Connect with us


A second open letter to Ivanka Trump

All sense of honesty and decency have escaped those at the White House



Ivanka Trump, gay news, Washington Blade

The LGBT community’s pleas to Ivanka Trump to moderate her father’s views have fallen on deaf ears. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On Nov. 15, 2016 with high hopes for what you could do I published an open letter to you. It began, “I believe we must always keep an open line of communication with those we don’t agree with and the person on your side of this election I would enjoy having a cup of coffee with is you. As a supporter of Hillary Clinton the election didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. This isn’t the first campaign where my hopes were dashed. But the fight for the things I believe in and care about goes on. Ivanka, it would be great to have the opportunity to share with you how I lived my life. It is my conviction you would understand where those like myself are coming from and as senior adviser to your father that could be important and helpful as you help mold the administration.”

At the time many of us hoped you might be a moderating influence on social and economic issues relating to women, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community. You didn’t respond to the letter when it was published. Then I met Omarosa Manigault, the president’s Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, at a reception honoring the new Secretary of the Veterans Administration. We had a very pleasant conversation and I handed her a copy of the letter in an envelope addressed to you, which she promised to deliver.

I never heard from her or you again. Seeing what your father and his administration are now doing and saying, you are probably correct in thinking responding wasn’t worthwhile. Clearly you either agree with what your father is doing or have zero influence to do anything about it. Both scenarios are disappointing. This time I am not expecting a response.

Your father, the president, has become an embarrassment to the nation. He has been called all kinds of names by those who disagree with him and some may be over the top. But I can only conclude by his behavior and speeches he can fairly be described as a boorish pig. His conduct overseas including roughly pushing aside the prime minister of Montenegro to get to his place in a photo op and his remarks on the figure of the wife of French President Macron were offensive.

His statements on efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act leave one perplexed and with the clear impression he has no idea what he is talking about. Inviting members of the House of Representatives to the Rose Garden one day to celebrate passage of their bill, then calling it ‘mean’ days later. Yes it is mean. But then he supports an even meaner Senate bill finally begging them to do something no matter how hateful it is.  Thankfully three decent Republican senators and every Democrat agreed both the House version, the Senate version he first supported, and the ‘skinny’ version are all mean-spirited and wrong-headed and voted them down. Clearly your father has yet to figure out the ‘art of the political deal.’

Then your father went further in showing how boorish and totally clueless he is with his speech to the Boy Scouts at their Jamboree. I am a Scout. In 1960, along with nearly 60,000 other Scouts, I attended the National Jamboree in Colorado Springs celebrating 50 years of scouting. That year another president, Dwight David Eisenhower, spoke. Whatever his politics he was a man with a reputation for decency and a military hero. Though I was a Democrat even then, supporting John F. Kennedy for president, I was inspired by Eisenhower’s words when he talked about trustworthiness, honor, honesty, valor and the importance of service to the nation. There is not one scout who when they think back on your father’s meandering remarks will be inspired to service. His use of curse words, talking about cocktail parties and women in New York; bashing a former president and threatening to fire one of his cabinet secretaries if a bill didn’t pass Congress, (let’s see if he does that now that the bill has failed) were totally inappropriate. The Boy Scouts for the first time ever had to apologize for a president’s speech.  I can’t imagine even you weren’t embarrassed by that spectacle.

Your father has gone so far off track I find myself feeling sorry for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man I have always considered a racist. Your father talked about loyalty to the Boy Scouts; clearly your father’s concept of loyalty is a one-way street. Threatening Sessions for upholding the ‘rule of law’ is the height of stupidity and as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, if your father fired him there would be ‘holy hell’ to pay.

In a random early morning tweet your father attacked the LGBTQ+ community and heroic transgender members of the military announcing trans people will no longer be welcome to serve and possibly die for the nation. Something he was never willing to do. His new press secretary trying to explain the tweet lied about it saying it was in concurrence with the Department of Defense. In reality the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense have said they knew nothing about the tweet and the secretary had just announced a six-month study of the issue. Clearly lying at the White House has reached epidemic proportions.

So, Ivanka, the hope you and your husband would have any ability or even desire to moderate some of you father’s behavior is long gone. Instead we have seen you and Jared hire lawyers to defend what seems indefensible. We have witnessed both you and his inability to honestly fill out government forms including financial disclosure forms and at least his SF-86 needed to get a security clearance. The excuse on finances from your husband seems to be he is so rich it’s natural he forgot to report on numerous holdings. As to the security form he now admits he forgot over 100 meetings with foreign agents and is on his third or fourth iteration of the form in what he says is an attempt to be honest and forthcoming.

My God, how can he do his job if he really has such a poor memory? Or was he simply displaying selective memory hoping he could get away with it? When he signed the original form he swore to its truth that could be enough to send him to jail.

In fact, it appears all sense of honesty and plain decency have escaped most of those at the White House. You are all being caught up in the sludge oozing out of that venerable building; the building often called the people’s house. If this keeps up decent people will not want any association with that beautiful building,  recently home to a family that represented what is best in America, until your father stops disgracing it and the country.

Many of us who harbored hope you would be a champion for decency now count the days until your father either leaves voluntarily or is thrown out. Only then will the American people once again be able to lift up our heads with pride when facing the world community.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.



Speaker Kevin McUseless calls for Biden impeachment inquiry

Stunt will backfire on Republicans in 2024



House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Congress has joined the world of the insane with Republicans calling to impeach any Democrat they disagree with. It is happening in Wisconsin to the new Supreme Court justice, and now lily-livered Kevin McUseless, facing threats from his MAGA members, announced an impeachment inquiry of President Biden.  

He could name no reason, and in fact during the nine months of Republicans investigating Biden, they have found none. Two weeks ago, he said he wouldn’t do this without a vote of the House, but moderate Republicans rightly figure this will all backfire on them, so wouldn’t agree to vote for it. Meanwhile the country is waiting for House Republicans to do their job and pass a budget, which they are unable to do. The result could close the government again. That will also backfire on them, as it will hurt so many people. 

So, what better time for Democrats, thinking independents, and any sane Republican left, those willing to put the country above their own party, and in the case of Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), even their own reelections, to just vote all these Republican clowns out of office? 

Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who will lead the inquiry on Biden, has for the nine previous months come up with zilch — nothing meriting impeachment or even further investigation. The IRS whistleblowers’ testimony he touted was contradicted by the FBI in sworn testimony. But then it isn’t Comer asking for this impeachment inquiry, it is Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, and the MAGAs holding McUseless hostage. Those two should be arrested for criminal behavior, charged with being an embarrassment to the country. They are joined by the likes of Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), recently thrown out of a Denver theater for groping her boyfriend, vaping, taking pictures, and recording a show, Beetlejuice. This is today’s Republican Party. 

Clearly, most elected Republicans are not willing to stand up to these jokers; all afraid of the Trump cult, aka the Republican Party. They are being threatened with a primary by Trump if they do. They would lose the primary, part of the reason Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) just announced he would not run again. The Trump cult controls roughly 35% of the party and you can’t win without them. But Trump-supported primary winners have shown they lose general elections. 

I am more confident than some in a Trump/Biden replay, Biden will win by 10 million votes this time, but not get one more electoral vote. It will again be about seven or eight states. If Republicans go ahead with this impeachment Democrats will win in 2024.

As to Hunter Biden, he should be punished for anything he did wrong, like any private citizen; whether it is not paying his taxes or lying on a gun permit application. President Biden should stop inviting Hunter to the White House, and curtail his public embrace of his son. It hasn’t helped his son, and is clearly not helping his own campaign, or for that matter any other Democrat. What he does in private is his business. The president has two homes, one in Wilmington, and one in Rehoboth Beach, where he can meet with, and entertain his son. I think the president owes that to the people he is asking to support him. He owes it to the party to not put himself in positions his opponents can take advantage of. 

Joe Biden has been a public servant since he was 28 years old, starting on the New Castle County Council, in Delaware, in 1970. He ran and won his Senate seat in 1972. He has never been accused of any impropriety until the Republicans decided they could make unfounded accusations for political gain. He has shown himself a decent and honest man. A man with empathy for those less fortunate; and a president with one of the most successful administrations in modern times. 

So McUseless, do your worst. Bend over for the MAGAs and get screwed. Hope it hurts. You have no balls as depicted in a recent funny meme where Barbie is shown on her knees in front of Ken, saying she finally understood; McUseless was the model for Ken. 

The country will survive McUseless and the congressional Trump cult and be stronger for it. The decent people of the country will end up winning and McUseless, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and their cronies, will be relegated to the dustbin of history with nary an asterisk to their names. If there is an asterisk it will read that they were useless, venal, and screwed up.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Continue Reading


Impact lingers 22 years after that bright September morning

Religious zealotry that led to 9/11 can be seen in far right politics



The Pentagon in Arlington just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. on the morning of September 11, 2001, approximately 10 minutes after terrorists flew American Airlines flight 77, which had taken off from Dulles International Airport, into the southwest side of the building killing 184 people. (Screenshot/YouTube Archival news footage)

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a point in time that forever altered the world in a series of events, terrorist attacks, that would linger on politically, spiritually, culturally, and leave an indelible mark on those alive at the time who experienced that day.

A human being born that day celebrates their twenty-second birthday this week, having grown up in a world where security measures — some draconian — dominate and where a certain sense of collective innocence has been lost.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that lessons of peaceful diplomacy that could have possibly been gained from that day were instead lost to the sense of paranoia and nationalistic ideology and messaging as governments reacted, and in the case of the United States, commencement of a war that became the longest in American history.

The number of American service members who died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had passed 7,000 at the end of 2021. The ‘War on Terror’ as it was known spanned 20 years, saw the expenditure of $6 trillion, 900,000 lives lost around the globe and at least 38 million people who have been displaced. 

9:37:46 AM, The Pentagon in Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.: American Airlines Flight 77, which had taken off from Dulles International Airport, struck the southwest side of the building killing 184 people.

This reporter was in the Pentagon that fateful morning, having agreed to substitute for a sick colleague. I witnessed the utter disbelief on the faces of every one of my colleagues as we were clustered around a television set watching the events unfolding in New York City at the World Trade Center and then suddenly it was our turn as the entire building shook as Flight 77 crashed into the southwestern face of the Pentagon.

The next 16 hours are still a vignette of sounds, smells, and sights from that day that have never left me. The events of that day would later define my career and set me on a path of being far more cynical than I was previously as I viewed a changed world.

Here, two decades later, I reflect still on what could have been and yet still remain optimistic even in the face of greater turmoil, widespread authoritarianism, a global climate crisis exacerbated by war, and then too of war itself as evidenced by the illegal incursion into the sovereignty of Ukraine.

The rise of nationalism, especially of the white supremacist variety tied to religious fundamentalism, is the primary danger and the direct linear descendent of the terrorism that was seen on that Tuesday morning 22 years ago. It is not just an American issue, it is a global issue, one that needs to be exposed and then dealt with.

The religious zealotry that fed the extremist ideology that led to the acts of terrorism that bright September morning can be seen again manifesting in the extremist actions of the far right beyond politics. Book bans, the war on trans and queer people, stifling of free speech and ideas, promotion of anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and racist ideas all contribute to a society that is rapidly becoming very unsafe and a petri dish for the next 9/11.

This is the lingering impact of that long ago day and must be mitigated, before history repeats itself.

Brody Levesque is editor of the Los Angeles Blade. 

Continue Reading


There’s a good chance you’re overpaying for medication

New policy lets worst offenders behind high drug prices off the hook



(Photo by Vitalii Petrushenko/Bigstock)

In its push to lower the cost of medicine, Congress has focused on giving Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. Officials just announced the first 10 medicines up for negotiation under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Unfortunately, all of the attention given to that policy lets some of the worst offenders behind high drug prices off the hook: pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs — companies that function as powerful drug-industry middlemen.

Acting on behalf of insurers, PBMs use their buying clout to obtain discounts and rebates from drug makers. In theory, these savings should be passed on to patients at the pharmacy counter. But in fact, while PBMs extract billions of dollars in profit for themselves each year, patients see little to no benefit.

It’s time to change this system. Thankfully, lawmakers now have PBMs in their sights in a proposed bipartisan reform bill.

The fundamental problem is that PBMs wield enormous influence over drug prices, with virtually no transparency or accountability. They’re able to wield such power because they control insurance company formularies — those lists that determine which drugs your insurer will cover, and on what terms.

PBMs have drug manufacturers over a barrel because (in a helpless position), in order to make sufficient sales, the manufacturers need their products on formularies on favorable terms. But even though PBMs are charged with obtaining discounts, their interests are not aligned with those of patients. In fact, just the opposite is true.

The PBM revenue model is linked to the list prices of drugs. The higher the list price, the bigger the discount they can obtain. That means that PBMs make more money off more expensive medicines, giving them a perverse incentive to offer better formulary placement to pricier treatments. But that, in turn, pressures drug makers to increase list prices, on the expectation of offering larger discounts.

Meanwhile, the coinsurance obligations that patients pay continue to be calculated based on list prices — not the discounted prices insurers actually pay. By exploiting this difference, PBMs manage to charge two-thirds of patients for the full list price of a drug, even though they’ve negotiated deep discounts from the manufacturer.

Mergers and acquisitions among PBMs and insurers have given them even more power. Currently, just three PBMs make up 80% of the prescription drug market, and the top six control nearly the entirety, 96%. At the same time, the three biggest PBMs either own or are owned by the three biggest insurance companies. They also use their sway to steer patients to fill prescriptions at the pharmacies they likewise own.

Consider how this whole setup affects patients with HIV. While there are more than 30 FDA-approved medicines to treat the virus, a PBM can steer patients toward the most expensive options via their insurance coverage. Then, a patient can be required to pay a percentage of the list price out of pocket, rather than a percentage of the lower price the insurer actually paid.

There’s still more in the PBM-insurer bag of tricks. Drug makers often issue discount coupons to help patients with coinsurance requirements. But PBMs and insurers essentially steal the value of those coupons right back, by refusing to count them toward deductibles and annual caps on out-of-pocket spending.

Insurers and their PBMs are also behind the “utilization management” rules that patients increasingly face when seeking care. So-called “prior authorization” policies, for instance, require doctors to ask insurers’ permission before ordering certain drugs or tests. Such policies have been an obstacle to patients obtaining PrEP drugs, the pre-exposure prophylaxis that prevents HIV transmission.

As so many activists and lawmakers have observed, we need to bring down out-of-pocket medication costs. One-third of Americans report not filling a prescription because of price, and we know that when prescription costs increase, patients are less likely to adhere to their medication regimen. Their health suffers as a result, often requiring additional interventions and hospital stays.

But the new IRA plan for drug-price negotiations can’t solve all these problems. Lawmakers also need to rein in PBMs. Specifically, any new legislation should decouple PBM compensation from the list prices of drugs, so that the companies aren’t motivated to steer patients toward the most expensive treatments.

For the sake of patients, myself included, there’s no time to lose.

Guy Anthony is president and CEO of Black, Gifted & Whole.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade