Iran: Trump “Wagging the Dog” as Democrats Egging on His Militarism

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Consortium News reports in “Fear of a Major Mideast War“: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, assassinated by the U.S. on Thursday night, “had been head of the Quds Force for 23 years. The Pentagon allegation is that he directed attacks on U.S. military during the U.S. illegal occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion. Soleimani was one of the men most responsible for defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. …

“The assassination comes after Trump was impeached and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted last year. Both are facing difficult re-election campaigns in 2020 and have long portrayed Iran as the greatest enemy of Israel and the United States.”

RAED JARRAR, jarrar.raed at gmail.com, @raedjarrar
Jarrar is an Iraqi-born human rights activist and writer based in Washington, D.C. He has been on two recent accuracy.org news releases warning against such U.S. actions. He was recently quoted in USA Today. He just tweeted: “Unfortunately, the news of the U.S. assassination of Soleimani … is not only an escalation, it marks the end to the proxy war between the U.S. and Iran … now it’s just war.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Boyle’s books include Destroying World Order. See his essay, “American Militarism Threatening to Set Off World War III.”  He said today: “This attack is a violation of the UN Charter and also the War Powers Clause of the U.S. Constitution and War Powers Resolution by Congress. … Trump is wagging the dog to stave off conviction by the Senate.” In 1998, Bill Clinton launched a bombing campaign against Iraq just before his scheduled impeachment.

DAVID BARSAMIAN, barsamian at riseup.net
Barsamian is author of Targeting Iran and the forthcoming ReTargeting Iran. He was visited by the FBI following his most recent trip to Iran. He said today: “The assassination of General Qassem Soleimani is pouring gasoline on a region in flames. The Trump administration has been itching for a fight with Iran ever since it pulled out of the nuclear deal in May 2018.” Barsamian stressed the humanitarian toll of the sanctions the U.S. government has placed on Iran and the building of U.S. military bases that surround Iran. He added: “The Trump administration has threatened Iran with ‘obliteration.’ … Iran will respond to Soleimani’s killing and the possibility of a wider conflict will increase.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Executive director of World Beyond War, Swanson notes the militaristic policy commonalities between Trump and establishment Democrats.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept notes: “While warning us that Trump is the gravest threat in U.S. history, many leading Democrats have voted to give Trump unprecedented military budgets and sweeping surveillance powers.”

Swanson notes for example that Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted on New Years Eve: “The attack on our embassy in Baghdad is horrifying but predictable. Trump has rendered America impotent in the Middle East. No one fears us, no one listens to us. America has been reduced to huddling in safe rooms, hoping the bad guys will go away. What a disgrace.”

See from Ali Abunimah: “Why Trump is escalating the U.S.-Israeli war on Iran.”

See “Dogs of War” by Sam Husseini about the dynamics surrounding the Clinton impeachment.

War Industry CEOs’ Stocks Spike

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SARAH ANDERSON, sarah at ips-dc.org, @SarahDAnderson1
Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits the IPS publication Inequality.org. She just wrote the piece “The Threat of War Inflates Stock Holdings of Military Contractor CEOs,” which states: “CEOs of major U.S. military contractors stand to reap huge windfalls from the escalation of conflict with Iran. This was evident in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian military official last week. As soon as the news reached financial markets, these companies’ share prices spiked, inflating the value of their executives’ stock-based pay.

“I took a look at how the CEOs at the top five Pentagon contractors were affected by this surge, using the most recent SEC information on their stock holdings.

“Northrop Grunman executives saw the biggest increase in the value of their stocks after the U.S. airstrike that killed Qasem Suleimani on January 2. Shares in the B-2 bomber maker rose 5.43 percent by the end of trading the following day.

“Wesley Bush, who turned Northrop Grunman’s reins over to Kathy Warden last year, held 251,947 shares of company stock in various trusts as of his final SEC Form 4 filing in May 2019. (Companies must submit these reports when top executives and directors buy and sell company stock.) Assuming Bush is still sitting on that stockpile, he saw the value grow by $7.4 million to a total of $94.5 million last Friday. …

“Sen. Bernie Sanders, for instance, has a plan to deny federal contracts to companies that pay CEOs more than 150 times what their typical worker makes.

“As long as we allow the top executives of our privatized war economy to reap unlimited rewards, the profit motive for war in Iran — or anywhere — will persist.”

Why Not Impeach Trump for War Crimes?

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law.  Boyle was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González and wrote the first draft of the González Impeachment Resolution in 1991. George H. W. Bush would later write in his memoirs that if the Gulf War “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”

Boyle said today: “Hypocrisies and hypocrites abound. Trump should be impeached for his attacks and threats against Iran. These are far more brazen violations of the War Powers Clause of the U.S. Constitution than anything regarding Ukraine.

“Some Republicans claim that Trump did nothing wrong regarding the Ukraine. That’s clearly wrong. Some Democrats are claiming that they are standing up for the rule of law and to prevent further illegal acts by impeaching Trump for his actions there. But that doesn’t withstand a moment’s scrutiny. Trump should have been impeached for his illegal bombings in Syria. He wasn’t, so predictably, he has gone on to target Iran and is making further threats against it and Iraq.”

Boyle was on an accuracy.org news release on the War Powers Resolution, which was largely written by Rep. Paul Findley, who died last year at 98.

In 2017, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government:

Rhodes: “The only country in the world that was prepared to join us [in attacking the Assad government] was France. And we had no domestic legal basis. We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment.”

Politico: “Really? Was the prospect of impeachment actually a factor in your conversations?”

Rhodes: “That was a factor. Go back and read the letters from Boehner, letters from the Republican members of Congress. They laid down markers that this would not be constitutional.”

House Speaker John Boehner wrote to Obama in 2013: “It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

Peace Movements in Iraq and U.S.

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RAED JARRAR, jarrar.raed at gmail.com, @raedjarrar
Jarrar is an Iraqi-born human rights activist and writer based in Washington, D.C. He just wrote the piece “Iraq’s Vote to Kick Out U.S. Troops Reflects Growing Anti-Imperialist Movement.”

The New York Times reports: “Antiwar Protesters Across U.S. Condemn Killing of Suleiman.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly is with Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked on Iraq and other peace issues for over 20 years. She said today: “Beginning in 1990, Iraqis were afflicted by both military and economic warfare, waged by the U.S. Now, President Trump threatens sanctions ‘like they’ve never seen before.’ Will hundreds of thousands more children under age five die gruesome deaths because of a new round of U.S.-imposed economic sanctions?” See “Autopsy of a Disaster: The U.S. Sanctions Policy on Iraq” from the Institute for Public Accuracy, which documents the reports of the carnage resulting from the sanctions as well as the continuously shifting legal justifications from the U.S. government.

Kelly added: “In Baghdad, during the 2002 Shock and Awe bombing, I sat outside an emergency room next to a woman convulsed in sobs. How could she tell her badly maimed teenage nephew, in surgery for amputation of both his arms, that she was now his only surviving relative? Ali learned from a surgeon that he had lost both his arms. ‘Will I always be this way?’ he asked. Ali’s agonized words beg from us an impassioned question: ‘Will we always be this way?'”

SEAN REYNOLDS, joveismad at juno.com
Reynolds, also with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, has recently been to Iran. He spoke at a one of dozens of rallies around the country over the weekend — see his remarks — and stressed the extent to which wars ultimately have support from both the Republican and Democratic Party establishments.

Was Soleimani Killed Because He Was Trying to Avert Conflict?

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Liberation News reports: “Soleimani was in Iraq to ease regional tensions; then Trump said ‘Kill him.’ The New York Times also offers reporting on this, see below. Tuesday morning, Secretary of State Pompeo denied this, saying Soleimani “was not there on a diplomatic mission trying to resolve a problem.”

DOUGLAS VALENTINE, dougvalentine77 at gmail.com. Skype: Douglas_Valentine
Valentine is the author of The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World. His rare access to CIA officials has resulted in portions of his research materials being archived at the National Security Archive, Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center and John Jay College. He has written three books on CIA operations, including the Phoenix Program: America’s Use of Terror in Vietnam, which documented the CIA’s elaborate system of population surveillance, control, entrapment, imprisonment, torture, and assassination in Vietnam.

He said today: “As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated in April 2019 while visiting Texas A&M University, that as CIA director, ‘we lied, we cheated, we stole.’ If the CIA assassinated or lured Soleimani because he was trying to defuse tensions, the U.S. government obviously wouldn’t admit it. That’s SOP [standard operating procedure].”

In his new interview with Parsi Policy, “Soleimani’s Assassination Act of Psychological Warfare,” Valentine states: “Psychological warfare — the shaping of beliefs, and thus political and social movements — is the most highly prized and effective of all intelligence operations. …

“Like all administrations, the Trump administration has ‘stated’ policies that satisfy its political base, and it has ‘unstated’ policies that are necessary to satisfy the Establishment. The CIA conducts Trump’s ‘unstated’ policies. …

“The CIA and military have ‘long range’ strategic plans in place. For example, the military has 800 bases around the world to ensure that U.S. corporations have access to foreign markets, and that the U.S. military dominates the world.”

