Nel's New Day

December 6, 2016

U.S. Military Waste

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 10:32 PM
Tags: ,

The government is wasting its money on education and “entitlements,” cry the conservatives while they wring their hands about the failure of Social Security and Medicare to pay for itself. At the same time, Congress just passed a $619 billion budget for “defense,” up from $602 billion last year. That’s over one-third of the government’s “discretionary” funds. Their excuse is that the United States has to protect itself—maybe more valid now that President-elect Donald Trump (DT) is “shaking up” relationships with foreign countries such as China (aka alienating them).

An internal study obtained by the Washington Post shows $125 billion within five years in waste within the military. The annual $25 billion waste is more than this year’s budget increase. The $125 billion savings could come from early retirement and modernization of systems. The Pentagon spends almost one-fourth of its budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management. The back-office staff of 1,014,000 contractors, civilians, and uniformed personnel supports 1.3 million.

Last spring, William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project of the Center for International Policy, wrote about the “military waste machine.” He described how the Army pays $8,000 for helicopter gears worth $500, $2.7 billion for “an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work,” and “billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used.” Private companies like Dick Cheney’s Halliburton built such projects in Afghanistan as “a multimillion-dollar `highway to nowhere,’  a $43 million gas station in nowhere, a $25 million ‘state of the art’ headquarters for the U.S. military in Helmand Province . . . that no one ever used, and the payment of actual salaries to countless thousands of no ones aptly labeled ‘ghost soldiers.’ ” Last year, Pro Publica created an interactive graphic revealing $17 billion in wasteful U.S. spending uncovered by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

People get outraged by $640 toilet seats but overlook the unbelievable cost of the F-35 jet, originally priced at $233 million despite its unusability. Even pilot’s helmets cost $400,000. With a projected 2,000 purchased, the expenditure will be astronomical. Just three months ago, the Air Force grounded ten of its first F-35 fighters. The policy is that the military will continue to throw more good money after bad because it’s already spent too much to quit. This site details many of the F-35 problems.

Above the defense budget is the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget, started by George W. Bush in 2001 to exceed the general military budget and now used as a war slush fund because anything can be purchased with it. Last spring, the House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas GOP Mac Thornberry, suggested providing $18 billion from this extra budget for an additional 11—useless—F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon didn’t request. Right now the OCO is at $60 billion but could go up to $100 billion or higher.

Other money from the military comes from other programs worth about $10 billion each year, for example training and arming programs in 180 countries paid for by the State Department’s budget. More money is spent through the over $70 million in secret spending for everything from spying to high-tech weaponry.

Another “secret” is the funding for the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber, that officials claim must be kept secret because there is “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” The excuse is used to avoid bad publicity from program costs that could go above $100 billion as part of a three-decade splurge of $1 trillion, a guess at expenditures before the typical of Pentagon overruns of sometimes four times.

To avoid trouble with its expenditures, the Pentagon developed the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” aka the Navy’s submarine slush fund. The idea is to separate costs for the new ballistic missile submarine program, slated to pay $139 billion for 12 subs, from the new surface ships that the Navy wants. The Air Force wants its own “strategic deterrence fund” for a planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

Despite a congressional mandate 25 years ago, the Pentagon fails to hold an audit. The Pentagon doesn’t know how much equipment it has, how much it’s being overcharged, and how many contractors it employs. Yet Congress keeps increasing the military budget because it’s a huge employer in their states—making equipment that the nation doesn’t need. Congressional members do this because they will keep getting elected—and now they have another excuse. DT wants everyone to look tough.

An attempted audit from the Defense Department of the Army showed trillions of dollars in accounting mistakes, fudging, and missing receipts or invoices to support its budget figures. Over 16,000 files had disappeared from the computer system of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) because of a computing software flaw. And they’ve spent $6 billion thus far on the botched audit.

With at least 900 bases outside its borders, the U.S. has troops stationed in 175 foreign nations and wages or threatens war in other nations that don’t have U.S. troops  such as Syria and Iran. In many cases, these bases are resented and hated, causing attacks against the U.S.—and the cost is over $100 billion a year.

Congressional members don’t mind wasting taxpayer money as long as these funds bring jobs to their state. Closing bases no longer needed would save $2 billion a year—a pittance when considering the bloated military budget—but a start. Congress responded to President Obama’s request to close these facilities by banning any studies of unneeded bases. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) got $640 million to build a National Security Cutter that the Coast Guard said it doesn’t need.  Thanks to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Maine got an extra $1 billion for a Navy destroyer to be built at the Bath Iron Works, again not requested by the Defense Department.

No one wants the “Littoral Combat Ship” (LCS) program for a ship that sails close to shore because the LCSs broke down at sea. Yet Austal USA, located in Alabama, got $3.5 billion for the contract. And Guantanamo costs the nation $454 million annually at a cost of $2.7 million per inmate. Congress insists on keeping the prison open.

A tremendous amount of money is lost to privatization. Oversight is almost impossible because the Pentagon has 1.7 million contracts open plus its system of “cost-plus” contracting. The more a private company charges, the higher the bonus—usually ten percent—no matter how bad the work is. Defense companies lobbying government officials and legislators to fight defense spending cuts and push for their contracts has made the military industry the eighth-largest sector in the nation. Their $100 million in lobbying fees brings in billions of dollars.

The worship of the military has led to a serious case of “affluenza” as the Pentagon eats up two-thirds of the federal government’s discretionary funds. By comparison, the departments of education, interior, and transportation cost taxpayers $95 billion, far less that the $750 billion spent on everything from golf courses around the world to a vastly increased number of three- and four-star generals and admirals. Chris Christie’s suggestion to solve the national debt was to take the $500 million from Planned Parenthood, equivalent to two F-35 jet fighters.

Any criticism of the military since 9/11 is taken as a betrayal of our nation’s ideals; the GOP campaigns on the falsehood that the military is being “gutted.” The GOP has convinced almost half the people in the United States that more money needs to poured into the military. DT’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” is translated as vastly increasing the military and having bigger and better killing toys.

This waste is nothing new: I wrote about it a year ago. And the year before that. And I’m sure I’ll be writing about it next year, especially because DT, the hawks he nominated for his cabinet, and the GOP-controlled Congress that will take money from the people of the United States to throw it at the Pentagon.

December 5, 2016

Portland Women March against Hate

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 12:10 PM
Tags: , , ,

Over 1,000 people participated in the mile-long Portland Women March against Hate last Saturday, that included live music and speeches. The signs carried by marchers showed their activism as participants addressed issues such as Portland remaining a sanctuary city and gun safety laws. The group gathered in protest of “misogyny, misogynoir, racism, xenophobia, transmisogyny, and transphobia.” Barbara Chapnick said, “My message is for Tom Price. It’s my body, my choice and get out of my vagina.”

As with any peaceful protest, the media gave the march short shrift; the Oregonian buried the event on p. 13. Fortunately, my photographer friend Ann Hubard sent me the following pictures.

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December 4, 2016

Victory at Standing Rock

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CANNON BALL, ND – DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Protesters across the United States celebrated today after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would “explore alternate routes” for the Dakota Access Pipeline instead of granting an easement for the pipeline. Over 2,000 U.S. military veterans had joined the thousands of protesters at the site to protect them from the authorities, and federal officials had given them until tomorrow to leave the site.

Native American tribes began last April to block the part of the current 1,172-mile-long pipeline’s $3.8 billion project designed to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota at the confluence of the Missouri and the Cannonball rivers because it threatened the water supply, damaged sacred sites, and violated federal law and tribal treaties with the U.S. “Oahe” means “a place to stand on” in the Dakota language. Pipeline opponents argued in court that the pipeline “crosses areas of great historical and cultural significance” and “crosses waters of utmost cultural, spiritual, ecological, and economic significance.” Sally Jewell, Secretary for the Interior, said that the government will conduct “an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts” and “underscore that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

dakota-pipeline-map

The small protest that started eight months ago developed into a standoff after the Standing Rock Tribe was supported with hundreds of tribes and joined by thousands of celebrities and activists from around the country throughout the sweltering summer into the freezing winter weather. Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities—as far away as 1,500—have sent law enforcement officers to Standing Rock, using the 1996 Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) as an excuse that it fits the category of “community disorders, insurgency, or enemy attack.” North Dakota taxpayers will be required to pay for all these out-of-state officers, including their wages, overtime costs, meals, lodging, and mileage reimbursement. The state already has a $1 billion revenue shortfall for the current year, and law enforcement costs were up to $10.9 million as of November 22. Morton County had spent another $8 million, and local courts and jails were on the hook for 575 arrests.

Arrested demonstrators, called “water protectors,” report having been strip searched and detained in dog kennels. Police set dogs on the protesters. Last week local law enforcement announced fines of up to $1,000 to vehicles delivering supplies to the Standing Rock encampments.

Police commonly use water cannons, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. By mid-November, their treatment of the protesters so accelerated that the police are now being sued by protesters. Police shot streams of icy water in the freezing temperatures and fired tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators for six hours. Water froze to people’s bodies, and 300 people were treated for injuries. Twenty-six of them were taken to hospitals.

Police took this action after pipeline opponents tried to remove two burned military vehicles from a bridge so that they could get supplies and emergency medical services from Bismarck. Law enforcement denied that they had water cannons, claiming that they used a “fire hose” to spray “more as a mist” but not “directly on them” in order “to help keep everybody safe.” A medic saw the police “hosing people down with their water cannon that continued for the entirety of the four hours I was out there watching.” He added that they flushed the eyes of people sprayed with tear gas with water and milk of magnesia that turned to black ice on the ground. Medics also reported that the demonstrators were unarmed and largely nonviolent.

Rubber bullets fired at demonstrators caused one elder to lose consciousness, another man to experience a seizure, and a woman to have her eye injured. Sophia Wilansky, 21, underwent surgery after her arm was severely injured by a concussion grenade. Her father said that she will need multiple surgeries to regain use of her arm and hand because “all of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away,” he said. “She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.”

The police denied using grenades and accused the protesters of having explosives. Eyewitnesses including medics, however, “watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people” and said that evidence of these grenades was “the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site, and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.” Black Elk—resident of the reservation, an ethnobotanist, and instructor at the local college, said that police reactions to protest became “progressively more militant, more violent.”

Another method of intimidation against protesters has been to arrest them on bogus charges and then refuse them public defenders for “pretty mundane administrative mistakes,” according to a local attorney. For example, one man was rejected a public defender because he wrote “none” instead of “0” to a question regarding how many cars he owned. In October, a judge dismissed  riot charges against journalist Amy Goodman, who had filmed a confrontation between protesters and pipeline security officers. At least 130 demonstrators have had charges dropped due to lack of evidence, indicating that prosecutors are more interested in intimidating activists than securing convictions and signaling the “unprecedented” nature of Morton County pursuing baseless cases.

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The federal government has claimed ownership of the land where Oceti Sakowin camp (above) sits, but that land is within the area of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which designated land for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In 1889, Congress divided the Great Sioux Reservation into six separate, smaller reservations and forced the tribes onto smaller parcels of land. Yet terms of treaties are not removed until officially repealed by Congress, and the Supreme Court has ruled that subsequent treaties do not do away with an earlier treaty unless the new treaty specifically addresses and removes the terms of the older treaty.

Interactions between Native American tribes and police are too often violent throughout the rest of the nation. Although these tribes are sovereign nations, 70 percent of them are under the legal authority of police and sheriff’s departments from nearby non-tribal communities. Indians alternate with blacks to have the highest rates of deaths by law enforcement, and these deaths are undercounted for a variety of reasons.

The continued stoppage for the project is at risk because Donald Trump (DT), planning for his presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017, says he will support pipelines like this one. Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, donated at least $103,000 to DT’s campaign. DT has said that he sold his shares worth $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, but there has been no proof that he did this. He also owns $100,000 to $250,000 of stock in Phillips 66 that has a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project. Bruce Gali, a 67-year-old member of the Pitt River Tribe, said that it wasn’t the end until “all the razor wire comes down, until the helicopters stop flying overhead, the spotlights turn off, the drill pad is dismantled.”

Once again, the media showed its bias when it ignored the protests by the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Despite it being “the longest-running protest in modern history” with “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” Despite the thousands of U.S. veterans who came to protect the water protectors. Despite the accelerating police militancy. From October 26 through November 3, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC combined spent less than an hour describing the demonstrations and violent law enforcement. In this time period, Fox network spent 4.5 minutes. Sunday “news” shows have ignored the events there since September. The few remaining progressive hosts on MSNBC did cover some of the events at Standing Rock, and Joy Reid invited a member of the tribe to be interviewed for her show—the first and only time that the “mainstream” media did this.

For the time being, however, there is victory at Standing Rock. We’ll see how the media treats this event.

December 2, 2016

U.S. Suffers from White Male Entitlement

A virulent genetic disorder overwhelming the United States continues to pass from one generation to another. Supported by a male monotheistic religion, Christianity has increased the genetic white supremacy during the past half millennium through killing of women accused of being witches, Muslims starting with the crusades, heathens to reform them, etc. Although science identifies no racial differences, skin color has been vital to the control of the nation. “Red” Native Americans were slaughtered and still being persecuted, and “black” captives were and are enslaved and mistreated to create a fortune for the ruling—i.e., white—class. Yet columnist Charles Krauthammer mourns how “the white working class [is] left out in the cold, neglected and condescended to as both our social status and economic conditions decline.” The neglect is  no longer recognizing his “race” as being  superior.

The White Male Supremacy Violence Disease (WMSVD) controlling religion, government, education, media, military institutions, and income was threatened during the past election, and the WMSVDers fought back with a vengeance. The anger built since a black (actually biracial) man moved into the White House with his black wife and children. Hatred for him was commonly displayed in social media, emails, and tweets while the haters kept trying to convince the world that they could not possibly be racists.

Racism has permeated the country since its inception. Slaves were classified as three-fifths of a human in the U.S. Constitution, the persecution of Jim Crow started as soon as the Civil War was over, and Republicans developed the “Southern Strategy” in the late 1960s by appealing to racism in order to dominate the majority of the states in the Union. By the campaign of Donald Trump (DT), the white men’s terror that they were losing their superior entitlement guided the line of attack.

DT’s surrogates such as Rudy Guiliani and white supremacist Steve Bannon have compared his victory to that of Andrew Jackson, a wealthy slave owner nicknamed “Indian Killer”who  massacred thousands of Native Americans and killed more on a death march to clear their land for cotton plantations complete with slaves because, to Jackson, people of color weren’t human. He started the Seminole War and then fabricated “evidence” to get two British men executed in another violation of justice. Yet conservatives in the U.S. became furious when the Secretary of Treasury attempted to replace his image on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman.

The so-called “neglected” white men who had to put up with a black man in the White House for eight years weren’t about to a woman lead the country. By 2016, 52 percent held a “very unfavorable” view of Hillary Clinton, 20 points higher than their “very unfavorable” view of President Obama in 2012 and 32 points higher than the percentage for this rating of the president in 2008. They delighted in DT calling for shouts of “lock her up” at the GOP convention and ensuing DT rallies–even the one this past week. Journalist Peter Beinart found these messages on merchandise at the convention:

  • Don’t be a pussy; vote for Trump in 2016.
  • Trump 2016: finally someone with balls.
  • Trump that bitch.
  • Hillary sucks but not like Monica.
  • Life’s a bitch: don’t vote for one.
  • KFC Hillary Special: 2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts, left wing.

And more with highly disgusting visuals.

Research reveals that the emasculation that most feared by men  is subordination to women, and women who need traditional gender roles are also afraid of male subordination. Both genders judge women more harshly than powerful men. Males are prized for being ambitious, but ambitious women engender “feelings of moral outrage” such as contempt, anger, and disgust.

Jennifer Berdahl of the University of British Columbia found that women who “deviated from traditional gender roles—by occupying a ‘man’s’ job or having a ‘masculine’ personality” were disproportionately targeted for sexual harassment. The same harassment occurs when women even propose that she might violate traditional gender roles. In southern cities, locations where more men maintain traditional gender perspectives, higher rates of male-on-female murder occur with greater economic equality between men and women.

In the United States, people who “completely agree” that society is becoming “too soft and feminine” were more than four times as likely to have a “very unfavorable” view of Clinton as those who “completely disagree.” And DT’s supporters believed that the U.S. isn’t “tough” enough.

Clinton is highly popular when she isn’t campaigning, when she’s actually in an office. And she was most popular when she played the traditional role of “First Lady” and then serving a male president as Secretary of State. As a president, however, she would have been one of the “illegitimate authorities.” People attacked her for trying, and she became increasingly defensive. Past experience taught her than admitting a mistake armed her enemies, and she became paranoid—probably because people really were out to get her.

People blamed President Obama for increasing racism in the country, but his position gave whites “the perceived moral license to express more critical attitudes about minorities,” according to a study. With Clinton no longer a threat, white men will know that they have again achieved a greater level of superiority.

For 50 years, Clinton worked to achieve her goal to help people by complying with traditional gender norms—changing her last name to match her husband, changing her hair, being more submissive, etc., etc. Yet the media and their readers still focused on her glasses, her pantsuits, her increasing weight, her voice, etc. She worked across the aisle and forgave the criticism, moving forward.

The “common scold” laws punishing only women during the colonial days of America for quarreling have quietly continued into the 21st century. It continues with describing women’s mannerisms as scolding, shrill, slutty, weak—including DT’s references to women as a pig or dog. Any woman who asserts herself—especially when running for president—is too loud or ambitious or brash.

White male entitlement was obvious during the NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum earlier this year. Facilitator Matt Lauer interrupted Clinton far more than DT, asked her more challenging questions, and questioned her answers more often. This behavior follows studies about interruptions in conversations and other negative treatment of women.

Democrats have spent the past three weeks trying to analyze the reasons that Clinton lost—racism, need for jobs, a weak Democratic presidential candidate, problems such as Clinton’s emails, accepting money for speeches from Wall Street, supporting trade deals and the Iraq War in the past, etc. Their primary objections, however, were to her personality, blaming her for being arrogant and not friendly enough. Trump was overwhelmingly arrogant, not friendly, and obnoxious. But he’s a white man.

White males now want to take over the Democratic party because they think women cannot win. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio tried to oust California’s Nancy Pelosi as House Dem leader because he thinks she has the “wrong message.” He wants to concentrate on jobs “because we’re not talking about the kind of things that are on people’s minds.” Ryan says that no one cares about the Zika virus, possibly the next health epidemic, and accuses Pelosi of not being able to talk with the “beer-drinking” union members.

As of today, Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote by 2.5 million despite the constant battering from Congress, the media, and members of her own party. She is the only presidential candidate to be openly opposed by the FBI–the weeks immediately before the election–and the Russian government. She ran against a candidate with no moral compass who lied 80 percent of the time and made promises that he knew he wouldn’t keep the other 20 percent. And she ran in the first presidential election since the Supreme Court wiped out laws to stop voter suppression.

Across the country, GOP-controlled states stopped low-income voters from exercising their freedom to vote: North Carolina would have been hers if the GOP governor had not stopped minority voters in 18 of 100 counties from early voting; Wisconsin would have gone for her if officials had not illegally kept low-income voters from getting IDs; Florida would have been a Clinton state if minorities had not been kept from the polls by intimidation; Texas might have been competitive if officials had not lied to low-income people about their eligibility to vote; etc. And Democrats could have taken over the House if not for the gerrymandering after the 2010 GOP takeover.

Scottie Hughes, Trump surrogate, claims that facts are “an idea of an opinion,” that “there’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” During his campaign, DT continually promised that he would keep Carrier in the United States when the Indiana-based air conditioning and heating systems maker threatened to take 1,400- jobs to Mexico. People voted for DT because of his promises, but he said this week that he didn’t remember saying that. He also promised that he wouldn’t pay off companies to stay. Yet Carrier gets $7 million from Indiana’s taxpayers to keep 1,000 jobs—how long no one knows—while Carrier sends another 1,000 to Mexico. Yet DT said that he didn’t really make this promise, that it was “a euphemism.” People voted for DT because he made this “euphemism.”

The United States is a culture of white male entitlement. Those who put up with Barack Obama in the White House decided that they wouldn’t let a female take over when President Obama left. And now the white males of the Democratic party are deciding to throw women under the bus in hopes that they can take back the country.

December 1, 2016

The Plague Returns

It has been exactly 25 years since the identified beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Initially it was called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), but the name morphed into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the last stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV). Originally thought to be non-existent until 1981, research now shows that its development may have come for the harsh colonial practices in French Equatorial Africa of forced labor, unsafe injections and vaccinations with unsterilized needles, and the use of “bushmeat” for food during the beginning of the 20th century.

A false sense of morality kept conservatives from stopping the onslaught of the disease during Ronald Reagan’s reign because they thought that AIDS was limited to gay men despite the fact that half those infected were non-gay. As president, Ronald Reagan didn’t even use the term “AIDS” in public for almost five years in spite of the thousands of people dying from the disease, and he failed to give a speech on the epidemic for another two years. Federal laws even kept people with AIDS from being permitted to fly on commercial airplanes.

In the past 25 years, 650,000 people in the United States died of AIDS and hundreds of thousands more were stigmatized. More people might have died if AIDS activists had not taken to the streets to force research on drugs, awareness policies, and help from the government. A new book from David France, How to Survive a Plague, chronicles the pain, frustration, anger, and work from activists over the 15 years in which the government fought them from saving lives following his Oscar-nominated documentary film four years ago.

Andrew Sullivan writes in The New York Times:  

“Here again are the manifestations of terror: the purple cancerous lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, fatal when they migrated to your lungs; toxoplasmosis — a brain disease that turned 20-somethings into end-stage Alzheimer’s patients; pneumocystis carinii, which flooded your lungs until you drowned; cytomegalovirus, which led to blindness, so that young men in AIDS wards were ‘hugging walls and scraping the air to find their nurses’; molluscum contagiosum, covering the body in ‘small, barnacle-like papules’ that oozed pus; peripheral neuropathy, with which a mere brush of a sheet against your skin felt like an electric shock; and cryptosporidiosis, a parasite that took over people’s gastrointestinal tract, slowly starving them to death. It’s been over a decade since those Latin nouns were household words in gay life, and reading them still traumatizes.”

The brave activists fought for help, and the fight extended survival time from 18 months to 22 months after a long nine years. Deaths geometrically increased as drugs failed and researchers refused to try new ones. Yet the gay men stayed at the center of organizing drug trials and meeting with pharmaceutical executives after they made their point by taking over their offices.

Author France not only writes brilliantly but also exhaustively researches his subject. As a journalist, he was a part of the fight during these 15 years, first at the biweekly New York LGBT newspaper Native and later undercover at the New York Post where he was soon fired after the editor “found out you’re gay.”

Cynthia Carr writes:

“France’s book focuses on the science: the work of early caregiver-researchers like Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and his activist-patient Michael Callen; the search by AIDS patients for illegal—or even homemade—cures; the dithering at agencies like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that were supposedly studying treatments. Ultimately, center stage goes to the small group of activists who created the Treatment Action Group (TAG), an offshoot of ACT UP, and who managed to work their way inside the pharmaceutical industry. By 1996, fifteen years after the first reports of a “gay cancer,” antiretroviral drugs called protease inhibitors were allowing many patients to manage an HIV/AIDS infection. What becomes clear in How to Survive a Plague, above all, is that it needn’t have taken so long—to put it mildly.

plague“Unknown to any doctor or patient, at that point, scientists had already discovered the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Yes, early in 1983, at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. I’ve always found this to be one of the most shocking stories to emerge from the plague years, and France is not the first to tell it: how American scientist Dr. Robert Gallo tried to take the credit for this discovery after French scientist Dr. Luc Montagnier sent him samples of what would later be called HIV. Long story short, this delayed both meaningful research and the release of an antibody test.

“Then, when that first antibody test did become available, in 1985, most gay men refused to take it for fear that they would lose their jobs, their housing, and their health insurance. Most cities, including New York, had no gay-rights legislation in place. In fact, gay sex was still illegal in many states. That year, twenty state legislatures debated quarantining people with AIDS, while Republican congressman William Dannemeyer introduced a raft of homophobic legislation, including a bill that would give a long prison term to any gay person who tried to donate blood. There was simply no upside to taking the test. There were no treatments.”

“Say No to Drugs” was the mantra of the 1980s thanks to Nancy Reagan, and just owning syringes was illegal in many states.  Other countries controlled the AIDS epidemic. The German government provided funding to gay community NGOs and invited them to develop their own prevention projects. Britain publicized the problem through a campaign of “AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance.” Western countries created needle-exchange programs, distributed free syringes, and developed opiate-substitution treatment. Germany had needle-vending machines, and England and Wales distributed 25 million free syringes each year by 1997. In the United States, however, where 40,000 people develop HIV annually, the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges remained until 2009 and then was replaced in 2011 after the Tea Party swept over Congress.

With the new Trump/Pence administration, HIV and AIDS cases could soar. People would lose their medications through the disappearance of the “pre-existing condition” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Southern states have had the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses but refused federal Medicaid funding which could provide HIV meds.

When Mike Pence became governor of Indiana, the state experienced its worst HIV outbreak in its history, worsened by Pence’s decision to maintain the state ban on needle exchanges and slash funding for HIV testing facilities. This is the same governor who just gave away $7 million of public taxes to keep 1,000 jobs at Carrier in the state. Pence also tried to defund Planned Parenthood, a key HIV test source. Blamed for the HIV outbreak, Pence prayed about the problem.

Pence campaigned for Congress in 2000 by promising he would take funding away from HIV/AIDS drug research to put into organizations that would prevent LGBT behavior. He wrote, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” His policy is to “cure the gay” and ignore HIV.

If Tom Price is confirmed for health secretary, he would control federal programs responsible for conducting HIV/AIDS research, education, treatment, and prevention. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is tasked with developing policy to combat HIV nationally. Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that questions whether HIV causes AIDS. He also wants to erase the ACA, slash Medicaid funding, and privatize Medicare.

When Ebola became a threat in the United States with a very few cases, President Obama took action and stopped it. The first observed case of AIDS in the United States was followed by 15 years of ignoring the issue or joking about it. The new administration, backed up by an ultra-conservative Congress, will most likely cause HIV diagnoses and AIDS deaths to soar.

Today is the 29th annual World Aids Day, always on December 1, dedicated to raising awareness of the disease caused by HIV. You can commemorate the day by reading How to Survive a Plague, because the election of Trump and Pence pretty much guarantees that the epidemic will return.

November 27, 2016

Trump Makes Money from Presidency

In a letter to Eugene’s Register-Guard, self-identified “deplorable” further proved that Donald Trump (DT) supporters live in a fantasy land when she concluded by stating that “we can all agree that President-elect Trump is not in it for the money.” And she was being serious. A run-down of DT’s conflicts of interest show how wrong she is.

DT’s extensive global business dealings brings the total to 150 companies in at least 25 countries. The true extent is not known because of DT’s refusal to release his tax information. Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, said:

“If we’ve got to talk to a foreign government about their behavior, or negotiate a treaty, or some country asks us to send our troops in to defend someone else, we’ve got to make a decision. And the question becomes: Are we going in out of our national interest, or because there’s a Trump casino around?”

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte has named Jose E.B. Antonio, DT’s partner in a $150 million tower in Manila, a special envoy to the U.S. Antonio met with DT’s children for a private meeting after the election, and his son, Robbie Antonio, said that his father and the Trumps plan other Trump-branded resorts in the country. Duterte wants U.S. troops out of his country; he has killed thousands of suspected criminals without trial.

South Korea: As partner in a South Korean company involved in nuclear energy, DT wants the country to take care of its own military defense rather than counting on the U.S.—including the development of nuclear weapons.

Brazil: The beachfront Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro—financially branded but not owned by DT—is part of an investigation regarding illicit commissions and bribes resulted in favoritism by two pension funds invested in the project.

Argentina: DT reportedly asked President Mauricio Macri to approve long-delayed permits for the Buenos Aires Trump high rise. Although DT denied doing this, permits were granted the next day.

India: Builders on DT’s real estate ventures are tied to the country’s most important political party. With more projects underway than in any other location outside the U.S., DT can obtain special government favors, including reductions in loans from state-owned banks, as low as 8 percent from the typical 15 percent. A week after he was elected, DT and his children met with their Indian business partners who said that they discussed the expansion of their Trump dealings because he is the president-elect. An official said that meeting with the U.S. president’s son can be the same as a meeting with the president. One DT project is under investigation for fraudulent permits. Black money—money on which taxes have not been paid—is commonly invested in real estate, and special political favors leads to windfall profits. Bribes are so common that bureaucrats have rate sheets showing how much to each official.

trump-hindu-sena

[DT as member of “Hindu Sena,” or Hindu Army, a local organization. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)]

Ireland: DT wants a flood-prevention sea wall on the coast that would endanger an endangered snail’s habitat and sand dunes near the course, both protected by European Union rules.

Britain: DT has spoken with British politicians in opposition to wind farms that he believes will mar the view from his golf course in Scotland.

Turkey: Officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, had demanded that DT’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. DT suggested that Erdogan can crack down harshly on dissidents after the recent, failed coup, and Erdogan’s calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped. In his offshore manufacturing, DT maintains his partnership in a company making luxury furniture and sold under the Trump Home Collection. DT has said that he has “a little conflict of interest [in Turkey].”

Saudi Arabia: During his campaign, DT started eight hotel projects in this oil-rich Arab kingdom that he said he “would want to protect.” Citing all the money that people from Saudi Arabia give him, DT said, “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Russia: DT made millions with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. In 2008, DT, Jr., said that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” adding that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

U.S.: DT is urging diplomats to stay at his new Washington, D.C. hotel when they are in town for official business. He owns a government lease for the hotel although the lease states that it cannot be held by a government official. His on-going labor disputes in Nevada may be solved by his appointments of all five members of the National Labor Relations Board. DT also owns stock in the company building the pipeline where protesters are trying to protect water and Native American sacred land in the Dakotas.

Other Global Issues: DT has a failed project in Toronto which was funded by Chinese investors and a dispute with Deutsche Bank, also owing them possibly billions of dollars. The bank is negotiating with the U.S. after lying to investors about its involvement in subprime mortgages during the housing crisis and ensuing global recession. The DOJ opened with $14 billion, but the deal could be sweetened in exchange for lessening DT’s loans, especially because the bank is being investigated for shady equity trades benefiting Russian clients.

Ivanka Trump plans to make money off DT’s election. After the family appeared on 60 Minutes, her business urged reporters to write about the $10,800 gold bangle bracelet she wore during the interview. She has also participated in conversations with at least three world leaders: Turkey, Argentina and Japan. DT was given a gold driver worth $4,000 at the meeting with Japanese officials.

Another issue is identifying responsibility for protecting Trump properties, possibly against terrorism, around the world. David J. Kramer, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the George W. Bush administration, said DT’s financial situation could stop the government from using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that attempts to prevent contractors from paying bribes to secure government work abroad.

Even without overt DT action, officials in foreign countries may feel pressured to support his businesses by moving forward building permits or pushing more business to DT’s hotels or golf courses. DT’s diplomats may also not wish to frustrate his business partners or political allies.

Republicans were virulently opposed to Hillary Clinton’s potential involvement in the Clinton Foundation, and at least one representative, Justin Amash from Michigan, is now calling on DT to be transparent. Amash tweeted, “If you have contracts w/foreign govts, it’s certainly a big deal, too. #DrainTheSwamp.” As DT rearranges the alligators in the deepening swamp, almost no Republicans are mentioning the murky morass. Instead they plan to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

DT has already pointed out that there is no law against his conflict of interest. At this time, he is ignoring the Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9) in the U.S. Constitution, “emolument” meaning compensation for labor or services. The clause states that “no person holding any office of profit or trust” shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” unless Congress consents. This provision could go as far as preventing DT from renting space in his New York tower to the Bank of China or hosting foreign diplomats in one of his hotels.

When President Obama took office, David J. Barron, a Justice Department official who is now a federal appeals court judge in Boston, declared that the clause “surely” applies to the president and money can be barred if it comes from a foreign state. Barron added, “Corporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”

The Supreme Court has no rulings about this clause because no previous president has refused to give up his businesses when taking over the office. The question is who would have standing to challenge the President of the United States. Violations may require impeachment and not a lawsuit, something that a GOP-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to do. Yet Virginia Gov. Edmund Jennings Randolph stated during a Constitutional debate in June 1788 that a violation of the provision by the President would be grounds for impeachment.

Legal scholars are calling on Electoral Voters to not make DT the next president unless he follows earlier presidents in selling his companies and putting the proceeds in a blind trust. Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, a preeminent constitutional scholar, said, “[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors.” Painter and Norman Eisen, President Obama’s Chief Ethics Counsel, joined Tribe in this opinion. DT could agree to have his businesses audited and any payment from a foreign government turned over to the United States, Painter suggested, but Tribe does not think this action would actually cure the Constitutional violation. DT won’t do this anyway.

If DT makes no changes before he takes the Oath of Office, he would immediately violate his promise not to be “indebted to, or otherwise the recipient of financial remuneration from, any foreign power or entity answerable to such a power.” Taking the oath would qualify him for one of the “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” that would require him to be “removed from Office.” The only alternative is for Congress to “endorse Trump’s exploitation of public office for private gain and authorize his emoluments as the Constitution allows,” according to Eisen.

Eisen summarized the situation perfectly: Swearing in DT without his selling his properties would force the U.S. into a “wholesale oligarchic kleptocracy of a kind that we have never seen before in our history.” Without taking action, the GOP can find itself in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

November 14, 2016

Don’t Normalize Trump; He Really Is That Bad

“Oh, he really isn’t that bad.” That cry started after Donald Trump’s election for the White House with the hope that people would believe that he’s really a decent person despite his virulently racist, misogynist, bullying, pro-violent statements. Now Trump supporters are moving on to defend Steve Bannon, as Trump moves the right-wing fringe from the past into the mainstream of the executive branch, further normalizing racism and anti-Semitism. Most Republican politicians have avoided mentioning Bannon’s annointing, but Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) praised Trump’s choice. (Chris Matthews did say that Steve Bannon makes Rudy Giuliani look good.)

steve-bannonBannon called his outlet “the platform of the alt-right,” an online-based white nationalist movement with the goal of an all-white United States.  For example, his Breitbart.com published an article entitled “Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage” after a white supremacist killed nine blacks at the historic Charleston (SC) black church. Another article called Bill Kristol, conservative columnist who opposed Trump, a “renegade Jew.” Other notable Bannon headlines include “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.”

“The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office,” John Weaver, advisor of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, tweeted in response to the news. “Be very vigilant America.” Bannon is a good match for Trump in his treatment of women. After his former wife was beaten, Bannon was arrested and charged with domestic violence. Prosecutors had to drop the charges after she didn’t show up in court, possibly because Bannon threatened her and the children if she spoke against him. A court case also accused Bannon and his colleague of sexual harassment. More about Bannon here.

It’s been said that “personnel is policy,” and Bannon is a chief example of this as he has been named “equal” to former RNC director Reince Priebus, now Trump’s chief of staff. In fact, Bannon probably has more influence that Priebus, who is lucky to get the new job because the GOP had considered firing him from the national committee. Like Bannon and Trump, Priebus has no elected experience; Bannon’s only government experience is attacking it.

trump-obama

Trump will need to hire far more than these two people in his transition to the White House. Until talking with President Obama this week, Trump had no idea that he was responsible for hiring the 4,100 staffers in the West Wing. Over 1,000 of those new employees must be confirmed by the Senate and should be vetted for security clearances within two months. The 100 top officials—cabinet plus defense, homeland security, disaster and pandemic response officials—must be ready to start work on January 20 to keep the country safe. Desperate to keep some of the current staff members, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, asked them if they were willing to stay with the new administration. They weren’t. The State Department, preparing to turn everything over to Trump, have contacted him about the transition, but he hasn’t answered.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat thinks that people have “a moral responsibility to serve”:

“For the next four years, the most important check on what we’ve seen of Trump’s worst impulses—his hair-trigger temper, his rampant insecurity, his personal cruelty—won’t come from Congress or the courts or the opposition party. It will come from the people charged with executing the basic responsibilities of government within his administration.

“This is particularly true in foreign policy, where presidential power has its fewest limits — where the chief executive can start wars with near-impunity, deal out death from the skies, rattle the global economy with an executive order, and decide with barely anyone else’s input to launch a nuclear weapon. In foreign policy, too, the choices that presidential appointees have to make on their own, in diplomatic and military contexts, can have life-or-death consequences very quickly. So to the extent that Trump’s approach to governance threatens world peace, that threat can be mitigated by appointees with experience and knowledge, and magnified if their posts are filled by hacks and sycophants instead.”

This Republican who writes that people should suffer abuse from Trump to keep him from making stupid mistakes, ignores the fact that Trump will not pay any attention to what public servants think is right.

Trump is also unaware of how time-consuming being a president will be. He indicated that he might spend most of the week in Washington—like members of Congress—but go to Trump Tower in Newport, his golf course in Bedminster (NJ), and his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate for part of every weeks.

The president-elect most likely ran as revenge against President Obama’s ridicule at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. One week ago, he didn’t think that he would win. The past five days have introduced him to the responsibilities of the president of the most powerful country in the world, and he won’t like those responsibilities. His choice is to do the job poorly, assign the jobs to white supremacists, or resign. The last choice would leave the United States in the hands of a quiet megalomaniac who wants to make the country a white theocracy.

Trump won’t resign as long as he’s making money for the Trump Organization. Conflict-of-interest laws for the executive branch mandate that all of them divest themselves of investments affected by their decisions in public office—except for the president and vice-president. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, and he’ll refuse to divulge his involvement in his business. His claim is that it will be a “blind trust” run by his children. A true blind trust is one in which assets are controlled by independent parties who have no communication with the owner. Trump also wants security clearance for Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, and he appointed all three of the younger Trumps to the transition team that picks key administrative officials. Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, claims that the president-elect has no interest in growing his fortune as president, and Trump promises not to use his presidency to enrich his business, but experience shows that his word is worthless.

Already Trump has lied about his personal involvement with Russia, and his past history shows how involvements with foreign countries have financially benefitted him. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, for instance, salvaged Trump during his corporate bankruptcies in the 1990s, even buying Trump’s yacht and bad hotel debt. Trump’s judicial appointments can also be connected to his business activities. His sole proprietor LLCs already cover the country as well as Panama, Cozumel, and Dubai, and the Trump University lawsuit is scheduled for later this month.

Trump’s appointment of the new IRS commissioner will solve his tax audit problems, and his control of the Attorney General will also protect him. The appointment of the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission will protect his financial interests. Trump donated at least $35,000 to Alan Hevesi for his 2002 election as New York state comptroller, the same time as his successful $500 million lawsuit to reduce his property taxes. Of the 9,000 positions in the federal government, only 1,000 must be confirmed by the Senate. Trump can control gaming, environmental building codes, housing and urban development, etc.

If we’re lucky, Trump will spend his presidency making himself rich and not destroying the lives of most people in the U.S. And luckier yet, maybe the people who voted for him will get the message that change is not always positive. (Just trying to be positive while we work to keep the battleship from turning in the wrong direction.)

November 13, 2016

Trump: Pick of White Christian Evangelicals

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:39 PM
Tags: , , ,

Donald Trump accomplished what another thrice-married, philandering candidate couldn’t do. He won the White House, and Newt Gringrich lost it. Exit polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals threw the support behind Trump. It was the first campaign for several years in which no one mentioned religion beyond Jerry Falwell trying to justify his support by saying that Trump is now “born again”—he isn’t—and Trump saying that Hillary Clinton isn’t religious. Considering Trump’s behavior, no one may talk about religion for the next four years.

The question now for white evangelicals may be the direction of their movement. They knew that his character is far more questionable than any other presidential candidate has been for a long time, but they chose him anyway. Eighteen years after these evangelicals fought to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, they fought to elect a man who brags about grabbing “pussy” and lies 80 percent of the time. As a result, these voters have lost all right to the moral high ground.

The same 80 percent of white evangelicals also voted for a man who supports racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, and nativism, a problem for many black evangelicals. Television is filled with Trump surrogates claiming that the president-elect isn’t racist and respects women, that he’s really a nice guy, but thousands of hours of video belie these false claims. Trump has claimed since his election that he wants to “unite” the country, but he continues to select advisors who lead movements to deport immigrants, disallow refugees into the country, and remove women’s rights.

White evangelicals evidenced concern during Trump’s campaign about whether he possessed conservative and biblical standards, but them managed to twist the bible to justify his behavior. Lying, murdering, and committing adultery are just fine for the new white evangelical–just follow the story of King David.

As Trump announces his direction, these conservative bona fides are becoming more and more questionable, for example slowly discarding the idea of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Gingrich explained about a major pillar of Trump’s campaign that he never really meant to build a wall, but it was a good campaign argument.

Proselytizing will become more and more difficult for white evangelicals because of their current stand of electing a severely flawed man. They have shamed people for moral weaknesses and sins ever since whites moved to America over four centuries ago. Now the unrepentant has no reason to follow the gospel if white evangelicals select politics over Christianity.

One anti-Trump voice speaking in the wilderness came from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who called for a gospel-driven Christianity rather than a focus on politics:

“The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ.”

Deborah Jian Lee, author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, wrote:

“I’ve been hearing from evangelicals leaders and lay people who are people of color, women and LGBTQ who fiercely opposed Trump and are now stunned to see just how many of their white fellow believers supported a candidate that proudly demeans their humanity. Trump preached xenophobia, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and more, and the white evangelical base said ‘Amen.’”

Lisa Sharon Harper, chief church engagement officer at the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, described the 180-degree shift in U.S. culture:

“Our nation’s first African American president will be followed by a candidate backed and promoted by the Ku Klux Klan. What’s worse, white people who claim Evangelical faith (women and men) pushed him to victory.”

Long-time Republican Max Boot, now turned Independent out of disgust, describes the three GOP factions that may rip his former party apart:

“Movement” conservatives, led by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan: They want to cut taxes and entitlement programs, promote free trade, apply a “balanced” approach to immigration reform, reach out to minority communities, and increase a strong defense and internationalist foreign policy.

Trumpkins: These “nationalists” want to do exactly the opposite and achieve their isolationism by bombing any country that gets in our way.

Politicians and political professionals, led by past RNC and current Trump chief of staff Reince Preibus: They are happy to back anyone as long as they win and thus will support the victorious of the first two.

As president, Trump will support any position that makes him popular because he can’t stand being disliked. At this point, he fits the Trumpkins, but he could change in the next 30 seconds. He put far-right religious Mike Pence in charge of domestic policy, good news for white evangelicals, but Trump may not follow Pence’s directives because he doesn’t like being told what to do.

In the meantime, white evangelicals have a model for their children that treats females like meat, encourages bullying, brags about being ignorant, smears anyone who disagrees with him, and prizes lying and cheating to get his way.

That’s the life of a white Christian evangelical under the new regime.

November 12, 2016

Help Human Endangered Species in the U.S.

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:11 PM
Tags: , , ,

The U.S. media, in its sole goal of making a profit, has spent the last year normalizing the unethical behavior, violence, and fraud of the current president-elect while accusing his opponent of being a criminal and untrustworthy—a position that they couldn’t support. As a result, many humans have become endangered species.  Only white heterosexual males are safe—and they may be endangered if they don’t support the Trump/GOP regime. Although 32 percent of the population claims they are “proud” of Trump’s election, 40 percent of the people in the United States are afraid.

The list of endangered species covers a wide range in ethnic backgrounds, religion, gender, and sexual orientation/gender identity. Like me, one of my friends, Lee Lynch, is part of the last category. She has written a syndicated column for almost four decades. Called The Amazon Trail, it covers culture, politics, and personal experiences. Her most recent piece, “Our Only Hope,” is her response to this week’s election as she ponders her role as a lesbian author in protecting the democracy of the United States and how other people can act to keep freedom for all—not just the straight white man.

The calamity of this election has confirmed an unimaginably deep disturbance in our society. As always, the progress we have made brought along with it a tailspin of backlash. In the endless cycle of history, there is no choice but to press on immediately and cohesively toward our goal of an inclusive society.

I’m not going to write about the monsters poised to devour the United States of America. I’m not going to predict the plans of the cabal of exclusion, nor point out that we just chose to put into power our very own ISIS-without-turbans.

I will write about a dawning consciousness that it wasn’t only the monster-elect himself we needed to fear, but the mob response to his purposely seductive words. The combination of deliberately dangerous words and poorly informed people can destroy our democracy.

I’ve read that the Republican campaign consulted with linguists to rouse that sector of the population. Author Renee Bess writes, “It’s hard for me to believe that Trump knew, in an empirical way, what he was doing. He might have simply stumbled upon ‘pay dirt’ when he gave his first couple off the cuff speeches. He saw he was being successful, so he decided to stick to his script.”

Given the man, I think Renee’s correct, and his handlers were canny enough not to get in the way of the effective stampede of repetitive scare words. His followers were all too glad someone wanted to champion them, even someone the like of whom has never insulted the nation by presuming to govern it. This walking ego of a power and money hungry man with his misguided hair and exaggerated New York accent spoke like an actor playing a huckster on the Coney Island midway, a make-believe man of the people.

Like many others, when the election was called, I became too ill and despondent to think. In her poem “Wild Geese,” Mary Oliver comforts her readers. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.” I could only let myself burrow deep and far from the fray.

Quivering like a scared rabbit, I thought, run for the hills! In our burrow, my sweetheart and I talked of moving to Ireland, and of not wanting to go anywhere at all.

I finally got on line. Tony Valenzuela, Executive Director of Lambda Literary, wrote to members, “Our LGBTQ books and the authors who write them are part of the solution to ensure our community remains strong. Readers and publishers are part of the solution as well. We at Lambda Literary are going to continue doing this work stronger than before… The next four years may be full of outrage—Lambda Literary wants to be a source of light for our community.”

These were the first words that raised my spirits. Maybe as high as a candlewick. I’d been trying to write and could not stay awake. I was nodding over my computer, periodically passing out.

Then someone posted these famous Toni Morrison lines: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

I received an email from our small town local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Our tenacious chapter president is reaping the rewards of her work. She wrote, “…the election has sparked a huge interest in…NOW. We have had more than 20 people contact us today expressing interest in joining NOW. Frankly, this is totally unprecedented.” Perhaps aware women have declared this election to be our final insult.

The New York Times reported that, although the incoming administration is acting to repeal it, “More than 100,000 Americans rushed to buy insurance under [The Affordable Care Act] on Wednesday, the biggest turnout yet during this year’s sign-up period.” This stirring in the populace, could it be a sign that we—and our legislators in DC—will fight to keep our health insurance from being gutted to benefit already big pockets?

The day after the election, that very next day, GM announced layoffs of 2,000 workers in two of the states that elected this new president. Will the laid off voters make sure everyone they know votes in two years? And get out the vote for active, hard-working, smart, caring candidates like Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders?

It’s said that history is cyclical. We need this cycle to be short-lived. We are many; we are powerful. Never mind the demonstrations and the memes. Support NOW, support Black Lives Matter, support The Audubon Society, support Social Security Works, Standing Rock, LPAC, just get out there and work—work together—to make Congress as blue as the blue on our flag.

In the words of Princess Leia from the first “Star Wars” film, “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi, you’re my only hope.” Obi Wan, of course, is all of us.

safety_pin_2After Brexit passed in the UK, people started wearing safety pins to show solidarity, support, and offer safety to frightened and upset people. The #safetypin hashtag began trending, and Brits posted photographs of themselves wearing safety pins to raise awareness. The idea came from the 2014 #illridewithyou movement in Sydney, Australia, where people offered to sit next to Muslims who felt threatened on their commutes after a terrorist attack in Sydney left two hostages and the gunman dead.

I was afraid of a backlash if Donald Trump lost the election. The current violence across the country toward marginalized groups, however, shows that the “winners” are as violent as as if they had been shown to lose. Right now many of feel helpless in the face of the vicious nature of many far-right people. I’m going to start wearing a safety pin.

Many people will die because of this election, but we can only hope that the country comes back, stronger than ever, like fire strengthens pottery.

 

November 11, 2016

Russia Looks Forward to Annexing U.S.

putin-trump

Vladimir Putin is crowing, and people in the UK have collectively sighed in relief that they aren’t the only stupid country in the world after the U.S. followed the Brexit vote by electing Donald Trump. I’d like to think that U.S. becoming part of Russia is far-fetched, David Frum, speechwriter for George W. Bush, tweeted, “We may be living through the most successful Russian intelligence operation since the Rosenbergs stole the A-bomb.” Trump’s longing for Vladimir Putin’s affection and his financial support for his “business” ventures will surely lead to a very close relationship with the United States—perhaps even a subservience on the part of the U.S.

On Monday, Russia announced that it is suspending the agreement to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. Tuesday’s election of Trump will all but guarantee that Russia will keep its plutonium to make approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons. Putin wants more than his nuclear weapons. With Trump he can reduce the American military presence in NATO countries near Russia’s border, cancel all sanctions against Russia, and make the U.S. compensate Moscow for losses resulting from those sanctions. His plans will also include completing his takeover of Ukraine after moving into the Crimea.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) said that President Obama had “convinced Putin he can get away with anything.” The question for Royce is his response regarding his own president allowing Russia to “get away with anything.” The GOP has never been known for loving Russia.

Pro-Kremlin ideologue Sergei Markov effused, “This is a great day for American democracy.” He also said that Russia “may have helped” WikiLeaks in its constant dribble of negative-appearing emails surrounding Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Markov said that Trump’s control will help provide a Russian-U.S. agreement on Syria, reversing the U.S. position opposing Russia’s policy.

Putin-elected lawmakers at the Russian State Duma thunderously applauded when someone burst into the meeting and announced that Trump had been elected U.S. president.

Throughout the Trump campaign, both the candidate and his campaign officials vigorously denied having any communication with the Russian government. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, however, told the state-run Interfax news agency that “there were contacts” with the Trump team. “Quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.” Russian ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russian embassy staff met with members of Trump’s campaign and added that Clinton’s campaign refused requests for meetings.

The Trump campaign started pushing the GOP toward a friendship with Russia when it demanded that the party’s platform remove a plank to arm arming Ukraine against Russian-backed militants (and covert Russian troops) and soften language on Russia’s aggressive actions in Eastern Europe. In his campaigns after that change last summer, Trump denied any Russian election-meddling, war crimes, and invasion of a European country.

While Trump was developing his campaign, his advisor was Paul Manafort, an adviser for 14 years to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin president of Ukraine who fled to Russia during the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution. The corrupt Yanukovych had explicit ties to the Kremlin going back to 2005 when his Party of Regions signed an agreement with Russia’s ruling party that called for closer ties between the two. A central part of Party of Regions was to remove Ukrainian regions from central-government oversight, and Yanukovych moved forward in his career with the help of Paul Manafort. Since that time, documents show that Manafort was paid $12.7 million to work on behalf of a foreign political party to influence U.S. policy, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

One of Trump’s current team, Michael T. Flynn, also has a very close relationship to Russia’s English-language propaganda outlet, RT (formerly Russia Today), that hid Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and its role in shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Several other Trump foreign-policy advisors, including Carter Page and Richard Burt, have close ties to Russian banking and investments.

U.S. security experts have described Trump as a “useful idiot,” supporting Russia through ignorance, shared interest, or sympathy without intention of becoming a pawn. Trump has a desperate need to be admired by the elite, and he doesn’t get this worship in the U.S. Therefore he goes to Russia and will have to do what they want in order to keep that affection. Russia wants to dump NATO, Trump’s advisor Newt Gingrich agrees with Russia, and Trump will probably follow along with the idea.

The month before the election on November 8, the FBI started investigating Trump’s Russian connection, but they kept it quiet so that the agency didn’t affect the election—in opposition to their position in talking about emails on Anthony Wiener’s laptop just nine days before the election. Eight hours before the polls opened, it was reported that the FBI had a FISA warrant for Trump’s alleged criminal activities through his illegal connections to the Russian government and other Russian entities. Of particular interest is Trump’s private server, which computer scientists discovered is having secret direct communication with the largest bank in Russia.

As Trump faces a civil lawsuit of fraud concerning Trump University and the possibility of a warrant in an FBI investigation, he is receiving top national intelligence as the president elect. The GOP House will disregarding any Trump illegal actions while they surely reinstate a committee to further grill Clinton over emails proved to be not dangerous to national security.

Even if Trump were to be forced to resign, impeached, or put in prison, the country is left with Mike Pence—a possibly worse alternative to Trump. The Republicans have two years to disillusion the 59 million people who voted for the GOP ticket. Back to cleaning my closets until 2018.

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