News Releases

Progressives Vote to Extend Patriot Act

The New Republic recently reported in: “Why the Hell Did Democrats Just Extend the Patriot Act?” that: “’There’s no other way to spin this,’ a progressive staffer on Capitol Hill [said]. ‘This was a major capitulation. The Progressive Caucus has touted itself as an organization that can wield power and leverage the votes of its 90 members. And they didn’t lift a finger. Democratic leadership rammed this down their throats.'”

SUE UDRY, sue at rightsanddissent.org, @rightsdissent
Executive director of Defending Rights & Dissent, Udry said today: “Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus capitulated to the surveillance state last week, by supporting a continuing resolution that included a three month extension of Patriot Act mass surveillance authorities, which they claim to oppose. As Ed Snowden revealed, the NSA and FBI were using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to obtain the records of virtually every phone call made in the U.S. It was due to expire in December. The CPC could have demanded serious reforms, or forced the law to sunset. Instead, they gave in. On the bright side, activists now have three months to hold every member of Congress’ feet to the fire to insure a repeal of Section 215.”

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, notes in his recent piece “When Progressives in Congress Let Us Down, We Should Push Back“: “Both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, voted yes. So did all 11 of the CPC’s vice chairs.

“’No’ votes came from all four members of The Squad — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib.

“The list of ‘yes’ votes from House members with progressive reputations was stunningly long. Here are just a dozen: Karen Bass, Raul Grijalva, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Jim McGovern, Jerrold Nadler, Chellie Pingree, Jamie Raskin, Jan Schakowsky, Maxine Waters and Peter Welch.”

Pope Francis in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Condemn Possession of Nuclear Weapons

Pope Francis will travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki this weekend. On Sunday, he will give a public address at the ground-zero site of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. The Vatican was one of the first signers of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed by the U.N. in 2017, but is adamantly opposed by the U.S. government, virtually all of its NATO allies and several other nuclear weapons states, including Russia.

The New Yorker writes in “The Pope and Catholic Radicals Come Together Against Nuclear Weapons“: “Echoing past Popes, he will doubtless denounce nuclear weapons as a threat to humanity, and their ongoing development as a grave misallocation of wealth and resources. Then he’s expected to go further. Twice in 2017, in diplomatic contexts, Francis made remarks that moved the Church away from its support of nuclear deterrence and toward advocating for the abolition of nuclear weapons and condemning their ‘very possession.’ …

“A few weeks after the Pope delivers his address, seven Catholics affiliated with Plowshares, a nuclear-abolition movement formed in the nineteen-eighties, will be sentenced.”

The Plowshares activists — who take their name from the biblical edict to turn swords into plowshares — had entered a major U.S. military instillation which holds Trident nuclear submarines and their scores of missiles in 2018. They “symbolically disarmed” the first strike weapons and were convicted of three felonies in federal court late last month. They have the support of Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Peace Prize laureatesDaniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers and recently wrote The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

Several of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — who could face decades in prison — will be in New York this weekend, meeting with officials in the Japanese consulate to the UN on Friday and holding vigils in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday (3 to 6 p.m.) and Sunday (8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.) in solidarity to the Pope’s visit to Japan.

MARTHA HENNESSY, marthahennessy at gmail.com
Hennessy lives in Vermont and works regularly at the Catholic Worker in New York City. She is also the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. See a recent interview with her that gives an overview of the legal and moral justifications for their action, including ongoing U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

CARMEN TROTTA, trottacarmen at yahoo.com
A member of the Catholic Worker in New York City, Trotta was interviewed on the Intercepted podcast earlier this year with Jeremy Scahill. He said today: “It’s remarkable what the Pope is doing. But you don’t hear a word about abolishing nuclear weapons from the archdioceses. So many large structures ad beholden to the state.”

CLARE GRADY, claretgrady at gmail.com
Grady, of the Ithaca Catholic Worker, coordinated the local soup kitchen dinners there for 17 years and is an anti-war activist. See videos of her and other activists.

She said today: “We’re so grateful that the Pope is making this trip. It’s our church, rather like it’s our country, and if we don’t seek to address problems and heal it, we are complicit. …

“The mere possession — not just the launching — of these weapons is a sin because of how they are used: Like a cocked gun pointed at the head of the world that our government uses.”

See coverage of the trial by Sam Husseini in the new piece at Counterpunch “Can the Religious Left Take Down Nuclear Weapons?” Also see Brian Terrell’s recent piece “A Doubtful Proposition” and other coverage on the group’s extensive website.

Biden’s Falsehoods on Medicare for All

Presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed in Wednesday night’s debate: “A hundred and sixty million people like their private insurance. … The fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for All.”

National Nurses United blasted the claims, saying they “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Last year, The Hill reported: “The Reuters-Ipsos survey found 85 percent of Democrats said they support the policy.”

The Boston Globe noted Wednesday night that Biden’s “statement is at odds with a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, which found that 77 percent of [Democrats] support Medicare for All.”

National Nurses United added in their statement, which was sent to grassroots activists Wednesday night in response to the debate: “The Medicare for All Act of 2019 has 119 cosponsors — majority support of Democrats in the House. … Bernie said it best: ‘We have a system where we spend twice as much on health care as any other country, but we have 80 million uninsured and underinsured. … 500,000 people go bankrupt because of medical-related issues.’ Defending the status quo isn’t going to solve this crisis. Defeatist attitudes and right-wing, Big Pharma-funded talking points won’t win the transformational change we need.”

Contact: Chuck Idelson with National Nurses United at CIdelson@calnurses.org.

Sweden Drops Assange Case, Wikileaks Publisher Faces 175 Years in U.S. on “Espionage”

The New York Times is reporting: “Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Inquiry.”

NILS MELZER, Nils.Melzer at glasgow.ac.uk, @NilsMelzer
Melzer is UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. On Monday, the World Socialist Web Site reported: “UN special rapporteur exposes Swedish sexual misconduct frame-up of Assange” based on a Sept. 12 letter from him. Melzer has also spoken out on Assange’s current “oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance.”

NATHAN FULLER, nathan.fuller at couragefound.org@couragefound
Fuller is with the Courage Foundation, which just released a statement, “Sweden Drops Investigation of Julian Assange.” The group is helping organize an event for the release of the new book In Defense of Julian Assange on Thursday in NYC.

See from The Guardian from 2010: “Julian Assange like a hi-tech terrorist, says Joe Biden.” CBS News from earlier this year: “2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg ‘troubled’ by clemency for Chelsea Manning.”

The Courage Foundation states: “From the outset of this preliminary investigation, Julian Assange’s expressed concern has been that waiting in the wings was a United States request that would be unstoppable from Sweden and result in his spending the rest of his life in a U.S. prison. …

“Mr. Assange arrived in Sweden two weeks after WikiLeaks published the Afghan War Diaries, the first of a series of four groundbreaking WikiLeaks publications attributed to whistleblower Chelsea Manning. …

“It is the first time the U.S. has applied the Espionage Act to a publisher.

“The Trump administration is seeking a 175-year prison sentence for the same journalistic work that has won Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks dozens of journalism prizes. The potential sentence against the publisher under President Trump is forty years longer than the potential sentence against the leaker Chelsea Manning under President Obama.

“The Trump administration’s prosecution of Assange [would] deal a fatal blow to the First Amendment in the United States and set back press freedoms globally.

“The UK Crown Prosecution Service, now acting for the United States in the extradition proceedings against Mr. Assange, artificially prolonged the Swedish ‘preliminary investigation’ by advising Sweden against questioning Mr. Assange in the UK.”

Trump’s Violations of Law and Pelosi/Schiff Impeachment Agenda

The New York Times recently ran the piece “Trump Betrays the Military” about Trump’s recent pardons by Benjamin Haas, who writes: “President Donald Trump on Friday cleared three military service members of war crimes … perhaps this is not surprising, considering that Mr. Trump himself has recently advocated a war crime — the appropriation of oil in Syria.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

Boyle notes that the Army Field Manual states: “commanders may be held responsible if they knew or should have known, through reports received by them or by other means, that troops or other persons subject to their control were about to commit or have committed a war crime and did nothing to prevent such crimes or punish the violators. … That is, the commander may be criminally liable where there is personal neglect amounting to a wanton, immoral disregard of the action of the commander’s subordinates that amounts to acquiescence in the crimes.”

He said today, “Obviously war crimes are impeachable offenses. Trump is Commander-in-Chief and has become an accomplice to the war crimes he is pardoning. These are just the latest illegal actions by Trump that the Congress is refusing to address. Also, just yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that Israeli settlements are legal, which is obviously false. They are clearly illegal and violate the Fourth Geneva Convention because they constitute a population transfer under occupation. U.S. funding for that is aiding and abetting clear violations of international law and war crimes.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Swanson recently wrote the piece “What Does the Pelosi Posse Want?” which states: “If the purpose of the current Trump impeachment hearings were simply to fulfill Congress Members’ oaths of office and do their jobs, it would be difficult to explain the past many years. Jerrold Nadler, Chair of the Judiciary Committee for the past 11 months, has known since inauguration day that Trump was in egregious violation of the emoluments clauses, and has since declared other Trump actions impeachable without moving to impeach him.”

The impeachment inquiry is of course being led by the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Adam Schiff. Writes Swanson: “Blaming Russia for the last election remains the overriding delusion driving decision making in Washington. That’s why the Judiciary Committee isn’t even leading the impeachment efforts.”

Biden vs. Middle Class?

JOSEPH N. DiSTEFANO, joed at inquirer.com, @PhillyJoeD

DiStefano is a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of Comcasted: How Ralph and Brian Roberts Took Over America’s TV, One Deal at a Time.

He recently  wrote the piece “Joe Biden’s Friends and Backers Come Out on Top — at the Expense of the Middle Class” for The Nation, which states: “Soon after Biden was first elected in 1972, banks from three states lined up to finance his brother James Biden’s new disco in suburban Wilmington. When the club defaulted, Joe Biden blamed the banks for exploiting his 23-year-old sibling and for pressing his office to get their money back. (They didn’t.) Despite this, over the years, many Biden-related projects have proved irresistible to local, national, and lately, Chinese businesspeople. …

“In 2008, a month before Biden was elected vice president, [John] Hynansky [of Winner Auto Group] made his biggest political donation: $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee. The next summer, Biden told a roomful of Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv, ‘My very good friend John Hynansky, a very prominent businessman from Delaware, is here.’ That fall, Winner won its first U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) loan, in the amount of $2.5 million. …

“Given the Trump family’s penchant for mixing personal and official business, it’s tempting to dismiss the Biden clan’s affairs as no crime, no foul. But Biden’s friends and backers have won victories that cost the middle-class Americans he claims to champion dearly. …

“In 1996, Biden’s cozy relationship with the banks was used against him. A Republican challenger for his Senate seat complained that MBNA’s No. 3 executive, John R. Cochran, had bought Biden’s Greenville house for the full $1.2 million list price, despite a weak housing market. MBNA stuck with Biden; even after Wilmington’s News Journal published an internal MBNA letter coordinating employee donations to him, he won reelection easily.

“MBNA then hired his son Hunter Biden, fresh out of Yale Law School, as a management trainee. (He stuck out among the mostly state and Catholic college alumni who worked at the bank.) The New York Times reported that when Hunter Biden left in 2000 for Washington, DC, and a new lobbying firm, Oldaker, Biden & Belair, MBNA kept him on a $100,000 annual retainer — not to lobby his father, he said, but for advice on ‘Internet and privacy law.’

“With U.S. credit card debt doubling every five years, defaults and bankruptcies rose, too. Joe Biden joined the Republican lawmakers pushing new bankruptcy reforms that would make it tougher for individuals to write off a range of consumer loans.”

Buttigieg Attacks Medicare for All, Gets Cash from Industry

ALEX KOTCH, alex at alexkotch.com, @alexkotch

Kotch is senior investigative reporter specializing in money-in-politics for Sludge, which focuses on uncovering corruption.

He recently wrote the piece “As He Attacks Medicare for All, Mayor Pete Gets Campaign Cash From Health Care Executives,” which states: “Pharmaceutical, health insurance, and hospital industry donors have flocked to [Pete Buttigieg] all year. As of mid-2019, he was second only to Donald Trump in overall campaign cash from donors in the health sector. Among Democratic candidates, he was second to former Vice President Joe Biden in terms of pharmaceutical and health insurance donations.

“A Sludge review of Buttigieg’s recent third-quarter campaign finance report shows that as he rails against Medicare for All, executives and other managers in the health sector have kept the money flowing.

“Over 100 individuals in leadership, legal, consulting, or financing roles in health sector donated $200 or more to Pete for America between July and September. These donors include pharmaceutical industry leaders such as the chief corporate affairs officer at drugmaker Pfizer, the president of Astex Pharmaceuticals, a state lobbyist for Biogen, a vice president of public policy at Novartis, and the deputy vice president at the nation’s largest pharmaceutical trade association, PhRMA, as well as attorneys for AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.”

Bolivian Coup Targeting Indigenous People

Right-wing politician Jeanine Añez Chavez, upon declaring herself president of Bolivia, pronounced that “the Bible has returned to the government palace.”

AP reports that “Bolivia’s Evo Morales called for the United Nations, and possibly Pope Francis, to mediate in the Andean nation’s political crisis following his ouster as president in what he called a coup d’etat that forced him into exile in Mexico.”

See Twitter list on Bolivia for latest, including developing protests and the coup government minister of communication attempting to prohibit people who have sought refugee in the Mexican embassy from making political statements.

ANDRÉS ARAUZ, [in Mexico City] andres.arauz at comunidad.unam.mx, @ecuarauz
Also via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @Dan_Beeton
Arauz is a former Ecuadorian central bank official and a PhD candidate at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. As a senior research fellow with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, he has closely tracked the recent Bolivian election and events since. See the group’s recent work on Bolivia.

The group did a statistical analysis of the recent election — before the coup — and found that Evo Morales did indeed win. This has since been backed up by an analysis done by Walter R. Mebane of the Department of Political Science and Department of Statistics at the University of Michigan.

KATHRYN LEDEBUR, kath.ledebur at gmail.com, @AndeanInfoNet
Ledebur is director of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba and researcher, activist, and analyst with over two decades of experience in Bolivia. In her recent interview with The Real News, she stated: “It’s important to note that the OAS audit results stated clearly that Morales should finish his elected mandate until January 21 of 2020 and that the Bolivian constitution be respected. The opposition forces didn’t do this. And attacks on MAS [Movement Toward Socialism — the party that Morales was part of] officials, burnings of their homes, of ministers, of members of congress; attacks on family members; sacking, looting, threats, showed that their demand was not focused on a new election or a democratic demand, but in destabilization.”

See Jacquelyn Kovarik in The Nation from Bolivia: “Bolivia’s Anti-Indigenous Backlash Is Growing.” She writes: “Bolivia’s far right has exploited the power vacuum and stoked anti-indigenous sentiment. Since Morales’s resignation, many officials down the line of succession for the country’s presidency have resigned as well, to protect themselves and their families, leaving Jeanine Añez Chavez, a conservative opposition leader and second vice president of the Senate, poised to take over Bolivia’s presidency. (Añez is married to a leader of a Colombian conservative party with historic ties to paramilitary groups.) Luis Fernando Camacho, a right-wing evangelical lawyer from Santa Cruz who has largely led the opposition movement over the last three weeks, has spouted extremely violent and xenophobic rhetoric, to the point that he’s been dubbed the ‘Bolsonaro of Bolivia.’ After Morales’s resignation, Camacho entered the government palace in La Paz, and placed a Bible on the Bolivian flag. The pastor by his side then said that the Pachamama (the Andean Mother Earth goddess) will ‘never return to Bolivia. Bolivia belongs to God.’ …

“On Monday, Morales loyalists started burning police stations in El Alto, an act of retaliation after the police mutiny, but also in response to lowering and burning of the Whipala flag — which represents dozens of indigenous groups in Bolivia and throughout the Andes — by police forces at the Legislative Assembly in La Paz. (In 2009, Morales had instituted the Whipala as Bolivia’s second national flag.) Police personnel across other cities followed suit, ripping off and cutting [the] patch containing the Whipala flag out of their uniforms.”

Top Bolivian Coup Plotters Were School of the Americas Grads

JEB SPRAGUE, jebsprague at protonmail.com, @jebsprague

Research associate at the University of California,  Riverside, Sprague just wrote the piece “Top Bolivian coup plotters were School of the Americas grads, served as attachés in FBI police programs” for The Grayzone.

Sprague writes: “Just prior to Morales’ resignation, the commander of Bolivia’s armed forces Williams Kaliman ‘suggested’ that the president step down. A day earlier, sectors of the country’s police force had rebelled.

“Though Kaliman appears to have feigned loyalty to Morales over the years, his true colors showed as soon as the moment of opportunity arrived. He was not only an actor in the coup, he had his own history in Washington, where he had briefly served as the military attaché of Bolivia’s embassy in the U.S. capital.

“Kaliman sat at the top of a military and police command structure that has been substantially cultivated by the U.S. through WHINSEC [Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation], the military training school in Fort Benning, Georgia known in the past as the School of the Americas. Kaliman himself attended a course called ‘Comando y Estado Mayor’ [Command and General Staff] at the SOA in 2003.

“At least six of the key coup plotters were former alumni of the infamous School of the Americas, while Kaliman and another figure served in the past as Bolivia’s military and police attachés in Washington.”

Israel Bombs Palestinians as Twitter Censors Them

ALI ABUNIMAH, ali at electronicintifada.net, @AliAbunimah
Co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, Abunimah said today: “Israel’s extrajudicial killing of Abu Ata in Gaza seems calculated to escalate the situation in Gaza, and create an even more catastrophic situation for civilians there. Israel is already attacking civilians in Gaza through its silent but deadly blockade of the territory. Added to that, two million civilians now live in fear of Israeli bombing and a large-scale attack. They have no shelters and little means of self-defense against one the most powerful militaries in the world.” Also see recent piece by EI: “Vital medicines run out in Gaza

“Abunimah recently wrote the piece “Twitter censors news from Palestine,” which states: “Twitter shut down the accounts of Quds News Network, a major Palestinian news publication, without warning or explanation. …

“This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.”

See piece by Glenn Greenwald from 2017: “Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments.”

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