The Other Enduring Legacy of Jim Crow in Charlottesville, Va.

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Annie Waldman / ProPublica, and Erica Green / The New York Times.

This article was produced in partnership with The New York Times.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — High school seniors Zyahna Bryant and Trinity Hughes have been friends since they were 6 years old, raised by blue-collar families in this affluent college town. They played on the same T-ball and softball teams and were in the same church group.

But like many African-American children in Charlottesville, Trinity lived on the south side of town and went to a predominantly black neighborhood elementary school. Zyahna lived across the train tracks on the north side and was zoned to a mostly white school, near the University of Virginia campus, that boasts the city’s highest reading scores.

In elementary school, Zyahna was chosen for the district’s program for gifted students. Since then, she has completed more than a dozen Advanced Placement and college-level courses, maintained a nearly 4.0 average, and has been a student leader and a community activist. She has her eyes set on a prestigious university like UVA.

“I want to go somewhere where it shows how much hard work I’ve put in,” said Zyahna.

Trinity wasn’t selected for the gifted program. She tried to enroll in higher-level courses and was denied. She expects to graduate later this school year, but with a transcript that she says won’t make her competitive for selective four-year colleges.

“I know what I’m capable of and what I can do,” Trinity said, “but the counselors and teachers, they don’t really care about that.”

For every student like Zyahna in Charlottesville’s schools, there are scores like Trinity, caught in one of the widest educational disparities in the United States. Charlottesville’s racial inequities mirror college towns across the country, from Berkeley, California, to Evanston, Illinois. But they also match the wider world of education, which is grappling with racial gaps — in areas from gifted programs to school discipline — that can undercut the effort to equitably prepare students for college in a competitive economy.

The debate over the city’s statue of Robert E. Lee and the white supremacist march last year set Charlottesville apart and spurred it to confront its Confederate past. But the city hasn’t fully come to terms with another aspect of its Jim Crow legacy: a school system that segregates students from the time they start and steers them into separate and unequal tracks.

Charlottesville is “beautiful physically and aesthetically pleasing, but a very ugly-in-the-soul place,” said Nikuyah Walker, who became its first black female mayor during the self-recrimination that swept the city after last year’s white nationalist rallies. “No one has ever attempted to undo that and that affects whether our children can learn here.”

Today, white students make up 40 percent of Charlottesville’s enrollment, and African Americans about a third. But white children are about four times as likely to be in Charlottesville’s gifted program, while black students are more than four times as likely to be held back a grade and almost five times as likely to be suspended out of school, according to a ProPublica/New York Times examination of newly available district and federal data. (Look up your school, district, or state in ProPublica’s interactive database.)

Since 2005, the academic gulf between white and black students in Charlottesville has widened in nearly all subjects, including reading, writing, history and science. As of last year, half of all black students in Charlottesville could not read at grade level, compared with only a tenth of white students, according to state data. Black students in Charlottesville lag on average about three and a half grades behind their white peers in reading and math, compared with a national gap of about two grades.

Over the decades, school board members have often brushed aside findings of racial inequality in Charlottesville schools, including a 2004 audit — commissioned by the district’s first African-American superintendent — that blamed inadequate leadership and a history of racism for the persistent underachievement of its black students.

Half of Charlottesville’s Black Students Cannot Read at Grade Level

From 2005 until last year (the most recent data available), the gap in percentages between white and black students who passed state reading proficiency exams widened. As of last year, half of all black students in Charlottesville could not read at grade level, compared with only a tenth of white students, according to state data.

Officials in the 4,500-student district — which spends about $16,000 per pupil, one of the highest rates in the state — instead point to socioeconomic differences; the vast majority of Charlottesville’s black children qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school because of low family income. District leaders say they are tackling the achievement gap, with initiatives such as eliminating prerequisites for advanced classes. Besides, they say, test scores are only one measure of success.

“I’m not trying to make excuses” for the test scores of black students, said Rosa Atkins, the district’s superintendent for almost 13 years, “but that’s only one measure of where they are, and who they are, and their capabilities for success.”

About a third of the 25 districts with the widest achievement disparities between white and black students are in or near college towns, according to a review of data compiled by researchers at Stanford University. That may be because affluent families in university towns invest a large proportion of their resources in their children’s education, said Sean Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford. In such communities, “disparities in resources — between white and black students, for example — may be more consequential,” Reardon said.

Atkins said that it’s unfair to compare black students with white classmates who attended the best preschools and have traveled abroad. “The experiences that they bring into our school system are very different,” she said. “When we start saying that until you start performing like white children, you have a deficit, I think that in itself is discrimination.”

Still, socioeconomics don’t fully explain the gap. State exam data shows that, among Charlottesville children from low-income families, white students outperformed black students in all subjects over the last three years. The same pattern holds true for wealthier students.

And in the last year, even the city’s immigrant students who are learning English have outperformed black students on state exams in every subject.

Atkins said that what doesn’t show up in test scores is how far behind black children start and how they sometimes have to acquire two years’ worth of skills in just one year.

“I dare say that our black children are performing better than our white children” when their progress is considered, she said. “That tells me that our children have resilience, tenacity and ability far superior than what we’re giving them credit for.”

Among white parents, last year’s rallies have fostered franker discussions of racial inequality, said one of them, Guian McKee, a UVA associate professor. “There’s been a lot more openness to some of those challenging conversations,” he said.

At their predominantly black elementary school, McKee’s two children participated in the gifted program, which is about three-quarters white. Such disparities, at odds with Charlottesville’s reputation as a bastion of Southern progressivism, have long been a taboo topic, he said.

“For a lot of people, it’s really uncomfortable to see that even if you haven’t personally done anything wrong, you’re part of larger structures that contribute to producing poverty and inequality, including in educational outcomes,” McKee said.

Much like its Confederate past, Charlottesville’s history of school segregation weighs heavily on the present day. “I don’t think the hate groups selected our community by chance,” Atkins said.

Charlottesville greeted the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision with a firm no. In 1958, Gov. J. Lindsay Almond ordered the city to shut down two white-serving public schools rather than integrate.

Many white families opted for private schools, which were able to secure public funding through voucher-like tuition grants. Under pressure from the Supreme Court of Virginia, Charlottesville reopened its schools in 1959, allowing a dozen black students to attend its historically white schools.

But the city’s resistance to integration persisted. Instead of outright segregation, the white-led district established testing requirements solely for black students who tried to enroll in historically white schools. It also allowed white students who lived in attendance zones of historically black schools to transfer back to predominantly white schools. Black students who lived near mostly white schools were assigned to black schools.

After a federal appeals court invalidated the district’s attendance policies, the city relied more closely on residential zones to sort students.

In 1984, Charlottesville High School ignited after the student newspaper published derogatory remarks about black students. The high school was shut down for a day. “Seniors for White Supremacy” was painted in its parking lot.

Two years later, the board considered redrawing school zones to bolster racial and economic equity, but it worried about white flight. In the end, elementary school boundaries were largely left alone. The district pooled the city’s middle school students into two schools, one serving all fifth- and sixth-graders, and the other serving all seventh- and eighth-graders. The number of white students declined about 20 percent within a decade.

Other efforts to reshape attendance zones faced resistance. In 2003, a predominantly black group of families asked to send their children to Venable, one of the historically white schools that had closed rather than integrate. Venable, which Zyahna would later attend, has the highest reading proficiency of all elementary schools in the city.

The black families lived several blocks from Venable and had grown frustrated by their children’s long commutes to their zoned school. But when the board proposed reassigning the 20 children, white parents from Venable “freaked,” said Dede Smith, then a school board member.

“We will NOT accept redistricting when it is done, as in this situation, sloppily and hurriedly and in a way which negatively impacts the quality of education for all students involved,” read a letter from the Venable parent-teacher organization. It took a year for the board to rezone the children to Venable, according to Smith. Today, some black families are able to send their children there, but residents of a mostly black public housing complex nearby are not among them.

