Hashtag ‘Summer of Hell’

As part of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo’s forward-looking $100 billion infrastructure plan, the most ambitious in the nation, Long Island will have the nation’s largest off-shore windfarm. Yet Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped because of the #SummerofHell © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Considering all that Governor Andrew Cuomo has been doing to update, upgrade, modernize New York’s infrastructure – including the Long Island Rail Road, a $32 billion rebuilding project for LaGuardia Airport, JF Kennedy Airport, the Gateway Tunnel and the Tappan Zee Bridge –  it is shocking, really, to hear Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped in recent weeks, largely because of the very problems he is working to fix: the MTA and LIRR. There is massive work going on this summer and people are inconvenienced; Cuomo even declared a state of emergency for New York City subways. But at least he is doing something.

Part of the reason you get the uptick in disapproval is the way pollsters ask questions. I can certainly understand commuters’ distress at the disruptions this summer – some caused precisely because the system is so old and failing and needs to be replaced and some because they are working to replace the system – but quite another to blame Cuomo, rather than appreciate that at least, after decades of governors kicking cans down a road, is doing something about it – in fact, New York State is undertaking the most ambitious infrastructure project in the nation. And it goes along with a transition – as much as possible – to climate sustainability and clean, renewable energy.

But, in contrast to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who nixed the Hudson tunnel when he came to office as a slap-in-the-face to President Obama (and now the Trump Administration is likely to defund the Gateway project) and shut down the George Washington Bridge for 4 days to spite a Democratic mayor (and still was overwhelmingly reelected), Cuomo has implemented an ambitious infrastructure plan, on par with the bold visionary transformation of Governor DeWitt Clinton (Erie Canal), Governor Theodore Roosevelt (Barge Canal), and Governor Franklin Roosevelt (St. Lawrence Seaway). Indeed, New York is undergoing a $100 billion building program, the largest infrastructure revitalization programs in the nation.

This week, after 70 years of stagnation, Cuomo announced “historic” $5.6 billion transformation of the Long Island Rail Road – 100 transformative LIRR capital projects including the Main Line Third Track, Double Track, Jamaica Station Reconstruction, 39 renovated Long Island Rail Road stations, including Great Neck and Port Washington, plus the new Penn-Farley Complex and $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall. Additionally, East Side Access project will create the first direct LIRR service to the east side and increase capacity.

“With the complete transformation of the Long Island Railroad, New York is recapturing the bold ambition that made our infrastructure the envy of the nation and building for the future. The LIRR is the backbone of the region’s economy, and the strength and resiliency of Long Island requires bold, transformative investments to bolster our transportation network,” Governor Cuomo said. “From the previously unthinkable Third Track and Second Track projects to state-of-the-art technology and signal upgrades, we are daring to imagine better and delivering for the people of New York once again.”

And Cuomo has accepted the state’s responsibility in fixing the MTA, pledging support for the MTA NYC Subway Action Plan.

“The MTA is in crisis and hard-working New Yorkers deserve better. The plan outlined by Chairman Lhota is substantive and realistic. “I am fully committed to making it a reality. I accept the 50/50 split of funds, and the state will do its part. Government is about making a positive difference in people’s lives. As a lifelong New Yorker, I know how essential the subway service is to people’s day to day lives. I am all about getting results. Now is not the time for pointing fingers, but for moving forward – together as New Yorkers.”

Cuomo also stated, “Last week, we had a successful resolution to expand the Long Island Rail Road after 50 years of delay. Today Chairman Lhota laid out a comprehensive plan to transform the New York City transit system. Tomorrow, I will go to Washington to meet with Secretary Chao to discuss what may be the most important transportation project in the region – the Gateway Tunnel. The Gateway Tunnel is critical for rail traffic entering New York and the entire Northeast. It is essential that this project, which has been delayed for years, goes forward. I will also brief the New York Delegation on the situation.”

The state is also fortifying an additional 12 bridges (including $16.5 million to rehabilitate Long Island bridges) and replacing and upgrading 13 electric power substations.

The Port Authority is in the midst of a $32 billion, 10-year capital plan to redevelop LaGuardia and JF Kennedy airports and construct a LaGuardia AirTran.

There is also $112.2 million in funding for 81 projects that support bicycle and pedestrian enhancements and improve air quality across New York, including $2.2 million for Long Island projects in Brookhaven, Glen Cove and Amityville, and $200 million allocated to create the 750-mile long Empire State Trail Network.

It’s not just the transportation infrastructure, but the power system (not to mention initiatives to incentivize clean, renewable energy systems to replace fossil fuel, including electric car power stations along the thruway and offshore windpower, and expanding solar power) – in order to meet the Clean Energy Standard mandating 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors approved nearly $60 million in grants and interest-free and low-cost loans to support vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state.

Yet, despite all that is going on, Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped.

It’s really disheartening – it is why politicians rarely take bold initiatives, but rather pander or play to an image rather than getting things done. Most people have such a superficial, hollow understanding of what is going on – it’s why Republicans were able to perpetuate such hatred for Obama throughout his administration, stoking discontent rather than people appreciating the actual improvements in their lives – foreclosures stopped, job losses  stemmed, bankruptcies slowed. Instead, massive construction was underway thanks to infrastructure spending; teachers, police and firefighters kept their jobs, General Motors didn’t fold, paid apprenticeships expanded. But did Americans’ praise Obama? Absolutely not. Republicans kept up the fiction that Obama did not create “a single job,” that Obamacare and climate actions were “job-killing”, despite record number of months of consecutive job increases and unemployment rates falling to a level effectively called “full employment”. even through the 2012 reelection campaign. Trump was able to convince white working class people they were “forgotten” and only Trump could save them.

In the same vein, Republicans were able to stoked hatred for Obamacare before it was implemented, and even after  people were actually loving KYnect, Kentucky’s Obamacare health exchange. It’s one thing to hold a governor or mayor or president to task for ignoring problems or undertaking policies that exacerbate them. And it’s why the Russia/Trump propaganda campaign could be so effective. Sheeple.

#SummerofHell  is more than about discomfort or discontentment about commuting. It goes to the heart of why politicians are unwilling to be bold, how easily it is to rabble-rouse a crowd. It is why those “forgotten” white working class were so easily incited in hatred and anger against Obama, to fail to appreciate that their situations were in fact improving (people weren’t losing jobs or homes or retirement savings, they had access to health care) and connived into following Trump, easily the most corrupt, inept, self-serving ignoramus to hold such power (“Leader of the Free World”) in the history of the world, including Nero.

And you know how people always say that candidates need a positive vision? Well the Trumpers have offered nothing but the bleakest dystopia, winning support by engendering fear and insecurity, notably based on fabrications on such vital issues as climate change, immigration, health care, trade, national security. Even now, Trump says he would rather Obamacare fail (which means that millions would lose healthcare and tens of thousands would die unnecessarily each year) rather than Republicans fail to replace it.

