News Releases

Trump’s Twitter Suspension Raises Calls for Democratic Accountability

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Following the Capitol Hill riot which delayed Congress certifying the Electoral College results, Donald Trump was banned by Twitter, Facebook and other big tech corporations. Google removed the far-right user-friendly platform Parler from its mobile app store and Apple threatened the same.
 
THOMAS HANNA, tmhanna@democracycollaborative.org, @ThomasMHanna  
    Hanna is director of research at The Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of the book Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States.

MICHAEL BRENNAN, mb@democracypolicy.network, @mrbrnn
    Brennan is a research fellow at The Democracy Collaborative and a policy organizer at the Democracy Policy Network.

    Hanna and Brennan recently published an article in Jacobin: “There’s No Solution to Big Tech Without Public Ownership.” They contributed to the report from Common Wealth UK and The Democracy Collaborative as part of the think tanks’ Ownership Futures project: “A Common Platform: Reimagining Data and Platforms.”

    Following the suspension of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, Brennan said: “While people may laugh at the absurdity of the Twitter President being put in permanent time-out, it raises a serious question about decision-making. There is an ongoing constitutional crisis occurring within and between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. Citizens depend on media to communicate events and narratives as they unfold in real-time, but the means of communication have long been unaccountable to users, workers, or governments. What are the implications of platform monopolies’ direct intervention in political conflict?

    “In October, the House Judiciary Committee completed its historic investigation into Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, which included evidence for Google and Apple’s duopoly in mobile app stores. The duos move to bar platforms who do not conform to their standard of free speech, such as Parler, effectively limits the entire social media ecosystem to that decided by the dominant platforms. …

    “The companies face Congressional investigation, antitrust lawsuits, tense political maneuvers, as well as recent major union activity with the formation of the Alphabet Workers Union. But the terms of this debate are still narrowly focused on ‘increasing competition’ rather than a full-scale re-imagination of the platform economy away from surveillance capitalism and toward democratic control.”

Slava Zilber posited that monopolies are now targeting rightwingers because Democrats are now in charge of Congress.

See past Institute for Public Accuracy news releases:

From 2020: “Zoom Censors University Event

2019: “Israel Bombs Palestinians as Twitter Censors Them

2018: “Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content

Biden Nominating Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland

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Various media outlets are reporting that Joe Biden will nominate Victoria Nuland for the influential role of under secretary of state for political affairs.

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09@gmail.com
Carden is the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord and founding editor thescrum.substack.com. He is also a former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Commission.

He said today: “Victoria Nuland has had a long and storied career in the foreign service and for a long time was viewed with something like reverence by career officers. Nuland served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO and later was national security adviser to vice president Dick Cheney. After that, Nuland found herself on the ‘outs’ at the State Department during the early Obama years. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had other plans for Nuland, the well-connected wife of the neoconservative publicist Robert Kagan. Clinton, to the astonishment of many of the political appointees in Clinton’s orbit, plucked Nuland from the obscurity of her position at the Naval War College to become Clinton’s spokeswoman.

“This was the road back to influence and Nuland used it, quickly ascending to the position of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. It is from that post that she oversaw U.S. efforts to encourage a street coup in Kiev — going so far as to hand out cookies to anti-government protesters alongside the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The February 2014 coup, undertaken by an alliance of pro-Western liberalizers and hardline anti-Semitic militants, resulted not in a more peaceful order, but in a civil war (in which both Russia and NATO funded and armed their proxies) that resulted in the loss of over 10,000 lives and the displacement of well over a million people from the Russophone east. After the coup, Nuland became an unwitting symbol of American heavy-handedness in the region when a call between her and Pyatt leaked in which they were seen to be hand-picking personnel for the new government in Ukraine. What would the EU think? ‘Fuck the EU,’ exclaimed Nuland, a diplomat.

“After the coup — violent and unnecessary, given that the deposed Ukrainian leader had agreed to an early peaceful transition at the ballot box, Nuland bragged at a conference sponsored by Chevron that: ‘Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance. … We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.’

