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Modi’s Attack on Left-Leaning Intellectuals Threatens India’s Democracy

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 14:51

In a nationwide operation on August 28 by the government of right-wing Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, security officials raided the homes of eight activists, lawyers and journalists, eventually arresting Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao. They were booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a draconian anti-terrorism law that has been used by the government to curb freedom of expression and association in the name of national security.

They are not terrorists. Neither are Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson or Mahesh Raut, who were arrested in June. They are activists, writers, poets, journalists and lawyers. They are citizens of India who believe in the plurality of our country and fight for its most marginalized. For that, they are being punished by a regime that, since its ascendance, has worked to polarize Indian democracy along fault lines of religion, caste and creed.

The crackdown reinforces what some Indian intellectuals have referred to as a silent “emergency” — alluding to the India of the 1970s, when the authoritarian regime of Indira Gandhi consolidated power to gut all political opposition. She gave Indian security forces undue power against journalists and effectively turned the world’s largest democracy into a police state.

Protests have since sprung up across India to rally for these activists. Last week, nearly a thousand people marched near the country’s parliament, sparking satellite actions across the country and online. The movement is using the hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal, which is an allusion to the derogatory phrase used by the government to discredit left-leaning activists and thinkers as members of the Naxalites, a Maoist rebel group that has been at war with the Indian government since the 1960s.

I met some of these activists while reporting for The Nation on the detention of GN Saibaba, a paralyzed Delhi University professor who was sentenced to life in prison in March 2017. Saibaba has been held in solitary confinement at the colonial-era penitentiary Nagpur Central Prison since last year. Like those arrested last week and in June, Saibaba was a vocal activist for India’s indigenous community, whose land has been claimed by dozens of multinational mining corporations. Surendra Gadling was his defense attorney. Arun Ferreira — himself a political dissident, who spent five years in prison — was also working for the professor’s defense.

The latest crackdown resembles the one that led to Saibaba’s arrest. According to news reports, police seized pen drives, laptops and cellphones from the homes of those who were raided. A police spokesperson told local press that “all evidence was scientifically analyzed,” a laughable claim from a regime that has promoted Hindu astrology, attacked the theory of evolution and promoted the use of cow urine as a catch-all cure for disease. Perhaps more tellingly, a government prosecutor told the media, the reason for the arrests were that the accused were part of an “anti-fascist front,”indicative of the drastic shift in India’s idea of tolerated discourse.

Even the letters allegedly seized from the home of activist Rona Wilson in June are reminiscent of Saibaba’s case: Police presented letters from an unidentified “R” to an equally mysterious “Comrade Prakash” proposing to overthrow the Modi regime in a “Rajiv Gandhi-like attack,” referencing the Indian prime minister killed by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in 1991. In Saibaba’s case, the prosecution made tenuous claims that “Comrade Prakash” was one of Saibaba’s aliases, which is made even less credible by the fact that the electronic evidence collected against Saibaba, who was made to give up his passwords, was mishandled and improperly stored.

Sept. 5 marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of writer Gauri Lankesh, a prominent critic of the prime minister and his Hindu nationalist ideology. Since then the Modi regime has been eliminating dissent with sniper-like efficiency. India ranks 138 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Ranking — behind war-torn Afghanistan, Duterte’s Philippines and even Myanmar, a quasi-democracy that is accused of genocide by an independent U.N. investigation. This is largely thanks to the murders of atheist bloggers and writers by goons linked to the government’s Hindu nationalist parent organization; it’s also attributable to the influence of Fox-like news on Indian media, where a new crop of nationalist broadcast networks routinely label government critics as desh drohi, or “anti-national,” and to the muzzling of civil society activists and protests at universities.

The Supreme Court has stepped in, first declaring that the dissidents should be kept under house arrest until September 6, before extending their house arrest by another six days. This was not a privilege afforded to those arrested alongside Saibaba, whose health is in peril, and whose case is disappearing into the bureaucratic gridlock of the Indian judiciary.

The Modi regime is honing its aim ahead of the country’s upcoming election, and the human cost is grave. Today I am thinking of advocate Gadling, who welcomed me into his home last winter, feeding me copious amounts of chai and poha as he gushed about the possibility of his pre-teen son pursuing a career in law.

I am thinking of Arun Ferreira, whose last words to me as I left his small Bombay office have stuck with me. I asked him about his five years in prison, about the torture and dehumanization, about not being able to see his infant son for the first few years of his life.

“How did you continue on?” I asked. “We continue on because we have to, because there is nothing else you can do,” he replied. Hours after my meeting with Ferreira, my father passed away. Those words helped me through my grief.

Most of all I am thinking of Professor GN Saibaba, for whom the possibility of dying in prison is even more real, now that his defenders are suffering the same fate.

Camus said it was the job of the thinking man not to be on the side of the executioner. Today, Modi holds the hangman’s rope.

The post Modi’s Attack on Left-Leaning Intellectuals Threatens India’s Democracy appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Exposed: Animal Abuse at US Supplier to World’s Largest Meat Company

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 13:50
Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions and images of animal abuse.

In September of last year, two executives of JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, based in Brazil, were arrested and charged with insider trading. In May 2017, the billionaire siblings—Wesley Batista, JBS’s CEO, and his younger brother Joesley, the firm’s former chairman—admitted to bribing more than 1,800 politicians and government officials, including meat inspectors, in an effort to avoid food safety checks.

Now, new undercover video shot by a Mercy for Animals (MFA) investigator at Tosh Farms, a JBS pork supplier based in Franklin, Kentucky, exposes what the animal rights group calls the “malicious and systemic abuse of mother pigs and piglets.”

“I’ll never forget the way they looked up at me,” said Tyler, the MFA investigator, about the pigs he documented at Tosh Farms. “They all shared the same look of helplessness and fear.”

“One mother pig stumbled down a corridor with her uterus hanging outside her body. She wouldn’t live much longer,” he said on an MFA website launched specifically to document the JBS investigation,

Tyler witnessed workers at Tosh Farms kicking and striking animals in their faces, ripping out the testicles of piglets without any pain relief, and even smashing the heads of piglets against the ground in order to kill them.

Those piglets who did not immediately die were left to suffer, denied proper veterinary care. “A worker grabbed a piglet, just hours old, by the feet and swung him high and then slammed his head down against the hard concrete,” said Tyler. “Any life left quickly vanished.”

“From the day pigs are born until the day they are violently killed for JBS pork, their lives are filled with misery and deprivation,” said Matt Rice, president of MFA, in a press statement. “If JBS executives abused even one dog or cat the way their suppliers abuse millions of pigs, they would be jailed for cruelty to animals. As the largest meat company in the world, JBS has the power and responsibility to end this torture.”

Clare Ellis, publisher of Stone Pier Press, which recently released “Sprig the Rescue Pig,” the first of its Farm Animal Rescue Books for children, was appalled: “Stories like this are even more heartbreaking and upsetting when you consider how very smart, curious, affectionate and sensitive pigs are.” She added that, “Close to 99 percent of animals raised for food come from factory farms, which, in addition to being terribly cruel, do an enormous amount of environmental damage.”

Following the July 17 release of the video, which was taken between December 2017 and March 2018, JBS said it suspended shipments from that supplier site. “The images presented in the video fall completely outside the company’s standards,” JBS said in a statement, but did not name the supplier involved.

But for MFA, suspending shipments from that single supplier isn’t nearly enough. “JBS’s decision to suspend Tosh Farms as a supplier is too little, too late,” Kenny Torrella, director of communications with MFA, told Truthout. “It amounts to nothing more than meaningless PR spin.”

The group, headquartered in Los Angeles, is now calling on JBS to end factory farm cruelty across its global pork supply chains, including the elimination of painful mutilations. In addition, MFA is calling on JBS to prohibit its suppliers from housing sows in tiny gestation crates for nearly their entire lives. These metal cages, the standard of which measures just 6.6 feet x 2 feet—so small that they can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably—are where pregnant sows live in factory farms around the globe for nearly their entire lives. In the United States as of 2016, there were 5.36 million breeding sows, most of them kept in gestation crates.

Confined to tiny gestation crates, mother pigs are not only denied basic natural behaviors like playing, exploring and engaging with their peers and children, but they also must endure immense and prolonged mental and emotional suffering. “These curious animals lose their minds from frustration and stress,” writes Lucas Alvarenga, vice president of MFA in Brazil. “They often also suffer painful pressure sores from rubbing against the bars of their crates and crippling joint problems as their muscles waste away from lack of use.”

While gestation crates are still the norm across the world, things are beginning to change for the better. Canada, the European Union, New Zealand and Australia, as well as 10 US states, have banned cruel gestation crates. Further, more than 60 major food companies—including McDonald’s, Walmart, Burger King and Nestlé—have said they would ban gestation crates from their suppliers.

In addition, California voters will have the opportunity in November to ban the sale of pork from pigs confined in gestation crates. If the measure passes, that will impact Tosh Farms and JBS, as the pigs reared at Tosh are then transported to a JBS slaughterhouse in Louisville, Kentucky, which supplies pork products to stores across California.

The systemic abuse and torture of pigs is an industry-wide problem. Last year, MFA investigators at the Aurora cooperative pig factory farm in the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil, the third-largest meat producer in Brazil and a major pork exporter to the United States, recorded video of pigs and piglets enduring a wide range of cruelty, including, notes Alvarenga, “workers slicing off the tails, cutting holes in the ears and grinding the teeth of piglets without any pain relief.”

Animal rights advocates are quick to point out that pigs—as well as other animals raised for human consumption—are intelligent, have rich emotional lives and possess unique, individual personalities. For some, these are reasons to not eat them. Ellen Page, one of many celebrity vegans who have used their fame to speak out on behalf of animals raised for food, said, “The inhumane factory farming process regards animals and the natural world merely as commodities to be exploited for profit.”

“The animals who are raised to be food for humans are so much more than just burgers and bacon,” said Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-author of The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age.

“Pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys and other non-human animals whose flesh is destined to wind up in our mouths were once sentient beings with rich emotional lives,” said Bekoff, who is also the co-founder, with Jane Goodall, of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “But because consumers rarely interact with them while they are still alive, they don’t see that these animals feel such a wide range of emotions, ranging from joy to sadness to grief, just like we all do.”

Non-human animals aren’t the only victims of the factory farm system. Slaughterhouse workers must witness the nightmarish conditions that the animals must endure. Some workers must do the actual killing, day in and day out.

“The psychological toll this takes on a person cannot be underestimated,” writes Ashitha Nagesh. “Slaughterhouse work has been linked to a variety of disorders, including PTSD and the lesser-known PITS (perpetration-induced traumatic stress). It has also been connected to an increase in crime rates, including higher incidents of domestic abuse.”

“To help move society to a more ethical food system, we as consumers must think less about ‘what’ is on our plate and more about ‘who’ is on our plate,” said Bekoff.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition urging JBS to ban gestation crates and painful mutilations.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The post Exposed: Animal Abuse at US Supplier to World’s Largest Meat Company appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Brett Kavanaugh is a Threat to Racial Justice and Voting Rights

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 13:35

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record on racial issues and his answers to questions posed by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week raise red flags about how he would rule on voting rights if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

During his confirmation hearing to become a Supreme Court justice, Kavanaugh bragged about hiring people of color as law clerks and decried the use of the “n” word. But this proved mere window dressing as his answers to the senators’ questions brought his racist views into sharp focus.

When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) asked him whether he agreed with Donald Trump that there was blame on both sides during the Charlottesville Nazi rally, Kavanaugh refused to say “no.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) queried Kavanaugh about an amicus brief he co-authored with Robert Bork in a 1999 case in which they argued that it was unconstitutional to prevent people who weren’t Native Hawaiians from voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Hirono quoted an email in which Kavanaugh wrote, “I think the testimony needs to make clear that any program targeting Native Hawaiians as a group is subject to strict scrutiny and of questionable validity under the Constitution.”

That email was one of tens of thousands of documents the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee had marked “committee confidential” in an unprecedented attempt to hide them from the public. By releasing that email, Hirono risked censure, discipline or removal from the Senate.

