Nel's New Day

March 17, 2020

DDT Changes Spin on Covid-19, Sort Of

Over three years ago on January 13, 2017, before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, his proposed Cabinet officials and other aides received a three-hour briefing about responding to a global epidemic. Detailed briefing books contained scenarios much like the world has experienced during the last few months, complete with warnings about shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs, and other medical essentials. Information stressed the “paramount” importance of a coordinated, unified national response. Materials included available legal authorities to pursue a response, and capabilities and responsibilities of different agencies, and detailed explanations of numerous laws and regulations that might affect their work, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

New officials were dismissive of the briefing, and the books were later found in the trash. In talking about covid-19, DDT has made comments such as “you can never really think” that a pandemic like the coronavirus “is going to happen” despite the briefing. This video tracks DDT as he incessantly minimizes any problems from the virus in the U.S. Documents given DDT and his officials show a specific plan for dealing with a pandemic, a plan that DDT ignored.  

As of tonight, the U.S. has 6,456 confirmed cases, 1,793 from just today, and 109 deaths—21 percent of them occurring today. Confirmed cases are in all 50 states and D.C. In the world, 7,965 have died from covid-19 in 198,229 confirmed cases. China has had neither new cases nor deaths today, but some European countries are hard hit. 

Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, has been the source of advice for DDT as he ignored his infectious disease and immunology experts. Kushner repeatedly told DDT the media exaggerated the severity of the virus outbreak. Knowing nothing about covid-19, Kushner still advises DDT’s direction on the virus strategy. (In the past, Kushner claimed to be an authority on the Palestine-Israel conflict because he read 25 books.) DDT’s disastrous speech last Wednesday in which he banned travel from most of the EU was created by Kushner and DDT’s white nationalist Stephen Miller so he would look as if he had a strategy.

DDT has been so convincing to his supporters that they encourage risky behavior to both themselves and others. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) urged people to go to restaurants and bars, despite warnings from leading expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay away from other people. After DDT echoed Fauci on Monday, tell people to “avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts,” Nunes lied and said he meant “take-out.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) bragged about going to a crowded restaurant and took a selfie with his family (right). “It’s packed tonight!” he tweeted.

In a Kendall (FL) megachurch, the pro-DDT pastor told his congregation to keep coming back to church because God’s house wouldn’t be contagious. He said, “If we die, we die for Christ.” In Tampa (FL), another pro-DDT pastor told people to shake hands with each other.

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, pardoned by DDT last month, tweeted, “This hysteria is being created to destabilize the country and destroy [DDT].”  Other right-wing personalities falsely blame liberal billionaire George Soros for causing the virus.

Frequent Fox guest Mark Steyn, guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s show, falsely blamed San Francisco’s “shelter-in-place” guidelines keeping people at home on “compromised immune systems” in the “big gay town.” He added, “They don’t want all the gays dropping dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch.” The guidelines cover seven million people with about 5 percent identifying as LGBTQ.

Even the private Facebook page for DDT-supporting first responders hasn’t changed its false message of covid-19 being a “hoax.” The leader said that DDT had to say that the virus is serious to fix the stock markets.

For better PR, DDT has decided to treat the virus more seriously, and Fox is struggling to keep up his 180-degree turn after their major hosts had downplayed its threat, calling it a conspiracy to undermine DDT.  Sean Hannity called it a “massive paradigm shift,” “a bold new precedent,” “America’s leadership.” Laura Ingraham moved from decrying the “panic pushers” to talking about “this dangerous health crisis.” Less favored host Trish Regan was simply taken off the air.

Since his speech almost a week ago, DDT has taken a covid-19 test, tried to stop talking about the importance of the stock market over people’s lives, called the virus a pandemic, and agreed with the House bill to give people food, testing, and paid sick leave. He now rates his response to the virus as ten out of ten although he told governors to get their own respirators and supplies, refused to let the Army Corps of Engineers build facilities for hospitals, and said that people shouldn’t try to get testing.

The government lost months in getting resources from the private sector, states, and academic institutions to test people which stopped efforts in tracking and controlling the virus while it could still be contained. In the beginning officials were afraid to tell DDT anything unpleasant, and when he learned about the virus, DDT was afraid bad news would adversely affect his reelection campaign. Now Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon to give money away for votes. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is an example of that approach. First, he didn’t want paid sick leave; now he says that the Democratic House bill doesn’t go far enough to help people. If the virus had to arrive, people are lucky it’s in an election year when candidates like Cotton needs votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has ignored over 400 House bills to push through young unqualified ultra-conservative judges, is now excited about the current covid-19 bill and another one, perhaps costing $1 trillion. At a press conference today, he said that the Senate won’t leave until the next bill passes and talked about 53 people putting the bill together. Evidently Democrats are included. McConnell also said that he needs to “get permission to vote” on the bill which might mean that DDT has to give him permission. If so, the former third branch of government, Congress, has been subsumed under the executive branch, like the judiciary.  How DDT wants to disperse the funds: airlines, $50 billion; workers $100 billion; corporations $850 billion.

DDT has an advantage from the epidemic. The Supreme Court has suspended oral arguments for the first time since the Spanish flu in 1918, and the case on March 31 concerned the subpoenas from House committees to get DDT’s financial and tax records. There may be no decision by the end of June, meaning that the issue will not be settled until after the November election. Across the nation, federal and state courts are postponing in-person court proceedings.

Even elections are questionable. Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio have rescheduled them, assuming that the virus will be gone by later spring. In Ohio, the governor declared a health emergency to call off today’s voting after a court denied his request, a dangerous precedent for DDT. Arizona, Florida, and Illinois plowed forward and all put Biden in first place. In the United States, only three states—Colorado, Oregon, and Washington— are smart enough to vote by mail, and 17 states demand a good reason for getting an absentee ballot. Only one of those states permits covid-19 as a reason for a mail-in ballot. Republicans fight against mail-in elections because it provides a paper trail and lets everyone vote without standing in long lines, two ways that the GOP manages to win elections. 

A frequent DDT message is that Democrats are politicizing the virus. Yet ten days ago, he complained about Democrats to Mar-a-Lago guests: 

“They’re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools—you know, destroy the country. And that’s ok, as long as we can win the election.”

Asked when he was going to make the virus apolitical, he said that he would respond to any criticism, already telling two governors to move faster when they pointed out the delayed response to the health crisis. VP Mike Pence has secret meetings with conservative “influencers” about spinning DDT’s efforts regarding the health crisis and providing PR for DDT’s reelection campaign.

Xenophobic DDT insists on referring to covid-19 as “the Chinese virus.” Called out for the term, he attached the Chinese for their theory that the U.S. military started the virus. A U.S. theory, however, accuses the Chinese to developing covid-19 as a bioweapon.

The most amazing DDT story of the week is his attempt to persuade a German company to relocate to the U.S. for its covid-19 vaccine research efforts and share the information only with the U.S. DDT said he would do anything to get the vaccine and offered the company money. DDT would likely buy a lot of shares in the company, but it turned him down.

People have less and less faith in federal response to and DDT’s statements about covid-19. Only 46 percent believe the federal government is doing enough to stop the virus’ spread, down from 61 percent last month. And only 37 percent have any trust in DDT, compared to 60 percent who have not much or no trust in what he says.  

February 23, 2020

‘Zero’ Immigration Hurts Economy

“We are desperate” for immigrants was part of the message by Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), in a speech at Oxford Union while Mulvaney was in England. (That was after he said that Republicans care only about huge deficits when there is a Democratic president. Mulvaney and DDT have managed to increase the national deficit by $3 trillion in three years.)  About the U.S. need for immigrants, Mulvaney said:

“We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants.”

Immigrants contributed 15 percent of U.S. economic growth between 1990 and 2014. They provide taxes to support domestic programs for U.S. children and seniors as well as tending to be better educated. They founded 30 percent of U.S. firms that have gone public and more than 50 percent of startups valued at over $1 billion that have yet to go public. They generally do not speak English as well as native-born citizens so they don’t compete for jobs in communication, concentrating more on scientific and technical employment. Others work in fields sometimes rejected by native-born citizens; immigrants comprise 36 percent of workers in the farming, fishing, forestry, building and grounds cleaning, and maintenance workers; 27 percent of hotel workers; and 21 percent of home health care industry workers. Their mobility fills in gaps for labor market efficiency.

As DDT does in the U.S., Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson (nicknamed BoJo), with the help of his home secretary Priti Patel, is imposing a rigid points-based system to deny most immigrants the right to live and work in Britain. They get their points by proving they speak English, are educated, and have a job offer paying a middle-class wage. BoJo hopes his white nationalism will appeal to older and wealthier conservative voters.  Like in the United States, BoJo’s system will result in a massive shortage of workers in healthcare, home care, lodgings, restaurants, farming, and other areas relying on low-paid employees. The government estimates that 70 percent of immigrants from the EU since 2004 would not have qualified.

