Democracy Now!

Democrats Debate Wealth Tax, Free Public College & Student Debt Relief as Part of New Economic Plan

At Tuesday’s Democratic debate, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg repeated his criticism of plans for tuition-free public college and wiping out student debt, supported by both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Activist and Truthout contributor Alexis Goldstein says the dispute highlights a philosophical split within the Democratic Party. “We essentially have a disagreement between the progressive candidates and the moderate candidates about whether or not we want to pursue a universal benefit for higher education and make it a public good, much in the way that K-12 education is treated as a public good,” Goldstein says.

A Modest Improvement or a Deal to be Rejected? Warren & Sanders Debate New NAFTA Rewrite

Progressive Democatic presidential candidates Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders clashed over their trade policy disagreements as they zeroed in on the U.S., Mexico and Canada trade agreement that is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Sanders said the government can do much better. “The heart and soul of our disastrous trade agreements — and I’m the guy who voted against NAFTA and against permanent normal trade relations with China — is that we have forced American workers to compete against people in Mexico, in China, elsewhere, who earn starvation wages, $1 or $2 an hour,” Sanders said. “Second of all, every major environmental organization has said no to this new trade agreement because it does not even have the phrase 'climate change' in it.” Meanwhile, Warren argued the USMCA “will give some relief” to U.S. farmers and workers. “I believe we accept that relief, we try to help the people who need help, and we get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal,” she said. We speak with Julian Brave NoiseCat, journalist and vice president of policy and strategy at the think tank Data for Progress.

In First All-White Democratic Debate, CNN Didn't Ask a Single Question About Immigration

As the federal government plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the military budget for the construction of President Trump’s promised border wall, and tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Central America, the Caribbean and other regions are stranded throughout the U.S.-Mexico border, CNN moderators failed to question Democratic presidential candidates on border and immigration issues. We speak to Julio Ricardo Varela, co-host of the Latinx political podcast “In the Thick” and founder of Latino Rebels. “Anyone who thinks that a wall is going to protect us, the statistics aren’t there. … But that is what the American people are led to believe,” Varela says. “The only way you fight against this is that you challenge that propaganda, because that is what it’s becoming. It has become propaganda. And political journalists need to do a better job in challenging what the president says.”

Sanders and Warren Openly Spar as Some Progressives Fear Fighting Could Help Moderate Democrats

At Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren openly sparred for the first time when asked about Warren’s claim that Sanders told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidential election. Sanders again denied the accusation when asked about it by CNN’s Abby Phillip. Warren maintained her claim. At the end of the night, Warren also apparently refused to shake Sanders’s hand. We speak with journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat, activist and Truthout contributor Alexis Goldstein and Larry Hamm of People’s Organization for Progress.

Phyllis Bennis on Dem Debate: Support for Combat Troop Withdrawal is Not Enough to Stop Endless Wars

Six Democratic presidential candidates sparred on Tuesday night in Des Moines, the last debate before the crucial Iowa caucuses. The debate, hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register, focused heavily on foreign policy and rising tensions with Iran following the U.S. assassination of that country’s top military commander, Qassem Soleimani. As the presidential field continues to narrow, the U.S. Senate is preparing for the historic impeachment trial of President Trump, for which Senators Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar are all expected to leave the campaign trail to serve their role as jurors.

Headlines for January 15, 2020

"Floaters": Martín Espada Pays Tribute to Salvadoran Father & Daughter Who Drowned at U.S. Border

Acclaimed poet Martín Espada pays tribute to Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month old daughter Angie Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande river in June 2019 trying to cross into the United States. A photo of the drowned Salvadoran father and daughter caused widespread outrage at the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border and also raised questions about the ethics of exploiting such images in the press. Espada’s poem “Floaters” meditates on their passing and its aftermath.

