Category Archives: Trump Administration

Village Halloween Parade Goes on Despite Act of Terror, With a Few Messages for Trump

At the 2017 Village Halloween Parade, Rise and Resist came with costumes and signs with the message, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The Village Halloween Parade is not nearly as political and outrageous as it used to be – the goal is to be an expression of creativity and if anything, good will and spirituality. But still, there were a few standouts. Notably, a whole group of Gays Against Guns, and a group calling itself “Rise & Resist” wearing costumes and carrying signs with the message, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” Indeed, the entire parade wound up being a form of resistance against the terror attack that occurred just hours before and less than a mile away – as one parade regular put it, “a giant F-U to the terrorists.”

Just a few hours and less than a mile away from where a 29-year old used a rented pickup truck to mow down cyclists and pedestrians on the West Side Highway bikepath, killing eight and injuring 12, thousands were gathering in costumes for the 44th annual Village Halloween Parade. With high confidence that the terror attack was by a lone wolf and not coordinated, the decision was made for the parade to go on, albeit with enhanced security. Even with the counter-terrorism officers draped in military-style assault weapons, vests and helmets, and with the heightened sense of security, the police were accommodating and the mood of marchers and viewers alike more playful than seditious.

Political issues come to fore at 2017 Village Halloween Parade, NYCJust a few hours after a terror attack in Lower Manhattan, Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio join some one million marchers and onlookers at the Village Halloween Parade: “An attack won’t stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers,” Cuomo declared. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio and NY Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill marched with the parade – which brings out one million people who line the mile-long route along Sixth Avenue and tens of thousands of marchers, giving a shout out for New Yorkers to defy terrorism by going on with their lives.

While the terrorist committed mayhem, Governor Cuomo said, “He did not stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers.”

Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, Cuomo said, “This was an attack that was designed to create terror, and it — it killed and frightened people. It was despicable. But, New Yorkers are resilient, New Yorkers go on. We learned the hard way on 9/11 that we are a target, we are the international symbol of democracy and freedom and we understand that. And since 9/11 we’ve lived with this and we’ve put together the best security force on the globe in my opinion, and we worked together and the response was great. But this afternoon was terrible.

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill, with Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio address terror attack with Spectrum News1 during the Village Halloween Parade © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Tonight we’re at a Halloween parade to say you didn’t win and you didn’t affect us and we’re out and celebrating and we’re doing what New Yorkers do and we’re living our lives because we’re not going to allow the terrorists to win, period. And that’s why I’m here marching in the parade, not because I have a great costume.”

“They are trying to divide. The point is to unite, to show normalcy. To politicize this event [as Trump did immediately] is wholly unproductive,” Governor Cuomo said later in a press conference.

Mayor DiBlasio shows appreciation to NYPD officers at the Village Halloween Parade. Security was enhanced dramatically for the 44th annual parade which draws one million people, after the terror attack just a few hours earlier and a mile away © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump, predictably and unlike the reaction to the Las Vegas massacre which killed 58 and injured hundreds, ridiculously blamed Senator Schumer, and called for a travel ban and even more extreme vetting, in contrast to the call “this is not the time to politicize a tragedy” in response to the most lethal massacre in modern history. (Interestingly, he did not bother to call Governor Cuomo or Mayor DiBlasio as every president would have done after such a heinous event, spending his time tweeting out attacks on Democrat Sen Schumer for a diversity visa program adopted 20 years ago and signed by George HW Bush when Schumer was in the House; Schumer and the “Gang of 8” in their grand attempt to devise comprehensive immigration reform, proposed changes but Republicans blocked consideration of the immigration bill.)

Down Sixth Avenue, you could see the Freedom Tower that rose from the shattered Twin Towers, lighted red, white and blue.

“One World Trade Center was 9/11,” Cuomo told Anderson Cooper. “It was the darkest day that we went through in New York, but what we did is we got right back up and didn’t let them win. and we built back bigger, better and stronger than ever before, that’s who we are. If you think you’re going to beat us, you’re wrong. If you think these terrorist attacks are going to put a dent in the New York spirit, you’re wrong. And New York, America is about freedom and it is about democracy and will always be. And whatever attack you think you can bring is going to fail because our spirit is stronger than theirs.”

Indeed, none of Trump’s bigoted, racist anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies would have prevented this tragedy: not The Wall (this guy came into the US in 2010 through JFK), the travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries (Uzbekistan, though accounting for a large proportion of ISIS fighters, is not one of the countries excluded); or ending sanctuary cities (he was not undocumented or “illegal” but had a green card). While the pro-gun lobby is fast to blame any massacre on mental health rather than political or terror motive (like Dylann Roof or the guy who shot up a Planned Parenthood office), a “suicide by cop” or other derangement is never taken into account if the perpetrator is a Muslim or non-native.

Enhanced security at the Village Halloween Parade which took place mere hours and barely a mile from a terror attack when a 29-year old Uzbek national rammed a rented pick-up truck down the Hudson River Conservancy bikeway, killing 8 people and injuring 11. A decision was made not to cancel the 44th annual parade, which attracts million viewers and marchers along the mile-long route. NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill notes that NYC is the most heavily policed, secure city in the nation © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But what is Trump’s solution to terror?  He is threatening to cut off funds to New York City for anti-terrorism and policing, the #1 terror target in the US, because of New York City’s stance on making undocumented immigrants feel secure if the New York City does not abandon its sanctuary city policy. Indeed, this guy, who had nothing more than a traffic ticket during his time in the US, was radicalized in this country, and very likely Trump’s policies had something to do with why he was receptive to ISIS propaganda. Obama had a much more effective program to stem and stop this sort of homegrown, self-radicalized, lone-wolf terrorism – working in immigrant communities, forging relationships, making people feel secure and a part of American society with a stake in it, so they report suspicious behavior and do not fall under the spell of radicalism.

But in the end, it is impossible to completely stop such acts of terror. It is mind-blowing the speed with which authorities are looking to harden communities against such attacks — making bikelanes more secure – and yet, completely ignore the pervasive terror of gun violence that takes 33,000 lives and maims thousands more each year.

Those positions were on view during the Village Halloween Parade, which is an opportunity for people to express themselves in creative, even humorous, ways.

Here are “New Yorkers being New Yorkers”:

A regular of the Village Halloween Parade with the Parade’s long-time Artistic and Producing Director Jeanne Fleming. The 44th annual parade going on just hours after a horrific terror attack just a mile away, he said, “is a giant F-U to the terrorists.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rise & Resist: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rise & Resist: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
White Supremacist Steve Miller © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Hands Off Mueller” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Putin with Trump © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Twitter in Chief © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The King’s Fools: “Trump’s Next Cabinet Picks” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gays Against Guns: Back Ground Checks Work © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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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 to Trump: ‘Do Not Use [Blue] New York as Piggybank for Other [Red] States’

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a letter to President Donald J. Trump condemning the federal tax plan to eliminate or roll back state and local tax deductibility and calling on the President not to use New York as a piggybank for other states. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a letter to President Donald J. Trump condemning the federal tax plan to eliminate or roll back state and local tax deductibility and calling on the President not to use New York as a piggybank for other states.

Here is text of the letter:

Dear President Trump, 

I write to you on an issue that impacts every single American: pending federal tax legislation. I am not writing as a Democratic Governor to a Republican President, but rather as one New Yorker who cares about New York and the country to another. I often say to the New York State legislature, “we are Democrats and we are Republicans, but we are New Yorkers first.” 

As you well know, the House is expected to release additional details of a “tax cut” plan this week that in reality amounts to a “tax increase” plan for states like New York. The current proposal primarily uses New York and California as the piggybank to make it possible to cut taxes for other states. By eliminating or rolling back state and local tax deductibility, Washington is sending a death blow to New York’s middle class families and our economy. 

I understand the politics at play here. California and New York are “blue states.” I also understand that the political map dictates that most Republican members of Congress come from outside the Northeast and West Coast and their primary motivation is to help their states at any cost, even when it comes at the cost of middle class New Yorkers. But when the economies of New York and California suffer, and they will, the nation follows.  

It’s clear this is a hostile political act aimed at the economic heart of New York with no basis on the merits. First, it is an illegal and unconstitutional double taxation that forces our middle class families to subsidize a tax cut for the rest of the nation, and it is contrary to every principle the Republican Party has always espoused. Second, it reverses all the bipartisan progress New York State has made in lowering taxes over these past few years. While we have lowered state income taxes, capped property taxes and are forcing local governments to consider shared services, this federal act would erase all those gains and in fact increase taxes. Eliminating state and local deductibility will result in a tax increase of $5,660 on average for one in three taxpayers in New York, or 3.3 million New Yorkers.

This backward tax plan has encountered much deserved resistance, including from Republicans in the Senate. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said “I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere,” adding that state and local tax deductibility is “a system that’s worked very well.” In the face of this pushback, Republican leadership is now trying to salvage their tax plan with a so-called “compromise.” Their scheme is to allow a property tax deduction, but do away with the deduction for state income taxes. For middle class New York families, the average tax increase attributable to losing that deduction would be $1,715.  And considering the original federal proposal would cost New York State taxpayers $18.6 billion, this “compromise” does little to help our state since it would still cost New York State taxpayers nearly $15 billion.

Another “compromise” that is being suggested, where only higher income individuals would lose the state and local deductibility, is a 3-card Monte game that could be played on 42nd Street in Manhattan. New Yorkers are not stupid. We know that if deductibility is eliminated on higher incomes it will have a ripple effect, forcing these New Yorkers to move out of the state, taking their tax revenue with them, thus increasing taxes on everyone else. New York will not be in a position to cut state taxes because both the original proposal, as well as the proposed compromise, will force the highest taxpayers from the state and deplete our revenue stream. As you know, five percent of New York State taxpayers account for nearly two thirds of our annual income tax revenue. 

I understand why Paul Ryan would seek to hurt New York, but to ask New York Republican members of Congress to vote to raise taxes on their constituents is a betrayal against their state and their constituents. In fact, seven of nine Republicans from New York are against it. The two representatives who support it—Congressmen Collins and Reed—are the Benedict Arnolds of their time because they are putting their own political benefit above the best interests of their constituents.

Speaker Ryan’s only justification is that other states subsidize New York. He is just wrong. They don’t. The opposite is true. New York subsidizes every other state in the nation. We are the highest donor state which means we send $48 billion more in tax dollars to the federal government than we receive back in federal spending. 

To be fair, this is not a new idea to pillage New York and California and send their wealth to other states. Congress tried it under President Reagan, but the gross injustice of it caused all but the most partisan and callous officials to drop support. Today’s proposals are no different. Our Congressional representatives should be saying it’s time New Yorkers get their money back. Instead, the current proposal would be taking even more revenue from the number one donor state. How unfair. 

There is no middle ground here. Any of the proposed “compromises” will still destroy New York’s economy and harm the middle class. There can be no elimination, no “compromise,” and no cap on state and local tax deductibility.

New York needs your help.  You can stop this. And you should not just as an American, but as a New Yorker.

Sincerely,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Cc:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

UN Ambassador Haley: Trump at United Nations General Assembly will be a Show of Strength by the US

Donald Trump will deliver his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning. Ambassador Haley, who said she has seen his speech, said, “I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

People around the world are holding their collective breath as to what Donald Trump will do when he comes to the United Nations for the 72nd General Assembly. Will he be like a bull in a china shop, or will he stick to the speech written for him on the teleprompter? At a press briefing at the White House September 15, the National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlined what is supposed to happen, and the policies and positions Trump will proclaim. Here is a highlighted transcript – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I also want to begin by acknowledging the horrific attacks in Europe [London, England where an improvised explosive was set off in the underground during rush hour and in  Burgundy, France where a counterterrorism soldier was attacked].  The United States, of course, stands in solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom and France.  We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to prevent attacks.  And, of course, the United States remains committed to defeating terrorist organizations, as well as their evil ideology.

The President has been unambiguous here, energizing our defeat-ISIS campaign, and calling on Muslim-majority nations to combat extremism and to end financing of terrorist organizations.  We will defend our people and our values against these cowardly attacks, and we will always stand with countries around the world to do the same.

Now, I want to turn to President Trump’s trip next week to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.  The President’s consistent message across all of his engagements throughout the week will emphasize three goals common to all nations who will be gathered there:  First, to promote peace.  Second, to promote prosperity.  And third, to uphold sovereignty and accountability. 

A peaceful world depends on the contributions of all nations.  We must share responsibility for international security, while each country protects the security of its own people.

Prosperity is also a shared responsibility.  The President looks forward to furthering economic cooperation, investment opportunities, and new business ties with other governments and businesses across the world.  As always, this administration’s ironclad commitment to free, fair, and reciprocal trade and access to markets will be the bedrock of our economic talks.

Sovereignty and accountability are the essential foundations of peace and prosperity.  America respects the sovereignty of other countries, expects other nations to do the same, and urges all governments to be accountable to their citizens.  That accountability is broken down in places such as Venezuela and Syria.  And we also see, today, revisionist powers who are threatening the sovereignty in the greater Middle East, Eastern and Southern Europe, and in East Asia.

Now, let me quickly run through the President’s schedule.  On Monday, the President will join senior U.N. leadership and the leaders of more than 120 other nations to discuss reforming the institution.  The President will express support for Secretary General Guterres’s reform effortsThe United Nations, of course, holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideals, but only if it’s run more efficiently and effectively.

That day, the President will also meet with the leaders of France and Israel, two of America’s closest allies.  While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus.

Monday evening, the President will host a working dinner with Latin American leaders.  He’s looking forward to discussing the crisis in Venezuela, as well as our increasingly strong economic ties, shared goals for elevating the prosperity of our peoples, and the extraordinary success of likeminded Latin American nations in recent decades.

The President’s Tuesday morning speech to the General Assembly will emphasize the need for states to promote peace and prosperity, while upholding sovereignty and accountability as indispensable foundations of international order.  He will urge all states to come together to address grave dangers that threaten us all.  If nations meet these challenges, immense opportunity lies before us. 

Later that day, the President will have lunch with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meet with this year’s General Assembly President, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, and meet with the Emir of Qatar.  In the evening, he will host a traditional diplomatic reception.

On Wednesday, the President will meet with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Kingdom, and Egypt.  He will host a working luncheon with African leaders to discuss how the United States can help African nations develop their economies, address urgent challenges, and strengthen security relationships and economic relationships between our nations. 

Finally, on Thursday, the President will meet with the leaders of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.  The latter two countries in particular have suffered direct and persistent attacks on their sovereignty in recent years.

He will also host a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan.  As Kim Jong-un’s most recent missile launch demonstrates, North Korea remains one of the world’s most urgent and dangerous security problems.  It is vital that all nations work together to do our utmost to solve that problem.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Haley.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Thank you very much.  And I will tell you that next week is not going to be short on topics.  I think, first of all, we can all say it is a new day at the U.N.  The U.N. has shifted over the past several months.  It’s not just about talking, it’s about action.

The members are starting to get used to act, whether it’s Security Council resolutions, whether it’s with U.N. reform, whether it’s with peacekeeping.  We’re starting to see a lot of changes at the U.N.  They are all anxious to see what the U.S. delegation looks like next week, and I think they will be heavily impressed with the fact that we have the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and many members of the National Security Council coming to really show the U.S. strength that we have in the world.

