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Anonymous Trump Official Writing ‘Unprecedented’ Inside Take

NEW YORK — The Trump administration official who wrote an anonymous essay about resistance from the inside has a book deal.

The book, titled “A Warning,” will come out Nov. 19, The Hachette Book Group imprint Twelve announced Tuesday. It will likely set off the biggest Washington guessing game since “Primary Colors,” the fictionalized take on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign that turned out to be written by journalist Joe Klein.

The anonymous essay appeared in The New York Times in September 2018 and said that many within the administration were actively blocking some of Trump’s orders. No one has named the official despite widespread speculation and Trump’s own suggestion that the author’s identity be investigated.

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Twelve is calling the book “an unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait” that “offers a shocking, first-hand account of President Trump and his record.” The author will be identified as “A Senior Trump Administration Official.”

According to the publisher, the author accepted no advance and will donate a portion of royalties to nonprofits that focus on accountability and “standing up” for truth in oppressive countries.

The official’s literary representatives, the Washington-based Javelin, have made deals for other books that have enraged Trump, including former FBI director James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty” and former White House aide Cliff Sims’ “Team of Vipers.”

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The Democratic Establishment Is Terrified of a Biden Loss

Last Saturday, nearly 26,000 people packed themselves into Queensbridge Park in New York City, angling for a chance to see Bernie Sanders speak. Almost 20,000 people did the same for Elizabeth Warren in Manhattan in September. Multiple presidential polls show Sanders and Warren, the two most progressive Democratic primary candidates, alternating between the second and third spots behind Joe Biden in the 2020 race. Those results suggest that a policy agenda that includes Medicare for All and high taxes on the wealthy is gaining traction among voters.

Establishment Democrats are panicking at this prospect, and at Biden’s declining performance. As The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reports, they are “engaging in a familiar rite: fretting about who is in the race and longing for a white knight to enter the contest at the last minute.”

After Joe Biden’s middling debate performances and repeated gaffes, Martin’s sources doubt the former vice president’s “ability to finance a multistate primary campaign.” They also worry about Elizabeth Warren’s “viability in the general election,” and whether South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg “can broaden his appeal beyond white voters.”

The centrist donor class is at it again, idly floating Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama as potential late-in-the-game entries to the presidential race, according to Martin’s unnamed sources who attended a dinner for Democratic donors at Manhattan’s Whitby Hotel last week.

Leah Daughtry, a longtime Democratic party fixture and CEO of the 2016 and 2008 Democratic National Convention Committees, told Martin: “Since the last debate, just anecdotally, I’ve had five or six people ask me: ‘Is there anybody else?’ ”

Connie Schultz, a journalist married to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who considered a run earlier this year, told Martin, “There’s more anxiety than ever,” adding, “We’re both getting the calls [suggesting Brown should run]. I’ve been surprised by some who’ve called me.”

Martin does not explain whether the likes of Clinton, Bloomberg, Brown and John Kerry (another name Martin’s sources floated), would have any more luck attracting nonwhite voters or beating Trump. Only two of the names mentioned in the piece, former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, are not Caucasian.

As former Obama adviser David Axelrod explained to Martin about the Warren-Biden dynamic: “With Trump looming, there is genuine concern that the horse many have bet on may be pulling up lame and the horse who has sprinted out front may not be able to win.”

Mitch Landrieu, the former Democratic lieutenant governor of Louisiana, still believes Biden has the best chance to beat Trump, but says Biden’s weak fundraising remains “a real concern.”

Party elites are also apparently concerned about Warren’s “liberal politics,” although the arguably even more liberal policies of Bernie Sanders get only a brief mention at the end of the article. In fact, Sanders is not listed among the frontrunners despite his poll numbers and what CNN called his “massive” $25 million fundraising haul in the third quarter.

A Marquette University Law poll from September also suggested that Sanders could beat Trump in Wisconsin, a key swing state.

In a September article about Sanders’ electability prospects, Gloria Hoag, a New Hampshire Democratic delegate attending the state party convention, told Politico, “I love Bernie. … But I don’t know if he can beat Trump because he’s so far to the left. We need someone who’s a little more moderate.”

Perhaps all involved would do well to take Deval Patrick’s advice, as he explained to the Times: “Everybody needs to calm down, it’s early. It’s so early.”

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Diplomat: Trump Linked Ukraine Aid to Demand for Probe

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Ambassador William Taylor provided lawmakers Tuesday with a vivid, detailed and what some lawmakers called “disturbing” account of the way President Donald Trump wanted to put the new Ukraine president “in a public box” by demanding a quid pro quo at the center of the impeachment probe.

In a lengthy opening statement to House investigators, Taylor described the way Trump’s demand that “everything” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wanted, including vital military aid to counter Russia, hinged on making a public vow that he would investigate Democrats going back to the 2016 U.S. election as well as a company linked to the family of Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Taylor testified that what he discovered in Kyiv was the Trump administration’s back channel to foreign policy, led by the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a “weird combination” of “ultimately alarming circumstances” that threaten to erode the United States’ relationship with a budding Eastern European ally.

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Lawmakers emerging after hours of the private deposition said Taylor relayed a “disturbing” account, including establishing a “direct line” to the quid pro quo at the center of the impeachment probe .

Lawmakers said Taylor recalled events that filled in gaps from the testimony of other witnesses, particularly Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who testified last week and whose statements now are being called into question by Taylor’s account. They said Taylor kept records of conversations and documents.

“The testimony is very disturbing,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., used the same word. Asked why, he said, “Because it’s becoming more distinct.”

Taylor’s appearance was among the most watched because of a text message, released by House investigators earlier in the probe, in which he called Trump’s attempt to hold back military aid to Ukraine “crazy.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Taylor “drew a straight line” with documents, timelines and individual conversations in his records.

“I do not know how you would listen to today’s testimony from Ambassador Taylor and come to any other (conclusion) except that the president abused his power and withheld foreign aid,” she said.

Lawmakers did not discuss other details of the closed-door session, which was expected to continue into the evening. Taylor declined to comment as he entered the deposition. He was the latest diplomat with concerns to testify. Like the others, he was subpoenaed to appear.

But the career civil servant’s delivery was credible and consistent, people said, as he answered hours of questions from Democrats and Republicans, drawing silence in the room as lawmakers exchanged glances.

Taylor laid out the quid pro quo of the White House’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the new president, Zelenskiy, agreed to Trump’s requests to investigate Democrats, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the private testimony.

In a July phone call, Trump told Zelenskiy he wanted “a favor,” which the White House later acknowledged in a rough transcript of the conversation was Trump’s desire for Ukraine to investigate the Democratic National Committee’s email hack in 2016 as well as a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, with ties to Biden’s family.

Taylor told lawmakers that another diplomat on the string of text messages, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Sondland, was aware of the demands and later admitted he made a mistake that the aid hinged on agreeing to Trump’s requests, the person said.

The account calls into question the testimony from Sondland, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, who told Congress last week he did not fully remember some details of the events. Sondland may be asked to return to Congress after he testified that, among other things, he was initially unaware that the gas company was tied to the Bidens.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., said Taylor, a career civil servant, had a better recall of details than Sondland.

Taylor, a retired diplomat, had been chosen to run the Ukraine embassy after the administration abruptly ousted Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

In a series of text messages released earlier this month by impeachment investigators, Taylor appeared to be alarmed by Trump’s efforts to withhold U.S. military assistance to Ukraine that had already been approved by Congress.

“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote in excerpts of the text messages released by the impeachment investigators.

He has stood by that observation in his private remarks to investigators, according to a person familiar with his testimony who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it.

Taylor’s description of Trump’s position is in sharp contrast to how the president has characterized it. Trump has said many times that there was no quid pro quo, though his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, contradicted that last week. Mulvaney later tried to walk back his remarks.

Taylor, a former Army officer, had been serving as executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan think tank founded by Congress, when he was appointed to run the embassy in Kyiv. He had served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

“He’s the epitome of a seasoned statesman,” said John Shmorhun, an American who heads the agricultural company AgroGeneration.

Before retiring from government service, Taylor was involved in diplomatic efforts surrounding several major international conflicts. He served in Jerusalem as U.S. envoy to the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers. He oversaw reconstruction in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and from Kabul coordinated U.S. and international assistance to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003.

He arrived in Kyiv a month after the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, prepared to steer the embassy through the transition.

After Trump’s phone conversation with Zelenskiy, Taylor exchanged text messages with two of Trump’s point men on Ukraine as they were trying to get Zelenskiy to commit to the investigations before setting a date for a coveted White House visit.

In a text message to Sondland on Sept. 1, Taylor bluntly questioned Trump’s motives: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland instructed Taylor to call him. A week later in texts to Sondland and U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Taylor expressed increased concern and referred to the arrangement as “crazy.”

Taylor also texted that not giving the military aid to Ukraine would be his “nightmare” scenario because it would send the wrong message to both Kyiv and Moscow: “The Russians love it. (And I quit).”

U.S. diplomats based at the Kyiv Embassy have refused to speak with journalists, reflecting the sensitivity of the impeachment inquiry. The embassy press office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

___

Associated Press writers Lynn Berry in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Matthew Lee and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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Russia, Turkey Seal Power in Northeast Syria With Accord

ANKARA, Turkey — Russia and Turkey announced an agreement Tuesday to jointly patrol almost the entire northeastern Syrian border after the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, cementing the two countries’ power in Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The announcement came as Kurdish fighters completed their pullout from a section of the Syrian-Turkish border as required by a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that was set to expire Tuesday night. Together the arrangements transform the map of northeast Syria, leaving Turkey in sole control over one section in the middle of the border, while Turkey, Russia and the Syrian government will have hands in the rest.

The deployments replace American soldiers who for five years battled alongside Kurdish-led fighters and succeeded in bringing down the rule of the Islamic State group across a third of Syria at the cost of thousands of Kurdish fighters’ lives.

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The American pullout has proven chaotic and stumbling. It ran into a new hitch when neighboring Iraq said Tuesday that the American forces did not have permission to stay on its territory. The Iraqi announcement seemed to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who a day earlier said the forces leaving Syria would deploy in Iraq to fight the Islamic State group.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey announced their agreement after six hours of talks and poring over maps of Syria at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Under the 10-point deal, Kurdish fighters would have 150 hours starting at noon Wednesday — meaning, until next Tuesday at 6 p.m. — to withdraw from the border.

Russian and Syrian government forces would move into that area immediately to ensure the Kurdish fighters pull back 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the border. Then at the end of the 150 hours, Russian-Turkish patrols would begin along a 10-kilometer (6-mile) wide strip of the border.

The exception would be the region around the town of Qamishli at the far eastern end of the border, which has some of the densest Kurdish population. Russian and Turkish officials did not immediately say what the arrangement would be around Qamishli.

“I believe that this agreement will start a new era toward Syria’s lasting stability and it being cleared of terrorism. I hope that this agreement is beneficial to our countries and to our brothers in Syria,” Erdogan said.

Turkey will keep control of the section in the center of the border that it captured in its invasion that began Oct. 9. That is the territory that Kurdish fighters withdrew from under the U.S.-brokered cease-fire. It extends roughly 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide and 30 kilometers (20 miles) deep between the Syrian border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.

A senior Kurdish official, Redur Khalil, confirmed his forces had entirely left that area. But he said Turkish troops and their allies were continuing military operations in northeastern Syria outside that withdrawal zone.

The Kurdish-led forces notified the White House of the completed withdrawal in a letter, a senior Trump administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the contents of the letter.

After the U.S. announced its pullout earlier this month, Turkey launched its invasion, saying it wanted to carve out a safe zone cleared of Kurdish fighters whom it considers terrorists. Turkey also plans to settle many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil in that zone, which is the heartland of Syria’s Kurdish minority.

For the Kurds, a Turkish takeover would mean the crushing of the self-rule they have carved out in the northeast amid Syria’s civil war. They also fear massive demographic change, as Kurdish civilians flee Turkish control and mainly Arab Syrian refugees move in.

The new agreement aims to ease those fears by giving Russia and its ally, the Syrian government, control over much of the area, with the Turkish patrols limited to closer to the border. That may prevent a massive flight of civilians but would be a heavy blow to Kurdish autonomy dreams.

The Russia-Turkey deal goes a considerable way to restoring the control of Moscow’s ally, the Syrian government, across much of the northeast.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed to reunite all the territory under Damascus’ rule. On Tuesday, Assad said he was ready to support any “popular resistance” against Turkey’s invasion.

Erdogan is “a thief,” Assad told troops during a visit to the northwestern province of Idlib. “He stole the factories and the wheat and the oil in cooperation with Daesh (the Islamic State group) and now is stealing the land.”

“We are in the middle of a battle and the right thing to do is to rally efforts to lessen the damages from the invasion and to expel the invader sooner or later,” Assad said.

Assad’s visit to Idlib underlined Damascus’ goal of regaining the border. Idlib is adjacent to a border enclave that Turkey captured several years ago in another incursion. Turkey also has observation points inside Idlib, negotiated with Russia, to monitor a cease-fire there between the government and opposition fighters and jihadi groups.

He said his government had offered clemency to Kurdish fighters — whom it considers separatists — to “ensure that everyone is ready to resist the aggression” and fight the Turkish assault.

Syrian state media reported, meanwhile, that government forces entered new areas in Hassakeh province at the far eastern end of the border, under the arrangement with the Kurds.

____

Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Elena Becatoros in Istanbul, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

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The Radical Vision of a ‘Homes Guarantee’ for All

In late September, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled The Place to Prosper Act, one plan out of a larger policy package called “A Just Society,” dedicated to protecting and enforcing tenants’ rights. That same month, before the introduction of that plan, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders had released his own housing plan to address this country’s growing housing crisis through such proposals as a national rent cap and a $70 billion investment into public housing.

But before these two progressive leaders publicized their plans, a grassroots coalition of affordable housing advocates came out with its own housing policy, called a Homes Guarantee, dedicated to eradicating homelessness and providing affordable, sustainable housing for all Americans.

At its core, the Homes Guarantee seeks to tackle the growing housing crisis in large cities and small towns across the U.S. by decommodifying housing and divorcing the need for housing from its current market-based, capitalist-driven system. To accomplish this, the Homes Guarantee calls for building 12 million new social housing units—a public option for housing, in which rents are set at below-market rates—over the next 10 years and offering at least 600,000 “permanent supportive housing” units, which combine affordable housing with social services to help people who face chronic homelessness. The plan also calls for a $30 billion reinvestment in public housing over the next five years, a stark contrast to the federal government’s massive disinvestment in public housing over the past few decades.

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While the left has seen bold visions in the form of the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All” to address the climate crisis and health care, respectively, it hasn’t yet seen a similar plan or movement to address the housing crisis in the U.S. The coalition behind the Homes Guarantee hopes to change that.

“We want it to be in the same string of other progressive demands, like Medicare for All, Green New Deal,” said Tara Raghuveer of the grassroots movement People’s Action, who helped put the plan together. “We think it is that vision—what is the boldest set of structural reforms? It’s a Homes Guarantee.”

The publishing of the Homes Guarantee, in addition to Ocasio-Cortez’s Place to Prosper Act and Sanders’ plan, reflects a growing effort by grassroots advocates to demand more political action addressing the housing crisis impacting millions across the country.

According to a 2019 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person earning minimum wage working 40 hours a week would not be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in any county in the U.S. without feeling cost-burdened. The report also found that there is a nationwide shortage of about 7 million affordable homes for low-income renters, and that nearly 50% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent alone. Major U.S. cities are also facing a growing homelessness crisis: In Los Angeles County, for example, homelessness increased by 12% over the past year, putting the county’s homeless population at 58,936.

If implemented, the Homes Guarantee would make a serious dent in the housing and homeslessness crisis impacting millions across the country. That reality is not lost on those who worked on the policy plan, many of whom have or are currently experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity themselves.

For Linda Armitage, a housing advocate in Chicago who worked on the project, a Homes Guarantee would have saved her from the stresses and trauma of organizing against the greed-driven developers that took over her building. In describing the management’s lack of care for residents, she said that when she told them about a broken elevator in the building, hours before a doctor’s appointment, management suggested she go down the stairs backward on her rollator [mobility walker] instead.

“They’re fine for collecting the rent, making sure the buildings don’t fall down around their heads,” Armitage said. “But … especially as far as seniors are concerned, they have no clue about the special needs that seniors have.”

As a member of Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a Chicago-based grassroots organization working on economic, social and racial justice for seniors, Armitage has seen the ways an unstable housing market hurts seniors like herself. She said a Homes Guarantee would ensure that people like her would not have to worry about losing a stable place to live.

“The seniors don’t want to worry about, ‘Am I going to be homeless?’ like we did here when our building was almost sold out [from] under us,” she said. “They have a right to live with dignity and in good mental and physical health.”

The grassroots coalition and policy team behind the Homes Guarantee made sure the plan also addresses the other issues connected with the housing crisis, particularly the impacts of climate change. One of the goals of the Homes Guarantee emphasizes green construction to “drive deep decarbonization, develop workers’ skills in low-energy construction, and … lower costs of energy efficient appliances and materials for all consumers.” The plan also demands that new housing units be built near public transit and that existing public housing be retrofitted to include energy efficient appliances.

Daniel Aldana Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, listed three priorities for integrating the Homes Guarantee with a plan to address the climate crisis: driving down carbon emissions, tackling racial and economic inequality and prioritizing the comfort and safety of the people living in their homes.

“So I think that if you want to really change the way that people live for broader environmental goals, and if it’s possible to make that consistent with an improved experience in the home, then you have to foreground that,” he said.

Cohen added that emphasizing the comfort factor of residents can also influence the decarbonization of the economy, a primary goal of the Green New Deal. The Homes Guarantee recommends regulations and public procurement in the construction of new social housing units to decrease the cost of low-carbon concrete and conducting energy retrofits in existing public housing as ways to slash carbon pollution over time.

Another climate justice goal of the Homes Guarantee is to ensure that public housing residences can also function as climate resiliency centers, in which communities can feel protected in the event of increasingly devastating natural disasters. In practice, this can mean providing food and water during intense storms and having plants powered by clean energy to ensure electricity during power outages.

“We’re really trying to concretize what it means to do inequality and climate change at the same time,” Cohen said. “I think it’s sort of hard to overstate how important it is to us that we finally make very specific and clear and concrete how a Green New Deal can tackle inequality and carbon at the same time.”

The Homes Guarantee is also dedicated to providing reparations to communities for centuries of racist housing policies. The plan discusses how redlining and exclusionary housing policies like racial covenants barred black people and indigenous communities from the opportunity to own a home and live in safe, affordable housing.

Sofia Lopez, a senior research analyst at Action Center for Race and the Economy, worked on the reparations portion of the plan. Yet Lopez said a blanket homes guarantee to all people is still not enough to address that history of systemic discrimination.

“The history of housing in our country has always been racist,” she said. “People have not had equal access to housing. We talk about that like it’s all ancient history, but it isn’t. I can’t think of any city that isn’t hyper-segregated.”

Lopez has seen how housing policy has intimately impacted people in her hometown of San Antonio, where heavy investment in developing the downtown area has caused property values to skyrocket for the surrounding neighborhood. This increase in property values, Lopez said, has become a strain on communities of color in San Antonio.

“Say you have a family that’s owned [its] home for a generation or two or even less than that,” she said. “If [its] still making the same income and [its] required to pay higher property taxes, there’s all kinds of opportunities for that home to be taken away.”

To help the black and brown families who are still in financial ruins after being targeted for subprime mortgages by predatory lenders during the 2008 housing crash, the Homes Guarantee recommends either canceling their debts altogether or drastically reducing their outstanding balances.

“I feel like we should be at a point where we can say that … banks should not continue to profit off of the fact that there are people that are still in debt because of the awful predatory lending that was taking place during that period,” Lopez said.

And while the plan does not try to emphasize home ownership at the expense of guaranteeing housing as a basic necessity, the Homes Guarantee does recognize the need to support black and brown households through “grants and zero interest capital so they may pursue self-determination in securing housing that meets their needs.”

The passing of a true Homes Guarantee faces a steep uphill battle, largely because a plan of its kind—that proposes to end homelessness, divorce housing from capitalist interest and provide safe and affordable housing to all Americans—has not been a serious consideration in mainstream politics for decades. The last time housing policy was taken seriously in the U.S. was during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency during the civil rights era, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development became a Cabinet-level agency in 1965 and the administration passed the Housing and Urban Development Act in 1968.

Now, in 2019, with millions of people across the U.S. facing a housing crisis, a housing guarantee policy is long overdue.

“We’re nearing a breaking point,” Raghuveer said. “There are more renters than ever, there are more cost burdened renters than ever. People are literally being displaced across the country. Climate change is adding another layer to this, where we have climate refugees within our own borders.”

One large obstacle facing the Homes Guarantee will be convincing politicians and the public to think about housing not as a capitalist commodity or something to be owned, but as an inherent human right.

“There is a tension between property ownership as a tool to build wealth and a Homes Guarantee as kind of unpacking some of the privilege that we put on property ownership as a tool to build wealth,” Lopez said. “I think our philosophy really has gotten us into the situation that we’re in.”

That philosophy, which is very much guided by a combination of capitalism and racism, has also contributed to the lack of political will and imagination to pursue a federal housing policy. Raghuveer said what makes housing unique from an issue like health care is the way home ownership is so intimately tied to the Western mythology of wealth building and the American Dream: “My family are immigrants and completely bought into that myth,” she said. “And I think there’s still a lot of working class people who, by no fault of their own, have bought into this dominant narrative that if you work hard enough, one day you too can own a home and that’s the thing to aspire for. And what that’s led to is a complete lack of imagination around what’s possible. In the American dream mythology … a single-family home is the way you build your family’s wealth even though that’s never been the truth for most people by right and by design. “

Raghuveer added that the stagnancy on behalf of politicians to address this country’s housing crisis is, in part, done on purpose.

“They’re not ignoring this issue just because,” she said. “They’re ignoring this issue because, in ignoring it, people benefit … lobbyists, [real estate] associations, big developers, massive corporations, private equity, Wall Street—there are worlds and worlds of people who benefit from people being homeless, people dying on the streets, people not being able to afford their rent.”

Then there’s the stigma—developed and maintained by political demonization of the poor and by racist dog-whistling—that treats public housing as a scourge on society rather than a public good. The proof is in the ways both Republican and Democratic administrations in modern U.S. history have declined to fully invest in social services that would help the poor and working class.

“There has been a very successful bipartisan campaign to demonize the role of the public sector in providing housing,” Raghuveer said. “The stigma around public housing is so strong, not because public housing was actually a failure, but because the private market now benefits from us not believing in a public option for housing.”

While mainstream politicians may continue to ignore the growing housing crisis in the U.S., advocates backing the Homes Guarantee, like Armitage, believe passing such a plan can be done.

“We can spend millions, billions, trillions on the military, on war in general,” she said. “There’s no reason we cannot come up with a way to give people housing as a human right and give people a guarantee. It can be done.”

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Your Politics Can Predict How You Pronounce Certain Words

Politics can predict the TV shows we watch, the shops we frequent and the places we live.

But what about the way we speak?

In a recent study, I was able to show how your political orientation can influence how you pronounce certain words.

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How members of America’s two parties view the country – and its place in the world – might explain this phenomenon.

A Tale of Two Presidents

You may have noticed President Donald Trump has a unique way of saying the names of foreign places.

For example, he’s pronounced “Tanzania” as “tan-zay-nee-uh,” as opposed to “tan-zuh-nee-uh,” and “Namibia” as “nam-bee-uh” instead of “na-mih-bee-uh.”

At the other end of the spectrum, President Barack Obama was a “stickler” for saying foreign words in a way that more closely mimicked the pronunciation of native speakers. He was even thanked for it: Pakistanis reportedly expressed appreciation to the White House for his pronunciation of “Pakistan” as “pock-ee-stahn,” rather than using a pronunciation like “pack-iss-stan.”

My own research has found that this pronunciation difference isn’t relegated to presidents. Speakers who identify as Democrats are likelier to use these kinds of pronunciations of foreign words than those who identify as Republicans.

A Speech Pattern Emerges

In my study, I had participants read random sentences out loud, some of which included the names of foreign places, and others that included English words borrowed from foreign languages.

Then I asked them questions about their political identities, views and opinions. I compared their responses to these questions with their pronunciations.

I found that, when compared with Republicans, Democrats are more likely to pronounce

  • “Iraq” as “ear-rock,” rather than “eye-rack”
  • “Chile” as “chee-lay,” rather than “chill-ee”
  • “Muslim” as “moose-limb,” rather than “muzz-lum”
  • “spiel” as “shpeel,” rather than “speel”
  • “foyer” as “foy-ay,” rather than “foy-er.”

In each case, Democrats pronounced the words in ways that mimicked the way native speakers would say them. For example, pronouncing “spiel” – which comes from German – as “shpeel” more closely replicates how the word is said in Germany.

Why does this happen and why does it matter?

Today’s Republicans and conservatives tend to align more strongly with an ideology of nationalism.

This term has been used more in political discourse over the past few years, often in ways that aren’t clearly defined.

In social psychology, however, this ideological bent can have multiple dimensions.

Someone who’s more “ardently nationalist” might believe that diversity makes it more difficult for a nation to have a shared identity. They’re also more likely to believe their nation is superior to others.

Democrats are less likely than Republicans to identify as ardently nationalist. Someone who’s less nationalistic also tends to have more interest or willingness to interact with foreign people, places or cultures.

This difference may explain the political pronunciation pattern: In my study, Democrats usually scored lower on a nationalism scale. And this score correlated with speakers’ pronunciations, too.

So Democrats are often more receptive and accommodating to foreign people and cultures. And the way they pronounce foreign words reflects this attitude.

In cognitive linguistics research, we see this pattern a lot: People tend to speak more like others when they have more positive attitudes toward them.

Perhaps that’s why Obama was thanked for pronouncing “Pakistan” more like how Pakistanis do. It wasn’t for anything specifically political. The Pakistanis simply reacted in the way someone who hears their name spelled or pronounced the way they prefer would react; they heard it as a sign of respect.

Zachary Jaggers, Postdoctoral Scholar of Linguistics, University of Oregon

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Canada’s Justin Trudeau Wins Second Term but Loses Majority

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a second term in Canada’s national elections Monday, losing the majority but delivering unexpectedly strong results despite having been weakened by a series of scandals that tarnished his image as a liberal icon.

Trudeau’s Liberal party took the most seats in Parliament, giving it the best chance to form a government. However, falling short of a majority meant the Liberals would have to rely on an opposition party to pass legislation.

“It’s not quite the same as 2015. It’s not all owing to the leader,” said Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto. “Trudeau is prime minister because the rest of the party was able to pull itself together and prevail. While Trudeau certainly deserves credit for what has happened he’s really going to have to demonstrate qualities that he hasn’t yet shown.”

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Still, the results were a victory for Trudeau, whose clean-cut image took a hit after old photos of him in blackface and brownface surfaced last month.

“I’m surprised at how well Trudeau has done,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “I don’t think anybody expected Trudeau to get a majority but they are not that far off.”

With results still trickling in early Tuesday, the Liberals had 156 seats — 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons.

“Tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity. They rejected cuts and austerity. They elected a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” Trudeau said early Tuesday.

His address to supporters came, unusually, as his Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer, had just begun speaking to his own supporters, forcing networks to tear away from Scheer’s speech. But the prime minister struck a conciliatory note: “To those who did not vote for us, know that we will work every single day for you, we will govern for everyone,” Trudeau said.

The Canadian vote came down to what was essentially a choice between the handsome and charismatic Trudeau and Scheer, the Conservatives’ unassuming leader who was seen as the perfect antidote to Trudeau’s flash and celebrity.

Trudeau reasserted liberalism in 2015 after almost 10 years of Conservative Party government in Canada, but scandals combined with high expectations damaged his prospects.

Perhaps sensing Trudeau was in trouble, Barack Obama made an unprecedented endorsement by a former American president in urging Canadians to re-elect Trudeau and saying the world needs his progressive leadership now.

Trudeau, son of the liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is one of the few remaining progressive world leaders in the Trump era and even appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine under the headline “Why Can’t He Be Our President?”

Scheer, 40, is a career politician who was seen as a possible antidote to Trudeau’s flash. But Bothwell said late Monday that he expected Scheer to resign.

“He’s gone,” Bothwell said. “He ran a really dirty campaign. There is nothing to be proud of on his side. He had the opportunity and blew it.”

Among other things, Scheer called Trudeau a phony who couldn’t even remember how many times he had worn blackface.

In his concession speech, Scheer said the results showed Trudeau was much weakened since his 2015 election, when pundits had predicted the beginning of another Trudeau dynasty.

“Tonight Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice,” Scheer said. “And Mr. Trudeau when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready and we will win.”

Trudeau also was hurt by a scandal that erupted this year when his former attorney general said he pressured her to halt the prosecution of a Quebec company. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the damage gave a boost to the Conservative Party.

Trudeau’s Liberals will likely rely on the New Democrats to form a new government and pass legislation. Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh said early Tuesday he had congratulated Trudeau and vowed to play a constructive role in Parliament.

Wiseman, from the University of Toronto, said Monday’s results left the Conservatives deeply disappointed.

“They had an opportunity here to win,” he said.

Scheer had promised to end a national carbon tax and cut government spending, including foreign aid, by 25%.

Trudeau embraced immigration at a time when the U.S. and other countries are closing their doors, and he legalized cannabis nationwide.

His efforts to strike a balance on the environment and the economy have been criticized by both the right and left. He brought in a carbon tax to fight climate change but rescued a stalled pipeline expansion project to get Alberta’s oil to international markets.

His also negotiated a new free trade deal for Canada with the U.S. and Mexico amid threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to scrap it.

Trump, who has clashed with Trudeau over trade, tweeted his congratulations early Tuesday, saying, “Canada is well served.”

Pat Gill, a Vancouver retiree, said she voted for Trudeau.

“I think people know he’s made some mistakes,” said Gill, who is 74. “I’m hoping he’s learned in the last four years. I still think he’s our best bet.”

___

Associated Press writer Jim Morris in Vancouver, British Columbia, contributed to this report.

The post Canada’s Justin Trudeau Wins Second Term but Loses Majority appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Stunning Hypocrisy of Congress’s Syria Vote

This piece originally appeared on antiwar.com.

We are through the looking glass, Alice. For years now I’ve lambasted the U.S. Congress for shirking it’s constitutionally mandated duty to actually declare and oversee America’s wars. Now, in a cruel joke of sorts, it has finally decided to do so, symbolically voting to condemn the president for pulling troops out of a Syrian war it never sanctioned in the first place. In a rare, bipartisan vote this past week, the House overwhelmingly approved H.J. Res. 77, “Opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria.”

If ever proof was needed that Congress is inextricably linked to the military industrial complex and the forever warfare state, it’d have to be this bill. It demonstrates that the people’s representatives in Washington, normally asleep at the war-making wheel, will only weigh in to continue the nation’s endless wars. Their hypocrisy, it seems, knows no bounds. When a president (Obama, in this case) unilaterally sent American soldiers to combat in a new theater (Syria), Congress looked the other way. The same was true in Yemen, Libya, Iraq 3.0, and across West Africa. However, should a president (Trump) dare try end one of the plethora of endless wars, well that same Congress will assert itself in a New York minute. The lesson: true antiwar activists now know, once and for all, not to look to Capitol Hill for salvation…ever.

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Nevertheless, this vote was historic and instructive, worthy of a far more detailed analysis than any mainstream media outlet has dared attempt. First of all, it passed by a landslide, 354-60. Remarkably, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for it, proving that forever war is the only truly bipartisan issue in tribally divided Washington. Furthermore, not a single Democrat opposed the legislation, yet another demonstration of the stark reality that this is about Donald Trump, at its root, and the Dems can’t claim any sort of antiwar bonafides. Even three-quarters of the “squad” of celebrity progressive Democrats – including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – voted to prolong the US military deployment in the Syrian Civil War (Rep. Ilan Omar didn’t vote), a rather abrupt about face from their normally sensible antiwar rhetoric. I suppose even they bowed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the hyper-interventionist mainstream of the Democratic Party that veritably defines itself in opposition to Trump.

In yet another baffling turnabout, all 60 of the representatives that stood by the president’s – admittedly imperfect – attempt to end an unsanctioned and thus illegal war were Republicans. Sure, they were most likely motivated by loyalty to their president, but this still illustrates that the old rules of the game, where Democrats are the, at least vaguely, antiwar party, no longer apply. One thing remains constant, however. Congress, at least since the end of the Second World War, overwhelmingly tends to roll over and support ill-advised presidential war-making, even under false pretenses.

After all, the House voted 414-0 to support President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that essentially green-lighted America’s tragic war in Vietnam. And this week, in a particularly bizarre and ahistoric analogy, Obama’s former National Security Adviser Susan Rice claimed that the decision to pull a handful of troops out of Northeast Syria constituted “Trump’s Saigon.” Yes, Susan, and like failed American intervention in South Vietnam, the war in Syria was from the start illegal, unsanctioned, and unwinnable. No matter, no one in the corporate media bothered to critique Rice’s absurd and uninformed assertion. That’s because she’s one of them, a polite, “respectable” Washington war hawk in the most classic sense.

Just as predictably, no one in the mainstream press, and hardly anyone in Congress, questioned the wisdom or practicality of indefinitely securing and protecting a Kurdish mini-state in Northeast Syria, or whether that was really Washington’s motive in the first place. No, crocodile tears for the Kurds was and is nothing more than a convenient tool to maintain perpetual military presence in an Arab state and bash Trump’s foreign policy. Here, too, all sense of historical context was absent. In a exasperated note this week, my former interpreter in Iraq – a holder of two relevant Master’s degrees who now drives a truck in New York City – reminded me that the US has a long history of supporting ethnic and religious minority separatism in the Arab World. As such, Uncle Sam has backed Jewish Israelis, Lebanese Christians, and now the Kurds in order to maintain a military foothold in the Mideast.

So, to truly dig into the motives and stunning cynicism of the US House of Representatives, I thought it prudent to compare the only two recent examples in which it officially – if symbolically – criticized this president’s war policies. Which brings us to Yemen, more specifically H.J. Res. 37 in February of this year, which “Directed the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” In other words, a bill to end US support for a devastating Saudi terror war that has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and starved at least 85,000 children to death.

Leave aside for the moment the glaring irony that in the latest Syria vote the House called for continuing a war there that was itself, “not authorized by Congress.” The two bills provide an instructive comparison precisely because they each dealt with undeclared American wars involving the actual or ostensibly potential genocide against a minority group, the Houthis in Yemen and the Kurds in Syria.

If our representatives’ sincere motive was to halt human rights abuses or a massacre, then one would expect consistency in voting patterns. So too if the motivation was to truly end US involvement in any unsanctioned Mideast wars. Even a cursory look demonstrates, indisputably, that neither was the case. With respect to Yemen, every voting Democrat called for a halt to US support for the Saudi terror war, while all but 18 Republicans stuck with the president and backed continued intervention there.

That time the “squad” stood tall and voted as a bloc to end the war. On the other hand, more than 100 Republicans voted to continue atrocities against the Houthis but protect against potential or predicted genocide against the Kurds by maintaining a US military presence in Syria. The point is that actions speak louder than words, and the actions of most congressmen indicate not just inconsistency, but the paramountcy of partisan politics, even when it comes to matters of life and death.

Finally, let us drill down and look at one highly adulated and illustrative subgroup in the House – post 9/11 combat veterans. There are a paltry 28 such representatives currently serving in that chamber, 20 Republicans and 8 Democrats. After all, Americans love veterans, or so they say, and there’s a prominent myth that more vets in Congress would solve all the problems on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, the voting habits of this small group – particularly on Yemen and Syria – put that fantasy to rest. In reality, these congressional veterans are not only out of step with the American people, but – by overwhelmingly supporting perpetual war – not reflective of the military rank and file, two-thirds of whom believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military engagement in Syria were “not worth it.” It seems even wildly venerated congressional combat veterans are themselves rather partisan creatures.

So here we are, by the numbers: On Yemen, 19 of 20 Republicans voted to continue US support for the genocidal war (one abstained), while all eight Democrats condemned that war, and by extension President Trump. In Syria, on the other hand, 23 of 28 congressional vets backed continued US military presence in the country’s northeast, with only five Republicans sticking with the president on both counts. Democratic presidential contender, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, interestingly, did not vote.

All that esoteric analysis leads to a few rather salient conclusions. First off, combat veterans in Congress aren’t particularly antiwar by any measure. Not a single one (Tulsi came closest) voted against US war-making in both instances, i.e. a Yea vote on the Yemen resolution and a Nay vote on the Syria resolution. And 14 of 20 Republicans, even willing to break with their president on the Syria decision, supported more war in both cases. Those 14, apparently, have sympathy for Kurdish victims but not Yemeni bomb-targets – a macabre reminder that, so far as Uncle Sam is concerned, some foreigners’ lives are worth more than others. So hawkish are these Republican vets that they’ll risk continuing ceaseless war in Syria, despite polling that indicates 56% of their conservative base approves of Trump’s withdrawal.