"Morir Soñando": Martín Espada Reads Poem About Luis Garden Acosta, Young Lord & Community Activist

Last week marked the first anniversary of the passing of Luis Garden Acosta, the founder and longtime president of the nationally known El Puente youth and community leadership program in Brooklyn. Long regarded as one of New York City’s foremost human rights and Latino community activists, Garden Acosta died last January at the age of 72. A former seminarian who had been active in the Catholic antiwar movement, Garden Acosta joined the Young Lords Party in 1970 and later founded that group’s Massachusetts chapter while he was still a student at Harvard Medical School. He went on to pioneer successful nonviolent direct action campaigns against segregated public schools and against environmental racism in New York City. In his later years, together with his wife Frances Lucerna, Garden Acosta created an alternative public high school geared toward human rights activism, the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. To honor his legacy, we speak with the renowned poet Martín Espada. He is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of more than 20 books. His latest collection of poems is called “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed.”

Moms 4 Housing: Meet the Oakland Mothers Facing Eviction After Two Months Occupying Vacant House

In Oakland, California, a group of mothers fighting homelessness is waging a battle against real estate speculators and demanding permanent solutions to the Bay Area housing crisis by occupying a vacant house with their children. The struggle began in November, when working mothers in West Oakland moved into 2928 Magnolia Street, a vacant house owned by real estate investment firm Wedgewood Properties. The firm tried to evict them, claiming they were illegally squatting on private property, but the mothers went to court and filed a “right to possession” claim, saying housing is a human right. Their name is Moms 4 Housing. The battle for the house came to a head last week when an Alameda County judge ruled in favor of Wedgewood Properties and ordered the mothers to vacate the house. But Moms 4 Housing has stayed to fight eviction. Monday night, hundreds of protesters gathered at the house after receiving a tip that the Sheriff’s Office was coming to evict the families — a show of support that led the sheriff to abandon the eviction attempt. We speak with Carroll Fife, director of the Oakland office for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, and Dominique Walker, a member of Moms 4 Housing who has been living at the house with her family. Our interview was interrupted by news of another possible eviction attempt.

GOP Debate on Impeachment Witnesses Intensifies as Pelosi Prepares to Send Articles to Senate

The impeachment trial of President Trump is anticipated to proceed this week, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to send the two articles of impeachment to the Senate as early as Wednesday. The House impeached Trump in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. A growing number of Republican senators are pushing for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on whether to allow witnesses to speak at the Senate trial. The timing of the Senate impeachment trial could impact the 2020 presidential race. Three Democratic candidates — Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — will have to leave the campaign trail for the trial, which could begin this week. On Monday, Senator Cory Booker dropped out of the race in part because of the time demands of the impeachment trial. We speak with Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com, where she is their senior legal correspondent and Supreme Court reporter. Dahlia also hosts the podcast “Amicus.”

Headlines for January 14, 2020

"Stop the Money Pipeline": 150 Arrested at Protests Exposing Wall Street's Link to Climate Crisis

Nearly 150 people were arrested on Capitol Hill Friday in a climate protest led by Academy Award-winning actor and activist Jane Fonda. Fonda has been leading weekly climate demonstrations in Washington, D.C., known as “Fire Drill Fridays,” since October. For her last and 14th protest, actors Martin Sheen and Joaquin Phoenix, indigenous anti-pipeline activist Tara Houska, journalist Naomi Klein and dozens more lined up to get arrested as they demanded a mass uprising and swift political action to thwart the climate crisis. Fonda then marched with supporters down Pennsylvania Avenue to a Chase Bank branch where environmentalist Bill McKibben and dozens of others were occupying the space to draw attention to the bank’s ties to the fossil fuel industry. Ten, including McKibben, were arrested. The day of action was the launch of “Stop the Money Pipeline,” a campaign to halt the flow of cash from banks, investment firms and insurance companies to the fossil fuel industry. “Let us remember that we are not the criminals,” Naomi Klein told a crowd of protesters. “The criminals are the people who are letting this world burn for money.”

"America Exists Today to Make War": Lawrence Wilkerson on Endless War & American Empire

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, says the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran today is a continuation of two decades of U.S. policy disasters in the Middle East, starting with the 2003 run-up to war with Iraq under the Bush administration. “America exists today to make war. How else do we interpret 19 straight years of war and no end in sight? It’s part of who we are. It’s part of what the American Empire is,” says Wilkerson. “We are going to cheat and steal to do whatever it is we have to do to continue this war complex. That’s the truth of it. And that’s the agony of it.”