See Valentine’s recent interview in CovertAction Magazine: “Inside the Organized Crime Syndicate known as the CIA: an Interview with Douglas Valentine.”

The New York Times reports: “President Trump and other American officials have said that General Soleimani was in the midst of planning attacks on United States forces when he was killed. But the general may have also been working as a go-between in quiet efforts to reduce the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“Hostility and competition for influence had grown for years between the two regional rivals, but in recent months, Iran and Saudi Arabia had taken steps toward indirect talks to defuse the situation.

“In an address to the Iraqi Parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq said that he was supposed to meet with General Soleimani on the morning he was killed.

“It was expected that he was carrying a message for me from the Iranian side responding to the Saudi message that we had sent to the Iranian side to reach agreements and breakthroughs important for the situation in Iraq and the region,” Mr. Mahdi said.

“The content of the messages was not immediately clear, but Mr. Mahdi’s comments suggested that the drone strike ordered by Mr. Trump may have interrupted a diplomatic back channel aimed at averting conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

* Trump Lies on Iran * Biden Iraq War Lies

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STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He just wrote the piece “There’s No Evidence Iran Is Responsible for the Deaths of Hundreds of Americans” for The Progressive.

Newsweek reports that in response to criticism about his role in the invasion of Iraq, Biden said: “I don’t respond to Bernie’s ridiculous comments. … Bernie’s got enough baggage.” The Hill reports: “In response to an Iowa voter who expressed concern about Biden’s foreign policy record, the former vice president over the weekend said that he opposed the Iraq War ‘from the very moment’ it began in 2003, according to CNN.

“’The president then went ahead with “Shock and Awe,” and right after that — and from the very moment he did that, right after that — I opposed what he was doing and spoke to him,’ Biden said of President Bush on Saturday.”

Zunes has noted: “More than three months after U.N. inspectors returned, Biden defended the imminent launch of the invasion by saying, ‘I support the president. Diplomacy over avoiding war is dead. … I do not see any alternative. It is not as if we can back away now.’ He added, ‘Let loose the dogs of war. I’m confident we will win.’

“He then co-sponsored a resolution supporting Bush and the invasion.

“Despite the fact that three months of unfettered inspections had revealed none of the chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear programs, or sophisticated delivery systems Bush and Biden claimed Iraq possessed, Biden insisted in May 2003 that, ‘There was sufficient evidence to go into Iraq.’” See accuracy.org news release: “Biden’s Escalating Iraq War Lies.”

REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2 at hotmail.com, @ReeseErlich
Erlich is author of Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis and is interviewing sources in Iran to get first-hand reactions to the assassination.

See recent interview with him: “What’s really going on with the US and Iran?” In response to the question: “Does Iran pose a danger to U.S. national interests?” Erlich responded: “Iran’s government is a right-wing, religious-based regime that represses its own people. It seeks regional influence, mainly in countries with large Shia populations such as Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain, but also Syria. Washington cares little about human rights violations in Iran or anywhere else. It wants to reestablish a pro-U.S. regime in Iran that will allow U.S. oil companies to once again dominate the economy. The people of the U.S. have no national interest in protecting oil company profits. Recent events have shown that people in the region don’t want to be dominated by any foreign power, whether the U.S. or Iran.”

Trump Fulfills Israel’s Wishes

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In October, Jefferson Morley wrote the piece “Is Israel Targeting Iran’s Top General For Assassination?

Fox News is now reporting: “Netanyahu says Israel should ‘stay out’ of fallout from U.S. killing of Soleimani, per report.”

But Morley notes that Israel “began striking at the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq last year” — see partial list below.

JEFFERSON MORLEY, morleyj at gmail.com, @jeffersonmorley
Morley is editor of The Deep State. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton.

He just wrote the piece “Trump Fulfills the Wishes of Israel’s Mossad,” which states: “Last October Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad, spoke openly about assassinating Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“He knows very well that his assassination is not impossible,” Cohen said in an interview. Soleimani had boasted that Israel tried to assassinate him in 2006 and failed.

“’With all due respect to his bluster,’ Cohen said, ‘he hasn’t necessarily committed the mistake yet that would place him on the prestigious list of Mossad’s assassination targets.’ …

“Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, under indictment for criminal charges, was the first and only national leader to support Trump’s action, while claiming that that Trump acted entirely on his own.

“’Just as Israel has the right to self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right,’ Netanyahu told reporters in Greece. ‘Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the deaths of American citizens and other innocents, and he was planning more attacks.’

“In recent years, Soleimani led two successful Iranian military operations: the campaign to drive ISIS out of western Iraq in 2015 and the campaign to crush the jihadist forces opposed to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The United States and Israel denounced Iran’s role in both operations but could not prevent Iran from claiming victory.”

July 31, 2019: Jewish News Syndicate reported: “A senior commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Abu Alfazl Sarabian, was killed in Iraq in an attack by ‘Israel and the United States’ on July 19, according to Iran’s Young Journalists Club news agency.”

August 1, 2019: The Wall Street Journal reported: “Israeli Jets Appear to Have Struck Iraq for the First Time Since 1981.”

August 20, 2019: Times of Israel reported: “Netanyahu hints Israel behind strikes on Iraq, says Iran not immune anywhere.”

August 23, 2019: AP reported: “An Israeli airstrike on an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq, confirmed by U.S. officials, is threatening to destabilize security in the volatile country that has struggled to remain neutral in the conflict between Washington and Tehran.”

September 10, 2019: Haaretz reported: “Report: 21 Iraqi Militia Members Killed in Explosion in Iran-linked Arms Depot.” “It remains unclear who is behind the blast however reports have linked the incident to a series of recent attacks, some of which have been attributed to Israel.”

Killing of Soleimani: “Another Gulf of Tonkin Deception”?

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is co-author of a book on the U.S.-Iran crisis — From CIA Coup to the Brink of War — due out Jan. 24. His past books include Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

He said today: “It is widely believed in the U.S. that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but if you follow the evidence that I documented in Manufactured Crisis, it is clear that Iran’s nuclear program was never designed to produce a nuclear weapon.”

The American Conservative is due to publish a piece by him shortly: “The Killing of Soleimani: Another Gulf of Tonkin Deception,” in which he reports that on Dec. 27 “a rocket attack on the K1 Iraqi base near Kirkuk killed an American contractor, as the ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’ command confirmed. The Trump administration immediately went into crisis mode, discussing both killing Soleimani and retaliatory strikes against Kataib Hezbollah. …

“If there was indeed an investigation that turned up information indicating that Kataib Hezbollah was responsible, it would certainly have been released publicly, but no further information on the incident has been forthcoming from either Iraqi or U.S. commands. The only specific information available was a Reuters report from ‘security sources’ who ‘said security forces found a launchpad for Katyusha rockets inside an abandoned vehicle near the base,’ which further deepened the mystery. But Pompeo was eager for the United States to provoke a military confrontation with Iran, just as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was eager to begin airstrikes against North Vietnamese targets in 1964.”

War Powers Resolution “Riddled with Holes”

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today regarding moves in Congress on Iran: “The Kaine resolution and the Slotkin resolution are riddled with so many holes that Trump/Pompeo et al. will drive a truck through them. The legislation proposed by Ro Khanna and Sanders has some problematic rhetoric, which should be dropped, but it is not in the operative provisions and it is consistent with the War Powers Resolution and the War Powers Clause of the Constitution and the United Nations Charter and would make a real difference.”

Boyle noted: “Slotkin’s — who notably came out of the CIA — resolution talks of the president being free to act in case of ‘an imminent armed attack.’ This is not consistent with the War Powers Resolution and will likely assist Trump committing aggression.

“Part of the reason we have these continuous wars is that Congress has failed to live up to its responsibilities. I advised Rep. Henry B. González and wrote the first draft of the Gonzalez Impeachment Resolution, introduced in 1991. George H. W. Bush would later write in his memoirs that if the Gulf War ‘drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.’ So that might have helped stop the first president Bush from trying to go to Baghdad in 1991.

“Rep. Robert F. Drinan tried to impeach over Nixon’s bombings and got shot down by most of the rest of Congress. If they had lived up to their responsibilities then, we’d live in a much better world.” See New York Times report from Aug. 1, 1973 on the first moves to impeach Nixon — over bombing Cambodia.

Boyle advised Sen. Patrick Moynihan and Rep. Dan Crane in the first use of the War Powers Resolution, after Reagan placed Marines in Lebanon. He added: “Unfortunately, a ‘compromise’ was struck and predictably led to disaster with the Marine barracks bombing.” See New York Times report from Sept. 21, 1983: “Congress And Reagan Back Compromise On War Powers Keeping Marines In Lebanon.”

Boyle added: “Part of the problem is my profession. As Noam Chomsky just noted: ‘there is a respected profession, called “international lawyers and law professors,” who can learnedly explain that words don’t mean what they mean.’”

See accuracy.org news release just after Clinton’s 1998 bombing of Iraq on the eve of his scheduled impeachment, featuring Boyle and the late head of the Center for Constitutional rights, Michael Ratner.

For more crucial background, including the Obama administration’s fears that he would be impeached if he bombed Syria, see recent accuracy.org news release: “Why Not Impeach Trump for War Crimes?”