Most disturbingly, if altogether predictably, the supposedly – and repeatedly self-touted – “apolitical” military veterans in Congress are anything but, and regularly choose party over country through their wildly inconsistent voting habits. Twelve of these folks are even nakedly so, always voting for (five Republicans) or against (7 of 8 Democrats) a person – a polarizing Donald Trump – over policy. Indeed, all the Democratic veterans besides Tulsi Gabbard are apparently only against wars that The Donald supports. Wars this president doesn’t seem to like, well, those ought to rage on and on, even if these congressmen’s former comrades-in-arms will continue to die in hopeless combat in faraway lands.

Maybe consistency is just too much to ask for from 21st century American legislators. Maybe these folks – even the “best and brightest” young combat vets – are already bought and sold by the national security power apparatus, and far too busy “dialing-for-dollars” in campaign contributions to craft dependable and prudent foreign policies for the nation they once served. If all that is true, and I fear it is, than the entire legislative branch of this republic cannot be trusted or relied upon to preserve the lives of the beloved American soldiers these veteran congressmen once commanded.

When I was a young army officer, we used to joke that once a superior was promoted to the rank of major he’d receive a mandatory “field-grade lobotomy,” and transform into a sycophantic monster. When it comes to the sacred choice to send American troopers to kill and die in nearly two decade old, unwinnable wars in the Middle East, it seems that even elected combat veterans have long since received their “congressional lobotomies…”

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen

The post The Stunning Hypocrisy of Congress’s Syria Vote appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Why Is a Los Angeles City Attorney Trying to Criminalize Dissent?

This piece originally appeared on CalMatters.

In a blue state, in a blue city, on the Bruin blue campus of a public university system that once gave rise to the Free Speech Movement, why were the UCLA administration and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, a liberal Democrat, bent on charging and jailing four young protesters for briefly interrupting a 2018 campus speaking appearance by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin?

The four defendants—Justin Ullman, Nayely Rolón-Gomez, Yesenia Antonio, and Elise Kelder—were members of RefuseFascism and the Revolution Club, two spinoff projects of the Revolutionary Communist Party, a tiny Maoist-Stalinist sect with roots in the now-old New Left of the late 1960s.

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On Friday afternoon, Oct. 11, 2019, they were acquitted, after barely two days of jury deliberations, on all counts of disturbing the peace, trespassing, and violating a questionable campus ban.

Judge Christopher Dybwad dropped three additional counts of resisting arrest when the prosecutors sheepishly revealed on the eve of closing arguments that UCLA had improperly withheld from them, and the court, internal reports documenting how the UCLA officers’ use of force had injured the protesters as they were dragged out.

The two-week trial, which cut to the heart of the free exercise of First Amendment rights, inexplicably was virtually blacked out by the Los Angeles news media. Not a single reporter was on hand to cover it; no reporting followed.

The scene did not lack for drama.

As the court clerk methodically read out the verdicts, the four defendants gasped. When it gradually became clear that the jury was on track for a full and complete acquittal, they clasped one another in giddy relief, and warmly shook hands with their attorneys.

Three of the defendants, all women of color, broke out in wide smiles; their Anglo male co-defendant visibly choked up, daubed away tears, and in a breaking voice thanked the jury. Several jurors rushed over to embrace the defendants.

One juror summed it all up when he commented afterward: “I don’t know why they even prosecuted the case. It was a complete waste of taxpayer money.”

The city attorney’s office did not respond to repeated requests for an explanation.

Maybe that’s because in recent years, under Feuer and his predecessor Carmen Trutanich, the office has made something of a cottage industry out of prosecuting political protesters, in particular immigrant-rights and police-reform activists.

They’ve repeatedly failed, dropping charges, facing hung juries and mistrials, and even an outright acquittal in this latest case.

In the past, the city attorney has cited the need to protect free-speech rights for everyone, including elected officials, witnesses, and the audience—as well as threats to public safety, such as protesters who chain themselves together to block traffic on busy downtown streets, or unfurl banners to halt traffic on a downtown freeway interchange.

But protecting public officials from actual physical assaults like throwing a loved one’s ashes or vials of blood at them, ensuring orderly conduct of public business, or civility at guest lectures need not involve reckless prosecutorial overreach and blatant violations of protected activity under the First Amendment.

As press deputy for three Los Angeles County supervisors, over the course of 26 years I personally attended more than 1,200 weekly public board meetings. I’ve seen my share of inappropriate and disruptive behavior.

Speakers exceeded their time and had their microphone cut off, sometimes even refusing to leave the witness box. Gadflies sometimes hurled abuse, insults and expletives (but nothing more than that) at the supervisors. Rowdy audience members sometimes had to be quieted, calmed, and rarely, even physically removed so the public’s business could continue.

Never once, to my knowledge, was anyone ever criminally charged for any behavior that was expressive speech, however annoying and even offensive it might have been. Nor should they have been.

We never experienced an incident like that at UC Irvine, where in 2010 a group of Muslim students successfully mounted a concerted effort to shut down completely a scheduled speaking appearance by the Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

And even then, Erwin Chemerinsky, then the UCI law school dean and a renowned constitutional scholar, argued against the Orange County district attorney’s criminal prosecution, saying the students’ subsequent administrative discipline was punishment enough.

In the majority of these cases, officialdom can appropriately deal with mere speech disturbances and disruptions through a little patience and a little indulgence of even rude speakers who, if they won’t stand down, can be asked to leave or physically removed from the venue so business can proceed.

In an era of unprecedented presidential lawlessness and abuse of power, throwing the book at a powerless few who try to speak out against it seems almost perverse.

There’s an ill wind blowing across our land, and you don’t need a weatherman—or a Maoist revolutionary—to know which way.

The post Why Is a Los Angeles City Attorney Trying to Criminalize Dissent? appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

‘The View’ Only Has Eyes for Joe Biden

When the then–Democratic frontrunner stopped by the table of The View on April 26 for his first interview since announcing his presidential run, he was afforded an honorific rarely applied to US vice presidents: “The legendary Joe Biden!”

It was a warm homecoming. They called him Joe; he called them friends. Meghan McCain asked him, “What took so long to get into the race? We’re so happy you finally announced.”

When the subject turned to Biden’s handling of the 1991 Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, Joy Behar joked, “Welcome to The View apology tour.” She all but fed Biden lines on how to handle apologizing to Hill (“You know, I think what she wants you to say is…”), but Biden wouldn’t bite.

Joy Behar on Joe Biden (The View9/4/19): “He’s touchy-feely and he didn’t mean it.”

Still, The View has served as a sort of daytime rapid response room for Biden’s candidacy: defending him against charges of being too old (Ana Navarro: Biden “is running against Donald Trump, guys. He’s not running against Usain Bolt”—3/22/19), inoculating him against charges based on his decades-long career (Abby Huntsman: “We all know any dirty laundry he might have”—1/30/19), normalizing his invasive interactions with women (Behar: “He’s touchy-feely and he didn’t mean it”—9/4/19) or dismissing his mangling of a war story (McCain: “He’s probably just exhausted, too”—9/4/19).

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The panel seemed particularly intent on squelching memories of the Hill hearing: Sunny Hostin (4/29/19) declared Biden’s apology “should be the end of it,” while Huntsman insisted, “If folks on the left are going to rake him over the coals for something that happened so long ago…then you deserve Trump.” McCain (3/27/19) seemed to offer her youth as a defense of Biden: “This was 27 years ago. I was in elementary school. I have no memory of this.”

The View hosts are quick to boost a Biden union endorsement (4/30/19) or offer general words of support (Huntsman: “I love Joe Biden. I want him to do well”—9/5/19). But it’s their standing up against the many questions that could be raised about Biden’s candidacy that distinguishes the panel.

This tendency has not gone unnoticed at the table. During a discussion of Kamala Harris laughing at a voter using a slur against the developmentally disabled about Donald Trump, Hostin (9/9/19) said, “The men get passes every single time. Every single time. Especially Joe Biden. We’ve given him a pass, really, at this table very, very often for the gaffes.” Moderator Whoopi Goldberg replied, “I think Joe has gotten a pass at this table because, at least a couple of us, actually know, know, know him.”

The New York Times (5/22/19) described The View as “a place where Democrats and Republicans alike go to introduce themselves to a national audience.”

The View’s name conveys that the show is meant to showcase a range of perspectives from a diverse cross section of women, but in practice their views often converge on the Washington consensus. Conceived by pioneering journalist Barbara Walters (a regular dinner party host of Henry Kissinger, and professional reference for an aide to Syria’s Bashar al Assad) as a “dessert” after decades as a globe-trotting interviewer, The View has undergone a radical change from its interviews with soap stars, and episodes with names like “Hip, Fun and Fashionable Mall Clothing/How to Avoid Spreading Germs,” to now leading an episode with a national security adviser’s resignation and a co-host labeling Brazil’s president a fascist.

With about 3 million daily viewers, about as many as Fox News star Tucker Carlson garners each night, The View has become what the New York Times (5/22/19) has called “the most important political TV show in America.” A must-stop for candidates running and politicians rising, its influence extends far past its single hour each weekday. The show’s hosts, past and present, have jumped to lofty media perches like NBC‘s Today (Meredith Vieira), Fox News‘ Fox and Friends—in effect, the new presidential daily briefing (Elisabeth Hasselbeck), CNN (Sunny Hostin and Lisa Ling). and MSNBC (Nicole Wallace). ABC in particular uses the show as a source of talent, finding homes for hosts at This Week (Meghan McCain), Good Morning America (Sara Haines) and Good Morning America Weekend (Paula Faris).

Despite its wide influence on news and politics, The View is still treated with condescension: when Bill Maher said recently that he never misses an episode of the daytime staple, his liberal audience laughed.

The View is not without its capacity to surprise, quoting Colin Kaepernick’s reference to Robert L. Allen’s Black Awakening in Capitalist America, and using Black History Month, LGBTQ Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate overlooked contributions to American life, and introduce the life stories of people like Sylvia Rivera and Robert Smalls to a daytime audience. At its table, The View has had discussions about police violence, sexual violence, sexism, and racism. The show featured 9/11 first responders’ fight for healthcare years before Jon Stewart championed the cause on air, and its hosts have championed the importance of unions.

Nearly a decade before the New York Times debated using the word “lie” in its pages, Joy Behar (9/12/08) called John McCain’s negative ads against Barack Obama “lies”—to the GOP presidential candidate’s face, an appearance that Cindy McCain said “picked our bones clean.” (That was long before McCain’s daughter became one of the panelists on the show, of course.) The View also gave Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz a thorough grilling on his vapid run (1/30/19) that repelled his attempts at both-sidesism, its knowing audience laughing at Schultz’s insistence that “you can’t buy the presidency.”

But it also introduced into daytime talk the 2008 controversy about Barack Obama’s relationship with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, before Glenn Beck even had a Fox News contract. They allowed Alan Dershowitz to filibuster against his alleged sex abuse victim, indulged in Russiagate and facilitated the Ilhan Omar smear. When The View does a deep dive on issues in the news, they turn to ABC News’ Jonathan Karl to provide impartial analysis, though Karl came up through the right-wing media ecosystem (Extra!7/11), and despite his more recent checkered record.

Following the third Democratic debate, Behar (9/13/19) dismissed differences between candidates of the center and of the left:

They’re all on the same page…. So you’re not just voting for a person, you’re voting for a party. I think people need to remember that. So that if you don’t love Joe Biden, remember if he can get elected, he will do the right thing.

But in fact, political figures to Biden’s left, like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar, do not get the same treatment on The View: They are seldom given passes, and are often met with a marked skepticism.

While the hosts largely believe that a 76-year-old creature of Washington can reunite the country and appeal to Trump voters, cold water is consistently thrown on any more progressive politicians. Speaking of Ocasio-Cortez, Behar (3/11/19) said, “Half the things she talks about are impossible to do, right now.” On who Ocasio-Cortez might endorse in the presidential race, Behar (6/17/19) said: “She wants a transformational presidential candidate. We would love that. I say, get somebody in there who can not AOC but W-I-N, OK? Win, and then we can worry about being transformational afterwards.” Or candidates get written out: “It’s a two-person race, Warren and Biden, period,” McCain (9/13/19), an ABC News contributor, said, which might come as news to residents of Iowa and New Hampshire, and donors in all 50 states.

Meghan McCain (The View9/13/19): “I hate ageism,” but “I thought Bernie Sanders was going to cough himself into a coma on the stage last night.”