In answer the question, “How did we get here?”, Michael Hadjiargyrou of Centerport wrote to the New York Times, “The answer is simple: a politically apathetic and historically uninformed citizenry, blindly led by a populist salesman, who pulled the lever in his favor. Until a majority of Americans pay closer attention to politics, we are doomed to these kind of outcomes.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump’s Infrastructure Agenda Would Send US Back to 19th Century, End Global Leadership

The Pittsburgh skyline is visible today; a century ago, when steel and coal reigned supreme, the city would have been shrouded in cloud of pollution. Trump, pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, said he represented the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris, but 75% of Pittsburghers voted for Hillary Clinton © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

My return visit to Pittsburgh for my second Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage reaffirmed for me the stupidity of Donald Trump’s justification for abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement, that he was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris, and that what Pittsburghers want more than anything is to roll back time a century to the days when coal was king and steel mills were belching putrid smoke and men died prematurely in horrid working conditions, their lives under the thumb of Robber Barons who controlled industry and politics. Indeed, the people of Pittsburgh voted 75% for Hillary Clinton’s agenda and vision of America’s future.

But Trump’s entire agenda, beginning with a budget that would similarly reverse course on the very infrastructure and technology developments that would insure America’s leadership in the 21st century, rather than put us back a century.

We get a glimpse of what that is like on the outskirts of the city, in Clairton, where a huge mound of coal dwarfs a tractor truck, and across the bridge over the rail lines, is a chemical plant emitting a foul smell that penetrates the modest residential neighborhood across the street.

The city of Pittsburgh, itself, has risen anew, with glistening office towers and a new economy based on finance, health care, academics, robotics and technology. Its waterfront, once dominated by dirty industrial plants, is now a gorgeous bike path, which you can see so spectacularly from Mount Washington, the place from which George Washington surveyed to find a location to put a fort to protect British colonial interests, but from which in those bad ol’ days, the city would have been shrouded in haze.

Outside the city, where we start our bike tour near the beginning of the 150-mile long multi-purpose railtrail, in the state which built its economy on oil, coal and gas, there are windmills on the hilltops and solar farms in fields. Where we camp one night, in Confluence below the Youghiogheny River Reservoir dam built in 1944 to control flooding, the outflow has been tapped for hydroelectric power.

The biketrail – representing 150 of some 23,000 miles of similarly repurposed railtrails across the country – is a new lifeline for small towns like Meyersdale, which once supported six hotels, an elementary school and a high school, now all shuttered, and Dunbar, once a center for glassmaking and coal production. In Confluence, where the population today is 700, we add 200 to that roll during our stay.

The Trump agenda – and his budget to back it up – would cancel out the line for funding such repurposing projects that has existed since 1991, while eliminating incentives that helped jumpstart America’s fledgling clean, renewable energy industry where jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The 374,000 now employed in solar eclipse the 74,000 people working as coal miners, indeed, exceed all the workers in oil, gas and coal combined; while wind energy employed 100,000. Worldwide – and places like Europe which are legions ahead of the US in wind and solar –  some 10 million people are employed in clean renewable energy jobs.

At the same time, the Trump Administration – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – are sloping the playing field back in favor of climate-destroying fossil fuel industry, rolling back regulations that would allow coal mining companies to pollute water, removing protections on drilling and mining on federal lands, opening up exports of natural gas and oil, creating financial incentives for new nuclear plants, and ending tax credits for renewable energy, among a long, long list. Trump wants to really stick it to climate activists.

Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion in America’s aging, decaying and obsolete infrastructure is also a sham – as evidenced by his Transportation director exiting the New York-New Jersey Hudson Gateway Tunnel project, and a budget that would rescind funding to rebuild the century-old tunnel.

One contrasts this myopia from the guy who boasted of being a “builder” with the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal, in 1817, a bold vision and engineering marvel, which quite literally made New York City the financial capital of the world by connecting the port of New York to the Midwest’s resources and markets with Europe. Even then, globalization, not isolation, is what made the United States a world power.

It’s not just the belching, choking pollution that Trump would like to go back to. In climate policy, energy policy, health care, tax reform, and now infrastructure, Trump envisions exacerbating the divide between rich and poor – and therefore political power as campaign finance and special interests increasingly determine who gets the “ear” in policy. His budget affirms his bias against transitioning away from a climate-destroying carbon energy economy in favor of clean, renewable, decentralized (and cheaper, less monopolistic) energy. His regulatory policy reverses the incentives as well as the progress. The Republican health care policy is as much a mechanism to cement power in the hands of the “haves” versus the have-nots – who are unlikely to challenge abusive employers if they are afraid of losing their health insurance; unable to join protest marches and rallies if they are in pain or suffering; and unable to have their concerns acted on by lawmakers if they don’t have the funds to contribute to campaigns.

Infrastructure, energy policy, the environment, technological innovation and prospects for economic growth, prosperity, social mobility and yes, political power are all connected. Climate justice, social justice, economic justice, political justice are all intertwined.

Trump would have us go back a century or two and cost the United States its global leadership.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

‘Election Integrity’ Commission Eliminates Middleman in Giving Trump, Republicans Tools to Steal Elections

Trump’s “Election Integrity” commission should be less focused on whether there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast, than how Russia – and any future cybercriminal – hacked 39 states’ election rolls. The fact it isn’t, points to its true purpose. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

While everyone was obsessing over the latest Trump twitter outrage, his administration was moving forward with the latest assault on democracy and American rights. His Orwellian-named  “Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity“  (which is anything but), otherwise known as the Voter Fraud Commission, sent out a letter signed by Kris Kobach to every state’s election official “requesting” (since the commission has no real authority or power) their entire voter database, including party registration, a decade’s worth of voter history, address, partial social security number, birthdate, military service and felony convictions, and whether  the voter is registered in more than one state.

Indeed, Secretaries of State, be they red, blue, purple or green, are horrified at the notion of transmitting this information, which, contrary to Kobach’s claim, is not “public.” Moreover, there are “protected classes” such as victims of domestic violence, whose private information is shielded. Louisiana told the commission to “jump in the Gulf”; Kentucky’s said “there isn’t enough bourbon” that would make her deliver this information.

But Kobach’s “request” sounds less like an effort to find out whether our elections are honest and fair, versus a data mining operation for Trump and the Republicans so that they can expand upon their tactics of the 2016 campaign – focusing on fake news, social media trolling in pinpointed districts where just a small nudge could tilt the balance in their favor- which is why a mere 70,000 votes across three states trumped a loss of 3 million popular votes for Hillary Clinton nationally.

That is what is at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation – and what Kobach and his commission, if he is really interested in “election integrity” should be examining, but clearly they are not, because Trump was the beneficiary and because it contradicts his claim of a “mandate” to unleash his ultra-rightwing agenda.

