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Will Senate Democrats Block Confirmation of Climate-Denying, Torture-Backing Pompeo to State Department?

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

Confirmation hearings begin today for Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, tapped by President Trump to become the next secretary of state. Last year the Senate confirmed Pompeo to head the CIA by a vote of 66 to 32, but the vote is expected to be far closer this year. At least one Republican -- Rand Paul -- has already announced he will vote against Pompeo due to his support for the Iraq invasion and for torture. Pompeo also has a long history of ties to Islamophobic organizations, and the National Iranian American Council has warned that Pompeo's confirmation would threaten the Iran nuclear deal and increase the risk of a US attack on Iran. We discuss Pompeo's nomination with Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, and Zaid Jilani, a staff reporter at The Intercept.

TRANSCRIPT

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Confirmation hearings begin today for Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, tapped by President Trump to become the next secretary of state. Last year, the Senate confirmed Pompeo to head the CIA by a vote of 66 to 32, but the vote is expected to be far closer this year. At least one Republican -- Rand Paul -- has already announced he will vote against Pompeo due to his support for the Iraq invasion and for torture. And more Democrats are expected to oppose him this round. Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter, quote, "I voted YES on Pompeo for CIA on the theory that he would be the 'adult in the room.' I was wrong. I am voting NO on Pompeo for Secretary of State because our top diplomat should believe in diplomacy. He has an alarming tendency towards military provocation and brinkmanship."

Pompeo is a former congressman from Kansas, where he was widely known to be the Koch brothers' favorite lawmaker. He once wrote an article for Politico titled "Stop harassing the Koch brothers."

AMY GOODMAN: Pompeo also has a long history of ties to Islamophobic organizations. The group Act for America, which is considered the largest anti-Muslim group in America, awarded Pompeo its highest honor, the National Security Eagle Award, in 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the organization a hate group.

On the foreign policy front, the National Iranian American Council has warned Pompeo's confirmation would threaten the Iran nuclear deal and increase the risk of a U.S. attack on Iran. Pompeo is also a vocal climate change denier. More than 200 environmental groups wrote a letter this week to senators urging Pompeo's rejection.

We're joined now by two guests. Trita Parsi is founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy. And Zaid Jilani is a staff reporter at The Intercept.

Zaid, you've been on Capitol Hill following what's happening in the preparations for the hearing today for Pompeo to become secretary of state. Talk about what you've found.

ZAID JILANI: Yeah, it's actually very interesting, because unlike a number of the nominees that went through last year when the Trump administration sort of initially staffed up, Mike Pompeo's nomination is actually in a bit of danger. One, as you played earlier, Senator Rand Paul, a leading Senate Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already come out and said that he would try to block his nomination. Now, recall that when Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director, he received the support of 14 Senate Democrats as well as one independent, Angus King of Maine. That basically creates a calculus where, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they could effectively block Pompeo's nomination, due to the new sort of Senate dynamics.

Now, it is possible that they could bring Pompeo directly to the floor and bypass the committee, but that really hasn't happened, I think, in decades, or, ultimately, if President Trump really wants to appoint him, he could always use a recess appointment. But sort of forcing them to take those steps would withdraw a lot of political capital from the Trump administration and could -- you know, if the Democrats -- I believe Senator Paul has said something about Gina Haspel, who is nominated for CIA director, but it also applies here, which is that he said that if the Democrats show solidarity, they can block these nominations.

And I think that a number of them -- and you played the -- you know, you actually played the tweet from Brian Schatz, where he said he sort of changed his mind. I think a lot of those Democrats right now, you know, it's big question mark for them. A lot of them have not announced yet that they're going to continue to support Pompeo like they did last year. So I think that's really the big question in the room, is whether the Senate Democratic Caucus will stick together with Rand Paul and sort of block the nomination, or attempt to at least attempt slow it down.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Schatz saying, "I voted YES on Pompeo for CIA on the theory [that] he would be the 'adult in the room.' I was wrong. I am voting NO on Pompeo for Secretary of State because our top diplomat should believe in diplomacy. He has an alarming tendency towards military provocation and brinkmanship." Zaid?

ZAID JILANI: Yes, well, I think, you know, that tweet shows sort of a -- you know, there's a learning curve, I think, among members of Congress. I think there was a logical error sort of made towards President Trump at the beginning, whereas -- you know, I think he was perceived as having sort of a very strong ideological bent, and they needed security state figures, like generals. For instance, a lot of senators, including even Bernie Sanders, voted for John Kelly to lead DHS for the same reason.

But I think a more -- I think what we're coming around to in Washington is understanding that Trump doesn't really have a very strong ideological bent. He's more of a pragmatist. But he's very malleable when it comes to the people who are around him. So, I think that in the first term, or the first year of President Trump's presidency, we've seen sort of moderate hawks around him, people who could easily have worked for Obama, most of them, of for Clinton. But I think now that you're seeing, you know, maybe Gina Haspel at CIA, John Bolton being national security adviser, Mike Pompeo at CIA, I think that that would be a tangible shift to the right. And I think that, you know, that's scaring a lot of, I think, people who were willing to go along with that strategy a year ago, like Brian Schatz.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Trita Parsi, could you talk about some of your concerns with Pompeo, and, in particular, the concerns that others have also expressed, that in nominating Mike Pompeo, Trump is more or less putting together a war cabinet, given that John Bolton has also just come in earlier this week as national security adviser?

TRITA PARSI: Yes, I think that is very much part of the context here that I think is also giving a lot of senators pause, which is that this is not just a vote for Pompeo. This would be to enable Donald Trump to have a Cabinet in which you have no longer these mythical "adults in the room" any longer, but rather almost exclusively yes men. And as a result, I think what is emerging on Capitol Hill is a understanding that a vote for Pompeo is essentially a vote for John Bolton, and a vote for John Bolton is a vote for war. And I think that has been one of the factors that has really changed the dynamics, because it's going to be very difficult for the Democrats to be able to justify such a vote, particularly mindful of the fact that we are very likely to see the death of the Iran nuclear deal, which then, once again, will open up the pathway for a war between the United States and Iran. You don't want to be a senator that has actually enabled that to happen by casting a vote for Pompeo, if you're on the Democratic side, as well as some Republicans. I mean, I think right now a lot of eyes are going to be on Senator Jeff Flake, because if Flake decides to vote against and all of the Democrats vote against, then Pompeo's nomination is dead.

AMY GOODMAN: I'd like to turn to Pompeo, speaking to Face the Nation about Iran and North Korea.

MIKE POMPEO: My critique of the Obama administration's JCPOA commitment was that they left the Iranians with a breakout capacity. They had a short time frame that these would -- these restrictions would remain in place. And North Korea's human capital and enrichment capacity continues to remain in place. Those are -- those are all things that present risk to the world, and President Obama is -- or, excuse me, President Trump is determined to prevent that from happening in North Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi?

TRITA PARSI: Well, here again, I think you're seeing that Pompeo is saying something very different once he got through the CIA nomination than what he said at the CIA nomination hearings. Then, he struck a much more moderate tone, being very aware of that his hawkishness would be a concern for a lot of senators. And having read his -- the transcript of his statement that he's going to give today, it's very clear that he's very worried about this once again.

But his views, I think, have become quite clear now. They're undeniable. His rejection of the Iran deal is part of the reason why he's being nominated by Donald Trump to be secretary of state. And his arguments in regards to the breakout capability is entirely wrong, because in the case of the Iran deal, the breakout capability has been extended to one full year, which then, combined with the very, very intrusive inspections, makes it essentially impossible for the Iranians to be able to build a nuclear bomb without getting detected very, very early, which gives the world an opportunity to intervene. That is, of course, all based on the idea that we live up to our end of the bargain of this deal and allow those inspections to continue. But if we pull out of the deal, which Trump is very likely to do, particularly with people like Bolton and Pompeo around him, then we lose the inspections. And if we lose the inspections, forget about a 12-month breakout capability. That's when the real danger comes in. So, the path that Pompeo is arguing for is actually the exact path that would lead us to some of these disastrous consequences.

And one approach that he's had to all of this, that I think we should be very concerned about, is that as head of CIA, he was presented with evidence from the CIA that show that the Iranians are living up to the deal. His response was, "Well, we know that they're still cheating." He had no evidence for that, but he had already drawn that conclusion. That reminds us of what happened during the Iraq War, in which the conclusion was drawn first, and then the CIA was being asked, "Now go find the evidence for it."

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Trita, I want to go to another related issue, which is his -- Pompeo's well-documented Islamophobia. Now, in June 2013, two months after the Boston Marathon bombing, then-Congressman Mike Pompeo erroneously claimed Muslim groups had not condemned the attack.

REP. MIKE POMPEO: It's been just under two months since the attacks in Boston, and in those intervening weeks, the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening. … When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith. Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts. … If a religion claims to be one of peace, Mr. Speaker, its leaders must reject violence that is perpetrated in its name.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: A day after Pompeo gave those remarks, the Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote to him demanding an apology. CAIR and a number of other Muslim -- major Muslim organizations had in fact condemned the marathon bombings, many within hours of the attack, and organized blood drives and other relief efforts in Boston. Pompeo never apologized or responded to the letter from CAIR. So, Trita Parsi, can you -- can you talk about that and your concerns about the way in which Mike Pompeo has spoken about Muslims in America?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think, once again, we're saying that his line of thinking is very much in line with the thinking of Donald Trump here. So, rather than being someone that actually would be able to bring in a different perspective into the White House, balance things, be an "adult in the room," as Brian Schatz originally thought Pompeo would be, instead we're seeing someone that actually will be enabling the worst instincts of Donald Trump. And I think this will be very dangerous to have someone as the secretary of state holding those views, because these are views that are considered and are extremist views, and it's going to create additional problems for the United States if, in its diplomacy with the rest of the world, is propagating views of this kind.

AMY GOODMAN: 2015, Mike Pompeo appeared on the radio show of longtime Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, Pompeo agreeing with Gaffney that then-President Obama had a, quote, "affinity for Muslim terrorists." This clip begins with Gaffney.

FRANK GAFFNEY: I wonder whether in fact what the president is conveying to them is not simply that he doesn't understand, but that there's really kind of an affinity for, if not the violent beheading and crucifixions and, you know, slaying of Christians and all that, but at least for the cause in which these guys are engaged in such activities. Given you're watching this very closely, of course, from your vantage point on the Intelligence Committee, could that possibly be a takeaway for bad guys who hear him saying nothing about their ideological agenda?

REP. MIKE POMPEO: Frank, every place you stare at the president's policies and statements, you see what you just described. So, the Egyptians bomb terrorists in eastern Libya, and the administration says, 'Gosh, we can't support that.' The Egyptians, under their leader, el-Sisi, begin to push back inside the ideology of the faith, and our president refuses to talk about it that way. Today, Americans are sitting at a table with the Iranians, the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, treating them as if they're a negotiating partner. Every policy of this administration has treated America as if we are the problem and not the solution to keeping not only America safe, but a stable world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that's Mike Pompeo in 2015. Zaid Jilani, if you can talk about this and how this is being discussed on Capitol Hill right now? Again, connections to a number of anti-Islamic groups, not to mention these kind of views.

ZAID JILANI: Well, I think this is exactly the kind of thing that we would expect Congress to start interrogating Pompeo on today, when he starts -- has his first hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee folks. You know, Pompeo not only has appeared and made some sort of offensive remarks here and there. He's actually been a booster of an organization called Act for America, which is led by a woman named Brigitte Gabriel, who argues, you know, very strongly that the essential problem with terrorism are basically essentialized to the religion of Islam.

