Nel's New Day

January 5, 2019

DDT: Week 102 – Shutdown Stalemates, Idiocy Continues

Day 15 of government shutdown: Not much progress was made in shutdown talks between White House officials and congressional aides today although acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Democrats would not view a steel wall as a wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the House will start with bills to open departments, beginning with the Treasury so that people can get IRS tax refunds. A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, gone this week in a cloud of ethics investigations, transferred public records to a political appointee who had advised the Koch brothers and proposed limiting new Freedom of Information requests by refusing these if they are “burdensome.” He also shortened the public opinion to 30 days, in spite of the shutdown. In that way, no one can determine damage caused by the government shutdown and uncover Zinke’s ethics violations. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees that Zinke’s proposal violates the FOIA because it says nothing about the “vast quantity of material” requested. DOJ is also investigating whether Zinke committed the criminal offence of lying to the Inspector General.

Despite the shutdown, Robert Mueller’s investigation is still funded, and the federal grand jury has been extended for another six months.

Almost 400,000 federal workers are “furloughed” because they aren’t “essential,” and some of them won’t get paychecks when they go back to work because they are employed by a private contractor. Zach Fuentes, one of the lucky ones who keeps getting paid, needs six more months of work to qualify for a Coast Guard early retirement program that expired at the end of 2018. DHS pushed to have the program renewed, but reporters’ questions led legislation for the program to be removed from the House appropriations bill. John Kelly saved the 36-year-old with under 15 years of service by making him his deputy chief of staff. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wanted another deputy but said that Fuentes will stick around. Mulvaney said, “Zach’s a good man; we’ll find something for him to do productive.” His new title is assistant to the president and senior adviser to the chief of staff. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the committee with oversight over the White House, has promised an investigation into the Fuentes affair.

The stock of Goldman Sachs, former employer of several DDT appointments, went down 35 percent because Malaysian filed criminal charges against Goldman after country’s Prime Minster Najib Razak, DDT’s friend, took huge amounts of cash from a state investment fund. Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs, demanding $7.5 billion in reparations, and at least ten countries have probes into Goldman Sachs’ business. Before the 2008 recession, Goldman profited in the collapse in subprime mortgage bonds by short-selling subprime mortgage-backed securities. DDT’s White House is known for having employed a large number of Goldman Sachs alumni.

DDT’s rambling comments in a press conference yesterday followed his disastrous 90-minute meeting Wednesday when he offended India by accusing them of only building a small library in Afghanistan. India, which didn’t attack and destroy Afghanistan as the U.S. did, gave $3 billion to Afghanistan which included building the Parliament. DDT also parroted Vladimir Putin’s propaganda in his revisionist history that the USSR collapsed after declaring bankruptcy fighting in Afghanistan in retaliation for its terrorists going into Russia. The statement that “Russia used to be the Soviet Union” ignored the 14 other republics in the USSR, and DDT’s statement that the USSR was “right to be there” conflicted with U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. opposed the USSR in that conflict, the USSR went into Afghanistan to keep communism in the country, the Soviet economy didn’t go bankrupt, and its financial problems came from declining oil prices. DDT’s comments come directly from Vladimir Putin, and he went farther than Putin when he excused Russian aggression.

National Security adviser John Bolton assured Israel that DDT had no timeline for a military pullout from Syria two weeks after DDT declared it eminent. Mulvaney had said that DDT wouldn’t change his mind about the immediate pullout, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is taking credit for talking DDT into a “pause situation.” DDT decided to slow down the withdrawal of troops in Syria after tweeting that retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has “big, dumb mouth” in accord with Fox’s Laura Ingraham’s criticism of McChrystal caution against the pullout.

After George W. Bush’s judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the media addressed the possibility of “Medicare for All” (aka universal health care like every other industrialized nation). The judge has now decided that the ACA would stay in effect until the issue moves through the courts because “many everyday Americans would… face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal”—an obvious conclusion from his first ruling. A coalition of 17 states has appealed the decision, and the House plans to direct its Office of General Counsel to represent lawmakers in any litigation involving the act and authorize hiring of outside counsel.

DDT has starting to chip away at Medicare Part D by cutting some medications provided by Part D of Medicare—specifically those for HIV, depression, schizophrenia, cancer, epilepsy, and immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection of organ transplants. Despite DDT’s bragging that he had lowered costs of drugs, pharmaceutical companies raised prices at the beginning of 2019 for hundreds of prescription medications this week. The increases, as high as 133.4 percent, averaged 6.3 percent and included drugs for high blood pressure, pain relievers, and anesthetics.

Facing at least seven major investigations—campaign, transition, inaugural committee, presidency, business, charity, emoluments, and personal finances—DDT is looking at an eighth one about the employment of undocumented immigrants at his Bedminster (NJ) golf resort in New Jersey. Federal and state investigators are looking into the employment records of immigrants after several undocumented immigrants said they were recruited to work at the facility. An employer told Victorina Morales, assured that her immigration status didn’t matter, that she couldn’t do anything about abuse at work because she wasn’t documented and worked for the president. Employers at the club deliberately removed names of undocumented workers so that the Secret Service would not vet them, but the undocumented immigrants kept working.

Video from a privatized government Southwest Key facility for migrant children shows the staff physically dragging, pulling, and slapping children in their care, but Arizona authorities have determined that this abuse is not criminal. Maricopa County closed three cases of child abuse without interviewing staff or minors involved. The place, along with another operated by Southwest Key, had its license canceled two months ago because of faulty employee background checks. Taxpayers gave the company, holding more migrant children than any other corporation, $1.7 billion in the last decade, $620 million just last year. Salary for the owner, Juan Sanchez, was $1.5 million last year.