And what if they find that there are 5 million or even 10 million people who have registered in more than one place – like Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon – or that there are 1 million “dead people” still on the rolls? Unless they voted twice or if a dead person sent in an absentee ballot, they did not alter the result.

What is more, Kobach is demanding this data be sent over unsecured email servers, an engraved invitation from this inept administration for malevolence, when even government agencies as secure and cyber-sophisticated as the NSA, Pentagon, Office of Personnel Management, the Secretary of State’s office, indeed the election rolls of 39 states, have been hacked.

The cyberattacks are getting more and more dangerous, moving closer and closer to infrastructure – like shutting down utility plants, the power grid, air traffic control, rail switching stations, and yes, voting  databases and machinery. Putin’s goal was to foster suspicion in the democratic process – and he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination, helped by candidate Trump’s constant claims of a “rigged election” and urging his minions to strongarm their way into polling places to make sure that “those people” don’t vote (which had the strategic effect of preventing Democrats to scream “foul” afterward, since they had already made pronouncements that the elections were fair).

The states’ election machinery – made worse after the “Help America Vote Act” that followed the 2000 pregnant chads controversy – is woefully inadequate, and was even in 2004 when Walden “Wally” O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, the black box manufacturer promised to deliver Ohio to George W. Bush, and he did (see story)– and if the NSA, Pentagon, banks, utilities could all be hacked, why would elections not be?

The argument here is that elections are so decentralized, the results could not be altered sufficiently. In the first place the weak link is where the various election districts electronically send their results to a single center for tabulation. And the 70,000 versus 3 million vote tally which gave Trump the White House is proof enough that the argument that decentralization is what protects the sanctity of the democratic process is specious. (See: Russian hackers’ election goal may have been swing-state voter rollsRussian Hacking on Election More Widespread Than ReportedElection Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say)

There is something wrong in America with voter turnout rates of 60% in the presidential election (higher than 2012, as it turns out, but less than the 62.2% that turned out in 2008) as controversial and consequential as 2016. (And how much of that was voter suppression or outdated voting lists?)

States that made it easier to register to vote had higher turnout – such as Oregon, Connecticut, Alaska, Vermont and West Virginia, where eligible citizens who interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles are automatically registered to vote. Similar laws are taking effect in California and Colorado. No wonder Republicans will use the commission to find an excuse to roll back the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the motor-voter law, which has registered millions of voters, as Richard Hasen writes in Slate, Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame.

In Oregon, automatic voter registration added an extra 225,000 people to the rolls; in Wisconsin, which Trump “won” by a mere 25,000, voter suppression tactics reduced turnout by 200,000.

Kobach’s “election integrity” commission is about voter intimidation, on top of the voter suppression tactics that Republicans have put through in the states they control, because Republicans realized long ago that low turnout favors their candidates. The problem isn’t over voting, it is under-voting – and this is exactly how the data that Kobach is mining could be weaponized. There are already enumerable examples of Republicans committing election fraud.

Instead of the non-existent voter fraud issue – 44 instances out of more than 1 billion votes cast between 2000-2012, a rate of 0.0000044% – there needs to be reforms made to voting, which though a function the constitution leaves to the states, should still include federal minimal standards for access to voter registration and polling places (to satisfy the 14th Amendment providing for Equal Protection as well as the 15thAmendment, the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged)  – where located, people served, hours of opening, minimal number of voting machines per voters, provisions for early voting and absentee voting; requirements for security for electronic, black-box voting devices, back-up paper ballots and auditing after each election, as well as requirements for mandatory hand recounts if the margin is 1% or less; a requirement that when a person is “purged” from voting rolls, a letter be sent informing them, with a remedy for correcting the record; making tampering with voter registration, rolls or elections, including giving fraudulent information about voting places, hours, accessibility a felony crime; and yes, a provision for nullifying an election which has been demonstrated to have been substantively tampered with.

Also,  a reason why young people do not vote in the numbers they should: they are too fearful of breaking a law if they vote absentee in their home districts after having moved to a new place for a job. And moved. And moved again. There needs to be clarification of rules allowing people to vote where they were last registered, or regularly vote, and provisions that require people who have not voted in a district for, say, 10 consecutive years, to reregister or be removed.

On this July 4th, even Trump supporters should be standing up for the basic principle of a government established for and by its people. Which means promoting voting, not suppressing it.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

How Many Dots Does it Take to Make a Smoking Gun? Trump Campaign Collusion with Russia Should Nullify 2016 Election

 


Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet at a presidential election debate in 2016: Clinton calls Trump, “Putin’s Puppet.” Now she has suggested that the Trump campaign helped “weaponize” Russian hackers, contributing to her defeat © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

How many dots does it take to make a smoking gun?

By now it is irrefutable that Russia meddled, interfered and likely tilted the 2016 Presidential Election enough to cheat Hillary Clinton out of the presidency and hand it to Donald Trump. That should be enough to nullify the election, but, like the Republicans’ refusal to follow up on blatant impeachable offenses – conflicts of interest, self-dealing, violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, obstruction of justice (firing FBI Director James Comey in order to interrupt the Russia investigation, witness tampering by threatening to expose tapes, prodding other heads of intelligence agencies to end the Russia investigation or come out with some favorable statements; firing US Attorney Preet Bharara, who apparently was getting too close in his investigations into Trump financial dealings) – they are more interested in controlling every branch of government in order to have unimpeded path to fulfill their agenda, than they are in insuring the sanctity of the election process and our democracy.

But as the revelation by the NSA whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner, the 25-year-old Air Force veteran charged with mailing classified information to a news organization, showed, the Russian engagement with the election process was a lot greater than the government has revealed. In fact, Russian actors tampered with the election databases in 39 states. We are being led to believe that they did not alter votes or tabulations, but how do we really know that to be true, especially with the ease and vulnerability of “black-box voting”?

Now Trump is blaming Obama (what else is new?) for “allowing” the Russians to hack into election databases and “doing nothing” (not true) and after months of denying Russian interference altogether, now accuses Obama of “collusing” and “obstructing”. Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others have said that Russian attempts to meddle in elections is nothing new, but what was achieved in the 2016 election was way more intensive and more effective than ever before. What if they only tossed people off the rolls – in Wisconsin, where Trump “won” by about 23,000 votes, there were 200,000 votes suppressed.

And as Hillary Clinton (who has been proved right in all her claims) said, the Russians needed help – an enabler – to “weaponize” their hacking and their interference. They needed to know just which electoral districts they could penetrate in order to move an imperceptible number of votes for Trump to win. That’s why despite winning the national popular vote by 3 million, it took only a difference of a mere 70,000 votes across three states to give Trump the Electoral College.

So here’s my theory on the case: The Russians were hacking and having a fake news campaign designed to destabilize the election and engender mistrust in the democratic election process, and weaken Clinton’s presidency once she won. (Trump constantly claiming that the election would be “rigged” if he didn’t win, and inciting his followers to take 2nd Amendment remedies is what shut up the Obama Administration from going public and kept Democrats from screaming “foul” after the election). And Obama also feared that unleashing a counter cyber strategy, like shutting down their power grid, or some major sanctions, would cause Putin to cause more havoc in the election, since “black box voting” has so little security to begin with.

But at some point, either the Russians made Trump an offer he couldn’t refuse (because of what they had on him, financially and personally), or the Trump campaign actively partnered with the Russians to “weaponize” – that is pinpoint – where their cyber attacks, fake news and social media trolling could be most effective.

It is notable that while the Russians released hacked emails from the DNC in order to embarrass Clinton and discourage (suppress) voters, they also hacked into the RNC but did not release any of the information.

Russia could have used the threat of releasing the information to blackmail or extort support from the Trump campaign, in order to insure promises or force Trump campaign to more actively engage with the Russians. Evidence? The only change the Trump campaign demanded of the Republican platform was to soften its stance against Russia over the Ukraine and Crimea. In December, when Obama kicked out Russian diplomats from their two compounds (one in Glen Head) as punishment for the election meddling, Michael Flynn met with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, apparently to give assurances that the sanctions would be lifted once Trump was inaugurated, which is likely why Putin didn’t counter with sanctions against US diplomats, and more importantly, reverse the economic sanctions that crippled the Russian petro economy (and would have paved the way for Exxon-Mobil’s $500 billion deal with Rosneft).

But let’s look at the web of ties between Trump, his campaign and Russia that go back a decade or more to business connections, and begin with financial ties:

The Trump boys boasted that they didn’t need money from American banks (which had stopped lending because of the string of bankruptcies), but had all they needed from Russian oligarchs. There were efforts to launch real estate ventures in Russia through Bayrock Associates, a shady Russian-connected outfit, which had partnered with Trump on at least four major but failed American projects: the Fort Lauderdale Trump Tower, the Trump Ocean Club in Fort Lauderdale, the SoHo condominium-hotel in New York, and a resort in Phoenix. (Trump claimed he didn’t know Felix Sater, the Russian-born managing director at Bayrock, who was convicted of fraud for running a $40 million penny stock fraud in collaboration with the New York and Russian Mafia, even though Sater resurfaces as an “adviser” to Trump campaign to try to “fix” a deal with Russia, has a business card that identifies him as an adviser, has an office in Trump Tower a floor below Trump’s and there are photos of them together.)

People are only looking at Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign – but what if it began even earlier. Like when that Russian oligarch paid double what Trump had spent on a Palm Beach mansion just two years earlier, handing Trump a $45 million windfall which Trump could use to fund his campaign. A big appeal for Trump supporters was that he was supposedly self-funding his campaign (nonsense), so that he could appear “independent” of “special interests” and “The Establishment.” This may well have been a ploy to funnel foreign donations into a campaign, evading legal restrictions.

One of the only banks to continue to capitalize Trump businesses was Deutsche Bank, which has been fined $425 million over laundering $10 billion  for Russian oligarchs. Coincidence? Deutsche Bank also gave Jared Kushner’s business a $285 million loan just before the election, a loan which Kushner had to give a personal guarantee, but which Kushner failed to disclose on his financial and security forms (along with meetings with Russian Ambassador and the head of VEB, a state-run “bank” tied to Putin and Russian oligarchs, used purely to launder money whose CEO is an alum of Russia’s spy college; as well as Kushner’s talks with the Russian Ambassador over establishing a back-channel to Putin that would evade US surveillance.).

Jared Kushner was responsible for the Trump campaign data mining operation that pinpointed districts needing to be turned. And it was Robert Mercer, the billionaire who is Trump’s principal donor (and who chose many of his cabinet members and aides, including Michael Flynn), whose data operation, Cambridge Analytica, was used (Steve Bannon was VP) – that’s how the Russian hacking and fake-news operation may well have been “weaponized.” The purpose of the data-mining operation, as noted in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s report, was to suppress voting by key pro-Clinton demographics: women, blacks and liberals. (See also: “Did Russians Target Democratic Voters, with Kushner’s Help?” Newsweek).

But I believe the key was Michael Flynn, who Trump was forced to remove as National Security Adviser, who had the contacts, knowledge, and motive as the former Director of Defense Intelligence Agency from which he was fired by Obama, plus had financial ties to Russia and Turkey which he failed to disclose or get authorization for, a criminal act, to marshal the Russian hacking campaign. That’s why Trump went to such lengths to try to get Comey to stop investigating Flynn.

More evidence of collusion? Paul Manafort, who Trump was forced to fire as his campaign manager, a decade ago had secretly worked for a Russian oligarch to advance the interests of Putin and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, according to The Associated Press, expertise and contacts he could have adapted to the Trump campaign. Roger Stone, whose dirty-tricks experience dates from the Nixon campaign and boasted of ties to Wikileaks, “predicted” when Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails would be released by Wikileaks; Nigel LeFarge, the British Brexit vote guy who became Trump’s ally, met with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange in London pretty much just as Trump, on the campaign trail, was delighting in the latest Wikileaks anti-Clinton leak and cheerleading Russia to hack into Clinton’s emails.

More contacts between Trump campaign and Russia: Jeffrey Sessions, now Attorney General; Erik Prince (formerly Blackwater), a major campaign donor (his sister is Betsy DeVos, now Education Secretary), met secretly to set up back-channel with Russians on Trump’s behalf; Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who is being investigated as whether he discussed Russia’s hacking of Democratic National Committee emails with a Russian official in Prague (he denies it).

Trump’s campaign, and now his cabinet, is chock full of Russian connections: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary, was on the board of the Cyprus Bank used by Russian oligarchs to launder illegally gotten cash (did Trump also use that bank); and Jared Kushner, plus Carter Page (who was actively being recruited as a Russian agent), Steve Miller and likely others. (For a more complete list, see Politico).

The hold over Trump goes way beyond the puppy love he has for the murderous dictator. It suggests he is fearful of what Putin can do to him, what Putin has on him and/or his family. The influence was first apparent during the Republican Convention when the only modification the Trump campaign made was to loosen the platform item against Russia for Ukraine. The impact has already been clear in Trump actions:  bringing Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov into the Oval office, where he boasted about firing Comey and unmasked an Israeli spy; weakening NATO, pulling out of the Paris Climate Change agreement, isolating the US and ending US global leadership.. And of course, Trump has been dying to end sanctions and give back the Russian compounds.

It is also telling that while Trump is obsessed over the Russian investigation, he has done nothing at all to secure elections from cyber attacks by Russia or any other foreign government (except to blame Obama for everything and accuse Obama of “collusing” and “obstructing”).