Of course, our diplomats across the world have to deal with a very large Muslim population. Most of our conflicts and sort of hotspots in the world right now are with Muslim-majority populations. And it's very unclear whether, you know, Mike Pompeo actually knows how to speak diplomatically, whether he can actually suppress these sorts of views. Even if he was doing this as a matter of political pandering for a domestic audience at one point, he hasn't demonstrated the ability to do the opposite, which is to be able to engage and constructively hold dialogue with Muslim populations worldwide, which is something, honestly, that I think Rex Tillerson did effectively at times. You know, as a former sort of Exxon CEO, he kind of had a lot of experience dealing with sort of Muslim-majority head of states, so on and so forth. And I think, actually, he did show some capacity to do that diplomacy. But Mike Pompeo just hasn't demonstrated anything like that. And I think that's exactly the kind of thing you're going to see members of Congress sort of buzzing him on when he starts his hearings today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's go back to Mike Pompeo, in 2014, Congressman Pompeo, addressing a church group in Wichita, his hometown.

REP. MIKE POMPEO: This threat to America is from people who deeply believe that Islam is the way and the light and the only answer. And so, as we think about what U.S. policy needs to be, how we will begin to combat this, we need to recognize that these folks believe that it is religiously driven for them to wipe Christians from the face of the Earth. They may be wrong. There's some debate about that, what the crowd actually says. They may be wholly misguided. And I will tell you it is absolutely a minority within the Muslim faith. But these folks are serious, and they abhor Christians and will continue to press against us, until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Mike Pompeo a few years ago, speaking in Wichita, his hometown, as congressman. So, Zaid Jilani, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, in a coalition of more than 200 national organizations, wrote a letter on Monday urging senators to vote no on Pompeo. How significant is this?

ZAID JILANI: Well, I think it is significant, in the respect that when Mike Pompeo, I think, was being sort of, you know, appointed to CIA, when he was very easily confirmed by the Senate, I don't think we saw the same level of pushback. I think, just as -- you know, what Brian Schatz said in his statement, there was a belief that he was sort of a longtime sort of standing member of Congress with security credentials. You know, he should be in there as the "adult in the room." But I don't think that his views were necessarily interrogated with as much rigor as they are being now.

And I think that particularly with those 14 Democratic senators and the one independent in Maine, Angus King, who supported him in his CIA nomination, you know, they need to hear from their constituents, and they need to hear particularly from organized interest groups, like the 200 that signed that letter, about how they're going to be held accountable, should they vote to confirm him, because, honestly, you know, members of Congress are very political creatures. You know, they care about votes, and they care about money. And if they feel like either of those two things are on the line, they're much more likely to vote against the nominee. So I do think that the rising sort of activist interest this time will definitely change the calculus. And I can't predict whether all 14 Senate Democrats who voted for him before, as well as the one independent, would turn against him, but I can tell you -- I can guarantee you that he's going to get less votes this time than he did last time.

Categories: News

Corporate Media Reprise Iraq in Beating War Drums for Trump Attack on Syria

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

 Julien Mattia / NurPhoto via Getty Images)Protesters hold Syrian flags as they take part in a demonstration against bombing Syria at the Place of Châtelet in the center of Paris, France, on April 11, 2018. (Photo: Julien Mattia / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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With the US's major corporate cable outlets -- particularly so-called liberal networks like MSNBC -- continuing to uncritically provide generals and lawmakers a massive platform to beat the drums of war as President Donald Trump inches closer to launching a military attack on Syria, critics have concluded that the US media has clearly learned nothing from the crucial role it played in cheerleading for the Bush administration's catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"The push for escalation on TV is overwhelming," Cenk Uyger, host of The Young Turks, observed in a tweet on Wednesday, reacting to the numerous instances this week of television hosts opining on Trump's "military options" with the likes of Iraq War supporter and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey while refusing to question the underlying rationale for or legality of unilateral military action.

"It's incredible how readily the cable news channels have politicians on pushing for war in Syria with almost no questions asked about how disastrous it might be or the so-called evidence," Uyger added. "They pretended to learn lessons from Iraq but have actually learned nothing."

As media critic Simon Maloy lamented in a column at Media Matters, the behavior of much of the corporate media "indicates how alarmingly comfortable much of the mainstream press is with the idea that the president can just up and decide to initiate military hostilities whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason -- even when there is no actual reason at all."

Almost entirely absent from the prevailing discussion of Syria on US cable networks in recent days -- which one journalist described as "a parade of one war hawk after another" -- has been any mention of the alternatives to military action.

Exemplifying this total exclusion of peaceful options was a segment on Wednesday by MSNBC's Ali Velshi, who provided his viewers with a quick rundown of the possible actions the president could take in Syria -- from "small strike" to "more damaging strikes" to "strikes on Russian and Iranian bases" -- without ever mentioning one major choice: no airstrikes at all.

Watch:

After telling Russia to "get ready" for missile strikes in Syria, @AliVelshi takes a look at President Trump's military options. pic.twitter.com/RxtLYzLcvt

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 11, 2018

Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, argued on Twitter that the corporate media's relentless elevation of pro-war voices since the Assad regime was accused of carrying out a chemical attack on Sunday is "making John Bolton's wildest dreams come true."

As Common Dreams reported, Bolton officially took over as Trump's national security adviser on Monday as the White House weighed whether to strike Syria militarily.

"In his first week on the job, everyone is calling for a new war," Timm noted.

The cognitive dissonance in the media the last two weeks is really something to behold.

Last week: John Bolton is a maniac whose going to dangerously lead Trump to start a new war.

This week: The Trump admin *must* launch a new war in John Bolton’s first few days on the job.

— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) April 11, 2018

With outlets like CNN and MSNBC leaving a massive vacuum by refusing to raise even the most basic questions about the Trump administration's push for military action in Syria, Tucker Carlson of Fox News has been one of the few cable hosts to criticize the rationale for war and offer a platform to an anti-war voice.

In an appearance on Carlson's primetime show Tuesday night, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald argued that it is the "standard tactic" of the corporate media to smear opponents of US wars in an effort to shut down legitimate questions about the rush toward military action.

"This climate arises that you're just supposed to cheer when it comes time to drop bombs on other countries, not ask whether there's evidence to justify it, not ask whether it will do any good, not ask whether it will kill any civilians," Greenwald said. "And if you do ask one of those questions it means you're on the side of America's enemies. It's an incredibly authoritarian tactic that gets used to suppress debate."

Watch:

Categories: News

Yes, We Are Like Frogs in Boiling Water With Trump as President

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

Amidst a sustained hurricane of appalling chaos, author Amy Siskind provides grounding for evaluating the real damage of the Trump presidency. In this excerpt from The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year, Siskind recalls how she came to begin compiling The List.

 Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks during a round table discussion on tax reform in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, on April 5, 2018. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)

As we feel battered by the media covering every vile Trump tweet storm, Amy Siskind's The List offers the chance to review the details of his destructive trail. Get the book and support Truthout. Click here.

Amidst a sustained hurricane of appalling chaos, Siskind provides grounding for evaluating the real damage of the Trump presidency. In the following excerpt from The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year, Siskind recalls how she came to begin compiling The List.

On the morning of Saturday, November 19, 2016, I found myself driving up to Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt. The week before, Trump had stunned the country by winning the election, and I was still reeling. The country's reaction to his victory was swift and hideous: The bigots in America took it as a legitimization of their hatred of others, and acts of hate were ubiquitous. Trump had ratcheted up his criticism of free speech, tweeting insults that morning at Saturday Night Live, the New York Times -- even the cast of Hamilton. This isn't normal, I found myself thinking. We are in great danger.

I needed to take a break from the steady stream of e-mails flooding my inbox. This is the worst day since 9/11.... What do we do now? How could I assure others that we were going to be okay when I wasn't sure myself? I needed the steadying influence of my personal heroine. I found myself wondering, What would Eleanor do today?

That Saturday was a crisp, sunny day, and Val-Kill a familiar vision of peace in what already felt like a country in chaos. I first started by reading Eleanor's quotes on government and democracy and courage, walked by the old typewriter she used to write her weekly newspaper column, My Day, then took my dogs along the trails she had walked each morning with her Scottish terriers. My heart felt heavy, but somehow, in Eleanor's presence, I felt less scared playing her words in my mind again and again, "Courage is easier than fear."

As I walked, I found myself thinking about some of the articles I'd read in the aftermath of the election. Experts in authoritarianism -- Masha Gessen, Sarah Kendzior, and Ruth Ben-Ghiat -- wrote about the tools of autocrats: using hatred as fuel, silencing dissent, disregarding norms, and breaking down trusted institutions. All described how things would be changing, slowly and subtly, warning us not to be fooled by small signs of normalcy on our march into darkness. Sarah Kendzior suggested that citizens write things down, starting that day, making a list of the specific things they never would have believed, things that they never would have done, before the regime came into power.

On the ride home, I knew what I had to do, and I started that night.

The List didn't start with any grand ambitions or even a vision. I just had an instinct to write down all of the things that were happening -- things that were not normal. Each Saturday, I shared The List on Facebook and Twitter. Week 1 had nine items, but by Week 2, The List had doubled to eighteen items and concluded with, "I'm sure there are more. This list is overwhelming already." Little did I know. A few weeks in, as the readership started to take off, people asked that I add source links so they could read the articles: Already the chaos was building, there was so much to keep track of, and people were missing news items. A professor from my alma mater who read The List e-mailed to say, "We are the frog in the water who doesn't notice it is getting to boil degree by degree."

The weekend before Trump took office, January 14, 2017, The List went viral for the first time: Week 9, with thirty-six not-normal items, was picked up by several prominent progressive bloggers and had close to two million views. I wrote a short note that week observing that in normal times, "any one of these items would be a shock" and the "lack of consequences has changed me, and I suspect us all." I told readers I hoped The List would help us "trace our way back to normal when this nightmare is over."

The Women's March was the next weekend, and I chose to walk in my home city of New York, thinking that in a smaller crowd I would run into my friends. More than four hundred thousand showed up -- a sign that Americans, especially women and members of marginalized communities, would not go quietly. In the coming weeks, as Trump took office and power, the weekly lists grew to sixty items, and my Saturdays were spent catching up on documenting our falling norms.

Even as The List grew longer week by week, the themes remained consistent: Trump was interested in making money and staying in power, and he would take whatever steps necessary to make these things happen. Every week he fanned the flames of hate: from signing the Muslim Bans to the Transgender Military Ban, to ending DACA, to increasing ICE roundups, to repealing the Global Gag Rule, to taking swipes at NFL players. He took steps to consolidate power such as installing regime members to undermine the very agencies they were meant to lead, silencing dissent and our free press, intimidating the legislative branch, and stuffing the judicial branch full of extremists. At the same time, Trump transformed our standing in the world, alienating our closest allies while cozying up to authoritarians, including, of course, Putin.

In May, as Trump continued staffing up the regime, the lists of not-normal items were approaching one hundred per week. Now there were many hands involved in the work of destabilizing our fragile democracy, but key roles at federal agencies were left vacant and many seasoned veterans had departed. Especially noteworthy was the loss of diplomatic channels in our state department. Meanwhile, the Trump-appointed agency heads had open-door policies for lobbyists and executives from the industries the agencies are designed to regulate. Week by week, rules and regulations put in place to protect the environment, consumers, marginalized communities, women, the poor, and people with disabilities were being rolled back.

In late June, I received a message from Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post, asking if she could interview me about The List. I was thrilled! I had been waiting for the right columnist and publication for The List's coming-out story. Margaret's article went viral, reaching the top of the most-read pieces at Washington Post online with more than two million views. Shortly thereafter, someone who read the article nominated The List to be archived at the Library of Congress. I was incredibly grateful that The List would now be preserved for posterity, and would also have a home safe from hackers. At the suggestion of journalism professor Jay Rosen, I wrote a blog post memorializing this development. The very next day, I became the target of Russian-state media outlets and blogs....

Truthout Progressive Pick  A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year

The details of Trump's march toward authoritarianism.

Click here now to get the book!

By mid-July, I realized the items I was listing weren't the only things subtly changing -- I was changing as well. I felt like the character Carrie on Homeland, with thousands of items and trails of connections to Trump's end mapping out in my head. Naïvely, that day at Val-Kill months earlier, I imagined justice would catch up and Trump would be gone by the summer. The injustices were piling up, but there was no accountability or consequences! I headed to Vermont for some solitude and space to marinate on my new reality. At this point, I was devoting more than twenty hours a week to The List, and my old life and plans for what came next were sidelined. I decided I should record how this was affecting me and visited my favorite bookstore to pick out a diary. The first entry reads, "I am on the toughest climb of my life, and the hill feels steep and unrelenting."

