Nearly 200 Long Island activists turned out for a demonstration that took up two corners of the busy Jericho Turnpike and the Walt Whitman Boulevard in Huntington Station to show outrage at the blatant racism and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, causing the death of a 32-year old woman and sending 19 others to hospital.
The rally was organized by Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists, in conjunction with Long Island Progressive Coalition, NY 2nd District Democrats (Republican Peter King’s district); Action Together Long Island, Get 2 Work Long Island, Suffolk Progressives. Widelec posted the event on moveon.org and the Indivisible site, where it was listed among many protests, rallies, vigils taking place throughout the metropolitan area, to give people, hungry for a way to express their horror at what befell Charlottesville, a means of expressing their outrage.
Drivers in a steady stream of cars honked in support; a few used hand gestures to express their opposition.
The gathering was also notable for a whole slew of Democratic elected officials and candidates, including New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, Assemblyman Phil Ramos 96th district, Brentwood newly elected Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino (who won her seat for State Assembly in a district that Trump won by 18 points), and Nassau County Legislator Arnie Drucker, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of Judy Jacobs, plus a potpourri of candidates for Huntington and Oyster Bay supervisor and town council.
“Impeach Twitler… Never Again,” read the hand-drawn sign held high by Erica Fladell of Bethpage. “United against hate.” “Silence is deafening and can be dangerous”. “Stop Fascism Now.” were among the other banners.
Indeed, Trump has shown more venomous outrage in tweets against political opponents, the press (“fake news”), even Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, who quit a White House business advisory panel over President Trump’s statement blaming “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., as well as the “fire and fury” threat to North Korea that he said was not “tough enough,” than he does against the White Supremacists, KKK and neo-Nazis.
And Trump only belatedly – two days later – acknowledged the murder of Heather Heyer, giving no mention at all to the other 19 victims, while expressing sympathy for two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash and reaffirming his campaign pledge to “restore law and order.”
Indeed, his first statement was a kind of disclaimer of responsibility for these groups who have not just come out of shadows and fringes, but have been emboldened even validated by his ascension.
The protesters who have taken to the streets in hundreds of rallies around the country, took exemption to his statement, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” as hollow by adding “on many sides, on many sides,” as if to equivocate the level of responsibility and source of violence.
And in a classic Trumpism of denying all responsibility, he added, “it has been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time.”
The protesters though, saw it differently.
“The hoods are off. They don’t feel the need to cover their faces,” one woman declared. “White nationalism is a political position to have now.”
Indeed, in Charlottesville, former KKK leader David Duke, said, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”
The chant on Jericho Turnpike went up:
“No Trump. No KKK
No Fascist USA”
Trump “doesn’t even denounce or condemn these hate groups..but will appoint White Supremacists [like Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who has ties to a neo-Nazi organization in Hungary] to his administration. That’s why we’re here,” declared Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of NY 2nd District Democrats, to challenge Republican Peter King, who has been staunchly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim under the guise of national security.
“Some of us are here because our father fought a war against Nazism,” said Virginia McNulty of Plainview. He would be horrified.”
Indeed, though Administration toadies tried to proclaim that Trump had, in fact, denounced racist violence, neo-Nazis took aid and comfort in his remarks, hailing his statement as an endorsement.
“He didn’t attack us,” The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, exulted in response to Trump’s statement on Saturday: “Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
I come up with my own chant:
“No Fear. No Hate
No American Fascist State”
Great Neck Vigil
Later, I joined another gathering, this time in the Old Village of Great Neck, in front of the US Post Office.
People came from as far as Levittown, West Hempstead, Whitestone to the Old Village of Great Neck to register their horror and outrage at the blatant show of force by White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis that led to the death of a 32-year old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia. With just a few hours notice, dozens came to demonstrate their somber support of the founding principles and values of America.
The vigil was organized by Karen Ashkenase and David Zielenziger who posted on moveon.org and indivisible sites.
“We are standing in solidarity with Charlottesville. Join us. Bring a candle. We honor the dead, hope for recovery for the injured and demand Trump explicitly condemn alt-Right extremism and violence!”
With just a few hours notice, the vigil had drawn almost 3 dozen who came from as far as Levittown, Bellerose, West Hempstead and Whitestone.
“We wanted Great Neck to hold a vigil… to protest this outrage, killing, violence and Trump,” said David Zielenziger.
He was incensed after Trump failed to denounce White Supremacists, the KKK and the Neo-Nazis who flooded into Charlottesville, even holding a flaming torch march through the University of Virginia campus, to protest taking down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
He specifically wanted a demonstration in the Old Village (as opposed to the more trafficked areas like Great Neck Plaza) because the Village of Great Neck, along with Kings Point and Saddle Rock on the Peninsula, voted for Trump in significant majorities.
“For the community to do nothing, was outrageous.”
The Great Neck Peninsula had recently formed a new progressive action group, North Shore Action.
“Even the skin-heads came from immigrants, and if they don’t realize we’re a country of immigrants – that we’re all here together… I won’t let [Trump’ divide us,” said Joseph Varon of West Hempstead, holding a poster of the Statue of Liberty and a portion of Emma Lazarus’ poem that is at its base, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The message of the vigil, he added, is that “even though disheartened, we need to act locally, write letters, come to demonstrations, and vote. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
“This can happen openly because of an environment the Trump administration has established: condoning anti-Semitism, bigotry. The environment he created,” said Shelley Sherman of Great Neck.
Compare the protests at Ferguson, Missouri last summer after an unarmed Black man, Michael Brown, was gunned down by police, where a militarized police force came with tanks and tear gas to suppress Black protesters, while self-proclaimed vigilantes patrolled with assault rifles, she noted. In Charlottesville, the White Supremacists came with assault weapons strapped to their bodies, with helmets and shields and home-made pepper spray, and flaming torches.
“The Trump Administration created an environment that has enabled people to say, ‘Heil.’” Indeed, after Trump won election, Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader, at a Washington DC conference led the crowd in “Hail Trump” cheers and Nazi salute.
Three generations of Emru women came from Levittown to protest: Christina Emru, a 70-year old grandmother; granddaughter Sofia, 8 years old, and Dara, her daughter.
They each brought hand-written signs. Christina’s read, “I can’t believe I’m 70 years odl and I’m still fighting the same hate and racism from the 1950s.”
“The hate, the fact that all of this hatred is made acceptable, when it’s not,” exclaimed Julie Eigenberg of Great Neck. “they are making it acceptable for people to treat each other badly, that they can march through UVA with flaming torches. That’s not free speech. It’s intimidation.”
“I’m fearful it will take so long to undue the damage to our culture,” said Debra Michlewitz of Bay Terrace. “
The next day, Trump came out with a speech clearly crafted for him in which he
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans,” he said rather begrudgingly, as if in a hostage video. He has expressed no condolence for the 32 year old woman who was killed, nor any concern for the 19 mowed down by James Alex Fields, Jr., of Ohio.
His words were clearly scripted for him – the phrases, let alone the themes, are alien to the way he actually speaks. They were certainly not from his heart, let alone his mind. And they probably were accompanied by a furtive wink-and-nod. His peeps know his true heart.
Eight-year old Sofia’s efforts were not in vain, though. What the protests, did was put Trump and the Republicans on notice, forcing Trump to make this declaration and even forcing Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions to take a stand to prosecute Heather Heyer’s murderer.
While defending Trump’s comments following the car-ramming attack in Charlottesville which took Heather Heyer’s life (he knows better than to cross his leader), Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised the Department of Justice would take “vigorous action” to defend the rights of Americans to protest bigotry.
“Well [Trump] made a very strong statement that directly contradicted the ideology of hatred, violence, bigotry, racism, white supremacy — those things must be condemned in this country,” Sessions said on the TODAY show on Monday. “They’re totally unacceptable, and you can be sure that this Department of Justice, in his administration, is going to take the most vigorous action to protect the right of people, like Heather Heyer, to protest against racism and bigotry.”
Here’s a radical idea for dealing with North Korea: ban all nuclear weapons.
This notion has taken on new urgency in just a matter of days, Indeed, seemingly oblivious to the calendar and history marking the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which obliterated 200,000 civilians, Trump, presiding over an opioid conference during his vacation at his Bedminster NJ golf club, raised the stakes on saber-rattling:
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Never seen before?
What Trump was reacting to was Kim Jong-un’s threat to launch “thousands-fold” revenge against the United States, after the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs.
“We are ready to retaliate with far bigger actions to make the U.S. pay a price for its crime against our country and people,” the official Korean Central News Agency stated, promising that North Korea would take a “stern action of justice.”
Trump’s “fire and fury” (evoking George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” threat to Saddam Hussein before launching the preemptive invasion of Iraq) response prompted Kim Jong-un to threaten to obliterate Guam.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seeming on his own track, told Americans not to worry. I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”
That is despite Senator Lindsay Graham telling Americans not to worry because a war would be fought “over there” and others in Trump’s Administration going beyond Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine to a “preventive war” doctrine.
The situation heated just a couple of days after the annual Hiroshima commemoration, organized by SANE Peace Action based in Great Neck, a 60-year old organization, and Long Island Peace Alternatives, formed 32 years ago, which for many years now has taken place at the Universalist Unitarian Church at Shelter Rock, Long Island, never fails to inspire a range of emotions – horror, regret, guilt, anger, activism, and hope. Hope that after 72 years, the world will come to its senses as to this existential threat.
This year’s gathering, on August 2, started off surprisingly upbeat: 122 United Nations members had just adopted a treaty calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. But the hopefulness of that was shattered by the next sentence: Not one of the nine countries that actually possess nuclear weapons — United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supports it, in fact boycotted the deliberations. It’s as if the wimps and wusses of the world signed a petition to stop bullies from bullying
And while during the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the US was making strong headway to reducing nuclear threats (that is the heart of the Ukraine issue, where the collapse of the “Soviet Union resulted in an enormous cache of “loose nukes” which is why the United States and west promised to protect Ukraine against incursion), he was already being thwarted by Senate Republicans who actually balked at signing the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, indeed some are rattling sabers to undo the treaty which requires Russia and the United States to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,500 from 2,200 each by next year (New York Times, A Threat to Nuclear Arms Control, July 29, 2017).
