Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”


Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New Yorkers Need to Demand State Legislators Support Cuomo’s Women’s Agenda

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul addresses the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University: “The torch has now been passed to us. Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York State, the birthplace of women’s rights, is pushing for a second round of legislation to address persistent and institutional gender inequity. The state legislature needs to hear from advocates before the April 1 budget deadline.

It is laudable that these initiatives – in categories of Health, Safety, Workplace, Girls, and Family being forcefully advanced by Governor Cuomo – came after months of information gathering, listening tours, and the formation of regional Women’s Councils, coordinated by the governor’s Director of Women’s Affairs, Kelli Owens. Just having such a position is notable.

As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a singular champion of women’s rights in New York State, said in her remarks that opened the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University on March 1,The genesis for the Council of Women and Girls came because of Washington – on the day the president said ‘We don’t need to be concerned’ and abolished the [Obama-era] Commission on Women and Girls, our governor, as in so many cases [climate action, environmental protection, gun control], stepped up to fill void created by Washington.”

Trump has moved aggressively to roll back gains women have made: restoring being a woman as a “pre-condition” for medical insurance, overturning the mandate that insurance companies provide contraception without co-pays, attacking Title X funding for health clinics including Planned Parenthood, advocating for legislation to curtail access to abortion.

Unless Congress takes action, the Violence Against Women Act will run out of funding in September. This landmark piece of legislation is a life-saver. Since its original passage, domestic violence cases are down by more than 65% nationally. If Congress’ “action” on reauthorizing CHIP is an indication, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely let this lapse as well, even as they cut billions of dollars for programs that directly affect women and families.

New York State – which Cuomo never fails to point out has been a progressive leader for the nation, a status he has worked to reclaim – has made some important gains during his administration, including aggressively pushing for economic development opportunities for Minority & Women-owned Enterprises, for wider access to pre-K programs, gun control, access to health care and guarantee for women’s reproductive rights.

In this second round of legislation and policies – notably several of which need to be adopted by the State Legislature before the April 1 deadline for adopting the budget – he is going after sexual harassment, pay equity, domestic violence, expanding access to child care, educational opportunities, job training and business investment.

New York has been celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage since 1917, the year the state on its own gave women the right to vote, three years before the nation adopted the 19th Amendment.

But despite New York’s progressive policies, New York women still earn less than men for the same work: white women 89c, African American 66c, Hispanic women 54 c in New York, “and we’re the good state, where people are better off. Does that not tell you we have a long way to go?” Hochul said.

“We are convening forums around the state, to drill down why this is happening – part is institutional, cultural, part is that women don’t have childcare but want to continue on a career track, have talent, brilliance, but are primarily responsible for making sure kids are okay and there is not enough child care.” Also parental leave, not just for a newborn or adoption, but when a child or parent gets sick.

“You should be proud your state recognizes this challenge – we now have the most generous paid family leave policy – to relieve the stress of possibly losing a job when you are home with a new baby.”

“It’s about economic empowerment: getting more girls into STEM education and careers. It’s about safety and security – domestic violence” – something that has been crystallized in the Trump White House, notably with the tolerance of a credibly accused wife-beater as Trump’s secretary.

Budget initiatives (see details at include:

Health initiatives: passing Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codifying access to contraception; codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and constitution to insure health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty; mandating insurance coverage and insuring access to IVF and fertility services; combat maternal depression and establish a maternal mortality review board (NY ranks 30th in maternal mortality); add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State Board of Medicine.

Safety: pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class; remove firearms from domestic abusers; combat sextortion and revenge porn; extend storage timeline for forensic rape kits at hospitals (from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19); advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination.

Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; call on NYS Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with job training and placement services; invest $20 million in Women-Owned Businesses;  encourage more use of flexible work schedules.

Girls: expand access to computer science and engineering (STEM); launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” a day for girls to see what is possible; create K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12.

Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after-school programs; increase state funding by $7 million  to provide working families with affordable child care; continue enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families; establish a new Child Care Availability Task Force.

“All these areas converge,” Colleen Merlo, Executive Director, Long Island Against Domestic Violence, said. “Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we address all these buckets….We see that women lose time at work because of domestic violence, so if we don’t create safety at home, they are losing time at work, so are not advancing, not getting equal pay or promotion – all are interconnected with safety.”

It’s also about making it easier to vote, adding early voting (which NYS doesn’t yet have), so women who work and care for children aren’t shut out of casting a ballot – part of Cuomo’s “Democracy Agenda.”

“The torch has now been passed to us,” Hochul stated. “Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way, that we spoke up for people without voices.”

What to do? First: contact state representatives to urge them to vote on the budget and legislation bolstering the Women’s Agenda. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, among others, is mounting a lobbying day in Albany on March 13, to join Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more than 1,000 activists from across New York State, to advocate for pro-reproductive health legislation.

Call and write representatives, yes. March, yes, Protest, yes. Spread the word with social media, yes. Vote, absolutely.


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Issues Challenge to Trump: ‘This is the Moment’ to Stop Scourge of Gun Violence

New York State Governor tells Trump: “The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment.” © Karen Rubin/


New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.

Dear Mr. President,

The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?

There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.

Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.

The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.

In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.

Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?

For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.

The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.

If You Value a Free, Open Internet, Push Congress to Act Now to Preserve Net Neutrality

Handing monopolistic control to Big Cable companies like NBC Universal, which aired the 2018 Olympics (Vice President Mike Pence ignoring Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at opening ceremonies) by overturning Net Neutrality rules gives these companies the ability to censor or promote what we see and information we consume.


By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Well, it happened. Despite overwhelming opposition, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, the former Verizon thug, overturned Net Neutrality rules. The proof of how evil this is: the next day, moments before Pai was to speak at the Neo-Nazi CPAC convention, the NRA honored him with the “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” for repealing the net neutrality rules.

They weren’t allowed to bring Pai’s “prize” on stage – a handmade rifle (how ironic) – but it was forthcoming.

