Saturday, May 27, 2017

With headlines like these, it is normal to feel anxious

Apart from my four newspaper subscriptions, TV, and radio, here are some articles about the current U.S. government that I've stumbled across online over the past month, most of which I haven't had time to read or digest in full. The headlines alone are intense. Mostly what I am learning is that it is normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and worn out. If you feel the same way, you are not alone.


Artwork: "Collaboration between Scarlett Raven and Mind," The Mental Health Charity, April 4, 2016. Wikimedia Commons.

"A display of unbelievable ignorance: In a real country with a real president, Trump’s AP interview would destroy him." Our president thinks the Pentagon is a company, terrorism was a recent invention and 9/11 was a ratings coup. Bob Cesca, Salon, April 25, 2017.

"Trump’s Ignorance Is Radicalizing U.S. Historians," Graham Vyse, New Republic, May 3, 2017.

"Trump's Fitness To Serve Is 'Officially Part Of The Discussion In Congress'," New Yorker writer Evan Osnos with NPR's Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross, May 4, 2017.

"One Of America’s Largest Cities Just Voted To Impeach Trump," Brian Tyler Cohen, Occupy Democrats, May 6, 2017.

"Why the Sally Yates Hearing Was Very Bad News for the Trump White House," David Corn, Mother Jones, May 8, 2017.

"Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry," Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, May 10, 2017.

"Experts on authoritarianism are absolutely terrified by the Comey firing," Zack Beauchamp, Vox, May 11, 2017.

"Trump Has Batted A Hornet’s Nest And The Sh*t Is About To Hit The Fan," Ann Werner, Liberals Unite, May 11, 2017.

"Trump admitted he obstructed justice. Now he needs to go," Michael A. Cohen, Boston Globe, May 12, 2017.

"The End of Trump," Robert Reich, RobertReich.org, May 14, 2017.
"The law is reasonably clear. If Trump removed Comey to avoid being investigated, that’s an impeachable offense."

"NATO asks world leaders to play dumb so Trump will understand them," Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair, May 15, 2017. (See also previous article from before the election: "Trump stuns U.S. allies with terrifying comments about NATO," Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair, July 21, 2016.)

"Why the FBI might wage “war” on Trump — and how they would actually do it," Zack Beauchamp, Vox, May 16, 2017.

"Michael Moore promises secret film will end Trump presidency," Joey Nolfi, Entertainment Weekly, May 16, 2017.

"Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation," Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, May 16, 2017.

"Don’t Impeach: The Liberal Case for Not Removing Trump," Cliston Brown, Observer, May 16, 2017.

"James Comey and the Revenge of Washington's Professional Class," Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New Yorker, May 17, 2017.

"Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House," Matthew Rosenberg and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, May 17, 2017.

"Former Israeli spymasters rip into Trump, say Israel must reassess intel sharing," Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, May 17, 2017.

"Senate Moves Forward With Bipartisan Bill to Rein in Jeff Sessions," Tana Ganeva, Rolling Stone, May 18, 2017.

"Chaffetz to resign, raising doubts about Trump probe," Michelle L. Price and Brady McCombs, Associated Press, May 19, 2017.

"Here Comes the GOP Bloodbath," Erick Erickson, Washington Post, May 19, 2017.
Quote: "Trump is increasingly disliked, and the Republicans who enable him are increasingly distrusted....Unless Republican leaders stage an intervention, I expect them to experience a deserved electoral blood bath in November 2018."

"Sources: White House lawyers research impeachment," Evan Perez, CNN, May 19, 2017.

"Press advocates appalled by Trump’s reported call to jail journalists," Joe Strupp, Media Matters, May 20, 2017.

"Trump’s budget is so cruel a Russian propaganda outfit set the White House straight," Dana Milbank, Washington Post, May 22, 2017.

"Watch Netanyahu's face while Trump says he never mentioned “Israel” to the Russians," Sarah Wildman, Vox, May 22, 2017.

"President Trump's Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Cuts To Education," Anya Kamenetz, NPR, May 22, 2017.

"Donald Trump’s Budget Breaks These 7 Campaign Promises," Jane C. Timm, NBC, May 23, 2017.

"Trump releases budget that slashes government programs," Niv Elis, The Hill, May 23, 2017.

"Former CIA Director Brennan: “With every last ounce of devotion to this country, resist," Kaili Joy Gray, ShareBlue, May 23, 2017.

"Obama’s CIA chief just offered a Trump-Russia quote for the ages," Yochi Dreazen, Vox, May 23, 2017.

"Trump Budget Based on $2 Trillion Math Error," Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer, May 23, 2017.

At the NATO conference in Brussels on May 25, 2017, Trump shoved his way in front of Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic (VIDEO) and publicly lectured the allies that they were not paying enough into defense (CNN VIDEO).

"GOP strategist admits he colluded with Russian hackers to hurt Hillary Clinton, Democrats," Sophia Tesfaye, Salon, May 25, 2017.

"Researchers say they’ve uncovered a disinformation campaign with apparent Russian link," David Filipov, Washington Post, May 25, 2017.

"Zombie Trumpcare at a glance, from the CBO," Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, May 25, 2017.
"By 2026, 51 million people will be uninsured...the [cost] increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income...premiums for people buying comprehensive plans would be unaffordable...It would cut $834 billion from Medicaid in the next ten years, and cut 14 million people out of Medicaid coverage."

"German news magazine rips Trump, calling him 'unfit' and 'a danger to the world'," Jen Hayden, Daily Kos, May 26, 2017.

"Big-time backlash: When all polling on Donald Trump is dismissed as fake," Howard Kurtz, Fox News, May 26, 2017.

"No, White Friend—You Weren’t “Embarrassed” by Barack Obama," John Pavlovitz, JohnPavlovitz.com, May 26, 2017.

"Coal Miners Crushed As White House Admits Trump Lied About Bringing Back Coal Jobs," Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA.com, May 26, 2017.

"Republicans continue to lie about cutting Medicaid." U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders shared a video on May 26, 2017. Republican Joe Scarborough has a message for his own party: Stop lying about cutting Medicaid by $850 billion.

"Sources: Comey acted on Russian intelligence he knew was fake," Dana Bash, Shimon Prokupecz and Gloria Borger, CNN, May 26, 2017.

"Boehner: Trump's presidency so far is mostly 'a complete disaster'," Deirdre Shesgreen, USA Today, May 26, 2017.
"The Ohio Republican [and former House Speaker] said Trump has handled national security and foreign policy issues well, but added: “Everything else he’s done (in office) has been a complete disaster...He’s still learning how to be president."

"Intelligence expert: Kushner's security clearance must be pulled 'right now'," Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos, May 26, 2017.

"Two top Trump advisers dodge Kushner questions," Jeremy Diamond and Jeff Zeleny, CNN, May 27, 2017.

"Malcolm Nance's Stunning Analysis of the Kushner Scandal," NedSparks, Daily Kos, May 27, 2017.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Use bipartisan energy to rein in power

Sci-fi author David Brin suggests that both U.S. political parties seize the general opportunity of the moment to institute more checks and balances on the president. Why use up political capital merely exchanging the 45th president for his vice president, Mike Pence?

Specifically, in his Facebook post, Brin proposes enabling a way to delay military orders and send them for congressional committee review; allowing for “the other party” to make the president's appointments for one afternoon a week; and creating a bipartisan "Fact Checking Institute."

During his campaign for office, the 45th president selected Mike Pence to be his vice president "as impeachment insurance," in Brin's analysis. In other words, Brin believes that Pence will also pose significant troubles for Democrats and their agenda, and that Trump "knew what he was doing" in picking Pence to discourage opponents from bringing down Trump.

Some of David Brin's popular books:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The 2017 persecution of gay men in Chechnya

Čeština: Nebeská etapa, 2007. Art by Eugene Ivanov. Creative Commons license, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eugene_Ivanov_800.jpg

Gay men in Chechnya already had to use assumed names to meet at cafes, but today Chechnyan police agents are leading sting operations in which they conduct online chats with gay men, arrange in-person meetings, then ambush, kidnap, and torture them and force them to inform on other gay men. A possible triggering event for the violence:

"The crackdown began after GayRussia, a rights group based in Moscow, applied for permits for gay pride parades in the Caucasus region, prompting counterprotests by religious groups, the men said. In Chechnya, it became something even worse — a mass 'prophylactic' cleansing of homosexuals, the security service agents told the gay men as they rounded them up."

The persecution was first reported on April 1, 2017 by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta as having resulted in over 100 arrests and three deaths up to that point.

In response to these reports, the press secretary for Chechnya's leader Ramzan A. Kadyrov essentially affirmed his support for the policy of killing gay men without directly admitting to it. "If there were such people in Chechnya," the press secretary said, "law-enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning."

Of the three reported fatalities, one was due to torture and the other two were victims of so-called "honor killings" by family members after they were released. Tanya Lokshina, the Russia Program Director for Human Rights Watch said that, in Chechnya, "victims of torture and other horrific abuses refrain from seeking justice or withdraw their complaints as a result of threats, including death threats and threats of retaliation against family members."

On April 13, the Geneva-based office of the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights said that Russia should "put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual." On April 15, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said: "The United States must lead the way to demand an end to these egregious violations of human rights." On April 18, a CNN video interviewed one man whose face and voice were blurred to protect his identity. On April 19, Putin said the claim of the pogrom was "libelous," and the next day, Putin's spokesman maintained that Russia had found no evidence of arrests in Chechnya.

Andrew E. Kramer interviewed several men for his article "'They Starve You. They Shock You': Inside the Anti-Gay Pogrom in Chechnya." Published in the New York Times on April 21, it provides disturbing details. One man in his 20s reported that he was brought to an apartment where five other gay men had already been brought for the same reason and that his assailants "strapped him to a chair, attached electrical wires to his hands with alligator clips and began an interrogation." The men were held for up to several weeks.

On April 21, Sir Alan Duncan, Britain's deputy to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, told the House of Commons that "sources have said that he [Kadyrov] wants the [LGBT] community eliminated by the start of Ramadan." Ramadan begins on May 26 this year. Duncan also said that he and British Embassy representatives had spoken to the Russian government about the persecution.

On May 2, Lewis Corner wrote for GayTimes that a man had told France 24 News: "They tell the parents to kill their child. They say ‘Either you do it, or we will.'" On May 3, Will Stroude wrote for Attitude "that the families of those imprisoned are eventually summoned to the prison, where they are tasked with carrying out their own relative’s execution" in the account of a victim who spoke to France 24. Stroude wrote that Novaya Gazeta had increased its fatality count to over 30 men "executed by the authorities or their own families".

Stroude wrote:

"Russia has faced increasingly loud calls from the international community to bring an end to the violence, and while a Russia Foreign Affairs minister confirmed to Yahoo News’s Katie Couric last week that an investigation into the situation was currently taking place, she was reluctant to comment on the matter further."

Assistance

Emergency legal and travel assistance is coordinated in Russia by the Moscow Community Center, the Russian LGBT Network, and by Canada-based Rainbow Railroad that says it is working with the Russian LGBT Network. The head of LGBT-Set-Russia has been quoted in the news regarding the need for such assistance. Amnesty International UK has petitions called "Chechnya: Stop Abducting and Killing Gay Men" with over 170,000 signatures and Protect Journalists Who Revealed Abuse of Gay Men in Chechnya with 30,000 signatures as of May 4.