Nel's New Day

June 10, 2018

People Come, People Go

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
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A few appointments by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) focus only on protecting the wealthiest people, for example, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) interim director Mick Mulvaney’s firing his consumer advisory council, created to identify problems for people treated unfairly by financial firms. The majority of DDT’s picks, however, are selected for their anti-immigrant, pro-white nationalist, pro-evangelical positions.

Arrivals:

Steve Bannon’s friend Michael Pack, the proposed nomination to lead the Broadcasting Board of Governors, would disseminate DDT’s conservative views through federally funded media outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe in the nation’s biggest public diplomacy program. Its audience of 278 million people speaking 61 languages reaches over 100 countries. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, DDT’s appointee already on the BBG told friends he wants to make the agency a “Bannon legacy.”

Fred Fleitz, John Bolton’s new chief of staff on the national security council and longtime senior staffer at Center for Security Policy, joins the anti-Muslim think tank in contending that mosques and Muslims are working to “Islamize” the U.S. in a “stealth jihad” taking advantage of pluralism and democracy. Hawk Bolton accused Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin of being a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a Russian “truther,” Fleitz claims that the U.S. intelligence reports about Russian election meddling was “rigged” and DDT should “pardon everyone” under investigation. Having published a book advocating aggression toward North Korea, Fleitz claims his concern is groups that promote hate.

Gary Bauer, DDT’s appointment for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wants anti-LGBTQ and anti-Islam laws. He calls the left the American Taliban because they hate America. Bauer joins DDT’s “anti-immigrant army” that is “infiltrating every part of the federal government,” including agencies whose purposes include advocating for immigrants and refugees, according to Julissa Arce.

Richard Grenell, conservative ambassador to Germany, continues to offend his hosts. First he ordered Germany to stop trading with Iran; then he said he’ll work on policy, not diplomacy. In his latest interview with Breitbart, he said that he plans to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.” Germany has demanded a formal explanation from the U.S. about the meaning of Grenell’s statement that he promised to use his office to help far-right nationalists take power in Europe. In his praise of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, connected to the Freedom Party created in the 1950s by a former Nazi officer, Grenell was described as behaving less like a diplomat than “an extreme-right colonial officer.” Political members in Germany and Belgium expressed a number of criticisms about Grenell, and some have recommended that he be expelled from German. All this after Grenell promised during his confirmation to stay out of German politics.

Called upon to explain why Grenell plans to “empower” Europe’s anti-immigrant conservatives, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said:

“We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany….  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany.”

On D-Day, 2,499 people from the United States were killed in the fight to liberate France from Nazi German forces. Grenell’s criticism of the “left” in Europe further strains relationships after DDT’s withdrawals from both Iran deal and the Paris climate accord before the imposition of tariffs on U.S. allies. Nauert’s later statements appeared to support Grenell’s comments.

Diane Foley, who ran a Christian organization operating two Colorado anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers,” or fake clinics, was quietly installed on Tuesday as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, where she will lead the office responsible for the Title X federal family planning program.

A list of White House staff changes.

Departures:

On the anti-climate change side, Scott Pruitt is hanging on to his job as EPA secretary despite almost daily scandals, but his staff is dropping like flies. Sarah Greenwalt, Scott Pruitt’s senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, Pruitt’s director for scheduling and advance, bailed, and Pruitt’s top public affairs official Liz Bowman left Pruitt last month for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who called Pruitt as “about as swampy as you get.” She voted for his confirmation after he promised to protect the ethanol industry. Other EPA resignations include Samantha Dravis, Albert Kelly, and Pasquale Perotta.

Greenwalt and Hupp had received inordinate raises that Pruitt lied about before he had to admit that he set their salaries. Hupp quit the day after Pruitt used her sister, Sydney Hupp, to try to get a franchise for Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn, with Chick-fil-A. Pruitt asked Hupp to email Dan Cathy, head of Chick-fil-A, asking for a meeting about to discuss “a potential business opportunity.” An earlier request was setting up a talk between Pruitt and the head of the non-profit organization Concordia who paid Marlyn $2,000 plus travel expenses to help organize the group’s annual conference nine months ago. The EPA started preparing Hupp’s resignation papers after she testified to the House about the personal tasks that she was asked to do for Pruitt, including buying a used mattress from the Trump Hotel.

Emails released from a Freedom of Information request show a large variety of Pruitt’s improper use of his staff. One of them concerns his assignment to his security detail to obtain a special moisturizer available for Ritz-Carlton hotels. Available online for $27.20 a bottle, the lotion has “sweet notes of ylang ylang, jasmine and uplifting bergamot.” Another responsibility for his security personnel, costing $3.5 million a year, is picking up dry cleaning.

Pruitt needs all the aides he can get. A judge has ordered him to submit evidence by July 11 that supports his position that humans are not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He has missed an earlier deadline, calling the legal action “a trap” and a “fishing expedition.”

Kelly Sadler, the White House aide who claimed that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) vote didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway,” no longer has a job “within the Executive Office of the President.” She may not have completely disappeared: Kellyanne Conway indicated that she might find another job in DDT’s administration. While she still had her job, she blamed Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, of leaking her comment.

Sadler is not alone. White House deputy chief of staff Joseph Hagin, who organized the North Korea summit, is leaving as soon as he returns from the meeting with Kim Jong-Un.  Drew Maloney, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, has a new job in the finance industry. Also gone are Mark Inch, chief of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Tom Ziemer, the National Security Council’s head of Global Health Security; Richard Johnson, the State Department’s acting assistant coordinator for Iran Nuclear Issues; and Cliff Sims, a special assistant to the president who oversees White House message strategy. An update of the departed DDT hires is here.

DDT can’t find anyone willing to take the associate AG position, third in charge at the DOJ and responsible for firing Robert Mueller if Rod Rosenstein won’t take action on this. Jesse Panuccio, acting associate AG since Rachel Brand left several months ago, would be acting AG if Sessions and Rosenstein were to leave. The DOJ is already missing permanent leaders for five DOJ units including criminal, civil, and tax divisions.

Problems:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, named head of a commission to study school safety after the mass shooting at Parkland (FL), said that the commission will not study gun safety at schools. When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked her why not, she said:

“We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the murders on Valentine’s Day, tweeted:

“You just gave every parent who actually cares about school safety a reason to vote in November.”

DeVos said that the commission will also not look at best practices of foreign countries with much lower rates of gun violence. The school safety commission is composed of four Cabinet secretaries: DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. After criticism because the first commission meetings were not public and didn’t include teachers, school leaders, or students, the group had a listening session, but none of the commission members was present.

Confirmations for DDT’s nominees may slow down after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) put holds on Treasury nominee Isabel Patelunas and possibly other Treasury nominees. The Treasury Department has refused to give him materials about DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his firm’s relationship with Novartis and other clients.

One of DDT’s major appointments, Chief of Staff John Kelly, calls the White House a “miserable place to work,” and the question is how long he and other aides will remain. DDT is already serving as his own chief of staff, spokesman, and human resources manager.

