Two Thousand, Forty Seven Migrant Children Separated From Parents! Reunite!!

 

 On Tuesday, June 26, 2018.  Judge Dana Sabraw of the Federal District Court of San Diego issued a preliminary injunction to stop the separation of migrant children from their parents. He also set up a strict timetable for reuniting the families: Children under the age of five must be reunited with their parents within 14 days.  Other minor children must be reunited within 30 days- unless a parent is deemed to be unfit or to be a danger to the child.

Trump administration officials were surprised by the injunction and timetable affecting children in 100 sites scattered in 17 states across the country.  Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said they were trying to put children in touch with their parents. But they were not planning to release the children while their parents were being detained to face prosecution on charges of trying to enter the United States illegally. Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services told a senate committee the same day that before releasing the children, the government must “vet” them.  Other officials said that process could take “weeks”. Jonathan White, a Public Human Services officer said the federal government may request from a parent a birth certificate or use DNA testing, as well as doing a criminal background check.  Secretary Azar also said his department was also holding nine thousand children in their shelters who were unaccompanied when they entered illegally.

Judge Sabraw in his order said actions by federal agencies, “had resulted in the casual if not deliberate separation of families that lawfully present at the port of entry, not just those who cross into the country illegally.”  He added, “Some parents have been already deported without their children who remain in government facilities within the  United States.”   The number of children in this situation was not available from officials.

The zero tolerance policy declared by President Trump had been put into effect rapidly by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.   Pictures of crying children being taken from their parents engulfed the cable news stations.   A Time magazine Cover showed a crying tiny two year old girl, who had become famous as her picture went viral, looking up at Donald Trump peering down at her.  Against the red background was the title, “Welcome to America”.  TV showed a scene in New York City where officials were walking with small children who had been flown late at night from the sourthern border. Governors of states were not informed of migrant children being brought there.  Newspaper editorials and Cable TV panels assailed the president for the zero tolerance policy that was tearing families apart and causing “chaos” and “long lasting harm to the children”. Neither George W. Bush, nor Barack Obama had ever separated families with their immigration policies.  Public pressure grew until Trump finally relented and ended the separation policy.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat and ranking member on the Judiciary Committee said, “This is a manufactured crisis, plain and simple. Previous presidents have found ways to enforce our immigration laws without separating children from their parents.”

By Saturday, June 28, Americans across the country organized events and marches in every state in the union against the separation of migrant children from their parents. Their slogan was “Reunite!”   MSNBC and CNN carried the protests non-stop with interviews of individual families and spotlights on famous entertainers who sang, and political figures who gave inspiring speeches.  Before a massive audience in Los Angeles,  Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Maxine Waters had the crowd clapping and cheering with their dynamic attacks on the Trump zero based policy separating children from parents. “We are Better Than This!”….. Harris insisted after each example she gave of the lasting harm the policy was doing to the children.   “Make sure you shoot straight!” warned Waters who has been insulted often by Trump.  She stressed her knowledge of The Constitution in contrast to the president.

In Washington D.C. thousands of protestors marched into Lafayette Square opposite the White House, chanting “Families belong together.”  Donald Trump was not at home. He was playing golf at his club in Bedminster New Jersey. Throughout the country, many people held “Abolish ICE signs.”   The Immigration and Customs Agency” is a growing target of Americans appalled by the harsh treatment and deportation of Immigrants who have lived in the United States for years.  There were huge rallies and marches in border cities like El Paso, Texas and state capitals like Atlanta Georgia.   In Oregon, a tent city protest had started at ICE headquarters earlier in the month.  A rally there brought thousands.  The 90 degree heat across the country did not stop entire families, many with small children from taking part.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat from Washington State said, “ The idea of kids in cages and asylum seekers in prison, and moms being separated from breast feeding children, this is just beyond politics.” On Thursday, she had been arrested with more than 500 other women outside a Senate office building in Washington as part of a Women’s Protest March against Trump’s Immigration policy. In New York Ctiy, a crowd more than a mile long slowly crossed the Brooklyn Bridge carrying signs: “Abolish ICE”,  “Reunite families.” One woman said to a reporter, “The most important question to ask is what is the process to reunite these families.”

President Trump is doing his best to move away from the chaos and turmoil he created by his policy to separate children from their parents.  His basic tactic is always distraction from any troubling issue at hand.  Now, he is emphasizing the search for a Supreme Court nomination since Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired. However, the American people reminded him on Saturday when they marched by the thousands, women, men and children, that his administration must reunite the families he separated. We are waiting impatiently for that to happen. Trump caused it.  Now he has to pay attention to finding a solution. FAST!

……………………………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump’s Chaotic June Diary: Scorned G-7 Allies. Praised Kim Jong-Un. Separated Migrant Children From Parents.