A personal challenge throughout was staying engaged and dispassionate without losing my empathy and humanity. The country I love was under siege, and I was heartbroken and devastated. There were events, like Charlottesville and Myeshia Johnson standing over her husband's casket, where I found myself staring at the computer screen with tears streaming down my face. There were weeks when, with my growing public voice, I spoke out against hate and became a target myself. After Week 39, in August, I tweeted at web-hosting company GoDaddy, complaining about the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer's inflammatory attack on Charlottesville heroine and martyr Heather Heyer. Within twenty-four hours, the Daily Stormer was taken down, but my home address and phone numbers were posted online. That week I hired an armed security guard to be stationed outside my home. As summer came to an end, I was spending some thirty hours a week on the lists, which were now approaching 120 items each. When I cracked a tooth and made an appointment with my endodontist, she gave a diagnosis without missing a beat: "This is what happens in dictatorships. You're screaming in your sleep!" She advised getting a mouth guard, which, she offered up, many of her patients were doing. Ironically, as I sat in her office waiting to be seen, I was reading an op-ed by Dana Milbank, "President Trump Is Killing Me. Really," describing the impact on his physical health. Psychotherapists remarked on their patients' focus on politics -- a feeling of outrage, fear, and loss of control. Our country was truly suffering, physically, emotionally, and mentally, under the Trump regime.

As year one of The List drew to a close, I reread the articles by the experts on authoritarianism, and their predictions were coming true: Trump was still holding his campaign-style rallies with chants of "Lock her up!" as he encouraged the FBI and DOJ to do the same. He was still complaining about the "rigged system," which he assured his raucous crowds he would fix by silencing the fake media and dismantling what was left of the Deep State corrupt institutions that hampered him from assuming full control. It turns out authoritarians do follow a fairly predictable game plan -- even if new to us and our fragile democracy. Our country has spent a year in chaos, and so often people worry out loud about forgetting all the events that happened in a single week. And so I am grateful I took the experts' advice and constructed a trail map for us to follow back to normalcy and democracy -- a journey, sadly, I suspect will take years if not decades to travel.

Copyright (2018) by Amy Siskind. Not to be reproduced without permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Categories: News

"Confusing" Messages

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00
Categories: News

Zuckerberg Grilled by Same Lawmakers Who Repealed Online Privacy Protections

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

Last year, many of the same lawmakers currently grilling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about data harvesting and user privacy quietly voted to repeal some of the only online privacy protections on the federal books. The debate over regulating the internet is increasingly partisan, with Democrats siding with Silicon Valley and Republicans siding with the telecom lobby.

 Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images)Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appears for a hearing with the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday April 11, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

This time last year, Republicans in Congress were rushing to pass legislation repealing the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) online privacy protections that prevented internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast from harvesting and selling internet personal data without explicit permission from their customers.

The move was deeply unpopular, but the GOP reportedly hoped voters would be distracted by the controversy surrounding the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats were united against the legislation, and President Trump quietly signed it into law.

Just one year later, many of the same lawmakers who voted to repeal the privacy rules were eager to grill Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook's high-profile privacy problems as the embattled CEO testified before Congress this week. Zuckerberg has built an empire on data gathered from Facebook users and used to sell targeted ads -- and the scandals are piling up.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who introduced the legislation in the House that repealed the FCC privacy rules, told Zuckerberg that Facebook was "beginning to look like The Truman Show."

"My constituents in Tennessee want to know that they have a right to privacy," Blackburn told Zuckerberg during a marathon hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

If Blackburn is so concerned about privacy, then why did she push to repeal some of the only online privacy protections on the federal books?

Critics point to Blackburn's campaign finance records, which show that telecom companies subject to the FCC rules she helped throw out are some of her top donors. The answer also lies in an increasingly partisan debate over net neutrality and how the government should regulate competing companies that create and shape the web.

Perhaps aware of the bad optics surrounding the repeal of the FCC privacy rules, Blackburn introduced her own online privacy protection proposal a few months later. Her bill would require both internet service providers (ISPs) and web services like Facebook to ask users for permission before sharing their sensitive personal information with third parties.

The bill, known as the BROWSER Act, sounds good on paper but includes several caveats that critics say are designed to benefit her backers in the telecom industry, including language that would preempt states from instituting tougher privacy protections on their own.

Tim Karr, a spokesperson for the digital rights group Free Press, said Blackburn is known for designing legislation to benefit companies like Verizon and AT&T that have donated to her campaigns.

"There is a legitimate question about whether Rep. Blackburn is a good faith actor in this space; she has routinely come down in defense of the phone and cable companies at the expense of edge companies like Facebook and Google," Karr said in an interview.

During Tuesday's hearing, Blackburn demanded to know whether Zuckerberg would commit to backing her bill. Zuckerberg ducked the question, telling the congresswoman that he wasn't "directly familiar" with the details of the legislation.

"Let's get familiar with the details," Blackburn responded.

Facebook Is Not the Internet

Blackburn's privacy bill must now compete with several others aimed at big web platforms, but unlike his counterparts in the broadband industry, Zuckerberg is not kicking and screaming in the face of regulation. Zuckerberg was more supportive when Democratic lawmakers brought up plans to roll out privacy regulation, signaling that Facebook is willing to be regulated as long as it can work with the party most aligned with Silicon Valley to shape what those regulations look like.

In fact, he repeatedly told lawmakers during hearings in the House and the Senate that he supports federal privacy regulations if they're done "right," and Facebook users across the globe would benefit from upgrades resulting from new privacy rules established in Europe.

Blackburn's legislation, on the other hand, would ensure that online content platforms like Facebook and Google would never regain a competitive advantage over internet ISPs that they would have enjoyed under the FCC's privacy rules.

It all goes back to the 2015 Open Internet order that established much-debated net neutrality rules at the FCC. Just like telephone companies are required to treat calls from other providers equally, the order reclassified ISPs as "common carriers" that must refrain from discriminating against data on their networks. This also allowed the FCC to impose the privacy rules Blackburn helped scrap last year.

Those rules required ISPs to ask customers for permission before selling personal information and data about their browsing habits to third parties, which providers routinely do unless users take initiative to opt-out. Republicans and the telecom industry cried foul, arguing that the rules did not apply to companies like Facebook, which continue to profit from collecting data without asking users to opt-in to targeted advertising schemes first.

Digital rights advocates argue that there is a key difference between an ISP and an edge provider like Facebook that justified the FCC's targeted regulation. You need an ISP to connect to the internet, but once online, signing up for Facebook and sharing data on its network is totally optional.

This explains why Zuckerberg is open to privacy regulations. If users don't trust Facebook to protect their privacy, they may move on to other platforms. Deleting an account with an ISP and switching to a new provider is not as simple, and in many parts of the country, consumers can only choose between two or three providers -- if they have a choice at all.

"You can get by without Facebook; you do suffer an economic consequence if you are a business and it's important and requires regulation, but the fact is, it's not on the same level as fundamental communications infrastructure," said Harold Feld, vice president of the digital rights group Public Knowledge, in an interview.

Zuckerberg was careful to make this distinction between the internet services we pay for and the Facebook services that users get for free. He repeatedly told lawmakers that users "own" their data and can control how information they post on his website is shared.

"I would differentiate between the ISPs, which I consider to be the pipes of the internet, and the apps for platforms on top," Zuckerberg told a packed Senate hearing Monday, adding that people have different expectations of internet providers and websites, so it would make sense to regulate them differently as well.

Of course, the sheer ubiquity and popularity of Facebook, and services like Instagram and WhatsApp have made the products virtual necessities for both individuals and businesses, and Zuckerberg is doing everything he can to convince lawmakers to shrug off antitrust concerns. Still, Karr said Facebook could never be considered a common carrier service.

"There's a tendency to try to look at edge providers and platforms and ISPs as the same thing, but they are different and those legal definitions are important," Karr said.

A Widening Partisan Divide

Under the FCC's net neutrality rules, the government considered the internet more like a public utility that everyone needs to use than an information service like Facebook. The ISPs hated this and asked their allies in the Republican Party to dig them out. Their wish was granted after President Trump won the election and installed a Republican majority at the FCC, which promptly threw out the net neutrality rules late last year.

Democrats are fighting to restore net neutrality and declare ISPs "common carriers" once again. This would benefit edge providers like Facebook and Google, which fear that, without net neutrality, they could be forced to pay ISPs extra to reach customers at priority speeds. It also explains why Blackburn's legislation would prevent the FCC from reinstating privacy rules for the AT&Ts and Comcasts of the world, leaving the job up to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instead.

Blackburn's plan would let the FTC regulate privacy at web platforms like Facebook as well, and she pitches her bill as a one-size-fits-all solution for the whole internet "ecosystem." After two days of hearings, it was clear Zuckerberg and many Democrats would rather see different regulations for the companies that hardwire the internet and the companies that build websites and apps. Feld said Blackburn's bill is clearly backed by the telecom industry.

"The FTC, which doesn't have a privacy statute and operates pursuant to its general consumer protection statute, is the lowest common denominator on privacy," said Feld, who added that the FTC must win in court to make enforcement actions. "To the extent that there is a privacy rule, it's the weakest possible privacy rule."

Congress could have left the FCC privacy rules for ISPs in place and then figured out what to do about Facebook's glaring privacy problems, but Republicans scrapped those rules instead, leaving the public with no protections in place while lawmakers engage in an increasingly partisan debate over how to regulate the internet. For that, at least, you can blame the GOP.

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Categories: News

Trump's Rush to Judgment on Syrian Chemical Attack: Illegal and Deadly

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

 Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks with the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 9, 2018, in Washington DC. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)

Although there has been no independent investigation, Donald Trump is blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a chemical attack that killed 49 people. Trump is vowing to retaliate but bombing Syria would run afoul of the US's own War Powers Resolution passed by Congress in 1973. Moreover, it would violate international law and risk a confrontation with Russia.

 Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks with the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 9, 2018, in Washington DC. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)

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Donald Trump says the United States is about to bomb Syria, and Russia has vowed to shoot down US aircraft with missile defenses in response. With John Bolton, the new national security adviser and infamous enemy of the United Nations by Trump's side, diplomacy is not in the cards.

Although there has been no independent investigation, Trump is blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for an alleged chemical attack on Saturday in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, that killed 49 people.

As he did before leading the US to bomb Syria with Tomahawk missiles one year ago -- also in retaliation for an alleged gas attack -- Trump is rushing to judgment about who was responsible. And once again, the military force that he's threatening to use now would violate both the War Powers Resolution and the UN Charter. It could also lead to a dangerous confrontation with Russia.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning: "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

Yevgeny Serebrennikov, first deputy chairman of Russia's upper house's Defense Committee, said Sunday that Russia would immediately respond to US airstrikes in Syria. "A military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where there are Russian soldiers at the request of the legitimate Syrian government, is absolutely unacceptable and could have the most dire consequences," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Both Syrian and Russian authorities denied that Assad was responsible for the chemical attack.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Assad has already taken back from the rebels over 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta, which includes Douma, so it seems unlikely he would attack Douma. Moreover, Trump announced last week he intended to withdraw US troops from Syria. It is thus counterintuitive to conclude Assad would have launched a gas attack in Douma.

On April 6, 2017, Trump bombed Syria after declaring that Assad had used sarin gas at Khan Sheikhoun two days earlier. Assad had denied ordering the attack. But the Trump administration ignored all dissenting voices.

Assad's responsibility for the 2017 attack has never been definitively confirmed. Indeed, on February 8, Defense Secretary James Mattis admitted the United States had "no evidence" that the Assad government used Sarin against the Syrian people.

