Nel's New Day

August 11, 2018

DDT: Week 81 – On Vacation While Others Work

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:35 PM
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Congress is scattered across the nation on vacation, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is watching TV, playing golf, and having dinner with other wealthy people at his resort at Bedminster (NJ). Robert Mueller continues his investigation, and witnesses testify to damning information about Paul Manafort. For example, he offered the position of Army secretary to Federal Savings Bank CEO, Stephen Calk, in trying to get a personal loan from the bank. Long-time friend and colleague Rick Gates reported Manafort shifting money through his offshore accounts.

DDT has bragged about how much more money black people make in wages since he was inaugurated, but he didn’t celebrate Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on August 7, the day representing how long into 2018 a black woman must work to be paid the same wages white males were paid just last year. Black women workers get 66 cents for the dollar that white men make after controlling for education, years of experience, and geographic location.

If DDT had talked about wages for black women, he probably would have lied, just as he did when he bragged that the U.S. is overflowing with “prosperity” despite “exaggerated” claims of widespread poverty. After a U.N. report that 18 million people live in “extreme poverty” in the United States, made worse by DDT’s tax cuts for the wealthy, DDT ignored his own economic analysts in exchange for a report from the far-right Heritage Foundation. One DDT economic adviser recommended that DDT say nothing about poverty because the steady economic growth, “inherited” from President Obama, “will end prob[ably] in 1-2 years.”

People in Missouri understood the importance of fair wages when they struck down a “right-to-work” law earlier passed by the legislature. The 2-1 margin of success for workers came from both urban and rural counties.

Agreeing with Supreme Court justice nominee that the president is above the law and the constitution, AG Jeff Sessions plans to ignore a court ruling to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and completely repeal and rescind DACA on his own prerogative. Sessions called the repeal one of the “lawful directives of Congress”—although that legislative body has passed no law regarding DACA. The judge had said that the government has no justification to stop DACA.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) irritated both congressional GOP members and DDT during his visit to Russia. Once against Vladimir Putin’s takeover of Ukraine and Crimea, Paul is now a full-blown Russia supporter. During his recent trip, he took a letter to Putin, but opinions differ on its contents. Paul explained that the letter highlighted how the U.S. wants to work with Russia on “countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges.” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said that DDT provided only “a letter of introduction” because Paul had requested it. Before Paul came home, he invited Russian lawmakers to visit the U.S. Capitol, but GOP congressional leaders squashed the idea. Spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said:

“Neither Congress nor the leader have invited any delegation from Russia to the Capitol. Senator Paul is the only one that I know who is discussing it.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) followed that up with “That’s not something we’ve discussed.” Both McConnell and Ryan earlier said that Putin would not be welcome at the Capitol if DDT invited him to Washington.

Russia and DDT are also upset about the State Department’s new sanctions on Russia after the Kremlin’s poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter living in England. U.S. company are prevented from exporting items such as gas turbine engines, electronics, and integrated circuits without legitimate purposes, similar to President Obama’s ban on any exports to Russia that might have military purposes. DDT objected, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited a 1991 law that mandated the sanctions. Russia has 90 days to agree to stop all use of chemical weapons and permit inspections before Pompeo exerts further measures such as withdrawal of U.S. bank loans and support for international loans, landing rights for Russian airlines, and diplomatic relations. DDT already stalled for over a month regarding congressional deadlines for other sanctions.

Sanctions against Russia will decrease U.S. exports, adding to the stress caused by DDT’s tariffs. Grifter and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross claimed that “all this hysteria is a lot to do about nothing,” yet BMW told Ross that the tariffs could endanger 45,000 jobs in South Carolina. A ship with $20 million worth of soybeans has circled the waters off the coast of China since July 6 after it failed to beat the new tariff deadline by mere hours, placed in response to DDT’s tariffs. The ship’s $12,500 daily cost comes to over $450,000 by now, and the contents make up a small part of the $12.7 billion in soybeans sent from the U.S. to China last year. In Washington, 6,000 tons of copper are stuck at the port of Vancouver as the ship scheduled to pick it up left after China announced a 25-percent duty on the product. Estimates indicate almost one million jobs in the state could be at risk because of suppliers, port income, and wages.

The North Korea deal becomes more like fish that smells after three days. DDT never had any agreement with denuclearization, and Kim Jung-Un now insists that he will take no action until the U.S. ends the Korean War. Pompeo promises progress but won’t say what, and National Security Adviser John Bolton indicated no steps had been taken. The estimate of North Korean nuclear weapons is growing.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was secretly taped at a fundraiser for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) giving his plan for impeaching DOJ Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein immediately after the 2018 general election. Most Republicans said that they weren’t going to impeach Rosenstein, but Nunes tells this story to woo donors and voters. DDT may not like some of Nunes’ comments on the tapes such as “sometimes we cringe on the president’s tweets.” Nunes also called releasing stolen emails, like WikiLeaks did with DNC emails, “criminal.” Rodgers won the Washington election to pick the top two candidates by only one percent, warning a serious challenge in the general election.

DDT’s lawyers are running a TV campaign in opposition to Mueller’s investigation by smearing it, claiming that DDT will be forced to lie if he goes into court, and declaring questions that are off limits—such as why he fired James Comey (check with DDT’s interview with Lester Holt) and whether he obstructed justice (check DDT’s tweets). Rudy Giuliani’s craziness continues with his invented DOJ “60-day rule” preventing Mueller from DDT’s investigation in the two months preceding the election and announcing that Mueller must finish by September. DDT is not a candidate in November 2018, and the “60-day-rule” failed to apply to Hillary Clinton when Comey announced an investigation ten days before her election. “Fair and unbalanced” Sean Hannity, as he calls himself on “fair and unbalanced Fox,” turned his three-hour radio show over to DDT’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow on Friday.

Tomorrow represents the first anniversary of Unite the Right in Charlottesville (VA) with a march near the White House. This image represents what white supremacists are celebrating in front of the White House and what DDT refused to condemn.

DDT’s diversions of the week:

  • His calls to “suspend” protesting athletes without pay although he is not their employer.
  • Removal legal-resident status from those who use Medicaid and other social safety nets. (Fortunately for his in-laws, they just became U.S. citizens so they’re safe—unless he finds some dirt on them.)
  • A new space force, possibly to conduct space warfare. (Stephen Colbert asked if DDT plans to build a wall to keep “illegal aliens” from coming into the United States.)

The dozen Trumpiest members of Congress: Chris Collins (NY),  indicted for insider trading;  David Perdue (GA), cousin to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; Orrin Hatch (UT), retiring; Tom Cotton (AR), hawk aiming for Oval Office; Rand Paul (KY), sycophant flip-flopper; Mitch McConnell (KY) majority leader owned by DDT; Matt Gaetz (FL) deep state conspiracist/Alex Jones supporter; Devin Nunes (CA), DDT’s leaker from the House Intelligence Committee; Ron DeSantis (FL), Fox defender; Kevin McCarthy (CA), DDT’s “my Kevin” who sorts candy to give DDT only “reds and pinks”; Mark Meadows (NC), conservative Freedom Caucus leader trying to impeach deputy AG Rod Rosenstein; and Paul Ryan (WI), determined to “normalize” DDT.

