Monday, February 27, 2017

What Next?

Donald Trump's Presidency is just entering its second month and we can say unequivocally that things are as bad and worse than we could've imagined. Trump himself has:
  • questioned the integrity of the 2016 election results, claiming without evidence that "millions of people voted illegally" (all for Hillary Clinton, of course), which is why he lost the popular vote,
  • maligned the judiciary (not for the first time), because the court decided his Muslim Ban was unconstitutional (thank you, Bob Ferguson, WA AG),
  • called the Press "an enemy of the American people,"
  • reneged on his pledge to release his tax returns after an IRS audit,
  • refused to abide by the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, thus ensuring continued conflicts of interest with his far-flung business interests,
  • blasted the Intelligence Community over their reports of Russian hacking of the DNC and interference in the 2016 election,
  • impugned the integrity of the FBI after imploring them to "knock down" press reports on Trump team contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
In the meantime, under cover of Mr. Trump's "unpresidented" attack on everything and everyone he disagrees with, Republicans are ramming through Mr. Trump's terrible Cabinet nominees, and pushing through and/or repealing legislation that will change a regulatory landscape shaped by progressive principles.

One of their first moves in laying the groundwork for how they planned to operate, was to emasculate the independent Congressional Ethics Committee. After a public outcry, in which even Mr. Trump weighed in, the House reversed that plan. Instead, they appointed our former WA-4 Representative, Richard "Doc" Hastings to head the committee. We all know how conscientious Doc is on that front.
"Hear no evil" Doc Hastings to head up Ethics
At the top of the GOP's ambitious agenda is wiping out healthcare coverage for millions of Americans. Republicans have fought the Affordable Care Act literally from its inception. It goes against their conservative principle of "Every [rich] man for himself." The problem is, while Republicans bitched and moaned about ACA, aka "Obamacare" for eight years, all they did in that time was pass more than 50 symbolic bills to repeal it, apparently in an effort to make their base feel they were doing something other than obstructing everything President Obama tried to do. Now they have to actually come up with a replacement, and hey, it isn't as easy as they thought when they ridiculed the 2700-pages of legislation that accompanied the bill. "Noboby knew that healthcare could be so complicated," Mr. Trump said Monday. Yeah, actually, they did. More than once.

A draft of the House Republicans' bill to repeal Obamacare would replace its subsidies with less generous tax credits, increase the amount insurers could charge older Americans and effectively eliminate Medicaid for low-income adults. These provisions could leave a significant share of the 20 million people who gained coverage under Obamacare without insurance. It's not all bad, however. Taxes on tanning beds would be repealed under the GOP plan, thus ensuring that Mr. Trump can continue his orangeness without undue expense.

Healthcare isn't the only thing the GOP is working to degrade in order to "Make America Great Again." Frankly, it's hard to keep up with everything Congress is doing, even for Congressional Democrats. Collegiality is not on the GOP agenda, let alone transparency, or compromise. You can try following, but you might be better served by following, a fictitious site I just made up. But there are a lot of leaks.

Without doubt the government agency at greatest risk today is the Environmental Protection Agency -- an agency created by a Republican president, Richard Nixon. His creation of the EPA was not the reason he resigned in disgrace, but republicans, once serious about "conservation," have more and more come to hate the EPA. In an odd turn of events, republicans appreciation for Vladimir Putin has soared. It may be that republicans see environmentalists as today's communists, and they prefer fascism to communism, thus their support of Trump and by extension, Putin.

The environment is high on the list of GOP targets, and not just the "climate change hoax." Republicans employed the Congressional Review Act to scrap the Stream Protection Rule, designed to limit the dumping of mining waste in local waterways. The rule was put in place by the Department of the Interior in the final days of the Obama administration, tightening standards for contamination of water and restoration of streams damaged by mining operations. Joyful miners in Kentucky were sure to be grateful to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for protecting their well-being.
With the installation of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the EPA Americans can expect to see a severe degradation of the Agency's authority and capacity for enforcement of existing regulation, let alone new rulemaking.

As Walter Rosebaum has written in a recent edition of The Conversation,
"Environmental organizations can attempt to mobilize public support and pressure Congress to counteract Pruitt-led revisions of EPA’s organization and rule-making. In particular, increased activism at the state level can be a countervailing force to federal environmental retrenchment."
Activism at the local and state levels seems to be a formula for pressing Congress and, perhaps to a lesser degree, the Administration, on a board range of issues, from freedom of the press to freedom of choice. So, get on your hiking boots and get out there!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Where's Dan?!

A whole lot of citizens held an open air town hall at WSU-TC this afternoon hoping for a glimpse of the guy who ostensibly represents them in Congress, Dan Newhouse (WA-4). It was sunny, but cold, and some folks pulled down their pink knit caps to ward off the chill.

A slight breeze billowed the American Flag as the assembled constituents said the Pledge of Allegiance. Then one-by-one people stepped forward to ask questions of the man who wasn't there.

Despite numerous requests for public interaction with his constituents, Rep Dan Newhouse has, to date, failed to schedule a single such forum during the Congressional recess. If you spot him skulking around somewhere, call the citizens’ hotline at 509 WTH's Dan?!

Friday, February 24, 2017

A great danger to our country

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Donald Trump criticized as “fake news” organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him. In a series of Twitter posts, he assailed the FBI as a "dangerously porous agency," condemning unauthorized revelations of classified information from within its ranks and calling for an immediate hunt for leakers.

Hours after the speech, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from The New York Times, CNN, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, and several other news organizations from attending his daily briefing, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

Mr. Trump’s barrage against the news media continued well into Friday night. “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after 10 p.m., singling out The Times and CNN. “A great danger to our country.”

Retired Admiral Will McRaven spoke out on this calling Trump’s attack on the media “a threat to democracy." McRaven is currently a chancellor in the University of Texas system.

Trump seems to be trying to distract the public from FBI investigations into Trump's and his staff’s ties to Russia, as well as an unprecedented and prohibited attempt by Trump Chief of Staff Reince Preibus to have the FBI “knock down” the story.

In addition, Trump rejected his own Homeland Security report on his travel ban, again attacking the Intelligence Community.

In an ironic twist, CPAC audience members unknowingly waved Russian Flags with Trump’s name on them. Here’s the picture, just in case you thought this was “fake news.”

Trump supporters at CPAC waving Russian flags with Trump's name emblazoned in gold (of course).
So, given the state of affairs in the Administration, and geopolitical events of immense importance, what is the White House doing? Rescinding the rights of transgender people to use public bathrooms.

What to Do This Week of February 19, 2017

Check out Jen Hofmann's Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience

15 down, just 89 weeks to go before mid-term elections. Deeeeep breath...

The intention of this weekly document is to make clear, hype-free suggestions for action backed by well-considered research. If an issue doesn’t affect you, consider whether you would support this issue on behalf of other Americans, then act accordingly. Although diligently prepared, contents are subject to human error. Please do your own research.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Open Letter to the New Treasury Secretary

February 20, 2017

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
United States of America

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Reference is made to your letter, 2016 Form 1040, February 15, 2017

I’m seventy-nine years old and have never failed to submit a tax return, from the time I worked as a delivery boy in high school, through my two decades in the U.S. military, two decades working for a government laboratory in national security, right up until today, in my retirement.

I’ve willingly paid my taxes under 11 presidents; six republicans and five democrats. Like serving in the military, for me, paying taxes was a way of giving back to my country for the rights and privileges I enjoyed as a citizen of this great nation.

Now I am looking at the prospect come April 15th of paying taxes under another president, Donald J Trump. I have to tell you, Mr. Secretary, that for the first time ever, I hesitate to do so. Not for ideological reasons — although I strongly disagree with Mr. Trump’s ideology — and not because Mr. Trump avoided paying taxes for so many years. I hesitate because Mr. Trump refuses to make a clean break from his global business interests. Until he does so, he will unavoidably be violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Trump claimed that he eliminated potential trouble with emoluments by turning over operation of the business to his children. That argument is inane, but even if we believed that the President would not discuss Trump business dealings with “the kids,” as long as he continues to profit from his business empire—which he does whether or not he is nominally in charge, the possibility that foreign actors will attempt to affect his policies by frequenting his hotels, golf courses, resorts, and casinos, remains an issue of national concern.

Mr. Trump apparently feels that divestiture is too high a price to pay to be President of the United States, just as he felt it was “smart” not to pay taxes.

We might understand better the intricacies and entanglements of Mr. Trump’s business holdings and partners if we could examine his tax returns, but he has steadfastly refused to release them  — something every president has done since Gerald Ford.

So you see the reason for my hesitation to submit my tax return on April 15 — I can’t be sure that my tax dollars won’t be going to line the pockets of foreign actors whose business dealings with the President have curried his favor. Maybe Mr. Trump is right; maybe it isn’t smart to pay taxes. At least, not until we have a president willing to abide by the Constitution.

Thank you for your understanding.

Very Respectfully,

Richard Badalamente, LTC, USAF (Ret.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Statement by Senator Patty Murray on Michael Flynn Resignation

Today, U.S Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement after Michael Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor.
“Like so many Americans, I am deeply troubled by the events that led to the abrupt resignation of Michael Flynn, a person who was supposed to be putting the safety of American citizens and our allies first, and who for months had a direct line to the president and the power to influence some of the most critical decisions facing our country.
“While removing himself is a positive step, I have little reason to believe that Mr. Flynn’s resignation marks any sort of conclusion. In fact, this development only prompts many more questions. I join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in calling for an immediate and independent investigation into Russian interference in our elections, and potential links between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. President Trump has remained far too dismissive of Russia’s hostile behavior and Americans deserve to know why that is. We cannot afford a White House that accommodates Vladimir Putin and his meddling in foreign elections, aggression in Ukraine, and record of human rights abuses at home and abroad." 

Thursday, February 9, 2017


President Trump's appeal on his immigration ban was unanimously denied by a Court of Appeals.
Thanks, WA AG Bob Ferguson!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hope on Climate Change Action -- from Republicans!

GOP All-Stars Present Carbon Tax Plan to Trump Team: A coalition of top Republican leaders - including James Baker, Hank Paulson, George Shultz, Martin Feldstein, and Greg Mankiw - will present a comprehensive plan to establish a carbon tax and combat the causes of climate change to White House senior leadership today. The plan, which marks a rare instance of the GOP taking the lead on proposing climate solutions, will be accompanied by an economy-wide analysis showing how the plan would lower carbon emissions twice as fast as all of the Obama-era climate regulations combined by 2025 and meet the Paris climate agreement targets. The plan includes jettisoning of significant regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, and earned a quick endorsement from Mitt Romney. A copy of the plan is available here; the leadership team will host a press conference at the National Press Club at 9:30 AM this morning. (New York Times $, Washington Post $, CNNAPBloombergAxiosFT $. Commentary: New York Times, Martin Feldstein, Gregory Mankiw, and Ted Halstead op-ed $, WSJ, George Shultz and James Baker op-ed $)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sustaining Democracy in the Term of Trump

From David Frum, The Atlantic , February 6, 2017

Protests can energize people and overawe governments. But it is the steady and often tedious work of organization that sustains democracy—and can change the world. Protests are useful mostly to the extent that they mobilize people to participate in the follow-up meetings to realize the protest’s goals. Collect names and addresses. Form Facebook groups. Keep in touch. Don’t argue: recruit. Meet in real space as well as online. Serve cake. Make your presence felt on your local elected officials not just once, but day after day, week in, week out. Make them feel that they could lose their individual seats if they do not heed you. They feel the pressure from lobbyists all the time…to succeed, you should be equally focused and persistent. And that requires above all: be motivated by hope, not outrage.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

This is Not Normal

This is #NotNormal

It is not normal for a president to target investigations on states that didn’t vote for him (source). It is not normal to lie about which people are to blame for not winning the popular vote (source). A normal president accepts election results and, after winning, focuses on his or her leadership.

It is not normal for a president to ban a federal department from communicating with the public (source), to force them to hide data (source), nor pressure a department to lie on his behalf (source). A normal president welcomes information from government experts to assist in his or her leadership.

It is not normal to deny entry to legal residents with all required documents (source) nor invade their privacy (source). A normal president respects privacy and allows legal residents to travel freely.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bob Ferguson Message on Trump Immigration Order

No one is above the law – not even the President of the United States.

Friday night, Donald Trump signed a deeply troubling executive order aimed at preventing Muslim and Middle Eastern immigrants from entering our country. Within hours, hundreds of travelers were detained at airports nationwide.

This is not America. Our country is built on principles of equal protection, due process, and constitutional protections from religious discrimination. Trump’s executive order is unconstitutional and un-American.

As your Attorney General, I will safeguard the rights of Washingtonians. That’s why my office has been working tirelessly to challenge this order in the courts. Yesterday, I filed suit against the Trump administration over its unlawful, discriminatory executive order. We are the first state to do so.

We are asking the court to invalidate Trump’s executive order nationwide and send a message that the President has limits to his powers – and that no matter how loud his voice, it doesn’t stand a chance against the Constitution. Together, we can make clear that we will stand together to protect the fundamental rights which make our country great.

Thank you for standing with me.


Betsy DeVos Nomination

The Vote count on Betsy DeVos is TIED!

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have come out in opposition to Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos – proof that calling Congress can make a difference and change the minds of elected officials!

With the Democrats opposing DeVos, the vote count is now tied 50-50! Currently Vice President Mike Pence can break that tie to confirm DeVos, but if we can flip one more Republican Senator, we can defeat this nomination.

The Republicans remaining most likely to flip to oppose DeVos are Dean Heller of Nevada, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Deb Fischer of Nebraska. We need to call their offices and let them know that DeVos’ priorities – cutting education funding, privatizing schools, and attacking teachers – are wrong for our schools and students.

Office of Sen. Dean Heller – 202-224-6244 or 702-388-6605
Office of Sen. Jeff Flake - 202-224-4521 or 602-840-1891
Office of Sen. Deb Fischer - (202) 224-6551 or (402) 441-4600

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Message from Senator Patty Murray on Nominee Betsy DeVos

We have some huge news:

Thousands and thousands of Americans have been calling and writing to their senators to voice their concerns about Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. And Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins heard you.

They're the first Senate Republicans to publicly state they plan to vote NO on Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary when her vote goes to the floor of the Senate -- which could happen in the next couple days.

This means we just need one more Republican to stand with Democrats to defeat Betsy DeVos!

Senators Collins and Murkowski both referred to the fact that they heard from so many people like you -- so your voice is being heard and it's making a huge difference. But we can't stop now!

Everyone needs to hear this news! This is because of all of your hard work -- share Patty's Facebook post right now and let your friends and family know their calls are working!

[Look at the prior post on this blog for specific senators to contact. If they aren't your senator, contact a friend who's a constituent and ask them to call. DO IT NOW!]

We have a chance to send a message to President Trump. Let's fight for strong public schools -- and let's fight against Betsy DeVos!

This is our last chance, so let's make it count.


Team Patty