Boyle has been featured on several accuracy.org news releases with Paul Findley, the main author of the War Powers Resolution who died last year at 98.

Completing the Circle? Biden Helped Bush with Iraq Invasion; Is Trump Resurrecting Biden’s Iraq Partition Scheme?

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CommonDreams reports: “#JoeVotedForTheWar Trends After Sanders Camp Fires Back at Biden’s Denials of Support for Iraq Invasion.” Julie Hollar recently wrote for FAIR: “Steady Hand Joe: Turning Biden’s support for Iraq War into foreign policy ‘experience.’” Former Sen. John Kerry has been outspoken in his defense of Biden’s Iraq invasion record. See “Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War” by IPA executive director Norman Solomon.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting: “U.S. Warns Iraq It Risks Losing Access to Key Bank Account if Troops Told to Leave.”

Jim Lobe and Derek Davison write in Responsible Statecraft: “Has the Trump Administration Now Launched a ‘Maximum Pressure’ Campaign Against Iraq?” Asking: “In the last three years, Trump has increasingly aligned Washington’s Middle East policies with Netanyahu. He’s slashed aid to the Palestinians, moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He’s withdrawn from and systematically violated the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] ), declared the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] a terrorist organization, assassinated Soleimani, and pursued his ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran. Do his latest moves to bully and threaten (possibly with support for partition) Iraq constitute a new ‘maximum pressure’ campaign and an even greater alignment with the Israeli Right?”

The prior champion of partitioning Iraq was Biden; see from the July 30, 2007 New York Times: “Biden plan for ‘soft partition’ of Iraq gains momentum.”

IMAD KHADDURI, khadduri.imad at gmail.com
Now retired in Toronto, Khadduri is author of the book Iraq’s Nuclear Mirage: Memoirs and Delusions and blogs at Free Iraq. He worked on the Iraq nuclear program and left the country in the late 1990s. See a piece in the Irish Times from Jan 6, 2003 on him: “Iraq has no N-weapons, claims expatriate scientist.”

In 2006, he appeared on an accuracy.org news release: “Myth: Israel’s Strike on Iraqi Reactor Hindered Iraqi Nukes.” Khadduri states that the Iraqi nuclear program was peaceful — until Israel bombed their Osirak Iraqi reactor in 1981.

RAED JARRAR, jarrar.raed at gmail.com, @raedjarrar
Jarrar is an Iraqi-born human rights activist and writer based in Washington, D.C. He just wrote the piece “Iraq’s Vote to Kick Out U.S. Troops Reflects Growing Anti-Imperialist Movement.”

He was recently quoted by USA Today: “The U.S. and Iran are seen by the majority of Iraqis as partners in crime when it comes to supporting these sectarian militias,” Jarrar said. “The right move is to de-escalate, withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, and end U.S. military aid to the Iraqi government and its deadly sectarian militias.”

Biden’s Iraq War Lies: Off the Hook?

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CNN and the DNC are holding a debate this evening.

JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar at fair.org, @FAIRmediawatch
Hollar is senior analyst for FAIR’s Election Focus 2020 project. She just wrote the piece: “Steady Hand Joe: Turning Biden’s support for Iraq War into foreign policy ‘experience.'”

She writes: “If journalists were consistently calling out Biden’s Iraq War lies — not to mention reminding viewers and readers that the war cost hundreds of thousands of human lives, aside from a financial cost in the trillions of dollars — their worn-out tropes about Biden’s foreign policy ‘steadiness’ would be incredibly difficult to sustain.” See from FAIR: “Iraq and the Media: A Critical Timeline.”

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini
Senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini wrote the piece “With this week’s debate, Joe Biden is now pushing his Iraq war falsehoods to the max,” which was published by Salon in September.

Husseini said today: “While Biden and his surrogates like John Kerry continue to falsely claim that he was not for the Iraq invasion, the Sanders camp has rightly highlighted more documentation, including video, of his support for the Iraq invasion after it happened, like his statement about Bush at the Brookings Institution in July 2003: ‘The president of the United States is a bold leader and he is popular.’

“But it’s the tip of the iceberg. That address to Brookings (video) itself contains brazen pro-war falsehoods, with Biden claiming that Saddam Hussein ‘violated every commitment that he made. He played cat and mouse with the weapons inspectors. He failed to account for the huge gaps in weapons declarations that were documented by UN weapons inspectors and submitted by them to the UN Security Council in 1998, and every nation in that Council believed he possessed those weapons at that time. He refused to abide by any conditions.’