Instead, the Republican Congress is considering whether the US should develop a new ground-launched cruise missile and withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banning missiles with a range of up to about 3,000 miles.
What success Obama had to reduce the threat of a nuclear holocaust – most dramatically, the historic Iran Nuclear Agreement – and on so many other things, Obama was under-appreciated and his efforts kind of matter-of-factly taken for granted, even dismissed, and Trump has vowed to pull out, just as he has said the US would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Trump’s entire focus – his federal budget, his foreign policy, domestic policy – is actually to dismantle the mechanisms of diplomacy and global cooperation (The State Department announced it is removing “promoting Democracy” from its mission statement, has already dismissed human rights as a priority in favor of deals making, is shutting down the Global Engagement Center aimed at countering propaganda which would destabilize democracy, and is generally cutting the State Department’s budget by one-third, and Trump is really, really unhappy with the campaign in Afghanistan because China is capitalizing on its mineral wealth and US companies are not), in favor of militancy, including seeking $1 TRILLION to spend on a new generation of nuclear weapons which will only reignite a nuclear arms race, on top of over $600 billion in new military spending (how interesting that Republicans believe there is no benefit to “throw money” at education or health care, but perfectly okay to throw money that isn’t even requested at the already bloated defense budget). The Trump Doctrine boils down to “To the victor belongs the spoils.”
While diplomacy is hard, complicated, nuanced and requires mental acuity, sending soldiers into war is easy.
Trump loves shiny new things and pumping up the military, focusing on militancy which is under his total control as the nominal Commander-in-Chief, is what his narcissism needs. And increasingly, as we see him throwing out red-meat “policy” to shore up his base, it is very likely that he will ultimately fall back to the Bush/Cheney/Rove tactic to secure his power and his presidency: war, preceded by a Pearl-Harbor rallying incident, 9/11. North Korea mounting a nuclear strike against Seattle, that would do the trick.
Which brings us to North Korea. No one with any brain or conscience believes that there is any military solution that would not be catastrophic. Trying to strong-arm Kim Jong-un into giving up his nuclear weapons is fantastical, especially when Kim believes (with good reason) that the only reason his country hasn’t been invaded and his regime toppled is because of his nuclear power.
Even with the Trump Administration’s “success” at getting the United Nations Security Council to vote unanimously (that means China and Russia which are bolstering North Korea) to impose new sanctions on North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is like a robot mouthing a policy that demands North Korea stop its weapons testing before the US will agree to any talks.
What does that mean, exactly? Stop for a week, a month, a year? What would qualify?
Talks are key – after all, what would the alternative be? Sanctions tend not to work with despots with total control over life and death of their subjects.
But what would the talks be about? More threats? What would be the incentive?
And what is patently clear is that any demand that begins and ends with “give up nuclear weapons program” will be a nonstarter. Kim Jong-un has seen what has happened to other tyrants who do not command such weapons or who give up their weapons, like Libya’s Omar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. And he sees how despite Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program in order to have economic sanctions lifted, the Trump Administration is working to re-impose economic sanctions, despite the administration’s report acknowledging that Iran has been in compliance with the agreement. What lesson should Kim Jong-on draw?
Instead of laying the groundwork for a diplomatic solution (the State Department has barely any personnel: no Ambassador to South Korea, no under-Secretary for Asian Affairs), Trump seems to want to provoke ever more aggressive actions which would then justify a military response which he thinks will rally mindless adherence and give an excuse to permanently silence any opposition.
Trump is a guy who flippantly said during the 2016 presidential campaign he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them, who suggested that other countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons because they should fund their own defense without the United States incurring the expense, who had no clue what the “nuclear triad” was and apparently, no idea whatsoever of the terrifying consequence of using nuclear bombs. (See” 9 terrifying things Donald Trump has publicly said about nuclear weapons).
(The question I would have is whether the American military establishment would refuse to obey Trump’s order.)
So here’s a radical idea: moving toward eliminating nuclear weapons altogether is the solution. If the nine nations that have nuclear weapons agree to dispose of them, that could be the solution.
Otherwise, we are likely headed toward a nuclear confrontation in which there will be no winners, only losers.
At the end of the evening, there was a call to action: Call or visit your Congressmembers to urge them to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.
“It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world,” said Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”:. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.”
The concept behind the nuclear arsenals is the fear of mutually assured destruction will cause any rational leader to pull back from using them. But as Ira Helfand of Leeds MA wrote the New York Times, “Yet we know of more than a dozen instances when nuclear-armed countries began the process of launching their nuclear weapons, usually in the mistaken belief that their adversaries had already done so — more than a dozen times when deterrence failed. And we are told that North Korea must not obtain a nuclear capability because it cannot reliably be deterred. It is time to abandon this failed policy and to pursue the real security of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
In fact, one instance of how close the world came to nuclear holocaust was documented in an amazing, frightening and inspiring film, “The Man Who Saved the World,” about Stanislov Petrov, a Soviet soldier commanding a nuclear bunker who single-handedly averted a nuclear world war in September 1983 by refusing to launch missiles when all his radar and computer systems showed an attack underway by the United States. Petrov defied his orders and protocol and refused to launch knowing that even if the US strike was real and would kill 100 million Russians in an instant, the strike he would order would kill 100 million Americans in the next instant and a billion more people around the planet subsequently.
Indeed, the threats to the continued habitability of the planet and its 7 billion resident souls are not just from a lunatic renegade like Kim Jong-un.
At the end of the evening, Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. issued a call to action: urge your Congressmembers to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.
“It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, was the statement by the US, UK and France: ’While we share your vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons, the time isn’t right. This treaty not the best tactic – we will never sign this treaty, never eliminate nuclear weapons.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now,” she said.
In Trump’s absurd “law and order” speech delivered to Suffolk County, Long Island, police officers, he made a side reference, after noting how horrible violence is that takes our sons and daughters, even husbands and wives, that he and he alone has saved the Second Amendment.
“But we’re just getting started,” Trump said. “We will restore law and order on Long Island. We’ll bring back justice to the United States. I’m very happy to have gotten a great, great Justice of the United States Supreme Court, not only nominated, but approved. And, by the way, your Second Amendment is safe. (Applause.) Your Second Amendment is safe. I feel very good about that. It wasn’t looking so good for the Second Amendment, was it, huh? If Trump doesn’t win, your Second Amendment is gone. Your Second Amendment would be gone.”
An interesting remark considering that New York State has one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation, which can explain why Long Island and New York City have some of the lowest rates of gun violence for their size in the country.
Now, an upstate New York Congressman, Chris Collins (who didn’t do enough damage with his Repeal & Replace Obamacare amendment that was written solely to hurt New York State), is proposing a federal bill to preempt state and local gun laws.
“Concealed Carry Reciprocity,” would allow more people who have never passed a background check or fired a gun in their lives to carry hidden, loaded firearms in public crowds as soon as they buy them. While nearly every state requires people to qualify for a permit to carry loaded, concealed weapons in public, some states have strong permit requirements, others have very lax restrictions or none at all.
What this bill would do is say that if you have a permit from ANY state in the country, ALL states must recognize it, which means the weakest state laws will effectively become nationwide laws, as all states will be forced to accept them.
So much for the 10th Amendment crowd who purport to want states rights (including the rights of states to ignore Affordable Care Act mandates), and who have said time and time again that government works best that is most local to the people. Except when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, environmental protection, climate action, and gun control.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence has come out strongly condemning H.R. 3576, a federal bill introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY 27) that would preempt state and local gun safety laws regulating rifles and shotguns, including background check requirements on the transfer of these guns.
The bill would pose a danger to New Yorkers by overriding the common sense gun laws enacted by state and local governments. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also condemned this federal proposal and expressed strong support for New York State’s gun safety laws.
“Representative Collins’ dangerous proposal is a drastic, politically-driven attempt to override state and local laws that reasonably regulate the sale and transfer of shotguns and rifles, including assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” said Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“This extreme federal legislation would even gut applicable background check requirements and allow felons, domestic abusers, and others who are a danger to themselves or others to easily access such guns. New York has the third lowest gun death rate in the nation and our common sense gun laws have prevented gun deaths and injuries across our state. We condemn this unconscionable, gun lobby-backed bill that undermines states’ rights and threatens the lives and well-being of families and communities in New York and across the country,” she added.
“It is interesting that Congressman Collins holds himself out as having conservative values and yet he is pushing a bill that would challenge the rights of states and localities to set policy regarding gun sales,” said Gary Pudup, NYAGV’s Western New York Coordinator. “This extreme federal bill is both vague and overly broad and could easily be challenged as unconstitutional. As a gun owner and retired police officer myself, I also find it incomprehensible that any reasonable, law-abiding gun owner would be in favor of eliminating background checks on the sale of rifles and shotguns,” he added.
“In 2013, following the Sandy Hook tragedy, New York State rose to the occasion and passed the toughest gun safety laws in the nation,” stated New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Democrats and Republicans came together to ban assault weapons from coming into the state, ban high capacity magazines and keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.
“Now, in a blatant political ploy, Chris Collins is turning his back on New Yorkers and putting millions of people at profound risk. By fighting to roll back vital legislation that protects the people of the Empire State, Collins is demonstrating once again that he is beholden to no one but the gun lobby and entrenched special interests.
“This disturbing bill puts New Yorkers in harm’s way – and to make it worse, there is no basis for it. None. The courts have resoundingly upheld New York’s law as consistent with the Constitution. We understand that Washington is in turmoil right now – we just ask that they don’t do anything to set back the progress we’ve been able to make despite them.”
