Thursday, February 23, 2017

SENATOR BILL CASSIDY'S TOWN MEETING, THIBODAUX, LA

Oooh, my back!  (I have spinal stenosis.)

Through a heroic effort, I made it into the meeting and found a front row seat. Bill Cassidy arrived on time, and talked and talked, yada, yada, yada, running out the time of a one hour meeting. Here are my notes as I wrote them as I sat and listened.

President O'Trump (He really said that) will spend 1 trillion on infrastructure
Trump will bring back energy jobs
Trump will bring back manufacturing jobs
The Dakota pipeline is good and will create many jobs in the US
He's talking too much. Get to the questions
Cassidy talks too damned much
Running out the clock, blah, blah, blah

I sat patiently for a good while and was tired of wasting my time, so I started waving my hand. Cassidy paid no attention, so I shouted out, "Senator, you're talking too much. Listen to the people. Also, I have a question."

He didn't get to me, and people were pointing to me and telling him to answer my question. He finally turned to me, and I asked:

"Will you guarantee that your health care plan or whatever health care plan the Republicans come up with will cover everyone who is covered by Obamacare?"

He answered something like nearly everyone. I said, "That's no guarantee."

Then he said, "What if people don't want coverage?"

I said, "That's not what I mean, and you know it. You're a doctor, and you took an oath to do no harm."

Cassidy never got to the written questions that were handed in, so I'm glad I shouted out and didn't wait. He left promptly after an hour with a number of people still waiting to ask questions.

Among the few questions and comments that time permitted, one man spoke of how Medicaid expansion helps hospitals that had to take losses in the emergency room before the program was implemented.

In answer to a question that I could not hear, Cassidy said, among other things, that Jeff Sessions is an honorable man.

Another asked about an independent investigation of Trump's Russian connections. Cassidy said he's very concerned about Russia, but he did not state he would support an independent, bipartisan investigation.

Then, a woman asked about Trump's appointment of Pruitt as administrator of the EPA, who is on record as wanting to destroy the EPA. Cassidy said the EPA will not be destroyed.

The crowd was not a rowdy bunch, but they were clearly annoyed by Cassidy hogging the time to speak.  I'm not good at crowd counting, but I'd guess there were a couple of hundred people sitting and standing. The people at the meeting appeared to be local people or from places nearby, and they asked intelligent and thoughtful questions. I doubt anyone in the crowd was bused in.

I was briefly interviewed by the local paper, the Comet Courier, Fox 8, the New Orleans local station, and The Nation magazine.

Update: Here's the link to my minute of fame with Bill Cassidy from Fox 8 news in New Orleans.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ABOUT THE RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS AND MICHAEL FLYNN

Just six days into his presidency, Donald Trump was informed his national security adviser had misled his vice president about contacts with Russia. Trump kept his No. 2 in the dark and waited nearly three weeks before ousting the aide, Michael Flynn, citing a slow but steady erosion of trust, White House officials said.

Flynn was interviewed by the FBI about his telephone conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., a sign his ties to Russia had caught the attention of law enforcement officials.
Though the WH had known about Flynn's discussions with the Russians since January 26, when they were informed by acting-AG Sally Yates and another official that he was vulnerable to blackmail, no one bothered to inform Pence.  Yet he was sent out to defend Flynn publicly in a TV interview and declare the conversations about sanctions had not happened.
Pence, who had vouched for Flynn in a televised interview, is said to have been angry and deeply frustrated.
How many ways to say out of the loop?  Team Trump humiliated Pence, and now he is angry.  Still, I expect he's not angry enough to resign his potted plant position in the Trump maladministration, because he is the gentleman-in-waiting should something go wrong.

According to the "retelling" from the White House, Flynn had done nothing illegal, but his downfall came because he lied to WH officials. Why was the erosion of trust in Flynn "slow and steady"?  Trump values loyalty above all.  It seems not to matter if his close advisers do not know what the hell they are doing or whether they tell the truth.  Why would truth matter when the boss lies repeatedly? Thus, loyalty trumps everything else, even if the result is chaos and certain staff members are thrown under the bus.

What about Kellyanne Conway?  What did she know, and when did she know it?  Conway is the most visible of Trump's loyal supporters defending him on TV.  Is she out of the loop, too?  A couple of hours before the information about Flynn's "resignation", she said the security adviser had Trump's "full confidence".

If you'd like to walk through the looking glass with Matt Lauer and his interview with Kellyanne Conway this morning, you may or may not find the answer to the question about whether she was out of the loop.

