Nel's New Day

March 19, 2017

DDT Supporters Start to Lose—Everything


A campaign argument from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to voters was “what do you have to lose?” People voting for DDT almost uniformly said that they wanted a “change.” Now they have a change, and DDT’s policies are proving that everyone except those in the highest income levels will most likely lose.

DDT won with 80 percent support from white evangelical Christians, but some conservative faith leaders are beginning to question the validity of DDT’s policies. Over 100 Christians, many of them conservative, wrote a letter to congressional leaders about how DDT’s cut of $10.1 billion for the International Affairs Budget will damage humanitarian programs abroad.

“With just 1 percent of our nation’s budget, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions; drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

Progressive Sister Simone Campbell wrote that DDT’s cuts “disproportionately affect the same group of people — women, people of color, and all at the economic margins.”

Mick Mulvaney, architect of DDT’s budget and OMB director, has tried to explained that punitive cuts for vulnerable populations are really “compassionate” because people should not pay for services to others unless it’s for a “proper function.” He didn’t explain that this function is for building “the wall” and increasing the military by ten percent. He also said that the cut to Meals on Wheels was only three percent when the federal government actually pays 35 percent.

A five-minute search on the Internet would show Mulvaney positive quantifiable results for Meals on Wheels and another project he wants to slash, after-school programs that provide meals.

Meals on Wheels: 26 of 48 states would save money for Medicaid with an expansion in the program of one percent by keeping seniors out of nursing homes. Florida could trim as much as $11.5 million, and Pennsylvania could save $5.7 million. Overall, the nation would pay only $8 million for this  one-percent expansion.

After-School Meals: feeding hungry children costs $.80 a meal. Several studies show that these programs improve student grades, attendance, and school participation.

DDT has taken five trips to Mar-a-Lago since becoming president for a grand total of about $16.5 million, but there are no concrete results for his personal entertainment. Any meetings there could easily be at the White House. Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year for that amount. After school programs could feed 114,583 poor children for a year for the same amount. Among the 2.4 million people served by Meals on Wheels are 500,000 veterans. The cost for feeding them for a year could be covered by a little over one month supporting DDT’s family in New York.

A tweet: “Trump golfing at Mar-a-Lago costs $10 million/mo. The National Endowment for the Arts costs $12 million/mo. Guess which is being cut?”

Mulvaney’s “compassionate” budget will eliminate the 50-year-old program, National Endowment for the Arts. The basis for this legislation is that a great country comes from an enlightened and unfettered citizenry:

“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster … access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

An early NEA decision was to foster local and regional economies in individual states: the approximately $400 million—25 percent of it targeted to rural communities—returns more than $704.2 billion to the nation’s economy, about 4.23 percent of the GDP. This is more than construction ($619.8 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($483.5 billion). In 2015, NEA funding provided audiences of 33 million people to “30,000 concerts, readings and performances and 5,000 visual and media arts exhibitions,” according to statistics. The NEA makes cities and towns better place to live and extends education, helping students get higher grades and stay in school. Maintaining DDT’s New York home where his wife and son live costs over $4 million a month; NEA costs the average taxpayer $.46 a year.

The budget also used “compassion” to whack $580 million a year from NIH because the 21st Century Cure project gets $480 million to research cures for 10,000 diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Oddly enough, the charge to taxpayers doesn’t go away, but it can’t be spent unless Congress okays it.

What do blacks have to lose with DDT? He answered this campaign trail question in his budget: elimination of the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, SHOP which DDT calls “lower priority programs.” Mulvaney calls this compassion.

The facts belie a demand for the ten-percent increase in military and outright elimination of many programs or cuts of 31 percent to slowing down climate change.

  • The U.S. spends more on military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Germany — combined. Yet the U.S. spends far less per capita than other countries on initiatives that DDT cuts.
  • Eliminated programs are more valuable to West Virginia’s coal miners and Detroit’s single mothers, referenced by Mulvaney as not needing them, than the ten-percent increase in military. DDT’s budget cuts funding for early-childhood education, public housing, transit, food assistance, and job training as well as programs that help people in West Virginia and many surrounding states to find jobs. It also cuts the federal agency, the Chemical Safety Board,  that investigated the 2014 chemical spill outside Charleston leaving 300,000 people without drinking water for five days.
  • On top of DDT’s budget cuts is a huge regressive tax cut which gives money only to the wealthy while Mulvaney talks about worrying about coal miner and single mothers. His argument about trying to protect these people in a budget that takes all their services makes no sense.
  • The budget doesn’t reduce the deficit, which DDT had promised to do.

Mulvaney demands “results,” but the U.S. has spent $4 trillion to establish new regime that don’t work instead of repairing U.S. infrastructure and providing jobs for people in this country. The Pentagon is decades behind in a congressionally-mandated audit, and in 2015 alone Army accounting couldn’t support $2.8 trillion in third quarter adjustments and $6.5 trillion in year-end adjustments. In just that one year, $125 billion in administrative waste was identified, double what DDT budget wants for a Department of Defense increase.

The GOP Trumpcare will kill 17,000 people a year, more people in three months than foreign terrorists have killed in the U.S. since—and including—the 9/11 disaster almost 16 years ago. And far more deaths will ensue from DDT’s budget attack on poor people. Those not forced out of their homes may have no heating assistance.

DDT has joined with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to attack people with student debt by rolling back a regulation from President Obama preventing extortionist fees on student loans for late payments. Before this went into effect, students were charged up to 16 percent even if people paid with 60 days of defaulting. For example, a woman with an $18,000 loan was charged $4,500 in fees when she was 18 days late in paying.

Robert Reich wrote about DDT’s theme of unnecessary cruelty in his policies: his budget attacks the poor at a time when the majority of people suffer greater poverty than they have in almost a century; his Trumpcare adds not only to their poverty of people in the U.S. but also to their deaths; his Syrian refugee and Muslim ban does nothing to protect people from terrorism; and his dragnet approach toward driving immigrants out of the country loses some of the nation’s most productive members and keeps other equally important people from coming to the United States. DDT has no reason for this cruelty other than his business style—create chaos and rule through persecuting people.

Fox’s Howard Kurtz wrote, “The swamp fights back,” referring to the backlash against DDT’s budget, including assistance for food, affordable housing, banking, job training, home heating oil bills, and legal counsel. When DDT said he would “drain the swamp,” people believed that he meant the bureaucracy that destroys jobs and moves money to the wealthy. Evidently the “swamp people” represent people DDT had promised to protect only a few months ago.

There is nothing Christian about any of DDT policies and nothing Christian about conservatives calling those who believe in human rights “swamp people.”

May 9, 2013

U.S. Military, A Culture of Rape

Last year, there were approximately 26,000 sexual assaults within the U.S. military; that’s over 70 every day. No one know how many for sure because only 3,374 were reported. And these are all assault of on Armed Forces members by others in the Armed Forces. Yet out of all those reported, there were 238 convictions. And some of those were overturned by a high-ranking officer because that’s the way the military works. [chart]

rape in military chart numbers

Although the number was higher last year that the 19,000 the year before, the women in the military know that this is an ongoing problem and participated in The Invisible War, a documentary that tells the stories of women who became rape victims after they signed up for the military. Other sexual assault survivors have also begun to speak up about their horrific experiences.

During the past few months, a sense of rage about military rapes has grown, a festering boil that erupted when the above numbers were released in the annual Department of Defense report to Congress.

Why so few assaults reported, some people ask. Imagine that you are assaulted on the job and may lose your position—certainly any hope of promotion—if you report the person. The assaulted person has to report the crime to the commanding officer about a person or persons who may also work for the same boss while continuing to live near the attacker without protection. That same commanding officer will be penalized by a number of reports and convictions; it’s to that officer’s benefit to not pursue complaints.

The commanding officer also has the power to overturn convictions without any explanation. That’s what happened to Kim Hanks after she accused Lt. Col. James Wilkerson of assaulting her in March 2012. A jury of five male military officers found Wilkerson guilty of aggravated sexual assault last November, but Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin removed the conviction. To make things harder for Hanks, Wilkerson was reassigned to the Tucson Air Force base in the city where many of Hanks’ family live. The Air Force had also told Hanks that they would involve her in Wilkerson’s reassignment. They didn’t.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) echoed many the anger of many people about this situation when she said:

“The military needs to understand that this could be a tipping point. I question whether, after this incident, there’s any chance a woman assaulted in that unit would ever say a word. There’s a culture issue that’s going to have to be addressed here. And what this decision did–all it did was underline and put an exclamation point behind the notion that if you are sexually assaulted in the military–good luck.”

If victims of sexual assault report the crime, military codes can punish them for adultery if they are married. Persons reporting an assault might face court martial. Or they may be charged with “conduct unbecoming an officer”; they may lose rank; and they may be accused of having “set up the men.” One of the women in The Invisible War said a woman who reported the third rape in a week in one unit was asked, “You girls think this is a game; are you all in cahoots?”

The question is not why so few assaults were reported but why so many people, mostly women, are brave enough to report the crime despite the personal consequences. Sixty-two percent of military women report social, professional, or administrative retaliation after they are brave enough to report a sexual assault.

All these issues make the military a place where serial rapists can flourish. Studies show that most rapists are serial predators. For example, civilians convicted of rape are on the average responsible for seven to 11 sexual assaults.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have taken the position that sexual assault is a crime that will not be tolerated in the military. The official White House statement wrote:

“Overall, the White House has made the health of the force a top priority, and will be working with the Department of Defense on results and accountability on efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military.”

Fortunately, Congress has decided to take action about this decades-old debacle. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), working with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), plans legislation to remove commanding officers from making decisions about taking serious assault cases to trial, despite the opposition of Hagel, and turning that job over to experienced trial prosecutors. The bill also proposes amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice “so that the convening authority may not (a) set aside a guilty finding or (b) change a finding of guilty to a lesser included offense,” according to a Gillibrand aide.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) have introduced a bill to strengthen assault-prevention efforts, create Special Victims’ Counsels to help survivors navigate the legal process, and automatically trigger referral of sexual-assault cases to the court-martial level or “next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.

Also in the House, Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) have introduced “the Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments Act of 2013 (BE SAFE) Act.” The act “requires that a person found guilty of an offense of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal or dishonorable discharge.” It also reforms the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove the possibility of lessening sentences or setting aside convictions of those convicted of serious sex crimes.

Even before these actions, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) reintroduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP Act) that would stop officers from overturning sexual assault convictions. The STOP Act, with 83 co-sponsors, would remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command and put it under the jurisdiction of an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military personnel.

If Hagel wants to keep control with his commanding officers, he had better do something about their disgusting attitude toward women and sexual assaults. At a Senate hearing this week, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh blamed an increase in sexual assault in the military on the “hookup” culture prevalent among young people. Welsh said 20 percent of female recruits report being assaulted before they joined the military. “They come in from a society where this occurs,” he said. Thus he blames the victim and sees very little problem with sexual assault—more like a bad date.

The tipping point in reforming the military’s culture of rape, however, may come from the officer in charge of the service’s Sexual Prevention and Response program. After Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski “allegedly” grabbed and groped a woman last weekend, he was charged with sexual battery. Unfortunately for Krusinski, she fought back, and the mug shot of his scratched and bloodied face has gone viral across the Internet.

Seven women senators, five of them lawyers, now sit on the Armed Services Committee. At this time, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is blocking President Obama’s nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command because she intervened on behalf of a fellow pilot and Air Force captain who had been convicted by a military jury of aggravated sexual assault. Against the advice of legal counsel, she overturned the jury verdict.

Before Welsh’s “hook up” statement and Krusinski’s arrest for sexual battery, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said that he thought the Pentagon doesn’t suffer from “a serious problem” of military commander’s overturning sexual assault convictions and wanted to postpone any proposed changes to military law.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified before the Senate that a commander’s role to enforce military law “is simply essential.” The question is whether military leaders find it essential for them to determine law without any jury.



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