Pai, a former Verizon lawyer who joked in December about being “Verizon’s puppet” argued that the net neutrality rules were too “heavy handed.” But net neutrality proponents – including consumer advocacy groups and tech companies – counter that the rules are necessary to prevent monopolistic broadband providers from engaging in censorship and from harming competitors.

February 27 was Operation: #OneMoreVote day of action to save net neutrality. “There needs to be a massive outcry from Americans across the country to stop Ajit Pai and the FCC from handing over control of the internet to companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T,” writes Katie O’Connell, Digital Communications Coordinator for People for the American Way (

“Despite enormous public opposition, the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality has officially been entered into the Federal Register. Now the Senate must act in the next 60 days to stop the repeal and save the internet or big cable companies will have the control over the internet they’ve always wanted.”

Overturning Net Neutrality rules mean that Big Cable companies can censor content, slow or throttle sites, inhibit newcomers from ever taking hold, and shake down viewers for more and higher fees. It means it will be harder for the next innovator, the next Facebook or Reddit or Twitter or Netflix to get a foothold.

For instance, Comcast owns NBC Universal and, before, was not allowed to throttle Netflix streaming speeds to make it less desirable for viewers compared to its own NBC Universal content.

You would think this means that Google can accede to massive pressure to shut down NRATV, but that is doubtful. The NRA isn’t worried because they know that in the new paradigm, money talks, just as Citizens United turned political campaigns into a Fantasy League sport of billionaires.

Proof of how politicized and self-serving Pai is: he is under investigation by the FCC Inspector General for greasing the wheels for the Sinclair media company to acquire Tribune Media – which would create the largest TV broadcast company in the nation’ and result in unacceptable levels of media concentration – access to 70% of households, when 39% is the limit. This is a media company even more overtly political and conservative than (if you can believe it), News Corp/Fox. In 2016, Jared Kushner bragged that the campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair to provide access to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, in exchange for broadcasting pro-Trump segments without commentary, writes Murshed Zaheed, Political Director of CREDO Action from Working Assets.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration set its Department of Justice to coerce Time Warner to shed CNN (vilified by Trump as a “fake news” monger) in order to allow the merger with AT&T to go forward.

A coalition of 23 state attorneys general are challenging the repeal of net neutrality rules in court, as are Mozilla, Vimeo and consumer advocacy groups. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said last week after Pai issued the new rules that he is pressing forward with a resolution to scrap the FCC’s recent move. So far, that effort has garnered the support of 50 senators. Just one more vote in the Senate could overturn the repeal.

Under provision of the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority of Congress in both the House and the Senate can overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality if they act within 60 legislative days (which takes 4-6 months)—and the pro-Big Cable leadership can’t stop them.

Senator Chuck Schumer has announced that he’ll force a vote on reinstating net neutrality protections. A number of Republicans have at least claimed to support net neutrality in the past. On the other hand, there are so many deadlines and issues that have come to the fore – gun control, the federal budget – it will be easy for the Trump Administration to bury it.

A survey conducted by the University of Maryland late last year revealed that 83% of Americans — including 75% of Republicans — disapproved of the planned repeal. Last year, millions urged the FCC to keep net neutrality rules in place.(Though, ironically, despite evidence of millions of Russian bots, some using stolen identities, inserting comments, Pai refused to delay the vote, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and others urged.)

A free and open internet provides an important platform and access for small companies and communities of color. “The open internet allows people of color and other vulnerable communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform,” writes Free Press Action Fund. “Small businesses depend on fair and free communications to get the word out about their services and products, too. Imagine if a company could sell premium space to the highest bidder? How would we ever find that great mom-owned business, or start-up service in our town? We wouldn’t.”

The Trump Administration, which from public education to health care to Social Security, energy, environmental, trade and foreign policy has demonstrated that money talks, has nothing but contempt for free and fair flow of media. The federal budget proposes to slash funding altogether for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and NPR), yet has done little to force Facebook and Twitter to adhere to the same disclosure rules as every television and radio station, newspaper and magazine must adhere to, to prevent Russian agents from undertaking propaganda and disinformation campaigns intended to suppress voting and sow conflict and discontent.

But here’s the thing: news was supposed to be freely accessed in order to have an “educated” citizenry capable of casting ballots. Instead, free broadcast was replaced by the need to subscribe to some sort of cable or satellite provider; an internet provider; a cell telephone provider. I don’t know about you but I’m spending well over $200/month just on “telecommunications”.

Media providers become the conduit to culture, and culture is values. News Corp, Disney, Comcast, Universal – which dominate media – can decide which programs convey the social message they want and price accordingly, both to the content provider and the consumer: NRATV promoting gun violence under guise of “Second Amendment freedom? Free. Documentary on Elizabeth Warren and a fair deal for all? Expensive for both the producer and for consumers to subscribe to see it. Or think of charging a premium to producers of Will & Grace, a show which helped America see LGBT community as real people, or Murphy Brown, which promoted women’s rights, but giving evangelist Franklin Graham unlimited distribution.

Seem fantastical? Well, Facebook systematically charged the Clinton campaign significantly more for ad space than the Trump campaign because Clinton’s ads were less “provocative.” They could claim the difference in cost is how fast they want their video to download. Let’s remember that the Supreme Court “Citizens United” case that opened the floodgates to political spending was a group that had produced an anti-Hillary Clinton hit-piece (Scalia, an activist, not an ‘originalist’ jurist, resurrected the case in order to establish the precedent that cash is equivalent to speech.)

It goes to the overall theme of Trumpism: weaponizing wealth – dollars are not just “free speech” (as Scalia and the right-wing Supreme Court said in Citizens United) but a measure and means of political power – and pulling up the ladder to upward mobility for everyone else – public education, public access TV and radio.

Instead of “Got Milk?” Trump administration slogan is “Got Cash?”

Congress needs to act and legislate the reality that the online world, the Internet, the world-wide-web is an essential utility, a critical tool for nationhood and democracy, and access and messaging should not be determined by money.


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NY, NJ, CT, RI Governors Form ‘States for Gun Safety’ Coalition to Combat Gun Violence Epidemic

New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island Enter into Agreement to Create Multi-State Database That Will Share Information on Firearms, Law Enforcement Efforts and Supplement Federal NICS Database 

New Multi-State Coalition Will Trace and Intercept Firearms to Stop Flow of Out-of-State Guns

Nation’s First Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Will Conduct Studies to Better Inform Policy Makers

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and Congressman Steve Israel met with mothers who lost children to gun violence. Clinton proposed a specific agenda for sensible gun control. With Trump in the White House, Republicans in control of Congress, and the NRA stepping up its attacks making the prospect for federal help dim (Trump is cutting funding for background checks), New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey governors have formed a coalition to address gun violence at the regional level. © Karen Rubin/


By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today announced the formation of the new “States for Gun Safety” coalition to combat gun violence. In the face of repeated federal inaction, the coalition will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to better share information and tackle this devastating epidemic through a comprehensive, regional approach. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort that will create a multi-state database to supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide.

“Here in New York, we’re proud to be home to the nation’s strongest gun safety law. However, the federal government’s continued inaction on this issue has not only allowed the epidemic of gun violence to spread, but it has actually prevented the laws like the SAFE Act from being fully effective,” Governor Cuomo said. “Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses and pass responsible gun safety legislation, New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands. Not only will this groundbreaking partnership take new steps to prevent illegal guns from crossing state lines, but by forming the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, we will be able to better inform policymakers nationwide on how to keep their communities safe.”

“We refuse to allow federal inaction to enact commonsense, gun safety laws endanger the lives of our residents,” Governor Malloy said.  “Despite the best efforts of powerful lobbyists from special interest groups, we will work together as a coalition of states to keep our communities safe.  We cannot sit back and let guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and we cannot simply watch almost daily tragedy occur.  One thing remains clear: we would be better off if every state and the federal government enacted sensible gun safety rules.  We will not wait for Washington to act – the time for action is now.” 

“Gun violence is not a New Jersey problem, or a New York problem, or a problem for any particular state or region – it is a national problem,” Governor Murphy said.”However, we cannot wait for Congress to act. As states, we must work together to take the steps and enact the measures to protect our residents and our communities. But, even more importantly, a collective of states can take these steps together broaden the reach and impact of commonsense gun safety laws.”

“Rhode Island has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, but our nation has some of the world’s weakest. Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to,” Governor Raimondo said. “We will stand up with our students and with parents to strengthen our gun laws and combat gun violence.”

As part of the coalition, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will share information about individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm within each state. By sharing this information, states can more effectively prevent certain individuals from purchasing a gun, obtaining a weapon and/or getting a gun permit. The agreement, in accordance with federal and state privacy protections, will provide state law enforcement agencies with details on the firearm purchase or permit denials for those who are disqualified.  People may be disqualified from owning a firearm for several reasons, including an arrest warrant, order of protection, debilitating mental health condition, or criminal history.

Despite the passage of gun safety laws restricting the purchase and carry of firearms across the four states, the lack of federal regulations preventing individuals from purchasing guns in other states and transporting them across borders has undermined state legislation. To combat this practice, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will direct their law enforcement intelligence centers to work cooperatively to trace the use of out-of-state guns in crimes and share information in order to intercept criminals transporting illegal guns across state borders. The four state fusion centers that will jointly share information under this agreement are the New York State Intelligence Center, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and the Rhode Island State Fusion Center.

The four states will also designate institutions of higher education to partner and create the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.  The consortium will be comprised of dedicated public health, social welfare, public policy, and criminal justice experts who will share and examine data to better inform policymakers nationwide. This groundbreaking consortium will fill the void left by the federal government’s 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence which has obstructed research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

“We have to remember that the federal government has had a provision in place now for over 20 years that effective bars the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. So it has devolved to the states, now for over 20 years and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better result and meaningfully propelling things like smart gun technology,” Governor Murphy of New Jersey said during a telephone press availability with al four governors.

We can’t wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws, let’s take it to the next level. Let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our own state, but advocate for better laws in our region. Let’s not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let’s try to make our region as safe as possible.”  We’ll reach out to other governors,” Governor Malloy of Connecticut said.

Building on these efforts, the states will also work to push the federal government to adopt common-sense gun safety measures. In order to protect families and communities across the region, the group will call on the federal government to swiftly enact universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a federal waiting period between the purchase and delivery of guns.

The multi-state coalition builds on years of progress spearheaded by Governor Cuomo to combat gun violence in New York. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Democrats and Republicans came together in New York to pass the nation’s strongest gun safety law in 2013. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, more commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, banned the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines and helps keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, all the while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.

In addition to the SAFE Act, New York has continued to invest in the SNUG and GIVE initiatives which engage with community members to help get guns off the street. Under SNUG, specially trained individuals are employed to reduce violence from occurring when tensions arise within their community, while also connecting high-risk individuals with essential social and support services. The GIVE initiative provides funding to support technical assistance, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts – to help communities reduce gun violence and save lives. The funding for both initiatives is administered by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Most recently, Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation as part of the 2018 State of the State which will remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. Given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence, this legislation will require all firearms be removed from those convicted of domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors.  It will also add measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who commit domestic violence with the goal of preventing additional tragedies.

“We’re not waiting for federal action,” said Governor Cuomo of New York, a former Attorney General who laid out an indictment against the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress over its measures that not only don’t mitigate against gun violence, but go backwards. “All of our states are already ahead of the federal government when it comes to laws on this issue. The Florida Parkland massacre, one would hope that it would spur responsible federal action but we’re not going to hold our breath and were not going to risk our children’s lives. Sandy hook happened, I remember speaking with Governor Malloy at the time, and since then 1600 people have died. After Sandy Hook was when New York passed the SAFE Act because people were so outraged and change comes when people demand change. After Sandy Hook, especially in this region of the country, people demanded change. Columbine 1999, since then there have been 200 school shootings, 25 mass school shootings, so no I’m not especially optimistic that the federal government will be a response.