 

April 27, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-six – Worsening Quicksand

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:27 PM
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A U.S.-supported Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 20 people at a wedding—most of them women and children—in northern Yemen this week. One of the dead is the bride. The groom was one of 45 wounded taken to a local hospital. Ambulances could not get to the bombing site because jets kept flying overhead. The airstrike was the third in the past few days, including a family of five killed in their home and at least 20 civilian commuters killed in a bus in western Yemen. The UN has accused the coalition of war crimes as their airstrikes his weddings, busy markets, hospitals, and schools. DDT’s distress at killing children in Syria stops when he helps the murders.

A strike against low-income people in the U.S. comes from HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s suggestion that rents be tripled for people receiving housing subsidies and that these people be required to work. Deductions in determining a tenant’s rent would also eliminate medical and child-care costs. At least the change would require congressional approval. When people asked where they would go, Carson responded, “This is a perfect example of what happens when the swamp gets ahold of people.” Nowhere in the country can a person working a full-time minimum wage job afford a two-bedroom apartment, and over half the people in the nation spend over 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.

EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s science cred keeps shrinking. He told forest industry leaders in Georgia that burning biomass such as trees—in EPA policy—is carbon neutral when “used for energy production at stationary sources.” The next day he announced a new EPA rule preventing EPA policymakers from using scientific studies unless all the raw data is made public before posing with Marc Morano in a photo op for his new climate-denying book. This week, Pruitt also gave testimony before two congressional hearings, mostly about his ethics—or lack therof. Pruitt admitted that he knew about the huge salary increases to two staffers after lying about not knowing about it last month. Getting rid of him, however, might not do any good for the environment: his replacement would likely be his deputy climate-denier coal-lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.

DDT and Emmanuel Macron, president of France, shared many touchy-feely times during Macron’s visit this week, despite the refusal of DDT’s wife, Melania, to kiss him or even hold his hand. The “closeness” didn’t stop Macron from warning about the politics of “fear and anger” in his speech to a joint session of Congress. Macron said that the fear policy divides people and “only freezes and weakens us.” The speech also opposed DDT’s tariffs that “will destroy jobs, increase prices and the middle class will have to pay for it.” Macron’s “intimacy” may have come from his desire to persuade DDT not to dump the Iran nuclear treaty, an action that would cause Iran to start developing nuclear weapons. The deadline for DDT’s decision is May 12. DDT’s first state dinner was unique—no Democrats, no media, and only four GOP lawmakers.

North Korea generated news this week after Kim Jong-Un met with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in to talk about ending the Korean War, which has had a 65-year hiatus with an armistice. Kim’s goals are to keep his nuclear arsenal while stopping sanctions against his country and gain global significance. Leaders of North and South Korea signed peace documents in both 2000 and 2007, but neither one endured. In 2012, North Korea called its test missile, banned by the agreement, a “satellite” launch. Kim demands that the U.S. end an alliance with South Korea, where 30,000 U.S. military members are posted, and is highly unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. Three U.S. citizens imprisoned in North Korea have not received any mention in discussions to talks, and DDT has yet to show any of the negotiation skills that he bragged about during his campaign. New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has yet to demonstrate any diplomatic ability or attitudes.

DDT’s telephone call into Fox & Friends yesterday was called “another gift from heaven” by Stormy Daniels’ lawyer. Among other issues, DDT admitted that Cohen was representing him in the Daniels’ situation, something that he has previously denied and admitted that he had stayed in Moscow at least overnight, something else he had denied. Filled with craziness, DDT’s monologue included his claim that he was too busy to get his wife, Melania, a birthday gift so he went on Fox & Friends as a present for her. Here’s the interview. If DDT wasn’t so destructive to the nation, I might even feel sorry for him after hearing his pathetic monologue.

Fox thought they had a coup with the call from DDT, but hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt looked genuinely appalled by the end of his rambling, almost incoherent statements. Kilmeade even had to convince him to hang up by telling DDT that he had work to do. Charlie Pierce asked, “Has a president ever been cut off of an interview before?” Anderson Cooper said that DDT sounded like “a crazy person on a park bench with an onion tied to his belt, just mumbling incoherently.”  Heather Digby Parton has a summary of DDT’s rant if you can’t bear to listen to 31 minutes of his “manic and disjointed” commentary.

Federal prosecutors went into court immediately after the Fox program, and an hour later, a federal judge ruled that the documents seized from Cohen should be turned over to an independent “special master,” a reviewer to evaluate them for violation of attorney-client confidentiality rules before prosecutors or Cohen’s lawyers can see them. Federal prosecutors argued that DDT’s comments about Cohen enhance their claim that Cohen’s documents won’t be protected by attorney-client privilege and made the same argument about Sean Hannity who separated himself from Cohen.

A federal judge also rejected Paul Manafort’s lawsuit against Robert Mueller’s power in the Russian investigation.

Even Republicans know how dangerous DDT is. Five Republicans joined the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill to protect Robert Mueller from being fired without good cause.

In other parts of the country:

Black humor in the new DDT normal: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), facing felony counts from blackmailing a former mistress and misusing his veterans’ charity for his political interests, is keynote speaker at a St. Louis area police chiefs’ association prayer breakfast. Like DDT, Greitens blames the media.

In last week’s special election, a Republican won in a heavily GOP district by only five points where DDT had come in 21 points ahead less than two years ago. Republicans poured almost $1 million into the campaign, but the Republican might have been helped because Maricopa County failed to send out 140,000 ID cards for voters. Adrian Fontes, the county recorder who oversees elections in Maricopa County, called the issue a “little hiccup in printing.”

Teacher strikes are moving across the country’s red states with Arizona and Colorado the most recent entries. The first winner in increasing wages, West Virginia, brought out Gov. Matt Bevin’s hostile remark that the strike was causing sexual attacks against children left alone at home. Most of the states lack taxes to pay a decent wage at the low end because of drastically cut taxes and refusals to tax the fossil fuel industry. Paul Krugman has provided an overview of the funding crisis that pushed teachers into poverty.

DDT’s new minimal coverage in short-term health plans doesn’t include maternity care from two large private insurance companies in 45 states and Washington, D.C. Another 43 percent fail to cover mental health services; 62 percent don’t cover substance use disorder treatment; and 71 percent don’t cover outpatient prescription drugs. Republicans are right about these plans being cheaper: they lack even basic coverage in some areas.

DDT may not vet nominees, but he has a questionnaire for candidates before he will support them in the primaries. Loyalty evidently means ending foreign aid to Pakistan, supporting his Muslim ban and tariffs, repeal the healthcare individual mandate, and, of course, building DDT’s wall. Questions are here. Not all candidates are getting the questions although they are also sent to influential Republicans such as state-level committee members.

A white man kills four people of color in a Tennessee waffle house, and a black man saves lives of many people by single-handedly disarming the white man without a gun. DDT says nothing. As they say in golf, par for the course.

A study on DDT’s voters showed that their support for him came from a fear of losing their dominance in the United States, not threats to economic well-being. According to the researcher, DDT supporters see that society should come from hierarchy with themselves at the top.

Reporters without Borders has dropped the United States to 45th among 180 nations for press freedom, down two from U.S. ranking last year. DDT’s mentor, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, caused that nation to drop to 133rd. North Korea with a leader who DDT called “very honorable” is in last place.

April 7, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-three – Besieged on All Fronts

The possibly precarious mental state of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has become more and more normalized. The media largely ignored the fact that DDT doesn’t know he lives in the White House. He began his speech to children at the 140th Easter Egg Roll by saying by referring to the White House as “this house or building or whatever you want to call it because there is no name for it.” His claim that the unnamed place being in “tippy-top shape” was a segue to telling the children about the great economy of the United States and how the military would be “at a level it’s never been before” with the “$700 billion” funding.

DDT is also trying hard to keep the unethical EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, still suggesting last week that he might make him the DOJ Attorney General despite new scandals. Yet Pruitt’s unethical scandals keep pouring out with Scott Pruitt continues to have ethical problems. Added to scandals after my blog post earlier this week are his lies that his lobbyist renters didn’t have any business before the EPA (they did), the armored car that he wants taxpayers to give him, his failure to pay his pittance of rent without being hassled for it, the citation for his renters because they lacked a license to rent digs to Pruitt and his daughter, and the emerging scandal of former employee Samantha Dravis who unexpectedly resigned this week.

Pruitt called Dravis his “best friend,” and they had dinner together several times a week, and she carried out much of Pruitt’s anti-regulation agenda. She was among the staffers he took to Morocco to get business for his lobbyist renter although the trip had nothing to do with “environmental protection.” A Paris stop for the taxpayer-paid trip led to an extra day for them in “the city of lights” because they missed their first flight home. Dravis also got paid for three months when she didn’t show up at work. She was also the live-in girlfriend of Rob Porter, DDT’s helper who was fired for domestic violence, and reported him for abuse to WH counsel Don McGahn after she saw Porter with Hope Hicks. The information about Pruitt may have come from Porter as retribution for Dravis’ reaction to his dumping her for Hicks.

As Vanity Fair asked, “Can Scott Pruitt poison the environment enough to save his job?”

In the Russian investigation,

DDT waxed enthusiastic about being just a “subject” (not enough evidence to charge) instead of a “target” (lots of evidence), but investigator Robert Mueller moves forward like a bulldozer. DDT’s legal “team” can’t find replacements, and Mueller is amassing a report of DDT’s actions in office and pushing for interviews with DDT. The result could be an obstruction of justice. Politico has tracked DDT’s connections to Russia in these seven charts. According to DOJ documents, collusion is a crime, no matter what DDT claims.

The collusion information between DDT’s campaign and Russia was partially initiated by his adviser George Papadopouos getting drunk at a London bar two years ago and bragging to an Australian diplomat. Last week, he got tipsy—again—in a Chicago bar and told a new acquaintance, computer engineer Jason Wilson, that AG Jeff Sessions knew about the connections between Papadopoulos and Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta who told him about the Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in “thousands of emails.” Papadopoulos told Wilson that “Sessions encouraged me” to find out everything about the hacked Clinton emails.

Alex van der Zwaan pled guilty to lying to Robert Mueller’s investigation in the hopes that he would be out of prison before his wife gave birth in August. Apparently the tactic worked because he got a short 30-day sentence, probably by spilling lots of beans to Mueller.

A judge seemed to reject demands from Paul Manafort’ lawyer, Kevin Downing, to stop continued indictments from investigator Robert Mueller. Downing also argued that Mueller’s investigation exceeded the scope delineated by DOJ’s Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein but withdrew part of the civil suit dealing with this issue.

After missing deadlines for a congressional law, the Treasury Department issued sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies associated with them, a “state-owned weapons trading company,” and 17 government officials. Much of the vast profits made by these people and groups are stashed in the U.S. and UK.

Mueller has proof that Erik Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of Blackwater, lied about his meeting with a Russian banker in Seychelles to “establish a [back channel] line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.”

The investigation has gone into the involvement of DDT’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to examine DDT’s business dealings, including those in Russia. DDT denies he has had any involvement, but former partner Felix Sater has talked about their pursuit of a hotel in Moscow with financing from the Russian bank VTB that is sanctioned by the U.S. government. DDT sought deals to put his name on a huge hotel in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, and taken out copyrights on a large variety of products in across the former USSR and Iran.  Partners of the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan are relatives to a wealthy government minister with connections to the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s infamous military unit.

Joseph Schmitz, a DDT foreign policy adviser, pushed U.S. intelligence agencies to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from the dark web.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want information about DDT’s “Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust” from the Office of Government Ethics. The purpose is to pay legal expenses for DDT’s campaign aides caught up in the Russian investigation, and the reason may be to obtain more favorable testimony for DDT. The Fund allows secret, perhaps prohibited, donations, but public documents don’t explain how it will vet donors.

On Easter, DDT tweeted that there will be no deal to help DACA youth, called on tough punitive immigration legislation, and threatened to close down NAFTA. Then he went to church to celebrate the resurrected person of color honored on that day. After eliminating the DACA program himself, DDT turned down 13 bipartisan agreements for saving DACA, some of them even his own suggestions.

DDT decided to withdraw troops from Syria because he thought we had defeated ISIS before he decided to leave the troops there. In the meantime, he’s sending the National Guard from consenting states to the Mexico border as leverage to get his wall although the military cannot enforce any laws without their being federalized by Congress because of an 1878 law. DDT’s idea was inspired by Fox’s segment called “Caravan of Illegal Immigrants Headed to U.S.,” an annual migration of over 1,000 migrants to protest U.S. immigration policy. Most won’t try to cross the border. Fox’s Tucker Carlson described Mexico as a “hostile foreign power.” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who continues to say that Mexico is not paying for DDT’s wall, cancelled his plan to visit DDT.

Texas is sending 250 National Guard members to the border, but lawmakers there are unhappy. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) explained why this action is unnecessary, using a town in his district as an example:

“McAllen is at a 32-year low in crime. We’re at a 46-year low in illegal entries. It’s the wildest thing in the world for us to hear that they want to bring National Guard troops to the border region.”

Arizona is sending another 150 members of the National Guard. George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the border in 2006 because of border agent shortage, and President Obama sent 1,200 in 2010. Ann Coulter wants the military to “shoot the illegals” coming across the border because “just standing there doesn’t do a thing.” Ted Nugent wants all Democrats shot and killed like “rabid coyotes.” DDT has already said that drug dealers should all be killed, and on a Christian political show, Idaho state Sen. Bob Nonini called for the death penalty for women having an abortion. Caught in a backlash, Nonini said that he “NEVER said or agreed the death penalty should be considered,” but his words are on tape.

Congress returns this coming week, and conservatives are pushing to remove spending increases from their recent budget law for $1.3 billion spending. A 1974 law allows these revocations. Several Republicans, however, aren’t excited about the plan and say that they’ll wait to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who hasn’t even declared himself for re-election yet. Concerns about reversing the law include tough votes from the Democrats and negotiation in future spending deals which must be bipartisan.

HHS Office on Women’s Health has removed a website on breast cancer and other reproductive health information, including insurance information for low-income people such as no-cost breast cancer screenings. Much of the information has also been removed on a page dedicated to mammograms. The same agency has also removed LGBTQ health resources from its website.

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards’ new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead, tells how Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner offered her more funding for PP if she stopped abortion services.

The latest polling of DDT’s approval rating from the ultra-conservative Rasmussen survey came in at 47 percent, but DDT, never concerned about accuracy, claimed it was 51 percent—and then told people to add seven or eight percent to the poll. DDT’s average among polls is currently at 40 percent.

April 4, 2018

Scott Pruitt – Is He the Next To Go?

With more bad news about the Stormy Daniels’ and Russian scandals, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) needs another distraction. Firing his EPA secretary might be the solution, especially since Scott Pruitt is causing a number of scandals on his own. Pruitt came into the job lying at his confirmation hearings about private emails and then taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers for massive security expenses although no one can track serious threats; and construction needs to hide away from his staff. DDT kept him on because he was following DDT’s direction by polluting the nation and killing people with dirty air and water which saved money for DDT’s business friends; and high costs for personal and business travel, sometimes first class, because he is afraid of his constituents. He spent $120,000 to attend the G7 climate conference with seven aides and several security staff where he went to only one meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to postpone Pruitt’s hearings until thousands of emails were released. The day after his confirmation, the emails showed Pruitt’s collusion with the fossil fuel industry bribing him to falsify information supporting fracking. Thousands of concealed emails were released the day after his confirmation showing the his collusion with the fossil fuel industry that bribed him to build cases in favor of fracking companies and electric utilities.

In the last eight months of 2017, 770 EPA employees left the agency. Pruitt is so paranoid that employees may not take notes at meetings or talk about environmental issues. His security cost $830,000 for the first three months, the secret phone booth was $42,000, and special locks were $6,000 each. At the same time, the EPA budget dropped by over 30 percent in one year.

Pruitt’s latest scandal, however, is something that DDT may not be able to bear because it won’t go away. Pruitt’s expensive trip to Morocco regarding liquid nitrogen gas exports last December, something that has nothing to do with the EPA, caused great interest in the media when journalists found that he got a condo rental for $50 per night—when he stayed in—in an area that usually costs up to $5,000 a month for rentals. Pruitt’s renter is the wife of energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart who not only may receive an LNG deal for Pruitt’s cheap rent but also was awarded a huge pipeline expansion for Enbridge although EPA had previously fined the company $61 million for a 2010 pipeline disaster sending “hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and other waterways,” according to the New York Times. The fine was the second largest in almost half a century just behind that for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.  

The most recent scandal about Pruitt surrounds Millan Hupp, the 26-year-old staff member with the 33-percent raise who spent both office and personal hours in an extensive search for a house for Pruitt. Her work on this project constitutes a violation of federal rules that prevents federal officials from asking subordinates to do personal tasks. The White House refused to approve huge salary increases for both Hupp and another staffer, so Pruitt employed them under the Safe Drinking Water Act, permitting Pruitt to hire up to 30 people without White House or congressional approval. These employees do not have to sign ethics pledges about lobbying activities and other conflicts of interest. Pruitt signed off on their employment, but he denied it in a Fox interview today.

The Fox network, usually easy on Pruitt, was more harsh today. Asked about the additional $84,000 in salary for just two staffers, Pruitt said he knew nothing about it until this week. Interview Ed Henry said, “You run the agency. You don’t know who did this?” Until now, Pruitt managed the media by catering to conservative outlets and avoids environmental reporters. By withholding information, such as his schedule, Pruitt he kept out of trouble, especially because he threatens reporters with police removal at his events.

Pruitt began his first year running the EPA by vastly shrinking the agency and trying to destroy any regulations. Because he stopped enforcing civil penalties for companies breaking limits for hazardous chemicals, the amount of fines dropped drastically, about one-fifth of President Obama’s last year.

Pruitt has damaged children’s health and neurodevelopment by returning banned pesticides into the food supply, weakening standards to toxic metals, allowing corporations to release pollutants that increase asthma, permitting implementation of chemicals even if they can be dangerous, and closing an office that tests the effects of chemical exposure.

Pruitt’s drastic attempts to repeal the Clean Power Plan is opposed by a diverse population of coal miners, Missouri grandparents, and Wyoming healthcare workers.

A way for Pruitt to restrict environmental regulations is his proposed policy that all raw data must be made public, and that means personal health information that people want kept private if they participate in studies. Pruitt’s policy will result in narrow, incomplete research. He also ruled that scientists receiving EPA grants may not serve on the agency’s advisory board which blocks expertise about current science. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year.

Pruitt told agency scientists that they cannot speak about climate change. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year. He replaced half the members on a key scientific review board that determines the quality of research.

Last week, Pruitt sent all employees his eight approved talking points about climate change stating that the level of human impact on changing climate is “subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” It added “clear gaps” about the role of human activity “and what we can do about it.”

The EPA programs on climate adaptation and the one that studies effects of chemical exposure on children have been closed, and Pruitt recommends no funding for ones that deal with rising seas and warming temperatures. He also erased climate change from websites.

Pruitt is saving utilities from $31 million and $100 million annually by eliminating rules that tightened restrictions on disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. The toxic heavy metals seep into the groundwater, and living with a mile of a storage pond causes a greater health threat than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Coal ash is the second greatest toxic pollution threat in the U.S.

Pruitt eliminated the policy requiring polluters such as factories and power plants to be designated “major source” after they emit more than 10 tons of hazardous materials or 25 tons of combined dangerous materials in a given year.

Pruitt’s hires are highly questionable. Albert Kelly, banned from working in the banking sector for life, gets $172,000 from the EPA as senior adviser. He has no experience, but he loaned Pruitt money to buy a home and a minor league baseball team when he was an Oklahoma banker. Superviser for superfund cleanups, Kelly has had—and may still have—stocks in Phillips 66, one of the major polluters. Staffers at the EPA also have permission to keep their political consulting side jobs.

Pruitt suggested that global warming—which is causing floods, drought, famine, and war—might be helpful. He also said, “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Pruitt has been useful to DDT’s interest in big business and may save his job that way. This past week, he rolled back gas emissions regulations and just signed an executive order giving himself authority to determine regulations near streams, ponds, and wetlands, determining any possible negative environmental effects for projects such a coal refineries and power plants.

In 2016, Pruitt said, “I believe that Donald Trump in the White House will be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama and that’s saying a lot.” Pruitt became complicit in DDT’s crimes, but he may be on his way out. Asked about Pruitt yesterday, DDT said, “I hope he’s going to great.”

(If you’re not disgusted yet, Google Scott Pruitt. There’s a lot more, including his history while in Oklahoma.)

March 31, 2018

Census on Front Burner, Legal Decisions Helping People

The worst event in the past week may be the decision to add a question to the census about immigration status. Republicans have eliminated any questions about LGBTQ people, but they plan to add a question that intimidates people to cut down the number of votes for their own purposes. The question hasn’t been asked since 1950 and will start an immense legal and political war. Twelve states are already suing Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to stop the interrogatory question.

The Constitution requires a count of “the whole number of persons in each State” and says nothing about citizens. The SCOTUS ruling in Evenwel v. Abbott (2016) unanimously stated that legislative maps should be on total population, not the number of citizens.

Commerce Secretary is already lying about the necessity for “more effective enforcement” of the Voting Rights Act, but it’s already asked on the longer American Community Survey which is used to enforce civil rights laws. The census determines the drawing of congressional districts, the number of electoral votes, and the allocation of $675 billion from 300 programs in federal funding to states and localities. Undercounts deny federal resources and representation to Latino populations and shift power to white, Republican regions. An undercount of just one percent, for example, could cause Texas to lose $300 million in federal monies for children’s insurance and Medicaid.

Common Cause is suing Cambridge Analytica for using foreign workers to orchestrate U.S. elections. A 2014 C.A. report described its management of the campaign for GOP candidate Art Robinson in his campaign against Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in violation of the law.

A federal lawsuit in Utah is contesting the state’s decision to prevent a U.S. citizen from Samoa from running for office. The plaintiffs maintain that the 14th Amendment confers citizenship on people born on U.S. soil, whether state, territory, of the District of Columbia.

Three men, DDT supporters, are on trial in Kansas for plotting to bomb a Muslim apartment building to start a holy war. They hoped to slaughter Muslims to inspire other to follow their lead. Despite the political purpose of the plans, the judge refused the claim, and the defense lawyers are attacking the FBI with the claim that FBI entrapment unfairly persuaded the three men to have the terrorist plot. DDT has been silent about the terrorism.

Environmental groups are suing the EPA for removing a policy imposing limits on hazardous air pollutants from factories, plants, and other major polluters.

DOJ’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked to defend Texas gerrymandering maps found by a lower court to be discriminatory. The case goes to the Supreme Court on April 24.

The day after Stormy Daniels’ interview aired on 60 Minutes, she filed a defamation lawsuit against DDT’s personal attorney Michael Cohen for accusing her of lying about an affair with DDT. Demanding a jury trial, the suit also contains the argument that DDT’s non-disclosure agreement is not valid because Cohen’s payment of $130,000 violated federal law and DDT didn’t sign the agreement. A judge has refused to allow a deposition of DDT.

The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices.

Legal Decisions:

A federal judge on Friday evening temporarily blocked DDT from stopping abortions for unaccompanied immigrant teenagers who are or will be in federal custody because it violates the girls’ constitutional rights. HHS are not permitted to obstruct access to abortion, counseling, medical appointments, or other pregnancy-related care.

A federal judge refused to permit an ExxonMobil lawsuit intended to stop New York and Massachusetts’ probe into the company’s misleading investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change.

A federal judge refused to allow a conservative group to purge voter lists of eligible voters.

An appellate judge told Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) that he had to hold an election for empty legislative seats in the third ruling this week, and he gave up. Walker attacked Eric Holder and other Democrats on Twitter but set up the special elections for June 12 to fill seats vacated last year.

Washington, D.C. and Maryland may proceed with a lawsuit against DDT, according to a federal judge. The case alleges that DDT’s business dealings violate the constitutional ban on “emoluments,” payments to the president from states and foreign governments.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris told government officials they must consider climate change in mapping out infrastructure and land use in the Wyoming/Montana Powder River Basin that produces 40 percent of the nation’s coal. He told the BLM that they had to work with environmental groups for future development in the area.

A federal judge cited DDT’s “racially charged language” when he ruled that a lawsuit to protect DACA participants may continue. Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis pointed out that DDT’s many “racial slurs” and “epithets” created a “plausible inference” that his ending DACA violated the constitutional equal protection clause.

Firings/Appointments:

This week saw the disappearance of another Cabinet member. Two days after DDT said he wasn’t firing VA Secretary David Shulkin, he did. Pete Hegseth, Fox & Friends co-host, will have to wait for a DDT appointment; DDT says that he has picked Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, his personal physician who said glowing things about DDT, as the replacement for acting secretary. The media is now revealing that Hegseth has a tremendous amount of baggage that could keep him from confirmed.

Shulkin is not going quietly. He wrote an op-ed for the New York Times and has appeared on various television programs about how DDT surrounded him with staffers working to privatize the VA in opposition to the positions of veterans advocacy groups and lawmakers concerned about the influence of the Koch brothers and other far-right people to destroy public healthcare. Shulkin pointed out that private health care can’t even take care of its own clients now, let alone the number of patients and their specialized needs coming from veterans dumped onto the system.

The VA Secretary was ostensibly fired because of his travel expenses, a claim made invalid by the inordinate costs of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt. Pruitt paid $40,000 cost to take seven aides staff and an undisclosed number of protective staff to Morocco about the nation’s interest in importing liquified nitrogen gas. The Department of Energy and that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are in charge of LNG exports, not the EPA. Last June, Pruitt’s expenses to the G7 environmental summit were $120,000. While there, Pruitt attending one meeting and left early. For much of his first year in Washington, Pruitt lived in a condo owned by co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist which includes LNG exports. He paid about $1,000 a month in the fifth most expensive city in the country and in an area where rentals go for about $5,000 a month.

William Charles “Chad” McIntosh, DDT’s pick to head the EPA office of International and Tribal Affairs, comes from the Ford Motor Company where he failed to stop an industrial spill contaminating groundwater with a carcinogen chemical in a Michigan suburb. McIntosh may be deposed in a lawsuit. He also has a background in rolling back Michigan’s environmental protections.

Hope Hicks may be gone from the White House, but DDT now has Caroline Sunshine (left). The 22-year-old Disney Channel star from Shake It Up is a press assistant. (Remember when DDT said that Stormy Daniels, below, wasn’t his type?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christine Harbin, another anti-clean energy fighter, has been appointed as senior adviser for external affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, primarily dealing with the electricity grid. She worked for the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity since 2012 and, before that, for the Koch-funded ALEC, always in a position to support pollution.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) failed to keep Matthew Masterson on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission despite his cyber abilities to fight Russian meddling in elections, but he’s now been hired for the DHS cyber wing to work on election security. State election officials have praised his ability and leadership.

People are beginning to notice the environment: 59 percent rate quality of environment negatively, 40 percent positively; 61 percent say quality of the environment getting worse, 33 percent say better.

DDT is wasting money by doing away with regulations. In the past decade, the government made from $287 billion to $911 billion each year from regulations while spending from $78 billion and $115 billion to implement them. DDT’s goal is to eliminate 75 percent of the regulations that keep people safe. For years, I’ve asked a Republican friend which regulations she wants to get rid of; she never has had an answer.

Note from yesterday’s post on Laura Ingraham: the conservative host is taking a break from her Fox program, “The Ingraham Angle.” Thus far, at least 16 large companies have dropped their advertising after her attack on the Parkland (FL) survivor, leaving only IBM on Friday night.Now North Carolina Rep. Beverly Boswell (R) used her Facebook page to accuse student protesters at the Washington, D.C. rally of wanting to “murder” gun owners.

October 17, 2017

DDT’s Expensive Swamp

Cutting the waste in government was a frequent claim of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while on the campaign trail and the subject of an early executive order. DDT said that his executive order on March 13, 2017, would require a “thorough examination of every executive department and agency” to find out “where money is being wasted [and] how services can be improved.” His proposed budget slashes funds for the social network.

DDT should look to himself for waste in government. Although he has spent one night at New York’s Trump Tower since he was inaugurated, the apartment costs millions of dollars. He overcharged the facilities for the Secret Service there, requiring the command post to move to a trailer on the sidewalk in July. Expenditures for DDT’s golf trips are over $72 million, according to Trump Golf Count. At that rate, he’ll spend almost $400 million during his term.

DDT’s current campaigning for 2020 is on the taxpayer tab as well. When he went to Phoenix (AZ) to tout his “wall,” his campaign funds may have paid for the convention center and indoor security, but taxpayers were out almost $500,000 for his campaign event. Just employee overtime expenses for the Phoenix Police Department cost $336,887.

The costs of DDT’s family trips are astronomical. Just one ski vacation for Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, their spouses, their kids and their dogs cost taxpayers $330,000. The State Department paid the cost of $117,489.44 for the car rental charge when Tiffany Trump and her mother vacationed for two weeks in Italy. That was considerably cheaper than the $2 million that DDT cost the State Department during a 48-hour trip to Italy in May.

Secret Service is running out of money to protect DDT and his family of 18. Without congressional approval to increase the budget, 1,100 agents, one-third of them, will have to work overtime without pay. The current expenditure of $30 million is 250 percent more than the past annual cost of $12 million for President Obama and his family. The Secret Service protected 42 people around the clock until Donald Trump, Jr. refused his guard. After he said he wanted privacy, he was found killing moose in Alaska. Kellyanne Conway was also removed from the list.

Sen. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced an amendment the 2018 appropriations bill to prevent Secret Service payment to any businesses owned or operated by DDT:

“None of the funds made available by this Act to the United States Secret Service may be used to purchase, rent, or otherwise acquire goods or services, including hotel rooms, office space, or golf carts, from entities that are owned or operated by the President or the immediate family of the President.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) expanded Schiff’s plan to prohibit federal spending across the government at all “Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and other Trump-owned businesses.” The bills went nowhere but may have been educational.

In addition to DDT’s costs, taxpayers are paying for jetsetting Cabinet members:

  • (Former) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Over $1 million in military and charter flights. When he resigned, Price said that he would reimburse the government $52,000. A millionaire who made stock trade in health-care companies while helping them with laws, Price has been a proponent of taking hundreds of billions of dollars from federal health programs. As HHS secretary, he backed a $6 billion cut to NIH and an overall 18 percent reduction to the HHS budget. His goal is to eliminate “waste.” He also cut 90 percent from the Affordable Care Act’s advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million and almost half of the budget for consumer “navigators.” Price’s excuse for chartering private planes is that he once missed a meeting because of a four-hour delay on a commercial flight. Storms had shut down all flights in Washington, not only Price’s scheduled flight but also private jets which he attempted to get. Price missed dinner on Thursday night but was still available to give his speech the next morning. His destination, a two-day industry conference at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California, brings to question the excuse that he travels to be “connected with the real American people.” Another argument was how busy he was with the hurricanes; most of the chartered flights occurred before they hit the U.S.
  • EPA Director Scott Pruitt: Almost $60,000 for “non-commercial” flights. Pruitt spent 48 of 92 days traveling, most of the flights at least stopping in Oklahoma, possibly laying the groundwork for a senatorial campaign. One charter flight for $14,000 took Pruitt from Tulsa to Guymon (OK) to talk about closing the EPA’s ten regional offices by reassigning staff to state capitals—part of eliminating one-third of the EPA budget.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: Over $800,000 in costs for flights, including a government jet to Kentucky (where he and his wife viewed the solar eclipse) plus his request to take a government jet on his honeymoon to Europe.
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: A number of flights on private and military aircraft, including between St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as paying $12,000 to an oil-and-gas exploration firm for a charter flight instead of a commercial one because he was speaking to a political donor’s professional hockey team in Nevada. Zinke’s wife, manager of the campaign for Troy Downing who is a GOP candidate for a Montana senator, often travels with him as they stop at political fundraisers and donor events.
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin: Payment for his wife’s costs to Europe where they spent half his time, four days, on vacation tours that included four palaces and the championship Wimbledon match. Just weeks earlier, Shulkin told staff to cut back on travel expenses.
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: At least $58,000 for private flights.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: Seven FAA jet flights, including to New York and Paris.

VP Mike Pence may have cost taxpayers approximately $250,000 last week to stage a PR stunt. He flew from Las Vegas to Indiana with a pool of reporters to follow DDT’s orders by walking out of the football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after over 20 players knelt to protest police brutality. From there he flew to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. Worse than his staging this stunt was his statement that he saved people money because he would have flown to Washington, D.C. for the one night if he hadn’t gone to Indianapolis. Evidently no hotel openings in either Las Vegas or LA. Four Green Berets had been killed in Niger, but DDT ignored this tragedy to tweet against peaceful and legal protests by NFL athletes—29 times thus far.

DDT’s Cabinet runs high tabs in areas other than travel. Scott Pruitt’s protective 24/7 detail, triple that of his predecessors, costs $832,735.40 for his first three months, and the agency asked for an exception to DDT’s hiring freeze to hire an additional (number redacted on a memo) security members. In the past, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security received this kind of protection, but DDT has extended it to such dangerous positions as the Secretary of Education and the EPA. Betsy DeVos costs almost $1 million a month for protection from U.S. marshals.

Pruitt also wants a sound-proof booth. He’s paying almost $25,000 for it on the floor where employees cannot take cellphones or take notes. EPA employees say that he already has one but wants it “updated.”

One of Zinke’s staff is paid to go up to the roof and hoist his secretarial flag when Zinke enters the building and reverse the process when he leaves. He is the first White House official to do that for almost a century. His deputy secretary has his own flag to fly when Zinke is gone. Another cost, the amount not identified, is Zinke’s commissioning commemorative coins with his name that he hands out to staff and visitors. Again, the use of personalized coins is unique.

Price had early on asked to reopen the executive dining room, complete with executive chef, but Price has been fired.

And DDT’s executive order attempting to destroy health care for millions will cost the country $20 billion this year.

October 14, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-eight – More Unraveling, Part 2

The attempts of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to unravel the benefits of the past two presidential terms includes limiting assistance for Puerto Rico after two hurricanes. Although the Pentagon has issued private emails explaining a positive spin on U.S. non-assistance to its territory, DDT foils the attempt with such statements as his threat to remove FEMA because of PR’s financial struggles in the past.

Over three weeks after the second hurricane hit PR, 91 percent of the island is without electricity after yesterday’s power plant failure in San Juan, and 36 percent of the population lacks potable water. People are dying from such waterborne diseases as leptospirosis, and Puerto Ricans are drinking contaminated water from superfund sites because no other water is available.

FEMA sends information about sources of help through non-operational media sources; only 37 percent of cell towers function. Only 392 miles of Puerto Rico’s 5,073 miles of roads are open. FEMA cannot stay there forever—as DDT said—but it did stay in New Orleans for six years after Hurricane Katrina.

Criticized for the lack of support for people in Puerto Rico, FEMA said that it is not their job to distribute food and water. Their officials are there only to help people fill out paperwork. Mayors, who lack trucks, gas, and satellite phones, are responsible for getting these supplies to people. This photo to the right was taken this week in downtown Santurce, population of almost 100,000).

One senior FEMA official admitted that the agency is about 1.8 million meals short per day to feed people on Puerto Rico. Chef José Andrés had managed to deliver about 90,000 meals a day through a network of local chefs. His contract ended earlier this week with no urgency from FEMA to renew it.

Meanwhile, government workers are hiring Puerto Ricans for pedicures and massages on their “spa day” during work hours. An experienced senior doctor working for the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) in coordination with DHS quit after the FEMA disaster relief employees “used the triage tents that are supposed to be for medical care.”

Members of the White House administration are still geographically challenged. DDT said that he spoke to the “president of the Virgin Island” who is technically Donald Trump. DDT described Puerto Rico as being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: it’s in the Caribbean Sea. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, as a “country” during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.

Russian trolls are distributing false information on social media about “excellent” conditions on the island.

DDT has withdrawn from Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known for its designation of World Heritage sites. Its missions include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women with the largest literacy program in Afghanistan. The excuse is that the organization is “anti-Israel,” meaning that it accepts Palestine.

DDT is threatening NFL with increased taxes if they don’t stop athletes from kneeling during the national anthem. The NFL has no federal tax breaks, but it benefits from tax-exempt bonds used by governments to finance new stadiums, about $13 billion since 2000 for NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA. DDT could demand a ban on these tax-exempt bonds.

After Richard Nixon fought the seizure of his records, a court case, followed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, mandated that all records of presidents and vice-presidents are public and cannot be destroyed. DDT, his White House staff, and his family are being sued for the preservation of all presidential records. According to DDT’s DOJ, “courts cannot review the President’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act.” DOJ lawyers also argue that judicial review is wrong even if DDT deletes secret recordings or his staff purges phone records because they expected to be subpoenaed in connection with various investigations.

After DDT said he was overturning DACA, the law allowing work permits to young people brought involuntarily into the country, he said that Congress should reform the law to permit them to stay. This week he issued his conditions for DACA: money for his wall on the Mexican border, laws to send undocumented immigrants including unaccompanied children to their home countries, elimination of sanctuary cities and other areas, refusal to allow immigrants to sponsor extended family members, rejection of children fleeing violence in Central America, use of the E-Verify program by businesses to find undocumented immigrants, and a fifty-percent cut on entry of unskilled workers through a “merit”-based immigration system. DACA members would also not be allowed to apply for citizenship. The demands indicate the fine hand of Stephen Miller, a white supremacist White House member.

One of the first bills that DDT signed after his inauguration was to make it easier for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. People on Social Security for mental illnesses and deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs are again permitted to purchase weapons. Law enforcement officials are beginning to view the man who killed 58 people and injured over 500 people in one shooting as mentally ill.

In this week’s fourth set of talks for NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada, DDT turned against businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce an enemy. The Chamber called DDT’s proposals “unnecessary and unacceptable” and “highly dangerous.” Businesses know that withdrawal from NAFTA means higher tariffs, losses in jobs, higher consumer prices, failure to create new trade deals, and forfeiture of any leadership in exports. Congressional members of Congress are also expressing frustration with their lack of involvement in negotiations because are responsible for any changes, additions, and/or deletions to trade agreements.

New language in the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018-2022 strategic plan: its mission is “serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.” This guideline may lead to contraceptives becoming illegal because some religious groups think that they produce abortions.

The EPA has issued a 43-page document to replace the Clean Power Plan with the Dirty Power Plan without any information on how his plan impacts air pollution. The document justifying the Dirty plan discounts any global costs or danger to future generations. The public is invited to comment on alternatives for replacing it, without the EPA proposing any replacement of its own. Secretary Scott Pruitt seems to think that he would have trouble with actually repealing the Clean plan because he’s asking for public input—a delaying tactic that allows him to maintain the Dirty plan.

In the “perfect storm” that elected DDT, Cambridge Analytica, an “election management agency” partly owned by conservative hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, crunched data for DDT’s campaign after Ted Cruz lost. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is now investigating the company for possible collusion between DDT’s campaign and Russian operatives. Social media delivered Russian propaganda to white voters, but the information about voters may have come from Cambridge, an outgrowth of the British SCL Group which ran a campaign dividing Latvians and ethnic Russians in Latvia with false statements and fake social movements. DDT’s data team followed the same social, ethnic, and racial divides, pushing the idea of discrimination against the white middle class.

DDT’s new anti-science nominees are Kathleen Hartnett-White for White House Council on Environmental Quality and Barry Myers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Hartnett-White, from a Koch-funded foundation, believes that carbon dioxide is “not a pollutant” and argues that developing fossil fuels is “moral.” Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, wants to privatize the National Weather Service to benefit his company and has no advanced degree in science.

DDT continues his goal to be “unique.” This week he was the first person inaugurated as president who spoke to the hate group Values Voters Summit with its collections of anti-LGBTQ white supremacists and religious zealots. Another speaker was white supremacist and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, now beloved because he was wounded in a mass shooting. He is still opposed to LGBTQ rights although a married lesbian police officer saved his life. In a panel discussion, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) said that religious freedom laws would “unshackle the voices on the right,” admitting that these laws are about politics, not religion.

Ignorance or lying? DDT said that he has reduced the national debt by $5.2 trillion because the stock market has increased that much since he was inaugurated. News for DDT: national debt is what the nation has borrowed; stock market is how much more businesses are worth. No relationship! DDT has made 1,318 false or misleading claims over 263 days.

People who think that impeachment is a solution to the problems that DDT brought to the U.S. should consider this statement yesterday from VP Mike Pence:

“President Donald Trump has restored the credibility of American power. Today our nation once again stands, without apology, as leader of the free world. That’s what American leadership on the world stage looks like.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) hasn’t let up on DDT. Yesterday Corker talked about DDT’s forced choices between going to war with countries like North Korea and Iran or allowing those countries to obtain nuclear weapons. Corker said, “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice.” He continued by saying that DDT’s actions are causing all Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “phenomenal” work to “fall apart.” Thus far DDT hasn’t tweeted back at Corker’s accusations; he’s busy bragging about healthcare stocks going down after his continued sabotage of the Affordable Care Act.

Our future?

 

September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s Disasters

First a Category 4 hurricane followed by a 1,000-year rain/flood. What can be worse? Explosions!  After EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt delayed rules for chemical plants, organic peroxide at the Arkema chemical facility in Crosby, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, continues to blow up because of refrigerator loss from flooding. Arkema officials refused to keep the chemicals from exploding because it would then be unsalable. They aren’t even required to tell first responders what chemicals are at Arkema to provide safety for the firefighters. In more explosions, the “extremely flammable” chemical will just have to “burn itself out,” producing “incredibly dangerous” fumes, according to a facility spokesperson.  Interview with Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Dempsey regarding Arkema’s refusal to talk.

The rules that Pruitt delayed came after a 2013 explosion at a chemical facility in West, 200 miles north of Houston, that killed 15 people. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is erasing any federal responsibility in disaster response and discouraging corporate investment in new infrastructure. The newest refinery is 60 years old. Millions of pounds of pollutants have been released from flooded and shut-down refineries and chemical plants. Two nuclear reactors are still operating at Bay City, 65 miles southeast of Houston, where people have been evacuated, and flooding could cause electrical fires leading to core damage as well as a meltdown from loss of cooling water inventory.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez lied about the explosion, describing them as a “pop” followed by smoke; FEMA director, Brock Long, said a plume of chemicals leaking from the plant was “incredibly dangerous.”

Rebuilding in Texas will fail because DDT rescinded the requirement that future building company meet tougher flood standards set by President Obama. A bipartisan plea to keep the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard was overwhelmed by real estate developers and builders. DDT announced his change in an executive order at his August 15 press conference when he ranted support of white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) wife and Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, will be implementing DDT’s order. She is a former banker with Citicorp, vice president of Bank of America Capital Markets Group, and board member of Wells Fargo.

DDT’s lack of personnel and budget cuts will also ensure worse flooding and other disasters in the future. The U.S. has no director for either NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, nor DHS. Two FEMA deputy directors await confirmation. DDT’s budget slashes $667 million from FEMA programs and grants, including cuts to the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, which provides funding states and cities to better withstand the impact of hurricanes and coastal storms. He wants the funding moved to “the wall.” Proposed NOAA cuts: 16 percent overall; 32 percent to the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the agency’s main ocean, weather and climate research office; computer modeling of storms and observation of storms and data dissemination; and 22 percent to NOAA’s satellite division used for weather prediction.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) submitted an amendment to the federal government’s 2018 spending bill preventing funds for the government’s National Climate Assessment.

Texas wants FEMA money but turned down other aid. People of Quebec offered blankets, beds, and water as well as other relief effort such as equipment and crews to help restore power, but Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos refused everything. He asked for “prayers from the people of Quebec” instead. Mexico has also offered help, but the U.S. has not yet accepted.

Both GOP Texas U.S. senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, begged DDT for “any and all emergency protective measures available by a major disaster declaration.” Along with over 20 GOP Texas representatives in the House, they voted against the emergency aid package for Sandy that hit the East Coast. Thirty-nine GOP senators and 179 GOP representatives opposed money for Sandy, and senators stalled for 91 days.

After two months on the job, FEMA Director Long explained that he didn’t order an evacuation of Houston because it would take too long to get people out of the city. People left in the city sat in water if they couldn’t get out on their own—like these women in a Houston nursing home.

As usual, DDT treated the hurricane disaster as his own television reality show. Balanced on a ladder between two fire trucks in Corpus Christi, he held up a Texas flag and said to a few hundred people, “What a crowd, what a turnout!” He talked about the “ratings” from Hurricane Harvey and bragged that FEMA Director Long “has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.” He seemed self-congratulatory when he tweeted, “WOW – now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” DDT even lied in his tweet about “witnessing first hand the horror & devastation.” In Texas for only three hours, he went to Austin and Corpus Christi, met with the Texas governor, and was briefed at a Corpus Christi firehouse. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to cover for DDT by saying, “He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster.”

The piece missing from his impromptu speeches was any reference to the people who died in the storm or were forced to leave their homes from the floods. As a germaphobe, DDT may not have been able to touch any of the victims.

DDT did advertise the items for sale on his campaign website through product placement. The “USA” hat that he consistently wore is available for only $40.

While people in Texas were suffering, DDT concentrated on forcing transgender service members out of the military, pardoning white supremacist Joe Arpaio, advertising racist David Clark’s new book, and demanding his “wall.” At no time did he ask for donations for the people in the disaster areas. President Obama did that.

DDT promised to donate $1 million to an unspecified Harvey relief fund, but it is unlikely that he will. Although Sanders said the money might come from the Trump Foundation, donations from other people, that might be difficult because the Foundation is under investigation. When DDT collected money for veterans during his campaign, he didn’t release the money until the media embarrassed him into giving at least part of it to veterans. His statement that he had given $1 million of his personal money turned out to be false.

From Amy Goodman:

“Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical depression as it moves over Louisiana and into Mississippi. In Houston, floodwaters have begun to recede, revealing corpses and mass devastation. Texas officials say at least 44 people [now 47] have been killed by the storm. Nearly 100,000 homes are damaged by flooding. More than 30,000 people remain in shelters. Health officials are taking steps to minimize the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and nearly 150,000 homes have been told to boil their water. East of Houston, in hard-hit Beaumont, drinking water is completely shut off, and emergency workers are evacuating Beaumont’s main hospital. Meanwhile, flooding continues in North Houston as the Neches River surged beyond its banks and is expected to rise another foot by Friday afternoon.”

In another segment on Democracy Now, guest Renee Feltz talked about the release of waters from reservoirs that increases flooding and one of the polluted areas that EPA is still trying to clean up. Houston is home to over a dozen Superfund sites requiring cleaning up from pollutants, and DDT has cut that budget by almost one third.

Five public health problems after flooding in Houston: contaminated water, especially because of the release of pollutants by the oil and gas industry and explosions from the Arkema chemical plant; mosquitoes, bred in standing water and spreading disease; lost medicines left in evacuated homes, perhaps when people don’t know the names of their medications; mold from underwater conditions in many homes and other buildings; spread of infectious diseases from close contact in shelters; and long-term mental issues such as depression.

Eric Holthaus (Politico):

“Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously.”

Michael Mann (The Guardian):

“Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction. In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).”

Two high pressure systems kept Harvey in place longer than any other tropical storm in history. The disaster is consistent with last decade’s trend with nine of the past 11 years of Atlantic hurricane seasons producing more storms than normal. And now, Hurricane Irma, suddenly turned into a Category 3 hurricane, is headed for the U.S.

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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