“We only put our toe in the water,” Smith said.

The following year, in 2004, the school board hired Scottie Griffin as superintendent. She tapped a respected education association to review inequities across the district. The report by five academics revealed a deeply fractured school system.

“While some members of the community might wish for an elongated period of time to ponder and debate changes, the children are in school only once and then they are gone,” the audit concluded. “No city can survive by only serving one half its constituents well. The future of such a legacy is dire.”

The auditors pushed for increasing black students’ access to high-level academic programs, including gifted and Advanced Placement courses.

Kathy Galvin, a parent who is now a City Council member, responded to the audit in an internal memo to the school board, urging the board to reject the racial bias findings, which she called “unnecessary and in fact harmful,” and implored members to focus on improving “our educational system for the benefit of all children.”

​​Today, Galvin largely stands by that position. “A ‘too narrow and racially biased’ focus on the schools does a disservice to the dedicated educators who have made a difference and risks misdiagnosing a complex problem, leading to ineffective solutions,” she said.

In 2005, within a year of her hiring, Griffin was pushed out. She did not respond to questions from the Times and ProPublica.

Atkins said she has incorporated some of the audit’s recommendations, such as data-driven decision-making and a reorganization of central office staff, into the district’s strategic plan.

One of the audit’s central focuses was the city’s gifted program, known as Quest. As white enrollment in the city’s schools contracted over the years, the program tripled in size, according to an analysis by a UVA researcher, largely benefitting the white families who remained.

To black families, segregation had returned by another name.

“Everyone wants the best for their kid, but this has been the thing that has helped drive the segregation engine,” said Lisa Woolfork, an associate professor at UVA and member of Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, whose children attend Charlottesville schools. “I have always been of the opinion that this type of internal segregation is the way to keep white people in the public schools. This is a way that white supremacy undergirds the public school system.”

In 1984, only 11 percent of Charlottesville’s white students qualified as gifted, according to federal data from the UVA analysis. By 2003, according to the audit, about a third of white students qualified, the same proportion as today. White students make up more than 70 percent of the district’s gifted students.

When students are selected for Quest, they are pulled out of their regular classrooms for enrichment sessions in academics and arts with a specialized teacher in a designated classroom.

“When people bring up Quest, we get angry,” Trinity said. “We all wish we had the opportunity to have that separate creative time. It drives a gap between students from elementary school on.”

For children who read below grade level, the city offers a supplemental program called Extending the Bridges of Literacy. But the literacy program takes place after school, and it is taught by any instructors who volunteer to extend their workday for extra pay, regardless of whether they have specialized intervention training.

Racial inequities persist into the high school’s Advanced Placement courses, which provide students with college credits. White students in Charlottesville are nearly six times as likely to be in AP courses as their black peers, according to recently released federal data.

“There is an incentive to segregate these kids,” Smith said. “I don’t think the schools see anything positive in an academic mixing pot because the white parents will leave.”

In the last two years, Charlottesville High administrators have introduced staff training on racial inequalities. Teachers have participated in professional development that included studying “equity-based teaching,” lessons in Charlottesville’s local black history and Civil War history, and workshops on implicit bias. The school’s principal also set up focus groups and surveyed high-performing black students about underrepresentation in advanced courses.

Atkins has introduced other initiatives aimed at reducing the achievement gap. Besides abolishing prerequisites for advanced courses, she created a “matrix” that families could follow to map out a sequence of coursework. She also has tried to remedy the underrepresentation of minorities and girls in science electives by giving every middle schooler an opportunity to take an engineering course.

The school district has also expanded what it calls “Honors-Option” courses, in which students can opt to meet requirements for regular or honors credit.

Jennifer Horne, an English teacher at Charlottesville High School, called her honors-option course “the most beautiful place in the building. You’ve got struggling readers and kids who are way smarter than me in the same room.” She said she is able to pose the “big questions,” which are usually reserved for advanced courses, and identify students with untapped potential.


 

With the help of a scholarship, Zyahna attended preschool to first grade at an elite private school. Her preparation helped her to pass an admission test for the gifted program after she entered Venable. As she got older, church members who worked in the schools advised her on the programs and classes she needed to stay on pace with her white peers.

Zyahna felt isolated in the sea of white faces. She became an activist, founding the Black Student Union, petitioning the City Council to remove the Lee statue and speaking out at school board meetings about the achievement gap. “It has caused me to become even more of an advocate for people of color, just for my blackness, because you enter into this whole sunken place when you get into honors and AP courses,” she said.

Zyahna likened her high school experience to shopping because students have to scout out the best deals. “You literally have to go ask for everything yourself, and not everyone has those skills or confidence.”

Trinity said she lost that confidence as teachers repeatedly rejected her requests to enroll in higher level courses. She tried to take Algebra II her junior year, an essential course for many colleges. Trinity had struggled early in a geometry course but had stayed after school, sought tutoring and earned a B. She figured that she could work just as hard in Algebra II.

Her geometry teacher wouldn’t allow it, Trinity said. The teacher declined to comment on individual students. School officials said that a student’s performance in geometry isn’t the only factor in a teacher’s recommendation for Algebra II.

Trinity’s mother, Valarie Walker, fought for Trinity to take higher level courses, but school personnel didn’t “want to listen to what the black kids have to say,” she said.

“I don’t think our voices were as strong as they needed to be,” she said. “They kept saying, ‘This would be better.’ I think we gave up fighting.”

In Charlottesville’s schools, the mantra is graduate by any means necessary. Bring up anything else — test scores, suspension rates — and Atkins counters, “We prefer to focus on the long-term goals, and the long-term goal is graduation.”

About 88 percent of black students graduate, just under the state average for African Americans, and up from 66 percent a decade ago. They trail their white peers by about 8 percentage points. The district’s graduation rate, 92.6 percent, is at its highest since the segregation era, said Atkins.

But all diplomas are not equal. About three decades ago, Virginia established a two-tier diploma track, in which districts award “standard” or “advanced” diplomas based on a student’s coursework. It’s one of at least 14 states with this kind of approach. Three years ago, the state superintendent of public instruction proposed moving to a single-diploma system but backed off when parents complained.

The advanced diploma requires students to complete an additional credit in mathematics, science and history and mandates students to take at least three years of a foreign language; for the standard diploma, learning a language is not compulsory. Starting as early as middle school, honors and accelerated courses put some students on a path to advanced high school credits. In Charlottesville, about three-quarters of white students graduate with an advanced diploma, compared with a quarter of their black peers.

The type of diploma that students receive overwhelmingly dictates whether they enroll in two- or four-year colleges, or move on to higher education at all. In Virginia, only a tenth of students with standard diplomas enroll in a four-year college, a recent study found.

Atkins acknowledged that some minority students may be discouraged from taking higher-level courses that could qualify them for better colleges and said the district will remind parents to bring these rebuffs to her attention. Mayor Walker, whose son is a sophomore at Charlottesville High, said some attitudes haven’t changed: “There have been a lot of people who just don’t believe in the potential of our kids.”

Since middle school, Trinity’s goal has been to attend James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She has gained enough credits for an advanced diploma. But last month she learned that she would need a math class higher than Algebra II to gain admission.

A university representative recommended she go to community college, and possibly transfer to James Madison. Michael Walsh, dean of admissions at James Madison, said 99 percent of students it accepts have gone beyond Algebra II.

She was crushed: “It made me realize I really haven’t been prepared like the rest of the students to be ‘college ready.’”

Zyahna’s achievements make her a prime candidate for an elite university. So she was taken aback when, as she was beginning her search, her principal encouraged her to explore community college. The principal says the context was a broad discussion with black student leaders about community college as an affordable option.

That’s not how Zyahna heard it.

