News Releases

Trump’s “Nuclear Option” Against a Free Press: What Paved the Way?

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The suspension of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House press pass has caused a major controversy, with a judge Friday morning ruling against the White House and granting CNN a temporary restraining order.

The Wall Street Journal reports Friday morning that “U.S. Is Optimistic It Will Prosecute [WikiLeaks Founder] Assange.”

In “Trump and Big Media: Clash or Collusion?,” Institute for Public Accuracy senior analyst Sam Husseini, who was expelled from the Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up, recently wrote that beneath the heated rhetoric, there is a symbiotic relationship between Trump and establishment media. Husseini who covered the Helsinki summit for The Nation, noted, for example, that mainstream outlets at times ignore or even facilitate attacks on WikiLeaks, himself and other non-establishment media. Ironically, CNN invoked a legal precedent established by Robert Sherrill, who also wrote for The Nation and died in 2014, see obituary by Victor Navasky: “A Man Who Never Kissed Ass.”

ExposeFacts, a project of IPA, released a statement by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in 2017, “Trump Threats to WikiLeaks ‘Nuclear Option’ Against the First Amendment,” which stated: “Obama having opened the legal campaign against the press by going after the roots of investigative reporting on national security — the sources — Trump is going to go after the gatherers/gardeners themselves (and their bosses, publishers). …

“If journalists and publishers fail to call this out, denounce and resist it — on the spurious grounds that Julian is ‘not a real journalist’ like themselves — they’re offering themselves up to Trump and Sessions for indictments and prosecutions, which will eventually silence all but the heroes and heroines among them.”

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger recently wrote the piece “Assange Case Shows Support for Free Speech Depends on Who’s Talking” for the media watch group FAIR. He writes: “The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in February 2016 that the governments of the UK and Sweden had forced WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange into a condition of arbitrary detention in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been since 2012. The group’s press release stated: ‘The expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.’

“Assange has never been charged with a crime in Sweden. At the secret urging of the UK government, Sweden refused for several years to question Assange in London regarding sexual assault allegations. That kept the case in ‘preliminary investigation’ limbo, while Sweden also refused to guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to the United States, where he is likely to face prosecution for his work as a publisher.

“Emails between UK and Swedish officials show that Swedish officials were getting ‘cold feet’ in 2013, and were considering dropping the ‘preliminary investigation’ into Assange, but the UK argued forcefully against it. Last year, Sweden finally dropped the investigation (shortly after it finally agreed to interrogate Assange in London, as it could easily have done years earlier), but the UK has been using the allegation that Assange skipped bail as a way to hold the threat of extradition to the United States over his head.

“In March of this year, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno made the conditions of Assange’s arbitrary detention much worse. For seven months, Assange has been without any means to directly communicate with the public — in other words, to defend himself from relentless attacks and ridicule in Western media. Moreno has not only cut off Assange’s internet and telephone access, but also severely restricted visits. Moreno has openly stated that he silenced and isolated Assange because he objected to Assange’s political statements, but rather than blast Moreno for trampling Assange’s right to free expression and other basic rights, the international press and prominent ‘human rights’ organizations have responded with silence, distortions and even smirks.”

Which Way for the Democrats: Oligarchy or Progressive Policies?

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PIA GALLEGOS, pia at gallegoslaw.com
Chair of the Adelante Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Gallegos is among the authors of the “Democratic Autopsy: One Year Later” report, which was released last month. She is quoted in the recent piece in Salon: “Reflections on a blue wave: How progressive activists drove a historic victory.”

KAREN BERNAL, nekochan99 at hotmail.com, @karenbernal5
Bernal chairs the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. She wrote the section on social movements in the original Autopsy report, released last year — and co-wrote the section on the future of the Democratic Party.

Norman Solomon, also a co-author of Democratic Autopsy, recently wrote the piece “A Challenge to the New Blue Congress: Govern as Progressives,” which states: “Incantations about the need for so-called moderate policies do little to stimulate a big turnout from the Democratic base — and other voters — oriented to voting against Republican candidates if their opponents draw sharp contrasts between advocacy for economic justice and flackery for de facto oligarchy.

“Surveys show that voters are hungry for genuinely progressive policies that have drawn little interest from mainstream media outlets. For instance, polling of the U.S. public shows:

76 percent support higher taxes on the wealthy.
70 percent support Medicare for All.
59 percent support a $15 minimum wage.
60 percent support expanded tuition-free college.
69 percent oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.
65 percent support progressive criminal justice reform.
59 percent support stricter environmental regulation.

“Yet such popular positions are routinely ignored or denigrated by elite political pros who warn that such programs are too far left for electoral success. The same kind of claims assumed that Bernie Sanders would never get beyond single digits in his 2016 presidential campaign.

“The midterm election results have made Nancy Pelosi the likely next House speaker. Although habitually bashed by Fox News and other right-wing outlets as an ultra-liberal villain, Pelosi has declared allegiance to fiscal centrism and ongoing militarism that forecloses implementing a progressive political agenda.

“In September, as House minority leader, Pelosi precluded any potential left-populist agenda by backing reinstatement of a ‘pay-go’ rule to offset all new spending with tax increases or budget cuts. …

“Pelosi is closely aligned with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in obediently saluting President Trump as he boosts military expenditures — which already account for most of the nation’s discretionary spending. Early this year, when Trump proposed an 11 percent Pentagon budget increase over two years, Pelosi proudly declared in an email to fellow House Democrats: ‘In our negotiations, Congressional Democrats have been fighting for increases in funding for defense.’ The office of Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer proclaimed: ‘We fully support President Trump’s Defense Department’s request.'”

Amazon Deal Taxpayer Costs “Far Understated, Exceed $4.6 Billion”

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GREG LeROY, goodjobs at goodjobsfirst.org, @goodjobsfirst
Also available in New York: Maritza Silva-Farrell, maritza at alignny.org
And in northern Virginia: Roshan Abraham, roshanja at protonmail.com
LeRoy is executive director of Good Jobs First, which examines economic subsidies. They just released a statement: “The taxpayer costs of these two deals is high, both in absolute terms and on a per job basis, contrary to Amazon’s artful spin. Together, we believe they exceed $4.6 billion and the cost per job in New York is at least $112,000, not the $48,000 the company used in a selective and incomplete press release calculation.

“Amazon’s statement contains a classic example of cost-benefit apples and oranges. Citing only one New York state incentive, it says the sum ‘equates to $48,000 per job for 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000…’ Of course, wages cannot be compared to tax breaks since employees pay only a small percentage of their salaries as taxes to offset the tax breaks. And the cost per job in New York is actually at least $112,000 but that is not a full accounting. …

“Similarly, the Amazon press release omits an entire new campus close to its Arlington site, announced today by Virginia Tech University. It will cost $1 billion and ‘was part of the higher education package affiliated with the proposal that led to the selection of Crystal City in Northern Virginia as one of the two new Amazon headquarters locations,’ according to a Virginia Tech press release.”

See Good Jobs First’s Amazon resources at: goodjobsfirst.org/amazon.

Paul Ryan Tries to Keep Saudi Attack on Yemen Going

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ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org, @naiman

Policy director at Just Foreign Policy, Naiman said today: “Tuesday evening, in a classic Nixonian dirty tricks maneuver of the Washington swamp, Paul Ryan’s House Rules Committee approved a rule for consideration of H.R. 6784, the ‘Manage our Wolves Act,’ that would ‘de-privilege’ H. Con. Res. 138, the Khanna-Massie-Smith-Jones-Pocan Yemen War Powers Resolution to end unconstitutional U.S. participation in the Saudi regime’s war-blockade-famine-genocide in Yemen. As of now, the full House is expected to vote on the floor Wednesday afternoon on this rule. If this rule for the consideration of the ‘Manage our Wolves Act’ passes, then H. Con. Res. 138 would be stripped of its ‘privilege,’ that is, stripped of its War Powers Resolution guarantee of a clean up-or-down vote on the House floor.” See from AP: “Quaker Lobby Calls on Congress to End Illegal U.S. War in Yemen.”

Last month, Naiman wrote the piece “Is the Current U.S.-Saudi Relationship ‘Unreformable’?

Amazon HQ2: “Massive Transfer of Wealth from Taxpayers to Shareholders”

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The New York Times reports “Amazon Chooses Queens and a Washington Suburb for ‘Second Headquarters.’”

GREG LeROY, goodjobs at goodjobsfirst.org, @goodjobsfirst
LeRoy is executive director for Good Jobs First and is quoted in the New York Times article. His group recently released a statement on Amazon HQ2 site location: “As we documented in a study last April, the Crystal City and Long Island City subsidy offers are among the many HQ2 bids that remain completely hidden. Citizens have no idea what their elected officials have promised to a company headed by the richest person on earth.

“We don’t know what special new subsidies have been promised that will require state or local enactments. We don’t know if gentrification buffers — especially affordable housing — are included. We don’t know if clawbacks or other safeguards are included. We don’t know the cost per job. But we do know that both deals were negotiated in secret, without any public input. We also know that past U.S. ‘megadeals’ have cost an average of $658,000 per job. At that price, taxpayers can never come close to breaking even. Such deals convey a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to shareholders.”

The statement noted the efforts of local community groups, which “telegraphed their demands for community benefits shortly after Amazon launched the HQ2 auction at ourhq2wishlist.org.”

* WWI * Shootings and Militarism * Armistice Day

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This weekend, Trump is scheduled to travel to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I; see calendar. AFP reports: “Trump to snub Macron’s ‘Peace Forum’ on Armistice weekend.”

ADAM HOCHSCHILD, adamhochschild at earthlink.net
Hochschild is a lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism at The University of California at Berkeley and the author of nine books, including To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He wrote about the First World War in last week’s New Yorker and the Guardian.

Hochschild was recently featured on the IPA news release “Trump Going to France; 100 Years After World War I: Who to Celebrate?” He said: “This war, like most, didn’t have to happen. On its eve, the major countries of Europe were getting along quite peacefully. On both sides, however, leaders were full of illusions that going to war would solve problems for them — and that the battles would be over in a matter of weeks. Instead, the war created vast and unimagined suffering and lasted more than four years. These are lessons worth remembering today, as the U.S. makes threats against China and Iran and prepares to pull out of an arms control treaty with Russia.

“On this anniversary, we need to celebrate not the politicians and generals who led the world into the carnage of 1914-1918, but the brave, outspoken people of that time who had the wisdom to know that the war was a catastrophe and should be stopped. They included Americans like pioneer social worker Jane Addams and labor leader Eugene V. Debs — who was sent to prison for speaking out. They had counterparts in all the warring countries, and these are the men and women we should be honoring on this centennial.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com, @davidcnswanson

AP reports: “The killer [in the recent Thousand Oaks, Calif. shooting], Ian David Long, 28, was a former machine gunner and Afghanistan war veteran who was interviewed by police at his home last spring after an episode of agitated behavior that authorities were told might be post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Swanson is director of the group World Beyond War and his most recent book is Curing Exceptionalism. He writes: “In U.S. mass shootings, military veterans are over twice as likely to be mass shooters, and probably more likely than that. Needless to say, this is a statistic about a large population, not information about any particular individual.”

Swanson also just wrote in “Celebrate Armistice Day, Not Veterans Day” for The Humanist that “Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution in 1926 calling for ‘exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.’ Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be ‘a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.’ …

“Armistice Day, as a day to oppose war, had lasted in the United States up through the 1950s and even longer in some other countries under the name Remembrance Day. It was only after the United States had nuked Japan, destroyed Korea, begun a Cold War, created the CIA, and established a permanent military industrial complex with major permanent bases around the globe, that the U.S. government renamed Armistice Day as Veterans Day on June 1, 1954.”

Trump’s “Nuclear Option” Against a Free Press

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The suspension of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House press pass has caused a major controversy. In “The Trump-Media Logrolling,” Institute for Public Accuracy senior analyst Sam Husseini, who was expelled from the Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up, recently wrote that beneath the heated rhetoric, there is a symbiotic relationship between Trump and establishment media. Husseini noted, for example, that mainstream outlets often ignore major attacks on WikiLeaks and other non-establishment media.

ExposeFacts, a project of IPA, released a statement by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in 2017, “Trump Threats to WikiLeaks ‘Nuclear Option’ Against the First Amendment,” which stated: “If journalists and publishers fail to call this out, denounce and resist it — on the spurious grounds that Julian is ‘not a real journalist’ like themselves — they’re offering themselves up to Trump and Sessions for indictments and prosecutions, which will eventually silence all but the heroes and heroines among them.”

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger just wrote the piece “Assange Case Shows Support for Free Speech Depends on Who’s Talking” for the media watch group FAIR. He writes: “The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in February 2016 that the governments of the UK and Sweden had forced WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange into a condition of arbitrary detention in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been since 2012. The group’s press release stated: ‘The expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.’

“Assange has never been charged with a crime in Sweden. At the secret urging of the UK government, Sweden refused for several years to question Assange in London regarding sexual assault allegations. That kept the case in ‘preliminary investigation’ limbo, while Sweden also refused to guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to the United States, where he is likely to face prosecution for his work as a publisher.

“Emails between UK and Swedish officials show that Swedish officials were getting ‘cold feet’ in 2013, and were considering dropping the ‘preliminary investigation’ into Assange, but the UK argued forcefully against it. Last year, Sweden finally dropped the investigation (shortly after it finally agreed to interrogate Assange in London, as it could easily have done years earlier), but the UK has been using the allegation that Assange skipped bail as a way to hold the threat of extradition to the United States over his head.

“In March of this year, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno made the conditions of Assange’s arbitrary detention much worse. For seven months, Assange has been without any means to directly communicate with the public — in other words, to defend himself from relentless attacks and ridicule in Western media. Moreno has not only cut off Assange’s internet and telephone access, but also severely restricted visits. Moreno has openly stated that he silenced and isolated Assange because he objected to Assange’s political statements, but rather than blast Moreno for trampling Assange’s right to free expression and other basic rights, the international press and prominent ‘human rights’ organizations have responded with silence, distortions and even smirks.”

As Millions in Yemen Face Starvation, Protests at Saudi Consulate at UN

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KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
JULES ORKIN, julesorkin at yahoo.com
Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has repeatedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Orkin is with Veterans for Peace.