The IRS has more serious problems than the inability to refund taxes as the GOP guarantees that it fails to collect revenue. Its 9,510 IRS auditors are one third fewer than 2010 and fewer than the 10,000 revenue agents in 1953 when the economy was one-seventh of the present day. Over one-third of IRS employees is eligible for retirement next year. Corporations and billionaires are the biggest beneficiaries of these cuts because their audits require specialized personnel. Instead, the IRS audits the working poor who receive the earned income tax credit the highest priority. GOP policies are losing the United States tens of billions of dollars. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also acting chief of staff, failed to pay over $15,000 in taxes for his nanny from 2000 through 2004.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis left his office on New Year’s Eve with his message for U.S. troops: “Hold Fast.”  With Mattis gone, US Strategic Command (StratCom) tweeted, “We are ready to drop something much, much bigger [than the ball in New York].” StratCom waited three hours to decide that a threat from the “guardians of several thousand nuclear missiles” about “raining death and destruction from above is some kind of joke,” as Derek Johnson, executive director of the anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero, pointed out. Walter Schaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, asked, “What kind of maniacs are running this country?” We’ll learn in the coming months. [visual]

DDT’s ICE celebrated New Year’s Day by teargassing migrants on the Mexico side of the border. They were seeking asylum according to law, lifting toddlers over the fence, but ICE claimed that they were throwing rocks. AP reported that no one threw rocks until after they were teargassed, and Mexico is investigating.

Over two decades ago, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich took money from staff for committees and outsourced policy making to right-wing think tanks and lobbyists. Last summer, DDT believed in a “red wave” and budgeted $129 million for staff “handy for investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails.” On January 3, the new House Speaker, likely Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), took control over that $129 million to hire more personnel for investigations—maybe into DDT’s administration. Welcome to the U.S. House of 2019!

December 15, 2018

DDT: Week 99 – More Highlights

Biggest news today! Ryan Zinke resigned (was fired?) as Secretary of the Interior because the House may investigate multiple allegations of his violating ethics rules. Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, former lobbyist for fossil fuel industries who may be more evil than Zinke in policy-making, will temporarily assume leadership at the agency that oversees federal land, wildlife, and American Indian relations. Will someone still have to fly the agency flag when Bernhardt is in his office, and what will happen to all the commemorative coins with Zinke’s name?

In yesterday’s surprise, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) named Mick Mulvaney, Budget Director and controller of the gelded Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for his “acting” chief of staff. Mulvaney plans to keep his Budget gig as an escape hatch. Earlier, he indicated he wouldn’t take the position, preferring Treasury or Commerce. DDT may have promised Mulvaney the position he wants after he fires Mnuchin or Wilbur Ross, in trouble for the citizenship question on the 2020 census. A lawsuit against Ross goes to trial on January 7, 2019.

The chief-of-staff job opened after DDT fired John Kelly and Nick Ayers, DDT’s choice, fired DDT. Steve Mnuchin (Treasury) and Robert Lighthizer (Trade), said they liked their jobs, and Chris Christie turned down the gig. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), leader of the House Freedom Caucus, begged for it, but DDT turned him down. AG Matt Whitaker and son-in-law Jared Kushner were possibilities, but they might both be indicted soon. Part of Mulvaney’s new job includes coping with the Russian scandal, handling DDT’s instability, and getting Democrats in the House to do what DDT wants, but House Democrats don’t like the former far-right representative.

At Arlington Cemetery today, DDT praised the Texas judge who ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional—an excellent place to call no health care for people “a great victory.” Concern about health care among voters during the recent election led many GOP candidates to falsely state that they had always supported insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans will again be in trouble if a health care crisis reappears front and center.

Pandering to his base, DDT issued a directive to stop creating mice with human-like immune systems using human fetal tissue, an order that shuts down HIV research. The mice were ready to be shipped, but HHS called a halt to the delivery. More research can be destroyed if non-NIH labs receiving NIH funding are banned from using the fetal tissue. Scientists at UCLA have used these mice for 25 years; getting the directive immediately reverse still extends any discovery for at least a year.

Department of Energy plans to reclassify high-level radioactive waste residue from producing nuclear weapons to low-level, like hospital wipes and clothes, so that it can be more easily—and dangerously—distributed. Among affected facilities is Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state on the Oregon border, the most highly contaminated area half the size of Rhode Island. Public comment originally stopped on December 10, but Sen. Rn Wyden (D-OR) asked for an extension until January 9.

DDT’s new “Opportunity Zones” for “economically distressed” areas, created in the 2017 tax bill, benefits his own business and those of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his New York developer friend Richard LeFrak. DDT’s planned developments in Greenville (MS) and New Jersey could be eligible for the tax break as could Kushner’s two Maryland properties. State governors can pick places such as downtown Charleston (SC) and West Palm Beach. Legislation lacks accountability by failure to require that investments benefit the community or collect and report data about investors, kinds of investments, and subjects impacted by the program.

When the government hired Accenture Federal Services $13.6 million to recruit border protection staffing, taxpayers gave the company $13.6 million for two accepted job offers with no records for any other applicants.

Texting, a common form of telecommunication, can now be blocked and censored because DDT’s FCC classified it as an “information service.” People who live in areas with a variety of wi-fi providers can switch to keep their texts from being blocked, but those with limited providers lack the same advantage.

