Tag: Trump Administration

The hidden danger lurking behind Trump’s embarrassing 4th of July spectacle

On March 12, 1938, the vaunted German army was to make its triumphant entry into Austria—the infamous Anschluss by which a compliant Austrian government surrendered to the Nazis without a shot.

A grand parade of the Third Reich’s might was scheduled for the Austrian capital Vienna but the army’s tanks were not as invincible as the generals bragged. They quickly broke down, clogging the roads, stalling the advance, and infuriating Adolph Hitler. And so, French author and filmmaker Eric Vuillard writes in his eloquent essay, The Order of the Day, “the German troops loaded as many tanks as they could onto railroad cars… the trains hauled away the armor the way you’d transport circus equipment.” The parade went on as planned.

It was that image of massive weapons as circus gear that flashed to mind this week when photos were released of tanks on railroad cars in Washington, DC, ready to be placed on display at our National Mall on the orders of Donald Trump. They were part of his plan to hijack the Fourth of July and make our nation’s birthday all about him—a “Salute to America,” featuring the tanks, military flyovers (including the Blue Angels and Air Force One) and a speech made by the man who calls himself, “Your favorite President, me!” The White House, the Republican National Committee, and the Trump reelect distributed VIP tickets.

As per The New York Times, “Pentagon officials have long been reluctant to parade tanks, missiles, and other weapons through the nation’s capital like the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China. They say the United States, which has the world’s most powerful military and spends more on defense than the seven next largest military spenders combined—China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, and Germany—does not need to broadcast its strength.”

Many former military weren’t crazy about the idea either. Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commanded troops under George W. Bush, told Politico, “This looks like it’s becoming much more of a Republican Party event—a political event about the president—than a national celebration of the Fourth of July, and it’s unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that.” Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash added, “The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it’s absolutely obscene.”

(Mother Jones reported on Wednesday that soldiers assigned to the tanks and other armored vehicles plopped down among our national monuments had been given a card by the Pentagon about what to say to the public, including,  “I am proud of my job and my vehicle/tank. I am glad to share my experience with American People.”)

Anyone who has ever spent a Fourth of July in Washington knows that it’s a festive fun day in the capital, albeit wilting hot and sopping humid, usually above politics, featuring a parade, a folk life festival, grand music, and fireworks. But this year, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, usually a prime vantage point for watching the skyrockets, and the surrounding parkland were cordoned off for the invited guests so that they could watch our egomaniacal president and the first lady make a grand entrance across a red-carpeted stage at the spot where Marian Anderson sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” when she was barred from Constitution Hall by the DAR in 1939, and Martin Luther King, Jr., told an eager crowd in 1963 of his dreams for racial harmony and freedom.

Trump’s attempt to wedge himself and his reelection into the festivities—using, in part, taxpayer millions diverted from much needed repairs of the national parks—had the grace of that clown who tries to photobomb a group portrait in the high school yearbook, making faces and wiggling fingers in his ears. The speech, which many feared would be a partisan attack similar to the rants he delivers at his campaign rallies, turned out to be standard if dull rhetoric that sounded more like the third-place winning essay in an eighth grade civics contest than a speech by our putative chief executive. It went on at such monotonous length that CNN actually cut away for a commercial break, something I have never in my life seen happen during a presidential address.

Standing behind a wall of bulletproof glass so rain streaked it appeared he was speaking from behind a car windshield during a cloudburst, Trump was at his best when quoting the eloquence of his predecessors rather than the boilerplate of his speechwriters. (Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people ” was trundled out, but there was no mention of Abe’s “malice toward none.”) He lumbered through a rambling litany of moments in American history and named its greats, glossing over our sins, thanking all the branches of the military, and presenting notables in the audience who had been brought there, State of the Union-style, to be lauded for their achievements.

(One of them, Clarence Henderson, introduced by the president as among the first to participate in the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins in 1960 and cited by Trump as an exemplar of the success of civil rights, has in recent years been an outspoken Trump supporter and president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group that seeks, according to The Fayetteville Observer, “to grow the ranks of conservative Christian black Republicans.”)

Aside from the verbal slips he inevitably stumbles into when reading from a teleprompter (“ramparts/airports”) there was no groaner of an improvised joke or insult, although given his draft record, the call for young people to join the military was a little rich. That this failure to further embarrass the nation was cause for kudos from Republican leadership and some in the media gives an idea of how low we’ve let this man set the presidential performance bar.

But as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin noted in The Washington Post, Trump misconstrues American traditions: “What should be a commemoration of human rights (‘All men … ‘) and the unwavering faith in the rule of law and in democratic governance in Trump’s hands becomes a caffeinated Armed Services Day. He manages to transform a holiday about the greatest experiment in civilian self-government into a garish military Mardi Gras.”

So why spend even a moment wringing hands over such an event when there are horrors perpetrated by this regime on an hourly basis that far eclipse some uninspiring oratory and slipshod pageantry? When Trump perpetually lies, makes policy mayhem worldwide, utters dark threats about the homeless and deportations and allows men, women, and children to cluster in overcrowded squalid cellsalong our southern border?

Why bother? Because, as Eric Vuillard writes of World War II in The Order of the Day, “Great catastrophes often creep up on us in tiny steps.” Because on the same day a company donated $750,000 worth of free fireworks for Trump’s Fourth of July party, he dropped a tariff on imported Chinese fireworks that same company had been lobbying against. Because every bit of graft like that, every small indignity inflicted, each gesture and symbol of disdain, are reflective of a greater, potentially fatal insult to democracy and a degradation of the greater good that was idealized by the men who signed the Declaration.

Trump Pledged to End H.I.V. But His Policies Veer the Other Way.

WASHINGTON — In his State of the Union address, President Trump announced a bold plan to end the scourge of H.I.V. by 2030, a promise that seemed to fly in the face of two years of policies and proposals that go in the opposite direction and could undermine progress against the virus that causes AIDS.

In November, the Trump administration proposed a rule change that would make it more difficult for Medicare beneficiaries to get the medicines that treat H.I.V. infection and prevent the virus from spreading.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly urged Congress to repeal the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, even though Medicaid is the largest source of coverage for people with H.I.V. And he has promoted the sale of short-term health plans that skirt the Affordable Care Act, even though such plans usually exclude people with H.I.V.

To end the spread of the virus, federal health officials say they must reduce the stigma attached to gay men and transgender people who are at high risk so they will seek testing and treatment. But for two years the administration has tried to roll back legal protections for people in those groups.

Those opposing moves by the administration have AIDS activists baffled.

“The president’s announcement comes as a surprise, albeit a welcome surprise,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, the law and policy director at Lambda Legal, a gay rights group. “It represents an about-face on H.I.V. policy.”

The administration describes the plan to end the spread of H.I.V. as one of the most important public health initiatives in history. But the record shows a rather large gap between the administration’s words and deeds.

Since Medicare’s outpatient drug benefit began in 2006, the government has required prescription drug plans to cover “all or substantially all drugs” in six therapeutic classes, including antiretroviral medicines to treat H.I.V.

In November, the Trump administration proposed a new policy to cut costs for Medicare by reducing the number of drugs that must be made available to people with H.I.V.

The proposal would allow certain exceptions to the requirement for Medicare drug plans to cover all drugs in the six “protected classes.”

Insurers could require Medicare beneficiaries to get advance approval, or “prior authorization,” for H.I.V. drugs and could require them to try less expensive medications before using more costly ones, a practice known as step therapy.

People with H.I.V. and doctors have condemned the proposals.

Bruce Packett, the executive director of the American Academy of H.I.V. Medicine, representing doctors who care for H.I.V. patients, said the administration’s proposals “could be catastrophic” for Medicare patients with the virus, as well as for the president’s campaign to end the epidemic.

“At least 25 percent of all people living with H.I.V. who are in care in the United States rely on Medicare as their insurer,” Mr. Packett said.

Those patients are 65 or older or have disabilities and often have other chronic diseases or conditions, so doctors need access to the “full arsenal” of medicines to treat H.I.V., Mr. Packett said.

Many of the Medicare patients with H.I.V. are taking medicines for their other conditions, so doctors have to worry about drug interactions, Mr. Packett said. In addition, he said, some have drug-resistant strains of H.I.V., and different patients often respond to the same drug in different ways.

“It’s important that providers have access to all the available options” among drugs to treat H.I.V., he said.

Requirements for prior authorization and similar restrictions can delay the start of treatment. Studies show that a rapid start to therapy, within a week or even a day of diagnosis, produces better results for patients and reduces the likelihood that they will infect others while waiting for treatment.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/us/politics/trump-hiv-plan.html