“It’s a pack of lies. The Iraqi government released a massive amount of information in 2002, it agreed to allow the UN weapons inspectors in well before the Congressional vote that authorized war — a vote that Biden has claimed was justifiable to give Bush a stronger hand in getting inspectors into Iraq. Additionally, the prior weapons inspection regime, UNSCOM, was ended in 1998 not because Saddam Hussein kicked them out, but because Bill Clinton ordered them withdrawn on the eve of his scheduled impeachment vote to make way for the Desert Fox bombing campaign.

“It’s remarkably fitting that the Biden camp has put out Kerry on this issue since Kerry’s falsifications regarding Iraq are remarkably similar to Biden’s. Kerry might be the Democratic senator whose record helped the Iraq war as much as Biden’s. This notably led to his contortions in the 2004 election when he was the Democratic Party nominee and lost to George W. Bush.

“When I questioned Kerry in 2011 about his vote for the Iraq invasion, he claimed that ‘I didn’t vote for the Iraq war. I voted to give the president authority that he misused and abused. And from the moment he used it, I opposed that.’ Another lie. Kerry actually attacked the notion of a withdrawal from Iraq at that point, even saying in December of 2003: ‘I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy,’ effectively taking position even more militaristic that Bush.” Also see from August 2004 from CNN: “Kerry stands by ‘yes’ vote on Iraq war.”

Husseini added: “It’s remarkable how little scrutiny Biden has gotten for his role in the Iraq invasion. Sanders has mostly criticized Biden’s vote, but Biden was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been criticized by leading analysts and weapons inspectors for the hearings he presided over that led to war. Tulsi Gabbard, viewed by many as an antiwar candidate, has outright let Biden off the hook. At a debate last year, Gabbard said of Biden: ‘He was wrong — he said he was wrong.’ Thus, Biden may be positioned to become the Democratic nominee — and face Trump in the general election — with minimal scrutiny for his major role in the worst policy decision of our lifetimes. He’s also in a worse position to take on Trump’s phony ‘America First’ isolationism than Hillary Clinton was in 2016.”

See interview with Husseini: “The Entire U.S. Establishment Helped Lie Their Way into the Iraq War.” And for FAIR: “Film Official Secrets Is Tip of Mammoth Iceberg.”

Biden and War: “Lies all the Way Down”

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Yahoo News is reporting: “#CNNisTrash trending for perceived bias against Bernie Sanders at Democratic debate.” See from The Intercept: “At Iowa Debate, Bernie Sanders’s Biggest Opponent Was CNN.”

JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar at fair.org, @FAIRmediawatch
Hollar is senior analyst for FAIR’s Election Focus 2020 project, which will feature a piece on last night’s debate this afternoon. She recently wrote the piece: “Steady Hand Joe Turning Biden’s support for Iraq War into foreign policy ‘experience.'”

She noted that Biden continued with his pattern of lying about Iraq without comment from the moderators of last night’s debate. Said Biden: “I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn’t get inspectors into Iraq to stop what — thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake, and I acknowledged that.”

As Hollar noted in her recent piece: “In the July debate, Biden was asked about his October 2002 vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq; he responded with an outlandish claim: ‘From the moment “shock and awe” started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress.'”

It was an obvious falsehood; Biden continued to defend his vote until more than three years later (‘Meet the Press,’ 11/27/05), when he first called it a ‘mistake’ — and even then, not because the war itself was wrong, but because ‘we went too soon. We went without sufficient force. And we went without a plan.’ (At that point, support for the war had tanked to the point where people who believed the Iraq War wasn’t worth it outnumbered those who thought it was by 2-to-1.)”

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini
Senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, Consortium News yesterday published his piece “Biden Has Been Lying About His Record on Iraq for Years.”

He said today: “It fits official agendas to focus on ‘Warren vs Sanders’ — partly because it lets Biden off the hook on Iraq, just as there is finally some attention to foreign policy. And people hear the word ‘mistake’ and want to end it there.

“But it’s lies all the way down with Biden regarding war, and especially the Iraq invasion because his actual position is indefensible. He talks about Bush not being able to ‘get inspectors into Iraq’ — but Iraq agreed to allow the inspectors back in mid-September 2002 — just after IPA had organized a delegation to that country. Biden (see his floor speech) didn’t vote to authorize war until Oct. 11.

“And it should be noted that the inspectors had to be let back in not because — as Biden himself has claimed — Saddam Hussein ‘kicked them out’ — but because Bill Clinton got the UN to withdraw them in 1998 for the Desert Fox bombing campaign just before his scheduled impeachment vote.

“Bush similarly withdrew the weapons inspectors in 2003 to launch the bombing that began the invasion in 2003. If Biden had honestly been fooled by Bush and thought that Bush wanted the Congressional vote for some kind of leverage regarding weapons inspections, then he would have denounced Bush the moment the bombs dropped — as Biden, at times, claims he did. But he didn’t. Biden backed Bush until — because Iraqis were blowing themselves up — the war finally became unpopular in the U.S. years later.