 

Prologue:  Three major events marked Donald Trump’s June, 2018. First:  his insults and scorning of allies at the G-7 meeting in Quebec.  Second: his praising and embracing dictator Kim Jong Un at the Singapore Summit.  Third: his separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents. 

G-7 Meeting.  On June 9,  Trump left the meeting early, tweeting on his plane that his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “dishonest” and “weak”.   Trump  had failed to sign the group’s collective statement affirming “ our shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights”….During the session, Trump had demanded that Putin/Russia be readmitted unconditionally four years after their expulsion for annexing Crimea. A central part of the meeting brought strong objections  to Trump about his tariffs on steel and aluminum by leaders from Britain, Germany, Japan and the European Union.  They called the tariffs the start of a “trade war”.  U.S. reporters described Trump’s behavior and statements as a strong rejection of the geopolitical alliances built after World War II , The United Nations, NATO and the international monetary system.  David Leonhardt, New York Times, June 11, wrote “Trump Tries to Destroy the West. He wants to break up the Atlantic alliance that shaped the past century.”

Singapore Summit: Donald Trump flew directly from the G-7 to Singapore for his long anticipated meeting with Kim Jong Un.  It would be the first time a United States president and a Noth Korean leader would come together.  This in itself was seen as a victory of recognition and prestige for Kim.  They both arrived in Singapore and finally met on a stage with huge flags from their countries as a backdrop. The two men shook hands smiling and appeared to be in good spirits. After past bitter exchanges alluding to nuclear weapons, the pictures were startling to view.

Trump, at 71 towered over Kim, 34. Each put one hand on the other’s back as they walked.  They retired to rooms for a private five hour meeting with only their interpreters included.  At the end of the session, they were shown signing a joint statement in which Trump agreed to suspend the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. He called them “provocative” , a word that Kim used.  Kim agreed to a vague projection of “ denuclearization”,  a similar promise that his father and grandfather had used in past signed documents that were never fulfilled.  Trump flew home praising Kim for becoming a ruler at 27 as “a very smart man”, and tweeted that Americans could now feel “safe”.  He talked about whether he would receive the Nobel prize for bringing “world peace”.

Separating Migrant Children From Their Parents:  In March, 2017, General John Kelly, then homeland security secretary said, children would be separated from their parents if migrant families were apprehended entering the country illegally, “in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network.” In May, 2018, when there was a sharp increase in southern border crossings, Donald Trump ordered a new border policy.  Called, “zero tolerance”, it became Attorney General Jeff Sessions job to put into effect.

Along with launching the new policy,  the president and the top administration officials falsely laid blame on the Democrats saying  laws they passed caused separation of children. Trump told reporters, “ I hate separating children. We have to get the Democrats to work with us.” Fact: There is no law that requires children to be taken from children.  In addition, the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said, “ The Obama administration. The Bush administration all separated families. They absolutely did. ”  The facts are that both Obama and Bush never had a policy of separating families, which they rejected as inhumane and politically perilous.

As the news of the zero tolerance policy became known,  TV cable news showed pictures of crying children being housed in huge metal cages.  The nation’s newspapers ran front page stories of bereft parents not told where their children had been taken to. Time Magazine had a red cover with a tiny crying little girl  (whose picture had gone viral) looking up at Trump who peers down….” Welcome to America. “ Commentators on cable talked to panels of child psychologists about life long damage to the children.  Historians were interviewed.  Senators were blocked from entering detention centers for children.

On Monday June 19,  Trump reacted  against the growing outcry in defense of his policy. “They could be murderers and thieves and so much else. We want a safe country and it starts with the borders. And that’s the way it is. “   Attorney General Jeff Sessions also defended the practice, “we do not want to separate parents from the children.”   The avalanche of criticism continued.  Former first ladies spoke out forcefully by June 20.  Rosalyn Carter:  “The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.”    Laura Bush, “ I live in a border state. I understand the need to …  protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel.  It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”  Hillary Clinton: “Every parent who has ever held a child in their arms, every human being with a sense of compassion and decency, should be outraged.”    Michelle Obama re- tweeted Laura Bush’s ‘It is immoral. It breaks my heart”.  Adding, “Sometimes truth transcends party.”

On Thursday, June 21, The New York Times headline , IN RETREAT, TRUMP HALTS SEPARATING MIGRANT FAMILIES.  The  president finally gave in to the political pressure and signed an executive order to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together indefinitely.  “We’re going to have strong, very strong borders but we’re going to keep the families together. I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

In the days that followed, four military bases prepared to house 20,000 migrant children while government lawyers searched the map to locate the 2,300 who had already be sent to New York, Texas and other states.  “Chaos on the ground” was one description. Many observers believed that some children would never be reunited with their parents, especially those who had already been deported back to Central American countries.