Finally,Trump doth protest too much about the Russian investigation, and worked way too hard to protect Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor who Trump was forced to fire, who had the intelligence background (he was fired by Obama as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency) to make contacts with the Russian hackers. Why go overboard to protect Flynn? Likely because Flynn is the key to collusion with Russia, along with Paul Manafort who he was also forced to fire as campaign manager.

If there were no “there” there, Trump would want a thorough and speedy conclusion, rather than first firing US Attorney Preet Bharara, who apparently was getting too close in his investigations into Trump financial dealings; and then Comey.

The final evidence of collusion during the election and corruption now is that Trump and Sessions have done absolutely nothing to secure our elections from interference, while doing everything possible to appease Putin’s interests and obstruct the investigation.

Trumpers/Republicans keep moving the goal posts to what would have been prosecuted as obstruction of justice and collusion with adversarial foreign power to steal the election. Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner – bless her – shows that the government already has information that shows more aggressive interference with voting than the massive hacking and disinformation campaign designed to suppress turnout among those who might have otherwise voted for Clinton. It suggests that Russian agents may have gone so far as tampered with voting lists (perhaps contributing to the 200,000 fewer voters in Wisconsin, where Trump won by about 25,000) and even vote tabulations. The government may have more information about that that it is withholding from Congress and the American people, or has yet to pursue the investigation to its conclusion where it might demonstrate that to be true. It is very telling that Trump only won the battleground states that up until election day were polling in Clinton’s favor, by less than 1% – small shifts and tilts by Russian operatives, working in collusion with the Trump campaign (as Clinton noted, the Russians needed help to most effectively “weaponize” their campaign, to know which districts to focus on) indeed could have swung enough votes to secure the Electoral College.

So far, Trump keeps insisting there is no evidence of actively colluding to steal the election. But we don’t actually know if that is true, especially since the investigation is just unfolding despite everything being done to obstruct, slow and end the investigation, thanks to a free press (so far), we are learning more each day. If it is found that the Trump campaign in fact had ties to Russia, it would not be sufficient remedy to impeach Trump and leave Pence and Trump’s cabinet in place.  There would be cause to nullify the election altogether, remove his entire administration (who are “fruit of a poison tree), and install Clinton who actually won.

Never happened before? Nothing like Trump and the Russian election tampering ever happened before either.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

NYS Gov Cuomo Devises Healthcare Model to Counter TrumpCare (Hint: Pre-Existing Conditions, Contraception, Abortion Would be Covered)

Governor Andrew Cuomo has come up with a list of items that any health insurance company that wants to sell in New York State would have to include. Among them: rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, such as durable medical equipment, medical supplies, prosthetic devices, hearing aids, chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and home health care © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

As the fate of Americans’ health care falls in the hands of 13 Republican Senators conferring in secret without input from Democrats let alone health care experts or patients, deciding how much of the “harsh” House plan they incorporate into their own bill, it may well fall to states to take matters into their own hands. Indeed, New York State may provide the model for health care, just as California has dictated pollution standards to the auto manufacturing industry, exceeding federal standards.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to promulgate new emergency regulations mandating health insurance providers do not discriminate against New Yorkers with preexisting conditions or based on age or gender, in addition to safeguarding the 10 categories of protections guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. The new first-in-the-nation measures will ensure that essential health services are protected and covered for all New Yorkers regardless of efforts at the federal level to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare.

At the Governor’s direction, the Department of Health will ban all insurers who withdraw from offering Qualified Health Plans on the State Health Marketplace from future participation in any program that interacts with the marketplace, including Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan. New York is home to one of the most robust health marketplaces in the country, and insurers who do not comply will lose access to such profitable programs. The Governor will also direct state agencies and authorities to ban insurers who withdraw from the State Health Marketplace from contracting with the state and to consider all available actions to protect New Yorker’s access to quality healthcare.

Furthermore, the administration finalized regulations that will ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles no matter federal action. The regulations also ensure all medically necessary abortion services are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.

“We will not stand idly by as ultra-conservatives in Washington try to roll back the progress we have made to expand access quality, affordable health care, putting our most vulnerable New Yorkers at risk,” Governor Cuomo said. “As long as I am Governor, New Yorkers will not be subject to price discrimination based on age, gender, or pre-existing conditions, and essential health benefits will continue to be the rule, not the exception. These aggressive actions will make certain that no matter what happens in Congress, the people of New York will not have to worry about losing access to the quality medical care they need and deserve.”

Under the new regulations, DFS will require that individual and small group accident and health insurance policies, which provide hospital, surgical, or medical expense coverage, as well as student accident and health insurance policies cover the same categories of essential health benefits and be subject to the same benchmark plan rules that currently apply through the Affordable Care Act. Insurers must comply with the new regulations as a requirement of their license in New York.

  1. Ambulatory patient services, such as office visits, ambulatory surgical services, dialysis, radiology services, chemotherapy, infertility treatment, abortion services, hospice care, and diabetic equipment, supplies and self-management education;
  2. Emergency services, such as emergency room, urgent care services, and ambulance services;
  3. Hospitalization, such as preadmission testing, inpatient physician and surgical services, hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, and hospice care;
  4. Maternity and newborn care, such as delivery, prenatal and postnatal care, and breastfeeding education and equipment;
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, such as inpatient and outpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of mental, nervous and emotional disorders, screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorder, and inpatient and outpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorder;
  6. Prescription drugs, such as coverage for generic, brand name and specialty drugs, enteral formulas, contraceptive drugs and devices, abortifacient drugs, and orally administered anti-cancer medication;
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, such as durable medical equipment, medical supplies, prosthetic devices, hearing aids, chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and home health care;
  8. Laboratory services, such as diagnostic testing;
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, such as well child visits, immunizations, mammography, gynecological exams including cervical cytology screening, bone density measurements or testing, and prostate cancer screening; and
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care, such as preventive and routine vision and dental care, and prescription lenses and frames.

The Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services may issue model contract language identifying the coverage requirements for all individual and small group accident and health insurance policies that provide hospital, surgical, or medical expense coverage and all student accident and health insurance policies delivered or issued for delivery in New York State.

DFS will also mandate under existing New York law that health insurers:

  • Provide coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices and cover at least one form of contraception in each of the FDA-approved contraceptive delivery methods without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles, regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Provide coverage for the dispensing of an initial three-month supply of a contraceptive to an insured person. For subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive covered under the same policy or renewal, an insurer must allow coverage for the dispensing of the entire prescribed contraceptive supply, up to 12 months, at the same time.
  • Provide coverage for abortion services that are medically necessary without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles (unless the plan is a high deductible plan).
  • Provide full and accurate information about coverage, enforced in a letter available here.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump to World: Drop Dead; USA to World: Help US!

Donald Trump, in the Rose Garden, announces his decision to withdraw the United States from Paris Climate Agreement, effectively flipping the bird to the world © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Donald Trump has declared the US will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement – leaving behind 194 countries to join Syria and Nicaragua (which didn’t sign because the accord didn’t go far enough) as the only countries not to pledge cooperation in meeting this existential crisis. There needs to be repercussions, within the US and from outside.

It isn’t enough to upend NATO and the United Nations. Trump has to flip the bird on the entire planet. Why? Because he can. Because he is an arrogant fool; a little man who gets orgasmic pleasure out of being able to bully the whole world.

But he is supported by Mike Pence, Scott Pruitt and most Republicans. How has it happened that Climate Change has become a test of tribal membership?

Because climate change is a stand -in for preserving the power of the status quo (the Elites as Trumpers would mock). And in a society where cash is equivalent to political power, there is desperation to keep profit on one side of the ledger.

The rise of Silicon Valley during the Clinton era disrupted the Old World fossil-fueled industrial-military complex. We even renamed our époque, displacing the Industrial Age with a new label, the Information Age and now The Digital Age.

It wasn’t just the economic transition that was feared, Climate Change – like the Information Age – was a move toward globalization (underpinning Obama foreign policy), threatening to undermine tribal controls and nationalism. In contrast, Trump’s “America First” doctrine is founded on the notion that the world is a giant arena of competing nations, with winners and losers – evoking the image of the Roman Colosseum where gladiators battled to the death.

Indeed, Trump justified withdrawing from the Paris Accord not because he challenged climate science, but on bogus claims that it threatened “sovereignty” and would weaken the US economy in order to give advantage to China and India (“They are laughing at us”). These are demonstrable lies:  the Paris Accord is voluntary, nations came up with their own plan to meet their own targets, there are no penalties or enforcement mechanism.

As for the lie about hurting the economy: the US has the strongest economy on the planet – growing a steady 2% is decent for a mature economy , adding 11 million jobs under Obama with the fastest growth (to 9.8 million) in clean energy jobs (growing at 10 times the rate in the economy and 2.5 times the number of fossil fuel jobs);  you can look at the renaissance in Pittsburgh from a steel town to a green city where 80% voted for Clinton (“I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump ridiculously declared.)

But what is the real fear?

Adherents of Climate Action have a sense of being a citizen of the world with a greater responsibility beyond one’s own national interest, undermining the national government’s authority and control – the direct opposite of Trump’s “America First” doctrine. International cooperation is essential to solve this existential crisis facing the planet.

But the United States has a unique responsibility – we are the biggest carbon polluter in history, generating 4 times greenhouse gas-emissions per person than China, a country with 4x the population, and 10x India, and  disproportionately responsible for the damage done to coastal communities and island nations, for famine-stricken Africa and cyclone-battered Philippines, as much as flooded Louisiana and scorched California.

Climate Action also requires that “sustainability” be factored in as a cost of doing business – which means, at least initially, a slight cut into shareholder profits until the technology and use thresholds turn in favor of clean-renewable energy sources and conservation. But shareholders don’t actually get “profits” from the companies –the extra cash is used to pay for lobbyists and to fund campaigns for or against politicians.

Climate activists – the new gen Environmentalists – are seen as communal, as in “communist” or “socialist” and a threat to capitalism, the same source of antagonism to single-payer health care.

Moreover, a citizen of the world is more accepting of diverse cultures, religions, and personal persuasions. Their openness to cultural differences and open-mindedness makes them a threat to evangelicals and orthodox religionists as well as authoritarian nationalists.

That is basis for common cause between the Religious Right and Capitalists going back to the 1960s (coinciding with the birth of the Environmental, Anti-War, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, all upending the power structure).

Pulling out of Paris may be more symbolic action – a gigantic middle finger to the world, and heaven help us if other countries use it as an excuse to abandon their commitments – but what Trump is actually doing is more harmful by reversing all the policies and programs that Obama had in place that enabled the US to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990s levels.

Trump, in attempting to “soften” the blow of rejecting the Paris Accord, asserted that the US has already reduced its carbon emissions to 1990s level. But that is solely due to Obama policies, regulations and programs including incentives to create clean renewable energy industry, that Trump is aggressively overturning with vengeance. For example, he is giving a free pass to coal companies to dump waste into streams, reversing the Clean Power Plan (which allowed states to come up with their own standards to comply with the goals), overturning protections in marine sanctuaries and national monuments to allow drilling and mining. His budget ends investments and tax credits to develop clean, renewable energy, as well as funding for the EPA.

Donald Trump with Scott Pruitt, a long-time climate denier and tool of the Fossil Fuel industry, who as Oklahoma AG regularly sued President Obama over climate actions, is now EPA Administrator and the chief cheerleader for Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Instead of the US being a global leader, as under Obama, Trump is turning the US into a pariah. And the US would deserve it.

Trump said that “the world is laughing at us” – more of a symptom of his psychosis – but now, Putin and China are in fact laughing. China now has opening to be the world leader while Russia is ecstatic over America’s retreat from moral leadership – what country would trust any “deal” with the US?

But the damage to the US economy, to public health, to infrastructure, to the nation’s ability to innovate by tying us to a dirty, destructive and finite fossil fuel, forcing American families to pay through their noses for expensive fossil fuels and repair the damage caused by climate catastrophes, not to mention the threats to national security because of increased conflict and deprivation (200 million climate refugees) will also weaken this nation. Rome comes to mind.

What’s to be done?

Every signatory to the Paris Accord should impose tariff or carbon fees on US imports.

Those millions who marched and now feel like frustrated, forgotten fools must continue to march, rally, protest not at the White House but at local Congressional offices; vote out politicians who don’t support Climate Action.

Consumers need to seek out companies that practice sustainability and overtly reject those that don’t. Use social media to promote or pan.

Investors need to divest of stocks in companies that reject sustainability; instead invest in bonds that build such things as water treatment plants, clean-energy utilities.

Support organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.org), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF.org), League of Conservation Voters (LCV.org), the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth (foe.org) which variously are suing the Trump Administration, as well as local, grassroots organizations like Reach Out America (reachout-america.com) and Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org) which has local chapters.

Thankfully, states and localities are taking matters into their own hands. The Climate Revolution will continue, against our own federal government.

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, talking up what will be the nation’s largest offshore windfarm, off Long Island, has joined with California Governor Jerry Brown to form the US Climate Alliance © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

California Governor Jerry Brown, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Washington State are holding fast to their goal of transitioning to clean, renewable energy, forming the United States Climate Alliance (which so far also includes Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia) and together with cities like New York City and Atlanta (accounting for 30% of the world’s economy), will keep the US from going into a fossil fueled abyss.

“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”

“Climate change presents the greatest threat humankind has ever known,” stated Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “We simply cannot afford to let this president unravel the progress on climate change we’ve made as a nation and a global community. Retreating from the global climate effort would damage our diplomatic credibility, set the U.S. further behind in the clean energy movement and devastate countless communities and ecosystems in the United States. Once again, the recklessness and ignorance of this president have dealt an irreparable blow to our planet and American leadership.”

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace,” stated Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt). “At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.

“The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

US Climate Alliance Adds 10 New Members Committed to Upholding Paris Accord

Wind turbines in Rhode Island, a new member of the US Climate Alliance. “Rhode Island may be a small state, but climate change can have a big impact on our communities,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We are determined to fight climate change from the front lines so that we can preserve our environment – including our Narragansett Bay – for future generations and create good-paying, future-proof jobs in the process.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The U.S. Climate Alliance – formed by the governors of California, New York and Washington State –  announced that Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia have all joined the coalition, which is committed to upholding the Paris Accord and taking aggressive action on climate change.

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

“As the federal government turns its back on the environment, New York and states across the country are picking up the mantle of climate leadership and showing the world it’s possible to address climate change while also creating good-paying careers,” said Governor Cuomo. “The U.S. Climate Alliance is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We welcome these 10 new members and look forward to collaborating and maintaining the momentum in the global effort to protect our planet, while jumpstarting the clean energy economy.”

“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Governor Brown. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” said Governor Inslee. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the U.S.’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”

“Connecticut has been a national leader in combating climate change and we have no plans of slowing down our efforts,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “In the absence of leadership from the White House in addressing climate change, it is incumbent upon the states to take action in order to protect their residents. We remain committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement because it is the right thing to do for not only the future of our state, but for the future of our planet. I am proud to stand with my fellow governors in support of efforts to reverse the harmful effects of global warming and to send a message to the rest of the world that we accept the science of climate change and we will not let the misguided beliefs of a few ruin our planet.”

“Delaware is the country’s lowest-lying state and with 381 miles of coastline, climate change is a very real threat to our future,” said Delaware Governor John Carney. “As sea levels rise, more than 17,000 Delaware homes, nearly 500 miles of roadway and thousands of acres of wildlife habitat including our critical wetlands are at risk of permanent inundation. Rising average temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events also pose health risks to Delawareans, and threaten our economy. The U.S. should lead in the global fight against climate change. Delaware is proud to join this coalition of states providing that necessary leadership.”

“As the Commonwealth reiterates its commitment to exceed the emission reduction targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, today we join the U.S. Climate Alliance to expand on our efforts while partnering with other states to combat climate change,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said. “After speaking with Governors Cuomo and Scott, our administration looks forward to continued, bipartisan collaboration with other states to protect the environment, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future to the next generation.”

“I am very pleased to announce that Minnesota will join the U.S. Climate Alliance, to uphold the tenets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in our state,” said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. “President Trump’s withdrawal will cause serious damage to our environment and our economy. Nevertheless, Minnesota and other states will show the world what we can achieve by working together to conserve energy, to use cleaner and renewable energy, and to leave a livable planet to our children and grandchildren.”

“The ‘America First’ doctrine should put our children first too,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “Future generations deserve to inherit a world they can thrive in, not one that plays politics and ignores the fact our climate is changing. Despite the decision by the White House to retreat, it is our moral obligation to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement. Oregon will continue to make meaningful strides, with the rest of the world, to ensure our communities and economies adapt to meet the challenge of climate change.”

“Climate change is a real problem for all and requires immediate action to ensure future generations are left with a sustainable planet,” Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló said.“Our administration is committed to protecting the environment. As a Governor, who is also a scientist, I value science and data as primary tools in the decision making process.  As such, I strongly oppose the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Our administration understands that all policy decisions even those perceived to being small can have big, lasting effects on our planet.  Puerto Rico, an Island that 3.4 million American Citizens call home, would suffer greatly from the devastating effects of rising sea levels.  But we all stand to lose if we don’t take meaningful action right now.

“We call upon all public officials across our nation to continue to support rules and regulations that protect our environment. As most of the world move forwards, our nation cannot sit idle and lag behind.”

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was a tremendous mistake. Rhode Island may be a small state, but climate change can have a big impact on our communities,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We are determined to fight climate change from the front lines so that we can preserve our environment – including our Narragansett Bay – for future generations and create good-paying, future-proof jobs in the process. I’m proud to join Governors Cuomo, Brown and Inslee in this effort and hope other governors – from both parties – join as well.”

“Growing our economy and protecting our environment by supporting cleaner and more affordable energy and transportation choices can go together,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “If our national government isn’t willing to lead in this area, the states are prepared to step up and lead. I look forward to supporting continued bipartisan cooperation on these matters and thank Governor Baker, Governor Inslee, Governor Cuomo and Governor Brown for working collaboratively on this important issue.”

“As the first state in the Trump era to take executive action to limit carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs, Virginia is proud to join the Climate Alliance,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement does not speak for the states and cities that are committed to fighting climate change and paving the way for a new energy economy. If the federal government insists on abdicating leadership on this issue, it will be up to the American people to step forward — and in Virginia we are doing just that.”

NY, CA, WA Form US Climate Alliance to Counteract Trump’s Withdrawal From Paris Accord

Wind turbines near San Francisco, California. Governor Jerry Brown is leading a newly formed US Climate Alliance of states and cities that want to hold to the Paris Climate Agreement. NY is moving ahead with the nation’s largest offshore windfarm, off Long Island’s coast © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo joined California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee in forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.

“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”

New York, California, and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Governor Brown. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states,” said Governor Inslee. “Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”

Together, New York, California, and Washington represent approximately 68 million people – nearly one-in-five Americans – and the states account for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. California will continue to work closely together with other states to help fill the void left by the federal government.

With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

New York’s Climate Leadership

Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These targets have made New York a leader across the country in fighting climate change.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Spearheaded the formation of the successful RGGI cap-and-trade program between northeast and mid-Atlantic states, led effort to reduce RGGI’s carbon emission cap by 45 percent in 2014, and recently called for an additional cap reduction of at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

Reforming the Energy Vision: Established a comprehensive energy strategy to make the vision for a clean, resilient, and affordable energy system a reality, while actively spurring energy innovation, attracting new jobs, and improving consumer choice.

Clean Energy Standard: Established the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, requiring that 50 percent of electricity in New York come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.

Clean Energy Fund: Established a $5 billion fund that is jump-starting clean-tech innovation, mobilizing private investment, capitalizing the nation’s largest Green Bank, and helping eliminate market barriers to make clean energy scalable and affordable for all New Yorkers.

Coal-Free New York: Committed to close or repower all coal-burning power plants in New York to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.

