Nel's New Day

November 15, 2020

DDT: Week 199 – Still Going Downhill

Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) failing litigation is one example of his incompetence. The court case charging voter fraud but promising to bring evidence of it later was sad, as was the case Donald Trump v. USA, filed Thursday evening in the wrong court. Time after time, lawyers in different courts had to confess they had no evidence of election fraud. Marc Caputo points out many more problems.

In search of the promised fraud “evidence,” members of the new DDT-supporting “Voters Integrity Fund” are calling thousands of people and asking them if they voted in their search for fraud. With over 100 paid operators, the organization is run by federal employees and former DDT campaign staffers. The team’s director said the federal employees are “on leave.” A Christian crowdfunding site has donated over $550,000 thus far.

The DDT campaign accused two dead Georgians of voting, but the voters are truly alive. Agnes Blalock voted legally with her married name, Mrs James E. Blalock, Jr. Her husband died in 2006. DDT’s name list had no titles such as Mr. or Mrs. Although Linda Kesler died in 2003, another Linda Kesler, very much alive, cast a ballot in her own name.

DDT has caused a disaster by putting his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in charge of litigation. Under the leadership of David Bossie, Citizens United president, DDT’s lawyers had decided to chip away with any excuse they could find. Bossie has COVID-19, and Giuliani proceeds with “full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes.” He makes flagrant allegations of voter fraud on the Fox network and orders lawsuits to be filed without the campaign’s legal team consent. Meanwhile, DDT is ignoring the Georgia senate race which could give Democrats control of the entire Congress.

On DDT’s way to his Virginia golf course, he drove by a few thousand supporters for the “Million MAGA March.” The crowd was peaceful until they physically attacked about 300 counter-protesters. The fights grew uglier after dark, and DDT took the opportunity to attack those he calls “Anti SCUM.”

DDT’s press secretary Kayleigh (“I’ll never lie to the media”) McEnany exploded the crowd’s number by about 200 when she falsely tweeted, “More than one MILLION marchers for President @realDonaldTrump descend on the swamp in support.” She did get DDT’s “swamp” correct.

Acting DHS director Chad Wolf refused DDT’s demand to fire election cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs, a DDT appointment, for claiming the election was “secure.” Other DDT complaints are Krebs’ friendship with Miles Taylor, who openly criticized DDT, and his employment of Matt Masterson, a President Obama appointee. DDT has been pushing the Senate to confirm Wolf as DHS directo, but he may now change his mind. Krebs’ second-in-command was terminated last week.

A federal judge has also ruled Wolf was illegally the acting DHS Secretary and overturned his refusal to protect DACA recipients. Wolf’s ruling applies to over a million people, including more recent applicants and DACA recipients applying for two-year renewals. Citing the Government Accountability Office, the judge called Wolf’s appointment an “invalid order of successors.”  

Former ambassador Susan Rice has an explanation for DDT’s refusal to allow President-elect Joe Biden access to highly classified information in national security, the pandemic, and the economy:

“There are virtually no policies put in place by the current administration to address any of these concerns in any meaningful, substantive way.”

She continued by saying Biden’s team will “be appalled at the degree of inaction and wholesale lack of any efforts whatsoever to address these challenges [and] find instead a network of utter incompetence and indifference to planning, strategy or policy, staggering in its depth.” Rice added:

“[Biden’s team] will find security threats and intel festering, ignored, or shunted aside in favor of groveling to Trump’s every chimerical whim. They will find communications from our overseas allies to have shriveled into nothingness, and our intelligence services put at risk, if not wholly ignored. They will find corruption, graft, kickbacks  and politicization to have completely replaced national security policy.

“They will find only token measures performed with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of those measures redounding to the Trump family’s personal coffers and the interests of those still employed within the highest level of the administration. They will find no coherent policies, plans, or measures in place to address the economic calamity facing tens of millions of Americans, and they will find our national security apparatus on the cusp of disaster, with only half-baked plans geared less to satisfy the interests and safety of American citizens than to fulfill the wishlists of foreign adversaries…

“The Trump people [are] very busy right now, deleting or destroying as much information as they can. They’re trying to stave off the horror they know will ensue when Biden’s team gains access and finds out what really has—and hasn’t—been going on.”

People may find out if Rice is right in just 67 days.