Critics of the president accused him of using children as “hostages” to obtain the money needed to build his long touted Wall!  On June 23,  he flew to Las Vegas for a rally of his followers.  Trump was cheered when he insisted, “We need strong borders. If we show any weakness, they will come by the millions.” ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

Three Hundred Million Guns: Can We Keep Our School Children Safe?

Prologue:  This blog was posted after the Parkland High School massacre.  It is necessary to post it again to remind us that nothing significant has happened in laws passed by our Congress since then!  Certain states have passed statutes, but the major legislation needed from the federal government has not occurred.  Our  president has appointed a Commission to study gun violence. Do we really need one more commission?  He also recommends that teachers be equipped with guns in their classrooms.  Is this the best we can do?  I remember Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and the other Parkland students.  They talked straight. And they knew we needed a ban on assault rifles first.  Along with  major laws to control gun sales and usage.  They are not giving up.  Are the rest of us?

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The United States leads all advanced countries with our number of guns and mass shootings in schools.  Every day dozens of Americans are killed by guns.  Over 32,000 deaths occur every year; 40 percent homicides and 60 percent suicides. A  gun is the main weapon. Local newspapers and TV  report local people who died as a part of their daily coverage.  Yet, when a shooting occurs in one of our schools, horror and shock engulfs the entire nation.  Columbine High School in Colorado was first when two seniors gunned down 12 students and one teacher in a carefully planned attack.  That was 1999.   It is now 2018 and the high school in Parkland, Florida was where a 19 year old gunman killed seventeen and wounded fourteen students and adults with an AR-15 assault rifle.  He carried multiple rounds of ammunition.

After each mass shooting occurred, there have been renewed attempts to tighten gun control laws in the individual states and the federal government. The most effective federal law ever passed was the Ban on Assault Weapons passed in 1994 during the Bill Clinton Democratic administration. It had a ten year duration, but failed renewal after 2004. Over the ten years it had been in effect, the rate of deaths by those weapons fell across the country. That was also the time that the National Rifle Association, N.R.A., built its power over members of Congress, They  set up their report card for each member’s voting record,  and made significant dollar contributions to their two year renewal campaigns.

After the Newtown, Connecticut massacre of twenty first-grade children and their teachers on December 12, 2012,  the state was able to pass a ban on assault weapons.  New York, a neighboring state also passed an assault ban.  At present, California,  four other states and the District of Columbia have also passed assault weapons bans. The laws include magazines that shoot multiple rounds in seconds. Newtown had an impact on the entire country.  Parents and legislators organized and fought long and hard battles against the N.R.A. In Congress Senators Manchin and Toomey led the attempt to pass a law fo background checks, closing loop holes at gun shows and on the internet. The law had the support of 85 percent of the American public.  The N.R.A. became active in the halls of Congress and the law failed. to pass. On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the Connecticut and New York laws banning assault weapons. It was a welcome victory for gun control advocates.

After a mass shooting, gun sales often increase, especially for semi-automatic rifles. Those people most concerned that the government will pass restrictive laws appear to be anxious to stock up before a ban occurs. The Second Amendment credo of the N.R.A. increases in volume and intensity among militia members in the NorthWest.  They are ever anxious that the helicopters will be landing to take away their guns. Conspiracy theories rise and fall over the years, documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the best source for information on Hate Groups in the United States.

After shootings in the nation’s schools, Presidents have spoken to the country, to assuage grief and bring comfort to the families who have lost their children.  Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama each addressed the entire nation. Donald Trump did speak to the country, emphasizing the mental health issue. He made no mention of guns. It is relevant to note that earlier in his administration, Trump approved the removal of an Obama regulation that would prevent people with mental disabilities from buying guns.  When he was asked by critics about the need for tighter restrictions on guns, he replied by urging Americans to report behavior of “mentally disturbed people” to the authorities.   His position is reflected in the statements by Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives.  When asked by reporters whether it was time for more control of  assault rifles, he said we need more facts before rushing ahead.   In earlier years, after the Orlando Massacre,  with 49 dead and 43 injured,  Speaker Ryan called sit-ins in the House by Democrats led by Civil Rights icon, John Lewis “a publicity stunt”.  After every mass shooting, the N.R.A. advocates placing armed guards in every school in the country.   School districts have not chosen to take that path to safety.  The N.R.A. has a mantra they promote whenever possible, “It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.”   That slogan is aimed at increasing gun sales, including assault rifles. It seems to have worked since gun sales increase after each mass shooting.

Keeping our schools safe rests in the hands of the members of Congress. All 435 members of the House of Representatives will be up for election in  November, 2018.  The Midterms give every eligible American a chance to vote for their representative.  Find out their position on passing Gun Control laws; background checks , closing loopholes at gun shows and internet, and a ban on assault rifles. We have all witnessed too many candle light vigils, flags at half mast, moments of silence and heart broken parents since Columbine.  It is long past the time to take action to stop the escalating proliferation of guns and assault weapons in our schools and our nation.

……………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

Supreme Court re Trump Travel Ban: Remember Korematsu v. United States!

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Prologue:  After the Japanese surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his famous “day of infamy” speech” before a joint session of Congress. The United States then declared war on Japan and its Axis partners Germany and Italy. This marked our entry into World War II which would last until l945. The country mobilized in many ways, war plants building planes, tanks, ships and all the weapons  needed  for both the ETO , European Theater of Operations and the Asian theater at the same time. A draft of service men was begun and all men , eighteen and older had to register.

In California, there were large settlements of Japanese immigrants who had come during previous decades and established very productive farms on the worst swampy lands they were allowed to purchase.  There was jealousy toward them already because of their skills in farming.  About 120,000 Japanese  Americans had lived peaceably for decades  Families had raised children who had been born here and were American citizens.  Overseeing Calilfornia, Oregon and Washington States was the West Coast Defense Command headed by General John De Witt . He was known to be suspicious of the Japanese as possible threats to security and answered F.D.R. with “A Jap is a Jap!” when questioned.  De Witt did not differentiate between the immigrant parents and their children who were citizens. He recommended removal and internment of all Japanese Americans from California, Oregon and Washington.  It is important to note that in Hawaii, with one third Japanese population, there was never any such internment  instituted and there was never an incident of sabotage during the entire war.

F.D. R. signed the historic executive order in 1942 that gave the Japanese Americans one week to pack one suitcase each and report for internment. They were forced to sell their farms at rock bottom prices to eager buyers, but did not protest the removal order.  Their culture was one of dignity and reserve when faced with hostile legal authority.  They dressed in their best clothing and boarded trains to unknown temporary housing in such places as empty race course stables.  From there, in the months ahead they were transferred to camps in desert settings far from established towns or cities.  The camps were ringed with barbed wire and patrolled by soldiers. Housing was rugged barracks constructed for multiple families. The names reverberate across the years,  Manzanar, Topaz, Gila River, Heart Mountain, Jerome, Tule.  In these desolate camps in Utah, Arizona, Arkansas and California, they continued their lives and created schools,  newspapers, churches.  They also grew their gardens of desert cacti and other plants able to survive and grow with sparse water. In 1943, it became possible for young men of military age in the camps to enlist in the United States Army. Certain of these Japanese U.S. citizens did just that. They left the camps and became the famous 442nd Army infantry regiment known as  “Go for Broke” . They fought their way up Italy and through Germany to eventually lead the Victory Parade in Paris as the most decorated unit in the entire European Theater of Operations.

History: In 1944, Fred Korematsu, son of Japanese immigrants filed a lawsuit: Korematsu  v. United States that reached the  Supreme Court.  December, 1944  by a six to three decision, the court found him guilty  of evading forced expulsion to an internment camp. That decision upholding F.D.R’s executive order  has never been formally disavowed.  In 1982, a Congressional commission concluded that “the internment of Japanese Americans was a grave injustice” caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership”.  They added that “the decision in Korematsu lies overruled in the court of history.”   Justice Antonin Scalia, ranked  Korematsu with Dred Scott, the 1857 decision that black slaves were property and not citizens, as the court’s most “disastrous rulings.”  Justice Robert Jackson in his dissent in Korematsu called it  “a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”

President Trump’s Travel Ban # Three.  Donald J . Trump, said on December 8, 2015, early in his campaign, “I’m calling for a shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. Take a look at what F.D.R. did many years ago. He did the same thing. This is a president who is highly respected by all.”   Of course, the executive order F.D.R. signed was not the “ same thing”.  The issue of exclusion of an entire group based on nationality or religious bias is not the same as removing and interning a group who are already living in the country.

On Wednesday, April 25, the Supreme Court heard arguments from the administration’s Solicitor General, Noel Francisco and Neal Katyal, the leading lawyer representing the challengers to Trump’s Third Travel Ban.  In 2011, Neal Katyal had been the acting solicitor U.S. general who issued a “confession of error”  for the actions of government lawyers in the  Korematsu case. The challengers ,including Hawaii, several individuals and a Muslim group, argued that the ban was “the fulfillment of the president’s promise to prohibit Muslim immigration to the United States.” There were also two supporting briefs from children of Japanese-Americans held in the detention camps and several public interest groups. Lawyers for the Japanese-Americans Citizens League told the justices, “History teaches caution and skepticism when vague notions of national security are used to justify vast unprecedented exclusionary measures that target disfavored citizens.”

The challengers had hoped that Justice Anthony Kennedy, known as the swing vote,  or Chief Justice John Roberts would join the four liberal justices,  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor,  Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan and find the  Travel Ban  unconstitutionally discriminatory against Muslims.  However, as the questioning unfolded , the five member conservative majority appeared hostile to challengers’ questions and ready to support the Third Ban.  Chief Justice Roberts asked at one point,  whether Mr. Trump would ever be able to address immigration in light of his campaign statements. “Is there a statute of limitations on that?” Justice Kennedy pressed Mr. Katyal whether judges should second guess a president’s national security judgements.  He then added, skeptically, “That’s for the courts to do, not the president?”  Mr. Katyal responded that presidents ordinarily deserve substantial deference. But he said the travel ban was so extreme that the Supreme Court should step in. Justice Kennedy also noted that the latest travel ban was longer and more detailed than proclamations issued by earlier presidents.

Chief Justice Roberts posed  hypothetical questions to Mr. Katyal about the president’s power to thwart terrorist attacks.  “We have 100 percent solid information that on a particular day, nationals from Syria are going to enter the United States with chemical and biological weapons.  They could kill tens of thousands  Americans. In that situation, could the president ban the entry of Syrian nationals on that day?”   Mr. Katyal said that presidents have the power to address emergencies, but not to create sustained discrimination.

After hours of oral arguments, it appeared that the justices were focused primarily on threats to national security and any presidents’s responsibility to protect the nation.  They did not agree with former district court judges and appellate judges decisions on the first two travel bans  as well as the third that focus on Donald  J. Trump’s speeches and comments since 2015 and throughout  his campaign that revealed his strong bias against Muslims.  All the previous decisions at the District Court level and the Appeals Court levels had emphasized the direct link of his bias toward Muslims to the First and Second Bans as well as the Third.

Toward the end of the arguments, Mr. Katyal said Mr. Trump and his advisers could easily have  repudiated his statements.  “Instead, they embraced them.”  The chief justice then asked, “If tomorrow he issues a proclamation saying that he is disavowing all those statements,  then the next day he can re-enter this proclamation?”  Mr. Katyal responded, “Yes.”  In his rebuttal argument, Mr. Francisco insisted that Mr. Trump has already made clear that “he had no intention of imposing the Muslim ban. He has made crystal clear that Muslims in this country are great Americans…”  “This policy is about foreign policy and national security.”  The nine justices will have until June to make a final decision on the Third Trump Travel Ban.

We who are United States citizens have listened to the president’s words, comments and speeches during the first year of his presidency as well as during the campaign.  Let us hope we have learned to judge him by his actions as well as his words throughout these long months.

Is it too much to expect that the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the highest court in the land will remember Korematsu v. United States. What  happened in 1942 when F.D.R. listened to General De Witt.  And decided that all Japanese Americans, including citizens and their parents,  would be removed and interned far from their homes because they were a threat to the security of the nation.   There was no evidence to support this drastic decision to remove and intern 120,000 Japanese Americans, half of whom were citizens!  

The members of the Supreme Court would be wise to remember the words of the philosopher George Santayana: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To James B. Comey: J’accuse …!

 

James Comey , former F.B.I. Director, has written his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership”, and we are all transported back to the days when he first met President Donald J. Trump.  The book was a front page story in leading newspapers and cable TV on Friday, April 13. From The New York Times:  “Visceral Details and Grim View of President in Comey Memoir”. TV interviews took place on Sunday while the White House launched a “war room “ to attack Comey and counter revelations in the memoir.  Trump, of course, sent a series of furious tweets about “Lyin Comey” in the days that followed.

Comey , who had been a federal prosecutor in New York before he headed the F.B.I. ,  describes in the book the time he helped take down the Gambino Crime family – The Mob. “ The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us versus them world view. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”  Comey’s  draws an analogy between the Mafia boss and the current occupant of the Oval Office.  He writes, “The president is unethical and untethered to institutional values.  His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

This blog was written in May, 2017, six months  after Donald J.Trump was elected to office in November 2016.  James Comey had held  two sensational  press conferences about Hillary Clinton’s emails.  The second came in October, just eleven days before the election!  Plus a final announcement the Sunday before election day on Tuesday. It is worth looking back at exactly how those days enfolded. The result was that Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States of America.  We all have been witness to what that has meant to the country and the world.

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Prologue: As Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey  supervises 50 state field offices in large cities and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  His responsibilities are broad and significant.  He reports directly to the United States Attorney General at the Department of Justice.  His job is to oversee the development and completion of appropriate investigations. The next step is to give his findings to the U.S. Attorney General.  James Comey was appointed to his current position in 2013 by President Barack Obama. During the hard fought 2016 presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,   Director Comey became a controversial figure.

Act One:  As the  presidential campaign unfolded, it became known that Secretary Clinton had used a private server for emails,  following the practice of former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Colin Powell.  Bernie Sanders, her opponent in the Democratic primary, said in a debate, “The American people are sick and tired of your damn emails!”  This brought much laughter and a hug from Clinton who agreed and thanked him for his good natured response.  However, when Donald Trump became her opponent in 2015,  the email issue emerged as  one of his favorite attack lines, calling her “Crooked Hillary”  and inviting a chant of  “Lock her up!” from his supporters at the Republican convention and  rallies that followed.

The F.B.I. interest in Clinton’s emails began in July 2015 when the intelligence community learned that classified information had been found on certain e-mails. On July 10, the F.B. I. opened an investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information.   The investigation lasted into the summer of 2016.  By the end of June, agents finally interviewed Clinton aides and Hillary, who was interviewed for over three hours on July 3.  On the morning of July 5, Comey called Attorney General Lynch and said he was going to hold a news conference.  He did not tell her what he planned to say.  As  his superior, she did not insist he tell her.

The F.B.I. summoned reporters to their headquarters in D.C. for the briefing from Director Comey.   A few blocks away, Hillary was about to give a speech.  At the Justice Department, prosecutors and F.B.I. agents watched anxiously.  All Cable TV stations carried Comey’s conference  live.  Comey strode into a large room in  the F. B. I. building and stood in front of two American flags and two royal blue F.B.I. flags.  At six foot  8, he was a commanding figure.  He read his remarks from a script in a firm, clear voice for fifteen minutes.  Comey said F.B.I. agents had reviewed 30,000 emails and found 110 that contained classified information.  He added that computer hackers may have compromised her emails. He criticized the State Department’s lax security culture and Secretary Clinton directly.  He called Clinton and her aides “extremely careless” in their handling of the emails. This became the most quoted phrase by TV and press reporters. Many listeners said later they expected him to announce criminal charges as Trump had been urging for months. That did not happen.  In the last two minutes, Comey explained that the agents had found no criminal “intent”.  Therefore, Comey said, “no charges are appropriate in this case.”

Comey had broken established Justice Department rules of procedure.  His job was to give the F.B.I. investigation findings to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  She would then decide if further action was warranted.  Donald Trump called the system “ rigged” and rejected Comey’s failure to bring criminal charges.  Comey followed it up with a meeting a few days later with angry Republicans in the House of Representatives. He assured them he would keep them abreast of any further revelations. Throughout the rest of the heated campaign, Trump wielded  Comey’s remarks as a constant refrain. Hillary had been “extremely careless” and could not be trusted as president.

Act Two.  October 28, 2016 was only eleven days before November 8, Election Day.  The polls showed Clinton with a clear lead. Almost all forecasters predicted she would have a strong victory in the Electoral College. Then,  James Comey called a second press conference to announce that thousands of emails from Anthony Weiner , husband of Clinton’s top aide had included  some involving Hillary Clinton.  Therefore, he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails.  This BREAKING NEWS on all cable stations was immediately lableled a violation of a long standing  tradition in the political world: There could be no information or introduction of news that would roil the campaign within sixty days of the election.  This tradition, that had been followed for 50 years, was inscribed in writing by Attorney General Eric Holder during the Obama years.  It was FORBIDDEN  by Justice Department rules to do what James Comey did that day.

In the days that followed, it became known that Loretta Lynch and her deputies had urged Comey not to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Donald Trump chortled and embraced Comey after castigating him for months.  Hillary Clinton kept to her schedule of rallies and  speeches.  She even moved into red states  that appeared to be turning blue. The polls continued to show she was leading Trump in both Electoral College votes and the Popular Vote. But the margin  had narrowed.

Act Three:  On Sunday, November 6, two days before Election Day,  Director Comey sent a final letter to Congress.  He said his agents had worked their way through thousands of emails and “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusion that we reached in July.”   James Comey did not vote on Election Day, records show. The first time he ever skipped a national election.  Hillary Clinton said, “Our analysis is that Comey’s letter, raising doubts that were groundless, baseless… stopped our momentum.”  She pointed to polling data that showed late deciding voters choosing Trump in large  numbers.

Epilogue:  We have learned since the election that James Comey and the F.B. I. were beginning their investigation of possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump Campaign in July, 2016 when he held his first News Conference about Hillary Clinton.   This investigation continues and has become a major news story during the First Hundred Days.  When asked why he didn’t say anything before the election about this, he answers that it was not completed at the time. Comey continues to stand by his news conferences and letters to Congress  about Clinton’s emails. He told Senate Judiciary members  he is “mildly nauseous”  at the idea he swayed votes and caused Hillary Clinton to be the loser in the election, making Donald Trump president! Each citizen can make his or her own judgment on that question. I have made mine as reflected in the title of this blog.

……………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

People Skills for M.D. Dummies!

 

 

In this high tech age, we are no longer surprised nor insulted by book titles like “Word Perfect for Dummies” or “Microsoft Works for Dummies”.  In fact, many of us are thrilled to have books that spell out the basics for entry into the mysteries of the computer world.

It seems there’s another area of life that needs a similar primer. It’s a world most of us know very well, the world of the doctor and the patient. There have been galactic leaps forward in medicine in recent years. Amazing new surgical techniques.  New treatments for heart attack and stroke victims that minimize potential damage.  New drugs for a myriad of diseases. Radiation and chemotherapy advances to fight cancer. Shortened hospital stays. Faster recovery time to restored health. For all of these advances, we are profoundly grateful.

However, there still remains a need to improve the people skills of many doctors practicing today. Comedians like to say, “When will they stop practicing and get it right?”  In terms of interpersonal communication, there is less humor and more truth in the question.  Certainly, not  all physicians are guilty of this problem. (This writer has been very fortunate to have been treated by physicians with the best people skills one could wish for. ) But enough qualify to warrant a refresher book. How about calling it “People Skills for M.D. Dummies” . Do you think it could be a best seller?

Here are a few first hand accounts:   Scene: Wedding Reception. Mother of the groom has big red blisters on her forehead, result of a poorly timed painful eruption of shingles. She’s being a good sport, says she’s “patriotic, red blisters, white glasses and blue eyes.”  One of the guests, a doctor, looks at her forehead without an invitation, and pronounces in an offhand manner, “Oh, you have shingles.  Some of my patients have pain from that for years.” Thanks a lot for that encouraging information.  And, who asked you?

Scene, Office of an Ophthalmologist: Couple in their 80’s having their regular checkup.  As the doctor examines the husband, he says, “The left eye doesn’t look too good. You need to make an appointment for a zapping.”  Translation, after cataract removals, scars sometimes form. A laser zap usually corrects the problem. In this case, his lead in comment raised anxiety. Then, the doctor asked the wife, “Do you drive?”  She answered “Yes”. The couple then worried for two weeks until their next appointment.  Zapping went smoothly. His sight war restored to 20/25.

Have you ever been in a hospital when a new doctor, perhaps a resident or an intern, appears at your bedside? He’s holding your chart and says,  “Good morning, I’m Dr. X and how are you feeling today, Mary?”  Mary is sixty eight years old, holds a Master’s Degree and has three children older than the doctor. Call her Mrs. Evans. She has earned that title of respect with her years.

Or the response to a patient who deals with constant pain, when she related that the new medicine is giving her five or six good hours at the start of the day. Then the pain returns in force. Her neurologist replies, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Is that supposed to help her get through the afternoon and the evening?

Finally, an unusual situation with a sighted woman who taught Braille transcription to others to produce books for the blind.  During her check up with her optholmologist, he said in a matter of fact manner,  ‘You have a condition where you could wake up blind one day.”  As she was reeling from his cool comment, he added, “Well,  Mrs. S.  You know Braille already.”  She came home in an understandable state of shock.  She never returned to his office again. And happily, it never happened.

Now, many of us thought the medical schools were giving courses these days in interpersonal relations as well as anatomy and biology.  Some of them are.  We had hoped that the new generation would learn that human interaction is at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship.  We even hoped some of the old dogs would learn some of the new tricks.  And some of them have. For the others, here’s a starter list until someone writes the book for M.D.  Dummies:

  1. Each patient is an individual with inherent dignity of being.
  2. The words you use and how you say them are very powerful. Think before you speak.
  3. Patients need time to absorb what you are saying. Hearing is not listening. Make sure your instructions are clear. Write them or ask the patient to write them. Ask for questions.
  4. Take a course in interpersonal relations if this is a new subject for you. They may be available at medical conferences or schools.
  5. Make sure that everyone who works in your office — receptionist, nurse, assistants take a course or have a seminar in your office for everyone. A patient doesn’t want to meet a “dragon lady’ at the front desk or on the telephone.
  6. Patients are often worried when they come to your office with a problem. Some are frightened. Never forget that. Your welcome matters. Your smile matters. Your job is to treat the entire person. Not just the rotator cuff or the intestine.
  7. We know you are usually pressed for time. Try to make each patient feel you are giving them quality time. It doesn’t take many extra minutes. It’s all in the eye contact, the concentration, the personal word. A touch of the hand. Try it. You may like it.
  8. Stay on top of your field. That’s why patients come to you. But never forget that your main endeavor is to heal the whole human being. How you communicate tells them who you are as well as how they are. That’s the key to the entire equation.
  9. Rent the movies “The Hospital” 1971 and “The Doctor”  1991. The former with George C. Scott is a sardonic look inside a big city hospital.  The latter follows William Hurt, an arrogant surgeon who is diagnosed with throat cancer and learns what it means to be a patient. It was based on the true life story of Dr. Ed Rosenbaum, described in his book , “A Taste of My Own Medicine”. This movie is an education in itself for any doctor.

A final story from the positive side of the ledger.  The memory of an obstetrician , a big gentle man who looked like a fullback and instilled confidence in a weary and frightened young woman having her first baby. At the end of sixteen hours of hard labor, when the baby was still not ready to emerge into the world, Dr. S. sat in a chair at her side and calmed her down just by being there. Sixty years ago, the father was not allowed to be with the mother through those long hours alone in a white tiled room with an occasional nurse coming in to check “progress”.  Dr. S. was there at the end when it was hardest.  He gave her something to ease the pain and delivered an 8 pound, 4 ounce son at two in the afternoon.  He will always be remembered with gratitude, respect and affection. He was a kind and caring human being as well as a skilled physician.  We need more men and women of his caliber in medicine today.

This is a beginning list for the Dummies book.  Please add a few ideas of your own. If you are a doctor or a patient or both, you are probably an expert on the subject.

…………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Madness: Donald J. Trump Style!

 

Basket Ball always accelerates in March as college teams are matched to choose the best in the nation.  This year, the White House created their own chaotic version of March Madness with shocking events. Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with a six a.m. tweet as Tillerson returned from a grueling tour of Africa at four a.m. to D.C.  Trump had already fired Rob Porter, the aide who handed top security information to the president in the Oval Office.  Next was  Hope Hicks his trusted, close confidant for years in the White House.   Headlines and cable interviews followed Stormy Daniels, the former porn star and her lawyer.  She had been paid over $130,000  to stay quiet about her affair with the president a week before the 2016 election.   Trump also fired Lt. General H. R. Mc Master, National Security Adviser who had replaced General Mike Flynn in the key position  after serving for 24 days.   Flynn, who then was indicted by special counsel, Robert Mueller III , pled guilty and began cooperating with the Russia investigation.

Trump chose Mike Pompeo, the current C.I.A. director, to be his new secretary of state and John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations to be the next national security adviser. Both men have been ardent “hawks” in the past and are vehemently opposed to the 2015 Iran deal.  Bolton was a controversial figure at the United nations, once declaring about the tall U. N.building, “if ten stories disappeared, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”   The position of secretary of state must pass senate confirmation.  The national security adviser’s position does not require senate confirmation.  John Bolton was a strong supporter of the Iraq war and remains adamant that it was the right choice. His Senate hearing should be one to watch closely.

On March 29, The New York Times reported that Trump had fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and nominated his personal physician, the White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, to replace him.   Trump praised Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy , who had also been Obama’s physician as  “highly trained and qualified”.  However, this choice immediately raised questions from reporters and and political analysts since the VA is the second largest government agency with over 350,000 employees. The secretary is primarily a very challenging management position.  Jackson has no management experience.  Shulkin in an Op Ed in the Times explained that he had been working with members of the VA to avoid privatization of the agency. He stressed that there were advocates of privatization in the administration and that led to his being fired.  He wrote, “I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits , even if it undermines care for veterans.”

Current controversy swirls about Secretary Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) and Secretary Ben Carson of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD).  Rumors persist they may be the next to be fired by Trump.  Pruitt has spent enormous sums on increasing his protection staff to 20 people , building a secure phone booth, and deluxe air travel at enormous expenses. Carson made headlines with a $35,000 dining room set for his office suite.  He has recently eliminated the words “free from discrimination” and “inclusive’ from HUD’s mission statement. It has been reported that the Trump administration is trying to roll back enforcement of fair housing laws and slowing down officials who have been pursuing civil rights cases.

Easter weekend brought March to a close. Sunday was April first. The president skipped the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the White House.  He flew to Florida to play golf and invited some guests “three Fox News hosts led by Sean Hannity , an ex con and a pillow salesman” described on CNN cable news. On March 23,  David Sanger had written in The New York Times, about the  March firings of significant members of the White House team. “Just a month ago, the prevailing wisdom in Washington was that the triumvirate of General McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was the only restraining influence on Mr. Trump’s confrontational urges.  Now, only Mr. Mattis is left and there are increasing questions about how long he will last.”

On April l, The Times Magazine had a picture of General Mattis on the cover, “The Last Man Standing”.  Inside the article, there is a picture of  President Trump  at his first cabinet meeting last January with Rex Tillerson on his right and Jim Mattis on his left.  Trump is speaking, animatedly with both hands in the familiar spread finger manner. Tillerson and Mattis appear very grave, as if they are anticipating the difficult year to come.

………………………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson