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Sierra Club Applauds Cuomo Commitment to Advancing Clean, Renewable Energy in State of State

Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his support for offshore windpower project off Long Island in his 2019 State of the State address © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Environmentalists are hailing energy and environmental legacy initiatives in New York State  proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his his annual State of the State and budget address.

“Governor Cuomo made historic commitments today supporting the advancement of clean energy throughout the state,” stated Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Manager for the Sierra Club. “With a mandate to source 70 percent of the state’s energy through renewables by 2030, doubling New York’s distributed solar target and quadrupling the current offshore wind targets, the Governor has proven that he is a national leader determined to make New York a 21st century, renewable energy, economic powerhouse. Through massive investments in offshore wind ports and clean energy job training centers, New York will be the regional hub for the offshore wind industry. Working with the administration, climate-affected communities and labor, we will create long-term, family-wage jobs, while supporting a robust supply chain and multiplying economic development opportunities for New Yorkers.”

The initiatives include commitments to:

New York’s “Green New Deal”: The Governor restated his December goal of making New York 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040. The Administration will map how New York will achieve carbon neutrality, while providing a just and fair transition for communities and workers. This initiative includes a $10 billion “Green Future Fund” that supports climate priorities and emissions reduction goals and $70 million to provide initial funding for communities affected by the clean energy transition.

Increased Clean Energy Standard Target: New York is now the second state after Hawaii with the most ambitious clean energy targets in the nation, with a new goal of sourcing 70 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030, including the most ambitious off-shore windpower program in the country. This doubles the current targets for energy storage, distributed solar, large scale solar and wind and quadruples the offshore wind targets.

Increased Green Infrastructure and Jobs: With the Governor committing to building nearly four times more offshore wind by 2035 than he initially stated, this is the most ambitious offshore wind generation commitment in the country. New York will nearly triple the offshore wind commitment any state has made before. Additionally, about $200 million of the budget will be invested in building offshore wind ports and clean energy job training centers.

Clean Transportation and Congestion Pricing: The Governor urged the legislature to pass congestion pricing legislation to make the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) more reliable for years to come. Through congestion pricing, the state would make $15 billion to invest back into the MTA. The Governor also committed to over $3 billion in funding for clean energy and clean transportation infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. The Governor, however, fell short in setting an enforceable commitment to reducing emissions from New York’s transportation sector, the economic sector responsible for the most climate/carbon pollution in New York State.

NYS Governor Cuomo Uses State of State Message to Define Justice Agenda

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is what a progressive state looks like.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. 

In stark contrast to the federal government’s dysfunction and the self-destructive tactic of using the shutdown to extort a political prop, the Governor is laying out a blueprint to move forward, while shielding New Yorkers from Washington’s devastating federal attacks. It is aimed at strengthening the middle class, safeguards the environment, improves the health of communities and invests in building an infrastructure for the 21st century. For the ninth consecutive year, the Budget is balanced and holds spending growth below two percent.

“In December, in the face of the nation’s biggest social crisis, and with the federal government seeking to undo generations of progress, Governor Cuomo laid out his legislative agenda to enable the Legislature to commence action on these top priorities immediately upon convening.” In this State of the State Address, the Governor called on the Legislature to swiftly and immediately act on these priorities in the first 100 days of session.
 
“In the face of unprecedented challenges on a national level and a federal government at a complete standstill, New York will deliver on the most productive agenda in our history and build on our record of accomplishments,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a true Justice Agenda that ensures our neediest schools receive an equitable share of funds, advances historic criminal justice reform, safeguards our health care, protects the rights of women in our state from the federal government, and leads the nation in fight against climate change and contaminants in our environment and our water. While extreme conservatives in Washington govern by division and fuel dysfunction, New York State will raise the beacon of progress and take action to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Here is a summary of the initiatives (it is long, but New Yorkers should see the detail of the agenda):

  • The FY 2020 Executive Budget is $175.2 billion on an All Funds basis.
  • State Operating Funds is $102.0 billion, growth of 1.9%
  • Health and Education spending grows at 3.6%, Executive Agencies at 0.8%.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE
  
Continue the Phase-In of Middle Class Tax Cuts: The Budget supports the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. Under these reforms, rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent when the cuts are fully phased in – an up to 20 percent cut in income tax rates for the middle class – and produce a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State’s lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.
 
Extend the Millionaire’s Tax: To protect the progress that has been made in enhancing progressivity and ensuring tax fairness for New York’s middle-class, Governor Cuomo is proposing a five-year extension of the current tax rate on millionaires. This will preserve an estimated $4.4 billion annually otherwise unavailable to make vital investments in education and infrastructure to secure New York’s future economic prosperity.
 
Make Permanent the Property Tax Cap: Governor Cuomo made a first-ever property tax cap a hallmark of his first campaign for Governor and a priority of his administration’s first year. Since the implementation of the tax cap in 2012, growth has averaged approximately 2 percent and the tax cap has produced approximately $25 billion in taxpayers’ savings. The Governor proposes that New York preserve and make permanent the property tax cap, as he has advocated in the past.
 
Close the Carried Interest Loophole: Because of an egregious loophole in federal law, some of the wealthiest people in the country, including hedge fund managers and private equity investors, are paying lower tax rates on their income than many middle class families. This “carried interest” loophole results in a substantial cost to middle-class New Yorkers, with the State losing about $100 million every year. To ensure that the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, Governor Cuomo will take a landmark step to close the carried interest loophole under New York State law and effectively eliminate the benefits of this loophole under the federal tax code.
 
Fight for the Full Deductibility of State and Local Taxes: Governor Cuomo fought the federal tax bill every step of the way while it was under consideration in Congress. After its passage, New York joined together with three other states to sue the federal government over this illegal and targeted assault. The Governor will continue to fight against this law and the threat that it poses to New York State, and he urges the new Democratic House of Representations stand together and demand that the SALT deduction is fully restored.
 
Continue Lawsuit Against Federal Government Challenging Unconstitutional Tax Law That Targets New York: Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from Washington’s drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction. The lawsuit argues that the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states. The Governor and Attorney General Letitia James will continue in their fight to overturn the law’s unprecedented and unconstitutional limitations on SALT deductibility.
 
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
 
Invest an Additional $150 Billion in the Nation’s Largest Infrastructure Program: Governor Cuomo has made an unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Beginning in FY 2020, these capital projects will rebuild transportation and mass transit systems, drive economic and community development, create new environmental and park facilities, and support our sustainable energy future.
 
Reduce Traffic Congestion in NYC and Fund the MTA: This year, the Governor will implement congestion pricing to establish a reliable funding stream to transform the transit system and reduce congestion in Manhattan. By charging fees for vehicles to move within the most congested area of New York City and then reinvesting those funds into transit improvements, this plan will combat gridlock and deliver to New York City’s residents and visitors the world-class transit system they deserve. 
 
Establish Accountability for the MTA: The MTA is a bureaucracy that lacks any accountability. The board of 17 members gives no single person a clear majority of nominees and there are 32 unions representing MTA employees that exert significant political power over the elected officials who appoint the board members. To overhaul this bureaucracy and fix the system, the Governor will work with the Legislature to establish clear authority over the MTA, while continuing to solve the need for dedicated funding and splitting capital funding shortfalls between New York City and New York State. Only with clearly designated authority and adequate funding can the MTA can be overhauled into the efficient and effective transit system that New Yorkers deserve.
   
Expand Design-Build and Enact Other Efficiencies to Expedite Construction Projects: Governor Cuomo’s $100 billion infrastructure program is arguably the nation’s largest and boldest. Key to the program’s success is the Governor’s decision to deploy the design-build method on complex projects, saving taxpayers time and money by making a single contractor responsible for both a project’s design and its actual construction. To ensure efficiency across State projects, the Executive Budget includes legislation authorizing the use of state-of-the-art methods such as construction manager at-risk and construction manager-build, while expanding design-build to additional agencies.
 
Continuing New York’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Strategy
  
Invest $750 million for Round Nine of the Regional Economic Development Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic development plans. Since then, the REDCs have awarded $6.1 billion to more than 7,300 projects. This strategy has resulted in 230,000 new or retained jobs in New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a ninth round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.
 
Invest in Communities Across the State Through the Fourth Downtown Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families. Participating communities are nominated by the State’s ten REDCs based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. Through three rounds of awards, each winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization. The Executive Budget provides $100 million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round IV.
 
Ensuring A Quality Education for All
 
Require Districts to Distribute State Aid in a More Equitable Manner to Their Neediest Schools: Although the state distributes 70 percent of its funding to the neediest districts, the districts do not always distribute funding to their schools in an equitable manner. In fact, some school districts have schools with significantly higher needs receiving less than the average school in the district. Governor Cuomo proposes to require that these school districts devote a portion of their 2019-20 school aid to increase the per-pupil allocation in those high-need schools. This increase in allocation will help ensure that funding intended to help improve educational outcomes for the neediest students reaches those students.
 
