Nel's New Day

March 11, 2017

DDT: Week Seven – Russia, Other Lies

 

Drawn to bright shiny things, the media moved from the lies told by VP Mike Pence and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to the firing of 46 U.S. attorneys general. But let’s move back to Pence and DDT.

Pence and DDT Lie:  The people who need “extreme vetting” are not immigrants—they are DDT and his minions. Nobody checks them for their ties to mobs, Russian oligarchs, their shady investment fraud, or even their jobs like Michael Flynn’s lobbying for Turkey while DDT is also paying him. Although Flynn was not registered as a foreign agent, he and his company were paid $530,000 during DDT’s campaign to influence U.S. policy on behalf of Turkey. DDT’s people, including VP Mike Pence, were shocked to hear about it this week. And DDT’s people, including Pence, were lying. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent Pence a letter on November 18 asking for more information about possible conflicts of Flynn’s lobbying work:

“Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests.”

Before Flynn took the position of National Security Adviser, his lawyer told the DDT transition team that he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey, and Mike Pence was head of the team. Yet he said that he had not heard anything about Flynn’s actions for Turkey until this week. DDT said he fired Flynn because he misled Pence about his work for Turkey, but DDT lied because Pence knew about it when Flynn was fired. Flynn’s attorneys also told DDT’s legal counsel team about his employee registering as a foreign agent before the inauguration and again in the early days of DDT’s term. DDT also lied when he said that he didn’t meet with the Russian ambassador during his campaign.

Either DDT knew and didn’t tell, leaving him inappropriate to be president, or DDT didn’t know, leaving him inappropriate to be president because he should have known. Throughout DDT’s campaign, both Flynn and DDT accused Hillary Clinton of pay-to-play controversies with federal governments. Flynn delighted in the RNC crowd screaming “Lock her up!” He said, “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.” He did.

Legal challenges against DDT’s travel ban mount: The Muslim.ban 2.0 is out, and four states—Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington—joined Hawaii, the first state to sue the president because of the executive order’s blatant discrimination and severe damage to tourism. Oregon added that the order will injure its residents, employers, agencies, educational institutions, and health care system. The order can also be challenged because of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which bars discrimination on the basis of “a person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.”

GOP health care problems rise: A major part of this week’s news has been the desperate move by the GOP to pass its version of healthcare intended to make the wealthy wealthier, release insurance companies from control, and take insurance away from the poor. In the past, I’ve called it “GOPcare,” but it’s acquired the name of TrumpCare, much to DDT’s distress. It’s the first time that he hasn’t wanted his name on something: he’s even applying for trademarks in China to have his name on condoms and escort services. The final plan is pretty much as expected, but there are a few extra perks. For example, it would give tax breaks to any insurance CEO making over $500,000, something that the Secretary of the Health and Human Services, Tom Price, didn’t know until he was asked about it. The marathon hearing before the passage of the bill in committee lacked any witnesses and is opposed not only by Democrats, AARP, and AMA but also by some GOP members and the insurance industry.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) announcement that healthy people pay for sick people indicates that he hasn’t grasped the concept of all insurance: premiums from people who don’t need the benefits pay for the disasters of the others who pay premiums. Every person arguing against the Affordable Care Act use generalities such as “death spiral” and “disaster” with no specifics is problems. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), whose health insurance is paid by the government, claims that other people should be responsible for their own health. His novel approach was the assertion that people should not buy $700 iPhones to find thousands of dollars for health care. Chaffetz gets a government-issued cellphone, and his donors pay for his monthly cellphone charges.

TrumpCare passed the committee vote without anyone knowing the estimate economic cost or the number of people who would lose insurance. In the past, Republicans asked first about any bill’s price tag, but they don’t care about this one. In charge because DDT took Price out of the loop, DDT’s budget chief, Mike Mulvaney, said that “insurance is not really the end goal here.” Republicans don’t care how much taxpayers will be on the hook or how much people will lose. They don’t consider how many jobs will be lost or how disastrous their changes will be to the economy. Republicans don’t care that health experts from the all sides agree that TrumpCare won’t work. Some of them even say that the bill could unravel the individual insurance market.

Read the fine print in DDT promises: DDT justifies his Muslim ban and draconian immigrant orders because he’ll do everything he says he’ll do. He promised to use only U.S. steel in “all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipelines” inside the U.S. His fine print, however, stated “to the maximum extent possible.” Therefore the Keystone XL Pipeline won’t be built with U.S. steel. DDT made the excuse that the pipeline is already being constructed, but the real reason is that TransCanada will drop its $15-billion lawsuit against the U.S. with NAFTA that it suspended last week after DDT okayed the pipeline project. The company had alleged that the U.S. government failed to protect Canadian investor in accordance with international law.

DDT’s negotiations don’t work with Planned Parenthood: DDT told Planned Parenthood he would guarantee federal funding for their services if they stopped providing abortions. PP’s president, Cecile Richards, immediately said no. No federal funds pay for abortions at PP, and the offer sets a horrible precedent to threatening all hospitals with no federal funds if they provide any abortions. At this time, only 28 percent of people want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

DDT’s tweets calm down: Kept in the White House for the first weekend since the one immediately following his inauguration, DDT’s Twitter account still sent lies (“Obamacare imploding” and “great progress with health care”). Earlier in the week, he tweeted, “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield.” Actually, the George W. Bush administration sent 113 of them back. DDT did manage to get his ninth round of golf in this weekend since his inauguration, an average of one every five days.

DDT faces another lawsuit: D.C. restaurant Cork Winebar filed a lawsuit against Trump’s D.C. hotel claiming unfair competition because people are trying to curry favor with DDT. The owners are not seeking damages, only an order barring the DDT’s D.C. hotel from continuing to operate while President Trump still owns it.

Which one is bigger? Compulsive about comparing himself to President Obama, DDT insisted that the National Park Service produce photographs of his inauguration crowd size to prove that his was bigger than that of President Obama. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from media outlets, these official photographs of the National Mall, one in 2009 and the other eight years later, show a huge difference between the 1.8 million for President Obama and the generous guess of 800,000 for his successor. At least DDT had more than the 300,000 people who turned out for George W. Bush’s first inauguration.

For a little cheer, check out Cocktails for Survival Over 50 drink recipes for DDT survival include drinks like “The Wall,” “The Bad Hombre,” “Trumple Thinskin,” and “The 400 Pound Hacker.” There’s also Putin’s Puppet, half a dozen Twitter Beefs (page 29), and a Pussy Grabber or two. Also available is a blog with a recipe for “The Sessions.”

Finish off with the best of Stephen Colbert’s humor from The Late Show when he gets help from construction experts to assess costs for his “big, “powerful,” “impenetrable,” “physical” and “beautiful” wall in order to meet DDT’s promises.

 

 

December 7, 2011

Corporations, Wealthy Work to Increase Political Control

Fortunately, I don’t live in Iowa—or New Hampshire—or any other state that will have primaries or caucuses early in 2012. Those are the states where people have to watch television advertising for and against Republican presidential candidates nonstop unless they have a way to block these ads or just don’t watch TV.

At least TV stations are making big bucks because corporations and super PACS are permitted unlimited spending in federal campaigns, thanks to George W. Bush’s Supreme Court. The activist approach of conservative Roberts court was made obvious in its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned key provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, rules that kept corporations–and their lobbyists and front groups (as well as labor unions)–from spending unlimited amounts of cash on campaign advertising within 60 days of a general election or 30 days before a primary for federal office.

Former Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, explained the results of the ruling: “We’re now in a situation where a lobbyist can walk into my office…and say, ‘I’ve got five million dollars to spend, and I can spend it for you or against you. Which do you prefer?’” To give all this money to the conservatives, who will probably spend 90 percent of this advertising money and swing the elections toward the far right, the court used the concept of “corporate personhood.”

Grayson said, “One-hundred years of settled law meant that corporations cannot buy elections inAmerica, and they [Supreme Court] not only allowed corporations to buy those elections, but they made it a constitutional right.” Although the plaintiffs said nothing about the First Amendment, the court decided to use this as the basis for their decision. Justice John Paul Stevens noted that the conservative majority had “changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”

Corporate personhood’s origin in English law was based on the approach that companies have to be considered “persons” in order to sue them. An inanimate object can’t be sued.

The nineteenth-century robber barons managed to get a few corrupt jurists to codify the idea that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as living, breathing people in the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The railroad used the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to avoid paying taxes because states had different tax rates.

The courts bought the argument, but historian Thom Hartmann found no mention about “corporate personhood” in the original verdict. This declaration comes from the headnote to the case—a commentary written by the clerk, which is not legally binding—in which the Court’s clerk wrote: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Over 100 years of Supreme Court decisions have been based on an incorrect headnote written by J.C. Bancroft David, a corrupt official, who had previously served as the president of a railroad, working “in collusion with another corrupt Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Field.” The railroad companies, according to Hartmann, had promised Field that they’d sponsor his run for the White House if he assisted them in their effort to gain constitutional rights.

Even after the ruling, Hartmann noted, the idea of corporate personhood remained relatively obscure until corporate lawyers dusted off the doctrine during the Reagan era and used it to help reshape the U.S. political economy. Nike, Sinclair Broadcasting, Dow Chemical, J.C. Penney, tobacco and asbestos companies—all these corporations used the amendment written to free the slaves for their own benefit to avoid surprise inspections, keep secret dangers of their products, and continue practice illegal discrimination. All these companies succeeded except for Nike.

Legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick condemned the court’s “systematic dismantling of existing legal protections for women, workers, the environment, minorities and the disenfranchised.” Those who care about spiraling inequality, she wrote on the Slate, “need look no further than last term at the high court to see what happens when—just for instance—one’s right to sue AT&T, one’s ability to being a class action against Wal-Mart, and one’s ability to hold an investment management fund responsible for its lies, are all eroded by a sweep of the court’s pen.”

Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), among others, are fighting back against this corrupt vision of corporate control by introducing and supporting a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. Udall’s proposal would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures, and allow states to regulate such spending at their level. It would also provide for implementation and enforcement of the amendment through legislation. Over 750,000 people have signed petitions to void the Supreme Court ruling.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) also provided the following: “The SCOTUS made a mistake in the Citizens United ruling by equating money with political speech. We must redress this error before special interest money comes to dominate political campaigns and determine the outcome of American elections.

“On June 24, 2010, I joined with my colleagues in the House to pass HR 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, which aims to curb the ill effects of Citizens United in the near-term. Had the DISCLOSE Act passed in the Senate  it would have required corporations, unions, and other interests to adhere to campaign finance disclosure and expenditure requirements similar to those already in place for candidates standing for election to Congress. Although this bill would not have prevented an influx of money in federal elections, it would have made the sources of such money transparent to the public and prevented foreign intervention.

“In the 112th Congress, I have reintroduced a proposed amendment to the Constitution of theUnited States, H.J. Res 72, to address the long-term and fundamental problems presented by the Citizens United ruling. My proposed amendment would add a new and unfortunately necessary clause to the Constitution affirming that money can be a corrupting influence in a democracy and therefore excessive use of money to buy elections can be restricted under the Constitution of our great country.

“Money does not equal speech. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure free and fair elections in Oregon and throughout the United States of America.”

At least one judge is determined to go farther than the Supreme Court in allowing corporations carte blanche. Although the Supreme Court ruling allowed unlimited independent expenditures in political campaigns from corporations and other organizations, it did not overturn the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates campaigns. Judge James Cacheris of Virginia ruled that “Citizens United requires that corporations and individuals be afforded equal rights to political speech, unqualified.” The Department of Justice is appealing Cacheris’ ruling to the 4th Circuit Court.

Worse yet, Karl Rove has asked the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) if he can run coordinated political advertisements, featuring candidates the PAC is supporting. He justifies his request in this way: “While these advertisements would be fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012, they would presumably not qualify as ‘coordinated communications.’”

After debating the question of whether super PAC ads featuring a member of Congress would violate the coordinate ban, which blocks certain interactions between independent groups and candidate committees, the FEC deadlocked at a 3-3 vote. The PAC’s lawyer, Thomas Josefiak, said, “Certainly they’re coordinated, but we’re using that in the lay sense. The question is, is it coordinated from a regulatory perspective?”

The topic was a source of discussion–and hilarity–on Stephen Colbert’s comedy show, The Colbert Report. Typical of Colbert’s tongue-in-cheek approach, he provides a solution to Rove’s request: “To avoid the appearance of collusion, the F.E.C. could rule that candidates can appear in Super PAC ads only against their will,” he wrote. “They’d have to be kidnapped, blindfolded, and thrown in a van before being forced to read a statement supporting their goals and then returned to their fundraisers in time for dessert.”

Commissioner Ellen Weintraub thanked Colbert for “shining a light on this little corner of government” as she brought up the hundreds of comments the commission had received on Rove’s request from viewers of his show.

The thin line between comedy skits and supposedly serious political discussions has dissolved.

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