“Let’s be honest, this a federal government has gone backward on the issue. President Trump has pledged allegiance to the NRA and he’s delivered for them. He defunded, in part, the NICS background check system, he stopped last February the Social Security Administration from providing information that the Obama administration put into place that would have given more information on mental health for the NICS system and the solution here is not rocket science. In many ways it’s harder because it takes political courage and this is not just about the NRA, this is a politically charged issue and I think we understate the opposition when we say it’s just the NRA. To be responsible on this issue you have to pay a political cost.

Governors on the phone all understand that. I have the political scars from what we did and that’s why it really is a test of leadership and I think right now you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington. What they said on TV was it shouldn’t be a democratic or republican issue, it’s an issue in life and death and they’re right.

“Your Florida elected officials showed up at the town hall like Senator Marco Rubio, who I think should be ashamed of themselves because he had nothing responsible to say and rather than proposing baby steps, which is the worst type of political pandering, he should have at least been honest and say we have nothing meaningful to propose on this issue. At least that would have been honest.

“To say this is a mental health issue is a sham and a fraud because if you really believed it was a mental health issue, then you have to say, the way to combat mental health is we will have s universal background check system to make sure a person who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. We’re going to have a NICS system that has a comprehensive mental health database that is in the federal NICS system. You will then have to have a federal reporting system where people could actually report people to police, people who they believe has a mental health problem. Teachers would have to be able to call police, family members would have to be able to call the police and say investigate this person because I think they are mentally ill and they shouldn’t have a gun and they still have to answer why you wouldn’t support an assault ban. 1934, this nation outlawed machine guns because the nation said the risk outweighs the reward. The damage that can be done with a machine gun outweighs the individual’s right to own it. That is an assault rifle today. It’s doable, it’s feasible, we did it in this country. It’s just that we’ve gone backwards,” Cuomo said during the press call.

“The answer is not to make the schools armed camps. That’s where they’re going to go in Washington. Why? Because that’s where the NRA wants them to go. Because it means selling more guns. And the NRA is in the business of selling guns. Arm every teacher. Oh that makes sense. The only thing it would do is bring more guns into a school, more money for gun manufacturers, which is what the NRA is really trying to say…

“Today, we take the next step in the evolution of state action. We are limited by our borders so we can put in laws but then our borders are porous. Governor Malloy spoke about the I-95 corridor. That guns literally come up the I-95 corridor. Share your databases and your information so if a person can’t buy a gun in New York, they don’t drive to Connecticut or New Jersey or Rhode Island and buy the gun. Come up with a coalition of state actions. And then share that information. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. We have a mental health database in New York that now exists that didn’t exist before the SAFE Act that has 77,000 people who are on the database who are mentally ill who could have bought a gun in this state the day before the SAFE Act. Share that information.

“On Governor Murphy’s point about research, I was HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. At that time, the manufacturers said they could manufacture a smart gun. They could manufacturer a gun where the trigger read a finger print. We’ve done absolutely nothing on the research and the technology because they haven’t been forced to do it.

“So do what you can and that’s what we’re doing. This is not a substitute for federal action. And we hope and we will push for federal action. I would like to see the national democrats put a real sensible gun control bill on the table so that people have a real choice and we have a real debate because this is not about baby steps, this is not about bump stocks and moving the age from 18-21. Those are just political crumbs to throw forward to end the political discomfort for some of the elected officials. Let’s do something real and let’s make a difference. This has been handled by countries across the globe. We can handle it if we want to. If we have the political courage and the political will to do it. It’s that simple. But it’s that difficult.”

See also:

After Parkland School Shooting, New Youth Movement Calls for Sensible Gun Control;  Will They be Played by False Flags from Trump?


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

After Parkland School Shooting, New Youth Movement Calls for Sensible Gun Control; Will They be Played by False Flags from Trump?

Trump, Pence & Ryan at the State of the Union when Trump pledged his fealty to the NRA. The Parkland School Shooting has prompted a new student movement calling for gun reform. But will idealistic fervor be derailed in the political quagmire? © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.

You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.

You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.

But no.

An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.  After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.

Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.

As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.

Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.

But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.

It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.

But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.

Will this stab at activism be different?

My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?

Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.

Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three  murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.

He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.

And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.

The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).

Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”

In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”

The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:

  •             Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
  •             Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
  •             Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
  •             Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
  •             Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
  •             Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
  •             Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
  •             Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
  •            Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.

Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.

“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)

Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.

That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

The Trump Travel Slump: Tearing Down Bridges; Building Walls, Bringing Down Brand USA and Resurrecting ‘The Ugly American’

Ellis Island, New York City: Governor Andrew Cuomo had to put up state money to keep Ellis Island open for tourists following the federal government shutdown. Despite record tourism, which generates over $4 billion in tax revenues for New York City, the city attracted 100,000 fewer international arrivals in 2017 © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Donald Trump keeps rattling on about the US trade deficit. Yet he is singularly responsible for depressing America’s #2 export:  international travel.

It is ironic, really. The guy has his name on hotels around the globe but he no sense whatsoever of “hospitality,” nor a clue about how important face-to-face contact among people from different backgrounds is toward to greater issue of national security. Trump is more like the evil, ruthless landlord, Snidely Whiplash, who lashes the girl to the railroad tracks until her father signs the deed to their farm, than the international hotelier Barron Hilton.

President Obama understood the importance of engagement of people from abroad coming to the US and Americans – especially young people – going abroad – for work, study, volunteering, travel.

“Americans are now getting out – to build empathy and stewardship, for personal growth, to create a sense of global citizenship.” (Ah, the bad word: “global” when this guy extols America First.)

