Have Democrats Forgotten About This Summer’s Immigration Debacle?

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Sonali Kolhatkar.

The controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigrant family separation policy this summer made major headlines for weeks, generated mass protests in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the country, and fomented “occupations” in front of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, calling for the abolishment of the agency. Heart-rending audio recordings of children who were separated from their parents were played repeatedly on news shows and during protests. The family separation scandal was one of several reasons cited by crowds that showed up to protest Trump in London during a state visit to the U.K. Now, just weeks before a critical midterm election, there’s nary a headline about family separation. And Democrats, who are poised to win a majority in the House, are not hammering nearly hard enough on the issue. In fact, they’re playing defense.

To be fair, the protests and uproar over family separation worked to an extent. The Trump administration was forced to reverse its so-called “zero-tolerance” policy that it used as a justification for wrenching children away from their parents. Then began the arduous process of reuniting those families that had been separated. But to this day, months after the egregious practice was ended, hundreds of children remain separated from their parents. Records show that 244 children are in U.S. custody for a variety of reasons, including ICE’s policy of arresting potential guardians who come forward to claim the children.

In spite of the fact that family separation is no longer routine, disturbing reports have emerged of children who were being held in certified facilities around the country being moved in the middle of the night into a “tent city” in the middle of the Texas desert. The Tornillo facility is not even licensed to hold children. The number of immigrant children in U.S. custody has now swelled to more than 13,000—the largest number ever, and five times greater than at the same time last year. According to The New Yorker, “Shelters have become overcrowded not because more children are fleeing north than in years past but mainly because the Trump Administration has made it more difficult to release them.”

Now the Trump administration is considering a frightening new policy to traumatize immigrants—the obscure sounding “binary choice,” which, according to The Washington Post, means that the government will “detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice—stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody.”

The trauma that immigrants have experienced for years is deeply felt. Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and arguably the most well-known undocumented immigrant in the U.S., told me in an interview, “There is a mental health crisis facing immigrant communities in this country.” Vargas’s new book is called “Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen,” and is written in three parts, titled, “Lying,” “Passing” and “Hiding.” He told me, “I wanted to understand what the cost of all of this for me has been. … I’ve never felt safe and that was hard to admit to myself.”

Vargas reflected on the current federal government approach to immigration, which in many ways is a continuation of what happened under President Barack Obama, and in other ways is so much worse, saying, “We’ve been trying to figure what the worst-case scenario is. And we’re now living through the worst-case scenario.” He sees Trump as “The manifestation of every nonsensical, ineffective, inhumane immigration policy we’ve had in this country since the ’90s.” He added, “This is definitely the worst time.”

In spite of the widespread horror among Americans for the family separation policy, Democrats have not fixated on the issue and have instead laid it at Trump’s feet. Trump and the Republicans have wielded the hard-fought confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court as a major victory. But before that victory, they suffered a horrendous moral defeat in their willingness to subject families to wrenching pain and life-long trauma—so much for being a party of “family values.”

In a recent interview with Politico, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi outlined her first order of business as Speaker if her party takes the House: campaign finance reform. After that, she said the party’s leadership planned on working toward lowered drug prices, gun control and a bill protecting the so-called Dreamers—a narrowly defined group of young undocumented people who won limited protections against deportation under Obama, but who represent a small percentage of all undocumented immigrants. She made no mention of the family separation scandal at all, and no pushback against the xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants by Republicans ahead of every election.

And yet Republicans have been regularly slamming Democrats on immigration—the very issue that ought to signify the party’s downfall after what transpired this summer! The New York Times obtained a copy of a memo circulated by liberal groups such as the Center for American Progress. It warns Democrats against making immigration a campaign issue. Claiming that Democrats are for “open borders” and “sanctuary cities” everywhere, Republicans are using the Trump playbook to make false or exaggerated claims. And Democrats are folding, just as they have done before.

For example, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who until recently appeared to be in danger of losing his seat to challenger Beto O’Rourke, has attacked his rival on immigration. A slickly produced commercial for Cruz cites a number of undocumented immigrants who apparently committed crimes despite multiple deportations, and juxtaposes this with O’Rourke’s pro-immigrant position. In a border state this plays well, despite the large number of Texas Latino voters, and Cruz has now surged ahead of O’Rourke by several points in the polls. Where are the Democratic commercials playing the audio recordings of children crying for their parents traumatized for what will likely be a lifetime, or the video footage of children marching into a concentration camp-like tent city in Tornillo, Texas? Where are Democratic exhortations for Americans to vote with their hearts against the inhumanity that Trump and the Republicans have unleashed on a vulnerable population?

This summer’s debacle, during which months of negative headlines blasted Trump for his cruelty, should have been the proverbial nail in his party’s coffin. Immigration should have been the weapon with which Democrats bludgeoned Republicans. But because the liberal party is once again unable or unwilling to articulate a critical issue and effectively lay cruel immigration policies at the feet of Trump and the Republicans, the GOP’s anti-immigrant hysteria may reign supreme. The winners will be Trump and his party. The losers, as always, will be immigrants and the rest of us.

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What Keeps Washington Indefinitely in Bed With Riyadh

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Maj. Danny Sjursen.

It’s time to ask an uncomfortable question: What exactly is the U.S. getting out of its partnership with Saudi Arabia? The answer is: nothing but headaches, human rights abuses and national embarrassment. In the cynical past, the U.S. could at least argue that it needed Saudi oil, but that’s no longer the case, due to the shale-oil boom (though that fact is not necessarily good for an ever-warming planet).

Recently, the crimes of the Saudi government managed to pierce the Trump-all-the-time-Kanye-West-sometimes media-entertainment complex due to Riyadh’s likely murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That the U.S.-Saudi relationship is, however briefly, coming under the proverbial microscope is a good thing. Still, it is astonishing that this incident—rather than dozens of other crimes—finally garnered attention. Even so, President Trump appears reluctant to cancel his negotiated $110 billion record arms deal with the kingdom.

For me, it’s personal. Saudi Arabia’s fingerprints—both of its government and private-citizen donors—have been all over America’s various opponents these past 17 years of war. I patrolled the streets and suburbs of Baghdad from 2006 to 2007. Sunni Islamist insurgents, which were funded by the Saudis, shot a few of my soldiers and paralyzed one permanently. We regularly found Saudi Wahhabi Islamist literature in the homes and caches of our insurgent enemies.

Years later, from 2011 to 2012, I led a cavalry reconnaissance company in Kandahar, Afghanistan. We chased the Taliban—really a collection of disgruntled farm boys—around the fields and valleys of the Zhari district. Guess where those Taliban fighters—who killed three of my men and wounded 30 others—went to school? In Saudi-financed madrassas across the border in Pakistan.

All told, I—like hundreds of other officers—sacrificed young American soldiers fighting an “enemy” too often armed and funded by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Iraq, my platoon suffered the loss of three lives, the use of a few legs and several gunshot wounds. In Afghanistan, my troop gave up 10 limbs, three lives and endured more than a dozen gunshot wounds. That the Saudis—America’s purported “partners” in the Middle East—have even some of that blood on their hands should be seen as a national tragedy. That it is not reflects poorly on the health and future of this republic.

Saudi Arabia is a fundamentalist theocracy and one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. The kingdom (and its private-citizen donors) have regularly supported Islamist jihadis across the Middle East. Heck, 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Many of these groups later attacked the U.S. homeland or American troops overseas. Most recently, Riyadh backed the Nusra Front—the al-Qaida affiliate ensconced in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

All too often, Saudi Arabia backs groups that are anti-American, and overall, Riyadh’s regional policy is utterly counterproductive to U.S. interests. Furthermore, the Saudis’ irrational hatred of Iran has kicked off a veritable cold war and arms race in the Persian Gulf—and that’s where those $110 billion in weapons will be funneled. The last thing the overstretched U.S. military needs is to be pulled by our Saudi “partners” into a new war in the region—this time in Iran.

Then there’s the matter of human rights and U.S. “values.” Here, the Saudi record is atrocious. The kingdom beheads dissidents and executes women for adultery, “witchcraft” and “sorcery.” Only in a place like the Arabian Peninsula could it be considered an accomplishment for women to finally gain the right to drive—in 2017. Finally, and most shockingly, in terms of U.S. complicity, since 2015 Riyadh has unleashed terror bombing and a starvation blockade on Yemen—the poorest country in the Arab world. Tens of thousands of civilians have died, tens of millions are in danger of famine and the worst cholera epidemic in recorded history has broken out.

So what is it that keeps Washington so closely—and inextricably—tied to Riyadh? It’s increasing clear that the profits of the military-industrial complex might provide the best explanation. The United States no longer produces much of value. Deindustrialization crippled our Rust Belt, reoriented America to a service economy and increased the growing gap between rich and poor. These days, guns and bombs—the U.S. is by far the largest international arms dealer—are the one thing Uncle Sam still produces.

Seen this way, we must look again to the $110 billion deal Trump negotiated with Saudi Arabia. It may just be Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell and other such corporations that keep Washington indefinitely in bed with the Saudi king and princes. What’s more, guess who serves on the boards of many of those companies, in a controversial revolving door? Retired generals and admirals. The embarrassing, counterproductive U.S.-Saudi relationship thus appears to reflect a structural flaw embedded in the U.S. economy: its co-option by the ever-stronger military-industrial complex.

Maybe the recent uproar over the Saudis’ alleged murder of Khashoggi will achieve what tens of thousands of dead Yemenis and the loss of thousands more U.S. troops could not—a reboot of U.S. policy toward the kingdom.

As a historian, I wouldn’t count on it.

Danny Sjursen is a U.S. Army officer and a regular contributor to Truthdig. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

Copyright 2018 Danny Sjursen

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Mattis Pushes Closer Ties to Vietnam Amid Tension With China

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by ROBERT BURNS / The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — By making a rare second trip this year to Vietnam, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is signaling how intensively the Trump administration is trying to counter China’s military assertiveness by cozying up to smaller nations in the region that share American wariness about Chinese intentions.

The visit beginning Tuesday also shows how far U.S.-Vietnamese relations have advanced since the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War.

Mattis, a retired general who entered the Marine Corps during Vietnam but did not serve there, visited Hanoi in January. By coincidence, that stop came just days before the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Tet was a turning point when North Vietnamese fighters attacked an array of key objectives in the South, surprising Washington and feeding anti-war sentiment even though the North’s offensive turned out to be a tactical military failure.

Three months after the Mattis visit, an U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, made a port call at Da Nang. It was the first such visit since the war and a reminder to China that the U.S. is intent on strengthening partnerships in the region as a counterweight to China’s growing military might.

The most vivid expression of Chinese assertiveness is its transformation of contested islets and other features in the South China Sea into strategic military outposts. The Trump administration has sharply criticized China for deploying surface-to-air missiles and other weapons on some of these outposts. In June, Mattis said the placement of these weapons is “tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”

This time Mattis is visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s most populous city and its economic center. Known as Saigon during the period before the communists took over the Republic of South Vietnam in 1975, the city was renamed for the man who led the Vietnamese nationalist movement.

Mattis also plans to visit a Vietnamese air base, Bien Hoa, a major air station for American forces during the war, and meet with the defense minister, Ngo Xuan Lich.

The visit comes amid a leadership transition after the death in September of Vietnam’s president, Tran Dai Quang. Earlier this month, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party nominated its general secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, for the additional post of president. He is expected to be approved by the National Assembly.

Although Vietnam has become a common destination for American secretaries of defense, two visits in one year is unusual, and Ho Chi Minh City is rarely on the itinerary. The last Pentagon chief to visit Ho Chi Minh City was William Cohen in the year 2000; he was the first U.S. defense secretary to visit Vietnam since the war. Formal diplomatic relations were restored in 1995 and the U.S. lifted its war-era arms embargo in 2016.

The Mattis trip originally was to include a visit to Beijing, but that stop was canceled amid rising tensions over trade and defense issues. China recently rejected a request for a Hong Kong port visit by an American warship, and last summer Mattis disinvited China from a major maritime exercise in the Pacific. China in September scrapped a Pentagon visit by its navy chief and demanded that Washington cancel an arms sale to Taiwan.

These tensions have served to accentuate the potential for a stronger U.S. partnership with Vietnam.

Josh Kurlantzick, a senior fellow and Asia specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview that Vietnam in recent years has shifted from a foreign and defense policy that carefully balanced relations with China and the United States to one that shades in the direction of Washington.

“I do see Vietnam very much aligned with some of Trump’s policies,” he said, referring to what the administration calls its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.” It emphasizes ensuring all countries in the region are free from coercion and keeping sea lanes, especially the contested South China Sea, open for international trade.

“Vietnam, leaving aside Singapore, is the country the most skeptical of China’s Southeast Asia policy and makes the most natural partner for the U.S.,” Kurlantzick said.

Vietnam’s proximity to the South China Sea makes it an important player in disputes with China over territorial claims to islets, shoals and other small land formations in the sea. Vietnam also fought a border war with China in 1979.

Traditionally wary of its huge northern neighbor, Vietnam shares China’s system of single-party rule. Vietnam has increasingly cracked down on dissidents and corruption, with scores of high-ranking officials and executives jailed since 2016 on Trong’s watch.

Sweeping economic changes over the past 30 years have opened Vietnam to foreign investment and trade, and made it one of fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. But the Communist Party tolerates no challenge to its one-party rule. Even so, the Trump administration has made a focused effort to draw closer to Vietnam.

When he left Hanoi in January, Mattis said his visit made clear that Americans and Vietnamese have shared interests that in some cases predate the dark period of the Vietnam War.

“Neither of us liked being colonized,” he said.

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A Chance to Swing the Senate

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Rebecca Gordon / TomDispatch.

It’s what campaigners say every November, I know, but this year’s election really is as important as it gets. Will U.S. voters choose to halt the progress of Donald J. Trump’s slow-motion coup? Or will the tide just continue rolling over us? So much depends on what happens in Nevada — a state that once elected a senator by a mere 401 votes. The race between Jacky Rosen and Dean Heller represents the best chance we have of taking the Senate away from the GOP this year. That’s why 40 people are spending two months living in a hotel this fall, working to make it happen. I’m one of them.

It’s 11:00 on a Tuesday morning in Reno, Nevada, when Christina, Cesar, and Nate step to the front of the room to start the meeting. They begin a slow, accelerating clapping, and the room responds in kind. “Se puede o no se puede?” shouts Cesar. (“Can we do it or not?”) “Sí se puede!” comes the thunderous answer. (“Yes, we can!”)

Next, a canvasser named Tonya gives the weather report: “It’s gonna get up to 92 today, with just a little bit of breeze. So drink lots of water.” Then Christina goes over yesterday’s numbers: “We knocked on 2,148 doors and talked to 612 voters. We identified 429 Rosen supporters and 419 for Sisolak. That’s great!” Again, everyone applauds.

Christina, Cesar, and Nate are our team captains, the “leads,” as we call them, of this election effort. We’re all part of what’s known as an “independent expenditure campaign”; that is, we do our work without coordination or even communication with any candidate’s organization. Our campaign has been mounted by Culinary Workers Local 226 under the auspices of the AFL-CIO to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate and the governor’s mansion.

Like the leads, Tonya is one of almost 40 rank-and-file members of UNITE HERE, the hotel, casino, and food-service workers union in North America. Along with some family and friends, they’re now in Nevada for the duration. They’ve taken a leave of absence from their jobs as cooks, casino workers, hotel housekeepers, and airport catering workers to help elect Jacky Rosensenator and Steve Sisolak governor. For two months they’re living away from their homes and families in an extended-stay hotel.

Six days a week, these men and women hit the streets of Washoe County, knocking on doors to talk with voters about the issues that truly matter: the rising cost of living, a stagnant minimum wage, the overcrowding and underfunding of local schools, and Republican efforts to deny health insurance to Nevadans with pre-existing conditions or throw hundreds of thousands of people off the Medicaid rolls. They listen to voters’ stories and respond with their own.

I live in San Francisco, but until November 6th, I’ve joined them here in a campaign that seems to go on 24 hours a day. Most of my own work is done in a cramped office attached to the main room of the campaign’s headquarters, where I share a desk with Paul, the other “data nerd.” We spend our days hunched over laptops, preparing thelists of voters and their addresses that the canvassers will load into their electronic tablets the following day.

Get-out-the-vote technology has come a long way since we used to buy expensive paper lists from private companies and photocopy precinct maps purchased from the local registrar of voters. Today, most progressive campaigns contract with NGP VAN, an integrated electoral database that facilitates all kinds of voter contact, from email to phone banks to door knocking. Using the VAN, campaigners can locate specific voters they particularly want to talk with, based on, among other things, age, gender, race, party affiliation, and voting frequency.

Data nerds like Paul and me can then explore individual precinct maps filled with the dots of target houses and use a mouse to draw boundaries around areas where the canvassers should be putting their energies. It’s a process known as “cutting turf.” ­Canvassers load these “turfs” onto their tablets daily and promptly have a map of where they’re going, including information about each voter they’re likely to run into. They can then add to our database by recording observations and the results of their conversations as notes for future canvassers: “Mean dog,” “Confederate flag hanging in the garage,” or “needs a ride to the polls.” Each night, the results of that day’s canvass are uploaded to the VAN.

Wonderful as it may be, however, the technology remains secondary to the true wonder of this Nevada campaign: the surprisingly powerful conversations that canvassers are having when they knock on those doors. More about those conversations later, but first a bit about why they’re so important.

What Are the Stakes?

Nevada’s voters — along with those in a few other states — have the opportunity to shift the balance of power in the Senate. Reclaiming one (or at least part of one) of the three branches of the federal government is the best hope of staving off the overlapping agendas of President Trump and the Republicans.

Voters here also have the chance to elect a Democratic governor. Control of state legislatures and governorships has gained a particular significance as the 2020 census approaches, because state governments control the process of drawing congressional districts. According to the Gallup polling organization, since 2006, Republican Party affiliation has hovered somewhere between 26% and 30% of the population, but the gerrymandering of congressional districts has helped that party hold onto 236 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. (The Democrats have 193 and six seats are presently vacant.) Every 10 years, after the national census, congressional districts get redrawn. So the best chance of reclaiming future House seats from Republican gerrymandering lies in winning as many statehouses and governorships as possible now.

The U.S. and the rest of the world have endured more than a year and a half of Donald J. Trump, his blusterbombast, and horrific blunders. After years of complaining that this country is the world’s laughingstock, the president finally demonstrated the truth of that claim when a recent self-aggrandizing speech of his provoked laughter at the U.N. General Assembly.

We’ve lived through a presidential election tainted by Russian interference; an ever-flowing stream of blatant lies from the White House; the vile separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border; the successful appointment to the Supreme Court of two right-wing ideologues; the recycling of Bush and even Reagan-era war criminals; and the continuation of U.S. support for a criminal and ruinous war in Yemen, where millions of people are teeteringon the edge of famine.

Over the last 20 months, the Trump administration has begun to demonstrate the classic hallmarks of a fascist regime: racismauthoritarianism, and extreme nationalism. This rightward lurch comes in the disturbing context of growing anti-democratic movements internationally — from eastern Europeand Germany to Brazil and the Philippines.

That’s why it’s hard to overstate the importance of this campaign in Washoe, Nevada’s second-most-populous county, where Reno is located. In 2008 and 2012 — together with Clark County, home of Las Vegas — Washoe helped swing the state for Barack Obama. In 2016, its voters did the same for Hillary Clinton. In this year’s mid-term election, it holds the key to possibly turning the Senate.

For almost a decade, Washoe and Clark counties have put Nevada in the “blue state” column, but the margins have grown slimmer each year. According to figures assembled by UNITE HERE, Barack Obama beat John McCain in this state by almost 120,000 votes. Four years later, he beat Mitt Romney by a little less than 68,000. In 2016, Clinton won Nevada by only 27,200 votes.

As is so often the case in a mid-term campaign, turnout is the crucial factor. It’s not easy to get people to vote in a non-presidential election year, even when their own interests are very much at stake. And that’s where the union’s approach is crucial.

I’ve worked in a fair number of electoral campaigns over the years, some of them run by issue-based political organizations, some on behalf of a specific candidate. The compressed timeframe and exhausting pace can create a powerful incentive for the people involved to be less than truthful about their achievements. Sometimes it’s lies all the way to the top. Precinct walkers exaggerate their contact numbers when reporting to their leads. Leads exaggerate their team numbers to their supervisors, and so on up the chain.

This campaign has been different. The leadership is focused on getting as accurate a picture as possible of each day’s canvassing, of the quality as well as the quantity of discussions with voters. The leads work with canvassers to be sure that when a voter replies, “I guess so,” to “Can we count on you to vote for Jackie Rosen?” that “guess” doesn’t get recorded as “strong support.” That voter is someone we should talk with again and possibly even offer to bring to a polling site ourselves during Nevada’s two-week early-voting period.

Three Organizing Skills

Many of the canvassers have worked on union-organizing campaigns in their own shops. In fact, recently one of our organizers, Seth, was over the moon because his local in Sacramento, California, just won a contract they’d spent months fighting for. Leaving that city in the midst of that campaign was a hard choice for him, but the skills he brought to Reno have proven invaluable.

It’s fair to say that UNITE HERE has at least two goals in this campaign. The first, of course, is to elect Jacky Rosen and Steve Sisolak, which, as these campaigners see it, will further both the interests of working people in general and the union’s goals in particular. These include guaranteeing the rights of immigrants, who make up much of the workforce in the hospitality sector of the economy; advancing the concept that “one job should be enough” for economic survival; and keeping the government from taxing the hard-won health benefits of union members while ensuring that all working people have access to adequate health care.

Rosen, for example, is committed to raising the federalminimum wage to $15 an hour.  (Since 2009, it’s been stuck at $7.25.) She has also visited the U.S.-Mexico border to investigate the grim conditions at Trump-era immigrant detention facilities. Finally, unlike her opponent, she’s committed to holding on to the health-care rights Americans won under Obamacare.

But that’s only for starters. The campaign also has a second purpose, as important to the union in its own way as winning this election: the development of future organizers and leaders from its rank and file. UNITE HERE emphasizes leadership among those who are the majority of its members — immigrants, people of color, and women. I often overhear the leads discussing how to help specific canvassers practice leadership skills. Most mornings, Cesar, Nate, and Christina — each of whom came from that same rank and file — ask a few of the canvassers to demonstrate one of three crucial organizing skills: getting in the door, asking an “agitational” question, or telling a personal story. All three will help any canvasser make a genuine connection, however brief it may be, with the stranger who opens the door when they knock.

“Getting in the door” means being able to catch a potential voter’s attention, even after she says she’s busy, or not interested, or disgusted by all the negative ads she’s seen on TV. There’s no way to identify a voter as one of yours — or persuade her to become one — if you can’t even start a conversation with her. I often watch canvassers demonstrate approaches that work for them. A typical one I heard the other day: “I can see you’re really busy and I wouldn’t interrupt you, except that this is really important for our community. I’m a hotel room cleaner from Northern California spending two months away from my family, living in a hotel, to have a chance to talk with people like you.” It works, because it’s real.

You then ask what the leads call “an agitational question” to heighten the emotion of the moment, raise the temperature a little. This is effective, but only if you’ve paid close attention to whatever clues you can pick up about the situation of the person on the other side of that door. It also means really listening to how they answer your questions. Otherwise, you won’t connect to a voter’s genuine concerns. “Is the cost of living affecting your family?” a canvasser might ask in a less-affluent area. “Are you worried about how crowded your children’s schools are getting?” could be a question that gets the attention of a voter with a yard full of toys. Not surprisingly, for instance, some Spanish-speakers respond emotionally to questions focused on how they feel about the president who launched his campaign by decrying “Mexican rapists.” Canvassers come back to the office and role-play their conversations, constantly trying to figure out better ways to make and hold that crucial connection to a voter.

“Telling a personal story” is a way of inviting that voter to see the unknown person at her door as someone like herself and to understand why that canvasser really believes her vote matters. Several mornings we’ve listened teary-eyed as a canvasser tells a story from her own life. “I was homeless as a child,” one woman began, “and I don’t want any other child to have to go through what my family and I did.” Her generosity in exposing her life not just to fellow campaigners but to complete strangers, to people who might mock or even rudely dismiss her — or might be moved enough to really begin to talk — inspired us all to keep at it.

Wide and Deep

In the past, when I’ve worked on electoral campaigns with community organizers, I’ve found that they’re often frustrated with the minimalist quality of the contacts permitted anyone by the pace of an electoral campaign. That’s not surprising since community organizers want to make deep connections with potential or actual community leaders. For that, multiple conversations and visits to people’s homes are often a necessity, so that there’s time for both of you to open up and make a true connection.