DDT’s coalition with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia weakens a UN report on the disastrous climate change through their refusal to endorse the document. He also reaffirmed his removal of the United States from the Paris agreement to reduce fossil fuel emissions. At the G20 summit, only the U.S. refused to endorse a statement affirming the Paris climate accord, signing a document only after language about DDT’s decision to exit the Paris compact. Fifty-eight percent of people in the U.S. agree that human activity accelerates climate change.

VP Mike Pence may have been roundly ridiculed for being a silent bobblehead at DDT’s disastrous meeting with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), but he took time to cast a tie vote in the Senate that put Jonathan Kobes onto the 8th Circuit Court for a lifetime appointment—the first time any VP broke a tie to put a judge on a circuit court. The ABA gave Kobes a “not qualified” rating because he “has neither the requisite experience nor evidence of his ability to fulfill the scholarly writing required of a United States Circuit Court Judge.” Over 200 civil and human rights groups opposed Kobes because he opposes marriage equality and defended crisis pregnancy centers (fake women’s health care centers).

Other “not qualified” nominees to be confirmed are U.S. Circuit Judge Leonard Steven Grasz, “unable to separate his role as an advocate from that of a judge” because of his strong anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views; U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin, lacking the ability to fulfill the demands of a federal judge because of his frequent absence from the courthouse as a magistrate judge; and U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter, without trial court experience. DDT and the GOP have seated two Supreme Court justices, 30 circuit judges, and 53 district judges—most of them anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-voting rights, and anti-abortion.

Facing a government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has caved in to a possible vote on a criminal reform bill after DDT’s specifically demand. McConnell had avoided a vote on the bill because of “no” votes from the most conservative senators, according to Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/421328-senate-heads-toward-floor-fight-on-criminal-justice-bill  The Senate may have to stay in session over Christmas instead departing this week as scheduled.

At least 14 DDT associates interacted with Russians during DDT’s campaign and presidential transition, Russians who seemed to take cues from DDT or coordinate with his requests. DDT continues to lie about the cost of Mueller’s investigation, falsely stating an estimate of $40 million instead of the actual $25 million. Ken Starr’s six-year investigation of Whitewater, leading to the president’s impeachment for lying under oath, cost over $70 million, but no one was indicted. During his 18 months’ investigation, Mueller indicted 34 people and three companies while garnering guilty pleas from seven of them including five ex-DDT aides. Mueller has paid for his investigation thus far with fines, penalties, and forfeited real estate properties.

In honor of DDT’s lying, WaPo has created the Bottomless Pinocchio, awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they engage in campaigns of disinformation. The claim must receive at least three Pinocchios from the Fact Checker and be repeated at least 20 times. Only DDT, with at least 14 qualifying statements, has thus far achieved the Bottomless Pinocchio, for example: the U.S. spent $7 trillion in the Middle East (36 times); the U.S. pays most of NATO costs (87 times); Democrats colluded with Russia during the election (48 times); Robert Mueller has conflicts of interest (30 times); the U.S. economy is the best in U.S. history (99 times); a wall is necessary to stop drugs from crossing the border (40 times); U.S. steel is building new plants (37 times).

DDT’s lies trickle down to his agencies. After repeated DDT falsehoods about having started to build his wall, DHS announced that it has begun building a 30-foot “border wall,” higher than any ever built. NBC patiently explained “construction on a new section of border barrier has not yet begun and won’t this year.” The DHS is also the agency claiming that they aren’t separating migrant children from parents and that they have returned them. They also tried to conceal the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl from lack of care in their custody before blaming her father.

Last month, DDT told a reporter that he cannot imagine anyone else being Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” He has always felt it to be an honor instead of “the man, woman, group or concept that has had the most influence on the world during the previous 12 months.” For 2018, Time picked “the Guardians,” journalists who have been persecuted throughout the world, including attacks by DDT, in an ongoing “war on truth.” Four separate covers honor these brave people, including Jamal Khashoggi, tortured and dismembered by Saudi Arabia royalty, and the staff of the Capital Gazette, where five of them were shot dead in their Maryland newsroom. Time has never before selected someone no longer alive for this honor. They did so because his influence grew because of his death. DDT has responded to Time with tweets displaying increased invective against the media.

A Fox poll shows that at this time 55 percent of respondents would definitely/probably vote against DDT. Only 38 percent could vote for him.

October 19, 2018

DDT: Week 91 – Violence against Reporters Acceptable

After passing a tax cut for big business and the wealthiest, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided that the ballooning deficit is “disturbing.” The GOP solution is to reduce “entitlement programs”—the ones that taxpayers funded and the Republican legislators siphoned off to pay for the military and huge tax cuts for the wealthiest. Voters might want to consider this plan when they vote.

DDT has threatened to protect the Mexican border with military and overturn his shiny new trade agreement with the country if they don’t stop a caravan of Honduran immigrants crossing Mexico. He also plans to cut off foreign aid to Honduras, saving the United States a grand $127 million, equivalent to about a year of DDT’s weekend getaways. The differences of opinion in the White House led to a fight between Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton when Bolton dared to criticize DHS director Kirstjen Nielsen’s inability to keep immigrants from crossing the border.

Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and WaPo reporter, wrote about the importance of freedom of the press, the Saudis murdered him, and DDT is protecting Saudi Crown Prince MBS. After denying his death for weeks, Saudi Arabia claimed that he got in a “fist-fight”—presumably with the 15-person death squad sent with a bone saw into the Saudi embassy—and sadly died. DDT called the assumption “credible.” Photos show that members of the murder squad have close ties to Mohammed, including four of them who served as his guards during his visit to the U.S. last March–this 59-year-old man against 15 strong men possessing a bone saw. Here is the piece of trash that Saudi Arabia released. DDT lamented, “This one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately.” Everytime he is asked about Khashoggi’s death, DDT says that he doesn’t want to lose $100 billion of arms sales. Now one of the murder squad of 15 has mysteriously died in a car crash.

DDT has restricted access to any information about the murder of Khashoggi by refusing to share any of this information with the Senate. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) described the situation “disappointing.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was derisive about the Saudi story, but most Republicans are covering for DDT by smearing Khashoggi’s reputation using conspiracy theories spread by the radical right-wing press that falsely accuse him of being sympathetic to Islamic terrorism. The GOP support for Saudi Arabia has even erased their memory that 15 of the 19 hijackers attacking the U.S. on 9/11 were Saudis. Saudi Arabia went so far as to claim that 9/11 was an Israeli plot.

Only after Saudi Arabia delivered $100 million to DDT as support for stabilization in northeastern Syria, did DDT agree that Khashoggi was probably dead. The State Department denied any relationship between the money and Mike Pompeo’s discussions with the Saudis about Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia has followed a pattern for paying off countries to support its foreign policies, and it may pay off Turkey for a joint investigation into the murder. Saudi Arabia is looking more and more like ISIS

In his rally this past week, DDT entertained his audience by praising Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) for his physical assault on a Guardian reporter. For the first time, DDT openly cheered a violent act against a journalist in the United States when he expressed his approval of Gianforte because he “body-slammed a reporter.” Gianforte pled guilty to the charge of assault and was sentenced to four days in jail which was changed to 40 hours of community service and a mandated anger-management course. The Guardian US editor, John Mulholland, said:

“The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian. To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the first amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.

“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats. We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”

A bizarre continuing story this week focused on the Interior Department where the IG, in the midst of four separate investigations into its secretary, Ryan Zinke, seemed to be fired. HUD Director Ben Carson emailed information about her replacement with Suzanne Israel Tufts, one of his own employees who is a DDT political appointee with no experience in government work. After a report was released showing that Zinke violated his department’s policy on travel, White House officials said they knew nothing about these personnel transactions. Interior Department spokeswoman said that Carson’s email “had 100 percent false information” and the long-term IG is staying.

Zinke permitted his wife to travel in government vehicles while she was assisting in a campaign for a political candidate, tried to make her a “volunteer” to justify his actions, told the department’s top lawyer to lie to the public about the situation, and ordered his security detail to drive an associate to the airport. His decision to take an unarmed security detail on his overseas vacation cost taxpayers $25,000. Other investigations include Zinke’s involvement in a Montana land deal and two Connecticut tribes’ application to open a new casino. Interior Department officials also objected to the new political appointee as the Interior’s IG.

The story didn’t end there, though.  HUD said that the information was just a “mistake” and that Tufts had a job interview for IG elsewhere in the government. She didn’t show up for the appointment and then resigned her HUD position. Although she hadn’t come to her HUD job for the past two months, she had been regularly paid. All of this drama and revelation in less than a week.

More drama came from the First Lady’s self-pity party when she called herself “the most bullied person” in the world during an interview. In 2009 Minnesota GOP Senate candidate Karin Housley compared then-First Lady Michelle Obama to the chimpanzee from 1951’s movie Bedtime for Bonzo. And Michelle Obama did not parade in a cheap “I really don’t care” jacket like Melania Trump did. The GOP has a decade-long record of describing the Obama family as simians. (BTW, Trump also said that her jacket was a putdown on the press.)

Senate Democrats have again learned that they cannot trust their GOP counterparts. They agreed to quick confirmation of 15 more DDT judicial nominees so that they could recess for campaigning. Republicans stayed in Washington to hold hearings on more nominees and claimed that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had agreed to these hearings. She didn’t. The handful of Republicans attending Wednesday’s hearing moved them forward.

Last Sunday, DDT’s 60 Minutes interview addressed the people he does and does not trust. Here’s a summary:

Asked about climate change, DDT again dragged out his Uncle John and their conversations to prove that he knew best. John Trump, who died in 1985, worked in electronics and X-ray machines. DDT said that he didn’t talk about his uncle about climate change, but he has “a natural instinct for science.”

Farmers—DDT’s base—have a better instinct about climate change, and they are concerned. They may not need to worry about tariffs stopping them from shipping soybeans; almost a foot of rain has turned their crops into a bog. Their fertilizer is running off into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico to create a dead zone the size of New Jersey that destroys the shrimping industry. Soil is annually disappearing at two to three tons an acre but regenerates at only a half-ton each year. Less soil means less protein in a kernel or pod, and corn becomes higher in starch. Corn yield can also drop by one half within 50 years. Des Moines Water Works faces $100 million in improvement costs because of toxic agricultural chemicals. Minnesota crops are either washed out or weedy. Kansas now requires 100 acres of prairie grass for a calf instead of 40 acres. The huge Ogallala Aquifer, vital to cattle feedlots, is down 150 feet at Dodge City in a little over a half century and may be gone in 20 years. Corn can’t be grown in western Kansas because of the heat.