“In the years following, we have ‘invested’ a great deal more money into Ukraine — for questionable returns. But the affair has not seemed to have clouded Nuland’s career prospects. Smart, well-connected, and well-liked, she, like many of her fellow neocons, seems to move from strength to strength in this town, never held to account for the damage they’ve caused. After her stint in the State Department ended (she was replaced in the early Trump years by the woefully unqualified neocon operative A. Wess Mitchell), Nuland took up what one can only assume were lucrative positions on the other side of the revolving door at the Center for a New American Security (where she served as CEO), the Boston Consulting Group and the Albright Stonebridge Group (from which, perhaps not coincidentally, her future boss, Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, hails).

“Her views on Russia and European affairs are well known. Less known, however, are her views on America’s role in the Middle East. Let’s hope that changes because in an article in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Nuland lamented that the U.S., under Trump, ‘made both Putin’s and Assad’s lives easier by neutralizing a shared threat, the Islamic State, or, ISIS.’

“As Biden’s undersecretary of political affairs, Nuland would have immense influence over policy and personnel. Progressives in Congress and their partners in the media, think tank world and among grassroots activists should join forces with the growing caucus of anti-interventionist Republicans on the Hill and vigorously oppose this nomination.”

Can We Make the Electoral College Representative? Two Proposals

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PATRICK ROSENSTIEL, pat@ainsleyshea.com, @NatlPopularVote
Rosenstiel is with NationalPopularVote.com, which advocates for “The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” which would “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Compact ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The Compact is a state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, state control of elections, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.”

The group states: “Because of these state winner-take-all laws, presidential candidates only pay attention to the concerns of voters in closely divided battleground states. In 2020, 2016, and 2012, a dozen battleground states received 96 percent, 94 percent, and 100 percent of all of the general-election campaign events, respectively. In these three elections, 25 states did not receive even one campaign event, and six additional states received only one. The politically irrelevant spectator states included almost all of the small states, rural states, agricultural states, Southern states, Western states, and Northeastern states.”

JABARI ZAKIYA, jzakiya@gmail.com@jzakiya
Zakiya wrote the piece “The Case for Proportional Allocation of Presidential Electors,” which states: “Currently there are 538 electors distributed among the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). To become President, the U.S. Constitution requires a candidate must receive the Electoral College vote of a majority of electors (270), but it doesn’t specify, or mandate, the manner in which electors shall be allocated by the states to candidates. The practice has become to allocate electors on a winner-take-all basis to whichever candidate merely wins a plurality (not even a majority) of the popular vote in each state.” Zakiya presents a proposal for all states to proportionally allocate electors from each state. Currently Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that don’t use winner-take-all to allocate their electors.

WikiLeaks: While Upholding U.S. Government’s Core Arguments, British Judge Rejects Assange Extradition

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com@kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola reports: “Citing harsh federal prison conditions in the United States, a British district court judge rejected the United States government’s extradition request against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Judge Vanessa Baraitser found Assange suffers from a ‘recurrent depressive disorder.’ Although he functions at a high level, he suffers from autism as well.”

In a detailed Twitter thread, Gosztola wrote this morning: “Judge Baraitser accepted virtually all of [the] allegations against Assange that made this a dangerous case for press freedom. Despite the fact that the request was rejected, there is plenty in this ruling to cause alarm.” See Gosztola’s extensive reporting on Assange’s trial, which he covered in London.

JAMES GOODALE, jcgoodal@debevoise.com
Goodale is a former vice chairman and general counsel of the New York Times and is the author of Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles. His piece on the verdict is expected to be published in The Hill shortly. His prior articles include: “Pentagon Papers lawyer: The indictment of Assange is a snare and a delusion.”

Desmond Tutu: Biden Should Stop Israeli Nuclear Cover-up

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The Guardian just published a piece by Archbishop Desmond Tutu titled “Joe Biden Should End the U.S. Pretence over Israel’s ‘Secret’ Nuclear Weapons: The cover-up has to stop — and with it, the huge sums in aid for a country with oppressive policies towards Palestinians.”

Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate, is a former archbishop of Cape Town and, from 1996 to 2003, was chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The piece states: “Every recent U.S. administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into office. All have agreed to undermine U.S. law by signing secret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Part of the reason for this is to stop people focusing on Israel’s capacity to turn dozens of cities to dust. This failure to face up to the threat posed by Israel’s horrific arsenal gives its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a sense of power and impunity, allowing Israel to dictate terms to others.

“But one other effect of the U.S. administration’s ostrich approach is that it avoids invoking the U.S.’s own laws, which call for an end to taxpayer largesse for nuclear weapons proliferators. …

“Israel in fact is a multiple nuclear weapons proliferator. There is overwhelming evidence that it offered to sell the apartheid regime in South Africa nuclear weapons in the 1970s and even conducted a joint nuclear test. The U.S. government tried to cover up these facts. Additionally, [Israel] has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. …

“Amendments by former Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn to the Foreign Assistance Act ban U.S. economic and military assistance to nuclear proliferators and countries that acquire nuclear weapons. While president, Jimmy Carter invoked such provisions against India and Pakistan.

“But no president has done so with regard to Israel. Quite the contrary. There has been an oral agreement since President Richard Nixon to accept Israel’s ‘nuclear ambiguity’ — effectively to allow Israel the power that comes with nuclear weapons without the responsibility. And since President Bill Clinton, according to the New Yorker magazine, there have been these secret letters. …

“The incoming Biden administration should forthrightly acknowledge Israel as a leading state sponsor of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and properly implement U.S. law. …

“Israel’s per capita gross domestic product is comparable with that of Britain. Nevertheless, U.S. taxpayer funds to Israel exceed that to any other country. Adjusted for inflation, the publicly known amount over the years is now approaching $300bn. …

“South Africa learned that it could only have real peace and justice by having truth that would lead to reconciliation. But none of those will come unless truth is faced squarely — and there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.”

Available for interviews:

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith@irmep.org, @IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. He was featured on an accuracy.org news release last month, “How Biden Could Advance Peace and Save Hundreds of Billions in Funds: Will Biden Finally Acknowledge Israel’s Nukes?

Beyond “Pathetic” Relief Bill: How to Fix Finance

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Commondreams reports: “‘Pathetic’: Congress Passes Covid Relief Bill With Billions in Gifts for the Wealthy, $600 Checks for the Working Class.” David Sirota writes: “Dems refused to seize a rare opportunity to outmaneuver McConnell — now the final COVID relief bill skimps on benefits, provides tax breaks to the rich, and notches a big win for austerity extremism.”

ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown@gmail.com, @ellenhbrown
Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of 13 books including the best-selling The Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free.

ScheerPost just publisher her latest piece, “FDR Knew Exactly How to Solve Today’s Unemployment Crisis,” which states: “The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 can rebuild crumbling infrastructure across America, pushing up long-term growth, not only without driving up taxes or the federal debt, but without hyperinflating the money supply or generating financial asset bubbles. The NIB has growing support across the country from labor leaders, elected officials, and grassroots organizations. It can generate real wealth in the form of upgraded infrastructure and increased employment as well as federal and local taxes and GDP, paying for itself several times over without additional outlays from the federal government. With official unemployment at nearly double what it was a year ago and an economic crisis unlike the U.S. has seen in nearly a century, the NIB can trigger the sort of ‘economic miracle’ the country desperately needs.”

Buttigieg at Transportation Gives Campaign “Investors” Great Return

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President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation.

MAX MORAN, moran@cepr.net@revolvingdoorDC

Moran is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project and wrote the piece “Biden’s cabinet could do a lot – if he resists the urge to fill it with ‘consensus’ picks” last month. The group also just launched a Personnel Map.
The group recently posted the piece “Buttigieg’s Campaign Donors Would Likely Get A Strong R.O.I. [Return on Investment] If He Headed Transportation” which states: “Buttigieg’s tendency to shift policy positions based on the preferences of large donors remains a significant concern if he were chosen to head a cabinet department. …

“Buttigieg’s campaign policy director Sonal Shah (a former Goldman Sachs and Google executive whose market-centric vision of change we have previously written about) regularly headlined high-dollar fundraisers for wealthy donors (whom the campaign tellingly called its ‘investors’). By tapping his national policy director to oversee big donor fundraisers, Buttigieg eroded what had typically been a dividing line between campaign policymaking and solicitation of campaign contributions.