Hirono, who said Kavanaugh’s views on Native Hawaiians are “factually wrong” and incredibly offensive, told the nominee:

I think you have a problem here. Your view is that Hawaiians don’t deserve protections as Indigenous people under the Constitution and your argument raises a serious question on how you would vote on the constitutionality of programs benefiting Alaska natives. I think that my colleagues from Alaska should be deeply troubled by your views.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Kavanaugh called the program “Hawaii’s naked racial spoils system.” Harris asked Kavanaugh whether he knew that “racial spoils system” is commonly used by white supremacists. Kavanaugh said he didn’t.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) confronted Kavanaugh with another racist expression he had used, this time while working in the George W. Bush administration. Booker queried the nominee about his characterization of an affirmative action program as “a naked racial set-aside.” Kavanaugh had used the offensive phrase in an email criticizing an affirmative action program under consideration by the Supreme Court. Like Hirono, Booker risked censure, discipline or removal by releasing this email, which had been marked “committee confidential.”

The Voting Rights Act in Jeopardy

Kavanaugh has only decided one voting rights case. In 2012, he wrote the opinion for a three-judge panel in South Carolina v. United States, which upheld a voter ID law. The Obama Department of Justice had opposed the law, finding it violated the Voting Rights Act because it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of non-white voters who were less likely than whites to have identification.

The Justice Department presented evidence demonstrating that the South Carolina law disproportionately and materially burdened non-white voters. Expert testimony showed that Black voters were more than twice as likely as white voters not to have the required identification.

But Kavanaugh assigned more weight to elected officials. He bought into the argument that the law would prevent voter fraud, even though the state introduced no evidence to support that claim.

The landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits any voting practice or procedure that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

A person who claims that a county, municipality or state law violates the Voting Rights Act need not prove the law was enacted with racist intent. He or she need only prove the law would have the effect of making it more difficult for a person of color to vote.

NAACP President Cornell Brooks testified at Jeff Sessions’s attorney general confirmation hearing that the Voting Rights Act “is regarded as the crown jewel of civil rights.”

In the 2013 case of Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5, which established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination.

“We’ve seen nothing less than a Machiavellian frenzy of voter disenfranchisement from one end of the country to the other” since Shelby was decided, Brooks said.

Moreover, in the South Carolina voter ID case, Kavanaugh declined to join a separate concurrence signed by the other two judges on the panel, reaffirming the “vital function that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has played here.”

Voter fraud is used as a pretext to suppress voting rights. A 2014 study reported by The Washington Post found only 31 incidents of voter fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014.

“From Ohio to Wisconsin to Georgia, the vestiges of Jim Crow have resurfaced under a new cloak, unchecked and unabated,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, in a statement to the senators at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing

Indeed, since 2010, 23 states have enacted more restrictive voting laws, according to the Brennan Center.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) cited two examples — North Carolina and Texas — while questioning Kavanaugh.

In 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in NAACP v. North Carolina struck down North Carolina’s 2013 voting law that established a photo ID requirement and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration of high school students. After requesting data on voting patterns of different races, North Carolina legislators had written a law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision,” the court said.

And in Veasey v. Perry, a US District Court held that Texas’s voter ID law created an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, had an impermissibly discriminatory effect on Latinos and African Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The court also found the provision in question constituted an unconstitutional poll tax.

After reciting Texas’s dismal history of denying access to the polls, the court noted, “This history describes not only a penchant for discrimination in Texas with respect to voting, but it exhibits a recalcitrance that has persisted over generations despite the repeated intervention of the federal government and its courts on behalf of minority citizens.”

Early last year, Attorney General Sessions reversed the Obama Justice Department’s policy of challenging voter ID laws. Now the Justice Department intervenes in favor of states that enact measures to restrict equal ballot access.

In light of the proliferation of laws that pose obstacles to voting, the Supreme Court will likely be faced with a challenge to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.

Conservative organizations continue to cry “voter fraud” as an excuse to enact laws that suppress voting rights for people of color. Kavanaugh’s entry onto the Court will make five solidly right-wing justices. The fate of the Voting Rights Act hangs in the balance.

The post Brett Kavanaugh is a Threat to Racial Justice and Voting Rights appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Documents Reveal Kavanaugh Thinks Abortion Decision Is Not “Settled Law”

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 15:43

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing took a series of dramatic turns Thursday, as Democratic senators began releasing confidential documents from Kavanaugh’s work at the George W. Bush White House. The New York Times also broke a major story Thursday morning revealing that Kavanaugh wrote as a White House attorney in 2003 that he did not deem the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision to be “settled law of the land.” He wrote, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.” These revelations come as the Trump administration withholds more than 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s records on the basis of presidential privilege. We speak with Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing took a dramatic turn Thursday when Democratic senators began releasing confidential documents from Kavanaugh’s work at the George W. Bush White House. The move came in response to the Trump administration withholding more than 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s records on the basis of presidential privilege. The Democrats’ move came shortly after The New York Times broke a major story Thursday morning revealing Kavanaugh, as a White House attorney, wrote in 2003 he did not deem the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision to be settled law of the land. Kavanaugh wrote “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” he said. California Senator Dianne Feinstein questioning Kavanaugh Thursday about the emailing.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: We have an email that was previously marked confidential but is now public and shows that you asked about making edits to an op-ed that read the following, and I quote: “First of all, it is widely understood, accepted by legal scholars across the board, that Roe v. Wade and it progeny are the settled law of the land.” You responded by saying, and I quote, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.” This has been viewed as you saying you don’t think Roe is settled.

AMY GOODMAN: Judge Brett Kavanaugh dismissed the significance of his 2003 email.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: The broader point was simply that I think it was overstating something about legal scholars. I am always concerned with accuracy, and I thought that was not quite accurate description of legal — all legal scholars, because it referred to all.

AMY GOODMAN: During Thursday’s hearing, Judge Kavanaugh also alarmed many reproductive rights activists by describing contraception as “abortion-inducing drugs.” He made the comment in a question about his 2015 dissent in the Priests for Life versus HHS case.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: That was a group that was being forced to provide a certain kind of health coverage over their religious objection to their employees, and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was first, was this a substantial burden on the religious exercise? And it seemed to me quite clearly it was. It was a technical matter of filling out a form in that case, but they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were — as a religious matter, objected to.

AMY GOODMAN: In another dramatic moment from Thursday’s hearing, Democratic Senator Cory Booker released to the public a document that was previously considered committee confidential. The document described Kavanaugh’s views as a White House aide under George W. Bush on the use of racial profiling in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. This is an exchange between Booker, Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, and Texas Senator John Cornyn.

SEN. CORY BOOKER: I knowingly violated the rules that were put forth, and I’m told that the committee confidential rules have knowing consequences. And so sir, I come from a long line, as all of us do as Americans, and understand what that kind of civil disobedience is, and I understand the consequences. So I am right now, before your process is finished, I am going to release the email about racial profiling. And I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate. And if Senator Cornyn believes that I have violated Senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that email right now. And I am releasing it to expose that, number one, the emails that are being withheld from the public have nothing to do with national security.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: Can I ask you how long you’re going to say the same thing three or four times?

SEN. CORY BOOKER: No, sir, I’m saying right now that I am releasing committee confidential documents.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: No senator deserves to sit on this committee or serve in the Senate, in my view, if they decide to be a law unto themselves and willingly flout the rules of the Senate and the determination of confidentiality and classification. That is irresponsible and conduct unbecoming a senator.

AMY GOODMAN: In the document mentioned by Senator Booker, Judge Kavanaugh said that although he favored race-neutral policies in policing, there was an “interim question of what to do before a truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is developed and implemented.”

Well, for more, we are joined by Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Last week, the organization released a damning report on Kavanaugh’s record on cases concerning civil rights, criminal justice, voting rights, fair housing, education, reproductive rights, environmental justice and access to justice overall, and also issued a statement opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Well, Kristen, we spoke to you right before the hearings began. Today is supposedly the last day of these hearings. Talk about the significance of what happened yesterday with Senator Booker saying he was willing to risk expulsion from the Senate to release these documents. Kristen, I don’t know if you heard that question. It seems that our guest has just lost the audio sound as she sits in Washington. But Kristen Clarke, let me go to — I think you are there now. I was asking the significance of Senator Booker of New Jersey saying he would risk expulsion to release these documents that were being held back.

KRISTEN CLARKE: This is by no small stretch one of the most covert and nontransparent Supreme Court hearings that we have seen in modern time. It is really important to reflect back on what happened in prior nominations with respect to the nominations of Justice Kagan, Sotomayor, Alito, Roberts. The standard has always been 100 percent transparency.

On both sides of the aisle, there has been great insistence on seeing the records and documents that really explain who those nominees are before the Senate would move forward, and it is astounding to see what is happening now with respect to Brett Kavanaugh.

The rules of the game have changed, and the Senate is essentially being forced to proceed, despite the fact that more than 90 percent of Mr. Kavanaugh’s records have not been disclosed. And to add insult on top of injury, of the small number of documents that are available, we see both this administration, with the acquiescence of Chairman Grassley, slapping privilege claims and confidentiality labels onto documents that make it even more difficult for the senators to do their job.

I am really pleased that Senators Booker and Hirono and others pushed back yesterday. It is virtually impossible to question a nominee about their views when you have a committee confidential label slapped onto a document that prevents you from airing the document with the public, from giving it to the nominee so the nominee can see what you are questioning him on.

Yesterday I thought was a transformative moment in these hearings, because this is not business as usual. We have not seen a process where the administration has deeply entangled itself in how the Senate Judiciary Committee goes about its gravely important task of vetting this nominee, and we are seeing the sweeping use of executive privilege, and on top of that, this committee confidential claim labeled on documents that are not controversial at all, really because Chairman Grassley and his colleagues want to railroad Mr. Kavanaugh onto the court. They want to avoid a discussion about his real views on issues like racial profiling and Roe v. Wade and not complicate his path to the court. At the end of the day —

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the significance of what the document showed from 2003 — Kavanaugh’s own email as a White House counsel, talking about Roe v. Wade not being settled law and also in the hearing calling contraceptives “abortion-inducing drugs.”

KRISTEN CLARKE: These documents are game changers, but we have to remember that more than 90 percent of Mr. Kavanaugh’s record has been kept in the dark. Had we had these documents from Tuesday — and I have been in that hearing room every single day — I think the tenor of these hearings would have been very different. I think senators on both sides of the aisle would have been in a position to really probe and figure out whether Mr. Kavanaugh is prepared to adhere to and uphold the Supreme Court’s precedent when it comes to Roe v. Wade.

That email really compounds some of the other evidence that has come forth. The Garza case, for example, in which Mr. Kavanaugh seemed to go to great lengths to deny an undocumented teen access to an abortion. Another case where he allowed employers to invoke religious reasons as grounds to deny employees access to contraceptive care and reproductive access. When you put all of this evidence together, it really starts to paint a picture of who Mr. Kavanaugh is, a picture that we could complete if we had the other 90 percent of his record that the senators have been denied access to during this process.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Senator Kamala Harris of California questioning Kavanaugh on Wednesday about whether he discussed the Mueller investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm. Marc Kasowitz the personal attorney for Donald Trump.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Did you talk with anyone at Kasowitz Benson and Torres?

BRETT KAVANAUGH: You asked me that. I need to know who works there.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: I think you can answer the question without me giving you a list of all employees at that law firm.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Well actually, I can’t.


BRETT KAVANAUGH: Because I don’t know who works there.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: So that’s the only way you would know who you spoke with? I want to understand your response to my question because it is a very direct one. Did you speak with anyone at that law firm about the Mueller investigation? It is a very direct question.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Right. I would be surprised, but I don’t know anyone — I don’t know if the — I don’t know everyone who works at that law firm, so I just want to be careful. Because your question was and/or, so I want to be very literal.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: That’s fine. I will ask a more direct question if that’s helpful to you. Did you speak with anyone at that law firm about Bob Mueller’s investigation?

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I’m not remembering anything like that, but I want to know a roster of people and I want to know more.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: So you’re not denying that you spoke with —

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Well, I said I don’t remember anything like that.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Judge Kavanaugh Wednesday. Senator Harris on Thursday again asked Kavanaugh if he had discussed the Mueller investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm.

[no audio]

AMY GOODMAN: Kristen Clarke, let me go to you on this. What is the significance here? What is the point that Senator Harris is making?

KRISTEN CLARKE: Look, we need justices on our nation’s highest court who will be truthful, of the highest integrity, justices where there is no question about their veracity and ability to always be forthcoming and honest. And I must say that it was painful listening to Senator Harris ask very clear questions about Kavanaugh and his contacts with lawyers from that firm. At every turn, he just seemed to be incredibly evasive.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to another turn of Kavanaugh on Thursday.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Were you a party to a conversation that occurred regarding Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? And a simple yes or no would suffice.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: About his investigation. And are you referring to a specific person?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: I’m referring to a specific subject and the specific person I’m referring to is you.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Who was the conversation with? You said you had information.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: That is not the subject of the question, sir. The subject of the question is you and whether you were part of a conversation regarding Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: The answer is no.


AMY GOODMAN: Kristen Clarke, very quickly, if you can explain why she is asking this question? This whole issue of — Kavanaugh was not on the Federalist Society list of judges to choose from for the Supreme Court as was Gorsuch, and Trump made very clear, “This is the only list I will use.” And this issue that came up that Kavanaugh was added after the Mueller investigation began, and was he speaking with President Trump’s personal lawyer? Explain.

KRISTEN CLARKE: It raises important questions. He did not show up on President Trump’s first or second shortlist, which the president claimed that he was airing to the public all of the people he was considering for this most important position.

And when we look at the trajectory of what he was doing during that time period, it is almost as if he were auditioning for the role. He is out giving speeches to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation and law schools, where he’s airing his views about Justice Rehnquist, who issued the dissenting opinion in Roe v. Wade, and how much he deems him a hero. He is talking about executive power. It is almost as if he were auditioning for the president.

And I think the president selected him in part because he finds comfort in Kavanaugh’s current views and outlook on executive power and presidential privilege. And again, Senator Harris really I think was getting to his ability to be truthful, which is perhaps the most important characteristic in a Supreme Court justice.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds. What is happening today? Different people will be testifying for and against him. A Parkland shooting survivor. Condoleezza Rice will be testifying for him. And do you think this is going to end today?

KRISTEN CLARKE: I think it will end today. Chairman Grassley has been moving at lightning speed to kind of move this forward as quickly as possible. We’ll hear from Cedric Richmond, who is the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, who will raise questions about Kavanaugh’s civil rights record. The Parkland survivor. We will hear from the attorney for the young undocumented teen who was almost denied access to an abortion because of Mr. Kavanaugh. And a number of witnesses who —

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Kristen Clarke. We’ve just lost her on the satellite, but that’s today what will be taking place at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

We will link to the report that her group released last week, a damning report on Kavanaugh’s record concerning civil rights, criminal justice, voting rights, fair housing, education, reproductive rights, environmental justice, as well as the statement they issued opposing judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, confirmation to the Supreme Court.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the Trump Administration has just said, issued a rule that they will hold children indefinitely, defying the Flores Agreement. Over 400 kids, a number of them under five years old, are still being detained by the US government, separated at the border. Stay with us.

The post Documents Reveal Kavanaugh Thinks Abortion Decision Is Not “Settled Law” appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Economy Adds 201,000 Jobs in August, Unemployment Steady at 3.9 Percent

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 15:25

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the economy added 201,000 jobs in August; although downward revisions of 50,000 to the prior two months’ data brought the three-month average to 185,000. The unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent, but the overall employment-to-population (EPOP) fell by 0.2 percentage points to 60.3 percent.

This 0.2 percentage point drop also showed up for prime-age workers (ages 25 to 54), although the EPOP for prime-age workers is still 0.9 percentage points above its year-ago level. For men, the year-over-year increase is 1.1 percentage points, while for women it is 0.8 percent. In both cases, EPOPs remain below prerecession peaks and well below the peaks hit in 2000.

Perhaps the most encouraging news in the report is evidence of a modest acceleration in wage growth. The average hourly wage increased by 2.9 percent over the last year. That compares to a 2.7 percent year-over-year rise in July, but it is too early to assume a clear trend. The year-over-year increase was 2.8 percent in July of 2016. The rate of increase, taking the average of the last three months compared with the prior three months, is slightly more rapid at 3.06 percent.

Interestingly, the pay gains are not especially strong in areas where employers have been complaining about labor shortages. The average hourly wage in construction was up 3.3 percent over the last year, but the gain was 3.5 percent back in September of 2016. Wages in manufacturing have risen by just 1.8 percent over the last year.

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Categories: News

New Documents Appear to Show Kavanaugh Lied Under Oath Multiple Times

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 15:14

“How much perjury is too much perjury from a Supreme Court nominee?”

That was how one commentator responded to a flurry of new documents and emails released on Thursday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that appear to show President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath during hearings for his nomination to the US Court of Appeals in 2004 and 2006.

In 2004 — after a Senate sergeant-at-arms report found that Republican staffer Manuel Miranda had stolen confidential communications and documents from Democratic senators — Kavanaugh told the Senate that he never received “documents that appeared…to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members.”

But new emails made public by Leahy on Thursday appear to show that Kavanaugh “got 8 pages of material taken verbatim from [the Vermont senator’s] files, obviously written by Dem staff, labeled ‘not [for] distribution.” The stolen material detailed Democrats’ efforts to oppose President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

BREAKING: Kavanaugh testified he never received any docs that even “appeared to … have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff.” Well, he got 8 pages of material taken VERBATIM from my files, obviously written by Dem staff, LABELED “not [for] distribution”.

— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) September 6, 2018

During Wednesday’s confirmation hearing, Leahy confronted Kavanaugh over the apparent contradiction between these emails and the judge’s 2004 testimony, but Leahy said he was not permitted to make the emails public because they were deemed “committee confidential.”

The documents were released on Thursday, however, and they show that Kavanaugh received an email that detailed information gathered by a “mole for us on the left” — an indication that the information was acquired improperly.

“Kavanaugh committed perjury, [Iowa Sen. Chuck] Grassley knows that he committed perjury, and tried to keep the proof of Kavanaugh’s commission of perjury confidential,” noted Dante Atkins, communications director for Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.). “This is horrid and unconscionable.”

“It is simply not ‘normal’ to get real-time insider intelligence from a Democratic ‘mole’ and marked ‘spying.’ Red flags abound,” Leahy wrote. “And with 102,000 documents withheld by the Trump White House, mostly about judicial nominees, we can bet there’s more.”

“Judge Kavanaugh answered under oath more than 100 questions on this hacking in 2004 and 2006,” Leahy added. “His repeated denials that he didn’t receive any stolen info and didn’t suspect anything ‘untoward’ is SIMPLY NOT CREDIBLE.”

Here are more emails. It is simply not ‘normal’ to get real-time insider intelligence from a Democratic “mole” and marked “spying.” Red flags abound. And with 102,000 documents withheld by the Trump WH, mostly about judicial noms, we can bet there’s more.

— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) September 6, 2018

Just minutes before Leahy posted the batch of emails related to stolen Democratic materials, Sen. Feinstein pointed to Kavanaugh’s claim under oath in 2004 that he “was not involved in handling” the nomination of anti-Roe v. Wade Appeals Court Judge Bill Pryor in 2003 and argued that new emails prove that assertion was false.

“Newly released emails show that’s not true,” Feinstein tweeted on Thursday. “Asked about how Pryor’s interview went, he replied, ‘call me.'”

BREAKING: Brett Kavanaugh was asked in 2004 about whether he was involved in the nomination of Bill Pryor. He said “I was not involved in handling his nomination”

Newly released emails show that’s not true. Asked about how Pryor’s interview went, he replied “CALL ME.”

— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 6, 2018

On the left, sworn testimony in which Brett Kavanaugh tells Ted Kennedy he was “not involved in handling” Bill Pryor’s nomination.

On the right, Brett Kavanaugh is invited to an “emergency umbrella meeting” at a private law firm “to discuss nominee Bill Pryor’s hearing.”

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) September 6, 2018

“Simply put, Kavanaugh committed perjury,” political analyst Matt McDermott wrote in response to Feinstein’s tweet.

Ian Millhiser, justice editor at ThinkProgress, added that given all of the possible cases of perjury that have been uncovered by Senate Democrats, “Maybe there’s a reason Senate Republicans tried to keep Kavanaugh’s emails secret?”

Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter, argued that the stolen Democratic materials and the Pryor nomination are just two of four topics “where Kavanaugh appeared to commit perjury.”

Topics where Kavanaugh appeared to commit perjury

1. Whether he knew he received stolen emails

2. When he found out about warrantless wiretapping

3. Whether he was involved in the Pryor nomination

4. Whether he opined on constitutionality of criminally investigating the prez

— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 6, 2018

The post New Documents Appear to Show Kavanaugh Lied Under Oath Multiple Times appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Equality and Territory: The Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andes

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 15:10

“At the age of 18 I was the first female leader in my organisation, my grandfather who was a male chauvinist demanded that I be beaten because I was sitting among men,” said Teresita Antazú, an indigenous leader of the Yanesha people in Peru’s Amazon region.

Now, almost 57 and after a lifetime dedicated to breaking down barriers, she believes that over the past three decades, indigenous women in her country and throughout the Andean region have achieved visibility, formal recognition of their rights and openness of institutions to their demands.

But they are still victims of violence compounded by the fact that they are both indigenous and women. They also face discrimination and growing threats to their territories, as Antazù – the first female “cornesha” (highest authority) of the Federation of Yanesha Native Communities – told IPS from her home town of Constitución, in the jungle in central Peru.

For Rosa Montalvo, an Ecuadorian documentary filmmaker who has worked for 25 years with indigenous women in the Andean region, the current struggle for territory and equality is a common thread providing continuity with the exploits of Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara resistance leader executed on Sept. 5, 1782 for rebelling against the Spanish conquistadors.

It was in homage to Sisa that the Second Conference of Latin American Organisations and Movements, held in Bolivia in 1983, declared Sept. 5 the International Day of Indigenous Women.

“Like Bartolina Sisa, indigenous women today are struggling to keep their cultures alive in their communities, to continue to exist as peoples and to have the opportunities they deserve, preserving the continuity of the new generations, especially now that there are stronger attacks on their territories,” Montalvo told IPS from Quito.

She was referring, for example, to the case of Colombia, where the National Indigenous Organisation, which groups 102 native peoples, reported that between November 2016 and July 2018, 65 activists were killed by illegal armed groups. This was after a peace deal signed by the government and left-wing guerrillas put an end to half a century of armed conflict.

Teresita Antazú, a “cornesha” or leader of the Yanesha people, one of the 55 Indigenous peoples officially recognised in Peru, who from a young age fought against the patriarchal power and the inequalities faced by Indigenous women, takes part in a demonstration in defense of Native peoples of the Amazon rainforest.Mariela Jara / IPS

“Indigenous communities have been left more vulnerable in a serious scenario of territorial disputes, with women being severely affected because they remain in their territories to sustain life and are exposed to violence,” explained Montalvo, who is also a member of the non-governmental International Land Coalition.

Indigenous territories are also under threat, with impacts on the lives of native peoples and women, in countries like Ecuador and Bolivia despite their progressive constitutions, said Montalvo.

“Both countries still have an agro-export economic model, which poses a threat to indigenous territories,” said the Ecuadorian documentary-maker.

Territory is life for indigenous peoples and women, it is their source of livelihood, and the basis for their culture and worldview. If their territory is encroached upon, their very existence is jeopardised.

The Andean States have signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which guarantee prior, informed consultation in order to carry out investment projects in the territories of indigenous communities.

However, these commitments are not enforced and extractive activities are impacting on the livelihoods, cultures and worldviews of native peoples, say experts and indigenous leaders.

“That is why we speak of several types of violence, as violence that occurs against our bodies and in our territories,” Tarcila Rivera, a Peruvian member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told IPS.

Rivera, vice president of the Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ), which she founded 34 years ago, said that nearly half of the indigenous women in Latin America live in territories where concessions for mega-projects and extractive activities have been awarded by the governments.

These are areas which, at the same time, are plagued by poverty and neglect.

“We are fighting so that in rural areas the rape of a girl is not settled in exchange for money or goods, and to prevent the dispossession of our lands and the pollution of our rivers and crops,” she said in Lima.

Rivera is a world-renowned indigenous activist who follows the teachings of her mother in her native Ayacucho, the central region of the Peruvian Andes struck especially hard by the 1980-2000 armed conflict.

“My mother died illiterate, but she had great wisdom in dealing with problems and coming up with solutions,” she said.

Ecuadorian Rosa Montalvo, who has worked for more than 25 years with Indigenous women, contributing to the development of processes of women’s empowerment and leadership, takes part in a meeting on the subject in Lima.Mariela Jara / IPS

“If you want a new skirt or something special to eat, she would tell me, you have to have your own money; you have the capacity and spiritual strength and you can get ahead,” she said, recalling her mother’s advice, which taught her to be independent and strong.

In more than 30 years of national and international activism for the rights of indigenous women, she notes as important achievements that indigenous women have organised, are speaking with their own voice and are articulating from the local to the global level.

Rivera also promotes the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, and identifies as an international priority the eradication of racism against indigenous women, which she considers one of the structural forms of violence they suffer.

“Racism hurts people’s self-esteem, it is discrimination against your ethnic identity, it makes you feel less of a person because you’re a woman, because you do not speak Spanish, because you’re poor, because you live in the bush,” she said.

As a result, “you don’t have the tools to defend yourself against either the man who beats you in your home or the policeman who abuses you unjustly for claiming your rights, and we have to eradicate that in our countries,” said the indigenous leader.

In the Andean region, according to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Bolivia has the highest percentage of indigenous people (62 percent of the population), followed by Peru (24 percent), Chile (11 percent), Ecuador (seven percent), Colombia (3.0 per cent) and Venezuela (2.7 per cent).

It is also necessary to break down the data by gender and establish different variables to assess violence, health, employment, education and housing, both Atanzú and Rivera pointed out.

“If governments do not know how indigenous women live and the problems we face every day, they will not be able to make public policies that respond to our needs,” Antazú said.

When asked about their outlook over the next 10 years, they see a more equitable presence for indigenous women in decision-making spaces at the local, regional and national levels, and they believe indigenous girls and young women will increasingly receive a quality education that empowers them.

“And without people shooting looks at us that shout: ‘what are you doing here?’” Rivera remarked.

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Categories: News

Rats Ahoy

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 15:09

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Categories: News

House Farm Bill Could Wipe Out Communities’ Power to Prohibit Pesticides

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 14:26

As lawmakers convene on Capitol Hill to finalize the latest federal Farm Bill, environmental advocates warn that a House proposal could put public health at risk by rolling back restrictions on pesticides in 155 communities nationwide.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) this week released its analysis of data from the nonprofit group Beyond Pesticides, including an interactive map of local policies that it says could be scuttled if the House measure passes. Those regulations vary widely — some communities restrict neonicotinoid use to protect pollinators, while others map out pesticide-free buffer zones or require that public notice be posted when pesticides are applied on public or private property.

According to EWG’s analysis, 58 of those communities have adopted more comprehensive policies that prohibit the use of glyphosate, the widely used weed killer under increasing scrutiny for its human health impacts. Last month a California jury ordered chemical maker Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper who blamed the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides for his terminal cancer. Monsanto, which Bayer recently acquired, now faces some 8,000 glyphosate-related lawsuits in the U.S.

The analysis arrives as work begins for the conference committee charged with sorting out differences between House and Senate versions of the new Farm Bill — the informal name for a vast legislative package renewed about every five years — before September 30, when the current bill expires.

“We’re just trying to bring as much attention to this issue as we can while Congress is deciding what’s going to be in the final Farm Bill package,” Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for EWG, told EHN. “It was included in the House bill, and I think we have to treat everything in either the House or the Senate bill as something that could be part of the final package.”

The Farm Bill includes a broad array of programs covering nutrition assistance, crop insurance, habitat conservation and other priorities. But blocking cities from regulating pesticides is beyond the scope of even such a sweeping bill, Benesh contends. “I don’t think the Farm Bill is supposed to dictate what local governments can and cannot do,” she said.

EHN requested comment on the measure from the office of Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and from a spokesperson for the committee, but did not receive a response.

The National League of Cities and the National Association of Regional Councils sent a joint letter to lawmakers last month urging them to reject the measure. Likewise, 107 House members sent a letter to agriculture committee leaders that included it in a list of “anti-environment provisions” that had them “deeply concerned.” Other groups, including the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, also have stated their opposition.

The measure would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to say specifically that “a political subdivision of a State” may not regulate the sale or use of pesticides.

“The US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs regulates and registers all pesticides after years of diligent and thorough testing,” Chris Novak, CropLife America President and CEO, told EHN in a statement. “These decisions are based on extensive scientific data to establish that these products are safe to human health and the environment when used properly. Localities lack the staff resources and scientific expertise to conduct these reviews.”

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1991, however, that local governments have the authority to regulate pesticides under the federal law. That ruling did not take away states’ rights to preempt those local regulations, however, and 43 states have since passed laws that do so.

Those laws have generally been interpreted to mean that local governments can’t control pesticide use on private land, but can do so on parks, playgrounds and other public property, Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, told EHN.

But the new Farm Bill provision could be used not only to block private-land regulations in the seven states that give local governments authority over pesticides, but also to roll back all local regulations, including on public property, and prevent the other 43 states from giving cities or counties greater authority in the future, Feldman said.

“It’s uncertain as to how broadly this could be interpreted in terms of restricting the ability of local governments to adopt ordinances pertaining to pesticide restrictions,” he said. “We’re in a tough spot here because whenever you amend a law like this without any specificity or knowledge about what the implications are, which would typically be gained through a hearing process, you really leave it open to broad interpretation.”

Among those keeping an eye on the House measure is Ethan Strimling, mayor of Portland, Maine, which early this year adopted one of the country’s strictest pesticide policies. “It’s really kind of an unregulated world out there and people are able to use pesticides at their will,” Strimling told EHN. “We were very concerned about the environmental impacts.”

The proposal to preempt local regulations is a “terrible idea,” Strimling said. “I hope they allow communities to come up with the policies that work best for the communities.”

And if they don’t? “We would look at whatever options we have to push back on that,” he said.

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Categories: News

Trump to Withdraw From “Flores” Protections to Detain Families Indefinitely

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 14:09

The Trump administration and the state of Texas are attacking legal limits meant to protect migrant children from indefinite detention as well as maintain standards at family detention jails on two fronts this week.

The Trump administration plans to withdraw from the federal consent decree that has governed detention standards for child migrants since 1997, known as the Flores settlement, in a move aimed at getting around the settlement’s limits on the federal government’s ability to incarcerate minors in family immigration jails indefinitely.

The nearly 20-year-old Flores court agreement requires that children must be held in the “least-restrictive” conditions possible. In 2015, a federal court ruled that to uphold the older settlement, children must be released from detention jails within 20 days. While President Trump can’t overturn a federal court decision, the administration has the authority to create regulations to replace the court agreement. Those regulations, however, must comply with federal legal standards.

So the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed new draft regulations this week that officials claim will essentially nullify Flores while treating migrant children “with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”

“If we care about the separation of children from their parents or their caretakers, then we should also care about the prospect of indefinitely detaining children in prisons, which is what this move is intended to do,” said Bob Libal, who is executive director of the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, an organization that works to oppose for-profit incarceration. “This administration has demonstrated that it is willing to do harm to children to uplift its anti-immigrant political ambitions.”

The withdrawal sets up an yet another inevitable legal confrontation with US District Court Judge Dolly Gee, who has presided over the Flores agreement and has refused to allow migrant children to be detained with their parents for periods longer than 20 days. The new regulations could not take effect until after a 60-day public commenting period and until counsel in the Flores case have a chance to challenge the new rules in court.

In July, Judge Gee rejected the Justice Department’s request for permission to indefinitely detain children and parents together until their cases are adjudicated, calling it “a cynical attempt … to shift responsibility to the judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.”

The new regulations would allow US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to expand its family detention capacity beyond its current 3,750 beds across three family detention jails, two of which are in Texas. The new regulations would also allow ICE to incarcerate families for lengthier indefinitely.

The proposed rules would also designate that any new family detention jails will be “evaluated by a third-party entity engaged by ICE” so that the jails meet current standards, but fail to identify exactly what third-party entity would perform the supposedly independent evaluations.

Trump administration officials have continually called the Flores protections “loopholes,” and have blamed Democrats for failing to reverse them, saying the laws “forced” the administration to separate families under its zero-tolerance policy. More than 500 children still remain separated from their parents in federal custody six weeks after a court-ordered reunification deadline.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen maintained that rhetoric Thursday, saying, “Legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country.”

But immigrant rights and refugee advocates hotly contest this characterization. “What the administration is calling ‘legal loopholes’ are actually basic standards for protecting children — standards they are trying to scrap to pursue an agenda of family incarceration that the government’s own doctors have warned is harmful and dangerous for children,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission and a leader of the Families Belong Together coalition, in a statement.

A Federal “Self-Licensing” Scheme

The new regulations would also create a new federal licensing scheme for family detention jails, since the Flores settlement requires migrant children be held in state-licensed “child care” (yet still penal) facilities, which has proved to be a major obstacle for the government.

The new licensing scheme “doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the facilities,” Libal told Truthout. “The purpose of Flores is not for government entities to shape licensing regimes around what prisons look like. The purpose is to ensure children are safe when they’re in the custody of the government. … It doesn’t change the fact that these are prisons and not child care facilities.”

Libal witnessed the fight over licensing also play out at the state level this week, as his nonprofit was back in court with the state of Texas Wednesday after suing to prevent the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from licensing family jail units as child care facilities in 2016. A Travis County judge blocked the state from lowering its standards to license the jails that December, ruling the state didn’t have the authority to license them. But the state appealed, and now a court is deciding whether lift or affirm the state’s injunction.

Lifting the state-based child care facility designation is another important way the Trump administration hopes to get around Flores protections, as the federal self-licensing would allow the administration to detain children with their parents in family jails that fail to meet the current minimum standards for child safety.

“I would hope that the courts — and I think Congress could weigh in here, too — would want to uphold the spirit of Flores, which is about protecting children in dangerous, traumatic experiences and not exposing them to those experiences by slapping a license on a prison,” Libal said.

Brané agrees. “The same administration that forcibly separated children from their parents and knowingly inflicted trauma on them cannot be allowed to set the standard of care for immigrant children. Instead of allowing the Trump administration to lock children up, Congress must subpoena and investigate the administration officials responsible for policies that subject children to harm and hold the perpetrators accountable for human rights abuses,” she said.

State-Sanctioned Child Abuse

Family detention jails, in tandem with HHS-run detention shelters for migrant children, have a history of violent physical and sexual abuse.

Just last month, the mother of a Guatemalan toddler filed a lawsuit alleging her little girl died in May as she was denied medical care while detained at a family detention jail in Dilley, Texas.

Also last month, Judge Gee ordered federal officials to remove children from the Shiloh detention jail in Texas after evidence surfaced that the facility was using psychotropic drugs as a “chemical straitjacket” to manage children, in flagrant violation of Flores requirements. After noting “persistent problems” with child detention jails along the border, the judge also appointed an independent monitor to reports facts regarding conditions at the jails to her directly.

Judge Gee’s decision followed a lawsuit from the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which claimed that migrant children have been forced to strip naked, and have been starved and physically assaulted at Border Patrol Stations and ICE detention jails. The suit included more than 200 accounts from migrant children and their parents detailing horrific conditions, including being denied clean water and resorting to drinking toilet water, to being kicked awake at night by detention jail guards.

Attorneys at the family detention jail in Dilley, Texas, have described similar accounts of detained migrant children’s abuse, including Customs and Border Protection agents routinely kicking children and psychologically tormenting separated children by telling them they would be adopted by US families or telling them that they would never see their parents again.

Just last week, at a family detention jail in Karnes City, Texas, authorities reportedly tore away children who had only recently been reunited with their parents after parents there protested their conditions and treatment.

To make matters worse, thousands of migrants have reported sexual abuse while in ICE custody, according to the agency’s own records, including the case of another mother who was held at a family detention jail in Pennsylvania with her 3-year-old son. Last month, two youth care workers at Arizona shelters run by the Texas-based Southwest Key Programs were arrested and charged with sexually assaulting immigrant teenagers.

Further, a state review found a detention jail in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, straps children to chairs and puts bags over their heads. Children as young as 14 said they were beaten, handcuffed and shackled while held there.

“The Trump administration has found a new low in the family separation crisis: seeking indefinite imprisonment of children,” said Efrén Olivares, who is racial and economic justice director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, in a statement. “For months, we watched in horror as children were ripped from their parents, but the remedy for family separation is not, and never will be, indefinitely locking up whole families in immigration prisons.”

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Categories: News

Indigenous Authorities Unite Against Corruption Debacle in Guatemala

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 13:59

It started mid-morning. Military vehicles lined the street on August 31. Donated by the US back in 2013 for anti-narcotics task force operations, the green Jeep J8s were circulating in Guatemala City, including outside embassies and the offices of the UN-backed anti-corruption agency known as the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG. In a country with a history of state forces carrying out acts of genocide and other atrocities during a 36-year armed conflict that only ended 22 years ago, the sudden militarization raised alarm.

“It was a surprise,” said Feliciana Herrera, one of the Maya Ixil authorities of Nebaj, in a region of the Quiché department where military forces perpetrated genocide. “When it showed up on the news and on social networks, people wondered why they were mobilizing so many army vehicles and soldiers. People wondered what was going to happen,” she told Truthout.

The answer came just after noon. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales stood in front of more than 70 military and police officials to announce that he would not be renewing the mandate of the anti-corruption commission. Morales made his announcement while proceedings to consider stripping him of his immunity from prosecution for illegal campaign financing continue. Morales has cause for concern. In 2015, President Otto Pérez Molina was forced to resign and was subsequently arrested due to investigations led by the anti-corruption commission. Pérez Molina and most of his administration are in jail pending trial.

“It’s the government’s fear of being investigated,” said Herrera. “We’re indignant about all of this, because many communities, even though we’re far from the capital, we believe in justice and we believe in CICIG.”

Indigenous authorities throughout Guatemala are united in their condemnation of the government’s actions. They are calling for the anti-corruption commission to stay and hope the commission will branch out to investigate corruption networks of officials, military personnel and companies operating in Indigenous territories.

Indigenous Maya, Xinka and Garifuna authorities gathered at a September 3 press conference to respond to Morales’s announcement. The president’s attack on the anti-corruption commission is supported by “military forces, politicians, economic elites, and national and foreign businesspeople,” they said in a statement.

The commission’s current mandate will be up in September 2019. During President Morales’s August 31 announcement, he stated that the anti-corruption commission would have the year to transfer its capacities over to the national Office of the Public Prosecutor.

Four days later, on September 4, the government announced that CICIG’s head commissioner, Iván Velásquez, currently in the US, would not be allowed to re-enter the country on the grounds that the Guatemalan National Security Council claims he is a security threat. Velásquez has been manipulating justice and polarizing the country, government officials alleged at a September 6 press conference. The government asked the UN to designate a new head commissioner of CICIG, but UN Secretary-General António Guterres asked Velásquez to remain at the helm of the anti-corruption commission from outside Guatemala until the situation becomes more clear.

Demonstrators gather in the Guatemala City central plaza on September 1 to protest the president’s decision not to renew CICIG’s mandate.Sandra Cuffe

The embassy issued two statements following Morales’s announcement on August 31. The first took note of Morales’s decision, stated that the US believes the anti-corruption commission to be an important partner in fighting impunity, improving governance and holding the corrupt accountable, and pledged continued support Guatemala’s struggle against corruption and impunity. The second statement advised that the embassy was monitoring the use of the donated military jeeps, which had been seen in the vicinity of CICIG and the US embassy.

The following day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about the US relationship with Guatemala, with no mention whatsoever of the anti-corruption commission or the unfolding crisis. “Our relationship with Guatemala is important. We greatly appreciate Guatemala’s efforts in counternarcotics and security,” he wrote in his September 1 tweet.

Pompeo called Morales on September 6, reiterating US support for Guatemalan sovereignty. “The Secretary expressed continued support of the United States for a reformed CICIG and committed to continue working with Guatemala on implementing the reforms in the coming year,” according to a State Department statement. The substance of those reforms remains unclear.

Several Democratic Party lawmakers in the US strongly condemned the measures and threatened possible repercussions. “We urge President Morales to reverse his ill-advised decision. If he is unwilling to do so, Congress must do everything in our power to appropriately adjust U.S. assistance to the Guatemalan government,” congressional Reps. Eliot Engel, a ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Albio Sires, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said in a joint statement September 4 in response to the ban of Velásquez.

The non-renewal of the anti-corruption commission’s mandate, and especially the announcement that Velásquez would not be permitted to re-enter Guatemala, also prompted a multitude of strong condemnations from European countries and international human rights organizations.

Indigenous authorities are calling for sustained international responses. “We reiterate our call to the international community to condemn all government actions that, together with mafias, corruption networks, impunity and influence peddling, are endangering life, the construction of peace, democracy and justice in Guatemala,” they said in their September 3 statement.

Corruption and impunity are embedded at all levels of government, from top to bottom, said Rigoberto Juárez. A Maya Q’anjob’al authority and a representative of the Q’anjob’al, Chuj, Akateka, Popti and Mestizo Plurinational Government, Juárez was arrested in 2015 and jailed on charges related to community struggle against a hydroelectric dam project. He spent 16 months in jail before a court ruled in his favor. At the time, he was one of several dam-related political prisoners from the Huehuetenango department.

“Corruption and impunity are the mode of operation of the state of Guatemala and they have been since its foundation,” Juárez told Truthout. “We understand that what CICIG has done in these last 10 years is get into the structures of the biggest powers of the Guatemalan state — in this case, the executive and legislative [branches].”

The anti-corruption commission’s investigations have largely been centered around corruption in the capital. Indigenous authorities consider that CICIG’s work has only just begun. They hope a next step would be the dismantling of corruption and impunity networks around the country and in Indigenous territories.

“There’s a dynamic that is not being addressed right now in Guatemala, and that is: Who is generating corruption? Who is feeding corruption in this country? Obviously, it is the companies, and none of them have been affected yet,” said Juárez.

With regard to hydroelectric dam and mining projects, corruption and impunity encompass failure to consult and obtain the consent of affected Indigenous communities, irregularities in licenses and repression. Juárez pointed to the Escobal silver mine run by Tahoe Resources, Cementos Progreso’s operations in San Juan Sacatepéquez, and the dams in Huehuetenango as examples of corporate projects tied to violence and killings, for which perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.

El Estor residents gather to inter Maya Q’eqchi’ fisherman Carlos Maaz, shot and killed by police in May 2017 during a protest against nickel mining operations in the Izabal department.Sandra Cuffe

Extractive industry project licenses granted via corrupt processes were one of the main reasons Indigenous authorities mobilized last year to defend the anti-corruption commission and Velásquez, said Gladys Tzul, a Maya K’iche’ sociologist studying the relationships and conflicts between Indigenous community governance and state power. Last year, Morales declared Velásquez persona non grata, but the Constitutional Court reversed the measure.

“Calling it the struggle against corruption hides the plural topics and meanings that exist. I think that everybody, each sector, has their own agenda of struggle against corruption,” said Tzul.

There are the extractive industry licences in Indigenous territories, the health system corruption scandals and countless other issues motivating people to come together. Following Morales’s August 31 announcement that he would not renew CICIG’s mandate, people showed up in the Guatemala City central plaza to protest that very afternoon, and more people arrived the following day.

At the moment, the Constitutional Court is considering several motions filed against actions by Morales and the government to ban Velásquez. There is also widespread concern that the government could disobey or even dissolve the court, should it rule the ban was unconstitutional.

However the crisis unfolds, one thing is certain, said Tzul: “They cannot contain the generalized discontent.”

The post Indigenous Authorities Unite Against Corruption Debacle in Guatemala appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Teachers Leave For-Profit Charter Schools at Alarming Rates, Report Says

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 13:53

Students attending many of the nation’s 6,900 public charter schools may see unfamiliar faces as they head back to school this year.

Public schools already experience high levels of turnover among educators, but school teachers are leaving charter schools managed by private, for-profit groups at an “alarming” rate, according to a new study published in The Social Science Journal.

Charter schools run by nonprofit groups also have higher turnover rates than regular charter schools, which tend to be run by local school officials and parents rather than “management organizations” that can operate several schools at once.

Public charter schools are publicly funded, but they are run by private or nonprofit groups under a contract or “charter” with a state government or local school district that holds them accountable to certain standards. From 2000 to 2016, the number of public schools operated under charter agreements nationwide increased from 2 to 7 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Previous research has shown that teachers tend to leave their jobs at traditional public schools at lower rates than charters, and the study examines how working conditions at different types of charter schools lead to higher rates of teacher turnover. This matters because the financial cost of turnovers to schools is high, and inconsistency among educators can dampen the quality of the education that students receive.

Christine Roch, an associate professor of public management and co-author of the study, said teachers take their knowledge about students and their families, as well as expertise in working within the school’s curriculum and practices with them when they leave. This means that inconsistency among educators can have negative impacts on academic outcomes.

“That’s kind of an issue for students and a lack of stability for the school,” Roch told Truthout.

Roch said half a million teachers leave public schools of all types every year, either for jobs at other schools or a different career path altogether. With so many teachers leaving classrooms, the rates of teacher attrition at charters especially “alarming.”

“Teachers in charter schools are more likely to leave than teachers in public schools, but when teachers work for these management organizations — which are taking over a larger and larger portion of charter schools — teachers are even more likely to leave them,” Roch told Truthout. “That’s true for the ones that are managed by private companies, but also the ones managed by the nonprofits.”

Using national data from a federal school staffing survey taken during 2011-2012 school year, the most recent data available for study’s scope and statistical models, Roch’s team found that teachers working at charter schools run by for-profit groups were 38 percent more likely to quit their jobs and leave the profession altogether compared to teachers working at regular charter schools. At charters run by nonprofit management groups, the odds of attrition were 24 percent higher than regular charters.

They also found the odds of a teacher leaving for a job at another school were 97 percent higher for teachers working under for-profit managers and 58 percent higher for teachers with nonprofit managers.

Federal data for the 2012 to 2013 school year show that teachers at all types of charter schools leave their jobs at higher rates than teachers at traditional public schools. (A researcher with the National Center for Education Statistics told Truthout that teacher “mobility and attrition” statistics for more recent years is not available because the government was unable to gather enough data from teacher surveys.)

For-profit and nonprofit management groups that can operate a number of schools across a local or regional area now run about 44 percent of charter schools across the country, according to the study. Such schools have become flashpoints of controversy as they have replaced traditional public schools, particularly in lower-income urban areas and communities of color where levels of school funding have long failed to meet student needs.

The debate over charters reflects the nation’s broader ideological divide. On one side are free-market think tanks and right-wing ideologues such as Betsy Devos, President Trump’s wealthy and notably unpopular education secretary who made expanding charter schools and voucher programs her political mission. They argue charters promote better educational performance by increasing competition among schools and give parents more “choices” about where to send their kids, all without increasing costs to taxpayers.

However, teachers unions, civil rights groups and racial justice organizations have long seen charter schools as a dangerous step toward privatizing the nation’s public education system. They point to mounting evidence that charters increase inequality and segregation among students. Critics say public charter schools also have extra incentives to squeeze out students with disabilities and behavioral problems in order to maintain the competitive academic standards that proponents use to justify their existence.

So, why do teachers leave charters schools — particularly those under control of for-profit or nonprofit management organizations — at higher rates than others? No one school or school district is exactly alike, and charter organizations often create their own standards and curriculums, so the answer is complicated.

For starters, charters tend to hire younger and less experienced teachers, often to keep down costs, according to the study. This can contribute to higher turnover rates, particularly if the teachers entered the profession through an alternative certification program, such as Teach for America. Teachers at for-profit charter schools also tend to receive less support from administrators.

In some parts of the US, charter schools have replaced traditional public schools in underserved areas, and charter schools run by nonprofit groups tend to enroll lower-income students. Such students may pose more social and behavioral challenges for teachers. However, privately run charters have incentives to enroll fewer low-income students, students with disabilities and students learning English as a second language, which helps create a less demanding work environment for teachers.

Then there is pay, and as recent teacher-led labor uprisings against educational austerity in states like Oklahoma and Arizona have shown, salaries for teachers continue to be contentious issue. Teachers at for-profit charter schools also tend to make less money than teachers at regular charter schools, not to mention traditional public schools, according to the study.

The vast majority of charter school teachers are not unionized, and rates of unionization at for-profit charters are extremely low. This leaves few avenues to bargain for higher pay. Roch said public school teachers who are members of unions tend to be “more satisfied” with their pay.

Interestingly, the most recent federal data show that nearly the same percentage of teachers at charter schools and traditional public schools are unsatisfied with their current salaries — nearly 55 percent.

Roch said charter school management organizations create a greater hierarchy among school employees and often take a “cookie-cutter approach” to creating curriculums across the various schools they control in order to increase efficiency. This can leave teachers with less freedom to design their own lesson plans and less say in how the school is run.

If teachers don’t have control in the classrooms or in the school, they are more likely to want to leave the profession.

“If teachers don’t have control in the classrooms or in the school, they are more likely to want to leave the profession,” Roch said.

Despite the ideological debate around education funding, it’s important not to lump all schools into the same box, including charters. Consider Black River Public School, a nonprofit charter school in Holland, Michigan. The school’s charter is part of a broader system run by Grand Valley State University and dates back to 1996, making the school one of the oldest charters in that part of the country.

Peter Middleton, an art and art history teacher at Black River, said his school operates in a different environment than the highly scrutinized charters in struggling areas of Detroit, for example, which have seen academic performance plunge as students left the area and starved schools of per-pupil public funding.

“I think that charter schools are a cheaper solution for trying to fix schools in districts where there is a lot of attrition of the student population, so you have people moving out of [the] inner city and you end up with blight and poverty going up,” Middleton told Truthout. “Those regions can’t afford traditional schools, so charter schools are a cheaper option.”

Middleton said there are pros and cons to working at Black River. He came to the school because he is allowed a significant amount of autonomy in the classroom and works closely with administrators. However, he is paid less than less-experienced teachers working at the traditional public school down the street, and the school offers him a new contract each year rather than the job security of tenure. Still, the school is willing to work with teachers who underperform, and contracts are renewed year after year.

Things are different for students, too. The school does not provide busing, and students walk or get rides from their parents to get to school. The school has a lottery and a waiting list; students are not guaranteed enrollment just because they live in the community, unlike the traditional public schools nearby.

Middleton said public school teachers face many of the same challenges regardless of the type of school they work for: large classrooms, the cost of teaching supplies and meeting the demands of standardized testing. When asked what he would suggest to policy makers, Middleton said teachers simply need the resources to “do what they need to do in the classroom.”

The post Teachers Leave For-Profit Charter Schools at Alarming Rates, Report Says appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

The Daily Briefing

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 16:02

The post The Daily Briefing appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Arundhati Roy Hails Indian Court Legalizing Gay Sex, Overturning Colonial Law

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:59

India’s Supreme Court has overturned a law criminalizing consensual gay sex, in a major victory for LGBTQI groups. The ruling voids a portion of the Indian Penal Code written by Britain’s colonial government in the 1860s, which, although rarely enforced, made sodomy a crime punishable by up to life in prison. We speak with Arundhati Roy, the acclaimed activist and author based in New Delhi. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, The God of Small Things.

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post Arundhati Roy Hails Indian Court Legalizing Gay Sex, Overturning Colonial Law appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

No, You Are Not Part of the Resistance: A Response to Anonymous Op-Ed

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:59

The White House is scrambling to ferret out disloyal members of President Trump’s inner circle after the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed Wednesday it says was written by a senior administration official claiming that a “quiet resistance” is underway seeking to constrain Trump’s worst impulses. In the extraordinary op-ed, the unnamed official writes, “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” We speak to Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post No, You Are Not Part of the Resistance: A Response to Anonymous Op-Ed appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Kavanaugh Must Be Stopped, and Republicans Must Stop Him

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:55

Before we get to the bat belfry currently melting through the pavement at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, let’s take a moment for the profoundly important event that has been relegated to a circus ring way over in the far corner of the tent: The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Right, that. Remember? I do, barely, after the first half of this week. There is no sense in stemwinding some deep-think paean to the doings on Capitol Hill; the whole exercise is a charade wrapped in a mugging, and it is all just terribly sad. “Once you decide something is a low and very predictable farce,” wrote Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce as the hearings began, “this job becomes very easy to do.”

The hearings went sideways faster than Nixon’s farewell speech, but no amount of bombast or rank partisan malfeasance could obscure the truth of it. The base fact before us is that Brett Kavanaugh has no business coming within a light year of the highest court in the land. He is a shameless political hack of the purest ray, a hatchetman whose fingerprints are all over many of the most appalling events of the last 25 years.

Kavanaugh was a key figure in the Clinton impeachment debacle, the Elian Gonzales fiasco, the historic calamity of Bush v. Gore and the Terri Schiavo tragedy. And let us not forget how he also lent a helping hand during the years George W. Bush was surveilling the nation, pursuing illegal wars, slaughtering civilians and torturing prisoners: Kavanaugh was there, pitching in like the eager Federalist Society careerist he has been probably since the day he was born.

All those Kavanaugh documents from his Bush years the Republicans are refusing to divulge — Mitch McConnell feared releasing them would imperil the nomination — are almost certainly black-letter evidence of the atrocities he helped commit while serving that pestiferous man and his pestiferous administration. Kavanaugh’s cozy little Brooks Brothers riot of a life would likely not be the only one turned inside out if the crimes detailed on those papers saw daylight, which is why Republicans have ensured that, for all practical purposes, they may as well not even exist.

Despite all that, despite an act of organized Democratic resistance on Tuesday that was remarkable because it was organized and because it actually happened, despite the protests popping off in the chamber like heat lightning in a distant purple sky, Brett Kavanaugh will almost certainly become an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court before the first snows blanket Mt. Monadnock. Why? because the Republicans have the votes … and because the most repellant aspects of his sordid career are precisely what adherents to the modern Republican ethos love most about him.

They’ve all been listening to Kavanaugh’s pleasant fictions and hearing exactly what they need to, because of course they have. No one on the North American continent is better prepared to lie straight to the faces of senators than Brett Kavanaugh. Part of his role with the Bush administration was coaching other nominees on how to do exactly that, as Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse so succinctly explained on Tuesday:

Tomorrow, we will hear a lot of “confirmation etiquette.” It’s a sham. Kavanaugh knows the game. In the Bush White House, he coached judicial nominees to just tell Senators that they will adhere to statutory text, that they have no ideological agenda. Fairy tales. The sad fact is that there is no consequence for telling the Committee fairy tales about stare decisis, and then riding off with the Roberts Five, trampling across whatever precedent gets in the way of letting those big Republican interests keep winning 5-4 partisan decisions. Every. Damned. Time.

Brett Kavanaugh’s ticket was punched two Novembers ago; one could argue it was punched after the 1994 midterm elections, when the existence of Bill Clinton finally fractured the last lingering bedrock Republican sensibilities, which had been visibly cracking since Barry Goldwater ran for president 30 years earlier. Kavanaugh, like Trump and Reagan before him, is a symptom and not a cause of the vile subterranean aquifers that have turned the country into a floodplain of racism, hate and greed.

“Justice Kavanaugh” is a done deal because he shares those rank ideals with the GOP senators who will vote to raise him on high. He will sit there and do their bidding for the next 30 years, amen, and virtually nothing short of the Earth careening into the Sun can stop it.


Unless a precious few of them — two would do it, five would be nice — decide to vote against Kavanaugh at the conclusion of these hearings, or when the full Senate convenes for his final confirmation.

A paltry little week ago, I would have dismissed such an idea with a weary shake of the head and perhaps an unrestrained jet of vomit. Not these people, I would have said. Never in hell. Kavanaugh is their beau ideal in every policy sense, and besides, they are in so deep with Donald Trump and his cavalcade of deliberate mayhem that a sudden reversal would give them terminal whiplash.

That, as they say, was then. Things happen fast way up where the air is rare, and if this week has proven anything, it has proven that matters can always get worse.

The revelations released in previews of journalist Bob Woodward’s new book were harrowing enough by themselves. Woodward’s story begins with former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn stealing papers from the president’s desk to keep Trump from signing them, an apparently common event for several high-level staffers that Woodward correctly describes as an administrative coup d’état. Also included in the excerpts are scenes of presidential rage, incoherence, ignorance, fear and hate so sinister they would make Edgar Allan Poe seek a new line of work.

The saber-toothed disclosures in Woodward’s book were still chewing their way through an astonished and unprepared White House when the second volcano erupted: On Wednesday afternoon, some cowardly administration official seeking to set bold new parameters for the term “CYA” dropped an anonymous editorial on The New York Times.

The editorial, perhaps the most self-serving platter of cognitive dissonance ever proffered in print, bemoaned the “amoral” president who was messing up all the great work the administration was doing: enlarging the military, poisoning the environment and plundering the Treasury for the wealthiest of the wealthy. Were it not for the unlettered orange goon in the round room, reads the lament, everything would be just spiffy.

Fear not, this craven writer soothed, we’re here to protect you from the president we’ve known to be malevolently dangerous from the beginning, but we didn’t speak up until now because, well, gosh, we have such nice jobs to protect.

I can count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of times Donald Trump has said something I agree with, but when he called the author of that article “gutless” on Wednesday night, he hit the nail on the head. Whoever wrote that tripe saw fit to take a job with this administration in the first place, saw fit to hide the ugly reality of Donald Trump from the public and ultimately saw fit to crouch behind “anonymous” in order to salvage any future employment prospects. The best people, really, no, tell me more.

The content of the op-ed makes me want to run up a tree for about a dozen different reasons. However, not only does it serve to confirm the core elements of Woodward’s book, it has also utterly demoralized Donald Trump and his entire crew. The White House is flailing around trying to figure out who dropped this dung bomb on them. In one fell swoop, the author transformed Donald Trump into every panicked victim from all those bad horror movies: THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

The double-barreled combination of these events — the Woodward book and the anonymous op-ed — is a profoundly significant event in US politics. The chaos in the White House has moved beyond the seedy realm of reality TV and into a zone of genuine contra-constitutional peril unseen in the land since the days of Andrew Johnson. Pile on the five guilty verdicts/pleas for former Trump associates and the looming Mueller/New York investigations and what we have is nothing less than an existential crisis of national proportions.

Which brings us back to Brett Kavanaugh, and to all those Republican senators who have been carrying water for this lumbering fraud of a president since the moment he broke the party over his knee in 2016.

Those senators support Kavanaugh’s nomination because they agree with him on shredding corporate power limitations, thwarting gun control, erasing women’s reproductive rights, obliterating regulations, trashing the environment and breaking unions, among other things. Donald Trump likes Kavanaugh because Kavanaugh may be the one person who can save Trump from the legal consequences of his actions.

Mr. Kavanaugh, you see, believes presidents are immune from the law. He hasn’t come right out and said so in the hearings, but his previous writings tell the tale and his evasions this week speak for themselves. Can Trump pardon himself? No answer. Can Trump ignore a lawfully executed subpoena? No answer. Will he recuse himself if any Trump-related legal issues reach the Supreme Court? No answer.

By themselves, these non-replies should constitute possible grounds for disqualification from the position he seeks. In the context of current events, with the legal and moral roof caving in on this administration to the point that aides are stealing the people’s paperwork from the Oval Office, Kavanaugh’s love affair with executive power and refusal to pledge recusal should be the period at the end of a one-word sentence: “No.”

No president in these circumstances should be allowed to make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, especially if the one appointed may decide his fate based on politics and not the law. The Democrats cannot block this catastrophe from the minority. Only Senate Republicans can. Two would do it, five would be nice, and time is short.

The post Kavanaugh Must Be Stopped, and Republicans Must Stop Him appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

The Trump White House Is in Even More Disarray Than We Feared

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:22

This week, iconic journalist Bob Woodward dropped a nuclear bomb felt around the world with his new book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” in which he describes President Donald Trump as an unfit, amoral leader. Who could have ever guessed such a thing? He’s hidden it so well.

Actually, this is only the latest book about the Trump administration that portrays a shambolic White House organization led by a profane and ignorant president who spends his days rage tweeting and hate watching TV. Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury told that story a year ago and just last month former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman‘s book Unhinged said the same thing: President Trump is incapable of doing the job of president of the United States because he has no clue what the job actually entails and is either unable or unwilling to learn how to do it. This picture of an unstable narcissist has also been told hundreds of times in news stories over the past two years in which staffers, friends and even family members have leaked a flood of inside information from the moment Trump was sworn in.

All this has been reinforced every single day by the president’s own actions. He reveals himself on television, social media and in print interviews to be so far over his head that he’s now fully immersed in an alternate reality in which he is exceptionally popular and wildly accomplished, on a level no president in history has ever before achieved. It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that he is literally delusional.

So why all the hoopla over one more book full of evidence of the Trump administration’s unprecedented incompetence? Well, for one thing, it comes at a moment of high drama in which Trump’s tepid approval rating seems to be going down still further, just as voters are getting fully engaged in the fall campaign. That is likely because of the accumulated bad news stemming from the guilty plea and convictions of the president’s close associates Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, his impetuous stripping of former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance, his childish behavior around John McCain’s funeral and, perhaps most important, the sycophantic display he put on in Helsinki when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June.

It’s also the fact that this new book is by Woodward who, with his partner Carl Bernstein, broke the Watergate story and wrote the most famous books about that scandal. His reputation is, shall we say, somewhat weightier than Wolff’s or Omarosa’s. Even those who have problems with Woodward’s method must concede that he merely backs up a mountain of other evidence showing Trump’s ineptitude and corruption, including what many people dismissed as overly dramatic renderings in the Wolff’s book. It’s obvious now that Trump’s odious public persona is not a performance. He is even worse in private.

The one revelation in the excerpts that have circulated about “Fear” (set to be published next week) is that the president’s staff and cabinet members regularly ignore his orders. This isn’t surprising. Since Trump has no knowledge of government or the presidency, much less policy it’s undoubtedly pretty easy to withhold information and manipulate the flow of information.

On Wednesday the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed written by a “senior official” in the Trump administration that further supports Woodward’s reporting. This person claims that members of the White House staff are acting as guardians of the country by keeping Trump from going off the rails. It’s an astonishing essay in which this unnamed official admits that members of Trump’s Cabinet actually spoke about evoking the 25th Amendment. This person characterizes the president as an amoral, unprincipled oaf who has no idea what he’s doing, so he or she, along with others in the administration, have taken it upon themselves to save the nation, essentially patting themselves on the back and saying “You’re welcome” to what is presumed to be a grateful nation.

To those of us who have been paying attention, these saviors haven’t been doing much of a job. Woodward reported that Defense Secretary James Mattis belayed an order to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and perhaps there are more examples in the book of such close calls averted by these patriotic resistance fighters. But from what we can tell, it’s mostly been a failure. Trump has become increasingly turbulent since the first of the year and he’s not just fulfilling that nice conservative movement agenda the author of the article clearly favors. He’s fulfilling his own.

For instance, several months ago there were reports of Trump screaming, “I want tariffs, bring me tariffs!” His economic advisers tried to hold off on delivering those, but obviously were ultimately unsuccessful. Although the staff has been able to keep him from firing Jeff Sessions, Trump of course did fire FBI Director James Comey and has repeatedly pressured the bureau into unusually punitive actions against others he’s named and publicly humiliated, including former acting director Andrew McCabe and former agent Peter Strzok. (Senate Republicans seem to have made a deal that they won’t object to him following through on his threats against Sessions, as long as he waits until after the midterms.) Meanwhile, Trump’s execrable immigration policies continue to be enacted, with the courts only shutting down some of the very worst excesses.

Trump has alienated US allies with his simpleminded misunderstanding of NATO and his obsessive focus on trade deals he clearly doesn’t understand. Every tyrant on the planet has his number and is taking advantage with both hands. These supposed guardrails around democracy are pretty weak.

This anonymous official makes a point of taking credit for all the supposedly excellent things this administration has managed to accomplish, like tax cuts and deregulation and a dedication to “free minds, free markets and free people” (whatever that means). That suggests this is really a political document meant to reassure all those suburban Republicans the party is currently bleeding away into feeling some confidence that even though Trump is a bit of an embarrassment, there are good establishment Republicans in the White House making sure their needs are being taken care of. They can relax; the party has things well in hand. There’s no need to panic and do something silly like vote for Democrats in November.

When push comes to shove, Republican officials continue to be party animals first and foremost. In the end, that means supporting Donald Trump, no matter how chaotic this presidency becomes.

The post The Trump White House Is in Even More Disarray Than We Feared appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

What Will Donald Trump Be Remembered for?

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:12

I know you won’t believe me. Not now, not when everything Donald Trump does — any tweet, any insult at any rally — is the news of the day, any day. But he won’t be remembered for any of the things now in our headlines. No human being, it’s true, has ever been covered the way he has, so what an overwhelming record there should be. News about him and his associates fills front pages daily in a way that only something like a presidential assassination once did and he has the talking heads of cable TV yakking about him as no one has ever talked about anyone. And don’t even get me started on social media and The Donald.

In a sense, like it or not, we are all now his apprentices and his transformational powers are little short of magical. Simply by revoking the security clearance of John Brennan — who even knew that America’s deep-staters could keep such clearances long after they left government — he managed to make the former Obama counterterrorism czar and CIA head, a once-upon-a-time “enhanced interrogation techniques” advocate and drone-meister, into a liberal hero; by attacking former FBI head James Comey, he turned the first national security state official ever to intervene in and alter an American presidential election (and not in Hillary Clinton’s favor either) into a bestselling, well-reviewed, much-lauded author; by his dismissive taunts and enmity in life and death, he helped ensure that Senator John McCain would have a New York Times obituary of such laudatory length that, in the past, it might only have been appropriate for someone who had actually won the presidency; with his charges and passing insults, he even proved capable — miracle of all miracles — of turning Attorney General Jeff Sessions into a warrior for justice.

Donald Trump is, in the most bizarre sense possible, a transformational figure, not to speak of the man who makes the “fake news” fake, or at least grotesquely overblown and over-focused. He has the uncanny ability to draw every camera in the house, all attention, blocking out everything but himself. Still, omnipresent as he is — or He is — take my word for it, he won’t be remembered for any of this. It will all go down the media drain with him one of these days. Don’t be fooled by newspapers or the Internet. They are not history. They are anything but what will someday be remembered.

Still, don’t for a second imagine that Donald Trump won’t be remembered. He will — into the distant future in a way that no other American president is likely to be.

A Forgettable Presidency

Let me tell you first, though, what he won’t be remembered for.

He won’t be remembered for entering the presidential race on an escalator to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”; or for those “Mexican rapists” he denounced; or for that “big, fat, beautiful” wall he was promoting; or for how he dealt with “lyin’ Ted,” “low-energy Jeb,” and Carly (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”) Fiorina, or the “highly overrated” Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle (“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”). He won’t be remembered for that pussy-grabbing video that didn’t determine the 2016 election; or for the size of his hands; or even for those chants, still in vogue, of “lock her up.” He won’t be remembered for his bromancewith Vladimir Putin; or his bitter complaints about a rigged election, rigged debates, a riggedmoderator, and a rigged microphone (before, of course, he won). He won’t be remembered for his “stormy” relationship with a porn star; or even the hush money he paid her and another woman he had an affair with to keep their mouths shut during election season and thereafter, or his three wives; or the book of Hitler’s speeches once by his bedside; or the five casinos that, as a great “businessman,” he took into bankruptcy; or the undocumented workers he hired at next to no pay; or all the people he stiffed; or the students he took to the cleaners at Trump “University”; or the private airplane with 24-carat gold-plated bathroom fixtures he flew in; or those giant gold letters he’s branded onto property after property globally; or the way he promoted his own children and in-laws and their businesses in the White House; or the hotel that he built in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue and, once he entered the Oval Office, turned into a hub of corruption.

He won’t be remembered for the record crew of people who took positions in his administration only to find themselves, within a year or so (or even days), fleeing the premises or out on their noses, including Anthony Scaramucci (6 days), Michael Flynn (25 days), Mike Dubke (74 days), Sean Spicer (183 days), Reince Priebus (190 days), Sebastian Gorka (208 days), Steve Bannon (211 days), Tom Price (232 days), Dina Powell (358 days), Omarosa Manigault Newman (365 days), Rob Porter (384 days), Hope Hicks (405 days), Rex Tillerson (406 days), David Shulkin (408 days), Gary Cohn (411 days), H.R. McMaster (413 days), John McEntee (417 days), and Scott Pruitt (504 days). And White House Counsel Don McGahn was only recently tweeted out of office, too, with others to follow.

He won’t be remembered for the way more of his associates and hangers-on found themselves in the grips of the legal system in less time than any other president in history, including Paul Manafort (convicted of tax fraud), Michael Cohen (pled guilty to tax evasion), Rick Gates (pled guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators), Alex van der Zwaan (pled guilty to lying to investigators), Michael Flynn (pled guilty to lying to the FBI), and George Papadopoulos (ditto). With plenty more, it seems, to come. Nor will he be remembered for the number of close associates who turned on him — from his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who once swore to take a bullet for him, only to testify against him; to the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, who had long buried salacious material about him, only to accept an immunity deal from federal prosecutors to blab about him; to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who did the same. Nor will The Don(ald) be remembered for his mafia-style language and focus (“RAT,” “loyalty,” and “flipping”), his familiar references to a mob boss, the way he clings to his personal version of omertà, the Mafia code of silence, or for being “a president at war with the law.”

He won’t be remembered for campaigning against the Washington “swamp” and, on arrival in the White House, creating an administration that would prove to be an instant swamp of personal corruption — from EPA head Scott Pruitt’s $43,000 soundproof office phone booth, the millions of taxpayer dollars he racked up for a 20-person, full-time security detail, and the more than $105,000 he spent on first-class air travel (and $58,000 more on charter and military planes) in his first year in office; to the near-million dollars of taxpayer money Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price poured into flights on private charter planes and military jets; to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s $12,000 charter plane ride on an oil executive’s private plane, his nifty $53,000 worth of helicopter rides on the public dole, and his $139,000 office “door”; to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 office dining set. And that’s just to start down such a list (without even including the president and his family).

Nor will he be remembered for the sinkhole and stink hole of environmental pollution he and his crew are creating for the rest of us, nor for the estimated up to 1,400 extra premature deaths annually and “up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days,” thanks to his administration’s easing of federal pollution regulations on coal-burning power plants. Nor for “greatly increased levels of air pollutants like mercury, benzene and nitrogen oxides,” thanks to its push to relax air pollution rules of many sorts. Nor for the suppression of news about pollution science. Nor for drastic cuts to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, lest it protect us against anything at all that corporate America wants to do. Nor for the opening of America’s waterways to far greater dumping of waste and pollutants, including mining waste. And that, again, is just to start down a list.

By the time he’s done, the swampiness of Washington and the nation will undoubtedly be beyond calculation, but that is not what history will remember him for. Nor, in the country that may already have outpaced the inequality levels of the Gilded Age, will it remember him for the way in which he and his Republican colleagues, thanks to their tax “reform” bill, have ensured that inequality will only soar in a country in which just three men — Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos — already have as much wealth as the bottom half of American society (160 million people). Nor will it remember the way Donald Trump reinforced racism and a growing tide of white supremacy (just the prerequisites needed for establishing a “populist” version of authoritarianism in the US), including the “birtherism” by which he rose as a politician, his “evenhanded” remarks after Charlottesville (“very fine people, on both sides”), his implicit racial slurs, his obsession with black football players who take a knee in protest, his tweetingof a white supremacist conspiracy theory about South Africa — for which former Klan leader David Duke tweeted his thanks — and the rest of a now familiar litany.

Nor will the man who claimed in campaign 2016 that he could “win” better than the US military high command (“I know more about ISIS than the generals do…”) when it came to America’s wars or get us out of them be remembered for have done neither. Nor for his urge to pour yet more tens of billions of taxpayer dollars into the Pentagon and the national security state (even as he regularly blasts its officials).

And keep in mind that this is just to graze the surface of the Trump presidency — and while all of it matters (or at least obsesses us now) and some of it will matter greatly for a long time to come, it’s not what history will remember Donald Trump for.

A Crime Against Humanity

On that score, the record is clear, in part because we are already beginning to live the very future that will remember Donald Trump in only one way. It’s a future that, at its core, has animated his presidency from its first days. Whatever else he thinks, says, tweets, or does, President Trump and his administration have been remarkably focused not just on denying that humanity faces a potential future of environmental ruin — as in the term “climate-change denial” so regularly attached to a startling list of people in his administration — but on aiding and abetting the disaster to come.

As everyone knows, Donald Trump is taking the world’s historic number one (and presently number two) emitter of greenhouse gases out of the Paris climate agreement. He is also, not to put the matter too subtly, a fossil-fuel nut, nostalgic perhaps for the polluted but energized American world of his 1950s childhood. From his first moments in office, he was prepared to turn his administration’s future energy policy into what Michael Klare has called, “a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies.” He has been obsessed with ensuring that the US dominate the global oil market (think: Saudi America), saving the dying coal-mining business in this country, building yet more pipelines, rolling back Obama-era fossil fuel economy standards for autos and other vehicles, and letting the big energy companies drill just about anywhere from previously out-of-bounds waters off America’s coasts to Alaska’s protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In other words, every act of his related to energy reveals the leader of the planet’s “last superpower” as a climate-change enabler of a sort that once would only have been the fantasy of some energy company CEO.

This makes him and his administration criminals of a historic sort. After all, he and his cronies are aiming at what can only be thought of as terracide, the destruction of the environment of the planet that has sustained us for thousands of years. That would be a literal crime against humanity so vast that it has, until this moment, gone unnamed and, until relatively recently, almost unimagined.

In the wake of this summer, climate-change denial, however ascendant in Washington, is an obvious joke. You no longer have to be a scientist studying the subject or even particularly well informed to grasp that. As New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta put it recently, in covering the heat waves that have engulfed the planet, “For many scientists, this is the year they started living climate change rather than just studying it.” The rest of us are now living it as well.

The math is no longer even complicated. As Sengupta points out, 2018 is shaping up to be the fourth warmest year on record. The other three? 2015, 2016, and 2017. In fact, of the 18 warmest years on record, 17 took place in guess which century? For the lower 48 states, this was, May to July, the hottest summer ever; Japan had an “unprecedented” heat wave; Europe broiled; Sweden’s tallest mountain ceased to be so as its glacial peak melted; numerous fires broke out within the European part of the Arctic Circle; scientists were spooked by the fact that the oldest, strongest ice in Arctic waters started to break up; California, along with much of western North America burned amid air so polluted that warnings were regularly issued in a fire season that threatened never to end. The temperature set records at over 86 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 straight days in Oslo, Norway; over 91 degrees for 16 straight days in Hong Kong; 122 degrees in Nawabsha, Pakistan; and 124 degrees in Ouargla, Algeria. Ocean waters were experiencing record warmth, too.

And again, that’s just to start down a far longer list and but a taste of what the future, according to The Don(ald), has in store for us. Imagine, for instance, what the intensification of all this means: a California that never stops burning; coastal cities swamped by rising seas; significant parts of the North China plain (where millions of people live) made potentially uninhabitable thanks to devastating heat waves; tens of millions of human beings turned into the very people Donald Trump hates most: migrants and refugees. This is the world that our president is preparing for our grandchildren and their children and grandchildren.

So tell me that he won’t be remembered for his absolute, if ignorant, dedication to the taking down of civilization.

In other words, the one thing Donald Trump will be remembered for — and what a thing it will be! — is his desire to put us all on an escalator to hell; to, that is, a future of fire and fury. It could make him and the executives of the largest energy companies the greatest criminals in history. If the emissions of greenhouse gases aren’t significantly cut back and then halted in a reasonable period of time, the crime he is now aiding and abetting with such enthusiasm is the only one, other than a nuclear war, that could end history as we know it, which might mean that Donald Trump won’t be remembered at all. And if that isn’t big league, what is?

The post What Will Donald Trump Be Remembered for? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

GOP Readies $600 Billion Tax Giveaway for the Rich

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:11

Version one of the GOP’s deeply unpopular tax scam produced results nearly everyone — including, in his rare moments of honesty, President Donald Trump himself — predicted: Record-shattering profits for Wall Street, massive pay-outs for the wealthiest Americans, and little to nothing for the working class, whose wages are either stagnant or falling.

But the most important class of Americans in the eyes of Trump and congressional Republicans — the donor class — loved the tax cuts, so the GOP is barreling ahead with Tax Scam 2.0 just in time for the upcoming midterm elections.

As The Hill reported on Thursday, House Republicans are expected to unveil the full text of their latest round of proposed tax breaks for the wealthy as early as next week, and a floor vote on the legislation could come as soon as the end of the month.

While the full details of the plan are not yet known, The Hill notes that the bill is expected to consist primarily of “a permanent extension of tax changes for individuals that Republicans passed last year.”

According to a Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) analysis released on Wednesday, such a move would result in another $627 billion in tax cuts, with the vast majority of benefits going to the wealthy.

We just got JCT estimates for extending the individual side of the Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018, or TBFKA TCJA.

Another $627 billion in tax cuts for the rich.

— Bobby Kogan (@BBKogan) September 5, 2018

The House plans to vote on #GOPTaxScam Round 2 this month. It’s a repeat of the original, in that most of the benefits go to the rich, and it will cost ANOTHER $627 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Absurdity.

— Chad Bolt (@chadderr) September 5, 2018

The House is expected to vote later this month on its “2.0” #tax plan, a tax-cut bill that would double down on the 2017 tax law’s flaws by once again delivering substantially more $$ to the wealthiest Americans.

Yes, we have charts:

— Center on Budget (@CenterOnBudget) September 5, 2018

While the GOP has not explained how they plan to pay for this massive giveaway to the rich, some Republicans have been quite explicit about their desire to slash life-saving social programs like Medicare and Medicaid to offset the deficit-exploding effects of their tax cuts.

“I do think we need to deal with some of our spending,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) declared last month, echoing a sentiment expressed by many Republicans following the passage of their $1.5 trillion tax bill last December. “We’ve got try to figure out how to spend less.”

And of course, while the deficit issue is massively overblown, remember this is the ambrosia and nectar for Republicans. They love tax cuts for the rich more than anything else. But that’s always step one. Step two is to try to cut benefits for everyone.

— Bobby Kogan (@BBKogan) September 5, 2018

Republican efforts to double-down on their tax cuts for the rich come as polls continue to show that their first round of tax cuts are widely disliked, making them a tough sell for the GOP on the campaign trail as midterms approach.

Though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insists that “results are there” for workers under the GOP’s tax law, surveys show that most Americans have not seen a boost in pay from the tax cuts.

As Campaign for America’s Future co-founder Robert Borosage noted in The Nation on Sunday, the “$4,000 raise promised to workers out of the tax bill is nowhere to be seen.”

“Don’t fall for the con. Real wages have fallen over the last year, despite an economy nearing full employment. Good jobs are still being shipped abroad,” Borosage added. “As Americans for Tax Fairness has documented, only four percent of workers received any increase from the tax cuts, while, as predicted, corporate CEOs used the cut for a record-breaking $700 billion in stock buybacks, lining their pockets and those of investors.”

The post GOP Readies $600 Billion Tax Giveaway for the Rich appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

No More Compromises: We Need Immigration Amnesty Now!

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 14:39

In mid-April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out a six-day operation in the New York metropolitan area, detaining a total of 225 people.

One month later, a young US citizen named Augustina stood in Manhattan’s Foley Square, a few hundred feet from ICE’s regional headquarters, and told a crowd of journalists and supporters how the series of raids — code-named “Operation Keep Safe” — had impacted her and her family. Claiming they were police, ICE agents “welcomed themselves in” at the family’s East Harlem apartment, she said, and led away her diabetic mother, who had lived in the United States for more than 30 years. As the oldest citizen left in the family, Augustina was now having to file for guardianship of her 12-year-old sister.

The media had covered the number of immigrants arrested in the April raid, Augustina noted, but not how it had affected their friends and relatives. “We’re not just numbers,” she said. “When will our undocumented families be recognized as human beings?”

The young woman was just one of many speakers at what was billed as a “People’s Press Conference.” According to the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, a sponsor of the conference, the event was intended to present “testimonials … by people and their families who have survived the violence of deportation.” Other groups, including Families For Freedom, had held a similar “People’s Tribunal” at the same spot three weeks earlier. On both occasions, many or most of the speakers were US citizens whose lives had been devastated by the detention or deportation of immigrants like Augustina’s mother.

Donald Trump’s recent policy of family separation at the borders motivated an upsurge in activism around immigration this summer, including widespread calls to abolish ICE. Now it’s time to go further: We need to attack the long-standing policy of separating families inside our borders, the policy that provides much of the pretext for ICE’s existence.

Amnesties Past and Present

A general amnesty — a legalization program for the US’s undocumented immigrants — is necessary and long overdue.

By most estimates, the United States currently has an undocumented population of some 11 million, and the number has basically remained stable for the past 10 years. Like Augustina’s mother, about three-quarters of these immigrants have lived here for a decade or more but have no way to acquire legal status. Most have families that include US citizens, green card holders or both. There are about 16 million people living in these mixed-status families. Most undocumented immigrants also have networks of friends, neighbors and co-workers with citizenship. These millions of US citizens are impacted by the stress their undocumented friends and relatives experience, and they are often affected as severely by deportations as the deportees themselves.

So why do we put up with this? Politicians and the mainstream media generally have three explanations, explicit or implied: It’s normal to have a large segment of our immigrant population living here so many years without legal status; a general amnesty would attract a new “flood” of unauthorized immigration; and passing an amnesty law simply wouldn’t be feasible in the current political climate.

All three are wrong.

Nothing about the present situation is normal. It’s true that we implemented terrible immigration policies in the past — the exclusion of Asians, the mass deportations of Mexican Americans in the 1930s and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the 1940s — but as long as immigration was mostly from Europe, the US government generally offered long-term residents ways to legalize. Even after European immigration was sharply restricted in the 1920s, several hundred thousand undocumented people acquired status through the so-called “registry” program and similar amnesties.

The US’s last legalization program, part of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), opened the way to legal status for as many as 2.9 million immigrants, largely people who had arrived here by 1982. But the immigrants who benefited from this amnesty weren’t principally from Europe, and the measure has since become a target for conservative forces.

Immigration opponents regularly claim the 1986 amnesty sparked a sharp increase in unauthorized immigration, mostly by Mexicans, during the mid-1990s. But if this increase correlated with anything, it was with the 1994-1995 economic crisis in Mexico and the disruption of Mexican family farming after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In fact, demographers find no evidence for the right-wing claim, and two surveys of undocumented immigrants indicate that the 1986 amnesty had little or no influence on their decisions to immigrate.

Why Compromise?

Still, even if a new amnesty measure wouldn’t create problems, politicians, including establishment Democrats, act as if the measure would be too radical for most US voters to accept. An amnesty can only be won through compromises with the anti-immigrant right, they insist. On this basis, the various bipartisan “comprehensive immigration reforms” considered by Congress since 2005 have included new guest worker programs and greatly expanded border enforcement as a trade-off for a very limited amnesty.

In reality, polls indicate that the US public favors some form of legalization, and sympathy for the undocumented seems to be growing. So why should we compromise? A general amnesty won’t solve all the problems in our immigration system, but it would certainly create a better life for millions of immigrants, their families and their communities.

Late in the People’s Press Conference, an 8-year-old US citizen named Alex stepped up to the microphone to talk about his father, who had been seized by immigration authorities. “I have the right to have my dad back,” he told the crowd.

Could anyone make the case more eloquently?

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Categories: News