More people in North Carolina are accepting the fact of climate change after two overwhelming hurricanes in rapid succession. While DDT hosted an insane rant from Kanye West in the Oval Office, needy people are without food, water, and electricity. FEMA director Brock Long told them to be patient, and Florida’s governor Rick Scott, running for U.S. Senate, said that “everyone just needs to help each other.”

Once again, the Republicans have failed, and midterm elections are 18 days away.

April 26, 2018

Zinke Possibly Next for Limelight

Much has been said about the corruption and environmental destruction by EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has flown under the radar. Yet Zinke is bent on razing public land in the United States while illegally using taxpayer monies. He also consistently brags about being a “geologist,” sometimes under oath, to give weight to all his opinions about endangered species, oil drilling, climate change, and anything else he declaims. Zinke’s only background in geology, however, comes from his college major. He attended the University of Oregon on a football scholarship and said he chose his major by “closing my eyes and randomly pointing to a major from the academic catalog.”

Zinke also failed to disclose information to ethics officials, promoted the birther conspiracy about President Obama, inappropriately reassigned a large number of Native Americans in his agency, frequently decried “diversity,” and inappropriately used taxpayer funds for his unnecessary travel and that of his wife who needed to go to her campaign events. He also reassigned a scientist who revealed the negative impact of climate change on Alaska Native communities. Zinke was also criticized for a 2014 campaign email asking for donations and reporting that he “served as a Team Leader on SEAL Team Six—the team responsible for the mission to get Osama Bin Laden.” Osama bin Laden was killed three years after Zinke retired.

Other Zinke issues:

  • Threatening Alaska’s GOP senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, with penalties for their state if they didn’t vote for a health care plan.
  •  Ignoring the National Park System Advisory Board—refusing to even meet with them—until three-fourths of them quit.
  • Relying on a top energy industry lobbyist for help with a list of regulatory rollbacks.
  • Requiring extra work from his staff for coordinating his wife’s access to high-level politicians and donors to benefit her position chairing the senatorial campaign for GOP Troy Downing who is running against incumbent Sen. Jon Tester.
  • Promising Florida that he wouldn’t drill of its coast after planning coastal oil drilling off the other 13 states despite their governors’ objections. (Zinke said that Florida is “unique”: he might mean that Mar-a-Lago is in Florida and that Gov. Rick Scott is running against Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.)
  • Spending $53,000 on three helicopter trips, including one to go horseback riding with VP Mike Pence. (He paid for one of them out of wildfire preparedness funds until someone pointed out that it was inappropriate.)
  • Failing to disclose shares in a gun company that lobbies the government on “defense appropriations and authorizations” and “carbon fiber barrels.” (The company got an $11.4 million contract last year.)
  • Demanding confidential energy data for others’ use.
  • Illegally blocking plans to expand Native American tribes from expanding casino operations in Connecticut which benefitted politically connected MGM Resorts International.
  • Spending almost $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double doors in his office.
  •  Taking a taxpaid security detail on his vacation with his wife to Turkey and Greece.

More Zinke problems:

  • Changed regulations to allow seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Lifted restrictions on new coal leasing on public lands.
  • Proposed the elimination of safety requirements to protect communities from methane pollution by oil and gas drilling on public lands.
  • Renewed mining leases near Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
  • Proposed a 90-percent cut to America’s most important conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • Eliminated a policy asking parks to create plans for preserving natural resources and protecting them from threats like climate change.

Zinke has some esoteric positions. When he is in the building, he flies a special Department of Interior flag. A security staff takes the flag up the elevator to the seventh floor and climbs the stairs to the roof where he hoists the flag. At night, he repeats the journey to take down the flag. Zinke’s spokesperson called the flag “a major sign of transparency.” (The only other specialized flying flag in the government is above the State Department, but it’s always there.) Zinke arrived for his first day at work on horseback and kept a glass-case display of hunting knives until he was told to remove them because of security risks. His wood-paneled office walls sport animal heads. In a speech to fossil fuel executives, he complained that 30 percent of his agency are “not loyal to the flag.” (He didn’t say which one.)

Zinke also created a “challenge coin” for the Interior Department with his name emblazoned on the front. These coins began as a military tradition during World War I when Ivy League students slapped their coins on the table. The person without one had to buy a round of drinks for the others.

National Park Service officials have scrubbed every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in connection with sea-level rise and storm surge. Delays in releasing reports have blocked information about hurricane forecasts, safeguarding artifacts, and locating buildings. (Over at the EPA, Scott Pruitt tried to create a better coin with his name but omitting the EPA logo.)

Zinke’s 15-member “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee is composed of representatives from fishing, shooting sports, motorized vehicles, hospitality, and national park concessions interests, three of them having conflicts of interests. Missing are any nominees recommended by the Outdoor Industry Association advocating outdoor sports. Most members on the Royalty Policy Committee come from fossil fuel and mining industries. His new International Wildlife Conservation Council is mainly comprised of trophy hunters and individuals with ties to President Trump’s oldest son, who is an avid hunter. Member Peter Horn owns a hunting preserve in conjunction with Eric and Don Jr. Trump.

Zinke has made BLM staff in Western states propaganda tools by requiring them to wear “vision” cards with illustrations of an oil rig and cows grazing. The cards reference “customers” instead of “public” and list the purpose as improving “the health and productivity of the land.” Because BLM has no director, Zinke has taken that role, moving forward with plundering the lands resources. A key phrase in supporting the America First Energy Plan is “to serve industry.”

Zinke’s BIA Director Bryan Rice, appointed only six months ago, has resigned. As of this writing, nobody is talking about the reason.

