Nel's New Day

June 29, 2019

Supreme Court Moves to Eliminate Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 9, 2019

DDT: Week 111 – A Plague of Lost Court Cases, Investigations, Inhumanity

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has had another hard week: Jane Mayer’s article about the “Fox White House,” burgeoning investigations including a look into his giving his children high-level security clearances, and the revelation that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons after DDT took Kim Jong-Un “at his word.” The courts are also dealing DDT a few blows.

Another judge has ruled against DDT’s citizenship question on the 2020 census, ruling that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in “bad faith,” broke several laws, violated the constitutional representative democracy by deliberately undercounting specific populations, and lied under oath to Congress, according to uncovered emails. The Supreme Court will hear arguments about the questions in late April before the census materials go to the printer in June.

Another federal judge expanded his ruling to reunite over 2,700 migrant children with their parents to all parents separated at the border on or after July 1, 2017, far earlier than the previous order going back to June 26, 2018. Judge Dana Sabraw was responding to the DHS report that unknown thousands of children may have been separated since summer of 2017. He will consider the next steps on March 28, 2019 and wrote, “The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders.”

In more lack of concern for human life, DDT revoked the mandate that the U.S. report the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside war zones. Since he was inaugurated, a recorded 2,243 drone strikes, far more than the total 1,878 during President Obama’s eight years, have killed civilians. With almost no congressional oversight or media attention, DDT is also waging a secret war in Somalia, killing at least 252 people in two dozen airstrikes thus far this year. The Pentagon has deployed 500 U.S. troops, including special ops, in the country.

Demonstrating disregard toward Palestine, DDT closed the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem serving as a de facto embassy for Palestinians and sending them to the U.S. Embassy to Israel where Ambassador David Friedman, fierce critic of Palestinian leadership, further recognizes Israeli control over Palestinian land in Jerusalem and the West Bank. DDT has also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Palestinians which includes help for hospitals and peace-building programs as well as funding for the UN agency providing aid to Palestinian refugees. Last fall, he shut the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington. DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, in charge of peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestine, said that the U.S. will reveal the deal, rejected by the Palestinian Authority, after April’s Israeli elections.

DDT promised Alabama “A Plus treatment” after 23 people died in a tornado.  About California, where 86 people died in just one town’s fire, DDT tweeted:

“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”

Embarrassing even the State Department and the Department of Defense, DDT may demand that Germany, Japan, and possibly all other allies hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of U.S. soldiers deployed in their countries—plus another 50 percent or more. U.S. keeps bases in these countries for our benefit—for example, emergency care in Germany for U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and other hot spots. Although Germany sometimes opposes involvement in the Middle East, one German base provides a necessary staging post for U.S. military actions in Iraq and Libya. German bases also provide headquarters for the U.S. Africa Command, and marines crisis response forces in Spain and Italy protect U.S. interests and diplomatic compounds in Africa. If DDT removes the bases, the U.S. will lose the benefits while paying more of money to support the troops.

DDT’s appointees are becoming increasingly disturbed about DDT’s orders to them coming from his “gut.” Last December, DDT said he was pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, and his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, quit. Two months later, he said he would leave 2,000 there—and then 4,000. Now he’s “100 percent” behind keeping troops in Syria. Even national security adviser is disturbed about the North Korea buildup fiasco, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finds himself consistently forced to lie for DDT. As Michael Cohen said in his testimony to the House Oversight Committee, “The more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”

In his testimony, Cohen said that DDT’s run for president was “to make his brand great, not to make our country great.” DDT proved Cohen right when he tweeted an advertisement for his Scottish golf course, incidentally violating two clauses of the U.S. Constitution. He may also be in deeper hot water if anyone investigates the financing for the golf course like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) plans.

Tens of thousands of dollars poured into DDT’s inauguration fund from shell companies hiding foreign contributors, at least one of them ineligible for political donations because of U.S. election law. The daughter for a contributor received a White House internship, and a Washington lobbyist has already admitted that he funneled $50,000 to the inauguration from a Ukrainian oligarch. Another $25,000 was traced to an Israeli businessman. Things are so bad for DDT that Forbes thinks his Trump Organization could be charged as a “RICO enterprise.” And Michael Cohen is suing DDT for almost $2 million in unpaid back legal fees from 2018.

Since Democrats said that they would not have a debate on Fox, DDT said he would block other networks from hosting debates. DDT’s Mar-a-Lago buddies call him “king,” perhaps making him think he has the ability to tell the media what to do.

After giving trillions of dollars to the wealthy and big business, DDT plans to become the king of fiscal responsibility. On the first of March, the U.S. national debt hit $22 trillion, requiring another vote to raise the debt ceiling following months of using “extraordinary measures” to pay the country’s bills. March 11 is the deadline for the White House to release DDT’s broad budget priorities. The man who bragged “I’ve made a fortune by using debt” will make deep spending cuts in the safety net which won’t pass the House and increase military spending. DDT may cause another shutdown.

Corporation tax rates were cut 40 percent for 2018 while over 11 million taxpayers lost $323 billion in tax deductions. Republicans who passed the tax cuts, who said that the added revenue would make up for any deficits, are calling the $1 trillion addition to the U.S. debt a “threat to national security.” Five GOP senators and 50 GOP representatives are co-sponsoring legislation for a resolution stating “that deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous” and that Congress is committed to “addressing the fiscal crisis faced by the United States.”

The U.S. budget gap climbed to $310.3 billion from October to January, up from $175.7 the same time during previous year, while tax revenues were lower after the tax “reform”—corporate payments down 23 percent and income taxes down three percent. Individuals still paid the same amount as last year, however, because prices of good increased at least $25 billion from the tariff costs. Between the tariff and IRS withholding, individuals paid $839, and business paid $73 billion. The surplus in January dropped from $49.2 billion in January 2018 to $8.7 billion in January 2019.

DDT has found a flaw in his tax scam cut that offends his wealthy friends: because it restricts deductions of state and local taxes—including property tax—to $10,000 and the mortgage interest deduction to $750,000, people are leaving New York City and causing a decline in home prices. The reeling real estate market may cause a recession there. Republicans refuse to change that provision. Some of these frustrated tax payers may have formerly been doors to Republicans.

When DDT expressed belief in the innocence of New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, charged with soliciting prostitutes at a Florida spa, he forgot to mention that he watched the Superbowl at Mar-a-Lago with the spa chain’s founder, Li “Cindy” Yang, whose family still owns the spas. A visitor to the White House, Yang is quite a GOP supporter having posed for photos with Rep. Matt Gaetz, Gov. Ron DeSantis, GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. DDT signed a photo with Yang. [visual Yang] Other photos show Yang with Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and Fox contributor Dan Bongino, who had a meltdown about its release.

The big media buzz this week was the light sentence that Paul Manafort received from the first judge. DDT worked hard to spin the ruling into his favor, claiming that the judge said, “No collusion!” The judge, however, declared that Manafort wasn’t on trial for or convicted of “anything to do with Russian colluding in the presidential election.” The second sentence with a maximum of ten years will be delivered this coming week.

January 24, 2019

Shutdown Bills Fail; House Investigates Kushner

Day 34 of government shutdown: Both of today’s Senate bills designed to reopen the government failed when neither one met the 60 votes necessary. In a 51-47 vote, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AL) voted against their party in opposing the measure proposed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to get his $5.7 billion for 200 miles of wall, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) supported DDT’s bill with the wall. The second bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to open the government with a continuing resolution until February 8 had one more supporting vote, 52-44, with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Lamar Alexander (TN), Johnny Isakson (GA) and Mitt Romney (UT) joining Democrats.

Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that he doesn’t understand why federal employees without paychecks don’t get loans instead of using food banks. He claimed that financial institutions just give them loans against “the 30 days of pay that people will be out.” Ross added that even if these 800,000 people never got their pay, they’re “about a third of a percent on our GDP. So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

DDT, another billionaire, had a peculiar reaction to Ross. He thought that Ross was accurate in his assertion that federal employees, either furloughed or working without pay, don’t need to get emergency help from homeless shelters and food pantries because—drum roll!—grocery stores will give these paycheck-less people food without paying for it. He said:

“Local people know who they are. Where they go for groceries and everything else. If you have mortgages, mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along. That’s what happens in times like these. They know the people. They’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along.”

Two months ago, DDT was telling people that they needed IDs to buy a box of cereal.

Republicans are getting so desperate that they are yelling at VP Mike Pence. In a private meeting two days ago, several senators harangued Pence, who said that the White House was working on a strategy to reopen the government and that they should not vote for the Democrat-offered bill that got six GOP votes today.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said they gave Pence an “earful” because “we’re all hearing from our constituents who are working for no pay.” Other members criticizing Pence included GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell (KY), Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Boozman (AR), Johnny Isakson (GA), and Jerry Moran (KS). Two of them voted for the Democratic-supported bill.

Fly at your own risk during the shutdown is the message from representatives of air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants. Making things worse, they report that the FAA “has frozen hiring and shuttered its training academy, so there is no plan in effect to fill the FAA’s critical staffing need.” Certification requires two to four years, and the U.S. has the fewest number of air traffic controllers in 30 years.

According to CEOs, DDT is hurting business with the shutdown and low immigration with lack of investment in research and development, education, and entrepreneurship. The National Science Foundation has not issued any grants for over a month, and government researchers in agencies such as NOAA, the EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey don’t get paychecks. Hundreds of postdoctoral fellows don’t get their stipends. Loss of immigration is destroying U.S. innovation.

In a “what if” piece, Rachel Maddow suggests a “Worst Case Scenario” in which Russia’s Vladimir Putin is behind the government shutdown. At one time, this idea would be too far-fetched, but Robert Mueller’s investigation has found hundreds of links with DDT’s campaign; ties with Russia and national security adviser John Bolton, Maria Butina, the NRA; threats against Michael Cohen’s family to keep him from testifying; and Oleg Deripaska’s Belarusian escort, who claimed to have information about DDT, was returned to Russia and may be in early states of poisoning. Putin wanted interference in the presidential election to cause chaos within the United States.

Now federal agency employees who were called back to work without pay—TSA agents, meat inspectors, prison guards, IRS workers, etc.—are starting to walk off their jobs, adding to the impact of jobs not being done by furloughed employees. Imagine if people can no longer trust safety in flying, food, and water and from crime while not receiving their tax refunds in addition to millions losing income from the missing paychecks for 800,000 federal employees. DDT is behind the shutdown and shows little urgency in reopening the government. He is also the focus of the biggest criminal and counter-intelligence investigation of any sitting U.S. president.

DailyKos has ideas for what a U.S. leader following Putin’s strategy could do to weaken the United States:

  • Relax sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs to give them more money.
  • Antagonize U.S. allies.
  • Polarize the U.S. with ugly divisive rhetoric.
  • Attack U.S. institutions, especially the judiciary, and replace the leadership with his cronies.
  • Pull the U.S. out of multinational trade and security alliances.
  • Excessively praise Putin.
  • Implement irrational economic trade sanctions to weaken U.S. economy.
  • Use excessive measures to conceal communications with Putin.
  • Consistently repeat Putin’s propaganda talking points.
  • Shut down the U.S. government for a ridiculous rationale and continue to cripple the U.S. with huge political, security, social, and financial damage.

Two years ago, this scenario would have seemed impossible. Now some might like to think it’s improbable, but every DDT action makes the proposition appear more likely.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), new chair of the Judiciary Committee, has an answer for the crisis facing many people in the U.S. during the shutdown: investigate Hillary Clinton’s email server, specifically the FBI’s handling of the situation and the FISA warrant application targeting DDT’s campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI investigated Page after the possibility that he conspired with Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Graham believes that the FBI was “in the tank” for her campaign and accused them of a double standard in the agency’s handling of the two presidential campaigns. In actuality, he’s right: the FBI helped swing the election to DDT by publicizing non-existent problems with Clinton and hiding real investigations into DDT.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) laughed at Graham’s plans and compared them to the ”thrilling days of yesteryear.” Durham said:

“This is going to be like the History Channel, it turns out. Instead of taking a look at the current issues, Lindsey Graham wants to go back and answer important questions about the Bermuda Triangle and Hillary Clinton.”

Durbin added that Graham may want to investigate Jimmy Carter next. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a judiciary committee member, joked that Graham might want to “investigate Benghazi some more.”

The House Oversight Committee plans an investigation into “grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump Administration” with the focus on White House handling of classified information, including DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Over 130 political appointees in DDT’s office lack permanent security clearances as of 2017, include Kushner and DDT’s daughter Ivanka.

The House committee has even more grist for its mill since the revelation that Kushner’s application for a top secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists because of FBI concerns about possible foreign influence on him. Overruling this decision from an investigation, the specialists’ supervisor, Carl Kline, approved the clearance. In unprecedented behavior, Kline, a DDT appointee, repeated this overruling 30 times despite unfavorable information on each of the applicants. Sources indicated that “the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.”

Kushner, who had to redo and correct his application clearance 40 times, received questions about foreign contacts, travel, and meetings as well as his family’s business. After Kline gave Kushner secret and top secret clearances, Kushner went to the CIA seeking a higher that allows him to access “sensitive compartmented information” that includes transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and CIA source reporting. Kline even stopped credit checks on security clearance applicants.

The CIA reviewed Kushner’s materials and questioned even the “top secret” clearance giving Kushner access to material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries. Officials are questioning whether the White House overruled the CIA refusal for the SCI clearance. A year ago, WaPo reported that officials in at least four countries—United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico—talked about how they could manipulate Kushner though his lack of policy experience, financial difficulties, and business arrangements.

The House needs to work fast!

August 9, 2018

Lack of Transparency in Agency Control

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 12:02 AM
Tags: , , , ,

Although the Senate has blocked very few of nominees by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), some of his appointments don’t require confirmation. Such is the case of actor Steven Seagal, the new special envoy to Russia, an unpaid position with the goal of working with “humanitarian issues” and improving ties between the two countries. Seagal admires Vladimir Putin, calling him “one of the great living world leaders,” and defends Russia from statements that it interfered in U.S. elections. Several women including Portia di Rossi, Julianna Margulies, and Jenny McCarthy have accused Seagal of sexual misconduct. Two other women claimed that Seagal had sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers.

Robert Wilkie, former aide to late GOP Jesse Helms (R-NC), has recently been confirmed as head of Veterans Affairs. In his work for Helms, Wilkie supported the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Confederate flag while belonging to Sons of Confederate Veterans. Wilkie also opposed equal pay for women when he worked for Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and suggested that women graduate from high school before they receive welfare. As executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party in 1996-1997, the anti-LGBTQ Wilkie played a part in developing DDT’s transgender ban. Wilkie’s confirmation vote of 86-9 was the first time that any VA Secretary had received opposition votes. One of his goals is to privatize health care for veterans.

Wilkie’s confirmation may not run the VA, however, because three DDT friends and Mar-a-Lago members are actually calling the shots in the agency, according to information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor who runs “concierge” medical care; Ike Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment; and Marc Sherman, lawyer, steer policies at the VA, make personnel decisions, and tell its officials what to do although none of them has served in the U.S. military or government—or been nominated and/or confirmed. The secret Mar-a-Lago Crowd, as they are known, have neither accountability nor oversight but push their pet causes and demand that they run everything. One proposal is to have private health care executive tell the VA what services should be outsourced to the private health care providers. Before David Shulkin, the former VA director, left, he communicated with the triumvirate on his private cellphone and with his private email address, breaking federal records laws as people have constantly told Hillary Clinton. The “Crowd” decided to get rid of Shulkin because of differences in opinion regarding how to improve the VA’s electronic record-keeping software. Wilkie is currently the pet of the threesome, but they can always decide to get rid of him too.

Scott Hutchins, the pesticide executive appointed as the chief scientist for the USDA, could be the third person to switch from Dow Chemical’s pesticide/seed division to make high-level federal decisions. Of the first two, one leads USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, and the other, a lobbyist for Dow, has been confirmed as undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. As pesticide promoter, Hutchins would control the USDA’s $2.9 billion research budget. Dow Chemical donated $1 million to DDT’s inaugural committee, leading to a variety of governmental favors for the company. DDT’s last nominee for Hutchins’ position, Sam Clovis, had to withdraw his name after publicity about his involvement in the Russia scandal.

Scott Pruitt’s scandals may no longer be a focus of the EPA, but its new acting secretary, Andrew Wheeler, faces his first lawsuit and call for an ethics probe from repeated concerns about conflicts of interest. The former coal lobbyist had at least three meetings with previous clients during his first month and participated in events including the head of a company that he was prohibited from working with. Wheeler’s next lawsuit may come from DDT’s insistence that he roll back California’s waiver to control greenhouse emissions. Seth Meyers has provided an update on Wheeler’s EPA leadership—rolling back coal industry regulations so that companies can more easily “dispose” of toxic coal ash waste. A member of the EPA board of science advisers, Robert Phalen, thinks that our air is too clean.

In the past four months, DDT has named 69 new appointees, some of them awful and the rest worse. Check here for an overview.

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of the Commerce Department, may have replaced Scott Pruitt as the biggest creature among DDT’s swamp pets. In justifying Ross’ appointment, DDT explained, “In these positions, I just don’t want a poor person.” The conservative publication Forbes has explained why Ross is so wealthy: he’s a “grifter.” A former Ross employee settled a $4 million lawsuit against his old boss two weeks before the trial, in which he alleged that “Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork.” Other allegations against Ross go from refusal to pay workers to a pattern in which he typically stole a few million from a number of people that totaled up to $120 million. Dan Alexander reported:

“Those who’ve done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. ‘He’ll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets,’ says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross’ former colleagues is more direct: ‘He’s a pathological liar.’”

Ross’ company lost money in a rising stock market and got into trouble by overcharging investors on underperforming funds. A lawsuit claims that he illegally charges management fees from current and former company executives as well as outside clients. He also kept the portion of fees for serving on the boards of his firm’s portfolio companies instead of rebates to investors as required. When he sold part of the company, Ross managed to bolster it up and reap an undeserved price through higher evaluation. Ross also falsified his situation on a sworn document almost nine months, asserting he had divested all the assets as promised but still owned between $10 million and $50 million worth of stock in WL Ross’ parent company, Invesco. He waited to sell his shares to make more than $1.2 million.

Forbes claims that Ross lies about how much money he has, sometimes inflating the sum into the billions. A fair guess could be $700, although he cheats on what should be small amounts to him such as the $73,000 stake in Air Lease. He sold the shares a year after he promised to carry out the transaction. Investors claims that heads of private equity firms always know what they own, but Ross always claims ignorance.

Jake Johnson wrote:

“Wilbur Ross is a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat with no interest in anyone but himself. He has shady ties to Russia and China, serious business conflicts, and a history of cheating people out of their homes.”

Ross maintains significant financial conflicts of interest, according to the Forbes investigation, and shorted stock on a Putin-related shipping company before share prices dropped because of an imminent negative story about his personal connection with the company. His investment conflicts also include companies co-owned by the Chinese government and a Cypriot bank in the Mueller investigation and in the industry Ross is investigating. Forbes reported that Ross has a history of lying and dodge questions about assets and holdings by claiming that he has divested when he actually set up trusts and handed assets to his family. Ross’ connection with the Cypriot bank gives him strong ties to Russian oligarchs, including Viktor Vekselberg who gave Michael Cohen’s consulting business over $500,000.

As co-founder of the Bank of Cyprus, a mail drop for moving Russian money to real estate “purchases” in the U.S., Ross may appear in Robert Mueller’s investigations. His partner, Dmitry Rybolovlev gave DDT $100 million for a $40 million property in Florida. Paul Manafort used Ross’ bank for funds funneled from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska with the pretense of a “loan.”

Firings:

Reagan Hedlund, Melania Trump’s policy aide, has been fired, but no one is explaining why. She was in charge of such programs as the “Be Best” anti-bullying initiative. The departure further shrinks the First Lady’s office of ten staff members.

The Future:

Hope Hicks, ex-girlfriend of and White House defense author for DDT’s fired aide Rob Porter for domestic abuse, left the White House soon after that debacle closed, but she was seen boarding Air Force One to travel with DDT to his Ohio campaign rally. Hicks resigned the day after she told the House Intelligence Committee that she told “white lies” on her job. DDT’s encounter with Hicks might be considered witness tampering because she testified about helping to draft DDT’s original statement on his son’s Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 at a time when DDT is frequently tweeting about the meeting. Hicks said that she is willing to become DDT’s chief of staff although John Kelly said that he is staying until the end of DDT’s four-year term.

It’s the summer doldrums while the Senate tries to put together enough Republicans to push through DDT’s judicial nominees. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) slowed down the process when he left Washington. His temporary departure left the Judiciary Committee at a 10-10 contest between Dems and the GOP. As for moving Brett Kavanaugh toward the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requested his records from the National Archives. When it couldn’t meet McConnell’s August 15 deadline, he said “never mind” to getting three years of records on him while he was White House staff secretary. The Dems is trying a different route, filing a Freedom of Information Act, something that has never happened before.

Polling on Kavanaugh becoming a justice doesn’t bode well.

November 5, 2017

DDT’s Attempts to Cripple the Nation

More shoes are dropping off the centipede of Robert Mueller’s special investigation into Russian connections with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Russia. One is the formerly undisclosed business ties between Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Putin-connected oil company located in Bermuda. Ross is currently with DDT in Tokyo to work on trade deals. Also referenced in the new documents are Gary D. Cohn, the chief economic adviser, and  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. In addition, Mueller has sufficient evidence to charge Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, and his son Michael J. Flynn Jr.

The United States went into Korea in 1950 after North Korea invaded South Korea. Although an armistice was signed, there was no peace treaty, meaning that the war may be ongoing. The U.S. may return: top Pentagon official Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont has stated that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons program would be through a ground invasion.

As dire as circumstances are after the summer’s hurricanes, advance knowledge saved lives despite the fact that many people ignored the information. They may start paying attention to how a warmer, wetter atmosphere threatens lives and property with more supercharged storms, intense droughts, massive wildfires, and widespread flooding. Yet DDT is cutting the budget to drastically cut back satellite programs and other forecasting tools along with forecasters. The 18 jobs lost at National Center for Atmospheric Research are some of the only scientists in the U.S. who can prepare a system for predicting disasters. The climate deniers leading to “weather deniers” are causing deaths and costing billions of dollars.

Rep. Al Green (D-LA) not only exposed the excessive ignorance of DDT’s pick for HUD director, Ben Carson, HUD director, but also explained objections to the inexcusably drastic cuts Carson supports for people in poverty:

“Mr. Carson, there seems to be a belief of among the ranks of those who have opportunities to help others, who have been blessed themselves. They seem to think that the rich need more, that the poor can do more with less, but the rich will have to have more to do more. Mr. Carson, if poor people could do more with less, there would be no poor people.”

Over 300,000 immigrants from Central America and Haiti legally living in the U.S. for almost two decades may be thrown out of the U.S. because Rex Tillerson claims that the reasons for allowing this arrangement are gone. They are here under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Congress to protect foreign nationals from being returned to their countries because of instability and precarious conditions caused by natural disasters or armed conflict.

DDT’s 12+ day trip to Asia has almost no backup help from the State Department because he sees no need to fill vacancies. In a recent interview he announced, “I’m the only one that matters.” He blamed the Democrats for obstructing his nominees immediately before he said, “We don’t need all of the people.” The nation is missing about three-fourths of personnel to fill 600 positions requiring Senate confirmation. Half the State Department positions are empty. The U.S. has no ambassadors to Australia, Austria, Ireland, South Africa, and Sweden in addition to Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, or Venezuela. Also empty are positions for combatting trafficking, war crimes, global women’s issues, and even the chief financial officer.

Saying “I’m the only one that matters” makes a leader sound like a dictator—or maybe just a despot.

A recent Time cover shows DDT as a wrecking ball with an article title, “How Trump’s cabinet is dismantling government as we know it.” DDT responded with the retort that describes his own appointments:

“The federal government is a broken, lobbyist-infested cesspool of corruption that abuses its power, cooks deals for crooked politicians, and despises hardworking Americans.”

Likely pick of Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of the Christian organization Concern Women for America, for ambassador-at-large for women’s issues reflects DDT’s negative feelings about women. She opposes abortion and LGBTQ rights and condemned the Disney animated movie Frozen for undermining masculinity. Concerned Women’s mission includes “protecting and supporting the Biblical design of marriage,” “protecting the sanctity of human life,” “ending sexual exploitation by fighting all forms of pornography, obscenity, prostitution, and sex trafficking,” and “defending religious liberty.” Nance opposes reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, told Hollywood to feature more strong male leads, and joined the DOJ in their imprisonment of a teenage girl to keep her from getting an abortion. The position considered for Nance oversees the State Department program to end gender-based violence and empower women and girls in the world.

Eric Dreiband, awaiting confirmation for the top DOJ civil rights job, specializes in defending companies accused of discrimination. One spectacular case was from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that rescinded a job offer to a Muslim woman on the basis of her religion. Dreiband won with the argument that “Congress had failed to specifically mention that the commission would be subject to congressional rules, it was free from the civil rights laws that govern entities in the legislative branch.” That oversight has been corrected, and the case was later settled in favor of the woman by making the change retroactive.

Stephen Akard, an associate of Vice President Mike Pence, has been appointed to director general of the foreign service to keep it from political issues. The job typically goes to experts in diplomacy instead of someone with little diplomatic experience who instead served as an executive for an economic development company.

Some appointments, including the above, can be done away with, but DDT’s judicial appointments are forever. The Republican Senate is rapidly confirming and/or considering far-right judges after ignoring President Obama’s nominees:

  • Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the 7th Court of Appeals. With no judicial experience, she strongly opposes reproductive and LGBTQ rights.
  • Joan Larsen was confirmed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She was one of 21 people suggested by far-right Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation for the Supreme Court seat that Neil Gorsuch has. Larson once refused an appeal from a lesbian mother for parental visitation rights from an ex-spouse and objected to Lawrence v. Texas that stuck down sodomy laws and de-criminalized consensual same-sex relations.
  • Steve Grasz gave testimony to be on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Bar Association unanimously rated him “not qualified” to serve as federal judges, only the third such rating since 1989, because of his bias to push his conservative social agenda. Board member of the anti-LGBTQ Nebraska Family Alliance, Grasz claimed that marriage equality is a “threat” to society, advocates conversion therapy, and opposes legal protections for LGBTQ people.
  • Mark Norris also provided testimony for a federal judgeship in Tennessee. His beliefs are similar to those of Grasz, and he voted for his state’s law permitting mental health providers to refuse service to LGBTQ clients. He advocates strict voter ID laws, opposes the removal of Confederate monuments, and supports bills that increase difficulty for workers to pursue compensation claims in Tennessee. His history includes discrimination against Muslims and people of color.

DDT is replacing Janet Yellen with Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve chair. Concerned about rising interest rates, the bond market flattened its yields between 2-year and 10-year yields, the same as in 2007 and a possible precursor to recession.

The sentence for former Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured and held prisoner for five years after he left his post in Afghanistan has traumatized DDT. Bergdahl was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, fine of $10,000, and reduction of rank to private. DDT called him a “traitor” at least 45 times and called for his execution, saying that he should be “thrown out of an airplane without a parachute.” The judge considered DDT’s comments a mitigating factor in Bergdahl’s receiving a fair trial. DDT is now spreading the same inflammatory language by calling for the execution of the man who recently killed eight people in New York by deliberately driving a truck into a bicycle lane.

On November 1, DDT declared November National Native American Heritage Month; on November 3, DDT again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas.” DDT’s tweet was one of ten enraged statements after DDT’s Twitter account was shut down for 11 minutes by a departing company employee.

Two pieces from Week Forty:

Scott Pruitt, EPA director, may be getting ready for nuclear bombing: he has a new “guideline” stating that excessive exposure, up to ten times the current level, to radiation is safe. A result of this document could be weakening radiation safety levels, perhaps even unravelling them.

DDT continued alienating the UK by falsely claiming that “radical Islamic terror” was causing a crime wave in that nation. He ignored the reasons: increase in gun- and knife crime, a 29-percent rise in hate crimes, and the loss of 20,000 police officers from conservative fiscal cuts.

In a new poll, 65 percent, up from 56 percent at his 100-day mark, described DDT’s accomplishments between “little or nothing” to “not much.” The 65 percent is the same range as DDT’s inability “to serve effectively as president,” call him dishonest and untrustworthy, and think that he “doesn’t understand their problems.”

[Note: Much has been said from all sides of the Hillary Clinton about the hacked emails, most of it negative. They need to consider that those emails were changed in content before they were released.]

May 25, 2017

DDT Doesn’t Complete Embarrass U.S.

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
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At the half-way mark of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT’s) whirlwind trip to the Middle East, NATO in Brussels, the Vatican, and G-7 in Sicily, he got back to Europe but marked the trip with hypocrisy, rejection of human rights, gaffes, and lots of meetings that have left DDT exhausted.

The people who voted for anti-Muslim, anti-global DDT were unhappy to see him with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi holding a creepy glowing orb in a darkened room for a ceremony opening a global organization. At the same event, he touted the similarities between the United States and the Muslim countries represented by 50 leaders in his audience and reversed all his former positions. No mention of “America First.”

President Donald Trump’s one time campaign adviser and longtime confidante Roger Stone said the royal reception Trump received in Riyadh, including the country’s highest civilian honor, made him want to puke. Both George W. Bush and President Obama received the same award, and both bowed. DDT criticized President Obama for this. Stone said that DDT should insist that Saudi Arabia pay for the 9/11 attacks which they financed. Instead DDT lavished praise on the Saudis. The opulence in Saudi Arabia made DDT comfortable, so comfortable that he made this comment when he was talking to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” (Note that the speaker is the president of the United States.) He gave a speech reversing all his former positions, but he made a lot of money for his friends with their multi-billion-dollar deals in the Middle East plus $360 billion in arms deals. In return, Saudi Arabia wants the repeal of a 2016 law permitting relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom for their deaths. After George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan and Iraq, many people forgot that 15 of the 19 attackers came from Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also gave a news conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, to which only foreign media were invited—not any U.S. media. The UK Daily Mail provided a transcript to U.S. media.

DDT’s hosts were a bit concerned about his visit too. Speeches had to be cut down to a couple of minutes for the man who has a shorter attention span than a five-year-old, and everyone needs to be careful about what they tell him as he’ll tell anybody anything. DDT needs to be complimented and feel that he’s winning.

When DDT landed in Israel, his next stop after Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered his cabinet members to be present. Some of them had planned to skip the event. DDT said to a group of Israeli officials, “We just got back from the Middle East.” The men tried to control their laughs at the man who failed to realize that Israel is also in the Middle East.

Gaffes before the trip to Israel also riled his host there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped that the U.S. embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, giving Israel ownership over the city occupied by four distinctly separate groups. DDT decided against the move, however, because Jordan’s King Abdullah told him not to do it. DDT refused to go to the ancient mountain fortress of Masada because he would have to take a cable car instead a helicopter. The White House had told Netanyahu that he couldn’t go to the holy Western wall because it was in the West Bank although part of it is in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. The map used for the trip showed Israel’s pre-1967 borders, excluding East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza strip. In his appearance at the Jewish Western Wall where he seemed to be either doing exercises or maintaining his balance. DDT was afraid to speak to Israel’s Parliament because he might be interrupted. He limited his visit to the famous Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, to 30 minutes, and much has been made of the difference between his statement at the site compared to the one that President Obama wrote.

Truly embarrassing was DDT’s giving highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians while DDT chatted with two high officials in the White House Oval Office. Israel’s bitter enemy Iran is one of Russia’s closest allies. In child-like manner, DDT blurted out at a press conference that he never told the Russians that the information had come from Israel—something no one had been accused of doing. “Never mentioned the word Israel.” This response was to a question directed toward Netanyahu about any concerns regarding intelligence cooperation with the United States.

As for the Palestine visit, DDT had reported that his meetings with leaders in their territory were in Israel— another map issue. He skipped Islam’s Holy Sanctuary, where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to the heavens, and his brief remarks to the Palestinians during his one-hour visit made no reference to a “two-state solution” between the two rival countries. As Hanan Ashrawi, senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said, “He’s still on a learning curve, and peacemaking is not a business deal.” Palestinians in Bethlehem joked that the greatest achievement was that the streets had been cleaned for the visit.

Iran commented on DDT’s constant criticism of the country. PressTV in Iran quoted Americans who wonder, “Why is the Saudi monarchy our friend but not democratic Iran?” Mehdi Hassan, based in the U.S., criticized Trump for speaking to a room full of “autocrats, dictators and despots.”

From Israel and the Middle East, DDT moved on to the Vatican; this photo shows the beginning of the meeting although Pope Francis did relax a bit by the end of the hour. DDT left the 30-minute private meeting, saying that he’ll remember what the Pope had said.

DDT took an extensive entourage with him although Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon were returned to the U.S. after just two days. DDT claimed that this was planned, but rumors included that they’re out of favor, anti-Semitic Bannon was dropped off the tour before Israel, they need to work with the budget, and—my favorite—they need to do something about the steady drip of Russia involvement with DDT.

Wilbur Ross returned with Priebus and Bannon, glowing about the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia. The Commerce Secretary raved, “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there.” Becky Quick, the CNBC anchor interviewing him, pointed out that the country is a police state and bans protesting. But he  knew better: “The mood was a genuinely good mood.” Saudi state security personnel had given him “two gigantic bushels of dates” which was “a from-the-heart, genuine gesture,” Ross said.

In 2015, more than a dozen activists, members of the Shia minority, were in prison, convicted for peaceful activities. Waleed Abu al-Khair has a 15-year sentence from his peaceful criticism in media interviews and on social media. The writer Zuhair Kutbi was jailed for discussing peaceful reform on television. Others are sentenced to death. In November 2016, the Saudis executed a partially blind and deaf man for protesting. His family said he was tortured into confessing. He was accused of “sending texts,” but he was too poor to own a cell phone. Earlier in January, 47 protesters were executed in one day, and the total number of beheadings by July was 108. In addition, people break the law if they “distort the reputation of the kingdom” or “break allegiance with the ruler.”  A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including “calling for atheist thought,” “contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom,” and “seeking to disrupt national unity” by calling for protests. Dissenters are tortured in prison as well as publicly flogged and sometimes beheaded.

Those praising DDT on his trip have used the low bar that he hasn’t embarrassed the United States. He did support all the actions that found wrong with the Obama: his wife didn’t wear a head covering in Saudi Arabia, and DDT bowed to the Saudi Arabia king. He also supported a global organization and praised the Islam faith. He violated all his promises to his base. Now he has four more days in Europe.

One more thing. From videos of the couple, DDT and his wife, Melania, may not have a close relationship. She preferred to stay in New York when he moved into the White House, and he largely ignores her, never returning to his Trump Tower home. She rarely travels with him although she is on this trip with him. There was one moment that some have called “the slap heard ‘round the world.” As the couple deplaned onto the red carpet in Tel Aviv, he reached out for her hand, and she swatted it away—in front of the dignitaries and news cameras while they walked to a photo op with Netanyahu and his wife. It’s not the first time, but it was the least subtle. this time it was less subtle.

May 6, 2017

DDT: More Week Fifteen

The spin on health care keeps coming. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) claims that she would never hurt people with pre-existing conditions because she has a special-needs child. According to Rodgers, states can have “new models for better patient outcomes” and criticizes health insurance for relying “on younger, healthier people subsidizing the costs of the older and sicker.” That’s why it’s called “insurance.” People whose houses don’t burn down subsidize people whose houses burn down. That’s insurance. The GOP is now officially “the party of death.”

Lucky for Rodgers, she’ll still have insurance if the rest of the nation doesn’t. And her need for “new models” didn’t extend to state retirement plans that can help the national retirement savings crisis. Republicans vote for states’ rights as long as they benefit only the wealthy.

About ten percent of the Republicans who voted to take health care from people are facing their constituents at town hall meetings, and their audience isn’t swallowing what their representatives are serving. A crowd loudly jeered Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) when he claimed that nobody dies from a lack of access to health care. A study published in 2009 by the American Journal of Public Health shows that lack of health insurance is linked with 45,000 deaths annually, about 2.5 times higher than the estimate from the Institute of Medicine in 2002. Uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993. Labrador probably isn’t aware of research surrounding health care because he probably didn’t even read the bill he supported.

The Republicans claim that no one should have to pay for other people’s health insurance, but they make sure that we pay for the GOP war that George W. Bush started over 14 years ago. Taxpayers also pay for the extended DDT family‘s travel around the world, touting their businesses. The budget that DDT just signed into law includes an extras $120 million for security that includes reimbursements to law enforcement in Manhattan and Palm Beach and another $73 for “necessary expenses for presidential security.” Between the election and inauguration, New York paid $24 million for Trump Tower security, and Palm Beach County has spent $4.5 million in overtime pay for presidential protection. DDT has not spent one weekend in the White House since his inauguration, and each of DDT’s seven trips—25 days—to Mar-a-Lago has cost over $600,000 for just the flights. None of these costs shows the loss to the economy as small businesses are badly damaged by restrictions from DDT’s presence.

DDT’s businesses are profiting. His frequent trips to his properties, including his Washington hotel for dinner and his Virginia golf course, has increased their income by 30 percent. Taxpayers also give DDT $1.5 million a year to rent the floor below DDT’s penthouse, and he still appears on ads his new condominium building on Uruguay’s coast. The Trump Organization is using Mar-a-Lago’s taxpayer-provided helipad for Marine One, and the club’s promotional magazine features quotes about DDT’s last presidential campaign and an advertisement for Ivanka’s jewelry.

During his campaign DDT was highly critical of costs for President Obama’s vacations and the time that he played golf. A DDT broken promise: “I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” In eight years, the former president spent $96 million–$8 million a year, a sum that DDT blew through in less than three weeks. Although he tries to hide his games, DDT has played golf on the average of three times that the former president did.

Some other happenings from last week:

The Heritage Foundation has fired Jim DeMint from his position as president. One reason was was tension between DeMint and Ed Feulner, his predecessor, who was concerned that the DeMint-era emphasis on political activism overshadowed the institution’s role in the intellectual development of the conservative movement.” Feulner will replace DeMint on an interim basis. But the reasons behind the coup against DeMint might be deeper.

Be careful where you laugh. CodePink member Desiree Fairooz, 61, could face up to a year in prison. Her crime was laughing after Sen. Richard Shelby said during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings that the nominee had a history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” She didn’t disrupt the proceedings until she was arrested and dragged out of the Senate chambers. No one was arrested for laughing when Sessions “joked” about disagreements with his wife. Each of two men wearing KKK costumes at the Sessions hearing could also be in prison for a year each.

Current administrative officials treat leadership like a joke. Last week, Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, described the U.S. preemptive bombings on Syria as “after-dinner entertainment” for guests at the Mar-a-Lago club on 6 April. His audience of the wealthy and powerful at the Milken Institute Global Conference laughed. Ross continued by saying, “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.” Actually, taxpayers shelled out about $100 million for the “entertainment.” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) referred to the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” five times when he talked about the bombing.

DDT touted the Energy Star program, which honors businesses and organizations that excel in energy efficiency, as “America’s resource for saving energy and protecting the environment.” Then he announced that he will eliminate the 25-year-old program. Energy Star posts information on appliances about their energy efficiency, and over 1,000 U.S. companies call it a model for successful collaboration between public and private sectors. DDT’s properties, also evaluated by the Energy Star program, typically get low ratings: eleven of his 15 skyscrapers in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco are less energy efficient that comparable buildings. On a scale of 1 to 100, his Mayfair Hotel, now converted into condos, received a 1. Follow the rubles.

As a campaigner, DDT said he’d label China a currency manipulator. Now he says they aren’t because he made China to stop manipulating the currency as soon as he was inaugurated. He didn’t know that China’s currency manipulation ceased in 2014. The question is whether DDT is delusional or merely ignorant.

DDT has abdicated another responsibility of “commander-in-chief.” The Pentagon is now in charge of setting troop levels in Iraq and Syria where over 5,000 military members are employed.

DDT looked forward to terminating the trade agreement like a Christmas gift to himself until his brand new Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, showed him a map of how the farmers who voted for him would be hurt. DDT changes his mind based on maps as well as what hurts blue states and who talked with more recently.

Guns were banned at the annual NRA meeting in Georgia where DDT made a campaign speech. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Guns should be available everywhere with no restrictions. And NRA members are all responsible gun owners who would never kill people. Right!

Sean Hannity’s question about DDT’s biggest accomplishment brought a variety of responses. My favorite: Not getting impeached.

DDT wants to change libel laws  so that he can sue journalists and the media for articles that DDT considers inaccurate and “win lots of money.”

Why would DDT call for “a good shutdown”? Maybe because he wants to know how far he can go and still have support. A year ago he said that he could kill someone in the street, and he would still get elected president. Now he’s called president—although he wasn’t sure about it at a recent speech. Fill the Cabinet with billionaires who hate their agencies? Sounds good. Shut down the press? No problem. Buddy up with the world’s tyrants while rejecting the nation’s allies? Just fine. Now he wants a “good shutdown” in September to fix the “mess” in government. He blames the constitutional checks and balances:

“I think the rules in Congress – and in particular the rules in the Senate – are unbelievably archaic and slow moving. And in many cases, unfair. In many cases, you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make. You’d make a much different kind of a deal. You’re forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.”

To change the “rules of the Senate” is because “for the good of the nation things are going to have to be different.” A major goal is to do away with the Senate filibuster of 60 votes if more Republicans aren’t elected. He’ll have to do more than that because of the serious split in the GOP.

DDT ran on a campaign promise of changing Washington, D.C., yet 54 percent of voters say that he’s made no progress. I disagree: he’s made it much worse.

December 22, 2016

Trump’s Cabinet: Follow the Money

Remember when Donald Trump (DT) accused of Hillary Clinton being owned by Wall Street? When he told his audiences that he would stop control by special interests? The election is over, he’s won, and he can do whatever he wants. The populists who voted for him can now watch him fill his Cabinet with “gazillionaires,” and the money guys are all from Wall Street—mostly from the failed Goldman Sachs, the “architect” of George W. Bush’s recession. Goldman Sachs is taking over the White House with political czar Steve Bannon, transition advisor Anthony Scarmucci, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Gary Cohn.

Running against Ted Cruz, DT said, “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over (Cruz). Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.” A DT campaign ad showed images of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and the narrator calls about “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” As Sarah Palin said, DT is now surrounding himself with “crony capitalists,” whose goals are greater income inequality, poverty, offshoring, and—in the case of Ben Carson—homelessness.

Con man DT used his voters for marks so he can give the government to the top 0.01 percent, people born into wealth and privilege.

steve-mnuchinSteve Mnuchin’s self-serving policy priorities include more leniency for hedge funds through financial deregulation, greater tax cuts for the wealthiest people though tax reform, and reviews of trade agreements. He has no support for reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, separating commercial banks from speculative investment banks, after the law’s repeal in the 1990s led to the Great Recession of George W. Bush. The nominee for Secretary of Treasury was known for his “foreclosure machine” specialized in dispossessing the elderly and people of color, including a 90-year-old woman over a 27-cent error.

Mnuchin’s company, OneWest, foreclosed on 36,000 homes using robo-signing, a process of employees’ signing foreclosure documents without reviewing them. After the bank became mired in lawsuits, Mnuchin sold it for $3.4 billion in August 2015.  He made another $50 million by resigning from a media company two months before it filed for bankruptcy and then getting preferential payouts. Another $3.2 million came from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme; he avoided repaying victims because his lawyers convinced a judge that too much time had passed before he got caught.

Steve Mnuchin was chief fundraiser for DT, raising millions of dollars for his campaign.

Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn talks on the phone as he waits for the start of a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs president/COO and key architect of the 2008 financial crisis, has been named to head the National Economic Council which advises the president on economic policy. As the U.S. economy began to crash from mis-selling of banks’ risky assets and the excessive distribution of sub-prime mortgages leading to massive foreclosures, banks crashed because of consumer defaults. Cohn’s Goldman Sachs lost billions of dollars during the crisis that President Obama had to clean up, and the residential mortgage business, expanded by Gary Cohn, lost $1.2 billion of those losses. He apologized to Congress in 2010 for bad planning, but he personally earned over $60 million, not including shares, stock options, etc., between 2012 and 2015. DT has openly supported the housing crisis because he made money picking over the wreckage. Cohn laments the regulations created since 2008; this is his chance to give DT a gift of huge profits in a housing crisis that he could cause—again. Cohn’s position doesn’t require Congressional confirmation.

wilbur-rossWilbur Ross, another billionaire private equity investor, is DT’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce. He opposes regulations for businesses although 12 miners lost their lives in his coal mine after his company ignored repeated federal safety citations. When DT called his administration “the last shot for the miners,” he may have meant that literally.

Known as “the king of bankruptcy,” Ross specializes in flipping bankrupt companies for profit and selling them to overseas investors, often offshoring jobs and factories. After he purchased these companies, he moved $6.4 billion of their employee pension benefits to the rescue fund of the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation so he could make company financials look better. He made $267 million for his involvement in the steel industry during the early 2000s; retired steelworkers lost their pensions and health care. In 2010, the China Investment Corporation, one of the country’s state-owned enterprises, put $500 million in Ross’ private equity fund. Ross’ part in foreclosures came from buying the second-largest servicer of subprime loans in the United States, American Home Mortgage Servicing.

mike-mulvaneyRep. Mick Mulvaney (SC), nominated as Secretary for the Office of Management and Budget, may be one of the scariest picks—and that’s saying a great deal! As the White House budget chief, the man who came to the House in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and helped create their Freedom Caucus, claims that the new administration will “restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington.”

Mulvaney’s definition of “sanity” is debatable. He helped lead the charge to close down the government in October 2013 and celebrated the event as “good policy.” Two years earlier, he championed the conservatives’ goal to push the nation into default during the debt-ceiling extortion. He argues that default and undermining the full faith and credit of the nation aren’t a problem. The next debt-ceiling crisis is March 2017, less than two months after DT’s inauguration and the same time as the budget deadline, postponed from last month. Congressional members seem to equate the two, but they are opposite: budgets are future spending whereas debts (including the raising the ceiling) means making payments on loans, not new spending. Mulvaney may not have read Section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that reads that the “validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned.”

A strong supporter of a constitutional amendment that would force the federal government to maintain a balanced budget, Mulvaney’s priorities are defense first, followed by cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Mulvaney doesn’t believe in spending money for infrastructure or scientific research. That may be why DT has now said that he won’t enact his big plans for massive infrastructure projects “for a few years.” His excuse is that he didn’t know that the GOP is a party of small government.

In budget negotiations, Mulvaney makes the assumption that responsible Democrats want to protect people, and he’s doesn’t care about people. He said:

“I’ll play chicken with you every time. You think I am crazy, and I know you are not.”

His preference for currency is the bitcoin, digital currency easily erased and stolen, that is “not manipulatable by any government.” In a speech to the John Birch Society, he attacked the Federal Reserve because its actions have “effectively devalued the dollar” and “choke[d] off economic growth.” A reminder of the craziness of the John Birch Society is its claim that President Dwight Eisenhower was “a conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.” The Society believes that the Federal Reserve should be abolished because it’s unconstitutional and that “the only constitutional money is gold and silver coin.” For almost half a century, Republicans avoided the John Birch Society. Now it’s moving into the White House with the white supremacists.

ben-carsonBen Carson, nominated for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, follows the policy of wiping out the mission of the agency he might head. Despite HUD’s goal of “affirmatively furthering fair housing” from the 1968 Fair Housing Act, Carson said that “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse.” He compared the regulations to Communism and says that “poverty is a choice.” Public housing could be made unavailable to LGBTQ people because of Carson’s hatred for them. He blamed “mass killings” on same-gender marriage and compared same-gender couples to child molesters and people who practice bestiality.

Unlike his predecessors, Carson has no experience in housing or urban development and will resegregate neighborhoods. Despite proof that minorities are charged higher fees and rates than white borrowers with the same qualifications, Carson wants to weaken the Fair Housing Act because he considers it as “socialist experiments.” Carson’s confirmation would be a great financial boon to banks. What Carson could do to poor people with the help of a GOP Congress: put unfair requirements on assistance recipients; privatize public housing; abandon Obama’s anti-discrimination and housing integration efforts; slash spending; drop climate resiliency efforts; and neglect smart growth.

Businessman and investor Carl Icahn at a news conference where Lyft announced a partnership with the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Kuaidi, in New York, Sept. 16, 2015. The partnership with China?s preeminent ride-hailing company will allow San-Francisco-based Lyft to operate in China for the first time. (Stephen Yang/The New York Times)

(Stephen Yang/The New York Times)

Carl Icahn, DT’s latest billionaire, will be acting in an “individual” capacity as “Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform” instead of as a federal employee. That means Icahn has no reporting or confirmation requirements, answering only to Trump, and can keep all his money, achieving an unheard-of level of conflict of interest. Worth $20 billion, he can enhance his personal investments by picking the next chair for the Securities and Exchange Commission and help his oil refinery company by picking the next EPA administrator. Icahn has never seen a regulation that he didn’t want to get rid of, but he says that he has no conflict of interest because he won’t be “making any policy.”

DT’s picks for the Cabinet have already made billions by the loose regulation of the federal government. If confirmed, they will be able to enact more deregulation and enjoy far more private gain. After all, the GOP is a part of small government. Only the bottom 99.99 of people in the nation—60+ million of them DT voters—will suffer.

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