“But it’s kind of outlandish to think that someone like Biden could be fooled rather than at times wanting to pretend to be fooled by Bush. From the publicly available evidence, before the invasion, IPA put out a series of news releases with headlines like ‘White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit.'”

Regarding Biden’s claims of Iraq moving toward a nuclear weapon, see Newsweek report before the invasion cited on FAIR’s Iraq invasion timeline: General Hussein Kamel “the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told weapons inspectors that ‘after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapon stocks and the missiles to deliver them.'”

Also see former Iraqi nuclear scientist Imad Khadduri in the Irish Times from Jan 6, 2003: “Iraq has no N-weapons, claims expatriate scientist.” Khadduri was just featured on an accuracy.org news release: “Completing the Circle? Biden Helped Bush with Iraq Invasion; Is Trump Resurrecting Biden’s Iraq Partition Scheme?”

Husseini added: “This week marks 28 years that the U.S. has been bombing Iraq. Unless you want to make it another 28, with all the mystery and threats that entails, there needs to finally be a reckoning.”

National Progressive Groups’ Unity Statement on Democratic Primary

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Today, six national organizations representing millions of progressive activists issued “A Progressive Unity Statement on the Democratic Presidential Primary.” The signers include groups that support Bernie Sanders or support Elizabeth Warren or currently are not supporting any candidate for president.

The signing organizations are Our Revolution, the Sunrise Movement and RootsAction.org (all supporting Sanders); the Working Families Party (supporting Warren); and Justice Democrats and Democracy for America (currently not supporting any presidential candidate).

JEFF COHEN, jeff at rootsaction.org, @Roots_Action

Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org. He said today: “When RootsAction initiated this statement a few months ago, Sanders and Warren were ‘playing nicely together.’ And the thrust of the ‘Progressive Unity’ statement is as true today as it was then: if supporters of Sanders and Warren don’t cooperate in the Iowa caucuses and before July’s national convention, neither of these two progressive candidates will likely be the Democratic nominee. Instead, a corporate Democrat will get the nomination, which could lead to re-election of faux-populist Trump.”

From the statement: “In 2016, mainstream conventional wisdom asserted that Hillary Clinton would easily triumph over Trump. Today, some still argue for a return to pre-Trump policies and politics as the safest path to victory. We disagree. Going ‘back to the future’ does not offer the best path to Trump’s defeat. Nor does it move our country forward in terms of the enormous challenges and inequities facing the American people.

“We offer this statement as independent organizations. Some support Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or are not currently supporting any candidate for president. For those with a declared preference, this statement in no way signals the slightest decrease in that commitment. Instead, this statement is a shared declaration of our belief that the surest way to defeat Trump is for the Democratic Party to nominate either Warren or Sanders, as these are the candidates best able to energize voters by providing a vision of a decent society and a fair economy. This vision is sorely needed, as is an administration that will implement far-reaching reforms toward a more just society.

“Sanders and Warren, as well as their campaigns and supporters, will need to find ways to cooperate. The crossfire amplified by the media is unhelpful and does not reflect the relationship between two Senate colleagues who broadly worked well together for most of the last year. We hope to build solidarity between delegates affiliated with these two candidates prior to the convention and will encourage the campaigns to work towards a unified convention strategy after the final primaries on June 2nd.

MLK Today: Voting Rights, Racism, War, Poverty

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Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. which is having a Martin Luther King service on Sunday. He is also chair of Faith Strategies, which works to “insure that human, civil and workers rights are promoted throughout the society and in public discourse.”

In his final years many are still unaware that King focused more on fighting poverty, launching the Poor People’s Campaign. During actions with the Poor People’s Campaign in 2018, Rev. Hagler was arrested at a protest for voting rights — see: “D.C. pastor shackled, held 27 hours for praying on Supreme Court steps.” He had his passport taken from him and had to report to authorities on a weekly basis.

See from the Atlantic in 2013: “Martin Luther King’s Economic Dream: A Guaranteed Income for All Americans.”

Also often overlooked is that in King’s final year, he was perhaps the most prominent critic of the Vietnam War. At the Riverside Church in New York City exactly a year before his assassination, King gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech: “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out even more passionately. From the pulpit of his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta later that month, on April 30, 1967, he would deliver the sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” in which he rebuked the major media outlets: “There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [segregationist Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press!”

Camps Spread Along U.S.-Mexico Border: Deportation, Drug Cartels and a New Type of Status

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ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is an investigative reporter published by The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, The Intercept, and dozens of other publications.

