day of his Labor Day weekend lambasting Sessions for the indictments of Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) for misusing campaign funds/fraud and insider trading/securities fraud. DDT’s objection is that he wants the DOJ to hold off on prosecuting the charged congressional members so that they can win their districts. He is a loser in this argument; almost two-thirds of people oppose firing Sessions and back investigator Robert Mueller.

“So I have another bad book coming out. Big deal,” said DDT in a conversation with Bob Woodward about his new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, about DDT’s time in the White House. DDT spent most of the talk either claiming that he would have liked to talk to Woodward for the book, saying that no one had ever told him, and explaining what a wonderful job he was doing. Woodward told at least six people with access to DDT that he wanted to talk to DDT, but DDT claims that no one except maybe Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had mentioned it to him. Kellyanne Conway admitted on the conversation that Woodward had talked with her about an interview with DDT.

Woodward writes that DDT’s closest aides, including Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, hid papers from his desk to keep him from signing them because they viewed DDT as a danger to national security. Woodward reported that Chief of staff John Kelly described Trump as an “idiot” and “unhinged,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said DDT has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader,” and former personal lawyer John Dowd called DDT “a fucking liar,” telling DDT he would end up in an “orange jump suit” if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller. Dowd resigned the day after DDT told him that he would be a “real good witness.” DDT called AG Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner”; DDT told Rudy Giuliani what he’s “like a little baby that needed to be changed.” Explaining his strategy in Afghanistan, DDT told his generals, “You should be killing guys.” Fortunately, Mattis didn’t kill Bashar al-Assad in April 2017 as DDT requested. The book portrays DDT as lonely and increasingly paranoid, obsessed with the media’s perception of him and with his base.

Fox analyst Howard Kurtz debunked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ defense by pointing out that sources for Woodward’s book are current as well as past employees.

U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia forces are deliberately bombing dozens of Yemeni civilians—some of them at least 40 children riding on a school bus in Yemen when they were taking a rare field trip. On the day of the attack, the head of the coalition stated that the bus was a “legitimate military target.” Later the report indicated that the attack was “unjustified” but only because the suspect was not on the bus, not that they had killed children. The U.S. sold the bomb to Saudi Arabians after DDT lifted the ban on these sales. DDT has said nothing about the tragedies in Yemen.

Desperate for new headquarters, the FBI lost their chance to move out of downtown Washington, D.C. across DDT’s hotel to the suburbs. DDT likely scuttled the deal to keep another hotel from moving into the area. Federal employees were ordered to not discuss any of his comments. To keep the FBI headquarters in place, officials greatly underestimated the cost of not moving the facility.

The white man who murdered two people at a video game tournament in Jacksonville (FL) and then turned the gun on himself to commit suicide has been described as having a mental illness. His easy access to guns was not responsible for the tragedy according to the state AG Pam Bondi; she blames the gathering of people to play video games, for example the football video game Madden. Intent on wiping out any taint of domestic terrorism by white men in the United States, Politico joined the myth by exonerating Timothy McVeigh of any terrorism. In 1995, the 27-year-old white man bombed a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 680 others. Sam Anderson maintains that McVeigh was no terrorist—he was just depressed because his favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, had started losing. Given his sad life, Anderson claims, “it is easy to imagine how this young man might have been lured into making a bad decision.” The article was abstracted from Anderson’s book Boom Town. Is it possible that the United States could reduce the murder and domestic terrorism rate by banning video games and football?

Pope Francis has a solution for the allegations that he covered up sex abuse by church leaders and lied about knowing nothing regarding his meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. He called for silence.

When he ran for president, DDT’s name was on 19 brands; now it’s on just one—furniture sold by a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

DDT has reached 60 percent—in his disapproval rating. His approval rating is 36 percent, and 53 percent think that his interference with Mueller’s investigation is obstruction of justice. At 63 percent, an additional ten percent support the investigation. Mueller’s case against Manafort received 67 percent believing it was justified, and two-thirds oppose DDT’s pardoning Manafort. Sessions also gets 64 percent support from being fired, and 61 percent believe that DDT committed a crime if he told Cohen to make hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

DDT makes up his own approval ratings. In a call to a radio talk show, he said that he adds “another 7 or eight points’ to the existing approval rating, and at a rally in North Dakota, he recommended adding 12 to any of his polls.

DDT has greatly helped ratings for MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. In August, MSNBC was the second-most-watched network across all of basic cable, and The Rachel Maddow Show was number one for total viewers on cable TV for the last week of August and top the 25-54 demographic throughout August, beating Sean Hannity. While MSNBC’s ratings rose over that in 2017, both CNN and Fox went down. All the MSNBC shows—Chris Hayes, Laurence O’Donnell, Brian Williams, Ari Melber, Hallie Jackson, Nicolle Wallace, Katy Tur, and Ali Velshi—had substantial gains and record-breaking numbers. Kudos to genuine news instead of screaming people and fake propaganda.

January 1, 2018

2017 – A Year of Disasters

Niagara Falls froze, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) lasted four hours and twelve minutes into 2018 before causing an international incident. At 4:12 am on January 1, 2018, he tweeted:

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

This official Twitter assault came after frequent attacks on Iran for “failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration.” One year ago, DDT told the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that “Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people” and then ignored attacks in the country that killed over 100 people.

To epitomize 2017, the Washington Post asked readers to submit their favorite quote of the year. “Alternative facts,” Kellyanne Conway’s excuse for DDT’s lying, came in first, but “Nevertheless, she persisted” was second. This statement was the complaint that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave to argue that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had violated Senate rules by continuing to speak on the Senate floor. Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism, the word that had the most searches. A definition for the word: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” “Complicit,” also very popular became popular after Ivanka Trump said she didn’t know what the word meant when interviewer Gayle King asked her if she were “complicit” in White House activities. Complicit: “helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way.”

Much of the “winning” in the past year came from backlash to horrible actions. For example, great numbers of people focused on nuclear weapons after DDT threatened a war with North Korea. People protested against hate speech and white supremacists after DDT supported Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Winners:

Women: Last year Hillary Clinton lost the presidency, but women gained ground through political wins in different states and the #MeToo movement. This increasing strength of unification on the part of women can move further successes into 2018.

Democrats: The blue party performed better in 2017 elections than those in 2016, finding the majority in at least one legislature and picking up an additional seat in the U.S. Senate. Virginia is still undecided, but at this point, it’s only one person away from a majority in the House of Delegates. Although too early to hope, the Democrats are in play for a majority in both congressional chambers.

MSNBC: With its almost 50 percent viewer increase compared to the 2016 campaign cycle, the cable network edged out CNN for the top with viewers ages 18 to 49 this year and became the third most-watched basic cable network in prime time—after Fox and ESPN—up from eighth place. Rachel Maddow is moving ahead of Fox’s Sean Hannity and regularly beating him in the envied demographic of viewers 25 to 54.

Chris Hurst: After his girlfriend, another Roanoke journalist at WDBJ-TV, was shot and killed on the air in 2015, he unseated a GOP incumbent in the Virginia House of Delegates.

LGBTQ candidates: Across the nation, LGBTQ people won seats on state legislature, mayoral seats, city councils, and school boards. 

Winners for the far right:

Conservative judicial system: The GOP confirmed Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and at least 36 federal judges, most of them young and many unqualified, who oppose human rights.

The wealthy: Despite DDT’s campaign to help the “people,” he managed to pass a tax bill that greatly benefits big corporations and the rich. As he told his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago, “You all just got a lot richer.” 

Winners and losers:

Immigrants: Federal judges have been opposing DDT’s Muslim ban, but the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the number of lower courts opposing the ban. Immigrants “won” when marchers protested against DDT’s ban but lost with DDT’s executive order to deport the “Dreamers,” young people illegally brought into the U.S. with their parents. DDT’s new anti-immigrant system separates families. At the same time, federal judges are also opposing the DOJ’s opposition to “sanctuary” municipalities and states, the places that say that they will only follow the law and not hunt down undocumented people for ICE.

Losers:

The truth: DDT’s entire base is built on a non-existent alternate reality.

DDT’s lawyers: Afraid of what DDT might say or do, his lawyers are lying to him about how serious Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian collusion will be for the man inaugurated last January, according to reporter Carl Bernstein who helped break the case against Richard Nixon.

Political stability: While DDT argues that any opposing institutions are corrupt and biased, he has instituted a system of corruption and bias through inculcating conspiracy theories around law enforcement, the judiciary, the intelligence agencies, and the media that tries to explain what he is doing.

Roy Moore: The GOP backed a lying pedophile for the U.S. senator from Alabama and lost.

U.S. international leadership: DDT has turned the United States into the laughing-stock of the entire world while he backs out of all coalitions except his inexplicable friendship with Russia and Vladimir Putin. At the same time, he ran on the philosophy of isolationism before he bombed the Syrian government, killed civilians in a number of countries including Iraq, and expanded the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan while alienating China and Japan, threatening North Korea and siding with Israel against most of the rest of the Middle East. In his spare time, he made an enemy of Europe by backing out of the climate agreement, dunning NATO membership, and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The federal government: Tens of thousands of federal employees, most of them valued parts of the structure, have been shed in the past 344 days in keeping with DDT’s promise to shrink the government. Even DDT’s beloved Defense Department has lost one percent—7,811 civilian workers, and the IRS, integral in DDT’s tax plan, lost 6,801 permanent staffers, almost nine percent. The proposed budget will drastically slash more employees—over 30 percent at some agencies–and DDT has promised worse for the following year. Losses from the reduced number of employees include worker and personal safety, technology, defense, transparency, human rights, and education.

The short-term future for the government, according to former DDT advisor Steve Bannon, is “trade, DACA, and the wall — but it’s much beyond that. This is the run-up, the last 20 days before the first anniversary of his inauguration, and it’s all coming to a head: a spending bill of epic proportions, the test of a veto or a government shutdown, the China confrontation and Korea, all the immigration issues, infrastructure funding and welfare reform. All on the table, with their direction uncertain.”

DDT’s economic advisor, Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, are worried about proposed new tariffs on industries such as steel and aluminum that would make consumer goods more expensive. Sources close to DDT claim that his goal of putting “huge tariffs on countries, industries, and product categories … would roil global markets, start a costly trade war, and harm America’s relationships with allies.”

Last year was a time of impulsive but official presidential statements primarily on tweets, a large number of resignations and firing in both the legislative and executive branches, the swinging door at the White House with a 34 percent staff turnover, the immersion of Russia collusion into almost every corner of politics, DDT’s support of racism and misogyny, nepotism, lack of diplomacy, DDT’s unconstitutional profiteering from the White House, more mass shootings and other deaths from guns because of legislative inaction, increased religious control of the government, the swinging door at the White House with a 34 percent staff turnover, the rapid increase in stock value while most people’s salaries stayed almost stagnant, constant conflict and anger, revenge and threats, and what seems an inexorable move toward World War III. All of these political problems overlooked the serious problems from climate change—forest fires, and hurricanes. In addition, 2017 was the warmest year in history without an El Nino.

One hundred years ago, the end of World War I caused the disintegration of some empires while the lines drawn by France and England in the Middle East to determine which of the two countries would control these nations began the bloody, brutal battles for the past century. The U.S. isolationism led to racism and ethnic bigotry exacerbated by vigilante actions and the merciless leadership by the federal attorney general. The nation denied international cooperation and relied on trade protectionism, resulting in the Great Depression. One century later, DDT has launched the U.S. into the same direction. There is not one example of how DDT has thus far championed the “forgotten” working class and sided with consumers over businesses.

The question now is whether the people will fight back.

October 22, 2017

Generals, ‘Adults in the Room,’ Go to War

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 7:33 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Generals! Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) loves them. Since his inauguration, he’s fired lots of people–James Comey, Sean Spicer, Anthony Saramucci, Reince Priebus, Sebastian Gorka, and even his beloved Keith Schiller. But the generals have stayed. DDT campaigned on opposition to a big military presence abroad, but now he’s handed over his entire foreign policy to them and the Pentagon unless he’s trying to undo something like the Iran or Paris agreement.

Who are DDT’s generals?