In 2016, thanks largely to Obama policies, the US saw a record 75.6 million international visitors who spent $245 billion and generated an $84 billion trade surplus. Travel and tourism in 2016 was a $1.5 trillion industry, employing 8 million and supporting 7 million more jobs, with every $1 million in sales of travel goods and services directly generating nine jobs. Globally, travel and tourism accounts for 10 percent of the world’s jobs.

Travel to the US has been in decline ever since Trump took office, causing the USA to slip to #3 behind Spain (#2) and France (#1) in popularity for foreign travel.

Indeed, despite 2017 being a strong year as the global economy, not just the US economy was surging (thanks Obama!), every area on the globe showed growth except the United States, which saw a 4 to 6% decline in international visitors. So what you ask? That represented a $4.6 billion hit to the economy and cost 40,000 jobs. What is more, the US, once #1 destination on the world’s bucket list, slipped to #8, boding ill for future international spending here. Brand USA has a lot of catch-up to do.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times.

“Certainly it is the travel ban, rhetoric of Trump, the visa situation,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO, Apple Leisure Group said during an industry panel at the New York Times Travel Show to explain the drop in bookings to the US. “Brand USA is hurt.”

New York City received 100,000 fewer international visitors in 2017. And while the “strength of the American dollar” was likely a large factor in that dip, “There’s a real concern that this isolationism, this ‘America first’ rhetoric could lead to a decline in international travel,” said Fred Dixon, the head of NYC & Company. International visitors spend four times what domestic travelers do in New York City. The city, which garners $64 billion in economic impact from tourism supporting 383,000 jobs, collected $4.2 billion in taxes from tourists in 2016.

Instead of a welcoming place, this is the image that the US has broadcast around the world: gun violence (15 countries actually have travel advisories against the US because of this scourge); Charlottesville and the mounting White Nationalist attacks on the “other;” calls for erecting walls and closing borders, that defy international norms, treaties and American values and traditions by refusing to accept refugees and asylum-seekers (and withdrawing from the United Nations Treaty on Migration), that pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord as a big F-U to the planet and the global community. Trump said as much at Davos: America First and foremost, and you all should be doing the same. Attacking the United Nations, hollowing out the US State Department, loose nuke rhetoric. That’s the recipe for international conflict.

Recently, NPR interviewed  Jake Haupert of Evergreen Escapes, an inbound tour operator that organizes visits into his area from around the world. After a decade of steady growth, this year, his business volume plunged 25%  after 11 years of growth- he is looking to sell him business. What accounts for it?”

“There is a sense of fear – gun violence, homelessness, the political climate. Trump comes across as anti-foreigner. The rhetoric is affecting US representation around the globe.  Also the strong dollar. They are choosing not to travel. They are disinterested in coming to the US (once the most desired destination) or are waiting for this to pass.”

This undoes all the good that Obama had done – expediting travel visas, making visitors feel welcome at ports of entry, spending money to promote travel to the US, and yes, projecting the United States as a global leader advancing the betterment of the planet with climate action, eradication of poverty and disease, and spreading the institutions and values of democracy. What do you suppose the Trump CDC will do with another outbreak of Zika or Ebola?

Trump, the very opposite of a smart businessman (witness the number of bankruptcies including Atlantic City casino hotels), whose entire fortune including his ascension to the Oval Office is based on selling his “brand”, is cutting funding entirely to Brand USA, not just the title but a public-private coalition to inspire people from around the world to visit the United States. Every country on the planet has an entity that promotes tourism into their country, because tourist dollars are new dollars. In fact, Brand USA, which generated $615 million in incremental federal taxes and another $52 million in state and local taxes -produces a 27 to 1 return on investment – that’s $27 returned to ripple through the economy for every $1 spent on promotion. If Trump were actually a good businessman, he would appreciate that ROI as a great deal.

But Trump is ostensibly the president of the US, who should be concerned beyond mere dollars. He should be concerned about relationships, forging mutual understanding, dispelling myths about Ugly Americans. Travelers who come to the US, and Americans who travel abroad, take on the mantle of “ambassador” – presumably ambassadors of good will. It’s “minds and hearts” versus “bullets, bombs and bluster” that actually wins the day.

Trump in his State of the Union address will no doubt take credit for the economy (which grew only 2.6%, much lower than needed to support his tax cuts). But travel is the canary in the coal mine – it is the leading indicator for the economy – and because of its sheer size in the economy, supporting for one in every nine nonfarm jobs, what happens causes a ripple effect.

Travel spending is tied not so much to household income, but to consumer confidence – it is a manifestation of feeling, outlook.

Trump’s “Wall” is no different than the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain. It is a wall of ignorance, isolation, indifference, and just as anti-democratic and destructive. I would bet that 90% of Trump voters have never been outside their own province: they have no “world view” only a narrow view so easily shaped and molded by an autocratic regime that feeds on hate and mistrust.

Trump’s disdain for other countries and cultures, manifest in his “shithole” comment regarding the entire continent of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, communicates his prejudice and resuscitates the image of “The Ugly American.”

And that image of the US border patrol agent dumping water left in the desert for people desperately fleeing violence in Central America is the new “Brand USA.”


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Who Will Pay the Price for Government Shutdown and Will it Lead to DACA Reauthorization?

Women’s March NYC: Rise and Resist © 2018 Karen Rubin/

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Judging by the Women’s Marches – 280 of them around the country that drew 2 million activists on behalf of women’s reproductive freedom, health care, workers rights, DACA, climate, gun control – the Democrats were headed for a rout in 2018.

Now, pundits are questioning whether the government shutdown – and then the capitulation by Democrats – will jeopardize the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate and even the House.

And sure enough, the Republicans have proved yet again they are so much better at message manipulation – the signature talent of every autocracy.

It is a curious thing because the 2013 government shutdown, forced by Republicans who held Obamacare hostage and the many instances of Republicans coming to the brink of endangering the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening the debt ceiling, nonetheless won victories in the 2014 midterms, even taking over the Senate.

But it is different for Republicans who want to tear down government, and Democrats, who actually believe that government can be and should be a force for good.

But what did the Republicans actually win besides the message game? A few days reprieve? When instead the government shutdown over a failure to follow through on the deal to reauthorize DACA so clearly demonstrated the dysfunction, dishonesty, bad faith and sheer cruelty of Republican domination?

And is it wise for Trump to crow that Schumer “caved,” for Pence to go to the Middle East and lambast the Democrats as enemies of our soldiers, for the OMB Director Mike Mulvaney to mimic the phrase being hyped by Russian bots, #SchumerShutdown, and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to show glee that Schumer is “feeling the heat from the left, with #SchumerSellout trending on social media and Democrats who supported reopening the government are being branded as traitors”?

And how cynical is it for Trump to issue a reelection campaign ad blaming Democrats in advance if anyone is murdered by an illegal immigrant, yet taking no responsibility at all for 33,000 gun deaths a year (a woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours. 10 kids and teens are killed each month in unintentional shootings) and the ease with which terrorists can buy guns because of Republicans’ refusal to adopt reasonable gun control measures?

After all, this is yet another temporary spending measure, which Democrats and some Republicans have decried as no way to run a $4 trillion government since the military, municipalities and agencies can’t do long-range planning or contracts, and we will be right back here on Feb. 8. Fool me once….

Schumer and the Democrats really had no choice but to withhold the votes needed for cloture (the filibuster) which triggered the shutdown, and no choice in coming to this temporary arrangement to reopen government.

Let’s be reminded though: it’s not Democrats who caused the shutdown – five Republicans voted against the CR while five Democrats voted with the Republicans (by modern standards, that’s called “bipartisan”).

Indeed, Trump was rooting for a government shutdown.  “The country needs a good shutdown” he said months ago, and referred to this shutdown as  “a nice present” –because he believed Democrats would be blamed and weakened and (cherry on the cake) hoped it would get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to trigger the “nuclear option” and end the 60-vote threshold for cloture (the filibuster) so that Republicans could rule without any Democratic input whatsoever.

But for the entire first year of the Trump nightmare when Republicans were in full control of all the levers of government, they chose to rule as if a monarchy, shutting out Democrats entirely, and manipulating votes so that they only needed 50 instead of 60 – on several occasions, needing the Vice President’s vote to get to 51 to pass legislation opposed by large majorities of Americans. The only mechanism for Democrats to have any say whatsoever, and get CHIP and DACA reauthorized was to withhold their votes on the short-term spending bill.

For decades, now (when Democrats are in the White House), “populists” have been decrying the dysfunction in Washington, looking to demagogic characters from outside Washington (they are only “outside” until they are “inside”) to break the logjam and get things done. That’s what many Trump voters said they liked about Trump.  They fell for his con: he isn’t disruptive, he’s destructively dysfunctional.

But look to the source of the dysfunction: it goes back to Newt Gingrich and the “Contract for America” ( “Contract on America” is more apt) – 1994 was the first time the Republicans used a shutdown as extortion. And it goes back to the Hastert Rule, named for the pedophile who was the longest-serving Speaker of the House,  that bars the Republicans from passing any legislation that is not supported by the majority of Republicans, rather than the majority of the House or the American people, a tough thing to do with the Tea Party fringe and now the Trumpers.

It is because of the Hastert Rule that we do not have affordable health care, sensible gun violence prevention, immigration reform, campaign finance reform, environmental protection – all supported by huge majorities of Americans – and a tax code and federal budget that help uplift people rather than steer this country to unsustainable income inequality that is so dangerous for a democracy.

Add to that the end of earmarks – championed by none other than Senator John McCain who felt they were the source of corruption in Congress – and you have no bargaining chips whatsoever to forge a compromise. (Trump wants to bring back earmarks, so he can turn a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into a political slush fund.)

But Democrats – or rather the extreme left wing championed by Bernie Sanders – seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot, and instead of cheering Schumer for getting 12 Republican Senators to pledge to take up legislation to protect DACA recipients before Feb. 8, they blasted him for capitulating.

Really, what was Schumer supposed to do? Republicans were weaponizing the government shutdown, rather than being embarrassed that Trump, The Greatest Dealmaker in the History of the World, was shown to be an emperor with no clothes (he fidgeted while the capital burned) with no actual grasp of policy or long-term impacts so that he could be swayed and steered by the most virulent, anti-immigrant advisers (Steven Miller and John Kelly), and the Republicans being shown as being incapable of governing on behalf of the people instead of just their donors (the 1%).

Now it is likely that no matter how the Senate is reminded they are supposed to be an institution based on compromise and rational deliberation – and that Congress should realize it doesn’t have to wait for Trump at all, but pass reasonable legislation on its own – my prediction is that Speaker Paul Ryan in the House will kill any DACA legislation or any immigration legislation as he did in 2013, tabling Comprehensive Immigration Reform that passed the Senate by a significant majority.

Or that Steve King, Tom Cotton, Steve Miller and John Kelly will come up with something so draconian – legalizing the Gestapo-like roundup and deportations of 11 million undocumented immigrants, throwing out green card holders, shutting borders to refugees and severely curtailing legal immigration for anyone but white people with money to invest in Trump properties – that Democrats won’t be able to vote for it. Ha ha, the irony.

But my money is on the Women’s Movement – no longer a march, but ongoing activism that will result in a major voter registration drive, record number of women running for elected office (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and to get out the vote in the 2018 midterms. #PowertothePolls.

See also: 

Womens March NYC 2018 Draws 200,000 – Here are Photo Highlights

MILCK, Yoko Ono, Halsey, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez Among Celebs at #PowertothePolls Womens March NYC Rally – See Photos, Videos

Women’s March Redux Jan. 20 Kicks Off Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to ReMake Government


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

MILCK, Yoko Ono, Halsey, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez Among Celebs at #PowertothePolls Womens March NYC Rally

Yoko Ono with MLCK at the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Some 200,000 took over the streets of New York City for the Womens March, exactly one year after Donald Trump gave his dystopic inauguration speech and one year after the first Womens March that brought out millions in the largest single day of protest in history.

The gathering for the Womens March NYC stretched up to 86th Street; some 200,000 marched © 2018 Karen Rubin/

The Government shutdown kept Kristin Gillibrand away. It also overshadowed news coverage.

No matter. The women had already learned that the change we need, the rights we want, are up to us. It was important to be together, to see comrades in arms, to be amid a sea of people – 200,000 was the official count in New York City – who despite the fact there were 280 other womens marches taking place across the country including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago with about 2 million turning out – still came from all over the country, all ages and walks of life.

They marched for the Womens Agenda, which includes a score of vital issues: an end to sexual harassment, assault and extortion is one; reproductive rights and the right to self-determination as well as Equal Protection is another (somehow always get overshadowed and put on a back-burner of priorities). But the list encompasses access to affordable health care, gun violence prevention, environmental protection, protection for Dreamers and rational, humane immigration reform that keeps families together and ends the torture of insecurity. They marched for justice and fairness: political, social, economic, environmental and criminal justice.

Three generations Marlena Cintron (left) with her mother, Daisy Vanderhorse, and daughter Desiree Frias, dress as Handmaidens to protest for women’s reproductive rights © 2018 Karen Rubin/

There was definitely a change  in attitude from last year, when people marched to show their despair over the selection by the Electoral College of Donald Trump as president, despite Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a serious contender for President, winning 3 million more popular votes, and they marched to put the Republican majority in Congress on notice which they didn’t heed. This year, the Womens March was ramped up on anger and a new jeer, courtesy of Trump himself: “Shithole” is what marchers yelled as they passed Trump International on Columbus Circle, his incarnation; otherwise placid grey-haired suburban women giving the middle finger.

Not going to take it anymore. Angry protestors at the Womens March NYC mimic Trump’s vulgarity with chants of “Shithole” and gestures © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Anger and determination. It doesn’t matter whether or not the news media covered – in this case, the conundrum, “if a protest happens but no one reports it, did it happen?” doesn’t apply. The marchers aren’t asking permission, they are marching to register voters, launch the candidacy of a record number of women (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and get out the vote in the 2018 midterms.

Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls

You say you want a revolution: Yoko Ono at the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Instead of Trump and the Republicans heeding the message of the 2017 womens marches, the year has been one long travesty – the news didn’t bother to report – about stripping away women’s reproductive freedom (441 rulings limiting access just since Jan. 1), access to health care, their children’s health care, rolling back the regulations that protected the environment and public health and safety, launching reign of terror against undocumented immigrants, a tax code that literally robs working people to further enrich the already obscenely rich and undermines the ability to reach the American Dream and threatens Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.

Persist and Resist © 2018 Karen Rubin/

“The 2017 Women’s March unleashed a collective energy for change that continues to this day,” Laura McQuade, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City said at a pre-march rally held by New York Planned Parenthood. “President Trump and Congress have spent the last year pushing policies to take away our hard won rights, roll back our ability to make decisions about our own lives, and block access to the fundamental health care we need and deserve. And we’ve responded with the largest grassroots movement in a generation. New York must be a leader in this fight. We have the momentum behind us and we won’t stop fighting until ALL New Yorkers have the ability to live the fullest lives they can.”

“We march to demand full equality for women,” JoAnn Smith, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County. “We know that 2018 promises to be a pivotal year for women’s health and rights. If 2017 taught us anything, it is that woman are a potent political force in fighting for a just world.”

More than a march, a movement © 2018 Karen Rubin/

“The Women’s March tapped into an energy that is even more powerful one year later,” Vincent Russell, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. “In the past year, we defeated Trumpcare and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, witnessed voters turn out to make their voice heard with amazing results, and saw victims of sexual harassment speak out and say ‘No more!’ I continue to be amazed by our dedicated supporters who turn out, sign petitions, and march to ensure that each individual is empowered to determine their own reproductive future and have control over their own body.”

“We must step forward to achieve our goals,” says Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. “While the Women’s March started in the streets like many other social movements throughout history, the energy and power must transition into deeper action to create lasting change in policies and laws, to counter this harmful federal agenda. We must march toward seats in the halls of power, call out injustice and push for legislative change locally and on a state level. We must protect our people against discriminatory and damaging policies that impact access to justice, health care and progress in this country.”

NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: ‘I’m your lawyer.’ © 2018 Karen Rubin/

At the rally before the march, New York State Attorney General declared, “I’m your lawyer.” He was referring not only to women’s rights including reproductive rights, but the due-process rights of the undocumented, of the Dreamers.

“Equal justice means that there is not one set of rules for the powerful and another for everyone else.

“This is a moment of transformation for the US. All of you here and across the country, showing up, registering and mobilizing, have built a movement to transform the country. You are no longer just the opposition. You are committed to justice and making sure government delivers.

“We believe in unions and the right to organize; that health care is a right, not a privilege; in a woman’s right to control her body and reproductive health care. If not, a woman is not truly free. We embrace a vision of America as one of pluralism and diversity, equal justice. We fight for the rights of immigrants. We are against white supremacy, against male supremacy in all its forms.

“I’m proud to be your lawyer, to fight the toxic volcano of bad policy, to fight for justice, equality, fairness, dignity and respect. We can never go back, only forward.”

