Nov 14

Trump campaign was a chaotic, bumbling mess, except for its consistency on one issue: Russia

Attorney General Jeff Sessions advanced a new defense at Tuesday’s House Judiciary hearing about his extraordinary memory loss when it comes to all things Russia. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman sums it up nicely:

Its essence is that the Trump campaign was such an ungodly, bumbling mess that it was simply incapable of colluding with the Russians in their campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton, help Donald Trump get elected, and generally disrupt and discredit the American electoral system.

As weaselly a defense as that may seem, it contains a good bit of truth. With each new revelation about the campaign’s contacts with Russia, a picture is filling out. It’s one not of a well-organized collusion conspiracy, but instead of a bunch of nincompoops engaging in a kind of ongoing, ad hoc, fitful sort-of-collusion, one that involved lots of meetings, lots of emails, and lots of contacts between various Russians with Kremlin connections and people at different levels of the campaign. 

During his testimony, Sessions called the campaign “a form of chaos every day” and said the national security team he led was “not a very effective group, really.” In essence, he added that he couldn’t possibly remember everything that happened on the campaign because it was such a disaster.

First of all, just because Trump’s campaign was stacked with a battalion of rogue “nincompoops” doesn’t relieve them of culpability. Whether or not a conspiracy succeeds is inconsequential, it’s the intent of the actions they took that matter.

And where intent is concerned, what’s fascinating is how Russia was the glue that held the whole blundering enterprise together. Regardless of how muddled the campaign hierarchy was, it was riddled with attempts to connect with Russian operatives. Just look at this cursory list:

Trump repeatedly heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin, openly begged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and declared his “love” for Wikileaks (a “hostile intelligence service” that often abetted by “state actors like Russia”), mentioning the site 145 times during the final month of the campaign. Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chair Paul Manafort all met with several Russians at Trump Tower, including a Kremlin-linked lawyer and a former Russian counterintelligence officer. Don Jr. further communicated and coordinated with Wikileaks, the service that was distributing the emails Russian hackers stole from the Clinton campaign. Jeff Sessions talked with Russian Ambassador Surgey Kislyak—twice, and reportedly was informed of the Russian contacts of both Papadopoulos and Page, regardless of his faltering memory.
Daily Kos

Nov 14

Pistols in Preschools: As Michigan Debates Looser Gun Laws, Educators are on Edge

A proposed law would allow guns into schools, daycare centers and preschools.

Just days after the mass shooting at a Texas church, the Michigan Senate voted to allow people to carry guns in schools, churches, daycare centers, preschools and hospitals. The bills had been up for consideration last month when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas. Senator Arlen Meekhoff, who sponsored the legislation, called the timing “awkward.” In a year that has already seen 307 mass shootings, turns out it’s nearly always an awkward time to pass ever looser gun laws.

The legislation has parents alarmed about the safety of their children, and educators concerned about what allowing guns into schools will do to the learning environment. The showdown over what some are calling “Pistols in Preschools” is just the latest battle between Michigan schools and gun-rights advocates.

Last year, Ann Arbor Public Schools took a challenge to its gun-free zone from a gun-toting parent to the Michigan Court of Appeals and won the right to prohibit guns in their schools. Earlier this year, with that legal precedent, Kalamazoo Public Schools followed by instating their own gun-free policy in all of the buildings in their district.

So much for local control

Ironically, while Republican ideology lauds local control, these bills would strip authority from local school districts in Michigan, and force them to concede to guns in their school buildings. Meanwhile, voters who go in search of information from their representatives, including tallies of how many constituents called or wrote their senator in opposition to the bills versus how many called or wrote in support of them, are likely to be disappointed.That's because Michigan is one of only two states that exempts the state legislature from disclosing records and communication.

If the comments on 20th District Senator, Margaret O'Brien's Facebook page are any indication, her constituency was overwhelmingly opposed. On the same day that she voted in support of the bills, O'Brien posted information on her Facebook page about an active shooter preparedness event. The comments section contained dozens of angry replies, along with a handful of supporters. Notably, Kalamazoo, which is part of O’Brien’s district, experienced a mass shooting last year which left six people dead and two more seriously injured.  

Educators on edge

While the bills must pass the GOP-controlled House and be signed into law by the governor before going into affect, Michigan educators are already feeling uneasy.

Carey Gardner is a middle-school behavior specialist in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, a district where officials have been outspoken about the need to keep guns out of schools. Gardner says she understands why people could feel like guns in schools might make people feel safer. “You have people who are faced with a shooter and they have nothing. I mean, they're at their mercy,” she says. But she says the idea of having guns in school buildings is scary and intimidating and sends the wrong message.

“I think I could speak for everybody without even talking to anyone, we would all be on edge at some point. Because we don't know everybody's history,” Gardner says. “What if a student comes behind me and was to pull something, whether it was from myself or from a coworker? Or we have a parent that comes up, or parents that come up that are aggressive and agitated and frustrated? How do we know if a person's going to be too quick to react because they're scared?”

Gardner imagines a school environment that turns into the Wild West with shootouts in the building. With the presence of guns or even the mere wondering about who has guns, Gardner sees the inevitability of someone getting hurt.

Her concern is backed up by data. Recently NPR reported on the work of Stanford law professor John Donohue. His research on three decades of data around right-to-carry laws has found that as concealed carry rates increase, the rates of violent crimes also increase. On average, 93 people are killed by guns in the U.S. each day, and the U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times the average of other high income countries.

Gardner says that not knowing whether or not people in her school building were carrying guns would change the culture and the climate of the building. “It's supposed to be your safe haven, your safe place, where you learn your social skills and academically, and it changes the whole dynamic of the culture of the school.”

Wild West worries

Brandi is a special education resource room teacher in a Michigan elementary school (she asked to be identified only by her first name). Brandi says she and her coworkers already feel the tension of the possibility of an active shooter. Their first back-to-school staff meeting of the year involved a presentation about active shooter preparedness that included audio from a teacher's phone call during the Columbine shootings. “It was sobering and difficult to hear. But I wouldn't say it makes a difference on how we do our day-to-day activities,” she says.

That's because teachers in her building, like everywhere else in the state, are juggling so many things already that trying to be constantly vigilant about the possibility of an active shooter is next to impossible. Brandi works in an older school building that makes it hard to comply with building security. Sure, doors are locked and people need to be buzzed into the building, but, she says, office staff members are busy and can't guard the door, so once buzzed in, it's mostly like an honor system for visitors to come directly to the office.

“As a staff we are expected to stop people in the hallways if they are not wearing a visitor's pass and ask them to return to the office, but I know that I've felt uncomfortable doing that and have not stopped people, nor have other staff members. The teachers are supposed to cover the windows on classroom doors (so an active shooter could not see in), and keep doors locked at all times, but many do not,” Brandi says.

Teachers are already being asked to simultaneously be instructors and building security guards—jobs with completely different skill sets. Brandi says she's never been a proponent of giving more people guns to combat other people with guns, but especially not in a school full of children. “I know I personally would not be physically stable enough to handle a gun properly, and I don't really trust another random citizen to do the same. I would personally rather see buildings made more secure and providing teachers and classrooms with non-violent tools (e.g. for barricading doors) than adding more gunfire to a combative situation.”

Neither Brandi nor Gardner feel like they have a solution for gun violence in the country or in schools, but they both agree that having guns in schools is not the answer. “Having more people with guns to fight other people with guns sounds like a war zone, not a school,” says Brandi. Main RSS Feed

Nov 14

Posters for Peace & Justice – (2018 Calendar)

This year’s calendar from Amber Lotus features incredible artbook-quality prints of thought-provoking political poster art that are sure to keep you inspired through 2018.

This calendar is gorgeous, powerful, and environmentally friendly. You can grab yours right now with a tax-deductible donation to NationofChange.

This calendar will make an exceptional gift for yourself or a loved one. Make sure you grab yours before they’re all gone!

You can secure your copy of this coveted calendar here by donating $ 30 to NationofChange or by creating a monthly donation subscription to NationofChange of $ 15 or more.

Amber Lotus is proud to present the Posters for Peace & Justice wall calendar, a survey of thought-provoking political protest poster art. Combining compelling graphics and succinct statements, these images are plastered on brick walls, stapled to power poles, and silk-screened onto T-shirts, and have gone viral with activists worldwide. The works in this collection are a rallying cry – a potent tool for communication and social transformation.

  • 12″ x 12″ wall calendar (12″ x 24″ open).
  • A year of awesome political action posters on your wall.
  • The perfect art gift for the politically conscious consumer.
  • Frameable artbook-quality printing.
  • Award-winning posters by acclaimed artists such as Favianna Rodrigez, Luba Lukova, Steff Geissbuhler, Eric Drooker and Nate Williams.
  • Printed on paper sourced from a combination of sustainably managed forests and recycled materials.
  • This calendar features U.S. and Canadian legal holidays, phases of the moon, and important observances of the world’s major religions.

The post Posters for Peace & Justice – (2018 Calendar) appeared first on NationofChange.


Nov 14

Senate tax cuts bill will take health insurance away from 4 million people in the next year

The maniacs in the Senate and popular vote loser Donald Trump are getting their way. The tax cuts for the wealthy bill will also include a repeal of the individual mandate in Obamacare. The CBO has estimated that in the next decade, 13 million people would lose health insurance if it were repealed, and by 2019, 4 million will lose their insurance.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, told reporters there has been a whip count and he is confident Republicans can pass a tax bill that includes a measure to repeal the mandate.

Thune said the Alexander-Murray bill, aimed at stabilizing markets, would be brought up separately. That bill funds key payments to insurers for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules. […]

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said the bulk of the GOP’s policy luncheon Tuesday was focused on repealing the individual mandate through tax reform.

He said the decision wasn’t unanimous, but that no one threatened to vote against tax reform if it were included.

“This is totally different from health care. Nobody was standing up saying ‘if you do this, I’m not going to vote for the bill.’ There’s none of that. Everybody wants to get to yes,” he said.

This is ALL about health care. This is more than a tax bill, it’s an attack on health care, both Obamacare and Medicare. That’s why the nation’s insurers, hospitals, and doctors immediately announced their opposition and blasted Senate Republicans. They say, based on knowing how this shit works, that the bill will destabilize the market and “result in a significant increase in premiums, which would in turn substantially increase the number of uninsured Americans.”

As of now, the repeal isn’t in the House version of the bill, which could come to the floor as soon as tomorrow. But the Republican Study Committee has formally asked that it be included. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to jam this through as fast as he can, before opposition really has a chance to build.

The Republican tax giveaway to the super wealthy is an attack on our health care, an attack as dangerous as Trumpcare was. Please, call your member of the House of Representatives and your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote “no” on the Republican tax bill.

Daily Kos

Nov 14

This Is How Desperate Trump Has Grown for Anything He Can Call a ‘Win’

A new report suggests the president begged Vietnam to purchase U.S. military equipment.

President Donald Trump reportedly begged the Vietnamese government to buy American military equipment because he needed “quick wins” ahead of upcoming elections.

Sources tell Bloomberg that Trump grilled Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc about why his country wasn’t spending more money buying American weapons.

“He needed quick wins, he told his team in the room, because he’d be running for re-election before anyone realized,” Bloomberg reports. “And weapons sales, in Trump’s view, are good for his approval ratings.”

Trump apparently spent much of his trip hawking American weapons to other countries, as he sought to emulate the early success he had in cutting a massive weapons deal with Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

“Trump rarely set down in a country without pointing out that buying a few F-18s would go a long way toward winning his heart,” Bloomberg writes. “But he’ll return home to Washington without having secured a major new order for American defense contractors.”

Bloomberg’s sources also say that Trump disappointed many American allies in Asia during his trip by showing an unwillingness to embrace a long-term strategy for the United States’ relationship with the region.

“Local leaders were looking for seriousness and not just stamina, any sign Trump was prepared to provide a potent counter-balance to China,” writes Bloomberg. “There, he offered them little reason for optimism. He was already tweeting about the tax reform fight back home before he even left Manila, his final stop.”


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Nov 14

Northam’s transition team leader has ties to companies behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Virginia’s governor-elect, Ralph Northam, wasted no time in organizing a transition team. A day after his November 7th victory, Northam announced that Marianne Radcliff, a former state transportation official with rich experience in local government and politics, will lead his transition team.

Over the past two decades, Radcliff has established herself as a prominent lobbyist in the state’s capital. She is currently vice president of the Richmond-based lobbying firm Kemper Consulting. Previously she worked as a lobbyist for Williams Mullen.

DeSmog has found that Radcliff and Kemper Consulting have ties to companies behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a highly controversial project that loomed large in the gubernatorial race. These include links to Dominion – the energy giant and historically dominant corporate player in Virginian politics.

Northam, who early on supported the pipeline but later tried to assume a more careful position – perhaps in order not to alienate potential Democratic voters strongly opposed to the project – will now face renewed pressure from activists to oppose it as governor. The state has yet to issue all permits for the pipeline, including a crucial section 401 water quality certification under the Clean Water Act.

The pipeline question came up again and again during the Virginia gubernatorial campaign, even during a televised debate between Northam and his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie.

Northam said during the debate that he will support the project only if can be done with little environmental damage and with permitting rigor. If elected, he said, “I’ll work with the Virginia DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers to make sure, if the pipelines move forward, that they are done in an environmentally responsible way and taking into account people’s property rights.”

Yet Radcliff’s appointment may be signaling a nod to proponents of the pipeline. Kemper Consulting has been lobbying in the past few years for Virginia Natural Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the partners behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline. Radcliff was personally registered to lobby for Virginia Natural Gas in 2015.

Kemper Consulting is also presently lobbying for Williams Companies, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based gas pipeline corporation.

Yet perhaps even more significantly, Radcliff is also longtime lobbyist for Fluor Corporation, a multinational construction and engineering company with extensive operations in the oil and gas industry. In the past several years alone Fluor has been involved in the construction of three natural gas-fired power plants owned by Dominion: Brunswick County Power StationBear Garden Power Station, and Greensville County Power Station. Dominion has tied the latter two facilities explicitly to the Atlantic Coast pipeline, arguing that the pipeline will deliver gas to power the new stations.

In its formal application for the Greensville County Power Station, which is currently under construction, Dominion stated that the facility will “have access” to the Atlantic Coast pipeline.

Radcliff also has links to Dominion lobbyist David Hallock. Both are state-appointed members of Longwood University’s Board of Visitors. And last year, Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Katherine Bond, a senior policy advisor at Dominion, to serve on the Longwood University’s board.

Hallock previously worked with Radcliff at Kemper Consulting. In 2015, after a stint as U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s Chief of Staff, Hallock opened his own lobbying company, Two Capitols Consulting. He’s been a Dominion lobbyist since then.

As it turns out, both Radcliff and Hallock also share a business interest. Financial disclosures the two have filed with the Virginia Ethics Advisory Council, which are required by their membership on Longwood University’s Board of Visitors, show that both own a business interest in a limited liability corporation called RKHHLLC, a commercial space in downtown Virginia.

disclosure filed by Kay Kemper, the president of Kemper Consulting who serves on the board of another state university, reveals an interest in RKHHLLC as well.

State of Virginia business records for RKHHLLC indicate the business was registered by Brian Ball, an attorney at Williams Mullen, Radcliff’s former employer.

DeSmog requested comment from Radcliff and Hallock on this story, but did not receive a response. Both were also asked about the nature of their interest in RKHHLLC. A request for comment from the Northam campaign went unanswered as well.

Rick Webb, coordinator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, a group of activists and organizations that have been opposing the pipeline since 2014, is concerned by Radcliff’s appointment – yet remains hopeful.

This appointment does raise concerns,” Webb says. “We’ve been encouraged by the Governor Elect’s past statements about the need for transparent and rigorous review of the ACP and MVP pipelines. Thus far, the Virginia DEQ‘s performance has fallen far short of that standard. So we again call on Mr. Northam to make his expectations clear. Selection of someone with ties to Dominion to lead his transition seems to send the wrong message. Nonetheless, we are hopeful.”

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Nov 14

Midday open thread: Many American Indians fear calling the cops; college names school for Gwen Ifill

Today’s comic by Jen Sorensen is Patriotism vs. nationalism:

Trump regime makes clear it plans to fight on in the Afghanistan abyss:

In October, as that new mini-escalation was ramping up, the CIA leaked to the New York Times news of a complementary covert surge with lethal drone strikes and “highly experienced” Agency paramilitary teams being dispatched to “hunt and kill” Taliban guerrillas, both ordinary fighters and top officials. “This is unforgiving, relentless,” intoned CIA Director Mike Pompeo, promising a wave of extrajudicial killings reminiscent of the Agency’s notorious Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. CIA paramilitary officers, reported the Times, will lead Special Forces operatives, both Afghan and American, in expanded counterterrorism operations that, in the past, “have been accused of indiscriminately killing Afghan civilians.” In short, it’s game on in Afghanistan.

After 16 years of continuous war in that country, the obvious question is: Does this new campaign have any realistic chance of success, no less victory? To answer that, another question must be asked: How has the Taliban managed to expand in recent years despite intensive U.S. operations and a massive air campaign, as well as the endless and endlessly expensive training of Afghan security forces? 

Spokesman for Philippine president contradicts press secretary S.H. Sanders’ version of talks with Trump: The spokesman said President Rodrigo Duterte and Trump did not discuss human rights at their bilateral meeting, which focused on the Philippines drug war. Sanders had said that “human rights briefly came up.” But Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said he was surprised that she said what she did. “It was not Trump who raised it. Trump never raised it, honestly,” Roque said:

Roque, in the interview, said he believes Sanders was interested in making it appear that Trump had raised human rights in a bid to placate Trump’s “domestic constituency.” He said he decided not to challenge Sanders’s statement immediately after it was distributed to reporters in an email as a way of compromising with her. He said a charitable reading of the meeting would be that Duterte was alluding to human rights issues when he said the drug war was important as an issue of “human development.”

• Simmons College honors the late journalist Gwen Ifill: The college in Boston announced Tuesday that it will name one of its schools the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts and Humanities. Ifill, the long-time print and broadcast journalist, graduated from the private college with a communications degree in 1977. Ifill, who died of cancer last year at age 61, reported for The New York Times and The Washington Post. In the 1990s, she moved to television, covering politics and Congress for NBC News. In 1999, she became the host of “Washington Week” and worked for the nightly “NewsHour” program. She and Judy Woodruff were named co-hosts in 2013.

Judge in Menendez bribery trial tells deadlocked jurors to try again and take their time: The jury in the case informed U.S. District Judge William Walls on Monday that they were deadlocked. He told them to sleep on it and try again to come to a unanimous agreement. “Take as much time as you need,” he said. “This is not reality TV. This is real life.”

The trial is in its 11th week. Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen are charged with running a bribery scheme between 2006 and 2013 in which Menendez lobbied government officials on Melgen’s behalf in exchange for luxury vacations and flights on Melgen’s private plane.

AFL-CIO fights GOP tax plan: The union leadership opposes the $ 1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich “because it would reward outsourcing, slow down economic growth and overburden the middle class. It’s time for Congress to tax Wall Street and CEOs to create jobs, build vital infrastructure and prepare our people for the work ahead.”

More than a third of American Indians in majority Indian areas report fear of calling cops because of discrimination:

According to a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 36 percent of Native Americans living in majority-Native areas say they avoid calling the police because of a fear of discrimination. And nearly half say they or a family member feels he or she has been treated unfairly by the courts. But thanks to a recent law, a small number of tribes are creating their own court systems in hopes they will process cases faster and restore trust.

At energy conference, EPA’s Pruitt praises Heartland Institute, which has more than a decade under its belt lying about about climate change: The America First Energy Conference attracted a number of U.S. officials as well as academics and professional climate science deniers:

Pruitt, who while head of the EPA has repeatedly questioned the link between human activity and global warming, also didn’t mention it in his video address. “So I want to say to you at the Heartland Institute, thanks for what you are doing to advance energy,” Pruitt said. “Thank you for what you are doing to advance natural resources. We’ve been blessed immensely as a country to whom much is given, much is acquired.” […]

Pruitt’s team, according to [Heartland spokesperson Jim] Lakely, has reached out to the Heartland Institute for a list of scientists and policy experts who are skeptical of catastrophic man-made global warming. Some of those names ended up on the list of the agency’s new science advisers released earlier this month.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: There’s still more on Moore, that moron. Banned from the local mall! Banned from the local YMCA! So, can he be banned from the Senate? Let’s talk about how. Oh, and there’s also plenty Moron Trump, Jr., and even Moron Flynn, Sr.

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Nov 14

That Time Roy Moore Refused to Convict a Child Molester Who Abused a 4-Year-Old

The Alabama Republican has made no secret of his views on sexual assault.

Roy Moore has had a month or so to forget. Last week, the Washington Post broke the news that he sexually pursued a 14-year-old girl back when he was in his 30s. Since then, a total of five women have accused the Alabama senatorial candidate of harassment and abuse.

The allegations speak for themselves, although one case Moore recently heard as a state judge—when he refused to convict a child molester who abused a 4-year-old—sheds light on his backward views of sexual assault.

In 2015 when Moore was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he and eight other judges heard the case of Eric Lemont Higdon, a 17-year-old childcare worker accused of raping a four-year-old boy in his care. A local court convicted Higdon on two counts of sodomy, one for statutory rape and another for forcible rape. An appeals court later overturned the forcible rape charge, and the case eventually reached the state Supreme Court.

Eight of the justices in Montgomery ruled that the appeals court had erred and voted to leave the two convictions as originally ruled. The one judge who dissented? Roy Moore.

Alabama’s archaic definition of “forcible rape” requires that the victim fear for his or her life or suffer severe injury, and Moore, a strict constructionist in the tradition of Antonin Scalia, saw no evidence of this in the Higdon case. He wrote, “because there was no evidence in this case of an implied threat of serious physical injury…or of an implied threat of death, Higdon cannot be convicted of sodomy in the first degree ‘by forcible compulsion.’”

In Moore's view, the child was not injured in the course of the assault (at least not according to Alabama’s narrow definition, which ignores the psychological damage and trauma sexual assault victims can suffer), and because the 4-year-old trusted Higdon, he was not afraid for his life.

Ever the small-government literalist, Moore wrote in his dissent that “although this may be a noble cause in certain situations, policymaking is beyond the role of this Court.” He feared the Higdon ruling would set a precedent that could muddy future cases of nonconsensual sex between children: “This Court has potentially opened the door to cases in which a 10-year-old could be convicted of ‘first-degree sodomy by forcible compulsion’ for intercourse with an 8-year-old, or a 6-year-old with a 4-year-old, or a 16-year-old with a 14-year-old.”

Note the disparity between the examples cited and the 13-year age difference between Higdon and his preschool-age victim.

As Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate, by no means should we assume that Moore projected his own penchant for pedophilia onto the Higdon case. To “suggest that judges may be projecting their own crimes upon certain defendants” is a “ridiculous logical leap that would turn many judges into secret murderers.”

Fair enough. But this case does teach us something about Moore’s thinking in the context of the numerous allegations against him. Clearly, Moore is of the mind that children are not physically harmed by sexual abuse unless they bleed or suffer broken bones. But we didn’t need the Higdon case to reveal this—we already knew that Moore doesn’t think rape is a big deal.


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Nov 14

RT America torched in witch hunt ’17

In one of the most horrendous blows to press freedom since the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, the U.S. Department of Justice has forced the news broadcaster RT America to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The assault on RT America, on which I host the show “On Contact,” has nothing to do with the dissemination of Russian propaganda. It is driven by RT America’s decision to provide a platform to critics of American capitalism and imperialism, critics who lambast a system of government that can no longer be called democratic. And it is accompanied by the installation of algorithms by Google, Facebook and Twitter that divert readers away from left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites, including Truthdig. The World Socialist Web Site has seen its search traffic from Google fall by 74 percent since April. Google, in a further blow, this month removed RT from its list of “preferred” channels on YouTube. Twitter has blocked all advertising by the channel.

Put the censorship campaigns together and the message is clear: Left-wing critics, already marginalized by the state, must be silenced.

It would seem, given how we are locked out of the corporate media and public broadcasting, that the assault is overkill. But the ideology that sustains the corporate state, the “free market” and neoliberalism has lost all credibility. The corporate state has no counterargument to its critics. The nakedness of corporate greed, exploitation and repression is transparent across the political spectrum. The ideological fortress erected by corporate power and sustained by its courtiers in the press and academia has collapsed. All it has left is a crude censorship.

Complicit in this censorship is a bankrupt liberal class. The institutions tasked with defending press freedom – including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and PEN – along with major news outlets such as The New York Times, have served as the corporate state’s useful idiots. Only a handful of journalists, including Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, grasp and decry the very real danger before us.

The charge that RT and these left-wing sites disseminate “foreign propaganda” is the beginning, not the end, of a broad campaign against press freedom. Once this precedent of state censorship is normalized, far more tepid and compliant media outlets will be targeted. Max Blumenthal wrote two good pieces on AlterNet about the puppet masters behind the censorship campaign. [Click here and here.]

The venom of the state toward its critics was displayed in a report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” issued Jan. 6. In the report, seven pages were specifically directed at RT America, much of the language focused on the journalist Abby Martin. Martin became one of the best-known critics of the corporate state during the Occupy movement. Her show on RT, “Breaking the Set,” which had been off the air for nearly two years when the report was published – a glaring error for an intelligence community awash in budgets of tens of billions of dollars – was denounced as a disseminator of “radical discontent.” The report complained that RT gave airtime to third-party candidate debates. The document attacked RT hosts for asserting that the two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a sham. It excoriated the network for covering Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and fracking.

The report charged:

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.

RT has also focused on criticism of the U.S. economic system, U.S. currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the U.S. national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to U.S. financial collapse.

The “Alice in Wonderland” quality of the report would be laughable if it was not so ominous. The United States, in fact, is a surveillance state. Civil liberties have been eviscerated. Police brutality is endemic. Our drone wars have made us state terrorists. The economic structure serves the wealthiest corporations and oligarchs. Wall Street is run by a criminal class. Our debt is unsustainable, especially once the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, and like all decaying empires we are headed for collapse. The DNI report clarifies what the ruling elites fear – not fake news but the truth. And the truth is that the elites have destroyed the country and are traitors to democracy.

The DNI report was followed by a congressional hearing on “Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online,” held Oct. 31. Executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google were grilled about their roles in distributing fake news and extremist content that in the words of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley included “spread[ing] stories about abuse of black Americans by law enforcement.” The executives promised to double down on their censorship, and they did so.

The ruling elites are desperately trying to shift the focus away from the cause of the political insurgencies on the left and the right: extreme social inequality. It is for this reason that critics who highlight and explore the roots and causes of social inequality must be discredited or silenced. If social inequality is accepted as the driving force behind the decay of the American state and the mounting rage of much of the population, then the structures that profit from this inequality will come under assault. All the elites have left is to paint their critics as “agents of a foreign power.”

The United States increasingly resembles a totalitarian state. Our anemic democracy is on life support. A reasoned debate about social inequality or the crimes and misjudgments of empire is becoming impossible. This presages a frightening future. There will be many “good” Americans who, when the history of this moment is recorded, will be responsible. And one day, to their surprise, they too will be victims.

The post RT America torched in witch hunt ’17 appeared first on NationofChange.


Nov 14

Senate Republicans already used Pence’s tie-breaking vote five times—what if they had one less seat?

Watching the Alabama Senate race is nothing short of watching a political party in full meltdown mode. Anyone who tells you they know the outcome of the Alabama Senate race, where GOP sexual predator Roy Moore will appear on the ballot opposite Democrat Doug Jones, is either lying or delusional.

Given the circumstances, it’s worth remembering just how dependent Senate Republicans have already proven to be on turning to Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote. He’s done it five times, “more than any other vice president during their first year of office in U.S. history,” writes the Washington Post. In fact, if you trimmed down the Senate GOP’s majority from 52-48 by just one seat—from Alabama, for instance—here’s a quick look at the issues Republicans would have failed to advance. 

Without [Luther] Strange in the Alabama seat, Republicans would not have been able to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule last month. They wouldn’t have been able to open floor debate on the repeal of Obamacare in July. They wouldn’t have been able to reverse an Obama administration rule that prevented states from withholding family-planning dollars from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions. And they wouldn’t have been able to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education in February.

Simply put, every single vote would put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a tremendous bind, with the biggest binds coming on the most important pieces of legislation, like repealing health care from millions of Americans and providing a tax giveaway to the rich. Senate Republicans are barely functioning as it is.

A one-seat majority would also provide a major electoral upside for Democrats: for every party-line vote on a bill, attack ads could be made tagging every Republican senator with providing “the deciding vote.” Just think about someone like Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska anticipating an attack ad charging her with providing “the deciding vote that stripped thousands of Alaskans of life-saving health care coverage.” Murkowski voted against the GOP’s health care repeal when she was given a chance anyway, but the additional thought of an attack ad like that would haunt any Republican running for re-election in 2018, or even 2020.

If you want to help shave the Senate GOP majority by one seat, give $ 3 now to boost Doug Jones’ candidacy for Senate against sexual predator Roy Moore in Alabama. 

Daily Kos