“No matter how high your scores are or how many hours you put into your work, you are still black,” she said. “There’s a whole system you’re up against. Every small victory just cuts a hole into that system reminding you how fragile it is. But it’s still there.”

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5 Truths Exposed by Kavanaugh’s Rise to the Supreme Court

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Bill Blum.

The ballots have been cast and the verdict is in: By a vote of 50-48, the Senate on Saturday confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as the 114th justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Here are five key takeaways from the confirmation battle:

  1. Kavanaugh’s confirmation proves once again that the courts, especially the Supreme Court, are political

One of the dominant myths of our political culture holds that the courts are nonpartisan. As Chief Justice John Roberts declared by way of an analogy to the role of baseball umpires in his 2005 confirmation hearing, the “job” of judges “is to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”

Cute, but not so.

The myth of judicial impartiality dates back to the earliest days of the republic, more than two centuries before Roberts was elevated to the court. Writing in 1788 on the “Judiciary Department” during the debates on the ratification of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton described the proposed judicial branch of government in Federalist Paper No. 78 thusly:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.

The judiciary…has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment…

Hamilton went on in No. 78 to advocate for lifetime judicial tenure so as to ensure the “independence of the judges,” which he reasoned “is requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals.”

These are fine words, penned by one of the most gifted of the Founding Fathers. Believing in them is essential to accepting the court’s legitimacy.

Sadly, in practice, the country has only occasionally lived up to Hamilton’s lofty ideals. Armed with the power of judicial review—the authority to declare acts of the executive, Congress and the states unconstitutional, established by Marbury v. Madison in 1803–the Supreme Court has assumed enormous political power.

According to a joint analysis prepared by the Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress, the high court had declared 182 acts of Congress and 1094 state statutes and ordinances unconstitutional as of August 26, 2017. In addition, the court had overruled, in whole or in part, 236 of its prior decisions. The analysis did not include an aggregate tally of the number of presidential executive orders the court had nixed.

In and of itself, power is neither good nor evil. The issue, always, is how power is wielded.

In its finest moments, the court has exercised the power of judicial review on behalf of minorities, the weak and the disenfranchised. In its Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, for example, the court repudiated the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public schools. In 1973, it recognized the right of women to have abortions in Roe v. Wade. In 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, it invalidated state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.

More commonly, however, the court has wielded its power to further the aims and interests of dominant elites. To cite just five examples from the distant and recent past: In 1857’s Dred Scott v. Sandford, the court nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820, holding that African Americans could never become U.S. citizens. In 1894, in Plessy v. Ferguson, it upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine ultimately overturned in Brown. In 2010, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending. Five years ago, it gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. And earlier this year, it upheld the president’s Muslim travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii.

It’s small wonder, then, that presidents in every era have attempted to stack the bench with justices who share their ideological biases. Kavanaugh’s nomination is by no means the first to expose the ugly partisan underbelly of the process.

We’ve been here before, and not long ago. In 1969 and 1970, respectively, the Senate rejected Nixon nominees Clement Haynsworth and G. Harold Carswell because of their regressive views on segregation and civil rights. In 1987, the Senate turned aside Robert Bork, one of the chief architects of the legal theory of “originalism,” who in 1973 as Solicitor General fired special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.” In 1991, the Senate barely confirmed Clarence Thomas in the face of sexual harassment allegations brought by law professor Anita Hill and several other women.

In Brett Kavanaugh, Trump selected a longtime GOP operative, who before his initial appointment as a district court judge in 2004 had worked as Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr’s right-hand assistant, helping to draft the 1998 report to Congress that led to the impeachment of President Clinton. Following his stint with Starr, he joined George W. Bush’s White House, eventually becoming the president’s staff secretary. Since his elevation to the Court of Appeals in 2006, he has amassed a record that shows extreme hostility to the rights of consumers, voters, women, the LGBTQ community, workers and immigrants.

Even more attractive to Trump are Kavanaugh’s expansive views on presidential prerogatives and powers. In a 2009 article for the Minnesota Law Review, in an apparent about-face from his service on Starr’s legal team, Kavanaugh argued that sitting presidents should be immune from both civil suits and criminal prosecutions. Who better than Kavanaugh to protect Trump against special counsel Robert Mueller should proceedings involving the Russia investigation reach the Supreme Court?

Any pretense that Kavanaugh would bring the kind of independence and measured demeanor to the high court envisioned by Hamilton was laid to rest on September 27, when he appeared before the judiciary committee to rebut the allegations of attempted rape lodged by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Red-faced, lips curled into an angry snarl, he barked out an unhinged conspiracy theory worthy of Alex Jones or Rush Limbaugh:

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

The remarks prompted the New York Times to publish an open letter signed by over 2,400 law professors, announcing their opposition to Kavanaugh. “Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” the letter asserted, “displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.”

The Republican-controlled Senate, willing to consolidate political power at all cost, disregarded the letter.

  1. Kavanaugh’s confirmation signals the triumph of a judicial counterrevolution

Kavanaugh’s confirmation represents the culmination of a multi-decade effort by the most revanchist sectors of the right to seize control of the justice system and neutralize the use of law as an instrument of progressive social and economic reform.

Beginning in the early 1970s in reaction to the liberal—and historically atypical—work of the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the right has organized to place conservative ideologues on both the bench and in influential teaching positions in America’s elite law schools.

Within the counterrevolution, no group has been more influential than the Federalist Society. From its founding in 1981 by three law students at Yale and the University of Chicago, the society has grown to include more than 200 chapters at law schools across the United States, with a total student membership of more than 10,000. From its base in Washington, D.C., today, the society also operates a “lawyers division” with more than 60,000 attorneys in chapters and “practice groups” in 80 cities.

Kavanaugh’s ascension was engineered in large part by the society’s executive vice-president, Leonard Leo, who took a leave of absence from his post to serve as an outside adviser to Trump on judicial nominations. With Kavanaugh now on board, the Supreme Court includes five former or current Federalist Society members. The others are Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas

Ideologically, the Federalist Society embraces a spectrum of economic, social and Christian conservatives as well as right-wing libertarians. While the various constituencies may differ on a few issues like gay marriage, they are united by an overriding belief in originalism as the only bona fide method of constitutional interpretation, and an unwavering endorsement of deregulatory “free-market” principles that harken back to the jurisprudence of the Gilded Age. Both beliefs are routinely deployed to yield result-oriented, business-friendly outcomes.

With Kavanaugh giving the right a solid five-vote majority, and the conservative Roberts thrust into the role of the “median, swing” justice, a host of liberal precedents will be in grave jeopardy. Roe v. Wade will likely be overruled; affirmative action will stop; environmental protections will be dismantled; wage and hour laws will be diminished; voter suppression techniques will be approved at an accelerating clip; while gun rights will be expanded.

Not even Social Security and Medicare will be safe. On the fringes of the counterrevolution today, right-wing scholars are reviving long-dormant attacks on both programs, contending that each is unconstitutional from an originalist perspective.

If the rise of the right in Trump’s America has established anything, it is that constitutional norms are fragile. Today’s political fringe is tomorrow’s ruling bloc.

  1. For the time being, white male privilege has trumped the rights of women.

When I last considered Kavanaugh in this column, well before Dr. Ford had come forward, I wrote that it would take “a miracle bordering on the Immaculate Conception” to derail the nomination.

The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements nearly proved me wrong. For a brief few days, while the FBI conducted what has now been exposed as a woefully incomplete investigation of Ford’s allegations and those of Deborah Ramirez, one of Kavanaugh’s Yale undergraduate classmates, it seemed that Kavanaugh might be stopped.

The very fact that the nomination was ever thrown into doubt is a testament to the growing power of women. Eventually, that power will prevail, and we will have no more Kavanaughs or Thomases on the court, or in any other prominent position of government.

This time, however, the power of hypermasculinity and white privilege won out, in keeping with the president’s omnipresent neo-fascist slogan—”Make America Great Again”—and the false promise it offers to return the country to a fictional past, when successful white Christian men held all posts of authority, and women and racial minorities happily accepted their second-class citizenship.

As Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore summed up the unfolding nightmare the day before the final confirmation vote:

If #MeToo and Time’s Up have been about women as survivors of everyday sexual abuse finding a collective voice, what this circus has been about is the pretense that this voice matters. This is not about whether women tell the truth, but whether that truth actually changes anything. Ford stood there shouldering the burden of having to represent every woman who has been violated. No one can do that and as we now know her testimony was not good enough.

What was preferred was the ruddy-face ranting of an entitled man who became aggressive when he felt his privilege under question. No wonder that Trump saw something of himself in this performance, something that he wanted on his side.”

Trump and his enablers will eventually pay a heavy price for placing Kavanaugh on the court, and, more generally, demeaning women and scapegoating minorities. The only question is when.

  1. Elections matter.

In an unusual display of honesty following Saturday’s Senate vote, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted:

“Congratulations Judge Kavanaugh! Instead of a 6-3 liberal Supreme Court under Hillary Clinton, we now have a 5-4 conservative Supreme Court under President @realDonaldTrump, cementing a tremendous legacy for the President and a better future for America.”

The right understands the critical importance of the courts. The left doesn’t. That will have to change if the conservative counterrevolution is ever to be defeated.

  1. If the Democrats take back the House, Kavanaugh will face further investigations and possible impeachment.

It is by no means certain that the Democrats will retake the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections. But if they do, it’s virtually assured that they will investigate Kavanaugh for lying during his confirmation hearing, not only about his history of sexual misconduct and abuse of alcohol, but also on a variety of other pivotal subjects.

These include—but are by no means limited to—his suspected lies and cover-ups about his role in the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spying program and post 9/11 detention and torture policies; his efforts in the Bush White House preparing ultra-conservative federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Charles Pickering for their confirmation hearings; and his knowledge of the theft of emails from Senate Democrats in 2002-2003, which set forth their strategy for opposing Bush’s judicial nominations.

If the investigations prove fruitful, they could lead to a call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment. In our history, the House has impeached 19 federal officials, including 15 judges. The Senate has conducted 16 impeachment trials, convicting eight individuals—all judges—of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” most notably for lying under oath.

Should Kavanaugh ever face the crucible of impeachment, it is hoped that Congress will hold him to the standards urged by none other than Kavanaugh himself roughly 20 years ago.

On August 15, 1998, two days before President Clinton testified before a federal grand jury in the Whitewater/Lewinsky scandal, Kavanaugh dashed off a memo urging independent counsel Starr to take the president apart “piece by painful piece.”

“After reflecting this evening,” Kavanaugh wrote, “I am strongly opposed to giving the President any ‘break’ in the questioning regarding the details of the Lewinsky relationship—unless before his questioning…he either (i) resigns or (ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you. I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him and to think of all reasonable defenses to his pattern of behavior. In the end, I am convinced that there really are none. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me.”

As Kavanaugh warned in his September 27 testimony, “What goes around, comes around.”

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Corporate Media Is Beating the Drum of War With Iran

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by John C. O'Day / FAIR.

Three years ago, as Americans debated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran—popularly known as “the Iran deal”—I highlighted a troubling media trend on FAIR.org (8/20/15): “For nearly all commentators, regardless of their position, war is the only alternative to that position.”

In the months since US President Donald Trump tore up the JCPOA agreement, his administration has been trying to make good on corporate media’s collective prediction. Last week, John Bolton (BBC,9/26/18), Trump’s national security advisor and chief warmonger, told Iran’s leaders and the world that there would be “hell to pay” if they dare to “cross us.”

That Bolton’s bellicose statements do not send shockwaves of pure horror across a debt-strapped and war-weary United States is thanks in large part to incessant priming for war, facilitated by corporate media across the entire political spectrum, with a particular focus on Iran.

Back in 2015, while current “resistance” stalwarts like the Washington Post (4/2/15) and Politico (8/11/15) warned us that war with Iran was the most likely alternative to the JCPOA, conservative standard-bearers such as Fox News (7/14/15) and the Washington Times (8/10/15) foretold that war with Iran was the agreement’s most likely outcome. Three years hence, this dynamic has not changed.

To experience the full menu of US media’s single-mindedness about Iran, one need only buy a subscription to the New York Times. After Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, the Times’ editorial board (5/8/18) wrote that his move would “lay conditions for a possible wider war in the Middle East.” Susan Rice (New York Times5/8/18), President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, agreed: “We could face the choice of going to war or acquiescing to a nuclear-armed Iran,” she warned. Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte (New York Times5/10/18) was characteristically more direct, penning an image of Trump alongside Bolton, holding a fictitious new agreement featuring the singular, ultimate word: “WAR.”

On the other hand, calling Trump’s turn against JCPOA a “courageous decision,” Times columnist Bret Stephens (5/8/18) explained that the move was meant to force the Iranian government to make a choice: Either accede to US demands or “pursue their nuclear ambitions at the cost of economic ruin and possible war.” (Hardly courageous, when we all know there is no chance that Trump or Stephens would enlist should war materialize.)

Trump’s latest antics at the United Nations have spurred a wave of similar reaction across corporate media. Describing his threat to “totally destroy North Korea” at the UN General Assembly last year as “pointed and sharp,” Fox Newsanchor Eric Shawn (9/23/18) asked Bill Richardson, an Obama ally and President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the UN, whether Trump would take the same approach toward Iran. “That aggressive policy we have with Iran is going to continue,” Richardson reassured the audience, “and I don’t think Iran is helping themselves.” In other words, if the United States starts a war with Iran, it’s totally Iran’s fault.

Politico (9/23/18), meanwhile, reported that Trump “is risking a potential war with Iran unless he engages the Islamist-led country using diplomacy.” In other words, if the United States starts a war with Iran, it’s totally Trump’s fault. Rice (New York Times9/26/18) reiterated her view that Trump’s rhetoric “presages the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf.” Whoever would be the responsible party is up for debate, but that war is in our future is apparently all but certain.

Politico’s article cited a statement signed by such esteemed US experts on war-making as Madeleine Albright, who presided over Clinton’s inhuman sanctionsagainst Iraq in the ’90s, and Ryan Crocker, former ambassador for presidents George W. Bush and Obama to some of America’s favorite killing fields: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.  James Clapper, Obama’s National Intelligence Director, who also signed the letter, played an important role in trumping up WMD evidence against Saddam Hussein before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. When it comes to US aggression, they’re the experts.

Vanity Fair (9/26/18) interviewed John Glaser of the Cato Institute, who called Trump’s strategy “pathetic,” and also warned that it forebodes war. In an effort to “one-up Obama,” Glaser explained, Trump’s plan is “to apply extreme economic pressure and explicit threats of war in order to get Iran to capitulate.” Sound familiar? As Glaser implies, this was exactly Obama’s strategy, only then it wasn’t seen as “pathetic,” but rather reasonable, and the sole means for preventing the war that every US pundit and politician saw around the corner (The Hill8/9/15).

When everyone decides that war is the only other possibility, it starts to look like an inevitability. But even when they aren’t overtly stoking war fever against Iran, corporate media prime the militaristic pump in more subtle yet equally disturbing ways.

First among these is the near-complete erasure of Iranian voices from US airwaves (FAIR.org7/24/15). Rather than ask Iranians directly, national outlets like CNN (9/29/18) prefer to invite the prime minister of Israel, serial Iran alarmist and regional pariah Benjamin Netanyahu, to speak for them. During a jovial discussion this weekend over whether regime change and/or economic collapse is Iran’s most likely fate, Netanyahu explained to the audience that, either way, “The ones who will be happiest if that happens are the people of Iran.” No people of Iran were on hand to confirm or deny this assessment.

Bloomberg (9/30/18) similarly wanted to know, “What’s not to like about Trump’s Iran oil sanctions?” Julian Lee gleefully reported that “they are crippling exports from the Islamic Republic, at minimal cost to the US.” One might think the toll sanctions take on innocent Iranians would be something not to like, but Bloomberg merely worried that, notwithstanding the windfall for US refineries, “oil at $100 a barrel would be bad news for drivers everywhere—including those in the US.”

Another prized tactic is to whitewash Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief geopolitical rival, whose genocidal destruction of Yemen is made possible by the United States, about which corporate media remain overwhelmingly silent (FAIR.org, 7/23/18). Iran’s involvement in Yemen, which both Trump and the New York Times(9/12/18) describe as “malign behavior,” is a principal justification for US support of Saudi Arabia, including the US-supplied bombs that recently ended the brief lives of over 40 Yemeni schoolchildren. Lockheed Martin’s stock is up 34 percentfrom Trump’s inauguration day.

Corporate media go beyond a simple coverup of Saudi crimes to evangelize their leadership as the liberal antidote to Iran’s “theocracy.” Who can forget Thomas Friedman’s revolting puff piece for the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman? Extensively quoting Salman (New York Times11/23/17), who refers to Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “the new Hitler of the Middle East,” Friedman nevertheless remains pessimistic about whether “MBS and his team” can see their stand against Iran through, as “dysfunction and rivalries within the Sunni Arab world generally have prevented forming a unified front.” Oh well, every team needs cheerleaders, and Friedman isn’t just a fair-weather fan.

While Friedman (New York Times5/15/18) believes that Trump has drawn “some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior,” for him pivotal questions remain unanswered, such as “who is going to take over in Tehran if the current Islamic regime collapses?” One immediate fix he proposed was to censure Iran’s metaphorical “occupation” of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Isn’t this ironic coming from an unapologetic propagandist for Washington’s decades-long, non-metaphorical occupation of the two countries to the east and west of Iran (FAIR.org12/9/15)?

In a surprising break from corporate media convention, USA Today (9/26/18) published a column on US/Iran relations written by an actual Iranian. Reflecting on the CIA-orchestrated coup against Iran’s elected government in 1953, Azadeh Shahshahani, who was born four days after the 1979 revolution there, wrote:

I often wonder what would have happened if that coup had not worked, if [Prime Minister] Mosaddeq had been allowed to govern, if democracy had been allowed to flourish.

“It is time for the US government to stop intervening in Iran and let the Iranian people determine their own destiny,” she beseeched readers.

Shahshahani’s call is supported by some who have rejected corporate media’s war propaganda and have gone to extreme lengths to have their perspectives heard. Anti-war activist and Code Pink  founder Medea Benjamin was recently forcibly removed after she upstaged Brian Hook, leader of Trump’s Iran Action Group, on live TV, calling his press conference “the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen” (Real News9/21/18). Benjamin implored the audience: “Let’s talk about Saudi Arabia. Is that who our allies are?”

“How dare you bring up the issue of Yemen,” admonished Benjamin as she was dragged from the room. “It’s the Saudi bombing that is killing most people in Yemen. So let’s get real. No more war! Peace with Iran!” Code Pink is currently petitioning the New York Times and Washington Post to stop propagandizing war.

Sadly, no matter whom you ask in corporate media, be they spokespeople for “Trump’s America” or “the resistance,” peace remains an elusive choice in the US political imagination. And while the public was focused last week on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s perjurious testimony, the Senate finalized a$674 billion “defense” budget. Every single Democrat in the chamber voted in favor of the bill, explicitly naming Iran as persona non grata in the United States’world-leading arms supply network, which has seen a 25 percent increase in exports since Obama took office in 2009.

The US government’s imperial ambitions are perhaps its only truly bipartisan project—what the New York Times euphemistically refers to as “globalism.” Nowhere was this on fuller display than at the funeral for Republican Sen. John McCain (FAIR.org, 9/11/18), where politicians of all stripes were tripping over themselves to produce the best accolades for a man who infamously sang“bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of a Beach Boys song.

McCain’s bloodlust was nothing new. Nearly a hundred years ago, after the West’s imperial competition culminated in the most destructive war the world had ever seen, the brilliant American sociologist and anti-colonial author WEB Du Bois wrote, “This is not Europe gone mad; this is not aberration nor insanity; this is Europe.”

Iranian leaders have repeatedly said they do not want war with the US (AP9/27/18), but US corporate media, despite frequently characterizing Trump as a “mad king” (FAIR.org6/13/18), continue to play an instrumental role in rationalizing a future war with Iran. Should such an intentional catastrophe come to pass, we can hardly say that this would be America gone mad; war is not aberration, it is always presented as the next sane choice. This is America.

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Bombshell Report Exposes Decades of Trump Tax Evasion

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Julia Conley / Common Dreams.

This is a developing story and may be updated.

Undermining the narrative President Donald Trump has aggressively promoted of his success as a “self-made” billionaire—the platform upon which he has built his success as a business mogul as well as his campaign for president in 2016—the New York Times released an explosive in-depth report on Tuesday detailing schemes which allowed Trump to avoid paying taxes on wealth that was transferred from his parents to himself and his siblings.

The “dubious tax schemes” Trump helped coordinate include cases of “outright fraud,” according to the Times.

Trump has for years been fond of telling audiences that through hard work and financial know-how he was able to transform a single $1 million loan from his father, Fred Trump, into a $10 billion fortune—a tale that made him a popular figure with those who voted for him in 2016.

But the Times reveals that based on 100,000 pages of financial records—including 200 pages of Fred Trump’s tax returns and those of the Trump empire’s partnerships—and interviews with Fred Trump’s former associates, Trump has received the equivalent of $413 million in 2018 dollars from his father’s real estate empire—starting “when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.”

Contrary to Trump’s preferred origin story, the Times revealed that Fred Trump lent his son at least $60.7 million to help him fund his business ventures—equivalent to $140 million in today’s dollars. While Trump has claimed he had to pay the initial loan back “with interest,” tax returns show most of the money was not repaid.

By setting up a fraudulent corporation through which Trump and his four siblings passed huge monetary gifts from their parents, they were able to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes—just one of several tax schemes Trump helped orchestrate in order to enrich himself, as the Times reports:

Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

Trump’s parents transferred over $1 billion in wealth to their five children—a sum which should have left the family with a $550 million tax bill. But the Trumps paid just $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, rather than 55 percent under the tax code at the time.
The Times‘ reporting also suggests that Fred Trump came to his son’s financial rescue numerous times as the president’s businesses floundered. He withdrew nearly $50 million from his real estate empire in 1990 when Trump’s hotels and casinos were “drowning in debt”—indicating that Fred “wanted plenty of cash on hand to bail out his son if need be.”
Fred also arranged a purchase of $3.35 million in casino chips from Trump’s Castle casino in Atlantic City that same year, to keep his son from defaulting on a bond repayment.

“The Times‘s investigation of the Trump family’s finances is unprecedented in scope and precision, offering the first comprehensive look at the inherited fortune and tax dodges that guaranteed Donald J. Trump a gilded life,” wrote David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner, the journalists behind the story. “The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth.”

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Private Prisons Rake In Millions Detaining Immigrants

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Private for-profit prisons are a roughly $4 billion industry in America. When Thomas Beasley first started what became CoreCivic, one of the two largest private prison corporations (the other is GEO Group) in the 1980s, America was running out of space in federally owned prisons. Beasley says he was just filling a hole in the market, telling an interviewer, “You just sell it like you were selling cars or real estate or hamburgers.”

As The New York Times notes in its Retro Report series—which explores the effects of political and business trends—such prisons “are where the government sends most people caught trying to enter the United States illegally.”

The documentary video in this week’s Retro Report explores how these immigrant prisoners are treated. As the Times explains, “One picture of private prisons captured in the video includes barely edible food, indifferent health care, guard brutality and assorted corner-cutting measures.”

