Jan 22, 2017

Millions Protest Trump; Cite Civil Liberties, Hate, Inequality, Environment

Nearly 100,000 protested Donald Trump at
a Madison Wisconsin rally on Jan 21 2017

Resistance as an Act of Faith in Democracy

The adminstration of Donald Trump faces hostile, popular and organized opposition arrayed against this new president holding to unwanted policies amid widespread personal revulsion.

Popular sentiment was displayed in some 600 Women Rallies for Rights events held one day after the inauguration on Saturday, (NYT), (Twitter).

Millions took to the streets across the world as Americans seek new paths of opposition to this right-wing figure who ran on a platform of hate, retaliation against political enemies, and anti-science postures causing anxiety over the future of democracy. Trump's approval rating, already at historical lows, has now plummeted to 32 percent.

The White House site now resembles a rightwing political campaign web-page, using the same language as the 2015-16 Trump campaign.

As Trump hands over control of the government to billionaires, corporations and open racists, the shock of the election of Trump has millions shaken in their faith of democracy, and the intelligence and decency of white America.

From Charlie P. Pierce at Esquire

Faces of resistance at Madison Wisconsin at pro-people
rally Jan 21, 2017. At front is Kate Stormer
"Take Hitler and stick him on the funny page!"

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In 1978, there was a fairly big protest in Washington in favor of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Janet Dunn came down from Connecticut. Her daughter Laurie came with her. The crowd was big. The Dunns were excited. The ERA, of course, never passed because what was then called The New Right mobilized against it primarily through an activist woman named Phyllis Schlafly. On Saturday, I caught up with Laurie and Janet Dunn, as well as Janet's son, Mitchell, in the middle of an immovable mass of humanity that filled a wide boulevard from building to building on either side. Mitchell was leading the way. Laurie was working from behind, asking people to make some sort of room for them. Janet was in a wheelchair. After all, she's 91-years-old now.

As we moved through the throng as a sort of small parade of our own—The Dunns picked up a few folks in their wake as they moved along, including me—Janet became something of a star. There would be room to move for a few dozen yards and then we would come up on one of the video screens carrying the speeches from the main stage at 3rd Street and Independence and the crowd would solidify again. And you'd hear Ashley Judd or Michael Moore or Debbie Wasserman Schultz—yeah, I couldn't believe it, either—for a few minutes and then Laurie and the rest of us would start politely asking the folks to make a hole and make it wide.
- Read the rest of Pierce's dispatch at Esquire -

Sharon Captain at pro-equality, anti-Trump
rally in Duluth, Minnesota, Jan. 21, 2017
In 20th century America, it was a decades-long parlor game ruminating over the face of fascism in America, should it arrive. Fascism has always been here, but most of us have not noticed until it touches us personally.

Now, a fascist is in the White House and Americans are looking to their futures and they are determined, they are scared, and there is no stopping Americans working together against fascism.

Popular opinion has smashed the worst of presidents, the most destructive of wars, and the cruelest systems of injustice.

Fascism is ever busy, hate is a force never at rest.

The idea, the slander, that fascism and hate will prevail over liberty and love is belied by the multitudes who in the words of Bertrand Russell cast hope over fear. Trump as troller-in-chief wishes despair and hopelessness on America; such is the object of the fascist.

From Russell's Proposed Roads To Freedom - Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, (1918, Cornwall Press, Inc, Cornwall New York), [Chapter VIII, The World As It Could Be Made]:

... Those whose lives are fruitful to themselves, to their friends, or to the world are inspired by hope and sustained by joy: they see in imagination the things that might be and the way in which they are to be brought into existence. In their private relations they are not pre-occupied with anxiety lest they should lose such affection and respect as they receive: they are engaged in giving affection and respect freely, and the reward comes of itself without their seeking. In their work they are not haunted by jealousy of competitors, but concerned with the actual matter that has to be done. In politics, they do not spend time and passion defending unjust privileges of their class or nation, but they aim at making the world as a whole happier, less cruel, less full of conflict between rival greeds, and more full of human beings whose growth has not been dwarfed and stunted by oppression.

A life lived in this spirit--the spirit that aims at creating rather than possessing--has a certain fundamental happiness, of which it cannot be wholly robbed by adverse circumstances. This is the way of life recommended in the Gospels, and by all the great teachers of the world. Those who have found it are freed from the tyranny of fear, since what they value most in their lives is not at the mercy of outside power. If all men could summon up the courage and the vision to live in this way in spite of obstacles and discouragement, there would be no need for the regeneration of the world to begin by political and economic reform: all that is needed in the way of reform would come automatically, without resistance, owing to the moral regeneration of individuals. But the teaching of Christ has been nominally accepted by the world for many centuries, and yet those who follow it are still persecuted as they were before the time of Constantine. Experience has proved that few are able to see through the apparent evils of an outcast's life to the inner joy that comes of faith and creative hope. If the domination of fear is to be overcome, it is not enough, as regards the mass of men, to preach courage and indifference to misfortune: it is necessary to remove the causes of fear, to make a good life no longer an unsuccessful one in a worldly sense, and to diminish the harm that can be inflicted upon those who are not wary in self- defense. ...

Resistance is strong

Jan 21, 2017

Tracking Hate during the Trump Administration

Goya Por una navaja (For a clasp knife). A garroted priest
grasps a crucifix in his hands. Pinned to his chest is a
description of the crime for which he was
killed—possession of a knife (Disasters of War;
Plate 34, Wikiwand).
Post-election analyses have attempted to discern the meaning of the Donald Trump election.

It's indisputable: Trump's relentless invectives against blacks, Latinos, women, Muslims, and LGBTQ Americans, (actually running a campaign on an open platform of hate), did not disqualify this lunatic who has created a disturbing 21st-century alliance with Russia, domestic white supremacists, the 'Christian' right, the rightist elements of the FBI and totalitarian movements around the globe.

Most Americans recognize Trump as a pathological liar and a malignant sociopath, but nevertheless some 25 percent of the electorate still voted for him. But the votes do not support coherent policies beyond transferring money and power to billionaires and diminishing civil liberties.

The fact is that most Trump voters do not care about public policy, do not know public policy, macro-economics, fiscal policy, monetary policy and federalism, for example. Trump voters are not too keen on Constitutional democracy as a system of governance, period.

Trump is a visceral embodiment of resentment and angst, a figure that says 'fuck you' to blacks, Latinos, immigrants, liberal Jews, Hillary Clinton, multi-national corporations and others while Trump promises to erect an America-first edifice—a vague, nonsensical construct hazy in the "post-truth, post-fact, post-everything Trump fog," (Schwarz, The Intercept). Trump is the strutting reenactment of the American myth.

Much of the corporate press—refusing to jettison the ridiculous journalistic conventions of neutrality and nihilism—has come to the realization that pretending that Trump is not a fascist and burying its collective head in the sand is no longer a tenable approach to reporting the news.

Now comes a corrective action from the New York Times, an editorial column entitled This Week in Hate that tracks hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of Donald Trump.

Begun last year and now in full operation one day after the inauguration, the Times has decided to chronicle what is happening in the faith that knowledge begets action. The Times' publishing decision is an important step.

From This Week in Hate:

This Week in Hate highlights hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of Donald Trump.
Reliable data on hate crimes is hard to come by. As reports of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic harassment and attacks poured in after the election of Donald Trump, many Americans wondered whether they represented a nationwide increase in hate crime. While the Southern Poverty Law Center saw a dramatic increase in reports after the election, it’s not yet clear whether this indicates a nationwide trend.

That’s one reason This Week in Hate is joining with ProPublica and a coalition of other organizations to work on, a project that aims to gather data on hate crimes and incidents of bias around the country. Documenting Hate will analyze information from law enforcement, news reports, nonprofit groups and individuals in order to investigate topics like how many hate crimes occur annually, which parts of the country have the highest prevalence and whether the frequency or severity of hate crimes has changed since the election of Mr. Trump. This Week in Hate and several news organizations will publish results from those investigations. Here are some reports of hate crimes and harassment that have drawn public attention in recent days.

• As many as 16 Jewish community facilities in the Eastern United States received bomb threats last Monday. At a community center in Rockville, Md., more than 300 people, including 200 preschoolers, were evacuated. No bombs were found at the facilities, but the F.B.I. is investigating the threats.
• A swastika and the word “bomb” were found on a bathroom wall at a Jewish community center on Staten Island last Wednesday. Police investigated and did not find a bomb.
 • Last Monday, a woman in Nampa, Idaho, discovered that her car had been vandalized with the words “go back”; paint was poured over the car, its windows were smashed and its radio and air conditioner were damaged. The car’s owner was born in Nigeria but is not a recent immigrant. Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
• A former Republican Party county chairman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, discovered last Monday that his van had been vandalized with an anti-Trump message.
• The garage of a family in Sylvania Township, a suburb of Toledo, Ohio, was vandalized last Tuesday with a swastika and a racist message aimed at Arabs. Police are investigating the incident. One of the family members, 21-year-old Malak Ayache, has painted over the vandalism with the message “Toledo [heart]s Arabs” to mark the support her family has received from neighbors since the incident. “I honestly want everyone to know that this negative, hateful act is not going to affect this family,” she said.

Documenting Hate has developed a form to help people report hate crimes or incidents of bias for inclusion in the data analysis. If you have experienced, witnessed or read about a hate crime or incident of bias or harassment, you can use the form to send information about the incident to the Documenting Hate partners, including This Week in Hate.

The form is not a report to law enforcement or any government agency. You can access the form here
If you have experienced harassment, these resources may be helpful. If you witness harassment, here are some tips for responding. You can contact This Week in Hate at weekinhate@nytimes.com

Jan 20, 2017

NYT Report: Intercepted Russian Comms with Trump Campaign Under Federal Investigation

NYT blockbuster on Trump-Russian collusion mars inauguration
President Donald Trump's inauguration comes as a dark cloud looms over his administration which was elected with an unknown level of Russian assistance.

High-level communications between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign are being investigated by American law enforcement, an investigation that threatens to revel intimate collusion between a hostile foreign state and an incoming American administration, the New York Times reports.

The Times' Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo report this morning, (NYT):

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said. The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.

It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself. It is also unclear whether the inquiry has anything to do with an investigation into the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers and other attempts to disrupt the elections in November. The American government has concluded that the Russian government was responsible for a broad computer hacking campaign, including the operation against the D.N.C. ...

Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.
This is the first American adminstration that comes to power as serious questions now point to the possibility that the American president is a Russian asset.

Jan 19, 2017

Save Social Security and Medicare from Paul Ryan and Republicans

Senior abandonment by Paul Ryan and
Republicans is a betrayal and moral
dislocation unprecedented in American
history. Join the fight for the people
who made America and bequeathed
us our very lives
From the moment you received your first pay-check in the day when paychecks were paper, you may have wondered what that FICA deduction figure, (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), represents on your pay-stub (IRS).

FICA represents the contribution by workers and employers to Medicare and Social Security—the most successful federal programs in United States history.

Last year these earned-benefits, social insurance guarantees, enjoyed sky-high popularity as critical earned benefits: Medicare (77 percent), Social Security (83 percent), (Kaiser). This level of support is persistent across decades, continuing today.

As Paul Ryan and the Republicans target Social Security and Medicare for phase-out and privatization, seniors are scared; afraid that without Social Security and Medicare, "they won't be alive," in the words of one senior-care advocate in Madison, Wisconsin.

Donald Trump promised not to cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Few believe anything Trump has said.

Noted Bernie Sanders in questioning the right-wing Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia), Trump's nominee for secretary of the U.S. Dept of  Health and Human Services:

During the course of his campaign, Mr. Trump said over and over again that he would not cut Social Security, not cut Medicare, not cut Medicaid. Let me read some quotes. On May 7th, 2015, Mr. Trump tweeted, ‘I was the first and only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.’ On April 18th, 2015, he said, quote, ‘Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid, and we can’t do that, and it’s not fair to the people who have been paying in for years and now all of a sudden they want it to be cut,’ end of quote. August 10th of 2015 Mr. Trump said, quote, ‘I will say Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be saved without cuts. We have to do it, people have been paying in for years and now many of these candidates want to cut it,’ end quote.

March 29th, 2016, Trump said, ‘You know, Paul Ryan wants to knock out Social Security, knock it down, way down. He wants to knock Medicare way down, and frankly, well, two things. Number one, you’re going to lose the election if you’re going to do that. I’m not going to cut it and I’m not going to raise age limits, and I’m not going to do all of the things they want to do. But they want to really cut it. and they want to cut it very substantially, the Republicans and I’m not going to do that,’ on and on and on.

Point being, this is not something he said in passing. I think it is likely he won the election because millions of working class people and senior citizens heard him say he was not going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Congressman Price, a very simple question:  Is the president-elect, Mr. Trump, going to keep his word to the American people and not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Or did he lie to the American people?

Will Donald Trump stand up for seniors and others in need of healthcare? The universe of those needing healthcare would include everyone.

But if Republicans get their way in throwing seniors into the health insurance market, seniors will re-live the trauma of exclusions, per-existing conditions, benefit caps, sky-high deductibles and all the red tape that health insurance companies employ with the aim of making them give up and leave.

By Bill Walsh of the AARP

As Donald Trump was mounting his insurgent candidacy for president, he repeatedly set himself apart from the Republican field by vowing to protect the Social Security and Medicare Americans have come to know.

He assured older voters, who proved to be a decisive voting bloc, that those programs would remain intact and the benefits delivered as promised.

"Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare. They want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that,” he said at a New Hampshire rally during the primaries. “It’s not fair to the people who have been paying in for years.”

Yet within days of Trump’s historic election, the guaranteed health coverage provided by Medicare was cast in doubt. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) revived his plan to replace it with a fixed-dollar subsidy that beneficiaries would use to buy private health insurance. Meanwhile, Congress is expected to move quickly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which could have the effect of erasing the consumer-friendly Medicare benefits that the law created.

Stirring Fears and Uncertainty

As news of Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul spread, it stirred fears among the 57 million beneficiaries who rely on it to cover prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospitalizations. Democrats lined up to pledge their opposition. It also prompted an outcry from consumer groups, including AARP.

What remains to be seen in January, as Congress reconvenes and the president-elect takes office, is how Trump’s campaign assurances to protect Medicare will hold up against House lawmakers intent on revamping the popular health program.

Trump contributed to the uncertainty by announcing House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) as his pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Price has been an advocate of Ryan’s Medicare approach, which supporters call “premium support” and critics decry as a “voucher system.” Trump’s website further raised questions about his plans for Medicare. It says he wants to “modernize Medicare,” which is often seen as Washington code for the type of changes Ryan wishes to make.

Since the election, Trump has not made any comments about Medicare. But in an interview with ABC News on Dec. 4, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Trump “made it very clear in the course of the campaign that we’re going to keep our promises in Social Security and Medicare.”

The Ryan Approach

Ryan’s Medicare overhaul, a version of which passed the GOP-controlled House, would fundamentally change how Medicare works.

Since its creation in 1965, Medicare has been a “defined benefit” program, guaranteeing a certain level of health coverage. It now pays about 80 percent of costs associated with doctor and hospital visits. Beneficiaries are responsible for paying monthly premiums, copayments and annual deductibles.

57 million Americans rely on Medicare to afford health care Ryan would convert Medicare from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution” program. Instead of a guaranteed level of coverage, a dollar amount would be set for Medicare beneficiaries to pay premiums on insurance they would buy from private-sector companies (this is why Ryan calls it “premium support”). Ryan’s plan would also increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

A former chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan wants to limit how much the government spends on Medicare. In 2015, Medicare accounted for 15 percent of the federal budget, a proportion expected to grow as the number of beneficiaries rises.

“The reforms we’re talking about do not affect the benefits for anyone in or near retirement,” Ryan said last month. “But for those of us in the younger generations, it won’t be there for us if we stay on the current path.”

The Mounting Opposition

Consumer advocates also want to address growing costs in the health care system, including Medicare. But they contend that Ryan’s approach would erode much-needed coverage and shift costs to many who live on fixed incomes and continue to struggle in the shadow of the Great Recession.
While Ryan says the annual subsidy would be greater for low-income people, critics say it is unlikely to keep pace with the rising costs of insurance. The result, they say, is that beneficiaries would shoulder more of the financial burden — or go without needed medical care. Although Ryan also says people would be allowed to stay in traditional Medicare, critics argue his approach is designed to gradually increase out-of-pocket costs in the program and nudge beneficiaries into private plans with no guaranteed level of coverage.

Opponents also say that there are better cost-saving options available. One of the most popular is giving Medicare the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with drug companies. The change would help the federal government control a cost that accounts for $1 out of every $6 Medicare spends. That idea was supported by more than 80 percent of people in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2015. As a candidate, Trump also embraced the idea, another potential point of friction with House Republicans, who generally oppose it, as does the pharmaceutical industry.

The Impact of Obamacare Repeal

What Trump and GOP leaders wholeheartedly agree on is that the first order of business will be repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republican congressional leaders want a repeal vote in January so that a bill can be on the president’s desk right after he is sworn in.

77 percent of people say Medicare is a “very important” program Although it has received little attention, a full repeal of Obamacare would eliminate Medicare benefits created by the law. Among other things, it improved Medicare’s financial outlook by slowing the growth of spending and clamped down on fraud, waste and excessive payments. It also enabled tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries to get free preventive services such as flu shots and screenings for cancer and diabetes. And between 2010 and 2015, nearly 11 million Medicare beneficiaries saved $20.8 billion on prescription drugs—an average of $1,945 per person — because of the gradual closing of the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole.

While Obamacare remains controversial — in part because of its mandate to purchase health insurance and because premiums have increased for some plans—the Medicare provisions have proved popular with beneficiaries.

Medicare’s Enduring Popularity

Even in an era of hostility toward the federal government, support for some programs has remained strong. A Kaiser poll found that 77 percent of people say Medicare is a “very important” program, just below the level of support for Social Security at 83 percent.

Trump’s campaign assurances about protecting Medicare and Social Security undoubtedly played a role in his Election Day victory, especially among older voters. Those 65 and older supported him with 53 percent of the vote, compared with 45 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center. There will be a lot at stake for them when Congress reconvenes.

Next: Our AARP Plan

Jan 17, 2017

Opposing Trump Is Easy, Fun and Critical

Your brain is under attack. Defense is easy: Use your brain.
Canvassing black and brown sectors in segregated Wisconsin, one walks away with an inescapable conclusion: Few folks are organized, many are apolitical, and most appear hopeless about the electoral system.

As Noam Chomsky has often noted, most people believe "government is made up of a few big interests looking out for themselves and not for the people," (ChomskyInfo).

This well-founded belief is entrenched in segregated neighborhoods as well as more affluent white sectors.

In minority neighborhoods, the most visible and malicious manifestation of the state is typically the local police force—dangerous collections of amped-up wannabes exhibiting police-state phantasms, (Gin and Tacos). It takes a certain misanthropic personality to hurt someone.

Donald Trump will make things worse. From the national to the local governments come malice, conditions that likely in themselves do not lend to politicization.

There is no excuse not to oppose Donald Trump. Try Googling 'how to oppose Trump'.

Forget praying, try organizing; better yet attempt to think.

"They thunder forth from their clouds about gentleness and
forbearance, while they sacrifice human victims to the God of love,"
George Grosz (Rosenwald Collection; 1951.10.299;
National Gallery of Art)