DDT is going to be more desperate to find immigrants after his conservative Supreme Court ruled to lift stays on the wealth test—that immigrants even on the path to citizenship will be deported if they receive public benefits for 12 of 36 months. Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated the court was violating its own rules about when to step into the legal process. Until DDT’s election, the Court did not typically grant stays while cases were in the lower courts. Sotomayor pointed out that this “extraordinary act” now seems to be the “new normal.” Of the 23+ applications for “extraordinary” stays since DDT’s inauguration, 12 were this year compared to a total of eight requests during the 16 years of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. DDT’s government also wins two-thirds of the requests, showing that his Supreme Court bends the law in his favor.

“It is hard to say what is more troubling: that the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the court would grant it.”

Sotomayor also argued that “this Court is partly to blame for the breakdown in the appellate process … because the Court … been all too quick to grant the Government’s ‘reflexiv[e]’ requests.”

Immigrants already in the U.S. use public benefit programs less than U.S.-born citizens. In 2013, 32.5 percent of the latter received SNAP benefits compared to 25.4 percent of naturalized citizens and 29 percent of noncitizens. Immigrants also receive lower benefit values. Having jobs such as child care, home care, and fast food employment doesn’t keep people from needing these benefits

The Supreme Court decision impacts millions of immigrants; at least 69 percent of the over 5 million people receiving green cards during the past five years have at least one “negative” factor that could deport them. Even applying for a green card is counted against applicants. Other factors counting against applicants:

  • Not having an income that is 250% of the poverty line ($76,700 for a family of five).
  • Being unemployed.
  • Dropping out of high school.
  • Lacking English fluency.
  • Being older than 61 or younger than 18.
  • Having medical issues, especially if uninsured.
  • Not having private health insurance.
  • Having a mortgage, car loan, or credit card debt.

A missing piece in DDT’s budget, however, seems to reinforce the hiring of undocumented immigrants, perhaps again at his own businesses. The use of E-Verify, a program that checks new hires for undocumented immigrants, is no longer mandatory although it was part of his campaign promises. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and adviser, has been working on a 600-page immigration proposal that makes immigration more business friendly, and the budget cuts $3.7 million from E-Verify’s funding.

Big employers don’t use E-Verify “Because I don’t have to,” according to their interviews with Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies.  The Trump Organization didn’t use E-Verify until a scandal about DDT’s undocumented workers erupted over two years after his inauguration. In May 2019, DDT told Fox that his business tried to use E-Verify while building his hotel in Washington, D.C. but the program blocked them from hiring “qualified” people. Florida’s biggest businesses—including agriculture, tourism, and construction—opposed the mandatory use of E-Verify because it was a threat to their workforce. Twenty-four states, including Florida, require E-Verify only for some government employers, but only eight states mandate the program’s use for all businesses.

The shortage of immigrants comes from far-right, racist, anti-immigrant Stephen Miller who persuaded DDT that a white country is a good country. In The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer wrote a profile of Miller and his steps to turn the United States white.  

After 9/11, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, the third largest federal department with a $50 billion budget and a staff of about 200,000 employees, combined a number of protective agencies for disaster recovery, cybersecurity, infrastructure, the Coast Guard, and immigration. Miller’s focus was only on the last one: he ignored policy-making and requires lower-level officials to answer directly to him without the knowledge of their high-up’s.

Under the auspices of Director of Domestic Policy Council, Miller eliminated decades of immigration policies and precedent while using law to reduce legal immigration. His ten-point list includes an “end to catch and release,” “zero tolerance for criminal aliens,” penalties for sanctuary cities, a vow to reverse Obama’s executive orders, and a “big-picture” vision for reforming the immigration system “to serve the best interests of America and its workers”—meaning no one but white. Because of Miller, DDT revoked DACA to rid the U.S. of a “foreign-born” workforce before Miller guaranteed that Congress wouldn’t find a bipartisan solution for its reinstatement.  

Miller led a meeting with DOJ officials to push them into prosecuting border crossers as criminals so that families could be separated. Parents received criminal charges; children were considered unaccompanied minors. DHS wasn’t ready to implement the program and had no system for reuniting families, but Miller forced the agency into taking 2,500 children, including 102 under the age of five, from their parents. Hundreds of parents were deported without their children.  

Almost a year ago, DHS began the great DHS purge, beginning with firing Kristjen Nielsen and moving on to dumping the head of ICE and the DHS top lawyer. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that DDT “pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal.” Miller moved in his own loyalists such as Matthew Albence as head of ICE who compared detention facilities to “summer camp.” But Kevin McAleenan, DHS fourth DHS head under DDT quit. He said:

“What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time.”

Miller refused to accept the resignation, but McAleenan left anyway. His replacement, Chad Wolf, is another acting appointee not confirmed by the Senate for that position. To get Wolf into that position, DDT pushed him through as Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans. Wolf could not be an agency director without being Senate-confirmed for another agency position.

Although he denied involvement in the “zero tolerance” immigration policy, Wolf helped develop the concept of separating families at the southern border as punishment and said, “My job wasn’t to determine whether it was the right or wrong policy.” He is also architect of the “Remain in Mexico” policy which forces almost 50,000 migrants caught in dangerous conditions while awaiting refugee asylum.

Last fall, hundreds of Miller’s emails exchanged between 2015 and 2016 with Breitbart were made public. They included links to articles on the white-supremacist Web site vdare, as well as an enthusiastic reference to The Camp of Saints, a racist anti-immigration French novel. One email forwards an article arguing that the U.S. should deport immigrants on trains “to scare out the people who want to undo our country.” Miller’s policies have almost completely sealed the southern border and has moved on to ordering DHS to send armed agents from Border Patrol swat teams to so-called “sanctuary cities” such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. He also wans ICE officers to pull children out of school. A senior DHS official told Blitzer that “there’s no one left at DHS to say ‘No’ to Miller anymore.” With Miller, DDT and the United States won’t have the workers they need to grow the economy.

February 16, 2020

DDT: Week 160 – More Corruption

DDT wants more money to kill people with military funding, less money to help people in the United States. Pieces of his budget cuts:

DDT’s tariffs dropped farm prices, and his budget slashes crop insurance, used to support corn and soybean farmers for low prices, by 31 percent. Another 10-percent cut would remove incentives for farmers to keep soil in place and reduce water pollution. Last year, farmers faced “soil-destroying mega-storms, export-killing trade wars, low crop prices, and spiking bankruptcies,” reported Tom Philpott. DDT’s $28 billion handout to farmers ended this month, and the coronavirus decimated trade, despite DDT’s bragging about his “deal” with China. Crop prices for corn and soybeans are “treading water right now,” according to University of Iowa agricultural economist Chad Hart. “The trade deals took us one step forward and coronavirus takes us one step back.” Hart said. National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson said:

“As both a presidential candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for and dedication to American farmers. Yet year after year, his budget has failed to address the very real economic challenges facing rural communities.”

DDT’s budget continues his efforts to eliminate the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS and all federal funding for libraries. In addition to $23 million in the 2021 budget to close the IMLS, DDT asked for $33.4 million to do away with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and budgeted for the closure of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. [Other programs that DDT wants to eliminate.] Congress opposed these closures in the past: the FY2020 budget increased $10 million for the IMLS budget which included $6.2 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), funding equivalent to two of DDT’s weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago. ALA president Wanda Brown said:

“Eliminating federal funding for libraries is to forego opportunities to serve veterans, upskill underemployed Americans, start and grow small businesses, teach our kids to read, and give greater access to people with print disabilities in our communities.”

DDT’s rally audiences chant “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton and the tragedy at Benghazi, but DDT’s budget cuts the $5 million to honor J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed by terrorists at that Libyan diplomatic outpost. Despite 11 GOP hearings exonerating Clinton of any blame for the deaths of four people at Benghazi, State Department secretary Mike Pompeo accuses her of putting “political expediency” ahead of people “on the ground.” Now Pompeo and DDT are being investigated for their treatment of U.S. diplomats. The Stevens Initiative was created to memorialize his dedication to cultivating international exchanges; DDT is trying to eliminate the funding for the third time.

DDT’s budget cuts $4.5 billion, 25 percent, from the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), the military fund offsetting Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Last year’s reduction was $6 billion and the previous year, $6.5 billion. DDT opposes U.S. programs that provide training, resources, and funding for European foreign governments and takes money from the fund for his wall. The EDI funds are part of the budget category Overseas Contingency Operations, a slush fund for the Pentagon.

DDT’s budget, a political statement, gives his priorities. In these cases, he wants to get rid of the arts, education, and food production while protecting Russia.

In a letter to all 74 federal inspectors’ general, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Minority Leader, is requesting an immediate investigation about the “shameful” and “illegal” White House retaliation against whistleblowers who raise concerns about the misconduct and abuses of power by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). In so doing, Schumer warned of a “dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the president and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness.” He said the attacks included the “attempts to publicly identify the anonymous whistleblower who used the proper legal channels to initially report the president’s attempts to compromise our national security for his personal benefit.”