Is there anything more abominably Orwellian than Donald Trump coming to Long Island, pretending to be the “Law & Order” guy, while cheerleading police to engage in extra-judicial violence against “suspects” (which according to American jurisprudence, are “innocent until proven guilty”), at a time when systemic racism is responsible for disproportionate sentences for minorities and underprivileged (no “affluenza” defense for them!), and extraordinary numbers of unarmed blacks being murdered by police for such “capital” offenses as a broken headlight?
This from the man who thinks he is above the law, that the Rule of Law does not apply to him or his family, who would obstruct justice by firing his FBI Director and threatening to fire his Attorney General (ironically, the guy who is enforcing Trump’s Law & Order agenda, overturning consent decrees by local police forces and returning to disproportionately harsh prosecutions and sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses), the guy whose immigration force are going after teenagers and mothers of American citizens for the crime of being undocumented, rather than the “bad hombres” he claimed?
This from the man who freely obstructs justice, abuses his power, and asserts his unlimited power to pardon his family members, aides and even himself? The guy who really believes he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it?
The guy who would deprive constitutional rights, who advocates torture, looks to militarize the police and overturn rules that restrain the way they deal with suspects.
Trump pronounced a ban on transgender individuals in the military in a series of tweets, without consulting with his generals (as he claimed) or informing the Defense Department, in the same week he designated “American Heroes Week.” The guy who used his privilege to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War, who demeans those who volunteer to serve in the military. He did that to deflect attention from the cascading catastrophe in his administration – the failure to repeal Obamacare (and deprive millions of health care), the kerfluffle (covfeffe?) over his humiliation of the Conservatives’ favorite, Jeff Sessions, and the outrageous remarks by his new communications director and Trump “Mini Me” Anthony Scaramucci.
It was the American Heroes theme that brought him to Long Island, where he similarly tried to change the subject and reignite the love from his base by reigniting hatred against Hispanic immigrants. Hence the focus on MS 13 gang violence and his baseless conflation of immigration, refugees and criminal activity, with swipes at Obama and Hillary Clinton thrown in for good measure.
Here is a highlighted, annotated transcript of Donald Trump’s remarks July 28 to Long Island law enforcement officials on MS-13 gang violence during “America Heroes” week :
2:09 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. This is certainly being home for me. I spent a lot of time right here. I was in Queens, so I’d come here, and this was like the luxury location for me. And I love it. I love the people here. Even coming in from the airport, I sat with Nikki Haley, who’s here someplace. Where’s our Nikki? Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is so incredible. (Applause.) And she’s seen crowds in her life, and she said, boy, those are really big crowds. Crowds of people all lining the streets, all the way over to here. And it’s really a special place. And so when I heard about this, I said, I want to do that one.
But I really wanted to do it not because of location, but because, as you know, I am the big, big believer and admirer of the people in law enforcement, okay? From day one. (Applause.) From day one. We love our police. We love our sheriffs. And we love our ICE officers. And they have been working hard. (Applause.) Thank you. They have been working hard.
Together, we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities, and we’re going to destroy the vile criminal cartel, MS-13, and many other gangs. But MS-13 is particularly violent. They don’t like shooting people because it’s too quick, it’s too fast. I was reading — one of these animals was caught — in explaining, they like to knife them and cut them, and let them die slowly because that way it’s more painful, and they enjoy watching that much more. These are animals.
We’re joined today by police and sheriffs from Suffolk, Nassau, Dutchess and Ulster counties; state police from New York and New Jersey — many of you I know, great friends; Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers; and law enforcement personnel from a number of federal agencies. So we’re loaded up with great people — that’s what I call it.
And I want to just tell you all together, right now, the reason I came — this is the most important sentence to me: On behalf of the American people, I want to say, thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
And I don’t think you know how much the public respects and admires you. You’re saving American lives every day, and we have your backs — believe me — we have your backs 100 percent. Not like the old days. Not like the old days. (Applause.)
You know, when you wanted to take over and you used military equipment — and they were saying you couldn’t do it — you know what I said? That was my first day: You can do it. (Laughter.) In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left. (Laughter.) You guys know — you really knew how to get that. But that’s my honor. And I tell you what — it’s being put to good use.
I especially want to thank ICE Director Tom Homan, who has done an incredible job in just a short period of time. Tom, get up here. I know you just — (applause) — Tom is determined to rid our nation of cartels and criminals who are preying on our citizens. And I can only say to Tom: Keep up the great work. He’s a tough guy. He’s a tough cookie. Somebody said the other day, they saw him on television, and somebody — they were interviewed after that; they said, he looks very nasty, he looks very mean. I said, that’s what I’m looking for. (Laughter.) That’s exactly what I was looking for.
And for that, I want to congratulate John Kelly, who has done an incredible job of Secretary of Homeland Security. Incredible. (Applause.) One of our real stars. Truly, one of our stars. John Kelly is one of our great stars. You know, the border is down 78 percent. Under past administrations, the border didn’t go down — it went up. But if it went down 1 percent, it was like this was a great thing. Down 78 percent. And, in fact, the southern border of Mexico, we did them a big favor — believe me. They get very little traffic in there anymore, because they know they’re not going to get through the border to the United States.
So that whole group has been incredible, led by General Kelly.
Let me also express our gratitude to the members of the New York Delegation here today: Congressman Chris Collins. Where’s Chris? Oh, Chris, right from the beginning he said, “Trump is going to win. Trump is going to win.” So I like him. (Laughter.) I didn’t like him that much before; now I love him. (Laughter and applause.) Dan Donovan — thanks, Dan. (Applause.) Thank you, Dan. And Lee Zeldin, who I supported right from the beginning, when they said he didn’t have a chance of beating a pretty popular incumbent. (Applause.)
And I saw him in a debate. I said, I think this guy is going to win. But he fought a pretty popular guy, and I said, I think he’s going to win and went heavy for him, and he won. And he won pretty easily, didn’t you? Pretty good. I’m proud of you. Great job.
And, of course, a legend, somebody that we all know very well, sort of my neighbor — because I consider him a neighbor — but he’s really a great and highly respected man in Washington, Congressman Peter King. (Applause.) Very respected guy. He is a respected man that people like to ask opinions of. I do.
Congressman King and his colleagues know the terrible pain and violence MS-13 has inflicted upon this community — and this country. And if you remember just a little more than two years ago, when I came down the escalator with Melania, and I made the speech — people coming into this country. Everyone said, what does he know? What’s he talking about?
And there was bedlam. Remember bedlam? And then about two months later, they said, you know, he’s right. So I’m honored to have brought it to everybody’s attention. But the suffering and the pain that we were going through — and now you can look at the numbers — it’s a whole different world.
And it will get better and better and better because we’ve been able to start nipping it in the bud. We’ve nipped it in the bud — let’s call it start nipping in the bud.
And MS-13, the cartel, has spread gruesome bloodshed throughout the United States. We’ve gotten a lot of them out of here. Big, big percentage. But the rest are coming — they’ll be out of here quickly, right? Quickly. Good. (Applause.)
So I asked Tom on the plane — he was never on Air Force One — I said, how do you like it? He said, I like it. (Laughter.) But I said, hey, Tom, let me ask you a question — how tough are these guys, MS-13? He said, they’re nothing compared to my guys. Nothing. And that’s what you need. Sometimes that’s what you need, right?
For many years, they exploited America’s weak borders and lax immigration enforcement to bring drugs and violence to cities and towns all across America. They’re there right now because of weak political leadership, weak leadership, weak policing, and in many cases because the police weren’t allowed to do their job. I’ve met police that are great police that aren’t allowed to do their job because they have a pathetic mayor or a mayor doesn’t know what’s going on. (Applause.)
Were you applauding for someone in particular? (Laughter.) It’s sad. It’s sad. You look at what’s happening, it’s sad.
But hopefully — certainly in the country, those days are over. You may have a little bit longer to wait.
But from now on, we’re going to enforce our laws, protect our borders, and support our police like our police have never been supported before. We’re going to support you like you’ve never been supported before. (Applause.)
Few communities have suffered worse at the hands of these MS-13 thugs than the people of Long Island. Hard to believe. I grew up on Long Island. I didn’t know about this. I didn’t know about this. And then all of a sudden, this is like a new phenomenon. Our hearts and our nation grieve for the victims and their families.
Since January ‘16 — think of this — MS-13 gang members have brutally murdered 17 beautiful, young lives in this area on Long Island alone. Think of it. They butcher those little girls. They kidnap, they extort, they rape and they rob. They prey on children. They shouldn’t be here. They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs. They slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re animals.
We cannot tolerate as a society the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful, vibrant people — sons and daughters, even husbands and wives. We cannot accept this violence one day more. Can’t do it, and we’re not going to do it. Because of you, we’re not going to be able to do it. You’re not going to allow it to happen, and we’re backing you up 100 percent. Remember that — 100 percent. (Applause.)
[WAS HE TALKING ABOUT THE 33 PEOPLE A DAY KILLED BY GUN VIOLENCE? NO.]
It is the policy of this administration to dismantle, decimate and eradicate MS-13 at every other — and I have to say, MS-13, that’s a name; rough groups — that’s fine. We got a lot of others. And they were all let in here over a relatively short period of time. Not during my period of time, believe me. But we’re getting them out. They’re going to jails, and then they’re going back to their country. Or they’re going back to their country, period.
One by one, we’re liberating our American towns. Can you believe that I’m saying that? I’m talking about liberating our towns. This is like I’d see in a movie: They’re liberating the town, like in the old Wild West, right? We’re liberating our towns. I never thought I’d be standing up here talking about liberating the towns on Long Island where I grew up, but that’s what you’re doing.
And I can tell you, I saw some photos where Tom’s guys — rough guys. They’re rough. I don’t want to be — say it because they’ll say that’s not politically correct. You’re not allowed to have rough people doing this kind of work. We have to get — just like they don’t want to have rich people at the head of Treasury, okay? (Laughter.) Like, I want a rich guy at the head of Treasury, right? Right? (Applause.)