Gen. Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of Defense, once said about the Taliban, “It’s quite fun to shoot them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people.” He also told soldiers in Iraq, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” Mattis defended himself after bombing a wedding party by saying, “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?” He was “retired” from his command five months early when he wanted to take out an Iranian oil refinery that would have set off another war. Mattis promoted John Kelly to brigadier general in Iraq, but Kelly never fought in Afghanistan.

DDT has given Mattis unprecedented authority to set troop levels and launch airstrikes around the world—and Congress doesn’t stop DDT.

Gen. H.R. McMaster, now national security adviser, “liberated” Tal Afar (Iraq) only to have it overcome by sectarian violence a year later and one of the first Iraqi cities that ISIS took. He considers the war in the Middle East “generational” (aka unending). He’s willing to start a “preventive” war against North Korea, just as George W. Bush against Iraq.

Gen. John Kelly was seen as a force for good when he became chief of staff, restraining much of DDT’s impulsivity except for his offensive tweets—until the past week when he decided to defend his boss with a collection of lies and smears. After DDT faced criticism for his offensive remarks to the widow of fallen Sgt. La David Johnson in Niger, Kelly came to a press conference to give his side. It wasn’t pretty, especially when he called a black U.S. representative from Florida, Frederica Wilson, an empty barrel—insinuating that she was too loud and too stupid to have a role in the government.

Even worse, Kelly blatantly lied about his experience with Wilson at the dedication of a new FBI field office in Miami. He claimed that she bragged about getting the funding at the ceremony, but the building was funded before she was elected. Kelly’s speech was wrong about a fallen FBI agents’ name and his length of service, and he quoted the price of the building at $20 million instead of its cost of $194 million. A video of the event shows Wilson talking about getting the building named for two killed FBI agents and gave credit to two Republican members of Congress for their participation.  She also asked law-enforcement officials to stand so “we can applaud you and what you do” before she said,

Kelly said that he was “stunned” and “heart-broken” that the “empty barrel” would listen in on a “sacred” conversation between the president and the widow. Wilson was with Myeishia Johnson because she is a family friend, and Kelly obviously heard the conversation because he knew what was said. Like DDT who failed to use the name of Johnson’s widow, Kelly never named Rep. Wilson while he was sneering at her.

In his speech, Kelly attacked Gold Family Khizr and Ghazala Khan for appearing at the Democratic convention. Yet he ignored DDT’s attacks on that Gold Family and DDT’s comment about Sen. John McCain that he “prefers people who aren’t captured.” Kelly lamented that people no longer “honor” women while defending a sexual predatory. His anger about politicizing the war dead ignored DDT’s initiation of the political involvement of the subject after a simple question about the mission itself.

Presented with the truth about Kelly’s false statements about Wilson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that people should not disagree with a “four-star Marine general.”

Kelly’s background:

  • While in charge of the Guantanamo Bay Detention facility, he undermined President Obama’s attempts to close the facility.
  • He opposed and publicly criticized the integration of women into military ground combat units, arguing it would lead to lower standards.
  • He defended “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) such as waterboarding and rectal feeding and dismissed the criticisms of human rights groups as “foolishness.”
  • He testified in support of an officer caught urinating on Talibani corpses.
  • He supports the imprisonment of terror suspects without trial.
  • He supports the war on drugs and opposes legalization or decriminalization of any drugs, including marijuana.
  • Kelly says that the military men and women are the best one percent that this nation produces.
  • While head of the Department of Homeland Security, he ordered immigration officials to portray undocumented immigrants swept up in mass raids as criminals to support the claims of raids motivated by public safety concerns.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is supporting DDT’s three hawks in declaring war in Niger. He explained that counterterrorism will move to “status-based targeting,” meaning that “lethal force” can be used even if “they don’t have to present an immediate threat.” Decision-making will also be done in the field instead of the White House, according to Graham. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plan a public hearing the evening of October 30 to gin up people in the U.S. for DDT’s war.

As in the war on Iraq, the reason may be “follow the oil.” In late 2016, the discovery of large crude oil deposits in Niger led to an interest building a pipeline to send the oil to Nigeria and then export it. The oil in Nigeria is owned by Western corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron with Shell providing a private militia of over 1,200 soldiers. After the destruction of Libya, Nigeria became the top oil-producing African country, supplying one-fifth of the U.S. needs. Although one reason for putting Niger on the travel ban was the terrorist group, Boko Haram, it is mostly confined to Nigeria and Cameroon with a small part in southeastern Niger–not in Chad. Nigeria’s local government officials tend to support the Boko Haram.

DDT has a double reason for a war: he can take over the oil production, and he might decrease his disapproval rating, growing every week. Attacking North Korea and/or Iran would be dangerous because they would fight back. Niger has a corrupt leader, and the people are extremely poor with an annual $415 income. DDT is already getting ready for war by signing an executive order to drastically expand his ability to call back any retired service members to service. The Air Force is recalling at least 1,000 retired pilots per year to active duty.

The movement toward war was set into action on September 24 when DDT put Chad onto his travel ban for harboring terrorists although it was fighting them. By the beginning of October, Chad began pulling out its 2,000 well-trained forces out of Niger. On October 4, an under-armed U.S. military force with no air cover was sent into an ambush. Four people died, and DDT plans to declare war.

On her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow drew lines between these recent events—not as a causal conspiracy theory but with attention to the timing of what has happened. Critics from both sides of the political spectra criticized her, one person saying that Chad was fighting Boko Hiram and not ISIS. Fox network complained about the media “putting in their own theories.” Yet both groups are tangentially linked. Maddows’ two show segments on the issue are here.

DDT loves power, and he gets it from being “commander in chief.” Last month he called for a Fourth of July parade filled with military hardware to show the nation’s “military might” to “top” the one he saw in France on Bastille Day.

The three generals in traditionally civilian positions want war and secrecy, and they achieve their goal by creating a massive fear of foreign terrorism. They control the military and the war policy, making sure that DDT follows their orders to increase the defense expenditures at the cost of people in the United States. DDT the bully finds his generals “sacred” and thinks that the war will make him more popular the way it seemed to do for George W. Bush—briefly. The United States, run by “adults” and permanently at war.