The impeachment trial may be over, but the Senate Intelligence Committee has shown interest in talking to the whistleblower who set everything in motion. Committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) is considering a subpoena for the person to testify. Vicechair Mark Warner (D-VA) hasn’t agreed with Burr but said that the person’s anonymity and safety “is a top priority.” Although not a committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has pushed for the whistleblower to testify and called on Burr to investigate the “episode.” Roy Blunt (R-MO), not up for reelection, agrees with Graham; Susan Collins (R-ME), worried about her lack of popularity in her reelection year, is cautious without a “compelling case.”  

With no permit and wearing white face masks, 100 white supremacists marched in Washington, D.C. and shouted “Reclaim America!” Police protected these members of Patriot Front, a group promoting “American Fascism,” while they broke the city law. The organization wants to “reclaim our nation’s capital from Jews, Marxists, and anti-white enemies in government who want to see white Americans erased. We seek to build a fascist homeland in the ashes of a failing democracy.”

Paramilitary groups are trying to join the mainstream by declaring themselves a “non-profit” groups as Washington state’s chapter of Three Percent, part of the “Patriot Movement,” has done. Their racist ideology, however, hasn’t changed.

As white domestic terrorist groups gain power, the FBI created the ability to attack peaceful protesters. Under Director Christopher Wray, the FBI put pro-choice “violence” in the same only one episode of pro-choice-inspired terrorism, a threat in an online comments section. Of 850 current domestic terrorism cases, 50 percent concerned anti-government extremism and 40 percent concerned racist terrorism. The remaining 85 cases concern animal rights, ecological degradation, abortion, and miscellaneous cases.

Wray may want to help the Supreme Court rule against abortion rights. This year’s Louisiana case is almost identical to the Texas law struck down three years ago that demanded doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a state-approved hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. SCOTUS determined that the Texas law provided “few, if any health benefits for women” while being “a substantial obstacle to women” in exercising a constitutional right. Two justices added to the court since then lean anti-abortion. The current case attacks Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) which blocks regulations constituting an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. Without this stipulation, states can make any unreasonable demands regarding women’s rights and abilities to have abortions. The FBI can then block any response from pro-choice activists by accusing them of violent extremism, especially with the help of activist AG Bill Barr.

After DDT said no one was harmed in the dozen rocket attacks by Iraqi militia, the Pentagon announced that 109 service members have traumatic brain injuries. DDT calls them “headaches.”

DDT is running for reelection on criminal reform but praises China for executing drug dealers. He full-throatedly campaigns for the Second Amendment with no restrictions on gun ownership but pushes against freedom of the press in the First Amendment. The only part of the constitution that DDT supports is the Second Amendment.

Most of the publicity about DDT’s retaliation concerned the Vindman brothers marched out of the White House, but DDT’s paranoid policy caused another 50 career professionals to be sent from the White House to their home agencies. Early DDT employees, who resigned or were fired, are now returning.

  • Hope Hicks, the former communications director who DDT looks upon as a daughter, is now his counselor.
  • Johnny McEntee, who lost his security clearance from gambling debts, will oversee the Presidential Personnel Office.
  • Stephen Miller ally Chad Mizelle, another DDT anti-immigrant loyalist, will be the unqualified appointee for DHS general counsel.   
  • Mandy Gunasekara, who pushed DDT to drop the Paris climate agreement, has returned as the EPA chief of staff.  
  • Former DDT chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer are now members of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Spicer quit after DDT hired Anthony Scaramucci for communications director; Priebus was fired after six months. Scaramucci had called Priebus a “leaker” and “a f*cking paranoid schizophrenic—a paranoiac.”

In a state of confusion during his speech in New Hampshire, DDT said, “The redemption money is paying for the wall.” He may mean “remittances” that undocumented workers send to their families out of the country, but the plan to collect this money was never enacted. The military funding for base housing, schooling, medical facilities and other improvements are paying for the wall.

More geography gaffes: While speaking in New Hampshire, DDT confused Concord, NH with Concord, MA, giving New Hampshire credit for the Massachusetts involvement in the American Revolution.

A majority of people, 55 percent, believe that DDT was not exonerated by his impeachment acquittal. More than that, 59 percent, think that the trial was conducted unfairly.  

December 16, 2019

Despite Congress, Gun Culture May Change

Last Saturday was the seventh anniversary of the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown (CT) when a 20-year-old killed 20 children between six and seven years old and six adult staff members. People hoped that this tragedy would change the culture of unrestricted gun ownership in the U.S., but the number of mass shootings accelerated with more huge tragedies such as the one on Valentine’s Day in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL) where a 19-year-old killed 17 people.

In a study of mass shootings since 1966, the DOJ discovered these commonalities among shooters: an experience with childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, a “script” or examples that validate their feelings or provide a roadmap, and access to a firearm. The study used the FBI definition of killings of four or more people in a public place excluding the shooter(s).

Mass shootings are more frequent and deadly with 20 percent of the 167 episodes in 53 years occurring in the past five years. Those shootings in the past five years show a dramatic increase of shooters motivated by racism, religious hate, and misogyny. More shooters are motivated by hate than by mental health issues. Nearly 70 percent of shooters were suicidal before or during the shooting with higher numbers for school shooters.

One theory of curbing the number of mass shootings is giving them no attention in the media and connecting people with outside resources. But the study also recommends limiting access to weapons. That’s the one thing that the current Congress refuses to do. Yet almost half the shooters bought weapons legally, and another 13 percent got them from friends and family.

One month ago, two Democratic senators were trying to persuade Republicans that they should strengthen background checks for gun purchases to make them for all people, not just those who buy from licensed dealers. People can buy from individuals and at gun show with no checks. The House had already passed the bill. At the same time of the debate, a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita (CA) shot and killed two schoolmates before killing himself.

During the Santa Clarita school shooting, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) objected to “fast-tracking” a background check bill because she might not be able to lend a rifle to her grandson. She saved her GOP colleagues from being forced into a vote that would get them in trouble with either their constituents or the NRA. A year ago, Hyde-Smith told her constituents that voter suppression is a “great idea” to make it harder for liberals to vote. Video here.

The 42 “active shooter” incidents at Pre-K through 12 school grounds between 2000 and 2018 identified by the FBI overlook many shootings that go under the radar. Definitions of school shootings differ. Everytown, an independent, non-profit group studying gun violence, reported at least 99 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the first 345 days of 2019. These included three suicides and 63 injuries in addition to the FBI “active shootings.” In a database from the Gun Violence Archives defining a shooting by at least one person shooting at another person at a school during regular hours or an extracurricular activity on the property, ABC found 26 shootings since January with half of them on Fridays. Six people were killed and 44 were injured, not including the assailant. The majority of incidents—57.6 percent—were at the end of or during sporting events, specifically basketball and football games. Those events are detailed here.

Overall, over 370 mass shootings occurred in the first 330 days of 2019, an average of eight mass shootings a week, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It defines mass shootings as four or more people, not including the shooter, shot but not necessarily killed.

People minimize school shootings because they are a small fraction of firearm crimes, but these occurrences devastate schools and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children exposed to violence can suffer “a wide array of negative health behaviors and outcomes, including alcohol and drug use and suicide.

Families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre gained a victory from the Supreme Court that ruled they can sue Remington, the maker of the AR-15 used in the attack. The case proceeds in the Connecticut courts. Although Remington will likely win the case, discovery will require the company to turn over documents that reveal its marketing secrets that may show the company encouraged the shooter to use the weapon for the slaughter. Suing gun manufacturers has been almost impossible since a congressional law passed in 2005.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a case that has been settled by law. When the NRA objected to New York City transportation restrictions, the state changed the law, and the case was settled—until SCOTUS decided to hear it. To “win” the case, plaintiffs need Chief Justice John Roberts who only cared about the fact that plaintiff wouldn’t suffer if a majority declared the case moot. The DOJ, on the side of the NRA, claimed that a declaration of moot would keep the plaintiffs from seeking damages for a past violation of their rights. In the past six years they have not made that request, and their lawyer admitted that this has never before come up in a case. Samuel Alito’s and Neil Gorsuch’s questions favored the plaintiffs, and Brett Kavanaugh joined Clarence Thomas in staying silent. The plaintiffs’ lawyer Paul Clement wants the court to send a message.

The existing background check has a loophole that keeps people from complying. Hundreds of thousands of gun background checks are never completed because those that take longer than 88 days must be stopped and purged from the computer system. The FBI fails to complete over 200,000 checks a year—over 1.1 million background checks in the past five years. Background checks may be delayed because law enforcement agencies fail to provide incident records or other records.

Buyers don’t need to wait for a complete background check. After three business days, the dealer can sell the gun; the killer of nine people in the Charleston (SC) church could buy a gun because the background check wasn’t completed. Of the 276,000 background checks now completed within three business days last year, the buyer couldn’t legally own a gun in at least 3,960 cases. The FBI asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to reclaim the weapon.

Because of the 88-day deadline, the FBI concentrate on ones it could quickly complete and largely ignored those taking longer than the three days. Almost three-fourths of checks taking longer more than the initial deadline are never completed. The House has passed a bill to extend the deadline before a sale, but Hyde-Smith blocked it.