“The industry connections of Buttigieg’s donors are of even greater concern. According to FEC data collected in the Revolving Door Project’s Presidential Power Map, Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign raked in large contributions from top executives at major technology and defense corporations like Google (from whom he received over $44,000), Apple (from whom he received over $16,000), Amazon (over $12,000), and Raytheon (over $8,000). Public disclosures show that all four of these companies have repeatedly lobbied the Department of Transportation in the last year. Other major corporations whose executives donated to Buttigieg include Walmart and Allstate, as well as several members on the boards of Boeing, JetBlue, and American Airlines (all of whom, again, have lobbied DOT in the last year). Bradley Tusk, a former lobbyist for Uber who made more than $100 million helping the rideshare giant expand operations in New York, was one of the Buttigieg campaign’s top fundraiser hosts. …

“Buttigieg’s consulting work for McKinsey included serving on a team of consultants that advised the United States Postal Service (USPS) on partial privatization and the replacement of its unionized workforce with non-unionized labor. He also served on a McKinsey team that advised Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on mass layoffs, sparking a lawsuit and scathing anti-privatization report from Michigan’s Attorney General.

“The next Transportation Secretary will have many critical issues to tackle, from undoing the damage wrought by Elaine Chao, to regulating a bailed-out and scandal–ridden airline industry, to overseeing developments in the rideshare economy, corporate retail logistics, and autonomous vehicles. A nominee connected to major industry donors will undermine public confidence in President-elect Biden’s stated goal to ‘make government work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.'”

Samantha Power’s Role in Yemen Disaster

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Media reports indicate that Joe Biden is considering naming Samantha Power to head USAID [the United States Agency for International Development].

DANIEL KOVALIK, dkovalik@outlook.com@danielmkovalik
Kovalik is the author of No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using “Humanitarian” Intervention To Advance its Economic and Strategic Interests (see on Simon and Schuster’s website.)

He said today: “While making her name by penning a Pulitzer-prize award-winning book inveighing against the evils of genocide — A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide — Power went on as Obama’s ambassador to the UN to actually help facilitate quite possibly the greatest slaughter of innocents in modern history.”

Kovalik cites the work of Shireen Al-Adeimi who wrote the piece “How Dare Samantha Power Scrub the Yemen War From Her Memoir,” which states that Power, in her 2019 autobiography, The Edu­ca­tion of an Ide­al­ist, “down­plays her role in the blood­shed that fol­lowed in Libya. … The most strik­ing thing about Power’s mem­oir is her com­plete omis­sion of her role in what became the world’s worst human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis: the ongo­ing U.S. inter­ven­tion in Yemen.”

Kovalik added: “As Foreign Policy noted back in October 2015, the fact that the United States was supporting the Saudi coalition military offensive against Yemen — in the form of intelligence, logistics (including mid-air refueling of Saudi jets), and even cluster bombs — and ‘inflicting extreme hardship on civilians in one of the Mideast’s poorest countries provides an awkward counterpoint to the Obama administration’s stated commitment to stand up for the region’s oppressed people.’ In addition to the military support for the Saudi coalition operations, this same piece mentions that the United States also provided diplomatic cover to these operations at the United Nations. Thus, the U.S. Mission to the UN, led by Samantha Power herself, scuttled a proposal which merely would have asked all the key actors to cooperate with human rights investigations in Yemen and would have reminded them to abide by international humanitarian law norms and human rights law in the prosecution of the conflict.”

Colum Lynch reported at the time: “Behind closed doors, the United States has sought to limit international scrutiny of rights abuses in Yemen. Last Friday, the United States blocked a proposal in a UN Security Council sanctions committee to have the committee’s chair, Lithuanian UN Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, approach ‘all relevant parties to the conflict and stress their responsibility to respect and uphold international humanitarian law and human rights law,’ according to Security Council diplomats. The committee also recommended that Murmokaite ask the key players to cooperate with its investigations into potential human rights abuses in Yemen.”

See piece in Al Jazeera from a year ago: “Yemen ‘could lose six million children’ from malnutrition.”

Trump’s Morocco Move: Inviting Counties to Invade Each Other; Will Biden Reverse it?

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On Thursday, accuracy.org put out a news release: “Trump: Paying Off Morocco with Western Sahara to Recognize Israel.”

MUBARAK AWAD, mubarak@nonviolenceinternational.net@NVIntl

JONATHAN KUTTAB, jonathankuttab@gmail.com
Awad is president of Nonviolence International. He visited Western Sahara in 2015 and has been noting that the occupation of Palestine is similar to that of Western Sahara in many ways.

The group’s co-founder, Kuttab, who like Awad, is Palestinian, recently wrote the book Beyond the Two-State Solution. He said in reaction to Trump’s move: “Since the end of World War II, one of the bedrocks of international law was the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force. Of the 194 countries in the world today more than half have some sort of claim, historical, tribal, security interests, or economic desires, to acquire portions of their neighbors’ territory. This is particularly true of Africa where it was the colonial powers who drew the national boundaries often with little concern for the tribal or other interests of the indigenous people.

“Yet an international order where any country can find an excuse to invade its neighbors and assert ancient claims (however justified) would lead to total chaos. That is why the inviolability of international borders became a bedrock of international law. The few attempts to deviate from this have met with uniform opposition by the international community. …”

This principle, noted Kuttab, was explicitly violated by Trump not only in his “approval of the annexation of East Jerusalem and moving the U.S. embassy there, but also the annexation of the Golan Heights.”

On Thursday, “Trump announced yet another violation of this principle by announcing that the U.S. recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, in a horse deal that traded normalization with Israel to recognize the highly contested claims of Morocco over Western Sahara. Apart from the clear violation of international law, and the injustice to the people of Western Sahara and their right to self-determination, this move further erodes international law and principles, and almost invites countries all over the world, particularly in Africa, to invade their neighbors, or wait for an opportune moment to assert their claims, and for the proper incentive needed to have the U.S. approve it.”

Especially given these ramifications, Kuttab stressed the need for a president Biden to reverse the recognitions along with other Trump actions such as the withdrawal from international agreements.

Trump: Paying Off Morocco with Western Sahara to Recognize Israel

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Today, Trump tweeted that he “signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara” and that Israel and Morocco “have agreed to full diplomatic relations.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes@usfca.edu@SZunes
Zunes is co-author of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution. He said today: “The United States has become essentially the only country to formally recognize Morocco’s illegal annexation of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony forcibly seized by Moroccan forces in 1975. Trump’s proclamation is directly counter to a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark World Court ruling calling for self-determination. As with his earlier recognition of Israeli conquests, Trump is effectively renouncing long standing international legal principles in favor of the right of conquest.

“The decision was apparently in return for Morocco’s decision to formally recognize Israel, a country which is also an occupying power. Trump has similarly broken precedent by recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Today’s recognition of the annexation of an entire country, which has been recognized as an independent state by no less than 80 countries, is a particularly dangerous precedent.

“Trump cites Morocco’s ‘autonomy plan’ as ‘serious, credible, and realistic’ and ‘the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution’ even though it falls way short of the international legal definition of autonomy and in effect would simply continue the occupation.”

Zunes’ piece “The East Timor Model Offers a Way out for Western Sahara and Morocco” was just published by Foreign Policy. See Zunes’ writings on Western Sahara including his piece “Morocco continues occupation of Western Sahara, in defiance of UN.”

Shortly after Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, he addressed the UN General Assembly on June 22 of that year, stating: “We also take this opportunity to extend warm greetings to all others who fight for their liberation and their human rights, including the peoples of Palestine and Western Sahara. We commend their struggles to you, convinced that we are all moved by the fact that freedom is indivisible, convinced that the denial of the rights of one diminishes the freedom of others.” Video clip.

 

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