Although only Florida is exempted from offshore oil drilling, Zinke is cooling off about drilling in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic off Maine. He told the Senate Energy Committee that these places had little recoverable oil and gas. In another loss, he has backed down from a monstrous increase in park entrance fees of $45 to an extra $5, thanks to the vociferous public protest. He also postponed selling over 4,000 acres of leases near the sacred tribal site of Chaco Canyon after protests from indigenous people and withdrew 17,300 acres from a fossil fuel lease auction in Montana.  A big political loss was the election of Democrat Conor Lamb to be the representative after a special election in Pennsylvania despite Zinke’s show of presenting a check for a coal mine reclamation with GOP candidate Rick Saccone in attendance. Once again Republicans have gotten away with violated the Hatch Act.

Despite criticism, Zinke continues his destruction of public land. In his testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he repeated his plans to cover the National Park Service maintenance backlog with revenue from mining and drilling. Republicans in both congressional chambers already have bills in accord with Zinke’s desires. If they get their way, they will sell off sensitive wildlife habitat such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies too build park bathrooms. Other national monuments would be opened to mining and drilling. The plan will likely fail because it requires an oil price that are double the current level.

Zinke is unhappy about being questioned for his profligate spending, and he’s sure to hate this hilarious—and accurate—segment on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight which includes the Interior Secretary throwing the “Second Lady,” Karen Pence, around like a “sack of unbleached flour.”  Zinke banned a reporter from Outside from his presence for pointing out that Zinke had rigged his fly rod backward. That’s considered bad form in Montana.

Recently dark money is paying for ads, and Zinke is meeting with deep-pocketed donors. A polling firm has called Iowa GOP voters, testing Zinke’s name recognition for a 2024 presidential run. With all his problems, he may need to wait before he measures for drapes in the Oval Office. He might first run for Montana governor because he exempted Montana from moving public lands to the private sector.

During Zinke’s confirmation hearings, he promised that he would follow Teddy Roosevelt in being a steward of the lands with his concern about global warming. Once confirmed, he started selling off national monuments to the highest bidder and dropping regulations to satisfy business interests. Sen. Ron Wyden said it best when he stated that voting for Zinke was “one of the biggest regrets of my time in public service.”

October 7, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-seven – Raking Up Big Numbers

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can now take credit for the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history—59 59 dead and at least 527 people in Las Vegas this week. These are the “secret” White House talking points in an effort to stop any talk about common sense gun laws, as indicated in a leak: pray and monitor; wait for any “political debate” until facts are known; protect the people through the Second Amendment; can’t stop a “mad man” with “new laws” because “they will curtail the freedoms of law-abiding citizens; don’t need guns for terrorist attacks; allow people to protect themselves with concealed carry; and don’t “rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.” In other words, legislative business as usual—tax cuts!

Another leak this week that hit the comedy routines was DDT’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling DDT a “moron” in a Pentagon meeting last July. Tillerson was forced  to call DDT “smart” in a press conference, but he didn’t deny that he used that term for DDT. The comment was made after DDT’s appearance at the Boy Scouts Jamboree; Tillerson was its leader from 2010 to 2012.

Tillerson has also been frustrated because DDT’s publicly undermines him, for example, the dispute when Middle Eastern countries blockaded Qatar, sanctions on Venezuela, aid to Israel, and, most recently, DDT’s tweet that Tillerson should not negotiate with North Korea. The day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached out to North Korea for talks, DDT tweeted that he was “wasting his time” and “we’ll do what has to be done!”  Just 37 percent trust Trump to responsibly handle the North Korea standoff.

In opposition to Tillerson, DDT indicated that he will back out of the Iranian agreement, leaving them free to develop nuclear weapons. The Nobel Committee cited this as one reason to award its Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its efforts in advancing negotiations leading to the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms. The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies—including the United States—boycotted the negotiations, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis threatened Sweden with retribution if the country supported the treaty. Fifty-three UN member states signed the treaty, and three of them have formally ratified it since the process started on September 20.

Tillerson has formed a “pact” with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Treasury that all three will resign if DDT fires one of them.

DDT did get to Puerto Rico almost two weeks after Maria was the second hurricane to hit the island, stayed in populated areas, and left an hour early. [Right: DDT shows a different kind of “compassion” to hurricane victims.]

While there, DDT:

  • Refused to mention or communicate with the mayor of San Juan;
  • Complained about the cost of the two hurricanes’ damage while saying how happy he is to spend “hundreds of millions” on the F-35, a plane has never flown a mission and “you can’t see” (according to DDT);
  • Said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe like Katrina;
  • Ignored the devastation on the island;
  • Threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd of survivors in a church, perhaps appearing to “distribute” supplies;
  • Praised the place for its beautiful weather;
  • Told hurricane victims to “have a good time”;
  • Said he was doing an “A+” job.

DDT has not yet submitted a request for aid to Puerto Rico. As he bragged about the wonderful response to the disaster, over half the people have no clean drinking water, and 95 percent of them have no electricity. DDT handed out flashlights but said that the people didn’t need them. Only one of the island’s 69 hospitals is fully operational, 59 of the 69 hospitals are operating on generators. Local officials talked about the lack of assistance. The mayor in a city of 54,000 said that they had received 10,000 meals, and one woman in the city said she had seen no supplies except for a case of water after 11 days. DDT waited ten days to waive the requirement that food stamps be used only in grocery stores despite the inability of these facilities to process the stamps.

After he returned from Puerto Rico, DDT said that he might wipe out the territory’s $72 billion debt, mostly held in huge hedge funds, but his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said, “We’re absolutely not going to bail them out.” As the U.S. seems incapable of helping Puerto Rico, Germany is donating 15 microgrids around the island for power emergency centers that combine solar panels and batteries.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no for a resolution calling on countries to not use the death penalty for discrimination in cases of consensual adultery and same-gender relations. Twenty-seven countries supported the resolution while the U.S. was one of 13 countries, primarily those in the Middle East and Asia, that opposed it. Seven countries abstained. Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted about the vote, “Not even Russia and Iran stooped as low as we did.” The U.S. does use the death penalty as discrimination against minorities, women, and poor people.

The congressional conclusion that Russian attempted to hack into U.S. voting machines and influenced U.S. voters through social media has been followed by DDT’s request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the U.S. press. DDT’s constant attacks on the media as “fake news” has a benefit for the media. The 48 percent of people who have confidence in the press is up nine percent since last November whereas the same 48 percent having a measure of faith in DDT is down three percent.

Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is also being investigated for his reassignment of Joel Clement after Clement showed how climate change affects Alaska’ Native communities. An earlier probe came from his threats to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in an attempt to get her vote for the health care bill.

Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. are in the hot seat with their emails, including publicity about how they barely evaded indictment on felony fraud charges in 2012 regarding their failed project, Trump SoHo, but donations to a campaign saved them. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made prosecutors drop the case after DDT’s attorney Marc Kasowitz gave $25,000 to the DA’s reelection campaign with another $50,000 from DDT and other donors later on.

The use of official emails on Ivanka’s and Don Jr.’s personal accounts may have compromised national security:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shared official White House materials on the Kushner family’s private domain, in a third private account recently discovered. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said. Kushner set up ijkfamily.com when he joined DDT’s administration.

Apps on Kushner’s and Ivanka’s private email automatically deleted communications for official matters, an illegal action that other of DDT’s White House officials have also taken.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to White House counsel last week requesting more information about the White House staff use of private email addresses for official business, including disappearing message apps.

Both Kushner and Ivanka moved their email accounts to Trump Organization after the letter stating that the records not be destroyed, modified, or transferred. Cummings pointed out that their action also violates their pledge to not be a part of Trump Organization.

https://www.mediaite.com/online/rachel-maddow-reports-that-secret-service-is-banning-mobile-devices-from-west-wing/  More problems arose after it was discovered that the cell phone of John Kelly, former National Security Advisor and current chief of staff, was compromised with the establishment of new guidelines. Personal mobile devices—including tablets, cell phones, and smart watches—are to be prohibited from the West Wing. The question is whether DDT’s cell phone is part of this ban.

ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit against the government after AG Jeff Sessions announced that businesses and organizations can use religious belief or “moral conviction” to avoid providing free birth control on its insurance plans. A majority of people, even Republicans, disagree with DDT. The same excuse can also be used to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The ACLU is also suing to lift unreasonable FDA restrictions on Mifeprex, a safe and effective method of ending an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks, from pharmacies.

DDT may also be able to take credit for the worst hurricane destruction of any president. The fourth major storm to hit the U.S. in less than nine months has killed 30 people in Central America and has now hit the Louisiana coast. Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. Over 40 percent of the Gulf’s staffed oil- and gas-producing platforms were evacuated. The storm, now a Category One, still has winds of about 100 mph and possible storm surges of 10 feet but should weaken on land. It may be the worst hurricane in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005.

December 23, 2016

Trump’s Cabinet Goal to Destroy the Planet

World leaders gathered in Paris one year ago to adopt the most progressive climate change agreement ever parlayed. The consensus was a rejection of climate denial. There is universal agreement that global temperatures are increasing at an alarming rate, sea levels are rising to cause great damage to low-lying cities, and greenhouse gases. The result is melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost with declining spring snow cover.

In a jarring repudiation of the Paris Agreement, Donald Trump has collected a terrifying compilation of climate deniers, beginning with the man employed to work with countries around the world, Rex Tillerson who spent the last 40 years helping ExxonMobil rape the world in its obsession with removing fossil fuels.

scott-pruittOklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, nominated as head of the EPA, is 100 percent opposed to federal regulations concerning air and water pollution that were created from laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act passed in the 1970s. As Oklahoma’s top prosecutor, he has led or joined state lawsuits to block almost every major regulation from President Obama’s EPA, including a lawsuit in support of mercury pollution from coal plants. That and his other lawsuit to keep smog pollution crossing state lines both failed. He is currently suing to block EPA efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, proving a conflict of interest for his confirmation.

Pruitt falsely claims that fracking doesn’t contaminate water supplies or cause the vastly increased number of earthquakes in his state. The fossil fuel industry has given him almost $315,000 for his opposition to clean air and water. Pruitt would help DT return to an era before the 1970s, when the EPA was created by President Richard Nixon—a time when health alerts urging people to stay indoors and move as little as possible because of choking smog was common in major cities. In addition to his anti-environment protection stance, Pruitt created a “federalism unit” in his office to fight current policies on immigration, health care, and finance reform.

rick-perryRick Perry, back from being fired from Dancing with the Stars, has been nominated to head up the Department of Energy, the agency that he would have eliminated if he could just have remembered its name during his 2012 campaign for president. GOP Senate leaders leadership don’t even know the purpose of this department. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) praised the choice because Perry’s Texas has lots of oil, but the Department of Energy has nothing to do with overseeing oil, gas, and coal development. That’s the responsibility of the Department of the Interior. Sixty percent of the Energy Department’s responsibility is overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenals that DT plans to “expand.” The National Nuclear Security Administration has a proposed budget of $12.9 billion, and the last two energy secretaries were MIT-educated physicists. Perry took four chemistry courses and got two Cs, a D, and an F; he also scored a C in physics and a D in “Meat.”

The Energy secretary is also in charge of the department’s loan program which started the photovoltaic industry and was responsible for Tesla. This R&D is vital to keep the nation competitive in a technology race, especially with India far ahead of the U.S., but DT already promised to stop research on solar, wind, efficiency, batteries, clean cars, and climate science. Perry also is on the boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, two firms responsible for the pipeline that people at Standing Rock Reservation successfully fought—at least temporarily.

ryan-zinkeRep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), nominated for the Secretary of the Interior, would be responsible for oil if he were confirmed. He loves the idea of drilling in all the national parks, approves of coal leasing on federal land, opposes safeguards for temporary wetlands and intermittent streams, and voted for a bill to transfer millions of acres of national forest lands to states. Climate change is “not proven science,” according to Zinke.

Conservationists have said that Zinke believes “that government welfare handouts can save dying coal companies and crumbling oil and gas giants” and that his “brief political career has been substantially devoted to attacking endangered species and the Endangered Species Act.” During his 2014 campaign for Congress, he described Hillary Clinton as “the real enemy” and “the Antichrist.” Zinke’s nomination adds to the DT’s military contingent. A Navy Seal for 30 years, his congressional website logo refers to him “Commander,” adding to DT’s military contingent in the Cabinet.  At least he studied geology as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon—over 30 years ago.

DT’s advisors hope to privatize Native American reservations, the two percent of land in the U.S. that contains 20 percent of the nation’s oil and gas as well as huge coal reserves, all worth $1.5 trillion, and Zinke may be the man to follow through with these plans. The proposal fails to consider over a century of U.S. policy that preserves Indian tribes on federal reservations government as sovereign nations by tribal leaders.

Native Americans have reported on Zinke’s efforts to circumvent and eliminate the Endangered Species Act limitations. He also opposes attempts to crack down on the black market ivory trade and supports aerial gunning, baiting grizzly bears, and the use of steel-jawed leg traps. The NRA describes Zinke as an “avid” trophy hunter. He beat out Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) because DT, Jr., who sat in on the interviews, wanted a hunter like himself for the job. One headline described Trump’s two sons, Jr. and Eric, as “Awesome at Killing Elephants And Other Wildlife” during their African safaris.

Beyond Zinke’s determination to destroy public lands is his ultra-conservative political views. Donations to his campaign from white supremacists and Zinke’s endorsement for them in political races shows his ties to the neo-Confederate group that inspired Dylann Roof, the man who is guilty of killing nine worshippers in a Charleston (SC) church. He co-sponsored legislation to designate English as the official language in the U.S., and he discussed the bill in an interview with the anti-immigrant  ProEnglish organization, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He endorsed state legislative candidate Taylor Rose, who has close ties with the European right-wing extremist Youth for Western Civilization. Richard Spencer, head of the racist National Policy Institute, may run for Zinke’s vacated congressional seat—if he gets confirmed—and the state GOP party has yet to denounce Spencer.

Zinke’s state newspaper opposes the representative on a number of issues. He’s been accused of helping coal companies that donate to his campaign fleece taxpayers because of loophole to sell to subsidiaries at artificially depressed prices. He ran on a platform of clean energy and climate change in 2010 and then reversed his opinion, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. His fundraising materials suggested he participated in the killing of Osama bin Laden although he retired from the military three years before that even. The Department of Defense told him to stop using the SEAL insignia on his campaign materials. One of his constituents wrote that he could no longer support Zinke because he now sees him as “an unprincipled, self-glorifying, dangerously cynical phony.” Ryan Zinke will fit right in with Donald Trump.

nikki-haleySouth Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), nominated as ambassador to the United Nations, has kept a low profile with her lack of foreign policy experience. Yet she buried a report from her state Department of Natural Resources on the severe problems that climate change brings to her state. After a 2015 flood killed 16 people in South Carolina and caused billions of dollars of damage, she refused to make any connection between the disaster and climate change. The terrifying encroachment of five feet of the sea level onto the South Carolina coast in the next three decades will be replicated around the world.

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21:  King Felipe VI of Spain (not picture) receives Mr. Andrew N. Liveris, President of Dow Chemical Company at Zarzuela Palace on May 21, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

The Cabinet is not the only place DT is stuffing with anti-world representatives, Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical who brought the planet Napalm, Agent Orange, Chlorpyrifos, 2,4-D, and GMO crops, will head up the American Manufacturing Council, a private sector group that advises the U.S. secretary of commerce. Last September, Breitbart criticized the Clintons for being friends with Liveris. but made no comment about DT’s selection of Liveris for his team.

The only victory against DT’s determination to destroy the climate was the questionnaire that his transition team sent to the Department of Energy demanding names of people who worked on blocking greenhouse emissions. The DOE refused, and scientists are taking steps to preserve decades of climate data on independent servers so that the DT administration does not erase it.

The Wayback Machine, an internet archive of hundreds of billions of web pages no longer active, is copying its 20 years of material to Canada. During the Third Reich in Germany, the Nazis could burn books to destroy information. Computers make this obliteration much more difficult. Future generations will be able to trace the corruption and fraud of the DT administration.

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