As DDT’s distraction of smearing Wilson in his tweets—the most recent one today—continues, watch for the saber-rattling of his generals and GOP congressional hawks.

January 4, 2014

Government, Culture – Pro & Con

This week has seen some peculiar positions on the law and cultural beliefs, both pro and con government positions.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials caused the horrifying destruction of 13 musical instruments after the agency identified them as “agricultural products.” Canadian citizen and U.S. resident Boujemaa Razgui, who was returning from visiting family in Morocco, had his luggage taken during a layover in New York on his way to Brockton (MA). When his bags were delivered to his home the following day, he was missing the flutes that he had made himself. The professional musician had intended to use the flutes in a performance in Boston. It appears he has no recourse for the loss of his livelihood.

Ohio now recognizes same-sex marriage but only after one of the couple is dead. Judge Timothy Black has ordered the state to recognize LGBT marriages on death certificates. The ruling came from a gay couple married in Maryland shortly before one of them died. Without the recognition of their marriage on the death certificate, the man who died could not be buried in the survivor’s family cemetery plot. Black said that the state cannot “discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004).” Black also wrote, “Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away.” Perhaps that will someday hold true for living same-sex couples in Ohio.

With 18 states and the District of Columbia recognizing marriage equality, Utah is in a quandary. Just two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that same-sex couples could marry in that state. The appeals went back and forth until the most recent one landed on the desk of SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She is assigned to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to handle motions such as emergency requests. She can either rule independently or refer the matter to the full court.

Same-sex couples are able to get married in Utah because acting attorney general Brian Tarbet didn’t file a pre-emptive stay against the marriages if the court found against the state’s ban on marriage equality. His failure meant that couples could marry between the time of the court’s ruling and the hearing of an appeal. The state is arguing that allowing same-sex marriage causes irreparable injury to the state and that the inability to be married in Utah causes no injury to gays and lesbians.

Yesterday, lawyers filed a request urging Justice Sotomayor to permit same-sex marriages to continue while the 10th Circuit Court considers the state’s appeal. There is no time limit in her issuing a decision. Meanwhile, same-sex couples are still marrying in Utah. During the first six days after the decision, over 900 same-sex couples received marriage licenses, including Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis.  

The argument about the Roman Catholic nuns in Colorado has gone to bizarre extents as they claim that the federal government is infringing on their freedom of religion. The crisis peaked on New Year’s Eve when Justice Sotomayor declared an injunction until the situation is settled. There’s no timeline.

The background: Little Sisters of the Poor objects to providing contraception insurance because of its religious beliefs. No problem—they don’t have to if they fill out the paperwork to say that they don’t want the insurance to include contraception.

Their current objection, however, is to completing the short form certifying their religious objections. The Affordable Care Act has already eliminated the requirement for religious groups to provide contraceptive insurance. Employers can provide a health care plan that doesn’t cover the medication, and then the employers’ insurance company creates a separate policy to cover contraception. The woman gets free contraception, and the employer is not paying for this part of health care. Paperwork from the employer, however, is required to start the process.

Even if the Little Sisters complete the form, the employees may not be insured for contraception. A district court in Colorado moved to dismiss the case, ruling that it lacks authority to require a “church plan” to provide contraception. The insurance plan is administered by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, exempt from ACA enforcement. Thus Little Sisters filed a federal lawsuit, refuses to sign any paperwork, and has no part in any requirement to provide contraception that most other women will receive.

When I read about Justice Sotomayor placing the injunction, I wondered why it was her responsibility. Further research shows that each Supreme Court justice is assigned to a circuit court. An appeal for emergency assistance goes first to the assigned justice. If the response is unsatisfactory, an appeal can go to another justice and, as a last resort, then to the entire court. [Map of the 13 circuit courts and their assigned justices]

  • District of Columbia Circuit: John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice
  • The First Circuit: Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice
  • The Second Circuit: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice
  • The Third Circuit: Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice
  • The Fourth Circuit: John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice
  • The Fifth Circuit: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice
  • The Sixth Circuit: Elena Kagan, Associate Justice
  • The Seventh Circuit: Elena Kagan, Associate Justice
  • The Eighth Circuit: Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice
  • The Ninth Circuit: Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice
  • The Tenth Circuit: Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice
  • The Eleventh Circuit: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice
  • The Federal Circuit: John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice

The Koch brothers, who control many GOP state legislators through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), have decided that they can do the same to Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show. After her story about the brothers’ part in lobbying for state laws mandating drug testing for welfare recipients, they sent her a letter demanding a retraction and providing her with a script. This is Maddow’s response:

“I will not renounce or retract reporting that is true, even if the subjects of that reporting don’t like it. Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, don’t do it. Don’t just complain when people accurately describe your actions. Your actions are what we are reporting on and we will do that on our own terms – as a free press. If you want to control the words that are used when your actions are discussed, then speak for yourself. I will renew my invitation now. Mr. Koch, or the other Mr. Koch, you are welcome on this show any time.”

In good news, Idaho has learned its lesson that privatized prisons don’t work: the corrections department is taking back operation of the biggest privately-run prison in the state because of the past decade’s mismanagement. This move shows that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter may be reversing his strong support for privatization after lawsuits about gang activity, contract fraud with Corrections Corporation of America, understaffing, and massive violence.

Because of a new law in California, 36-year-old Sergio C. Garcia, a Mexican immigrant without a green card, may be licensed as a lawyer. The legislature passed the law because the state Supreme Court had denied him licensing. Federal law keeps undocumented immigrants from obtaining professional licenses unless state governments denies the ban. Garcia can practice law free of charge, but the court questioned whether he could charge fees. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote:

“We conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar.”

Garcia was brought to the U.S. when he was 17 months old. He returned to Mexico with his parents when he was nine and came back to the U.S. illegally at the age of 17 with his father who has permanent resident status. His father requested his green card at that time. The federal government approved the application the next year, but Garcia has still not received the green card. After earning his law degree from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico, he passed the bar on his first attempt. He has waited four years for his law license. Two similar cases are pending in New York and Florida.

We’ll finish with an insane approach toward evaluating teachers. In 2009, Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C. public schools who is still widely appearing on talk shows, announced a numerical scale to either fire teachers or give them huge salary increases. During her term, there were allegations of cheating in schools where scores increased, only to fall back after security measures were employed. Despite the problems, schools across the nation have started to use the Rhee method.

“A very small typo” in the programming code last year led to mistakes in firing one teacher, keeping three teachers from receiving bonuses, and providing inaccurate job evaluations for another 40 teachers. After discovering the problems month later, the district tried to rectify the problems. The question is how many other mistakes in programming have destroyed teachers’ careers.

Idaho and California—becoming sensible; education—needs to focus on teachers for evaluation; religious groups—should get reasonable; Customs—pay for the destruction; Ohio—value the living as the dead.

December 12, 2013

How George W. Bush Failed the GOP – Rachel Maddow

Meet the Press - Season 65Rachel Maddow is expanding her job responsibilities: she now has a monthly column in the Washington Post with a six-month contract.  I don’t read the Post regularly and wondered if I would come across her first column. No problem! Reprints popped up today in two of my favorite online news services, Truthout and Reader Supported News (RSN).

The mission of Truthout, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, reads: “Truthout works to spark action by revealing systemic injustice and providing a platform for transformative ideas, through in-depth investigative reporting and critical analysis. With a powerful, independent voice, we will spur the revolution in consciousness and inspire the direct action that is necessary to save the planet and humanity.”

Both sites provide writings from the greatest progressive thinkers of our time, and both come from Marc Ash. Truthout donations are tax-deductible; contributions to RSN are not. Ash wrote, “This is a new experiment: can an organization serve the community and still pay its taxes? The answer should be yes.” In neither case, however, do corporations control the content.

Ash started Truthout in 2001 after George W. Bush stole the presidency; RSN came along in 2009. Scott Galindez joined Ash at RSN the next year. Like many of us, he is “angry, and believe[s] that one way to take our government back is to inform the public of the truth.” What he asks from the readers is “to spread the news we provide.”

Sister site of RSN is Writing for Godot where readers can post their own essays. In Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, Godot never comes, but many others do. Galindez writes that the “God” for which people wait can “be equated with social justice and order, tolerance and compassion.” These have not come for Galindez for the past nine years, but perhaps tomorrow …. And that’s why we follow progressive websites—reading about social justice and order, tolerance and compassion.

Since Jeff Bezos, the $33 billionaire founder/CEO of amazon.com, purchased The Washington Post, he has kept a low profile. Hiring Rachel Maddow to write a column speaks well of his intentions. In no way would I presume to paraphrase Rachel Maddow. Here is her column, verbatim, about how George W. Bush failed the GOP. You can go to the original to find links to more information about her subject. Thank you, RSN.

 

After a presidency, what comes next? Not just for the president but also for the members of the administration, the president’s allies in Congress, his or her political party?

In the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, no hearty saplings were ever able to take root in the shade of that big tree. No one expected Vice President Dick Cheney to ever be a contender for the presidency – part of his effectiveness was his willingness to say and do very unpopular things. When he snapped at ABC’s Martha Raddatz, “So?” as she questioned him about public disapproval of the Iraq war, he wrote the perfect epitaph for his vice presidency.

But by the time the Bush era was winding down, the whole administration, including the president, was stewed in terrible, Cheney-level disapproval ratings. And now, almost no one who played a significant role in that administration is anywhere to be found in electoral politics, beyond the tertiary orbits of Punch-and-Judy cable news and the remains of what used to be the conservative “think tank” circuit.

That’s true even for former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who had no formal role in his brother’s administration but will probably always find the familial association an insurmountable obstacle to his own presidential hopes.

Unlike the Reagan administration, the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration, the George W. Bush presidency elevated precisely no one to the ranks of national leadership who wasn’t there before. The 2008 Republican presidential primaries were like some odd eight-year cicada hatch in which the candidates went underground in 2000 and then birthed themselves after Bush and Cheney were gone, as if the intervening years had never happened.

The 2000 second-place finisher, Sen. John McCain? You’re next in line for 2008! And four years later: second-place Mitt Romney? You’re next in line for 2012!

The unpopular presidency of George W. Bush has proved to be a blackball on the résumés of a generation of Republican leaders. Maybe Cheney’s daughter Liz will break the pattern next year with a successful Senate bid in Wyoming, but if you made it through that sentence without spitting coffee out your nose, you’re in rare company.

The fascinating turmoil in the Republican Party since 2008 is not just a personnel problem – it’s also ideological. If you were putting together a legacy to inspire the next generation of conservatives, you wouldn’t pick the Bush administration’s trailing ends of land wars, budget deficits, torture, a crusade against gay rights and a financial collapse to rival the Great Depression. The isolationism and libertarian iconography of the Ron Paul wing of the party really does appeal to young people more than Bush-Cheney Republicanism. Social conservatives really do feel backed into a corner and ready to fight against a country that is turning against them faster than most pollsters can keep up. There really is something ripe for renewal in Republicans’ self-conception as fiscal conservatives, when the clear pattern is that budget deficits grow under Republicans and shrink under Democrats. The Republican Party is a churning swirl of conflicting ideological currents, and that’s going to take some time to work out.

But part of the reason it may be taking so long already is those lost years: the period from 2000 to 2008 that effectively obviated the authority and the leadership potential of all of Washington’s Republican elites. The George W. Bush administration didn’t just cast too much shade on the next generation of leadership – it also apparently poisoned the ground.

The Obama administration’s ability to nurture and support the next round of national leadership in the Democratic Party is going to be a big part of its long-term legacy. Unless Vice President Biden’s presidential hinting suddenly takes a turn for the serious, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the obvious inheritor of the party’s mantle. But, as in 2008, the Beltway may be overstating her inevitability. The grass roots aren’t all with her, frankly, and it’s yet to be seen if she’s interested in trying to win them over. Mainstream press may buy big-dollar donors (and more mainstream press), but it can’t buy the passionate volunteers and activists and excitement that are the oxygen for a winning campaign and sustained, effective leadership.