Trump said the United States is "getting clarity" and "some pretty good answers" about who was responsible for the Douma attack. But no independent investigation has yet been done.

Nonetheless, Trump has signaled that he's about to authorize the firing of missiles at Syria. That would be illegal and potentially catastrophic.

Bombing Syria Would Violate the War Powers Resolution

The War Powers Resolution, passed by Congress in the wake of the Vietnam War, permits the president to introduce US troops into hostilities or imminent hostilities only when Congress has declared war, when Congress has passed "specific statutory authorization" for the use of military force, or when there is "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."

None of these three prongs is present to justify the use of military force in Syria. Congress has neither declared war nor passed legislation authorizing a US attack on Syria, and Syria has clearly not attacked the United States or US armed forces. As a result, a military attack on Syria would run afoul of the War Powers Resolution.

The Trump administration justified its 2017 bombing of Syria by citing the president's commander-in-chief authority under Article II of the Constitution "to defend important US national interests." But Article II gives the president power to command the US military only after Congress has authorized war pursuant to its Article I authority.

"Humanitarian intervention" is not an established norm of international law. The use of military force is lawful only in self-defense.

On May 22, 2017, Protect Democracy, a group of former Obama administration lawyers, filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit to make public the Trump administration's memo detailing its legal justification for the April 2017 US military strike on Syria. Although the administration says that memo is classified, Protect Democracy has discovered that the classified portion can be easily redacted. However, the administration refuses to make the memo public. On Monday, Protect Democracy filed an emergency motion for release of the memo in light of the "potentially imminent military action" in Syria.

Bombing Syria Would Violate the UN Charter

But even if an attack by Trump on Syria did not violate the War Powers Resolution, it would still violate the United Nations Charter. The United States has ratified the Charter, making it part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which states that treaties shall be the supreme law of the land.

The Charter states that countries "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

A country can mount a military attack against another country in self-defense after an armed attack or if the Security Council has authorized it. Neither has occurred in this case.

Syria has not attacked the United States or any other country. "The use of chemical weapons within Syria is not an armed attack on the United States," according to international law expert Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell.

Nor has the Council granted the United States license to use military force against Syria. Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, called for compliance with resolution 2401, passed on February 24, 2018, in which the Council demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities to enable humanitarian assistance and medical evacuation. Resolution 2401 ends by stating that the Security Council "Decides to remain actively seized of the matter." That means the Council -- and only the Council -- has legal authority to order any measures, forceful or otherwise.

Any military attack that Trump would launch against Syria would therefore violate the Charter. In fact, under Article 51, Assad would have a valid self-defense claim in the event the United States initiated an armed attack on Syria. Russia could also mount airstrikes in collective defense of Syria.

In a tweet, Trump decried the "humanitarian disaster" created by the gas attack in Syria. But "humanitarian intervention" is not an established norm of international law. The use of military force is lawful only in self-defense or with Security Council approval. Neither is present in this case.

Bombing Syria Could Lead to a Dangerous Confrontation With Russia

CNN Turk reported that a US Navy destroyer -- the USS Donald Cook -- armed with 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles is now located off the coast of Syria. A Navy source confirmed that report to the Washington Examiner, saying the destroyer "got underway in the eastern Mediterranean within range of Syria Monday."

Russian leaders warned that any use of military force by the United States would have "grave repercussions."

Last month, Russian government officials threatened to respond with military force if Trump were to attack Syria and thereby endanger the lives of Russian soldiers stationed there. "In the event of a threat to our military servicemen's lives, Russia's Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles," Russian Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov warned.

What Should Be Done?

The Security Council met on Tuesday but could not agree on a resolution. Russia vetoed a US-prepared draft that would create a mechanism to assign responsibility for chemical attacks. The United States vetoed a Russian-drafted resolution that would have required investigators to report their findings to the Council, which would in turn assign responsibility.

But Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, declared that the United States would act against Assad, with or without the United Nations.

There is already an established body that has launched an investigation into the allegations of chemical weapons use in the Douma incident. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with support from Russia and Syria, is gathering and analyzing data from all available sources. OPCW's Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, is preparing to deploy a fact-finding mission team to Douma to investigate.

Immediately after Trump announced that the US bombing of Syria was imminent, Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, wrote on Facebook, "Smart missiles should fly toward terrorists, not the legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory."

Zakharova added, "By the way, were the OPCW inspectors warned that smart missiles will destroy all evidence of chemical weapons use on the ground? Or the whole idea is to quickly cover up the traces of provocation through the smart missiles, so the international inspectors have nothing to look for as evidence?"

There are several alternatives to bombing or attacking Syria. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has proposed a four-point plan, which includes full US support for the OPCW investigation; a congressional vote against any further US military action in Syria; a meeting between the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf States to revive international negotiations toward a diplomatic solution; and the United States promptly increasing its settlement of Syrian refugees.

Dueling US and Russian airstrikes in Syria would exacerbate regional conflict and could lead inexorably to a global war.

Categories: News

How Trump's Immigration Policies Harm Children

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

The Trump administration has attacked immigrant communities from day one with a range of misguided proposals and executive orders that undermine civil rights and terrify families.

These efforts are having devastating effects -- right now, as well as potentially long term -- on the health and well-being of our nation's youngest residents.

Documenting the Harm

Two new reports issued by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) examine how the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy priorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of young children. Through interviews with more than 100 child care and early education professionals in six states, along with focus groups with dozens of parents, CLASP found pervasive effects of these threats on children.

The reports detail disturbing signs and behaviors of distress, as well as serious risks to young children's healthy development. Because of their isolation and fear, immigrant families are reluctant to seek nutrition assistance, health care, and early care and education programs, which is compromising the wellbeing of their children.

Examples included a special-needs child being pulled out of recommended treatment by parents fearful of being detained by immigration authorities, early childhood programs unable to fill their classrooms despite burgeoning need, and families declining nutrition assistance.

From Bad to Worse

A new federal regulation being drafted by the US Department of Homeland Security would push kids, parents and other members of low-income immigrant households further into the shadows by dramatically altering the "public charge" provision of federal immigration law.

The most recent version of this draft proposal was leaked to the media last month and aims to punish immigrant families who seek access to health, nutrition, and housing programs for themselves and their children.

Under the proposed rule, any person whose family seeks or uses a wide range of human services programs -- from affordable housing, home heating assistance, and health coverage, to anti-hunger benefits, the earned income tax credit, and other essential services -- could face barriers to maintaining or improving their immigration status.

The proposed rule would expand scrutiny to include the applicant's family -- including US citizen children. If the draft provisions are finalized, parents would be forced to make impossible choices between putting food on the table for their children or obtaining secure immigration status.

We know that access to preventive health care and nutrition helps improve childhood outcomes, which extends to better education and employment outcomes in adulthood. Creating barriers to essential programs would have lifelong damaging consequences for millions of children in immigrant families.

Increased immigration enforcement and anti-immigrant rhetoric is already deterring immigrant parents -- documented and undocumented alike -- from seeking medical help for their children or enrolling them in critical programs.

The Trump administration's dangerous proposal would deny more children access to lifesaving care and drive up poverty among families with young children who are vital to our collective future.

Children of immigrants represent one quarter of our increasingly diverse US child population and will make up a critical segment of the future workforce. Preventing these kids from having their most fundamental needs met and driving them further into poverty will undermine our communities and our country for generations to come.

What's Next

The draft notice of proposed rulemaking was sent to the Office of Management and Budget at the end of March. The next step is for the rule to be published as a proposal in the Federal Register. Then, the public will have a relatively short window of opportunity to make comments and pose questions on the published rule.

For now, immigrant families should continue to seek benefits for which they are eligible. As currently drafted, the rule would not be retroactive and -- even if finalized -- some immigrants are not subject to the public charge determination.

During this unprecedented time of attacks on immigrant families, advocates must come together and reject this dangerous and shortsighted proposal, and others like it, which seek to divide our communities and undermine low-income, working families. Ultimately, our nation's leaders should be pushing for policies that help all our children thrive -- regardless of where their parents were born -- for their sake and for that of the entire country.

Join Us and Fight Back

We can't sit on the sidelines while the Trump administration attempts to punish parents for feeding their kids. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) are monitoring this threat closely and leading a strong pushback effort together with our partners across the nation. Once the proposed rule is published, there will be an opportunity for public comments, which the agency must respond to before finalizing these changes.

We invite you to join us in submitting comments to the Department of Homeland Security in opposition to this rule and encouraging others in your network to do the same.

For more resources, talking points, and information about how you can connect with other advocates in this fight, please visit Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) website.

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Categories: News

Six Months Into #MeToo, We Still Aren't Helping Victims Heal

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

This article was published by TalkPoverty.org.

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is, in many ways, similar to living with cockroaches. When you first notice the infestation, it's all you can think about. Even if it's small, even if you only see a little black bug scuttling across the kitchen floor once every few days, you are consumed by panic. You feel their legs brushing your face as you lie in bed trying to fall asleep. You imagine their wiggling antennae poking out from the bottom of your coffee cup. Under every pillow, behind every cabinet, you imagine you will uncover a new nest, writhing with horrible little bodies that scurry across your toes as they try to escape the sudden exposure.

Then, after a while, you get used to them. They get worse; they multiply. But you stop noticing. Eventually, you flick them off your body like nothing. You watch with dull reserve when you uncover yet another nest. They become a part of your life. Once you have roaches, you can never really get rid of them -- you can only try to mitigate their effects.

Women have been dealing with a lot of roaches. The viral MeToo hashtag has brought to light the horrifying impact of sexual and physical assault against women, which is an inarguable advance from the (sometimes not-so-distant) times when violence against women was so widely accepted it was used to sell household products. Like any powerful social movement, however, it has its critics. "Why now?" has become one of the biggest questions detractors are asking. If this is such a major problem, why didn't survivors come forward earlier? Why do so many still hold back from reporting, or testifying in court?

People still ask me those questions. They ask even though it's 10 years after the end of my abusive relationship, and even though I still live in a world overrun by my trauma. They ask even though providing the testimony that would incarcerate my abuser meant inviting a lifetime of PTSD, which arises only in the aftermath of trauma, when the long-used survival mechanisms fail to shut off.

The events that took place between the ages of 15 and 20 remain trapped in my body like shrapnel too precarious to be extracted. They are distanced from the rest of me by dissociation and selective amnesia; psychological post-traumatic scar tissue. I can't always recall the details attached to each trigger, but I know them by their symptoms: anger, shame, debilitating self-doubt, panic attacks, suicidal ideation, substance use, an unshakable sense of not belonging.

I didn't know exactly how much the aftermath would hurt until I finally walked away, but I had inklings every time I tried. I would spend days cycling between joy and misery; torn between my desire to live free from violence, and the despairing knowledge that healing would require painful, arduous work. When I finally testified, it was in spite of myself. I had already recanted previous reports countless times before I finally gathered the courage to stand my ground.

Domestic violence is so intensely damaging because it is personal, targeted, isolating, and private, but that pressure to recant is nearly universal. In a 2011 study of abuser-victim dynamics, Amy Bonomi and other researchers listened in on recorded conversations between jailed male abusers and their female partners. In 17 of 25 pairings, the abuser was able to convince his partner to recant her testimony (the other conversations were inaudible or included people who were not the primary victim). All of these conversations followed a pattern: The abuser first minimized the assault, then elicited sympathy from his victim by describing the hardship of life in jail, before romanticizing the "good times," bonding over a shared dislike of a hostile authority figure, and finally requesting that she recant.

Given the likelihood that victims recant, it's no wonder prosecutors seemed concerned when my abuser's conviction hinged on my testimony. The county assigned me a victim's advocate who coached me through the court process and periodically checked in on my welfare and willingness to speak in court. But after the sentencing, it was four years before I heard from their office again -- and then only to meet with me briefly about his release. I was not set up with a network of trauma care workers. Nobody followed up to learn whether I had stable housing, or how my job search was going after school. I was left alone to deal with the aftermath, and 10 years later I am still struggling to overcome that oversight.