And I think — obviously this will be the first time that the President has addressed the General Assembly.  They are all very anxious to hear what he has to say.  And I think that he will make quite an impact in terms of all of the issues that we’re dealing with.

We have three events that will be extremely important.  First, the President will highlight the U.N. reform event.  It is very, very important.  We’ve got a massive reform package being led by the Secretary General that really streamlines not just the processes, but also the budget as it goes forward, and makes the U.N. much more effective.  We basically have the President headlining a U.N. reform effort, which would really support the Secretary General.  But the impressive part is, we asked other countries to sign on to their support of reform, and 120 countries have signed on and will be in attendance.  That’s a miraculous number.

The Vice President will be doing two very important briefings.  He’s going to do one on Human Rights Council.  Now more than ever, human rights matters.  We say all the time that if the government doesn’t take care of its people, bad things will happen.  And I think we’re seeing that in multiple places, and that’s all the reason why the Human Rights Council really needs to be effective.  We have offered reform.  I think the Vice President will go in and not only support the reform, but talk about why it’s needed and the areas that are really needing to be addressed when it comes to human rights.

The second one he’s going to do is on peacekeeping.  And in the last several months, we have taken every peacekeeping mandate and changed it.  Basically, we have saved half a billion dollars in peacekeeping.  But before anyone thinks that’s a travesty, basically the way they handled peacekeeping in the past was, if there was a challenged area they would throw more troops at it.  But they didn’t see if the troops were trained or give them the equipment to do their job.  Now we’re going towards the political solution, making sure the troops are trained and armed, making sure that we’re more effective.  So it’s smarter and it cut half a billion, and in some cases we’re having to increase, and in some cases we’re having to decrease. 

So having the Vice President talk about the importance of the peacekeeping being effective is going to be very important.

And then, as I said, there are no shortage of issues, with North Korea being front and center.  Iran will be an issue.  Syria will certainly be talked about.  Terrorism efforts and how we counter that is a huge topic on what we’re dealing with.  And obviously the humanitarian issues that we face around the world.

So, with that, I think the General Assembly is going to be quite active next week, and I think the U.S. is going to be very strong next week.  And we look forward to a very good week.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Gentleman in the center.

Q    Thank you, General.  My question is about North Korea, which is perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge for President Trump right now.  About a month ago, the President issued a threat to North Korea; he warned of “fire and fury.”  And as you know, Ambassador, at the U.N. Security Council you’ve imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea.  Both of these efforts do not seem to be changing their behavior.  Is it time for the U.S. to change its approach to North Korea?  Is that something that you’re contemplating?  And, General, if you could weigh on this well.  I appreciate it.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think what was really important with North Korea was that we try and push through as many diplomatic options as we have.  If you look at the resolutions that have passed in the last month, the two of them, they cut 30 percent of the oil.  They banned all the laborers.  They banned 90 percent of the exports.  They banned joint ventures.  We’ve basically taken and, in the words of North Korea, we have strangled their economic situation at this point.  That’s going to take a little bit of time, but it has already started to take effect.

What we are seeing is they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless.  And at that point, there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here when you’ve cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil. 

So, having said that, I have no problem kicking it to General Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options.

Q    General, can you weigh on that too?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I’d just emphasize the point that Ambassador Haley made.  These sanctions are just now taking effect.  What’s really important is rigorous enforcement of those sanctions so that we can really let the economic actions and diplomacy progress as best we can.  But I think we ought to make clear what’s different about this approach is, is that we’re out of time, right?  As Ambassador Haley said before, we’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.

And so for those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option.  Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war.

So that is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place, and it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can and that it’s in their interest to do it.

What’s different, I think, about this approach to North Korea is worth noting.  First of all, there is consensus among all key nations that denuclearization of the Peninsula is the only acceptable objective. 

     The second thing is, this is not an issue between the United States and North Korea.  This is an issue between the world and North Korea.

And the third recognition is, there is a lot that we can about it together.  And so we need time, obviously, for any strategy to work.  It is a sound approach to a very difficult problem, and we’ll see if it succeeds.

Q    Ambassador Haley, a conference call preceded your briefing here.  Jonathan Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that next week’s UNGA will be as much the world taking measure of the United States as it is the U.S. speaking to the world.  He went on to say that the UNGA, because of its very quick meetings, is sort of like speed dating from hell, and that it’s a very sophisticated dance that neither Secretary of State Tillerson or the President have a particularly strong point on.  What would you say to people who are wondering how the U.S. will do at next week’s UNGA?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think there’s a lot of interest in how the U.S. is going to do, and they’re going to find out we are going to be solid, we’re going to be strong. 

If you look at all of the meetings that the national security team has, these are important meetings.  These aren’t just wasting time.  This is going to talk about terrorism; this is going to talk about the issues in North Korea; this is going to talk about the issue in Burma and what we’re dealing with there; Venezuela — all of these issues.  No one is going to grip and grin.  The United States is going to work.

And I think with all of the challenges around the world, I think the international community is going to see that.  This is a time to be serious, and it’s a time for us to talk out these challenges and make sure there’s action that follows it.

Q    One of the big questions from some of the people outside of this room and other countries is, in addition to what we do militarily is the humanitarian effort.  And we’ve been criticized for not being involved in the humanitarian effort too much, especially by the third world.  So when you go to New York, in addition to addressing the security measures, how are you going to address the criticism about the U.S. not leading humanitarian efforts?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  We actually have led humanitarian efforts and continue to.  Human rights, in general, is very important.  That’s something we’ve been loud on, which is the fact that you have to protect human rights. 

But the humanitarian side of what we’re seeing in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; what we’re seeing with the Syrian refugees that are in Turkey and Jordan; the fact that we are trying to deal with Burma and find out ways that we can get humanitarian access in there.  Yemen is something that the United States has been working very closely with the Saudis on and the U.N. to try and make sure we get humanitarian access.

So we have been as active and vocal and leading the charge on humanitarian access in all of these areas, and we are making a difference.  I think just in Syria, we’ve had over $3 billion that we’ve given, in terms of helping that situation.  Venezuela, you saw what we did with the sanctions, but we’re making sure they get that.  Right now in Burma, we are taking that very seriously, and that’s of utmost importance that we get front and center on that one.

Q    I have a question first to General McMaster before I get to one on North Korea for you.  General, you mentioned the, obviously, terror incident overseas in London.  The President tweeted this morning that it was “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard.”  You may have seen Prime Minister may say it was “not helpful for people to speculate.”  Did the President share information that he wasn’t supposed to?  And if not, why was he speculating?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I think what the President was communicating is that, obviously, all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat for years.  Scotland Yard has been a leader, as our FBI has been a leader.

So I think if there was a terrorist attack here, God forbid, that we would say that they were in the sights of the FBI.  So I think he didn’t mean anything beyond that.

Q    I’m sorry, I’m not clear.  Meaning he was saying generally terrorists are a focus for Scotland Yard, or was he saying in this specific incident, Scotland Yard knew potentially this was coming?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I think he means generally that this kind of activity is what we’re trying to prevent.  And so these organizations that are responsible for it, whatever comes out of this investigation, that remains to be seen.  It is likely that law enforcement had been working on that problem set.

Q    And did that come up in the call with Prime Minister May?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I was not on that call this morning.

Q    Ambassador, to you, on North Korea.  Obviously there’s more U.N. Security Council action that could be taken.  Are you at all hopeful that there is any chance for a full oil embargo as this administration had wanted?  Or at what point — President Trump himself said this was a small step, the last U.N. Security Council vote.  I think disagreeing with you, but Secretary Tillerson agreed with him that it seemed to have been a small step.  So at what point does this administration take a bigger step and, for example, put tougher sanctions on China in order to put pressure on North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well I think, first of all, let’s talk about what a big sanctions resolution this was.  The first one was a billion dollars.  The second one was $1.3 billion, not counting the 30 percent decrease in oil.  We did a 55 — and just imagine if this happened to the United States — a 55 percent reduction in diesel and oil.  Overall ban of natural gas, overall ban of any substitutes; overall ban of textiles; stopping the labor program, which we call as modern-day slavery; stopping all joint ventures so foreign investment goes in there.