Electoral organizing, by contrast, is often described as going wide but not deep. Your goal is to touch as many people as possible, with time in short supply, and get them to vote your way in a specific election (or simply out to vote). It’s all about the numbers. That’s why electoral organizing can, in the end, be so unsatisfying. Even when you win, it can feel like you haven’t built anything lasting. The day after the election, the organization you helped put together is usually dismantled like the campaign office where you’ve lived for the previous few months. Even when community organizations participate in elections, they often find it difficult to consolidate their relationships with the campaign volunteers, let alone the actual voters they’ve met.

Knowing all that, why did I choose this particular campaign to work on in 2018? I could, for instance, have tried to add my bit to Stacey Abrams’s run for governor in Georgia. I’d certainly love to see that particular black woman occupy that particular post. Like many folks I know, I could have worked in northern California’s 10th congressional district where a Democrat has a rare chance to unseat an incumbent Republican. But I chose to come to Nevada for two reasons.

I wanted to work on a campaign that I knew would be well-organized and well run, that wouldn’t waste my time or that of other campaign workers, volunteers, and above all voters. Experience had shown me that UNITE HERE knows how to get things done.

I also wanted to work on a campaign that would build beyond Election Day. As the daughter of a sometime union organizer and a proud member of my own union of part-time college faculty, I believe that, despite their internal failings and the endless vicious attacks launched on them in this century, unions remain the best vehicle for the collective power of working people. And that power — combined with the strength of national and international movements for peace and racial, gender, and climate justice — is what stands between Donald J. Trump and his plutocratic ilk and the rest of us.

And I’m impressed with this union-run electoral campaign in the northwestern corner of Nevada. Six days a week, at least nine hours a day, ordinary working people are going both wide and deep in an organized effort to build political power and better the lives of workers and their families. Their eyes are on Nevada in an election where the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

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Nikki Haley, We Hardly Knew Ye

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Scott Ritter.

Nikki Haley surprised the American and international foreign policy establishment by announcing on Oct. 9 her intention to resign as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, effective at the end of this year. While President Donald Trump indicated he had known of her desire in this regard for some time, the announcement took virtually everyone else in the Trump administration—including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton—by surprise. Unlike previous senior-level administration departures, which were charged with acrimony and angst, Trump went out of his way to praise Haley, holding a news conference at which he complimented her for her work.

The reasons for her decision are stated as “personal,” and speculation abounds about potential causal factors. But at the end of the day, Haley’s resignation was a political act carried out by a political person for her own personal political gain.

To back up this assertion, here’s a bit of background about her political evolution. The daughter of Sikh immigrants, Nimrata “Nikki” Haley was schooled as an accountant and cut her teeth as a businesswoman by assuming various positions in her mother’s upscale women’s clothing establishment. Born and raised in South Carolina, Haley became a rising star for women in the Republican Party, a woman of color who embraced the conservative Christian-based ethos of the deep South. She was a non-threatening figure in the eyes of those who would become her target demographic once she left her family business for a career in politics. In 2004, she won a seat in the South Carolina state legislature, where she campaigned on a GOP-friendly platform of reducing taxes.

Haley was, by all accounts, a deft and capable political operator, pursuing conservative policies across the board. In 2009, encouraged by then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Haley announced she would run for governor of South Carolina. She won the election after receiving the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, vice presidential running mate of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and (at the time) the darling of the American conservative establishment.

Once established in her role, Haley eschewed national politics—at first. She turned down an opportunity to be  Romney’s running mate in the 2012 U.S. presidential election; instead, she ran for reelection in 2014, winning handily. As governor, she backed conservative causes as she sought to further South Carolina’s fortunes. She oversaw the emergency response to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and she faced controversy when she ordered the Confederate flag removed from the State Capitol in the aftermath of the racially motivated 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston church. Her status as a minority female, combined with her record of capable conservative governance, made her an ideal candidate for national-level politics, and she was widely touted as vice presidential material in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She was an early supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and later, after Rubio withdrew, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

In a moment of significant national exposure, Haley was chosen by the GOP to deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address, during which she singled out then-presidential candidate Trump for criticism. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference,” she stated. “That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume.” Later, during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, Haley observed that “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.” Later still, after she incurred the Twitter-borne wrath of Trump by calling for him to release his tax returns, she kept her response short and Southern: “Bless your heart.”

Yet once her former adversary emerged as the Republican candidate, Haley was quick to jump on the Trump train. After Trump won the 2016 election, she interviewed for a Cabinet-level position and was tapped to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

It was a job for which she was singularly unqualified.

An ambitious politician in her own right, it was no secret that Haley viewed herself as someone who could one day take the top job at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and thus she knew  a high-profile assignment at the United Nations would not only increase her visibility nationally but would also help her gain critical national security and foreign policy experience, both of which her resume clearly lacked. Under normal circumstances, heading up the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) would be an ideal place to carry out on-the-job training in the field of international relations. Foreign policy is made in Washington, D.C., and implemented in New York, where the United Nations is headquartered. The job of the USUN, a facilitator and implementer of policy as opposed to conceiving and framing policy, is to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives to the rest of the world—the perfect setting for a novice to cut her teeth while being guided by a seasoned staff of experts.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is not traditionally a Cabinet-level position per se. However, starting with the Ford administration in the 1970s, the position had been granted Cabinet-level status. This practice ended under President George H.W. Bush, only to be reinstated under Bill Clinton. Like his father, George W. Bush rescinded Cabinet status; then Obama reinstated it. In a break from past Republican practice, Trump agreed to keep it a Cabinet-level post, acceding to one of Haley’s preconditions for accepting the job.

Typically, the detrimental consequences of appointing someone without any foreign policy experience to a Cabinet-level diplomatic post could be offset by ensuring they are adequately back-stopped by the rest of the national security/foreign policy team, especially a strong, experienced secretary of state. Trump’s initial appointment of Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department, along with Mike Flynn as national security advisor, represented the antithesis of such a move. These factors, combined with the wholesale flight of veteran diplomats from the State Department following Trump’s election, meant Haley would be assuming her post lacking the kinds of bureaucratic and procedural checks and balances one would normally expect to see in place prior to her starting date.

The USUN is one of the most sensitive and complex diplomatic posts in the American foreign service, requiring a firm but deft hand combined with tact and patience. By design, it is not intended to be used as a blunt instrument of American foreign policy—again, not under normal circumstances. But there has been nothing normal about the presidency of Donald Trump. In late 2016, after the outgoing Obama administration refused to employ a veto to block U.N. action targeting Israel, then president-elect Trump condemned the action (or lack thereof), bemoaning on Twitter the U.N. had “such great potential,” but it had become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” He later ominously noted “things will be different after January 20th,” referring of course to the date of his inauguration.

Tillerson was never able to establish firm footing as secretary of state, overseeing, as he was, a department comprised of staffers whose morale was collectively in free-fall and undercut at every step by a president who viewed himself as America’s most senior, all-knowing diplomat. Haley, on the other hand, thrived in her role as the administration’s mouthpiece at the United Nations. On matters of foreign policy, there was no semblance of originality vis-à-vis the White House emanating from USUN, or even an effort to take into consideration the viewpoints of the rest of the world. In the my-way-or-the-highway global view of Trump, the U.N. became little more than a podium from which America issued its demands and organized its retribution for anything less than absolute subservience. Haley played her role to a T, issuing dictates, threats and demands without displaying any notable grasp of the underlying issues or her office’s past negotiating history. In the fact-free world of the Trump administration, in which inciting global angst is considered a good thing, Haley’s purportedly muscular diplomacy played well—until it didn’t.

Haley was a loyal soldier to Trump, aggressively advocating for what passed for policy. In this she was no different than those who had preceded her. Indeed, there was little to separate her condemnation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, or Russia’s support of the Assad regime, from that of her predecessor, Samantha Power, when it came to tone and content. But the difference between the two was discernable. Power—an Ivy League-educated foreign policy wonk whose book on the Rwandan genocide garnered her a Pulitzer Prize and the attention of her future boss, Barack Obama—was at least conversant in multiple aspects of a given issue and able to engage  a wide variety of topics freely and without notes.

Ambassador Haley, on the other hand, carefully operated from a script prepared by others, reading her notes and rarely venturing into the world of free thinking. She had no experience to draw upon, lacking both academic and practical preparation. She was the dutiful puppet, unashamedly raising her hand to be the sole vote cast against a resolution condemning Trump’s precipitous decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and then woodenly holding up the images of stricken Syrian civilians as part of an orchestrated campaign to justify military action against the Syrian government. She lambasted the Russians and Chinese, insulted virtually every other nation and international institution, and threatened to “take names” when nations dared oppose the policies she fronted.

Haley was at the forefront of America’s retreat from multilateral engagement, leading the charge as the United States withdrew from U.N. treaties and agreements (the Paris Accords and the Iran Nuclear Agreement foremost among them), slashed America’s financial contributions to the U.N. and its affiliates, and otherwise denigrated anything that didn’t directly benefit the U.S. In her defense, she was not the author of these policies, only the face the Trump administration used to sell them to the rest of the world. But as every able politician understands (and Haley is, if anything, an able politician), perception is its own reality, and as the individual who gave voice and presence to these actions, she now owns them forever.

Under any rational standard, Haley would (and should) be mocked and reviled for her performance as America’s ambassador to the United Nations. Her tenure was an exercise in pathos, the living embodiment of American power and influence in decline. Her speeches, if viewed in isolation, were one step removed from a “Saturday Night Live” send-up. At the end of the day, Haley was little more than a polished cipher put forward to sell bad policy, something Trump himself alluded to when he credited Haley with making the job of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “a more glamorous position than it was two years ago.”

It’s not as though Haley was constitutionally incapable of independent thought—far from it. Her experience as South Carolina’s governor proved she can be a savvy and self-reliant politician, able to weigh costs and benefits when making difficult decisions. Perhaps the most difficult decision Haley had to make, then, was to allow herself to be used in such an egregious fashion so that she could build a resume capable of sustaining and supporting her own aims. She showed flashes of independence, not on matters of policy but rather personal morality, challenging the president on his Muslim ban and insisting that women who claim to have been sexually assaulted have a right to be heard.

But these isolated moments of autonomy could not hide the reality that at the end of the day, Ambassador Haley was little more than a puppet. Her days were numbered with the resignation of Tillerson and the departure of H.R. McMaster as national security advisor. In the confusion that reigned in the White House during the transition from Tillerson to Pompeo, Haley got caught out as she advanced a policy position regarding Russian sanctions that was outdated, prompting a comment from within the White House she was “confused.” “I don’t get confused,” she snapped back. This was in April 2018, about the same time she reportedly first indicated to the president she was looking to leave.

Unlike Tillerson and McMaster, Pompeo and Bolton ran a tighter ship. Bolton in particular was opposed to the idea of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. enjoying Cabinet-level status, having noted during his time at USUN that “it overstates the role and importance the U.N. should have in U.S. foreign policy,” adding that “you shouldn’t have two secretaries in the same department.”  There could be only one voice fronting for U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the president, and it would no longer be Haley’s.

Trump did his part to make Haley’s exit appear dignified and positive. She, too, played her prescribed role, making it known she was not positioning herself to become Trump’s political rival in 2020 while also offering she planned to make her opinions on policy matters known from time to time. Perhaps she will assemble a team of foreign policy experts to help her better shape these opinions, allowing her to continue the artifice that she somehow possesses depth when it comes to issues of diplomacy and foreign relations. In the shallow world of current American politics, Haley is a master at shaping perception.

One thing is for certain—barring some unforeseen turn in her career trajectory, this isn’t the last the American people will be seeing of Haley. She is far too ambitious, far too intelligent and far too “glamorous” to simply fade away. Trump hinted at a possible future role in his administration—perhaps secretary of state during a hypothetical second Trump term. And there is always 2024. Haley would be 55 years old, ideally situated in the prime of her life to make a run for the most powerful job in the world—that is, if America still retains the status of unmatched global superpower.

Present circumstances suggest this may not prove to be the case. For all his rhetoric about “making America great again,” Trump is presiding over the greatest loss of power and prestige in American history, not insignificantly because of policies Haley helped promote and implement. And while her departure from the role of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. appears perfectly timed to insulate her, at least in the minds of the American electorate, from the consequences of any future political catastrophe that might befall Trump, the rest of the world is not so easily confused, possessing superior memory and a grasp of a reality to which Haley’s ambition seems to have blinded her.