A loophole in Florida’s gun laws allowed a Saudi Arabian man to legally buy the gun that he used to kill eight sailors and wound eight others at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. All the 21-year-old foreigner in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa needed for the purchase was a hunting license.

Since Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style weapons and all guns to those under the age of 21, its net sales grew 5.6 percent, the best quarterly same-store sales performance in six years, showing the success of exchanging narrowly focused hunting goods in favor of items with broader appeal, including women’s and athletic apparel. Now, the chain removed all guns from 20 percent of its stores.

Despite the GOP resistance to saving lives from guns on the federal level, Sandy Hook is having an influence on the state level. In seven years, 21 state legislatures expanded background check requirements, 17 states pass red flag laws allowing law enforcement to take guns people who can be a danger to themselves or others, and 28 states enacted laws requiring people convicted of domestic abuse to give up their firearms in the past seven years.

On the downside, several states passed laws for easier carrying of concealed firearms, even without a permit, and others allow firearms on school grounds with the belief that it will stop mass shootings. NRA claims 460 pro-gun measures have passed state legislatures. Yet several Democrats winning the most competitive Virginia legislative races promised to pass stricter gun controls after Republicans abdicated their responsibilities after the Virginia Beach mass shooting.

With gun safety laws more of a partisan issue, big donors are coming out against the NRA stranglehold. They spent more than the NRA for campaigns and elections in recent history. In the third straight annual Gallup poll, over 60 percent want stricter laws for the sale of firearms, 64 percent in October.  A Fox poll shows that 67 percent want a van on assault weapons, up from 54 percent after Sandy Hook and including 61 percent of rural white people in the U.S. The NRA popularity is down to 42 percent, below the unfavorable rating of 47 percent.

Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action the day after the Sandy Hook shooting, said, “Congress is where it ends, not where it begins.” The states have begun.

December 7, 2019

Week 150: Beyond Impeachment

This week continues the impeachment inquiry and follows the NATO disaster, but more news deserves attention.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has a Christmas gift for 3.7 million, many of whom probably voted for him: hunger. He’s taking food stamps from 755,000 people and making three other changes which reduce [visual] benefits for 2.2 million people by $127, another 3 million dropped by $37 per month, and 1 million children out of free and reduced lunch programs. It’s 9.4 percent reduction in the number of people receiving benefits and 8 percent drop in overall benefits. Most food stamps to go low-income white people, millions of them seniors, but cuts are also for low-income veterans.

DDT’s actions save a little over $1 billion a year while he hands out an additional $16 billion to big farms because of his trade war with China. The bottom 80 percent of farmer recipients received little more than $5,000. Meanwhile the number of farm bankruptcies match those at the height of the Great Recession in 2010. On Fox, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said that impeachment inquiries don’t feed people. Neither does DDT. But he has enough food for himself.

In more destruction of the judicial system, Sarah Pitlyk, the fifth “not qualified” judge to be confirmed by Republican senators, claims that claimed that fertility treatment has “grave effects on society” and leads to “diminished respect for motherhood.” At 42 years old, Pitlyk will be on the bench in Missouri for a long time. A previously GOP-confirmed unqualified judge, lacks any “significant trial experience,” according to the ABA. McConnell recommended Walker, who had clerked for Brett Kavanaugh and defended his boss. 

DDT looks to the Supreme Court for defense after courts rule against him. Deutsche Bank and Capital One were ordered to give up DDT’s financial records for himself, immediate family, and the Trump Organization to two House committees, according to a 2-1 panel of judges from the 2nd Circuit Court, but the Supreme Court stayed the order until December 13 to deliberate about a longer stay. DDT declared that giving the records to the House committee for Financial Services and Intelligence would compromise his privacy, distract him, and has no valid purpose. He also filed an appeal of a court ruling in Washington directing Mazars to turn over financial records and tax returns to the House Oversight Committee and to New York prosecutor Cyrus Vance.

The Supreme Court did stay capital punishment by the DOJ until the D.C. Circuit Court reviews the ruling blocking executions.

Monsanto will pay $10.2 million in criminal fines after pleading guilty to spraying banned pesticides on corn seed and research crops on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 2014. The company will also pay $10 million to California in another plea deal. Third-quarter earnings for Bayer, Monsanto’s owner, were $1.15 billion so the fines were 0.018 percent of that profit. Almost 43,000 plaintiffs are suing Monsanto, up from 18,400 three months earlier.

DDT faces more investigation for his victory in hiring a North Dakota company to build a wall through a wild-life refuge. The $400 million would go to a company that failed to meet standards. DDT made the choice its CEO, Tommy Fisher, appeared frequently on Fox to ask for the contract.

A judge stopped the building of a GoFundMe wall along the southern border because of no permits, no studying its engineering, and harming the neighboring National Butterfly Center with a planned “water wall” between the nature refuge and a state park. In redirecting floodwater to the sanctuary, the water wall would wipe out vegetation, destroy the site, and reduce the property value. Despite the court ruling, the group bulldozes its way forward. A temporary restraining order lasts until December 17 and can be renewed for two weeks before possibly leading to a temporary injunction hearing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers isn’t happy about Jared Kushner’s plans to set up web cameras for live streaming the building of DDT’s wall. It seems that contractors don’t want their proprietary explained to billions of people around the world, including other builders and people wanting to subvert the wall. Officials also know that the video will show U.S. work crews violating Mexican sovereignty when they go across the border to maneuver vehicles and other heavy equipment. Project costs include setting up web connectivity and people to continually reposition cameras. DDT’s son-in-law, Kushner will probably come out on top. 

A serious obstacle for the wall is the amount of private land that the government must acquire—162 miles out of the planned 166 miles in Texas, for example. Landowners are fighting the loss of their land, even government employers wandering across their land without permission.

After Prince Andrew got caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, the royal became another person who DDT “doesn’t know,” although photos contradict DDT’s lie. After Gordon Sondland, ambassador to EU, testified against DDT, he “didn’t know him well.” DDT may know Sondland even less after three women accused him of sexual misconduct and then retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances.  Sondland denies the accusations, but prominent Oregon GOP politicians are giving away his campaign donations to them.  

Kellyanne Conway has loyally lied for DDT since before becoming his campaign manager in August 2016. Yet DDT said on Fox & Friends that “she must have done some bad things to [her husband George Conway] because that guy is crazy.” The fight between the Conways—Kellyanne the DDT enabler and George the DDT critic—has now gone very public, and the White House has joined Kellyanne in viciously attacking George. Kellyanne is still defending DDT, this time claiming that the world leaders make fun of DDT because they are “jealous” of him. Derogatory comments from leaders representing at least 50 countries in the world.

When Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited DDT in the White House, DDT asked Sen. Kevin Kramer (R-ND) to block a resolution on Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people to please Erdoğan. It was the third time that DDT told a GOP senator to block the resolution, but earlier Kramer had sponsored a resolution to recognize the genocide, and DDT made him complicit in pandering to a foreign autocratic leader.

Having acquired Rudy Giuliani’s phone logs, Congress knows he called the White House, but the calls aren’t recorded on its logs. DDT evidently uses his personal cell phone to hide his calls—like he falsely accused Hillary Clinton’s use of emails. Former officials said DDT gave his private number to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and routinely uses his phone to avoid calls being recorded—a violation of the law. His refusal to use secure telephone lines also allows anyone—including the Russians and Chinese—to record his calls. DDT demanded that CNN retract its story, but reporters continue to stand by it.

When DDT invited reporters to the White House for an introduction to Conan, the dog taking part in the raid that took down the ISIS leader, he told them, “If you open your mouths, you will be attacked.” Normal for him, but the sex of the dog was where the story went strange. Over a period of two days, reports of Conan’s gender changed four times, starting and ending with male. Either no one at the White House or Pentagon can sex a grown dog, or they lied to agree with DDT. Although the changes aren’t earth shattering, reports prove that no one can believe anything that comes out of the White House. Sharpie, anyone? 

In late November, DDT tied himself to the achievement of 1920 when he signed the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, honoring the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote: 

“I am curious why wasn’t it done a long time ago and also, well, I guess the answer to that is because now I am president and we get things done. We get a lot of things done that nobody else got done.”

Centennials come on the 100th anniversaries so they aren’t done before the 100th anniversary. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) explained the purpose of the act to DDT, and he asked again, “So why wasn’t this done a long time ago — years ago?” And the Republicans cling to this dementia.

Yesterday, DDT went even crazier. He followed his past attacks on a move from incandescent to LED lighting to a huge concern about toilets because faucets and flushing forces the water “out to sea…. And you don’t get any water; you turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water.” According to DDT, “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.” He claims he doesn’t have enough water to wash his hands so he ordered the EPA to look into his problems. DDT wants “no obstruction.” Perhaps DDT is upset because he was offered a solid gold toilet from a museum instead of the van Gogh he wanted. The sculpture, called “America,” ended up installed at Winston Churchill’s former home, Blenheim Palace, before it was stolen in September.  

September 15, 2019

Immigration in the U.S.: The Center of Cruelty

Public opinion—aka outrage—about deporting approximately 1,000 seriously ill migrants, primarily children, by denying them any deferred status drew attention before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) moved Hurricane Dorian to Alabama. Families who must renew their medical deferred status every two years were notified in August that they would be automatically forced to leave the country within 33 days. After a backlash, DDT said he would reconsider the new policy that sends all these migrants to their certain death because they would lack health care, but he hasn’t provided a resolution.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, failed to appear for an emergency House hearing about the travesty, and Daniel Renaud, the associate director for field operations, said that he just follows orders. USCIS, formerly responsible for processing the deferral requests, handed all non-military requests over to ICE. ICE said it knew nothing about the change, and recipients of the deportation letters were not notified. Now ICE won’t address deferral requests until the subjects have an order of removal. The most recent information comes from American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Those people aren’t the only ones who DDT is killing. Last Thursday, ICE rushed the deportation to Cuba of Yoel Alonso Leal, an asylum-seeker with several serious medical conditions including a lung tumor. Over 100 physicians argued that he stay in the U.S. and warned that he might not even survive the flight. No matter—ICE refused to release him to his U.S. citizen wife and family for more tests and treatment. Leal said that Cuban authorities detained and assaulted him in 2016 and 2018 before he sought asylum. 

DDT already killed a man born in Greece 41 years ago, who legally came to the U.S. at less than a year of age, by deporting him to Iraq where he died without insulin for his diabetes. Jimmy Aldaoud never learned Arabic and was part of Detroit’s Chaldean Catholic community, targeted in Iraq by extremists. He was sent to Iraq because Greece doesn’t recognize birthright citizenship. Other Chaldeans, a conservative group, are also targeted for deportation, one of them for a years-old marijuana conviction that was dropped from his criminal record.

ICE also plans to kill detain immigrants by not vaccinating children for the flu. Despite the claim that detainees are held for only 72 hours, they can remain in detention for over a month. At least three people in government “care” have already died of the flu.

DDT also wants to terminate a program protecting undocumented family members of active-duty troops from deportation. Currently the program allows military family members illegally entering the U.S.—for example, overstaying a visa—who cannot adjust their immigration status to temporarily stay in the U.S. The program avoids distractions coming from worries about a spouse being deported and allows the spouse to apply for a green card. Already ICE doesn’t follow its own policies by deporting former service members and breaking the tradition of giving a path to citizenships for those who serve in the military—almost 130,000 since 2001. Last year, the Pentagon discharged immigrants with special skills recruited under George W. Bush’s program.

A lawsuit against Cuccinelli purports that all his directives are “invalid” because he “lacks the authority to serve as acting director.” Cuccinelli is also unqualified to serve in this position because he describes immigrants as rats although his job is to facilitate legal immigration. His new policies include fast-tracking initial screenings of asylum-seekers from 48 hours to a “full calendar day,” blocking them from preparing for interviews of seeing legal help. Cuccinelli is serving as “acting director” because GOP senators have doubted his appointment.

In another cruel form of current government bureaucracy, 37 asylum seekers accused of illegal entry were all processed at one time and expected to answer questions in unison. Public defendants had under two hours to talk with 41 defendants in one case. Unlike other courts under the judicial branch, immigration courts are under the control of DOJ AG Bill Barr. [Right: “Justice” under the reign of Barr and DDT.]

New tent courts recently established at the southern border will hear thousands of cases for asylum-seekers in closed hearings with no court observers unlike open immigration court proceedings. Attorneys are not allowed to participate although most asylum-seekers can’t get legal representation. Over 42,000 asylum-seekers are forced to wait in Mexico where they have been assaulted, kidnapped, and extorted. Others have let Mexico bus them to the middle of the country or the border of Guatemala. The hearings in the tent court facilities are via video teleconference, a serious problem from faulty equipment with poor video and sound quality that prevent due process. 

Last week, people believing in justice breathed a sigh of relief when a federal judge ruled that DDT cannot require asylum seekers to ask another country for shelter before seeking refuge in the U.S. According to DDT’s coerced agreement with Guatemala, people coming from Central America into Mexico must try and fail to obtain asylum in Guatemala before moving on to go through the same process in Mexico before seeking asylum in the U.S. Mexico had refused DDT’s negotiations, but he still forces the “third-country” asylum rule on that country. A 9th Circuit Court ruling against DDT’s new restriction had been only for the ten states in its jurisdiction, but Jon S. Tigar made that ruling consistent for the entire country to prevent “uneven enforcement.”

The relief ended when DDT’s U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to that judge’s ruling until the courts settled the cases, a process taking and leaving the Supreme Court as the final decider—or “fixer” for DDT. The lower courts determined that DDT’s policy conflicts with existing immigration statutes, violates the requirements of administrative rulemaking, and completely blocks all asylum for people on the southern border unless they come from Mexico. The decision was not explained.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginzberg submitted a dissent stating that lower court decisions should be respected and a stay overturning a lower court is “extraordinary.” The Supreme Court should not be used for the government to ignore lower court litigation. DDT’s administration has made an “extraordinary” number of requests—20—to bypass normal procedures or lower court actions. In addition to procedural anomalies, the dissent pointed out that the goal of DDT’s asylum policy is acting in bad faith. Facts do not support their arguments and illustrated that the policy puts untold numbers of people in serious danger—which DDT and his co-authors know. The decision overturns a longstanding offer of safe refuge to the persecuted with no input before DDT loses on the case’s merits. The lower court determined that DDT’s new policy broke government rules, violated the law, and lacks justification by being arbitrary and capricious.

One group of immigrants that DDT wants to protect are Venezuelans. He thinks that it might help him win the state of Florida in the 2020 election.

Perhaps the worst part of immigration court is control by the DOJ instead of the judicial branch. DDT’s fixer AG, Bill Barr, promoted the six judges with higher rates of denying immigrants’ asylum to the immigration appeals court that can overturn lower court decisions. Two of them came from courts drawing complaints of unfair proceedings from attorneys and advocates, and a third denies asylum to domestic violence victims. The six comprise over one-fourth of the appellate board, and four are on the DDT-created Board of Immigration Appeals. Barr established a regulation giving himself the ability to make any appellate decision binding. DOJ sent an email to all immigration court employees with a link to an article from the white nationalist website VDare that “directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs.”

The DOJ also filed a petition to decertify the union of immigration judges with the claim that they are “management officials.” The Federal Labor Relations Authority refused this tactic over 20 years ago, but the new FLRA members mostly belong to DDT. Last year, the union fought the new DOJ quota system of completing 700 cases a year and “efficiency” procedures that could damage due process in court. DDT has appointed at least 43 percent of the 440 immigration judges; changing them to “management” would allow him to fire them at his whim.

While DDT torments and kills migrants, the asylum law is now at the center of his immigration battle. The law says: “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States, whether or not at a designated port of arrival … may apply for asylum.”

Not satisfied with detaining only immigrants, DDT wants to incarcerate the homeless in a federal facility, starting his roundup in California to rile up his base for the 2020 election.

At his speech in Baltimore, DDT used a favorite term, “goddamn,” which the evangelical community hates. Texas megachurch leader and DDT supporter Rev. Robert Jeffress said, “I can take just about everything else, except [taking the Lord’s name in vain.” For evangelicals, cruelty, corruption, killing, abuse, lying, racism all okay, but “goddamn” crosses the line.

July 4, 2019

Will the Judicial Branch Protect Democracy?

July 4—the date that people in the United States celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. For the past 243 years, some people have tried to protect the nation from the erosion of democracy, a far more difficult task in the past two years as Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) destroyed U.S. relationships with all countries except those run by autocrats and dictators. Setting himself up as the supreme ruler with no checks, DDT is enabled by congressional Republicans. Although the third branch of government, the judicial branch, has tried to protect democracy, DDT is loading lifetime judgeships with mostly young white men who follow his authoritarianism.

DDT’s latest move outside the law came from his determination to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. A week ago, the Supreme Court decision gave DDT two options: print the census without the question or go back to court to with a better reason and fewer lies to include the question. Over the weekend, DDT’s administration looked for ways to stall—with DDT even suggesting that the constitutionally mandated census might be delayed.

Four days later, the DOJ said it would not return to court, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (bottom left) announced that the census forms were sent to the printers without the question. Yet DDT tweeted that the question would be on the 2020 census, catching the attention of a judge. Yesterday, the judge convened a telephone conference with government and Maryland immigrant-rights groups lawyers to address DDT’s declaration that the government was “absolutely moving forward” with its citizenship question plan for the 2020 census, defying a Supreme Court ruling and contradicting the DOJ and Commerce Department statements. Josh Gardner, DOJ’s civil division lawyer, said he knew nothing about DDT’s position until he read the tweet. Assistant AG Jody Hunt told the judge that DOJ lawyers “have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision” to include the question. The DOJ also warned the New York court ruling opposing the question that it might again appeal the case to the now-recessed Supreme Court. 

Lawyers from the rights groups requested a court order requiring the government to agree that “there will be no further effort to inquire about citizenship status as part of the 2020 census.” They also asked the judge to compel the administration to “publicly counter any such misinformation that comes from government officials.”

The judge said that he might not be able to “enjoin the President of the United States from tweeting things” but ordered the DOJ to explain by tomorrow at 2:00 pm EST whether the government would still try to add the question to the 2020 census forms. DOJ lawyers asked if they could have until Monday. The judge said, “No.” Lawyers for the rights groups reminded the judge that DOJ lawyers previously insisted the printing process for census forms begin by last Monday. The Census Bureau already botched a contracting process when the Government Publishing Office awarded its single largest printing contract to a bankrupt company. 

On Independence Day, DDT’s latest ploy is to overturn the Supreme Court decision by ordering the citizenship question through an executive order.

Judges across the country are opposing DDT’s positions. A federal judge in Seattle blocked AG Bill Barr’s order [Barr: right of Ross] to keep thousands of migrants indefinitely detained while waiting for asylum case decisions. Denying migrants a bail hearing is unconstitutional, according to the judge; a bond hearing must be granted within seven days or migrants will be released. DHS has raised fees for asylum seekers, slowed the processing and forced over 13,000 migrants to wait in Mexico for movement on their legal cases. Barr’s order is one reason for the seriously overcrowded facilities.

DDT claims that living conditions in his detention camps are “better than where they came from,” but a report from his own DHS Inspector General tells of horrific conditions with filth and overcrowding at the migrant detention centers. People lie in cages on bare cement floors with nothing to do, and men are held for weeks in a room with standing room only—88 of them in a room designed for 40. Children have no access to showers, clothing changes, laundry facilities, and hot meals. 

A federal judge ordered lawyers representing detained migrants and US Customs and Border Protection to rapidly resolve allowing health experts to examine children and inspect detention facilities inside a Florida migrant facility. The order covers all CBP’s El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors. Children lack access to soap, clean water, toilets, toothbrushes, medical care, and adequate nutrition and sleep. With infants and pregnant women, they “are dirty, cold, hungry and sleep-deprived,” according to the court filing. Children are required to care for infants and toddlers, some of whom show signs of illness. John Kelly, former DHS director and DDT’s chief of staff, is on the board of the company owning the Florida facility.

A federal judge expanded a previous ruling to block DDT from taking billions of dollars in military funds for his southern border wall in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas. DDT claimed “national emergency”; the judge said that there was no new evidence for changing an earlier decision. He also stated that the wall would cause “irreparable harm” because it “will harm [the plaintiffs’] ability to recreate in and otherwise enjoy public land along the border.” A 2-1 vote in a 9th Circuit Court panel denied DDT’s request to halt the order blocking military funds for a border wall.

The 9th Circuit Court sent a decision against DDT’s transgender ban in the military back to federal judge, Marsha Pechman, ruling that she should have given the military’s judgment more deference. The Supreme Court lifted lower court injunctions blocking the ban from going into effect although it didn’t address the ban’s legality. Pechman was one of four federal judges ruling against the ban on the basis of the constitution’s equal protection guarantee. DDT’s used inaccurate figures in a claim of “tremendous medical costs”; no one in the military has cited DDT’s claim of “disruption” regarding transgender military members.

The 9th Circuit Court also vacated a unanimous three-judge panel decision allowing DDT’s gag rule on facilities serving low-income women seeking abortions. DDT’s orders prevented clinics receiving federal funds from making abortion referrals and sharing space with abortion providers. Injunctions against DDT’s declaration will continue in Oregon, Washington, and California as the issue works its way throughout the courts.

The 9th Circuit Court denied an appeal from three University of Oregon basketball players who were expelled from the school for rape allegations. They had originally sued in 2015 on the basis of gender discrimination; a federal court threw out their lawsuit.

The 4th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act applying severe criminal penalties for violent acts motivated by race, religion, and other protected classifications applies to workplace assaults. A defendant lost his claim that the law didn’t apply to his punching a gay co-worker in the face.

A Montana district court blocked Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals Inc. from exploring for gold just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Scott Warren, an Arizona activist on trial for saving the lives of migrants in the desert, was acquitted by a hung jury. Federal prosecutors plan to seek a retrial for Warren, hoping to put him in prison for several years for giving food, water, clean clothes, and beds to migrants in the desert. 

A last-minute change in testimony exonerated Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher in the 2017 murder of a 15-year-old captive in Iraq. Given immunity, medic Corey Scott changed his previous statements and claimed he killed the boy after several Navy Seals testified they saw Gallagher stab the boy to death. Gallagher had texted a photo of himself posing with the body and the message, “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.” DDT had previously arranged for Gallagher’s release from confinement and suggested he would pardon him.

The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that going on someone else’s land without their permission is trespassing. Two people sued a giant corporation for building roads and drilling a well without permission to get gas from adjacent lands.

For almost a decade, Republicans worked to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Some are now getting nervous about their re-elections of they succeed in the goal. With two conservative judges on a panel who might strike down the ACA, the GOP state AGS asked the 5th Circuit Court to delay oral arguments, but the court gave them one business day until July 9. The court will begin by deciding whether states and the House of Representatives have standing to defend the ACA.

House Democrats, led by the Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA), are suing the IRS and Treasury Department to gain access to DDT’s tax returns. Both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig consistently refused to obey the 1924 law requiring them to release DDT’s tax returns. One reason given for obtaining the tax returns is DDT’s incessant complaining about how unfair the audit process is. House members need to see his returns to evaluate his complaints.

This year, the Supreme Court couldn’t decide Carpenter v. Murphy; it is “restored to the calendar for reargument.” The question is whether Oklahoma can prosecute major crimes committed by Native Americans on reservation land for the Five Civilized Tribes, covering the eastern half of the state including Tulsa. Deciding for the defendant, Patrick Murphy, would threaten the validity of past convictions—something that didn’t bother conservative justices in other decisions this year—or replace past law regarding the dissolution of Native American reservations. States have something to look forward to next year because Oklahoma may not be alone in backlash to the decision.

June 29, 2019

Supreme Court Moves to Eliminate Democracy

The debates took up much of the media air last week, but the Supreme Court decisions are what will permanently change democracy in the United States. The two biggest one came out Thursday, the last day of the session so that the conservatives could quickly get out of town. Chief Justice John Roberts now has a one-two-three punch against voting with his three major decisions to suppress the vote. In the first, Citizens United, Roberts gave donors the right to give unlimited amounts of “dark money” to political candidates. His elimination of the almost 50-year-old Voters Rights Act made sure that states could keep minorities and the poor from voting in the states that were usually inclined to discriminate against these populations.

This Thursday, Roberts guaranteed that politicians can select their own voters instead of the constitutional position that voters should pick their candidates, and courts can’t stop gerrymandering even if it promises partisanship. Roberts’ swing vote in Rucho v. Common Cause blocking federal courts from preventing the most aggressive partisan gerrymandered districts that computers can create. In a circular pattern, Republicans pick districts so that the districts will pick Republicans.

The conservative majority used the excuse that some acts can violate he Constitution but are beyond the judiciary to determine any violations. Roberts’ reasoning that courts cannot require states to draw legislative maps somewhat proportional adversely twisted the definition of “proportional representation” for voting, meaning legislative representation should track electoral results. He allows states where Democrats win 54 percent of the vote to give Republicans 65 percent of the legislative seats, and he skipped the part of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits states from denying anyone “equal protection of the laws.” The First Amendment also prohibits viewpoint discrimination—aka gerrymandering. For elections, Roberts views the amendment narrowly while he uses it for unlimited expenditures to influence elections.

The swing vote in Department of Commerce v. New York, Roberts voted against the conservative four justices. The racist policy by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to rig the census by requiring all people in the U.S. to answer a question of their citizenship provided more voter suppression by shrinking districts with Latinx, designed to allocate congressional seats in a way that “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.” The U.S. census is ordered for all “people” in the nation, not citizens or legal residents.

Experts testified that the citizenship question “could seriously jeopardize the accuracy of the census,” because “people who are undocumented immigrants may either avoid the census altogether or deliberately misreport themselves as legal residents.” Meanwhile, legal residents “may misunderstand or mistrust the census and fail or refuse to respond.” The Census Bureau “calculated in January 2018 that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census was likely to lead to a 5.1% differential decrease in self-response rates among noncitizen households.” The purpose of the census covers a lot of territory from determining the number of legislators, both state and federal, and the amount of federal funding for different areas.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lied about the question’s inception and reason and falsely claimed that it was necessary to help the DOJ enforce the remaining portion of the Voters Rights Act. Evidence, however, “showed that the Secretary was determined to reinstate a citizenship question from the time he entered office; instructed his staff to make it happen; waited while Commerce officials explored whether another agency would request census-based citizenship data; subsequently contacted the Attorney General himself to ask if DOJ would make the request; and adopted the Voting Rights Act rationale late in the process.” This evidence suggests that “the Secretary had made up his mind to reinstate a citizenship question ‘well before’ receiving DOJ’s request, and did so for reasons unknown but unrelated to the VRA.”

Although Roberts voted that the question had to go back to state courts for another look, he denied that it should be removed because Ross didn’t follow a federal law requiring a three-year notice to Congress about “the subjects proposed to be included, and the types of information to be compiled.” The ruling did not state that the decision was “substantively invalid” but that “agencies must pursue their goals reasonably,” and “reasoned decisionmaking under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action.” Remanded back to the New York district court, the Supreme Court decision overturned a ruling that the question is “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedures Act and upheld the constitutionality of a citizenship question under the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution. The ruling determined the question legal if the Commerce Department can come up with a good enough reason.

DDT is so furious about the citizenship question decision that he wants to (unconstitutionally) delay the census until he gets his way. Supposedly, census forms printing must be started next week to complete them in time, but Commerce Department could wait until October 31 to start printing the questionnaire if it can get “extraordinary resources” allocated by Congress.

In a filing last Monday, Maryland District Court Judge George Hazel stated the evidence “potentially connects the dots between a discriminatory purpose—diluting Hispanics’ political power—and Secretary Ross’s decision” to add a citizenship question with the argument that DDT violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Although the Supreme Court decision may stop the Maryland lawsuit, it can reappear if Ross returns with new reasons.

DDT’s court continues its pattern: conservative decisions are sweeping ones that change laws; liberal ones are narrow with little relief except in one specific situation.

In the census decision, Justice Clarence Thomas, on the court thanks to Joe Biden’s refusal to listen to women’s statements about Thomas’ sexual harassment, called Judge Jesse Furman a conspiracy theorist for challenging Ross’ lies. Earlier, Thomas had raged about sending a case back to Mississippi for a sixth time in Flowers v. Mississippi because, according to Thomas, prosecutors can strike minorities from a jury on the basis of their race. Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in his position. Last February, Thomas announced he wants to overturn New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling sharply restricting public figures, including government officials, to sue for defamation and get rid of Gideon v. Wainwright, requiring states to provide public defenders for indigent defendants. Gorsuch agrees with that position too. To Thomas, abortion rights equals eugenics.

After another Supreme Court ruling last week, police no longer need a warrant to draw blood from an unconscious person suspected of drinking while driving. Gone is the requirement of a person for an invasive procedure that overturns the 2013 Supreme Court ruling a violation of the Constitution for a nonconsensual blood draw without a warrant in a DUI case.

The 40-foot Christian cross will remain on a traffic median near Washington, D.C. according to six Christian and one Jewish Supreme Court justices. Catholic Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Christian crosses have “secular meaning.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, dissenting with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, read her disagreement from the bench. [I’m guessing that the Supreme Court would not consider a “secular” Jewish star of David or Islam crescent to replace the “secular” cross.]

The Supreme Court refused to hear a lower court ruling against Alabama’s 2015 abortion law banning “dilation and evacuation,” a common procedure during the second trimester. The high court’s inaction left the law struck down, but it won’t avoid abortion cases forever. Earlier this year, it left in place the requirement for disposing of aborted fetal remains through burial or cremation because of the “sanctity of life.” Nothing about miscarriages. The high court also refused to hear a case from two Kansas men convicted of violating federal law regulating silencers.

In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court on Monday also reaffirmed a 170-year-old exception to the Constitution’s double-jeopardy clause, leaving an opportunity for states to prosecute DDT and his campaign officials for issues already prosecuted federally.

In one sane move, Roberts was the swing vote in Kisor v. Wilkie to not overturn a 75-year series of SCOTUS decisions permitting agencies’ reasonable interpretations of their own regulations.

The Supreme Court has started its docket for the upcoming year with a case determining what happens to 700,000 DREAMERS living in the United States because of DACA. Three appeals courts and a district judge have ruled that DDT had no rationale for his attempt to close a program that protects from deportation young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Other cases include one from Bridget Kelly and Vill Baroni, convicted of participating in gridlock near the George Washington Bridge and a Montana ruling invalidating a state program offering tax credits for funding scholarships at private schools, including religious schools.

In a 5-4 decision exempting a public access television channel from constitutional requirements, Brett Kavanaugh wrote:

“It is sometimes said that the bigger the government, the smaller the individual.”

Although Kavanaugh didn’t cite his source, the false statement was tracked to the Ayn Randian Atlas Society, refuting Roberts’ common claim that the Supreme Court is not political. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) clearly stated that blockades of Supreme Court nominees are only for Democratic presidents. He smirked while he told an audience that he would “fill it” if a vacancy on the high court appears next year. No longer should “the American people have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.”

June 5, 2019

Court Decisions a Crap Shoot

Although the courts have ruled against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) 93 percent of the time for his orders, DDT’s percentage may improve if his appointed judges start hearing more of his cases. For example, a judge has ruled against a lawsuit from the House about DDT using funds to build his wall, ruling that courts are not the place to settle this dispute. The House had argued that the spending violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution and usurp congressional authority while the DOJ opposed the House with the argument that the case concerned whether the administration failed to appropriately execute a statute. Appointed by DDT, U.S. District Trevor N. McFadden wrote that courts take no part in political fights between other branches.

McFadden’s decision was opposite to the 2016 ruling that the GOP-led House could sue the Obama administration for allegedly spending on an Affordable Care Act program that Congress had not approved. Rosemarie Collyer, a George W Bush appointee, wrote, “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.” Republicans had praised the outcome as a necessary check on the White House’s authority in “protecting Congress’ power of the purse [for] the separation of powers.” That case was settled before an appeal was concluded. During a hearing last month, McFadden had already said that he doubted whether the House had legal standing as a single chamber to sue the president, despite DDT illegally shifting money from other programs to pay for his wall.

Previously McFadden refused to recuse himself from a legal case regarding BuzzFeed’s publication of the Steele dossier from Fusion GPS despite McFadden’s representation a firm owned by a Russian businessman claiming he was libeled by the dossier. McFadden was also top lawyer at the DOJ Criminal Division when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked for an investigation into Fusion and earlier served as a “vetter” on DDT’s transition team where he consistently heard negative arguments about the dossier’s accuracy. One of three DDT-appointed judges on Washington, D.C.’s district court, McFadden donated to DDT’s campaign.

Domestic terrorists won in court by using the U.S. Constitution’s free speech amendment. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, appointed by George W. Bush, threw out criminal charges against three members of a neo-Nazi organization Rise above Movement (RAM) who conspired through social media to assault their ideological opponents. The three men “publicly documented their assaults in order to recruit” other white men to join RAM. The U.S. has no laws against domestic terrorism as it does against international terrorist groups. Only gun and drug charges were brought against a domestic terrorist planning to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” and the first judge hearing the case gave the man bail. Convictions for heinous acts bring light sentences, sometimes only for time served. The judge ruled that the federal statute used to prosecute the three men was unconstitutional.

A federal judge conceded to the DOJ in not requiring the release transcripts of conversations between Michael Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, when he was Russian ambassador to the U.S. A federal judge had ordered the transcripts made public, but the DOJ refused. Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations while Barack Obama was president. Barr had redacted all this information in the Mueller report.

DDT did lose his request for the Supreme Court to fast track a request a case about DDT’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, postponing any response from the high court until next fall. Two different appeals courts have ruled against DDT’s ending the DACA program. Earlier justices refused DDT’s challenge to a ruling temporarily blocking officials from closing down the program. The House is considering a vote as soon as this week on the Dream Act which would include legal status to hundreds of thousands of past DACA recipients.

With seven Republicans, all the House Democrats passed a new bill, 237-187, that expands the decade-old Dream Act. The “Dream and Promise Act” would protect young migrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and give them a path to citizenship. Other migrants here temporarily from countries devastated by natural disasters and/or wars would also be shielded. Nine years ago, 36 conservative Dems voted the Dream Act with eight Republicans supporting it. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will almost surely not bring the bill to the floor so that Republicans can join DDT in complaining that Democrats are not passing any bills and instead focusing on investigations. Less than halfway through their first year, the House has passed half of its top priorities: democracy-reform, Equality At, Dream and Promise Act, Paycheck Fairness Act, and a bill addressing the climate crisis. Other passed bills lower prescription drug costs and expand the Violence against Women Act along with other healthcare bills. McConnell has ignored all of them and allowed only the passage of a disaster relief bill which House Republicans blocked for weeks. At least 153 bills passed in the House languish in the Senate. The other 15 bills are minor name changes, extensions, or expansions with one of them being payment to employees furloughed by their shutdown. DDT vetoed two bills.  

A judge kept Missouri from being the only state without a clinic performing abortions for the past 46 years—at least temporarily. Yesterday the court ruled that doctors who no longer work at the clinic are not required to comply with subpoenas about safety questions at the clinic. It already complies with gratuitous requirements such as transfer agreements with hospitals, inspections, and two pelvic exams for every woman wanting a surgical abortion. The court will continue to review state allegations about “failed abortions” and legal violations.