We have cut off now 90 percent of trade going into North Korea, and they are saying that this was strangling.  So whether some believe it’s big or small, I think what the President is saying is this is just the beginning of what we can do.

So it’s going to be — by the time we get going on this, if we have to go further, this is going to look small compared to what we do.

But no, it was a massive sanctions bill, and I think the fact that we had a 15-0 record and you have China onboard and Russia onboard, I think that’s very important.  We’ve cut 30 percent of the oil.  Is there more you can do?  There’s always more you can do, but then you get into the humanitarian aspect of it, which is at what point are you going and actually hurting down to the people of North Korea.  But we will always explore all options that we have. 

Yes, in the red.

Q   Thank you, Ambassador.  You said that Syria is going to be on the agenda.  As you know, today Turkey, Russia, and Iran agreed to deploy 1,500 monitors in the Idlib province.  Does that leave the U.S. behind?  And what exactly the focus will be when you talk about Syria at the U.N. next week?

And, General, if I can, you said that the meeting between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk about Iran.  How much of the peace process with the Palestinians will take place in that meeting?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think the efforts in Syria have been remarkable — both Syria and Iraq.  To see how we have really bulldozed through ISIS in the way that we have shows how strong the U.S. had been in partnership with them, but I think we’re also looking at post-ISIS — what does that look like?  And I can tell you, Iran is not going to be in charge, and Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation to where they could do more harm.  

But Syria is always going to be a topic.  I think we continue to be strong in making sure there’s no chemical weapons and making sure that we’re looking at the humanitarian situation.  But the U.S. is a very strong partner in the resolution for Syria and will continue to be until we know that everything is stable.

Q    (Inaudible) that does not include the U.S.?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well, I think we’re not going to be satisfied until we see a solid and stable Syria, and that is not with Assad in place.  But what we are going to do is continue to be very effective and be a part of that process so that we get to a resolution.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Yeah, I’ll just say that, of course the President will talk about the prospects for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with really all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week.

Q    Ambassador, two quick questions.  The first one is, the fact that president Putin and President Xi Jinping won’t be there, will it have an impact on the what the outcome of whatever you’ll discuss on Syria and North Korea?

And, General, you’ve been insisting a lot on the respect of sovereignty.  Wouldn’t an investment in a peacekeeping mission be part of getting involved and having a stronger impact on this?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I do think that it’s still going to be strong and have an impact because you’ve got two very strong foreign ministers from Russia and China that are going to be there.  And the idea that we’re going to be talking about Syria and North Korea, and Iran, and all of those other things, I think it will be serious discussions.

And I think the fact that President Xi and President Putin couldn’t be there is not going to change the effect of the talks that we have next week.

Q    Are you disappointed that they’re not going to show up?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  That’s their choice to not show up.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I would just add on to say the U.N. General Assembly is not a substitute for bilateral relationships with any nations.  And as you know, the President has been working very closely, especially with President Xi, on this common problem and this world problem of North Korea.

So those discussions will continue, and it will continue in the context of multilateral engagements but also in context of our bilateral relationship with China.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Back in the back.

Q    Thank you, Madam Ambassador, General.  A question regarding etiquette.  In the past, Presidents have copiously avoided certain world leaders.  A decade ago, President Bush avoiding President Ahmadinejad when he was at the opening of the U.N.  Will the President speak to President Maduro at all when he is there?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Yeah, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll speak with President Maduro.  As you know, the United States designated President Maduro after he victimized his own people, denied them their rights under his own constitution.  And I think as the President has made clear, he’s willing to talk at some point in the future, but it would have to be after rights are restored to the Venezuelan people.

Q    Thank you, Madam Ambassador.  Two questions.  One, what is the future of India and the United Nations membership and Security Council?  Because when Prime Minister Modi visited the White House he brought up this issue with President Trump.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well, I think that Security Council reform is still being talked about, and I know that it’s something that India wants.  Many other countries want it as well.  So we’ll have to wait and see.

Q    Do you have any indications right now that sanctions will work towards North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  You have to look at how much has been cut off.  They’ve already started to feel it, but they’re getting ready to feel 90 percent of their exports going away; 30 percent of their oil.  Imagine what that would do to the United States if it was there.

And if you look at what — I was looking at what North Korea was saying.  They said it was a full-scale economic blockade, suffocating its state and its people.  This is dramatic.  This is something — and not only is it dramatic, but you’re looking at — Peru has dropped ties.  Thailand has dropped ties.  We’re seeing so many just kind of get rid of either the ambassadors or the trade that they’re doing.  There is no way that North Korea doesn’t feel this.

Now, how they choose to respond, this is totally in their hands on how they respond.

One more question.  I’ll let you pick who gets the last question.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Appreciate it.  So I was wondering — we talked a little bit about the President, the speech that he’ll deliver on Tuesday.  But I’m wondering if you could talk in any more detail now — and I’m sure we’ll get more detail later — will he be sending direct messages about Iran and North Korea in that speech?  Are there any more specific themes?

And also, Ambassador Haley, I wanted to ask you: On the question of U.N. funding, I know reform is probably an important part of this question, but as a candidate, President Trump was — then-candidate Trump was somewhat skeptical about the reach and the import of the U.N., the point of it long term.  As President I’m sure he’s learned more.  Is the U.S. committed both to fulfilling its financial obligations?  And where does it stand on terms of its voluntary funding for the U.N. going forward?  Would you talk a little bit about that?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Right.  To start off with the speech that the President gives, I think you can see it for yourself.  I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.

Q    So it’s written, and you’ve seen it?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I have seen it, yes.  And then the second part of it is, the U.N. — when I originally spoke with the President, what I said is, we’ll see what we can make of it.  And that’s the thing is, we’re creating an opportunity.  We’re making the most of it.  We’re moving foreign policy.  We’re changing the way peacekeeping is done.  We’re really bringing up human rights.  And more importantly, what I appreciate is they stopped focusing on the commas and the periods, and we’re actually acting.  We’re actually seeing strong things happens. 

And so I think the President has always believed there’s great potential in the United Nations, but I think now the world is seeing it — that it is actually changing, and it’s actually becoming more effective.

Q    Will he firmly articulate his intention to continue traditional U.S. funding at full levels?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think you’ll have to wait and see.  Thank you very much.

Q    Sarah, a follow-up on something that Ambassador Haley said.  She mentioned that she would feel comfortable kicking this issue to Secretary Mattis.  Should Americans be concerned about the possibility of war?  And how much time are you willing to give China to implement the resolutions in the U.N. Security Council agreement?

PRESS SECRETARY SARAH SANDERS:  As we’ve said many times before, we’re not going to broadcast, and I’m not going to lay out a timetable on what that would look like.  We’re continuing to keep all options on the table.  We’re going to push forward with a plan right now.

And again, as both General McMaster and Ambassador Haley stated, we are working on putting that pressure on North Korea to reach that ultimate goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.  That’s what we’re focused on.  We’re going to go keep pushing forward on that front.  But at the same time, we’re going to keep all our options on the table as we do that.

Q    What will the President say to the leaders that he meets next week who are eager for talks with North Korea?  I know that the President has opposed that.  How will he address that with the Europeans and others who are in favor of it?

SANDERS:  I’m certainly not going to get ahead of any conversations that the President is going to have.  As always, we’ll provide readouts and background of those conversations.  But I think the President will be very clear that putting extreme pressure on North Korea is very important.

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

 

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

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

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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© 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

 

A Day Without Women? Strike Sex Instead

The Capitol Building, still draped in flags for Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before, is backdrop for nearly 1 million who flooded Washington DC to stand up for Women’s Rights. The success of the march led organizers to call for “A Day Without Women” strike on International Women’s Day, March 8 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

For those women who flexed their liberated muscles by opposing Hillary Clinton (because after all, what did they have to lose?), two stories from this week stand out:

GOP Lawmaker Asks Why Men Should Pay for Prenatal Care

Judge resigns over rape trial comment: ‘Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?’

Trump has not only set back American progress on every aspect of civil, environmental, economic and criminal justice a century to the Gilded Age, but threatens to do the same with women’s rights and standing in society. And I’m not just referring to the fact that he has made it okay to be a misogynistic, sexist, racist, xenophobic bit.

Hillary Clinton in her campaign noted that it isn’t just “attitude” or “culture” that propagates bias, but systemic reinforcement in the economy, the tax code, the courts, the law, and most especially health care and reproductive rights, that, more than anything else for all practical purposes keep women down and lacking power.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), explicitly reversed those impediments, which allowed insurance companies to make women pay higher premiums for their pre-existing condition of being a woman.

The health care “reform” that Republicans are trying to ram through would not only restore that ability of insurance companies to charge women more so that they couldn’t actually afford prenatal care, or for that matter a delivery, or the necessary care for their infant, especially one that is born without all the advantages of its mother having had access to prenatal care, but they propose to defund Planned Parenthood, used by 4 million people (52 million visits a year), resulting in 551,000 fewer unintended pregnancies, and of course, they intend to end women’s reproductive rights altogether.

After the Women’s March on Washington the day after inauguration, which brought out millions across the US and the world, I proposed that women should strike to demonstrate how essential to the economy women were. On March 8, International Women’s Day, there was just such a strike, “A Day Without Women.” But as the big day approached, I realized it had to fail because women predominate in jobs that are life and death – nurses, teachers, home healthcare and daycare providers, legal services (the list goes on and on and on).

“My babies,” is how a Great Neck kindergarten teacher described her students during a school board hearing on the proposed bond, noting that there is a significant difference in learning readiness for children who come to kindergarten with or without having attended pre-K, which follows through throughout their elementary schooling. They don’t catch up. I am quite sure she was in her classroom teaching instead of joining the “Day Without Women” strike.

Moreover, unless a woman worked for a sympathetic boss, she likely could not afford to lose pay, and possibly her job.

Consequently, the full impact of women on the economy, and in society – that women comprise half of the entire paid labor force for the first time in history, mothers are now close to 50 percent of all primary breadwinners, and women drive 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing – went unnoticed, and women as a political force were pretty much told to sit down and shut up, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senator Elizabeth Warren.

But, as ever, Senator Warren expressed best why “women’s issues are economic issues” and how the system is rigged against them:

Women are the main breadwinners, or joint breadwinners, in two-thirds of the families in America, she said, but:

  • Having a child is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.
  • Single moms are more likely than any other group to file for bankruptcy – more likely than the elderly, more likely than divorced men, and more likely than people living in poor neighborhoods.
  • Single moms who have been to college are actually 60% more likely to end up bankrupt than those with just a high school diploma.

“The deck has been stacked against working women and moms for years. And with the Republicans in charge, it’s getting worse – a lot worse.”

Warren noted:

Women struggle under the burden of student loan debt, child care costs that equal college tuition,  make 78 cents to the dollar of her male colleague and can be fired just for asking what the guy down the hall makes (Republicans are blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act).

Mothers are 10 times more likely than fathers to take time off when their kids are sick, and 60% are not paid for that time off. Too many women fear losing their jobs because they are stuck having to choose between work or caring for someone they love. (Republicans won’t even let us have a vote on paid sick time and family leave, and Trump rolled back Obama’s executive orders on parental leave and overtime pay).

Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women but the minimum wage hasn’t gotten a federal raise in seven years, and mothers of very young children disproportionately work low-wage jobs (Trump rolled back Obama’s executive order and Republicans have blocked every effort to raise it.).

Because women make less than men throughout their lifetimes, they receive, on average, about $4,000 less a year than men in Social Security benefits (as well as pensions). This really hurts because women are less likely to have other assets, so they rely more heavily on those Social Security checks to keep them out of poverty. Republicans still threaten to cut Social Security for women and families and raise the retirement age, while their health care plan would also increase the cost of having health care and likely toss off millions of women and children from any health care at all.

“Donald Trump was right about one thing: the game is rigged. It’s rigged for rich guys like Donald Trump. The system works great for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but it leaves women and families behind. A system in which Republicans work tirelessly to rip away health care from millions of women and defund Planned Parenthood health clinics, while giving away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil. A system that cuts Head Start programs and NIH medical research, but protects tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations,” Warren stated.

And no where is this “rigged system” more apparent than in the Trump/Ryan plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan that will strip health insurance from millions, raise the cost for women, for older people, for the poor and sick, in order to give the 400 richest Americans—who averaged incomes of $318 million in 2014—a tax cut of about $7 million a year, a windfall that they will happily reinvest in buying the election of candidates who will do their bidding. (Trump doesn’t pay taxes, so this wouldn’t benefit him.)

Indeed, as it turns out, there isn’t a single “Women’s Issue” but rather, a broad gamut of issues are central to women: climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, gun violence prevention, food, water and drug safety, education, workers rights, health care and public health; infrastructure and mass transportation; immigration rights, criminal justice reform, affordable housing. What is there about life that doesn’t concern women?

The fascinating thing about that ignorant lout who is unbelievably serving in Congress but can’t understand why a man should have to pay for prenatal care is that society has a collective interest in women’s health, and public health. If someone doesn’t go to the doctor and can’t afford to stay home from work, their communicable disease will spread. When people don’t go to the doctor for an early diagnosis, but only go when the condition becomes severe, society as a whole foots the bill for catastrophic care, and is deprived of that individual’s productivity.

Clearly, there should be a different sort of strike, one that would not require women to relinquish their work responsibilities: they should strike sex. Women are considered mere vessels to incubate an embryo (an elected official actually said that), a lesser person with fewer legal and political rights than a zygote. Women are singularly punished for having sex. Sex in Trump’s misogynistic RightWing America has come to mean enslavement. (And yes, I realize this sounds as crazy as Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who has taken over Housing & Urban Development, who equated the slaves who were brought to the US in chains at the bottom of boats to “immigrants” with their high aspirations.)

John Oliver, in his summation of International Women’s Day on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, said: “Every year, the best way of gauging not just how far women have come, but perhaps how far they still have to go, is by watching powerful men around the world trip over their dicks while talking about the day.”

He highlighted Vladimir Putin, who told his nation, “Women give us life and perpetuate it in our children. We will do our utmost to surround our dear women with care and attention, so that they can smile more often.”

Women in Congress (still only 20%) wore white to Trump’s joint address, to symbolize the suffragettes of a century ago and show solidarity.

“We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump Administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., the chair of the party’s Women’s Working Group, said in a statement.

See also:

Lessons From the Historic Women’s March: How to Counter Trump

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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

Fly on the Wall: Trump Blasts Obamacare, Praises GOP Health Plan, in Session with ‘Victims’ and First-Ever Cabinet Meeting

Donald Trump holds his first-ever cabinet meeting. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pool Reporter Alex Leary, Washington Bureau Chief for the Tampa Bay Times, brings us into the inner sanctum of the White House to learn how Donald Trump and Mike Pence are manipulating the debate over the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the Republicans’ American Health Care Plan (Ryancare).

On March 13, he hosted a group of Obamacare “victims”, followed by his first-ever meeting of his Cabinet which featured remarks by Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price’s dismissal of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scathing report projecting that 24 million people would lose health care under the Republican plan:

This is Leary’s report:

POTUS entered the room at 11:26 a.m. and pool was inside for roughly 33 minutes.

POTUS thanked the participants for sharing their stories about “the very, very failed and failing Obamacare law.”

Several times POTUS complained about news media coverage of the debate. “The press is making Obamacare look so good suddenly. I’m watching the news. It looks so good. … First of all, it covers very few people and it’s imploding. And ’17 will be the worst year.”

POTUS cast the coverage as nostalgia. “It’s a little bit like President Obama. When he left, people liked him. When he was here, people didn’t like him so much. That’s the way life goes. That’s human nature. The fact is, Obamacare is a disaster.”

The best political play, POTUS said, would to let the law collapse on its own over the coming year – “because it’s going to blow itself off the map. But that’s the wrong thing to do for the country. It’s the wrong thing to do for our citizens.”

POTUS said his administration and “a lot of people in the Senate and a lot of people in the House are committed to repealing and replacing this disastrous law with a health care plan that lowers costs, expands choice and ensures access for everyone. You represent the millions of Americans who have seen their Obamacare premiums increase by double-digit and even triple-digits …”

POTUS said the House bill would provide “far” more choices at lower costs. “Americans should pick the plan they want. Now they’ll be able to pick the plan. They’ll be able pick the doctor they want. They’ll be able to do a lot of things that the other plan was supposed to give and it never gave. …”

You’re not going to have one-size-fits-all. Instead, we’re going to be working to unleash the power of the private marketplace to let insurers come in and compete for your business and you’ll see rates go down, down, down and you’ll see plans go up, up, up. You’ll have a lot of choices. You’ll have plans that nobody is even thinking of today.”

Seated across the table in the Roosevelt Room was VPOTUS. At one head of the table was HHS Secretary Tom Price; at the other. Gary Cohn, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

The rest of the table was filled out by individuals (see list below) invited to tell their stories.

A collection of Obamacare “victims” from across the country shared their stories. (names below as provided by WH).

But first, more from POTUS, who said the Obamacare repeal and replacement must come in three steps, due to working with Congress. “I’d love to do it all in one package, but if you did it that way, it can’t get done.” 

As pool was led out, a reporter asked POTUS if he had “any message” for people worried about losing coverage if Obamacare goes away.

“It’ll get better. If we’re allowed to do what we want to do, it will get better. Much better.,” POTUS replied. “Hopefully it will get very good.”

  1. Carrie Couey, from Colorado, said her rates are “three times” higher than when Obamacare began and that has hurt her family cattle ranching business. “We can’t afford our equipment if we’re paying these rates year after year after year. Our food source is in jeopardy because of this health care law.”
  2. Brittany Ivey, Georgia, said she left a full-time job in 2009 to raise her two children. She said a family plan for four cost them $650 per month and by 2015, it had gone up “102 percent.” She said her husband’s employer dropped the family from coverage so she looked for a new job but couldn’t find one that offered insurance. At that point, the family got Obamacare. “We believed the sales pitch that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Even though we were going to have to pay $1,300 a month for Obamacare, we thought we’d still be ok with our doctors.” But she said doctors would not accept the coverage. “We paid them $8,000 in five months and were never able to use it.” She and her husband earn a combined $74,000 a year, Ivey said, but health care is too burdensome. “It’s almost put our family in financial ruin.”
  3. Elias Seife, Florida, said his individual plan was canceled. He said his parents came from Communist Cuba. “They know what socialism is all about. I know what socialism is … and this whole system was meant to have one single provider.”
  4. Kim Sertich, Arizona, said her premium last year was $365 a month and it had risen to $809 a month this year, with a deductible of $6,800. “It just didn’t seem like a good use of my money,” she said, adding she had opted out and went into a faith-based program.
  5. Louis Brown, Virginia, said he worked for the Democratic National Committee when the Affordable Care Act was going through Congress in 2009 and that he later resigned, citing opposition to abortion. He supported Trump in the election and said that he was on hand to support efforts to place people “at the center of our American health care system, not the government.”
  6. Manny Sethi, Tennessee, says he runs nonprofit called Healthy Tennessee and that he’s noticed that people can’t afford rising premiums. “So what they are doing is, effectively, they’re paying the tax penalty because it’s cheaper and works out better than paying for the insurance. That’s been a big problem that we’re seeing across the state.”
  7. Joel Brown, Tennessee, said he’s in farming and he considered paying the penalty for not carrying insurance. He said there is only one option for coverage, Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee and the premium is $540 a month with a $7,000 deductible. “You’ve got to pay a high premium for a plan that I don’t need or don’t want.”
  8. Robin Armstrong, Texas, said a lot of patients are not adequately covered by Obamacare and are hit with high premiums and deductibles. “I actually read the bill that’s been produced, that’s coming out of the House now and I really like a lot of the changes in it. I think this is going to correct a lot of issues that Obamacare has had.”
  9. Gina Sell, Wisconsin, said she’s a nurse and mother and had to get a full-time position to pay the costs. “We could not afford a premium of $1,200 per month and a deductible that didn’t cover anything.” She said now the deductible is $6,500 “and so if I have a child who is extremely sick, it’s going to cost me hundreds of dollars.” Last week, she said, her daughter had a fever and she sent her to school for “three days straight because I had to work to afford our insurance” and couldn’t pay for a trip to the doctor. “It has been devastating for our family.”
  10. Greg Knox, Ohio, began by giving POTUS a note and drawing from his 11-year-old son. The note was written on the back of a cutout face with orangeish hair. “Looks nothing like you,” Knox said to laughter. POTUS flashed a big smile and said, “I wish I looked that good.” Knox said he had meet with Secretary Price and Vice President Pence during a recent roundtable in Cincinnati. “We have the best health care system in the world. We do. But it needs to be fixed. Small business owners like myself — I’m a manufacturer — what we’d like to see is not a government-operated market but a free market.”
  11. Stan Summers, Utah, said his son was born premature 26 years ago and they had good insurance but it deteriorated over time. Enter the ACA. “I’m not going to call it the other word. I call it the last president’s health care bill. I don’t need to say that name.” (POTUS: “Other than that, you like him a lot.” Laughter.) Summers said he has three businesses and drives a school bus to provide coverage for his family. He said he expects to meet a $6,000 deductible in April.

Secretary Price gave brief remarks about the stories. “This is about real people, about real patients.” He said he was “really excited” to help install a replacement.

POTUS then again bemoaned what he deemed “wonderful press” about Obamacare. “It’s a horrible thing, actually, and getting worse.” 

VPOTUS thanked the participants. “These people are emblematic of the Americans that Obamacare has failed.”

Trump Convenes His First Cabinet Meeting

Later, at 3:48 pm, Trump convened the first-ever meeting of his Cabinet, lamenting that, “We have four empty seats, which is a terrible thing.

“Because the Senate Democrats are continuing to obstruct the confirmation of our nominees for the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the director of national intelligence and the United States Trade Representative, somebody I want very badly. … The main victim of this very partisan obstruction is the American public.”

POTUS began by giving an update on the approaching storm…

He then touted actions by the nascent administration, including stripping away “job crushing” regulations, and alluded to the coming executive order to “begin the process of reorganizing the executive branch to make it less wasteful and more productive.”

POTUS reiterated his earlier remarks about Obamacare and talked about the replacement plan on Capitol Hill. “It’s a big, fat beautiful negotiation,” he said, drawing snickers. “Hopefully we’ll come up with something that’s going to be really terrific.” He thanked “Paul Ryan” and “Mitch.” 

POTUS said he’d be sending a budget request with the major increase in defense spending. “And it will be fully paid for,” POTUS said, Secretary James Mattis on his left. “I saved a lot of money on those jets, didn’t I? Did I do a good job?”