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Trump, Kavanaugh and the Path to Neoliberal Fascism

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Henry Giroux.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Salon

Even in the darkest of times we have the right to some illumination. —Hannah Arendt

The threads of a general political and ideological crisis run deep in American history, and with each tweet and policy decision Donald Trump pushes the United States closer to a full-fledged fascist state. His words sting, but his policies can kill people. Trump’s endless racist taunts, dehumanizing expressions of misogyny, relentless attacks on all provisions of the social state and ongoing contempt for the rule of law serve to normalize a creeping fascist politics. Moreover, his criminogenic disdain for any viable sense of civic and moral responsibility gives new meaning to an ethos of selfishness and a culture of cruelty, if not terror, that has run amok. Yet it is becoming more difficult for the mainstream media and pundits to talk about fascism as a looming threat in the United States in spite of the fact that, as Michelle Goldberg observes, for some groups, such as “undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.”

The smell of death is everywhere under this administration. The erosion of public values and the rule of law is now accompanied by a developing state of emergency with regards to a looming global environmental catastrophe. An ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change has accelerated under the Trump administration and appears imminent.Trump’s ongoing attempt to pollute the planet through his rollback of environmental protections will result in the deaths of thousands of children who suffer from asthma and other lung problems. Moreover, his privatized and punitive approach to health care will shorten the lives of millions of poor people, uninsured youth, undocumented immigrants, the unemployed and the elderly. His get-tough “law and order” policies will result in more police violence against blacks while his support for the arms industry, military budget and gun laws will accelerate the death of the marginalized both at home and abroad. Under the Trump regime all bets are off regarding the sustainability of democracy.

The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, a right-wing ideologue, to the U.S. Supreme Court, in spite of allegations of sexually assaulting at least two women, further reveals both the dangerous politicization of the judicial nomination process and the authoritarian politics that now dominate American society. The control of the court by ideological fundamentalists has been a long-sought goal of Republican Party extremists. And now the American people, especially women, the poor and people of color, will pay a terrible price for Kavanaugh’s appointment. The Kavanaugh affair is a symptom of the deeper roots of a fascist politics at work in American society. Kavanaugh is not only a blatant symbol of a toxic masculinity, he is also emblematic of a boisterous and unchecked expression of ruling-class white privilege. This is especially true given the racist double standard that characterizes America’s justice system. As Amanda Klonsky put it in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Why does Judge Brett Kavanaugh, accused of sexual assault, feel entitled to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, while my formerly incarcerated students — often jailed for crimes like battery from fistfights — are left unemployed, sometimes for life, banned from even the most entry-level work? That Kavanaugh is under consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court at all throws the racist double standard in our justice system into sharp relief. There is one standard of behavior for African-American and Latinx young people, who are harshly punished for crimes in adolescence, and quite another for wealthy white boys, who can be accused of sexual assault and still go on to be nominated to serve on the most important court in the world.

Kavanaugh perfectly aligns with Trump’s racism and his decisions on matters of civil rights and racial justice will more than likely further reproduce a long legacy of white racism and state violence in the United States. This is especially tragic and ominous given that Trump’s contempt for people of color appears boundless and legitimates the notion of whiteness as a site of terror. He slanders and humiliates black athletes, black women and any other person of color who calls him on his racism and white supremacist views. Moreover, his thuggery in support of police brutality and mass incarceration further accelerates the growth of a racialized carceral state.

Most recently, in a brutish and deeply troubling display of misogyny, Trump viciously mocked the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault. Drawing laughter and shouts from a crowd in Southaven, Mississippi, Trump went further, following up his vile remarks by stating that men were the real victims of the #MeToo movement because they were being unfairly accused of sexual harassment, and that many males would lose their jobs. It is hard to miss the irony of this statement coming from a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 22 women and has been caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the crotch. What is worth noting here is not only his indifference to the shocking levels violence waged against women but also the degree to which misogyny has always been endemic to fascist politics.

While it is easy for the mainstream press to go after those politicians who remain silent in the face of Trump’s sexism and racism, there is little interest in situating his misogyny and white supremacy within a neoliberal fascist politics that is aligned with neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other militant groups who argue for racial cleansing and increasingly commit violent acts against people of color who oppose their views. Trump’s politics are endlessly whitewashed in the mainstream media, which too often views his policy decisions more as the infantilized outbursts of an impetuous tweeting teenage bully rather than as a shock and threat to the laws and values that constitute a democracy currently in peril. The mainstream press argues that Trump’s rhetoric is divisive, humiliating and hateful, but rarely is it associated with the rhetoric of fascist politics or for that matter with the power of moneyed interests of the financial elite.

This evasion is all the more frightening since Trump, not to mention most of his critics, seem unaware of the accumulated terror unleashed by past fascists. Trump appears reckless when implementing policies that echo faintly the genocidal practices used by Nazis in their concentration camps, such as separating children from their undocumented parents and putting both in caged prisons. While Trump has not gassed tens of thousands of children as Hitler did, putting children in cages suggests crossing a moral and political line that opens the door to even more extreme forms of barbarism. –At the same time, his anti-democratic proclivities are on display almost every day. For instance, Trump’s open infatuation with demagogues such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un is matched only by his consistent vilification of America’s democratic allies. One clear cut example is his ludicrous claim that trade wars with Canada are justified because Canada represents a threat to America’s national security. The latter is uttered at the same time that Trump calls Kim Jong-un terrific.

Trump has not only normalized racism in the United States and given new legitimacy to the hate filled rants and ideologies of neo-Nazis and white nationalists, he has deepened the crisis of democracy by elevating emotion over reason and turning civic illiteracy into a virtue. Ignorance turns deadly when embraced by the powerful and removed from any notion of the material consequences it has for those who have to suffer from a practices of abandonment, terminal exclusion, and state violence.

State-sanctioned ignorance is more than fodder for late night comedy shows, it also provides the psychological conditions for certain individuals and groups to associate “pollution” and disposability with what Richard A. Etlin calls “a biologically racialist worldview, which divides the human race according to the dichotomy of the pure and impure, the life-enhancing and the life-polluting.” This is a language mobilized by the energies of the ethically dead, and echoes strongly with the anti-Semitism that was at the center of the genocidal policies of the Third Reich. This poisonous anti-Semitic discourse has returned with a vengeance in Hungary, Poland and a number of other countries now moving towards fascism. It is also surfacing among alt-right and other neo-Nazi groups in the United States. Unsurprisingly, there are also coded hints of it in Trump’s language. Trump is more careful with his displays of anti-Semitism, especially given the uproar that followed his comments stating that there were decent people marching with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

One of the most revealingly ideological comments made by Trump during the Kavanaugh affair was contained in a tweet aimed at the women who had confronted Sen. Jeff Flake and other Republican senators over their support for Kavanaugh. Trump stated that “the very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it. Also, look at all the professional made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love.”

Trump exposed more than the level of political corruption and hatred of women that now defines American politics, he also appropriated an anti-Semitic discourse to discredit both the women to whom he is referring and dissent in general. Many conservative pundits and commentators have also followed Trump’s lead and claimed that protesters were paid by George Soros. This display of anti-Semitism directed at Soros is not new for Trump. As Greg Sargent pointed out in the Washington Post, this vile piece of anti-Semitism directed at Soros played a “starring role in Trump’s 2016 closing ad, which was the perfect expression of this type of exclusionary populist demagoguery.” Not only do Trump’s comments and the earlier ad mirror anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s, it also legitimates the vicious attacks on Soros in a number of Eastern European countries, including Poland, Romania and Serbia. But it is President Viktor Orbán of Hungary who is leading the pack in his attack on Soros as part of a larger attack on Jews.

Trump’s coded endorsement of Orbán’s attack on Jews, whom he appears to blame for all of Hungary’s problems, is particularly repellent given its viciousness and the horrors of the past it echoes. For instance, recalling the genocidal rhetoric aimed at Jews in the past by the Nazis, Orban commemorated the 170th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 by stating the following (without mentioning Jews directly):

They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honorable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel the whole world is theirs. They are not generous but vengeful and always attack the heart — especially if it is red, white and green [the colors of the Hungarian flag].

Prior to the recent election in Hungary, Orbán plastered images of George Soros throughout the country. Soros is both a Hungarian citizen and a Jew, and was a perfect symbol for Orbán to vilify in his efforts to take over the country. Soros is dangerous to Orbán because of his promotion of the open society, open borders, cosmopolitanism, human rights and democracy. That he is Jewish made it easier for Orbán to attack him personally without having to openly express his hatred of democracy.

That Trump would use a reference taken out of the poisonous playbook of this fascist leader is both revealing and dangerous. Not only because such rhetoric indexes a fascist politics and the potential dangers that follow, but also because of the silence that surrounded Trump’s reference to Soros, with all of its toxic implications. Even if Trump is not consciously anti-Semitic, he should know better since, as journalist Ron Kampeas points out, his comments traffic “in conspiracies of control and destruction identified with classical anti-Semitism.” Trump’s consistently coded support for an ideology embraced by neo-Nazis and other white nationalists is not new. It is the discourse of blood and soil that propelled an emotionally charged language of hate, reification, dehumanization and eventually mass murder. Forgetting this history is less an act of historical ignorance than a complicitous practice of reviving the conditions that give birth to the horrors of the past.

Trump’s defenders might argue that Trump is not an anti-Semite because two of his former lawyers were Jewish — Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen. Moreover, his daughter converted to Judaism. This may be true, and Trump may just be so stupid to know and not to care when he is producing an anti-Semitic stereotype, and so ignorant of history that he can’t put together the threat of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the history of genocide that it produced. But if we are to believe writers such as Michael Wolff and Bob Woodward who have chronicled the post-2016 chaos in the White House that Trump has overt white supremacists such as Stephen Miller making decisions for him, the Kavanaugh hearings may signal a danger that far exceeds the misogyny and Vichy-type silence revealed by the spineless Republican Party and the Trump administration.

Mitch McConnell and the other gravediggers of democracy in the Congress could care less about Trump’s crude language, governing style, character or potential revelations of criminal acts. They have no qualms or reservations about supporting a fascist politics as long as they get what they want from their alliance with the racists, xenophobic ultra-nationalists and white nationalists. According to historian Christopher R. Browning, the Republican Party, in particular has received a big payoff in selling its soul to Trump’s worldview:

[H]uge tax cuts for the wealthy, financial and environmental deregulation, the nominations of two conservative Supreme Court justices (so far) and a host of other conservative judicial appointments, and a significant reduction in government-sponsored health care (though not yet the total abolition of Obamacare they hope for). Like Hitler’s conservative allies, McConnell and the Republicans have prided themselves on the early returns on their investment in Trump.

The Kavanaugh appointment exposes more than what commentators such as Robert Reich and historians such as Timothy Snyder view as alarming and frightening parallels between the United States and Hitler’s regime, or what the Yale historian Jason Stanley calls an accelerating fascist politics. Their analyses seem overly cautious. There is little doubt that Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court is an abomination not only because of his alleged sexual assaults, but his equally revealing and right-wing ideological rant against the left, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party during his Senate hearing. More ominous, when comprehended within the context of an emerging fascist politics, is the recognition that his appointment is part of a broader effort on the part of the Trump administration to radically modify the rule of law and individual rights, further depriving them of any meaning and cutting them off from any viable humanitarian standards.

We are in the midst of an American version of fascism, which is not to suggest a fascism modeled exclusively after Nazi Germany. Fascist rhetoric has become normalized in the United States, white terror is no longer coded, and ultra-nationalism has merged into a love affair between the U.S. and a host of ruthless dictators. Of course the U.S. has a long tradition of civil liberties but it also has a long tradition of lawlessness, and the latter is now winning out. It thrives under the guise of a neoliberalism that has fueled for the past 40 years vast inequalities in wealth and power, producing a level of political and economic corruption that signals not just a hatred of democracy, but a unique style of American fascism.

The Kavanaugh hearings should serve to remind us that we live in increasingly dangerous times. It is important to remember that fascism begins not with violence, police assaults or mass killings, but with language. Not only have we learned this from the rise of fascism in the 1930s in Europe but also in the current historical moment — a moment in which lawlessness, misogyny, white nationalism and racism are resurgent all over the globe. If fascism begins with language so does a strong resistance willing to challenge it.

