Nel's New Day

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 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.

October 4, 2016

Pence May Be Worse Than Trump, Can’t Defend Him

Democratic Tim Kaine and GOP Mike Pence, vice-presidential candidates, just squared off in the only VP debate of 2016, and the GOP blogged that Pence won—hours before the debate began. The blog soon disappeared, but it does leave all their other opinions open to question. [Photograph: Andrew Gombert/AFP/Getty Images]

debate

Both candidates have been in Congress and both have been elected to governor, but their future—if they don’t get elected—may follow a different path. Kaine would go back to the Senate if Trump succeeds. Pence jumped at the offer to be Trump’s running mate because he was unlikely to be re-elected for another gubernatorial term in Indiana. If he isn’t elected, Pence would be looking for another job—perhaps back to the U.S. House of Representatives. Reports from closed door meetings showed that Pence may not get a warm greeting from representatives because of Trump’s attitude toward women.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) said that his daughter had told him that “Trump hates women,” and Pence denied it, claiming that he was improving with women. In a private meeting with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Pence was pressed on his reluctance to denounce former KKK leader David Duke and the Alt-Right movement. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) rebuked Pence and called Russian president Vladimir V. Putin “a thug and a butcher,” referring to Trump’s acceptance of the dictator to be unacceptable.

Trump is well known for his sexist attitude toward women, but Pence has been in a position to make life much worse for women:

  • Pence repeatedly voted for a law to criminalize abortion with no exception for a woman’s health and puts doctors into prison for up to two years.
  • Pence repeatedly cosponsored legislation to not only make abortion illegal in almost all cases but also ban common forms of contraception, stem-cell research, and in vitro fertilization.
  • Pence repeatedly voted to allow hospitals to refuse to provide emergency abortion care, even when a woman’s life is in danger.
  • Pence signed a bill to force women to carry non-viable pregnancies to term.
  • Pence’s Department of Health gave a $3.5 million contract to a “pregnancy crisis center” that lies to pregnant women about their options.
  • Pence signed every anti-abortion bill, including one mandating funerals for aborted or miscarried fetuses. A judge overturned that law as unconstitutional.
  • Pence forced a Planned Parenthood clinic to close in Scott County which led to a huge outbreak of HIV.

In an argument supporting a state law against abortion, Pence claimed that women might get voluntarily raped hoping to get pregnant and avoid work:

“And it gets worse – when you get an abortion, you get several days off of work and whatnot to recover. And there are a lot of crazy people out there. What if women would go out and get raped on purpose just so they could get off work? I mean, Indiana’s economy is struggling as it is, and having thousands of women absent from their jobs would be horrific for the state, I’m telling you. I made the right call and that will be confirmed in the long run.”

Pence is also anti-worker:

  • Pence worked to keep Indiana a “right to work” state by forcing unions to provide grievance and bargaining services to non-members free of charge. Although two judges ruled the law unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court upheld Pence’s law.
  • Pence opposes increasing the minimum wage above $7.25 and signed a bill keeping local governments from raising this amount.
  • Pence signed a law repealing the state’s common construction wage, meaning that local boards cannot allocate wages for publicly-funded construction projects.
  • Pence also supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because he thinks that his state would “enjoy increased market access and fairly compete on the world stage.” Unions—and Donald Trump—oppose TPP because it hurts manufacturing jobs.

Pence also opposes LGBT rights by signing a “right-to-discriminate” bill against LGBT people fighting the right of gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. More Pence positions that make Trump proud.

The problem with running for an important office is that past peccadilloes sometimes come back to haunt a candidate. In 1990, Mike Pence, like Marco Rubio, used campaign funds to pay for personal items, in Pence’s case the mortgage on his house, his personal credit card bill, groceries, golf tournament fees, and car payments for his wife. Because it was not illegal, the FEC created rules preventing the use of campaign funds for personal needs. Pence lost his race for the House by 19 points. This fact needs to be pointed out when Pence falsely complains about Hillary Clinton’s expenditures.

Pence may get another black eye from his refusal to pardon an innocent man. A man convicted for an armed robbery served ten years before DNA indicated another man and eyewitnesses recanted their testimony. The new prosecutor in a retrial offered a plea deal for an immediate release, leaving the convicted man no choice but to admit to a crime he didn’t commit in other to keep his family from becoming homeless. Pence’s argument against pardoning the man is that no governor has ever pardoned an innocent man: he obviously knows the man is innocent and won’t pardon him. The prosecutor who got the plea agreement is running for Attorney General of Indiana as a Republican, and a pardon would hurt his campaign.

In the coming week, Pence may also suffer with everyone except far-right voters after his losing a court case. A panel of three conservative judges from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Pence cannot discriminate against Syrian refugees by withholding funding from refugee resettlement organizations promised aid by federal law. Judge Richard Posner, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said that Pence’s unfounded “fear of terrorist infiltration” is not a rationale for discrimination. He added that federal law forbids restricting settlement funding on the basis of national origin and compared it to forbidding black people to come to Indiana because Pence might be afraid of them. As an illustration of how conservative this panel was, another member of the unanimous panel, Diane Sykes, is on Trump’s short list for Supreme Court candidates.

People who watched tonight’s debate saw Kaine attacking Pence and frequently interrupting him. Pence stayed unflappable while making faces as Kaine delivered fact after fact of Trump’s egregious statements. The debate itself will probably be soon forgotten, but Kaine’s statements about Trump will most likely be frequently televised along with Pence’s facial expressions and his frequent shaking his head. For example, Pence claimed that he didn’t call Putin a “strong leader,” but video shows did exactly that. Kaine made points asking about Trump’s tax returns, his praise for Putin, his negative comments about women, and his refusal to apologize.

As Kaine pointed out, Pence couldn’t defend Trump—he could only pivot away from him most of the time. One of Pence’s mistakes was to accuse Hillary Clinton of taking money from the Clinton Foundation because Kaine took the opening to list the ways that Pence had abused the Trump Foundation. Another mistake was to blame Clinton for the Russian aggression in Ukraine because it led to the discussion of Trump’s support of Russia.

In one sense, tonight’s debate may be a prelude to the presidential campaign on October 9. Watch next Sunday for the complaint from Trump that Clinton has released an “avalanche of insults.”  If so, this accusation will come from the man who tweeted his own “avalanche of insults” tonight. Otherwise it was pretty much a non-event.

Bottom line: Confronted by Trump’s statements, Pence said that the candidate didn’t say things that he did, avoided the topic, or looked away.

September 19, 2016

Media Focuses on Clinton’s Non-Stories, Largely Ignores GOP Zombie Issues

Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails are two issues that Republicans refuse to let die, despite tens of investigations into each one that fail to prove anything that the Democratic presidential candidate has done wrong. Today, the Clinton Foundation zombie problems returned when a headline referencing a quote from Bill Clinton read “‘Natural’ For Foundation Donors to Seek Favors.” As usual, the media, determined to make something out of nothing, took this headline out of context from Bill Clinton’s response in an NPR interview:

“It was natural for people who’ve been our political allies and personal friends to call and ask for things. And I trusted the State Department wouldn’t do anything they shouldn’t do.”

Leaked emails show that people aren’t getting the favors that they request, and all the aggressive searching by Hillary haters has found absolutely no “pay for play” from the Clinton Foundation that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

While dwelling on Clinton non-stories, Sunday talk shows ignored the real story about the “pay for play” Trump Foundation already fined for illegal campaign donations to Florida’s AG Pam Bondi in exchange for her dropping an investigation into the fraudulent Trump University. A less biased media would have covered the New York investigation into Trump illegally using the Trump Foundation charity funds to purchase at least one oil painting and one football helmet. Trump has not donated one cent to his “foundation” since 2008 while he gets credit for donating funds that other people gave to his foundation. Instead of reporting on Trump’s “pay for play” violations, the media concentrated on Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis and Trump’s infomercial on Dr. Oz’s show.

The same media largely ignored Kurt Eichenwald’s detailed cover story in Newsweek which reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. As Eichenwald wrote, the Trump Organization has been “largely ignored” by media despite its “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions during a Trump presidency. Eichenwald provides information about the Trump Organization’s “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians, and even criminals” and “a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with presidential major national security decisions and negotiations.

GOP members zombies:

Donald Trump desperately wanted to drop the birther issue after claiming for many years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. His giant mistake, however was blaming Clinton for initiating the theory. A strategist had suggested that the 2008 Clinton campaign could use the idea that Barack Obama was “not American,” but Clinton immediately quashed it. There’s no fire where Trump is blowing smoke. Yet campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus repeatedly accused Clinton of starting the birther theory on Sunday talk shows.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went one better. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump hadn’t said anything about the issue “for a long time.” Fortunately, Tapper, a journalist who believes in telling the truth, reminded Christie that Trump continued birthering for five years after the president released the long-form birth certificate to the public in 2011. A lively exchange of “true” and “not true” ensured followed by Christie saying, “It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis.” In fact-checking Christie’s claim, the Washington Post wrote:

“This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face…. [C]learly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.”

Christie should shift to protecting himself. His involvement in the closure of the George Washington Bridge that created havoc and physical danger to people has returned. While his allies and employees have pled guilty or gone to court in this issue, Christie has stuck to his position that “I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.” In today’s trial for two of those accused of closing the bridge, both both prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants agree that Christie “knew his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him.”

In 2013, at the time of the event, Christie ridiculed the controversy because his office would never be so petty and partisan. After evidence proved that it was a petty and partisan vendetta, Christie claimed ignorance. The micromanaging governor swore that he had no idea that his top aides used his name to abuse their power. Today Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna has told jurors that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni “bragged” to the governor directly about the scheme to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in order to deliberately cripple Fort Lee. The trial is against former top Christie aides Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, but Christie may suffer the fallout, perhaps to the point of being impeached. It already lost him being a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate, and last May, Christie’s approval rating had fallen to 29 percent.

Dick Cheney, another zombie, has come to life in the body of GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence who said that his role model is the vice-president who put the United States into the preemptive war with Iraq costing the country millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. Cheney’s career as VP was a time of incompetence, lies, opaque ruling, scandal, missing emails, and deadly bad judgment. When he left office, Cheney’s approval rating was 13 percent, about half Richard Nixon’s support at the height of Watergate. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Cheney an “idiot.” If Trump were elected and followed his plans, Pence, who sees himself a Cheney clone, “would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy” while Trump would focus on “making America great again.”

The zombie of Ralph Nadar, which may have led to George W. Bush’s appointment as president in 2000, may have returned in the name of Gary Johnson. A rumor circulated last week that Bill Weld might drop out of the race as Libertarian vice-presidential candidate because he didn’t want to be another Nadar. “No chance,” says Gary Johnson, top of the Libertarian ticket. Polling at 9 percent, Johnson is far away from the 15-percent threshold for participating in a presidential candidate debate, an advantage for him because he doesn’t interview well and might lose votes in a debate. Asked on public radio whether he was worried about votes for him leading to Trump as a president, he responded that he didn’t care and that it wouldn’t be his problem.

A pattern in GOP campaigning is to have one message in English and a different one in Spanish. For example, during his successful Nevada senatorial run in 2012, Dean Heller put his hardline immigration policy into English with a softer approach in Spanish. Another shift came from the GOP response to the State of the Union address last year when the Spanish version supported immigration reform—opposite to the message in English. This last spring, Kansas printed the wrong voter registration deadline, six days after the deadline, in the Spanish version and omitted the use of a passport for identification.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) brought this zombie to life in his struggling re-election. In Spanish, McCain brags about seeking comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for children brought illegally to the United States; the English skips over these policies and draws an image of McCain as hardcore immigration control. After this “translation” was questioned, a campaign spokesperson said that the website versions were “never intended to be identical.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking the budget bill has aroused the zombie of shutting down the government. Congress has only 11 more days—two “working weeks” before a the government closes down, but McConnell “delayed” a procedural vote until 2:15 pm tomorrow. At least the bill may allow Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood clinic to access federal grants to fight the Zika virus, a provision that had held up the bill for several months. In his arrogant manner, McConnell said that “Senate Republicans stand ready to move forward” and wants Democrats to “complete negotiations,” something that they have been willing to do for some time.

Asked about the agreement, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “Close is relative.” The Dems also want funding for the Flint (MI) water crisis to be in the mix, something the GOP turns down.

Ideally two weeks is enough time, but the bill must be sent to the House, returned, and then reconciled while ultra-conservatives in that chamber demand itty-bitty budget bills instead of an omnibus which go into next year instead of being a stopgap that returns—in zombie fashion—on December 9 this year.

Just a few zombies from people who ignore history.

September 11, 2016

Sad Hypocrisy of 9/11, Evangelical Christians

On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush’s head of the EPA at that time, has finally admitted that she was wrong about the air around Ground Zero being just fine following the attacks. She finally said that she was “very sorry” that people are sick and some have died, but she gets upset because people blame her. Over 37,000 people registered with the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) are declared sick, many with respiratory illnesses and/or cancer. Over 1,100 people covered by  WTCHP have died. Whitman had said that air in any areas other than the place of the attack did “not pose a public health hazard.”

GOP legislators also felt the need to comment about the need to “never forget” before they left town for a long weekend with the usual comments about the “heroism of our response” (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY), the need to help people understand the sacrifices made (House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI), etc. They also failed to lead Congress in a new 9/11 health and compensation law—never even signed on as sponsors–and instead used it as blackmail to lift an oil export ban. In talking about “sacrifices,” Ryan also commented that he had to drive home to Wisconsin because he couldn’t get a flight.

McConnell managed two anti-Obama care votes this week, but thousands of babies will be born with birth defects, thanks to the GOP failure to push Zika virus funding; residents of Flint (MI) and probably other cities will continue to be poisoned with lead in its water systems, thanks to any congressional action; the Supreme Court will have only eight justices, thanks to the Senate’s intransigence; etc.

Trump scammed the government for $150,000 in 9/11 money by claiming that he helped people after the attacks. Records, however, claimed “rent loss,” “cleanup,” and “repair” that were not allowable under federal gifts. He said that he let people stay free in his building, but that claim didn’t match the reports. He admitted that his property wasn’t affected by the attacks, and there is no evidence of any Trump from charity. He also lied about having “hundreds of friends” die in the attacks and watching “hundreds of Muslims” cheering when the Twin Towers went down.

The Values Voters Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council, met this weekend, and speakers made the same dire warnings of persecution for Christians. American Family Association radio host and government affairs director Sandy Rios failed to explain why people shouldn’t vote for Clinton other than “we can’t even comprehend what life would be like” if Clinton is president. Rios did claim that those who “name the name of Christ will have trouble finding jobs” and people will have to have the “right” opinions to get into college.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) followed up on the persecution threat by saying that he was correct in his prediction that the 2009 Matthew Shepard hate crimes act would persecute Christians. Before its passage he claimed that the law would make the U.S. into Nazi Germany and legalize pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia. He had no examples of how the law was “used against Christians” or legalization of sex with children, animals, and dead people. After diagnosing Hillary Clinton as “mentally impaired,” he accused her of planning to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Sharia law.” (The purpose of the Values Voters Summit is to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Christian law.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told the Values audience that he was qualified to legislate on abortion because he owned a small business. When an employee tells him that she is pregnant, Scott said, then he takes her to a Christian anti-abortion clinic. Being “in the private sector” make him realize the “importance” of anti-abortion.

Actor Jon Voight gave Trump an outstanding introduction, comparing the GOP presidential candidate to Saint Mother Teresa and Nobel laureate/theologian Albert Schweitzer. The presidential candidate who came in fifth at last year’s Values Voter Summit straw poll showed himself to be the typical reality-show star as he spoke to an audience that chanted “Lock her up!” Trump followed that with a New Testament verse: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Trump ridiculed the IRS regulation preventing churches from supporting or opposing candidates to maintain their tax-exempt status but ignored the fact that the law has been effect since 1954 during GOP President Eisenhower’s first term. Trump continued to lie when he declared that “pastors and ministers” cannot “talk about politics” and said that “all religious leaders should be able to freely express their thoughts and feelings on religious matters.” Religious leaders do that weekly if not daily, as proved by the religious leaders who speak at Trump’s rallies and other events.

Same-gender marriage appears to have disappeared from the evangelical radar if former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is any example. At the Summit, the politician who fought bitterly against marriage equality said, “It’s not an issue. In fact, it’s boring.” It appears that the Summit is also “not an issue” and “boring”: The internet has almost nothing about this year’s meeting.

Before cable television was overwhelmed today with Hillary Clinton’s illness, manifested at the 9/11 commemoration this morning, it concentrated on Clinton’s statement that half of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorable.” She did later apologize for having said this, and many people are saying that she was telling the truth because of a constituency for a racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic candidate.  (I’ll also add arrogant, narcissistic, and bullying, and you may have a few more adjectives.)

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, defended the GOP candidate at the Summit by saying that they are “hard-working” and “deserve your respect.” Hard-working they may be, but respect is an interesting term for Pence to use when he shows no respect for many of the people in Indiana after he was elected governor when he promoted laws against women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights, immigrants, raped prisoners, poor people, religious diversity, and people at risk of HIV/AIDS. Pence’s “religious freedom” law in Indiana also permits parents to beat their children with a number of items, including coat hangers and cords. That’s a lot of missing “respect.”

These are a few of the people who Pence wants Clinton to respect:

In Alabama, a Christian pastor told an audience at a McKenzie High School football game that they should be lined up and executed by the military if they don’t stand for the national anthem. The crowd cheered and praised the pastor on Facebook.

In Ohio, a 31-year-old youth pastor sexually abused a teenage member of his church. Church leaders who discovered the abuse told the family not to return to their church until the daughter apologized to the pastor’s wife for being sexually abused.

More examples of evangelical positions:

  • Linking LGBT rights to ISIS.
  • Calling gay rights activists “intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful” and “pawns” of Satan.
  • Defending Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill as a “laudable” effort “to uphold moral conduct.”
  • Accusing President Obama of using the health care reform law for a private army of loyal Brownshirts.
  • Claiming that the president promoted the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the U.S. government.
  • Alleging that the health care act will deprive the elderly of life-saving treatments.
  • Insisting that bisexuality means “orgies.”
  • Believing that public school officials are getting “condom profits” from opposing abstinence-only programs.
  • Tying same-gender marriage to failing public schools.
  • Blaming President Obama for “orchestrating” protests in Ferguson (MO) to exacerbate racial tensions.
  • Suggesting that the president is having a secret gay affair.
  • Comparing people who want Confederate symbols removed from government property to ISIS terrorists.
  • Stating that blacks abused during the Jim Crow era are “singing and happy.”
  • Calling an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity.”
  • Asserting that the U.S. government is working with drug gangs and Islamic militant to create turmoil and disorder.
  • Blaming the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the inclusion of women in the military.
  • Fearing that the government will use the military to persecute LGBT rights opponents and murder Christians.
  • Maintaining that the president will fake an assassination attempt or “intentionally” spark an Israeli-Irnaian war to “take control of the radio, TV, and internet” and “start usurping all kinds of power.”
  • Insisting that “78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party” and that President Obama uses Soviet messaging.
  • Positing that the president is waging “biological warfare” against Americans through enterovirus D68 or the Ebola virus.
  • Comparing Social Security to slavery.
  • Blaming football injuries on the separation of church and state.
  • Heralding Donald Trump as God’s choice to win the election.
  • And much more!

Pence wants people to respect all the people who want to kill people for thinking for themselves, who have diverse beliefs and religions, rape with impunity, and struggle to take away the rights of everyone except evangelical Christians.

August 6, 2016

AARP Leaves ALEC; Trump Watch

Email petitions can be a nuisance for people, but there are good reasons that people who want to live in a democracy should pay attention. A week ago, a petition alerted millions of people about AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired People, being a dues-paying member of ALEC. AARP members were sending money to the right-wing Koch-founded American Legislative Exchange Council in which big corporations write legislation for conservatives legislators to restrict women’s rights, voting, and other civil liberties vital to an open, vibrant society.

ALEC wants to reduce, privatize, and perhaps even eliminate Social Security and Medicare as well as eradicate all pensions and any caps on prescription drugs. LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote:

 “ALEC has pushed for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has saved Medicare enrollees millions of dollars by closing the Medicare drug benefit ‘donut hole’…It has opposed Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. It has targeted public pensions, pushing to cap benefits and shift workers toward defined contribution plans, which layer more market risk on individual workers’ shoulders.”

A massive protest resulted in this post on AARP’s Facebook page:

“After hearing from many of you, we’ve decided not to renew our membership to ALEC. We would never work against the interests of older Americans and our engagement with ALEC was NOT an endorsement of the organization’s policies, but an opportunity to engage with state legislators and advance our members’ priorities.”

Earlier this year, AARP drew criticism because of its neutrality in Social Security reform. Its “Take a Stand” initiative asked members to get presidential candidates to explain their policies in closing a long-term funding shortfall but didn’t “take a stand” on plans that cut benefits and those that do not.

AARP’s excuse for joining ALEC was to engage with conservative state legislators, but a powerful public interest with over 37 million members can find other ways. After consumer protests, at least 19 nonprofits and 108 corporations—including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Coca-Cola—dropped their ALEC memberships, especially after the ALEC promoted Stand Your Ground legislation that led to the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Google left ALEC in 2014 because of the group’s policy of “literally just lying” in denying climate change by opposing the Clean Power Plan.

AARP was forced to back down in one week by the grassroots campaign. AARP made its decision to disconnect from ALEC despite the push from huge companies in ALEC to keep AARP. The Center for Media and Democracy wrote, “The corporate bill mill had urged its members to call AARP and tell them to ‘remain strong.’”

Several groups joined CMD urged AARP to sever ties with ALEC:

“We are calling on AARP to withdraw all support for ALEC, a group that has consistently promoted policies that hurt seniors. By partnering with ALEC, you have allowed it to use the powerful AARP brand to lend credibility to legislation harmful to seniors that is introduced in statehouses across the country. ALEC has been at the forefront of protecting drug companies and their ability to charge unreasonable prices, has been a strong advocate against the Affordable Care Act and has opposed Medicaid expansion, forcing lower-income retirees to make terrible choices between paying medical bills and buying groceries. ALEC pushed voter ID laws that make it harder, not easier for seniors and people of color to vote. ALEC also blocks action on climate change, causing irreparable harm to the world we will leave our children and grandchildren.”

Mike Pence, GOP vice-presidential candidate, is an evangelist for ALEC, promising them at their meeting last weekend that “you are the model for Washington, D.C., after this election.” No stranger to ALEC, his focus has been to replace all public schools with corporate charter schools, an especially failed experiment in his state of Indiana shown by almost half of the state’s charter schools doing poorly or failing with the state’s new accountability standards. The law requires six consecutive years of failure before the state acts on behalf of the students. Many of the problems of these schools are cited here. Conservatives love charter schools because huge corporations massively profit from the money given to schools by government.

AARP dropped its membership to ALEC is just one week of complaints from thousands of people. Your voice can make a difference. Pay attention to those petitions you get in your email.

Trump Watch: “A lot of times, when you apologize, they use it as ammunition against [you].” That’s always been Donald Trump’s position, but last night he gave people a lot of ammunition, for example backtracking with his endorsements of GOP candidates Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ). Until yesterday, Trump had played the tease game with Ryan and glowingly talked about his opponent, Paul Nehlen, an unabashed Trump supporter. Last night he endorsed Ryan:

“He’s a good man, and he’s a good guy. And we may disagree on a couple of things, but mostly we agree.”

About Ayotte, facing a rough fight against Gov. Maggie Hassam, Trump had earlier said that he’s “beating her the polls” and asked “are these people that should be representing us?” Last night, Trump called her “a rising star” who does a good job for New Hampshire.

Trump saved his best words for McCain after a year of calling him a “loser” for being captured and tortured as a POW in Vietnam. Trump had also said that McCain did a “bad job” for veterans:

“I hold in the highest esteem Sen. John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and in public office, and I fully support and endorse his reelection. Very important.”

Running neck and neck with Clinton before the Democratic convention, Trump fell as much as 15 points behind after he followed the attack on the family of a fallen soldier in Iraq with many more “mis-steps,” the polite term for total screw-ups. Things got so bad that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gringrich—both total screw-ups—were threatening an intervention with Trump.

Trump lost the Wisconsin primary to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) which might explain the tepid applause. Or that may have been that he delivered a “low-energy” speech read from teleprompters.

In addition to his other backtracking, Trump also told an audience that he was wrong about seeing video footage of stacks of cash being taken off an airplane. He also falsely claimed that the U.S. was paying ransom for U.S. hostages instead of paying back money that the U.S. had owed Iran for 37 years because the U.S. reneged on a deal.

In another part of Trump’s speech, he downplayed his rude treatment of a parent with a crying baby and accused the media of being dishonest. Unfortunately for the truth, a video of his tantrum exists, showing that the person wanting to be a president can’t handle a crying baby.

Cameron Kerr, a Purple Heart recipient who lost a leg in Afghanistan, is raising money to help Trump earn a Purple Heart after another veteran gave him one this past week. Trump said, “I’ve always wanted to get a Purple Heart. This was much easier.” Kerr wants Trump to get another Purple Heart—“the old-fashioned way” by earning it. Kerr said the money would be used to fly Trump into a war zone of Trump’s choosing but knows that Trump will not take him up on his offer. Instead the donations to the GoFundMe campaign will be used to help Syrian refugees because “they are much better people than Donald Trump.”

Trying to get media attention away from his gaffes and support for Russia, Trump announced a 13-member economic advisory council—“the most successful industry leaders in finance, real estate, and technology, according to Trump. His selections are notable because they are all wealthy men—many of them real-estate investors, hedge-fund managers, and bankers. They are a Wall Street dream machine—a batch of fraudsters like Trump who specialize in disaster financing, taking advantage of people who suffer losses.

Asked about female cabinet members, he could only think of his daughter Ivanka. At a loss, Trump finally told his interviewer, Algelia Savage who hosts The Chat on Florida’s First Coast News,  that he would pick her for his cabinet.

The GOP presidential candidate has a powerful ally in Julian Assange, responsible for damaging email leaks about Clinton—most recently the ones from the Democratic National Committee. Assange has promised more damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign but nothing about Trump. Bill Maher asked him about his approach, and Assange said that he is “working on” hacking Trump’s tax returns that the candidate refuses to release. WikiLeaks has since disavowed the statement saying that Assange’s statement was a joke. Assange did the interview from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he is fleeing extradition on rape and sexual assault allegations in Sweden.

Trump’s latest business failure is the indefinite closure of his Taj Mahal and Casino after Labor Day with a loss of 3,000 jobs. In 2014, a court for one of Trump’s four bankruptcies ruled the elimination of union members’ health insurance and pension plans, but the union wasn’t responsible for the financial problems as revealed three months later. The hotel failed to get state and local tax breaks and was also fined $10 million for “significant and long-standing money laundering violations.” After 18 months, the unions went on strike to protest the injustices, but Trump is no longer involved because he dumped the hotel onto personal friend multi-billionaire Carl Icahn—possibly Trump’s Treasury Secretary if the GOP candidate is elected.

The Trump Watch will continue in the future.

August 1, 2016

Where Is the GOP Decency?

Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) thought he was on a roll 62 years ago after four years of destroying hundreds of thousands of lives through accusations of Communism. In 1954, however, he tackled the U.S. Army after it accused McCarthy and his staff of trying to get special treatment for Private G. David Schine, a close friend of Roy Cohen who McCarthy had made counsel for his investigative subcommittee. Broadcast on three television networks, the Army-McCarthy hearings gained a high profile : about 80 million people listened to at least part of the committee hearings. During these hearings, McCarthy attacked Fred Fisher, a young lawyer who the Army’s Special Counsel, Joseph Welch, had intended to include on his staff for the hearings.

Welch’s statement turned the tide against McCarthy. As the senator continued his harangue, Welsh said:

“Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Those words still reverberate today. Noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin referred to this turning point while discussing Donald Trump’s attack on Khizr and Ghazala Khan after their speech about their heroic son, Captain Humayun Khan, who died protecting his men in Iraq. Journalist Dan Rather used the same point when writing about Trump’s attack.

In his speech at the Democratic convention, Khan accused Trump of never sacrificing anything for anyone, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-FL) decided to defend his party’s candidate. After Khan’s speech, he tweeted:

“[Trump] has never sacrificed anything for anyone.” Never? Anything? Anyone? C’mon.”

Since then, Trump listed his personal sacrifices:

“I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

He cheated his employees of their wages, drove small businesses into bankruptcies, and left people holding the bag for the costs of his “great structures.” He’s an entrepreneur who made his money at the expense of others. Trump also claimed that he raised millions of dollars for veterans and helped get the Vietnam War Memorial built and that he has raised millions of dollars for vets. His donations to vets came only after the press heavily publicized the fact that he had donated none of the money he raised for them to any veterans’ groups.

After avoiding the draft  through a medical exemption for bone spurs and multiple student deferments, he said that his “personal Vietnam” was the danger of getting sexually transmitted diseases. He added, “I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Trump also commented on the Khan’s appearance at the Democratic convention:

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

Unfortunately for Trump, Captain Khan’s mother didn’t stay silent. Since that time she has talked about her great pain from the loss of her child and her strong feelings about Trump.

On Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked Trump what he would say to Khan. Trump said:

“Well, I would say, we have had a lot of problems with radical Islamic terrorism, that’s what I’d say.”

That’s Trump’s excuse for having attacked the parents of a dead soldier hero. On the same day, panelist Alex Castellanos, advisor for Trump’s Super PAC, repeated the same party line on Meet the Press. 

“I think Trump has a legitimate point to make there that he should do something about that and that’s the argument in this election. The status quo, more of what’s going on now, you know, basically letting that happen unfiltered or doing something about it.”

What is someone so closely tied into Trump’s campaign doing on a “panel”? Didn’t Trump claim that he wouldn’t have any super PACs? And the United States carefully “filters” immigrants—much more so than they do gun buyers who continue to kill people throughout the nation.

Trump’s problems concerning the Khans accelerated today when his running partner, Mike Pence, was speaking at a Carson City (NV) casino. Catherine Byrne, a 52-year-old military mother whose son serves in the U.S. Air Force, asked the second question of Mike Pence in reference to the Khan family:

“Will there ever be a point in time when you’re able to look Trump in the eye and tell him enough is enough?”

The crowd booed her, the mother of a man serving in the U.S. military. Pence said that he honored Captain Khan as “an American hero” and honored his family yet he has never spent time around someone who is “more devoted” to military and to veterans than Trump. In true contemporary journalistic fashion, the CBS article described Trump’s attack on the Khan family as a “spat.”

Earlier, Pence blamed President Obama and Hillary Clinton for ISIS in connection with the Khan family and then reinforced Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. He said that in this way “we will reduce the likelihood that other American families will face the enduring heartbreak of the Khan family.”

Corey Lewandowski, fired from the Trump campaign and hired by CNN, said that Captain Khan would be alive if Trump had been president in 2004 because Trump opposed the Iraq War. Trump, however, supported the war until recently. Like Hillary Clinton, Pence voted for the October 2002 Iraq Resolution that gave President George W. Bush the authorization to invade months later. Clinton has since apologized; Pence still believes that the U.S. was right in invading Iraq. Lewandowski’s contract with CNN as a political analyst prevents him from criticizing Trump.

People are still waiting for a scratch in Trump’s Teflon covering that allows all the abusive statements he makes to slip off him. Over a year ago, he started his campaign by declaiming that undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico are rapists, sent by the Mexican government to rid itself of criminals. He continued by calling Vietnam POW Sen. John McCain a loser because he got caught and Megyn Kelly unfair to him because or her hormonal issues. Next he demanded a ban on all Muslim immigration and delayed any disavowal of a KKK leader who has been inspired by Trump’s success to run for U.S. Senate. Trump called for women and people of Mexican and Muslim heritage to be judges on one his thousands of lawsuits because they would treat him unjustly.

Each time, he makes these outrageous statements, most GOP leaders merely shake their heads in dismay and continue to support him for president. None of his competitors, who all suffered from his ire and revenge, deny him support except Ted Cruz, who outraged GOP delegates by speaking his truth at the convention. One pundit predicted that all those people who booed Cruz in 2016 will claim that they cheered him in four years.

The number of conservatives and groups condemning Trump’s words against the Khans since the Democratic convention has grown geometrically, including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Gold Star Families, and some governors and congressional members. Despite their expressed horror and dismay, however, almost none of them has rejected him for the GOP presidential candidacy. Khan called specifically on congressional leaders House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to repudiate Donald Trump. They have not. Ryan simply says that he already said that he did not approve of Trump’s position toward Muslims. Not even after Trump attacked the Khans again yesterday.

Greg Sargent wrote in the Washington Post:

“If individual Republicans don’t break off their support for Trump’s candidacy now—by, say, withdrawing their endorsements—they run the risk of having no choice but to do so after Trump sinks even further into wretchedness and depravity, to a point of true no return. (Presumably there is such a point.) At that juncture, their move will look unprincipled and desperate, leaving them stained—perhaps irrevocably—with their previous willingness to stick by him during much of his descent, and depriving their break with him of whatever moral force it might have had if done earlier.”

That, as Sargent wrote, is the Republicans’ “brutal trap.”

On All In with Chris Hayes, Michael Steele, MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chair, said that the way to solve the Trump’s problem was—in my paraphrasing—to train him not to give a knee-jerk reaction to everything that happens. Chris Hayes responded, “Good luck!” The question is not whether Trump will find some shred decency within himself because more and more people don’t expect this from him. The question is whether Pence, a born-again Christian, will find the decency to find Trump’s behavior unacceptable.

July 24, 2016

The Fact-Free 2016 GOP Convention Consumed by White Hatred

[Cleveland journalist Laurie Penny captured this photo of Monday’s Women for Trump event. She wrote, “The people in this picture are journalists and one media intern.”]

Women Trump

The grim 2016 GOP convention created by a reality show host is gone, and the Democrats have settled into Philadelphia for the upcoming week. There’s still time, however, for a post mortem of the days marked by a dystopian vision of gloom and doom. The RNC had to close its online chat due to rampant anti-Semitism although speakers freely used slurs against people of color. (Of 2,472 delegates, only 18 were black and 133, Latino.)

The RNC, following Trump’s policy of banning unfriendly media sources, blocked Open Secrets, a non-profit outlet that scrutinizes lobbyists, federal agencies, politicians of all stripes and more, from the convention for the first time in 20 years. The convention center was also closed to guns despite the GOP mantra about the importance of carrying guns everywhere.

As theatre critic Peter Marks pointed out in the Washington Post, the four days were filled with subplots like “the blood feud between Donald Trump and his Uriah Heep-like archrival, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX)” and Ben Carson “go[ing] all Exorcist.” The star of the convention was actually on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as Broadway actress Laura Benanti wore a knockoff of Melania Trump’s $2,200 Roksanda dress and satirized the plagiarized speech that Melania Trump copied from First Lady Michelle Obama.

Many leading GOP politicians were missing from the convention. Sarah Palin stayed in Alaska, perhaps because her son, Track, had gone to jail after he punched his girlfriend in the face, threatened to fire the gun he held to her face, kicked her in the knees, and tried to keep her from calling 911. Trump was so short on speakers that his children were paraded on the stage each evening, and he drew on has-been celebrities such as Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato Jr., who declared that President Obama is a Muslim. In Trump’s desire to be “amazing,” he lurched out onto the stage through the fog on the first night, his silhouette resembling a Frankenstein monster. Some people looked back wistfully at Clint Eastwood and his empty chair.

In his benediction, Mark Burns, a South Carolina pastor, told delegates that “our enemy is not other Republicans, but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.” In the same time, he said that God is “guiding [Trump], that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country.” Ivanka Trump’s rabbi was smart to back out of the job.

These are some of the “high” points:

Day 1: Make America Safe Again concentrated on hating Hillary and anyone except white people. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told reporters that non-white people haven’t done anything productive for humanity and doubled-down on his bigotry throughout the convention. Rudy Giuliani kicked off the hate fest against Clinton, screaming so much that he looked like he needed an ambulance after he got off the stage. Wannabe VP pick Michael Flynn encouraged the incessant cries of “lock her up” that continued throughout the convention.

All the speakers wanted revenge for four deaths at Benghazi and the use of emails on a private server. The media generally ignored the #NeverTrump delegates from Colorado who walked off the floor after delegates from nine states weren’t given a vote for unbinding delegates, but Trump wasn’t as lucky with the overwhelming media coverage about the plagiarism in his wife’s lovely speech.

Day 2: Make America Work Again morphed into “Make America Hate Hillary Again.” The unemployment rate was halved from 10 percent to five percent in seven years of President Obama’s administration, so Chris Christie avoided jobs and ginned up the crowd with a mix of the Spanish Inquisition and a Nazi rally in the Germany of 1930s as the mob in the convention center constantly cried “guilty.” Christie’s Kangaroo Court audition to become attorney general matches Trump’s love for authoritarian regimes.

The founder of a small New York City waterproofing company was the chief CEO speaker, and other speakers praised Trump’s participation in wineries and kickboxing. John Trump, Jr.’s speech writer cribbed from his own book and a column in the American Conservative  as he bashed teachers and environmental regulations. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) tried to avoid praising Trump and his positions while appear supportive of electing the man who he calls “not my kind of conservative.”

Delegates revolted on the second day because the GOP changed their votes in some states to Trump for the nomination instead of the majority candidates in the primaries. These delegates had supported the binding rules because they believed they were “bound” to the voter’s decision. Since then, some of the delegates ignored by the GOP have resigned from the party and announced their support for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Trump was nominated by only 69.8 percent, the lowest percentage since the 1976 contested convention. Much to the dismay of germophobe Trump, at least 11 California delegates came down with norovirus on the second day, requiring that delegates not shake hands or share food.

New Hampshire delegate and advisor to Trump’s campaign about veterans’ issues, Al Baldasaro, said that Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason” and referred to her as “a piece of garbage.” The Secret Service took notice the First Amendment does not allow encouraging violence against U.S. political leaders. Standing his ground, Baldasaro called a second time for Clinton’s execution by firing squad on a white nationalist radio show broadcast from inside the GOP convention.

Day 3: Supposed to be Make America First Again, the convention let Ted Cruz took the floor to explain how to do this: vote your conviction in November. The finale of his speech about freedom didn’t make him popular when he said, “Vote your conscience”—a cry from the #NeverTrump delegation. Newt Gingrich’s history lesson about the Republican party fighting racism in the 19th century couldn’t cover the GOP’s vigorous curtailment of civil rights during the past few decades.

In his acceptance speech for VP candidate, Mike Pence bragged about Indiana’s economy. A few facts: The dropping unemployment rate in the state started before he became governor, thanks to President Obama, and continued to follow the national average. Yet a larger percentage of the state’s residents were employed in 2000 than in 2016. Eighteen states added more jobs than Indiana during Pence’s time in office there, and the job situation would look worse if the increase—not decrease, as Pence claims—of public sector jobs had not occurred. While the country saw a decline of people not affording enough food, Indiana saw an increase while Pence cut off food stamps to many of these people. Pence supports killing more U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, slashing Social Security and Medicare, and far more.

Day 4: Make America One Again featured Trump’s 76-minute lie-filled speech after Reince Priebus extolled the virtues of GM president William Knudson. The speaker ignored Knudsen’s support of the Nazis when General Motors was manufacturing cars and trucks in Germany for the Wehrmacht. Knudson called the Third Reich “the miracle of the 20th century” and only became disillusioned when Adolf Hitler took over the GM factory in 1940. The convention finished with a feeling of depression as people walked out to the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The 2016 GOP convention was marked by missing Republican leaders, divisive screaming matches, avoidance of Trump’s abilities, plagiarism, concerns about Satan, illegal calls for a U.S. political leader to be jailed or shot by a firing squad, and more distractions. The four days were also marked by an unbelievable number of lies and no defense of Trump except he isn’t Hillary Clinton. As Eric Alterman wrote on Moyers & Company, the Republican id—the lizard brain of “instinctual, repressed, or antisocial desires”—was on full display at the convention.

A bizarre story surrounding the convention, ignored by mainstream media, is Trump Jr.’s failed attempt to woo Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the vice-presidential slot with the promise that Kasich would be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy. When asked what Donald Trump planned to do as president, the answer was “make America great again.” Trump has also said that he might resign after he got elected. People who think they are voting for Trump for president should consider that his election can easily lead to Mike Pence as president. All Trump’s promises about creating jobs and keeping the U.S. out of the Middle East are nothing but a sham because Pence is just George W. Bush on steroids.

David Corn wrote:

“The language of Trumpism is paranoia. He seeks to take advantage of resentments and anger. He encourages hatred and division. He has normalized crude discourse, thuggery, misogyny, and bigotry. He wants Americans to feel threatened and afraid. His business plan relies on pessimism. And many party leaders—including some who loudly denounced him during the primary campaign—have joined the ride. Moreover, he has laid down a dangerous marker: If Clinton wins, that’s proof that the system is rotten. So then what? She will be an illegitimate leader who must be opposed and removed?

“The GOP convention has been a weeklong parade of fear and loathing. And whiffs of violence have been in the air. (‘The answer to 1984 is 1776,’ Jones shouted at a rally.) This official embrace of suspicion and distrust is unprecedented—and dangerous. ‘I am your voice,’ Trump thundered during his dour acceptance speech. The GOP delegates cheered in response. Trump was right. With the support of millions of Republican voters and the acquiescence of GOP elites, he has given voice to darker impulses and has altered the American political landscape. It is his most consequential construction project yet.”

Amen.

July 15, 2016

April 7, 2016

Lawmakers Rule Medical Advice for Women

In an interview on MSNBC, Donald Trump brought up the idea that women who seek abortions should be “punished.” The audience, women’s rights groups, and other politicians were incensed. How dare he say that!? The March for Life erroneously referred to women who gets abortions as “victims” and said that it was wrong to “punish” these women. There can’t be punishment for these women in such a free country as the United States! Oh no?!

In most states, women cannot get abortions from state health care, at least five states have each closed all except one clinic providing this service, a current case in the Supreme Court is considering whether to force women in Texas to drive at least 200 miles to a women’s clinic, and at least one state restricts abortions past 18 weeks. Women are forced to get and watch ultrasounds, wait up to three days, and listen to lies from doctors telling them the problems of having abortions such as cancer.

Just when rational people think that a state cannot come up with more punishment for women who have abortions, Indiana has thought of a few new wrinkles. Gov. Mike Pence has totally banned abortions if a women requests it because a fetus has Down syndrome or any other disorder. These defects could include the ones related to Zika virus, meaning that a woman would be forced to carry fetuses to term that have no chance of surviving long after birth. A lethal fetal illness is legal only if the woman informs the state that she plans to terminate the pregnancy.

A woman’s doctor can face a wrongful death lawsuit if he provides an abortion after learning about a pregnancy complication. One OB/GYN said that the law could imperil patients’ health by deterring doctors from performing a legal medical procedure. He said that “some women have “cases in which the risk of death during a full-term pregnancy is more than 14 times higher than for a termination of pregnancy.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with 30,000 members, opposes the law because a patient might keep life-threatening information from her doctor.

The legislature didn’t stop there. Donating fetal issue to scientific research is classified as a felony crime, and abortion providers responsible for burying or cremating “fetal remains.” Physicians must also provide information “about perinatal hospice care to a pregnant woman who is considering an abortion because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.” Women are forced to listen to a fetal heartbeat and view an ultrasound 18 hours before getting an abortion in a state that has only four clinics in 92 counties.

Women have decided to fight back. In a new program called “Periods for Pence,” women are calling the governor’s office with details about their menstruation. It is based on the women’s assumption that the governor deserves updates on their bodies because he has shown so much interest in them. Below are sampling of call reports:

Me: “Good morning. I just wanted to call and let the good Governor know that I am still not pregnant, since he seems to be so worried about women’s reproductive rights.”

Irritated lady on the other end of the phone: “And can I get your name, please?”

Me: “Sure, it’s Not Pregnant Laura.”

 

Just got through to Governor Pence’s office. (The operator must be on break.)

Me: “Hi, is this the operator, or the Governor’s office?”

Them: “Um, this is the office, but I am covering for the operator right now.”

Me: “Oh, good. I need to get a message to the Governor that I am on day three of my period. My flow seems abnormally heavy, but my cramps are much better to–”

Them: (Seriously pissed and trying to keep their voice down, but not quite succeeding.) MA’AM, WHAT IS IT THAT I CAN HELP YOU WITH?

Me: “Oh, I don’t need your help, I just wanted to keep Governor Pence informed of my reproductive cycle, since he seems so concerned.

Them: “Ugh.” (Click.)

 

I called to let him know that I am a lesbian so I won’t be needing an abortion (or legal protections, for that matter lol double whammy! Thanks, Pence!) also mentioned that I’m not currently menstruating but I might be ovulating.

 

Me: “Good Morning. I just wanted to inform the Governor that things seem to be drying up today. No babies seem to be up in there. Okay?”

Them: (Sounding strangely horrified and chipper at the same time.) “Ma’am, can we have your name?”

Me: “Sure. It’s Sue.”

Them: “And your last name?”

Me: “Magina. That’s M-A-G-I-N-A. It rhymes with–”

Them: “I’ve got it.” (Click.)

 

Someone from Pence’s campaign literally just rang my doorbell, wanting to know if I was likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the upcoming election. I let him know that I wasn’t sure, and that I’m going to be ovulating soon, and that I was unclear on whether or not I was legally required to fertilize the egg. He started cracking up.

 

Operator: Governor Mike Pence’s Office, please hold…  (Six minutes later.) Governor Pence’s office, thank you for waiting…

Me: Hi, I’m a native Hoosier who derives from the uterus of another native Hoosier…

Operator: (clears throat.)

Me: I now live in California and I’m wondering if my uterus still falls under the jurisdiction of Governor Pence or– ?

Operator: Please hold. (Click.)

The woman who launched this initiative on Facebook wrote:

“The more I read this bill, the more vague language I found and the more loopholes, and it just seemed incredibly intrusive. So I wanted to give a voice for women who really didn’t feel like they were given any kind of input into a bill that would affect our life so much.”

The law includes a reporting requirement that “some women on their periods may unknowingly expel a fertilized egg and thus have a miscarriage and be potentially liable if the egg is not correctly disposed of.” Lawmakers didn’t take into consideration that about half of miscarriages take place shortly after a fertilized is implanted and occur about the time when a woman might expect her menstrual period. She may not even know that she was having a “miscarriage.” As the creator of Periods of Pence wrote, “I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not ‘properly dispose’ of this or report it.” Therefore she recommends to women that they report to the governor about their menstrual periods in detail to keep from breaking his new law.

Some women, such as Madi Whitman, are choosing to post information on the governor’s Facebook page instead of calling:

Dear Governor Pence,

I recently switched from tampons to a menstrual cup and have found that it has an unexpected learning curve. I am having trouble with the position of my cervix at the onset of my period and as a result the cup leaks. Since you are so invested in my reproductive health and clearly understand my anatomy better than I do, I would appreciate any advice you have in cup placement and rotation techniques. Thanks!

And this request from Brandy Hager Smith:

Governor, I am thinking about getting a pair of underwear called Thinx. They are designed to catch the blood from Menstruation, replacing the need for tampons & pads. Are these approved by you? I don’t want to violate any of our strict women’s rights laws in Indiana. Thanks for undying commitment to women’s health!!!

Those wishing to participate in “Periods for Pence” can call (317) 232-4567, or 317–569-0709, fill out a form on the governor’s website,  or leave a message on his Facebook page. More message are on his Facebook page.)

In late March, one Missouri state legislator explained one reason why lawmakers consider themselves authorities on women’s reproduction. In a discussion about whether to ban abortion in the state, GOP Rep. Mike Moon claimed to know when a fetus becomes an “unborn human child” because he is a “former embryo.” After the audience finished laughing at him, a certified health expert testified against the resolution, explaining that there is no scientific consensus on when a fetus becomes a person and declaring that women should have the final choice about ending a pregnancy. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that only “all persons born” are granted citizenship under the jurisdiction of the United States. Two key words: persons and born. Personhood begins at birth.

When the cervix of a pregnant woman in Texas began prematurely dilating, nothing could be done to save the 20-week-old fetus. State law sent the woman home to wait until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat or the woman could deliver the fetus. After she started bleeding, she went back to the hospital where she had to wait four days until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat.

Thanks to “religious liberty” and conservatives, medical decisions are made by ignorant lawmakers who consider themselves experts in women’s reproductive health.

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