Mental health professionals have widely and publicly acknowledged that President-Elect Donald Trump exhibits classic, textbook characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
New York Mental Hygiene Law 9.39(a) provides for emergency mental health evaluations for “any person alleged to have a mental illness for which immediate observation, care, and treatment in a hospital is appropriate and which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or others.
‘Likelihood to result in serious harm’ as used in this article shall mean . . . a substantial risk of physical harm to other persons as manifested by homicidal or other violent behavior by which others are placed in reasonable fear of serious physical harm.”
Donald Trump has made a consistent practice of threatening, promoting and excusing violence against those who opposed his candidacy. He threatens to “punish” and imprison US citizens for exercising their Constitutional rights.
He has promised that as Commander in Chief, he would violate US and international law by ordering the torture and murder not only of accused enemies of the US, but their families.
He praises and welcomes interactions with foreign dictators who have committed atrocities against their own people.
Most alarmingly, he has been exceedingly reckless in his stated willingness to deploy US nuclear weapons, and to allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons in other countries such as South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia. There can be no doubt that fear of “serious physical harm” in a Trump presidency is reasonable.
If, as has been alleged, Donald Trump is suffering from a serious psychiatric disorder, it will be essential for the Electoral College, the US Congress, and the American people to be made aware of that fact as soon as possible, certainly before he can be inaugurated as President of the United States. We therefore request that an emergency mental health evaluation be ordered and conducted at the earliest opportunity.
Suspect in Quebec Mosque Attack Quickly Depicted as a Moroccan Muslim. He’s a White Nationalist Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain / The Intercept
QUEBEC (January 30, 2017) — A mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque last night left six people dead and eight wounded. The targeted mosque, the Cultural Islamic Center of Quebec, was the same one at which a severed pig’s head was left during Ramadan last June. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the episode a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”
Almost immediately, various news outlets and political figures depicted the shooter as Muslim. Right-wing nationalist tabloids in the UK instantly linked it to Islamic violence. Fox News claimed that “witnesses said at least one gunman shouted ‘Allahu akbar!'” and then added this about the shooter’s national origin:
Suspect in Quebec mosque terror attack was of Moroccan origin, reports show https://t.co/oRzxGHEXDm pic.twitter.com/aEsEtccMvi
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 30, 2017
White House press secretary Sean Spicer exploited the attack to justify President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said at this afternoon’s briefing when speaking of the Quebec City attack.
But these assertions are utterly false.
The suspect is neither Moroccan nor Muslim. The Moroccan individual, Mohamed Belkhadir, was actually one of the worshippers at the mosque and called 911 to summon the police, playing no role whatsoever in the shooting.
The actual shooting suspect is 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a white French Canadian who is, by all appearances, a rabid anti-immigrant nationalist. A leader of a local immigration rights group, Francois Deschamps, told a local paper he recognized his photo as an anti-immigrant far-right “troll” who has been hostile to the group online.
The Globe and Mail added that he “was known in the city’s activist circles as a right-wing troll who frequently took anti-foreigner and anti-feminist positions and stood up for US President Donald Trump.”
And Bissonnette’s Facebook page — now taken down but still archived — lists among its “likes” the far-right French nationalist Marine Le Pen, Islam critics Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Donald J. Trump (he also “likes” the liberal Canadian Party NDP along with more neutral “likes” such as Tom Hanks, the Sopranos, and Katy Perry).
It is usually the case that there is significant confusion in the wake of attacks of this sort. And local police did apparently arrest two suspects at first: Bissonnette along with Belkhadir. And until the investigation is complete, one cannot know for certain what the motives here were.
One should be careful about trying to infer too much from a hodgepodge of Facebook “likes” and, this early, even anecdotal claims about Bissonnette’s political views. As for reports that someone yelled “Allahu akbar,” it is perfectly natural that someone in a mosque would say that upon seeing a homicidal killer randomly shooting people, or it’s possible that the shooter said it mockingly.
But this is exactly why no responsible news organization, let alone the White House, should rush to depict the shooter as Muslim and of Moroccan descent when so little is known about what happened. Yet not only did Fox and the Trump White House do exactly that, but worse, neither has retracted or corrected their claims long after it became clear that they were false:
Hour & a half after tweeting out false info on #QuebecMosqueAttack Fox News has still not corrected or retracted. @ggreenwald https://twitter.com/FoxNews/status/826120752529301504 . . .
10:52 AM – 30 Jan 2017
The inflammatory effect of this sort of reckless, biased “reporting” is as predictable as it is toxic. All day long, people around the world cited these reports to justify Trump’s ban as well as their own ugly views of Muslims:
TRUMP MOVEMENT @TRUMPMOVEMENTUS
Quebec gunman ‘is Muslim Moroccan’ http://dailym.ai/2kDFm8e via @MailOnline
7:17 AM – 30 Jan 2017
I fully condemn the shooting in Quebec City. But remember the shooters weren’t yelling “Trump” they were yelling “Allahu akbar”
8:14 PM – 29 Jan 2017
The only part of any of this that’s true is that it was an act of terrorism: terrorism aimed, yet again, at Muslims by someone who has apparently been indoctrinated with a great deal of hate toward them. Media outlets and the White House led people all over the world today to believe exactly the opposite.
White Quebec Terrorists Kill 6 in Attack on Mosque TelSur
(January 30, 2017) — [Note: This early report contains information that turned out not to be true. â€“ EAW.] At least two people have been arrested in the aftermath of the deadly shooting of a Quebec City mosque that has left five people dead in the eastern Canadian province, according to reports.
Many others were left with injuries and have been taken to the University Hospital of Quebec. Others are in hospitals throughout the city, hospital spokesman Richard Fournier told CNN.
According to news agency La Presse, one of the suspects, who was later caught by police on a bridge, was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. Local newspaper Le Soleil said police told them a third suspect could still be on the run.
At least 20 emergency vehicles arrived at the scene and police quickly set up a security perimeter. Quebec City Police later confirmed that the area had been secured.
“The site is secure and the occupants (of the mosque) were evacuated. The investigation continues,” the department tweeted. “Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui.
Yangui, who was not inside the mosque when the shooting occurred, said he got frantic calls from people at evening prayers. He did not know how many were injured, saying they had been taken to different hospitals across Quebec City.
Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years amid a political debate over banning the niqab. In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of Quebec was splattered with what was believed to be pig’s blood. And in the neighboring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015. In June 2016, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the cultural center once again, with an Islamophobic letter being subsequently distributed in the vicinity.
According to Yangui, however, the mosque had stopped receiving threats after that. “We have a very good relationship with the neighbors, with the community,” he told the Edmonton Journal. “There’s mutual respect — and now today we have this dramatic event.”
Canadian leaders have already condemned the attacks. Quebec’s Premier Philippe Couillard expressed solidarity with the Muslim community, tweeting, “Let’s unite against violence . . . We stand in solidarity with the Muslim people of Quebec,” CNN reported.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also took to social media, tweeting: “Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families,” in both French and English.
The Threat of Undiagnosed Trumpism: A Public Manifesto Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism
As psychotherapists practicing in the United States, we are alarmed by the rise of the ideology of Trumpism, which we see as a threat to the well-being of the people we care for and to American democracy itself. We cannot remain silent as we witness the rise of an American form of fascism. We can leverage this time of crisis to deepen our commitment to American democracy.
What is Trumpism?
Trumpism is an ideology, not an individual, and it may well endure and grow after the Presidential election even if Donald Trump is defeated. (Variants can be seen all over Europe.) Trumpism is a set of ideas about public life and a set of public practices characterized by:
* Scapegoating and banishing groups of people who are seen as threats, including immigrants and religious minorities. * Degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics. * Fostering a cult of the Strong Man who: * Appeals to fear and anger * Promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him * Reinvents history and has little concern for truth * Never apologizes or admits mistakes of consequence * Sees no need for rational persuasion * Subordinates women while claiming to idealize them * Disdains public institutions like the courts when they are not subservient * Champions national power over international law and respect for other nations * Incites and excuses public violence by supporters
At the political level, Trumpism is an emerging form of American fascism, a point being made by social critics across the political spectrum, including Robert Reich, Robert Kagan, and Andrew Sullivan.
As journalist Adam Gopnik points out, whether or not the term “fascism” fully fits, it’s clear that the American republic faces a clear and present danger when the candidate of a major political party embraces an anti-democratic ideology.
At the cultural level, the Urban Dictionary has defined Trumpism as “the belief system that encourages pretentious, narcissistic behavior as a way to achieve money, fame, and power.”
What are the Effects of Trumpism? * Fear and alienation among scapegoated groups, beginning with Latino immigrants and Muslims, and then other groups who become identified as threats * Exaggerated masculinity as a cultural ideal, with particular influence on young people and economically insecure men * Coarsening of public life by personal attacks on those who disagree * Erosion of the American democratic tradition which has emphasized the agency of we-the-people instead of the Strong Man tradition of power
Where Did Trumpism Come From?
This question is bigger than Donald Trump. The next public figure to capture the wave of Trumpism may be less clownish and have a better set of movement-building skills, and thus be even more dangerous. Following is a partial list of forces that underlie Trumpism:
* Economic insecurity, particularly among working-class Americans * The threat of terrorism since 9/11 * Fear of immigrants (related to economic insecurity and threats of terrorism) * Distrust for government and politicians at a time of polarized gridlock * Growing distrust for other institutions such as religion, the press, and the courts * Rapid cultural change that has left many people confused and alienated
Why Therapists Must Speak Out
We must speak out for the well-being of people we treat and care for in our work. Trumpism will undermine the emotional health of those seen as the “other” in America — both historically denigrated groups and those whose turn will come. And it will compromise the integrity of those who are seduced by the illusion that real Americans can only become winners if others become losers.
The public rhetoric of Trumpism normalizes what therapists work against in our work: the tendency to blame others in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities and then battle these others instead of taking the healthier but more difficult path of self-awareness and self-responsibility.
It also normalizes a kind of hyper-masculinity that is antithetical to the examined life and healthy relationships that psychotherapy helps people achieve. Simply stated, Trumpism is inconsistent with emotionally healthy living — and we have to say so publicly.
We must speak out for the well-being of our democracy, which is both a way of living and acting together and a set of political institutions. Therapists have taken for granted how our work relies on a democratic tradition that gives people a sense of personal agency to create new narratives and take personal and collective responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Reliance on a Strong Man who will solve our problems and deal with internal and external enemies is a direct threat to the democratic basis of psychotherapy. Therapy only flourishes on democratic soil.
Why speak collectively? Our responses thus far have been primarily personal — and too often confined to arm-chair diagnoses of Donald Trump. But a collective crisis faces our nation, a harkening back to the economic depression and demoralization of the 1930s (which fed European fascism) and the upheaval over Jim Crow and Black civil rights in the 1950s.
Fortunately, the resolution of these crises led to a deepening of American democracy, not the abandonment of it. Martin Luther King, influenced by his mentor Bayard Rustin and by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, didn’t just critique unjust systems from the outside. He called for strategic, collective work to take back an American democracy that belongs to all the people.
As therapists, we have been entrusted by society with collective responsibility in the arena of mental, behavioral, and relational health. When there is a public threat to our domain of responsibility we must speak out together, not just to protest but to deepen our commitment to a just society and a democratic way of life. This means being citizen therapists who are concerned with community well-being as much as personal well-being, since the two are inextricably joined.
Where We Stand as Citizen Therapists
We understand the draw of Trumpism and we acknowledge that some of our fellow citizens, and some of our clients, voted for Donald Trump not because they embrace all aspects of Trumpism but because they are frustrated with their circumstances and fed up with the current political system.
We are against Trumpism and its architects, not against those who are inclined to give it a chance to change the direction of the country.
But we reject the false equivalence of saying that because there is dishonesty and demagoguery on all political sides, why not support someone from the outside? Trumpism is qualitatively different.
To repeat: Trumpism undermines the core of American democracy by promoting the idea of a single leader who will bring greatness to the nation by battling Those People. Democracy requires personal and collective agency so that we can work together across differences to solve problems and develop a shared way of life.
Psychotherapists must be firmly on the side of democracy and work in solidarity with groups directly threatened by current and future versions of Trumpism. This work does not end with the election. The wake-up call has been received. Our first response is this manifesto. More to follow.
Therefore, as citizen therapists we stand united against the dangerous ideology of Trumpism, and we encourage others to join us in a deepened commitment to a democratic way of life that engages the talents, yearnings, and capacities of all the people.
[The first of hundreds of signatures. The rest appear online, listed by state.]
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Johns Hopkins’ Top Psychotherapist Releases
Terrifying Diagnosis Of President Trump Olive Murphy / The Bipartisan Report
(January 27, 2017) — If there’s one thing we can say about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s unlike any other world leader we’ve seen to date. The problem, however, is that his differences fail to set him apart in a positive manner.
Almost daily, Trump tweets about the “biased media,” “fake news,” or a world leader who has suddenly done something so terrible that he must take to Twitter to publicly berate them. Notice, however, that it’s always someone else with the problem. It’s never him.
However, John D. Gartner, a registered psychotherapist from the renowned Johns Hopkins University Medical School seems to think Trump may, in fact, be the one with the problem. Gartner, who teaches psychiatric residents at Hopkins, decided to break the ethical code known as the “Goldwater Rule” in order to warn the American public about the dangerousness of our new commander-in-chief’s mental state.
The “Goldwater Rule” is defined as “the informal term for part of the ethics code of the American Psychiatric Association saying it is wrong to provide a professional opinion of a public figure without examining that person and gaining consent to discuss the evaluation.”
Trump’s Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton called it first. She said Trump is “temperamentally unfit” to serve as president, following his numerous sexist remarks about women, mocking of a disabled reporter, and blatantly racist statements about basically every single human being who isn’t white.
Gartner, who is also the author of In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography, says “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”
According to USNews, Gartner unofficially diagnosed Trump with “malignant narcissism.” Although he himself has not personally examined Trump, Gartner claims it’s obvious from watching even a little of his behavior that he meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. Some of the characteristics include:
Gartner says that individuals with malignant narcissism often lack impulse control and empathy. He also says many who suffer from this disorder believe that others around them don’t recognize their greatness.
‘We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably,’ Gartner claims.
As Psychology Today notes, “Malignant Narcissists will go to great lengths to achieve their aim. They can be intelligent, high functioning (hold an important job for example) soft-spoken, charming, tearful/seemingly emotional, gracious, well-mannered, kind and have the ability to form relationships.
“They may lie, falsely accuse, dramatize, smear, cheat, steal, manipulate, accuse, blame or twist to get what they want and feel justified in doing so. Because they are entitled, egocentric and desperate, they do not experience it as wrong.”
Malignant narcissists are: ‘Determined to gratify their wishes and furious if thwarted. Their desire can be so consuming that there is little comprehension of, respect for or ability to empathize with the other. They lack guilt or remorse and tend to feel or pronounce that it is they who have been mistreated. They can be of any gender, race or social class.’
As if that weren’t enough, malignant narcissism is incurable.
So there you have it. The leader of the United States of America is more than likely a malignant narcissist who has the fate of the free world in his two tiny hands. Not to mention, he now has access to the United States government’s nuclear codes. If that’s not terrifying, we don’t know what is.
The Psychiatric Community Tried to Warn Us
A Psychologist Analyzes Donald Trump’s Personality The Atlantic
Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist?
Therapists Weigh In! Vanity Fair
Psychologists Explain Trump:
He’s Literally a Narcissistic Psychopath SOTT.net
Top US Psychologists Reveal Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder Blue Dot Daily
The Psychiatric Question:
Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar? The New York Times
Trump Exhibits Classic Signs of Mental Illness: Shrinks Gersh Kuntzman / New York Daily News
NEW YORK (January 29, 2017) — The time has come to say it: there is something psychologically wrong with the President.
The fuzzy outlines of President Trump’s likely mental illness came into sharper focus this week: in two interviews with major networks, he revealed paranoia and delusion; he quadruple-downed on his fabrication that millions of people voted illegally, which demonstrated he is disconnected from reality itself; his petulant trade war with Mexico reveals that he values self-image even over national interest; his fixation with inaugural crowd size reveals a childish need for attention.
Partisans have been warning about Trump’s craziness for months, but rhetoric from political opponents is easily dismissed; it’s the water of the very swamp the President says he wants to drain.
But frightened by the President’s hubris, narcissism, defensiveness, belief in untrue things, conspiratorial reflexiveness and attacks on opponents, mental health professionals are finally speaking out. The goal is not merely to define the Madness of King Donald, but to warn the public where it will inevitably lead.
“Narcissism impairs his ability to see reality,” said Dr. Julie Futrell, a clinical psychologist, who, of course, added a standard disclaimer because she has never actually treated Trump. “So you can’t use logic to persuade someone like that. Three million women marching? Doesn’t move him.
“Advisers point out that a policy choice didn’t work? He won’t care. The maintenance of self-identity is the organizing principle of life for those who fall toward the pathological end of the narcissistic spectrum.”
A little background: Shrinks don’t typically analyze public figures. The reticence dates back to 1964, during Barry Goldwater’s run for President. Then, like now, many shrinks believed that the candidate was psychologically damaged — but unlike now, many diagnosed him for a Fact magazine special issue titled, “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.”
The headline itself — “1,189 Psychiatrists say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to be President!” — prompted the American Psychiatric Association to issue the so-called “Goldwater Rule”: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination” of the patient in question.
As a result, shrinks are the only professionals who are not allowed to offer their expertise to journalists trying to explain complicated issues to the public. Indeed, scientists can tell us about global warming, engineers can tell us if a bridge is about to give way, and soldiers can tell us if an enemy is weak or strong.
But the mental health of the President? The experts are handcuffed, even as we elected the most paranoid President since Nixon and, clearly, the most self-deluded and dangerous American political figure since Aaron Burr.
The expert, John D. Gartner, went on to diagnose Trump with “malignant narcissism.”
Gartner has joined a growing chorus of experts who are so concerned about the president that they are willing to face the wrath of their professional organizations’ gag rules.
In an earlier effort just after the election, thousands of shrinks joined a new group called “Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism,” which quickly released a “Public Manifesto” to warn America about its leader’s apparent psychosis.
“We cannot remain silent as we witness the rise of an American form of fascism,” the manifesto states.
The psychological warning signs? “Scapegoating . . . , degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics, fostering a cult of the Strong Man who appeals to fear and anger, promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him, reinvents history and has little concern for truth (and) sees no need for rational persuasion.”
Hate him or love him, but you have to admit, that’s Donald J. Trump!
The American Psychiatric Association says that anyone exhibiting five of the following nine egotistical traits has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Count up how many Trump exhibits:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believe that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people.
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
My count: Eight, easily (I’m being charitable.)
His pathology was on display all over his interview with ABC News‘ David Muir. Quoting the transcript doesn’t do Trump’s ego justice because his bluster is part of the effect, but the words themselves betray a twisted mental state.
“I know what the problems are even better than you do,” he told Muir at one point. Later, when Muir refers to critics of Trump’s plans to “take the oil” from Iraq, the President thundered, “Wait, wait, can you believe that? Who are the critics who say that? Fools.” (No, just skeptics.)
On Obamacare: “It’s a disaster. You know it and I know it.” (It’s flawed, but workable.)
On Obama: “We have a great relationship.” (They don’t.)
On his own greatness: “I could be the most presidential person ever, other than possibly the great Abe Lincoln, all right?” (He could not.)
On voter fraud: Muir’s statement that there is no evidence to bolster Trump’s claim didn’t matter to the President because “millions of people agree with me.” (That doesn’t make them or him right.)
On news coverage of his speech before the CIA: “That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox . . . they said it was one of the great speeches . . . . In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl.” (It was not. It was not.)
So boil it all down: We have a President who only believes something is true if it praises him. Everything else is fake news to him. Psychologists know what that is: It’s a dangerous, pathological detachment from reality.
“That portion of the interview showed me that Trump lacks proper reality testing,” said Jean Fitzpatrick, a relationship therapist practicing in midtown Manhattan.
She and others said this particular mental deficiency is why Trump surrounds himself with people who won’t smash the narcissistic mirror, lest the Dear Leader become enraged (which we’ve already seen in Trump’s jeremiads against journalists).
“Living with a person with narcissistic or sociopathic traits is exhausting because they are all about meeting their needs and getting constant strokes,” Fitzpatrick said.
The problem, as columnist Matt Bai pointed out last week, is that Trump has hired only lackeys because he’s “not someone who puts a ton of value on the truth.” The danger to the nation? “Who here will refuse to keep saying things they know aren’t true?” Bai added. “And will anyone tell the boss what he doesn’t want to know?”
Trump’s lackeys are not only on the official White House payroll. His personal Riefenstahl, Sean Hannity, spent most of his interview on Thursday night on Fox News not only holding up the mirror to Trump, but polishing it with his own moist, hot breaths.
Let me be clear: This is not an attack on Trump’s policies. You want to build a wall and charge Mexico for it? Sure, whatever. Borders are supposed to mean something, I suppose. You want to cut regulations? Again, I don’t love the idea of dirty water or unbreathable air, but favoring Big Business over the environment is, like, page 4 in the GOP playbook. You want to defund abortion overseas? That’s page 3. Even supporting Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank isn’t too far outside classic conservative thought (see pages 5-40 of that aforementioned playbook).
So I’m not quibbling with Trump’s proposals. I’m concerned with the man’s clear mental illness. And there’s a lot more at stake than just who pays for the wall.
Another shrink to whom I spoke — who declined to be identified — said Trump was indeed mentally ill, and that his anger is a classic “repetition compulsion” that is similar to that of an alcoholic.
“It’s a reaction to some anxiety from childhood,” said the doctor, predictably going back to Freud’s root of all evil. “An alcoholic initially drinks to relax, but it destroys him in the end. With Trump, he’s a disturbed person who protects himself by building up his ego and tearing down others.”
And it’s very difficult to treat that, Futrell added.
“A narcissist’s defenses function to protect the person from the knowledge of what lies beneath, and as such, must not be challenged lest the walls come crumbling down,” she said. “It is important to understand that the need to maintain the self-image is so great, . . . the severe narcissist bends reality to fulfill whatever fantasy about power, wealth, beauty, etc. s/he maintains.”
The Citizen Therapists’ manifesto argues that Trump’s deformed ego will lead to “fear and alienation among scapegoated groups, . . . exaggerated masculinity as a cultural ideal . . . coarsening of public life by personal attacks on those who disagree (and) erosion of the American democratic tradition (in favor of) the Strong Man tradition of power.”
Trump’s psychological damage will, in short, create “the illusion that real Americans can only become winners if others become losers,” which “normalizes what therapists work against: the tendency to blame others in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities . . . instead of taking the healthier but more difficult path of self-awareness and self-responsibility. It also normalizes a kind of hyper-masculinity . . . . Simply stated, Trumpism is inconsistent with emotionally healthy living — and we have to say so publicly.”
Unfortunately, too few say it publicly. But the more Trump lies on Twitter, the more he and his staff demean journalists, and the more he bullies his opponents, the greater the number of shrinks who will come forward to say that not only does this Emperor have no clothes — he’s out of his mind, too.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Trumpâ€™s Wall ‘Would End
Any Chance of Recovery for Endangered Jaguars’ The Center for Biological Diversity
(January 27, 2017) — President Trump announced Thursday that his administration will pursue a wall along the US-Mexico border, a project that would perpetuate human suffering, harm border communities and halt the cross-border movement of jaguars, ocelots, wolves and other wildlife.
Among animals, the wall would be particularly harmful to highly endangered jaguars. Two jaguars have been photographed north of the border in recent years, but the US population will never reestablish if migration from the small population in northern Mexico is blocked.
“Donald Trump continues to cling to his paranoid fantasy of walling off the US-Mexico border, regardless of the harm it would do to border communities and wildlife,” said KierÃ¡n Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We already know that walls don’t stop people from crossing the border, but Trump’s plan would end any chance of recovery for endangered jaguars, ocelots and wolves in the border region.”
Billions of dollars have already been spent to construct and maintain hundreds of miles of existing border wall with little to no environmental oversight, resulting in major problems with erosion and flooding in border communities and the blockage of normal wildlife movement across the border.
Yet Border Patrol and Homeland Security officials have repeatedly testified that the border wall is nothing more than a “speed bump” that does not stop people from crossing, and just this week an outgoing Homeland Security official called Trump’s push for a wall “preposterous” and “an incredible waste of taxpayer money.”
“Like many of Trump’s ideas, this one has nothing to do with reality,” Suckling said. “By any measure the US-Mexico border is more secure now than it’s ever been. There is no reason to sacrifice the health of border communities and wildlife for such political grandstanding.”
Migration corridors are crucial for the recovery and survival of wildlife along the border, especially those with small populations, including wolves, ocelots and jaguars.
“The border region is home to a rich diversity of living beings,” Suckling said. “It’s a place where north and south meet and overlap — the only place in the world where jaguars and black bears live side by side. It’s this diversity that makes us strong, not some wasteful, immoral wall.”
The wall is widely opposed, especially among communities in the Southwest.
“We will not stand by while Trump creates a Berlin Wall on America’s border,” Suckling said. “We’ll fight this Stone Age proposal in every way we can — and if necessary put our bodies in front of the bulldozers.”
(January 27, 2017) — There’s an environmental argument against Trump’s border wall, too. After President Trump signed an executive order to advance plans for a wall along the border with Mexico, architects, conservationists, and environmental activists protested that it would do little to stop migrants from crossing the border but would create lasting problems for animals and the land. And don’t forget the people.
A nearly 60-foot high concrete wall would make traveling to eat, drink, and mate more difficult for black bears, ocelots, and other species that live along the border, according to scientists and wildlife advocates.
The energy-intensive process of producing cement to hold the concrete together adds to the environmental damage. Globally, the cement industry accounts for 5 percent of CO2 emissions.
Green groups also argue that tackling climate change would be a better way to curb the flow of refugees around the world. “If President Trump was as concerned about our nation’s true national security issues, he would be tackling climate change head-on while safeguarding refugees and immigrants from the worst impacts of a warming planet,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski in a statement.
It could be tough for environmentalists to block the wall in the courts. An act passed in 2005 made it easier for the federal government to bypass local environmental laws in the name of national security.
1. A Mission Long Since Accomplished
One of Donald Trump’s first acts as president will be to solve problems we don’t have. His America First Energy Plan promises to free us from “burdensome regulations” and end our “dependence on foreign oil.”
Dependence on foreign energy was a legitimate concern in the 1970s, a decade when oil imports increased fivefold. This is not an issue anymore. During the Obama administration, oil imports dropped 25 percent. Bemoaning our dependence on imported oil in 2016 is to pretend the past eight years never happened. Take a look.
Trump taking credit for American energy independence is the equivalent of storming into the middle of a touchdown celebration, ripping the ball out of the scorer’s hands and spiking it.
2. Which America?
When President Trump promises to put “America First,” he means the part of America that voted for him. (Not to belabor the point, but that’s substantially less than half the US voting population.) The other America, it seems, can take a hike.
For instance, Trump’s America First Energy Plan contains no mention of renewable energy. Solar (“very, very expensive,” claims Trump, wrongly) now employs more Americans than oil, gas, or coal.
Wind (a “very, very poor form of energy,” in Trump’s estimation) now generates more than 20 percent of the electricity in three states. Nearly two million Americans work full- or part-time jobs in energy efficiency, an industry that Trump undermined on his first day in office.
Of course, those jobs are in states with foreign-sounding names like “California” and “Hawaii.” Mr. President, are these places not the America you were talking about?
3. Welcome to America, Censorship!
Speaking of real things that Trump doesn’t believe in, the White House website now has virtually zero mentions of climate change. According to reports, the Trump administration has ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a similar information purge.
Trump has also banned press releases and social media posts at most agencies with any relationship to science — the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, etc. Shut up, science!
Fortunately, universities around the world have been toiling to preserve existing US government data by copying it onto websites beyond Trump’s reach. Meanwhile, someone has set up an uncensored alternative Twitter account for the National Park Service and the EPA (among others), and media outlets are offering how-to pages for aspiring government whistleblowers and document leakers.
Enraged scientists are considering a march on Washington (working title: “the Nerd Pride Parade”). There are more than six million scientists in the United States. If just 10 percent of them attend the march, they will outdraw the Trump inauguration. Do it, nerds!
The whole incident is a classic example of censorship backfire. Trump’s attempt to stop people from talking about climate change has only multiplied the chatter. Experts refer to this as “the Streisand Effect.”
4. The Trump-ian Inquisition
To further its war on scientific integrity, the Trump administration has ordered the EPA to submit all studies and data to political review before public release.
Extremism has a certain internal logic that you have to respect. Myron Ebell, the professional climate change denier who’s leading the EPA transition, believes that “science is having a corrupting influence on politics.” That idea is obviously backward. It’s the scientists who identify facts and the politicians who take those facts and do unspeakable things to them.
However, in the context of Ebell’s bizarre worldview, subjecting scientific studies to political review makes perfect sense. Ebell is the sort of man who looks at the Galileo affair and thinks, “Life at the center of the universe was so much better. They were too easy on him.”
5. Participation Trophies?
Moving from censorship to outright lies, a major newspaper finally fact-checked Donald Trump’s repeated boast that he has “received many, many environmental awards.”
The results are in. I hope you’re sitting down for this — there is no evidence that Trump has ever won an award for environmental stewardship. The Washington Post gave him four Pinocchios for the whopper.
“I’ve actually been called an environmentalist, if you can believe that,” Trump once said.
I can believe that, because the person doing the calling was Trump himself, and the audience laughed so hard when he said it that the hearing room had to be called back to order.
6. Pipelines: They’re Baaack
President Trump signed an order on Tuesday expediting the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was under environmental review by the Army Corps of Engineers.
He also formally requested that TransCanada reapply to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, an abrupt about-face from the Obama administration’s KXL position, which could be summarized in two letters.
Trump, being Trump, had to toss out a falsehood while signing the order, muttering “lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs” in a supervillain voice that almost made it sound like he intended to keep all the jobs for himself. In fact, the KXL project would create a maximum of 4,650 jobs for only two years. Over the long-term, the pipeline would create just a few dozen permanent jobs.
7. It’s Getting Chilly
In one of his first acts, President Trump froze all regulations made under the Obama administration that have not yet been finalized. Caught up in the freeze were 30 EPA rules, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and a formaldehyde-emission limit for wood products.
Imagine the damage to US businesses if the EPA had been allowed to limit the amount of formaldehyde — a skin irritant and known carcinogen — in the wooden floorboards our babies crawl on. Oh, the humanity. Trump also ordered a hiring and contracts freeze at the EPA, lest the agency try to save us from other dangers.
Reposted from the EcoWatch media associate, onEarth.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Families: Relatives in Limbo After Pres. Trump’s Travel Ban NBC Nightly News
(January 30, 2017) — Thousands of protesters flooded into airports in many US cities to protest the president’s order, and to support the detainees and their families, who are waiting anxiously to see what happens next.
Translator Risked Life for US,
Now Stranded By Trump Travel Ban big>NBC Nightly News
(January 30, 2017) — Pres. Trump’s immigration vetting order has dashed the hopes and dreams, at least temporarily, of many around the world who are hoping to make a better life in the United States.
WASHINGTON (January 31, 2017) — Accusing her of betrayal and insubordination, President Donald Trump on Monday fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general of the United States and a Democratic appointee, after she publicly questioned the constitutionality of his controversial refugee and immigration ban and refused to defend it in court.
The dramatic public clash between the new president and the nation’s top law enforcement officer laid bare the growing discord and dissent surrounding Trump’s executive order, which temporarily halted the entire US refugee program and banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.
The firing came hours after Yates directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the executive order, saying she was not convinced it was lawful or consistent with the agency’s obligation “to stand for what is right.”
Trump soon followed with a statement accusing Yates of having “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
He immediately named longtime federal prosecutor Dana Boente, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as Yates’ replacement.
Boente was sworn in privately late Monday, the White House said. He promptly order Justice Department lawyers to “do our sworn duty and to defend the lawful orders of our President.”
Boente said Trump’s executive order was “both lawful on its face and properly drafted.”
Yates’ refusal to defend the executive order was largely symbolic given that Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, will almost certainly defend the policy once he’s sworn in. He’s expected to be confirmed Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee and could be approved within days by the full Senate.
The chain of events bore echoes of the Nixon-era “Saturday Night Massacre,” when the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned rather than follow an order to fire a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. The prosecutor, Archibald Cox, was fired by the solicitor general.
Yates’s abrupt decision reflected the growing conflict over the executive order, with administration officials moving Monday to distance themselves from the policy. As protests erupted at airports over the weekend and confusion disrupted travel around the globe, even some of Trump’s top advisers and fellow Republicans made clear they were not involved in crafting the policy or consulted on its implementation.
At least three top national security officials — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department — have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it. Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, according to US officials.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said that despite White House assurances that congressional leaders were consulted, he learned about the order in the media.
Trump’s order pauses America’s entire refugee program for four months, indefinitely bans all those from war-ravaged Syria and temporarily freezes immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Federal judges in New York and several other states issued orders that temporarily block the government from deporting people with valid visas who arrived after Trump’s travel ban took effect and found themselves in limbo.
Yates, who was appointed deputy attorney general in 2015 and was the No. 2 Justice Department official under Loretta Lynch, declared Monday she was instructing department lawyers not to defend the order in court.
“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Yates wrote in a letter announcing her position. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.”
Trump said the order had been “approved” by Justice Department lawyers. However, the department has said the Office of Legal Counsel review was limited to whether the order was properly drafted, but did not address broader policy questions.
Other parts of Trump’s administration also voiced dissent Monday. A large group of American diplomats circulated a memo voicing their opposition to the order, which temporarily halted the entire US refugee program and banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days. White House spokesman Sean Spicer challenged those opposed to the measure to resign.
“They should either get with the program or they can go,” Spicer said.
The blowback underscored Trump’s tenuous relationship with his own national security advisers, many of whom he met for the first time during the transition.
Mattis, who stood next to Trump during Friday’s signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed. A senior US official said Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump’s order but not the details. Tillerson has told the president’s political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order.
US officials and others with knowledge of the Cabinet’s thinking insisted on anonymity in order to disclose the officials’ private views.
Despite his public defense of the policy, the president has privately acknowledged flaws in the rollout, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking. But he’s also blamed the media — his frequent target — for what he believes are reports exaggerating the dissent and the number of people actually affected.
After a chaotic weekend during which some US legal permanent residents were detained at airports, some agencies were moving swiftly to try to clean up after the White House.
Homeland Security, the agency tasked with implementing much of the refugee ban, clarified that customs and border agents should allow legal residents to enter the country. The Pentagon was trying to exempt Iraqis who worked alongside the US and coalition forces from the 90-day ban on entry from the predominantly Muslim countries.
“There are a number of people in Iraq who have worked for us in a partnership role, whether fighting alongside us or working as translators, often doing so at great peril to themselves,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers in Trump’s party sought to distance themselves from the wide-ranging order.
While Spicer said “appropriate committees and leadership offices” on Capitol Hill were consulted, GOP lawmakers said their offices had no hand in drafting the order and no briefings from the White House on how it would work.
“I think they know that it could have been done in a better way,” Corker said of the White House.
AP writers Matthew Lee, Lolita C. Baldor, Erica Werner, Jonathan Lemire and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.
Anti-Trump Protests Inspire Boycotts of Trump-related Businesses #Grabyourwallet
The #GrabYourWallet boycott began October 11, 2016 in the wake of the Trump Tapes when a brand strategist and a grandmother simultaneously realized they could no longer, in good conscience, shop at retailers that do business with the Trump family.
Never having met, Shannon Coulter and Sue Atencio immediately joined forces and announced on Twitter they’d be boycotting any retailer that carried Trump products, publishing a short list of such retailers later that same evening. On October 14th, Shannon introduced the #GrabYourWallet hashtag as a rejoinder to Donald Trump’s infamous hot-mic remark and a reference to women’s epic consumer power.
The hashtag and the movement exploded on social media and has been viewed over 500 million times. Since then, #GrabYourWallet has evolved into a movement and central resource for the flexing of consumer power in favor of a more respectful, inclusive society. It’s been reported on by The New York Times, Vogue, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, CNN, MSNBC, Nightline, and BBC among dozens of other media outlets.
Notable figures who have amplified or supported the movement include Don Cheadle, Greg Louganis, Lucy Lawless, Roseanne Cash, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Reich, Pam Grier, Ben Cohen, and Joy Reid.
Since its first humble incarnation as a screenshot on October 11th, the #GrabYourWallet boycott list has expanded to include more than 50 companies. On November 23rd, the official #GrabYourWallet boycott list moved from a public Google doc to grabyourwallet.org, where it receives up to 100,000 unique visits per week.
A small GYW team carefully monitors the inventory of the companies on the list such as Amazon, Nordstrom, and Lord & Taylor and immediately drops companies from the boycott list once it’s been verified that official Trump products are no longer available — either online or in brick and mortar locations.
To date, seven companies (including five retailers) have been dropped from the #GrabYourWallet list, starting with Shoes.com on November 12, 2016. To see the other companies that have been dropped from the #GrabYourWallet boycott, visit the “Which Companies Have Been Dropped” section of the site.
In February, the eighth company — The Honest Company — will likely be dropped from the list, as it has reached out to us and committed to not being a sponsor on future seasons of the Celebrity Apprentice.
To get in touch, send an email to Shannon@grabyourwallet.org.
Here’s a sample of what to say / write when contacting any of these retailers:
“Hi. I’m a customer / fan of your brand. Unfortunately I’ll no longer be able to shop there because you do business with the Trump family. If you were to no longer do so I would consider returning as a customer. Please communicate my feedback to store management.”
A Partial List of Retailers to Boycott
Bed Bath & Beyond
Burlington Coat Factory
Century 21 Dept. Store
Lord & Taylor
Saks Off Fifth
Additional Entities To Consider Boycotting
Alt-Right Climate Extremists Already
Losing Ground With Trump Administration Kevin Grandia / EcoWatch
(January 29, 2017) — In his US Senate confirmation hearing two weeks ago, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that: “The risk of climate change does exist, and the consequences could be serious enough that action should be taken.”
While still head of the oil-giant ExxonMobil a few short weeks ago, the same Rex TIllerson told a crowd gathered in London that: “We [ExxonMobil] have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy.”
Given ExxonMobil’s shady past when it comes to climate change, Tillerson’s words are likely seen as empty rhetoric by many political observers. And considering Trump’s recent executive orders to restart the process of constructing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, it seems highly probable that is the case.
Despite what Tillerson’s intentions may or may not be, I guarantee the Secretary of State’s words sent a chill down the spine of Trump transition team members like Myron Ebell, who see a tax on carbon pollution as the devil incarnate, and outright deny that climate change is even a problem.
Late last year Ebell was elevated in stature after being appointed by then President-elect Trump to head his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Ebell, whose views on climate change and environmental regulations are considered far-right even amongst the right-wing, has not enjoyed this much attention in years.
When the world started to wake up to the realities of climate change and world leaders of all political persuasions began taking the issue seriously, Ebell and the rest of the climate deniers were relegated to the fringe of the fringe, where their “proof” of the big climate hoax only found traction amongst a small audience of conspiracy theorists and white grumpy old men.
One can assume that Donald Trump, who stated in 2015 that he doesn’t “believe in climate change,” was seen as a Messiah to those running in Ebell’s climate denier circles.
Unfortunately for Ebell, things just aren’t going the way he envisioned. In an Ebell world, Trump and his top appointees would be out on the hustings pushing the climate denier talking points about how it was warmer in the Medieval warming period and that the United Nations is using climate change to take over the world.
Last week there were rumors that the Trump Administration had ordered the EPA to remove all mentions of climate change from the department’s website. But by the afternoon on the same day that plan was suspended until further notice. “We’ve been told to stand down,” an EPA employee told E&E News. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suppose that this was a direct order from Ebell that was hastily reversed by some higher-ups.
Besides Tillerson, other top Trumpites (copyright pending) are softening their stance on the issue of climate change.
Trump’s Energy Secretary pick Rick Perry, stated in his Senate nomination hearing the other week that: “I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity. The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn’t compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy, or American jobs.”
Not the most ringing endorsement for action on climate change, but like Rex Tillerson’s statements on the issue, a far cry from where Ebell and the alt-right environmental extremists want this new administration to be.
And nobody knows it more than Myron Ebell himself, that when it comes to the politics of climate change, words really do matter.
Myron Ebell is the product of a far-right think tank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) who for many years enjoyed a solid stream of funding from big oil companies like ExxonMobil and the notorious Koch Brothers.
Back in the day under the George W. Bush Administration, Ebell and the crew at CEI were right in the mix as the US government and big corporations were looking for ways to weasel out of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol (an earlier rendition of the Paris climate agreement).
In 2003 for instance, Ebell claimed that: “Kyoto is dead and has been dead, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t done some real damage and won’t continue to do some real damage,” “If global warming turns out to be a problem, which I doubt, it won’t be solved by making ourselves poorer through energy rationing.”
In 2007, Ebell headed a group called the “Cooler Heads Foundation” whose funding came from a network of supportive alt-right organizations, many of whom were recipients of big money from fossil fuel companies. Cooler Heads stated purpose was to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.”
The impact of the work by climate deniers, the think tanks they worked for and the companies like ExxonMobil that funded them has been pretty devastating. These climate denial spin doctors had a major impact on the pace at which countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and China moved to take action on climate change.
But as superpowers like the US and China finally started taking the issue of climate change seriously, the conspiratory stances of groups like CEI and Myron Ebell started to fall out of fashion. The microscope under which companies found themselves when it came to their carbon pollution outputs was intensifying. In 2006, ExxonMobil publicly announced that they had pulled their funding from CEI.
Down but not out, Ebell continued his climate denial crusade for the next decade.
Here’s an absolutely devastating takedown of Ebell in 2006 by BBC host Jeremy Paxman, which I wrote about at the time and viewed as an epoch in the climate denial movement.
The media was slowly but surely starting to wake up to the fact that people like Ebell had no actual qualifications in the science of climate change and were nothing more than spin doctors working at the behest of their big oil funders.
After enduring a decade on the fringe, Ebell is now in the spotlight again with his endorsement from Trump. But that spotlight seems to fading quickly by the looks of things. And while I am in no way optimistic that Trump and his team will do anything meaningful on the issue of climate change, it is a teeny-tiny victory that at the very least major players on team Trump like Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson are acknowledging that the problem exists.
But this tiny little glimmer of hope for people like me who’ve worked on the issue of climate change for more than a decade, is a serious body blow to someone like Myron Ebell who appears to be quickly being pushed under the rug by the Trump Administration, back to the alt-right fringe where he belongs.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
How the Pentagon Blew $43 Million on
‘The Worldâ€™s Most Expensive Gas Station’ Avi Asher-Schapiro / Vice News
(November 2, 2015) — Somewhere in Sheberghan, a medium-sized Afghan city in the northern province of Jowzjan, lies a simple gas station with just a handful of pumps. The humble facility, which was supposed to provide cheap natural gas to local Afghan drivers, cost $43 million to build — and the US Department of Defense footed the bill.
The station was conceived of and paid for by the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a Department of Defense program that has since been disbanded. “We do capitalism,” said Paul Brinkley, the program’s former head. “We’re about helping companies make money.”
In the case of the Sheberghan station, “doing capitalism” meant going over budget by $42.5 million to build a little-used gas station. An equivalent facility just across the border in Pakistan cost just $500,000.
Why the project cost so much — and where that money went — is still a big mystery. The latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) singled out the facility as an example of profligate Pentagon waste.
“The Department of Defense charged the American taxpayer $43 million for what is likely the world’s most expensive gas station,” said John Sopko, the head of SIGAR.
According to SIGAR, nobody at the Pentagon wants to talk about the gas station, or the $800 million TFBSO program that has been offline for just over a year. SIGAR has repeatedly asked the Department of Defense to explain why the Sheberghan facility cost $42.5 million more than was required, and the agency is now accusing the Pentagon of stonewalling.
“[The Pentagon] now says it knows nothing about the project,” Sopko told VICE News.
The Pentagon, for its part, does not dispute the charges of waste, but said Sopko and his team have full access to the cache of documents associated with the project. “I don’t have basis to dispute the dollar figures in the SIGAR report,” said a senior Defense Department official, who agreed to speak about the program on the condition of anonymity. He noted that SIGAR can pull the files on the station at any time at a secure “reading room” in Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, the money pit is drawing the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“There’s few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill told VICE News after she saw the SIGAR report. “But of all the examples of wasteful projects in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . this genuinely shocked me. It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs more than 8,000 percent more than it should.”
‘It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money.’
On Monday, McCaskill sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter asking him to cooperate with the SIGAR investigation to get to the bottom of the waste. She also demanded that the Defense Department make Joseph Catalino, the most recent head of the TFBSO, available for questioning by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations.
The senior defense official told VICE News that Catalino already spoke to SIGAR during his tenure as head of the Pentagon task force, but that he has little knowledge of the project because it was completed before his tenure.
Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, was also pissed off reading the SIGAR report. “This is shocking in multiple ways,” he said after viewing the report. “The cost of an unnecessary gas station in Afghanistan skyrocketed to a ridiculous height. Now, the Department of Defense is blocking access to documents and personnel that would shed light on how the money was spent.”
When VICE News asked the Pentagon if it could provide any more details about the funding for the facility, the senior official said such information wasn’t immediately available.
What we do know is that the Department of Defense awarded an initial $3 million construction contract to Central Asian Engineering — a multi-national construction firm that describes itself as doing “the hardest jobs” in “the toughest places” with “the best people.”
The company failed to respond to repeated requests from VICE News for comment, and the phone in their DC office did not have an answering machine.
When Central Asian Engineering finished the project in May 2014, it turned over operations to Qashqari Oil and Gas Services, a business that is not registered at all with any Afghan government agency and has no discernable presence in Afghanistan. According to SIGAR, the company’s business license has lapsed.
Watch Shane Smith Interviews Ashton Carter The VICE News Interview
The Pentagon, SIGAR said, did not perform a feasibility study on the gas station project before it broke ground in 2011.
But defense officials did tell Congress in January 2015 that demand for natural gas filling stations had convinced Qashqari Oil and Gas Services to construct a “sister station” in the nearby city of Mazar-i-Sharif. No such station has yet been built.
One possible reason for this, SIGAR noted, is that the type of natural gas vehicles that would fill up at the station are too expensive for most Afghans to afford.
Converting a car to run on natural gas costs around $800; the average Afghan makes $690 per year. The Pentagon itself paid to have about 120 vehicles converted, and it’s possible paying for these vehicle conversations contributed to the bloated bill for the project.
But aside from the $3 million worth of construction contracts, there’s no paper trail to explain what happened to the rest of the Pentagon’s money.
Since SIGAR and the Pentagon were short on details, VICE News called up the filling station in Sheberghan and asked to speak to the manger. He’d never heard of Central Asian Engineering, or Qashqari Oil and Gas Services.
He said the station is operational and owned by Afghan Gas Company. The manager estimated that the station now serves around 250 natural gas-converted cars in the province of 500,000.
It’s unclear how or when the ownership of the station was transferred to Afghan Gas Company. SIGAR was unable to visit the facility because of security concerns, and the Pentagon has not turned over any information related to the transfer of ownership.
“There are methods people use for budget tracking, and budget monitoring, so it’s a fair question: why are those tools not being used?” said Rukshana Nanayakkara, the regional outreach director for Transparency International, a leading corruption and waste watchdog group. “Are there other external circumstances? Did you not use those tools because of the complications involved on the ground level?”
In other words, Nanayakkara suspects that the contractors may have paid bribes. Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the country’s leading corruption watchdog, estimated that 50-90 percent of foreign aid is siphoned off into somebody’s pocket. “You may have to pay intermediaries to have access to certain ground level deals,” Nanayakkara explained.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, executive director Integrity Watch, claimed that the Pentagon’s task force was known to grease palms. In 2011, Afzali exposed how the TFBSO’s chromite mining initiative, a program that spent hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage Afghans to extract and export the valuable minerals, funnelled money into the hands of militiamen in Kunar province.
“TFBSO does not have a good track record in Afghanistan,” Afzali said from Kabul. “Their inefficiency is well known to many people. In addition, they have facilitated corruption and misuse.”
Afzali speculated that the money for the gas station could have found it’s way into the hands of some unsavory characters, which could explain why the Pentagon is so reluctant to get into the details. “Handing over large sums of money to powerful local warlords has been a norm rather than an exception,” he said.
In the end, Afzali seems unfazed by the Sheberghan fiasco. “We have heard of even worse stories,” he said. “Such as paying millions of dollars for buildings that were built only on paper.”
Aleem Agha contributed reporting from Afghanistan
Related: US Aid to Afghanistan Has Largely Been Wasted and Stolen, Report Says
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Life of the Party — Seven Truths for Democrats Robert Reich / San Francisco Chronicle
(January 28, 2017) — The ongoing contest between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings of the Democratic Party continues to divide Democrats. It’s urgent Democrats stop squabbling and recognize seven basic truths:
1 The party is on life support.
Democrats are in the minority in both the House and Senate, with no end in sight. Since the start of the Obama administration, they’ve lost 1,034 state and federal seats.
They hold only 16 governorships and face 32 state legislatures fully under Republican control. No one speaks for the party as a whole. The party’s top leaders are aging, and the back bench is thin.
The future is bleak unless the party radically reforms itself. If Republicans do well in the 2018 midterms, they’ll control Congress and the Supreme Court for years. If they continue to hold most statehouses, they could entrench themselves for a generation.
2 We are now in a populist era.
The strongest and most powerful force in American politics is a rejection of the status quo, a repudiation of politics as usual, and a deep and profound distrust of elites, including the power structure of America.
That force propelled Donald Trump into the White House. He represents the authoritarian side of populism. Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign represented the progressive side.
The question hovering over America’s future is which form of populism will ultimately prevail. At some point, hopefully, Trump voters will discover they’ve been hoodwinked. Even in its purist form, authoritarian populism doesn’t work because it destroys democracy. Democrats must offer the alternative.
3 The economy is not working for most Americans.
The economic data show lower unemployment and higher wages than eight years ago, but the typical family is still poorer today than it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation; median weekly earnings are no higher than in 2000; a large number of working-age people — mostly men — have dropped out of the labor force altogether; and job insecurity is endemic.
Inequality is wider, and its consequences more savage in America than in any other advanced nation.
4 [Big money is part of the problem.]
The party’s moneyed establishment — big donors, major lobbyists, retired members of Congress who have become bundlers and lobbyists — are part of the problem. Even though many consider themselves “liberal” and don’t recoil from an active government, their preferred remedies spare corporations and the wealthiest from making any sacrifices.
The moneyed interests in the party allowed the deregulation of Wall Street and then encouraged the bailout of the Street. They’re barely concerned about the growth of tax havens and inside trading, increasing market power in major industries (pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, airlines, private health insurers, food processors, finance, even high tech), and widening inequality.
Meanwhile, they’ve allowed labor unions to shrink to near irrelevance. Unionized workers used to be the ground troops of the Democratic Party. In the 1950s, more than a third of all private-sector workers were unionized; today, less than 7 percent are.
5 [The status quo must go]
It’s not enough for Democrats to be against Trump and defend the status quo. Democrats have to fight like hell against regressive policies Trump wants to put in place, but Democrats also need to fight for a bold vision of what the nation must achieve — like expanding Social Security and financing the expansion by raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes; Medicare for all; and world-class free public education for all.
And Democrats must diligently seek to establish countervailing power — stronger trade unions, community banks, more incentives for employee ownership and small businesses, and electoral reforms that get big money out of politics and expand the right to vote.
6 [Feel the Bern: That’s the party’s future]
The life of the party — its enthusiasm, passion, youth, principles and ideals — was elicited by Sanders’ campaign. This isn’t to denigrate what Clinton accomplished. She did, after all, win the popular vote in the presidential election by almost 3 million people. It’s only to recognize what all of us witnessed: the huge outpouring of excitement that Bernie’s campaign inspired, especially from the young. This is the future of the Democratic Party.
7 [We need a movement, not a machine]
The party must change from being a giant fundraising machine to a movement. It needs to unite the poor, working class and middle class, black and white — who haven’t had a raise in 30 years and who feel angry, powerless and disenfranchised.
If the Democratic Party doesn’t understand these seven truths and fails to do what’s needed, a third party will emerge to fill the void.
Third parties usually fail because they tend to draw votes away from the dominant party closest to them, ideologically. But if the Democratic Party creates a large enough void, a third party won’t draw away votes. It will pull people into politics.
And drawing more people into politics is the only hope going forward.
Copyright 2017 Robert Reich
Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. His daily blog is at www.facebook.com/rbreich.) To comment, submit your letter to the editor at http://bit.ly/SFChronicleletters.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Cell High: Donald Trump’s Immigration Orders
Will Make Private Prison Companies Filthy Rich Keegan Hamilton / Vice News
(January 26, 2017) — Private prison companies just hit the jackpot.
While attention was focused Wednesday on President Donald Trump’s orders to start building the border wall and cut federal funding to sanctuary cities, another aspect of his decree went mostly overlooked: Trump effectively gave the Department of Homeland Security carte blanche to expand immigrant detention.
His executive order authorizes the department to “allocate all legally available resources” to “establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.” That means paying private prison companies like CoreCivic and the GEO Group to open new facilities to keep up with the Trump administration’s draconian “enforcement priorities” on immigration.
Carl Takei â€ª@carltakei
â€ª#privateprisonsâ€ª execs must be celebrating this language in Trump EO. “[A]ll legally available resources” for detention = $$$$$â€¬
1:48 PM – 25 Jan 2017â€¬
“It’s worse than we even imagined,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that opposes private prisons. “It’s the policy manifestation of all the ugly bigotry that Trump spewed on the campaign trail.”
The Trump administration’s enforcement priorities, also outlined in Wednesday’s executive order, will likely ensnare hundreds of thousands of people, including asylum seekers who present themselves at the border, undocumented immigrants who have merely been accused of crimes but not found guilty, and others convicted of petty offenses like driving without a license.
All of those people could end up being locked up indefinitely — and the current detention facilities are already at capacity.
“This is an enormous boondoggle for the private prison industry,” said Carl Takei, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “The people that will benefit from these executive orders are not American taxpayers but corporations that are making a killing off of jailing asylum seekers and other immigrants.”
The only catch is that Trump’s order limits Homeland Security to the use of “available resources.” It’s not quite a blank check because it doesn’t give the department any additional money to spend on detention beyond the $40.6 billion already allocated for the 2017 fiscal year, much of which has already been devoted to existing projects and other costs.
Congress will have to decide how much more cash it wants to throw at expanding immigrant detention by the end of April, when the next budget is due.
The projected cost of immigrant detention under Trump’s plan is $35.7 billion, plus another $13.4 billion for “aggressive interior enforcement” and $11.3 billion for legal processing, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
Stock market analysts have said Trump’s immigration agenda presents a “material external growth opportunity not seen in years” for the private prison industry. One investment research site forecasts a 25 percent spike in the value of the GEO Group’s stock this year.
Stock prices for private prison companies CoreCivic (red) and The GEO Group (yellow) compared to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. SCROLL to see entire chart.
That’s a complete reversal of fortune from last August, when the Department of Justice announced it would end the use of private prisons to house federal inmates after finding that they don’t save taxpayers money and are less safe than government-run facilities. Shares of CoreCivic and the GEO Group instantly plummeted 35 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
The GEO Group contributed more than $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC, and the company’s stock price spiked by 21 percent on the day after the election; CoreCivic’s soared by 43 percent.
Together, the two companies account for 85 percent of the US private prison market, and a majority of their revenue comes from housing immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is required by law to keep at least 34,000 immigrants in detention on any given day, and about two-thirds of them are locked up in facilities managed by private prison companies.
Takei noted that the recent influx of Central American asylum seekers has already overwhelmed the immigrant detention system, leaving federal authorities struggling to find bed space for about 41,000 people. Private prisons stepped up to help meet the demand, and he expects them to attempt to further capitalize on the fallout of Trump’s executive orders in the coming months and years.
“It’s the realization of our worst fears about what this administration would do on immigration,” Takei said of Trump’s Wednesday decrees, adding that the ACLU would do everything in its power to stop the president from following through. “If and when these terrible unconstitutional ideas are implemented, we’re prepared to sue.”
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