$1 Billion Education Aid Increase: State support for school districts will have increased by $8.1 billion (42 percent) since FY 2012. Over 70 percent of this year’s increase goes to high-need school districts. Foundation Aid is increased by $338 million.
 
Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget includes an additional $15 million investment in pre-kindergarten to expand high-quality half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for three- and four-year-old children in high-need school districts.
 
Recruit 250 New Teachers in Shortage Areas through the We Teach NY Program: With the goals of diversifying and strengthening the teacher workforce pipeline, Governor Cuomo proposes to invest $3 million in the We Teach NY program, which will strategically recruit 250 new teachers to fill identified needed positions in New York classrooms in 2024.
 
Expand Master Teacher to High Poverty Schools to Increase Access to Advanced Courses: In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched the New York State Master Teacher Program to strengthen our nation’s STEM education, giving selected educators an annual $15,000 stipend for four years, professional development opportunities and a platform to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers. In order to recruit and retain outstanding educators in the highest poverty schools, the Executive Budget will provide $1.5 million to support 100 new Master Teachers who teach in high-poverty schools with high rates of teacher turnover or high rates of relatively inexperienced teachers.
  
Protect Student Loan Borrowers: There are approximately 2.8 million student loan borrowers in New York that have tens of billions of dollars in outstanding student loan debt, which is serviced by about 30 student loan servicers. The Governor will advance sweeping protections for student loan borrowers by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New Yorkers obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and regulations governing other significant lending products such as mortgages; banning upfront fees; requiring fair contracts and clear and conspicuous disclosures to borrowers; and providing penalties for failing to comply with the law.
 
Creating Economic Opportunity for Every New Yorker
 

Launch the $175 Million Workforce Initiative: Governor Cuomo will launch a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries — with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy, health technology, and computer science. These funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.  

Expand Employer-Driven Training Opportunities by Enhancing the Employee Training Incentive Program: Governor Cuomo proposes to expand the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training, and by extending ETIP tax credits to internship opportunities in additional high-tech industries.
 
Protect Workers from Union-Busting Activity by Codifying EO 183 into Law and Expanding its Protections to Local Governments: New York State has a long and distinguished history of standing by union workers. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to advance his support for unions by introducing legislation that not only codifies EO 183 into law, but expands its protections to local governments to ensure that more union workers are protected.
 
Increase Criminal Penalties for Wage Theft: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with other forms of theft.
   
Ensuring Access to Affordable Housing
 
Enact Historic Legislation to Strengthen Rent Regulation: This year, the Governor proposes aggressive rent regulation reforms, including ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, and limiting building and apartment improvement charges. These changes will preserve the rent regulated housing stock, strengthen tenants’ rights to affordable housing, and ensure New Yorkers safe, quality affordable housing.
 
Limit Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to limit security deposits to a maximum of one month’s rent across New York State, making New York’s security deposit limits among the strongest in the nation This law will serve to ensure that burdensome security deposits will no longer serve as a barrier to entry for anyone trying to find a new place to live.  

Help Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores: In New York State, most landlords conduct background credit checks on potential tenants, which often leads to rejecting applicants with low credit scores or an insufficient credit history. To ensure all New Yorkers have a fair shot of accessing affordable, quality housing, Governor Cuomo will issue regulations prohibiting state-funded housing operators from automatically turning away applicants with poor credit or histories of bankruptcy. Instead, the State will require that all potential tenants and homeowners be holistically evaluated to determine the circumstances behind their credit history and their ability to pay rent on a forward-looking basis.  

Enact Source of Income Protections to Support Fair Housing for All: In certain parts of New York State, landlords can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income, disproportionately impacting households that rely on non-wage income or income assistance and those who use vouchers to obtain housing for their families. The Governor will work with the legislature to amend the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income statewide to ensure that such lawful income is not a blanket barrier to housing, reducing financial instability for New York’s most economically vulnerable individuals.
 
Combating Poverty
  
Support ESPRI Communities and Establish ESPRI Representation on REDC Workforce Development Committees:  In 2016, Governor Cuomo created the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) to combat poverty and reduce inequality. ESPRI is an important component of the Governor’s anti-poverty agenda, and this year Governor Cuomo proposes to build on the success of these State and local partnerships to address poverty, supporting more community-based efforts through continued funding of ESPRI. Governor Cuomo will also continue to support efforts by the REDCs and the economic development community to broaden and deepen their commitments to local anti-poverty efforts and he will ensure an ESPRI representative is included on each region’s Workforce Development Committee and involved in the review process for the Governor’s new Workforce Development Initiative.
  
Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity: Building on historic investments to combat food insecurity, Governor Cuomo will establish a goal to reduce household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024. In order to achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing the following actions: create a food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings; participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central Brooklyn.
 
Supporting the Rural and Agricultural Economy
  
Continue the Revitalization of the Great New York State Fairgrounds: The State Fair drives $100 million a year in economic activity in Central New York and thousands of jobs. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has invested more than $120 million dollars in two phases over the last three years to remake the New York State Fairgrounds. To continue the transformation of the State Fairgrounds, the State will make additional renovations and upgrades to enhance user experience. The Governor’s commitment continues to make the fairgrounds a year-round destination.
 
Fund Key Programs to Support New York’s Farmers: The agricultural industry is full of variability and uncertainty. As a reflection of the Governor’s resolve to support New York’s farmers, this year’s Executive Budget will continue funding the specialized technical assistance, industry promotion, and research investments statewide to reduce farms’ exposure to economic and climate inconsistency.
 
SOCIAL JUSTICE
 
Advancing Criminal Justice for All
 
Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: Governor Cuomo is advancing legislation that will end cash bail once and for all, significantly reduce the number of people held in jail pretrial, and ensure due process for anyone awaiting trial behind bars. This series of reforms will include a mandate that police issue appearance tickets instead of making arrests in low-level cases, eliminate money as a means of determining freedom, and institute a new procedure whereby a district attorney can move for a hearing to determine whether eligible defendants may be held in jail pretrial, for which the judge must find reasonable cause to believe the individual is a danger to themselves or others.
 
Improve Transparency in the Discovery Process: As only one of ten states where prosecutors can withhold basic evidence until the day a trial begins, Governor Cuomo’s plan will bring New York’s discovery process into the 21st century by requiring both prosecutors and defendants to share all information in their possession well in advance of trial.  Defendants will also be allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in the prosecution’s possession prior to pleading guilty to a crime.
 
Ensure the Right to a Speedy Trial: Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation that ensures criminal cases no longer drag on without accountability. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo will guarantee that all necessary discovery procedures are completed quickly, and that no New Yorker is unduly held in custody as they await their day in court.
 
Abolish the Death Penalty: Although the New York Court of Appeals ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004, capital punishment was never fully repealed in statute.  To address this disparity, Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation to permanently strike capital punishment from the law to guarantee that this draconian punishment is never again practiced in the State of New York.
 
Transform the Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons:  New York has dramatically reformed and reduced the use of solitary confinement for people who engage in misconduct within state prisons. The Governor is directing DOCCS to accelerate the momentum of solitary confinement reform by limiting the length of time spent in separation, building dedicated housing units for rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction, and expanding therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.
 
Establish Compassionate Release: The Governor will establish a process of compassionate release for incarcerated individuals over the age of 55 who have incapacitating medical conditions exacerbated by their age.
 
Enact a Comprehensive Re-entry Package to Improve Outcomes for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals: Governor Cuomo will enact a four-point plan to ease the burdens placed on individuals who have paid their debt to society and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
 
Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis
 
In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to launch a multi-agency study to review the potential impact of regulated cannabis in New York. The study, issued last July, concluded that the positive impact of a regulated cannabis program in New York State outweighs the potential negative aspects. Building on extensive outreach and research, Governor Cuomo is proposing the establishment of a regulated cannabis program for adults 21 and over in the FY 2020 budget that protects public health, provides consumer protection, ensures public safety, addresses social justice concerns, and invests tax revenue.  Specifically, the program will: 

  • Reduce impacts of criminalization affecting communities of color.
  • Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal records.
  • Implement quality control and consumer protections to safeguard public health.
  • Counties and large cities can opt out.
  • Restrict access to anyone under 21.
  • Generate approximately $300 million in tax revenue and create jobs.

Advancing Reproductive Justice and Women’s Equality
  
Pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and Enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution: Governor Cuomo will work with the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act within the first 30 days of the 2019 Legislative Session, codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade into State law. This law will ensure the right of people to make personal health care decisions to protect their health, in addition to their life, and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. Upon passage of the RHA, the Governor will advance a concurrent resolution to enshrine the principles of Roe v Wade into the New York State Constitution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify affordable access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
 
Improve Access to In-Vitro Fertilization and Fertility Preservation Coverage: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to expand access to coverage for IVF, as well as medically-necessary fertility preservation services. This legislation will specifically mandate that large group insurance providers cover IVF and will also require large, small, and individual group insurance providers to cover egg-freezing services for women with certain health conditions, including those undergoing cancer treatment.
 
Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Racial Disparities: Based on recommendations from the Maternal Mortality Taskforce established by Governor Cuomo in 2018, the Governor will advance a series of policies to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in New York State, including creating an education and training program to reduce implicit racial bias in health care institutions statewide, expand Community Health Worker programs, enacting legislation to create a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board, creating a data warehouse to provide near real-time information on maternal mortality and morbidity and to inform targeted quality initiatives, and convening an Expert Workgroup on Postpartum Care to develop recommendations targeting the critical time immediately after birth.
 
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution. With this change, Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution will read: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, sex, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by the State or any agency or subdivision of the state.
 
Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Governor Cuomo will advance the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which will build on Jenna’s Law to include more meaningful sentence reductions and encompass crimes committed not only against, but also at the behest of, abusers. The Act will also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.
 
Eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Rape: While New York removed the statute of limitations for Rape in the First Degree, a five-year statute of limitations remains for Rape in the Second Degree and Rape in the Third Degree. Therefore, in 2019 Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to remove the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree.
 
Increase Protections Against Harassment in the Workplace: Building on the nation’s most comprehensive sexual harassment package signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment, protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints, and ensure workers know their rights, by requiring all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster in their workplace.
 
Modernize New York’s Pay Equity Law: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to close the gender pay gap in New York. This year, Governor Cuomo will build upon that effort by championing the passage of a salary history ban. In addition, the Governor will advance legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to require equal pay on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics, and expand the requirement that equal pay be provided for all substantially similar work, adding flexibility in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
 
If You Can See It, You Can Be It 2019—Girls in Government: Governor Cuomo will create an opportunity for girls to learn about the impact they can have through politics through the new Girls in Government initiative, a non-partisan program to encourage girls in grades 8 through 12 to get involved in government and public policy. The program will introduce girls to the machinery of advocacy and public policy and teach young girls about public affairs and issues that matter to them personally and in their community. They will witness first-hand the inner workings of state government and meet with elected officials and senior staff.
 
Creating a Safer New York
 
Establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Save Lives: Governor Cuomo will continue to champion the Red Flag Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing, or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including handguns, rifles, or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest-in-the-nation gun laws, and, if passed, would make New York the first state to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
 
Extend the Background Check Waiting Period: Governor Cuomo continues to support legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
 
Ban Bump Stocks: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close existing statutory loopholes to prohibit ownership or sale of a bump stock. As evidenced by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks can be equipped to semi-automatic weapons to simulate machine gun fire with deadly consequences. Bump stocks serve no legitimate purposes for hunters or sportsmen and only cause unpredictable and accelerated gun fire, and there is no reason to allow for their continued sale in New York State.  

Pass the Child Victims Act: Having advanced the Child Victims Act, Governor Cuomo is fighting to enact the bill and provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. This legislation will increase the length of time during which a child sex abuser may be held criminally accountable, allow abuse victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time until they reach age 50, and ensure that each and every survivor has an opportunity to seek justice by creating a one-year window for victims whose claims have previously been time-barred to bring suit.  

Enact Comprehensive Safety Reforms for Large Passenger Vehicles: The horrific tragedies involving modified stretched limousines in Schoharie County in 2018 and Suffolk County in 2015 filled every New Yorker with a deep sense of empathy and sorrow for the victims and their loved ones. Governor Cuomo proposes a number of statutory reforms to both protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to flout the law, including an outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State.
 
Authorize Speed Cameras: In order to reinstate the bill signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2013 authorizing the City of New York to develop a system to advance school zone highway safety utilizing camera technology to record and enforce speeding violations, the Governor will put forward a proposal to reinstate and expand the speed camera program in New York City.
 
Enacting the Democracy Agenda
 
Allow Universal Absentee Voting: Governor Cuomo will push to amend the constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no matter their reason for wanting one. 
 
Enact Statewide Early Voting: This proposal would combine early voting with electronic poll books, making make it easier for poll workers to keep track of voting records and verify voter identity and registration status. 
 
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot box. 
 
Automatic Registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen our democratic process. 
 
Make It Easier to Register to Vote: In order to ensure voter registration is as simple as possible, the Governor is proposing that all automatic voter registration opportunities be available online, and that New Yorkers are able to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections website if they choose to do so. 
 
Make Election Day a Holiday: An inability to take off of work should never be a barrier to voting. For this reason, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to ensure that every worker in New York State receives, as of right, paid time off to vote on Election Day.
 
Eliminate Restrictions on Voting Before Noon in Upstate Primaries: Governor Cuomo will fix unequal ballot access across the state by ensuring that voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting hours across the rest of the state. 
 
Fight to Ensure that All New Yorkers Are Counted in the 2020 Census: In 2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted.
 
Enacting Ethics Reform
 
Adopt Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo will advance a comprehensive package of campaign finance reform legislation to combat the unprecedented influence of big money in politics and empower the voices of all New Yorkers.

  • Public Financing of Elections: There is no incentive in today’s campaign finance system for candidates to focus on ordinary donors. Large donors provide large donations which drown out the voices of ordinary people. Public campaign financing is the remedy to this problem. By enacting a 6:1 public financing matching ratio for small donations, candidates will be incentivized to focus on small donors.
  • Lowering Campaign Contribution Limits: Governor Cuomo is proposing lowering contribution limits for all candidates. By implementing these reforms, and creating a strong public financing system, New York will dramatically reduce the influence of money in politics and return to a government by the people and for the people.
  • Ban Corporate Contributions and Fully Close the LLC Loophole: Ever since the Citizens United decision in 2010, corporate money has overtaken our elections system. It is time for New York State to finally say enough is enough. Governor Cuomo will fix this problem once and for all by banning all corporate and LLC contributions. It is time to restore the power to the people, and take it out of the hands of dark money and special interest donors.
  • Strengthen Disclosure Laws that Expose Dark Money in Politics : In June 2016, Governor Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The Governor cautioned about the increase of dark money in politics and promised to “strengthen disclosure requirements and mandate that groups report the identity of anyone exerting control over them.” In August 2016, the Governor signed into law New York Executive Law § 172, which requires disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to be influential but which operate in the shadows. Now, with the lessons of the 2018 election in hand, the Governor proposes strengthening this law in a variety of ways to assure all New Yorkers have critical information about who is actually speaking to them. Further, the Governor is seeking to streamline the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, including by providing a mechanism for organizations to apply for a statutory exemption before the start of a reporting period.

Require Financial Disclosures by Local Elected Officials: This proposal will require these local elected officials to submit basic financial disclosure information to JCOPE, just like their state counterparts, so that the people of New York State can have the information they need about the people they choose to represent them at all levels of government.
 
Build a Dynamic, User-Friendly Database of Economic Development Projects: In an effort to increase transparency and modernize the information available on State economic development efforts, the Governor is directing Empire State Development (ESD) to build and host a searchable online database that will give the public more current and relevant information on projects that receive ESD assistance. When deployed, the new database will provide the public with more recent information on projects and combine the data from many static, program-specific reports into one dynamic, user-friendly website.
 
Ensuring Immigrant Rights
 
Pass the Jose Peralta DREAM Act: Governor Cuomo will pass the Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act will give undocumented New York students, who are deserving of the same advantages given to their citizen peers, access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state administered scholarships. 
 
Codify Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About Immigration Status: In 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 170, prohibiting State agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Building upon further amendments to the Executive Order, Governor Cuomo proposes codifying the protection of the amended EO 170 into law.
 
Protecting LGBTQ Rights
  
Pass the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act:Governor Cuomo supports the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), solidifying protections against discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes against people on the basis of gender identity.
 
Banning Conversion Therapy: Governor Cuomo supports legislation to expand the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under the education law to include engaging in, advertising for, or allowing someone under one’s direction or oversight to engage in conversion therapy with a patient under the age of eighteen years. 
 
Ban the “Gay Panic” Defense: Governor Cuomo will again push to close the loophole in New York State by passing legislation to ban gay and trans panic defenses.
 
Make Surrogacy Legal in New York State: New York State law presently bans the practice of gestational surrogacy, and creates destabilizing uncertainty about who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via other reproductive technology like artificial insemination or egg donation. The Governor is proposing legislation to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts to permit gestational carrier agreements.
 
Serving Our Veterans
 
Support for Transgender Troops: New York will stand with all veterans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This year, all New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs staff will receive LGBTQ cultural competency training to help understand how to best serve LGBTQ veterans. DVA will also work with LGBTQ-focused organizations to make sure that each and every LGBTQ veteran receives individualized assistance in a safe and supportive environment, including by helping LGBTQ veterans upgrade their service discharges so that these brave veterans will be able to access healthcare, education, financial compensation, and other benefits they have earned.
 
JUSTICE FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
  
Protecting Quality, Affordable Health Care
 
Codify Health Care Protections and Coverage Guarantees for New Yorkers: In light of the continued federal attacks on the ACA, Governor Cuomo believes it is essential that New York codify key ACA provisions, including the state’s health insurance marketplace, as well as enhanced State regulatory protections into State law. This is critical to stabilizing the health insurance market and inoculating New York from any further federal attacks on the health care system.
 
Take Action to Achieve Universal Access to Health Care: Governor Cuomo is establishing a Commission on universal health care to be supported by Department of Health and Department of Financial Services, and comprised of health policy and insurance experts to develop options for achieving universal access to high-quality, affordable health care in New York. This review process will consider all options for expanding access to care, including strengthening New York’s commercial insurance market, expanding programs to include populations that are currently ineligible or cannot afford coverage, as well as innovative reimbursement models to improve efficiency and generate savings to support expanded coverage.
 
Fighting to End the Opioid Epidemic
 
Protect New Yorkers from Predatory Practices: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to 1) require that out-of-state facilities be licensed in their home state and accredited by a nationally recognized organization, and 2) prevent predatory out-of-state providers from targeting justice involved individuals by working with courts to immediately connect individuals to in-state treatment programs and by advancing legislation to protect in-state court ordered treatment. He will also direct OASAS to implement regulations that require out-of-state marketers comply with OASAS requirements when marketing in New York State. With these actions, New York will implement the strongest practices in the nation to protect its residents, forcing predatory treatment programs to look elsewhere to fill their facility quotas.
 
Expand Access to Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an important advance in Medication Assisted Treatment, which, like methadone and injectable naltrexone, is used in combination with counseling as appropriate to help people reach and sustain recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. To expand use of buprenorphine, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health to require all hospitals statewide to develop protocols for their Emergency Departments to address Opioid Use Disorder based on the standard of care for treatment or referral for treatment.
 
Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings: To expand access to treatment in prisons and jails, Governor Cuomo has directed OASAS to distribute over $4 million to support addiction treatment services in over 50 facilities. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will expand access to Medication Assisted Treatment by providing $1.2 million to support the establishment of up to three new MAT programs in State prisons.
 
Increase Access to Naloxone: Governor Cuomo will direct DOH to advance legislation that expands Good Samaritan laws to apply to workers in restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments. In addition, Governor Cuomo will increase access to naloxone at SUNY and CUNY by ensuring that naloxone is provided as part of every dorm first aid kit, or available for the Resident Assistant on duty every night in every SUNY and CUNY dorm.
 
Launch a Comprehensive Substance Use Prevention Blueprint for Schools: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State will launch a statewide collaborative to streamline all prevention resources and develop best practices, standards, and metrics for substance use prevention into a focused “Prevention Blueprint” that will assist schools to follow a comprehensive, evidence-based and data-driven approach to prevention. OASAS shall work in collaboration with the State Education Department, Department of Health and the Office of Mental Health to develop the Prevention Blueprint for use in the 2020-21 school year.
 
Creating Healthy Communities
  
Protect New Yorkers from Unknown Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Governor Cuomo will introduce new legislation authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and the Department of State to develop regulations establishing an on-package labeling requirement for designated products, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals, developing a list of the more than 1,000 carcinogens and other chemicals that will trigger labeling, and identifying the types of consumer products that will be subject to the new regime. DEC and DOH will be further empowered to require manufacturers to disclose the chemical contents of consumer products in sold or distributed in New York State and explore possible additional measures to protect consumers.
 
Control Health Threats from Tobacco: Governor Cuomo is proposing comprehensive legislation to combat the rising use of tobacco products. This legislation includes:

  • Raising the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products from 18 to 21: Most underage youth obtain tobacco and vapor products from friends who are over 18 and can legally purchase products. Raising the minimum age will remove sources of tobacco from high schools.
  • Ending the Sale of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products in Pharmacies: Health care related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death in New York State. Ending the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies will reduce the availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use, especially to youth.
  • Clarify the Department of Health’s Authority to Ban the Sale of Certain Flavored E-Cigarette Liquids: Flavored combustible cigarettes, except menthol, were banned by the FDA in 2009 to reduce youth smoking as they were frequently used as a starter product.  Most e-cigarette users said their first e-cigarette was flavored. Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble gum, make e-cigarettes more attractive and make e-cigarettes more attractive to youth. Legislation is being introduced to provide the Department of Health the authority to ban the sale of flavored liquids that target youth use of e-cigarettes.
  • Restricting Available Discounts Provided by Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers: New York has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, but manufacturers and retailers have developed tactics to reduce prices, such as “buy one, get one free” discounts. These tactics directly target price-sensitive consumers, including youth. Restricting discounts on tobacco and vapor products will strengthen the impact of New York’s tax on tobacco and disincentivize tobacco use.
  • Introduce a Tax on E-Cigarettes: Tobacco use is reduced or prevented when the price of tobacco products is high. Youth are particularly sensitive to price increases on tobacco products. New York State has one of the highest taxes on combustible cigarettes and one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the country. The same rationale is expected to apply to taxation and youth use of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids.
  • Require E-Cigarettes to Be Sold Only Through Licensed Retailers: Currently the sale of e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to ensure that minors do not purchase tobacco products.

Invest in Community-Based Supports for Aging New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo proposes investing $15 million in community-based supports for aging New Yorkers. This needed targeted investment in NYSOFA’s programs and services will help serve more older adults and will help them maintain their autonomy, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and delay future Medicaid costs. Working with the Department of Health, NYSOFA will develop specific metrics to evaluate the success of this investment.
 
Create the Family First Transition Fund: The state will leverage the investment of private foundation funding to create a Family First Transition fund that will provide resources to local departments of social services and foster care agencies to have the resources needed to prepare for the implementation of the Family First federal legislation. This investment will allow New York State to adequately prepare for the implementation of Family First and will position New York to continue to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable children and families and ensure the local departments of social services are fully equipped to meet those needs while maintaining compliance with important federal benchmarks.
 
Continuing New York’s Environmental Leadership
 
Launching the Green New Deal:  Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.  
 
Establish $10 Billion Green Future Fund: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance a $10 billion Green Future Fund to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation, and open space and resiliency. This fund includes $5 billion in total for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—building upon the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and effectively doubling the state’s investment in clean water over the next five years.
 
Continue Historic $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund: Governor Cuomo proposes maintaining the State’s historic $300 million EPF. This investment will prioritize programs to protect New York’s water bodies, promote stewardship projects in parks and on other state lands, revitalize municipal waterfronts, and build community resilience to climate change—all while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
 
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Most Nonalcoholic Drinks: In order to reduce litter and provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling entities who are struggling amidst changes to the global recycling markets, Governor Cuomo will expand the Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, including those for sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee. 
 
Prohibiting the Use of Plastic Bags: To address the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Governor Cuomo proposes a statewide plastic bag prohibition with certain exceptions.

2019 State of the State Book Available Here

With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19

Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance with board members including Sulma Arzu-Brown, Debra Dixon-Anderson, and Freedom Shannon and Giovanni Taveras of the New York State Veteran’s Chamber. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Women’s March Alliance, the official organizer of the March on NYC since 2017, will stage its third annual march on Saturday, January 19. Line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. on 61st Street and Central Park West (main entrance on 72nd and Columbus). The march, which is expected to draw 100,000 participants, will run along Central Park West south around Columbus Circle, east on 59th Street then south on 6th Avenue.

The complete map route is available at https://womensmarchalliance.org/2019-womens-march-on-nyc.

The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19, could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected – women now one-fourth of Congress, and there are four more women governors.

And in New York, the successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda, topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.

But the Women’s March Alliance organizers worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might rightly set in after all that happened to produce the success of  2018, but that there still so much work to be done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.

“We want to make sure we don’t stop fighting. We are half way there. We can’t stop now. We have to move forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance. “The theme for the march is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018  Elections. New York cannot stand back. New York leads nation in progress.” (The actual hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower)

Indeed, that there is still so much work to be done is reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and Republicans have to shutting down government, with no clue and no care of the ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000 federal workers as well as contractors,from food safety to food stamps, from mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits. They even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.

And then there is the unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo. Think of the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.

Now Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding communities devastated by climate disasters in Puerto Rico afflicted by Maria, in California after the wildfires, in Florida and South Carolina after Michael. And then there is the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s anti-immigrant policy that has led to two children dying while in US custody, and hundreds of children rendered orphans, thousands more traumatized by their condition.

But this is New York State, and thankfully, there is finally full control by Democrats. On January 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the State Legislature is expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act, strengthening abortion access by codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade in state law, after 12 years of trying but failing. But this action cannot be taken for granted. There is still need to push the politicians to act –and not take such landmark for granted..

This is no time to be complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a hard-religious right majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood amendments that essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it. Women have actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially, women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe government’s intervention..

If Roberts’ Court rules that the fetus has “personhood” rights under the Constitution,  all abortions would be illegal — even in states like New York that overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose.  (See the full series of editorials in the New York Times, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/abortion-law-pro-life.html).

So this year’s march has its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s issues are so broad.

Here’s a partial list: gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable college, climate action and environmental justice, immigration reform, pay equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform… Way too many to fit into a soundbite,  a poster or a tweet.

But if you still need a motivation, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway, and the way women candidates for office are once again being evaluated according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).

The danger of complacency needs to be recalled: that’s what happened in 2016, when too many believed that Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to head a major party ticket meant that America had entered a post-feminist era, just as Obama’s election was supposedly a post-racist era. Okay to stay home out of some manufactured outrage, just because you could; okay to throw a vote away on an independent candidate, because of course the most qualified candidate, who stood for gender rights, civil rights, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic justice, would win. We saw how that went.

The march, which will include opportunities to register to vote (and local elections in 2019 are important), is a call to action to get things done while we have the “honeymoon” of the new electeds and the fear of God in the incumbents – because they think they can do anything they want and ignore the voices of 2018 because the electorate won’t remember in 2020.

It is important, as well, to keep the networks and the alliances intact, for the affirmation and validation that the marchers give to one another. And because 2020 is right around the corner.

Indeed, the greatest threat to the Women’s movement is complacency (and fatigue) after the hard-won victories of 2018.

“We must be fearful that people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo & normal,” said Freedom Shannon, a member of the board of WMA which describes itself as “a nonprofit alliance of human rights supporters who seek to close the social, political and economic gender divide.”

“We are changing what it means to be a woman in our society. We have marched to being one in five in Congress, but we need to come out January 19 to honor those who have come before us, to show those in countries that cannot assemble, what democracy looks like, and pave the way for future generations,” Shannon said. “On January 19, we will unify our voices so we amplify enough to be heard by the people in power and soften their hearts so they can act without prejudice.”

The organizers at a press conference introducing the event stressed that WMA is completely separate from Womens March Inc. which organized the Washington March in 2017 and is holding a rally in New York City also on January 19. That organization raised controversy of being anti-Semitic when leaders expressed support for Louis Farrakhan.

Siemionko notedWe are a local grassroots team of volunteers hosting this event for the third year in a row, and we do not have nor have we ever had an association with Women’s March, Inc. or its founders.”

She continued, “Our mission is to include and advance women regardless of faith, sexual identity and preference, race, cultural and religious background or political affiliation.”

Siemionko was firm on insisting that WMA is inclusive, and that like all the other sister marches that took place in 2017 and 2018 in cities across the nation, all grew organically, as local grassroots organizations reflecting their communities.

She stressed how WMA went out of its way to accommodate the Jewish community, including organizing the march so it would start within walking distance of a large segment of the community on the Upper West Side. “We wanted to honor those Jews who want to honor Sabbath without taking public transportation, but can march to support women’s rights.” In addition, Siemionko will be participating in a panel on January 17 at the Stephen Wise Synagogue.

“The confusion happened when Womens March Inc, the official march of DC, decided to break ground here in NYC. Unfortunately that happened at time when irresponsible wording was used to insult different communities.

“One of the reasons we became part of WMA since its inception is that anti-Semitism, racial discrimination, LGBT discrimination had no place here, especially in New York City, the most diverse place in the nation, in the world,” said Debra Dixon Anderson, director of operations of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a WMA board member, “and we appreciate all different walks of life.”

WMA is the only organization that has a permit from New York City for a march on January 19.

Enter at 72nd Street to Central Park West, or enter from Central Park. There will be a 15-minute kickoff at 11 am (not a rally), then the march will get underway at 11:15, go south past Columbus Circle, east on 59, then south to 44 Street. Check the site for details.

There will be a female Indian chief to bless the march, female drum bands, brass bands, acrobats, DJs, and activists.

In conjunction with the event, people will have a chance to see “Eyes of the World,” a giant, collaborative mosaic, 5 ft tall and 18 feet wide, produced by thousands of contributors since the first Women’s March on New York City in 2017. that is on view at the Newburger Gallery in the lobby of SUNY Optometry (33 West 42nd Street), across from Bryant Park, noon to 9 pm.

“’Eyes of the World’ is a tangible and permanent reminder to the United States government that our eyes are constantly watching to ensure all policies embody human rights, advance civil rights, and promote the highest degree of equality,” write Joanne and Bruce Hunter, artists and creators of public art.

The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act.

WMA 2019 Women’s March on NYC official Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1823403231077663/
WMA website: https://womensmarchalliance.org/
WMA 2019 Women’s March on NYC registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-march-on-nyc-official-tickets-49313994485
WMA donation link: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/womensmarchalliance

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Lays Out Ambitious Progressive Justice Agenda for 3rd Term, Draws Contrast With Federal Government Failures

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivering his inaugural address at Ellis Island: “I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In an inaugural address worthy of a president, Andrew Cuomo, sworn in for his third term as Governor of New York State, pledged to fulfill an ambitious, progressive Justice Agenda: voting reform, strengthening gun laws, protecting health care, legalizing marijuana and reforming the criminal justice system. The venue was key to his message: the great hall at Ellis Island where millions of impoverished immigrants, the forebears of so many New Yorkers, escaped poverty and persecution to pursue the American Dream, and standing as the greatest symbol of difference with the federal administration.

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government, forced by Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall across the length of the southern border with Mexico, has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open, and he used it as a symbol of what the state stands for and would strive for, and as a parable for the different approaches to leadership and governance.

Hallowed Ground: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his third inaugural address in the great hall of Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants passed through in pursuit of the American Dream © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down, but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch. It will never erase the words of her poem. They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts. They will never close this hall of dreamers. They will never disrespect the legacy they left,” he declared.

 “When they write the history books about this time and place, I believe they will record this period as one of global and national unrest. A time that saw thousands of new immigrants reaching for our borders in search of hope. A time that saw troubled, frightened, American citizens frustrated by economic stagnation and a deteriorating democracy, have grave new doubts about where our country is headed. 

“There is now a fundamental questioning of the viability of the American promise. A covenant that created our nation’s founding 242 years ago and reached full flower right here in this Great Hall for our ancestors yearning to breathe free, illuminated by the torch of our great Lady in the Harbor. A land that would work with you to lift you up to reach new heights, as high as your wings and work could carry you, with individual freedom and equal rights for all. An American promise grounded on the theory that we would work together.

“This sacred compact has held firm through the centuries, through world wars, internal dissension, and economic depressions. Through it all, we overcame, we rallied as one, and we built the strongest nation on the globe. There is no other nation that can threaten us. America’s only threat is from within: it is the growing division amongst us. The threat is when we see ourselves as black or white, foreign or native born, instead of as Americans. As Christians or Jews or Muslims, gay or straight, instead of as Americans. That, my friends, is truly frightening.

“And that is the threat that we face today. As our nation once confronted a great economic depression, we now confront a great social depression. People’s frustration is turning to fear and the fear is turning to anger and the anger is turning to division. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous, how malignant this condition is. It is like a cancer that is spreading throughout our society, a disease that causes one cell in the body politic to attack other cells, to turn one against one another.”

He added, “It may surprise you, but I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.”

He said, The hard, but true path is to confront and actually solve the problem. The easy, but false path is to use the anger to blame someone else, and the easiest target to blame is always the people who are different. And this federal government has sought to demonize our differences and make our diversity our greatest weakness, rather than our greatest strength. We always knew, we always knew that the concept of E Pluribus Unum, forging one people from many different origins would be difficult, we knew it.”

In setting out his progressive agenda and to counter the skepticism that it could be accomplished, Cuomo noted that now that both houses of the Legislature are Democratic, “I feel liberated. I felt like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. And we will not repeat mistakes of the past. We know hollow campaign rhetoric and false political posturing only aggravates the frustration…

“New Yorkers know the difference between rhetoric and results. We either perform by delivering real solutions that restore hope and progress in people’s lives or we fail. It is that simple. Either the government works or the government doesn’t work. Either the government delivers or the government delivers. And if we don’t deliver, we fail. But, in New York failure is not an option, my friends.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo is sworn into his third term by Justice Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo, who has in his prior two terms done bold things on the scale of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was New York State governor, in fact, invoked FDR, saying, “Just as FDR turned the frustration of the economic depression into a movement that passed the New Deal, let New Yorkers’ frustration of the social depression to pass a new justice agenda – advancing social racial and economic justice – and let us address our issues, our very real issues with a progressive agenda – not a regressive agenda – an agenda that moves us up, forward and united, not down, backwards and divided.”

He laid out an ambitious agenda: “Within my first 100 days, I will propose to the new Democratic Legislature the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.