Josue Vladimir Cortez Diaz, a gay immigrant from El Salvador, is a key character in the documentary. He says he came to America to escape persecution and death threats. He was captured at the border in California and sent to a GEO Group prison there.

He was later released, but, as the Times reports, “not before he and other detainees staged a hunger strike to protest their treatment at [the facility in Adelanto, Calif.). Prison guards beat and pepper-sprayed them, they say, and they are now suing GEO and federal and local authorities for what they say were rights violations.”

In the documentary, he explains that “the conditions in the detention center, they’re bad, right down to the food. … They don’t care if someone is sick, if the food goes bad. That’s how we came to say we have to protest.”

GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez called Cortez Diaz’s statements “completely baseless,” adding that federal authorities “found that the officers acted in accordance with established protocol.”

Private prison corporations may house 9 percent of the nation’s total prison population, but they are in charge of a much larger portion of immigrant detainees—“73 percent by some accounts,” the Times reports. Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says that ICE is at least partly to blame:

<blockquote>We set up this partnership with the private industry in a way that was supposed to make things much more effective, much more economical,” he said. “But unfortunately, it was in the execution and the monitoring and the auditing we fell behind, we fell short.</blockquote>

While the private prison industry is raking in billions for the corporations in charge, the system doesn’t appear to save the government much money, the Times reports:

<blockquote>Studies suggest that governments save little money, if any, by turning over prison functions to private outfits. And in 2016, under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department concluded that private prisons were in general more violent than government-operated institutions, and ordered a phaseout of their use at the federal level. Reversing that order was one of the first things that President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did on taking office.</blockquote>

The companies claim they are in fact more efficient than the government. Rodney King, CoreCivic’s public affairs manager, told the Times, “Privately operated facilities are better equipped to handle changes in the flow of illegal immigration because they can open or close new facilities as needed.”

Corporations like CivicCore and GEO Group have extensive financial and political connections, spending millions on lobbying Congress to ensure they maintain their power.

Read the entire article, and watch the video, here.

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Padma Lakshmi Writes About Rape in a Powerful New York Times Op-Ed

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

“Why didn’t you report sooner? Why didn’t you go to the police?” That’s the common refrain any time a woman (or anyone) speaks about sexual misconduct years after the fact. When Christine Blasey Ford publicly alleged attempted rape by Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, Trump himself tweeted: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

In response, women and men alike created a hashtag, #WhyIDidn’tReport, to explain why talking about their assaults publicly, let alone going to the police, would have resulted in trauma equal to the assault itself. Padma Lakshmi, “Top Chef” host and writer, was among them. She elaborated on her tweet Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed.

Lakshmi wrote that she was raped at age 16 by a 23-year-old man she had been dating. “I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves for so many years, without involving the police,” she wrote, referring to Ford and Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez.

Lakshmi explained that the man was “charming and handsome” and that “he would park the car and come in and sit on our couch and talk to my mother. He never brought me home late on a school night, all behavior that made him seem respectful to the outside world.

That did not stop him from raping her after she told him she didn’t want to have sex with him. When she resisted, he said, “It will only hurt for a while.” Afterward, he claimed that “I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.”

“I didn’t report it. Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police,” Lakshmi wrote.

<blockquote>We had no language in the 1980s for date rape. I imagined that adults would say: “What the hell were you doing in his apartment? Why were you dating someone so much older?”

I don’t think I classified it as rape—or even sex—in my head. I’d always thought that when I lost my virginity, it would be a big deal—or at least a conscious decision. The loss of control was disorienting.</blockquote>

Later, she began to question incidents that had occurred earlier in her life:

<blockquote>I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons. When I was 7 years old, my stepfather’s relative touched me between my legs and put my hand on his erect penis. Shortly after I told my mother and stepfather, they sent me to India for a year to live with my grandparents. The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out.</blockquote>

Now that Lakshmi is a parent, she’s making sure that her daughter understands that her body is her own: “If anybody touches you in your privates or makes you feel uncomfortable, you yell loud. You get out of there and tell somebody. Nobody is allowed to put their hands on you. Your body is yours.”

Read the entire op-ed here.

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Media Fails to Tell Climate Story Behind Hurricane Florence

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jim Naureckas / FAIR.

Miami Herald: Hurricane Florence slows as it smacks the Carolinas. It may make the danger last longer

The Miami Herald never mentioned global warming in 21 stories on Hurricane Florence, Public Citizen found–despite being based in one of the US cities most vulnerable to climate change.

That Hurricane Florence broke rainfall records for tropical storms in both North and South Carolina shouldn’t be surprising, as global climate change has increased extreme precipitation in all areas of the continental United States. One analysis released before the massive storm hit, by researchers at Stony Brook, Berkeley National Lab and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, projected that warming would cause Florence to bring twice as much rain compared to a similar storm with normal temperatures. But news audiences were rarely informed about the contribution of human-caused climate disruption to the devastating storm, according to a study of hurricane coverage by Public Citizen. Less than 8 percent of Florence stories in the 50 top-circulation US newspapers  (9/9–16/18) mentioned climate change—and only 4 percent of segments on major TV outlets.

The New York Times had the most Florence-related stories that made reference to climate change: 15 out of 75 stories, or 20 percent. By contrast, 19 of the top 50 papers had no stories on the hurricane that mentioned climate change, including the Chicago Tribune (out of 34 stories), Atlanta Journal-Constitution (28 stories), Orlando Sentinel (37 stories) and Miami Herald (21 stories). (Three papers—the East Bay Times, San Jose Mercury News and Orange County Register—ran no stories on Florence.) Aside from the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer (6 out of 32 stories) and Washington Post (4 out of 49) were the only other papers to reference climate change in Florence stories more than three times.

ABC never referred to climate change in its coverage of Florence, Public Citizen found; its over-the-air colleagues did little better, with CBS and NBC airing one segment apiece that mentioned Florence and climate change together (out of 63 and 73 hurricane segments, respectively). MSNBC brought up climate in 13 percent of its Florence reports, considerably ahead of CNN’s 4 percent;

Fox News: Hurricane Florence: Washington Post declares Trump is 'complicit' for dangerous storm

Fox News only brought up climate change with regard to Hurricane Florence in order to dispute the connection.

Fox discussed climate in 10 percent of 51 segments on Florence, but, the study noted,  “All five of Fox News Network’s mentions of climate change were segments denying the relationship between the storm and climate change.”

“When outlets fail to connect these events to global warming, audiences are left uninformed about some of the most critical decisions we face,” David Arkush, who directs Public Citizen’s climate program, said in a statement. “We need a serious national discussion about the urgent, existential threat from climate change and how we are going to fix it—and it’s very difficult to have that conversation when media won’t talk about the topic.”

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The Establishment’s ‘Fear’ is Different From Yours

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Paul Street.

The instantly famous Anonymous New York Times Op Ed (ATOE), published Sept. 5, in which a senior Trump administration official complained about the brutish awfulness and incompetence of Donald Trump and claimed to be working with other White House officials to check Trump’s worst impulses, has evoked a range of responses on so-called social media.

“The author is Mike Pence,” a first correspondent wrote to me, because the editorial’s anonymous author (hereafter “AA”) used the word “lodestar,” an unusual word that Pence has used many times in the past.

No—too easy. The word choice seems calculated to throw people off. Pence, Trump’s presidential heir apparent in the case of constitutional removal, is like the first suspect in every murder mystery. He’s the person who initially seems to make sense as the culprit and then fades as the investigation gets more serious.

As William Saletan showed on Slate, moreover, there’s a strong linguistic, ideological and broadly political case for the AOTE’s real author being Jon Huntsman, Trump’s ambassador to Russia.

The ATOE was “treason,” a second correspondent—an online Trumpenleftist wrote me. Wrong. The ATOE wasn’t treasonous unless we idiotically conclude that the president (a global real estate mogul) and the U.S. nation-state are one and the same, as in “L’Etat, C’est Trump.”

“It’s an imperialist coup,” another “left” Trump apologist (such preposterous “red-brown” people are surprisingly common online) told me. That was amusing. It conjured images of Trump—himself a foiled (so far) billionaire advocate of a U.S.-sponsored coup to overthrow the democratically elected Maduro government in Venezuela—as Mohammad Mosaddegh, Jacobo Arbenz, Patrice Lumumba, Salvador Allende or Manuel Zelaya.

It is not a “coup” or “treason” if top staffers in an administration turn against the president of the United States (POTUS). It’s an egregious failure of that POTUS to achieve loyalty and consensus across the executive branch. Trump is not owed such loyalty and consensus simply because of his title. POTUS is not a king.

(You’ve got to hand it to the Trumpenleft: They say they want a revolution and then they raise alarms about “the plot against the president,” who happens to be a creeping fascist and arch-plutocrat with openly totalitarian instincts and behaviors.)

“The op-ed only makes things worse,” a fourth correspondent wrote me, “by feeding the orange beast’s conspiratorial ‘deep state’ paranoia and that of his white-nationalist base.” (I had the same thought at first. If the ATOE had self-described lefties writing me feverishly about “treason” and an attempted “deep state coup” against poor Donald Trump, imagine how it’s been playing out in the minds of the president and his more fully right-wing and armed white-Amerikaner backers!)

“This,” a fifth correspondent wrote me, “looks like the biggest example in history of ‘cover your ass.’ ” In this correspondent’s view, the AA and his allies are aware that veterans of the current Insane Clown White House are falling short of usual post-West Wing salary and career expectations when they leave. The AA and his circle in the administration want be able to tell prospective future employers and/or voters and campaign funders that “we tried our best to check the wacky tyrant. We were doing our duty to the nation and the world by staying in the administration.”

That is a workable hypothesis, one which makes a lot of sense to me. I would add here that the AA and his Times editors may be trying to cover not only their own asses but those of the whole Trump-sullied U.S.-American establishment, the Republican Party and the American Empire as well.

Whoever he may be (my money is on Huntsman), the AA is clearly no friend of the left. He says this explicitly: “Ours is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left.” (Of course, his notion of “the left” he’s not part of absurdly includes the corporate-neoliberal Democrats.)

The ATOE reflects a standard neoliberal, establishment Republican perspective, one that seeks to align itself with traditionally Republican victories attained under Trump while distancing itself from the malevolent stink of associating with him.

The AA writes that “We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.” He praises Trump’s presidency for “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”

Consistent with the Republican Party establishment’s long and noxious embrace of racist-nativist dog-whistling and climate denial, the ATOE says nothing about the Trump administration’s two most egregious sins beyond its shocking and relentless hyper-Orwellian practice of the “permanent lie” (the constant and maddening distortion of facts and truth): (1) its racist and even creeping fascist rhetoric and actions regarding immigrants and people of color and others, and (2) its zealous carbon-capitalist acceleration of the Greenhouse Gassing-to-Death of Life on Earth, a crime that promises to make even the Nazis look like small-time criminals.

The second problem—state-capitalist ecocide—is being advanced with noteworthy efficiency by the Trump administration. “While the Trump administration swirls around in a vortex of Tweets, lies and Russiagate,” Joshua Frank noted on Counterpunch last weekend, “one thing is for certain, while we are all distracted and perplexed by the daily mayhem, Trump and his fossil fuel buddies are getting away with environmental plunder.” The administration’s infamous incompetence and dysfunctionality (much bemoaned by the AA) does not extend to the ecocide project, curiously enough—a topic that fails to receive significant media attention despite its status as the biggest issue of our or any time.

The AA fears and loathes Trump for ruling-class and imperialist reasons, not for ones that ought to most concern people who care about democracy, social justice and prospects for a decent future.

He is typical among establishment political actors from both major capitalist and imperialist U.S. parties in that regard. As I’ve been writing and saying from before the Trump presidency, the establishment—from people like Huntsman, George Will, the late John McCain, Dick Cheney and Jeff Flake on the right to folks like Rachel Maddow, Bob Woodward, the Clintons, Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, John Kerry and Anderson Cooper on the so-called left—hates Trump for reasons different from those that ought to most concern we the people.

What are the mainstream ruling class’ problems with Trump? The main wealth and power elite policy complaints are that the “populist,” “isolationist” and “protectionist” president is woefully ignorant about, and even strangely opposed to, the standard institutional structures of U.S. empire and of U.S.-dominated global trade and investment.

Then there’s the explicitness of Trump’s racial bigotry and sexism; the openness of Trump’s authoritarianism and totalitarianism; and the transparent “beyond the pale” malignancy and childishness of his Twitter-addicted narcissism (so extreme that he feels compelled to deny the number of Puerto Ricans who died in the wake of Hurricane Maria last year). There’s also the remarkable extent of Trump’s stubborn idiocy, deepened by his ridiculous (if textbook narcissist) faith in his own superiority; and troubling connections between “the House of Trump,” Russian state-connected oligarchs and the “the House of Putin” going back many years.

Properly restrained divide-and-rule racism has long been okay for the ruling class, but Trump is far too seriously invested in toxic racial bigotry for an American elite that has learned to cloak persistent white supremacism in the flags of diversity and tolerance.

Standard “imperial presidency” authoritarianism has always been fine with the establishment, but Trump takes it to preposterous levels by transparently attacking the rule of law and the independence of the corporate media.

The U.S. establishment has long tolerated and even cultivated fascism in Third World client states but not in the “homeland” itself, the supposed exceptional headquarters and beacon of so-called capitalist democracy and liberty.

Presidential lying has long been tolerated and even applauded in the national media-political culture, but Trump goes far beyond acceptable elite norms with his wild and shameless advance of untruth. He averaged 16 false and misleading statements per day in June and July of this year. His astonishing record of grotesque, self-serving falsehood (e.g., the ridiculous charge that he was denied a popular vote victory by illegal immigrant ballots and the sickening claim that the Puerto Rican death toll from Hurricane Maria was tiny) includes numerous “permanent lie” fabrications that he repeats again and again—long after they’ve been exposed as fictions.

The U.S. remains a patriarchal and sexist nation, but the beauty pageant pussy-grabber-in-chief is a disturbing embarrassment.

Standard presidential narcissism (i.e., Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) is fine, but Trump’s constant Twitter-weaponized shame-fest and his endless reality-television drama are just too nationally humiliating. He’s been turning the executive branch of the world’s most powerful state into something on par with “The Apprentice,” if not “The Maury Povich Show.”

It’s OK for the president to be stupid as far as the ruling class is concerned. Look at George W. Bush. He was an abject dolt who thought God had told him to invade Iraq. But “Du[m]bya” had the decency to know that he was a figurehead for purportedly smarter establishment actors and let himself be managed by ruling class “adults” like Cheney and Robert Gates.

Corruption and captivity to wealthy elites from the U.S. and some other rich, U.S.-allied nations is one thing. Potential captivity to a “hostile power” (as Russia is officially designated by the U.S. foreign policy establishment and media) is another.

Above all, perhaps, Trump is just too unpredictable and impulsive for the ruling class. It’s hard to make decent investment decisions when the White House is a fickle and capricious horror show that might (for example) impose (or roll back) a whole new set of tariffs or insult a “valued trading and investment partner” on a foolish tyrant’s bizarre whim from one day to the next.

There are limits to just how malevolent a U.S. president can be before he turns into an imperial public relations liability.

I caught Bob Woodward’s appearance on Rachel Maddow’s widely viewed MSNBC talk show last week. The remarkably dull and uninspiring Woodward was there to pitch his recently released instant bestseller “Fear: Trump in the White House.

Neither Maddow nor Woodward said anything about Trump’s racism-fascism or about Trump’s acceleration of ecocide (though Maddow preceded her Woodward interview by helping break the news that the Trump administration had diverted $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for building racist immigrant detention centers—no small story as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas).

The basic theme of the segment was that Trump is bad at U.S. “global leadership” (also known as U.S. imperialism), as well as at what Woodward and Maddow risibly called “avoiding World War III,” and at ensuring U.S. domination of global trade. Maybe they should have complained that Trump’s anti-immigrant stance was helping shrink the reserve army of easily exploitable cheap labor.

Trump is a dangerous monster who needs to be removed from the White House and the nation’s political life. On that all decent people can agree. But we can’t stop there. The Fake Resistance and Inauthentic Opposition Party (the Democrats and some traditional Republicans) seek the removal of Trump, to be sold as a great victory for popular democracy while preserving the reign of the nation’s unelected and interrelated juntas of capital, empire, race and militarized police-state repression.

And that’s not good enough, not with the species teetering on the edge of full environmental catastrophe under the soulless command of the profits system. We need a rebellion, indeed a revolution (and not just a political one) that goes much deeper than merely the amputation of the malignant symptom of Amerikan cruelty, plutocracy, sexism, racism and stupidity that is Trump.

We need to undertake a giant popular uprising that targets the whole U.S. state-capitalist societal order and its vast imperial and repressive edifice at home and abroad—the broad institutional and cultural structures of oppression (including the Democratic Party) that made something as noxious as a Donald Trump presidency possible in the first place.</i> “The Trump administration,” Chris Hedges noted on Truthdig last May:

Did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count.” We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience.… If we do not stand up, we will enter a new dark age.

The “real issue to be faced,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his final essay, “is the radical reconstruction of society itself.”

That’s the last thing you’ll hear from Establishment elites. They have a simple fake-fix: Vote for Democrats in the midterms. “The best way to protest,” the deeply conservative former president Barack Obama told University of Illinois students three days after the ATOE, “is to vote. … When you vote, you’ve got the power. …”

Really? We get to vote, yes, but mammon reigns nonetheless in the United States, where, as the mainstream political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens note in their important book Democracy in America?, “government policy … reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office”—candidates like Obama, who blew up the public presidential campaign finance system with record-setting contributions from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in 2008.

Am I saying you shouldn’t vote for Democrats in the midterms? No, I’m not. It’s important to try to oust the openly ecocidal and creeping fascist Republican Party from its control of the U.S. Congress and the state governments. Trust me, fellow workers and citizens, you do not want to live under Trump if the GOP keeps both the House and the Senate. So suck it up and vote if you live in a contested district. But do so without any faith in the notion that voting under the oligarchic U.S. electoral and party system is anything close to the real and democratic politics that matter most or anything like what Obama called in Illinois “everybody doing their part” for “this whole project of self-government.” Our greatest intellectual Noam Chomsky put it very well on the eve of the 2004 elections:

<blockquote>Americans may be encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. … A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, ‘That’s politics.’ But it isn’t. It’s only a small part of politics. … The urgency is for popular progressive groups to grow and become strong … by steady, dedicated work at all levels, every day, not just once every four years … You can’t ignore the elections. You should recognize that one of the two groups now contending for power happens to be extremist and dangerous and has already caused plenty of trouble and could cause plenty more. … So in the election, sensible choices have to be made. But they are secondary to serious political action. The main task is to create a genuinely responsive democratic culture, and that effort goes on before and after electoral extravaganzas, whatever their outcome (emphasis added).</blockquote>

Chomsky’s good friend Howard Zinn said it even better nearly four years later, as the Obama phenomenon had engulfed the entire society, including “the left,” in the nation’s quadrennial “Election Madness”:

I’m talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth, …But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice. … Let’s remember that even when there is a ‘better’ candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore. … Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (emphasis added).

There has long been a self-destructive and frankly pathetic degree of intra-leftist bloodletting on how portsiders can best respond to the absurdly narrow range of choices on offer in the U.S. party and elections system. This venom among progressives and radicals is badly misplaced. It must stop. The real and serious political action is about what we do before and after, not during elections.

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Rosenstein Denies That He Proposed Secretly Taping Trump

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker / The Associated Press.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein denied a New York Times report Friday that he floated the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump as unfit for office and suggested secretly recording the president to expose the chaos in the administration.

The Times cited several people, who were not named, who described the episodes that came in the spring of 2017 after FBI Director James Comey was fired. The newspaper’s sources also included people who were briefed on memos written by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Rosenstein is a frequent target of Trump’s attacks and the story could add to the uncertainty about his future at the Justice Department, despite his denial.

“The New York Times’ story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out that a president can be declared “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” upon a majority vote of the vice president and the Cabinet.

A person who was in the room when Rosenstein made the 2017 comment, and provided a statement through the Justice Department, said Rosenstein was “sarcastic” and that he “never discussed any intention of recording a conversation with the president.”

The newspaper reported that Rosenstein, frustrated with the hiring process for a new FBI director, offered to wear a “wire” and secretly record the president when he visited the White House. He also suggested that McCabe and other officials who were interviewing to become the next FBI director could also perhaps record Trump, the newspaper reported.

McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, said in a statement that his client had drafted memos to “memorialize significant discussions he had with high level officials and preserved them so he would have an accurate, contemporaneous record of those discussions.”

McCabe’s memos, which were later turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, had remained at the FBI until McCabe was ousted in January and McCabe doesn’t know how any reporters could’ve obtained those memos, Bromwich said.

Rosenstein has been a target of Trump’s ire since appointing Robert Mueller as a Justice Department special counsel to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

He chose Mueller for the job one week after he laid the groundwork for the firing of Comey by writing a memo that criticized Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. The White House initially held up that memo as justification for Comey’s firing, though Trump himself has said he was thinking about “this Russia thing” when he made the move.

As deputy attorney general, Rosenstein oversees Mueller’s work and has made two public announcements of indictments brought by the special counsel — one against Russians accused of hacking into Democratic email accounts, the other against Russians accused of running a social media troll farm to sway public opinion.

On Friday, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted the Times’ story and said: “Shocked!!! Absolutely Shocked!!! Ohhh, who are we kidding at this point? No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine @realdonaldtrump.”

The story elicited an immediate response from members of Congress.

Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, said in a tweet that “if this story is true, it underscores a gravely troubling culture at FBI/DOJ and the need for FULL transparency.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the Times story “must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order install an official who will allow the president to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation.”

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Silicon Billionaires Are the Lethal Monkey on the Back of the American Public

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Robert Scheer.

“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible… except by getting off his back.” – Leo Tolstoy

This week in Scheer Intelligence, Anand Giridharadas on his latest book, “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” discusses “how rich people and philanthropists and others are engaged in this well-meaning attempt to make the world better… but upholding through their actions an indecent system.” He describes this as a system in which the market and its needs come before the needs of the people, a system that allows the rich and powerful to be seen as philanthropic rather than the malignant force they represent. They would be, as  Tolstoy opined, the guy on the American back, choking our society and destroying our economy.

They do so, in the name of the distorted libertarian ideology that they use to subvert the American experiment in democracy, by denying the legitimacy of government intervention into the economy on the side of fairness and justice, including decent working conditions, fair wages regulation of the economy, and the right to form unions to represent workers and fight for their interests.

The conclusion: Don’t look to the superrich corporate elite for the solution—they’re the problem.  As Giridharadas puts it, for the rich and powerful, “success depends on extraction… Making the American dream accessible… will actually require the powerful being pulled down a peg… seeing some of their resources diminish in order for us to do right for most of us.”

Anand Giridharadas is an author and former journalist for the New York Times. He has given talks on the main stage of TED and at Harvard, Yale, the Aspen Institute, Google and many other prestigious campuses and intuitions.

Listen to the interview below:

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