Offshore Wind: Approved the nation’s largest wind energy project off the Long Island coast in 2017 and made an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.​

 

Trump Vows to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem – Just Not Immediately

The White House just issued this statement on the American Embassy in Israel:

“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance.  President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests.  But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”

Trump Budget is Criminal; Ryan & Republicans are Accomplices

Donald Trump delivers his joint address to Congress, as Mike Pence and Paul Ryan cheer him on. Trump’s 2018 budget may be unbelievably cruel and callous, but it mimics the principles that Ryan and the Republicans have been crusading for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It doesn’t matter that Trump’s preposterously named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget is “dead on arrival” according to even staunch Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn. Much of it is the long-time wet dream of Paul Ryan and Republicans whose singular ambition has been to destroy the New Deal, Square Deal, Great Society. They would eliminate the minimum wage, child labor laws, food and product safety, Clean Air & Water protections, Social Security and Medicare and most notably Medicaid, sell off national parks and monuments to mining and oil and gas industrialists. And this is before taking into account tax “reform” that would take $2 trillion out of the national budget to put into the pockets of the wealthiest and corporations, so they have even more extra pocket change to spend on political campaigns.

Indeed, the Trump budget is everything that the Republicans have been dying to do, but didn’t dare. But Trump doesn’t care. He has shown that it really isn’t hard atall to cut the budget when you really don’t care what the numbers represent,when you have no clue and no interest.

The Trump Budget is built on “Trumponomics, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney proudly exclaimed, “It’s a taxpayer-first budget, going line by line through the budget, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are paying for those lines….What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3 percent economic growth in this country again..And by the way, we do not believe that that is something fanciful.”

Indeed, this is a “tough love” approach to force malingerers off things like food stamps – it’s not non-living wages paid by companies pocketing record profits that keep workers below the poverty line that’s the problem.

“Getting people back to work. Create an environment where people more comfortable staying at …We no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or number of people on programs. We measure success by how many get off programs and have success in lives.”

But the figures don’t actually add up.

Economists from across the spectrum say that the math that underlies the main selling point for Trump’s budget, that it will “balance the budget” in 10 years, is a crock. It doesn’t take into account the $1 trillion or so in tax cuts that will go entirely to the wealthiest and to corporations that Trump sketched out; it assumes a 3% rate of annual economic growth, which would mean 50% more economic activity, which everyone says is beyond pie-in-the-sky; and it actually double-counts $2 trillion, prompting headlines like this one from Slate, “Donald Trump’s budget is based on a hilarious accounting fraud” and “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget “ from Vox.

Health care a right, not a privilege? Trump’s budget projects a 28.3% DROP in spending for health services, $2 trillion less spending, over a 10-year period – despite the aging and increase in population. This includes a 27% decrease in spending for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (imagine another Ebola, Zika or Swine Flu outbreak); 25% drop in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (even as Trumpcare will no longer include mental health or addiction), 25% less spending for research and training, including 25% cut for the National Institutes of Health (no interest in finding therapies or cures for Zika,  Alzheimers or “orphan” diseases that wouldn’t be profitable enough for Big Pharma); 40% cut for the Food & Drug Administration (let Big Pharma do what they will); 15% drop in food safety and inspection; 17% cut to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16% cut in already strapped Occupation and Mine Safety and Health spending even as he overturned regulations.

$1.4 trillion gap in infrastructure spending to repair decaying roads, bridges airports? Trump would cut Transportation spending by 25% cut (65% cut to National Infrastructure Investments; 50% cut to air transportation which is already woefully in need of upgrades); 28% cut to Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.

His cuts to environmental protection – on top of slashing regulations that give communities a fighting chance to protect their air, water and public health – amount to Hague Tribunal level of war criminality for what he will do to the planet, let alone our communities. The allocation is cut 27.1% – $132 billion worth – including a 34% cut in Pollution control and abatement, 42% cut in Regulatory, enforcement and research programs, 37% cut in Hazardous substance superfund ($330 million less in 2018).

Trump would end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—“saving” over $100 million in 2018. He cuts out $129 million in funding for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement. He cuts out $233 million in 2018 for the EPA’s Research & Development (ie. climate change science). It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, $347 million worth in 2018; and ends funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, amounting to $427 million in 2018.

Trump would cut General Science, Space & Technology spending by 14.7%, including 18.9% cut to General Science and basic research.

International Affairs would be cut nearly in half, including 26% cut in spending for Global Health programs; 74% cut in Refugee programs; 66% percent cut in International Disaster Assistance, 83% cut in “other” development and humanitarian assistance.”

(See the New York Times, “How Trump’s Budget Would Affect Every Part of Government”).

Setting aside for a moment that Trump and his billionaire friends don’t actually pay their fare share of taxes, nor do many profitable American companies which have stashed $2 trillion in offshore accounts, the Republicans’ approach is what Hillary Clinton correctly observed, “trickle down economics on steroids.” It didn’t work with Reagan or George W. Bush. And this is even worse.

No matter: the extremity of Trump’s proposed budget, the callousness of it, will give cover to Ryan and the House Republicans and make anything they do seem “moderate”, even “compassionate.” So they cut Medicaid by $600 billion instead of $866 billion and call it a “win” for the little people; they cut the State Department by 20% instead of 30% and pat themselves on the head; they cut the EPA by 25% instead of 31%.

 

Here’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote: “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is ‘right on the target.’ That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.

“It’s obscene:

  • $5 billion in cuts to public education
  • $73 billion in cuts to Social Security
  • $191 billion in cuts to food stamps
  • $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that’s in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called “health care” bill)

“Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.

“This budget is ‘right on the target’ only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.

We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.

“We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.

”Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt,” Warren wrote.

Trump and the Republicans would cut out all the things that have “made America great,” and a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, not to mention the main tools for spreading democracy and human rights across the globe (through capitalist investment, which is what China and Russia are now doing).

This is the midst of an actually strong economy, near “full employment” and as we keep hearing, a record stock market.

The Trump budget is the essence of everything that Trump is doing to weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.

As we marked Memorial Day this past weekend, a New York Times book review of “The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost,” by Cathal J. Nolan, pointed out that “Generally, one side, usually the one with a smaller economy and population, becomes exhausted, and gives up. Talk about élan and audacity all you like, he counsels, but what wins wars is demography and economic strength.” That is to say, winning a war is more a matter of “hearts and minds” vs. “bombs and brigades” as we have been seeing in America’s longest wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Everything that Trump has done so far (putting aside the fact that he is an illegitimate occupier of the Oval Office by selling out to an adversary government), will weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.

Indeed, Trump, who cozied up to the Saudis while hectoring NATO allies and the G7, on his “epic” overseas trip, came back declaring “a home run”, while Germany’s Angela Merkel told Europe,  “We can no longer depend on the US or UK. We are on our own.”

New York State, along with other “blue” states like California, already send way more income tax money to Washington than we get back while the “red” states, which so pride themselves in low state taxes and low wages get far more than they send. Like tenants with a legal fight against their landlord, I would propose that New Yorkers collect their federal income tax money in an escrow account, to pay for services that should be paid by the federal government, such as police and security protection (which Trump is threatening to cut to New York and other states that don’t cooperate in his roundup of undocumented individuals), environmental restoration, health care for those whose subsidies have been eliminated, public schools, infrastructure repair, food stamps and school lunch program.

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