Category Archives: Donald Trump

Long Islanders Come Out in Force Against Racism, Bigotry, in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Mary Stankard of Lynbrook is among nearly 200 Long Island activists who protested against hate, bigotry and violence in solidarity with Charlottesville. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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.

NYS Assemblyman Charles Lavine with Long Island Activists leader Ron Widelec; Marc Herman, Democratic candidate for Oyster Bay Supervisor; Robert Frier, candidate for Oyster Bay Town Council; Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of NY 2nd District Democrats and other activists and candidates. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Erica Fladell of Bethpage, holds up her sign, “Impeach Twitler… Never Again.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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”

Nearly 200 Long Island activists turned out on 12 hours notice to the call to stand against hate, bigotry and violence, in solidarity with Charlottesville. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.”

“Silence is dangerous.” Nearly 200 Long Island activists turned out on 12 hours notice to the call to stand against hate, bigotry and violence, in solidarity with Charlottesville. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Dozens turned out in the Old Village of Great Neck on just a few hours’ notice to show solidarity with Charlottesville and denounce White Supremacy. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

David Zielenziger of Great Neck (right), one of the organizers of the Great Neck vigil to show solidarity with Charlottesville with Keith and Cheryl Fishenfeld. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

People came from as far as Levittown, West Hempstead and Whitestone to take a stand against the bigotry, racism and violence that caused the death of 32-year old Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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 turn out in support of Charlottesville: Christina Emru (grandmother), Sofia, 8 years old; and Dara came from Levittown to join the Great Neck vigil. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.”

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

Radical Idea for Defusing North Korea Crisis: Ban Nuclear Weapons

The Women’s Acapella Group “Willow” sings for peace at the Commemoration of the 72th Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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.

President Obama, the first sitting American President to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the world’s only use of an atomic weapon, here with Japan Prime Minister Abe in 2016, struck just the right tone in a speech thoughtfully, and carefully constructed to inspire reconciliation, rather than apologize for a decision made in a different time and context. And he made it about the future, the task and the challenge ahead in face of mankind’s scientific and technological know-how to destroy all humanity. The man who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, who struggled to extract the US from two wars, who worked to secure loose nukes and negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran was nonetheless stymied in his goal to reduce the nuclear menace. (White House Pool photo)

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.”

Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”: “It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world. 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.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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 fawns over Vladimir Putin and other dictators at the “Commander in Chief” military policy forum during the 2016 presidential campaign and shows complete ignorance of nuclear weapons. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, at the Commemoration of the 72nd Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, the statement by the US, UK and France: ‘The time isn’t right.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

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

Trump Delivers Law & Order Speech to Long Island Police Officers: ‘Please Don’t be Too Nice’

Donald Trump comes to Long Island to give a law-and-order speech, celebrate the 2nd amendment, and support a more militarized, unrestrained police force © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.” 

[NONSENSE.]

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.)

END                2:43     P.M. EDT

 

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

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

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________

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

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

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

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what is the real fear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s to be done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Budget is Criminal; Ryan & Republicans are Accomplices

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

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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

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

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

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

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

But the figures don’t actually add up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“It’s obscene:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuomo: TrumpCare Will Result in 2.7 Million New Yorkers Losing Coverage; Cost State Budget $6.9 Billion

Under TrumpCare, being a woman would be a “preexisting condition,” prenatal and maternity would be expensive add-ons to bare-bones policies and heaven forbid a baby is born with a medical condition that would quickly hit a lifetime cap. And the Republican “health care plan” punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Under the Republican American Health Care Act, 2.7 million New Yorkers would lose coverage and the state’s budget would take a $6.9 billion hit, including $2.3 billion as a direct result of an amendment that targets New York State specifically. It would be devastating to New Yorkers, and the Congressional Budget Office’s report confirms that. Just how bad? New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued this statement:

“The Congressional Budget Office’s report confirms what we already knew to be true—ultra-conservatives in Washington have declared war on New York’s health care system. What’s worse is that Republican members of our own Congressional delegation have aided and abetted in Washington’s war against New York, cutting taxes for millionaires while jeopardizing care for seniors, women, the middle class and the disabled.
“The radical Republican health plan will devastate New York’s health care system, strip 2.7 million New Yorkers of their health care coverage, and roll back the progress we have made to protect vulnerable Americans. This bill will cost New York State a total of $6.9 billion, including $2.3 billion as a direct result of the disastrous amendment introduced by Congressmen Faso and Collins.

“As radical ideologues race to impose their extremist agenda on Americans, New Yorkers say no. In New York, we will stand up for our progressive principles and protect the right to affordable and quality health care for all. I will continue to work with our Congressional delegation and New York’s health care leaders to defeat this reckless legislation.”

The American Health Care Act will leave 23 million more Americans uninsured and be disastrous for New York:

  • The plan will leave 2.7 million New Yorkers without health care coverage.
  • It will cost New York a total of $6.9 billion.
  • It will put at risk a total of 7 million people who rely on Medicaid services and other programs created under the Affordable Care Act.
  • And it threatens the entire New York State health care system, which serves 19.5 million New Yorkers.

The Collins/Faso amendment, which targets only New York, stops counties from paying a share of Medicaid. It would have a devastating effect on New Yorkers:

  • It will cut $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding to the State.
  • Steep cuts would force New York State to increase taxes, slash coverage to millions of New Yorkers, or devastate health care providers. As a result of the AHCA bill:
    • Hospital payments would be cut by $944 million in total
    • Nursing Home payments would be cut by $819 million in total
    • Home care payments would be cut by $734 million in total

The bill punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable:

  • New York requires that all commercial insurance policies cover abortion services. In January, Governor Cuomo took new action to ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
  • The Republican health care bill would prohibit the use of tax credits to support the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion services.
  • As a result, the bill would effectively defund the Essential Plan, forcing 685,000 low-income people, half of whom are women, to lose their insurance and denying them $1.5 billion in tax credits.
  • In addition, roughly 143,000 lower-income New Yorkers whose income is just above the threshold for the Essential Plan, half of whom are women, would be denied $400 million more in tax credits that help them afford insurance.

This bill also includes an amendment that will enable insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions in some states, rolling back a key achievement of the Affordable Care Act:

  • In New York, 8.4 million people under the age of 65 have preexisting conditions.
  • The MacArthur amendment would allow states to opt out of provisions that restrict providers from raising prices on people with preexisting conditions.
  • Removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions will result in the sick paying high premiums and would force those who cannot afford it to lose coverage.
  • The health plan would also permit states to charge older people more, which would also force people who cannot afford it to lose coverage.

But here’s the thing: even though the Senate Republicans have said they are drafting its own health care law, they are still not bothering to confer with health care providers, health care insurers, patients or state and local officials. It is likely that even if the impacts are softened, any proposal which is designed to cater to healthy, young Americans (by allowing them to not buy insurance), and empower insurance companies to charge whatever they like to cover separate items like maternity, mental illness, addiction, pre-existing conditions (life is a pre-existing condition), to charge penalties for lapses in coverage and to charge older Americans up to five times what younger people pay, and no longer pay for wellness or preventive services, will result in tens of millions of Americans being unable to afford health insurance, being underinsured (making the policies useless), will bankrupt families of their ability to save for college or retirement or home ownership. Americans will find themselves trapped in horrible jobs or abusive marriages because they can’t afford to lose health insurance. It isn’t just the 20% of Americans who must purchase on the individual market: lifting the mandates will mean that employers will be free to stop offering health benefits altogether, or will require hefty pay-ins, or will offer bare-bones policies that leave people without protection and care. Children who are born with health issues will be faced with lifetime caps. A family will again face the insecurity of being just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. Hospitals, especially in rural communities, will shut down.  Tens of thousands of people a year will die prematurely and needlessly for lack of access to health care, and tens of thousands more will suffer for lack of care. Society will suffer lost productivity while paying more money to cover those who are forced to use emergency rooms for medical care, leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab.