The collapse of national leadership prospects for the Republican Party is one of the greatest political failures and most important legacies of George W. Bush. Barack Obama looks less likely to repeat that fate, but it depends on a strong grove of nationally viable Democrats starting to grow now. The crescendo of attention to Elizabeth Warren is a healthy part of that process, as is the growing national interest in such diverse Democrats as Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill, Cory Booker, Wendy Davis, Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, Andrew Cuomo and Amy Klobuchar.

Inside the White House, the task of growing one’s own successors must seem like one of the less pressing items on the president’s long daily to-do list. But the previous administration’s trail of scorched earth and exiles has curtailed the prospects for the Republican Party and governing conservatism more profoundly than almost anything that administration pursued in terms of policy. It is a cautionary tale that Democrats and the Obama White House should heed sooner rather than later. Grow your successors, nurture your legacy.

March 19, 2013

Portman Heats Up Marriage Equality Discussion

When potential GOP vice-presidential candidate and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) came out of the closet last week to support marriage equality because his son is gay, the reactions went from lukewarm to downright hot—against him. 

The most common response from the left was approval of Portman’s supporting same-sex marriage combined with questions about why he took over two years to reverse his support of DOMA. He did wait until after Mitt Romney selected his running mate—which was not Portman. A few tweets pointed out the hypocrisy of politicians supporting only issues that affect their families.

“Portman’s son came out & now he is for Gay Rights. Any GOP members with daughters so there could be support for Women’s Rights?”

“I invite every elected official to come spend a day in my house, learn reality of autism, dementia,living w/o health insurance after cancer.”

“Now all we need is a Republican senator whose kid is having sex with an undocumented, union teacher on Medicare and social security.”

Then there were the voices from journalists:

“More importantly, I think, now I want to arrange for every Republican who signed onto the Paul Ryan budget to wake up with a poor son. Because then I know all of a sudden you won’t want to cut food stamps. You won’t want to cut school nutrition. If empathy only extends to your flesh and blood, we gotta start shoving people into those families.”—Rachel Maddow on Real Time with Bill Maher

“Empathy, especially in elected officials is a good thing! But there’s also something frustratingly blinkered and limited about this form of persuasion. If it’s going to take every anti-gay politician having a gay son for gay people to be treated like the other human beings in this country, then equal rights are going to take longer to achieve than they should.—Chris Hayes

“But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don’t just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son’s eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn’t that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence.

“The great challenge for a senator isn’t to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It’s to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don’t have direct access to the corridors of power. Senators basically never have poor kids. That’s something members of Congress should think about. Especially members of Congress who know personally that realizing an issue affects their own children changes their thinking.”—Matthew Yglesias

 CPAC attendees weighed in:

“Horrible!” said Tony Mele, an 88-year-old woman from New Jersey. When told he did so because of his gay son, she responded, “That’s his fault! He gets no sympathy from me.” A pastor from Georgia, William Temple, told Portman to “quit being so selfish as to only think about his son,” and if he won’t reverse himself, “to step down and go home.” Another pastor, Rev. Robert Lancia, dismissed Portman’s point that people should follow the Golden Rule: “That doesn’t cover it.” One man, David Kern, even said Portman’s son’s choice of college turned him gay. “Well what did Sen. Portman expect when he sent his son to Yale?”

And the far-right evangelicals capped off with vitriol:

“Homosexual sex is ultimately just as destructive as cocaine use. Would you suddenly call for the legalization of cocaine if his son had announced that he was a cocaine addict? Would that be ‘loving’ and ‘compassionate’? What will happen to Rob Portman’s belief system when he discovers that his son is infected with HIV or throat cancer?”—William Murray, head of the ultra-right-wing “Government Is Not God” PAC

My favorite comes from Bryan Fischer for the so-called American Family Association:

“@ gay son: SSM: A father can still love a son who robs a bank without changing his mind about the morality of bank robbing.”

My taken on it after having had a committed relationship with the same woman for almost 44 years? Portman’s statement is like civil unions: better than nothing but still not good enough.

November 21, 2012

Peace, Economic Security a Little Closer

Today’s Best News:

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire in Gaza after eight days of rocket fire and retaliatory Israeli air strikes left at least 100 Palestinians and three Israelis dead. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to pursue a “comprehensive peace,” suggesting the Obama administration will rekindle two-state peace talks that have been frozen for the past three years over disagreements about Israeli settlements and future borders.

Occupy Wall Street (by now it seems to be Occupy the World) has come up with a great idea: the Rolling Jubilee project. When people can no longer pay their debts, individuals or companies can buy these debts at pennies on the dollar and then try to collect something from the people who owe money. Occupy has decided to buy these debts—and then forgive them. Even Forbes likes the idea. To test the idea, Occupy purchased $14,000 worth of outstanding loans for $500 and then pardoned the debtors. Now they are looking for donations to expand the project. Thus far they have managed to wipe out almost $10 million of debt for less than $50,000.

Occupy used Iceland for their model. After that country’s banks forgave loans equivalent to 13 percent of the GDP, Iceland’s consumer debt, its economy grew at 2.5 percent in this year’s first quarter. The result is expanded consumption, increased wages, improved standard of living, and no economic collapse. The banks’ action eased the debt burdens of over one-fourth of the country’s population.

Contrary to the beliefs of most conservatives, the U.S. “federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II,” according to Matt Yglesias. This year the $1.089 trillion deficit is $200 billion smaller than last year and almost $300 billion smaller than when Barack Obama became president. This is not necessarily good news for economists because such a fast reduction in the deficit could lead to a recession, but learning about it might shut up all those candidates who use the deficit to whip the president. This chart, showing the rise and fall of the deficit over the past 60 years also indicates that Democrats seem to do better than Republicans. It appears that the liberals always have to clean up after conservatives. At least the Republicans shouldn’t be able to destroy the decrease in the deficit during the next four years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last piece of good news for today is that people in the United States may become more educated. There was a time when progressives felt that Fox News had a permanent stranglehold on the country’s population. Study after study showed that people watching Fox were more ignorant of political facts than those who didn’t follow any news, but the number of watchers kept growing. There’s a chance that Fox’s popularity is winding down. During the eight days after President Obama’s re-election, MSNBC’s average audience for the key 25-54 year old demographic drew about 8% more viewers than Fox, according the Nielsen ratings.