“From voting reforms, to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman’s right to choose. To better gun laws, to healthcare protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to a green new deal, to real criminal justice reform – we will make history and New York will move forward. Not by building a wall, my friends, but by building new bridges, and building new airports, and creating new middle class jobs and an economic future for the next generation and showing us how good we can be at our best when we are together.”

Cuomo declared, “We will get it done. And it won’t just be what New York got done at this defining moment, but how we did it. The way we’re going to do it is by bringing people together. Democrats and Republicans. Upstate and downstate. Young and old. All of us together because we believe, in New York, that we can be a people truly guided by our better angels. Because New York believes that our interconnection and interdependence come from our essential goodness.

“It is New York’s duty, it is New York’s destiny, it is New York’s legacy to bring the light to lead the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New York, that’s what we will do together.”

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, in giving the invocation, evoked memory of arriving in the United States from Austria in 1947 as a refugee of the Holocaust. Speaking about the four pillars of freedom – to worship, speech, freedom from want and fear, he called on leaders to fight “to restore freedom from fear for all Americans.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

One after another of the state leaders sworn into office – Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Latisha James – referred to immigrants and their own origins, coming from humble circumstances.

Governor Cuomo reemphasized the point: “we believe the promise that attracted 5000 people a day to come from across the globe to this sacred place, through this portal on Ellis Island, that this is not a faded memory of yesterday, but rather a shining beacon for a better tomorrow. 

“Ellis Island remains the place where Maud McKoy arrived from the poor island of Jamaica. Whose son was educated in New York public schools, and rose to become the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“It is the place where Rose and Joseph Amster, Jewish immigrants from Austria arrived, whose Brooklyn-born granddaughter would become Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.

“This is the place, and this is the promise that made America, America. And no one can ever forget that. It doesn’t matter how high one is raised, or what office one’s occupying. Never forget where you came from, and never forget or deny this place. Because this is the place where Richard Cawley arrived fleeing starvation in Ireland, and whose grandson is now Vice President Mike Pence.”

“This is the harbor where Frederick Trump [Drumpf] arrived from Germany, and whose grandson would become President of the United States. Don’t you tell me Ellis Island isn’t real, and true, and the promise it made America lives today, because it does,” he said in the only part of his address in which he referred to Trump by name.

Referring to his father, Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1 four years ago, he said, “he would implore us all each and every one to stand against the tide to fight back and that New York should lead by example by the power of our example and lift up New York to show the nation the way forward, show them the better way. And he would be right.”

Here are more highlights from the event:

Letitia James, the first woman and first black to hold the office of Attorney General in New York State, is sworn in my Reverend Anthony L. Trufant, Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.  “We stand today on hallowed ground… where refugees came looking for a brighter future under the torch of liberty,” and pledged to fight for justice for all against the powerful. “I believe the law is the greatest equalizer, the force against government inertia and entrenched interests.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has spent 32 years in state public service, is administered the oath of office by Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals. DiNapoli pledged to continue his campaign for transparency and accountability, and to fulfill his responsibility to the 1.1 million New Yorkers vested in the state’s pension system © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kathleen C. Hochul is administered the oath of office of Lieutenant Governor by Paul Feinman, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul pointed to the “unprecedented social and economic progress of the last four years. We will build on that foundation” and reaffirmed her belief in the “power of public service to make sure tomorrows are better than yesterdays.” She reflected on her grandmother who came through Ellis Island to the United States 90 years ago as an impoverished woman from Ireland who became a domestic servant. “She achieved the ideal for her children, who built companies, became educators, served in the military and whose granddaughter became a member of Congress and Lt. Governor. She pledged to draw upon her grandmother’s strength to fight for women’s pay equity, child care, combat sexual assault. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
More than a dozen green energy activists arrive to send message to Cuomo and cabinet as they board the ferry to Ellis Island for Cuomo’s inauguration; two Trump 2020 supporters also showed up © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

When Evidence is Firmly Established, Democrats Must Move Forward to Impeach Trump

 

Thousands protest in New York City to defend Democracy and let Mueller complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

So now that Democrats have taken back control of the House, there is the internal (eternal) argument between the progressives and what I would call the pragmatists as to whether to act immediately to impeach Trump or use their powers for good and solve the ailing problems of the nation (health care, immigration reform, infrastructure, criminal justice reform, voting rights). As if that were even possible, given Mitch McConnell’s death grip over the Senate, and Trump’s likely veto.

But Democrats can do both – develop, debate and pass necessary legislation on health care, drug prices, protecting DACA recipients, rational immigration reform, gun violence prevention, campaign finance – and still hold the hearings and fulfill their Constitutional obligation for oversight and checks-and-balance on government.

Trump must be impeached. And it doesn’t matter if impeachment is likely to fail in the Senate where it is unlikely to get 67 votes. In the best of all worlds, the evidence would be so compelling, so damning, that even Republicans will go to Trump (as they did to Nixon), and say: resign or else (the “else” would be prosecution of Trump for high-crimes, along with his children; threats to prosecute his close associates would likely not bother Trump at all.) That is, if Republicans retain even a scintilla of actual patriotism and concern for the national good rather than retaining power, no matter how unscrupulously.

Certainly, Democrats should wait until the Mueller investigation is concluded – or re-start the hearings that should have taken place in Congress until sabotaged by the likes of Devin Nunes and others more loyal to Trump than to their oath of office. (Nunes, don’t forget, was on the transition team that brought Michael Flynn in as National Security Adviser.) Those hearings need to be held because the Republicans did a superb job of protecting and insulating Trump and preventing any real understanding or defense against what Russia did and how they did it, opening the way for others – be it China, Israel or North Korea, or a billionaire with a mission like Sheldon Adelson or the Kochs – to replicate the process with even greater sophistication and efficiency in the future.

Despite the fact impeachment would likely fail to get the 67 votes needed in the Senate, if Trump is not prosecuted for the slew of “high crimes and misdemeanors” already committed (violation of Emoluments Clause, repeated obstruction of justice, abuse of power, likely violations of Federal campaign laws and tax evasion, not to mention the likely conspiracy or collusion with Russia and other felons who hacked into the DNC), that sets a new standard for what a candidate and a president can do.

Either you have an Emoluments Clause or you don’t. Either you impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” or you say that actual “high crimes and misdemeanors” has nothing to do with it, impeachment is “political” with a political standard of criminality so that unless you lie about committing adultery when your opponents control Congress, nothing you do is illegal. You can violate Federal Elections law, hack voting machines, steal absentee ballots, but if you win and become president through such criminality, well then, tough luck for the rest of the world that has to abide by laws.  If impeachment is only based on who has the majority, then there is no real Rule of Law, and no bedrock principle that “no man is above the law.” This would incentivize the next billionaire Mafioso who can offer $1 million and a pardon to a henchman to flip votes or hack or undertake a propaganda campaign (and shouldn’t there be some sort of “Truth in Advertising” standard for political messaging?).

If Donald Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, buying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In all of American history, there has never been a person endowed with the powers of the presidency who has been this blatantly corrupt and the very epitome of the monarch wannabe the Founders feared and thought they had inoculated the country against. It’s as if Trump things if he commits crimes openly, the outrageousness of it inoculates him. The Founders may have had their bouts with fake news but could not have anticipated data mining and Facebook and gerrymandering with the precision of knowing how to cut through a single block to produce an edge. They couldn’t have predicted black-box voting, the ability to hack into election rolls, to purge voter lists based on their propensity to vote for the other party, the mathematical calculations that go into shutting down polling places and devices.

The Justice Department has a “policy” against indicting a sitting president? Well, it’s just a policy. The Constitution actually requires the Senate to “advise and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, but that didn’t stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from doing the unprecedented thing of blocking Obama’s nominee for a year to save the seat for a radically right wing “justice.” The Justice Department has never been faced with a sitting president who has been named as Individual #1 in multiple felonies.

“Policy” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling that a civil suit against President Bill Clinton having nothing to do with his presidency or crimes against the state, should go forward, or requiring him to give testimony under oath, or for that matter the Republican Congress from impeaching him, rather than censuring him, for lying about a consensual adulterous affair.

So far, Trump, who reacted to the sentencing memos against his  consigliere Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, both of whom had pleaded guilty, that included him as “Individual #1” as if he had somehow been absolved because he wasn’t actually named, and instead of the word “collusion,” Mueller used a synonym, “synergy.” Trump may also be thinking that because Russia had worked with his flunkies, even for their own reasons (Manafort  to pay off his debt?) or to enrich the Trump Organization rather than win, not realizing that Putin was out to win the presidency, that therefore he will be absolved of actual “collusion” or “conspiracy.”

Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, very possibly because he didn’t actually read the sentencing memos or doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “synergy.”

But if Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, possibly paying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? (Answer: Nothing. It will become the new modus operandi, and you don’t even need a foreign power to collude.)