I confess that I was dizzy, rather than enlightened by the walk, but that's just me.

Here's the video of the interview. Conway's ability to remain upright through this long spin is amazing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

ABOUT THE RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS

What did Donald Trump know, and when did he know about Mike Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador?

What did Mike Pence know, and when did he know it?

When will the investigations of the Russian connections begin? Congress? Congress?

When will Mike Flynn be fired or step down? Will Flynn go quietly? Was he following orders? Whose orders?

That's not to mention Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, conspiracy theorist, and general menace who should be nowhere near the White House. Bannon also has Russian connections.
“Steve Bannon, who is the leader of alt-right remember, he runs the alt-right media arm, which is the white supremacist, neo-Nazi arm of the conservative movement,” [Malcolm] Nance said. “He is a believer in what is called Duginism. There’s a guy, Alexander Dugin … He is a Russian that is sort of the Rasputin of the anti-democratic movement in eastern Europe that hates the liberal elite.”

The analyst believes Bannon is setting the strategy for the White House. He told host Joy Reid that Bannon was ultimately attempting to push for Eurasianism, which would “align the United States and Russia together in a Christian war against Islam.”
Nance, who comments frequently on MSNBC, is "a retired United States Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer in naval cryptology and author, scholar and media commentator on international terrorism, intelligence, insurgency and torture." (Wikipedia)

And what about Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobile, now Secretary of State, and his previous lobbying against Russian oil sanctions, which he claims was not lobbying?
I have never lobbied against sanctions,” Tillerson said. “To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions.”

This seems hard to believe. Indeed, after the second line, Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the committee, interjected: "I think you called me at the time [Russia sanctions were being debated]," he said. The public record backs him up: There is abundant and clear evidence that Exxon did lobby on sanctions under Tillerson’s leadership.
....

“In your mind, calling a United States senator to express your belief that sanctions are not effective is not lobbying,”[Sen. Chris] Murphy said. “In my view, that is a distinction without a difference.”
If the Pandora's box of Russian connections between Trump's cabinet and staff is ever opened, much will be revealed.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP

Dear President Trump,

I hope you have a Big League Valentine's Day.  Maybe the day when we celebrate love will inspire you to move away from bullying people and businesses.  You said you would be president for all the people in America, but you have not keep your word.  You incite fear and hatred and pit one group against another in a way that causes greater division in the country.

Keep in mind that Nordstorm is an American company that provides 85,000 jobs in the United States.  How does attacking an American business because they dropped your daughter's clothing line promote job creation?  I thought you and Ivanka were out of the businesses, so why do you care?  Is there a conflict of interest here?

Also, perhaps you might consider the duties and responsibilities of your position in the Oval Office a priority over tweets.  When you tweet, remember facts always trump "alternate facts", because, if you tell the truth, you have to remember only the one thing, while "alternate facts" are all over the place and hard to keep straight in your mind.

Note that I did not address you as the so-called president, even though you lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million.  You are the real president, just as James Robart is a real judge.  However the Ninth Circuit Court judges rule in the executive order travel ban, they will be real judges, too.

Cheers,

June Butler

Note: I will send the home-made valentine to Trump via snail mail.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?

The New Yorker:
Fom 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret C.I.A. program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats. In 2002, Haspel was among the C.I.A. officers present at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda suspect who was tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead.

On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced that Haspel would become the C.I.A.’s new deputy director.

It appears that the debate about torture in the President’s mind, if there ever was one, is over."
Jesus! If a country considers itself to be civilized, then torture is not to be tolerated. How did we get into the position once again in which we argue whether or not torture is the way to go? Yes, I know, Bannon/Trump.  Note: Waterboarding is torture.

Will Jefferson Beauregard Sessions stand up to the Bannon/Trump maladministration and say no to the use of torture if he is confirmed as Attorney General? My guess is he will not. He'll be another lackey like Alberto Gonzales who refused to oppose the Cheney/Bush maladministration's torture plan.

Thus far, only the courts have succeeded in putting the brakes on Trump's governance by chaos with executive orders such as the travel ban on people from several majority Muslim countries, and only temporarily.

The Justice Department appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court for a stay to Seattle Federal Judge James Robarts' ruling to halt the implementation of Trump's travel ban.
The Ninth Circuit scheduled the oral argument in the case for Tuesday at 3 p.m. Pacific time. It is to take place by telephone, and the court said it would be live-streamed on its website. Holding an oral argument by telephone in a major case is unusual.

The case will be heard by Judge William C. Canby Jr., appointed by President Jimmy Carter; Judge Michelle T. Friedland, appointed by President Barack Obama; and Judge Richard R. Clifton, appointed by President George W. Bush.
We can but hope that Judge Canby upholds the stay.  (Judge Canby is a real judge, along with Judge Robart, despite Trump's disparaging comment calling Robart a so-called judge.)  However Canby rules, the case will very likely end up with an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

GOVERNMENT BY UNCERTAINTY

The New Orleans Advocate front paged two stories about consequences in Louisiana of Trump's capricious executive orders, a state he won by a large margin.
When the gleaming new Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Canal Street opened its doors in November, officials boasted of an army of 2,500 doctors, nurses and support staff who would provide patients with cutting-edge medical care.
But a federal hiring freeze instituted in the first days of President Donald Trump’s administration has cast a shadow over plans to fill 1,000 of those positions over the next year.

While subsequent orders have loosened some restrictions on the VA — and on its newly opened hospitals in particular — questions persist about how the freeze will affect the wide range of services envisioned at the billion-dollar medical complex, more than 10 years in the making.
Trump promised to be a friend to veterans, and, as his policies play out, we see that's not true. It seems hiring of doctors and nurses will continue as planned, but support staff positions will be approved facility by facility.  Even if the hospitals hire more than enough doctors and nurses, no hospital can function without necessary support staff.

Did our incompetent president know this before he signed his executive order?  Who knows?  Act first; think later when unintended consequences follow.

Also, in today's edition of the Advocate is the article on uncertainty at the Port of New Orleans about consequences of Trump's promise to repeal NAFTA.
As far as global trade goes, "America First" may not necessarily mean "Louisiana First."
....

Reciting a familiar refrain, Trump last week called NAFTA "a catastrophe for our country." His argument is that bad trade deals have shifted American jobs overseas, hitting especially hard in the upper Midwest, where thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished in recent decades.

But if the result of Trump’s policy turn is ultimately a decline in global trade, Louisiana could wind up as collateral damage in the effort to shore up U.S. employment.
Louisiana voted for Trump by 58 percent to 38 percent for Clinton, and this is the way he treats his friends.  Our representatives in Congress are all Republicans, except for Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA).  How quickly will our Congressmen (yes, all men) stand up to protect the Louisiana economy, which is already in dreadful shape because of the decline in oil and gas prices?  I'm not holding my breath.
Renegotiating NAFTA, the 1994 agreement with Mexico and Canada, might be felt in Louisiana as well. Overall, trade among the three countries has climbed from $293 billion in 1993 to almost $800 billion last year. Mexico and China — another target of Trump’s vitriol on the campaign stump — are Louisiana’s top trade partners.

Mexico accounted for nearly $5.9 billion worth of exports from Louisiana in 2015. A 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports — an idea floated by Trump's spokesman last month — could put a huge damper on that trade.
Mexico is now the enemy because President Peña Nieto stated he will not pay for Trump's wall on the southern border between the two countries.  Trump is determined to take revenge on leaders of countries he perceives to be his "enemies", even if consequences will be harmful to the citizens of the United States.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

TAKE SMALL SATISFACTIONS WHERE YOU FIND THEM

A White House adviser's commentary about a massacre in Kentucky that never happened has sparked seemingly endless snickering online, with jabs like "never remember" and "I survived the Bowling Green massacre."

Kellyanne Conway mentioned the fictional massacre in an MSNBC interview Thursday as the reason for a temporary travel ban for Iraqis in 2011, saying it also proved why the Trump administration's ban was necessary. It thrust this college town back into the national spotlight, nearly three years after a sinkhole that swallowed several classic Corvettes at a museum in Bowling Green garnered worldwide attention.
Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said he understands how a person can "misspeak", but what if the same person "misspeaks" over and over?  When do we stop understanding?  Conway "misspoke" again later the same interview when she said Trump's immigration ban of immigrants from several majority Muslim countries was similar to the plan President Obama put in place to slow the vetting of Iraqi refugees in 2011.  Two Iraqis were arrested and charged with trying to send weapons and money to Iraq and helping Al Queda attack Americans in Iraq.  The two were convicted and are now serving prison sentences.
For Bowling Green radio personality Jelisa Chatman, Conway's remarks were like a gift from heaven as an on-the-air subject.

"You wake up in the morning and you think, 'What am I going to talk about today?'" she said. "And God is like, 'Here you go. You need something to talk about, how about this?"
Heh heh.
At Home Cafe Marketplace, the most popular pizza Friday was "the Bowling Green Massacre" pie. The specialty pizza with blackened chicken, mac' and cheese and jalapenos was on pace to set a one-day sales record at the Bowling Green restaurant, said owner Josh Poling.
....
All proceeds from the specialty pizza's sales will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he said.
Bravo, Josh!  I give regularly to the SPLC, but I gave an extra and generous donation after the group quickly filed suit to temporarily halt Trump's travel ban from the seven countries.  The order barred entry even to US citizens with dual citizenship, permanent residents with green cards, and refugees who had already been rigorously vetted and cleared for entry into the US.

Many thanks to the many attorneys at airports around the country who volunteer their services to assist people who are detained and interrogated.
"It's funny and we can laugh at it," said Barry Kaufkins, who teaches at Western Kentucky. "But I think a lot of the laughter is so we don't cry. A lot of people are really worried about some of the rhetoric, not to mention the behavior, from this administration."
Indeed. We take our small satisfactions and humor where we find them to take a break from weeping and wailing over the damage the Trump maladministration has done at home and abroad in two short weeks.

Spokespersons for Trump say the several court orders from federal judges around the country to stop implementation of the executive order will be appealed.  I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me Trump's tweet could be...um...prejudicial to his appeals, but what do I know?
@realDonaldTrump  7 hours agoMoreThe opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

Friday, February 3, 2017

ABOUT THE "BOWLING GREEN MASSACRE"

On Chris Matthews' show last night, Kellyanne Conway cited the "Bowling Green Massacre" in Kentucky as a reason that Obama put a six month ban on the Iraqi refugee program as an "Obama did it, too" defense of Trump's executive order banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries.  Matthews did not follow up and ask Conway about her reference to the "Bowling Green Massacre" that "didn't get covered" during the interview.

The "Bowling Green Massacre" never happened, and Matthews might have been able to clarify Conway's statement right then and there if he had stopped her and asked about the massacre, but he did not.  Thanks to Conway and Matthews, the massacre will live on as an alternative fact in certain fevered minds.  Conway later tweeted that she misspoke and meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists", but I'm certain her original reference will have a long life and will continue to be cited by Trump supporters.

Also, Obama never put a six months ban on Iraqi refugees.

Alex Wagner explains on CBS.



Reactions to the "Bowling Green Massacre" on Twitter are hilarious.  Below are two of my favorites:

Saddened and sickened by Frederick Douglass' silence surrounding the Bowling Green Massacre.


Where were you when  didn't happen? I was in Stockholm, getting a Nobel Prize. It was awesome. https://twitter.com/CNN/status/827528325363019778 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

DON'T COME, PLEASE

Queen Elizabeth is uncomfortable with Trump's state visit to England.
It is the British government that invites heads of state on the queen’s behalf, but it is the queen who acts as personal hostess. In most cases, that involves lavish pomp and ceremony and a stay of several days at the queen’s official residence, Buckingham Palace.
I ask you, would you want Trump staying in your palace...er...house?  I would not want Trump to visit my humble abode.

Theresa May's invitation to Trump for a state visit to London was beyond stupid.  There are petitions against Trump with thousands of signatures, and there will be protests if he goes ahead with plans for the visit.  Trump will be a pariah in England and in many countries around the world.  My guess is Trump will not go.  He lusts for acclamation by crowds, but he fears protests.
President Donald Trump will not head to Milwaukee for a previously scheduled visit of a Harley-Davidson factory after the company decided it wasn’t comfortable hosting him amid planned protests, an administration official said Tuesday, January 31st.
....

Harley-Davidson issued a statement Tuesday night saying they “don’t have, nor did we have, a scheduled visit from the President this week at any of our facilities.”
Ha ha!  Who us?  Trump is not coming here.  H/T to Charles Pierce for the link,

Trump will not only be a pariah around the world, but he will be unwelcome in many places in the US, because protests will follow him wherever he goes, some large and some small.

I still miss Molly Ivins and long for her commentary on present day politics.  You can't make this stuff up.
“There are two kinds of humor,” she told People magazine. One was the kind “that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity,” she said. “The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That’s what I do.”
UPDATE: The number of signatures on the petition protesting Trump's visit is now over a million, and Parliament will take up the matter later this month.

UPDATE 2: We can but hope that if Trump's state visit to England takes place, he will not shake hands with the Queen as he did with Neil Gorsuch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

STAYING SANE BY REREADING "1984"

From the Ministry of Truth:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Yes, I'm rereading 1984.

Winston: He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage.

If you're thinking, "She must be crazy," I don't blame you, but in some crazy way it makes sense to me.