During her confirmation for Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett almost always used claims of impartiality in her refusal to answer questions. In his keynote speech to his highly conservative Federalist Society, the group putting over half the justices onto the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito did not suffer from Barrett’s claims of ethics. Alito, a white male heterosexual, explained the so-called persecutions by liberals and his own court and demonstrated how he will rule from the high court’s bench.

  • The bakery’s denial of a wedding cake to a gay couple is no problem because they were “given a free cake by another bakery.”
  • People “who cling to old beliefs” about discriminating against LGBTQ people “risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.”
  • He wants to “prevent [free speech] from becoming a second-tier constitutional right,” but didn’t explain how discriminating against LGBTQ people in employment and public accommodations is equivalent to “free speech.”
  • Limiting the Supreme Court’s ideological conservative control is equivalent to autocratic intimidation.
  • Public health attempts to stop COVID-19 are “previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” the fault of “early 20th century progressives and the New Dealers of the 1930s” who prized “lawmaking by executive fiat rather than legislation” and eventually became too deferential to “experts,” which led to policy-making becoming more “scientific.”
  • A suggestion about the court needing to be “restructured” is like a tank going to a courthouse in an authoritarian regime.

Alito’s speech could have been an audition to moonlight on the Fox network. Slate’s legal writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote:

“That was easily the most political speech I’ve ever seen delivered by a Supreme Court justice. Wow. Same-sex marriage, guns, abortion, contraception, persecution of the Federalist Society … he really squeezed it all in there. Yikes.”

The Pfizer CEO sold stock in his company last week for almost $5.6 million the day after the announcement of the possible vaccine increased the stock price by 16 percent. Although the sale was supposedly pro forma, it raised questions.

DDT wants to sell $23 billion of military goods, including 50 F-35 stealth fighters and armed drones, to the United Arab Emirates before the end of his term, but Democratic congressional lawmakers, who must approve the sale, are not pleased about the rush. It would avoid the Pentagon’s normal review process, the State Department, and Congress.

Ever vengeful, DDT may be looking at owning a new digital media empire to wreck Fox because it doesn’t give him adequate “loyalty.” Axios reported that DDT will probably not start a new cable channel because it “would be expensive and time-consuming.” He could use his extensive database to collect viewers and use “Stop the Steal” rallies to attack Fox. Mike Allen wrote DDT wants his company “to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network.”

In addition, DDT wants to charge $5.99 for watchers, another way to make up for his losses. LA Times media writer Stephen Battaglio believes DDT has little chance of creating successful competition to Fox because “consumers have shifted away from pay TV subscriptions.” Other personalities such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have not been a big media force. DDT couldn’t even get Fox watchers to move to One America News network during the past four years.

As DDT contemplates a 2024 presidential run, Scotland is considering an investigation in 66 days for money laundering connected to his Scottish golf resorts after DDT loses his immunity from prosecution in the U.S. He has invested more than $200 million in his two courses while feuding with the neighbors and losing huge amounts of money. The UK government could use its new Unexplained Wealth Order for investigating cases if publicly available information doesn’t match financial situations of “politically exposed persons” suspected of money laundering. The Parliament’s interest was aroused because “the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is investigating the Trump Organization’s inflation of assets, and potential bank and insurance fraud,” according to a reporter.  

“Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’—it is a disgusting failure,” newly elected Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said about the DOJ conclusion that former U.S. AG Alex Acosta’s 2008 plea deal with DDT’s former friend Jeffrey Epstein simply showed “poor judgment.” Because of the deal, Epstein could not be prosecuted for federal sex charges. In August 2019, he died in his cell after being arrested on federal sex trafficking charges. The investigation led to Acosta leaving his position as Secretary of Labor and now keeping a low profile.

Although U.S. COVID-19 cases usually shrink with less weekend reporting, 157,253 cases were still reported in the past 24 hours with 1,260 deaths.

July 2, 2020

Could Russia Be DDT’s Waterloo?

When the world learned that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ignored information about Russians putting bounties on the heads of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he hoped the firestorm would disappear in a few days. Instead, it has been on the media as much as the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. for the past five days and seems to be getting worse. Each one of those days has brought out more information.

Tonight, the New York Times reported about Rahmatullah Azizi, the chief go-between who took money from the Russians to give it to Taliban-connected fighters. About six months ago, security agencies arrested dozens of his relatives and associates, but Azizi had sneaked back to Russia, leaving about a half million dollars in one of his homes in Kabul. The dead body of a U.S. military member is worth $100,000.

Azizi’s role has been confirmed in a dozen interviews with U.S. and Afghan officials, neighbors and friends, and business associates of the other middlemen. He began as a drug smuggler in his 20s, moving his product into Iran. When he returned to Afghanistan, U.S.-led coalition forces gave him contracts to build roads in Kunduz before he moved on to a connection with Russia. One of his friends said he went from “not even having a blanket” to having security escorts and owning several expensive houses and cars. Other evidence against Azizi came from large financial transfers from Russia’s GRU to Taliban-connected militants.

For years, both U.S. and Afghan officials have believed that Russia was undermining the U.S. in Afghanistan and aiding the Taliban through covert operations. Only recently, however, did the U.S. confirm that the Russians were paying bounties on members of U.S. military out of its overseas assassination arm of the Russian military intelligence, Unit 29155 called GRU that helped DDT get elected.  A couple of their activities since DDT moved into the White House are the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts in 2016 and the nerve agent attack in Salisbury (England) in 2018.

Intelligence reports that the Russia has tired of prolonged U.S. presence and switched allegiance to the Taliban but tried to look as if it supported the U.S. until Afghanistan picked its power source. U.S. discovery of the bounty money in 2019 was at the same time as negotiations with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Today’s reporting also reveals that the bounty information was in the written February 27, 2020, President’s Daily Brief (PDB), much to the frustration of White House officials who insisted that DDT was never told. The officials shifted to insistence that the information was uncertain, but intelligence agencies don’t put anything into daily briefings until it has been thoroughly vetted. DDT has changed his own story almost daily in the past five days, perhaps settling on never having heard of it while going back to his favorite word, “hoax.”  

The day before DDT ignored the PDB about Russia paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, he had a press briefing to assure the people of the United States that COVID-19 would disappear within the week. [Four months and four days later, the U.S. has 2,779,953 confirmed cases and 130,798 deaths from the disease. The number of new cases hit a high of 51,097 yesterday.] VP Mike Pence, assigned at the virus press briefing to solve the problem, spent February 27, 2020 at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and met with Trumper media, including Sean Hannity and Eric Bollins (Sinclair TV host).

DDT’s schedule for February 27, 2020, lists a 45-minute meeting with lead actors of a low-budget conservative play about what he calls the Deep State. Phelim McAleer, the playwright of FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers slamming fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and fired FBI lawyer Lisa Page who had discussed DDT’s campaign in 2016, said that the meeting last three times as long as scheduled. “He loves it, he loves the play,” McAleer said about the play’s concept. A video of the play was presented to CPAC the next day.

The other responsibility on DDT’s schedule for February 27, 2020, was meeting with his vlogger fans Diamond & Silk (left) along with about 20 other Black supporter including Candace Owens, Isaiah Washington, and Alveda King. They all gave him lavish praise and huddled around him for a prayer. He bragged about his criminal reform which benefits white-collar criminals and called the 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases a “miracle” from the U.S. “incredible achievement” in defeating the disease. He wanted credit for his handling and said, “If we were doing a bad job, we should also be criticized. But we have done an incredible job.” [FYI: He’s doing a bad job and keeps lying about his accomplishments or ignores the pandemic.]

Otherwise, he was rattled by the plummeting of the stock market from the COVID-19 crisis and the slow movement of the peace agreement with the Taliban. An intelligence briefing was scheduled for 2:30 pm, his preferred time so he can tweet in the morning, and a reception for African American History Month was at the White House that evening. He added a few people to his new coronavirus task force throughout the day and muddied up the leadership. Two days after DDT’s PDB included info on Russia’s paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  

Six months ago, former Republican Max Boot wrote a piece explaining how DDT acts as a Russian asset:

  • His long financial history with Russia.
  • Russian interference to help elect DDT president.
  • DDT’s encouragement for Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails on July 27, 2016.
  • His attempt to cover up the 101 contacts between his campaign and Russia-connected operatives.
  • The number of DDT’s campaigners—Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn—close to Russia.
  • Manafort’s admission he offered his Russian-connected business partner with polling data, useful for Russians using social media to interfere in the presidential campaign on DDT’s part.
  • Roger Stone’s advance knowledge about Russians hacking Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
  • DDT’s firing FBI Director James Comey to stop the investigation of the “Russia thing” and bragged about it to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office while revealing top-secret information to them.
  • DDT’s firing AG Jeff Sessions because he did end the special counsel investigation after Comey was fired.
  • DDT’s constant refusal to acknowledge Russia interfered in the U.S. election or mobilize an effort to stop future interference because he accepts Vladimir Putin’s denial in doing it.
  • DDT’s attacks on and undermining of the DOJ, the FBI, the European, and NATO to support Russia.
  • His support of populist, pro-Russian leaders in Europe; i.e., Viktor Orban (Hungary) and Marine Le Pen (France).
  • DDT’s praise and worship of Putin, “a strong leader,” while denigrating almost everyone else from celebrities to leaders of allied nations.
  • DDT’s hiding his conversation with Putin, even taking notes from his interpreter and telling her not to tell anyone about the meeting.
  • DDT’s defense of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
  • His repetition of pro-Russian talking points.
  • His pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, presenting the country to Russia and Putin’s ally Iran.
  • DDT’s refusal to respond to the Russian attack on Ukrainian ships in international waters to encourage greater Russian aggression.
  • DDT’s sowing chaos in the U.S. government with a partial government shutdown and multiple “acting” appointments in key posts to meet the Russian goal of undermining the United States.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice added to the ways DDT supports Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Russia has escalated its aggression toward the U.S. in the past few weeks—new cyberattacks on U.S. employees working from home, Russian jets testing U.S. air defenses off the Alaska coast, etc. Yet DDT’s administration has no strategy for deterring Russia behavior. Pompeo is still claiming Crimea will never be Russian territory although Russia annexed that part of Ukraine six years ago. In his new book, however, John Bolton wrote DDT “repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia and pressed us not to be so critical of Russia publicly.” DDT’s only strategy with Russia is to be “friends.”

For once, Republican lawmakers have not come out en masse to support DDT’s denial. Maybe some of them found a sale on spines. But Republicans still refuse to support a bill requiring presidential campaigns to report offers of foreign election help. One excuse—not reason—might be the ignorance of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee: GOP members refuse to attend.

Military veterans have been loyal to DDT for almost four years despite his selling them out, over and over. Allowing Russians to pay the Taliban to kill U.S. troops may be a bridge too far for them. The fractures started with DDT’s threats to militarize states in the midst of protests become wide fissures after the public learned that DDT’s administration has ignored widespread assassinations of their comrades in active duty under the leadership of their commander in chief. The loss of their votes in November will hurt him as much as his loss of white suburban women.

May 24, 2020

Week 174 – Some Good News, Voting Squabbles

A federal judge overturned a new Florida law requiring felons to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote, as permitted by an initiative passed in 2018 by 65 percent of the voters. The constitutional amendment expanded voting rights for those who completed “all terms of their sentence including probation and parole.” Judge Robert L. Hinkle compared the state law to a tax, unconstitutionally illegal.

In addition to using security agents as servants, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had them pack household goods and move his mother-in-law into a retirement home. Pompeo also ordered state Department officials to fabricate a justification for the emergency authorization to force an $8 billion arms deal without congressional approval and then hide it. To keep from firing Pompeo, DDT is trying to persuade him to run for Kansas senator. June 1 is the deadline for filing for candidacy.

Rachel Maddow is off the hook, at least temporarily, for a $10 million defamation lawsuit by One America News Network (OANN) after she said a writer for the right-leaning channel publishes the same material for Russia’s state propaganda network. On July 22, 2019, Maddow cited a Daily Beast article on her show, saying it reported OANN “has a full-time on-air reporter who covers U.S. politics, who is also simultaneously on the payroll of the Kremlin.” Maddow added, “The most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” OANN plans to appeal the lawsuit’s dismissal.

Two Democratic FCC commissioners claim a $48 million fine with no admission of guilt for Sinclair is insufficient punishment for the conservative network’s violations of regulations and asked for harsher punishments and greater scrutiny into whether Sinclair should be allowed to own any television stations.  Sinclair lied for an FCC review in its attempt to buy Tribune Media, causing the merger to collapse; didn’t report its providing accounting services to TV stations it didn’t own to the FCC; and aired sponsored programming 1,723 times without telling viewers the content was paid by a hospital group and not news.

The EPA admitted ignoring serious problems with rolling back the regulation to reduce automobile pollution through mileage standards. The agency had not seen about two-thirds of the 1,000-page document that Transportation Department staffers gave the White House as justification for the changes, and the top EPA official said that the Transportation had not addressed over 250 comments from EPA experts. Documents about objections from EPA staff may create legal problems for the rule mandating an improvement of average fuel efficiency because of the rules that the EPA broke. In the margins of the new regulation, agency staff wrote:

“The action revising the [greenhouse gas] standards will result in increased climate impacts and air pollution emissions compared to the existing standards.”

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) wrote that the EPA failed to enter document into the public record, changed the rule after it was signed, and didn’t follow it obligation to write part of the mileage rule:

“The result is a policy that fails to protect public health, fails to save money, fails to result in safer vehicles and will, ultimately and undoubtedly, fail in court.”

Even without protection from DDT’s EPA, scientists say that the worldwide drop in carbon emissions from coronavirus shutdowns could be the largest in recorded history. The 17-percent decrease from the same month last year is the same as emission levels in 2006, according to an analysis of the 69 countries responsible for 97 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Forty-three percent of the decrease came from reduced surface transportation.

DDT is launching the latest phase of his pre-election smear campaign against Democrats, and faithful loyalist Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chair of Senate Homeland Security Committee, wants to help him. He declassified an email former White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote herself as a reminder immediately before DDT’s inauguration about a discussion with President Obama and his team concerning Michael Flynn. Rice’s email states:

“[President Obama] stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”

Rice – 1; Johnson – 0. And Flynn – 0. 

Rice called on DDT to release the transcripts of phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador during the transition while Barack Obama was president. Flynn pled guilty—twice—to his private conversations with a foreign country with the goal of undermining his own country’s foreign policy. No release is impending.

Watching judicial decisions regarding Texas absentee voting is like watching a ping-pong game. The state’s AG, Ken Paxton, has fought to keep from expanding the extremely narrow parameters for absentee voters, even if people are in danger of being infected and dying from COVID-19. With no evidence, his excuse is “fraud.” The latest ruling from a Texas federal judge permits absentee ballots for voters afraid of catching the virus, applying the law to all registered voters who “lack immunity from Covid-19 and fear infection at polling places.” This ruling supersedes the decision from the state Supreme Court stopping five counties from issuing mail-in ballots. The next Texas election is July 14, and July 2 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. Paxton filed an appeal.

COVID-19 caused almost 30 states to change rules or practices for this year’s primaries or the general election, affecting roughly 86.6 million registered voters and more than 40 million people who now have the temporary right to cast an absentee ballot. Over a dozen states postponed primaries because of the virus, and 11 states requiring an excuse to vote by mail may use the virus for a reason. Another 12 states and the District of Columbia are proactively sending absentee ballot applications or request forms to voters specifically because of the coronavirus. Roughly 34.7 million people will receive the forms. Maryland, Montana, Nevada, and New Jersey sending absentee ballots for the primaries to approximately 11.3 million voters joined five other states that already mailed ballots to voters. In the 34 states that already do not require an excuse to vote absentee or by mail, the number of requests have shot up by ten times over 2016. Before the onset of the virus, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah already conduct elections by mail. Only Kentucky made voting more onerous by requiring government-issued photo IDs. ID-issuing offices are closed in the state.

With no evidence, DDT told reporters that mail-in ballots lead to “forgeries” and “thousands and thousands of fake ballots.” He added a diatribe about people printing “fraudulent ballots” and said “a lot of things can happen.” “To really vote, and without fraud, you have to go and you have to vote at the polling place,”  said DDT, the man who voted by mail from an address that Florida says he can’t have as a legal residential address. Previously, he said that Republicans need to block mail-in ballots to keep electing Republicans. DDT’s family also votes by mail.

DDT is so desperate to keep blue states from voting by mail that he threatened to block funding to Michigan and Nevada because he was under the impression that the states were mailing ballots. In fact, the states mailed applications for absentee ballots. GOP-led states such as Nebraska, West Virginia and Georgia made similar plans to offer applications for absentee ballots, but DDT has no comments about these red states. Interference with elections is unconstitutional.

Colorado, the third state after Washington and Oregon to legislate complete vote by mail, found the practice popular and relatively free of fraud—only 0.0027 percent out of 2.5 million ballots. In 2018, the state had the second highest turnout rate in the country after a 9.4 percent increase among registered voters. In April, 79 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans supported mail-in ballots for 2020. Yet the RNC and DDT’s re-election campaign are paying $20 million to fight voting changes in battleground states. Many Colorado Republicans advocate mail voting, and supporters say it’s safe because of paper ballots, signature verifications, a risk-limiting audit, and voter list checks make it safe. Research shows that neither party benefited from the mail-in system.

Vote by mail is also safer health wise. Wisconsin’s in-person primaries on April 7, mandated by the state Supreme Court and the GOP legislators, led to a “large” spread of coronavirus, according to a study.  

DDT may think that he can postpone the November election, mandated by the U.S. Constitution. About postponement, DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said, “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan.” Backlash forced Kushner to backtrack to the media: 

“I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of any discussions about trying to change the date of the Presidential election.”   [photo – Kushner]

A  federal judge allowed a federal lawsuit against DDT, his three oldest children, and his company of collaboration with a fraudulent marketing scheme to prey on investors. The case involves an exchange of “secret” payments for use of DDT’s former reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice and other promotional events to boost ACN Opportunity, a telecommunications marketing company linked to a nonprofit that used Trump’s brand to appeal to teens. According to the lawsuit, the Trumps profited off the poor and vulnerable by “systematically defrauding economically marginalized people.”

May 24: COVID-19 deaths are 99,300—just 700 short of 100,000.

June 8, 2013

June Brings Good News

Amidst recent scandals and outrage of IRS and spying issues are stories that give hope for the future. One of these is the growth of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” demonstrations against GOP assaults on women’s reproductive rights, public education, care for the poor and mentally ill, and voting rights. Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP spoke to a crowd, objecting to lawmakers’ cutting 500,000 people from the Medicaid rolls, causing one million working poor families to lose their earned income tax credit “so that 23 wealthy people get a tax cut,” and giving $100 million in public money to private schools while cutting corporate tax rates. Two years ago, the Tea Party drove the election, giving both legislative chambers to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction almost 150 years ago.

 9847-moral-mondays-060313

As Barber talked, two prison buses waited to take the people to jail. The 151 people arrested were an increase from the 17 five weeks earlier. Many of them are the elderly, disabled, clergy, professionals–people who traditionally seen as the establishment. Also parked outside the crowd are four vans from Baptist churches filled with bottled water, bag lunches, and rain ponchos, not really menacing.

President Obama may have held his own mini-protest last week when he appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice as his national security adviser. Last fall, Republican legislators attacked Rice so viciously after she delivered the talking points given her by the FBI regarding the four deaths in Benghazi that she declined to be a nominee for Secretary of State. The Senate would have to approve that nomination, but this position requires no Congressional approval. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted that he would “make every effort to work w/her on imp’t issues.” Earlier he accused her of giving “false information concerning how this tragedy happened” and of being unfit for high office, asking for her resignation because of her “bad intelligence.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) had described Rice as “somebody who’s had every drop of Kool-Aid” and sounds “like she’d be a great head of the Democratic National Committee.” After her new appointment, he said, “I had a very good conversation with Ambassador Susan Rice to let her know I look forward to working with her on shaping important foreign policy and national security issues as she serves in her new role.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stands his ground. “I really question the president’s judgment in promoting someone who was complicit in misleading the American public,” Paul said. All the senators might want to play nice with Susan Rice: her new position makes her more powerful than the Secretary of State, the office that they kept her from having.

The president—and small businesses in California—got some good news about Obamacare. Big health insurers Anthem and Blue Cross/Blue Shield were told to refund over $36 million in overcharges to these small businesses, and that’s just one state. While conservatives claim to love “Main Street, USA,” they prefer to let huge corporations rob them. Obamacare has already saved $147 million for newly insured young adults and another $1.1 billion for 12.8 million people because of the provision that insurance companies must pay a minimum of 80 percent of premiums for real medical care. This is the law that GOP House members have voted 37 times to overturn.

Swiffer-rosie-the-riveter-e1370362475592A bad news story turned into good news within less than a week when Swiffer removed Rosie the Riveter from its advertising. During World War II, the picture of Rosie became a lasting feminist icon, showing that women could get out of the kitchen. Swiffer put her back in when they used the image to promote its new mopping products. 

 

 

120606_sheldon_adelson_ap_605Casino mogul and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, 79, may have less clout in the next presidential election. After dropping millions of dollars on Newt Gingrich’s campaign and denigrating Mitt Romney, he changed the recipient of more millions after Romney was chosen for the GOP candidate. With a net worth of $26.5 billion, Adelson and his wife gave almost $150 million to GOP superPACs and “nonprofit” groups, legal because of Citizens United.

Rumors of his fraudulent actions swirled around for several years; now a grand jury in Los Angeles is probing an alleged federal money-laundering scheme of his Nevada-based casinos. Adelson may not be a subject of the inquiry, but he’s in trouble for violations of an anti-bribery statute involving his four casinos in Macau, the only place in China with legalized casino gambling. A Las Vegas jury has ruled that Adelson’s casino, the Sands, owes Richard Suen $70 million for lobbying help to open its first Macau casino almost a decade ago. And PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that had represented the Sands for a quarter-century, suddenly resigned probably because of legal and regulatory concerns. [AP photo]

Rumors about Texas turning politically purple, if not downright blue, are also swirling around, and a Tea Party member is helping. After Democrats launched Battleground Texas, state GOP leaders opened fire against the opposition. State Attorney General Greg Abbott called the Democratic campaign “an assault far more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin, Texas, as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons.”

The sabotage from the conservatives came when Ken Emanuelson said, “I’m going to be real honest with you; the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.” He evidently didn’t get the memo on GOP minority outreach. Out of a population of 26 million, Texas has a white population of only 44 percent. Although 70 percent of Hispanics and 90+ percent of blacks voted for President Obama, he still lost the vote because of the low minority voter registration and turnout. Emanuelson could help change that.

Another GOP dinosaur problem comes from the Heritage Foundation. Known as a conservative think tank, the organization has begun to take on the personality of its new leader, rabidly right Jim DeMint who was formerly a senator from South Carolina. Still insisting on the importance of austerity in a crisis—continually debunked within the past year—one of its economists, Salim Furth, claimed that most of Europe isn’t practicing austerity according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A Senate member explained that Furth’s OECD numbers are actually the opposite of reality, calling the testimony “meretricious,” a polite term for just short of lying. Another notable economist, Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, wondered “whether Heritage may at this point be destroying its own usefulness. Its purpose was never to do real research; it was always a propaganda arm of the movement. But it was supposed to create a plausible illusion of intellectual rigor, good enough to take in gullible journalists.”

Thanks to DeMint, the Heritage Foundation is moving away from research and into, according to DeMint, “good marketing.” Instead of policy, it will focus on “messaging” and “communicating.” Instead of a think tank, the Heritage Foundation will become a message strategist for like-minded politicians. That’s bad news for the GOP because they aren’t able to do their own research.

And thanks to Rachel Maddow, I’ve found the website for marine traffic, fun for me because I live in one of the largest fishing harbors on the West Coast that’s also home to NOAA ships and other research vessels. Maddow has found another use for the website that tracks ships—searching the locations where the Koch brothers are sending their stockpile of petroleum coke to be burned. The article explains her reasons, process, and the end location of a couple of ships, two plants in Nova Scotia.

The best news for parenting gays and lesbians confirms what they already know: these children are not only thriving but also maintaining a higher rate of family cohesion than other families. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families is the world’s largest comparison of children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexual couples. Although researchers found no difference in self-esteem, emotional behavior, and time spent with parents, children with same-sex parents also score higher for overall health. Legislators who prevent adoption by same-sex couples and Supreme Court justices who worry about “the children” might want to take notice. 

At the same time that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is backing out of immigration reform and the Eagle Forum has called on people to “shoot” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for her support of the act, evangelical leaders are now praying for GOP congressmen to back immigration reform and running radio ads, primarily in red states, to support for the act. Maybe they want more people in their congregation: 600,000 Latinos in the United States convert from Catholicism to evangelical Protestantism every year. Or more voters. One-third of registered GOP or leaning-GOP voters are also evangelical Christians. Those in the pews are, however, pushing back. White evangelical Christians are the least likely group to allow legal status to undocumented immigrants. 

The Senate starts debate on the immigration reform bill next week. Let’s see how good the news is then. 

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?

November 27, 2012

Congress Ignores Job, Economy Issues

Since Election Day, many of the nation’s populace have focused on what will happen to the bipartisan fiscal agreement from August 2011 that kept the United States from defaulting on the national debt which would have crashed the entire country. The conditions of this agreement were supposed to be changed a year ago, but the bitter partisan fighting stopped this from happening. With no compromise before the end of 2012, taxes revert to the time of Bill Clinton (when, by the way, we had a great economy), a situation that the media likes to call the “fiscal cliff.”

During a meeting with the president ten days after Election Day,  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) informed President Obama that the fiscal cliff is “my leverage.” During this discussion Boehner threatened to not agree to the president’s proposal if the speaker’s demands weren’t meant.

Since the election, Republicans have admitted that they are willing to create new revenue, despite the anti-tax pledge that most of them signed with conservative activist Grover Norquist. In return, however, they want to hack at Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Once again, conservatives are using their typical tactic of fear and ploy of extortion.

In fact, there might not be a real crisis. CBO has adjusted its forecast with the result that the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years. Social Security etc. are not part of businesses required to make a profit; reasonable management of health care costs will keep Medicare and Medicaid expenditures within control. Military spending should decrease as the country leaves its warmongering.

President Obama’s proposal regarding taxes is to keep the Bush cuts for everyone who makes under $250,000. Republicans like to refer to the people above this amount—only two percent of the population—as job creators. They aren’t. To see that there is no relationship between private-sector employment and tax cuts, just look at this employment since 2001. The only reason that employment gained during George W. Bush’s first term was the 800,000 increase in public sector.

Because Republicans like to control by fear, they don’t tell people that everyone in the country keeps the Bush tax cuts on the first $250,000 that they make, even the top two percent.

Republicans are truly caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and both of these are in their own political party. If they try to look at all reasonable and break their pledge for no new taxes, the Tea Party backs a candidate that might defeat long-time incumbents. This was the case with Dick Lugar in Illinois during the last primary. The situation is even more dire with the Democratic wins in the most recent election. The big question right now: do Republicans agree with providing revenue to the country, the way that 70 percent of the population wants, or do they please Tea Party members with the Norquist approach of no tax increases–ever.

Last week Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), up for reelection in two years, broke with Norquist, by saying that addressing the nation’s looming “fiscal cliff” takes precedence over honoring the anti-tax pledge. “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”

Chambliss is also a supporter of the Bowles-Simpson plan to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. In return for these drastic measures against the middle class, the plan raises some revenue by closing a few token tax loopholes and reducing the popular mortgage interest deduction. Like other Republicans, Chambliss could vote to close small loopholes in the tax code while raising the retirement age for Social Security, cap overall spending for Medicare, and dramatically lowering corporate tax rates.

Up for re-election in two years, Chambliss could attract moderates in a primary against a Tea Party candidate by supporting more revenue. It would also get him funding from lobbyists for his election campaign because they want to destroy the safety net and keep corporate taxes low.

On Sunday’s talk shows Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he could reject the pledge if Democrats would reform entitlements (aka roll back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), and Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY) said the pledge may be out of step in the present economy. Monday morning, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told CBS’s Charlie Rose that he, too, was “not obligated on the pledge.”

While millions of words are being devoted these days to the fiscal cliff or hill or curb, McCain and others are leading the media into an obsessive reporting about Susan Rice’s lack of information about the Benghazi disaster. Rational people know that Rice reported what she was told on the Sunday after four men were killed at the embassy. Since then the Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his sycophant Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), have pilloried Rice. Graham said she shouldn’t have said anything, knowing that this would have made the situation worse.

Sunday said that he wouldn’t not have necessarily block Rice for the position of Secretary of State and asked for a meeting with her. After today’s meeting with the three loudest critics—McCain, Ayotte, and Graham—all of them said that “they were more disturbed than before the meeting.”

What is the reason behind the opposition? Senators indicate that they prefer John Kerry to Rice as Secretary of State. The choice may have two primary reasons. First, Kerry is a white man, much preferred by Congressional Republicans. To see the Republicans’ lack of diversity, check out the new committee leaders in the House–19 white men.

Second, if Kerry were to be appointed to this position, Massachusetts would need a new senator. After his loss to Elizabeth Warren, the current Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown, is in a prime position to win the election, adding one more Republican to the 45 already in the U.S. Senate for the next two years.

Meanwhile Congress ignores the need to improve jobs and economy while Republicans continue to oppose any benefits for the 99 percent of the country’s population.

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