After the hosts condemned Julian Castro’s contentious debate exchange with Biden as a “cringeworthy” display of “ageism,” and mere moments after herself declaring, “I hate ageism,” McCain (9/13/19) followed that up with, “I thought Bernie Sanders was going to cough himself into a coma on the stage last night, if you want to talk about somebody looking old.”

Or candidates get ignored after they leave the table: Three weeks after Sanders insisted on The View that he, like Andrew Yang and other candidates, supports taxing big tech companies like Amazon and Facebook, Goldberg (9/26/19) asked Yang:

Why do you think no one on either side, or in the middle, has embraced this idea that companies that make their bones in our country should help us participate in our growth?… Nobody’s saying, “That’s a great idea…and suddenly no one’s paying taxes but us?”

Challenging national security conventions does not go down well at the table, either: In 2011, when Michael Moore suggested Osama bin Laden should receive a trial, in keeping with the tradition of Nuremberg, he received a chilly response, even from its nominal liberal panelists. And when Julian Assange was arrested, and McCain (4/11/19) railed that he was a “cyber terrorist,” the bipartisan Washington consensus was upheld by moderate, conservative and liberal panelists alike: Behar said that Assange had “hacked into the Democrats’ computers and helped Trump get elected, basically,” while Huntsman said, “There is a difference in being a whistleblower and a straight-up hacker.”

It took Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, to point out that if McCain had a problem with WikiLeaks, “then you need to have a problem with the Pentagon Papers, the Panama Papers, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs being released.”

The View signs off each episode by reminding its audience, “Take a little time to enjoy the view.” It’s good advice, but they should think about broadening theirs.

The post ‘The View’ Only Has Eyes for Joe Biden appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Millionaires’ Grip on the Globe Is Only Tightening

The millionaires of the world, who account for just 0.9 percent of the global population, now own nearly half of the planet’s $361 trillion in wealth while the bottom 56 percent of the population owns just 1.8 percent.

That’s according to the annual Global Wealth Report released Monday by Credit Suisse, which found that the number of millionaires in the world grew to 47 million between mid-2018 and mid-2019, with the United States leading the world in both new and total millionaires.

According to Credit Suisse, the U.S. added 675,000 new millionaires over the past year, bringing the country’s total to 18.6 million.

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Japan and China both added over 150,000 millionaires, while the U.K., France, Australia, and Italy were among the nations that saw a decline in millionaires.

Overall, the report shows the world’s millionaires now own a combined $158.3 trillion, or 43.9 percent of all global wealth:

The new figures detailing vast inequities in wealth distribution globally and within individual nations come as two of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in the U.S., Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have released proposals designed to combat wealth inequality through taxation.

Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” plan, unveiled in January, would impose a two percent tax on assets over $50 million and a three percent tax on assets over $1 billion.

Last month, Sanders released his “Tax on Extreme Wealth” proposal, which would would create a one percent tax on wealth between $32 and $50 million. The tax would progressively increase for richer Americans—those with over $10 billion in wealth would face an eight percent tax.

“At a time when millions of people are working two or three jobs to feed their families, the three wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people,” Sanders said. “Enough is enough.”

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Assange Lawyers Issue Stark Warning to Journalists Around the World

Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday warned of potentially devastating consequences for journalism around the world after a British judge denied Assange’s request to delay his U.S. extradition hearing in February.

Assange struggled to say his own name and date of birth during the hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.

“I can’t think properly,” Assange told Judge Vanessa Baraitser.

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The WikiLeaks publisher has been behind bars since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy by U.K. police. Supporters say Assange’s waning physical and mental condition is a consequence of his prolonged isolation, which the United Nations condemned as torture.

Assange’s legal team requested a three-month delay to submit new evidence in the U.S. extradition case, including reports that a Spanish security firm spied on Assange on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies. The allegation is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Spanish National Court.

If Assange is sent back to the U.S., he could face up to 175 years in prison on more than a dozen charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents that exposed American war crimes and other state secrets.

“I don’t understand how this is equitable,” Assange said Monday. “This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t access my writings. It’s very difficult where I am to do anything but these people have unlimited resources.”

“They are saying journalists and whistleblowers are enemies of the people,” Assange said of the Trump administration. “They have unfair advantages dealing with documents. They [know] the interior of my life with my psychologist. They steal my children’s DNA. This is not equitable what is happening here.”

It’s so clear: people would be indignant about Trump administration’s efforts to prosecute anyone else for *espionage* for publishing documents. But because Assange made enemies of both parties, few care that he’s been just disappeared from the world & is being mentally tortured: https://t.co/9RtreiIhQq

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 21, 2019

Mark Summers, one of Assange’s lawyers, called the U.S. extradition effort “a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information.”

“It’s legally unprecedented,” said Summers. “This is part of an avowed war on whistleblowers to include investigative journalists and publishers.”

The post Assange Lawyers Issue Stark Warning to Journalists Around the World appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Merger That Proved Corporate Takeovers Are Bad Business

Here’s a recipe for you: Chop up some Oscar Mayer wieners, stir in Heinz ketchup, blend with Cool Whip and Maxwell House Coffee, sprinkle Planters peanuts over the mixture, add A.1. Steak Sauce, then top it with Cheez Whiz and blast it in the microwave.

Sounds like a gloppy mess. But an even messier version was cooked up in 2015, when Kraft Foods merged with H.J. Heinz, thus conglomerating more than 200 brand-name products — including all of the above — into one $28 billion-a-year behemoth. The combination was hailed at the time as a whiz-bang deal that would prove that bigger is always better.

Uh… apparently not.

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Four years later, Kraft Heinz’s sales have slumped, profits are tumbling, its stock price has plummeted by half in the last year, investors are bailing out, shareholders are suing, regulators are investigating, employees are dispirited, and… well, as some business journalists have put it, the mega-merger is a mega-mess.

The Kraft Heinz consolidation was engineered from outside by a Brazilian corporate takeover outfit named 3G, in cahoots with U.S. buyout buccaneer Warren Buffett. They are ideological disciples of the old orthodoxy that the sole responsibility of corporate executives is to jack up the stock price and profits for big shareholders — in this case, themselves.

Their self-serving approach to increasing Kraft Heinz’s profit was to squeeze “costs,” meaning squeezing out experienced managers, workers, product development, and the vibrancy of the corporation itself — which has steadily squeezed out their own profits.

This old model of self-enrichment through corporate takeover, consolidation, and contraction, turns out to be not just bad morals, but bad business. It’s time for us, the media, and public officials to start saying no to merger mania.

The post The Merger That Proved Corporate Takeovers Are Bad Business appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Israel’s Netanyahu Era Has Finally Ended

This piece originally appeared on Informed Comment

Former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the far right Likud Party, has failed to form a government. His rival, former general Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, will now get a chance.

In the US, the two big parties make their coalitions before the election, including poaching on the other party’s constituents. Ten percent of Republicans voted for Obama. 14% of traditionally Democratic white working class voters who supported Obama switched to Trump. In the past 50 years, the Republicans have picked up the Evangelicals and the South more generally, while Democrats got most cities, gays, the non-religious, etc.

In parliamentary systems, such groups run for office under their own ticket and are courted by parties after the election, to get to a majority in the legislature.

Gantz has to put together 61 out of 120 votes in the Israeli parliament or Knesset, needed to form a government. But Gantz does not have that 61 any more than Netanyahu did. The Likud won 32 seats in the September 17 election, while Blue and White won 33.

In parliamentary systems, the government needs a majority of seats because the opposition will try to unseat it by calling a vote of no confidence. If at any point the prime minister cannot get a majority when it is crucial to do so, the government is said to “fall” and new elections are called.

To put together 61 votes that could survive a vote of no confidence, Gantz needs the support of 28 members of parliament beyond his own party.

The problem is that while those 28 votes are out there and might join Gantz, they for the most part refuse to sit together on the same side.

The third biggest party in parliament is Ayman Odeh’s Joint List, with 13 seats. it represents a diverse group of Palestinian-Israeli factions, mostly leftist but also including the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the leftist parties also attract some support from the small minority of Israeli Jewish leftists. Some 20 percent of Israelis are Palestinian-Israelis, from families that weren’t ethnically cleansed in 1947-48 by militant Zionist militias who expelled from what became Israel 720,000 Palestinians (with the West Bank and Gaza, there were 1.3 million Palestinians then).

If Gantz could add the Joint List to his coalition, that would take him to 46 seats, and he would only need 15 more for a majority.

The problem is that Israeli society and politics are so racist that Gantz cannot formally ally with Israeli Arabs. It is like the Jim Crow era in the United States, when African-Americans were excluded from politics. The Palestinian-Israelis are allowed to sit in parliament, but these very representatives function under Jim Crow. Attempts have often been made by right wing Jewish politicians to expel their parties and members of parliament from that body. Sometimes Israel apologists point to these parties’ presence in parliament as proof that Israel is a liberal democracy. But that is like Jim Crow Southerners insisting they weren’t racists because they had Black people in their states.

Israel is in the midst of political gridlock primarily because Israeli citizens of Palestinian heritage are not permitted to be in government. In the September 17 election, Netanyahu actually ran on exclusion from active politics of 20% of the Israeli electorate. He warned that if Gantz got in there would be *gasp* Arab Israeli cabinet members. Gantz immediately denied he would do any such thing, revealing himself to be not much different from Netanyahu. It would be as though no Latinos or African-Americans could be cabinet secretaries in the United States.

Although Gantz was a general during the horrific 2014 Israeli attack on little Gaza, the Joint List is supporting him versus Netanyahu because the latter is just so odious. Netanyahu actively backs the Jewish squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank and wants actually to annex large swathes of the West Bank (illegal in international law). They see Gantz as at least slightly better though not an awful lot better.

The fourth largest party is Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel is our Home”). It has 9 seats. Lieberman represents the big immigration into Israel of about one million Russians, Ukrainians and other former Warsaw Pact populations during the 1990s. Although many are ethnic Jews, for the most part they are militantly secular (25% of Israelis don’t believe in God, and the Russians bulk large in that statistic). Some 300,000 who came were not Jewish enough to be granted that status by the chief rabbinate in Jerusalem, so their identity cards show them as Gentiles. Lieberman himself is a first-generation immigrant accused of virulent racism and of corruption, though he hasn’t been convicted of anything. His party profoundly dislikes the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox or Haredim fundamentalists who strictly observe and insist all Jews in Israel have to strictly observe traditional Jewish law or halakha.

I have heard Israel-observers like the NYT’s Tom Friedman and former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk say that Lieberman is the kingmaker in this election. This is true in practical terms, but it is only true because Ayman Odeh and his 13 seats have been declared off limits as coalition partners.

That is, the bigotted Yisrael Beitenu can play kingmaker only because of its own racism and that of most of the other Jewish-majority parties.

Lieberman absolutely refused to serve in a government headed by Netanyahu because Netanyahu has in the past couple of years refused to launch a war on Gaza, while Lieberman is spoiling for a big military conflict.

So Netanyahu lost power because he was not willing to have Palestinian-Israelis in his government on the one hand but wasn’t willing to launch another massive war on Gaza Palestinians on the other.

Gantz, considered a centrist in Israeli terms though in most country he’d be considered pretty far right wing, could pick up Lieberman’s 9 seats for 42, leaving him needing 19. If he could get the leftists, the Labor Party (6 seats) and the Democratic Union (5 seats), that would get him to 53.

So some pundits are suggesting that 53 could be enough. Gantz couldn’t get the fundamentalist parties or the Likud to serve with the others. It would be a minority government.

But Ayman Odeh has offered to have the Joint List be a shadow supporter of a Gantz government, which would give him 66 seats if the Joint List consistently supported him. That is, Gantz could survive a Likud-initiated vote of no confidence.

One problem for Gantz in this unprecedented scenario would be that he would become at least somewhat beholden to the Israeli Arabs, who could just join a Likud vote against him and unseat him anytime they became really unhappy with his policies.

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin could shoot down the idea of such a minority government, in which case Israel would go to its third election in a year.

If the Arab-supported, minority Gantz government did become a reality, it would potentially mark a turning point for what I call Palestinian-Israelis (just as we in the US speak of Italian-Americans). They would have taken at least a baby step away from Jim Crow and Apartheid. A tiny baby step.

But it is very unlikely that even this development would halt Israel’s vast land-grab in the West Bank or succeed in securing for the 5 million Palestinians under Israeli military Occupation the basic rights of citizenship in a state.

Stay tuned.

 

The post Israel’s Netanyahu Era Has Finally Ended appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Green New Deal Holds the Key to Winning Back Trump Voters

“We are in a new era to which I do not belong,” ex-President Calvin Coolidge confided to a close friend on a cold December day in 1932 when the country and the world were already in the depths of the Great Depression. A few weeks later, he punctuated that melancholic thought by dying.

Coolidge was right. Within months of his death, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also known as FDR, would launch a “New Deal,” a wide-ranging set of programs to promote economic recovery that would recreate the American political universe. From that moment to this one, it has served as ground zero for the country’s political imagination, the Rosetta Stone for understanding every enduring political development of the last 75 years.

President Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal” (including proposals for universal health insurance and federal aid to education) and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” were conceived as elaborations and extensions of what the New Deal had wrought in the 1930s. “Neo-liberalism” and the “new conservatism” were invented to undo what their creators considered its damage.

Today, the “Green New Deal” — a 10-year plan introduced by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey to transition to 100% renewable energy, while embarking on major social reforms — marks the far horizon of the left-liberal imagination. For those opposed to it, the Green New Deal, like the original one, is already considered little but camouflage for a program to introduce socialism to America.

Like its predecessor, it arrives on the scene at a fateful moment. There is no way to exaggerate the gravity of the Great Depression in its time or the looming prospect of climate catastrophe in ours. The question is: Could the Green New Deal do what the first one did to stave off the worst — or even do more? In this case, facing the reality of a fast-heating planet in a country whose president is Donald J. Trump, looking back is a way of looking forward.

Truth and Consequences

Republicans and conservatives of every stripe defamed Democratic President Roosevelt’s New Deal from its inception, as has been true of the very idea of a Green New Deal in the age of Trump. Vitriol was then and is now focused on two supposedly fatal flaws in those plans. The New Deal was quickly denounced as a form of fiscal suicide, of reckless venturing into deficit spending sure to bankrupt the economy and so the country. Its promise of recovery from economic disaster was decried as at best a chimera, at worst as cynical political chicanery meant to win votes in the here and now while leaving future generations to deal with the consequences. As if that weren’t bad enough, such an ambitious program focused on enlarging the government’s presence and power would surely open a highway to communism.

More than eight decades later, the very same charges are surfacing again to undermine support for the Green New Deal. It is said to be a financial monstrosity that can’t conceivably work. One critic typically slammed it as “economically, technologically, and historically illiterate.” Another warned that it was not only “unrealistic,” but “the economic and social devastation it would cause is… serious and real.” And just in case it were to somehow work, it’s guaranteed to turn twenty-first-century America into a collectivist hell.

In his moment, President Roosevelt was acutely sensitive to such accusations. At first, he adhered to the sacrosanct orthodoxy of balanced budgets. He even went so far as to delay the payment of bonuses promised to veterans of World War I, a decision that had already blackened the reputation of his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. (Hoover had also sent in troops to violently disperse a “bonus army” of protesting vets encamped outside the White House.)

Even when the New Deal reached its heyday, FDR would never feel completely comfortable with deliberately unbalancing the budget to spur the economy. Indeed, what was known as the “Roosevelt recession” of 1937-1938 — an economic nosedive in a moment of seeming recovery from the depths of the Great Depression — could be blamed, in part, on his decision to rein in government spending. For the next two generations, however, once-taboo deficit spending became the new liberal orthodoxy for a simple reason: despite the prophecies of opponents, it worked.

So, too, the president tried again and again to reassure the business world that the New Deal was designed to save capitalism, not overthrow it. During a ferocious debate over his administration’s “wealth tax act,” FDR tried to explain: “I am fighting communism… I want to save our system, the capitalistic system.”

Indeed, the New Deal would do just that. All the mechanisms it installed — deficit spending, redistributive tax laws, government regulation of industry, welfare and labor law reform, social security, a vast range of public works, including significant efforts at reforestation and conservation — helped rescue American capitalism from what had looked like a terminal crisis.

Just as bogus are today’s charges that the Green New Deal will crash the budget and serve as an antechamber to socialism. Calling it out as a financial disaster waiting to happen sounds especially hollow coming from a Republican Party that has already created a budget deficit surpassing a trillion dollars for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2019.

In addition, the idea of financing the transformation of the energy sector to alternative sources was bound to generate fierce opposition from the fossil fuel industry and its allies. No less disturbing to the equanimity of its opponents are ideas like creating specialized public banks, eliminating subsidies to that very industry, and passing new taxes on the wealthy and business to finance what will indeed be an expensive overhaul of the economy.

Yet the Green New Deal contains no frontal assault on private enterprise. For that matter, it doesn’t even threaten to completely abolish the fossil-fuel industry itself. A carbon tax — a levy on the carbon content of fuels — and “cap and trade” — placing a limit on carbon emissions while allowing firms that exceed it to buy the right to do so from those that stay under that ceiling — sometimes appear as part of its portfolio of solutions. Neither, however, represents a fundamental threat to capitalism’s reliance on the marketplace as the ultimate arbiter of what to produce and not to produce.

Nuclear power remains an option under the plan, as do future possibilities for carbon capture and storage; for, that is, the development of a technology for capturing carbon waste from the atmosphere and storing it, possibly underground, which would allow coal and gas production to continue. Nor does the Green New Deal flirt with nationalizing the energy sector. Like its predecessor, this New Deal remains focused on leveraging private investment with public funds. Its vision of creating public enterprises and joint public-private projects is neither more nor less radical than the public works undertaken by the original New Deal, which led to the creation of much of the country’s once massively successful, now deeply decaying infrastructure.

Indeed, the Green New Deal’s promise that millions of decent-paying jobs will result from its climate-change-oriented investments echoes the rationale and real accomplishments of the first New Deal’s recovery efforts, especially its various public works. Neither then nor now, however, were or are proponents inciting the working class to run the new industries to be created.

The original New Deal and the Green one are both responses to profound ruptures in the existing order of things. Both embrace reform of that existing order. Neither contemplates its extinction.

It’s important to add that the Green New Deal, despite the bow to the old one in its name, is anything but pure imitation. To begin with, the scale of its public investments would dwarf those of the original, which allotted an estimated 13% of the country’s gross domestic product to its public works spending. Green New Deal projects, as now imagined, would probably at least double that.

Furthermore, at least as a proposal, the Green New Deal is even more socially capacious than the old one, embracing as it does the need for universal health care, a guaranteed annual income, a program of affordable housing, commitments to truly clean water and air, and a revolution in the production of healthy food. In the way it forefronts the struggle for social, racial, and environmental justice, it also goes beyond anything the original New Dealers contemplated.

Perhaps its most potent political promise is to heal the deep wound that has opened up between abandoned parts of rural and urban America, the zones most damaged by the deindustrialization and financialization of the economy over the past half-century. People in both of those areas survive by working in prisons or in the vast warehouses of retailers like Walmart located in the American outback. They do temp work, are employed as piece workers in the online gig economy, or hustle in underground enterprises, while prey to toxic environments. They have much in common, but peer at each other as if across a vast abyss or from enemy encampments. The Green New Deal, like its political forebear, offers the hope of mutual recovery by explicitly siting some of its renewable energy projects in the ghost towns of once industrial cities and on the economically exhausted and depopulated landscapes of rural and small-town America.

All of this suggests that, very much like its predecessor, it conceives of itself within the framework of capitalism as we have known it, even while offering a menu of reforms daring enough to challenge some of its underlying premises. Both New Deals pose this question: In worlds of grotesque inequality, which shall prevail, wealth or commonwealth?

Capitalism may sometimes be restrained or civilized, but it is by nature predatory like a great white shark. In the 1930s, when mass mobilizations drove it to the left, the original New Deal pressed against the limits of the existing order. The Green New Deal may contain that same potential. At some point, assuming it becomes more tangible than a prospectus in a world in which Donald Trump and crew are no longer running things, its promoters will face choices about how to treat that order.

Yet, kindred as they may be in substance and intention, the circumstances that gave them life differ in fundamental ways that may bear heavily on what lies ahead.

Through a Glass Darkly

Advocates of the Green New Deal talk ominously about the existential threat that global warming poses to civilization. And that threat visibly grows more real with each passing year. The Great Depression, however, was not a threat that was likely to happen soon — or sooner or later. For millions of people across the country it was the all-encompassing reality of the here and now. Think of the difference in the two moments as one between an existential threat and an existential crisis.

We are, of course, already witnessing or suffering from the early consequences of the climate crisis and that experience has produced enough anxious anticipation of worse to come to compel millions to protest. But because we are still largely gazing into disaster’s crystal ball (though one we can grimly count on for its scientific accuracy), global warming as a practical matter still remains one issue, however large, among a host of other pressing issues. In 1932, the Great Depression was essentially the only issue. Nobody was foolish enough to pretend it wasn’t happening. There were no Great Depression deniers. Clearly, the same cannot be said about the climate crisis.

Context is everything and in this case may account for the slower, if still irresistible, pace with which the struggle against planetary death has grown — compared, at least, to the rapid mass mobilizations on both the left and right that characterized the era of the Great Depression. The environmental movement, like the looming crisis itself, is incremental.

Something more troubling follows from that. Governments and private elites have largely managed to evade or put off serious action, offering palliatives of little real account or, in the case of Donald Trump and his administration, working feverishly to heat the planet further for their own profit. Unfortunately, unlike the calamity of the Great Depression, which everyone could see demanded an immediate response of some sort, our calamity is elusive. One day, it’s brutally apparent right where we live; on another, far off in the distant Arctic or Amazon. Global yet widely diffused, subject to variable estimated timetables of disaster, it lacks the singular impact of the Great Depression… or, at least, will lack it until perhaps it’s too late.

The mercurial nature of a climate in flux has allowed the fossil-fuel industry to carry on remarkably uninterrupted. It has provided the powers-that-be more generally with a long-term reprieve. Most painfully, for decades it impeded the emergence of a mass movement over an issue that seemed to many (thanks, in part, to the efforts of that same industry) to be based on a hypothesis. Those days are apparently drawing to a close. But it remains to be seen when climate change will assume the Great Depression-style status of the dilemma that must be solved before all others, the crisis that embraces all other crises.

The Ghost in the Machine

If context is critical, so is timing. The New Deal was made possible by mass movements of insurgent industrial workers, the unemployed, farmers facing foreclosure and ruin, urban dwellers facing eviction, and small businessmen facing extinction, among others. And what lent all of the organizing and political activism of that moment immense energy and focus was the previous half-century of anti-capitalist resistance that had punctuated American life from the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century on.

Ironically, the New Deal saved capitalism by drawing on and transforming the very anti-capitalist sentiment that had pervaded American society since the days when William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic-Populist Party candidate for president in 1896, vowed that Wall Street would no longer be permitted to “crucify mankind on a cross of gold.” It was that heritage, not Roosevelt’s empathy for “the forgotten man,” that managed to domesticate a remorseless capitalism that had long functioned without a conscience.

No similar heritage has been bequeathed to the Green New Deal. Beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980,a quiescent mood settled over the country that would last a long generation. During that protracted hiatus, the anti-capitalism that had once been part of the warp and woof of American culture either withered away or was banished, along with much of the organized labor movement.

Intermittently in the last decade, however, a fresh rebelliousness has emerged as popular movements began to contest the status quo, none of them more durable than the environmental movement. At the same time, a new anti-capitalism has begun to enliven our political language, thanks to the Great Recession, Occupy Wall Street protests, and the Bernie Sanders phenomenon.

Yet something vital is missing: an insurgent labor movement. To the degree that the New Deal was driven to the left and managed to seriously restrain capitalist appetites, millions of newly organized workers made that happen. The labor movement of that era was the central axis around which all other struggles for social and economic reform pivoted. For a time, it not only defended its own interests but championed the needs and desires of all those laid low, exploited, and oppressed. Everyone from presidents to poets, industrial tycoons to the invisibles manning the nation’s assembly lines, sweatshops, and factories-in-the-field had, for half a century, agreed that “the labor question” was the pre-eminent social question of the moment. The New Deal became, for better and worse, the answer.

Today, what’s left of the organized labor movement (a mere 6% of the private sector workforce) is but a pale remnant of that era. More sobering still is the mordant reality that, when it comes to global warming and what (if anything) to do about it, that already parlous labor movement is split. Many of the unions in the energy and allied industries are ready to defend their vested interests in the fossil-fuel economy. They perceive the Green New Deal as a job destroyer, not a job creator.