The argument that Democrats need to be focused on “solving the problems” of the nation is sweet and sentimental, but the reality is anything that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House will be stopped in the Republican-controlled Senate, or by Trump veto. And when progressives realize that Democrats were ineffectual, instead of rallying in 2020, they will punish Democrats, as they did in 2010 (recall Sanders led that charge, then too, and got progressives to “protest” by staying home) and 2014 (when I bet Hispanics punished Obama for failing to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform through) despite McConnell having said right after Obama’s election that his priority was to make him one-term president. You can see it already in the way the progressive wing is determined to destroy any ability of Democrats to be successful by attacking Nancy Pelosi instead of advancing one of the young bucks into a different leadership position so they can be groomed when she does in fact step aside.

But if Trump is not impeached for high-crimes and misdemeanors, for obstruction of justice (firing Comey, Sessions, to list just two); abuse of power (sending US military to the border for a political purpose); campaign finance violations; violations of the Emoluments Clause and using foreign policy for personal enrichment (Russia, Qatar, UAE, China, India), tax fraud, money laundering,  then what would be impeachable? Lying about adultery?  (Oh, he did that too).

Simply put: if the gloves fit, you must convict.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

Malcolm Nance: Installing Trump as President is Part of Putin’s Plot to Destroy Democracy

Malcolm Nance, counterterrorism and intelligence consultant and frequent MSNBC commentator, sheds light on “The Plot to Destroy Democracy” at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Malcolm Nance, the counterterrorism and intelligence expert seen frequently on MSNBC, was watching the early Midterm Election returns on November 6, 2018, and was frantic. “We are ‘x’ number of days from the end of American democracy,” he thought. “If we lose and Republicans keep control, Trump will be like Saddam Hussein” believing he could wield unbridled power.

“We saved democracy – put collective values together and decided not to let government go unchecked. Before, we were rather reserved about how bad things were – seeing our constitutional republic collapsing before our eyes,” he said, in a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, December 7.

“The shock to our belief system came from Russia, but not the Russians alone. It had to include others,” said the author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”

His book documents how Putin needed to make Russia – essentially a third world country with atomic bombs – great again by destroying, degrading the  #1 country at top, the US. Russia, he noted, is a very poor nation, with a Gross National Product equal to Italy. “The US does more trade with Chile than Russia. Russia is a trailer park with atomic bombs – all they sell is weapons, oil, natural gas.”

Russia is led by Putin, an ex-KGB officer, who, when he left Russian intel service, was collapsing. “Putin became the controller, the enforcer of the Russian Mafia in St. Petersburg.

“What happened to Russia after Communism was unbridled, unabashed, crazy Mafia-like capitalism, out of control for 10 years. Russia sold off tanks, airports, took the money and put it into Western real estate – some to New York City – to launder money.

Putin became a billionaire, but something was missing. When Soviet Russia collapsed, what was the philosophy to replace Communism?  Putin realized something fundamental – Russians are extremely conservative – religious – they don’t believe in the family values of the West.

The Russian society had to be built anew and Putin knew to steer it more deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. As the first director of Russian intel, he rebuilt a church next to KGB headquarters (it had been torture center under Stalin) because he realized if he controlled the Russian Orthodox Church, he could bring the population in line. He started funding rebuilding of Russian orthodox churches. Russians are extremely [socially] conservative, so he introduced policies to cater to homophobes and racists [just as Trump is catering to anti-immigrant fervor].

So in 2010, American Conservatives started saying out loud that Russia was a better example of Christian Conservatism than the West. The National Organization of Families – an extremist group – started holding “Persecution of Christians” conferences in Moscow. “Aggrieved Americans who hated Muslims, would fly to Moscow, meet with people from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government, and talk about the persecution of Christians around the world.” By 2015, Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was flying to Moscow and meeting with Putin.

“Russians understood this was part of America they could work with – they could co-opt. There is a lot of reporting about how Russians and Christian evangelicals in the US have been working together for the last decade.”

Another group, the NRA, was also vulnerable. Enter Maria Butina, who, by all definitions is a spy – a “honeypot,” a trained agent who will have sex to get what they want. She cultivated NRA leaders. In July 2015, she appeared at a FreedomFest  Q&A session in Las Vegas featuring Trump and got to pose the first question, to describe his foreign policy and his views on “damaging” economic sanctions against Russia. “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”

“Out of nowhere, she asks the first question. I see an intel operation,” Nance said. “Two years ago, I was first on national TV to say the US was under attack with intel op. From Russians’ perspective, How do we co-opt the US? What resources do we put into place? (See: Maria Butina Loved Guns, Trump and Russia. It Was a Cover, Prosecutors Say.)

[The FBI and Mueller are investigating whether the $30 million the NRA spent to elect Trump actually came from Russia.]

“David Duke has an apartment in Moscow. All the senior Alt-Right leaders, who organized the Charlottesville riot, believe Russia is bastion of Christian conservativism, the pinnacle example of how we should behave [in the US].

“Most important; Russia already co-opted virtually ever conservative group in Europe. Because when the Soviet Union fell and rejected Communism and brought themselves into strongman autocratic leadership, European conservative groups – ex-Fascists – were looking for leadership and money.

“The government of Austria is controlled by a political party organized in 1952 by two Austrian SS officers who later rose up in power. They had no chance of ruling in government until last 10 years. The rise of right wing fascist political parties in Europe is part of this story that will scare you – because these are same political groups [as the Nazis].” A warning that resonated profoundly in this audience in the synagogue.

“In Germany, the AFD – Alternative for Deutschland – is anti immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. They are unabashed in their open racism, in their belief that liberal democracy should be supplanted by conservative groups in the West who will create an axis of autocracies, and make laws so no one has to vote anymore.

“Remember that Hitler was elected with 37% of vote – before Nazi Germany, it was the Weimar Republic. He was elected in a fair and free election, but once in power, he changed the laws.”

That movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Nance said, was about showing that people need to be held accountable. “When I saw the film later as an adult, I understood what the trial was – of the German Supreme Court justices who validated every law justifying rape, murder, sterilization. They justified execution through lethal injection of every mentally ill patient in the country. Then they authorized the mass murder of 6 million Jews, while Hitler’s wars around Europe killed 50 million more.

“The Supreme Court Justices of Nazi Germany were elected, the government was elected. People chose them. Then they changed laws to make everything they did legal in the Nazi German system.

“’Judgment at Nuremberg’ is about how it was amoral to human decency to do what they did. They needed to be held accountable. Even as a young guy, I understood it was wrong to hurt people using the legal system,” said Nance, who noted that he had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia, and had his understanding of the Shoah profoundly changed after visiting Auschwitz.

[One should note at this point that the perversion of law is exactly what the Indian Removal Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and Jim Crow were about. And now, how Republicans in lameduck session, are stripping power from incoming duly-elected Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina.]

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Putin’s plan is simple: to get rid of democracy you don’t need to have a coup d’etat, you can do it through election that votes democracy out of existence.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, is an adherent to the philosophy of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart News when it was run by Steve Bannon. Dugin advocates for neo-EuroAsianism, where the poles of power from Washington to the European capitals to the rest of world, should be eliminated, along with West. (See: The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin)

If figures in Putin’s efforts to shift Turkey’s alliance from NATO to Russia and to ally with Syria and Iran – moves that Michael Flynn, who was a paid lobbyist for Turkey’s Erdogan, was effecting.

“The election of Trump is the end state of what Russia doing in Europe- every major political party in Europe is owned by the United Russia Party that loaned money. The French candidate, Marine le Pen in France, got 50 million Euro loan from Putin. Her job was to break up NATO and the European Union on one day; she spoke about it openly and publicly.

Far right extremism was pushing across Europe. It was only the common sense of the French people in March 2017 [and reports of Russia hacking of social media, as in the 2016 election in the US] that saved European democracy from collapsing. The European Union would have broken up if France withdrew. It was a very near thing. But they got away with putting Trump into office.”

“It is very bad for the US if all our allies start collapsing one by one… If Britain doesn’t get its act together in next 90 days, they can face economic collapse.

“Brexit – the Leave group – are saying ‘Donald Trump will give us unilateral deal.’ The last time that happened was Lend Lease. The Atlantic was on fire, Europe fell under the Nazis. Who talks like that?

“Like Alexander Dugin, Trump uses ‘globalist’ as if a dirty word. We invented globalism when we started shipping all over world. We saved Britain, invaded France. Trump doesn’t understand any of that.

“How critical it is for you to watch what is happening in Europe – it is run by open fascists who come from ex Nazi party, who are close to Putin and also to Trump. This is why Steve Bannon went to Europe, where he said, ‘When they call you a racist, embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honor.’

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.”

Nance, in response to a question, said that the Americans who were involved in the theft of the 2016 election committed treason.

As to whether Republicans would ever abandon Trump, he said that once the evidence is released, if it is so overwhelming, “this nation will end up in a Benedict Arnold moment. It will be so clear that Trump was to win at all cost, to make money and be master of the universe, and because he would control the government, he would be untouchable and still get the Ivanka Spa in the Trump Moscow Tower. It will be so clear, so overwhelming, this eclipses Benedict Arnold. We have a president under the control of a foreign power.”