This is all the more reason for individuals, institutions, labor unions, educators, young people and others not to be silent in the face of the current fascist turn in the United States and elsewhere. In the face of the hatred, racism, misogyny and deceit that have become part of a state-sanctioned public dialogue, no one can afford to look away, fail to speak out, and risk silence. This is especially true at a time when history is used to hide rather than illuminate the past, when it becomes difficult to translate private issues into larger systemic considerations and people willingly allow themselves to be both seduced and trapped into spectacles of violence, cruelty and authoritarian impulses. Under such circumstances, the terror of the unforeseen becomes all the more ominous.

Any viable notion of change will have to reject the notion that capitalism and democracy are synonymous and that participatory democracy begins and ends with elections. Doing so is crucial to undoing the myth that political power is separate from economic power — a myth that upholds the false assumption that whatever problems currently exist under the Trump administration are endemic to Trump’s alleged mental health, ignorance and other character flaws. In actuality, the fascist politics now shaping the United States have been in the making for decades and are systemic to neoliberal capitalism and deeply entwined with iniquitous relations of power. Rob Urie illuminates the issue, particularly in relation to class divisions. He writes:

The class relations of American political economy are antithetical to the notion of a unified public interest. The point isn’t to suggest that this or that authoritarian leader isn’t authoritarian, but rather to sketch in the political backdrop to argue that the lived experience of social, economic and political repression is lived experience, not academic theories or bourgeois fantasies. The circumstances of investment bankers stripping assets, industrialists relocating factories built by workers to low-wage locations and tech ‘pioneers’ using licenses and patents to extract economic rents is systemically ‘authoritarian’ in the sense that democratic consent to do so was neither sought nor given.

It is time for a broad-based social movement to reject finance capitalism, embrace education as central to a politics willing to fight to persuade people to reclaim their sense of agency and push at the frontiers of the ethical imagination, connect what they learn to addressing social issues, taking risks and challenging the destructive narratives that are seeping into the public realm and becoming normalized. Any dissatisfaction with injustice necessitates combining the demands of moral witnessing with the pedagogical power of persuasion and the call to address the tasks of emancipation. We need individuals and social movements willing to disturb the normalization of a fascist politics, and to oppose racist, sexist and neoliberal orthodoxy. As Robin D.G. Kelley observes, we cannot confuse catharsis and momentary outrage for revolution. In a time of increasing tyranny, resistance appears to have lost its usefulness as a call to action.

For instance, the novelist Teju Cole has argued that “‘resistance’ is back in vogue, and it describes something rather different now. The holy word has become unexceptional. Faced with a vulgar, manic and cruel regime, birds of many different feathers are eager to proclaim themselves members of the Resistance. It is the most popular game in town.” Cole’s critique appears to be borne out by the fact that the most unscrupulous of liberal and conservative politicians, such as Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton and even James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, are now claiming that they have joined the resistance against Trump fascist politics.

Even Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief and CIA director under George W. Bush, has joined the ranks of Albright and Clinton in condemning Trump as a proto-fascist. Writing in the New York Times,Hayden chastised Trump as a serial liar and in doing so quoted the renowned historian Timothy Snyder, who stated in reference to the Trump regime that “Post-Truth is pre-fascism.” The irony here is hard to miss. Not only did Hayden head Bush’s illegal National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program while head of the NSA, he also lied repeatedly about his role in Bush’s sanction and implementation of state torture in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This tsunami of banal resistance was on full display when an anonymous member of the Trump’s inner circle published an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that he or she and other senior officials were part of “the resistance within the Trump administration.” The author was quick to qualify the statement by insisting such resistance had nothing to do with “the popular ‘resistance’ of the left.” To prove the point, it was noted by the author that the members of this insider resistance liked some of Trump’s policies such as “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” Combining resistance with the endorsements of such reactionary policies reads like fodder for late-night comics.

The Democratic Party now defines itself as the most powerful political force opposing Trump’s fascist politics. What it has forgotten is the role it has played under the Clinton and Obama presidencies in creating the economic, political and social conditions for Trump’s election in 2016. Such historical and political amnesia allows them to make the specious claim that they are now the party of resistance. Resistance in these instances has little to do with civic courage, a defense of human dignity, and the willingness to not just bear witness to the current injustices but to struggle to overcome them. Of course, the issue is not to disavow resistance as much as to redefine it as inseparable from fundamental change that calls for the overthrow of capitalism itself.

While the call to resist neoliberal fascism is to be welcomed, it has to be interrogated and not aligned with individuals and ideological forces that helped put in place the racist, economic, religious and educational forces that helped produce it. What all of these calls to resistance have in common is a opposition to Trump rather than to the conditions that created him. Trump’s election and the Kavanaugh affair make clear that what is needed is not only a resistance to the established order of neoliberal capitalism but a radical restructuring of society itself. That is not about resisting oppression in its diverse forms but overcoming it — in short, changing it.

While it is crucial to condemn the Kavanaugh hearings for their blatant disregard for the Constitution, expressed hatred of women, and symbolic expression and embrace of white privilege and power, it is necessary to enlarge our criticism to include the system that made the Kavanaugh appointment possible. Kavanaugh represents not only the deep-seated rot of misogyny but also, as Grace Lee Boggs has stated, “a government of, by, and for corporate power.” We need to see beyond the white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating in the streets in order to recognize the terror of the unforeseen, the terror that is state sanctioned, and hides in the shadows of power.

Such a struggle means more than engaging material relations of power or the economic architecture of neoliberal fascism, it also means taking on the challenge of producing the tools and tactics necessary to rethink and create the conditions for a new kind of subjectivity as the basis for a new kind of democratic socialist politics. We need a comprehensive politics that brings together various single-interest movements so that the threads that connect them become equally as important as the particular forms of oppression that define their singularity. In addition, we need intellectuals willing to combine intellectual complexity with clarity and accessibility, embrace the high-stakes investment in persuasion, and cross disciplinary borders in order to theorize and speak with what Rob Nixon calls the “cunning of lightness” and a “methodological promiscuity” that keeps language attuned to the pressing claims for justice.

Trump has surfaced the dire anti-democratic threats that have been expanding under an economic system stripped of any political, social and ethical responsibility. This is a form of neoliberal fascism that has redrawn and expanded the parameters of what after the genocidal practices and hate-filled politics of the 1930s and 40s in Europe was once thought impossible to happen again. The threat has returned and is now on our doorsteps, and it needs to be named, exposed, and overcome by those who believe that the stakes are much too high to look away and not engage in organized political and pedagogical struggles.


Hannah Arendt once wrote that terror was the essence of totalitarianism. She was right and we are now witnessing the dystopian visions of the new authoritarians who now trade in fear, hatred, demonization, violence and racism. This will be Trump’s legacy. It is easy to despair in times of tyranny, but it is much more productive to be politically and morally outraged and to draw upon such anger as a source of hope and action. Without hope even in the most dire of times, there is no possibility for resistance, dissent and struggle.

A critical consciousness is the prerequisite for informed agency and hope is the basis for individual and collective resistance. Moreover, when combined with collective action, hope translates into a dynamic sense of possibility, enabling one to join with others for the long haul of fighting systemic forms of domination. Courage in the face of tyranny is a necessity and not an option and we can learn both from the past and the present about resistance movements and the power of civic courage and collective struggle and how such modes of resistance are emerging among a number of groups across a wide variety of landscapes.

What is crucial is the necessity of not facing such struggles alone, allowing ourselves to feel defeated in our isolation or giving in to the crippling neoliberal survival-of-the-fittest ethos that dominates everyday relations. Radical politics begins when one refuses to face one’s fate alone, learns about the workings and mechanisms of power, and rejects the dominant mantra of social isolation.

There is strength in numbers. One of the most important things we can do to sustain a sense of courage and dignity is to imagine a new social order. That is, we must constantly work to revive a radical political imaginary by talking with others in order to rethink what a new politics and society would look like, one that is fundamentally anti-capitalist and dedicated to creating the conditions for new democratic political and social formations. This suggests creating new public spheres that make such a dialogue and notion of solidarity possible while simultaneously struggling against the forces that gave rise to Trump, particularly those that suggest that totalitarian forms are still with us.

As I have stressed, rethinking politics anew also suggests the possibility of building broad-based alliances in order to create a robust economic and political agenda that connects democracy with a serious effort to interrogate the sources and structures of inequality, racism and authoritarianism that now plague the United States. This points to opening up new lines of understanding, dialogue and radical empathy. It means, as the philosopher George Yancy suggests, learning “how to love with courage.”

A nonviolent movement for democratic socialism does not need vanguards, political purity or the seductions of ideological orthodoxy. On the contrary, it needs an informed and energized politics without guarantees, one that is open to new ideas, self-reflection and understanding. Instead of ideologies of certainty, unchecked moralism and a politics of shaming, we need to understand the conditions that make it possible for people to internalize forms of domination, and that means interrogating forgotten histories and existing pedagogies of oppression. Recent polls indicate that two-thirds of Americans say this is the lowest point in American politics that they can recall. Such despair offers the possibility of a pedagogical intervention, one that provides a political opening to create a massive movement for organized struggle in the United States.

Rebecca Solnit has rightly argued that while we live in an age of despair, hope is a gift we that we cannot surrender because it amplifies the power of alternative visions, offers up stories in which we can imagine the unimaginable, enables people to “move from depression to outrage,” and positions people to take seriously what they are for and what they are against. This suggests trying to understand how the very processes of learning constitute the political mechanisms through which identities — individual and collective — are shaped, desired, mobilized and take on the worldly practices of autonomy, self-reflection and self-determination as part of a larger struggle for economic and social justice.

First, it is crucial to develop a language in which it becomes possible to imagine a future much different from the present, one that refuses to privatize hope with a crude individualism. Second, it is crucial to develop a discourse of critique and possibility that rejects the ongoing normalizing of existing relations of domination and control while simultaneously repudiating the notion that capitalism and democracy are synonymous. It would be wise to heed the words of the late science-fiction visionary Ursula K. Le Guin when she wrote, “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Nay, human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

Third, it is imperative to reject the notion that all problems are individual issues and can only be solved as a matter of individual action and responsibility. This is one of neoliberalism’s most powerful ideological tenets, working to make the personal the only politics that matters while detaching private troubles from the wider world. All three of these assumptions serve to depoliticize people and erase both what it means to make power visible and to organize collectively to address such problem. Fourth, there is a need, I believe, for a discourse that is both historical, relational and comprehensive. Memory matters both in terms of reclaiming lost narratives of struggle and for assessing visions, strategies and tactics that still hold enormous possibilities in the present.

Developing a relational discourse means connecting the dots around issues that are often viewed in isolated terms. For instance, one cannot study the attack on public schools and higher education as sutured internal issues that focus exclusively on the teaching methods and strategies. What is needed are analyses that link such attacks to the broader issue of inequality, the dynamics of casino capitalism and the pervasive racism active in promoting new forms of segregation both within and outside of schools.

A comprehensive politics is one that does at least two things. On the one hand, it tries to understand a plethora of problems from massive poverty to the despoiling of the planet within a broader understanding of politics. That is, it connects the dots among diverse forms of oppression. In this instance, the focus is on the totality of politics, one that focuses on the power relations of global capitalism, the rise of illiberal democracy, the archives of authoritarianism and the rise of financial capital. A totalizing view of oppression allows the development of a language that is capable of making visible the ideological and structural forces of the new forms of domination at work in the United States and across the globe. On the other hand, such a comprehensive understanding of politics makes it possible to bring together a range of crucial issues and movements so as to expand the range of oppressions while at the same time providing a common ground for these diverse groups to be able to work together in the interest of the common good and a broad struggle for democratic socialism.

Finally, any viable language of emancipation needs to develop a discourse of what Ron Aronson calls social hope. He writes:

Social hope, the disposition to act collectively to change a situation, entails that we act not blindly but with a sense of possibility. The cold stream demands that we prepare ourselves and assess the conditions under which we are operating. The hope of social movements calls for objective, clearheaded organization and action, and an appreciation of the circumstances in which we may be successful. This realistic stream of hope mingles with the visionary stream that motivates us; without both, there is no hope. Hope uniquely combines our longing, our own real intention, and our sense of potency with real possibility, the subjective and the objective.

Aronson is right in arguing that naming what is wrong in a society is important but it is not enough, because such criticism can sometimes be overpowering and lead to a paralyzing despair or, even worse, a crippling cynicism. Hope speaks to imagining a life beyond capitalism, and combines a realistic sense of limits with a lofty vision of demanding the impossible. As Ariel Dorfman has argued, progressives need a language that is missing from our political vocabulary, one that insists that “alternative worlds are possible, that they are within reach if we’re courageous enough, and smart enough, and daring enough to take control of our own lives.” Reason, justice, and change cannot blossom without hope because educated hope taps into our deepest experiences and longing for a life of dignity with others, a life in which it becomes possible to imagine a future that does not mimic the present.

I am not referring to a romanticized and empty notion of hope, but to a notion of informed social hope that faces the concrete obstacles and realities of domination but continues the ongoing task of realizing a future in which matters of justice, equality, freedom and joy matter. Casino capitalism is a toxin that has created a predatory class of unethical zombies who are producing dead zones of the imagination and massive ecologies of immiseration that even George Orwell could not have envisioned, while waging a fierce fight against the possibilities of a democratic future.

The time has come to develop a political language in which civic values, social responsibility and the institutions that support them become central to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination, a renewed sense of social agency and an impassioned international social movement with a vision, organization and set of strategies to challenge the neoliberal nightmare engulfing the planet. Such a strategy would have to revive the radical imagination and the task of thinking about a future without capitalism and oppression; launch a comprehensive education program to provide alternative narratives, memories and histories that enable the capacities for informed judgment, ethical responsibilities and civic courage; and last but not least create those alternative public spheres where a new conversation can be opened up about the creation of a new progressive and socialist political formation. As Karl Marx said, there is nothing to lose but our chains.

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Why Trump Paints China as the New U.S. Enemy

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Sonali Kolhatkar.

On Sept. 26, 2018 President Trump made an extraordinary accusation against China during his remarks to the United Nations Security Council, saying, “Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration.” He made the claim without offering any evidence, but he did speculate about China’s motivation: “They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”

He added, “We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election.” While Trump’s animosity toward China is long-standing and predates even his presidential campaign, the unsubstantiated claim of election interference is a new low, even for him.

Less than two weeks after Trump accused China, Vice President Mike Pence echoed those claims in a speech to the Hudson Institute, saying, “China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment, leading into the 2020 presidential elections.” He added, “To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working; and China wants a different American president.”

Replace “China” with “Russia,” and reverse the motivation against Trump being president and these accusations sound an awful lot like the Democrats’ theory that Russia attempted in various ways to help Trump win the 2016 election. Except that the Russia interference theory is backed by the U.S. intelligence community with actual documents and even arrest warrants.

So far there is no evidence that China has actually attempted to interfere in U.S. elections. The Guardian pointed out that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said recently: “We currently have no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastructure.” Several Democratic senators even wrote a letter to Trump asking him to reveal any evidence he might have justifying such claims. Unsurprisingly, Trump has not responded.

So why would the Trump administration claim that China is interfering in our elections? Given that poll after poll has shown the likelihood of a “blue wave” during this November’s midterm elections handing control of the House to Democrats, is it possible that Trump wants to create a false narrative to explain the GOP’s imminent losses to his base? Far-fetched as that may sound, for a president who spews lies on a near-daily basis, what matters is not truth as much as cultivating faith among his supporters that he has their best interests at heart.

After all, the Democrats have successfully crafted a narrative that Trump is president because Russia’s Vladimir Putin wanted it so and made it happen—conveniently ignoring the major shortcomings of their nominee, Hillary Clinton. Trump has often taken such accusations aimed at him and turned them around to portray himself the victim of the same behavior—it is part of the habitual gaslighting we have grown accustomed to. If his party loses spectacularly in the fall, he can conveniently blame China and retort to critics that he and Mike Pence warned the nation about Chinese interference months earlier! It may even deflect from the special counsel’s scrutiny of him and his current and former Cabinet members on election wrongdoing.

Incidentally, this past July Trump tried to make the Russian interference argument against Democrats, tweeting, “I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

Is it possible that the ludicrous argument found little traction, leading him to pivot to China instead?

China is a convenient enemy for Trump. He has waged a trade war against it and has effectively cast Chinese economic might as the reason why his supporters are hurting financially. He tweeted earlier this year that China was being “vicious” and “targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S.”

The idea of China as a bogeyman also plays well into the Trump’s administration’s rampant racism. White European Russians aren’t useful enemies—Trump’s own wife is Eastern European. But the Chinese are exactly the type of people that Trump can rally his base against—nonwhite. Indeed, as Politico reported, during a dinner with CEOs in August, “Trump noted of an unnamed country that the attendee said was clearly China, [from where] ‘almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.’

It was recently revealed that Trump’s rabidly racist adviser Stephen Miller—the architect of the immigrant family separation debacle—apparently tried to convince the president to ban student visas for Chinese youth wanting to study in the U.S. Breitbart News—the extremist right-wing online media outlet favored by the Trump administration and its supporters—continued the theme with the publication this past Monday of an article titled, “Companies, Universities, Hire Chinese Researchers, Ignore National Security Worries.” In it, writer Neil Munro claimed without evidence that there is a “widespread recognition that China’s government is conducting an aggressive spy campaign.” The claims of Chinese people as spies echoes the sentiment that was used to justify the mass internment of people of Japanese descent in the U.S. during World War II.

Breitbart’s Munro then pivoted to his real concern: the large number of Chinese students graduating in science, math and technology fields from major U.S. universities and how many Chinese graduates then apply for green cards through corporate hiring—and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. In other words, the real issue isn’t Chinese spying as much as Chinese immigration to the U.S. through student visas.

This is the same type of racist fear-mongering that former Trump advisor Steve Bannon expressed years earlier on his radio show about how “Engineering schools are all full of people from South Asia and East Asia” who have “come in here to take these jobs.” In an interview with Trump, Bannon also claimed that “two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia”— a wild exaggeration.

On the other side of the aisle, neoliberal economists and liberal lawmakers have embraced China—not out of anti-racist benevolence, but because cheaply produced Chinese goods have made American retailers and distributors extremely wealthy. There was a time when Walmart became a leading American retailer chiefly because it slashed the cost of its products by moving manufacturing to China (a move that by one estimate resulted in the loss of 400,000 American jobs).

Today corporations like Apple, Nike and others rely on China’s low-paid nonunion workforce and weak environmental regulations to mass-produce goods to which Americans are addicted. Dollar Tree, the nationwide chain of discount stores catering to low- and middle-income Americans, is hugely reliant on China and deeply worried about how Trump’s trade war will impact its bottom line. According to USA Today, “Many of its inexpensive products can be made only in China, company executives said.” Interestingly, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who also relies on cheaply made Chinese goods to sell her branded products, will not be impacted by the U.S. tariffs on China.

The racist right-wing fear mongering against China and the embrace of mass consumerism of Chinese products are both toxic to society and the planet. The former is a manifestation of white nationalism, the latter of neoliberal globalization. While these forces are battling one another, it is imperative to recognize that both cause the suffering of ordinary human beings—whether they are American or Chinese.

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Trump Is Lying About Hurricane Michael

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan.

Draw a straight, 2,400-mile line from the tar sands oil extraction fields in northern Alberta, Canada, to the Florida Panhandle, just ravaged by Hurricane Michael, and the halfway point will fall in Clearwater County, Minnesota, the source of the Mississippi River. Although many miles apart, these places are inexorably linked – by climate change. Fossil fuel extraction from the Alberta tar sands drives global warming, which in turn increases the destructive power and frequency of storms like Hurricane Michael. And rural Clearwater County served as the site of another phenomenon linked to human-induced climate change: resistance. Three courageous citizens engaged in nonviolent direct action broke into a fenced enclosure owned by Enbridge, one of the world’s largest oil pipeline operators, and turned the valves, shutting down the flow of tar sands oil.

On Oct. 11, 2016, less than a month before the momentous U.S. election that delivered the presidency to climate change denier Donald Trump, these three activists approached a valve station in Leonard, Minnesota. Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, wearing hard hats and bright fluorescent vests, used chain cutters to open the gate and to unlock the hand-operated valves. The third person called Enbridge to let the company know that the pipelines were about to be shut down so they could take immediate action to avoid pressure buildup in the pipeline.

“For the sake of climate justice, to ensure a future for human civilization, we must immediately halt the extraction and burning of Canadian tar sands,” Benjamin Joldersma said into the phone. “For safety, I am calling to inform you that when I hang up this phone, we are closing the valves. Please shut down these two pipelines now, for safety and for our future.”

There were three other similar actions that day, in Montana, North Dakota and Washington state, all organized, along with the Minnesota protest, by the group Climate Direct Action. The goal of the four coordinated actions was to shut down all tar sands oil delivery from Canada into the United States, and it succeeded, according to the organizers. Tar sands oil is the world’s dirtiest petroleum; it is energy- and water-intensive to extract, and the sprawling, open-pit mining operations form a gray-black, toxic wasteland in the midst of Alberta’s vast boreal forests.

This multistate nonviolent civil disobedience had another motive, as well: to attempt to present a “defense of necessity” — that is, the defendants would acknowledge that they broke a law, but they did so out of necessity to prevent a far greater harm from occurring. “Valve turner” Annette Klapstein is a retired attorney for the Puyallup Tribe and member of the Raging Grannies. Speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, she explained the theory behind the necessity defense:

“The example that’s usually used is there’s a burning building and there’s a child in it. You break in and save the child but are charged with burglary, and you come out and say, ‘Well, yes, technically I did commit burglary because I had to break in. But I did it to save a child’s life.’ And we have a planet that’s on fire. And all of our children are going to burn if we don’t do something about it.”

Their trial commenced two years later, almost to the day, at the Clearwater County Courthouse in Bagley, Minnesota. In a major surprise, the judge accepted a defense motion to acquit the defendants. They were declared not guilty before the trial even got going.

Emily Johnston, co-founder of 350Seattle.org, was glad to avoid prison, but disappointed that they couldn’t put climate change on trial. Among the experts who were slated to testify on behalf of the defendants was climate scientist James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Hansen testified before Congress about the threat of global warming in 1988. He supports civil disobedience to confront the fossil fuel industry, and has been arrested five times himself. “We see already the beginnings of more extreme events, stronger storms, greater droughts, increasing fires. But these are just a small beginning of what’s in store for our children and grandchildren,” he said on “Democracy Now!,” seated next to Johnston and Klapstein.

The day before they were acquitted, just before Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, the United Nations released a ground-breaking report from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The nearly 100 scientists who wrote it, concluded in no uncertain terms that we have about twelve years to radically reduce our carbon emissions, or we’ll be locked into a trajectory that will be devastating to humanity and all life on Earth.

President Trump says the government is doing all it can for the victims of Hurricane Michael. Once again, he is lying. By denying climate change, he is assuring many more increasingly devastating storms and countless victims to come.

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How Trump Voters View the President Now

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Barbara Koeppel.


Editor’s note: This article is a follow-up to this first installment the author published on Oct. 14, 2016, in which she interviewed a group of Trump supporters. She has annotated her interviews by adding her own comments, indicated throughout the text using asterisks (*), below the transcript of the interviewees’ answers.

Two years have flown since November 2016, and it’s time to re-visit Trump’s middle-class, college-educated Republican voters.

Two of the original seven I interviewed—Larry, the Pennsylvania optometrist, and Janet, the Philadelphia paralegal, did not want to be re-interviewed, although Janet emailed, “I do not regret my vote.” In their place, I added Sheriff Ken Matlack, from Irrigon, a rural Oregon county.

The others are Judy, 79, from Princeton, N.J., a retired social worker; Cindy, 66, on Cape Cod, Mass., a retired public school teacher and motel owner; Ron, 73, in Abilene, Kan., an evangelical missionary who lived in Mozambique and South Africa for 10 years; Dave, 70, in Worcester, Mass., a retired community savings bank official; and Dane, 58, in Ft. Collins, Colo., a semi-retired realtor.

All are white and all but one are committed to President Trump. Here’s what they think about his first two years in general, his choice of Brett Kavanaugh and the Judiciary Committee hearings, Trump’s immigration policies, his attempts to scrap Obamacare, his cutbacks to environmental regulations, and his approach to assault rifles, today’s economy, the 2017 tax law, nuclear weapons and the deficit.

All gave me over an hour to tell their thoughts and responded to follow-up calls.

On Trump’s First Two Years

Judy. Trump’s done a wonderful job. He doesn’t hide behind a desk but instead makes the public feel it’s being listened to. He was bold enough to tell the United Nations that America is doing more than its fair share and others [other countries] are starting to pay more.