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

Trump, to Save Presidency, Expand Powers, Sets Himself on Path to be War President

Memorial Day Parade, Long Island, NY. Where are the parades for the peacemakers? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.

But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?

Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.

Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.

(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)

Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)

It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.

Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.

Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.

And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.

Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.

For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).

Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?

He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned  when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.

His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.

Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.

Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.

In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.

Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.

The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.

But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.

He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.

Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”

“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.

Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”

And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.

Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.

“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).

Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.

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Trump Insists ‘There was No Collusion’ Between Campaign & Russia

Donald Trump insists any suggestion of collusion between his campaign and Russia is “ridiculous” and he did not obstruct justice in firing FBI Director James Comey © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, during a joint press conference with President Santos of Colombia, May 18, in answer to a question, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?     And also as you look back –“ dismissed it saying, “No.  No.  Next question.” 

Here’s more:

Q    Next question.  As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I think it’s totally ridiculousEverybody thinks so.  And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have.  We have plenty of problems.  We’ve done a fantastic job.  We have a tremendous group of people.  Millions and millions of people out there that are looking at what you had just said, and said, “What are they doing?”

Director Comey was very unpopular with most people.  I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.  But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side — not only the Republican side — they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.

Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday.  That was a poor, poor performance.  So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the Deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

And then, on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by Director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made.  And I thought that was something that was terrible.

We need a great director of the FBI.  I cherish the FBI.  It’s special.  All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special.  The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say — directly or indirectly — with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign. 

We’re going to have a director who is going to be outstanding.  I’ll be announcing that director very soon, and I look forward to doing it.  I think the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled.

And just in concluding, we look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including healthcare — because Obamacare is collapsing.  It’s dead; it’s gone.  There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have healthcare in this country.  You just look at what’s happening.  Aetna just pulled out.  Other insurance companies are pulling out.  We don’t have healthcare.  Obamacare is a fallacy.  It’s gone.  We need healthcare. 

We need to cut taxes.  We’re going to cut taxes.  Forget what I want; it will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation.  And that’s what I want.  It’s going to bring back companies.  It’s going to bring back jobs.  We lost so many jobs and so many companies to countries that are not so far from you, Mr. President — they’re very close to you, actually — and to many other places throughout the world.  We’re going to change that.  We’re going to have expansion.

We already do.  You look at what’s happening with Ford and with General Motors in Michigan and Ohio.  You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced in so many different fields.  That’s what I’m proud of, and that’s what we want to focus our energy on.

The other is something I can only tell you:  There was no collusion.  And everybody — even my enemies have said, there is no collusion.

So we want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on.  Because the track that we’re on is record-setting, and that’s what we want to do, is we want to break very positive records.

Q    Mr. President, I’d like to get your reaction to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the campaign.  Was this the right move, or is this part of a “witch hunt”?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.  And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero. 

I think it divides the country.  I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.  So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together, Jon.  And I will also say very strongly, we’ve had tremendous success.  You look at our job numbers, you look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before; if you look at what will be happening — you’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of General Mattis and others with the ISIS situation.  The numbers are staggering, how successful they’ve been, the military has been.

Tomorrow, as you know, I’m going to Saudi Arabia, going to Israel.  I’m going to Rome.  And we have the G7.  We have a lot of great things going on. 

So I hate to see anything that divides.  I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well.  We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100-some-odd days.  Tremendous progress.  And you see job numbers, you see all of the production that’s starting.  Plants starting to open again.  Haven’t been open in years.  I’m very proud of it.  That’s what I want to be focused on.  Because, believe me, there’s no collusion.  Russia is fine.  But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.

So, thank you very much.