I want a rich guy at the head of Commerce. Because we’ve been screwed so badly on trade deals, I want people that made a lot of money now to make a lot of money for our country.
And, by the way, as I was walking up, they just gave me the numbers. Our numbers just came out this morning. GDP is up double from what it was in the first quarter. (Applause.) 2.6 percent. We’re doing well. We’re doing really well. And we took off all those restrictions. And some we’re statutorily stuck with a for a little while, but eventually that statute comes up, and we’re going to be able to cut a lot more. But we’ve sort of liberated the world of creating jobs like you’re liberating us and the people that live in areas.
But I have to say, one by one, we are indeed freeing up these great American towns and cities that are under siege from gang violence.
Look at Los Angeles. Look at what’s going on in Los Angeles. Look at Chicago. What is going on? Is anybody here from Chicago? We have to send some of you to Chicago, I think. (Laughter.) What’s going on?
I mean, you see what’s happening there? There’s no — do we agree? Is there something maybe — (applause) — is there something — I have to tell you one Chicago story.
So Chicago is having this unbelievable violence; people being killed — four, five, six in a weekend. And I’m saying, what is going on?
And when I was running, we had motorcycle brigades take us to the planes and stuff. And one of the guys, really good — you could see a really respected officer, police officer. He was at the head. He was the boss. And you could see he was the boss. He actually talked like the boss. “Come on, get lined up.” Because I’d always take pictures with the police because I did that. My guys said, don’t do it. Don’t do it. (Applause.)
Other candidates didn’t do it that I was beating by 40 points, can you believe it? But I did it. Maybe that’s why I was winning by 40 points. But other candidates wouldn’t do it, but I always took the pictures with the police.
But we’re in Chicago, and we had massive motorcycle bridges, and you know those people have to volunteer. I don’t know if you know that, but from what I understand, they have to volunteer. And I had the biggest brigades. I had brigades sometimes with almost 300 motorcycles. Even I was impressed. I’d look ahead and it was nothing but motorcycles because they’d volunteer from all over various states.
But this one guy was impressive. He was a rough cookie and really respected guy. I could see he was respected. And he said, “All right, come on, get over here. Get over here. He’s got to get to work. Get over here.” And I said, “So let me tell — you’re from Chicago?” “Yes, sir.” I said, “What the hell is going on?” And he said, “It’s a problem; it can be straightened out.” I said, “How long would it take you to straighten out this problem?” He said, “If you gave me the authority, a couple of days.” (Laughter.) I really mean it. I said, “You really think so?” He said, “A couple of days. We know all the bad ones. We know them all.” And he said, the officers — you guys, you know all the bad ones in your area. You know them by their names. He said, “We know them all. A couple of days.”
I said, “You got to be kidding.” Now, this is a year and a half ago. I said, “Give me your card.” And he gave me a card. And I sent it to the mayor. I said, “You ought to try using this guy.” (Laughter.)
Guess what happened? Never heard. And last week they had another record. It’s horrible.
But we’re just getting started. We will restore law and order on Long Island. We’ll bring back justice to the United States. I’m very happy to have gotten a great, great Justice of the United States Supreme Court, not only nominated, but approved. And, by the way, your Second Amendment is safe. (Applause.) Your Second Amendment is safe. I feel very good about that. It wasn’t looking so good for the Second Amendment, was it, huh? If Trump doesn’t win, your Second Amendment is gone. Your Second Amendment would be gone.
But I have a simple message today for every gang member and criminal alien that are threatening so violently our people: We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you, and we will deport you. (Applause.)
And, you know, we had some problems with certain countries. Still do with a couple, but we’ll take care of them — don’t worry about it. Anytime we have a trade deficit, it’s very easy — which is almost everywhere. We have trade deficits with almost every country because we had a lot of really bad negotiators making deals with other countries. So it’s almost everywhere, so that takes care of itself.
But we had certain countries in South America where they wouldn’t take the people back. And I said, that’s okay, no more trade. All of a sudden they started taking their people back. It’s amazing, isn’t it? They used to send to the former Secretary of State of the country, “Please call. Would you please work it so that we can take” — and they used to just tell her, “No, we won’t take back.” They take back with us, every single time. We’re having very little problem. Are we having any problem right now with that? Huh? You better believe it. Give me the names of the few problems. We’ll take care of it, I’m telling you. (Laughter and applause.) It’s unbelievable.
One of the old people — one of the people that represented the other administration — I said, why didn’t you use that, the power of economics? “Sir, we think one thing has nothing to do with another.” I said, oh, really? So we’ll have big deficits and they won’t take back these criminals that came from there and should be back there? Well, believe me, to me, everything matters. But they’re all taking them back.
ICE officers recently conducted the largest crackdown on criminal gangs in the history of our country. In just six weeks, ICE and our law enforcement partners arrested nearly 1,400 suspects and seized more than 200 illegal firearms and some beauties, and nearly 600 pounds of narcotics.
The men and women of ICE are turning the tide in the battle against MS-13. But we need more resources from Congress — and we’re getting them. Congress is actually opening up and really doing a job. They should have approved healthcare last night, but you can’t have everything. Boy, oh, boy. They’ve been working on that one for seven years. Can you believe that? The swamp. But we’ll get it done. We’re going to get it done.
You know, I said from the beginning: Let Obamacare implode, and then do it. I turned out to be right. Let Obamacare implode. (Applause.)
Right now, we have less than 6,000 Enforcement and Removal Officers in ICE. This is not enough to protect a nation of more than 320 million people. It’s essential that Congress fund another 10,000 ICE officers — and we’re asking for that — so that we can eliminate MS-13 and root out the criminal cartels from our country.
Now, we’re getting them out anyway, but we’d like to get them out a lot faster. And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. (Laughter.) Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay? (Laughter and applause.)
It’s essential that Congress fund hundreds more federal immigration judges and prosecutors — and we need them quickly, quickly — if we’re going to dismantle these deadly networks. And I have to tell you, you know, the laws are so horrendously stacked against us, because for years and years they’ve been made to protect the criminal. Totally made to protect the criminal, not the officers.If you do something wrong, you’re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you. We’re changing those laws. But in the meantime, we need judges for the simplest thing — things that you should be able to do without a judge. But we have to have those judges quickly. In the meantime, we’re trying to change the laws.
We’re also working with Chairman Bob Goodlatte on a series of enforcement measures — and he’s a terrific guy — to keep our country safe from crime and terrorism — and in particular, radical Islamic terrorism. (Applause.) A term never uttered by the past administration. Never uttered. Did anybody ever hear that term? I don’t think so. But you heard it from me.
That includes cracking down on sanctuary cities that defy federal law, shield visa overstays, and that release dangerous criminals back into the United States’ communities. That’s what’s happening. They’re releasing them. So many deaths where they release somebody back into the community, and they know it’s going to end that way. That’s the sad — they know it’s going to end that way. We’re ending those procedures. (Applause.) Thank you.
We have to secure — I spoke to parents, incredible parents. I got to know so many parents of children that were so horribly killed — burned to death, beaten to death, just the worst kind of death you can ever — stuffed in barrels.And the person that did it was released, and you’d look at the file, and there were letter after letter after letter of people begging not to let this animal back into society; that this would happen, it would happen quickly. It wasn’t even like it would happen over a long period of time. They were saying it would happen quickly. It’s total violence. He’s a totally violent person. You cannot let this person out.
[DOES IT SOUND PLAUSIBLE THAT ACCUSED MURDERERS WERE SIMPLY LET GO? WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT. COULD IT BE THAT THE SUSPECT WAS FOUND NOT TO BE THE PERPETRATOR?]
They let the person out, and sometimes it would happen like on the first day. And then you have to talk to the parents and hold the parents and hug them. And they’re crying so — I mean crying. Their lives are destroyed. And nobody thinks about those people. They don’t think about those people. They’re devastated.
But we’re ending so much of that. We’re ending hopefully all of that. The laws are tough. The laws are stacked against us, but we’re ending that. (Applause.)
So we’re going to secure our borders against illegal entry, and we will build the wall. That I can tell you. (Applause.)
In fact, last night — you don’t read about this too much, but it was approved — $1.6 billion for the phase one of the wall, which is not only design but the start of construction over a period of about two years, but the start of construction for a great border wall. And we’re going to build it. The Wall is a vital, and vital as a tool, for ending the humanitarian disaster brought — and really brought on by drug smugglers and new words that we haven’t heard too much of — human traffickers.
This is a term that’s been going on from the beginning of time, and they say it’s worse now than it ever was. You go back a thousand years where you think of human trafficking, you go back 500 years, 200 years, 100 years. Human trafficking they say — think of it, but they do — human trafficking is worse now maybe than it’s ever been in the history of this world.
We need a wall. We also need it, though, for the drugs, because the drugs aren’t going through walls very easily — especially the walls that I build. I’m a very good builder. You people know that better than most because you live in the area. That’s why I’m here. (Applause.) We’ll build a good wall.
Now, we’re going to build a real wall. We’re going to build a wall that works, and it’s going to have a huge impact on the inflow of drugs coming across. The wall is almost — that could be one of the main reasons you have to have it. It’s an additional tool to stop the inflow of drugs into our country.
The previous administration enacted an open-door policy to illegal migrants from Central America. “Welcome in. Come in, please, please.”
As a result, MS-13 surged into the country and scoured, and just absolutely destroyed, so much in front of it. New arrivals came in and they were all made recruits of each other, and they fought with each other, and then they fought outside of each other. And it got worse and worse, and we’ve turned that back.
In the three years before I took office, more than 150,000 unaccompanied alien minors arrived at the border and were released all throughout our country into United States’ communities — at a tremendous monetary cost to local taxpayers and also a great cost to life and safety.
[DOESN’T MEAN THEY BECAME GANG MEMBERS]
Nearly 4,000 from this wave were released into Suffolk County — congratulations — including seven who are now indicted for murder. You know about that.