Two programs were at the top of the MSNBC lineup. Rachel Maddow won seven of the eight days against her Fox competition, Sean Hannity, beating him by an average 18 percent, and her 544k average was second to only Bill O’Reilly in all of cable news. Lawrence O’Donnell won all eight days against Fox’s Greta Van Susteren with a margin of victory of 17% for the eight days. Hannity, perhaps the most strident partisan host on Fox, frequently invites on his show Dick Morris, the man who loudly claimed the errors of polls indicating the president’s defeating Romney. Van Susteren has a close association with friend and client of her husband, Sarah Palin. The question is whether Fox will become more reasonable to keep an audience or ramp up the rhetoric of hatred and fear.

I’m guessing that the majority of conservatives had no idea how many lies the Republican candidates, led by the master of mendacity Mitt Romney, told them in expensive advertising. If the trend of watching MSNBC continues, the voters in the next election will be more aware of facts rather than Fox pundits’ impassioned attempts to sway the voters’ opinions through the largest collection of lies in any general election campaign since the invention of television.

In the election that seems so long ago but was decided only 15 days in the past, the majority of people voted for Democrats both in Congress and in the presidency. This happened despite the Republicans’ attempt to weed out Democratic voters across the country. Republicans need candidates who can win on their own merits, not through lying to voters and suppressing the votes. Maybe they will learn this.

 

November 14, 2012

Macke Needs to Try Harder

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:33 PM
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When I was young, I learned that an apology has two parts:  the action for which I’m apologizing is wrong, and I recognize that I was wrong in doing this. Following is a statement from Tricia Macke, anchor of a news show on WXIX, a Cincinnati Fox affiliate.

“I recently posted comments on my personal Facebook page regarding cable news anchor Rachel Maddow which were insensitive and inappropriate. I apologize to Ms. Maddow and any others who may have been offended by my comments, as they do not reflect my firm beliefs in individual and equal rights, and they certainly do not represent the opinions or position of my employer WXIX-TV.”

Nowhere do I see any indication that she believed her action was wrong or that she was sorry for what she had done. There was the obligatory “I apologize to anyone who might have been offended…” which is meaningless.

The reason for Macke’s faux apology began on October 12 when Macke posted on her personal Facebook page, “Rachel Maddow is such an angry young man.” A reply compared her comment to making racist jokes, and Macke responded, “I’m sorry. I should have said antagonistic.” Another person wrote that calling Maddow a “man” was offensive, and Macke then answered, “I knew what I was saying.”

It was not until the Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) and Equality Ohio addressed the issue with her employer that Macke issued her “apology.” She was also suspended from work for two days last weekend although the television station refused to say whether her statement was related to this action. The station did submit the following statement with the same apology “to anyone who may have been offended”:

“We have received several expressions of concerns about a recent Facebook posting by FOX19 Anchor Tricia Macke on her personal Facebook page. Tricia’s response is provided below and is also posted on her personal Facebook page. We also apologize to anyone who may have been offended by her comments.”–WXIX Station Management

In its objection to Macke’s statement, GLAAD said “referring to Maddow as a ‘man’ because she is a gay woman is completely unacceptable for someone in the business of journalism.” The organization’s president, Herndon Graddick, said, “Macke owes an apology not only to viewers, but to young people in Ohio who are subjected to unfair bullying and harassment like this on a daily basis.”

[Left: Tricia Macke; right: Rachel Maddow]

Rachel Maddow, an internationally recognized journalist with her own show on MSNBC, will certainly not suffer because of Macke’s ignorant remarks. Always gracious, witty, funny, and charming, Maddow will move forward in her extremely successful career.  The losers from Macke’s cruel, bullying comments are, as Graddick pointed out, the young people, not just in Ohio but anywhere else that Macke’s comments and other similar ones are passed along. According to recent statistics:

  • 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.
  • LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times as much as straight teens.
  • More than 1/3 of LGBTQ kids have attempted suicide.
  • LGBTQ kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide then our straight peers.
  • LGBTQ youth with “highly rejecting” families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them.

Even if Macke doesn’t care about LGBTQ youth, she might want to consider the effect of her statements on straight children. For every lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth who is bullied, four straight students who are perceived to be gay or lesbian are bullied. The stigma and hostilities caused by this anti-LGBTQ bullying result in health risk behaviors, such as skipping school, smoking, alcohol and drug use, and sexual risk; these risks exist as much for heterosexual youth perceived to be lesbian or gay as for non-heterosexual youth who try to keep their sexual orientation hidden.

Macke has five children: chances are good that one of them and/or some of their friends may be part of these horrifying statistics. Her behavior will make life harder for them and for their friends. Hopefully, she will learn understanding and compassion for youth without any tragedies to those she loves. In the meantime, two days suspension is far too little consequences for her inexcusable statements. Macke is over 40 years old: she should understand that as a journalist, she is a mentor to many young people.

Her biographical page for Fox 19 states: Abraham Lincoln said, ‘whatever you are, be a good one.’  I try.” I hope that she starts to try harder after this experience.

 

October 2, 2012

Readying for the First Presidential Debate, 2012

The first debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will be telecast tomorrow night, and Romney has a 47-percent problem. Forget the lore that voters have short memories when the Republican presidential nominee’s statements that he won’t be president for the 47 percent of people in the United States who are freeloaders. It’s been over two weeks, and a Washington Post-ABC poll shows that almost 60 percent of voters believe that Romney would favor the wealthy more than the middle class. Only 32 percent of voters had a favorable view of his comments as compared to 54 percent.

Alex Castellanos, adviser for Romney’s 2008 run for president, agreed  that the Romney campaign is right to be concerned about Romney’s problems. “The only thing in politics that is worse than voters deciding that they don’t like you is when voters decide you don’t like them,” he said.

Conservatives who have avoided watching the president speak will be forced to see him in action tomorrow night if they want to see their own candidate, and they may be surprised. In this morning’s piece on the debate, NRP played a tape of a woman who said, “Obama can’t speak without a teleprompter and he’s not smart enough to counter anything Mitt says.” These are the words of someone who has not heard President Obama speak.

One thing I, like most of other people in the country, am looking forward tomorrow night is if Romney comes up with any details. He’s been able to avoid anything but generalities and platitudes thus far because his only encounters have been with other platitudinous Republican candidates and the media who aren’t in a position to push him into information although they have been trying for the past few weeks.

An article from Reuters has described a few other areas in which people can see how the candidates fare. The first one is a no-brainer. With President Obama’s polling points rising, he needs to stay cool and avoid mistakes. Romney, on the other hand, has to take over, and aggression toward an incumbent president can be dangerous for candidates who want those elusive undecided voters.

People who remember The story of Richard Nixon’s shifty eyes over a half century ago know that, as a visual medium, television can undo a viable candidate. George H.W. Bush was thought to be bored when he looked at his watch during a 1992 debate with Bill Clinton, who became president, and Al Gore annoyed the audience by repeatedly sighing during a 2000 debate with George W. Bush. Body-language expert Janine Driver said that shoulder shrugs can indicate uncertainty and a wrinkled upper lip disgust while eye blinking, either too much or too little, can convey stress. Turning his body toward his opponent is a way for a candidate to demonstrate confidence.

The first 30 minutes of the debate sets the tone: candidates need to deliver their most important moves during this time while pundits are still trying to figure out how things are going. Gore adviser Ron Klain wrote, “While you can lose a debate at any time, you can only win it in the first 30 minutes.” That’s the time that candidates will probably try to get the other to justify what they say, especially if the candidates (mostly Romney) is fact-challenged.

Romney’s explanations of how his policies are different from those of George W. Bush will be most interesting because they aren’t. Yet he can’t say that he’s following these failed policies. “Until Governor Romney can show why his policies would be different from Bush’s policies, then we think it is highly unlikely that he can win,” Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a research note. The conservative National Review wrote that Romney should acknowledge that problems like the mounting national debt and the Byzantine tax code were in place long before Obama took office, but argue the current president has failed to fix them. This will be the most delicate balance: Romney can’t throw Bush under the bus, but rejection of his policies can anger his base.

The first debate will focus on the economy, but there are parts of the economy that won’t be mentioned tomorrow night. Nobody will point out that an immediate deficit reduction will eradicate any economic recovery. Part of our problem now with sluggish economic recovery is that government cut spending, laying off workers and cancelling orders for stuff that generates income in the private sector. The situation trickles down as more and more people lose their jobs. But neither candidate will mention this tomorrow because too many people refuse to believe the trickle-down poverty.

Another fact that people refuse to believe—and that won’t be mentioned—is that taxes are the lowest they have been for over a half century which keeps the country from investing in its infrastructure. People complain about the bumpy highways and dangerous bridges while, at the same time, refusing to invest in their maintenance. Nobody will mention tomorrow night that tax cuts were effective when taxes were over 70 percent. Now one of the candidate, a multi-millionaire, pays less than 14 percent in taxes. There’s not much more to cut. And forget about those “job creators.” People like Romney who pay a top of 15 percent for capital gains don’t hire anyone except maybe someone to mow is lawns.

In a discussion about Medicare, one candidate wants to have almost useless vouchers (at least today) and the other wants to pretty much maintain the status quo. But the answer is to eliminate the waste, a program that the Affordable Care Act will pilot. Saying this, however, is dangerous. Another solution to save money, that of controlling the astronomically high expenses for drugs, is also a subject that cannot be introduced.

Neither candidate can bring up the outrageous expenses of the U.S. military, more than double it was a decade ago. To get votes, candidates have to promise they will protect the Pentagon from any cuts, even though it takes 20 percent of the budget. As an example, the U.S. has eleven large nuclear-powered carriers while China has one that may not ever be functional. At the same time, conservatives want a twelfth.

While the military is seriously overfunded, the education system in the nation is at the opposite end of the spectrum, receiving about 2 percent of the federal budget. Students pay higher and higher tuition as they fall deeper and deeper into debt. Investment in education would pay off in the future, but in its attempt to destroy all unions in the country, conservatives concentrate more and more on bashing teachers and complaining about the schools while privatizing them and decreasing the budget. Reducing taxes and spending is “for the kids,” according to conservatives, but they aren’t willing to give them an education.

The best pre-debate piece comes from Eugene Robinson: It starts, “Wednesday’s presidential debate promises sharp contrasts. One candidate wants to repeal Obamacare, one candidate invented it. One opposed the auto industry bailout, one takes credit for it. One doubts the scientific consensus about climate change, one believes in it. One wants to “voucherize” Medicare, one wants to save it. One dismisses nearly half of Americans as a bunch of moochers, and one claims to champion the struggling middle class. It promises to be an epic clash: Mitt Romney vs. Mitt Romney. Oh, and President Obama will be there, too.”

Robinson continues to identify more opposing positions from Romney: pro-choice before he was anti-abortion; stricter gun control before he opposed it; tax cuts that will add revenue; moderate before he became ultra conservative and then swerved a little toward moderate again. The current joke about Romney is that he’s been memorizing and practicing zingers since August.

Correction: Jim Lehrer is moderating the first 2012 presidential debate today. Candy Crowley will be moderating the one on October 16.

CNN is sponsoring tomorrow’s presidential debate with Candy Crowley moderating. UltraViolet, a women’s rights group, is petitioning CNN to fire Erick Erickson and then boycott CNN for not firing Erickson after his consistently sexist remarks. The tipping point was his comparison of the Democratic National Convention to Eve Ensler’s feminist play The Vagina Monologues. His “apology” was typical: “My apologies to those offended by my tweet. Wasn’t my intention.” Nothing about recognizing that his words were inappropriate.

This wasn’t the first time that Erickson made shameful statements: he’s defended Rush Limbaugh for calling Sandra Fluke a “slut”; he accused women in the Obama Administration of pushing U.S. intervention in Libya “like women drivers” with “no plan,” “no map,”, and “no shopping list”; and he’s supported Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI) after his “legitimate rape” comments. UltraViolet is still circulating a petition.

Personally, I’m watching the debate on MSNBC; Rachel Maddow does a great job moderating panels about political events and includes both Republicans and Democrats for a truly balanced discussion.

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