A Jewish Community Center in Plainview where only last week Congressman Tom Suozzi had held a SRO town hall, was among several in New York State terrorized by a new wave of bomb threats on Feb. 27 sweeping the country.
Bomb threats were also phoned into JCCs in Tarrytown, Staten Island and New Rochelle. In all, there were 29 bomb threats made across 18 states – 89 in 30 states and Canada since January.
That same day, the Mount Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was vandalized, with 100 tombstones damaged. It was the second such incident in a week, following a desecration of more than 100 tombstones in a 123-year old Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
Last week, an anonymous bomb threat was phoned in to the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League – its CEO and national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, had only days before addressed a Long Island synagogue on the rise of anti-Semitism and the fact Donald Trump had taken no action, nor even come out with a statement denouncing such acts.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo, who responded swiftly last week with a hotline (888-392-3644) to the State division of Human Rights, and instructed the New York State Police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to fully investigate and hold perpetrators accountable. He also introduced a $25 million grant program to boost safety and security at New York’s schools and day care centers “at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.”
“Make no mistake: these reprehensible and cowardly attacks are not limited to the Jewish community. They are assaults on all New Yorkers and I vow that we will do everything in our power to catch those responsible for this wave of hate crimes,” Governor Cuomo stated.
“I share the pain and the outrage of so many New Yorkers who are affected directly and those who are sickened by watching these attacks unfold. We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York. The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts and these perpetrators will be punished.”
After the attack on the ADL headquarters in Manhattan, Cuomo called it “unacceptable, un-American and – disturbingly – increasingly common. This despicable act of anti-Semitism completely contradicts the values we hold dear as New Yorkers. This is now a national crisis as a troubling pattern of recent anti-Semitic threats have been directed at Jewish Community Centers on a regular basis, including Buffalo, New York City, Albany, and Syracuse.
“We are treating these incidents for what they are – as crimes – and we will not allow them to go unpunished. Today I have directed the New York State Police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to launch a full investigation into this latest incident. Make no mistake, we will find these perpetrators and hold them fully accountable for their actions….
“We as New Yorkers stand with the Anti-Defamation League, an organization for over a century whose mission has been to stand up for the Jewish people and fight back the ugly divisive forces of bigotry and defamation. We stand with all Jewish people here in New York and across the country to say loud and clear – enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, there has been nothing of any consequence from Donald Trump, who otherwise doesn’t hesitate expressing his outrage in 140 characters at any perceived personal slight. Instead, he shut down questions about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents from an Israeli reporter at his press conference with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and the next day, told an Orthodox man who was careful to say he was not accusing Trump of being anti-Semitic, in fact, calling him Zaide, the term for a Jewish grandfather, to just shut up and sit down, proclaiming himself the least anti-Semitic person anyone would meet.
But he has not called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who also has been extraordinarily silent) to have his Department of Justice investigate and prosecute hate crimes, or done anything of any consequence.
Trump, who has already completely undone America’s value system to combat terrorism from abroad, doesn’t see or care about domestic terrorism. Indeed, he no longer classifies domestic terrorism as terrorism.
This emboldens acts against Jews, minorities of every stripe, immigrants, foreigners. It gives permission to regard “others” as nonpersons, not deserving of civil or indeed human rights, the same strategy employed in Nazi Germany, laying the foundation for the Holocaust.
Indeed, Trump made no statement after a Kansas man shot two Indian engineers who worked for Garmin and another man who tried to come to their aid, killing the 32 year old Indian man. “Get out of my country,” the man reportedly shouted just before opening fire.
Immediately after the St. Louis Jewish cemetery was vandalized, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “JCC threats, cemetery desecration & online attacks are so troubling & they need to be stopped,” she wrote on Twitter. “Everyone must speak out, starting w/ @POTUS.”
Finally, ambushed during his photo-op at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington DC on Presidents Day, he meekly replied. “Anti-Semitism is horrible. And it’s gonna stop and it has to stop…I think it’s terrible. I think it’s horrible. Whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism or any — anything you wanna think about having to do with the divide. Anti-Semitism is, likewise, it’s just terrible.”
“The issue of anti-Semitism is not partisan,” Greenblatt told Temple Beth-El just a few days before the ADL received a bomb threat. “It is potentially lethal. Nor is it an arcane policy matter that demands debate. This is a simple social problem that demands moral leadership – with the president’s leadership it can get better and with neglect or instigation it will get worse. The president’s repeated failure to address it is empowering, emboldening bigots.”
Trump should take a cue from Governor Cuomo.
“Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities,” David Posner, the director of strategic performance at the JCC Association of America, said in a statement reported in the Jerusalem Post. “The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out – and speak out forcefully – against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country. Actions speak louder than words.”
With great zeal, Donald Trump is dismantling environmental protections, regulations designed to mitigate climate change, and consumer financial protections intended to prevent another Great Recession that caused millions to lose their jobs, homes, retirement and college savings. With all the hullabaloo over Russian hacking of the election and Trump aides colluding with Russian operatives during the campaign, the firing of top National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who not only lied to VP Pence but also to federal authorities about his contact with Russia prior to the inauguration, the Trump Muslim/Travel Ban, and Trump’s attack on a free press, arguing that contrary to what is being reported, his new administration is a “fine tuned machine,” you likely have not heard about how Trump intends to make sure the machine is powered by dirty fuel and financed by deregulated banksters.
This from the White House pool press report by Adrian Carrasquillo, White House correspondent for BuzzFeed, at the signing of H.J. Res. 38:
The bill overturns the Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which was signed during the final month of the Obama administration, “addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites,” according to the Congress.gov summary of the resolution.
“By eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to get rid of wasteful regulations that do nothing, absolutely nothing, but slow down the economy, hamstring companies, push jobs to other countries, which is happening all over, although I must say we’ve stopped it,” Trump said. “You’ve seen all the factories, all the plants, they’re moving back, they’re going back to a lot of places. So you know that right, fellas? They’re moving back fast — Ford, General Motors, Fiat, so many, very happy. Compliance costs for this rule would be over $50 million a year for the coal industry alone, it’s unnecessary.”
in the Roosevelt room and flanked by House Republicans on his left and miners from West Virginia in hard hats on his right, POTUS signed the resolution that he said would “eliminate another terrible job-killing rule saving many thousands of American jobs especially in the mines, which I’ve been promising you. The miners are a big deal, I’ve had support from some of these folks right from the very beginning and I won’t forget it. We went to West Virginia and we had 17, 18,000 people and they couldn’t get into that big arena.”
Trump thanked House Republican leadership including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop and Rep. Bill Johnson.
McConnell, McCarthy, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin were behind the president as he spoke. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stood off to the side watching the president’s remarks. Pool has asked for a full list of who was in attendance.
Trump told the miners the rule was a major threat to their jobs and said there was “a spirit of optimism rising across the country.”
“How about one of the miners saying a few words. I hear Rand all the time,” Trump joked of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who was in the room.
Coal miner Michael Nelson, General Superintendent, of the Marion County Coal Company stepped to the microphone: “President Trump we thank you for everything you’ve done for us. Everything you’re doing for our industry is very much needed. I’ve been in this industry for 40 years and this is a very exciting time in our industry.”
Nelson said he worked for Marion County Coal Company in West Virginia and POTUS asked “How did I do in the area?” referencing the election. “Oh, you did great,” Nelson said to laughs in the room.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said “this is a lifeline to us, these miners they mine in West Virginia, it’s a source of pride for us as a state that we’ve been able to power this country, that we’ve had the opportunity to provide the energy to this country.”
Sen. Rand Paul said this is a big day for Kentucky and thanked Trump for getting rid of job-killing regulations. “I can promise you Eastern Kentucky voted 75% for Donald J. Trump,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the last eight years brought a “depression” to Eastern Kentucky. “Our folks are so excited to have a pro-coal president and we thank you so much for being on our side.”
A funny moment happened before the event concluded, Carrasquillo reported. POTUS got excited and invited the miners to the Oval Office and began to leave before having to be reminded that he had to actually sign the resolution first.
FULL LIST OF ATTENDEES:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito
Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Joe Manchin
Rep. Bill Johnson,
Rep. David McKinley
Rep. Evan Jenkins
Rep. Jim Jordan
Rep. Morgan Griffith
Rep. Rob Bishop
Rep. Alex Mooney
Rep. Jim Renacci
Rep. Doug Lamborn
Hal Quinn, President and CEO, National Mining Association
Matt Evans, Vice President, Boich Companies
Robert Murray, Chairman, President and CEO, Murray Energy Corporation
Ryan Murray, Vice President, Murray Energy Corporation
Casey Crooks, Superintendent, American Energy Corporation
Kevin Hughes, General Manager, Murray Energy Corporation
Scott Martin, General Superintendent, The Harrison County Coal Company
Robert Moore, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, Murray Energy Corporation
John Hardison, General Manager, Anchor Longwall & Rebuld, Inc.
Eric Grimm, General Manager, The Marshall County Coal Company
Michael Carey, Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Murray Energy Corporation
Gary Broadbent, Senior Corporate Counsel and Director of Investor and Media Relations, Murray Energy Corporation
Michael Nelson, General Superintendent, The Marion County Coal Company
Here is the notice from the White House.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: PUTTING COAL COUNTRY BACK TO WORK
LETTING COAL COUNTRY WORK AGAIN: Today, President Donald J. Trump signed legislation (House Joint Resolution 38) to stop the costly “Stream Protection Rule” from further harming coal workers and the communities that depend on them.
H.J. Res. 38 blocks an overly burdensome regulation from harming the coal industry.
o The regulation was expected to reduce coal production, leading to fewer coal jobs across the country.
o The blocked regulation threatened the coal industry with millions of dollars in compliance costs.
o Complying with the regulation would have put an unsustainable financial burden on small mines, most of which are in the Appalachian Basin.
The blocked regulation would have duplicated existing regulations already in place to protect Americans.
GIVING COAL COUNTRY RELIEF: Since 2009, the coal industry has declined, leaving workers and communities without a lifeline.
Since January 2009, the coal mining industry has lost over 36,000 jobs without any relief in sight.
From 2009 to 2015, coal production declined by over 177,000,000 tons across the country.
From 2009 to 2015, over 600 coal mines closed.
A PROMISE TO COAL WORKERS: Before President Trump’s inauguration, he promised coal workers he would support them and reverse the harmful actions of the past administration.
November 21, 2016, the Trump-Pence Transition Team pledged to “end the war on coal” and review harmful regulations created under the Obama Administration.
September 22, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump called out harmful coal regulations: “I will rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.”
August 8, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged to the American people: “We will put our coal miners and steel workers back to work.”
GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE WAY: President Trump has been steadfast in his commitment to reducing the regulatory burden on all Americans, their pocketbooks, and their businesses.
President Trump has required that for every new Federal regulation, two existing regulations be eliminated.
President Trump has placed a moratorium on all new regulations by executive departments and agencies that are not compelled by Congress or public safety.
President Trump directed the Commerce Department to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturers.
President Trump signed an Executive Order expediting the environmental review and approval processes for domestic infrastructure projects.
President Trump signed legislation to eliminate a costly regulation that threatened to put domestic extraction companies and their employees at an unfair disadvantage.
President Trump directed the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct a full review of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to ensure associated, burdensome regulations receive proper scrutiny.
President Trump ordered re-examination of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, to make certain that it does not harm Americans as they save for retirement.
This is pool reporting from John Bennett at CQ Rollcall (cqrollcall.com), about Trump’s meeting on his nominee to Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. Note the people in attendance, and how he is perfectly fine with the “nuclear option” – going to a 51 vote threshold instead of 60 (intended to get a more mainstream candidate for a lifetime appointment intended to make them independent of partisan politics):
POTUS entered the Roosevelt Room at 11:45 a.m., greeting guests from groups the White House worked with while selecting a SCOTUS nominee and will be working with to get Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court. He shook hands with several attendees before urging them to sit around the large table.