I still think he can be trusted. But the press does everything it can to make him look bad and focuses on the things that haven’t even been proven. I don’t care about the scandals. And I don’t think most people care about his relationships, which aren’t illegal and happened before he became president.

The whole FBI has been working against him. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were working in the Department of Justice to set up a narrative to demonize Trump, to make it look like he was colluding with the Russians. Someone from Fox News wrote “The Russian Hoax,” showing how people wanted to make sure Hillary got elected. [The full title is “The Russian Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump,” by Gregg Jarrett].

Cindy. He’s made mistakes, but his administration is more scrutinized than any others have been. Anything bad comes to the forefront, while in the past, things happened behind closed doors.

About his appointments, it’s horrible that so many politicians think they can do anything to anyone. And that’s true for Republicans or Democrats. When Trump was a candidate, I thought he was a family man. But he’s not. If he was, he wouldn’t have been in scandals that would embarrass his kids.

Dave. I’m suspicious of Trump because he changes his mind a lot, and his appointments are disturbing. They have to be scrutinized better because they think they’re above the law. I’m disappointed about some things, but I’m glad about the tax cut and the reduced regulations. The rest remains to be seen, like with his trade deals.

Dane. Trump has generally done what he said he’d do. He wanted to repatriate money back to the U.S. and he has. He’s increased jobs and he’s bringing North Korea to the table. I’m disappointed with Congress, because it hasn’t supported his agenda. But I won’t vote Democrat, since I know they’re pushing a hard left agenda, which is socialism.

On the Kavanaugh Hearings

Judy. The whole thing is a circus. The problem is, she [Christine Blasey Ford] can’t remember facts—like when it took place or the time. You can sympathize with her, but her testimony isn’t credible.

The Democrats are using her to delay this nomination until the elections. No matter how qualified the candidate is, they’ll do what they can do to delay it. Dianne Feinstein knew about Blasey Ford’s allegation in July and could have talked with him [Kavanaugh] about it in private. But they wanted to demonize him. Also, it doesn’t make sense that she [Ford] is afraid of flying but flies all around the world. And the Democrats’ lawyers coached her, while she was in Delaware. Lots of people who knew Kavanaugh support him.

I’m pro-choice, but there needs to be limits. Roe v. Wade is settled law and I don’t think either Gorsuch or Kavanaugh will overturn it.

Cindy. The hearings are a witch hunt. We have to watch the dirty laundry being aired in public and they all bash the Republicans. Why did the woman who said Kavanaugh molested her wait so long to say it? And why did Dianne Feinstein wait until now to bring the letter up? Too much is inconsistent. Kavanaugh was already vetted and this was traumatic. A couple years ago, a girl at Duke University ruined a kid’s career by claiming some things that she made up. When I taught middle school, I had a boss who put his hand on my skirt. Am I now going to say that he touched my skirt?

I’m pro-choice, and I’m fine with Kavanaugh because I don’t think he’ll remove Roe v. Wade. But if what she [Ford] claims is true, I wouldn’t support him being approved.

Ron. The hearings are a total sham. Kavanaugh has the most character of anybody. He’s worked hard all his life, was a judge, and has an impeccable record. We should have a poll to see who was not drinking beer to excess. Who gives a crap what he did at 17? I don’t care, since it has no bearing on whether he’s qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. She [Blasey Ford] looked pretty flaky. Even if she’s telling the truth, I still want him approved. What I did 35 years ago has no bearing on what I am now. We were kids and those were different times. Now you have to be politically correct.

Dave. I’m a conservative and I think the hearings are a circus. I don’t know who to believe. But everyone lost a sense of decency. Kavanaugh has to be scrutinized, and they probably should not hold back the documents. But it’s a shame we spend so much time on this, when there are so many problems to fix. Still, we can’t take the Supreme Court appointment lightly.

All this should have been handled earlier and more privately. I’m pleased the FBI is doing more investigating. If anything good comes out of this, people will learn they should tell about what happens to them sooner.

Ken. I like Kavanaugh, since he makes decisions based on the law. Also, he’s pro-life and so am I. I’m sick of how the information comes out at the 11th hour. If you have information on an applicant, it would have helped to put it on the table two months ago, to give Senate investigators time to look at it. It’s not the FBI’s job, which does background checks, but not of criminal investigations. This is a character issue, not a criminal one. They should have checked this two months ago. All they want to do is postpone it.

Dane. I’m pleased with Trump’s choices of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. I’m not pro-choice. People should use birth control to not get pregnant, instead of killing a baby as a method of birth control. Kavanaugh was right to rule against the 17-year-old woman in an ICE detention center who wanted an abortion. She should have been deported. Congress passed a law saying no federal dollars should be spent for abortions. It’s not our responsibility to pay for them.

On Immigration

Judy. I support Trump trying to get a handle on illegal immigration and crime. People used to be carefully vetted at Ellis Island, but we don’t do that now.* I’d like to see legal immigration, with people getting permits that allow them to come. ICE is trying to keep illegals out, but it’s getting a lot of blowback from the Democrats. We don‘t need to invite more of them in, since this doesn’t solve our crime problem, like what happened to Mollie Tibbetts, in Iowa, who was murdered this past summer. I know her father said she wouldn’t have wanted her murder to be used politically, but she’d be alive if it wasn’t for the man who was here illegally and stalked her. I’m very opposed to sanctuary cities. And separating kids from parents was started under Bush and Obama. But because of the outcry, Trump is trying to keep them together.

Cindy. People here illegally take jobs from those who are legal and from local people. A book, “Tortilla Curtain,” shows how this happens. They also take advantage of what’s offered, like families of migrant workers, who live in hotels for 30 days. Instead, the governments from where they come should be doing more to help their own people. They shouldn’t be our responsibility. If they bring their children, they know they’re going to be separated. It’s sad. But we need a different policy.

Ron. For years we turned a blind eye to illegal immigration, and it cost the taxpayers a lot.* I’ve lived in Mozambique, South Africa and Mexico, where it’s less than wonderful. But we can’t take everyone into the U.S. and build them a house.* It’s time to honor the law and the Trump administration is doing a good job. All the bleeding-heart people talk about separating children from parents. We try to make them sound like saints. But lots of parents send their kids to the border so the kids can bring in their parents later. When you start enforcing the laws, there are bound to be unpleasantries.

If you go to Mexico’s side of the border, you see slums and shacks because the government could care less. I know we try to make it look like these poor people are salt of the earth, but they’re trying to do anything they can to get into the U.S., because we live better than anyone in the world.* They come up through Mexico, which is basically a dictatorship* with drug cartels running things. If you come here from South Africa, you have to fill out 40 forms. But you can enter from Mexico in a heartbeat.

Dave. I’m a law-abiding person whose grandmother came through Ellis Island. The politicians have to come up with a plan to legalize the illegals and we have to close the border, which isn’t easy. Neither party has come up with a plan, although they ought to be able to fix it. As for the zero-tolerance policy, it shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. There should always be exceptions.

Ken. There’s more human trafficking than even two years ago, since it’s a moneymaker and they come with phony IDs. ICE is vetting people better to see if they have criminal records, but the border still isn’t secure. The people who’ve been here for years, worked, raised children and paid taxes are the ones who should be considered for citizenship.

Some kids are separated from their parents because of the crimes they commit. Also, since it’s so dangerous, I don’t know why people would want to endanger their children. You’d think they’d want to get established before they bring them in.

Dane: We need to defend our borders. Otherwise, you encourage people to cross illegally. As for separating children from parents, if an American parent took a child to another country and got arrested for doing something illegal, they’d also be separated from their children.

On the Economy, Taxes, Trade

Judy. I hoped the economy would improve, and it has. I think Trump is responsible for that.

Cindy. The economy doesn’t affect us, because we planned our work, saved, and are frugal.

Ron. The tax law doesn’t affect me because I’m retired and not in the system anymore. As long as they don’t get my Social Security, I’m happy. There’s been lots of rhetoric that they’ll mess with that, but they haven’t. And I don’t think they’ll lower Medicare benefits, although they could.

Dave. I’m a fiscal conservative who ran a community savings bank and I’m very concerned about the economy. Time will tell if the growth we get out of the new tax law will pay for it and I’m not convinced it will pan out the way the politicians said.

Ken. The tax cut will put more money in people’s pockets and more people are working than ever. So Trump’s policies have done a good job.

After being abused by countries with unfair trade deals, I’m glad Trump is trying to make things fairer, by putting export taxes on China and Canada. A lot of farmers will support him.

Dane. The tax law has benefited larger companies, which have given bonuses and increased wages—even for low-paying jobs. For smaller companies like mine, it won’t have much effect.

On Obamacare and “Medicare for All”

Judy. I don’t have a problem getting health care since I have Medicare and good back-up insurance. But Obamacare wasn’t a good idea and didn’t help people. Much of it benefited insurance companies. I don’t object to expanding Medicaid to vulnerable people, who should have a basic level of care. But there are more options to choose. For example, some are trying to form co-ops that could cross state lines to get the most efficient policy. The Republican Congress could have changed the system and didn’t. Medicare for all would be very expensive and I don’t think universal health care is right. We know that lots of Canadians, who have this kind of system, come here for innovative procedures.

Cindy. If Obamacare was ended, it would be awful to cut off 14 million people. But there have to be checks and balances. About Medicare for all, I go back to my thoughts about people on the dole who think they’re going to be covered no matter what. I worked very hard all my life, and I don’t want to live where there’s a socialist government. But if doctors were their own bosses under Medicare for all, not run by the government, it would be all right. Although some of the things Medicare pays for are not right, it’s been wonderful for my mother and us. We had to get her a hospital bed which would have cost $5,000 if we paid on our own.

Ron. I’m on Medicare and in the VA system and my wife gets Blue Cross/Blue Shield with her job, so neither of us are affected by Obamacare. But we need to get rid of the fraud and close the loopholes. They only passed a law but didn’t pay attention to the system.

Dave. Obamacare has lots of holes but at some point, we have to work toward health care for all. It’s a travesty that we don’t have it. Biggest cause of death in this country is poverty. This has to change.

Ken. The neediest should be covered, but with Trump’s economy and the lowest unemployment rate ever,* there’s more work and people will have the income they need to get health care.

Dane: We need to get rid of Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office said 13 million people would lose their medical coverage, but it doesn’t have accurate numbers and is often wrong. I’m against Medicare for all. Why should I be penalized for other people’s lifestyles? If we go to universal health care, low-risk individuals will end up paying for those who don’t have a good lifestyle. It would also add another bureaucratic layer to the system, which will increase the cost of health care.

On the Deficit

Dave. We expect to add another trillion dollars to the deficit, and this is in the good times, when we should have surpluses. So what will we have in the next downturn? We have record revenue coming in, but we also have above-record expenses. The unemployment rate is down, and the economy is adding 200,000 jobs a month. So it might balance out. Sales taxes will be higher, but we need to wait to see if federal revenues are up. I don’t think they’ll be as much as was thought.

Ken. If the economy continues to grow and more people are employed, more will pay taxes. Decent jobs are already happening and more people are paying sales taxes. But a lot of people don’t save, and I say shame on them. If you’re making money, you should be saving.

Dane. I doubt the deficit will increase by $1.5 trillion but Congress hasn’t done its job. We need to bite the bullet and cut the bureaucracy and spending, like on education programs that don’t benefit our schools.

On Climate Change and the Environment

Judy. Climate change doesn’t have anything to do with the severe weather we’ve had. We’ve always had hurricanes. I’m not convinced there’s much difference now or that man can control the climate.

It was good to leave the Paris accord because it didn’t help us. We’re doing a good job on our own, compared with other countries, working to keep our water and air clean. For example, pollution in China is much worse than here.

Cindy. I’m fine with getting out of Paris agreement because there’s always a better way. And even if we make a little difference in our lifetime, it won’t affect climate change. It has changed before and will happen again. We need to do what we can, but not be extreme. Renewable energy should be the goal, but I’m a realist and it’s not going to happen.

Because Trump got out of the [Paris] accord, more countries are paying their dues. He’s a bully, but what he’s done to get the countries to pay their way is right.

Dave. I don’t know if he should have pulled out of the Paris accord. We could do a lot in this country, promoting renewable energy and being efficient. But we shouldn’t do away with all fossil fuel.

Ken. I don’t believe massive weather events are caused by climate change. They‘ve been going on for eons. I’m not disappointed that Trump pulled out of the Paris accord. And we shouldn’t lock the door on the coal industry. Instead, we should use all resources, and if you want to reduce something, replace it with something else. Oregon has lots of wind, but I can’t say how practical it’s been, with the cost of wind farms and the amount of energy generated and sold.