Halsey delivers her message as a heart-felt poem © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Halsey, a Grammy winning Jersey girl, told her story on behalf of the many victims of sexual assault and extortion in the way that best captured the emotion, in a stirring poem:

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally

(See a video of Halsey,

Katherine Siemionko, the organizer of the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Ashley Bennett, newly elected Atlantic County, NJ Freeholder, said she was motivated to challenge her opponent after last year’s March when he said he hoped the women would get back in time to prepare dinner. “Because you marched, I took the first step toward changing my own community… people standing together for equal citizenship, pay, respect. When ordinary people stand for what they believe, for a common purpose, for the betterment of their community, extraordinary things happen…You don’t have to be perfect, just willing.”

The women marched for workers rights, for a living wage, for the right to collective bargaining.

Marching for workers rights, living wage, pay equity, the right to collective bargaining © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Nancy Kaufman of the National Council of Jewish Woman, working on behalf of civil rights, workers rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights for 125 years, said, “We work to resist racism, sexism, Islamophobia” battling back against the “repeated, relentless assault on the Affordable Care Act, the goal of ending access to healthcare for millions.” The Republicans, she said, were willing to shut down government rather than allay the anxiety of Dreamers, or to reauthorize health care for 9 million children.

“Enough, we’re fed up. Persist and Resist because our democracy depends on it, for us, for our children and grandchildren. Our voices, our votes will count in November 2018 and November 2020. March on, turn passion into action today and every day.”

Ann Toback of the Workman’s Circle, fighting for worker and immigrant rights since 1909, winning the 8 hour workday, child labor laws, worker safety. “As Jews, we know too well the danger of name-calling, threats, closing borders…. The Jewish community is here to say, ‘Never again, the subjugation of women, immigrants, Muslims. All must be welcomed, protected, empowered. The way to victory is for all to stand united and resist bigotry. Attacks on one are attacks on all. Fight back the attacks on women, the deportation of 800,000 Dreamers whose only crime was not being born here – they didn’t cause the shutdown. Trump caused it…. We will rise up, resist. We will win.”

Rosie Perez at the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Actors Veronica Dunne and Rosie Perez spoke to the #MeToo movement and the need for women to mobilize. “This is our time. Power to the Polls.  Create the world you want to live in because no one will do it for you.”

Veronica Dunne at the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Nadina LaSpina spoke up for the rights of those with disabilities. “My body, my choice. We want control over the way our bodies are cared for and who cares for us, choose where care is provided – in home not an institution, not having treatments or drugs forced, never being denied care we need or want, not having strangers grab us, ask personal questions, stare with contempt, view with suspicion of a disability that is not obvious or visible, the assumption that a disability makes us less valuable as human beings. But this is a marginalized group that everyone can join – you never know what will happen. It intersects with all other s- women, color, immigrant, LGBTQ, seniors, poor. Many are forced into poverty by discrimination in the workplace – those with disabilities earn 37% less than persons with equal qualifications. Many are forced into poverty by the for-profit health care system. You have to impoverish yourself to be eligible for Medicare to pay for long-term care. Medicaid is under attack.

Nadina LaSpina: “We are strong fighters. We are not going to let our hard won rights be stripped away by a brutal, vicious administration and Congress.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Disabled activists were dragged out of Congress and arrested, but stopped a bill that would have taken away your health care. Health care must be equal for all. Medicare for all, and include long-term care.

“We are strong fighters, we’ve been fighting for a half-century. We are not going to let our hard won rights be stripped away by a brutal, vicious administration and Congress. Put an end to this political nightmare. Move forward toward equality for all.”

Sulma Arzu-Brown, immigrant rights advocate: “Save the soul of this nation and don’t let 45 destroy what we built.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Sulma Arzu-Brown, an immigrant rights advocate, said, “What 45 has done to this country has taken us back decades, even centuries. I never thought this country would be banning Muslims…. Save the soul of this nation and don’t let 45 destroy what we built. Show up for one another.”

“The Religious Freedom Act has been revived, marginalizing LGBT and repudiating the rights movement. Don’t let them dictate what we do with our bodies, how we choose to live our lives.”

Whoopi Goldberg: “The only way we are going to make a change is to commit to change.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/


Whoopi Goldberg told the rally, “The only way we are going to make a change is to commit to change.” (See video

Cecilia Villar Eljuri performs “La Lucha”. © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Cecilia Villar Eljuri performed “La Lucha”. (See video

At the end of the rally, the marchers were sent off with an inspiring performance by MILCK, joined on stage by Yoko Ono. (See video

MILCK is joined by Yoko Ono at the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/
MILCK performs at the Womens March NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/

See also: 

Womens March NYC 2018 Draws 200,000 – Here are Photo Highlights

Women’s March Redux Jan. 20 Kicks Off Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to ReMake Government


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Womens March NYC 2018 Draws 200,000 – Here are Highlights

The line-up for the Womens March NYC extended along Central Park West to 86th Street for an official total of 200,000 © 2018 Karen Rubin/

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.

They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.

MILCK with Yoko Ono on stage at the rally launching the march © 2018 Karen Rubin/

200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.

MILCK on the March in NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Voting is my Super Power © 2018 Karen Rubin/

And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.

“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.

Marching for a Blue Wave © 2018 Karen Rubin/

The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.

Our Button is Bigger than Yours 2018 Karen Rubin/

“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.

And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.

“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.

Welcome to the Resistance © 2018 Karen Rubin/

Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls 

Here are highlights from the Womens March NYC:

Girl Power: A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Let Our Dreamers Dream; My Vote is My Super Power © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Not My Shithole President © 2018 Karen Rubin/
The Revolution is Coming © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Pride Not Prejudice © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Never too young to respect women © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Ladies Liberty © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Pussy Hats 2018 with attitude © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Trump salute © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Follow the Money © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Dope. Grope. Nope. Hope. © 2018 Karen Rubin/


Our Rights are Not Up for Grabs © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Rise and Resist © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Dream Act Now © 2018 Karen Rubin/
Human Wall © 2018 Karen Rubin/
No Glass Ceilings. Future President © 2018 Karen Rubin/

See also:

Women’s March Redux Jan. 20 Kicks Off Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to ReMake Government


© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin