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Tracking Trump, Week 7: March 5-11 2017

Sunday

So the Mosques are getting bomb threats, too. Over the weekend, two mosques  –  one in Cincinnati, Ohio, the other in Lexington, Kentucky – received anonymous bomb threats. Muslim communities in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia found hate messages in their mailboxes including poorly drawn sketches of a Muslim being beheaded. Corey Saylor, executive of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, said CAIR has tracked 28 “anti-mosque” incidents since January. These include:

mosque signs defaced with Nazi references in Illinois. Windows broken and tires slashed at a California Islamic center. Muslim worship halls burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances in Florida, Washington, and Texas.

In an ongoing list, ThinkProgress tracked 142 anti-Muslim incidents from November 2015 to February 10, 2017. Several cases had Trump associations mentioned during the attack.

Monday

And now it’s the LGBT community. Over the past two months, various LGBT centers experienced vandalism. Monday’s incident was one where a driver fired multiple shots across the front door and windows of Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As tracked by ThinkProgress, about one out of every seven hate incidents since Novemeber targeted LGBTQ people. Most of them had Trump associations.

Tuesday

Trump has an obsession for Obama. Last week, he accused the guy of wiretapping him. Without evidence. A reporter who asked for evidence was booted out of the room by one of Trump’s personal security men (Never mind that such an arrangement is unprecedented in recent history). Today, President Donald Trump tweeted statistics from Fox News  and embroidered the story to spread a falsehood about Guantanamo detainees former President Barack Obama allegedly released. At 6:13 a.m. during a news rundown, Fox News had mentioned the death of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Yasir al-Silmi, who was killed in an air strike on Yemen on March 2nd. Fox mentioned that “122 prisoners released from Gitmo have returned to the battlefield.”

At 7:04 a.m., Trump tweeted the same statistic – and blamed all 122 releases on former President Barack Obama: 122 vicious prisoners released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!

Wednesday

Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, asks Paul Ryan a.k.a. Congress to “raise the federal debt limit at the first opportunity.” Never mind that in 2011, Trump said that if he were president he “wouldn’t raise” the debt limit but “make a deal” and “stop [the debt] right now.”

“TrumpCare” an apt name for Trump’s care for the people, or more appropriately for his voters who end up being the biggest losers.

Experts on all sides, for various reasons, condemn the bill.  The biggest doctors’ group in the country, the American Medical Association (AMA) warned it “would result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits.” The American Hospital Association and the AARP assented. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the leading industry group representing health insurers, objected to provisions that could destabilize insurance markets, cut financial assistance to help people afford coverage, and “weaken Medicaid coverage of mental health and opioid addiction.” A report from S&P Global, concluded that up to 10 million nationwide will lose their health insurance.

But Trump prodded and wheedled the bill through the House – although the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet released its officials estimate of how many people stand to lose coverage.

He tweeted:
We are making great progress with healthcare. ObamaCare is imploding and will only get worse. Republicans coming together to get job done!

Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture! (March 9)

Trump’s  promise? His supporters? Never mind. “Trump Cares”

Friday

On Friday, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions asked for the resignation of all 46 sitting U.S. attorneys who had been appointed by Trump’s predecessor. The scandal lay in the following story.

The episode of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

Wednesday, Preet Bharara, Attorney of Southern District of New York received a letter from three government accountability groups asking him to investigate whether Trump had violated the Constitution by receiving cash from foreign governments through his extensive business holdings. Thursday, President Trump called Bharara’s office to speak with him personally. Bharara told both the White House and the Justice Department that he could not speak with the President because it would be a breach of protocol. Friday, Sessions asked that Bharara and 45 other U.S. attorneys resign. Bharara refused, so Saturday, the venerable Attorney was fired.  

Here’s what Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics czar and head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, had to say:

“The White House was obviously concerned about the investigative power of the U.S. attorneys. I think they woke up to the fact that there are all of these independent U.S. attorneys with investigative powers and subpoena power and they saw that as a large potential threat, not just for Trump but for his staff who are riddled with conflicts of interest’’

So Trump forced 46 attorneys to reign.

And Preet who refused? Eisen said he “was the most influential U.S. attorney in the country, and the Trump Organization is in his district.’’ More important, Bharara had earned a reputation as a crusader against corruption. Preet had to go!

Tracking Trump, Week 6: Feb 26-Mar 4 2017

In the old movie Excalibur, King Arthur asks his Round Table, “What is the greatest quality of knighthood?”
Merlin answers. “Truth. When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.”

This week, Donald J. Trump proved he may be President of the United States of America but has a long way to go before he becomes King Arthur’s knight.

Monday, Feb. 27

A round of bomb threats struck Jewish community centers and schools across the country on Monday, the latest in anti-Semitic incidents that battered the country since the election.

News reports so far noted bomb threats in Miami, Florida; Rockville, Maryland; and Fairfax, Virginia. Jewish community centers in Asheville, North Carolina; York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Staten Island and Tarrytown, New York; Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Birmingham, Alabama; and Talleyville, Delaware reportedly also received bomb threats. In NYC alone, police documented 68 hate crimes since the year began, more than half of which targeted Jews.

So far, ProPublica has documented more than 100 bomb threats directed towards various Jewish organizations, schools, and community centers in more than 90 different locations since January 1.

According to the Anti Defamation League (ADL), there are far more anti-Semites in the United States than there are Jews in the world and that anti-semitic incidents have tripled under America’s 45th President. Trump on Tuesday (see next day) would imply the Jews toppled their own cemeteries and threatened their own centers and schools.

Tuesday, Feb. 28

During a meeting with state attorneys general on Tuesday, President Trump reportedly suggested the repeated bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools around the country in recent weeks could be false flags.

“He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’ and he used the word ‘reverse’ I would say two or three times in his comments,” Shapiro said, according to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner. “He did say at the top that it was reprehensible.”

Trump’s comments to the attorneys general echoes the false flag conspiracy theory Duke has been pushing on Twitter:

  • “President Trump, do you think it might be the Jews themselves making these calls to get sympathy to push their ethnic agenda?” (21 Feb 2017)
  • “New bomb threats hit at least 10 US Jewish centers today. Why can’t the government trace where these threats are coming from – Tel Aviv?” (27 Feb 2017)
  • “I’ve never been into conspiracy theories – so maybe these recent bomb threats on Jewish centers are just COHENcidences (perfect timing)?” (28 Feb 2017)

Congress calumnies

The President gave an unexpectedly impressive speech.

Top Pinocchios:

1. Foreigners committed the “vast majority” of terrorism-related offenses in the United States since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

“According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country,” Trump claimed in his speech. “We have seen the attacks at home – from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.”

Fact check:

(a) In a 2015 New York Times article, University of North Carolina Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer found that Islamic-inspired terror attacks accounted for 50 deaths since 9/11, but that “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”

(b)  A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security indicates Trump is overstating the threat of foreign-born individuals. Just over half of the people convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 are foreign born. The rest were born in the United States, including some of the perpetrators of the attacks Trump cited, such as San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook and the shooter in the Orlando nightclub attack, Omar Mateen, who was born in Queens.

2. Trump falsely attributed American terrorist attacks to countries he wrapped in his Muslim ban. The Boston Marathon brothers were born in Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Alberto Casillas of the San Bernardino shooting was born in Illinois, while his wife was born in Pakistan. And 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt – none of which are Trump’s banned countries.

3. “Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, SoftBank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs,” Trump boasted.

The problem is that none of these jobs had anything to do with Trump. All of these plans were in the works long before the President strode the escalator to announce his presidency.

Thursday, March 2

Trump’s game of Russian Roulette spins both ways:

  • He told a Washington press conference, “I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away”. Meanwhile, the Mirror that traveled to Moscow to investigate discovered that: “Far from “staying away” Trump has formed associations with some of Moscow’s most powerful and influential players, has sold his Miss Universe contest there, has a Hollywood Boulevard-style signed star in a shopping mall and even had plans to build a Trump Tower in the capital.”
  • Trump says he did not know Putin, but the Mirror was told by some of Trump’s highly ranked Russian business associates that he was very close to some of the most powerful men in Russia. (“One of those he met was Herman Gref, the boss of Sberbank Russia’s biggest bank. Mr Gref is very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin”). And in November 2013, Trump told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts: “I do have a relationship [with Putin].”
  • There was “no communication” between Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign – except for communication with Russia by Trump’s future national security adviser, his future attorney general, his son-in-law, and two others.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions “did not have communications with the Russians,” –  except for the two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak he neglected to mention under oath.
  • Reports of the Trump team’s ties to Russia are “fake news,” yet those who leaked the information for those articles need to be found and punished.
  • The incendiary dossier on Trump’s adventures in Russia are “completely unverified” – but FBI were prepared to pay the man who wrote it.

And so on and so forth. Russian Roulette is a game where one spins the cylinder, and then pulls the trigger while pointing the gun at one’s own head. Watch Trump in action…

Friday, March 3

A new Department of Homeland Security report, obtained by the Rachel Maddow Show found that “most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists are likely not radicalized when they come to the U.S., but rather become radicalized after living in the U.S. for a number of years.” The document tracked 88 violent, foreign-born extremists in the United States. More than half of them had been in the U.S. more than 10 years before they were indicted or killed. More so, the report suggested that government activity that might be perceived as Islamophobic actually fuels radicalization in both native-born and foreign-born violent extremists and that providing more support for refugees and asylees will help prevent radicalization.

The White House did not respond.

Confirmation that Islamophobia fuels radicalization:

White House chief strategist in the Trump administration, Steve Bannon, recently appeared on the front page of Al Masra, a newspaper connected to Al Qaeda in the context that Trump’s administration targets Muslim people.

According to Thinkprogress: “Experts say Bannon’s policies actually empower the ISIS message.

Saturday, March 4

In tweets Saturday morning, Trump asserted that President Obama last year personally ordered Trump Tower wiretaps. Citing no source, Trump wrote that he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” calling the former President a “bad (or sick) guy.”

Taping calls seems to hold a spot in Mr. Trump’s consciousness. He spent many years taping his own phone calls as a businessman. During the campaign, Mr. Trump’s staff members told reporters they feared that their offices were being bugged.

“You make up something and then you have the press write about it, and then you say, ‘everybody’s writing about this charge,'” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a tool of an authoritarian, to just have you always be talking about what you want to be talking about.”

Tracking Trump, Week 5: Feb 19-25 2017

Sunday

“We got to keep our country safe!” President Trump warned at a rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday night. He told a horror story about a Northern European nation (a.k.a Sweden) that “took in large numbers” of refugees and is now facing “problems like they never thought possible.” The President then said “Look at what happened last night in Sweden!.. Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden?”. The problem was – no attack happened.

Says Sheri Berman, a political scientist at Barnard College and expert on Dictatorship:

It’s just an attempt to spin everything that supports his particular views or policies whether or not it’s truthful, he simply just doesn’t care. He has a tenuous relationship with the truth and that is something that is particularly problematic for democracy. While spin has existed for a long time, we’ve clearly crossed some kind of line — and it’s not an easy line to define — what we are in here is something very tenuous or ignored entirely.

Later in the week, Trump would fudge the numbers again with American economic growth (GPA), purportedly telling White House economic advisers to start with a GDP growth target of between 3 and 3.5 percent a year for the next decade and backfill numbers in their models to make that prediction work.

According to ThinkProgress.org:

Most presidential teams start with a baseline forecast and then calculate how their policies would either increase or decrease the growth rate. Trump is instead starting with the outcome he wants, and then having officials make the numbers work to get the economy there.

Monday

Trump refused to condemn anti-Semitism three times last week (including when he told Jake Turx, a Hasidic Jewish reporter to sit down, and called his question “very insulting.”) Today, approximately 200 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery were destroyed in St. Louis while more than 10 Jewish community centers (JCC) had received bomb threats. Tomorrow, Spicer would pivot against an Islamophobia question. Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) on Twitter tweeted:

Reporter just asked @PressSec if Trump admin also denounces anti-Islam sentiment.

Mostly talked about “radical Islamic terrorism” instead.

Trump depends on KKK/Neo-Nazi/Alt-Right support. Many of them call him their Fuehrer. Also this week, Trump kicked off his reelection campaign for 2020 and beyond (including pushing out a strawman survey targeted exclusively to his supporters that this author accidently received where he asked whether “people want him to run the coming year”). So Trump pumps out numbers and narratives of immigrant and urban crime and ignores attacks perpetrated by White supremacists, such as the Kansas incident.

In the meantime, Think Progress tracked 261 hate incidents across the country since November 9, 2016. Incidents included the following:

Muslim women report being physically assaulted and told to remove their hijabs on buses and street corners. LGBTQ people allege being harassed and beaten as they walk home. Black churches were reportedly defaced with hateful racial slurs. A man of Guatemalan descent told police he was beaten as his assailants chanted “make America white again!” Trump supporters were also allegedly attacked, and at least three people were killed in what appear to be hate incidents.

The FBI reported in December that twice as many hate crimes were recorded in New York City after the election than in the same time period in 2015.

Hate crimes have increased to the extent that ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom created a national database to collect and verify reports.

According to ThinkProgress: “There have been four rounds of bomb threats against JCCs this year, and at least 70 hate crimes committed against Jews since Election Day. There has been a similar increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks  – which Trump has refused to condemn.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently discovered that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups nearly tripled between 2015 and 2016. Between November 9 and February 9, ThinkProgress recorded 31 hate crimes against Muslims, and not just “vague but unmistakably hateful speech.”

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Corey Saylor, the director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, Trump’s relative silence on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia go hand in hand. His daughter and grandchildren may be Jewish, but:
“There’s been a wave of anti-Semitism going on since his election, and it took him until now to respond, which is profoundly troubling,” he said. “The President of the United States isn’t willing to speak out against such bigotry.”

Tuesday

Nearly a dozen Jewish community centers reported phoned-in bomb threats on Monday. Yet President Trump  –  known for instantly tweeting outrages about attacks committed in the U.S. and beyond by immigrants and Islamists before the facts are known – stayed silent until Tuesday morning.

Then, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that. “The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.” Actually he doesn’t.

Trump claimed he denounces anti-Semitism “wherever I get a chance.” Actually, he doesn’t.

A Department of Homeland Security memo, entitled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest,” authored by Secretary John Kelly asserted that “criminal aliens routinely victimize Americans and other legal residents.”

In 2015, the CATO Institute report, “Immigration and Crime — What the Research Says”  found among other facts that:

  • [A study] “looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated”
  • Another study “looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.”
  • Yet another study found that an influx of immigrants is actually correlated with decreases in homicide and robbery rates. (italics, my own).

Return to Kelly’s memos. They detail “an implementation plan to hire thousands more immigration officials, make more criminal offenses punishable by deportation, allow local law enforcement officials to carry out federal immigration duties, and make it easier to prevent entry to asylum-seeking children who show up at the southern U.S. border.”

Never mind facts.

The CATO report again:

  • A study that looked looked at 103 different MSAs from 1994–2004 found that “the weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime. To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.”…

Wednesday

On Wednesday night, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, a man named Adam Purinton allegedly told two men he thought were Middle Eastern to “get out of my country” before shooting both of them, one fatally. He also allegedly shot and injured a white bystander who intervened in the situation. Trump’s response? Silence.

Research indicates a person in America is far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist or white supremacist   than a Muslim terrorist. But it took foreign leaders like Sushma Swaraj to respond to the Kansas shooting: “We will provide all help and assistance to the bereaved family,” the foreign Affairs Minister tweeted.

And Trump? He said it’s too early to say what motivated the Olathe shooter. Note: This is a man who is known for instantly tweeting outrages about attacks by immigrants and Islamists even before the facts are known.

Friday

A deputy assistant to President Donald Trump has spent years working closely with members of Hungary’s anti-Semitic hard right, according to a Friday report from The Forward, a publication for American Jews. The report says Sebastian Gorka, who advises the White House on national security, co-founded a political party with former members of Jobbik, which is frequently described as a fascist party. Gorka  - who once said it would be “national suicide” to admit Muslim refugees –  also worked for the Hungarian National Committee, a Jobbik-linked coalition party led by the head of the ultra-nationalist 64 Counties Youth Movement.

On Friday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press briefing with a handpicked group of reporters.  NBC, ABC, and CBS were invited, along with Fox News. But several major news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Politico, and Buzzfeed, were kept out. Right-wing publications like the Washington Times and conspiracy sites like Breitbart were included.

See Reporting from @CNN’s White House team on being excluded from attending the gaggle.

Saturday

“Citizenship likely an unreliable indicator of potential terrorist activity” said a DHS Intelligence document released today. In fact, it continued, U.S. citizens were more likely to commit acts of terrorism, and made up more than half of terrorism-related convictions in America. Foreign-born terrorists, specifically, came from 26 different countries. The draft reported that only three of Trump’s targeted countries – Iraq, Syria, and Yemen- were likely to foster terrorists who wanted to launch attacks in America, while the other four – Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya- were more likely to foster terrorism in their own countries.

Trumpery Week In short:

As Trump continues to promote fear of immigrants and his nationalist agenda this week, an old white guy shoots two Indians in Kansas yelling “get out of my country” and kills one, a Mosque is torched in Florida and Jewish grave stones are toppled (again and again and again). Trump’s response? Sweden’s “immigration problem” and strategized silence.

Tracking Trump, Week 4: Feb 12-18 2017

It’s been a weird, wild, week in Trump kingdom. For those accusing Trump of fascism, here’s a week of indications, although whether these point to fascism, authoritarianism, or populism is disputable.

Sunday

On FACE THE NATION, Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller said the following about Trump’s intended executive order on immigration:

We’re considering new and further executive actions that will enhance the security posture of the United States. I don’t have any news to date to make on it. But I think the point, John, is that the president has enormous powers, both delegated to him by Congress and under the Constitution, his Article 2 foreign affairs power, to control the entry of aliens into our country and he’s going to use that authority to keep us safe.

The gist of this is that Miller attributed almost superhuman powers to his boss.

Now, the President is known as “the most powerful man in the world”, but according to the US Constitution, the U.S. presidency, which is the “Executive Branch”, has to harmonize with the other two: the “Legislative”  (i.e.,  Congress) and the “Judicial” branch (i.e., Supreme Court and subordinate federal courts). Moreover, the Constitution gave overarching control to the Congress (including the power to remove the President under circumstances which Congress itself defines). The President, too, is answerable in all his actions to Congress.

Miller overlooked that.  More critically, Miller continued:

We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government.

Since when – and who decides – that the “judiciary that has taken far too much power”? Regardless, Miller says:

Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

“Our opponents”?  Leaders of fascist and authoritarian regimes tend to furnish themselves with a panoply of real and purported enemies. Trump’s enemies are “the whole world”. Also in dictatorial fashion, Trump declares that “his powers…will not be questioned.”

Fascism is dangerous to host country and to the world. That same day:

Hezbollah terror leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech in Lebanon and addressed US President Donald Trump, whom he called a “fool.”  According to him, “We need to thank Trump for exposing the true face of American society which is racist, criminal and sheds blood while contriving plots against our nations here in the Middle East.”

Monday

Vice President Mike Pence, the vice-president who was supposed to stand in for Trump’s political deficiency and provide logical stability, seems to lack Trump’s confidence and to be isolated from Trump’s shadow cabinet that is headed by chief strategist, Bannon. A NY Times investigation revealed that national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, lied to Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration. Worse still, most of Trump’s inner circle seem to be incriminated in the Russian mess, with the trail leading to the President himself. So what does Pence do? The Washington Street Journal reported that Trump sent him to the statue of Douglas MacArthur at West Point to mime how to polish shoes.

An overlooked snippet described a White House atmosphere of overt partisanship – conditions that existed under no other Administration:

At an all-hands meeting about two weeks into the new administration, Ms. McFarland told the group it needed to “make America great again,” numerous staff members who were there said. New Trump appointees are carrying coffee mugs with that Trump campaign slogan into meetings with foreign counterparts, one staff member said. Nervous staff members recently met late at night at a bar a few blocks from the White House and talked about purging their social media accounts of any suggestion of anti-Trump sentiments.

Trump’s regime, University News wrote, mirrors the rise of European fascism. That same day, Geert Wilders, a controversial far-right Dutch politician reiterated his pledge to de-Islamize the Netherlands. Massoud Shadjareh, head of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, associated rise of such sentiments to “fascist ideology” that is being promoted and allowed to become legitimized in the world:

The reality is that we are seeing the rise of fascism on the back of Islamophobia and hatred of Muslims and this is extremely worrying because this level of demonization always leads to genocide and ethnic cleansing

Wednesday

Conway tweeted another message indicating she parrots Trump: “I serve at the pleasure of [Trump]. His message is my message.” She broke the rules and gave what she called a “free commercial” on Fox News for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line: “Go buy it today, everybody.” Spicer said she had been “counseled.” How? Trump okayed her actions.

Note how both she and Miller (as well as Spicer among other members of his shadow cabinet) assign absolute power to Trump.

Thursday

The New York Times:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election”

Again, one wonders where Vice President Pence is on all of this. Poor guy! Supposed to lead the government, and seemingly ousted from Trump’s confidence.

Meanwhile, the American law enforcement and intelligence agencies give Trump a tough time, so what does the leader do?

President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. (NY Times)

In short, the President aims to stifle their independence – or, put another way, their unbridled autonomy.

That same day, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations and reported:

The number of hate groups in the United States rose for a second year in a row in 2016 as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Friday

Is Trump’s regime authoritarian? At the end of one week, John Sidney McCain had this to say:

  • “[The founders of the Munich conference] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups — especially Muslims.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the growing inability — and even unwillingness — to separate truth from lies.”
  • “They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

McCain is Republican. His party runs the country. He reported what he saw.

The media, whether objectively or otherwise, has time and again put the Donald in his place. On Friday, Trump called the Times and several other media organisations “not my enemies [but] enemies of the American people”.

Granted that the media dislikes Donald, but why is it then the Nation’s enemy? (shouldn’t it be peculiarly Donald’s)? Or does the President think of himself as the United States of America? Alternately, does he want his supporters – and maybe the country as a whole – to pillory the press?

He made a similar claim at a rally in Florida telling supporters the media was “part of the corrupt system”: “When the media lies to the people I will never let them get away with it”, he added.

Again, the man seems to think he has super-President powers.

Conclusion

 

So, in this fourth week of his Presidency, Mr. Trump has declared war on the intelligence agencies and the media. It looks like the judicial branch may be next.

We Are, and Will Remain: An Armenian-American Lesbian’s Quest for Space in her Mother Tongue

“I am Armenian-American.”

What, in my case, does this sentence mean?

It means that about a century ago, after escaping from genocide in the Ottoman Empire, my ancestors immigrated to this continent, where I was born. In my case, this applies to both sides of my family. Others are of mixed roots, Armenian and odar (“foreign,” i.e. non-Armenian), and have no less of a claim on the above term than myself.

“I am Armenian-American” also means that these roots, in some measure, matter enough to me that I would choose to continue claiming them as my own, despite a gap of a century from them. It means, in my case, that despite my birth on these American shores, that I can claim two languages as my native tongue: one a language of world politics and commerce, the other an endangered tongue of a scattered people. Others, with equal claim to this identity, do not speak Armenian. Some in the community deride them for it, but in doing so these detractors forget their own Turkish and Kurdish-speaking grandparents. One’s primary, or sole, language is not a determinant of their ethnic identity.

“I am Armenian-American” means that, in my case, I pass as white and am thus afforded highly conditional privilege that can, and does, evaporate in an instant. This is, for example,  the case in airports, where as soon as an official reads my non-anglo name, I am invariably subjected to further searches and probing questions.

“I am Armenian-American” means that, in some measure, I am neither wholly Armenian nor wholly American. I am a little too alien for white Americans, with my non-anglo name, my taste for “weird” foods, and my occasional, decidedly non-English exclamations of surprise or disgust. I am a little too assimilated for many Armenians too, with my (slight) American accent, my lack of interest in putting my Armenianness at the perennial forefront, and my minority, non-Christian religious affiliation with Shintoism.

I’ve long since given up on choosing one or the other: I exist somewhere in the liminal space between these two identities. And that is enough.

But our identities as humans are multifaceted and complex; we exist at the intersection of many identities. Another one of mine is my sexual orientation as a lesbian.

I am Armenian-American and I am lesbian. And here, one might say we reach the proverbial wrench-in-the-works. But I prefer to think we reach an interesting crossroads.

The Armenian diasporan community strongly tends toward two affiliations: Christian and conservative. Its conservatism is of both social and political bent. Homophobic and transphobic violence in the Armenian community is well documented, both within the country itself as well as in the Diaspora. Were the words of some self-styled defenders of the community to be believed, there are no LGBT Armenians. A chilling irony, given how easily they erase us, reject us, and even kill us. Yet all the same, we exist, we survive, and we struggle to be heard, acknowledged, and respected by our community. As one of our people’s sayings goes, “we are, and we will remain.”

But we have a challenge: language.

***

Armenian language is ancient and rich. It even preserves terms, largely unaltered, from long-dead tongues like Akkadian and Hittite. Armenian literature, in the 16 centuries since its alphabet’s creation, is full of soaring prose and moving, lyrical poetry. But when I was coming out to my family and wanted to do it in Armenian, I came up short. Armenian simply does not have a broad body of language with which to discuss gender and sexual diversity.

So, for a long time, I stuck to English, while my parents responded in Armenian, with horror, guilt-tripping, and accusations of disloyalty to family and nation. It was not an optimal situation, but I made do.

That I was unable to properly express myself in Armenian was galling. There were but two terms of which I was aware at the outset: miaseragan for gay, pokhaseragan for transgender. This is a start, but it is not nearly enough. Added to this is the further complication that there do exist other words, but they are overwhelmingly pathologizing.

I refused to accept this state of affairs as unchangeable. I still do. While we LGBT+ Armenians in the world can, and do, articulate our identities in our mother tongue regardless of the vocabulary’s imperfection, this shortcoming of vocabulary makes that a greater challenge than it needs to be.

And while I have the good fortune of another language with which to express myself, I refuse to be erased from, or hamstrung in, my mother tongue. In my case, to have my parents control the storm of Armenian-language family discourse on my identity was incredibly chagrining.

As I now live outside any of the Armenian diaspora’s major population centers, and as I was single for many years, I could afford to put this off in some measure. Then I started dating other women, my frigid relations with my parents began to slowly warm, and I felt a newfound sense of urgency. Even if I lived outside the diaspora, I simply had to be able to express myself to my parents, and to do it smoothly and clearly. If I had to coin new terms, I would. If the space did not exist for me in my mother tongue, then I would carve that space out myself.

So, with all of this in mind, and fueled by righteous indignation at heart, I took what I saw as the only sensible course of action:

I got to work.

Poverty Encourages Eating Disorders

Content Notice: this article discusses poverty and eating disorders.

It’s easy to find ways poverty negatively affects someone. As one of many examples, it affects education, which limits job opportunities, which often leaves financial stability as nothing but a dream. The root of many of these problems is people believing that those who have been dealt the shittiest hand when they were born, somehow already deserved it.

But there are also more subtle things it can cause, such as a predisposition to eating disorders.

Growing up poor is, to be frank, complete and utter shit. I could go on for hours about all of the various ways it’s shit, but let’s talk about food. Poverty affects your food choices. Poverty affects your eating habits. Through these two things, it can affect how your body processes food, and how your brain interprets hunger.

Food Quality

Your meals will tend to consist of the most cost-effective food you can get — or, if you have the money to spare, the second most cost-effective. Now we’re gettin’ fancy. But here’s the thing: You are often literally getting the food that was not deemed high-quality enough to go with the “normal” food. You are getting the rejects and the junk food, because that’s what’s in your budget. Next time you’re in a grocery store, look around: what is the cheapest food? What is the most expensive food? If you compare these, you’ll often find that the cheapest food is typically of lower quality or considered “junk food,” and the most expensive food is generally higher quality or “healthy snacks.”

Processing Hunger

Food becomes harder to come by, so you tend to eat whatever you can get your hands on. You disregard whether or not you’re hungry at that very moment because fuck you, I am not going to be hungry tonight. A refusal to be hungry can lead to problems processing whether or not you are hungry.

As The Washington Post reported:

Those who grew up in higher socioeconomic households exhibited normal consumption behavior—eating when they were hungry, saying no thank you to the snacks when they were full. Those who grew up in lower socioeconomic households, meanwhile, ate no matter how hungry they were.

Not Eating

Sometimes, you wind up simply not eating. You skip meals in an effort to afford other necessities such as transportation and housing. Or maybe you can afford none of that, and you’re just completely and utterly fucked. (Hi, been there. Many times.)

When you skip meals, you tend to eat larger meals afterwards. Doing this repeatedly can sometimes result in a vicious cycle, where the duration between meals and the amount you eat at each meal both grow considerably, to the point that it’s unhealthy.

Conclusion

Being poor can directly influence the quality of food you have access to, how you understand hunger, and in some cases, whether or not you eat at all. In this way, living in poverty makes developing an eating disorder considerably more likely.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016

Content Notice: This article discusses suicide and the 2016 US presidential election.

Once again, Transgender Day of Remembrance has passed, and I am faced with the fact that at least one of my friends has committed suicide every year since I first became involved with the transgender community nearly four years ago.

We never really get the chance to properly mourn our losses, because they just keep coming one after another with no hesitation between them.

As is the case every year, there were periods over the past year where I became uncomfortably close to being part of that group.

This year is worse than normal.

People are literally killing themselves to avoid the repercussions of what the President-elect is promising, and the negative things he has already accomplished. And, as every time the trans community has been in danger, the only ones who consistently stand by us are other marginalized groups.

The country is going to be led by someone who has consistently actively encouraged violence against marginalized groups, with the Vice President-elect being just as bad. They’re fucking talking about putting people in internment camps. The VP-elect advocates for conversion therapy.

I’m drawn back to this quote from my article about Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015:

When the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is unsurprising that our progress moves slowly and is paid for with the lives and safety of those who are most vulnerable. Often, this is trans women of color.

Likewise, when the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is also unsurprising that progress can regress so quickly.

I am very afraid right now, and so are a lot of other people. Please do your best to take care of and stand by each other.

Mental Health Triggers

Content Notice: The following article discusses PTSD/cPTSD, eating disorders, depression, and OCD.

Mental health triggers are things which, when encountered, can affect a person’s ability to function by triggering a mental illness. The term is most often used for PTSD and cPTSD (trauma triggers), but it can apply to other illnesses — including eating disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. The effects are most often mental and/or emotional, but can also manifest physically.

Everyone’s triggers are different. For me, things that remind me of past abuse can trigger flashbacks or panic responses (cPTSD), and sleeping too much can cause a depressive episode. For other people, it could be sudden loud noises and sleeping too little. It varies from person to person.

How the same person responds to the same trigger can also vary depending on the circumstances. E.g., my cPTSD-related panic responses tend to manifest differently at night (shaking, hyperventilating) than during the day (dissociation).

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices

Trigger Warnings, as well as the more general Content Notices, serve two purposes: first, to allow someone to choose whether they want to engage with potentially-triggering content, and second, to allow someone to prepare themselves before engaging with it.

Some people respond to requests to do this by saying it’s “coddling” — but I’d argue it’s the exact opposite. First, choosing to not engage with potentially-triggering content is an entirely valid decision, and anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves. Second, trigger warnings and content notices allow people to engage with content they would otherwise avoid, because the heads-up allows them to properly prepare for it.

“Triggered” Jokes

A recent trend is for people to joke about being “triggered” when they in fact are not. I will put it bluntly: by making jokes about being triggered, you are making it harder for people who have triggers to be taken seriously. You are actively hindering their ability to participate in society. This is not fucking okay.

Conclusion

Mental health triggers are complicated things. They vary from person to person, as do people’s responses to them. The same person can respond to them differently depending on context. While they often manifest emotionally or mentally, they can also manifest physically. They exist for more than just PTSD.

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices allow people who have mental health triggers to more safely engage with content they otherwise may have to avoid entirely, and avoiding content because of what it contains is always a valid choice.

Mocking people’s mental health is not okay.

Clothes

The behaviors exhibited by groups with large influence, such as companies that spend a lot on advertising, can influence the public’s perception of certain groups to perpetuate marginalization.

Case in point: How clothing companies treat and present women above a certain size.

When looking at clothes, it quickly becomes clear that they are largely designed by people who feel that women with larger bodies should be ashamed and hide. The fact that excessively-baggy, box-shaped shirts are basically all that’s available in plus sizes? That’s what this is. We aren’t supposed to feel proud of how our bodies look, because they’re not one of the Approved Shapes And Sizes.

Sometimes I’ll feel this immense shame and anxiety about how my body looks, and every time I examine it I come to the same conclusion: these feelings are not an attribute of my body, they’re an attribute of how society treats it. As much as I hate to admit it, the way I feel about my body can be strongly influenced by how the world around me perceives it.

Only being able to find clothes that hide the shape of my body, instead of accentuating it, very clearly presents a message I do not agree with: that people with bodies like mine are inherently unattractive, and our bodies should be hidden in shame.

It’s devastating how easy it is to start believing this, how easy it is to hide yourself because of this, how easy it is to perpetuate this. I try my best to not only avoid perpetuating it, but actively fight it. And, frankly, it’s really fucking hard.

These ideas are forced on you from birth. It becomes ingrained, and it takes so much to fight this toxic idea that bodies like mine are inherently bad, and sometimes I forget and I believe the message the clothes on the rack are screaming so clearly.

I’m here to remind you that they’re wrong. My body is lovable. Your body is lovable. There are no exceptions.

What should I do if I can’t tell someone’s gender?

Not give a shit.

Glad I could clear that up for you.

 

Also, you shouldn’t really be assuming gender anyway, because it’s literally impossible to always accurately guess it. There’s also the problem where gender and pronouns aren’t directly tied, and what you probably want to know is what pronouns to use.

Remember: If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, it’s usually safe to use singular they. However, if you can ask or they tell you, only use the pronouns they say to — to use anything but what they want you to is just fucking rude.

Be sure to follow @trainsgendering and @_inatri on Twitter for more helpful advice about Not Being An Asshole To Transgender People™.