The news first, to review last Pool report for those who might have missed it. In response to a question from Fox’s John Roberts, the president endorsed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell using the so-called “nuclear option” to get Gorsuch confirmed with 50 votes, rather than the 60 needed now to end debate and move to an up-or-down floor vote. Here is POTUS’s response:
“Yes, if we end up with the same gridlock we’ve had in Washington for longer than neight years, in all fairness to President Obama, a lot longer than eight years. If we end up with that gridlock I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear.’ Because that would would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect. I would say it’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it.”
About six minutes before endorsing the “nuclear option,” POTUS began the session by holding Florida-based televangelist Paula White’s chair.
Of Gorsuch, Trump said he doesn’t “know how anyone can oppose him at all.”
“He’s a terrific person, by the way. I got to know him reasonably well. … He is just a spectacular man, and I think he’s going to be a spectacular [justice]. … He’s perfect in just about every way.”
POTUS said, nearly two weeks into the job, that defending the country is the office’s most important function. No. 2 would be selecting a Supreme Court nominee. Trump took a shot at President Obama, saying, ““We have problems that are a lot bigger than people understood. I was left something…with a lot of problems.” He vowed to “straighten them out very strongly.”
Trump predicted Senate Democrats will “look for the “almosts” in Gorsuch’s legal background, but he did not elaborate on any concerns he might have or a strategy to counter such a line of attack.
He called his nominee an “exceptionally qualified person from the standpoint of experience and education – Columbia University with honors, Harvard Law School with honors, Oxford at the highest level. … Great intellect.”
“We want to watch him go through an elegant process as opposed to a demeaning process. They’re very demeaning on the other side. They want to make him look as bad as possible. Of course, the media can very demeaning, as well. … I really think he’s a very dignified man, and I would like to see him go through a dignified process. I think he deserves that. And hopefully it will go quickly. And we will see what happens….
“I think there’s a certain dishonesty if they go against their vote from not very long ago. He did get a unanimous endorsement. … You can’t do it better, from an educational…from any standpoint. A great judge, he’ll be a great justice. I feel it’s very dishonest if they go back [on their previous votes].”
During the SCOTUS meeting, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus sat at the far end of the table with a stern facial expression, just as he did in the morning’s “listening session.” There was no senior adviser Jared Kushner in this meeting with SCOTUS groups, but White House counselor Kellyanne Conway sat a few seats to Trump’s right, near Priebus. Vice President Mike Pence stood to the left of the table in a dark suit, white shirt and bright red tie, his arms crossed at his chest for a few minutes.
Full list of attendees, per the White House:
Mr. Morton Blackwell, The Leadership Institute
Mr. Tom Collamore, U.S. Chamber of Commerce — attendance TBD
Ms. Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony List
Ms. Juanita D. Duggan, National Federation of Independent Business
Mr. Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association
Mr. Leonard Leo, Federalist Society
Ms. Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America
Mr. Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Mr. David O’Steen, National Right to Life
Ms. Paula White, New Destiny Christian Center
Ms. Charmaine Yoest, American Values
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.
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.”
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of a confidential toll-free hotline for New Yorkers to report family members, relatives, friends or colleagues believed to be passengers on flights coming into the state, but are missing or believed to be detained. The toll-free hotline, 1-888-769-7243, bolsters the state’s efforts to protect the rights of New Yorkers, their families and loved ones and allows those left in extremely vulnerable situations to notify the Department of State. The Governor made the announcement at a press conference in New York City. “As New Yorkers who live in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, we welcome new immigrants as a source of energy and celebrate them as a source of revitalization for our state,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will ensure New York remains a beacon of hope and opportunity and will work to protect the rights of those seeking refuge in our state.” New Yorkers who have experienced issues relating to love ones who are detained, missing, or travel restricted as a result of recent federal actions are encouraged to call the Department’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-769-7243. The hotline will be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will offer translation services.
The launch of this hotline follows action the Governor took yesterday regarding refugees who were detained at airports across the state. The Governor directed the Port Authority, the Department of State, and his Counsel’s Office to jointly explore all legal options to assist anyone detained at New York airports, and ensure that the rights of refugees are protected under the law. The Governor also recently launched the formation of a New York State Hate Crime Task Force with members from the New York State Police and the New York State Division of Human Rights, to investigate hate crimes and conduct community outreach to educate New Yorkers of their rights. The Task Force will also coordinate with local District Attorneys to provide necessary support during the prosecution of hate crime cases. Some of the investigators have already been involved in the investigation of recent reported hate crimes including swastikas found in different parts of the state.
In addition, the Governor announced earlier this month the formation of a new Interfaith Advisory Council, led by Cardinal Dolan, to help achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of all religions and cultures, promote open-mindedness and inclusivity, and bolster the state’s efforts to protect all New Yorkers.
George Condon, National Journal, reports on Donald Trump’s meeting with auto executives earlier today:
The president, accompanied by the vice president, entered the Roosevelt Room at 9:11, shook hands and greeted the auto executives who had been standing around on one side of the table waiting for him and chatting with top administration officials. The executives took their seats at the table and the president gave brief welcoming remarks before the pool exited at 9:16.
Transcript of remarks to come. But the tenor was set even before everybody sat down when he playfully said to two of the executives “start building in the U.S.”
As everyone sat down, he was the gentleman and held the chair for Mary T. Barra of General Motors, saying, “Let me help you with that.” After thanking them for coming, he assured them “you’re not being singled out.” Of job creation, he said, “It’s happening; it’s happening big league.” He added, “We’re bringing jobs back to the U.S. big league.” He talked of regulations and the need to control them. He brought up environmental regs, saying, “I am an environmentalist…. But it’s out of control.” He promised that they would get answers on their permits much faster than they are now.
The president sat in the center chair. To his right was Barra, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of General Motors, then Craig Glidden of GM, then Steve Bannon. Across the table from Bannon was Stephen Miller, then Jared Kushner, the Gov. Matt Blunt, then Mark Fields of Ford, Ziad Ojakli of Ford, Hope Hicks, then Priebus. Back on the president’s side of the table, it was Sergio Marchionne of Fiat to the president’s left, then Shane Karr of the alliance of automobile manufacturers, and Josh Pitcock of the vice president’s office. The vice president sat directly across the table from the president. In other small talk, the president kidded Marchionne about having spent the night flying to get to the meeting. And he wished one of the executives, Mark Fields, a happy birthday.
Here are his notes of what Trump told the executives:
“I want to just thank you all for being here. We have a very big push on to have auto plants and other plants, many other plants. You’re not being singled out, believe me, Mary, I promise. But you have a lot of plants from a lot of different items built in the United States. And it’s happening, it’s happening big league.
“We had Whirlpool up yesterday, we’re talking about big construction facilities. And it’s not the construction I want although that brings jobs. It’s the long term jobs that we’re looking for.
“We’re bringing manufacturing back to the United States big league, we’re reducing taxes very substantially and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations. And we want regulations but we want real regulation that mean something.
“Mark and I were together yesterday and I think we understand that. We’re going to make the process much more simple for the auto companies and for everybody else who wants to do business in the United States.
“You’re going to find this to be from being very inhospitable to extremely hospitable. I think we’ll go down as one of the most friendly countries and right now it’s not.”
“I have friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get their environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before. And it’s absolutely crazy.
“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control and we’re going to make it a very short process. And we’re going to either give you your permits or we’re not going to give you your permits. But you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking we’re going to be giving you your permits.
It’s already begun. The unraveling of eight years of progress under Obama. Contrast their first actions: Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act so women can have a legal remedy for pay equity. Trump signed an executive orders to dismantle Obamacare and to withhold funding from any NGO anywhere that funds abortions.
Donald Trump doesn’t care that more than twice as many people came out to protest his illegitimately gained presidency, his morals and his agenda than came out to support his inauguration (I was at both. I saw despite the lies that Trump is spewing.) His warped ego will probably take it as a matter of pride that more than 500,000 people descended on Washington from all over the country while millions more filled out gargantuan protests in NYC (400,000), Los Angeles (750,000), Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis – indeed, all across the US – plus cities in 50 countries including Paris, London, Sydney.
They came out to declare: Women’s Rights are Human Rights, women are not chattel, a mere vessel (vassal) to harbor an embryo. And so women and their men and children were standing up for reproductive rights, access to health care, gun safety, climate action, immigration reform, criminal justice, pay equity, public education, voting rights, campaign finance – all those things that together constitute “women’s issues”. Economic justice, climate justice, criminal justice, social justice, political justice, national security and peace in the world are all “women’s issues.”
“From the shores of Sydney, Australia to the tundra of Kodiak, Alaska we marched. Signs held high, our voices carried across Little Rock, Arkansas and Nashville, Tennessee, Phoenix, Arizona and Lansing, Michigan. Pink knit hats stretched as far as the eye could see in London, England, New York City, Los Angeles, California and Washington DC,” writes Heidi L. Sieck, Co-Founder/CEO, #VOTEPROCHOICE.
In fact, this was the single largest political demonstration day of protest in US history and most certainly the largest outpouring of opposition at the opening of a new administration. Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.6 million and carried only 42% of The Women’s Vote, comes into the White House with the lowest favorability rating probably since Lincoln, and 20 points lower than the outgoing president, Barack Obama.
And if Trump would actually have listened to his own nonsensical, dystopian, bizarre inaugural speech, he would realize that the women, men and children who protested rightfully have the political power that Trump said no longer resided in Washington.
“January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump intoned. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now…. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”
And yet, Trump managed to turn a deaf ear to the roars from the Women’s March that literally shook buildings with its force (yet he had to see them because his motorcade drove through twice on his way to the CIA).
In his first 100 days, what Trump vows to do would undo the progress of 100 years, violating the will of the vast majority of Americans.
But here it is: Trump managed to resurrect a militant feminism that, frankly, was dormant during the election campaign when Hillary Clinton could have, should have (in fact did, were it not for the Electoral College), break that ultimate glass ceiling to run the White House. Women of all ages, all races and creeds, and men and children, marching together in solidarity. A man carried a sign saying “I can’t believe we’re still fighting for this”.
Now what will those who marched do? What will happen? Will that energy and activism be sustained against the forces of disillusionment, frustration, paralyzing despair and self-preserving apathy? Or will they return home feeling vindicated and affirmed that their fears and concerns are real and they are not to be silenced? I think they will return empowered, invigorated with a mission, with a voice, a language to articulate grievances and a clarity of purpose. Indeed, the Women’s March organizers are posting 10 action items for the first 100 Days at womensmarch.com.
Also, there are ways and avenues and organizations to channel that rage and turn it into strategic, well articulated constructive action, in order to fight against the despair that will come when we aren’t able to immediately stop the steamroll of anti-democratic, regressive initiatives that come from the Trump/Republican camarilla.
Donald Trump may not care about the protests, feeling somehow above and immune in his bubble of sycophants. In a creepy way, he probably drew orgasmic delight that 4 million people around the world focused their attention on him, no matter that he was the target of their contempt, disdain and hatred.
But Congressmen know. Senators know. State legislators know. And they should be quaking in the reverberation of the marchers. And that’s where the focus has to be. This is Day 1 of the 2017 campaign to take back state offices. This is Day One to take back the House and/or the Senate in 2018. Because taking just one house would cut Trump’s Presidency to 2 years instead of an excruciating 4.
That is, if he isn’t impeached first for his corrupt business practices and likely collusion with Russia (not likely with a Republican Congress that clearly doesn’t care about actual illegalities like blatant violations of emoluments clause of Constitution and conflicts of interest that go against the national interest). He is more likely to be removed by a military coup when he orders bombing civilians, repopulating Guantanamo with prisoners snatched up with bounties, reopening black sites in order to torture, or, as he told the CIA, getting a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil because, you know, he learned as a boy “to the victor belong the spoils.”
Individually, we feel powerless, but collectively we have power. And it starts with pressing our village and city mayors, town and county supervisors, state representatives, governors and Congressmen need to be bold – like the San Francisco and New York mayors vowing to repulse Trump’s attack on sanctuary cities, governors like Cuomo in New York State standing up for a climate action agenda and protecting women’s reproductive rights; generals vowing to reject an order to bomb civilians or torture terror suspects. It’s newspapers being willing to lose privileged “access” and risking lawsuits to publish investigations. It’s government workers with the courage to be whistleblowers.
By these measures, the simple act of voting would seem an easy way to counter Trumpism, yet a disgraceful number don’t even do this; people need to start early to get registered to vote and vote in every election, especially local and state elections and not just the presidential.
But all of this requires us to stay active. We have to resist being immobilized by despair (that’s their strategy) and take action. If it seems too overwhelming with everything being thrown at us, just pick one or two issues to stay on top.
How to counter Trump?
Conflicts of Interest: Support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s legislation that would require Trump to disclose his business holdings and require him to disclose his tax forms. Investigate – after all, what is Government Oversight Committee for, beyond investigating Benghazi and Clinton’s emails? Sue for violations of the emoluments clause, for Trump Hotel in Washington violating the law that prevents an elected official from leasing property from the federal government. Impeach Trump and any of his lackeys for their self-serving, self-dealing conflicts of interest. Boycott Trump’s business holdings and the corporations that enable him, including Trump Hotels and golf courses, “Celebrity Apprentice,” and Fox News.
Cabinet appointments: Democrats will be unable to stop Trump’s appointments, thanks to the hypocritical Republican lapdogs. But Senate Democrats have a duty to expose their self-interest conflicts, their ineptitude, their extraordinary lack of qualifications so that they will be put on notice that their actions will be scrutinized.
“Through cutting-edge reports, social media, newspapers, radio and TV, and much more, we’re going to highlight this rogues’ gallery’s history of law-breaking, how their corporate ties will corrupt policymaking, and how their reactionary views will harm everyday Americans.” says Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen (citizen.org).
What should Senate, House Democrats do? Oppose with every tool and tactic they can the anti-Democratic principles, including using the Republican tactics against them like the filibuster, holds on nominations, lawsuits, articles of impeachment (though McConnell and Ryan will likely take away the very tools they used to unprecedented degree). That isn’t the same thing as opposing for opposing sake, to make the president fail, as Republicans did even as Obama was trying to keep the country from economic collapse. But Democrats are obligated to fight back where the agenda destroys progress. What Democrats should not do? Try to appeal to the pseudo-populism and the mythical “poor” “underserved” “voiceless” white working class, as if they are the only “real Americans” who matter. And yes, they should sue the Trump Administration just as the Republicans sued Obama over DACA and Obamacare. If Republicans don’t offer any means to compromise or impact policy, Democrats should go nuclear.
Support the Fourth Estate – the journalists who fulfill their function of investigating and being a watchdog on government and powerful interests. Be vigilant in calling out falsehoods, fake news and propaganda. That means that when the economy goes down, unemployment goes up, tens of thousands die without access to health care and Trump and the Republicans blame Obama and the Democrats, that The Media hold them to account. Write letters to the editor, comments online. Alert news media to issues. Defend journalists who are doing their job. Cultivate social media networks to counter the right-wing propaganda machine. The success of the Women’s March to rally support solely through social media shows these networks have taken root.
Fight the rabidly regressive agenda that Trump/Republicans will steamroll through in the first 100 days. The more that Republicans refuse to accept compromise or allow Democrats to participate in forming policy, the more militant the opposition has to become. Boycott, strike, protest, rally. Use your body, your voice, your pen.
Sue. Sue. Sue. “Presidents do not rule by fiat,” declared Mitch Bernard, Chief Operating Officer, for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Donald Trump may not simply undo international agreements, overrule enacted laws, or violate environmental regulations on his own say so. If — when — he ignores environmental laws, NRDC will meet him in court. And we’re gearing up to give him the fight of his life.”
The Trump/Republican strategy (copied from Karl Rove and the Bush/Cheney debacle) is to have so many outrages coming so fast, deflecting attention and paralyzing any action, and more significantly to normalize the destructive actions simply by being equivalent or (imagine) not as bad as the previous outrage.
“In the face of Trump’s parade of horribles,” says Robert Reich of MoveOn.org, “it would be easy (and understandable) for people to get numb, hunker down, and pray that they’ll make it through the next four years. But human history teaches us of the perils of complacency and fear in response to political extremism and violence.”
If it is too paralyzing because of all the issues that are infuriating to your core, pick one, two or a few to focus on – keep active and aware of what Trump and his collaborators in the Congress and the Cabinet are doing. Write, call, visit, rally at representatives’ offices. Speak up to family, friends and neighbors. Go to town halls and civic meetings. You cannot be a Silent Majority.
Support key organizations – give what you can – because they will need money to lobby, sue, organize protests and petition campaigns, can offer language for legislation and expose facts about the impacts of overturning regulations allowing corporations to pollute the air and water; repealing the Affordable Care Act, (losing 3 million jobs, adding billions to the budget deficit, depriving 18 million newly insured people of access to health care, instead of saving 87,000 lives, seeing 36,000 die needlessly for lack of health care); of the public health, environmental, economic, international repercussions of rolling back climate action. (Caveat: Organizations can’t just seize on the latest outrage to fundraise without actually doing something.)
“Together, we must resist the Trump Dynasty with everything we’ve got — starting with marches all over the country today,” declared Robert Weissman of Public Citizen. “It won’t be easy. We can be honest about that. The fights that matter most rarely are. But with all of our vigilance, all of our acumen, all of our strength, we can — we will — prevail over greed and hatred and corruption.”
This letter from Mark Elie Klein, Belgian billionaire and real estate promoter, congratulating his friend and business partner, Donald J. Trump, and praising Vladimir Putin, while also pitching a new business venture, basically says it all about the incoming Trump administration and its extraordinary conflicts of interest. Trump campaigned saying he would be the voice of the forgotten (white) man? Are you kidding or just delusional?
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, November 19, 2016 — President Donald Trump represents an opportunity for the United States and for the world. This is a man who has succeeded at everything he has done in his career, and who is going to restore lost greatness to the USA and to the American dream.
President Donald Trump will get along well with his counterpart Vladimir Putin. Putin has solidified his control over Russia, and anyone who has watched the chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting of individual power dynamics towards Putin on the international scene. Putin has worked his way up through the ranks and built his charismatic appeal on what appears to be a simple formula: keeping his promises.
The Russian people sought a leader able to restore their honor and make their country great again; he has succeeding in establishing a vertical power structure and forging a dominant position on the continent.
The Russian people demanded vengeance after the terrorist attacks; he meted out punishment.
The Russian people called for control over their own economic interests; he re-established the state’s grip on oil, gas and other strategic sectors.
The Russian people wanted the country to regain its status as a great power; he has shown that he takes lessons from no one.
All negotiations depend on a position of strength. This position is occupied by Putin. Reconstruction of the Russian empire has been definitively validated.
Most Europeans I have spoken to would like to see Europe having its own version of Putin.
With the arrival of President Donald Trump, these two exceptional men will be the Presidents of a changing world.
For five years, my partners and I have been working to develop a new “SKY & SEA” concept: a ‘next generation’ building, spearheaded by cutting-edge technology in terms of ecology, economy, architecture, design and materials.
Eiffel built the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty in New York, and so on.
We will soon be announcing to the media that construction has begun on our “SKY & SEE” building.
This concept will be presented to President Putin with a view to offering him the only building of its kind in the world, in keeping with the greatness of his country, including a museum illustrating the history and culture of Russia. The site could receive an estimated seven million visitors per year, equivalent to the numbers visiting the Eiffel Tower. President Putin will certainly be delighted by this development, which could be named in his honor.
Similarly, the election of President Trump has inspired me to present a project to him which will also mark his Presidency. As a major property mogul, he will certainly appreciate our expertise, and we will propose to him that we advance this concept together.
In conclusion, the year 2017 will be marked by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, as Presidents of a world they are going to change together.
Come and visit my website, denouncing in particular the injustices perpetrated by French politicians towards President Putin, who is coming to the rescue of powerless Europe in the Middle East conflict.
Stop criticizing President Trump, who has just been elected, when you do not even know his program. The voice of the people must be respected.
I have followed the path of Gerard Depardieu, as many others have done, and returned my French passport. The only reason I have not moved to Moscow is because the weather is too cold…
All those who share my ideas will find a warm welcome and exceptional hospitality at my first “KEY HOTELS & RESORTS” in the Dominican Republic.
Allow me to emphasize once again my support for Presidents Trump and Putin, who will undoubtedly work together to change our declining world.