Studies have found that women who survive intimate partner violence suffer myriad long-term physical and mental consequences. (Although domestic violence happens across the gender spectrum, it is most common between male assailants with female partners; because of this, most research focuses on couples that fit this dynamic). Digestive problems, eating disorders, issues with reproductive organs, headaches, and blackouts are some of the most common physical ailments associated with domestic violence. PTSD develops at a 74:3 ratio in women who have been abused versus those who have not.

I've always lived below the poverty line, but before developing PTSD, I never struggled for what I really needed. The aftermath of abuse left me floundering for everything. No one warned me how hard it would be to stay alive after the relationship was over. I was able to complete graduate studies in writing, but not without a good dose of heroin -- and that, of course, came with its own set of debilitating consequences. Before building enough contacts and credits to work as an income-earning freelance writer, I was mostly unemployed, occasionally bouncing between telefunding jobs, and constantly struggling to keep my family housed and fed. Even recently, when my husband suffered a costly health complication, we ended up with an impending eviction that we were only able to skirt through an online fundraiser.

The financial devastation I experienced is not unique. Since the 1990s, health officials have known that battered women experience significant interruptions to their jobs that include unemployment, missing work, being late or leaving early, and even being fired. More recent data confirm that financial insecurity continues to be a major issue for abuse survivors -- domestic violence is thought to account for a combined total loss of 8 million work days each year. Couple that with the fact that 99 percent of women who are physically abused also experience financial abuse, and the well-recorded difficulties associated with escaping poverty (especially if mental illness is involved), and you begin to see a very grim picture -- one that leaves already-vulnerable victims struggling to access enough resources to survive.

Survivors of intimate partner violence should not disappear into a black hole after escaping the abuse, nor should we assume they are okay just because they are "safe." The evidence says they are not. And so, six months into #MeToo, we need to start dealing with the wreckage.  #MeToo allowed women to realize that they were not alone -- that many of us have cockroaches, and the filth does not belong to us. #MeToo allowed women to let out a long-awaited sigh of relief. But it also triggered some survivors, who weren't ready to face their trauma. It made women feel guilty for not being ready. It made those on the outside think that sending the aggressor to prison was the end of the story. It made people forget that domestic violence survivors still need help, even after the relationship ends.

There is no longer any basis to argue that domestic violence doesn't have a long-term physical, psychological, and financial toll. The question is now, what are we going to do about it?

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Categories: News

Woman Who Hates Endangered Species Act Will Be in Charge of Wildlife Policy

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 13:23
If you're a fan of real journalism, now's the time to strengthen Truthout's mission. Help us keep publishing stories that expose government and corporate wrongdoing: Make a donation right now!

As if endangered species didn't have enough to worry about, they're about to have a vocal opponent of animals and conservation overseeing their protection in the White House. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has named Susan Combs to serve as the acting assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks.

To fully understand why Combs is such a terrible pick, take a look at her history as a comptroller in Texas. In that role, she routinely went up against the US Fish and Wildlife Service when they tried to enforce portions of the Endangered Species Act in her state. She also successfully fought to keep the golden-cheeked warbler and the dune sagebrush lizard from being included on the endangered list.

Combs made it her business to protect the oil industry and other corporations from the supposed drag of having to make adjustments to preserve vulnerable species. She opposed pretty much every creature considered for endangered designation on economic grounds.

Perhaps most infamously, Combs once labeled animals included on the official endangered list as "incoming Scud missiles." How her mind managed to decide that animals in need of conservation efforts are equivalent to deadly weapons is completely perplexing.

You're kidding yourself if you think this nomination is some kind of accident. It's both deliberate and telling for Zinke to put a known opponent of the Endangered Species Act in charge of wildlife policy.

Granted, Combs cannot dismantle the Endangered Species Act -- that kind of thing would require legislation by Congress. However, from this secretary position, should we have the discretion to enforce the rules, thereby allowing companies to flout the rules without repercussions. Furthermore, the policies she would promote are almost certainly not going to benefit the wildlife she's charged with protecting.

Interestingly, this role is not the first for which the Trump administration has nominated Combs. Last summer, she was named the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget for the Interior Department, but the Senate has yet to confirm her for a number of reasons, not the least of which was vehement opposition from conservation organizations.

Evidently, when a women hates endangered species that much, you just have to make sure she gets a job somewhere in your administration!

The Interior Department says it is still hoping to have her fill the original role, but it wants her to take on this other job in the meantime. Although this second position also requires Senate confirmation, due to technical rules, she can serve it in an acting capacity until Senate puts it in a vote, meaning to prevent her from wreaking havoc in this job she's unsuited for, the Senate will have to not just vote no, but do so quickly.

Take Action

Let's make sure that happens. The Senate obviously has some reservations about Combs in the first place, so let's encourage them to reject her nomination via this Care2 petition. Animals in this country deserve better than to have a longstanding opponent of the Endangered Species Act put in control of their welfare.

Categories: News

Woman Who Hates Endangered Species Act Will Be in Charge of Wildlife Policy

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00
If you're a fan of real journalism, now's the time to strengthen Truthout's mission. Help us keep publishing stories that expose government and corporate wrongdoing: Make a donation right now!

As if endangered species didn't have enough to worry about, they're about to have a vocal opponent of animals and conservation overseeing their protection in the White House. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has named Susan Combs to serve as the acting assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks.

To fully understand why Combs is such a terrible pick, take a look at her history as a comptroller in Texas. In that role, she routinely went up against the US Fish and Wildlife Service when they tried to enforce portions of the Endangered Species Act in her state. She also successfully fought to keep the golden-cheeked warbler and the dune sagebrush lizard from being included on the endangered list.

Combs made it her business to protect the oil industry and other corporations from the supposed drag of having to make adjustments to preserve vulnerable species. She opposed pretty much every creature considered for endangered designation on economic grounds.

Perhaps most infamously, Combs once labeled animals included on the official endangered list as "incoming Scud missiles." How her mind managed to decide that animals in need of conservation efforts are equivalent to deadly weapons is completely perplexing.

You're kidding yourself if you think this nomination is some kind of accident. It's both deliberate and telling for Zinke to put a known opponent of the Endangered Species Act in charge of wildlife policy.

Granted, Combs cannot dismantle the Endangered Species Act -- that kind of thing would require legislation by Congress. However, from this secretary position, should we have the discretion to enforce the rules, thereby allowing companies to flout the rules without repercussions. Furthermore, the policies she would promote are almost certainly not going to benefit the wildlife she's charged with protecting.

Interestingly, this role is not the first for which the Trump administration has nominated Combs. Last summer, she was named the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget for the Interior Department, but the Senate has yet to confirm her for a number of reasons, not the least of which was vehement opposition from conservation organizations.

Evidently, when a women hates endangered species that much, you just have to make sure she gets a job somewhere in your administration!

The Interior Department says it is still hoping to have her fill the original role, but it wants her to take on this other job in the meantime. Although this second position also requires Senate confirmation, due to technical rules, she can serve it in an acting capacity until Senate puts it in a vote, meaning to prevent her from wreaking havoc in this job she's unsuited for, the Senate will have to not just vote no, but do so quickly.

Take Action

Let's make sure that happens. The Senate obviously has some reservations about Combs in the first place, so let's encourage them to reject her nomination via this Care2 petition. Animals in this country deserve better than to have a longstanding opponent of the Endangered Species Act put in control of their welfare.

Categories: News

Trump's Scandal-Plagued Labor Board Soon Back to Full Strength

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00
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Republicans look set this week to fill the vacancy on President Trump's embattled National Labor Relations Board.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 50-47 to limit debate on John Ring, the nominee to fill the seat previously held by former NLRB chair Phil Miscimarra.

Ring is currently a partner with Morgan Lewis & Bockius, a union-busting management side law firm, based in Philadelphia. Some of his recent major clients include Amazon, Marriott, Xerox, and Google, according to financial disclosures.

Miscimarra stepped down in December, after quickly ushering through a series of rulings, with Republicans set to temporarily lose their Board majority upon his retirement.

One of those decisions -- a reversal of an Obama-era expansion of corporate liability for franchise practices -- was lambasted in February by the NLRB Inspector General.

The comptroller found that Republican Board member Bill Emanuel should have recused himself, citing a major conflict of interest. Emanuel's former law firm, Littler Mendelson, had argued against the Obama administration’s ruling on joint employment.

The Inspector General also said Miscimarra improperly used the underlying case, Hy-Brand, to overturn the Obama-era standard set in Browning-Ferris.

"[T]here is no material discussion of the Hy-Brand matter in the part of the decision that overrules Browning-Ferris," said IG David Berry.

The report caused the Board to vacate Hy-Brand, in a move that has led to finger-pointing and recriminations among Republicans.

During his confirmation hearing, Ring said that the December vote put a "cloud over the NLRB." Last week, in a legal motion, however, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb urged the Board to reconsider its reversal of Hy-Brand.

In recent weeks, Robb has also moved quickly to seek judicial approval of a settlement, in a case involving McDonald's workers, based on Browning-Ferris.

Hundreds of workers for the fast food giant say they were harassed and punished for joining the Fight For 15 movement to increase the federal minimum wage. Their lawyers are asking for the settlement to be thrown out. Last week, an administrative law judge heard arguments in litigation over the deal.

Categories: News

Betsy DeVos Tries to Pit Kids Against Striking Teachers: It's Just Another Right-Wing Scam

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00

Teachers are holding massive walkouts in Oklahoma and threatening to do so in Kentucky, right on the heels of a similar labor protest movement in West Virginia. Educators are fed up in many red states. Republicans, unsurprisingly, oppose this surge of worker activism and have landed on a familiar strategy and talking point: Pitting striking teachers against their students.

 Win McNamee / Getty Images)Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at the National Parent-Teacher Association's 2018 Legislative Conference March 13, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Teachers are holding massive walkouts in Oklahoma and threatening to do so in Kentucky, right on the heels of a similar labor protest movement in West Virginia. Educators are fed up in many red states that slashed taxes and budgets following the Great Recession and failed to raise new revenues in response to the economic recovery. Republicans, unsurprisingly, oppose this surge of worker activism and have landed on a familiar strategy and talking point: Pitting striking teachers against their students.

"I think about the kids," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Dallas Morning News when asked about the Oklahoma walkout. "I think we need to stay focused on what's right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served."

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, tried a similar tactic, suggesting that real teachers "want to teach their children" and that the teachers union was somehow opposed to that goal.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, another Republican, has characterized the teachers as greedy and childish, saying their behavior is like that of "a teenager wanting a better car."

"That's a very classic talking point," said Jon Shelton, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of "Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order." "That's wrong, of course. Teachers by and large go into it because it's a calling. They do this because they care about kids and want what's best for them."

"Kids don't benefit from teachers who are overworked and tired because they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet," said Joseph Slater, a professor at University of Toledo College of Law who specializes in labor law. "Nor do kids benefit from good teachers leaving their school district, their state or the teaching profession altogether because of poor wages, hours and conditions."

Right off the bat, it should be noted that teacher strikes do not meaningfully impact student performance. Harris Zwerling of the Pennsylvania State Education Association researched the impact of teacher strikes in the state and found no "statistical relationship between the incidence of teacher strikes and their duration and district level student performance."

Accusing the teachers of neglecting the students is a particularly hard sell when it comes to the Oklahoma walkouts. The state has already offered the teachers a $6,000-a-year raise, and while that falls short of the $10,000 the teachers are asking for, it's likely that teachers would settle at that price if all they wanted was fatter paychecks. But the Oklahoma protests have continued into their second week because the teachers want more  -- for their students. Specifically, teachers are demanding $200 million to restore education funding that's been cut.

David DuVall, executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, explained to the Oklahoman that "class size limits, librarians, those kinds of things, still exist in law, but there is a moratorium on those being required because of a lack of funding."

"But with additional funding, that moratorium would come off and we can restore those vital positions to our schools," he added.

Despite efforts from Republican politicians to confuse the issue, the Oklahoma teachers have made clear that these protests are meant to benefit students as much as teachers. Textbooks are battered and falling apart, and are often decades old. Teachers claim they haven't been able to turn on lights in hallways and have been forced to keep classroom thermostats at 57 degrees, forcing kids to wear coats to school.

In some districts, class time has been cut back to four days a week to save money. DeVos claims to want kids back in school, but seems completely uninterested in this particular problem, which could be solved by increasing education budgets.

It's no surprise that so much of what teachers are demanding is for the students, Shelton explained. "The reality is the conditions under which teachers teach are the same under which students learn," he said. "Teacher unionization has, by far, been a net benefit to schools in this country."

For decades, teacher organizing has led to increases in education spending, smaller classroom sizes and less teacher turnover. In 2011, Wisconsin passed Act 10, a law designed to undermine the collective bargaining rights of teachers. Subsequent research from David Madland and Alex Rowell of the Center for American Progress demonstrated that the change in law led to an immediate decline in teacher quality in the state, as more teachers quit their jobs and the pool of teachers became much less experienced overall.

Gender likely plays a major role in how undervalued public school teachers are. The latest statistics show that 76 percent of teachers are women, and when women "do things collectively to get a better deal for themselves, they're seen as acting selfishly," Shelton argued, noting that the gender of the strikers likely contributes to their "infantilization" by politicians. 

"If police officers or firefighters were asking for something similar, there's no way they would be called spoiled teenagers," he added. 

Evidence for this comes from Wisconsin, where police and fire departments -- male-dominated agencies  --  were exempted from Act 10 restrictions on collective bargaining rights, while public employees in more female-dominated sectors, especially teachers, were not. In Ohio, legislators pushed a law that would have curtailed labor organizing rights for all government workers, including police and firefighters, and that effort eventually failed. The contrast between these Midwestern states suggests that male-dominated professions are seen as untouchable while women are expected to get by on less.

"Teachers are the ones who are constantly asked to sacrifice," Shelton noted. And as the evidence makes clear, when teachers are forced to sacrifice, the quality of children's education suffers as well.

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Categories: News

Justice for Decynthia Clements: Demanding Safety, Not Police Bullets, for Black Women in Distress

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00

Activists display signs during the #March4BlackGirls on October 17, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)Activists display signs during the #March4BlackGirls on October 17, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)

On April 11, the eve of the one-month anniversary of the police shooting of Decynthia Clements in Chicago, activists are coming together to mourn her death and call for justice in her name. Shot by police as she stepped out of her burning car, Decynthia was yet another victim of our collective failure to respond to people in distress in ways that don't involve armed police.

Activists display signs during the #March4BlackGirls on October 17, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)Activists display signs during the #March4BlackGirls on October 17, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)

The following article could only be published thanks to support from our readers. To fund more stories like it, make a donation to Truthout by clicking here!

A young unarmed Black man is shot in his grandmother's backyard by police who assume he is armed and up to no good. This is the story of police violence we are most familiar with, and around which we build our analysis of police violence. This is the story that drives protesters into the streets and galvanizes movements.

34-year-old Black mother is shot as she steps out of a burning car by police who are supposedly there to help her. This scenario -- the recent police killing of Decynthia Clements -- is also part of the story of police violence, and is also emblematic of broader patterns. But, chances are, you haven't heard about it. Like many instances of police violence against Black women, it remains invisible because it doesn't fit into the "standard" narrative. Yet this, too, is a story that should spark collective outrage and inform our demands for justice.

The Death of Decynthia Clements

Police first came into contact with Decynthia Clements in the suburbs of Chicago when they found her parked on a dead-end street. She was committing no crime and posed a danger to no one. When the police approached, she drove away. The officers decided not to pursue her -- nor did they really have any reason to, although they claim she ran a stop sign. They later found her car parked on the shoulder of Interstate 90. Somehow, she had lost two tires in the intervening time, and her car showed signs of damage.

Over fifty-seven percent of killings of Black women occur when they are unarmed.

When officers first approached her by the side of the highway, it was clear that Decynthia was in distress. They claim they saw a butcher knife and a screwdriver in the car -- both common household items, both read as weapons in the hands of a Black woman in crisis. One officer said he saw a white powder on her hand, and assumed it was crack cocaine -- as opposed to, say, talcum powder or any number of other substances that might look similar, automatically reading a Black woman as a drug user. The officers retreated and began to negotiate with Decynthia about getting out of the car. During this time, they accessed a report that she had told a therapist that she had been suicidal and experienced hallucinations.

But instead of calling for experienced medical professionals, officers continued to respond to a Black woman who had committed no crime and posed no danger to anyone (other than perhaps herself) with orders to get out of her car, and threats of arrest -- again, it is not clear for what. After she moved her car forward a few feet a few times, officers eventually blocked her in with two police vehicles.

After about an hour, Decynthia told police she would get out of her car after she smoked a cigarette. Video footage released by the department shows officers discussing what to do when she did -- including using rubber bullets or a TASER if necessary. And then, as she stepped out, gagging from the smoke of a fire that had broken out inside the vehicle, before she had taken more than a step or two, the lead officer on the scene shot her in the head within seconds, killing her, reading her hasty exit from a burning car as a deadly threat.

A Broader Pattern of Police Shooting Black Women in Distress

Decynthia -- like Saheed Vassell, who was killed by Brooklyn police last week, and like up to half of people killed by police -- was (or was perceived to be) in a mental health crisis at the time she was shot. She became one of the many Black women whom police officers were called to assist but ended up killing insteadDeborah DannerKiwi HerringCharleena LylesAura RosserTanisha AndersonMichelle CusseauxEleanor Bumpurs.... The list is long and painful.

All are victims of our collective failure to imagine, invest in and insist on responses to people in distress that don't involve armed police officers.

More often than any other demographic, Black women are falsely perceived as a threat that must be met with deadly force by police officers.

Decynthia also fell prey to perceptions of Black women as inherently threatening. According to a recent study, 57.2 percent of killings of Black women occur when they are unarmed, making Black women "the only race-gender group to have a majority of its members unarmed when killed." Researchers concluded that their "results imply that black women are racialized in ways ... that put them at a greater relative risk of [fatal police encounters] when unarmed."

In other words, more often than any other demographic, Black women are falsely perceived as a threat that must be met with deadly force by police officers.

This explains how an officer (who knew the right thing to do was to use non-lethal force if necessary) instead instantly shot with intent to kill a Black woman who was stumbling out of a burning car. The police shot Decynthia as she was advancing in the only direction possible when opening a car door -- toward the back of the car, away from the smoke, where the officers who were calling for her to come out were standing. Deeply entrenched notions of Black women as "deranged," animalistic and deadly -- developed to justify their brutal treatment during slavery and beyond -- likely drove the officers' perceptions of threat. Such perceptions have proven fatal for countless Black women like Decynthia, including Kayla MooreBettie JonesMargaret Mitchell and LaTanya Haggerty. Again, the list is long and heartbreaking.

"It was like murder," Charles Clements, Decynthia's father said after watching the video of her killing. "Somebody coming at you is one thing, but she fell out that car and they start shooting her, that's terrible, just awful. The car was burning, obviously she was gasping for air, and when she managed to get the door open, she just fell to the ground and then the shots started going."

Mourning and Demanding Justice

Activists stand near signs at the #SayHerName Finsbury Park Vigil on June 21, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)Activists stand near signs at the #SayHerName Finsbury Park Vigil on June 21, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)

Holly Clements, Decynthia's sister-in-law, describes her as "a good mom" who reached out to everybody and had "numerous nieces and nephews that she always picked up and did things with," adding, "it's just a really sad moment for the family that we've lost somebody who has such a big heart."

Decynthia Clements's family -- including her 19-year-old son in college -- are now left to grieve their mother, daughter, sister and cousin, and to await the outcome of investigations by the Illinois State Police, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Elgin Police Department, which employs Lt. Christian Jansen, the officer who shot Decynthia, and who is now on paid administrative leave.

Black women's deaths at the hands of police require us to look at how we value Black women's lives -- both when they are alive and not receiving the care and help they need, as well as after they have been killed by police.

Some commentators are trying to justify Jansen's actions, and mainstream news coverage leads with his commendations and dismisses the prior record of complaints against him regarding racial discrimination and the use of excessive force. While these elements of Decynthia's story are familiar, they have not been the subject of much national discussion -- despite daily protests led by Decynthia's family and community outside the Elgin police department until the department released video footage of the events leading to her death.

Now that the footage has been made public, Decynthia's family and attorneys say they will wait for the outcome of the investigations and legal process. Members of the Elgin community have called for the creation of a civilian oversight agency to investigate cases like Decynthia's, citing distrust of the investigation being conducted by the Illinois State Police.

"People are going to see for themselves," Decynthia's brother Chevelle says. "Now this is not just an angry family demanding justice, but this will be a community as a whole that will see exactly what happened, what shouldn't have happened."

An Uphill Legal Battle

The Supreme Court's recent decision in Hughes v. Kisela does not bode well for the possibilities for justice in Decynthia's case. Seven justices -- with the exception of Sonia Sotomayor, who penned a scathing dissent, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- essentially endorsed a Tucson, Arizona, officer's 2010 shooting of a woman who was standing in her own yard holding a kitchen knife while speaking to her roommate, who stood six feet away. Hiding behind the ever-expanding doctrine of "qualified immunity" -- which essentially says that even if an officer violated someone's constitutional rights, they can't be held liable for it if the right wasn't clearly established at the time -- the majority found that the officer could not reasonably have known that shooting the woman under these circumstances would violate her constitutional rights.

Nor does a recent court decision dismissing the case brought by the family of Kayla Moore, a Black trans woman and beloved aunt, sister and daughter. Moore suffocated to death after police who were called to her home to assist her in the midst of a mental health crisis instead tackled her face-down against a futon and piled on top of her. As her sister Maria Moore -- a fierce advocate for justice for Kayla and for improved responses to people in mental health crisis -- described in a recent radio interview, "instead of trained mental health professionals, she got police.... Trans people are already seen as nonconforming, already seen as a troublemaker.... They came at Kayla like she had killed someone.... What was Kayla's crime?" The court hearing the family's case nevertheless dismissed claims of excessive force and dismissed claims that the Berkeley Police Department is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to reasonably accommodate the needs of people in mental health crises. The family plans to appeal the decision, and Moore declares, "It's not over. We are going to take this where it needs to go, and that's the Supreme Court."

The more complex circumstances of many Black women's deaths at the hands of police -- during an eviction, when opening the door to let police into a home to assist a neighbor, during a domestic violence call, following a call about transphobic and homophobic neighbors, or following a call for help from a friend or family member seeking support for a loved one -- require us to step back and examine how they came into contact with the officers who killed them in the first place, and how things might have gone differently had they received the support they deserved instead of a police response. They require us to look at how we value Black women's lives -- both when they are alive and not receiving the care and help they need, as well as after they have been killed by police.

Their stories, which might be complicated and take more than Twitter's character limit to tell, bring into sharp relief the reality that there is no safety for Black women, whether they are sitting in their own cars or standing in their own backyards. There is no safety in police responses to calls for assistance for people in crisis, and no justice in the courts for Black women.

As Maria Moore put it, "If you want something as simple as mental health services or just help, you're bringing in militarized police. And their thing is not about helping you, it's about controlling you.... They don't want to hear you, they just want to silence you."

We owe it to the memories of Decynthia Clements, Kayla Moore and so many more Black women to tell their stories of police violence and to protest the injustices done to them and their families. It is our duty to demand accountability for the officers who killed them, to challenge the dehumanizing narratives about Black women that drove the killings, and to demand responses to people in mental health crisis that involve care and compassion, not policing and punishment.

Decynthia Clements. Let's say her name and make sure her story, too, shapes the solutions we seek to the plague of police violence against Black lives.

Note: Members of the Chicago community will come together on Wednesday, April 11, the eve of the one-month anniversary of Decynthia Clements's death, for a vigil at 6 pm at the north side of the DuSable Bridge (400 N. Michigan) to mourn her death, uplift her memory and demand justice in her name.

Categories: News

ACLU: Facebook Has to Do Much More to Stop Housing and Job Discrimination on Platform

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to lawmakers Tuesday about the massive privacy scandal enveloping the platform, Facebook has also been slapped with a new lawsuit by fair housing groups who accuse Facebook of allowing employers and housing brokers to discriminate in their targeted advertising. The lawsuit says some of Facebook's advertisers do not show job and housing listings to African Americans and women. For more, we speak with Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for surveillance and privacy at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

"Facebook Doesn't Sell Your Data. It Sells You": Zeynep Tufekci on How the Company's Profit Really Works

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced off with lawmakers in a marathon 5-hour hearing Tuesday about how the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 87 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. We speak with Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor of information and library science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Her book is titled "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest."

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

More Hiring Shakeups at The Atlantic

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00
Categories: News

When Your Lawyer Needs a Lawyer: Trump, Cohen and the FBI Raid

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00

US political history is replete with needle-off-the-record moments when everything just stops with a screech. The firing of Archibald Cox, the testimony of John Dean, Joe Welch asking Joe McCarthy if, at long last, he had any sense of decency … those moments come, and every moment after is changed forever. This was one of those moments. 

 Drew Angerer / Getty Images)Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for Donald Trump, walks through the lobby at Trump Tower, January 12, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

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Donald Trump's personal lawyer needs a lawyer. That lawyer will also need a lawyer, who in turn will also need a lawyer. If this keeps up, a friend noted, we'll have to change "MAGA" to "My Attorney Got Arrested."

Michael D. Cohen, Trump's long-time consigliere and Man Who Knows All Secrets had his world turned inside out like a laundered sock on Monday morning when the FBI basically raided every place he's ever spent more than five minutes. Cohen's home, office and hotel all got the no-knock treatment courtesy of the office of the United States attorney for the southern district of New York, operating off a tip from special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigative team. 

Saying "no" was not an option. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger asking for Cohen's clothes, boots and motorcycle, they took everything. According to the Washington Post on Tuesday, the searches are part of a "federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations." A goodly slice of the records seized pertain to adult film star Stormy Daniels and the 2016 payment Cohen made to her in order to buy her silence about an alleged sexual dalliance with Trump. Attorney-client communications between Cohen and Trump himself were also seized.

Possible collusion with Russia, election interference, obstruction of justice … so of course it's all going to come down to Stormy. This boulder started rolling down the mountain for real a few days ago on Air Force One when Trump finally broke his silence on the Daniels matter and threw Cohen under the bus with the speed of a startled cheetah. I know nothing, said Trump. Ask the lawyer.

Cohen was left holding the bag on the $130,000 hush payment to Daniels, a fact that could make those charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations all too real. Even Cohen's admission that he paid Daniels himself without Trump's knowledge, and Trump's professed ignorance of the transaction, carries legal peril for Cohen: Acting on behalf of your client in legal matters without the client's knowledge and consent is grounds for disbarment in the state of New York.

If this keeps up, we'll have to change "MAGA" to "My Attorney Got Arrested."

Merriam-Webster defines "Schadenfreude" as "Enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others." When word got out that Cohen's inner sanctums had been de-doored by the FBI, the schaden met the freude in the rye and danced the night away. Why? Michael Cohen has moved through the world like a mouthy wheat thresher, "fixing" and intimidating people who make trouble for Trump. He has few friends, and fewer admirers. Today, he has empty filing cabinets in his office and a ball of ice in his gut to show for his years spent as a wanna-be menace on behalf of the pretend-billionaire set. From Manhattan to DC on Monday, many people smiled into their martinis and waited for the latest update.

This is going to become about more than Stormy Daniels, and Trump knows it. His panic on Monday was palpable, and justly so. Michael Cohen is in deep trouble, and Donald is right there with him. Cohen knows where all the bodies are buried, having buried many of them himself. As Rick Wilson points out in The Daily Beast, Cohen "realizes how deep this hole can become if he doesn't roll over. He doesn't have the resources to defend himself, and Trump isn't exactly known for paying his bills in the first place. Cohen is scared, and he's not alone."

What do you call a leader without followers? Just a guy taking a walk.

One jagged nugget of irony to be found in all this is the fact that the warrants came from the offices of New York's southern district US attorney, now headed by a Trump appointee named Geoffrey Berman. As far as Trump is concerned, the rain started falling last year when his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the Russia probe. It will give Trump no joy to learn that Berman has also recused himself from the matter now consuming Michael Cohen, and that the warrants were approved by one of Berman's underlings.

The tastiest bit of bitter history here is the office itself. Before Berman, the southern district US attorney was a world-class investigator and prosecutor named Preet Bharara. Among his many cases, Bharara was sniffing heavily around shady real estate dealings between Trump and some Russian oligarchs, many of whom have since played starring roles in Mueller's ongoing investigation. 

Very early in his presidency, Trump fired or demanded resignations from every serving US attorney in the country, including Bharara. All of Bharara's cases, including those involving Trump and the Russians, came to a screeching halt. This was no accident: A Trump lawyer named Marc Kasowitz bragged about convincing Trump to fire Bharara because, as Kasowitz reportedly told Trump, "This guy is going to get you."

It appears the southern district isn't quite finished with "The Donald" just yet. Trump could complain to the boss, but the boss has recused himself. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At last, then, comes the simple astonishment of it all. Obtaining a valid search warrant for an attorney's office is incredibly difficult given the strictures of the attorney-client privilege. Obtaining a search warrant for the offices, home and hotel of the personal attorney to the president of the United States is just slightly less difficult than dropping a warrant on God. 

According to the US Attorneys' Manual, obtaining these warrants required investigators to first try and acquire the evidence through other means like a subpoena. The US Attorney or a deputy had to approve the warrants. Approval from the criminal division of the Department of Justice was required, which means Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein also had to approve them. Firewalls and a "privilege team" had to be deployed to protect from infringement of the attorney-client privilege. Finally, the whole thing had to be signed off on by a US District Court judge.

They got it all. Damned if they didn't. Even Richard Nixon's lawyers didn't see their offices and homes raided. In an administration without precedent, this was yet another Whole New Thing.

US political history is replete with needle-off-the-record moments when everything just stops with a screech. The firing of Archibald Cox, the testimony of John Dean, Joe Welch asking Joe McCarthy if, at long last, he had any sense of decency … those moments come, and every moment after is marked forever. This was one of those moments. 

There is a certain eerie symmetry to the fact that Cohen was served with these warrants on the anniversary of the surrender at the Appomattox courthouse. If this were a Game of Thrones episode, it would be time to retreat to Maegor's Holdfast with the Tears of Lys and a goblet of good wine. The Main Enemy has splintered the gate, and unfriendly footfalls can be heard on the stairs.

For the record, this is why so many of us were so strident in our belief that Donald Trump should never be allowed anywhere near the power of the presidency. The man is as crooked as a rhombus and has the temperament of a pit viper on a good day, and this is not a good day. 

Trump is fit to be tied, frantic in his rage and fear, and as of this writing trembles on the verge of unleashing even more war upon the rubble in Syria … with John Bolton whispering in his ear all the while. No one in Washington is more eager than Bolton to take advantage of an unstable president's lust to punish. This could be a big moment for the new national security adviser.

 This could be a big moment for us all. Donald Trump's lawyer's lawyer's lawyer's lawyer's lawyer better be ready for some late nights.

Categories: News

Teachers in Puerto Rico Demand an End to School Closures and Privatization

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00

Efforts to privatize the public schools in Puerto Rico were already under way when Hurricane Maria provided just the impetus the neoliberal establishment was looking for. But educators there are fighting back -- with the support of their peers on the mainland. Ultimately, it's a fight for the future of the working class, say Liza Fournier and Mercedes Martinez, unionized teachers in Puerto Rico.

 Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images)Teachers participate in a one-day strike against the government's privatization drive in public education, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 19, 2018. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images)

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We're now more than a year into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators not only about how to resist but also about how to build a better world. Today's interview is the 117th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Liza Fournier and Mercedes Martinez, unionized teachers in Puerto Rico. They discuss how public education was imperiled even before Hurricane Maria, but was absolutely devastated after the storm, especially with the recent passage of a law to privatize schools on the island. They also discuss the importance of solidarity with other striking teachers on the US mainland.

Sarah Jaffe: Puerto Rico has been hit with two disasters. There was the debt crisis [with the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA)] and all of that, and then [Hurricane Maria]. Take us back to before the hurricane. What were the big issues that you were dealing with before the storm hit?

Mercedes Martinez: Prior to the hurricane, as you know, President Barack Obama and Congress approved the PROMESA law. People in Puerto Rico were already facing a lot of austerity measure attacks against their dignified life. We were exposed to proposals, such as pension cuts, school closures, thousands of layoffs, cancellation of public agencies. It is the disposal of all the public goods to the corporate sector, into the private sector, into the bankers, into that 1%. So, before the hurricane, our colonial situation allowed the government to approve this law and they wanted for the people of Puerto Rico to pay a $72 billion odious debt that was not created by the workers, and the workers are the ones that are being expected to sacrifice their working conditions, their lives, to pay these corporate moguls.

What were some of the things before the hurricane that you were struggling with in your union?

Liza Fournier: Well, before the hurricane, we even had schools that were shut down ... because it was all part of the system. They wanted to reduce the system. They want[ed] to cut money from schools before the hurricane, so we had ... how many schools were shut down before the hurricane?

Martinez: One-hundred-and-sixty-six.

Fournier: One-hundred-and-sixty-six schools last year. Before that, there were 120. Things were pretty bad before the hurricane; teachers struggling because they were moving teachers from one school to another in the middle of the semester. It was pretty much bad before, and it got worse after the hurricane.

I know in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, I have heard stories of teachers going back in and cleaning the schools up to get them open again and stuff like that. Can you tell us what that was like in that time?

Fournier: I work in a school. I am an active teacher. We went back a week after the hurricane. Schools were completely damaged by trees, trash, structures had fallen down. So, the teachers were the first ones who got [to] school. We were the ones with the machetes, cleaning the schools, taking out all the garbage, trying to get schools fixed as soon as possible to bring students back. But guess what? They didn't let us open the schools. My school was ready to be open like two weeks after the hurricane, but we opened in November. So, my students were two and a half months without going to school. Not because we weren't ready or it was our fault. It was because they didn't let us open. Mainly, the teachers and organizations and the community were the ones who really cleaned the schools to reopen.

Martinez: After the hurricane, teachers, as Liza said, were the ones that reconditioned the schools. A lot of women.... They were ready to receive their children. Every psychologist knows -- they will tell you, after a disaster like the one we had -- [after] a Category 5 hurricane, you need to come to some type of normalcy again, and the Department of Education was denying our children their right to an education.

It is very important that after the hurricane happened, even though the schools were ready, they denied the schools to open, but school communities that had no light, that had no water, that had no communication, organized themselves. There were multiple protests ... the Teachers Federation was in a lot of communities organizing the parents and requesting the secretary of education [Julia Beatrice Keleher] to open the schools.

When she denied that after the protests, we performed a civil disobedience activity in her office. Twenty-one of us got arrested for requesting her to open the schools.... After that, she still denied the schools to be opened, so we took her to court. When we started the court case, she had 300 schools -- that was in November -- that were still closed. For the first hearing, when the judge ordered her to tell us why the schools were still closed ... she had already opened 260 schools, leaving only 40 closed, so the protests, the civil disobedience, the pickets in front of her office, plus the court case stopped her from implementing the agenda that she had.

She said that she was going to shut down 200 schools during the hurricane and the community organization -- plus all the activities that I mentioned -- stopped her from doing that, from converting Puerto Rico into the New Orleans of the decade.

Fournier: The delay to open the schools is what provoked ... many students [to come] to the [United] States, because they were waiting to go back to school ... many students came to the States to study and find better conditions, because we had no electricity. I got electricity in January, and there are still a lot of people in Puerto Rico that don't have electricity or water.

They announced that they want to privatize the schools.

Martinez: They announced that they want to privatize it ... from day one. Now they just made it into a law. They approved the law March 29.... The teacher unions went to public hearings and we presented them with a lot of letters from different community organizations from the states that have charter schools, that have voucher programs -- telling the legislature, "Don't vote in favor of this bill, because this is what happened to us in the States." Hundreds of letters.

They did not listen. Obviously, this is an agenda -- it is to fill the pockets of the ones that have too much that want more. They just approved the bill into law. The same day they were voting on it, we -- the teachers' alliance ... and other organizations of teachers -- performed a one-day strike. Sixteen thousand teachers were absent from their schools. We organized that. We announced the strike on Wednesday and it started on Monday.

Now that they approved the law ... they have just announced last week the ... closures of 283 schools. We are having a general assembly on the 15th of April -- all of the organizations, the teachers unions' -- to propose an action plan which definitely will take us back to the streets until we get justice for the people of Puerto Rico and our children and our workers.

It has become almost a cliché now to talk about the "shock doctrine," the things that they came in wanting to do, [which] they then pushed through because of the hurricane. What is the response from parents, from students? How are they feeling?

Fournier: We have lots of parents that are supporting us. Since they know that schools are shutting down, they are calling the different unions ... they are calling us. It is because they want us to be in their assemblies, they want help from us to organize the communities because they want to fight back.

We are talking about schools that are really in the country, that children would have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning to get ready to go to school and sometimes come at 6:00 to school, and schools open at 8:00. So, we are talking about kids from six, seven, eight years [old] that would have maybe to travel an hour, 45 minutes to get to school. Parents are very supportive. They are ready to fight for their schools and the teachers are going to be standing right next to them because this is the work that we have to do together. We are grateful for that. We can hardly wait to go back home to start organizing the communities. We are going to fight back.

What has it been like here, connecting with some of the other teachers and their other struggles around the US?

Martinez: Well, when we come here, we know that is the same struggle that we are given in Puerto Rico -- not only in the States, but throughout the globe with teachers. Teachers in the entire continent are fighting against this capitalist agenda, this neoliberal agenda that wants to destroy not only public education, but all the public services in our country.

The attack is not only on education. They want to privatize schools, to implement those charters, they want to give the voucher programs, they want to shut down the schools, they want to fire public employees. We are talking about 100,000 employees that will be fired from different agencies. They want to destroy the University of Puerto Rico, which is a state university, by eliminating campuses. They want to increase the admission fee, they want to increase the cost per credit, per course. They want to cut the pensions from 10 percent to 25 percent [for] people that do not have enough to live. It is not only an attack on public education....

We have heard [of] the same attack against all public sectors; this is a generalized attack. I don't even think it is the "shock doctrine" anymore. It is the terror doctrine that they have implemented here in Puerto Rico.... Being here and talking to teachers and listening to the stories -- West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona. We have a great alliance with MORE from New York, and just listening to them, it just renews our energy and it lets us know that this is one struggle of the working class, and that we will have small victories until we triumph entirely. We are not hopeless. We have much hope to go back to our country and give the fight that we have to give.

What can people in the mainland US do to support you?

Fournier: Yesterday, we were talking about that in one of the workshops. All of the teachers were interested in helping Puerto Rico.... They can make videos, they can take pictures, send us messages. Maybe we will open another GoFundMe campaign if we go on strike. So, they can help by donating to the GoFundMe campaign. But it is very important ... yesterday, they made a video with teachers from 12 states saying, "We are here with Puerto Rico. We support you." We spread it out on Facebook and the teachers went, "Oh my god! I can't believe it! This is great. We feel that we are getting renewed with this." That is very important that we know that we are not alone in this. But it is very important for the teachers over there in Puerto Rico to know that we have support.

Martinez: And not only support for the teachers. We have been working with other comrades in other unions, we have been working with a sisterhood program where you adopt a school in Puerto Rico, but it is not a charity. It is a solidarity event. Then, they create pen pals between schools from different schools -- Puerto Rico and the States. So, kids can understand why we are fighting in Puerto Rico and ... know why the teachers and the children of the States are fighting the same fights. So, they get to know each other. They get to be in solidarity with each other and they get to know that what we are going through.... It is building relationships, it is not just a solidarity event. It is more than that. It is a lasting bond. It is a long-term relationship that we need to construct.

What else should people know about what is going on in Puerto Rico and what is going to be happening in the next few weeks and months?

Martinez: They should know that we are definitely going to our general assembly on the 15th of April. That we are going to vote for a strike. That we are going to propose a strike indefinitely for the time that we have to -- until they revoke this law and they guarantee that no charter schools will be implemented. That they stop the school closures. That we are going to take the case to court, but we don't rely on the court case for justice; it has proven to not benefit the workers in history.

We are giving the biggest fight of our lives and we are very energized. Being here with so many wonderful people, so many union members that are working, that are fighting, that are organizing -- the best gift I take with me is to know that people all around the globe are organizing and are giving the same struggles that we are giving. We are all in this together, and ultimately, it is not an individual situation of a country. It is a global situation about the working class. We are in it together and we take to our country renewed energies to fight for what is right and more than just defend public education, to fight for the world that we want to build -- a just world, an equitable world for the children of Puerto Rico.

Fournier: People need to know that Puerto Rico is still struggling with the hurricane that we had. That we still have a lot of places that don't have electricity, that still are reconstructing their houses. That is the main thing going on. That teachers are getting ready to strike pretty soon. We are going to organize and we are going to defend our public schools. That is the main thing. We are united together and we are going to do whatever it takes to defend our public schools and education for our kids.... It is not even a thing about teachers. It is about, as Mercedes said, our legacy for our future, what we want to leave for our children, for our kids. That is the main thing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Categories: News

"Democracy Means Everyone Counts"

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 04:00
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Janine Jackson: How much impact could the addition of a single question to the US Census have? So much that 12 states are suing the Trump administration to counter the move.

The question in question is, "Are you a US citizen?" It might raise eyebrows coming from any White House, but coming from this one, the last-minute move raises tremendous concerns, that only begin with the likelihood that the question would depress response.

Karen Hobert Flynn is a long-time democracy reform activist and the president of Common Cause. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Karen Hobert Flynn.

Karen Hobert Flynn: Thank you for having me.

What are the big concerns about adding a question about citizenship to the census?

You know, America's founders created the census, and wrote into the Constitution a requirement that their successors need to count all the nation's inhabitants every ten years. Because they understood that for a truly representative democracy, we must know how many of us there are in the country, and the states in which we live. So, inhabitants, not citizens, was the requirement.

So people are alarmed when they see -- for the first time since 1950 -- that this administration wants to put a citizenship question in the census, without any kind of testing. And in an atmosphere where we have seen this administration, with its anti-immigrant rhetoric and long list of anti-immigrant policies and proposals (many that have been struck down by judges), it's created a tidal wave of fear, and concern that any information they provide to the census (although it's supposed to be kept private) could be used to deport family members and neighbors.

Absolutely. You know, in another context, I might have started with a rhetorical, "What's the big deal?" But I think it's just so obvious, in this case, what the big deal potentially is. It's wholly appropriate, isn't it, to see this in the context of other moves by the administration. Why wouldn't respondents have concerns about confidentiality, when this administration has said explicitly, "We're looking to root out non-citizens"? But then, of course, going on from that…if you undercount, what happens?

There are many impacts that go to both the heart of our democratic system, and also how that data is used by communities. For instance, that information is used by communities to decide if they need a new fire station. It has an impact on schools, resources in a community to deal with assistance for veterans, hospitals, transportation. And so the impacts are large.

And then, when it comes to our democracy, democracy means everyone counts and has equal and fair representation. So it's important to ensure every person is counted accurately, so that they have fair political representation.

This data that they collect is used by states to draw district lines. And those district lines determine how many seats a state will have in the House of Representatives, and also the maps drawn for state legislative districts. We already see some real challenges, and the politicization of drawing maps that occurs every ten years, where incumbents like to select their voters, rather than the other way around. But this actually rigs the system before we even get to the part of redistricting. And so that's one of the biggest challenges.

And it's interesting, because the Census Bureau has really tried, for the last several decades, to remove that kind of politicization, and to work to make sure that they can get the best count they can. Back in 2010, the Census Bureau worked with community organizations to do outreach, to let people know that the information that they collect is kept private and that nothing bad will happen to them if they comply and answer the census data. This move, I think, is going to really undermine that.

It really trashes that trust that's been built up.

Well, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented it as just a dry, sober, statistical matter: It has something to do with protecting voters, you know, enforcing the Voting Rights Act. It's a little too Orwellian, almost, even to engage. But what I really wanted to say is, at the same time the Trump reelection campaign is fundraising off this possible change to the census, making it clear that it really does have something to do with what one of the former directors of the census, Kenneth Prewitt, said: "It's a step toward not counting the people you don't want to count."

That's right. Two things: One, this notion that the Voting Rights Act's enforcement is needed, using census data, has been debunked by Eric Holder, our former attorney general. He, as attorney general, and his predecessors, never needed to get a citizenship question on the census, because they could use the data derived from the existing census process for any voting rights litigation. And, actually, the Voting Rights Act, it was enacted in 1965 -- and the census hasn't included a citizenship question since 1950. So to suggest that now this administration is concerned about enforcement of the Voting Rights Act really is laughable.

Doesn't pass the sniff test. And then, to that point about "not counting the people you don't want" -- and this is coming from a former director of the Census. Six former directors of the Census have written this letter, saying this is a bad move, that it will dampen turnout, but then Prewitt goes on to say, no, we can actually see a strategy here, and it's an anti-democratic strategy.

That's right. There's going to be more litigation besides the 12 states. I saw the NAACP is suing. We know California has already sued. So I expect that there are going to be many court challenges. And I'm not sure what that's going to mean for the timing of this. You know, usually if there are new questions, this is brought up early in the process. It's thoroughly vetted; Congress is involved in that process. And this is a very last-minute addition, with no testing, and that's why it raises an even greater concern.

And that was going to be my final question, is what do you see happening? It sounds like a lot of lawsuits. Is there any way for folks to weigh in, or do we just kind of watch what happens?

I do think that it is important for citizens to let their elected officials know that a citizenship question is a bad decision for the census, for our communities and for America. And they should be urging their members of Congress to weigh in against this citizenship question. And I also think that we will also see more litigation around this matter, so I don't think this is going to be a settled matter anytime soon.

And I should have asked you if you had any thoughts on media. Frankly, what media I've seen in the last few days has been pretty explanatory, and critics have been represented, critics of this move. But are there angles of the issue you'd like to see journalists dig into, or explore more?

I do think, and I've seen some of this, but: push back on the White House assertion that this is pro forma, that these questions have been asked for years. There is a more detailed long form that goes to one in, I think, 38 people, that asks questions about citizenship, but for the bulk of the census, the people that participate in the census, they are not questioned. So to suggest that they're just doing something that's always been done -- that isn't true. So I think continuing push back, because we see the Trump administration has Fox News and others repeat what they say from the White House pressroom; it's important to continue to push back on those errors.

We've been speaking with Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. You can follow their work online at CommonCause.org, and her article, "Ensure Everyone Is Counted," co-authored with former Census Bureau Director Vincent Barabba, is on US News and World Report's website, USNews.com.

Karen Hobert Flynn, thank you very much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

Thank you.

Categories: News

Is "Sorry" Enough? Facebook Built Empire on Harvesting Personal Information With Little Oversight

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 04:00

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify today on Capitol Hill amid the burgeoning scandal about how the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 87 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. In prepared remarks ahead of his testimony today, he writes, "We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. … It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here." The company has also unveiled new privacy tools ahead of Zuckerberg's testimony today. For more, we speak with David Dayen, a contributor to The Intercept and columnist for The New Republic. His recent pieces include "Ban Targeted Advertising" and "The US Government Is Finally Scrambling to Regulate Facebook."

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

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