Being “Brown” in America

I wrote this because I’ve been feeling so many emotions with the current events going on in our country. And writing is my outlet. And I am scared to share these thoughts. But I hope it sheds some light to someone else on being a person of color in America and how small interactions can be hurtful.

Being “Brown” in America

Being an excited eight year old starting at a new elementary school
To only be greeted by a new classmate
Saying that her parents said not to speak to you
Because you are dark
And not telling anyone
Because you don’t understand what you did wrong
But later not feeling surprised when a brown kid was murdered in this same town
The day after Trump was elected

Being a human having a stressful day
And then getting into an Uber
To have the driver exclaim,
“Oh, you’re Indian. We are listening to Indian music then.”
To which I respond,
“I don’t enjoy this music.”
To which he says,
“Well you’re Indian and you should so we are listening to it.”

Being an adult and having the color of your skin fetishized
So that boys are asking if they can “ride your magic carpet”
Or calling you Jasmine
Or saying they have always wanted to date an “exotic chick”
And feeling anger that you are not even sure how to process

Meeting a boyfriend’s parent for the first time
And being greeted in an Indian accent
And feeling so taken aback that you laugh
Even though every bit of you
Feels at odds

Meeting a friend’s parents who are Indian immigrants
And they keep asking why I cannot speak any Indian languages
And bluntly then saying my parents failed
And having most other Indian Americans I meet
Repeat the same harsh declaration
Until I feel neither dutiful enough to be considered Indian
Nor white enough to blend into America

Being asked constantly “where are you from?”
And having them not be satisfied with you stating your hometown
Or your current city of residence
Being pressed
Being grilled
By complete strangers
Until you comply with sharing your ethnic origins
And feeling like your white friend standing next to you
Never gets asked these same questions

Being at a music festival
To be stopped by a stranger
Who begins to make kind small talk
To then just loudly declare
“The people from your country are just so beautiful.”
And to abruptly walk away laughing.

But my country is America, isn’t it?
I was born here.

Writing these words
And feeling like I shouldn’t
Because so many people before
Have told me to just get over it
And that my dissent
Is negative

Advertisements

Are our jobs safe? For some, yes. For others, we need to act quickly. 

(Originally posted on August 8, 2017 at https://medium.com/@jeremyerdman)

Natalie, a friend of mine and accountant at the time, attended a presentation for software intended to hasten auditing. Accounting demands a lot of time and attention to detail, and busy season requires auditors to spend 12+ hours a day, seven days a week, at work. As expected, the presentation and possibility of more free time excited the crowd. She, however, saw the writing on the wall. She saw that the software’s ability to automate certain components of her work would eventually reduce demand for auditors. She no longer is an accountant and had plans to switch careers before this presentation, but I am certain this presentation did not cause her to second-guess her decision.

The manifestation of artificial intelligence and automation ranges from stereotypical robots depicted in movies to software improvements that make tasks and jobs simpler. In this way, economic changes from artificial intelligence and automation technology will be both very blatant and subtle. Job risk can be as expected as replacing airplane painters with machines that do the same task, for longer hours, and do not require continual costs like wages or health care and as unexpected as the gradual decrease in the number of accountants.

Natalie was correct in recognizing the potential threat of automation to her job, but she had less of a reason to worry compared to many blue-collar workers with lower education levels. In December 2016, the Obama White House put out an Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy report that discussed upcoming trends in artificial intelligence and automation technology and policy. This report shows the upcoming threat to the lower-paid and less-educated, with 83% of jobs with an hourly wage less than $20 and 44% of jobs requiring less than a high school education being highly automatable.

This data shows the potential for significant social and economic upheaval. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks a year, $40 hourly wage comes to $76,800 annually, which is about 36% higher than the median household income of $56,516 in 2015. Based upon this data, at least half of American households would fall into to earning brackets that have a decent chance of losing earnings to automation. Unemployment during the Great Depression peaked at around 25%, and, if we do not take necessary precautions, artificial intelligence and automation can force a similar economic downturn as millions lose their jobs.

The economic threat presented by automation and artificial intelligence is not due to the technology itself. We have seen this cycle before: technology changes, jobs emerge as other disappear, and workers shift. However, past workers have had advocates and organizations, often in the form of unions, to protect them from negative impacts of executive decisions designed to boost profits. Despite the recent onslaught of arguments that union are now corrupt and ineffective, union advocacy brought us the following benefits we now take for granted:

  • the standard 40-hour work week
  • safer working conditions
  • banning of child labor
  • health benefits
  • aid for work-related injuries

The International Monetary Fund states that union membership has declined 19% since the early 2000’s. This decline removes a safeguard and advocate for many of these workers, who may have no clue their job is at risk and have no contingency plan in place. This decline shows no sign of reversing, as right-to-work laws become more common. Right-to-work laws, as stated by the Heritage Foundation, provide workers the option of joining a union rather than requiring it as a condition of employment. The Foundation argues against union membership by asserting that workers should not pay for union membership because they usually do not notice the benefits of membership. This argument is flawed. If a union does it’s job correctly and protects workers against incoming threats, then workers will not see all of the benefits accrued through union membership because the union stops problems from growing and directly impacting employees. Sadly, arguments against unions stick. A few days ago, workers at a Nissan plant in Mississippi voted against unionizing by a two-to-one margin. This trend continues the slow march towards a reduction in workers’ ability to prepare against automation and lay-offs as companies continue seeking ways to increase dividends to shareholders.

The lack of advocates and protections for workers causes the coming economic shift to threaten many Americans’ ability to find work. This threat, however, is a symptom of a larger problem with the American workforce. We do not see workers and employees as people, but as replaceable cogs in a machine. If we did not treat people as machines, then the substitution of human beings for automation would not occur as effortlessly as it has. We can trace this mindset back to the introduction of the assembly line, which broke down highly skilled labor into small, repeatable tasks. As a result, a sizable portion of our current workforce has become replaceable and dispensable as employers and companies seek workers to fill very narrow and niche roles. If we want to create an economy of the future, then we need to begin focusing on providing the tools and runway for workers to cultivate their skills and talents. We must advocate for and push forward a suite of policies that achieves the following:

  • Strengthen the safety net for workers and families who lose their income due to automation and artificial intelligence
  • Develop robust retraining programs to shift these workers into roles more suited for an automation-dominated economy
  • Create trade-based education programs to equip coming generations for careers of the future

Most importantly, advocacy for these sort of policies cannot come only from the working class. We all must push for these sort of policies. If blue-collar workers and families lose their jobs and livelihoods to automation, then we all will suffer. As we learned from the Great Recession, our fortunes are intertwined, and it is our moral obligation to catch each other when we fall, help each other up, and move forward. It is the American way.

The link between International Aid and National Security is less obvious than we thought. (So let’s spell it out)

(Originally posted on Medium at: https://medium.com/@jeremyerdman)

We have a moral imperative to help those in less fortunate positions than us. Moreover, the more the US provides for and safeguards the well-being of the less fortunate in the less developed world, the greater dividends we see on our investment. Creating strong and stable communities throughout the world reduces their susceptibility to chaos in the midst of drought, famine, or political upheaval; in turn, this investment reduces the likelihood of needing to intervene after a despot or other leader has capitalized on the chaos and began to consolidate power. This is important because, as we have learned from recent history, the US has an affinity for trying to overthrow despots.

Why am I choosing to write about this connection? It seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, apparently, it is not. Back in March, the White House released its budget, and it cuts the Department of State and US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s budget by 28 percent. How does the White House justify this cut? Budget Director Mick Mulvaney explains:

“This is a ‘hard power’ budget. It is not a ‘soft power’ budget,”

According to Reuters, this statement refers to the president’s desire to prioritize direct military power over the influence fostered through development aid. Such prioritization will likely result is more demonstrations of force, like the US Navy’s arrival off the coast of North Korea in June.

USS Ronald Reagan (front) and USS Carl Vinson and (back R) sail with Japanese navy ships (Picture: Retuers)

While such actions may dissuade unfavorable actions by a despot in the short term, demonstrations of force do not help address underlying issues as to why the despot is in power to begin with. Moreover, demonstrations of power do not always dissuade against unfavorable action, as North Korea has continued to test its ballistic missiles despite the US’s increased Navy presence.

The uncertainty behind the effectiveness of military intervention and demonstrations of force underscores the need for continued investment in foreign aid. USAID’s scope of work is detailed on their blog:

Spending less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, USAID works in over 100 countries to:

The list above shows the wide range of needs that USAID fulfills around the world. Their operations and grants help less developed nations grow, but they also ensure that nations remain stable. How does their aid help promote stability? In my last blog, I discuss the plight of coal communities and their susceptibility to Trump’s coal message due to crippling economic conditions. I state that fear regarding one’s poor economic conditions and uncertain livelihood makes it impossible to plan for and invest in the future. Fear and desperation for change makes someone either more likely to cling to a despot’s promise for radical change or unable to stop his/her ascent.

To fight fear, we must inspire hope. We need to foster opportunity. In 2010, USAID approached Wilfred Charles’s community in Malawi with the opportunity to install an irrigation system. Wilfred, a farmer, pastor, husband, and father of four, joined with 269 volunteers to build irrigation canals. The work was hard. So hard, in fact, that the volunteers dwindled down to Wilfred and five other men. The six men worked for three years to finish the canals, but their work quickly turned around benefits for their community. Their labor and dedication provided for larger yields, which allowed for families to send their children to school, build houses, and have more economic opportunities.

Stories like Wilfred’s demonstrate the power and necessity of foreign aid and the opportunity we will destroy through a 28% cut to USAID’s budget. Whether you care about national security, the well-being of less developed nations, or both, foreign aid invests in the future of others and creates a more stable world. As the world becomes more and more connected, we need to recognize that investing in others, like Wilfred and his family, makes all of us better off.

How we can wrap our heads around Trump’s problematic Paris and coal decisions (Hint: It’s not about Trump)

So, President Trump has announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. What’s more, he intends to jumpstart coal production—a massive polluter. I’m a part of the 69 percent of Americans who want to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from coal. Trump’s agenda is misguided, rooted in his desire for applause that risks the livelihoods of future generations. It feels like a punch in the gut.

Rather than strike back, I decided to try to understand his stance on climate change policy, to look at the source of applause: Trump voters in coal country. The more I’ve investigated the circumstances of voters in coal counties of West Virginia and Kentucky, the more I approach our differences on climate change with empathy rather than confusion or anger.

Trump’s promise to bring back coal jobs plays into a narrative that pits the coal industry’s success against the presence of environmental regulation. Yes, policies regulating dumping of waste and control of toxic pollutants do make operating coal plants more expensive, but putting sole blame on these regulations is misguided. The reduction in coal’s profitability and resulting jobs truly stems from an esteemed Republican economic principle: competition. This competition comes in both competition against coal itself—natural gas—and competition against human labor—automation. Columbia University estimated that 49 percent of the decline in domestic coal consumption came from the increase in natural gas production. This decline in coal consumption compounds with a decrease in needed labor. The Brooking’s Institute explains that most coal mining now takes place in Wyoming instead of Appalachia, and the mining style in Wyoming is more automated and extracts 11 times more coal per employee than mining in Appalachia. The decline of coal isn’t a result of superfluous or flagrant environmental regulation—it’s from competition and innovation from the energy sector.

Trump’s anti-environmental regulation message, while not seeing the full picture, appeases coal country’s fear regarding their socioeconomic future. Coal communities throughout Appalachia are currently ravaged by high unemployment and poor health. In 2014, the New York Times’ Upshot identified the ten hardest counties in live in America, with six of the ten in Eastern Kentucky’s coal country. A snapshot into some of these counties provides more insight to their designation by the New York Times. Kentucky’s Martin and Clay counties’ median household income is half that of the nationwide mean with more than double the national average for percentage below the poverty level.[i] Moreover, obesity rates in Clay County have reached 50 percent compared to 36.5 percent nationwide.[ii] A further investigation into the health detriments of coal mining show that areas of Appalachia in close proximity to coal production as well as the greatest levels of coal mining have higher levels of cardiopulmonary disease, hypertension, lung disease and overall mortality.[iii] [iv] The decrease in employment and high rate of health issues due to coal mining resulted in a disproportionately high amount of opioid prescriptions from the mid-1990s to 2010. As a result, states with historically high amount of coal mining, like Kentucky and West Virginia, rank one and three in the nation for drug overdose deaths in 2015. The combination of all these factors show communities desperately in need of an economic boost, which they believe is only impeded by environmental regulation.

If environmental regulation is not responsible for the decline of the coal industry and the culprit of these communities’ instability, why are these regulations constantly under attack? Of any factor that could impact the livelihoods of coal communities, environmental regulation is the easiest to demonize for two reasons:

  1. Specific policies, like the Clean Power Plan, are easier to pinpoint and attack than general market trends
  2. Solving the problem through repealing regulations is simpler to enact and articulate than fighting shifting markets and technology

These two reasons show coal communities’ appeal and support of Trump’s coal vision because it can improve their quality of life quickly and avoids the work required to shift the economic engine of their communities towards different industries.

So how do we bring these coal communities on board with our vision for America as a clean and green technology innovator? We must help them recognize that making this transition is in their best interest, while also addressing the very real fears when it comes to their livelihood and security. We all can understand fear and anxiety that cripples our ability to plan for the future and focuses all our energy on immediate survival. For these communities, it is challenging and threatening to plan for a future that may never happen if they cannot survive their current reality. Therefore, we need to invest in programs and policies that boost these communities like:

  • Job retraining programs
  • Ensuring health care for millions by protecting the Affordable Care Act
  • Maintaining safety-net programs like Social Security
  • Increased funding for opioid addiction

This is only a sample of policies and programs that could help, but we need to invest in and support a suite of policies to improve these communities’ livelihoods. Until we do so, attempts to pull coal communities into a clean- and green-technology vision will fall on deaf ears.

The disagreement between those of us who want to address climate change and coal communities reminds me of the AJ+ video of CIA agent Amaryllis Fox. In this video, she says “if you hear [your adversary] out, if you are brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that, more often than not, you might have made some of the same choices.” Their opposition to addressing climate change does not stem from pure ignorance or disdain for science, but because their livelihood depends on it. We need to recognize and address these communities’ struggles, and once we do that, we can work together to address climate change and build a stronger America.

 

 

 

[i] U.S. Census Bureau. 2014. “American Community Survery.” American FactFinder: 2014 ACS 1-year estimates. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.

[ii] Haygood, W. “Kentucky Town of Manchester Illustrates National Obesity Crisis.” The Washington Post. Web. 12 July 2010.

[iii] Krause, E. 2016. “Addressing the Distributional Impacts of U.S. Climate Policy: Characteristics of Compensation.” University of Washington, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.

[iv] Hendryx, M. and M.M. Ahem. 2008. “Relations Between Health Indicators and Residential Proximity to Coal Mining in West Virginia.” American Journal of Public Health 98(4): 669-671.

On Twitter

June 15, 2017

I read yesterday that Donald Trump blocked Stephen King on Twitter.  J.K. Rowling immediately stepped up and said she’d be happy to send S.K. Trump’s tweets so he could remain in the loop.  This is all mildly amusing, if you don’t think too hard about it.  If you do stop to think about it, however, you realize that the Leader of the Free World, of a country that prides itself on freedom of speech, is deliberately and purposefully blocking his own communication to people he fears will disagree with him.  Stephen King is only one of many dissidents who have been blocked from reading Trump’s tweets.  You might say that it’s only social media, that it’s Trump’s right to block individuals–I mean, I certainly have that capability on my own Twitter account–but I am not a public figure tasked with representing those I might choose to block.  Since Trump has made Twitter his primary means of communication with the American public–these reactionary, staccato, 140 character temper-tantrums designed to incite ire and deflect blame and responsibility–it should be alarming that he feels he is entitled to narrow his audience to those who won’t call him out and challenge the veracity of his missives.  He both works for us and is supposed to represent all of his constituents, not just those who nod and smile at his antics.  If we don’t recognize that his entitled view of narrowing the scope of available communication on Twitter as a microcosm of the broader intent to choke out opposing viewpoints in other areas of government, we are burying our heads in the sand.

I Like My Dystopia in Fictional Form, Thank You

April 17, 2017

My favorite genre of literature is dystopian fiction.  Authors create worlds that could be, cautionary tales to warn us away from pitfalls in our present that are driving us forward on a perilous trajectory.  We have not listened, my friends, and now we find our fictional futures colliding frighteningly with our unstable present.  In the words of the prescient authors past and present:

THE NEW STATE OF THINGS

“Sound bytes. Catch phrases. Sales pitches. Words. All lexical legitimizing. ‘A rose by any other name…’ he said. In the end it’s all propaganda.” –J.A. Willoughby, The Promised Land

“…dead to all things but greed and a desire to rule over others.” –Arun D. Ellis, Corpalism

This is a game show to Trump, and has been from the beginning.  He thrives on catch phrases, lives in generalities.  He has eschewed daily briefings because they don’t interest him; he has announced his bafflement at the complex issues he is responsible for when he is made to sit down and listen to the minutiae of the policies he must address.  (Who knew healthcare was so complex?  Everybody. Literally everybody except you.)  He couldn’t even be bothered to be sure about which country he bombed, as a matter of fact, in a show of power.  Did he think about potential consequences? Did he consider the complex political landscape he was walking into? (Not to mention the fact that he had recently declared that Syria needed to attend to their own problems without our interference.)  I mean, who could guess that foreign policy and diplomacy and acts of war could be so complex? Literally everybody, save one, apparently.  Honestly, it’s much more fun to just think about how impressive that giant explosion will be, and damn the consequences!  Desire to rule over others here means a show of force and might, but no real desire for governance for and with the people.

 

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

There have already been little bends and fissures in the laws in place, including healthcare, LGBT rights, and immigration, not to mention some pretty major reversals of previously hard-won policies.  We’ve lost all semblance of “checks and balances” with a Republican president, and a Republican majority in the House and Senate, as well as a conservative majority sitting on the Supreme Court. (Gorsuch, by the way, was confirmed after the rules were changed to go “nuclear” so that only a majority vote was necessary.  This, just shortly after a highly contentious confirmation hearing for the Education Secretary, DeVos, narrowly passed with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence.)  So despite dragging their feet for months on a confirmation hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court pick, all it took to get the Republican nominee in was changing the rules to suit their plan.  Those in power are making changes to keep themselves in power indefinitely, closing up avenues to challenge that power.  This should be very frightening indeed.  If we continue to sit back and watch it unfold without raising our voices, soon there will be no place at all for our voices.  Once power is lost, it becomes that much more difficult to regain.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”— George Orwell, 1984

Trump’s heightened paranoia of his media coverage has become slightly ominous and threatening.  If he gets to ultimately decide which media is “real” (Fox News, Breitbart) and which media is “fake” (every other media outlet), he is effectively proclaiming that his truth, his reality, is the only one that matters. One of the hallmarks of our democracy is our multiplicity of viewpoints and our access to free press—that is, press that is not forcibly controlled by our government in order to narrowly define and disseminate state approved sound-bytes and propaganda.  Continuing to foster a hostile stance against free press and using the office of the president to attack any news source that dares to question or hold him accountable for his actions or his words is merely laying the groundwork for the hostile takeover of public information.

 

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

“He hadn’t realized that the ordinary little things that happened, the ones that took place between the big events while waiting for something more exciting to happen – they were the most important, after all.” ― Helen Smith, The Miracle Inspector

“There was protest…There were those who knew. Who saw what was coming. But their voices were mere whispers in a crowd of roaring discontent. The surrender of freedom came in subtle stages, not with an explosive arrival.” –Bard Constantine, Silent Empire

We have spent years languishing in complacency as a society.  We have the most abysmal voter turnout in democratic nations.  We do not seek out active roles in our own governance; we do not educate ourselves about the issues that regulate our world.  We give over—we have given over—our power to others who seem more invested and interested, and we go on about our lives, confident that things will work out.  And mostly, until now, they have.  There were some small things, and even some slightly bigger things, in the running of our country, that I might have disagreed with here and there.  On the whole, though, I was satisfied, and my life didn’t alter significantly when a new law was passed or a new representative hung his name plate on his office in the House.  And we got too comfortable.  I got too comfortable.  By the time I realized it was time to call the fire department, the whole house was engulfed.  In hindsight, I smelled the smoke; I felt a little warm.  I didn’t, however, gather the neighbors and sound the alarm before it got out of control.  Hindsight does not help us—and here we are.

Months after the election, Trump himself is the one who can’t seem to let the election and opposition to his rule go.  He also seems to think any protest–then and now– is “paid for” by…who knows? How is it possible that he can’t fathom people coming together of their own volition to express dissatisfaction? His narcissism makes it impossible for him to see dissent, and the people with whom he surrounds himself provide a protective bubble to engender that viewpoint.

CONSEQUENCES

 “When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”—Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

“I never thought it would get this bad. I never thought the Reestablishment would take things so far. They’re incinerating culture, the beauty of diversity. The new citizens of our world will be reduced to nothing but numbers, easily interchangeable, easily removable, easily destroyed for disobedience. We have lost our humanity.” ―Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

We have lost funding to Planned Parenthood, and the government continues to dismantle healthcare that will deny coverage to millions if they are successful.  Funding for schools, arts, and social programs are all on the chopping block in favor of funneling unimaginable dollars into an already massive military budget, because that’s what Trump believes equates to power—force and might, not humanity and culture.  This is the path he has chosen for us, but I refuse to be reduced to a number.  I will continue to fight for the beauty of diversity and the humanity that is in us all. This is what I choose.

“For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.” –George Orwell, 1984

My bias may be showing here, but this is where the importance of education comes in, both formal and informal.  We have to ensure that the populace has the security of a humane life and has access to education to become critical thinkers and consumers of information in our world, so that we are not beholden only to the information the Man Behind the Curtain wants to show us, but rather that we are all able to discern and evaluate and assess on our own.  We need to right the ship of power once again so that the people are the captain and the president is the one following their commands, rather than the other way around.  Our President and our elected officials are our crew; we cannot abdicate our responsibility in telling him how we want to sail the ship.  As of now, we have a mutiny afoot, and we have to wrest control back before we lose it altogether.  An ignorant populace breeds fear, contempt, and hostility; an educated one recognizes that gain for each is a gain for all and seeks to uplift and help one another for the greater good.  A “leader” who is more interested in maintaining power than in his constituents will do all in his power to foster the former and not the latter.

WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

“There’s a big difference between being numb to something and being immune to it.”
― Michael Monroe, Afterlife

“Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no need of change.”—H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

It’s tough in today’s world to be disaffected, to be ignorant, but some people still work at it.  We simply can’t afford it.  Being numb to what is going on doesn’t mean we won’t feel the consequences, and they are likely to get much, much worse before they get better.  It’s now several months in, and some are weary of the continued calls to contact your representatives, or to get out for the mid-year elections, or to continue to write and speak your mind.  They’re counting on that.  They want us to become accustomed to the new normal, to sink into acceptance.  We’ve done that for too long, and the stakes are far too high.  The battle will be won with perseverance and persistence, not force.

“We can’t be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can’t be controlled. And it means that no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them.” –Veronica Roth, Divergent

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”—Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

 “There has to be beauty left in the world, Julia,” said Kiyu. “Otherwise we have nothing.”
― Erica Lindquist, Whisperworld

We can’t be controlled.  We can’t wait for the revolution and the resistance to come from somewhere else.  It has to begin with us; it must continue with us.  That, after all, is the beauty left in the world—us.  The individual.  The humanity in us all.

It Was a Very Weird Year…

I’ve been hearing a lot about the year 2013 over the past couple of months.  It made me want to do some research.  But since I’m a lazy bastard, I spent about an hour on the “regular web” and came up with the following.

2013 Involvement with Russia

Donald Trump:

  • Miss Universe pageant hosted in Moscow – Trump paid roughly $14MM (pee tape?)
  • Met Herman Gref, CEO of Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s largest bank
  • FBI wiretapping of suspected Russian money laundering in Trump Tower (Unit 63A, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov)
  • “I do have a relationship” with Putin – Tweet: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?”
  • On 2013 sarin attack in Syria, repeatedly tweeted that Obama should not attack Syria
  • Unit 61L at Trump Tower sells for $14,300,000 (asking price $1.290MM) – other units in the tower were going below asking price
  • Meets Aras Agalarov, Russian real estate developer and recipient of the “Order of Honor of the Russian Federation” (received from Putin)
  • Deutsche Bank, primary lender for Trump when US banks bail on him, investigate Trump’s relationship with Russia, as well as accounts held by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner (Deutsche Bank was recently fined a total of $10 billion for its role in a Russian money-laundering scheme)

Carter Page:

  • Met with Russian intel operative (Victor Podobnyy) and delivered information to him while Podobnyy was trying to recruit him as a foreign agent
  • Declared an “idiot” by Podobnyy

Boris Epshteyn:

  • Moderated “Invest in Moscow!” panel with Russian officials, aimed at Americans interested in investing in Russia

Roger Stone:

  • Quoted as saying that Trump told him on New Year’s Eve that he was running for president

Jared Kushner:

  • Met with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, president of state-run VEB (Putin’s “slush fund”) and graduate of Russia’s “spy school”, prior to Trump’s inauguration during the transition. Prior to 2013, VEB had a spy ring in its New York City offices, and one of its operatives, Evgeny Buryakov, was deported for his role in the spy ring. Another of those agents was Victor Podobnyy (see Carter Page)

I didn’t mention Paul Manafort because he’s been active in Russian circles for a long time.  This is just a quick search for Trump team involvement with Russia in 2013. I chose that year for two simple reasons: I’ve been hearing it mentioned a lot in the past couple of months, and it makes logical sense that it’s the time Trump would’ve started going public about running for president after Obama’s evisceration of him at the 2011 Correspondent’s Dinner.

Can we agree that 2013 was an active year for the Trump team with regard to Russia?  I now firmly believe that this is part of the reason we haven’t heard more from the FBI on the investigation into the Trump campaign – it feels like things started to coalesce in 2013, and from that point forward there are a lot of moving parts than need to be put together.  Stay tuned.