This need not be the case. Startling numbers of trade unionists from around the world participated in the Climate Strike of September 20th, while the Green New Deal has the potential to win over a portion of the working-class that observers have too casually consigned to Trumpism.

Thanks to its promise of millions of new well-paid jobs, its concern with the health and environmental well-being of marginalized communities, and its commitment to labor’s right to organize and participate in erecting and directing the new economy, the Green New Deal offers a chance to win back people who voted first for Barack Obama and then for Donald Trump. At some point they will perhaps conclude that “yes we can” and the con-man theatrics of a billionaire populist were just two versions of fake news and search for a way out of the lockbox of the neoliberal order.

For this reason, the Green New Deal may come to embody a future more humane and liberating than what its ancestor imagined possible.

The post The Green New Deal Holds the Key to Winning Back Trump Voters appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

U.S. May Now Keep Some Troops in Syria to Guard Oilfields

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. may leave some forces in Syria to secure oilfields and make sure they don’t fall into the hands of a resurgent Islamic State, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday, even though President Donald Trump has insisted he is pulling troops out of the country and getting out of “endless wars.”

The Pentagon chief said the plan was still in the discussion phase and had not yet been presented to Trump, who has repeatedly said the Islamic State has been defeated.

Esper emphasized that the proposal to leave a small number of troops in eastern Syria was intended to give the president “maneuver room” and wasn’t final.

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“There has been a discussion about possibly doing it,” Esper told a press conference in Afghanistan before heading to Saudi Arabia. “There has been no decision with regard to numbers or anything like that.”

Still, the fact that such a plan was under consideration was another sign the administration was still trying to sort out its overall strategy amid fierce criticism from the president’s Republican allies of his abrupt decision to pull U.S. forces back — essentially clearing the way for Turkey’s military incursion into the border region to push back the American-allied Kurdish forces.

A White House official said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham raised the issue of keeping U.S. forces in eastern Syria to protect the oilfields and that Trump supported the idea. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

Trump said Monday at the White House that he still wants to get all U.S. troops out of Syria, but “we need to secure the oil” in one part of the country while Israel and Jordan asked him to keep some forces in another part.

“Other than that, there’s no reason for it, in our opinion,” he said.

Esper said the main goal of leaving some troops around the oilfields would be to make sure the Islamic State doesn’t gain control of the revenue they generate.

The defense secretary said American troops around Kobani are withdrawing and that the U.S. is maintaining combat air patrol over U.S. forces in Syria as the withdrawal goes on. He said the U.S. is using overhead surveillance to try to monitor the recently negotiated cease-fire “as best we can.”

While Trump has insisted he’s bringing home Americans from “endless wars” in the Mideast, Esper said all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue operations against the Islamic State group.

Esper told reporters over the weekend that the fight in Syria against IS, once spearheaded by American allied Syrian Kurds who have been cast aside by Trump, will be undertaken by U.S. forces, possibly from neighboring Iraq.

But he said in a tweet Monday that the U.S. would only “temporarily reposition” troops from Syria “in the region” until they could return home.

Esper did not rule out the idea that U.S. forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he told reporters traveling with him that those details will be worked out over time.

Trump nonetheless tweeted: “USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!”

The Republican president declared this past week that Washington had no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America’s partners fighting in Syria against IS extremists. Turkey conducted a weeklong offensive into northeastern Syria against the Kurdish fighters before a military pause.

“We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting Monday.

Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, asked about the fact that the troops were not coming home as the president claimed they would, said, “Well, they will eventually.” He told “Fox News Sunday” that “the quickest way to get them out of danger was to get them into Iraq.”

Trump ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.

The pullout largely abandons America’s Kurdish allies who have fought IS alongside U.S. troops for several years. Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.

The U.S. has more than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, under an agreement between the two countries. The U.S. pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when combat operations there ended, but they went back in after IS began to take over large swaths of the country in 2014. The number of American forces in Iraq has remained small due to political sensitivities in the country, after years of what some Iraqis consider U.S. occupation during the war that began in 2003.

Esper said he will talk with other allies at a NATO meeting in the coming week to discuss the way ahead for the counter-IS mission.

Asked if U.S. special operations forces will conduct unilateral military operations into Syria to go after IS, Esper said that is an option that will be discussed with allies over time.

On Sunday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of American lawmakers on a visit to Jordan to discuss “the deepening crisis” in Syria.

Jordan’s state news agency said that King Abdullah II, in a meeting with the Americans, stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and guarantees for the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees.

___

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed from Washington.

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Corporate Media Can’t Imagine an Alternative to Forever War in Syria

President Donald Trump’s modification of the US’s Syria policy has generated a torrent of confusion, so it’s worth reviewing the record.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced on October 6:

Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria . The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.

The statement is notable both because it declines to oppose the Turkish invasion—aimed at the Kurdish-led, US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—and because it suggests that the US will stay in Syria, but will move its forces from the “immediate area” that Turkey is attacking; nothing in these remarks can be read as saying that the US would be withdrawing from Syria.

An anonymous senior US official quoted by the Associated Press (New York Times10/6/19) said that the US will “pull back [its troops] from the immediate area” in northern Syria that Turkey is assaulting. The official, however, went on to say that the Turkish onslaught “is expected to trigger a large combat response from the SDF, and US troops will almost certainly withdraw completely from Syria.”

Trump tweeted that, of the 1,000 troops the US admits to having in Syria, “we only had 50 soldiers remaining in that section of Syria, and they have been removed.” But he has also framed this development as part of a longer term process of getting out of wars in Syria and elsewhere, tweeting, for example, that “we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon statement on Syria said nothing to suggest the US would be withdrawing from the country.

To summarize, an anonymous official speculated that the US might eventually leave Syria, while Trump tweeted that the US was merely shifting “50 soldiers remaining in that section of Syria,” at the same time indicating that he eventually wants to bring the troops home and leave Syria alone, without offering anything close to a concrete plan or timeline. Neither of the two official US government statements—the one from Grisham or the one from the Pentagon—can possibly be taken to mean that the US is taking its hands off Syria, and there is simply no evidence that that’s what’s happening.

Yet you wouldn’t know it from media coverage of these developments. Just like last December, when Trump suggested he might soon withdraw from Syria, and when Trump floated the same possibility in March 2018, news outlets consistently and baselessly reported on the issue both as though the US had announced plans to leave Syria, and as though the US has a right and possibly a duty to permanently occupy Syria.

The New York Times (10/7/19) ran an article with the headline “Pulling of US Troops in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS.” It would be natural to assume that this meant that US troops were being pulled out of Syria, even though that’s not what was occurring.

A report in The Hill (10/7/19) was headlined “Trump Knocks ‘Ridiculous Endless Wars’ Amid US Troop Pullout From Syria,” which suffered from one minor shortcoming, namely that no “US troop pullout from Syria” is taking place.

An Associated Press story (10/7/19) was headlined “US Troops Begin Pulling Out of Syria, Leaving Kurds Without Support.” As noted, there was no evidence that the US was actually “pulling out of Syria.”

USA Today (10/7/19) warned its readers about “’A Reckless Gamble’: Four Reasons Critics Decry Trump’s ‘Impulsive’ Syria Withdrawal.” But those critics can rest easy, since Trump hasn’t withdrawn from Syria.

NBC News (10/8/19) had a segment called “How Allies Are Responding to US Troops Pulling Out of Syria,” but a day earlier, a senior Trump administration official told reporters that the government’s “announcement did not constitute a full US withdrawal from Syria, and that only 50 to 100 US special operations forces were moving to other locations in Syria.” “Moving to other locations in Syria,” clearly, is not the same thing as “pulling out of Syria.”

Still, a Business Insider headline (10/8/19) offered, “Here Are the 5 Major Players That Will Feel the Impact From Trump’s Decision to Withdraw Troops From Syria.”

It’s going to be difficult for Americans to develop an informed opinion about their government’s continuing occupation of Syria, one which lacks a basis in international law, when US media keep wrongly suggesting that the US is exiting the country.

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Much of the coverage professes concern for people living in the parts of northern Syria that Turkey is attacking. These worries are well-founded. In the first days of this invasion, Turkish airstrikes and artillery fire hit several villages and towns, already killing dozens and sending thousands fleeing from their homes. In the border town Tal Abyad, shelling has forced the vast majority of people to leave, while Doctors Without Borders

is concerned that the many thousands of women and children living in camps such as Al Hol and Ain Issa are also now particularly vulnerable, as humanitarian organisations have been forced to suspend or limit their operations.

The United States is directly implicated in this, beyond even Trump’s initial greenlighting of the assault. Turkey is a member of NATO, an alliance in which the US is the most powerful member, and NATO declined to suggest that Turkey not invade its neighbor, or even offer explicit criticism of this illegal aggression, with the organization’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offering remarks that served to legitimize the “security” pretext that Turkey is offering as a justification for the attack.

Stoltenberg said on a visit to Turkey on October 11, “While Turkey has legitimate security concerns, I expect Turkey to act with restraint.” He went on to describe “serious concerns about the risk of further destabilising the region, escalating tensions and even more human suffering.”

Moreover, two US military officials told the New York Times (10/11/19):

As Turkish military officials planned the assault, they received American surveillance video and information from reconnaissance aircraft. The information may have helped them track Kurdish positions. Because of an American counterterrorism partnership with Turkey, Turkish aircraft were given access to a suite of American battlefield intelligence in northeast Syria. Turkey was removed from the intelligence-sharing program only on Monday, a Defense Department official said.

One official said that United States warplanes and surveillance aircraft remained in the area to defend the remaining American ground forces in northeast Syria, but said they would not contest Turkish warplanes attacking Kurdish positions.

In 2017, the most recent year for which the numbers have been fully reported, Washington gave Turkey $154 million in aid, the fourth-highest amount of US aid sent to any country in Europe and Asia. From 2011–18, the US sold $3.7 billion worth of weapons to Turkey. Though the US has no right to occupy Syria, it needn’t do so to stop the Turkish attack: If the US said its support and collaboration were at stake, it’s a virtual certainty that Turkey wouldn’t be attacking northern Syria; Turkey wanted to carry out this invasion for months, and didn’t do it until the US gave its blessing.

Calling for the US to get out of Syria and for an end to the Turkish attack is a consistent position: When Turkey attacked largely Kurdish Afrin in Syria in early 2018, plundering the area and driving out 220,000 civilians, the US had forces in Syria, as it does during the present onslaught. The demand that the US keep its forces in Syria to prevent Turkish violence against Kurdish and other Syrian people ignores the fact that US forces in Syria are not an obstacle to Turkish violence.

In fact, US intervention is a central reason for this bloodshed, and much more, in the Middle East. Aiding Turkey in its invasion is the Syrian National Army (SNA), a rebrand of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an umbrella group that the US spent years nurturing to fight the Syrian government; the same scenario unfolded in Afrin, when the FSA also fought alongside Turkey.

US intervention against the Syrian government directly drove violence against minorities in Syria, including Kurds: The US supplied weapons to anti-government groups in Syria that ultimately empowered ISIS, who carried out “attacks on family members of Kurdish fighters and kidnappings of hundreds of civilians on the basis of their ethnic identity.”

The US government can no more be expected to protect Kurds or any other group than can Chevron be expected to undertake green initiatives, because protecting people isn’t the goal of US policy. Seen in the context of longer-term US ruling-class approaches globally and in the Middle East, there is every reason to conclude that US policies towards Syria have been about building military bases, and bleeding and weakening rivals like Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

Thus, Washington’s efforts to control the Middle East are a driving force behind the violence in the region. That points to the conclusion that the answer to violence in the region isn’t more US involvement, but less. Yet my research produces no evidence of discussion of this perspective in US corporate media.

There is, however, a great deal of coverage asserting that the US should continue occupying Syria so as to weaken its government and other US rivals. The New York Times new headline “Pulling of US Troops in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS” (10/7/19) unambiguously indicates that the US should keep its forces in Syria because removing them would benefit the Syrian government. This perspective assumes that the US has a legitimate right to use its military to shape, and perhaps outright dictate, the relative strength of other countries’ governments. The attached article went on to say that the shift in US policy

could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

The article seems to endorse the view put forth by Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy, that if Turkish attack forces a Kurdish redeployment, it would put “American objectives at risk” by benefiting “Russia, Iran and ISIS.” According to this point of view, the US should do what it can to keep Syria in a proxy war for as long as possible, because that state of affairs is bad for the US government’s international rivals.

Times editorial (10/7/19) advocated subjecting Syria to that condition indefinitely—to maintain an open-ended occupation of Syria as a “counterweight to Turkey and Syria’s Russian and Iranian allies”—because otherwise unspecified “foe[s]” will not “look at [America] and fear a determined adversary.” Intimidating unnamed political forces is, to say the least, an unconvincing justification for maintaining an illegal military occupation.

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Washington Post editorial (10/7/19) opined that

the 1,000 US troops in Syria could be forced to withdraw entirely, which would be a major victory for Russia and open the way for Iran to entrench its forces along Israel’s northern border.

For the Post, Syrians are pawns whose fates the US should hold hostage because of a grander imperial game. Another reason the paper gave for supporting a US presence in Syria is that

the United States was able to partner with the SDF to destroy the would-be Islamic caliphate and gain de facto control over a large swath of eastern Syria. That impeded Iran’s expansion in the country and gave Washington vital leverage over any eventual settlement of the Syrian civil war.

Why it’s “vital”—or even legitimate—for Washington to have “leverage over any eventual settlement” of the war in Syria is unexplained. It’s simply taken for granted that the United States should play a major part in shaping Syria’s future.

Influential sectors in corporate media clearly believe that US policy in Syria should be tailored toward assuring worldwide US hegemony. That’s necessarily going to entail Kurdish and many other peoples winding up in body bags.

The post Corporate Media Can’t Imagine an Alternative to Forever War in Syria appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

U.S. Takes Step to Require DNA Samples From Asylum-Seekers

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers and other migrants detained by immigration officials and will add the information to a massive FBI database used by law enforcement hunting for criminals, a Justice Department official said.

The Justice Department on Monday issued amended regulations that would mandate DNA collection for almost all migrants who cross between official entry points and are held even temporarily.

The official said the rules would not apply to legal permanent residents or anyone entering the U.S. legally, and children under 14 are exempt, but it’s unclear whether asylum-seekers who come through official crossings will be exempt.

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The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity before the regulations were published.

Homeland Security officials gave a broad outline of the plan to expand DNA collection at the border two weeks ago, but it was unclear then whether asylum-seekers would be included or when it would begin.

The new policy would allow the government to amass a trove of biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants, raising major privacy concerns and questions about whether such data should be compelled even when a person is not suspected of a crime other than crossing the border illegally. Civil rights groups already have expressed concerns that data could be misused, and the new policy is likely to lead to legal action.

Justice officials hope to have a pilot program in place shortly after the 20-day comment period ends and expand from there, the official said. The new regulations are effective Tuesday.

Trump administration officials say they hope to solve more crimes committed by immigrants through the increased collection of DNA from a group that can often slip through the cracks. The Justice official also said it would be a deterrent — the latest step aimed at discouraging migrants from trying to enter the United States between official crossings by adding hurdles to the immigration process.

Currently, officials collect DNA on a much more limited basis — when a migrant is prosecuted in federal court for a criminal offense. That includes illegal crossing, a charge that has affected mostly single adults. Those accompanied by children generally aren’t prosecuted because children can’t be detained.

President Donald Trump and others in his administration often single out crimes committed by immigrants as a reason for stricter border control. But multiple studies have found that people in the United States illegally are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens, and legal immigrants are even less likely to do so.

For example, a study last year in the journal Criminology found that from 1990 through 2014, states with bigger shares of migrants have lower crime rates.

Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the Libertarian think tank Cato Institute, which has also studied the issue, said it was unnecessary.

“Fingerprints and current biometrics are more than sufficient to identify criminals and keep them out of the United States. Collecting DNA is expensive, will be done poorly, and doesn’t make Americans any safer,” he said.

Immigrant rights advocates were immediately critical.

“This proposed change in policy is … transparently xenophobic in its intention,” said American Civil Liberties Union senior policy and advocacy attorney Naureen Shah.

“It seeks to miscast these individuals, many of whom are seeking a better life or safety, as threats to the country’s security.”

Curbing immigration is Trump’s signature issue, but his administration has struggled in dealing with the surge of people trying to enter the United States, mostly Central American families fleeing poverty and violence.

Authorities made more than 810,000 arrests at the border during the budget year that just ended in September, a high not seen for more than 10 years. Officials say numbers have since fallen following crackdowns, changes in asylum regulations and agreements with Central American countries, but they remain higher than in previous years.

DNA profile collection is allowed under a law expanded in 2009 to require that any adult arrested for a federal crime provide a DNA sample. At least 23 states require DNA testing, but some occur after a suspect is convicted of a crime.

The FBI database, known as the Combined DNA Index System, has nearly 14 million convicted offender profiles, plus 3.6 million arrestee profiles, and 966,782 forensic profiles as of August 2019. The profiles in the database do not contain names or other personal identifiers to protect privacy; only an agency identifier, specimen identification number and DNA lab associated with the analysis. That way, when people aren’t a match, their identification isn’t exposed.

The only way to get a profile out of the system is to request through an attorney that it be removed.

Federal and state investigators use the system to match DNA in crimes they are trying to solve. As of August 2019, the database produced about 480,000 hits, or matches with law enforcement seeking crime scene data, and assisted in more than 469,000 investigations.

Justice Department officials are striking a line in the regulations that gave the secretary of Homeland Security discretion to opt out of collecting DNA from immigrants because of resource limitations or operational hurdles.

Justice and Homeland Security officials are still working out details, but cheek swab kits would be provided by the FBI, the official said. The FBI will help train border officials on how to get a sample, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Customs and Border Protection already collects fingerprints on everyone over 14 in its custody.

The new regulations will apply to adults who cross the border illegally and are briefly detained by Customs and Border Protection, or for a longer period by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Those who come to official crossings and are considered inadmissible and not further detained will be exempt. Other exceptions are being worked out, the official said.

More than 51,000 detainees are in ICE custody. Border Patrol custody fluctuates its facilities only hold migrants until they are processed and either released or sent to ICE custody. At the height, more than 19,000 people were held. Recently it was down to fewer than 4,000.

The Justice Department charged the highest number of immigration-related offenses last year since the office began keeping the records: 25,426 with felony illegal re-entry and 80,866 with misdemeanor improper entry into the country.

The post U.S. Takes Step to Require DNA Samples From Asylum-Seekers appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Mark Zuckerberg Has More Than Pete Buttigieg’s Ear

In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg toured America. The cross-country trip was, as BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz described, “a charm offensive and a focus group.” Zuckerberg visited factories. He held a kitten. Multiple publications questioned whether he was running for president, or simply trying to deflect attention from mounting privacy concerns and accusations that Facebook had allowed Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While Zuckerberg may not be running for president, that doesn’t mean he’s not involved in the 2020 race. As Bloomberg reported Monday, he’s been advising the Pete Buttigieg campaign, “[recommending] several hires,” which Bloomberg writers Tyler Pager and Kurt Wagner say is “a rare example of direct political involvement from one of tech’s most powerful executives.”

Both Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, emailed Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl with suggestions for staffing. The campaign, according to Bloomberg, hired two of those recommended. They are Eric Mayefsky, senior digital analytics adviser, and Nina Wornhoff, organizing data manager.

Chris Meagher, a campaign spokesman for Buttigieg, confirmed the emails and the hires, telling Bloomberg, “From the CNN town hall in March to our launch a month later, we literally got 7,000 resumes,” and, “I think that he (Zuckerberg) thought Eric would be a good staff hire with a lot of experience and same with Nina and Priscilla.”

Both had previously worked for Zuckerberg and Chan at least tangentially; Mayefsky at Facebook itself, and Wonhoff at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

“Having seen Mark’s visit to South Bend in 2017 and Facebook Live with Mayor Buttigieg, colleagues later asked Mark and Priscilla to connect them with the Buttigieg campaign as they were interested in joining,” Ben LaBolt, a spokesperson for the Zuckerberg-Chan family, said in a statement to Bloomberg. (Zuckerberg had also visited South Bend, Ind., as part of his cross-country tour.)

While LaBolt emphasized that neither Zuckerberg nor Chan have made any formal endorsements, he did not answer follow-up questions about whether either had made similar staff suggestions for other campaigns.

“The staff recommendations from Zuckerberg are the first evidence of the Facebook CEO actively assisting a presidential campaign,” Prager and Wagner write. It was not, however, the only link between the social media giant and the Buttigieg campaign. Per Bloomberg:

<blockquote> A number of other high-ranking Facebook executives, including David Marcus, the executive leading Facebook’s cryptocurrency efforts, Naomi Gleit, one of Facebook’s longest-tenured executives, and Chris Cox, former chief product officer who is close friends with Zuckerberg, have donated to Buttigieg. </blockquote>

The email recommendations are also raising concerns, because Buttigieg has been less critical of Facebook than have other presidential candidates.

He’s become “a Silicon Valley darling in the 2020 presidential field,” as Cat Zakrzewski observed in The Washington Post in July. Bloomberg points out that Buttigieg has been “repeatedly returning to San Francisco for high-dollar fundraisers. Even though Buttigieg’s economic plan, as Zakrzewski says, takes aim at tech companies that classify workers as independent contractors rather than full employees, he’s been more hesitant to say that tech companies constitute a monopoly.

By contrast, Elizabeth Warren has a plan to break up Facebook, over which Zuckberg threatened to sue should it ever come to fruition. Even the more business-friendly Joe Biden was unsuccessful in his campaign’s attempt to convince Facebook to take down ads that falsely accused the former vice president of corruption involving the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.

CNN obtained Facebook’s response to the Biden campaign, which said its decision was “grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and belief that in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is.”

Zuckerberg may have gotten off relatively easy so far, with just a $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for Facebook’s 2016 activities involving Russian campaign meddling, but as the 2020 election ramps up, and both Zuckerberg and his company face greater scrutiny, his ability to influence politicians may prove harder than it has been. He’s scheduled to testify in front of the House Financial Services Committee this Wednesday.

The post Mark Zuckerberg Has More Than Pete Buttigieg’s Ear appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Chilean Military Returns to Streets as Public Unrest Mounts

Demonstrators in Chile continued their “pots and pans” protests Sunday following a week of unrest that saw hundreds arrested and the military patrolling the streets for the first time in decades.

A curfew and state of emergency are still in effect in Santiago and several other cities, The Associated Press reported.

Video posted below from online outlet El Monstrador shows a protest Sunday in Santiago’s Plaza Ñuñoa:

AHORA| Pese al estado de emergencia y la primera noche de toque de queda, las protestas ciudadanas no ceden y nuevamente este domingo se reactivaron los cacerolazos. Acá, Plaza Ñuñoa pic.twitter.com/Q12IoldaWZ

— el mostrador (@elmostrador) October 20, 2019

The country’s billionaire right-wing President Sebastián Piñera announced late Saturday that he was suspending a planned 4 percent increase in subway fares. That fare hike had prompted hundreds of young people on Monday to jump metro turnstiles and triggered protests in other cities in the country. But that may not have been the only catalyst. As The Guardian noted, the “latest protests follow grievances over the cost of living, specifically the costs of healthcare, education, and public services.”

Reuters reported Saturday:

Fires continued to burn and looters were seen in flashpoints around the city of six million people where earlier police and military clashed with protesters. There was also significant unrest in the port city of Valparaiso, seat of Chile’s Congress, where the government also declared military rule late on Saturday, and in the southern city of Concepcion.

“The center-right Pinera said he would invoke a special state security law to prosecute the ‘criminals’ responsible for the city-wide damage,” Reuters reported.

According to Santiago Mayor Karla Rubilar Barahona, two people died from a fire in a supermarket in the San Bernardo area of the capital and a third person died after being taken to the hospital.

In addition to the curfew and state emergency, the government responded to the unrest by dispatching the military to city streets.

It marks the first time the army marched through the streets of Santiago, AP noted, since  1990, when the brutal dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, who ousted Salvador Allende in a U.S.-backed coup, ended.

This is so awful. The military is in the street in Chile to repress protests against increased public transport fees. The echoes of images from 1973 are surreal; the military is nothing if not consistent as an enforcer of neoliberalization https://t.co/qOgKSQ5LtK

— Madeleine Wattenbarger (@madeleinewhat) October 19, 2019

Another user shared video of soldiers in the city of Valparaiso:

Imágenes perturbadoras desde #Valparaíso, ya bajo toque de queda. Es muy doloroso ver a #Chile con militares controlando todas las calles, mientras la población muestra su hartazgo social. #ChileResiste pic.twitter.com/aCveQHtdZf

— Erika Guevara-Rosas (@ErikaGuevaraR) October 20, 2019

The images, wrote Erika Guevara-Rosas, are “disturbing.”

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