POTUS talked about immigration and enhancing vetting. “We will not rest until the job is done.”

“This is our first Cabinet meeting,” POTUS said. “I hope this is going to be a historic Cabinet meeting, historic in the sense that we’re going to do a fantastic job for the American people, for our country and for the future of our country.”

He did not respond to a request for comment on the “wiretapping.”

A number of officials were on hand, including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

HHS Secretary Price ‘Disagrees Strenuously” With CBO Report on GOP Health Care Plan

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out,” HHS Secretary Tom Price told reporters at the White House after the CBO score was released on the GOP health care plan.

Price argued that the CBO report looked “at a portion of our plan, but not the entire plan.” He explained that HHS can employ the “regulatory apparatus” to “make certain that patients are helped and that costs are decreased.”

Price said CBO ignored other legislative action.

“We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and their family, not that the government forces them to buy.”

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said he had not read the entire CBO report but found a bright spot. “The numbers that I’ve seen in the first glance is that CBO says that premiums will go down by at least 10 percent.”

A reporter noted that CBO got to that figure by estimating that fewer older Americans would get coverage but Price waved that away, again saying CBO did not take into account the full plan for repeal and replace. “The fact of the matter is, we’re working on the regulations right now.”

Asked about the report’s finding that 14 million more people would be left without insurance next year, Price said it’s “virtually impossible to have that number occur.”

Reporter: So CBO is wrong, they are not credible?

“Well, you just look at the numbers,” Price said. “There are 8-9 million people who are on the exchange currently. I’m not sure how they are going to get 14 million people uninsured, if that’s what they say, with only 8 million people on the exchange.

“They are individuals, I guess that they assume that are on Medicaid who aren’t paying anything in the Medicaid system who are not going to take the Medicaid policy just because the mandate ended or something happened. It’s just not believable is what we would suggest. We’ll look at the numbers and see.”

Reporter: Without that mandate to buy coverage, wouldn’t you concede there will be millions of uninsured?

“No, I wouldn’t concede that at all,” Price said. “The fact of the matter is they are going to be able to a coverage policy that they want for themselves and for their family. They are going to have the kind of choices that they want. … So we think that CBO simply has it wrong.”

Mulvaney echoed those points, criticizing CBO for assuming Medicaid changes will happen “on day one. It’s just absurd.”

White House Only ‘Listening’ to Conservatives on Repeal of Obamacare

Donald Trump and Mike Pence are only courting right-wing conservatives on policies that impact all Americans’ lives, including health care and women’s reproductive health.

The only ones the Trump/Pence/Ryan/McConnell Administration care about, speak to are the ultra-rightwing conservatives.  This from the White House, Friday, March 10:

READOUT OF THE VICE PRESIDENT’S LISTENING SESSION WITH CONSERVATIVE LEADERS

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price assembled dozens of conservative leaders today at the White House to discuss the multi-faceted effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Vice President and the Secretary highlighted the work being accomplished through legislative and regulatory efforts to end Obamacare’s government takeover of healthcare and provide market-based reforms that will lower costs and provide more choice to Americans. They also invited conservative groups to continue offering their ideas for improving healthcare in America and agreed to keep communication channels open as the President and Congress work to fulfill the promise of repealing and replacing the flawed Obamacare law.

The following individuals participated:

Thomas Binion, Heritage Foundation
Melissa Ortiz, Able Americans
Mia Heck, ALEC
Jason Pye, FreedomWorks
Brian McManus
Matthew Schlapp, American Conservative Union
Nan Swift, National Taxpayers Union
Richard Manning, Americans for Limited Government
Grace Turner, Galen Institute
Kenneth Cuccinelli, Senate Conservatives Fund
Jennifer Butler, State Policy Network
Daniel Schneider, American Conservative Union
John McKechnie, ABA Health Savings Account (HSA) Council
Stephen Keen, National Federation of Independent Business
Lisa Nelson, ALEC
Jennifer Hatten, ABA Health Savings Account (HSA) Council
David Bozell, ForAmerica
Phil Kerpen, American Commitment
Peter Sepp, National Taxpayers Union
Timothy Chapman, Heritage Action
Bradley Close, National Federation of Independent Business
Kent Lassmam, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Jennifer Martin, Tea Party Patriots
Shonda Kalra, Tea Party Patriots
Amanda Moorhead, National Federation of Independent Business
Bill Pascoe, Tea Party Patriots
Christopher Jacobs, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks
Michael Cannon, CATO
Bob Carlstrom, Association of Mature American Citizens
Andy Roth, Club for Growth
Heather Curry, CATO

Trump Muslim Travel Ban Will Hurt US Standing in World, National Security, Economy at Home

Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In one stroke of his pen, Trump overturned and violated foundational American principles and values enshrined in the Constitution that bars favor or disfavor for any religion, that guarantees due process of law and that every person deserves equal justice under law. His ban on travel, immigration and refugee asylum goes against American history and heritage as a nation built by immigrants, many who came as refugees fleeing war and persecution. It ignores the many instances in American history when government violated its own principles, such as its original sins, the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans, going on to the Chinese Expulsion, the Japanese internment, the ramifications of turning back boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Trump would like to go back to those bad ol’ days.

And he did it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Note: Trump’s statement released on Friday failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, clearly the imprint of White Nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s key advisor.)

Trump, through his dismissive foreign policy tweets concerning NATO, nuclear weapons, climate change, indeed his entire America First policy – reinforced by the new UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in a defiant, “You have our back or we’re taking names” threat; his trade war launched with Mexico which likely will spread to China and others, his stance to pull the US out of global climate action – will turn the US into a pariah among nations, opening the way for China to step up influence in Mexico (a Pacific nation), and Africa, and Russia in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (after all, who will stop Putin’s push to establish a new Soviet Empire?).

The immoral, unconstitutional, anti-American, and ultimately self-destructive impacts of Trump’s Muslim Ban will not make the United States safer, but rather feeds into radical Jihadists’ war cry against the Crusader West, not to mention the misery, anxiety it has imposed on thousands of immigrants and refugees who have already suffered the terror of war and the trauma of leaving homelands, sending them back into dangerous and desperate circumstance.

The callous disregard for the toll on humans because of the horrendous way the order was rolled out – making the first two weeks of the Obamacare roll out look like the 1969 moon landing – gives proof to the lie of Trump as a “businessman” rather than King of Debt who drove his businesses into the ground, while screwing the workers and contractors, and raises real terror than he will in fact run the country as he ran his businesses.

There has been superb reporting on the individuals caught in Trump’s limbo. But I want to focus on the economic and social impacts of undermining travel and tourism, reviving anti-Americanism abroad and undermining the appeal of the United States as a destination.

Trump, with an America First philosophy, says he wants to expand economy and jobs, lower the trade deficit, but his policies already are guaranteed to damage one of the nation’s most vigorous, reliable engines of economic growth, jobs and social mobility, lifting minorities and women into the middle class, not to mention international goodwill: international travel.

Indeed, tourism is part of trade. Travelers coming into the United States are an “import,” and the dollars spent here go a long way to reducing the trade deficit. How much? According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.

Just as Trump unleashed his ban – catching up people who were already in transit, many after years of vetting, and even green card holders and legal residents who happened to be traveling outside US – I was at the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show, a stunning gathering of travel suppliers and representatives from around the world and people who sell travel and value travel.

I stopped at a booth of an operator who organizes trips to Iran (earlier, Iran was cited as one of the “hot” new destinations for Americans, along with Cuba). In response to Trump’s ban on all arrivals from Iran, Iran retaliated with a ban on Americans coming in (Iraq is now talking about expelling Americans, where we have some 5,000 troops, already primed to hate Americans after Trump told the CIA he would like a “second chance at getting Iraq’s Oil” after all, “to the victor belong the spoils.”).

Cuba is another destination that Americans have been flocking to since Obama normalized relations and eased travel restrictions – a way to succeed where 50 years of isolation have failed, to introduce a taste for democracy to Cubans living under a Communist dictatorship. Now that is up in the air.

“If [Trump] makes it look like Mexico is the enemy, people will stop traveling to the enemy,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group said on a “State of the Travel Industry” panel. “That would hurt us badly, but it would also hurt the United States. Most importantly, it would hurt the humanity and the morals and the principles of the United States.”

Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, a travel agency company, noted that on a trip to Mexico recently, he found Mexicans who normally take ski vacations in Aspen and Vail are going to Vancouver, Canada, instead.

The 20% tariff that Trump proposes against Mexico (which would be paid for by American consumers, not Mexico), the second largest trading partner with the US which supports 6 million US jobs,  will likely be retaliated with a tariff on American goods, making them more expensive and unaffordable for Mexicans, whose economy will likely be devastated (already the currency is taking a hit), and further destabilizing the country.

Trump’s domestic and foreign policies have a singular theme: disruption and destabilization. And he doesn’t care who is killed or how many suffer. A bully takes pleasure out of terrorizing vulnerable people.

In just his first few days occupying the Oval Office, Trump has managed to overturn the goodwill, and foment anti-Americanism. A travel insurance company actually came out with an alert to travelers to be more aware. The headline: “What to Be Aware of When Traveling in the Apocalypse; APRIL Outlines Simple Precautions for Traveling in a Post-Trump World”

“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.

“Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.” Sad.

The value of international tourism goes beyond economic growth, jobs and tax receipts, though these are vitally important – but in essence literally brings peoples together. American travelers are unofficial ambassadors of American values and ideas, fostering good will. In the same vein, Americans who meet people face to face, where they are no longer “others” to be feared, but rather seen as human beings more similar than different. Travelers are the first line of diplomacy, the first line or promoting peace and cooperation.

President Obama understood this, which is why he encouraged young people to study, work and travel abroad and created mechanisms to help them find opportunities to do that; why he encouraged foreign students to attend our schools, to foster people-to-people exchanges, and why he eased restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Trump’s ill-conceived and executed travel & immigration ban is heinous (the chaoic, dysfunctional way it was rolled out – without even consulting his new Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries, without instruction to Customs and Border Patrol agents, making the roll out of Obamacare look like the 1969 Moon Landing), a violation of law (due process, religious freedom) and American values and morals. And though Trump justifies it as keeping Americans safe, it is not designed to do that – none of the 7 countries that are banned have ever been connected to terrorism on US soil, while the countries that have (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan) were not part of this ban. Not to mention that his wall along the Mexico border (where hysterical rightwing conspiracy theorists have said that ISIS has infiltrated) would do nothing to block the actual war-weary refugees that welcoming Canada has taken in.

Trump excuses his callous and grotesque policy as “extr-e-e-e-me vetting.” But these refugees already go through batteries of screening – at least 18 federal agencies – in an intensive process that takes years. And through all of this, Trump has not actually said what he would add to the process to make it more secure. The fact is, none of the refugees that have come through the process set out by the Obama Administration have had anything to do with terrorism in the US. What is happening in Europe, with the flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees that flowed through the continent, has nothing to do with what is happening in the US.

Trump’s America First foreign policies (trade, climate action, weakening NATO for example) are intended to isolate the United States, to put up our own Iron Curtain, our own Bamboo Curtain so that an autocrat can keep its people in darkness, ignorance, fear and insecurity and therefore malleable and controllable, which is what dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and the Iranian Ayotollahs.

“President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers,” writes Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in the Washington Post. “It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.”

As for terror, let’s compare the number of Americans killed on American soil as overt acts of radical jihadist terrorism (as opposed to domestic terrorism, such as anti-abortion, anti-Muslims) including the Boston Marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando: there have been 15 deaths since 9/11, compared to 445,000 killed by gun violence on US soil. Toddlers are more lethal than terrorists, killing one person a week.

As for the number of foreign infiltrators, immigrants or refugees who participated in terror attacks in the US? The Washington Post reporting on a study by nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation, of 400 individuals charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, 197 were U.S.-born citizens, 82 were naturalized citizens, and 44 were permanent residents; just 11 were on a non-immigrant visa, 8 were illegal immigrants, and 12 had refugee status.

Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among the countries that issued travel advisories against travel to the US over concerns about epidemic gun violence, mass shootings, police violence, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.

Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, was quoted in USA Today (“Overseas Travel Warnings about USA Mount”) saying she had no plans to visit the US anytime soon, “They need to get rid of their guns. It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”

Yet Trump bases an unconstitutional ban on refugees, immigrants, green card and visa holders on a slogan of “protecting the safety of Americans”. But if he cared that much for Americans’ health, welfare, national security and safety, he would be signing executive orders for sensible gun restrictions starting with “No Fly, No Buy,” and smart-guns, instead of proposing a “Guns Everywhere” policy; he would be expanding the public option instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act to save tens of thousands of premature, needless death and suffering, and spending money to create vaccines against Zika and Ebola; and he would be expanding trade instead of putting up barriers and launching trade wars, to uplift people around the world from deprivation and poverty rather than exacerbating destabilizing income inequality.

Trump has demonstrated that he intends to rule as he campaigned, by stoking fear and terror and insecurity. That may well serve another goal: keeping Americans insulated from the world so they are kept in darkness and ignorance and malleable to his policies.

That is not a recipe to “Make America Great Again,” nor keeping Americans safe. That is a recipe for widening violence and terror as well as economic insecurity. There will be a domino effect, through the global economy, just as the US mortgage crisis triggered a global meltdown, starting with retaliatory policies such as trade tariffs and travel bans.

The anti-globalism, anti-trade isolationism implicit in Trump’s populism is quite frightening. The undermining of global institutions which effectively prevented World War III – the United Nations, European Union, NATO, even the international cooperation in outer space – edges us closer to the existential apocalypse given the technological capacity in the control of a single person.

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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-Pence Campaign Leaders Launch ‘America First Policies’ Advocacy Group

Trump-Pence Campaign leaders have launched America First Policies to aggressively advocate for the policies and initiatives coming from the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump-Pence Campaign leaders have launched America First Policies to aggressively advocate for the policies and initiatives coming from the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Even as millions around the country and the world have been protesting the policies coming down from Donald Trump – the immigration and travel ban, global gag order on women’s health facilities, attacks on environment and climate action, attacking the media, threatening new voter suppression actions (the list goes on and on) – today a senior group of key Trump-Pence campaign, transition, and inauguration leaders announced the formation of America First Policies, a non-profit organization dedicating to advocating the initiatives and policies of the White House.

“As an issue advocacy organization, America First will be dedicated to empowering, educating, and mobilizing tens of millions of Americans who believe in policies that put America First,” the press release stated. “The organization will promote policy, support leaders, coalitions, and other organizations who back America First policies, and communicate directly to citizens – directly challenging the agenda of the liberal and biased media.”

America First Policies will be led by Nick Ayers, Rick Gates, Marty Obst and Brad Parscale – a team who worked closely throughout much of the campaign, transition, and inauguration and have tremendous experience in public policy, issue advocacy, fundraising, and political organization. In addition, David Bossie and Katrina Pierson will also be joining the newly formed entity. The group said it will not accept any donations from federally registered lobbyists.

“President Trump campaigned on a bold but basic concept: America First,” the team said in a joint statement. “This is a concept the American people both understand and support, but few in the media recognize and many politicians beholden to special interests will oppose. We will provide the counter balance. And while our funding will be significant – the most powerful thing this organization can do is harness the power and energy from everyday ordinary Americans, and give them a voice in this process. If their voices are heard, ‘America First’ policies championed by The White House will prevail.”