Nel's New Day

March 16, 2020

Congress, Russia, Saudi, Corruption

Last Friday night, the House passed a covid-19 bill by a large bipartisan majority. Unfortunately, it needed a “technical fix,” which requires a unanimous vote if the House isn’t called back into session. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) delayed the vote because he didn’t want a “rushed process,” according to Bloomberg reporter Laura Litvan. He also said that he didn’t know if it can be solved soon. The fix addressed virus-related sick leave for small firms. Gohmert finally withdrew his opposition after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave DDT’s stamp of approval. Because of virus concerns, the House has postponed a return to Washington for an indefinite time.

The Senate recessed for the weekend and is stalling before considering the emergency bill until after it considers the surveillance bill that the House passed last week. (That one’s a doozy: it includes the provision that AG Bill Barr must approve in writing any investigation of an elected official and/or a candidate.) Even after the Senate addresses the covid-19 bill, there will be vitriolic discussions. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Fox & Friends that the bill may not pass the Senate because senators don’t want sick leave for people home with the virus. He wants tax rebates which could take far more time to be reimbursed than paid sick leave.

The Senate couldn’t meet over the weekend because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to go home with Justice Brett Kavanaugh to celebrate the new 37-year-old federal judge, considered the most unqualified judge that McConnell has ever pushed through confirmation. It’s called campaigning for the fall election.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) [right] also complained about the paid sick leave because it might hurt businesses although the bill covers the cost with a tax credit. Without sick leave, most of these people with covid-19 will go to work and spread the disease. Johnson said it might be better for the Senate to “pass nothing at all.”

Last week, Johnson pulled a vote on a subpoena from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he hoped would find damaging information about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in Ukraine. A bipartisan group persuaded him about the Ukrainian’s unreliability as a source for the committee’s investigation. The vote, however, is only postponed. Johnson said he will issue a subpoena to a lobbying firm for the Ukrainian energy company paying Hunter Biden as a board member. Committee staff members have worked on investigations helping DDT in his reelection campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that Andrii Telizhenko, Johnson’s source, has spread disinformation about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election to minimize actual Russian interference. Telizhenko, a friend of Rudy Giuliani, has appeared on the ultra-conservative One America News Network.

While DDT struggles with rapidly increasing numbers of covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S., Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his path to keep power in his country. He detained four senior princes, possible heirs to the throne, in Riyadh, including MBS’s uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and cousin Mohammed bin Nayef. They were charged with treason which carries the death penalty. MBS had replaced Nayef as crown prince in 2017 and has run the kingdom since then. Prince Ahmed returned to Saudi from Britain after assurances that he would be safe. MBS consolidated his power in 2017 by arresting hundreds of princes, government ministers, and business people and detaining them in Riyadh.

Saudi is struggling with dropping oil prices and MBS’ decision to block pilgrims from Mecca because of the virus outbreak. Aramco’s profits dropped 21 percent last year to $88.2 billion, and it is lowering capital spending for 2020. The world has also not forgotten MBS’ murder of U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. MBS is now repeating his 2017 actions by arresting hundreds more government officials, including military and security officers, for bribery and exploiting public office. The purge also added 16 more princes, two members of the council which decides the throne’s succession, and two judges.

In late February, MSP Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Parliament asked his colleagues to investigate DDT’s deals in which he acquired his Scotland properties, including the two multi-million dollar golf courses. Harvie said that DDT or people he’s tied with could be connected to serious crime and is seeking an “unexplained wealth order” from a Scottish court. The order is for “suspected foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.” If the subject “cannot show a legitimate source for their riches,” the government can seize properties.

History will remember that Utah’s Mitt Romney was the only GOP senator who voted to impeach DDT. Payoffs for other GOP senators who claimed they voted against impeachment because DDT had “learned his lesson”:

  • Lamar Alexander (TN) – $9 million for high-speed broadband infrastructure projects;
  • Susan Collins (ME) – $9.5 million for affordable housing units;
  • Cory Gardner (CO) – $20 million for airport upgrades;
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK) – $20 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant for Phase One costs at the Port of Alaska.

Collins, up for a difficult reelection this year, voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite his anti-abortion stand and for the tax cut benefiting the wealthy and big business even if she said she didn’t like it. She’s at the bottom of the Senate popularity contest and may lower her rating with the latest find. In 2009, she refused to include pandemic flu funding in an economic stimulus bill during the Great Recession. Democrats warned that the $870 million from the $787 billion would keep them from fighting an infectious disease outbreak, but she promised to withdraw her vote for the bill if that money was included. She said the funds “do not boost our economy” and persuaded two other Republicans to follow her example.

Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and heir to $1 billion, advises DDT and almost persuaded him to let Prince set up a private military service for the U.S.. Congress accused Prince of lying under oath and referred criminal charges to the DOJ, a useless action since Bill Barr became AG. In the past, Prince moved to the UAE to keep from federal prosecution and claims that he is untouchable. Now the FBI is investigating Prince for trying to modify two U.S. crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft, a violation of arms trafficking regulations. He used the planes as part of the private services he suggested selling or using in Africa and Azerbaijan. The FBI investigation includes his lying to Congress and an armed aviation proposal to the UAE along with heightened scrutiny of Barr.

Prince has recruited U.S. and British spies to work with the right-wing group Project Veritas, known for doctored videos in false stings, to infiltrate at least one Democratic congressional campaign for Abigail Spanberger and organizations “considered hostile” to DDT. Ex MI6 officer Richard Seddon ran a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in an office of the teachers’ union AFT. In late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. Rubio soon quit, saying that the Veritas group couldn’t learn.

DDT’s defense against Russian interference to elect him is to repeat that he’s tough on Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Here are some of DDT’s favors for Russia:

  • DDT appointed his own loyalists to head up the intelligence agencies who ordered employees not to release information and who say that there’s no evidence of Russian interference.
  • DDT sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine under conditions that make them useless against Russia.
  • DDT spread a disinformation campaign that Ukraine was responsible for the election interference, not Russia.
  • DDT protected Russia by withholding aid to Ukraine until publicity made him uncomfortable.
  • DDT still refuses to invite Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House to help Zelensky negotiate with Putin.
  • DDT’s sanctions on Iran helps Russia by boosting the price of oil.
  • DDT strengthened Russia’s longtime ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and ended support for moderate Syrian rebels which Russia wants.
  • DDT removed U.S. forces out of northern Syria, abandoned the Kurdish U.S. allies, and allowed Russians to move into abandoned U.S. bases.
  • DDT helped Russia in Libya by giving Khalifa Hifter information for overthrowing a UN-backed government in Tripoli.
  • Sanctions on Russia were done over DDT’ objections, and DDT persuaded the GOP Senate to lift them on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
  • DDT weakened NATO through incessant criticism and portrayal of the members as deadbeats.
  • DDT always believes Putin and never criticizes him.
  • DDT’s biggest help for Russia is his spreading chaos in the U.S. and its government through polarization of the U.S. people and denigrating U.S. intelligence officers and diplomats.

As the commentator on a popular Russian TV show said:

“I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health — and another term.’ This is a great situation for Russia.”

And the Republican Party blindly backs DDT and pro-Russia policies against U.S. benefits.

February 8, 2020

DDT: Week 159 – End of Democracy in U.S.

The week started with Super Bowl LIV.  Anyone who doubts that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may be suffering from dementia should watch this video as he kibitzes during the playing of the “Star Bangled Banner” kick off. On Fox & Friends, he had said that players who don’t stand “proudly for the national anthem … maybe … shouldn’t be in the country.”

Monday was the grand mess of the Iowa caucus, the first selection of delegates for the 2020 presidential conventions. Faulty coding and conservatives’ clogging the phone lines for reporting the results led to confusion about the “winner.” It also allowed conspiracy theorists, which include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to claim that the “Bernie blowout and a Biden crash” may be related to poll and caucus problems in Iowa. Graham’s reelection campaign has made him increasingly desperate.

Tuesday night was DDT’s annual State of the Union reality show when he gave his feature guest, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, designated for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” The award, which was presented on California’s Rosa Parks Day, has been given to Parks, the Apollo 13 Crew, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as well as noted people in the arts, education, military, etc. This year, DDT gave it to his racist, misogynist friend. A few of Limbaugh’s more infamous comments: 

  • Mocking Michael J. Fox for shaking from Parkinsons disease.
  • Calling 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton a “dog.”
  • Claiming that the way to stop HIV was “do not ask another man to bend over and make love at the exit point. That’s what you don’t do.”
  • Comparing the movement for marriage equality as a “movement on to normalize pedophilia.”
  • Calling President Obama “Barack the Magic Negro” and Michelle Obama “uppity.”
  • Supporting DDT in the birther movement.
  • Describing Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” because she campaigned to get free birth control for medical problems.
  • Declaring that ‘feminism was established so that unattractive ugly broads could have easy access to the mainstream.’”
  • Stating that “women mean yes when they say no.”

Of Limbaugh’s 42 statements checked by PolitiFact, 81 percent were lies. First Lady Melania Trump, who DDT lauded for her “Be Best” campaign to stop bullying, placed the medal around Limbaugh’s neck.

As Republican columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote, David Duke may be DDT’s next choice for the “Medal of Freedom.” She also wrote that the true accomplishments that DDT touted actually belong to President Obama and the rest of his self-glorification were lies.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said that the cult-like behavior of the Republican legislators at SOTU was like watching a North Korean military parade. When DDT entered, they chanted “four more years” just like at a campaign rally before “Make America Great Again.” DDT waited until a Friday rally to tell his audience to chant 12 more years or 16 more years instead of four years.

After the SOTU, State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo tried to attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) for tearing up DDT’s speech by comparing her to second-grader Lisa Simpson, on The Simpsons, ripping up a paper. He missed the context of the television program: Lisa had overheard a lobbyist bribing a congressional member for a corrupt act and talked about the “swamp” of Washington. The program on disillusionment from the realization of corruption was filmed in 1991. In the program, the corruption politician was arrested.

Wednesday was the day for DDT’s acquittal in his impeachment trial with only one GOP senator, Mitt Romney (UT), voting against even one of the two articles of impeachment. Almost one-third of the other GOP senators openly admitted that DDT “did something wrong” but claimed that he had “learned his lesson.” Sen. Joni Ernst (IA), up for reelection this year, thinks that DDT has learned “he needs to go through proper channels.” She claimed that Joe Biden might be immediately impeached if he were elected president but then tried to back down on her statement later. Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) said:

 “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office.”  

Sen. Susan Collins (ME), extremely vulnerable in her reelection campaign, said she voted against witnesses and for DDT’s acquittal because DDT would be “much more cautious” but then backed down on her belief after she made those votes.  