In Washington, D.C. region, at least 42 alien minors from the border surge have been recently implicated in MS-13-related violence, including 19 charged in killings or attempted killings.
You say, what happened to the old days where people came into this country, they worked and they worked and they worked, and they had families, and they paid taxes, and they did all sorts of things, and their families got stronger, and they were closely knit? We don’t see that.
Failure to enforce our immigration laws had predictable results: drugs, gangs and violence. But that’s all changing now.
Under the Trump administration, America is once more a nation of laws and once again a nation that stands up for our law enforcement officers. (Applause.)
We will defend our country, protect our communities, and put the safety of the American people first. And I’m doing that with law enforcement, and we’re doing that with trade, and we’re doing that with so much else. It’s called America First. It’s called an expression I’m sure you’ve never heard of: Make America Great Again. Has anybody heard that expression? (Applause.)
That is my promise to each of you. That is the oath I took as President, and that is my sacred pledge to the American people.
Thank you everyone here today. You are really special, special Americans. And thank you in particular to the great police, sheriffs, and ICE officers. You do a spectacular job. The country loves you. The country respects you. You don’t hear it, but believe me, they respect you as much as they respect anything. There is the respect about our country. You are spectacular people. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: Because of the danger of your job, which people also understand fully, I leave you with the following: Thank you and may God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Considering all that Governor Andrew Cuomo has been doing to update, upgrade, modernize New York’s infrastructure – including the Long Island Rail Road, a $32 billion rebuilding project for LaGuardia Airport, JF Kennedy Airport, the Gateway Tunnel and the Tappan Zee Bridge – it is shocking, really, to hear Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped in recent weeks, largely because of the very problems he is working to fix: the MTA and LIRR. There is massive work going on this summer and people are inconvenienced; Cuomo even declared a state of emergency for New York City subways. But at least he is doing something.
Part of the reason you get the uptick in disapproval is the way pollsters ask questions. I can certainly understand commuters’ distress at the disruptions this summer – some caused precisely because the system is so old and failing and needs to be replaced and some because they are working to replace the system – but quite another to blame Cuomo, rather than appreciate that at least, after decades of governors kicking cans down a road, is doing something about it – in fact, New York State is undertaking the most ambitious infrastructure project in the nation. And it goes along with a transition – as much as possible – to climate sustainability and clean, renewable energy.
But, in contrast to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who nixed the Hudson tunnel when he came to office as a slap-in-the-face to President Obama (and now the Trump Administration is likely to defund the Gateway project) and shut down the George Washington Bridge for 4 days to spite a Democratic mayor (and still was overwhelmingly reelected), Cuomo has implemented an ambitious infrastructure plan, on par with the bold visionary transformation of Governor DeWitt Clinton (Erie Canal), Governor Theodore Roosevelt (Barge Canal), and Governor Franklin Roosevelt (St. Lawrence Seaway). Indeed, New York is undergoing a $100 billion building program, the largest infrastructure revitalization programs in the nation.
This week, after 70 years of stagnation, Cuomo announced “historic” $5.6 billion transformation of the Long Island Rail Road – 100 transformative LIRR capital projects including the Main Line Third Track, Double Track, Jamaica Station Reconstruction, 39 renovated Long Island Rail Road stations, including Great Neck and Port Washington, plus the new Penn-Farley Complex and $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall. Additionally, East Side Access project will create the first direct LIRR service to the east side and increase capacity.
“With the complete transformation of the Long Island Railroad, New York is recapturing the bold ambition that made our infrastructure the envy of the nation and building for the future. The LIRR is the backbone of the region’s economy, and the strength and resiliency of Long Island requires bold, transformative investments to bolster our transportation network,” Governor Cuomo said. “From the previously unthinkable Third Track and Second Track projects to state-of-the-art technology and signal upgrades, we are daring to imagine better and delivering for the people of New York once again.”
And Cuomo has accepted the state’s responsibility in fixing the MTA, pledging support for the MTA NYC Subway Action Plan.
“The MTA is in crisis and hard-working New Yorkers deserve better. The plan outlined by Chairman Lhota is substantive and realistic. “I am fully committed to making it a reality. I accept the 50/50 split of funds, and the state will do its part. Government is about making a positive difference in people’s lives. As a lifelong New Yorker, I know how essential the subway service is to people’s day to day lives. I am all about getting results. Now is not the time for pointing fingers, but for moving forward – together as New Yorkers.”
Cuomo also stated, “Last week, we had a successful resolution to expand the Long Island Rail Road after 50 years of delay. Today Chairman Lhota laid out a comprehensive plan to transform the New York City transit system. Tomorrow, I will go to Washington to meet with Secretary Chao to discuss what may be the most important transportation project in the region – the Gateway Tunnel. The Gateway Tunnel is critical for rail traffic entering New York and the entire Northeast. It is essential that this project, which has been delayed for years, goes forward. I will also brief the New York Delegation on the situation.”
The state is also fortifying an additional 12 bridges (including $16.5 million to rehabilitate Long Island bridges) and replacing and upgrading 13 electric power substations.
The Port Authority is in the midst of a $32 billion, 10-year capital plan to redevelop LaGuardia and JF Kennedy airports and construct a LaGuardia AirTran.
There is also $112.2 million in funding for 81 projects that support bicycle and pedestrian enhancements and improve air quality across New York, including $2.2 million for Long Island projects in Brookhaven, Glen Cove and Amityville, and $200 million allocated to create the 750-mile long Empire State Trail Network.
It’s not just the transportation infrastructure, but the power system (not to mention initiatives to incentivize clean, renewable energy systems to replace fossil fuel, including electric car power stations along the thruway and offshore windpower, and expanding solar power) – in order to meet the Clean Energy Standard mandating 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030.
The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors approved nearly $60 million in grants and interest-free and low-cost loans to support vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state.
Yet, despite all that is going on, Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped.
It’s really disheartening – it is why politicians rarely take bold initiatives, but rather pander or play to an image rather than getting things done. Most people have such a superficial, hollow understanding of what is going on – it’s why Republicans were able to perpetuate such hatred for Obama throughout his administration, stoking discontent rather than people appreciating the actual improvements in their lives – foreclosures stopped, job losses stemmed, bankruptcies slowed. Instead, massive construction was underway thanks to infrastructure spending; teachers, police and firefighters kept their jobs, General Motors didn’t fold, paid apprenticeships expanded. But did Americans’ praise Obama? Absolutely not. Republicans kept up the fiction that Obama did not create “a single job,” that Obamacare and climate actions were “job-killing”, despite record number of months of consecutive job increases and unemployment rates falling to a level effectively called “full employment”. even through the 2012 reelection campaign. Trump was able to convince white working class people they were “forgotten” and only Trump could save them.
In the same vein, Republicans were able to stoked hatred for Obamacare before it was implemented, and even after people were actually loving KYnect, Kentucky’s Obamacare health exchange. It’s one thing to hold a governor or mayor or president to task for ignoring problems or undertaking policies that exacerbate them. And it’s why the Russia/Trump propaganda campaign could be so effective. Sheeple.
#SummerofHell is more than about discomfort or discontentment about commuting. It goes to the heart of why politicians are unwilling to be bold, how easily it is to rabble-rouse a crowd. It is why those “forgotten” white working class were so easily incited in hatred and anger against Obama, to fail to appreciate that their situations were in fact improving (people weren’t losing jobs or homes or retirement savings, they had access to health care) and connived into following Trump, easily the most corrupt, inept, self-serving ignoramus to hold such power (“Leader of the Free World”) in the history of the world, including Nero.
And you know how people always say that candidates need a positive vision? Well the Trumpers have offered nothing but the bleakest dystopia, winning support by engendering fear and insecurity, notably based on fabrications on such vital issues as climate change, immigration, health care, trade, national security. Even now, Trump says he would rather Obamacare fail (which means that millions would lose healthcare and tens of thousands would die unnecessarily each year) rather than Republicans fail to replace it.
In answer the question, “How did we get here?”, Michael Hadjiargyrou of Centerport wrote to the New York Times, “The answer is simple: a politically apathetic and historically uninformed citizenry, blindly led by a populist salesman, who pulled the lever in his favor. Until a majority of Americans pay closer attention to politics, we are doomed to these kind of outcomes.”
My return visit to Pittsburgh for my second Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage reaffirmed for me the stupidity of Donald Trump’s justification for abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement, that he was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris, and that what Pittsburghers want more than anything is to roll back time a century to the days when coal was king and steel mills were belching putrid smoke and men died prematurely in horrid working conditions, their lives under the thumb of Robber Barons who controlled industry and politics. Indeed, the people of Pittsburgh voted 75% for Hillary Clinton’s agenda and vision of America’s future.
But Trump’s entire agenda, beginning with a budget that would similarly reverse course on the very infrastructure and technology developments that would insure America’s leadership in the 21st century, rather than put us back a century.
We get a glimpse of what that is like on the outskirts of the city, in Clairton, where a huge mound of coal dwarfs a tractor truck, and across the bridge over the rail lines, is a chemical plant emitting a foul smell that penetrates the modest residential neighborhood across the street.
The city of Pittsburgh, itself, has risen anew, with glistening office towers and a new economy based on finance, health care, academics, robotics and technology. Its waterfront, once dominated by dirty industrial plants, is now a gorgeous bike path, which you can see so spectacularly from Mount Washington, the place from which George Washington surveyed to find a location to put a fort to protect British colonial interests, but from which in those bad ol’ days, the city would have been shrouded in haze.
Outside the city, where we start our bike tour near the beginning of the 150-mile long multi-purpose railtrail, in the state which built its economy on oil, coal and gas, there are windmills on the hilltops and solar farms in fields. Where we camp one night, in Confluence below the Youghiogheny River Reservoir dam built in 1944 to control flooding, the outflow has been tapped for hydroelectric power.
The biketrail – representing 150 of some 23,000 miles of similarly repurposed railtrails across the country – is a new lifeline for small towns like Meyersdale, which once supported six hotels, an elementary school and a high school, now all shuttered, and Dunbar, once a center for glassmaking and coal production. In Confluence, where the population today is 700, we add 200 to that roll during our stay.
The Trump agenda – and his budget to back it up – would cancel out the line for funding such repurposing projects that has existed since 1991, while eliminating incentives that helped jumpstart America’s fledgling clean, renewable energy industry where jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The 374,000 now employed in solar eclipse the 74,000 people working as coal miners, indeed, exceed all the workers in oil, gas and coal combined; while wind energy employed 100,000. Worldwide – and places like Europe which are legions ahead of the US in wind and solar – some 10 million people are employed in clean renewable energy jobs.
At the same time, the Trump Administration – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – are sloping the playing field back in favor of climate-destroying fossil fuel industry, rolling back regulations that would allow coal mining companies to pollute water, removing protections on drilling and mining on federal lands, opening up exports of natural gas and oil, creating financial incentives for new nuclear plants, and ending tax credits for renewable energy, among a long, long list. Trump wants to really stick it to climate activists.
Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion in America’s aging, decaying and obsolete infrastructure is also a sham – as evidenced by his Transportation director exiting the New York-New Jersey Hudson Gateway Tunnel project, and a budget that would rescind funding to rebuild the century-old tunnel.
One contrasts this myopia from the guy who boasted of being a “builder” with the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal, in 1817, a bold vision and engineering marvel, which quite literally made New York City the financial capital of the world by connecting the port of New York to the Midwest’s resources and markets with Europe. Even then, globalization, not isolation, is what made the United States a world power.
It’s not just the belching, choking pollution that Trump would like to go back to. In climate policy, energy policy, health care, tax reform, and now infrastructure, Trump envisions exacerbating the divide between rich and poor – and therefore political power as campaign finance and special interests increasingly determine who gets the “ear” in policy. His budget affirms his bias against transitioning away from a climate-destroying carbon energy economy in favor of clean, renewable, decentralized (and cheaper, less monopolistic) energy. His regulatory policy reverses the incentives as well as the progress. The Republican health care policy is as much a mechanism to cement power in the hands of the “haves” versus the have-nots – who are unlikely to challenge abusive employers if they are afraid of losing their health insurance; unable to join protest marches and rallies if they are in pain or suffering; and unable to have their concerns acted on by lawmakers if they don’t have the funds to contribute to campaigns.
Infrastructure, energy policy, the environment, technological innovation and prospects for economic growth, prosperity, social mobility and yes, political power are all connected. Climate justice, social justice, economic justice, political justice are all intertwined.
Trump would have us go back a century or two and cost the United States its global leadership.
While everyone was obsessing over the latest Trump twitter outrage, his administration was moving forward with the latest assault on democracy and American rights. His Orwellian-named “Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity“ (which is anything but), otherwise known as the Voter Fraud Commission, sent out a letter signed by Kris Kobach to every state’s election official “requesting” (since the commission has no real authority or power) their entire voter database, including party registration, a decade’s worth of voter history, address, partial social security number, birthdate, military service and felony convictions, and whether the voter is registered in more than one state.
Indeed, Secretaries of State, be they red, blue, purple or green, are horrified at the notion of transmitting this information, which, contrary to Kobach’s claim, is not “public.” Moreover, there are “protected classes” such as victims of domestic violence, whose private information is shielded. Louisiana told the commission to “jump in the Gulf”; Kentucky’s said “there isn’t enough bourbon” that would make her deliver this information.
But Kobach’s “request” sounds less like an effort to find out whether our elections are honest and fair, versus a data mining operation for Trump and the Republicans so that they can expand upon their tactics of the 2016 campaign – focusing on fake news, social media trolling in pinpointed districts where just a small nudge could tilt the balance in their favor- which is why a mere 70,000 votes across three states trumped a loss of 3 million popular votes for Hillary Clinton nationally.
That is what is at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation – and what Kobach and his commission, if he is really interested in “election integrity” should be examining, but clearly they are not, because Trump was the beneficiary and because it contradicts his claim of a “mandate” to unleash his ultra-rightwing agenda.
And what if they find that there are 5 million or even 10 million people who have registered in more than one place – like Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon – or that there are 1 million “dead people” still on the rolls? Unless they voted twice or if a dead person sent in an absentee ballot, they did not alter the result.
What is more, Kobach is demanding this data be sent over unsecured email servers, an engraved invitation from this inept administration for malevolence, when even government agencies as secure and cyber-sophisticated as the NSA, Pentagon, Office of Personnel Management, the Secretary of State’s office, indeed the election rolls of 39 states, have been hacked.
The cyberattacks are getting more and more dangerous, moving closer and closer to infrastructure – like shutting down utility plants, the power grid, air traffic control, rail switching stations, and yes, voting databases and machinery. Putin’s goal was to foster suspicion in the democratic process – and he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination, helped by candidate Trump’s constant claims of a “rigged election” and urging his minions to strongarm their way into polling places to make sure that “those people” don’t vote (which had the strategic effect of preventing Democrats to scream “foul” afterward, since they had already made pronouncements that the elections were fair).
The states’ election machinery – made worse after the “Help America Vote Act” that followed the 2000 pregnant chads controversy – is woefully inadequate, and was even in 2004 when Walden “Wally” O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, the black box manufacturer promised to deliver Ohio to George W. Bush, and he did (see story)– and if the NSA, Pentagon, banks, utilities could all be hacked, why would elections not be?
There is something wrong in America with voter turnout rates of 60% in the presidential election (higher than 2012, as it turns out, but less than the 62.2% that turned out in 2008) as controversial and consequential as 2016. (And how much of that was voter suppression or outdated voting lists?)
States that made it easier to register to vote had higher turnout – such as Oregon, Connecticut, Alaska, Vermont and West Virginia, where eligible citizens who interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles are automatically registered to vote. Similar laws are taking effect in California and Colorado. No wonder Republicans will use the commission to find an excuse to roll back the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the motor-voter law, which has registered millions of voters, as Richard Hasen writes in Slate, Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame.
In Oregon, automatic voter registration added an extra 225,000 people to the rolls; in Wisconsin, which Trump “won” by a mere 25,000, voter suppression tactics reduced turnout by 200,000.
Kobach’s “election integrity” commission is about voter intimidation, on top of the voter suppression tactics that Republicans have put through in the states they control, because Republicans realized long ago that low turnout favors their candidates. The problem isn’t over voting, it is under-voting – and this is exactly how the data that Kobach is mining could be weaponized. There are already enumerable examples of Republicans committing election fraud.
Instead of the non-existent voter fraud issue – 44 instances out of more than 1 billion votes cast between 2000-2012, a rate of 0.0000044% – there needs to be reforms made to voting, which though a function the constitution leaves to the states, should still include federal minimal standards for access to voter registration and polling places (to satisfy the 14th Amendment providing for Equal Protection as well as the 15thAmendment, the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged) – where located, people served, hours of opening, minimal number of voting machines per voters, provisions for early voting and absentee voting; requirements for security for electronic, black-box voting devices, back-up paper ballots and auditing after each election, as well as requirements for mandatory hand recounts if the margin is 1% or less; a requirement that when a person is “purged” from voting rolls, a letter be sent informing them, with a remedy for correcting the record; making tampering with voter registration, rolls or elections, including giving fraudulent information about voting places, hours, accessibility a felony crime; and yes, a provision for nullifying an election which has been demonstrated to have been substantively tampered with.
Also, a reason why young people do not vote in the numbers they should: they are too fearful of breaking a law if they vote absentee in their home districts after having moved to a new place for a job. And moved. And moved again. There needs to be clarification of rules allowing people to vote where they were last registered, or regularly vote, and provisions that require people who have not voted in a district for, say, 10 consecutive years, to reregister or be removed.
On this July 4th, even Trump supporters should be standing up for the basic principle of a government established for and by its people. Which means promoting voting, not suppressing it.
By now it is irrefutable that Russia meddled, interfered and likely tilted the 2016 Presidential Election enough to cheat Hillary Clinton out of the presidency and hand it to Donald Trump. That should be enough to nullify the election, but, like the Republicans’ refusal to follow up on blatant impeachable offenses – conflicts of interest, self-dealing, violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, obstruction of justice (firing FBI Director James Comey in order to interrupt the Russia investigation, witness tampering by threatening to expose tapes, prodding other heads of intelligence agencies to end the Russia investigation or come out with some favorable statements; firing US Attorney Preet Bharara, who apparently was getting too close in his investigations into Trump financial dealings) – they are more interested in controlling every branch of government in order to have unimpeded path to fulfill their agenda, than they are in insuring the sanctity of the election process and our democracy.
But as the revelation by the NSA whistleblower Reality Leigh Winner, the 25-year-old Air Force veteran charged with mailing classified information to a news organization, showed, the Russian engagement with the election process was a lot greater than the government has revealed. In fact, Russian actors tampered with the election databases in 39 states. We are being led to believe that they did not alter votes or tabulations, but how do we really know that to be true, especially with the ease and vulnerability of “black-box voting”?
Now Trump is blaming Obama (what else is new?) for “allowing” the Russians to hack into election databases and “doing nothing” (not true) and after months of denying Russian interference altogether, now accuses Obama of “collusing” and “obstructing”. Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others have said that Russian attempts to meddle in elections is nothing new, but what was achieved in the 2016 election was way more intensive and more effective than ever before. What if they only tossed people off the rolls – in Wisconsin, where Trump “won” by about 23,000 votes, there were 200,000 votes suppressed.
And as Hillary Clinton (who has been proved right in all her claims) said, the Russians needed help – an enabler – to “weaponize” their hacking and their interference. They needed to know just which electoral districts they could penetrate in order to move an imperceptible number of votes for Trump to win. That’s why despite winning the national popular vote by 3 million, it took only a difference of a mere 70,000 votes across three states to give Trump the Electoral College.
So here’s my theory on the case: The Russians were hacking and having a fake news campaign designed to destabilize the election and engender mistrust in the democratic election process, and weaken Clinton’s presidency once she won. (Trump constantly claiming that the election would be “rigged” if he didn’t win, and inciting his followers to take 2nd Amendment remedies is what shut up the Obama Administration from going public and kept Democrats from screaming “foul” after the election). And Obama also feared that unleashing a counter cyber strategy, like shutting down their power grid, or some major sanctions, would cause Putin to cause more havoc in the election, since “black box voting” has so little security to begin with.
But at some point, either the Russians made Trump an offer he couldn’t refuse (because of what they had on him, financially and personally), or the Trump campaign actively partnered with the Russians to “weaponize” – that is pinpoint – where their cyber attacks, fake news and social media trolling could be most effective.
It is notable that while the Russians released hacked emails from the DNC in order to embarrass Clinton and discourage (suppress) voters, they also hacked into the RNC but did not release any of the information.
Russia could have used the threat of releasing the information to blackmail or extort support from the Trump campaign, in order to insure promises or force Trump campaign to more actively engage with the Russians. Evidence? The only change the Trump campaign demanded of the Republican platform was to soften its stance against Russia over the Ukraine and Crimea. In December, when Obama kicked out Russian diplomats from their two compounds (one in Glen Head) as punishment for the election meddling, Michael Flynn met with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, apparently to give assurances that the sanctions would be lifted once Trump was inaugurated, which is likely why Putin didn’t counter with sanctions against US diplomats, and more importantly, reverse the economic sanctions that crippled the Russian petro economy (and would have paved the way for Exxon-Mobil’s $500 billion deal with Rosneft).
But let’s look at the web of ties between Trump, his campaign and Russia that go back a decade or more to business connections, and begin with financial ties:
The Trump boys boasted that they didn’t need money from American banks (which had stopped lending because of the string of bankruptcies), but had all they needed from Russian oligarchs. There were efforts to launch real estate ventures in Russia through Bayrock Associates, a shady Russian-connected outfit, which had partnered with Trump on at least four major but failed American projects: the Fort Lauderdale Trump Tower, the Trump Ocean Club in Fort Lauderdale, the SoHo condominium-hotel in New York, and a resort in Phoenix. (Trump claimed he didn’t know Felix Sater, the Russian-born managing director at Bayrock, who was convicted of fraud for running a $40 million penny stock fraud in collaboration with the New York and Russian Mafia, even though Sater resurfaces as an “adviser” to Trump campaign to try to “fix” a deal with Russia, has a business card that identifies him as an adviser, has an office in Trump Tower a floor below Trump’s and there are photos of them together.)
People are only looking at Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign – but what if it began even earlier. Like when that Russian oligarch paid double what Trump had spent on a Palm Beach mansion just two years earlier, handing Trump a $45 million windfall which Trump could use to fund his campaign. A big appeal for Trump supporters was that he was supposedly self-funding his campaign (nonsense), so that he could appear “independent” of “special interests” and “The Establishment.” This may well have been a ploy to funnel foreign donations into a campaign, evading legal restrictions.
One of the only banks to continue to capitalize Trump businesses was Deutsche Bank, which has been fined $425 million over laundering $10 billion for Russian oligarchs. Coincidence? Deutsche Bank also gave Jared Kushner’s business a $285 million loan just before the election, a loan which Kushner had to give a personal guarantee, but which Kushner failed to disclose on his financial and security forms (along with meetings with Russian Ambassador and the head of VEB, a state-run “bank” tied to Putin and Russian oligarchs, used purely to launder money whose CEO is an alum of Russia’s spy college; as well as Kushner’s talks with the Russian Ambassador over establishing a back-channel to Putin that would evade US surveillance.).
Jared Kushner was responsible for the Trump campaign data mining operation that pinpointed districts needing to be turned. And it was Robert Mercer, the billionaire who is Trump’s principal donor (and who chose many of his cabinet members and aides, including Michael Flynn), whose data operation, Cambridge Analytica, was used (Steve Bannon was VP) – that’s how the Russian hacking and fake-news operation may well have been “weaponized.” The purpose of the data-mining operation, as noted in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s report, was to suppress voting by key pro-Clinton demographics: women, blacks and liberals. (See also: “Did Russians Target Democratic Voters, with Kushner’s Help?” Newsweek).
But I believe the key was Michael Flynn, who Trump was forced to remove as National Security Adviser, who had the contacts, knowledge, and motive as the former Director of Defense Intelligence Agency from which he was fired by Obama, plus had financial ties to Russia and Turkey which he failed to disclose or get authorization for, a criminal act, to marshal the Russian hacking campaign. That’s why Trump went to such lengths to try to get Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
More evidence of collusion? Paul Manafort, who Trump was forced to fire as his campaign manager, a decade ago had secretly worked for a Russian oligarch to advance the interests of Putin and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, according to The Associated Press, expertise and contacts he could have adapted to the Trump campaign. Roger Stone, whose dirty-tricks experience dates from the Nixon campaign and boasted of ties to Wikileaks, “predicted” when Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails would be released by Wikileaks; Nigel LeFarge, the British Brexit vote guy who became Trump’s ally, met with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange in London pretty much just as Trump, on the campaign trail, was delighting in the latest Wikileaks anti-Clinton leak and cheerleading Russia to hack into Clinton’s emails.
More contacts between Trump campaign and Russia: Jeffrey Sessions, now Attorney General; Erik Prince (formerly Blackwater), a major campaign donor (his sister is Betsy DeVos, now Education Secretary), met secretly to set up back-channel with Russians on Trump’s behalf; Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who is being investigated as whether he discussed Russia’s hacking of Democratic National Committee emails with a Russian official in Prague (he denies it).
Trump’s campaign, and now his cabinet, is chock full of Russian connections: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary, was on the board of the Cyprus Bank used by Russian oligarchs to launder illegally gotten cash (did Trump also use that bank); and Jared Kushner, plus Carter Page (who was actively being recruited as a Russian agent), Steve Miller and likely others. (For a more complete list, see Politico).
The hold over Trump goes way beyond the puppy love he has for the murderous dictator. It suggests he is fearful of what Putin can do to him, what Putin has on him and/or his family. The influence was first apparent during the Republican Convention when the only modification the Trump campaign made was to loosen the platform item against Russia for Ukraine. The impact has already been clear in Trump actions: bringing Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov into the Oval office, where he boasted about firing Comey and unmasked an Israeli spy; weakening NATO, pulling out of the Paris Climate Change agreement, isolating the US and ending US global leadership.. And of course, Trump has been dying to end sanctions and give back the Russian compounds.
It is also telling that while Trump is obsessed over the Russian investigation, he has done nothing at all to secure elections from cyber attacks by Russia or any other foreign government (except to blame Obama for everything and accuse Obama of “collusing” and “obstructing”).
Finally,Trump doth protest too much about the Russian investigation, and worked way too hard to protect Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor who Trump was forced to fire, who had the intelligence background (he was fired by Obama as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency) to make contacts with the Russian hackers. Why go overboard to protect Flynn? Likely because Flynn is the key to collusion with Russia, along with Paul Manafort who he was also forced to fire as campaign manager.
If there were no “there” there, Trump would want a thorough and speedy conclusion, rather than first firing US Attorney Preet Bharara, who apparently was getting too close in his investigations into Trump financial dealings; and then Comey.
The final evidence of collusion during the election and corruption now is that Trump and Sessions have done absolutely nothing to secure our elections from interference, while doing everything possible to appease Putin’s interests and obstruct the investigation.
Trumpers/Republicans keep moving the goal posts to what would have been prosecuted as obstruction of justice and collusion with adversarial foreign power to steal the election. Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner – bless her – shows that the government already has information that shows more aggressive interference with voting than the massive hacking and disinformation campaign designed to suppress turnout among those who might have otherwise voted for Clinton. It suggests that Russian agents may have gone so far as tampered with voting lists (perhaps contributing to the 200,000 fewer voters in Wisconsin, where Trump won by about 25,000) and even vote tabulations. The government may have more information about that that it is withholding from Congress and the American people, or has yet to pursue the investigation to its conclusion where it might demonstrate that to be true. It is very telling that Trump only won the battleground states that up until election day were polling in Clinton’s favor, by less than 1% – small shifts and tilts by Russian operatives, working in collusion with the Trump campaign (as Clinton noted, the Russians needed help to most effectively “weaponize” their campaign, to know which districts to focus on) indeed could have swung enough votes to secure the Electoral College.
So far, Trump keeps insisting there is no evidence of actively colluding to steal the election. But we don’t actually know if that is true, especially since the investigation is just unfolding despite everything being done to obstruct, slow and end the investigation, thanks to a free press (so far), we are learning more each day. If it is found that the Trump campaign in fact had ties to Russia, it would not be sufficient remedy to impeach Trump and leave Pence and Trump’s cabinet in place. There would be cause to nullify the election altogether, remove his entire administration (who are “fruit of a poison tree), and install Clinton who actually won.
Never happened before? Nothing like Trump and the Russian election tampering ever happened before either.
As the fate of Americans’ health care falls in the hands of 13 Republican Senators conferring in secret without input from Democrats let alone health care experts or patients, deciding how much of the “harsh” House plan they incorporate into their own bill, it may well fall to states to take matters into their own hands. Indeed, New York State may provide the model for health care, just as California has dictated pollution standards to the auto manufacturing industry, exceeding federal standards.
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to promulgate new emergency regulations mandating health insurance providers do not discriminate against New Yorkers with preexisting conditions or based on age or gender, in addition to safeguarding the 10 categories of protections guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. The new first-in-the-nation measures will ensure that essential health services are protected and covered for all New Yorkers regardless of efforts at the federal level to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare.
At the Governor’s direction, the Department of Health will ban all insurers who withdraw from offering Qualified Health Plans on the State Health Marketplace from future participation in any program that interacts with the marketplace, including Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan. New York is home to one of the most robust health marketplaces in the country, and insurers who do not comply will lose access to such profitable programs. The Governor will also direct state agencies and authorities to ban insurers who withdraw from the State Health Marketplace from contracting with the state and to consider all available actions to protect New Yorker’s access to quality healthcare.
Furthermore, the administration finalized regulations that will ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles no matter federal action. The regulations also ensure all medically necessary abortion services are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
“We will not stand idly by as ultra-conservatives in Washington try to roll back the progress we have made to expand access quality, affordable health care, putting our most vulnerable New Yorkers at risk,” Governor Cuomo said. “As long as I am Governor, New Yorkers will not be subject to price discrimination based on age, gender, or pre-existing conditions, and essential health benefits will continue to be the rule, not the exception. These aggressive actions will make certain that no matter what happens in Congress, the people of New York will not have to worry about losing access to the quality medical care they need and deserve.”
Under the new regulations, DFS will require that individual and small group accident and health insurance policies, which provide hospital, surgical, or medical expense coverage, as well as student accident and health insurance policies cover the same categories of essential health benefits and be subject to the same benchmark plan rules that currently apply through the Affordable Care Act. Insurers must comply with the new regulations as a requirement of their license in New York.
Ambulatory patient services, such as office visits, ambulatory surgical services, dialysis, radiology services, chemotherapy, infertility treatment, abortion services, hospice care, and diabetic equipment, supplies and self-management education;
Emergency services, such as emergency room, urgent care services, and ambulance services;
Hospitalization, such as preadmission testing, inpatient physician and surgical services, hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, and hospice care;
Maternity and newborn care, such as delivery, prenatal and postnatal care, and breastfeeding education and equipment;
Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, such as inpatient and outpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of mental, nervous and emotional disorders, screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorder, and inpatient and outpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorder;
Prescription drugs, such as coverage for generic, brand name and specialty drugs, enteral formulas, contraceptive drugs and devices, abortifacient drugs, and orally administered anti-cancer medication;
Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, such as durable medical equipment, medical supplies, prosthetic devices, hearing aids, chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and home health care;
Laboratory services, such as diagnostic testing;
Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, such as well child visits, immunizations, mammography, gynecological exams including cervical cytology screening, bone density measurements or testing, and prostate cancer screening; and
Pediatric services, including oral and vision care, such as preventive and routine vision and dental care, and prescription lenses and frames.
The Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services may issue model contract language identifying the coverage requirements for all individual and small group accident and health insurance policies that provide hospital, surgical, or medical expense coverage and all student accident and health insurance policies delivered or issued for delivery in New York State.
DFS will also mandate under existing New York law that health insurers:
Provide coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices and cover at least one form of contraception in each of the FDA-approved contraceptive delivery methods without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles, regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act.
Provide coverage for the dispensing of an initial three-month supply of a contraceptive to an insured person. For subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive covered under the same policy or renewal, an insurer must allow coverage for the dispensing of the entire prescribed contraceptive supply, up to 12 months, at the same time.
Provide coverage for abortion services that are medically necessary without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles (unless the plan is a high deductible plan).
Provide full and accurate information about coverage, enforced in a letter available here.
Donald Trump has declared the US will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement – leaving behind 194 countries to join Syria and Nicaragua (which didn’t sign because the accord didn’t go far enough) as the only countries not to pledge cooperation in meeting this existential crisis. There needs to be repercussions, within the US and from outside.
It isn’t enough to upend NATO and the United Nations. Trump has to flip the bird on the entire planet. Why? Because he can. Because he is an arrogant fool; a little man who gets orgasmic pleasure out of being able to bully the whole world.
But he is supported by Mike Pence, Scott Pruitt and most Republicans. How has it happened that Climate Change has become a test of tribal membership?
Because climate change is a stand -in for preserving the power of the status quo (the Elites as Trumpers would mock). And in a society where cash is equivalent to political power, there is desperation to keep profit on one side of the ledger.
The rise of Silicon Valley during the Clinton era disrupted the Old World fossil-fueled industrial-military complex. We even renamed our époque, displacing the Industrial Age with a new label, the Information Age and now The Digital Age.
It wasn’t just the economic transition that was feared, Climate Change – like the Information Age – was a move toward globalization (underpinning Obama foreign policy), threatening to undermine tribal controls and nationalism. In contrast, Trump’s “America First” doctrine is founded on the notion that the world is a giant arena of competing nations, with winners and losers – evoking the image of the Roman Colosseum where gladiators battled to the death.
Indeed, Trump justified withdrawing from the Paris Accord not because he challenged climate science, but on bogus claims that it threatened “sovereignty” and would weaken the US economy in order to give advantage to China and India (“They are laughing at us”). These are demonstrable lies: the Paris Accord is voluntary, nations came up with their own plan to meet their own targets, there are no penalties or enforcement mechanism.
As for the lie about hurting the economy: the US has the strongest economy on the planet – growing a steady 2% is decent for a mature economy , adding 11 million jobs under Obama with the fastest growth (to 9.8 million) in clean energy jobs (growing at 10 times the rate in the economy and 2.5 times the number of fossil fuel jobs); you can look at the renaissance inPittsburghfrom a steel town to a green city where 80% voted for Clinton (“I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump ridiculously declared.)
But what is the real fear?
Adherents of Climate Action have a sense of being a citizen of the world with a greater responsibility beyond one’s own national interest, undermining the national government’s authority and control – the direct opposite of Trump’s “America First” doctrine. International cooperation is essential to solve this existential crisis facing the planet.
But the United States has a unique responsibility – we arethe biggest carbon polluter in history, generating 4 times greenhouse gas-emissions per person than China, a country with 4x the population, and 10x India, and disproportionately responsible for the damage done to coastal communities and island nations, for famine-stricken Africa and cyclone-battered Philippines, as much as flooded Louisiana and scorched California.
Climate Action also requires that “sustainability” be factored in as a cost of doing business – which means, at least initially, a slight cut into shareholder profits until the technology and use thresholds turn in favor of clean-renewable energy sources and conservation. But shareholders don’t actually get “profits” from the companies –the extra cash is used to pay for lobbyists and to fund campaigns for or against politicians.
Climate activists – the new gen Environmentalists – are seen as communal, as in “communist” or “socialist” and a threat to capitalism, the same source of antagonism to single-payer health care.
Moreover, a citizen of the world is more accepting of diverse cultures, religions, and personal persuasions. Their openness to cultural differences and open-mindedness makes them a threat to evangelicals and orthodox religionists as well as authoritarian nationalists.
That is basis for common cause between the Religious Right and Capitalists going back to the 1960s (coinciding with the birth of the Environmental, Anti-War, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, all upending the power structure).
Pulling out of Paris may be more symbolic action – a gigantic middle finger to the world, and heaven help us if other countries use it as an excuse to abandon their commitments – but what Trump is actually doing is more harmful by reversing all the policies and programs that Obama had in place that enabled the US to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990s levels.
Trump, in attempting to “soften” the blow of rejecting the Paris Accord, asserted that the US has already reduced its carbon emissions to 1990s level. But that is solely due to Obama policies, regulations and programs including incentives to create clean renewable energy industry, that Trump is aggressively overturning with vengeance. For example, he is giving a free pass to coal companies to dump waste into streams, reversing the Clean Power Plan (which allowed states to come up with their own standards to comply with the goals), overturning protections in marine sanctuaries and national monuments to allow drilling and mining. His budget ends investments and tax credits to develop clean, renewable energy, as well as funding for the EPA.
Instead of the US being a global leader, as under Obama, Trump is turning the US into a pariah. And the US would deserve it.
Trump said that “the world is laughing at us” – more of a symptom of his psychosis – but now, Putin and China are in fact laughing. China now has opening to be the world leader while Russia is ecstatic over America’s retreat from moral leadership – what country would trust any “deal” with the US?
But the damage to the US economy, to public health, to infrastructure, to the nation’s ability to innovate by tying us to a dirty, destructive and finite fossil fuel, forcing American families to pay through their noses for expensive fossil fuels and repair the damage caused by climate catastrophes, not to mention the threats to national security because of increased conflict and deprivation (200 million climate refugees) will also weaken this nation. Rome comes to mind.
What’s to be done?
Every signatory to the Paris Accord should impose tariff or carbon fees on US imports.
Those millions who marched and now feel like frustrated, forgotten fools must continue to march, rally, protest not at the White House but at local Congressional offices; vote out politicians who don’t support Climate Action.
Consumers need to seek out companies that practice sustainability and overtly reject those that don’t. Use social media to promote or pan.
Investors need to divest of stocks in companies that reject sustainability; instead invest in bonds that build such things as water treatment plants, clean-energy utilities.
Support organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.org),Environmental Defense Fund (EDF.org), League of Conservation Voters (LCV.org),the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth (foe.org) which variously are suing the Trump Administration, as well as local, grassroots organizationslike Reach Out America (reachout-america.com) and Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org) which has local chapters.
Thankfully,states and localitiesare taking matters into their own hands. The Climate Revolution will continue, against our own federal government.
California Governor Jerry Brown, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Washington State are holding fast to their goal of transitioning to clean, renewable energy, forming the United States Climate Alliance (which so far also includesConnecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia)and together with cities like New York City and Atlanta (accounting for 30% of the world’s economy), will keep the US from going into a fossil fueled abyss.
“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”
“Climate change presents the greatest threat humankind has ever known,” stated Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “We simply cannot afford to let this president unravel the progress on climate change we’ve made as a nation and a global community. Retreating from the global climate effort would damage our diplomatic credibility, set the U.S. further behind in the clean energy movement and devastate countless communities and ecosystems in the United States. Once again, the recklessness and ignorance of this president have dealt an irreparable blow to our planet and American leadership.”
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace,” stated Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt). “At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.
“The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.”