"A System Failure": Iran Admits to Downing Airplane, Sparking Renewed Anti-Government Protests

Iranian protesters have taken to the streets for a third day, after the Iranian military acknowledged it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner last week, killing all 176 people on board, including 82 Iranians and 57 Canadians. Iran initially denied downing the plane, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard took responsibility for what authorities now describe as a “disastrous mistake.” The plane was downed hours after Iranian forces fired 22 rockets at military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Millions of Iranians took to the streets last week to pay tribute to Soleimani, but this week anti-government protests resumed in at least a dozen cities. There are reports of Iranian forces firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the protesters. Meanwhile, in Washington, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has publicly contradicted President Trump’s assertion that Soleimani was planning to attack four U.S. embassies at the time of his assassination. Esper said he had not seen evidence supporting Trump’s claim. For more on the Iranian protests, we speak with Ali Kadivar, assistant professor of sociology and international studies at Boston College. Kadivar grew up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War and completed his undergraduate and first graduate degree at the University of Tehran, where he was active in the student movement.

Headlines for January 13, 2020

The Weaponization of Data: Cambridge Analytica, Information Warfare & the 2016 Election of Trump

We continue our conversation with the directors of “The Great Hack,” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, as well as former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser and propaganda researcher Emma Briant, about Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Group’s history as a defense contractor. “We’re in a state of global information warfare now,” Briant says. “How do we know if our militaries develop technologies and the data that it has gathered on people, for instance, across the Middle East … how do we know when that is turning up in Yemen or when that is being utilized by an authoritarian regime against the human rights of its people or against us? How do we know that it’s not being manipulated by Russia, by Iran, by anybody who’s an enemy, by Saudi Arabia, for example, who SCL were also working with? We have no way of knowing, unless we open up this industry and hold these people properly accountable for what they’re doing.”

"Democracy For Sale": Cambridge Analytica & Big Tech's History of Manipulating Elections

A longtime Facebook executive has admitted the company’s platform helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election, and it may happen again this year. In an internal memo, Facebook Vice President Andrew Bosworth wrote, “So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected? I think the answer is yes.” Bosworth, who was a backer of Hillary Clinton in 2016, went on to write that the company should not change its policies in an effort to hurt Trump’s re-election chances. In his memo, Bosworth referenced the role of the shadowy data firm Cambridge Analytica but downplayed its significance. However, a new Oscar-shortlisted documentary called “The Great Hack” argues Cambridge Analytica has played a significant role not just in the U.S. election but in elections across the globe. The company harvested some 87 million Facebook profiles without the users’ knowledge or consent and used the data to sway voters during the 2016 campaign. We speak with the directors of “The Great Hack,” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, as well as former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser and propaganda researcher Emma Briant.

Headlines for January 10, 2020

Uyghurs & Other Muslim Minorities Forced into Labor Programs to Staff Chinese Factories

In China, a shocking new exposé has revealed that Chinese authorities are systematically forcing Muslims — mostly Uyghurs and Kazakhs — into labor programs to supply Chinese factories with a cheap and compliant workforce. The New York Times investigation, based on official documents, interviews and visits to the far-western region of Xinjiang, reveals a sweeping program to push poor farmers, villagers and small traders into sometimes months-long training courses before assigning them to low-wage factory work. The programs work in tandem with indoctrination camps where an estimated 1 million adults from the Uyghur community are being imprisoned. China claims its labor programs are “vocational training centers” designed to combat extremism and alleviate poverty, while Uyghur activists say they are part of China’s ongoing campaign to strip them of their language and community and to carry out cultural genocide. We speak with Austin Ramzy, a New York Times reporter who co-authored the recent exposé, and Nury Turkel, a Uyghur-American attorney and board chair at the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

Andrew Bacevich: The U.S. Needs to Abandon "Militarized Approach" to Middle East and Build Peace

We continue our conversation with Andrew Bacevich, president and co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He is a retired colonel, Vietnam War veteran and author of, most recently, of “The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory.” Bacevich says the crisis with Iran, sparked by President Trump’s assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani, is just the latest in a long series of ill-advised American actions in the Middle East. “The only conceivable way for us to begin to extricate ourselves from this terrible mess in the region … is to abandon this militarized approach and to take a more balanced position with regard to the rivalries in the region,” Bacevich says.

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