The Senate impeachment trial culminating on Wednesday hit a new low in that chamber’s behavior and the pattern of trials in the United States. A comparison to DDT’s impeachment trial: Imagine that a person murdered someone you loved and there were witnesses to the killing. Before the trial, the killer meets with the jury to establish procedures for the trial to guarantee acquittal, and most of the jury, many of whom were paid by the killer, promised to acquit the murderer. The trial has opening arguments, closing arguments, and vote. No evidence, no witnesses, and no discussion of guilt. The jurors said that any witnesses or documents would make the trial last too long. Meanwhile the killer threatened jury members who voted against acquittal, and the defense attorneys, who were involvement in the killing, consistently lied in their arguments with no punishment. During the closing arguments, GOP jurors walked out of the proceedings, but they will still voted. This trial was worse than the Jim Crow trials in the South.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), one of the jurors who swore an oath to “do impartial justice,” continually bragged that he had “total coordination” with the White House and promised “no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” For example, McConnell advised DDT’s legal team about which arguments they should make to persuade undecided senators. McConnell called DDT so that he could sign off on a resolution to make the Senate acquittal vote on Wednesday.

The Senate has given DDT the same power as the Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) of 1933, formally titled Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich (“Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich”) that gave the Chancellor Adolf Hitler the right to enact laws without the involvement of the German Reichstag, comparable to the U.S. Congress.

The DOJ admitted that they are blocking two dozen emails about withholding congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine until the Senate acquits Trump. Robert O’Brien, DDT’s fourth national security adviser in about three and a half years, is sticking with the “he didn’t withhold aid” argument. His inability to see evidence does not bode well for “national security.”

Romney isn’t the only GOP leader who believes that DDT abused his power. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said that DDT shouldn’t be in office. At the Fox network, once called “state TV” because of its overwhelming support for DDT, the research team warned colleagues to not trust some claims about Ukraine by its top commentators. The briefing book questioned credibility by “disinformation” deliverers such as John Solomon (a former opinion writer for The Hill), Rudy Giuliani, Victoria Toensing, and Joe diGenova and cited extensive examples of their falsehoods. These people frequently appeared on shows hosted by Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Tucker Carlson. DiGenova disappeared from the channel after he falsely make the anti-Semitic statement that liberal billionaire George Soros “controls” the State Department. He and his wife Toensing never explained that they made $1 million from Dmytro Firtash, an indicted Ukrainian oligarch and accused high-level Russian mafia associate who is trying to avoid extradition to the U.S. Giuliani is using Firtash to get damaging information on the Bidens.

DDT may have been acquitted of holding up congressionally-approved funding for Ukraine after some GOP senators falsely claimed his innocence because he released the money, but he’s still withholding approval for $30 million of arms and ammunition from U.S. companies for Ukraine. One sale has been delayed for over a year, despite down payments from Ukraine, but officials can’t get any explanations from DDT. Ukrainian officials think the delays could come from the U.S. attempts to block China’s purchase of a strategic Ukrainian aerospace company that manufactures helicopter and airplane engines. Officials in the U.S. have ignored all requests from Ukraine for information.

Almost one-third of GOP senators who voted to acquit DDT were in Congress during Bill Clinton’s impeachment and trial. Of them, only Susan Collins voted to acquit both men.

Senators representing 151.5 million people voted to acquit; senators representing 169.5 million people voted to convict. Once again, DDT lost the popular vote. Those voting to acquit represent only 44 percent of the U.S. population. Plus a majority of the U.S. public supported DDT’s impeachment and removal from office.

The rest of the week tomorrow!

September 16, 2019

Kavanaugh on the Hot Seat Again

One year ago, the Senate defended and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court despite a credible witness who described his sexual assault when they were teenagers. A year later, the New York Times reported another of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assaults at Yale that the Senate and FBI attempted to conceal at the confirmation hearings. At the hearings, Kavanaugh denied the woman’s description of how he forced his penis into her face and tried to get her to touch it. He said, “If that had happened, that would have been the talk of campus in our freshman dorm.”

Investigation reveals that Kavanaugh’s assault was “the talk of the campus.” Long before he became a federal judge, at least seven people, including the victim’s mother and two classmates, heard about his behavior. Two FBI agents who interviewed the victim, found her “credible,” but the GOP-controlled Senate did not give them authorization to investigate.

The FBI also failed to investigate another report from a classmate, Max Stier, who “saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.” Stier told both senators and the FBI about Kavanaugh’s behavior during the vetting process, but no one followed up, in spite of 25 possible corroborating witnesses.

These credible witnesses were in addition to the account from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford published in the Washington Post:

“[Kavanaugh] pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.”

The NYT buried the story under “news analysis” that appeared to focus on the victim not fitting into Yale. The tweet from NYT Opinion claimed “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.” Even the follow-up deletion and “apology” about the “poorly phrased” statement didn’t salvage the disgusting former tweet that made sexual assault seem like the new normal.

The article was abstracted comes The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, extensively researched by the authors Robin Pogrebin, Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale, and Kate Kelly. Among much more information, the authors point out that all Kavanaugh’s achievements, including justice on the Supreme Court, resulted from the power given him by other men, starting with his parents paying for his education in a prestigious school. In the hearing, Kavanaugh surrounded himself by female family and friends to show how much they love him.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), one of the five top contenders for Democratic presidential nomination, said: “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the US Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the court through a sham process and his place on the court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”

Another candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) agreed that the confirmation process was a “sham.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will undoubtedly face more ire from DDT for saying:

“Nothing terrifies this corrupt president more than the idea of Congress upholding the rule of law. We must open impeachment inquiries against Trump and Kavanaugh immediately. It’s our constitutional duty.”

Last fall, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) wrote FBI Christopher Wray with a request for an “appropriate follow up” with one individual who had come to Coons with information about Kavanaugh. The letter, which identified Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale University Max Stier, stated that “several individuals” contacted his office who had wanted to share information with federal authorities but said they had “difficulty reaching anyone who will collect their information.” DDT was in charge of the investigation’s scope and limited the number of witnesses to ten of all the people who had information about the Supreme Court justice nominee. A spokesman for Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the senator’s staff knew nothing about Stier’s information. Friends of the woman who was the subject of Stier’s information said that she didn’t remember it happening.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) may be the senator most hurt by a vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In any close vote, she tends to support the GOP even if she has promised not to do so. Her vote for Kavanaugh gave him the 50 votes that he needed, and she claimed that it was after a “very thorough review.” As a Senate insider, she knew a year ago what the public is now learning, that the investigation was a sham without reasonable investigative steps. Agents interviewed none of the 12 people whose names were given to the FBI by one of the women alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. The investigators, given only one week, also ignored an allegation of another drunken misbehavior. When Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asked for openness, the other GOP senators provided cover for their nominee. Meanwhile, DDT made repeated calls for the DOJ to strike back at accusers.

Up for re-election in 2020, Collins faces angry constituents. She said she is opposed to DDT stealing money from the military for his wall but cast the deciding vote against an amendment that would stop it, taking $200 million from construction at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She cast a vote for the tax cut benefiting the wealthy and big business with a lying excuse that it would help the poor and middle class, and she cast the deciding vote for a nominee who separated families. She also voted for three judges who refused to affirm the Supreme Court decision to desegregate public school students. Donations reflect her lack of popularity in her home state: the owners of Breitbart have donated more to her campaign in one quarter than all the money from Maine voters combined. Only 15 people have donated more than $200 to her, and the number of people donating less than that sum is small.

Over a month ago, the House Judiciary Committee requested records from the National Archives related to Brett Kavanagh while he worked for George W. Bush to understand his true position on Roe v. Wade. During his hearings for the Supreme Court and his appointment to a lower court, Kavanagh downplayed under oath his anti-abortion views, likely illegal representations and downright lies like the ones Collins believed. Republicans withheld 92 percent of these documents during the confirmation process. Already known are his lies about his knowledge regarding warrantless surveillance and torture during W’.s administration in 2006 and other information about Ken Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton, but these other records could show the extent of his falsehoods under oath. Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said the records are relevant because “in the coming year, the Supreme Court will again address important matters regarding civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration [and] may also review certain high-profile cases related to reproductive rights, the separation of powers, and the limits of executive authority.”

As might be expected, DDT was furious about the reporting, calling for Kavanaugh to sue people for “liable,” his term for libel. If Kavanaugh follows DDT’s directions, the discovery about his lying under oath could be extremely damaging. Using his belief that the DOJ is his fixer, DDT asked the DOJ to “rescue” Kavanaugh just as he argued that the DOJ shouldn’t bring federal charges against members of Congress to protect the GOP campaigning and directions to the DOJ to fire employees disloyal to DDT or prosecute his enemies.

The DOJ followed DDT’s directions by suing Omarosa Manigault Newman for financial disclosure violations after Omarosa had missed a disclosure report while ignoring Kavanaugh’s violations. He has never identified the “friends” who paid off his mortgage and the $60,000-$200,000 credit card debt, much of it for baseball tickets, so that he could be a “credible” nominee for the Supreme Court. The money should be counted as a financial gift to be publicly reported, and the benefactors may have cases before the Supreme Court.

Last week, AG Bill Barr started his fixing by giving an award to Kavanaugh’s fixers. The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, the second highest honor from the DOJ, was awarded last year to the prosecutor who convicted Ahmed Abu Khattala, a ringleader of the Benghazi terrorist attack that killed four people from the U.S. This year Barr gave the award to the 100 DOJ lawyers who covered up for Kavanaugh to get him onto the Supreme Court allowing the perversion of law enforcement with politics. 

Those who have forgotten how evasive and unhinged Kavanaugh appeared at his confirmation hearing can refresh their memories by watching this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show. [Visual – Kavanaugh victim]

Kavanaugh consistently lied during confirmation hears for both federal judge and Supreme Court justice. These new reports add to this record of falsehoods.

Thanks to DDT, the DOJ, and GOP senators, the U.S. Supreme Court now has two men among its nine justices who are credibly accused of sexual assault.

December 21, 2017

Disastrous Tax Bill Leads to GOP Fractures over Spending Bill

In their contempt for democracy, the Republicans, the epitome of “makers” exploiting the so-called “takers,” passed their social reform bill in the dead of night to benefit large businesses and wealthy people. The process, carried out in great haste with extreme chaos and negligence, allowed for neither hearings nor debate—not even the opportunity for congressional members to examine the 1,097 pages. If one considers democracy, the way that Republicans passed the bill may be even worse than the contents. If the tax bill were a good deal for most of the people in the U.S., Republicans wouldn’t have to lie about it. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) summarized the GOP position when he said, “It’s always fun when you win” about his defeat of the people who voted for him. “Fun” also means that he gained billions of dollars from the tax bill.

“Fun” for DDT also means destroying Puerto Rico. The tax bill requires the federal government to treat the territory in the same way that it treats foreign countries in bringing operations and jobs to the U.S. from overseas. Forty-seven percent of PR’s GDP comes from manufacturing, primarily pharmaceuticals and medical devices generating revenue from patented drugs and technologies. The 12.5 percent tax levied against profits in PR for “intangible assets” of U.S. companies abroad plus a minimum of ten percent tax on their profits abroad, as in foreign countries, means that businesses will pay more to operate in PR than on the U.S. mainland. It will cost U.S. citizens their jobs and destroy PR’s economy after DDT went to the island to complain about the cost of recovery from Hurricane Maria, something he did not do at any of the summer’s disasters on the mainland.

DDT may not have his “fun” of signing the bill until January 3 because he is afraid to let the 2010 “pay-as-you-go” law automatically cut Medicare and other programs. These would take effect in 2018 if he signed it in 2017. To avoid bad press, he is hoping that Congress will waive these cuts by 2019. Spending caps went into effect under a GOP-created law in 2011 and have received two two-year waivers–also from the GOP. The most recent one expired on October 1, 2017, and Republicans didn’t get around to lifting it again.

To pass the waiver, the GOP needs Democrats who are raw from the GOP pushing through the tax bill and plan to negotiate for restoration of the health-insurance mandate, due to expire in 2019. The schedule is not set, but Congress will most likely not pass this bill by the end of this week while they struggle with other expiring laws, like the spending bill that keeps the government from shutting down.

One vote to transfer the Great Society into Ayn Rand’s idea of plutocracy came from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) who earlier gained the support of her constituents when she refused to vote for an earlier bill because it would drive at least 13 million people off health insurance. The new bill does the same thing, but she claimed that her vote was okay because Congress would shore health insurance markets and undo Medicare cuts guaranteed by the tax bill that she supported with her vote. Even after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the House wouldn’t support the deal, she voted for the tax bill. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who made the promise to Collins, is not known for truthfulness. Collins decried media coverage as “unbelievably sexist” because it describes her as being “duped.” She may have to eat her words after discovering that’s exactly what happened.

After the beautiful togetherness and self-backslapping of GOP leaders following the tax bill’s passage, Republicans are back to fighting over the spending bill that must be passed in two days to avoid a government shutdown. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) described the altercation following the joint communion for the tax bill:

“It’s kind of like leaving the hospital, just finding out you’re cancer free, and getting run over by a Mack truck.”

Ryan already refused to allow Collins’ funding for the Affordable Care Act in this year’s spending package. Gone—at least temporarily—is the agreement for legislation to reduce health care premiums for nine million people without government subsidies. House Republicans refuse to address Collins’ proposal to continue the health care subsidies without attaching Hyde Amendment language prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion. Democrats oppose this demand because it expands the existing amendment by discouraging private insurers from covering abortions. Insurers must keep funds for insurer subsidies separate from abortion services, but Republicans want more. Many Republicans are totally against the ACA, and abortion makes a good excuse to block Collins’ proposal. Collins and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have withdrawn their bill for these subsidies until next year’s full spending bill.

The stopgap also fails to address funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization and funding for Community Health Centers. Without CHIP, nine million children lose their health insurance, even those in the middle of such serious problems as cancer treatment.

In the Senate, at least eight Democrats or independents must support all Republicans for a stopgap measure to overcome a filibuster. Without a stopgap measure, the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday. GOP leaders want a bill that expires on January 19, 2018 to stop the shutdown. They call is the “CRomnibus” proposal, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has other names for it:

“Some people are calling it the ‘punt’-ibus, just punt this down the road. I call it the ‘none’-tibus because it’s not going anywhere.”

The GOP House leadership had trouble with its representatives from large blue states because the tax bill penalized their residents disproportionately by reducing deductions for state property and income taxes. Now GOP representatives from Texas and Florida are opposing a bill without the $81 billion disaster bill. Lawmakers in states badly hit by hurricanes vow to stay in Washington until they get their disaster funding. Conservatives object because the disaster relief isn’t paid for by cuts in other parts of the budget, a scenario that takes everyone back to the fight over funding after Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Democrats in the Senate oppose the disaster bill because, according to the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “still does not treat Puerto Rico, California and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Florida and Texas.”

In another contentious issue, the GOP had planned to take a separate vote tomorrow to reauthorize Section 702 spying powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for three weeks. After opposition from the Freedom Caucus today, that plan was dropped. Schumer agreed, saying that they need a clean spending bill:

“We cannot do a short-term funding bill that picks and chooses what problems to solve. We have to do them all together, instead of in a piecemeal fashion. It has to be a truly global deal. We can’t leave any of those issues behind.”

The Republicans claim that they can’t shut down the government because it would ruin their win with the tax bill. They have 48 hours pass a bill in the House, send it to the Senate who might make changes if they pass it and then send it back to the House who will then have to agree. That’s before the bill gets sent to the president for signing. The 2880 minutes are ticking away.

June 21, 2016

Senate Gun Vote: NRA – 2, U.S. Residents – 0

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

NRA scored more victories yesterday as Republicans turned down two measures that might have made the United States safer for everyone except killers with guns.

A 15-hour filibuster led by Chris Murphy (D-CT)—a real filibuster with his standing in front of the Senate and not the wimpy “I don’t like the bill” one—“inspired” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to put out four gun “control” measures for a vote. Just eight days after 50 people died in Orlando because a mass shooting, almost all Senate GOP members protected the NRA. Democrats wanted background checks for almost everyone and the prevention of gun sales to people on the terror watch list. Republicans wanted a 72-hour check for people on the watch list and more funding for a background check that didn’t check any more purchasers.

Democratic proposals followed by GOP versions:

Murphy Amendment #4750 on background checks: The filibuster’s measure requires a background check for all gun sales, including at gun shows and online, with some reasonable exceptions such as transfers by law enforcement, private security professionals, armed forces, loans or gifts to close family members; temporary transfer to prevent imminent bodily harm; temporary transfer for hunting trips or firing ranges. [Lost 44-56; Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV) and Jon Tester (MT) voted no with GOP; Mark Kirk (IL) yes with the Dems. ]

Grassley Amendment # 4751 on background checks: Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment fails to close the private sale loophole but adds funding for background checks. It would allow an individual to regain the ability to buy a gun immediately upon release from a period of involuntary psychiatric treatment and let veterans who suffer from mental illness to legally buy guns. [Lost 47-53; all GOP except Kirk voted no.]

Feinstein Amendment #4720 on terror gap: Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill gives the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to a known terror suspect based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in, preparing for, or providing material support to an act of terrorism. This amendment provides a process for individuals erroneously denied a gun on this basis to seek to have that determination reversed and their gun rights restored. [Lost 47-53; Heitkamp again votes with the Republicans and GOP Kirk and Kelly Ayotte (NH) vote with the Democrats.]

Cornyn Amendment #4749 on terror gap: John Cornyn (R-TX) would permit people on the terror watch list to buy guns unless the Attorney General can prove in court that the suspect will actually commit an act of terrorism. If the procedure is not complete within three days, the person is welcome to buy as many guns as they wish. [Lost 47-53; same as Grassley amendment.]

Gabby Giffords, the former representative shot in the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson (AZ), said the Senate “chose to do the unimaginable: nothing at all.” Giffords wrote:

“Five years ago, I was shot point blank in the head, and the Senate did nothing. When 20 young children and six educators lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut, the Senate did nothing. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Navy Yard, Charleston, Isla Vista — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is searching for a “moderate compromise” to let the GOP off the hook for voting to sell guns to people on the terror watch list. Her proposal allows the attorney general to prevent people on two specific lists–the “no-fly” list and selectee list requiring additional screening–from buying a weapon. No one knows how many other lists there are. People denied the right to purchase a gun can challenge the decision. Those who win are to have their legal costs paid by the government. Collins also suggested requiring the FBI to notify law enforcement if someone on the list any time during the past five years if they try to buy a gun. It still doesn’t mean that they can’t buy a gun.

At this time only three Republicans support Collins idea—not enough to get the 60 necessary votes. Democrats aren’t happy with the proposal. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, “Her alternative is not enough to close the loophole that creates this terror gap.” On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated opposition to gun purchase restrictions for anyone on the terror watch list—and he’s the gatekeeper for bills to get to the floor of that chamber.

Even knowing his reluctance, House Democrats are calling on Ryan to hold a vote on an assault weapons ban before Congress adjourns for the summer recess, according to a letter from 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The seven-week recess begins on July 15. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and other Democrats are focusing on the “no fly, no buy” gun provision connected to the terror watch list, and expanded background checks for gun sales, but they also want a vote on Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, a bill with 139 co-sponsors. The Orlando shooter used an assault weapon—a Sig Sauer MCX rifle—that folds up for concealment.

The Terror Watch List:  Between 2004 and 2014, people on this list passed background checks and could to legally buy guns 2,043 times. With lax gun laws permitting loopholes for millions of people, many more people on the list most likely bought firearms through unregulated private purchases. The terrorists in the Middle East are right: they can easily access guns from the United States. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including 82 percent of gun owners and 77 percent of Republicans, supports closing the terror gap.

Background Checks:  Only 60 percent of gun sales happen through federally licensed firearm dealers; the other 40 percent of gun sales happen without any background check. They usually occur online—Craigslist is a big gun clearinghouse—or through newspaper classified ads or at gun shows. The GOP continues its excuse of trying to prevent a federal gun owner registry. The 55 senators who voted for either Cornyn’s or Feinstein’s measures, but not Murphy’s background checks, said that it is bad for suspected terrorists to buy firearms. Yet they want background checks for that population to be voluntary—sort of like making airport screening procedures optional.

Gun deaths: Between 2001 and 2013 (the last year the CDC has records for), 406,496 people died from being shot, whether by homicide, suicide, or accident. During the same time, 2,96 people died of terrorism on U.S. soil–2,902 on the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Donald Trump’s solution for mass shooting is racial profiling. CNN Van Jones suggested that to do so would require demographics of shooters. Far more mass shootings in the United States are caused by white, mostly young Christian men. Fitting this profile is the 19-year-old man arrested at a Trump event for trying to take a gun from a law enforcement office to use it on Trump. Jones said, “You are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist — a racist or an anti-government nutjob—seven times more likely than a Muslim.”

The Orlando shooting finally pushed the American Medical Association over the edge. The AMA, composed of some very smart people, is now calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and urges Congress fund research into the problem. The group will press Congress to overturn the 20-year-old, NRA-pushed legislation that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the AMA called US gun violence a crisis that requires a comprehensive response and solution.

Steven Stack, AMA president, said:

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivalled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In 1993, the NRA complained that research was biased toward gun control because CDC found that people in homes with firearms were at an increased risk for homicide in the home. By 1996, Congress almost totally eradicated funding for research into gun violence. Between 1996 and 2013, CDC funding for firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent, down to $100,000 in the CDC $5.6 billion budget.

Although NRA claims that the purpose of CDC research was to do away with unlimited gun rights, some research has sneaked through the restrictions. The ten states with the worst gun violence: Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. These states have at least four criteria in common: fewer gun restrictions, more guns, more gun sellers, and a higher incidence of violent crime than in most of the United States. No wonder the NRA tries to quell the evidence that this nation has far more violence from guns because it has far more guns and unfettered ownership and use of them.

April 20, 2013

GOP Politicians ‘Insensitivity’

A few days ago, my partner and I talked about how to describe Mark Sanford, candidate for the House of Representatives. She said “stupid,” and I thought perhaps “arrogant.” His words and actions are just another in the long line of  ignorant, clueless, naïve, self-serving, oblivious, dumb—the list goes on and on—statements from these people. For the sake of politeness, I’ll use the term “insensitive” to cover all these adjectives.

Back to Sanford. Most people in the country know him as the past governor of South Carolina who told people four years ago that he was hiking in the Appalachians to cover the fact that he had flown to Argentina for five days to visit his mistress. Public knowledge of his lies led to a rapid disintegration of his marriage and then a divorce. Nikki Haley became governor, and Sanford disappeared—for a while. This year, however, he is running for a House seat vacated by Tim Scott after Haley appointed him to Jim DeMint’s vacant seat.

Things looked pretty good for Sanford in his run against Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Until last week. The news that he had trespassed in his ex-wife’s house sent shock waves through his major donors from the NRCC to the Club for Growth, most of which dropped him like a hot potato. Yet the NRCC had no criticism for his illegal activities in entering a house without permission. They just said, “Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time the NRCC will not be engaged in the special election.”

What was Sanford’s excuse?

“I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14-year-old son because as a father I didn’t think he should watch it alone. Given she was out of town I tried to reach her beforehand to tell her of the situation that had arisen and met her at the back steps under the light of my cell phone when she returned and told her what had happened.”

So Sanford was worried about just the second half the game, he referred to his ex-wife’s place as “the” beach house, and she was in town because she caught him sneaking out the back door.

Even conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has thrown Sanford under the bus, attributing Sanford’s behavior to “hubris.” Skipping the fact that she blamed his problems on the fact that his wife didn’t stand by him, Parker’s conclusion is right on target:

“Sanford’s lack of empathy for his family, not to mention his impeachable judgment, should disqualify him from further public service, an opinion apparently shared by the Republican National Committee, which recently withdrew support for his candidacy.”

On May 7, the nation will find out if the voters of South Carolina prefer a stalking, law-breaking candidate rather to a Democrat

Sanford isn’t alone, however, in his “insensitivity.” The bombing in Boston brought out the worst in several high-profile lawmakers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a lawyer, Air Force Reserve colonel, and member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps who led the impeachment of President Clinton because he believes in the “rule of the law.” Now he wants the perpetrator of the Boston bombing to be “held as an enemy combatant.” Graham wants a U.S. citizen captured in the U.S. to be deprived of his basic constitutional rights. This is the same man who considers those who massacre large numbers of people with high-powered weapons to have mental issues.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) took Sean Hannity’s Fox show as fact when Steve Emerson reported that unnamed “sources” told him that the U.S. government was secretly deporting the Saudi national suspect in the bombing. Presenting this conspiracy theory as fact, he criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a House hearing for doing this. When Napolitano said this wasn’t true, Duncan said, “He is being deported.” Duncan follows the conservatives of the United States when he gets all his information from the least reliable news network.

Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), usually a reasonable person, joined the insanity. She said, “Whenever we have an attack like this it’s difficult not to think that it’s somehow involved in Islamic extremism. I don’t have evidence to back that up. That’s just based on previous attacks.” Although it turned out that the two young men who allegedly set off the bombs are Muslims, there has been no “evidence” to show that it was connected to “Islamic extremism” any more than the mass murders by “Christians” were connected to “Christian extremism.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) argued, “We have people that are trained to act Hispanic when they are radical Islamists.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) followed that up with trying the persuade people to drop the immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented people. For him, one act of violence eliminates the possibility for anyone to again become a citizen in the United States except by birth.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told a national television audience on Tuesday that a “person of interest” in the Boston bombings “is in custody.” Law enforcement officials spent time explaining that he was wrong. McCaul also announced at a press conference that “we’ve been quite fortunate that this type of attack has not happened before in the U.S.” At the age of 51, McCaul could possibly be forgiven about the anarchist bombings in 1919 and 1920, including the wagon bomb that killed 38 people on Wall Street.

But where was he during the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the Unabomber in 1994, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the 1996 pipe bombs at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, the 1998 bomb at an Alabama abortion clinic in 1998, the 2000 arson attack at a Syracuse temple in 2000, the 18 pipe bombs planted in mailboxes in five states in 2002, the 2008 bomb at a military recruiting center in Times Square, the 2008 bomb at a San Diego courthouse, the 2008 fire bombs targeting researchers at UC Santa Cruz, and the 2011 attempted bombing of an MLK parade in Spokane. The last four happened since he became representative in 2005.

This last week was tragic in many ways, one of them the rejection by a minority of senators who managed to quell an amendment to require background checks for some people before purchasing weapons. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who voted against requiring background checks has a solution “to do more to curb the senseless acts of violence that continue to occur in this country.” His answer:

“One of the things we need are parents, parents to be more careful and more repetitive at telling their kids that it is not right to kill people. It’s not even right to bully them. And it’s definitely not right for them to kill themselves. Until we can get that message across to our kids, I hope that we don’t rely on a few votes by this body to make everybody feel comfortable that all the problem is taken care of.”

If Enzi is right, we don’t need him or any other lawmakers; we just teach kids to do the right thing. Wouldn’t that be grand!

November 28, 2012

Congress Gets More Dysfunctional

Yesterday’s blog included the bravery of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in crossing the conservative activist Grover Norquist when Chambliss said about the anti-tax pledge that he signed 20 years ago, “If we do it [Norquist’s]  way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.” Since then, Norquist seems to have gotten to Chambliss as shown by this tweet: “ I’m not in favor of tax increases. I’m in favor of significant tax reform 2 lower tax rates & generate additional revenue through job growth.” He must have gotten protests from his campaign funders.  

Each day—in fact each hour—the bipartisan budget agreement from August 2011 takes another twist. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who walked off the Simpson-Bowles debt commission before it could come up with a way to solve the deficit, has been named as negotiator for the fiscal cliff. Is House Speaker John Boehner trying to scuttle all Ryan’s chances of being a 2016 presidential candidate with this appointment?

My personal theory, and hope, is that with the intransigent Ryan—and the other Republicans pushed by Norquist—all negotiations will fail before the end of the year. The higher taxes will then go into effect on the first of January when Democrats will propose a bill to reduce taxes for everyone under $250,000. The question then is whether Republicans will vote against lowering taxes for the American people.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), appointed by President Obama to lead the commission with Erskine Bowles, has promised to protect Congressmen who separate themselves from Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge through donations from his Campaign to Fix the Debt. Simpson predicted that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) would come under attack for backing entitlement. He didn’t promise, however, to protect the Democrat. Durbin is up for re-election in 2014.

Not that the GOP ever listens to the populace, but their political leaders should check out this chart showing what people in the United States want from the solution to the “fiscal cliff.” In short, voters want higher tax rates for the wealthy and no increase in the age to receive Social Security. Although more evenly split on limiting tax deductions, they still don’t want to do this. Even fewer self-identified Republicans and conservatives want the age for Social security to be raised (29 percent) than self-identified liberals (30 percent).

At the same time the Susan Rice debacle has worsened now that supposedly moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-MA) entered the fray against her to force the appointment of John Kerry for Secretary of State. Quelle surprise! She, too, has always been supportive of Scott Brown, going so far as to campaign for him this fall. Like other Republicans, she likely believes that taking Kerry out of the Senate will leave the space wide open for Scott Brown whose term for Massachusetts senator ends in 33 days.

The problem with all the GOP kerfuffle is that the Democrats are getting irritated. In the last election, people may have voted because they were told they couldn’t; the same thing may happen with the selection for Secretary of State if Rice gets votes because the GOP is providing all this unwarranted opposition toward her.

The only way that the Republicans can keep a Democratic choice from becoming Secretary of State is by filibustering. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he has enough Democratic votes to change the filibuster guidelines on the first day of the 113th Congressional session. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is threatening to delay fiscal cliff decisions if the Democrats suggest the filibuster changes, but the minority leader has a very bad record for keeping his promises. After McConnell persuaded Reid to not support filibuster changes two years ago, Republicans filibustered 70 times. McConnell has promised to “shut down” the Senate if the Democrats carry through with their filibuster reform, but it appears that the GOP has consistently done with during the last six years with 386 filibusters.

There would have been more filibusters, but Democrats didn’t even try to take action because of the GOP threats. The lack of bills passed during the past two years in the U.S. Senate demonstrates the high level of dysfunction there: in the 112th Congress, the Senate passed a record low of 2.8 percent of bills introduced, 66 percent fewer than in 2005-2006 and a 90-percent decrease from the high during 1955-1956.

One Republican, Johnny Isakson (R-GA) disagrees with McCain when he called Rice “not very bright” and with other Republicans when they called her “incompetent.” During a CNN interview with Soledad O’Brien this morning, Isakson said, “What you don’t want to do is shoot the messenger. [Rice] is a very smart, very intelligent woman. I know this Ms. Rice, I think she’s done a good job as Ambassador to the U.N.”

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/11/28/15510226-mccain-descends-further-into-incoherence  While Collins is out simply lobbying against Rice, John McCain has gone over the edge in yesterday’s interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News.

“[W]ho changed the talking points that was used by Ambassador Rice? And why? And on what circumstances? Why was reference to Al Qaeda left out? There are so many things that have happened. And the interesting thing is, finally, Neil, we knew within hours of all the details when we got bin Laden in the raid there, every bitty one of them. They are making a movie out of it.”

As Times’ Joe Klein wrote,

“[McCain is] now a political caricature, severely debilitated by anger and envy. His trigger-happy foreign policy beliefs have always been questionable, but this Benghazi crusade has put in the weird circle inhabited by nutcases and conspiracy theorists like Michele Bachmann and Allen West. He should honor the memory of those who lost their lives that terrible night by putting a cork in his disgraceful behavior immediately.”

The linchpin during the next three weeks is President Obama. The question is whether he will nominate Rice, Kerry, or someone else. And what will happen between the president and Paul Ryan? Will Ryan just walk out on the negotiations the way that he did on the Simpson-Bowles debt commission? Will Ryan pull a Sarah Palin?

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