Inflation rose 2.9 percent in the last year while wages gained only 2.7 percent. U.S. “real wage” fell to $10.76 an hour last month, 2 cents down from a year ago. To many of us, 2 cents is very little, but over a year, it amounts to $41.60—important to people who make under $23,000 a year. Gas prices increased 23 percent this year, and housing, health care and automobile insurance have all gone up. Now we wait for price increases from DDT’s tariffs. 

Donald Trump Jr. manufactured this visual lie when he Photoshopped “50” over DDT’s actual 40 percent approval rating. In his desperation, he failed to cover up the 40 percent. By now, Jr. removed his “fake news” from Instagram, but the internet never forgets!

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[A bit of humor….]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 7, 2015

Who Do Conservatives—and Fox Hate?

 

The Homeless (and Bill DeBlasio): A Bill O’Reilly segment used Jesse Watters to wander around Penn Station asking homeless people where they slept and whether they had drinking problems. After five minutes of this, he asked mostly white commuters about how scary homeless people are, going so far as to repeatedly asking a young child because she initially expressed some compassion for the homeless. Watters blames New York Mayor DeBlasio because, as O’Reilly and Watters agreed, the homeless knew their place under Giuliani and Bloomberg. 

Black People (ala Geraldo Rivera): After criticism of Kendrick Lamar and hip hop, Rivera concluded that black people’s clothing styles and art forms are responsible for racism and excessive police violence against blacks. Hoodies and sagging pants kill. Peter Johnson, legal analyst for Fox, called people who fight against racism “cultural cousins” of the Charleston killer. Hearing that the anti-racism group Disarm NYPD was to hold a rally against the Confederate flag on July 1, he agreed with Fox and Friends commentators that the rally could be a “precursor” to a terrorist attack and called them “the essence of anarchist values that seek to destroy the country.”

Immigrants: Following Donald Trump’s accusations that undocumented immigrants are largely rapists and other criminals, Megyn Kelly cited Ann Coulter’s “whole book right now that makes this point….  She cites data that does support the fact that some, obvious, immigrants who come across the borders do turn out to be criminals.” Rivera’s statement that “undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the citizen population of the United States” didn’t faze her.

Looking at Donald Trump’s amazing popularity in the polls, Rick Santorum decided to follow the presidential candidate in bashing immigrants. Sunday he told CBS John Dickerson, “People who are coming illegally obviously are coming with a bad intent. Let’s just be honest, they coming with the clear intent of breaking the law.” Trump has support from other GOP candidates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz (TX).

In Dublin (Ireland), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told an audience that immigration reform is on the top of his agenda. He told people in the United States the same thing two years ago but hasn’t made a move on the issue.

Hollywood “Elite”: Sen. Rand Paul is making a name for himself by railing against the $25,000 seed money that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Academy of Motion Pictures Films and Sciences a $25,000 grant to aid in the planning of exhibits for a privately funded $300 million museum in Los Angeles. The man who opposes raising the minimum wage, pay for women, and spending on infrastructure calls the $25,000 the “equivalent of the tax burdens of four Americans.” He also wants to give big oil money while taxing the poor with a regressive flat tax. I call the $25,000 the equivalent of 15 percent that the country gives a member of Congress to do nothing but block progress.

Workers: Objecting to President Obama’s proposal to extend overtime protections to 5 million workers, Ainsley Earhardt explained that this was a bad idea: “I was making 20-some-odd-thousand dollars with my first job as a reporter, and I always said yes to everything that they asked me to do.” Co-host Sandra Smith agreed because former McDonald CEO Ed Rensi told Fox that “these jobs are not careers.”At this time, only workers who make less than $23,660 are eligible for overtime pay. The new rules would extend those protections to workers making as much as $50,440 a year. 

Same-gender couples Who Marry: Crazy Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin state representative, claimed that legalized marriage equality is an offense to those killed in the Civil War, “a strong religious war to further a Christian lifestyle by getting rid of slavery.” According to Grothman, people who died in the Civil War would be “shocked” to learn that the recent Supreme Court ruling used the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. According to GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, marriage equality is “an attack on Christians and their religious liberty is a hate crime that must be prosecuted.” In Colorado, the hatred is pointed at “almost all people who want to marry” because the ballot initiative for a state constitutional amendment would allow the rejection of almost any marriage.

The Supreme Court: The solution to progressive rulings at the end of June is to have “retention elections” by the “American people,” according to GOP presidential candidate Sen.Ted Cruz (R-TX). He wants a majority by the U.S. population and majorities in at least half the states to agree that justices are fit for retention. He said, “Who in their right mind would design a system where every major public policy issue of the day is decided not by the people, not by the Constitution, not by the elected representatives, but by nine elite lawyers in Washington, D.C.?” He forgets that the Founding Fathers put that into the Constitution that conservatives claim to revere.

Everyone in the U.S. Who Uses Any Infrastructure: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) to terminate the gas tax that funds federal transportation projects and turn the responsibility of maintaining the interstates over to the states. Congress is trashing the country’s valuable infrastructure by refusing to increase the 18.4 cents per gallon put into effect 22 years ago. Just one example is the Arlington Memorial Bridge linking the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River where several bridge lanes were closed in May and the weight limit eliminated the use of thousands of tour buses.

Recently, eight more states—seven of them Republican—are increasing gas taxes to provide vital repairs to falling bridges and crumbling roads. Nebraska even overrode the governor’s veto. Eight years ago, the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis killed 13 people and injured another 145. The same problems are evident at thousands of other bridges. The man responsible for this devastation is Grover Norquist who has blackmailed almost all GOP candidates into signing a “no-tax” pledge through his Americans for Tax Reform.

Presidential campaigning affects the way that states look at the infrastructure problem. In an attempt to avoid being known as a “tax-and-spend” candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed $1.3 million in transportation bonds. GOP legislators are not happy about his idea, and Walker has pushed back his official candidacy announcement because of the ensuing battles.

Marijuana-Businesses-Donate-Big-Bucks-To-Clean-Up-Highways-In-Colorado

In Colorado, legalized marijuana is helping save the infrastructure. “Pot shops” are putting money into roads and highways, one of them as much as $100,000, beyond the 28-percent taxes that they pay. Republicans have had no comment thus far.

Human Rights Advocates: After the Human Rights Council of the UN condemned Israel for violating human rights of innocent Palestinians last summer, Cruz called for the U.S. to drop its membership in the council. The UN action was pretty tame, considering that Israel emulated the Nazis during World War II by officially calling for genocide against the Palestinians. Cruz has accused the UN of being anti-Semitic—but then he also thinks that UN is trying to close the golf courses in the United States.

People Who Use National Parks and Other Public Lands: The Koch brothers, through its executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), is calling for no more national parks. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Reed Watson said that the government doesn’t need to care for lands because “true conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have.” He calls for the end to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a budget-neutral program using funds from offshore oil and gas development fees for federal, state, and local outdoor projects across the country—such as ones at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. PERC’s goal is to sell off public lands to the highest bidder so that they can be used for mining, oil drilling, and cutting down trees.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), GOP presidential candidate, supports the Koch brothers plan to turn land back to states to use in any way that conservatives wish. Cliven Bundy, the man who succeeded in not paying the federal government for grazing by calling in renegade gun groups, met with Paul and said that they are “in tune with each other.”

And lots more hatred from conservatives later!

June 18, 2015

Victories Accompanied by Another Tragic Shooting

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 in Turkmen v. Ashcroft that George W. Bush officials can be sued for roundups and illegal detentions. Plaintiffs of Arab and Middle Eastern descent were held for three to eight months in New York for being “suspected terrorists” and claim that they were abused and profiled by guards and other authority figures. That decision was presented the day after 78 senators voted against torture. Twenty-one senators favor torture, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was out of town, presumably campaigning.

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sons of Confederate Veterans cannot force Texas to allow the Confederate flag on car license plates. The astonishing part of the ruling is the fifth justice who voted with the four liberal judges—Clarence Thomas. He also dissented with a majority in Virginia v. Black (2003), writing that cross-burning violates the First Amendment right to free speech because it “has almost invariably meant lawlessness and understandably instills in its victims well-grounded fear of physical violence.” Not all Southern states have the same concern about the state’s endorsement of racism: South Carolina still flies the Confederate flag on state capitol grounds and allows Confederate vanity license plates.

One person with South Carolina Confederate plates is the white man in a hoodie who went to a Bible study class last night in an historic Charleston (SC) church where he killed nine people with a gun he bought from the money that his father gave him for his 21st birthday. The killing was on the same date that Denmark Vesey, a former slave, was targeted for what white Charlestonians believed was a revolt. Vesey was captured on June 22 and executed on July 2.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the people, all Black, were murdered because they were Christians, and another presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, agreed with Graham. The Fox network and other conservative media are spreading the same word. To them, the location of killings in a church identifies the murder of a “war on Christians.” Fox & Friends also claimed that the deaths could have been prevented if the congregation had been armed, and they pulled in Virginia’s former lieutenant governor candidate to back them up. Known for calling the LGBT rights movement a “cancer” and President Obama as a “radical anti-American” and “anti-Christian,” E. W. Jackson urged “pastors and men in these churches to prepare to defend themselves,” and host Brian Kilmeade wondered if giving pastors a gun could help with “security.” Later in the show, Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed.

Once again Fox spreads the insanity. An analysis of 62 mass public shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones found no cases in which an ordinary civilian with a gun stopped an attack although some instances showed that a gun caused the death or injury of that person.

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told an audience of social conservatives:

“There’s a sickness in our country. There’s something terribly wrong. But it isn’t going to be fixed by your government. It’s people straying away, it’s people not understanding where salvation comes from. I think if we understand that, we’ll have better expectations of what to expect from government.”

Paul did not give any solutions about curing the “sickness.”

confederate flagThe day after this tragedy, flags at the South Carolina capitol are at half mast—except for the Confederate flag. Gov. Nikki Haley cried at the news conference about the killings but earlier said that she didn’t think that the Confederate flag presented an image problem. Today Haley’s press secretary said that only the General Assembly had the legal authority to do something about the flag. No one from that body has responded to any requests about it. South Carolina is one of five states without a state hate crime law and celebrated “Confederate Memorial Day” last month.

South Carolina has 19 known hate groups, including two Ku Klux Klans and four “white nationalist” organizations. Of course, they aren’t “terrorist groups” because they aren’t Muslims. Six neo-Confederate groups listed include two branches of the League of the South, which advocates for Southern secession and “the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture.” The Council of Conservative Citizens is opposed to racial integration and affirmative action “and similar measures to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people.” One of its key figures, Kyle Rogers, said, “I don’t see a legacy of oppression. Blacks have always benefited from being in the United States.” Other hate groups include three neo-Nazi cells, a chapter of the racist skinhead movement Confederate Hammerskins, a branch of black separatist organization Nation of Islam, an “anti-gay” church and an anti-immigration protest group called Americans Have Had Enough.

Graham and other conservatives have been spreading the fear about foreign terrorists and claiming that the U.S. needs to go to war in order to be safe. At the same time, these people ignore heavily armed, violent domestic terrorists, many of them supported by the law. How many of these groups exist in the country is unknown because the Department of Homeland Security stopped an investigation into homeland terrorism six years ago.

Daryl Johnson, a top government counterterrorism analyst, spent six years working at Homeland Security, collecting extensive data on far-right extremist groups posing threats to people in the United States. After the first election of President Obama, these groups went farther right, and Johnson reported that radical Islam is just a small portion of the terrorism groups within the nation. He noted that five totally domestic groups considered using weapons of mass destruction during his investigation, and the same warnings were expressed by the two principal non-government groups that track domestic terrorism: the New York-based Anti-Defamation League and the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Last year the SPLC listed 13 major incidents and arrests last year, almost double the annual number in previous years. In 2010, the number of hate groups topped 1,000 in 2010, for the first time in at least two decades.

After Johnson was forced out of his position, President Obama has received an unprecedented number of death threats, hate groups have gained ground, and white supremacist attacks are regularly occurring. In places such as Nevada’s Bundy ranch, terrorists successfully faced down the federal government. Congress holds hearings about Muslim extremism but says nothing about domestic terrorism. Their silence allows the extremist movement to grow as the common statement after tragedies such as the one at the South Carolina church is that the event shouldn’t be politicized and people need to have time to mourn before taking action. The only action that occurs after mass shootings at this time is an increasing laxness of gun laws.

The killer’s license plate had three Confederate flags, and the patches on his jacket were flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa with brutal segregation policies. He also shouted, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” That’s racism, not an attack on Christianity. And people with these beliefs aren’t going to change them just because Rand Paul thinks that it’s a good idea.

May 4, 2015

GOP Candidates Pander to Crazies, Bigots

Three GOP presidential candidates—one of them not yet declared—are pandering to conservative right-wingers with the typical nutty, ignorant statements. One of them is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who kept making awkward outreach motions toward minorities after he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of his strategies to set himself apart was opposing mass incarceration and the drug war while the GOP supports these. Last week, he may have lost any minority support, however, after he blamed what he described as “thuggery and thievery” in Baltimore last week on a “lack of fathers.” He laughed when he told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, “I came through the train on Baltimore (sic) last night, I’m glad the train didn’t stop.” According to Paul, root causes of these riots are “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society.”

william hilton paulPaul’s oldest son, William Hilton Paul, crashed his car into an unoccupied car while driving drunk, the third time that he had a problem with the law involving alcohol, the first two while he was underage. His first offence included an assault of a flight attendant on a US Airways flight. At the time of the recent car wreck, Paul’s 22-year-old son didn’t have automobile insurance.

Another GOP presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), is struggling with his attempts to woo the Hispanics.  He tried to make up for an absence last March at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with a recent speech before the organization to talk about the group’s important issues. First he told them that the president’s immigration policies to benefit families in the Hispanic community are scare tactics for the Hispanic community. Then he told them that Hispanics are conservative because Hispanics don’t panhandle and because they believe in family, country, and hard work.

Paul and Cruz have both decided to investigate Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claim that President Obama might be attacking his state. After the U.S. Special Operations troops launched a training program, Jade Helm 15, in seven southwestern states, Abbott called out the National Guard to protect the residents of Texas. The right-wing thinks that the U.S. is declaring martial law on these states, especially Texas, because the training exercises labeled the state as “hostile.” Adding to the conspiracy theories is that the rioting in Baltimore is a cover for the military to take over parts of the U.S.

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Conspiracy theories aren’t new to Cruz: he has long maintained that Islamic  Sharia law threatens the United States, ISIL operatives are coming into the country across the southern border, and a UN resolution was intended to abolish golf courses in the country. At the South Carolina GOP’s annual convention, Cruz said that “the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration.” Both Paul and Cruz have given credence to the crazy theories by demanding answers from the Pentagon about the covert actions.

Wal-Mart is in the midst of the conspiracy theories that include confiscating guns and building “secret underground tunnels.” Texans maintain that the government’s political prisoners will be put into abandoned Wal-Mart buildings. President Obama is planning to use Special Forces to impose martial law in Texas and will hold political prisoners in abandoned Wal-Mart buildings, according to a group of Texans. The president plans to transport them in train cars that already have been prepared with shackles, according to an anonymous letter supposedly from a Texas Ranger. Another theory is that the plumbing problems closing some Wal-Mart stories are actually a cover for building the secret tunnels to move supplies and people during a crisis. A website pondered whether these massive stores soon be used as “food distribution centers” to house invading Chinese forces who will be disarming Americans.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush revealed last week that Charles Murray, known for his book The Bell Curve, shapes Bush’s ideas. The book states that inequalities in the United States are explained by intelligence differences among racial groups. At Harvard, George told his classmates that “poor people are poor because they’re lazy.” Jeb told conservative National Review editor Rich Lowery that he “was waiting for the last chapter [of The Bell Curve] with the really cool solutions—didn’t quite get there.” Bush most likely agrees with his brother, George W., who told Harvard classmates that “people are poor because they’re lazy.”

Jeb Bush has a long history of creative money-making ventures. In a savings and loan fiasco 30 years ago, he and a partner, Armondo Condina, borrowed $4,565,000 to buy a Miami building. Repaying the loan was on the condition that the building’s revenues were sufficient to cover the repayment, and they made no payments for the next two years. The bank sued them, the S&L company went bankrupt, and the partners were allowed to keep the building for a payment of $500,000. The failure of the S&L company cost taxpayers $285 million.

Some of Jeb Bush’s hard-earned money came from his position on the board of InnoVida where he was paid $15,000 a month. Claudio Osorio, the CEO of the company that promised to use sturdy and lightweight building panels to revolutionize affordable housing, went to federal prison for fraud after Bush started collecting his stocks and cash for lending his name to the enterprise. Bush had to repay only half the $470,000 he collected as a consultant from late 2007 through the fall of 2010, and his settlement was unlike the others in the case because of a “nondisparagement” clause that limits what the bankruptcy trustee can say about the former governor.

Although Bush claimed that he had thoroughly vetted the company, the Miami attorney who represented NBA player Carlos Boozer and others after they lost $2.5 million invested in InnoVida, said thorough vetting would have revealed Osorio’s “questionable history” at his prior high-flying company, CHS Electronics. That company had to pay $11.75 million in a 2000 settlement.

Bush served five years as a director Swisher Hygiene when the Charlotte-based seller of sanitary supplies issued faulty earnings reports and as a consultant at Lehman Brothers while the investment bank headed toward a drastic 2008 bankruptcy contributing to the global financial crisis. He received $2.4 million of stock holdings from his board seat at Tenet Healthcare, assisted by profits from the Affordable Care Act. Other ventures included private equity and offshore investments in natural gas exploration and shipping. One fund was set up in the United Kingdom to shelter his investments from taxes.

These are the candidates that sneer at the working poor because they don’t have the advantages of the wealthy and entitled. Bush hasn’t yet officially declared himself a candidate because he’s still raising money for his super PAC, but he will definitely be a one; Paul and Cruz are already stumping the country for votes.

April 11, 2015

A Saturday Roundup

A few stories from the alternative press:

What do you do if you hold a protest and no one shows up? The Tea Party of Miami hires protesters—in this case a demonstration against restoring 46,000 acres used for sugar land back into the Everglades. The up to 40 actors pretending to be demonstrators got paid $75 per hour, five times what Tea Partiers refused to allow for a minimum wage. The job description:

“Details: Basically to stand behind fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided. Clothing is almost anything!! Use common sense and don’t wear ‘club’ outfits or gym clothes. Just wardrobe for a Political Rally…We will pay CASH of $75 at end of shoot.”

Not bad work if you can get it. The actors ended their gig by lighting fake money on fire in a barbeque.

Republicans commonly preen themselves as the party of Abraham Lincoln, but the conservative Washington Post disagrees. According to Harold Meyerson, the GOP is closer to the party of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, than Lincoln:

“After the [Civil War] ended, the South held on to a general animosity and hatred of African-Americans. No longer able to enslave them, southerners found other ways to oppress them.

“Indeed, today’s Republican Party support voter suppression efforts that are primarily aimed at minority voters to keep themselves in power. And with the backing of many corporations, the GOP has fought relentlessly to kill minimum wage laws and regulations that protect workers, while strangling labor unions that stand up for workers’ rights….

“Even today, one of America’s most fundamental problems is that the alliance between the current form of Southern labor and the current form of New York finance is with us still. The five states that have no minimum wage laws of their own are in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Southern-based corporations such as Wal-Mart are among the leading opponents of workers’ right to organize, and as Wal-Mart has expanded into the North and West, so have the “right-to-work” statutes of Southern states been enacted by Republican governments in the Midwest….

“Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”

Sounds like the Grand Old Party of Republicans to me.

What’s the easiest way to kill a bill that might help people? Declare it Sharia law, like the Republicans have done in Idaho. That’s how GOP legislatures voted down a child support collection bill to bring the state in line with federal child support enforcement rules by using the federal government’s system for tracking and enforcing child support payments. The bill failed in committee by 9-8 because two Republicans “feared the bill could force Idaho to enforce child-support rulings made under Islamic law or foreign tribunals.” One of the Republicans admitted that nothing in the law had any religious language that would make it Islamic but falsely claimed that both France and Belgium recognized Sharia law. Thanks to GOP idiocy, Idaho loses $46 million in federal child support aid and parents lose child support.

All the Republicans and too many Democrats in Congress are considering a war against Iran and again ignoring the U.S. public. Over half registered voters in the country want a nuclear deal with Iran with only 34 percent opposing the tentative deal that has been struck. The 65 percent of the country that wants no congressional action until the deal is finalized have a lot more sense than the legislators. Another survey from the Huffington Post shows that 57 percent versus 38 percent of participants agree with supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

Has hell frozen over? Or is this a joke? Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants Hillary Clinton as president because of her experience. He continues to heap more praise on her:

 “She was a good senator. She worked across the aisle. She kept her word. She became knowledgeable about a lot of issues while she was a senator. So she did that job well.”

Maybe he’s one Republican who’s tired of being in the party of Jefferson Davis.

What might make an anti-vaxxer change her mind? Tara and Gavin Hills (Kanata, Canada) reversed their opinion after their seven children ages ten years to ten months got sick—really sick. Tara had thought of whooping cough as an “historical oddity” until both her kids got the disease. Before vaccines were available, up to 10,000 people died in the United States of whooping cough every year. The number went down to 30 before recently starting to rise again. All seven of the Hills’ children are currently quarantined.

One reason you might not want to see a Time Warner merger with Comcast if you subscribe to Time Warner. A Comcast customer tried to cancel his cable after his house burned down, but Comcast refused for week. Someone might say that Comcast through the customer was just saying something crazy to get cable cancelled. Not true. In desperation, Jimmy Ware’s daughter finally said, “Your choice, disconnect the service or send someone out to fix the cable, because it’s not working.” She reported that the Comcast guy said, . “That doesn’t make sense because the house burned down.” Unfortunately, Time Warner’s scores on customer service are as bad as Comcast’s.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) plans to kick off his campaign for president by sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05. We’ll see how his first week goes.

U.S. Senator Paul speaks with Fox News Channel host Hannity during interview after he confirmed his candidacy for president in Louisville

I’ll finish with a Rand Paul story. [Photo by Reuters/John Sommers Ii] Because of his negative treatment of Kelly Evans and Samantha Guthrie, I wondered if he had problems with only women. Not so. In an interview for The Guardian, Paul Lewis asked him how he planned to appeal to both center and right-wing voters because Paul’s political positions change so frequently. The presidential candidate replied, “Your premise is incorrect. I’m sure I could walk into a white evangelical church in Iowa and give the exact same speech and get the exact same response.” Lewis brought up a Washington Post poll and asked Paul about the specifics. Paul walked out, and Lewis said:

“So we got our interview cut off. Maybe it was because I was about to push him on the specifics…all the lights are off in fact. We’re being told to go.”

In an attempt at damage control, the Paul campaign tweeted later that Paul didn’t “walk out” because the interview was over. Washington Post claimed that Paul didn’t “walk out” because he had agreed to just one more question and Lewis asked a second “last question.” Paul’s campaign team had agreed to an interview lasting between six and eight minutes; Paul ended the exchange after four minutes and 50 seconds. No matter which answer is right, Paul still fails to look “presidential.”

Note: The Rand Paul Flip-flops, for sale for $20, have been renamed the Rand Paul Sandals. No joke!

April 8, 2015

Rand Paul Has Rough First Day

paul shushRand Paul’s prickly condescending manner may not be successful for him as a presidential candidate. Less than 24 hours after yesterday’s desire to take up residency in the White House, he attacked NBC Today’s host, Savannah Guthrie. She asked him about his changes about Israel, Iran, and the defense budget, but he interrupted her and said, “Why don’t you let me explain instead of talking over me, OK?” He then told her that she should ask him, “Have I changed my opinion? That would sort of be a better way to approach an interview.” She politely asked him, “Is Iran still a threat?” Paul responded, “No, no, no, no, no, listen, you’re editorializing.” Paul saves “editorializing” for himself—as in yesterday’s announcement speech.

Joan Walsh described Paul’s “mansplaining”:

“What a steaming load of entitlement. Paul interrupts an interviewer, then blames her for talking over him and lectures her on “a better way to approach an interview.” When she accepts his premise, and asks the question the way he suggests she should ask it, he won’t accept it, and berates her yet again.”

The conservative Washington Post gave an extensive fact-check for Paul’s claims in yesterday’s announcement speech:

Paul: “Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration. And it’s now tripling under Barack Obama’s watch. President Obama is on course to add more debt than all of the previous presidents combined.”

Fact: Every president inherits debt from the previous president, guaranteeing that the debt will grow. Raw numbers aren’t useful; percentage changes must be used to evaluate differences. The debt under Ronald Reagan (who Paul cited in his speech) increased 190 percent, compared to President Obama’s 108 percent—and Reagan was allowed to raise taxes 11 times. As for big government under President Obama, the federal government under the current president employs the fewest people since 1966. George W. Bush added 800,000 federal employees; President Obama reduced the number of federal employees by 700,000.

Paul: “We borrow a million dollars a minute. This vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy, but our security.”

Fact: This figure is more than half the size of the deficit in the Great Recession when the country was borrowing more than $2 million a minute.

Paul: “Congress will never balance the budget unless you force them to do so. Congress has an abysmal record with balancing anything. Our only recourse is to force Congress to balance the budget with a constitutional amendment.”

Fact: The budget was balanced and ran a surplus during four fiscal years in the Bill Clinton administration and the first year of the George W. Bush administration.

Paul: “Warrantless searches of Americans’ phones and computer records are un-American and a threat to our civil liberties. I say that your phone records are yours. I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business. … The president created this vast dragnet by executive order. And as president on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance.”

Fact: “The president” in Paul’s speech is George W. Bush, who launched the program in secrecy after 9/11 with an “executive order.” The Obama administration increased internal oversight to Bush’s program.

Paul: “We must realize, though, that we do not project strength by borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.”

Fact: China is a biggest single holder of Treasury debt, owning $1.252 trillion as of October 2014, but that amounts to less than 10 percent of all U.S. debt held by the public.

Paul: “Let’s quit building bridges in foreign countries and use that money to build some bridges here at home. It angers me to see mobs burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America’ in countries that receive millions of dollars in our foreign aid.”

Fact: Foreign aid composes about one percent of the federal budget, and almost none of it goes for bridges. Much of it is military, especially our greatest recipient, Israel, and all countries receiving foreign aid, except Israel, must buy U.S. products, making U.S. workers the winners and helping U.S. taxpayers.

Paul needs to lie about President Obama because the president is having a great year. Here are some numbers—already Fact-Checked—that show this:

  • The economy has added 7.2 million jobs, and the unemployment rate, 5.5 percent, is lower than the historical median of 5.6 percent in 1948.
  • The number of job openings is up to its highest point in 14 years, and the number of long-term jobless has now dropped below where it was when President Obama took office.
  • The number of businesses opening, 220,000 for the third quarter of 2014, grew at 18 percent, and the number of businesses shutting down has decreased 18 percent.
  • Real weekly earnings are up 3 percent although the number of people on food stamps stays high.
  • Sixteen million people have gained health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the percentage of uninsured from 14.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 percent.
  • The U.S. increased its domestic crude oil production last year by more than it has in over 100 years and cut its reliance on imported by more than half during President Obama’s administration. The country now relies less on imported oil than it has since the Nixon administration.
  • The U.S. generated nearly 22 times more electricity from solar power in the most recent 12 months than it did in the year before Obama took office; the price of an installed photovoltaic panel has dropped by 63 percent since the end of 2010.
  • U.S. exports went up 39 percent in 5 years.
  • Corporate profits are up 174 percent since President Obama took office in 2009; the highest profits ever recorded for big corporations were in the third quarter of 2014.

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The Washington Post listed other problems that Rand Paul had during his first 24 hours following his announcement speech:

After attacking Today’s Guthrie, he admitted to the New York Times that he should show reporters that they upset him.

He refused to give any exceptions such as rape, incest, and the life of the mother in making abortions illegal. Asked again about his position, he said he would answer the question when the Democratic National Committee gave its position. Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

“Here’s an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul.  … And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ’shushing’ me [referring to Paul’s attempt to shut up CNBC anchor Kelly Evans].”

No answer from Paul other than he criticized people for getting “tied-up in details” and said he would “keep an open mind” about Iran. In short, no comment.

A case from Ron Paul’s campaign in Iowa may come back to bite his son’s presidential run. One week before the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, Dimitri Kesari, Ron Paul’s deputy campaign manager, gave a check for $25,000 to Kent Sorenson, an influential state senator. Two days later Sorenson defected from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. A Mother Jones article gives the details of this event and its aftermath. State and federal investigations led to information about the central figures in the Paul family’s political machine, many of them from the leading anti-union group, National Right to Work Committee. The problem may seem to belong to Ron Paul, but his son may suffer from his involvement with the situation and the people. Early in his senate career, Rand Paul cosponsored the National Right-to-Work Act, removing union rights from the entire United States, paying back John Tate, a former NRTWC vice president, who played a “crucial role” in Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign.

By now Sorenson is singing like a canary, including his getting $73,000 from the Ron Paul campaign and more money from Bachmann’s campaign before he defected. Less than two months ago, a Justice Department lawyer asked for a delay in sentencing Sorenson because of their progress on a “larger investigation” into the scandal. Rand Paul defended Jesse Benton, implicated in the Sorenson affair, after his resignation as Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) 2014 campaign manager as an “honest” political operative who would be “welcome” on his 2016 team.

As a senator, Rand Paul might rise above all the problems that he has created. As a presidential candidate, not so much.

April 7, 2015

Which Rand Paul Is Running for President?

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 7:14 PM
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With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) the first out of the gate to run for GOP president, the field has expanded to two with another senator, Rand Paul from Kentucky. Sounding like a weak imitation of Cruz, Paul began his launch with the statement, “We have come to take our country back!” Exactly how, no one knows because he has a history of flip-flopping, mostly about his libertarian beliefs. Since he appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show during his senatorial candidacy, he changed his opposition to the Civil Rights Act that requires businesses to accept everyone except LGBT people. Within two years, he declared that he had never said such a thing!

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland

According to their platform, libertarians are socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Elizabeth Parker writes that Rand Paul wants a government so small that “it will fit in a woman’s uterus.” When he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he fit better into this category. Lust for the presidency has turned him “fuzzy” about his beliefs in order to satisfy every camp in the Republican party.

Abortion: Paul is so opposed to pro-choice rights that he sponsored The Life at Conception Act, promoting personhood so radical that it states “human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.” He talked about his bill at length in a fundraising video for the National Pro-Life Alliance and received a perfect rating from the National Right to Life Counsel. Planned Parenthood gave him a zero.

Marriage Equality: Paul finds same-sex marriage to be “offensive” and warned the GOP against shifting its position on this issue. He warned that any deviation from “traditional” marriage might lead to people marrying animals. Even anti-gay activist Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) found Paul’s joke about President Obama’s decision to support marriage to be out of bounds when Paul said, “Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer.” RNC Chair Reince Priebus refused to defend Paul and said, “I don’t know what he meant by that.” When Paul wants marriage equality left to the states, he thinks it’s the best way to eliminate same-sex marriage out of most states. Paul received a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council.

Defense Spending: Paul wants a huge increase in military spending—16 percent–after supporting cuts earlier in his federal career. Time called Paul’s switch a “stunning reversal.”

Military Force: Paul told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February that his priority would be “a national defense unparalleled, undefeated and unencumbered by nation-building.” He was one of the 47 GOP senators sending an open letter to Iran’s leaders, telling them that any nuclear deal would not be binding past the end of the Obama presidency if it were not agreed to by Congress. He described Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as “an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism,” Paul tweeted.

Drones: Paul wants drones used everywhere except for “a targeted killing ordered against a U.S. citizen on American soil” without a warrant. Targeted killings overseas and drones used as border security are fine with him.

Foreign Aid: Although proposing an end to all foreign aid, including to Israel, Paul now claims that he never tried to end any aid to Israel.

Voting Rights: Rand told the conservative Newsmax that he opposes the Voting Rights Act to replace voting rights after the Supreme Court gutted the 50-year-old law. That was before he told the Urban League that he supports the Voting Rights Act. After telling a group of black pastors that the GOP should stop their restrictive voter ID laws, he told Sean Hannity that the voter ID laws are fine with him but regrets their negative attention. 

Marijuana: Rand thinks that marijuana should not be legalized because smoking marijuana is “a bad thing to do” but advocates reduced penalties for drug use and possession. The libertarian magazine, Reason, didn’t approve: “He wants to keep everything illegal, but institute gentler penalties. That’s not remotely libertarian.”

Free Speech: Paul suggested that people should be put into prison for listening to “radical political speeches.” He told Sean Hannity that he opposed some racial profiling but supported the profiling, deportation, and even imprisonment of people if the government determined they were listening to “radical political speeches.”

NSA: Paul claimed he opposes the domestic surveillance apparatus and the PATRIOT Act but voted against a NSA reform act because he claimed that the bill didn’t go far enough. Again, libertarians criticized Paul’s lack of their support.

Inequality Protecting the Wealthy: Rand’s flat tax plan would give a huge tax break to the rich, and conservatives agree that it would raise taxes on the poor. His tax reform plan also cuts more taxes for the rich by repealing the estate tax and the capital gains tax.

Federal Reserve: Paul’s new bill to audit the auditors of the Federal Reserve would create another secret layer of government. Paul’s audit would be issued in secret to some congressional members with no open documentation. It also doesn’t designate what would be audited, leaving the opportunity to scrutinize the auditors’ personal lives, and orders the comptroller to break international treaties by striking a provision of code which is required to keep the Federal Reserve in compliance for discussions with members of Congress and foreign ambassadors. The bill would replace the section authorizing current audits of Federal Reserve Credit Facilities, meaning that no audits would be available for public review and allowing Congress to directly manipulate the monetary markets. Congress can authorize loans to various private interest groups without a full accounting in the public domain.  At this time, an independent, outside firm audits the Federal Reserve.

“Religious Liberty”: Although he stayed silent in the recent Indiana law about allowing discrimination, he told a group of pastors at a private breakfast that “the First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn’t say keep religion out of government.”  Of course, he’s wrong because the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government’s favoring one religion over another or giving preferential treatment to either religion or non-religion. The pastors, however, were happy.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of the libertarian magazine Reason, said about Paul:

“To the extent he sounds more like every conservative Republican, he sounds less interesting to libertarians. I don’t see what he picks up by being a version of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.”

Rand Paul comes to the candidacy with a lot of negative baggage. When CNBC host Kelly Evans challenged Paul’s claim that vaccines can cause mental disorders in children, Paul’s friend and former professional associate Alex Jones attacked Evans:

“You realize you’re signing on to a system of murder, you little piece of trash, tramp, filth, scum woman. You arrogant piece of garbage! I’m sick of all you people up there lecturing us. She’s the type of woman that wants Super Bowl ads to say, ‘Sorry you had a boy.’ All a bunch of pinhead cult members.”

Paul wasn’t much better in his interview with Evans. When she asked him for specifics about a bill granting companies a “holiday corporate tax rate” to bring assets back to the United States, he said, “Hey, hey, Kelly? Calm down a bit here, Kelly.” Then he shushed her.

paul shushFor this past Valentine’s Day, Paul, or someone in his office, set of a fake Hillary Clinton Pinterest that attempted to show she was only interested in how the White House was furnished with suggestions of how to make the Oval Office more “chic.” Another image showed Clinton surrounded by hearts and saying, “I’m Benghazing at you.” The month before, he tweeted a satirical “secret phone call” between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, lampooning the relationships between their two clans. In December he ridiculed Rick Santorum’s sweater vests.

These are just his recent peccadilloes.  In the past, he led the 2013 government shutdown that cost the U.S. $24 billion. He opposes giving unwed women any aid in getting birth control but wants to cut off their benefits if they have more children. He opposes self-government by voting against measures passed by Washington, D.C. regarding guns, abortion, and unions. He said, “We don’t have [authority] over the states but we do for DC.”

Caught plagiarizing his speeches and books, Paul accused critics of being “haters.” He couldn’t even stream his campaign announcement because he failed to get copyright permission for the music, John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”: YouTube blocked the video of Paul’s speech.

As a libertarian, Rand Paul is a fraud as he castigates the establishment GOP as he becomes a part of it. As a president, he would be a disaster.

February 13, 2015

How Conservative Legislators Think

A circuit of the media shows these gems from state and federal GOP legislators.

Tom Corbin, a state senator from South Carolina, gets his sexist attitude from his reading of the Bible. In front of several witnesses, he told the only woman in the state senate:

“Well, you know God created man first. Then he took the rib out of man to make woman.  And you know, a rib is a lesser cut of meat.”

It’s not his first offensive comment to her. He also claimed that women don’t belong in the Senate because they should be “at home baking cookies” or “barefoot and pregnant.” Corbin told the woman that “I see it only took me two years to get you wearing shoes.” Among his other issues, Corbin has fought legislation to keep domestic abusers from having guns.

South Carolina is an “interesting” place. According to an investigation, almost 400 inmates in South Carolina have been put into solitary confinement for using social media websites because the state Department of Corrections equates this action to murdering or raping a fellow inmate. With access to Facebook a Level 1 violation, prisoners can get more of these offenses than if the “inmate caused a riot, took three hostages, murdered them, stole their clothes, and then escaped,” according to the report. The SCDC has so many inmates in solitary confinement that the prisons run out of space. Tyheem Henry is an example of this policy: last October he was assigned to solitary confinement for 37.5 years and had his telephone, visitation, and canteen privileges removed for 74 years for 38 posts on Facebook. And he’s not alone.

The GOP is still struggling with issues surrounding rape. In explaining why raped women should not be able to get abortions, West Virginia Del. Brian Kurcaba said, “What is beautiful is the child that could come from this.” In Utah, State Rep. Brian Greene claimed that having sex with an unconscious partner shouldn’t be illegal, at least if it’s with a wife or long-time girlfriend.

“We can’t be for the rule of law at our own convenience,” according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Now, however, the senator is asking Republicans for help to avoid a “costly and time-consuming legal challenge.” He wants them the Kentucky GOP to create a presidential caucus in 2016 before the May primary so that he can personally get around a state law that keeps him from simultaneously running for two federal offices. To run for both the senate and the president’s office, Paul needs the law changed, and the state legislature has refused. The 54 members of the state GOP executive committee meets on March 7. That’s when Paul will find out if they will make the law more “convenient” for him.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/gop-opposition-net-neutrality-takes-farcical-turn?cid=eml_mra_20150210    The departure of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as Oversight Committee Chairman was supposed to bring back sanity, but the new chair of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), claims that the White House unduly influenced Tom Wheeler, director of the Federal Communications Commission, by bringing in outside groups. According to Chaffetz, the White House is not allowed to lobby FCC commissioners.

Even more bizarre is a video from the new organization Protect Internet Freedom. The porn parody falsely claims that net neutrality will monitor online activities and slow downloads. Behind the organization—and video—is Jordan Gehrke, senior adviser to freshman Tea Partier Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), which makes the organization and video directly connected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

All the GOP members of Congress are in crisis this week. After Republicans passed an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security with five amendments overturning the president’s immigration executive actions, they thought that Senate Democrats would give up and vote for their measure. It hasn’t worked that way. Tables have turned in that chamber, and Democrats are now demanding 60 votes for passage of bills that they don’t like.

The only solution for the Republicans is the so-called “nuclear option,” changing the rules of the Senate to do away with the 60-vote filibuster. Last year when Democrats declared that presidential nominations, except for Supreme Court justices, were exempt from the filibuster, Republicans were outraged. This year conservatives in the House want it done.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) reminded everyone that the filibuster “is not in the Constitution.” That’s true, but it’s in the Senate because the Republicans wanted it. After loving the filibuster in the past, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has criticized them as “undemocratic” and “senseless.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said:

“Senator McConnell has engaged in a half-hearted effort to date. McConnell has engaged in a policy of surrender without fighting. I’m not going to vote to fund unconstitutional conduct by Barack Obama. Period. End of subject.”

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID) is demanding a change to the rules because he thinks the nation is facing a “constitutional crisis.” The so-called “crisis” has been the same for almost half a decade while Republicans blocked almost every bill that the Democrats tried to put on the Senate floor. During that time, Republicans loved the filibuster because it guaranteed gridlock and stopped much of President Obama’s agenda.

Nobody in the Senate is making noises about changing the filibuster rules. In fact, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a former representative, said the change could backfire for the GOP. “The Senate should have a protection for the minority. Both parties will be in the minority at different points. We need to be able to protect the rights of the minority,” he said.

With the House refusing to send a “clean” bill without amendments to the president for extending Homeland Security funding, Senate Republicans are worried about a government shutdown—again. Because they’ll be blamed–again. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said:

“It’s not livable. It’s not acceptable. When you’re in the majority, you have to govern. You have to govern responsibly. And shutdowns are not responsible.”

One possibility is a short-term funding, but Senate Republicans know that this action shows that they can’t govern. The deadline for this funding is February 27, followed at the end of March with the deadline to stop steep cuts for Medicare providers. Transportation expires in May, and parts of the Patriot Act disappear in June without further legislation. Then there’s the budget this spring and appropriation bills for each arm of the government. All this capped off by the debt ceiling debates in late summer or fall.

Even Rupert Murdoch’s conservative Wall Street Journal criticized House GOP members and wrote that they are in a “box canyon” of their own making. The editorial continues:

“Restrictionists like Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions are offering their familiar advice to fight harder and hold firm against ‘executive amnesty,’ but as usual their strategy for victory is nowhere to be found. So Republicans are now heading toward the same cul de sac that they did on the ObamaCare government shutdown…”

“It’s not too soon to say that the fate of the GOP majority is on the line.  Precious weeks are wasting, and the combination of weak House leadership and a rump minority unwilling to compromise is playing into Democratic hands. This is no way to run a Congressional majority, and the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich advised the Republicans to use the upcoming recess to get approval for their actions from people back home. That will be difficult because they’ll have to justify the deportation of law-abiding children and young people who came to the United States through no volition of their own. Even some Republican legislators oppose this action.

All this after one month of GOP leadership in the Congress, and they’re leaving town next week for the first of many recesses.

February 2, 2015

President Releases Budget, Opposes GOP in Mandatory Vaccinations

Have you heard all that squealing coming out of Washington, D.C. today? It’s not Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) castrating pigs with the new tool that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) gave her. No, it’s the release of President Obama’s 2016 budget, the book of how to get money and where to spend it.

In brief, he wants more spending, tax breaks for the middle class and poor workers, and higher taxes on the wealthy and large banks. The entire process is symbolic because Congress passes the budget, and this year’s Congress is GOP-controlled. Therefore, Congress will largely ignore anything that the president recommends. The budget, however, is a distinct document about the values of political parties and individuals, and the president has set up the debate for these issues.

  • Expand the child care tax credit by up to $3,000 per child;
  • Establish a $2.2 billion grant program to encourage states to create paid sick and family leave programs;
  • Begin a four-year program to improve roads, bridges and railways nationwide;
  • Help pay for preschool for 4-year-olds from poor and middle-income families;
  • Expand and extend tax credits for parents paying for child care, college students paying tuition, and low-wage childless workers;
  • Increase the Pentagon’s budget by $38 billion;
  • The president’s budget wishlist:
  • Increase the pay of military and federal employees by 1.3 percent;
  • Extend unemployment insurance;
  • Provide $215 million for research known as “precision medicine,” which involves using patients’ genetic information to tailor medications specifically to their bodies;
  • Set up a dedicated fund for fighting wildfires.

Declining debt: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) accuses the president of being “fiscally irresponsible,” but according to the White House, the budget will begin to pay down the national debt while not increasing the debt. Officials say that the plan gives a $474 billion deficit, 2.5 percent of the GDP, down from $583 billion and matching the deficits of the past 50 years. The recent increase in the deficit came from tax funding because of decreased income. With cuts in federal spending and increased taxes, the deficit has declined. A growth in economy during the next decade with the president’s proposals will cause the debt to decline to represent 73.3 percent of GDP in ten years, down from the current 75 percent.

Funding sources: The president has always wanted limits on tax breaks that help the top two percent of the wealthy to keep the deficit in line. This proposal reduces the deficit by $1.8 trillion through spending cuts and tax increases, possibly one on tobacco to pay for early childhood education.

Other possible proposals:

  • Raising the capital gains tax, paid by investors when they sell at a profit.
  • Imposing a new tax on inheritances.
  • Cutting corporate tax rate to 28 percent while taxing overseas profits at 14 percent when companies bring them back to the United States.
  • Levying a tax on large banks to compensate for the advantage they gain in the market from being seen as “too big to fail.”

Affect of new taxes: Families with children would benefit from the credit for child care, but the increase in the capital gains tax and the tax on banks could mean higher prices or lower wages.

GOP response: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that his party will not separate corporate tax reform from an overhaul of the individual tax code. They want to raise funding for the military but no one else.

The next step: The GOP will have to put together its own budget, hoping to keep both voters and the wealthy contributors to their campaigns happy. Right now, they’re worried about passing a bill that funds Homeland Security before February 28 of this year.

The budget fails to follow the sequestration that imposed automatic spending cuts, but the austerity of the past several years may be loosened because the GOP are going to want some of the same things that the president does. For example, the highway trust fund is empty by June: people in both parties understand that the U.S. infrastructure is rapidly crumbling, making this area a priority.

President Obama’s budget plan would end the strict spending caps on domestic and defense programs by raising military spending by $38 billion over the capped level and nondefense spending by $37 billion. Social Security spending would rise from $891 billion this year to $1.6 trillion in 2025, and Medicare would climb from $529 billion to over $1 trillion. These programs would increase from 13.2 percent of the economy this year to 14.8 percent in a decade, while domestic and defense programs under Congress’s discretion would shrink to 4.5 percent of the economy in 2025, from the current 6.4 percent. Tax increases on the wealthy, big banks, and fees of hedge fund and private equity managers would raise almost $1 trillion in the same time. If the House passed the former Senate bill on immigration, the deficit could shrink by $158 billion.

The GOP may not want to give a one-time corporate tax rate on overseas profits brought back into the country to be used for infrastructure construction, but it’s an idea put forward by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who also wants to be president. Tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are some of the corporations that keep most of their cash abroad to avoid paying U.S. taxes. After the initial 14 percent tax to bring the money home, companies would have to pay at least 19 percent on future offshore earnings with no loopholes or opportunities for deferral. Companies have at least $2 trillion overseas.

The president’s goal for transportation and infrastructure of $478 billion is more than one-third above the current spending rate and a 75 percent increase for mass transit. Half of that money would come from the current taxes on gasoline and other fuels. Another $238 billion would come from the one-time surge of taxes as corporations are forced to pay 14 percent on profits now parked abroad.

The proposal of a major expansion of the earned income credit for low-income workers without children is also backed by Ryan.

The talk about vaccinations overshadowed the discussion of the president’s budget on the media today. President Obama came out yesterday and said that he thought that vaccinations were vital. With an outbreak currently at 102 cases in 14 states possibly because children were infected at Disneyland, the spread across the nation is becoming more dangerous. The 644 cases last year in the U.S. was the most since the early 1990s. About two of every 1,000 people with measles will die; others suffer hearing loss, pneumonia, and brain swelling.

Two potential presidential candidates said today that vaccinations should be optional rather than mandated. Trying to look presidential while touring a vaccine laboratory in Cambridge, England, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who forcibly isolated healthy Kaci Hickox because of her proximity to Ebola victims, asked for “some measure of choice” regarding vaccinations against measles and other diseases in children. He was followed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who said that move vaccines should be voluntary because children end up “with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” Paul added, “The state doesn’t own your children.”

Public outcry caused Christie to back-pedal; an aide said that he believes vaccines are “an important public health protection.” On the other hand, Paul doubled down on his claim that vaccinations should all be “voluntary.” He has an anti-vaccine history with his past membership in Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group of pro-life doctors who believe that abortion increases the chance of breast cancer in women, consider Medicare to be “evil” and “immoral,” question the link between HIV and AIDS, and protest vaccinations for health workers.

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