Nel's New Day

January 11, 2020

DDT: Week 155 – Disasters in Iran, Regulations

Another weekend, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues his growing series of demented tweets. He’s attacked the FBI for investigating Russian interference in the 2020 election, accused Democrats of defending Qassem Soleimani who he assassinated, claimed that his approval is over 60 percent instead of about the low 40s, and sent a message in Farsi that praises Iranian protesters for trying to overturn the government. DDT claimed, “I’ve stood with you since the beginning,” despite his refusal to allow Iranian immigrants in the U.S. and held Iranian-born U.S. citizens for hours at the Canadian border when they tried to return home after attending a concert in Vancouver. He claims that his killing Soleimani makes people more safe, but a USA Today/Ipsos poll disagree with him by 2-1. A majority in the poll, 52 percent, called DDT’s behavior with Iran “reckless.”   

Since he killed Soleimani, DDT has scrambled to find an excuse for the murder. Initially, DDT told associates that he killed Soleimani to get support from senators in his impeachment trial. By now, DDT has invented “imminent” threats, first an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and then another three unnamed U.S. embassies. These assertions are at odds with intelligence information (agents who DDT calls “dirty cops”) and was not reported in the classified briefings to Congress. Secretary of State supports DDT’s claims, beginning with not knowing location or time of attacks to agreeing with DDT without evidence. Always ready to lie for DDT, VP Mike Pence asserted that DDT has proof of the threats but can’t tell anyone else.

Iran has now admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet and killing 176 people because of excessive caution after DDT killed Soleimani. DDT’s explanation for the plane crash was that “it was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood.” Despite Pompeo’s claims that people are safer after Soleimani was killed, airlines are changing or withdrawing flights, and Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is removing all Filipinos from Iraq and Iran.  

Soleimani’s death has not driven the U.S. into war with Iran—yet—but it has dire impacts:

More possible U.S. war deaths in the Middle East: Today the Taliban planted a bomb in southern Afghanistan that killed two U.S. soldiers and injured two others.

More volatility and instability in a warring and explosive area: The Taliban may find links with Iran rather than peace with the U.S., serious conflicts in Yemen may worsen, and Pakistan may be involved in creating violence.  

An increase in ISIS violence and leadership: Soleimani opposed ISIS; his absence may create new divisions.

Iran’s withdrawal from nuclear restrictions: Iran had lived up to its agreement to not enrich uranium until DDT pulled out of the agreement and threatened sanctions and force.

Iraqi rejection of the U.S.: Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel the U.S. military, and young Iraqis may have more power in turning against democracy.

Strengthening hard-line conservative Iranian factions: Reformist president and foreign minister will lose the ability for diplomacy and all trust because their opposition believes that the U.S. wants to destroy Iran.

Loss of U.S. allies: DDT has ignored communication about his violent strategies and dropped out of any cooperation with them, including his past denigration of NATO that is now withdrawing its forces.

Violation of violate international, domestic and Iraqi law: DDT’s illegal actions creates a pattern of more lawlessness in crimes of aggression violating the UN Charter and his threats to attack cultural targets. He also violated the U.S. Constitution by ignoring its requirements for congressional approval for military actions.  

Increase in the U.S. military-industrial complex: Weapon makers have gained great control and power over U.S. policy, especially since George W. Bush’s preemptive attack on Iraq, and their wealth has purchased conservative lawmakers who remove resources for health care, education, and public services.

Destruction of world economy: Asia is dependent on Iraqi oil exports, and an attack already shut down half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, causing more disruption.

In a 224-to-194 vote, the House approved a bill to keep DDT from taking more military action against Iran through congressional authority as mandated by the constitution. Eight Democrats voted no; three Republicans voted yes, including Florida’s Matt Gaetz who vociferously defended DDT in the past. The bill goes to the Senate where it needs four Republicans to pass before DDT vetoes the bill. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that even a veto could influence DDT’s actions, for example when he stopped refueling Saudi jets after Congress threatened to stop U.S. support for Saudi’s military campaign in Yemen. DDT’s former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who may run for Arkansas’ governor, said:

“I can’t think of anything dumber than allowing Congress to take over our foreign policy. The last thing we want to do is push powers into Congress’ hands and take them away from the president.”

Republicans have always claim that they revere the U.S. Constitution and lambast Democrats for ignoring the document from the Founding Fathers. Sanders is completely ignorant of Article I, Section 8, Clause 1:

“The Congress shall have power…[t]o declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.”

In addition, the War Powers Act of 1973 limits the president from sustained military operations without telling Congress within 48 hours.

Another DDT focus is doing away with regulations, a disaster as proved by FAA’s abdication of inspections to airplane manufacturing. The Boeing debacle continues with the knowledge of communications among the company’s employees about the 737 MAX demonstrating lax federal oversight of airplane manufacturers. According to a Politico article, emails showed “Boeing employees bragging about duping airlines, criticizing the MAX’s design as done by “clowns,” and raising concerns about cost-cutting and schedule pressures.” Wide publicity about the Boeing disaster began with 346 deaths in two different crashes of 737 MAX planes, which was rushed into manufacture in competition with Airbus. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) tried to blame the crashes on inadequate training in other countries, but evidence from emails may “put a little bit of a shadow on that.” Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) is still sticking to his blame on pilot error.

Emails also showed that employees ridiculed their regulator, joked about safety, and “was prioritizing production speed over quality and safety,” according to a former senior factory manager. Last month, Edward Pierson told Congress of “chaos” at the factory where the MAX was built. The FAA permitted the MAX to keep flying despite its finding that, with no changes, the plane would average one fatal crash every two or three years.

Employees described how Boeing hid problems from the FAA during the certification of simulators and training for pilots. Emails showed ridicule for FAA officials when employees described a complicated Boeing presentation for the agency that “was like dogs watching TV.” Employers wanted limited training for airline crews to save money for Boeing, for example offering a $1 million per plane discount to Southwest with a short computer-based training on personal computers or with notebooks for pilots who had flown he 737 NG instead of simulator training. Even after two crashes, Boeing told the FAA that simulator training was unnecessary and didn’t mention this training in the manuals. Boeing didn’t reverse this position until ten months after the 737 MAX’s grounding and a congressional investigation.

Boeing’s indifference to the plane’s structural problems has now cost 2,800 jobs in Kansas at the aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems.

Despite the Boeing disaster, DDT calls regulations a “nightmare.” He proposed removal of environmental reviews for building pipelines, bridges, and roads, a change that will pollute the nation and accelerate the climate crisis. [Think of the recent fires in Australia that killed over 1 billion animals and at least 27 people, destroyed or damaged over 2,000 homes, cost about $5 billion thus far, and reduced Australian 2019-20 GDP by between $2.1 billion and $4.3 billion.] Changes would eliminate a requirement for agencies to consider the “cumulative impacts” of project that has included the study of planet-warming consequences from greenhouse gas. DDT has rolled back 58 separate rollbacks of environmental protection and considering another 37, including removal of clean air and water rules, loosening regulation for oil an gas extraction, and eradication of wildlife protections. 

About his murdering Soleimani, DDT said he was looking for long-term protection, but his environmental policy ignores everything except greater profits for big businesses. Even now, however, worsening particulate pollution from DDT’s regulatory changes shares the blame for 9,700 more people in the U.S. dying from air pollution in 2018 than 2016.

March 18, 2019

Some Republicans Briefly Oppose DDT

Congress is on a week-long recess this week—why, I don’t know—but last week it made two historic moves when GOP Republican senators voted against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—twice. Both of them are resolutions that opposed DDT’s power, and one has already been vetoed.

The first has been returned to the House for approval after the House already voted in favor of a similar bill. The War Powers resolution would eliminate U.S. military support for the assault on Yemen in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Since 2015, U.S. forces have provided targeting and refueling support to Saudi and United Arab Emirates warplanes that deliberately bomb civilian targets. A complete failure, the Saudi war against Houthi rebels has created the worst cholera epidemic in modern times and “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Fourteen million Yemenis are on the edge of starvation. Saudi needs U.S. support to continue the war, and DDT’s administration plans to continue its support despite bipartisan opposition to DDT’s loyalty to the murderous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Senate does have a bill to stop U.S. sales of weapons to Saudi and place sanctions on Saudi after MBS’s torture and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Passing the resolution with a 54-46 vote, the Senate supported the resolution for the second time in three months. Last December, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) refused to allow a vote after the Senate passed it 56-41, but the House now passed it by 248-177. Congress has not withdrawn U.S. forces from an authorized war for 45 years.

The second historic congressional action was the 59-41 vote to overturn DDT’s national emergency wall-building order after the House had passed the bill by 245-182, a bill that DDT almost immediately vetoed. Twelve Republicans voted against DDT after he spent almost two weeks begging them to support him. GOP lawmakers voting against DDT’s executive order know that the Constitution grants Congress, not the president, spending control.

Caving in to DDT’s threats to campaign against them in 2020, all GOP senators running for re-election except Susan Collins (ME) voted for his emergency declaration although several of those who voted against the resolution said that they supported it. Last month, Thom Tillis (SC) said he would vote for the disapproval, writing in an opinion piece for the WaPo that there would be “no intellectual honesty” in supporting DDT’s executive overreach when he had opposed that action under President Barack Obama. He lost his “intellectual honesty” and supported DDT’s executive overreach with the excuse that DDT will stop presidential powers with changes to the National Emergencies Act.

One new senator asked for a bribe in exchange for her vote. Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) told VP Mike Pence that she’ll vote against the bill blocking DDT’s emergency declaration if he gives her more money for the military in Arizona. She may have to vote for more Pentagon funding because the Pentagon wants more funding if it has to pay for wall.

Democratic representatives plan an override vote on March 26 although Republicans will most likely not vote to oppose DDT’s emergency declaration. The Senate would need eight more votes to override the veto, and 21 are under DDT’s thumb if they run for re-election. Only one, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, has said he won’t run for re-election. Schumer has suggested that Democratic senators may attach Rep. Juan Castro’s (D-TX) disapproval resolution language as amendments to larger bills, including spending and defense funding reauthorization. Republicans who allow DDT to pluck money from the military for his wall may be in trouble with their constituents with the loss of jobs for the projects.

After voting to abdicate their responsibilities to determine expenditures, some Republicans are considering changes to the National Emergencies Act to more easily stop future emergency declarations as an end run around Congress—possibly as a control on a Democratic president. DDT opposes restrictions on his powers, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “Republican Senators are proposing new legislation to allow the President to violate the Constitution just this once in order to give themselves cover.”

Twenty states are suing the administration in opposition to DDT’s order to build his wall. Three issues to be considered:

For “standing” to be able to sue, plaintiffs must prove they are harmed. The states argue that the funding will be diverted from state-based projects, and landowners can sue for seizure of their property. Democratic legislators can also sue with the precedent of Republicans suing President Obama for payouts to insurers under the Affordable Care Act that were not approved by Congress.

The question of whether an emergency at the southern border must be proved, and DDT said, “I didn’t need to [declare an emergency].” Other arguments against the emergency include data about lower crossings, less crime from immigrations, and drugs moved through official ports of entry can also be argued. Congressional majority votes against the executive order also factor into this decision.

The third point argued in the lawsuit is whether the wall construction is a “military” project. Border enforcement is typically a civilian project, and leaders of the military complex have already said that it is “security,” not “military” as DDT’s acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Four days after Congress passed the resolution to overturn DDT’s executive order, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan provided a list to Congress with several hundred construction projects costing $12.9 billion in dozens of states and U.S. bases around the world that would be impacted shortly after DDT’s acting chief in staff Mick Mulvaney said that no list exists. The release of the list to the media has resulted in a hornet’s nest of papers across the United States furious about the losses to military construction projects.

Republicans promised Democrats that this bipartisan effort to lead the country is a short-term thing. In their efforts to placate DDT, they said that they’ll be back on his side after the two votes this week. The House has passed many bills in their two months of the 116th Congress, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised that they won’t “see the light of day.”

McConnell’s power hasn’t brought him popularity. He’s up for re-election next year, and 61 percent of people in Kentucky think it’s “time for someone new.” Only 32 percent think he “deserves to be reelected.” Before January, McConnell was the third more unpopular senator in the country: Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) retired, and Claire McCaskill (MO) were voted out of office. McConnell’s state disapproval rating of 47 percent last year went up to 56 percent in February. Nation-wide, 40 percent of people gave him an unfavorable rating.

Hundreds of youth activists from the Sunrise Movement protested at McConnell’s office where 42 of them were arrested. The group claims that McConnell does not answer their emails; he did not speak to them at the protest. Destine Rigsby, a 17-year-old from Louisville, said of McConnell: “You line your pockets while we die in floods and choke on the air we breathe, yet you don’t even have the decency to look us in the eyes.”

DDT’s base and GOP legislators wanting to get re-elected seem to be the only ones defending DDT’s wall. Four-star Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, tasked with troops at the southern border, told Congress that Russia is the main threat facing the U.S. No mention of Mexico, caravans, or drugs. He added that “the threats to our nation from our southern border are not military in nature.” At least, DDT may have decided not to take $1 billion from military pay and pensions for his wall.

Sixty percent of Texas voters disapprove of President Donald Trump using emergency powers to fund the wall; 52 percent of voters said they don’t believe undocumented immigrants crossing the border amounts to a national emergency. According to 57 percent of Texas voters, a wall on the Mexican border would not “significantly decrease violent crime in the U.S.” while 54 percent said the wall would not “significantly decrease the amount of illegal drugs in the U.S.” In the general population, an average of 64 percent polling oppose the national emergency. Only 27 percent of poll respondents oppose a veto override; 46 percent support the override.

Another of DDT’s broken promises: Mexico isn’t paying for the expensive, unneeded wall.

DDT’s re-election campaign is asking for donations to the “Wall Defense Fund” with the money going directly into the campaign general funds. From there, it goes to DDT’s businesses and lawyers who defend his family members and some of his former officials. [Above: the wall that Nogales doesn’t want]

 

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