DDT is facing more problems about his Panama tower as Ithaca Capital Partners claims that he failed to pay Panamanian taxes equivalent failed to 12.5 percent of the management fees he took from the hotel. That failure plus other financial irregularities amount to “millions of dollars.” DDT’s projects in Canada, Mexico, India, Azerbaijan, Uruguay, and elsewhere are elsewhere in trouble. Although DDT claimed others developed real estate projects, information shows serious family involvement in projects, often with deceptive practices. With the failure of projects, DDT and his family lie about their lack of involvement and walk away with the money that they have already collected.

In a surprising move, Brett Kavanaugh voted with the four progressive Supreme Court justices to expand plaintiff’s fights to class-action lawsuits against big corporations. Consumers may move forward with a suit against Apple, accusing the company of acting as a monopoly. At this time, iPhone and iPad users may download apps, even those developed by third parties, only from the Apple portal while the corporation takes a cut of sales. The ruling concerns other tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

In another case, Kavanaugh went with conservatives in a decision that overturns a 40-year-old ruling and puts four decades of legal decisions into question. About a decision that “states retain their sovereign immunity from private suits brought in courts of other states,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:

“To overrule a sound decision like [Nevada v. Hall] is to encourage litigants to seek to overrule other cases; it is to make it more difficult for lawyers to refrain from challenging settled law; and it is to cause the public to become increasingly uncertain about which cases the Court will overrule and which cases are here to stay.” 

Clarence Thomas prides himself on being a constitutionalist who follows the words of the document, but his opinion in this case refers only to the “history and structure” of the U.S. Constitution and fail to not support interstate sovereign immunity. Instead Thomas claims that the Constitution bestows “equal dignity and sovereignty” to states. To Thomas, that means that states are immune from private lawsuits brought in other states’ courts. Brett Kavanaugh declared the importance of precedent in his confirmation hearings, and John Roberts had claimed during his hearings that he would not be overturning settled law through the Supreme Court.

Earlier this spring,  Justice Neil Gorsuch maintained that using the death penalty to torture a person to death doesn’t violate the constitution’s Eighth Amendment opposition to “cruel and unusual punishment” as long as people don’t want to inflict pain. His majority opinion for Bucklew v. Precythe allowing the killing of Russell Bucklew in Missouri also asks death penalty defense attorneys to determine methods of killing their clients. Kavanaugh wrote a separate opinion suggesting that firing squads be used for execution because Bucklew could choke from vascular tumors with lethal doses of pentobarbital. Conservatives have already approved drugs for execution that gave inmates “the feeling of being burned alive.” Gorsuch’s opinion of the 5-4 majority in Bucklew destroys over a half-century of precedents and returns to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

With DDT in charge of forming the judicial system for generations to come, court decisions are a crap shoot.

February 28, 2019

Good News across the U.S.

The week has been filled with testimony from Michael Cohen about the corruption of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and DDT’s failure—and its GOP spin—at the highly vaunted summit with North Korea. Across the United States, however, bits of good news gleam from time to time.

Thanks to Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services, Deutsche Bank is cooperating in an investigation into DDT’s finances.

The House has passed its second gun control bill within two days, this one closing the “Charleston loophole.” A white supremacist was able to kill nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church because a background check couldn’t be finished within three days. Three Republicans joined Democrats in the vote of 228-198. Before yesterday, the last gun control bill to pass the house was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act 25 years ago. In 2017, over 6,000 guns were sold to people with criminal histories or other factors prevent sales because of the three-day deadline, 50 percent up from 2016. Also in 2017, the three-day deadline kept the FBI from completing 310,232 gun background checks.

After almost 50 years, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are finally legally married in the eyes of Social Security. They had successfully obtained a marriage license in Minnesota in 1971 because the clerk didn’t realize it was for two men, and the state didn’t request that the marriage be dissolved. Minnesota just pretended the marriage wasn’t valid. On September 18, 2018, a district court in Minnesota declared their marriage “in all respects valid.”

Overturning a State Department decision, a federal judge has ruled that Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks, twin boys born to a surrogate mother for a gay couple, have the same rights as U.S. citizens. One egg donor is a U.S. citizen, the other an Israeli, and they married in Canada in 2017. When one father applied for U.S. passports for both boys before moving to the U.S., immigration officials refused to recognize that the U.S. citizen was the legal father of both children and demanded a DNA test for the twins’ citizenship. The U.S. consulate in Toronto provided citizenship for only the one twin biologically related to the U.S. citizen and required him to sponsor the other twin as his “step-son” although he is listed on the birth certificate as the boy’s father. The two men sued for recognition of their marital status, and the judge ruled that federal law “does not require a person born during their parents’ marriage to demonstrate a biological relationship with both of their married parents.” The judge cited two court cases which clearly state the word “parents” is not limited to biological parents,” meaning that the twins will be allowed to stay together and with their married parents.

Another family is still fighting for their legal rights. U.S. citizen Allison Blixt married Italian citizen Stefania Zaccari in London because the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act had not yet been struck down. Blixt’s son was recognized as a U.S. citizen, but the State Department used a policy about unwed mothers to deny citizenship to Zaccari’s son. Both children were born after the two women were legally married, but Blixt was told that she had to register her son, born to Zaccari, as her “step-son.”

The State Department language on its website, that transferring a parent’s U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad requires “a biological relationship, or blood relationship,” violates the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits children to inherit married parents’ U.S. citizenship if the adult lived in the U.S. for at least five years and meets other requirements. The State Department appears to ignore the legal marriage of same-gender couples.

A federal judge ordered Texas to stop its purge of electoral rolls because evidence shows no widespread voter fraud in Texas. He described the planned purging “ham-handed” and “threatening.” Writing about the blatantly inaccurate numbers of non-citizens voted, the judge stated:

“It appears this is a solution looking for a problem…. [The policy] exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.”

Two weeks ago, 80-year-old Goodloe Sutton, the editor and owner of the 140-year-old Democrat-Reporter in Linden (AL), population 2,123, wrote an editorial asking the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” into communities of Democrats who consider raising taxes before he advocated lynching for his political opponents in an interview with the Montgomery Adviser. Both Alabama senators called for his resignation, the Alabama Press Association censured him, and the University of Southern Mississippi removed him from its Hall of Fame. Sutton, known for his racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic editorials, has now stepped down to be replaced by Elecia R. Dexter, a black woman, as the newspaper’s publisher and editor. In a recent interview, Sutton said the publicity was worth $10 million and that Democratic lawmakers are “terrible” while the KKK is “the nicest.” Dexter has no journalism background and started working at the newspaper two months ago as a clerk.

The New York legislature, now controlled by Democrats, may pass a law requiring DDT to release his state income tax returns. The NY TRUTH Act would require all statewide elected officials, including the president and vice president if they file taxes in the state, to publicly release their taxes each year.

With a pledge from new Dem Gov J.B. Pritzker to make Illinois the “most progressive state in the nation … for women’s reproductive rights,” state Democratic legislators introduced two measures to expand abortion access, repealing parental notification requirements for minors and restrictions for late pregnancies. The act would also require private insurance in the state to cover abortions like any other reproductive healthcare for women and allow advance-practice nurses to perform abortions. A 1975 law criminalizing doctors who perform abortions would be abolished. Former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner had signed legislation permitting Medicaid and state health insurance coverage to be used for abortions.

The Wisconsin National Guard is reviewing whether Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) violated the law when he criticized Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, in tweets and on Fox for withdrawing troops from the southern U.S. border. Hours before Evers issued an executive order for the troops, Zinzinger questioned in a tweet whether the governor’s decision was “based solely on politics.” Federal laws and Wisconsin laws call for “any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice-president, members of Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of homeland security, or the governor or legislature of the state of Wisconsin” to be punished. Kinzinger has the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard; as governor, Evers is his commander-in-chief. A spokeswoman for Kinzinger says that he can say anything he wants when he’s “off-duty,” but a First Amendment law expert disagrees.

New Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, canceled the sale of a former state prison site to a for-profit private prison company that planned to detain hundreds of immigrants in the facility. The company would not guarantee that the prison “would not be used to detain adults who had been separated from their children or other family members.”

Thanks to grassroots activists and the state of Illinois, the cost of telephone calls for prisoners has gone from the most inflated in the U.S. to under a penny a minute, the lowest cost in the country, although some costly fees put a 30-minute call at $2. DDT had overturned FCC regulations for prisoners’ telephone prices.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the “liberals” to order a review of the death penalty for an inmate suffering from dementia so severe that he cannot understand why he is being punished. The decision requires a lower court to examine whether Vernon Madison’s strokes and vascular dementia leave him unable to remember his crime and the reason that the state wants to execute him. Earlier the court had ruled that people suffering from schizophrenic and psychotic delusions may not be put to death; in her opinion for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan stated that the same logic applies to dementia. He had been on death row for 33 years. Brett Kavanaugh did not vote because he was not confirmed when the case was argued.

May we have more good news.

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