We have a coal plant in Oregon and people kept complaining that when coal was transported to the plant in railroad cars, coal dropped out, which caused fires. But in 40 years, we only had one coal car fire. What are they talking about? No coal is being dropped from the cars.

Dane. The severe weather we’ve had is not linked to climate change. I approve of getting out of the Paris accord because it hurt the U.S., economically, more than any other country. It allowed countries like China to get away with murder.

On Weakened Regulations

Judy. The coal industry was hurt by previous administrations. There’s a value to coal and making it clean, and I understand you can do that. Coal jobs have come back in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and coal is not that harmful to the environment.*

Cindy. Could we protect the environment so things don’t become extinct? In the end, nothing will change this. If the new regulations put more money on the table for people and jobs, I’m for that. But if you have something like Love Canal in Buffalo, where the company knew what it was doing, it should have been fined and put out of business.

Dave. I’m for streamlining the processes for businesses and for fewer regulations. But I don’t want to dump coal ash into streams. Fracking should be allowed, but with safeguards on it. In the same way, we shouldn’t hold up a pipeline, but instead make sure it doesn’t go through waterways. On balance, the less regulations the better.

Dane. We won’t see any major detrimental effects because environmental regulations were weakened.

On Nuclear Weapons

Judy. I’m for the efforts the Trump administration is making with North Korea, to eliminate that country’s nuclear weapons.

Cindy. Nuclear weapons are scary.

Dave. We have to negotiate through strength, but the last thing you want to do is start a nuclear war. Even if all the countries said they wanted to eliminate them, I’m skeptical, since some would want to keep them. You can’t trust governments.

Dane. The U.S. needs to maintain its position of strength to maintain peace worldwide. I’d prefer nuclear weapons not ever be used, but the reality is that somewhere down the line a rogue country will use them, most likely in the Middle East. Pakistan has them and Iran could get access to them.

On the Iran Agreement, North Korea

Judy. I’m absolutely for Trump getting out of the Iran agreement. What the Obama administration did was terrible. We gave money to Iran and the mullahs.* We didn’t have enough controls and propped up a terrible regime. I wish European countries would get out of it, too. Iran is a dangerous country. They keep saying “Death to America,” even after the deal.

Cindy. I’m glad Trump got out of it. It was unnecessary to give Iran the money it did. What he did with North Korea, meeting with Kim, is commendable. Since then, there hasn’t been nuclear testing. And he helped broker conversations between North and South Korea,* which is good.

Dave. I don’t know all the facts, and under the agreement, in 10 years, would Iran have been able to go back to what they were doing? I read that Iran broke every promise, so who knows if it can be trusted.

Ken. It was fine that Trump pulled out of the Iran agreement. Under it, they got so much money from the U.S. The best thing that could happen is if the people there overthrew that sadistic regime. If they do, I hope the U.S. would side with the people.

Dane. We should never have signed the [Paris] accord, which was one-sided. It gave billions to a regime to put into terrorism, and only helped it support its military goals, which is to control the Middle East. Iran has been working with North Korea on its research. I don’t believe the U.N. inspection groups and others actually know what’s in Iran, since they didn’t allow the U.N. people to come in.* Instead, they were self-examining to see if they were doing research. The whole travesty that Obama put in place with Iran was ridiculous.*

On Assault Rifles

Judy. I’m against assault weapons and it would be fine if they were banned, if it would prevent the shootings. But we have a right to bear arms. The killings in schools and elsewhere are more of a mental health problem. In Florida, the killer was reported to authorities, including the FBI, and no one did anything about it. I understand that teachers say they don’t want to be armed. It’s a law enforcement issue—to have a safety officer in the schools. But I’d like to see more on prevention, too.

Cindy. I have a friend who doesn’t want to teach in a school where someone is carrying a gun. But I don’t have a problem with guns if they’re used appropriately. They serve a purpose, whether you’re in law enforcement or not. There should be regulations about who can purchase them. Assault weapons should be for the military—not for people who go hunting.

Dave. People shouldn’t have weapons that can kill so many at once. The average person doesn’t need an assault rifle. But I’m in favor of having guns. As for killings in the schools, I don’t think arming teachers will solve the problem.

Ken. I like Trump’s support for Second Amendment issues. Every person has a God-given right to protect himself and his family. A lot of police officers want to keep the Second Amendment. Mayors spout off about how bad the Second Amendment is, but they have armed security guards with them. I’d like to see them go to meetings without their bodyguards.

I have no problem with assault rifles and the Constitution doesn’t have a problem with them either. We’ve had semi-automatic rifles for a long time. Every time you squeeze the trigger only one bullet comes out, not any faster than with any other weapon.* The people who use them are good and lawful.

I support arming teachers. If they are trained and want to protect themselves and their students, they should have the right to do it. School shootings happen quickly, and even schools that have police officers don’t have one in every building. And what happens is always before the police get there. The teachers I know who could use a gun I’d trust with my daughter’s life. With no intervention, people will be killed.

Dane. The Constitution guarantees the right to firearms. The reality is, I’d rather see more people carry guns. There are incidents when guns have actually saved people’s lives, but the press doesn’t report them, since it doesn’t support their agenda.

The Facts

*On Immigration
Immigrants vetted at Ellis Island.
Fact: At the turn of the 20th century, the only limits were on the Chinese, who were restricted from immigrating in 1882. The U.S. needed workers and immigration was encouraged. Only prostitutes, paupers, polygamists, persons with “dangerous and loathsome contagious diseases,” anarchists and radicals, the feebleminded, the insane and illiterate were banned. Immigration services excluded only 1 percent of the 25 million people from Europe who arrived at Ellis Island from 1880 to World War I. Source: The American Immigration Council

*On the U.S. Building Houses for Immigrants
Fact: Private houses are not being built for immigrants. The U.S. Navy plans to build tent cities to house illegal immigrants. ICE now runs 113 detention facilities around the country.

*On Mexico Being a Dictatorship
Fact: Mexico has a multi-party system. Its president is elected for a 6-year term and it has a Senate and Congress. Each of 31 states elects a governor.

*On People in the U.S. Living Better Than Anywhere Else
The SEDA (Sustainable Economic Development Assessment) score, estimated by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in July 2016 measured citizens’ wellbeing, based on a country’s wealth, economics, investment in health, education and infrastructure, and stability (which includes income and employment). Norway ranked No. 1, closely followed by the other Northern European countries; the U.S. was No. 19. Source: The Economist 7-20-16.

The United Nations March 2018 World Happiness Report weighs life expectancy, social support, freedom and trust. Finland was No. 1, Norway No. 2, Denmark No. 3, Costa Rica No. 13 and the U.S. No. 18.

*On Obama and Bush Starting the Separation of Children from Parents
In June 2018, Kirstjen Nielsen, head of Homeland Security, claimed this to be true, but couldn’t give any numbers. Also, Trump has said separating children from parents “has been going on for 50 years.”
Fact: Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at University of Texas Law School has called this statement “preposterous.” She said a family might have been separated once every six months or a year, but that was due to a possible trafficking situation, or because the person claiming to be the parent was not the parent. Source: NBC News.

*On Obamacare
About people on Medicaid not working.
Fact: 60 percent of nondisabled people on Medicaid (15 million people) are working. A 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation report found nearly eight in 10 Medicaid recipients live in families with at least one worker. Forty-two percent work full time, 18 percent work part-time, 40 percent don’t work, 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women work. Medicaid recipients of all races work: 59 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 57 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, 63 percent of Hispanics, 62 percent of Asians, and 45 percent of Native Americans.

*On Taxpayers Paying for Undocumented Immigrants
Fact: While Trump claimed undocumented immigrants received $4.2 billion in tax credits, they actually paid state and local taxes estimated at $11.6 billion in 2016—and at least 50 percent of them filed tax returns. Of the $11.6 billion, $1.1 billion were from personal income taxes. Source: Forbes, October 2016, by Niall McCarthy

*On the Current Unemployment Rate 
Fact: It’s now 3.9 percent, but this was also the rate in 2000. It was 1.2 percent in 1944, 1.9 percent in 1943, 2.7 percent in 1952, and 3.4 percent in 1968.

*On the Kavanaugh Hearings; the FBI’s Role in the Investigations
Fact: In 1991, during the Clarence Thomas hearings, the FBI investigated Anita Hill for three days. Based on its report, the White House said her allegations were “unfounded.” Hill had testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

*On Weakened Environmental Regulations
About coal jobs coming back to Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Fact: In 2018, there was a net gain of 1,300 coal jobs.

*On Coal Being Nonpolluting
Fact: Besides carbon dioxide, coal also produces sulfur dioxide (acid rain); nitrogen oxide (smog, burned lung tissue, asthma); particulates, soot or fly ash (bronchitis); and mercury (brain damage and heart problems). Until now, no technology exists to clean coal, despite research around the world. Union of Concerned Scientists: Coal and Air Pollution.

*On Leaving the Iran Agreement and Billions Given to Iran
Fact: Although Trump said the deal gave Iran $150 billion and $1.8 billion in cash, the U.S. didn’t “give it.” After 1979, U.S. sanctions against Iran froze its assets, most of which were in overseas banks. The 2016 agreement freed up these funds, which are not $150 billion but rather $25 billion-$50 billion. As for the $1.8 billion (actually $1.7 billion), Iran had paid this amount to the U.S. before 1979 for arms it bought but that were never delivered. Source: A 2018 Congressional Research Service report.

*On Korea
About Trump brokering conversations between North and South Korea.
Fact: The U.S. has not played a role, and Vice President Pence sat stonily at the Olympics, when the Koreans marched under one flag.

*On Nuclear Weapons
About Iran cheating the inspectors.
Fact: IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, launched under President Eisenhower in 1957) inspectors were in Iran for a total of 3,000 days (in 2018) and verified that Iran was implementing its nuclear commitments.

*On Flaws the U.S. Made Concerning the Iran Agreement
Fact: The Agreement was arranged by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: China, France, Russia, U.K. and the U.S., plus Germany and the EU.

*On Assault Rifles
About these being no faster than other weapons.
Fact: When bump stocks are fitted onto semi-automatic rifles, they shoot almost as fast as fully automatic machine guns. At the Las Vegas concert shooting, Stephan Paddock killed 58 people and injured 851 in 10 minutes. He modified his rifle with a bump stock.

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On the Anniversary of #MeToo, a Look at Our Best Reports

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

Friday marks a year since a New York Times piece about Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein sparked a viral movement against sexual violence in its many forms. In honor of the milestone, Truthdig has rounded up some of its best original reports on the subject by columnists Sonali Kolhatkar, Kasia Anderson, Natasha Hakimi Zapata, Emily Wells and more. Click on the hyperlinked headline in the following list to read the full article.

Turning #MeToo Into a Movement for Gender Justice

Heads have fallen aplenty, but what will it take to channel this sea change into a lasting cultural shift?

#MeToo Creating a Slow but Steady Sea Change (Audio)

Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer sits down with professor and media expert Mary Murphy to discuss the #MeToo movement and her thoughts on the future of journalism.

It’s the Patriarchy, Stupid

Over and over, men like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Damon miss the larger point about the #MeToo movement.

I’ll Vouch for It: James Toback Is Capable of Sexual Harassment

Sixteen years ago, I had a professional encounter with “The Pick-up Artist” director that gives me reason to believe the women now accusing him.

How Should Journalists Report on the #MeToo Movement?

We have an obligation to listen—then report with nuance, attention and scrutiny.

Tony Robbins, Women See Who You Are

Your unprocessed anger was on full display in your behavior toward a woman who challenged your criticism of the #MeToo movement.

From #MeToo to #WeToo

Sexual harassment of women by men is an act of retaliation, but now the foundation of patriarchal dominance may be crumbling.

Why Some of Us Hesitated to Say #MeToo

To speak out on the issue of male power abuse, many women must leap into a personal reservoir of pain.

Sanders Wants a ‘Revolution’ in How We Treat Women

Known for campaigning for a political revolution in 2016, Bernie Sanders is now calling for a cultural one.

Beyond #MeToo and #IBelieveYou

If we really want to make our society safer, we must acknowledge the subtle ways we maintain a culture that disempowers women.

In the Era of #MeToo, Will Trump’s Accusers Finally Be Heard?

The GOP leadership should be called out on its hypocrisy in believing Roy Moore’s accusers—but not President Trump’s.

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