But will he be impeached? Indicted? Or pardon himself and his entire family?

One possibility: at the point Republicans are convinced that Trump is damaging their brand, possibly even causing the party to disappear into a miasma of fascism, kleptocracy and bankruptcy, the leaders will come to Trump with an offer he can’t refuse: they will suspend prosecution of Don Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner, halt impeachment and promise not to prosecute him for the many felonies (campaign finance violations, tax fraud, money laundering, conspiracy with a foreign adversary) if he resigns. That would save the party for Mike Pence, who is in fact the president they wanted all along.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Says is Standing with Saudi Arabia as Ally Which Promises to Spend $450 Billion in US: ‘America First!’

Citing Saudi Arabia’s promise to spend $450 billion in the US and its oil production and ability to raise or lower oil prices, Donald Trump says he will stand by his ally and ignore the allegations of culpability of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the savage murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Very simply it is called America First!” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump issued a statement unequivocally standing with Saudi Arabia, declaring “America First!,” and stressing that Saudi Arabia “agreed” to spend a record $450 billion in the US, while throwing darts at Iran to defend Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen that have contributed to the most severe humanitarian crisis on the planet, and all but dismissing any accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump declared. 

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” 

Here is his statement, highlighted —Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

 The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!

Thousands of New Yorkers Turn Out to Protect Mueller Investigation, Joining 1000 Protests Nationwide

Thousands gathered in Times Square to demand that the Mueller Investigation be protected from interference, now that Donald Trump has installed a sycophant, Matthew Whitaker, as Acting Attorney General © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Thousands gathered at Times Square in Manhattan precisely at 5 pm on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, a day after Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and only two days after the Blue Wave swept over the House and into state houses across the country, and appointing Matthew Whitaker the Acting Attorney General, a sycophant who has been outspoken against the Muller “lynch mob” and the liberal “Russian hoax.”

Within minutes, the numbers gathered at Duffy Square in Times Square in Manhattan grew to the thousands; soon people were packed together, waving hand-drawn signs and chanting “Trump is not Above the Law,” and “Protect Mueller.” After about an hour, they marched down Broadway about two miles to Union Square through streets and crossroads that clogged with rush hour traffic, past stores and offices still busy with people – a contrast to typical protests which go through vacant caverns on a weekend morning. They were greeted with supporters all along the route.

Thousands protest in New York City to demand the Mueller Investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election be protected © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City was one of about 1000 such rallies across the nation, a response to Donald Trump’s latest in-your-face lawless outrage: firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to replace him with a sycophant, Matthew Whitaker, whose only “qualification” to be the Acting Attorney General is that he, like now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, expressed willingness to shield Trump, his family and associates from investigation.

The NYC Planning Team later reported that best estimates put the numbers at 6,000, part of a nationwide turnout of over 100,000 people who came out with less than 24 hours notice.

Whitaker had been auditioning for the job in appearances on TV – the recruitment ground for any number of Trump appointees, including his Director of Communications, the ex-Fox News executive Bill Shine – expressing disdain for Mueller’s team as a “lynch mob”, and declaring in interviews in 2017 that the Russia investigation was a liberal hoax, and while there may have been interference by Russia into the election, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign. No one bothered to ask how Whitaker, who said he wanted to come to Trump’s attention in order to get a job with the Administration in Washington, would have any direct knowledge of the “evidence” to support his claims.

Marching down Broadway to Union Square to demand the Mueller Investigation be protected © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Whitaker was critical of the investigation in an August 2017 CNN op-ed, saying that Mueller investigating Trump’s finances would be crossing a red line, even though the question of whether the Trump empire is built on money laundering for Russian oligarchs loyal to Vladimir Putin is key to whether there was in fact a conspiracy, or collusion, between Russia and the Trump campaign, and whether Trump’s foreign policy decisions are impacted by whether other governments have sway over him (a partial list: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Russia, China, India, Turkey, Panama. Yet Whitaker is now the highest law-enforcement officer in the country.

Whitaker also defended Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian officials promising opposition research against Hillary Clinton, stating, “You would always take that meeting,” demonstrating not only his bias (and conflict of interest) but his ignorance of law (it’s illegal to take anything of value from a foreign power; the “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was illegally obtained, which would render the Trump campaign a co-conspirator). But defending illegality is not new: he served on a board of a company that, like Trump University, existed to bilk its customers, and which used Whitaker’s position as a federal prosecutor to bully those who would have sued.  And yet, he is now the highest law-enforcement officer in the country. (But dishonesty, along with blind loyalty to Dear Leader, seem to be the prerequisites for a Trump appointment.)

“Hands Off Mueller”. New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Whitaker, as a 2014 candidate for US Senate from Iowa, had promised he would vote for federal judicial nominees who have “a Biblical view of justice.” He also expressed disdain for the notion of the Judiciary as a co-equal branch of government, and blasted the original decision, Marbury v Madison from 1803 which established the Supreme Court as the arbiter of constitutionality. (I’ll bet he thinks differently now that Trump has put two Federalist Society judges on the court for a long-term conservative majority.)

Trump had to jump over the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Mueller investigation, in order to pluck Whitaker, who was a chief-of-staff to Sessions for a matter of months. Despite basically carrying out Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, anti-civil rights agenda, Sessions was pilloried by Trump for having recused himself from the Russia probe, since Sessions was part of the Trump campaign and lied to Congress during his confirmation hearing about having had contact with Russians. The likelihood is that Trump deliberately planted Whitaker in the post precisely for this maneuver.

On the other hand, many legal scholars have said Whitaker is not legally allowed to be the Acting chief-law-enforcement officer for the nation since he has never gone through a confirmation process. Again, Trump is likely thinking he can get anyone through the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Hands Off Mueller”. New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Some 19 different organizations, including Moveon.org, Need to Impeach and Democracy for America,, sent out the “Emergency. Break the Glass” notice, triggered when Trump moved to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, to rally people in New York City and around the country.

Thousands protest in New York City to demand the Mueller Investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election be protected © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 12) was among those who addressed the protesters in Union Square. Also, among the organizers, a Brooklyn College student, a mother from Connecticut with an autistic child; and Therese Okoumou, who scaled the Statue of Liberty last July 4 to protest Trump’s family separation policy.

 

Here are more photo highlights from the New York City rally and march to protect Mueller:

“Trump is NOT Above the Law.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Not My Dictator.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Imagine Justice.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Recuse.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Organizers of the New York City protest to protect Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“In Mueller We Trust.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I Can’t Believe I’m Pissed Sessions Got Fired.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

“Defeat This.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“S.O.S.” New York City protests to protect the Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney addresses protesters in Union Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Organizers of the New York City protest to protect Mueller Investigation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See more at New York Times:

Trump Says ‘I Don’t Know Matt Whitaker,’ the Acting Attorney General He Chose

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power

Acting Attorney General Sat on Board of Company Accused of Bilking Customers

Trump Installs a Critic of the Mueller Investigation to Oversee It

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

NY’s Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul Paying Homage to Massacred Jews, Tells Synagogue: Live a more Publicly Jewish Way, Don’t Be a Victim; Push Hate Back Under a Rock

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul tells communal shiva gathering for Pittsburgh synagogue victims at Beit Shalom Torah, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim. Push [hate] back under a rock.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.

Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …

“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul addresses Beit Shalom Torah congregation at communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.

“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.

“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”

She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.

“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.

She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.

“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.

And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.

“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”

Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”

Sing “God Bless America” as a prayer, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum says at Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.

“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.

HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.

“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.

At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”

It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.

“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”

And the congregation sang.

Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, ‎queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Governor Cuomo, Cardinal Dolan Participate in Interfaith Vigil for Victims of Hate

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.

Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:

Cantors Dan Mutlu and Julia Cadrain are joined by Reverend Bertram Johnson and Imans Shansi Ali and Tahir Kukaj in singing “I Will Build This World” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew.  Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.

“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history.  God Bless the state of New York.

“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.

“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.

NGovernor Andrew Cuomo: “There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head.  The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.

“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us.  And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.

“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.

“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.

“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.

Some 1250 people attended the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for those massacred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh at Central Synagogue, built in 1872, the oldest continuously operated synagogue in New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter.  He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’

“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’

“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’

“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers.  Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.

“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.

“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.

“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.” 

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children,” said Rabbi Angela Buchdahl © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.

Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.

“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.

“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”

The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel reading the Sunday after the deadliest attack on Jews in America began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”

Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel reading the Sunday after the deadliest attack on Jews in America began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pastor Amandus Deer  noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.”  “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”

Tearing ribbons, lighting candles and saying prayers to remember the victims of hate at the Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited.  Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that  one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “

The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.

Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.

The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin