Nel's New Day

July 20, 2017

Voter Suppression Goes National

A distraction from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) yesterday was his threats to the DOJ top personnel and the special investigator in charge of tracking Russian collusion with DDT and his associates. Today’s shocker was the revelation that he’s checking into the possibility of using his “presidential pardon” for his staff, his family, and himself. A vital issue for democracy in the United states, however, is his new voting commission which met in public for the first time yesterday.

An obsession with big numbers led DDT to claim that the Hillary Clinton would not have bested him by almost three million votes if the nation didn’t have three to five million illegal votes cast in the election. In his fits of pique, he supports the Republicans who use voter suppression to win elections, state by state, through draconian laws and voter registration purging. Several days ago, the commission riled up secretaries of state across the country by demanding voter roles, including birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and individual voting records.

Across the nation, those requested to send information have primarily said that they would provide the same information that they would to any request for public information. After one lawsuit, the commission must stop collecting voter information until a court makes a ruling. Another suit addressed privacy concerns, especially because the storage computer lacks security.

Amazed at the backlash to the commission, DDT had an official rollout with its chair, VP Mike Pence, and its mastermind and vice chair, Kris Kobach, presenting its goals in what has been called its first meeting. The real first meeting was done just among the members in private. Kobach is known for creating and disseminating the most unreasonable voter ID laws in the country as well as purging voter registration lists in Kansas where he is secretary of state. In the past, Kobach has been one of the strongest defenders of states’ rights.

One stated reason from the commission is to study voter fraud. It has been studied ad infinitum since states started passing laws to prevent minorities, women, and low-income people from casting votes. Women are easily disenfranchised if they have married because names on current identification don’t match the birth certificate. They are also a larger percentage of the elderly who sometimes have no birth certificates. One comprehensive study of every federal election between 2000 and 2014 found 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of over one billion votes cast. Only four cases of voter fraud were identified in the 135 million votes cast last November.

Wisconsin was one of 14 states last year implementing new voting restrictions for the first time. Voter turnout fell in that state to a 20-year low, especially among poor and black residents. According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin.  An analysis of states with and without strict voter ID laws, the number of voters, primarily black and poor, was suppressed in all the states that passed restrictive laws.  This comparison showed that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes. Voter suppression has been confirmed by other studies.

Like officials in 31 other states, Kobach uses Crosscheck to purge voters from registration lists and hopes to use the program with all 50 states. The program is known for huge numbers of false positives, but these people are disenfranchised. The ACLU has sued Kobach four times for voter suppression; he lost all four cases. With great investigative zeal, he found only nine cases of fraudulent voting out of 1.8 million votes. In describing registration and voting by noncitizens as “pervasive,” Kobach could find only one of these cases in Kansas. Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in Kansas has blocked one of seven Kansans since 2013.

Pro-commission people constantly use the term “voter fraud” for registrations for one person in multiple states and for deceased people.  Yet registering in multiple states is legal; it is the act of voting in more than one state that is a felony. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and adviser with high-level security clearance, is registered in more than one state. The same is true for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. And probably many of DDT’s officials. Gregg Phillips, creator of the app VoteStand to help people report potential voter fraud, is registered in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. DDT called Phillips a guru on voter fraud. One study shows 2.75 million people registered to vote in multiple states, usually because of recent moves. In just Clark County (NV), over 150,000 of the county’s 700,000 active registered voters within one year.

The commission claims to be “bipartisan,” but it is run by two seriously partisan Republicans and packed with strong supporters of the voter fraud myth. Another member is Ohio’s former secretary of state Ken Blackwell who ordered county clerks not to accept voter registration on anything less than paper the thickness of a postcard. He also accidentally distributed voter lists with full Social Security numbers for the state’s voters.

House Republicans seem unconcerned about voter fraud. They are attempting to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the only federal agency that exclusively works to make the voting process secure. The move comes after the EAC worked with the FBI to investigate Russian hacking. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also fired its cyberattack expert.

For over a decade, computer experts have issued warnings about the vulnerability of equipment used for voting, especially the direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines. At least five states lack any paper trail for votes, and another 24 use a mixture. Thus only 21 states in the nation have a system for verifying votes. After the Bush/Gore debacle in 2000 when punch cards were unreadable, the Help America Vote Act provided states with $3 billion in 2002 to purchase modern equipment. Most of the states used the money for DRE machines that provided to paper trail.  Russian hackers tried to access election computers in at least 21 states last year, and that may be a conservative estimate.

About states’ reaction to submitting personal information about voters, DDT delivered a line that should have brought laughs: “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the Vice President, I asked the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.”

Yes, DDT, if you are hiding your tax returns, your visitor logs, your conversations with an adversarial country, your—it goes on and on—you must have something to hide.

Courts have determined that voter suppression laws, including but far beyond voter IDs, are “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” GOP legislators admit that the purpose of these laws is to reduce the number of Democrats at the polls. But DDT’s new commission claims that it is “fighting voter fraud” and “protecting election integrity.” The commission ignores the fact that ten percent of people eligible to vote lack the identification to satisfy these new GOP laws. DMVs necessary to obtain IDs and early-voting places close in non-white, non-rich, and non-GOP neighborhoods. Commission members claim that no one ever complains about their disenfranchisement. They do, but they have no effect on the process outside the courts.

Republicans need the new voting commission to stay in power. They will divert attention from the democracy of paper trails for computer voting, enfranchising all eligible voters, early voting, and simplified voter registration. Republicans hate mail-in voting popular in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington because voting is made easier. They hate the automatic voter registration because any eligible voter can easily access the process. They hate a paper trail because the votes can be recounted. The sole goal of most GOP legislators is to keep their party in power at any cost to democracy. The United States doesn’t suffer from voter fraud–it suffers from GOP fraud.

July 9, 2017

DDT’s European Trip Isolates U.S.

After embarrassing the United States for four days in Europe, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is home again. He had so many disasters that pundits referred  to the G-20 Summit as the “G-19 plus one.”

  • One major problem was DDT’s lack of hotel reservations for the grand event. He and Melania were forced to stay at the city of Hamburg’s Senate guest house.
  • Melania missed a photo session and a tour because protesters blocked their digs.
  • A brief talk with Russia’s Vladimir Putin lasted so long that White House staffers sent DDT’s wife in to end it; she failed, and the session lasted another hour.
  • Daughter Ivanka Trump took the place of real U.S. officials in replacing her father during a session called “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health” so that DDT could meet with Putin. Former president of Mexico Vincente Fox Quesada tweeted that “a G20 summit isn’t a ‘bring your child to work and let her attend high level meetings’ day.”
  • Photos of DDT at the summit illustrate his goal to make America alone.  matches his own appearance at the event.
  • Another remarkable video shows Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the summit, rolling her eyes at a patronizing Putin.

This collection of photos demonstrates how the United States has lost any relationship with allies, including this image of President Obama at the 2015 G7 summit.

Two events stood out during DDT’s four-day offshore trip in Europe: his visit to Poland and his meeting with Russia’s president.  DDT began his trip in an environment where he felt most comfortable: Poles were bused into Warsaw with the sole purpose of cheering DDT for his speech much like the ones he gives to xenophobic audiences in the United States. DDT’s popularity in Poland is actually 23 percent.

A major premise of the speech was the survival of the West against the Middle East (aka Christians against Muslims). DDT’s image of the terrorism conflict as a clash of civilizations has been avoided by both GOP and Democratic predecessors. The Trump manifesto seems to be the “dire threat” against Western civilization. The language comes directly from white supremacists Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. DDT’s anti-Semitic audience were surely pleased when he was the first sitting president in decades to avoid a stop at Warsaw’s monument to the Jewish Ghetto uprising.

DDT is on the same page as Poland’s leading party, Law & Justice (PiS). The party has inundated civil service and diplomatic corps with their loyalists and weakened the judiciary’s independence. The national broadcaster is a mouthpiece of the state, and independent journalists are restricted. Together DDT and Polish president, Andrzej Duda, based the media with DDT repeating his mantra of “fake news.” The EU calls Polish reforms “a systemic risk to the rule of law.”

Conservative Jonathan Turley wrote about the exchange between DDT and Duda regarding their hatred for the media:

“To have such an exchange with a man like Putin about the free press is a truly low moment for our country.  The men and women in front of the two leaders represent a profession that has lost dozens of journalists who fought to publish the truth about the Putin regime. Thousands more have died around the world in the struggle for free speech and the free press.  I understand the need to deal with figures like Putin in diplomacy but commiserating with the likes of Vladimir Putin about the free press is a terrible image for any American president.  Putin is not a great man and the media is not the enemy.  We can (and should) criticize the media for their loss of objectivity but even casual moments like this one with Putin carry a chilling message both in Russia and the United States. There remain committed journalists in Russia who look to the United States as their ally in the fight for a free press.   For them, these comments must be chilling and demoralizing.”

As usual, DDT displayed his weak vocabulary during the speech—even when someone else wrote it—by describing the losses in Poland during World War II as “tough” and “trouble.” Almost six million Poles, about 20 percent of the country’s population, died during the war.

Possibly worse than DDT’s speech was his press conference before the speech. In opposition to U.S. intelligence reports, he continued to claim that “nobody really knows” who was responsible for the cyberattacks around the November 2016 election and refused to admit that Russia was responsible. “It could have been other people in other countries,” he said. Yet he kept laying the blame on President Obama for something that he wouldn’t admit had happened. His claim that only “three or four” agencies believed that Russia was responsible. These agencies are the FBI, CIA, and NSA; no others disagreed, and some weren’t involved. In the conference, Polish officials cut off NBC reporter Hallie Jackson’s mike to keep her from asking a follow-up question.

Once again, DDT’s staff disagrees with his perception. In an interview for State of the Union, the nation’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, said, “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.” Her comments followed DDT’s amicable meeting with Putin on Friday. Haley continued by explaining that Russia is meddling “across multiple continents … in a way that they’re trying to cause chaos within the countries.”

Still reeling from DDT’s denial that Russia meddled in the U.S. election, people of the U.S. watched him go into a long meeting with Putin. Only four people attended with the two leaders—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two translators. No one took notes, and only Russians reported much of what happened in the two and a half hours. Headlines have declared that DDT “confronted” Putin, but the end result did not seem like a confrontation. Supposedly DDT questioned Putin about the meddling. Putin said he didn’t have anything to do it and followed that with the statement that DDT agreed with him.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin didn’t attend the meeting but repeatedly said that DDT “handled it brilliantly.” Putin followed earlier statements by claiming that Russia and the United States agreed to work together to “prevent interference in the domestic affairs of foreign states, primarily in Russia and the U.S.” Tillerson said that the two leaders selected officials to collaborate on a resolution to the Ukraine conflict and reached a “de-escalation agreement” about part of Syria near Daraa and Quneitra.

Even Republicans are disgusted with DDT’s plan to team with Putin in creating a “cyber security unit.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “I am sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he’s doing the hacking.” Once again, bad press may have forced DDT to back down on his idea. Today he tweeted, “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the partnership isn’t “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.” On the other hand, Mnuchin called the idea “a very significant accomplishment for President Trump.” He wants to “coordinate with Russia.”

Putin picked up popularity in the United States with DDT’s election, but it’s receding again, perhaps because of the hacking reports. Meanwhile, the number of Russian spies gathering intelligence in the United States has gone up to at least 150 from temporary duty visas issued by the DDT administration. Law enforcement officials have reported that some Russian diplomats are violating protocol by leaving the Washington, D.C. area with notifying the State Department. President Obama had shut down Russian compounds in December that were allegedly outfitted with high-power surveillance equipment and evicted 35 spies. Officials say that countering the threat is difficult because DDT doesn’t accept intelligence information about Russian meddling.

DDT completed his embarrassing four days by referring to his “wonderful relationship” with Xi Jinping. The White House used the wrong title for Xi, however. Instead of his correct title, president of the People’s Republic of China, he was identified as president of the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan. The elected leader of Taiwan is Tsai Ing-wen, the most powerful woman in the Chinese-speaking world and one of Xi Jinpin’s greatest rivals. DDT is currently trying to persuade China to pressure North Korea for the U.S. benefit.

As always, Melania Trump looked lovely in her expensive fashion designs, but she shouldn’t try to wear them on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is reinforcing a patriarchal ban on sleeveless clothes for women—at least female reporters—in the speaker’s lobby. Although many conservatives have poo-pooed the story, report, Independent Journal Review‘s Haley Byrd was refused entrance. She was offered a cardigan but also told that open-toed shoes are also a no-no.

January 4, 2017

No Select Committee to Investigate Russian Hacking

Senate buddies John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have caved in to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in their demand to investigate Russian hacking into the presidential election that may have caused Hillary Clinton to lose to Donald Trump (DT). McConnell, who blocked information about the hacking last September, “declined” to allow a select committee, claiming that existing Senate committees are enough. In the past, McCain has said about the hacking, “When you attack a country, it’s an act of war. “If you try to destroy the fundamentals of democracy, then you have destroyed a nation.” After his brief return to being a “maverick,” McCain has gone back to wimp.

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2016, file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stands on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Ecuador says it’s ready to set a date for Swedish prosecutors to question Assange, who has been holed up in the South American country’s embassy in London for four years. Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish police over rape allegations stemming from his visit to the country in 2010. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

 (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

DT and his team claim that Russia had nothing to do with interfering in the presidential election. Their source? Sexual assault fugitive Julian Assange who has been hiding for years in the Ecuador Embassy in London.  Assange is noted for his Wikileaks smears about Clinton’s inner circle as bunch of crazed, creepy Satanists.

At this time, Assange’s follower, DT, can’t even keep track of when his meetings are scheduled: he has accused officials of postponing until Friday his “intelligence” briefing on the “so-called ‘Russian hacking’” that he doesn’t believe. The briefing was always scheduled for Friday, and DT’s “Presidential Daily Briefing” was scheduled yesterday. He rarely attends these briefings so he may not bother to keep track of the times. The one yesterday did not concentrate on Russian hacking because that briefing is scheduled for Friday.

Much has been said about Russians hacking only Democrats; DT accused them of not having “hacking defense” like the Republicans. In another indication of Russians influencing the election, however, U.S. intelligence officials say “the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.” On New Year’s Eve, DT told that press that “I know things that other people don’t know” about the hacking and promised to tell all yesterday or today. His team has withdrawn that disclosure.

Basically, a president-elect is taking sides with a criminal hacker with Russian connections over the United States intelligence agencies. Assange has had a program on Russia’s propaganda station,  and DT has started a feud with his own intelligence community to side with Assange who leaked names of Afghan civilians acting as U.S. informants. That president-elect was elected by a hawkish political party that has been skeptical about Communist Russia’s relationship with their nation. Former vice-president elect Sarah Palin called Assange “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and now apologized to him.

DT is so supportive of Russia that he plans to reduce the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the CIA. His real motive may be that he’s afraid that intelligence will find out things about him that he doesn’t want them to know.

DT’s faith in Assange is at opposite ends from major Republicans in Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told conservative Hugh Hewitt that “the guy [Assange] is a sycophant for Russia. He leaks, he steals data, and compromises national security.” Graham, who backed down on investigating Russian hacking, said:

“We have two choices — some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law … who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us. I’m going with them.”

Even VP-elect Mike Pence has stated that there is sufficient evidence that Russia played a part in the election.

While DT spreads his opinion far and wide on Twitter that his 17 intelligence agencies are wrong, the current CIA director, John Brennan, talked to Judy Woodruff on PBS about the upcoming release of the Russian intelligence report this coming Monday. He recommended a “wait and see” approach:

“There is no intelligence community worldwide that has the capabilities, the expertise, the analytic capability of the U.S. intelligence community. And so I would suggest to individuals who have not yet seen the report, who have not been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward before they make those judgments.”

DT has a lot at stake regarding information about Russian hacking. He wants only three things: money, vengeance, and popularity. Finding out that he won the presidency because a foreign government illegally influenced his election could damage the last piece.

Admitting to Russian hacking could also damage his relationship with Vladimir Putin, who DT calls his “best friend” and who may hold the purse strings of much of DT’s investments.  DT’s friendship with Vladimir Putin can also put money into his pocket. President Obama’s sanctions stopped a $500 million oil deal between the Russian government and Exxon. Lifting the sanctions could put lots of money into DT’s pocket and be a major reason for Putin to make sure that Trump got elected. As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson could help make money for both him and DT.

A hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for tomorrow with McCain as chair, but McConnell may be able to destroy that one too. Today, George Little, a former spokesman for the CIA, tweeted about DT, “Let’s stare this reality square in the face: PEOTUS is pro-Putin and believes Julian Assange over the @CIA. On Jan. 20 we will be less safe.”

DT’s strategy is always creating a diversion when the media might address something detrimental to him. Look for his tweets in the next couple days to see where he leads the media.

 

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