The two are among a dozen groups now organizing protests “at the Saudi consulate and several missions to the UN” on Wednesday and Thursday. They are calling for “dramatic measures to avoid famine” and note that protesters are “willing to risk arrest on Thursday.” See specifics for actions at UN, including photo opportunities.

The groups state: “The United Nations warns that some 14 million people, half the population of the country, are on the verge of starvation as war pushes the country toward the biggest famine the world has seen in 100 years. …

“Reporting for the New York Times, Declan Walsh writes that the Saudi-UAE led coalition is using economic strangulation as a weapon of war, targeting jobs, infrastructure, food markets and the provision of basic services. [See recent pieces: “This is the front line of Saudi Arabia’s invisible war,” “As Famine Looms in Yemen, Saudi-Led Coalition Redoubles Attacks.”]

“Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin have sold billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Saudi-Emirati-led coalition.

“Isa Blumi, an associate professor at Stockholm University and author of the book Destroying Yemen, believes the goal is to bludgeon Yemenis into complete submission and exert control over resources, including oil reserves, natural gas, minerals, and a strategic location.

“The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, mostly civilians, and displaced about 3 million others.”

Trump Going to France; 100 Years After World War I: Who to Celebrate?

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This weekend, Trump is scheduled to travel to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I; see calendar.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD, adamhochschild at earthlink.net
Hochschild is a lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism at University California at Berkeley and the author of nine books, including To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also written about the First World War in this week’s New Yorker, the Guardian, and elsewhere. He is available for interviews.

He said today: “November 11 is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. The most destructive conflict the world had yet seen, it killed more than 9 million soldiers, wounded another 21 million, left millions of civilians dead as well, and left a toxic legacy of bitterness that led to an even greater war. It is impossible to imagine the Second World War happening without the First.

“This war, like most, didn’t have to happen. On its eve, the major countries of Europe were getting along quite peacefully. On both sides, however, leaders were full of illusions that going to war would solve problems for them — and that the battles would be over in a matter of weeks. Instead, the war created vast and unimagined suffering and lasted more than four years. These are lessons worth remembering today, as the U.S. makes threats against China and Iran and prepares to pull out of an arms control treaty with Russia.

“On this anniversary, we need to celebrate not the politicians and generals who led the world into the carnage of 1914-1918, but the brave, outspoken people of that time who had the wisdom to know that the war was a catastrophe and should be stopped. They included Americans like pioneer social worker Jane Addams and labor leader Eugene V. Debs — who was sent to prison for speaking out. They had counterparts in all the warring countries, and these are the men and women we should be honoring on this centennial.”

Trump’s “Populism” and How Big Money Drives Elections

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He coauthored the just-released paper “The Economic and Social Roots of Populist Rebellion: Support for Donald Trump in 2016” for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

He said today: “Most analysts of the 2016 election have concluded that social anxieties overwhelmingly predominated in explaining the result. They argue that the story is simple: Trump was elected by ‘deplorables,’ fueled by racial resentment, sexism, and fear or dislike of immigrants from abroad. Economics, they say, made little or no difference. This story has been repeated so often in many parts of the mass media that it has hardened into a kind of ‘common sense’ narrative.

“Our new paper [PDF] shows that this view is mistaken. The picture is considerably more complicated. Social anxieties certainly did play an important part in Trump’s victories — particularly in the 2016 Republican primaries, where many voters were indeed motivated by resentments related to race, ethnicity, immigration, and gender. Social issues were important in the general election as well. But upon careful examination of several types of data, the real picture looks considerably more complicated.

“Economic factors mattered at both stages. Moreover, in the general election — in contrast to the primaries — leading social factors actually tended to hurt rather than help Trump. While agreeing that racial resentment and sexism were important influences, the paper shows how various economic considerations — including concerns about imports and job losses, wealth inequality, social welfare programs, and starved infrastructure — helped Trump win the Republican primary and then led significant blocs of voters to shift from supporting Democrats or abstaining in 2012 to voting for him. It also presents striking evidence of the importance of political money and senators’ ‘reverse coattails’ in the dramatic final result.”

Ferguson also coauthored the recent piece “Big Money — Not Political Tribalism — Drives U.S. Elections.” Findings include:

* “Political leaders of both major parties depend heavily on large contributions … in our two-year election cycles.

* “Mitch McConnell is uniquely reliant on them. In 2016 Clinton relied more on them than Trump, though both had high levels.

* “Bernie Sanders was the one exception. Almost 60 percent of his were below the $200 limit for itemization. He received essentially no large contributions. Trump also received substantial small contributions.”

See coverage from The Intercept: “Donald Trump Exploited Long-term Economic Distress To Fuel His Election Victory, Study Finds.”

Ferguson’s books include Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.

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