He said today: “Since President Donald Trump rolled out the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in January 2019, more than 56,000 asylum-seekers have been forced back to Mexico. Refugee camps have sprung up in Mexico in some of the most dangerous cities in the Americas.”

Gupta is currently visiting a camp of 2,500 asylum-seekers in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, Texas. See video of a tour around the camp. He said: “Residents have escaped violent gangs in Central America, paid bribes to cross borders at risk of death, and been kidnapped by deadly cartels and police once in Mexico. Those who survived the journey to Matamoros have been waiting weeks and months, pinning their hopes of gaining asylum into the United States. They express grave fear of returning to their countries, they don’t want to stay in Mexico because of similar dangers, and they can’t enter the United States because Trump is blocking them to whip up xenophobia and nationalism among his base this election year. By September 2019, of 9,500 asylum-seekers whose cases had been completed under MPP, only 11 were granted asylum. Because of this, the Matamoros camp is becoming permanent even as the U.S. and Mexican governments avoid designating residents as refugees, which would trigger legal responsibilities.

“The U.S. government is creating a new status of people on its border, with even less rights than official refugees. Filling the gap are civil society groups from both sides of the border who provide medical aid, meals, legal counsel, bedding, clothing, and tents. But one of the main beneficiaries of MPP has been drug cartels that profit from kidnapping, smuggling, and services and housing that the refugees require. The Matamoros camp itself is a new type of urban space appearing around the world. It’s part of a trend of people from the Americas to Europe to Asia fleeing war, violence, and climate chaos who lack basic rights. … They are concentrated in an area that is profitable to corporations involved in militarizing the border, powerful criminal gangs that prey on the migrants, and used by ethno-nationalist politicians like Donald Trump to whip up fear and hatred.”

Biden’s Record on Social Security “Cause for Concern”

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The Hill reports: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in critiquing fellow Democratic presidential primary opponent Joe Biden’s Social Security record.

“’Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus” in the Senate,’ Warren told Politico. ‘As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone’s records on Social Security are important in this election.'”

NANCY ALTMAN, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @SSWorks
Altman is president of Social Security Works and co-author of Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All. She was instrumental in fighting back against the Bowles-Simpson Commission and moving the conversation in the Democratic Party from cutting Social Security to expanding it. She is very concerned that if elected President, Biden could pursue a Social Security cutting “grand bargain” similar to Bowles-Simpson.

She released a statement today: “Vice President Joe Biden recently claimed that the Bernie Sanders campaign ‘doctored’ a clip of a 2018 speech, to make it appear that he supports cutting Social Security. The truth is that the clip is in no way doctored. Indeed, the full speech is worse than the clip, because it includes Biden saying that Social Security ‘needs adjustments.’ That’s well known D.C. insider speak for ‘cut benefits.’ Biden’s campaign now claims that the adjustments he had in mind were benefit expansions, but this explanation is not credible. When politicians want to expand Social Security, which is extremely popular, they say so. They don’t use euphemisms like ‘adjustments.’ Additionally, the 2018 speech must be viewed in the context of Biden’s 40-year record of being open to benefit cuts. At various times, he’s expressed openness to raising the retirement age, reducing cost-of-living adjustments, and means testing.

“Now, Biden is running for president on a platform of expanding, not cutting, Social Security. This is both smart politics and wise policy, because the nation is facing a retirement income crisis. But Biden’s past record on Social Security, combined with his frequently expressed desire to work with Congressional Republicans, is still cause for concern. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he wants to work with the next Democratic President — on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That begs the question: Is Biden’s newfound commitment to Social Security stronger than his desire for bipartisan dealmaking?”

See from Ryan Grim from The Intercept: “Fact Check: Joe Biden has Advocated Cutting Social Security for 40 Years.” He quotes extensively from Biden’s record: “After a Republican wave swept Congress in 1994, Biden’s support for cutting Social Security, and his general advocacy for budget austerity, made him a leading combatant in the centrist-wing battle against the party’s retreating liberals in the 1980s and ’90s. 

“’When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well,’ he told the Senate in 1995. ‘I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.’ (A freeze would have reduced the amount that would be paid out, cutting the program’s benefit.)”

“Biden’s Friends and Backers Come Out on Top”

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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: “It’s a ritual expression of what locals call the Delaware Way, a bipartisan contrast to angry national politics. The Delaware Way can be useful for elected officials — and their friends in business. And family. There’s an axiom often repeated in his Senate years by Joe Biden’s staff: ‘Joe says that when someone helps his family, it’s just like helping Joe,’ recited Sam Waltz, a Wilmington business consultant who covered Biden’s first Senate reelection campaign as a young reporter.

“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, D.C., 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. …

“President Trump’s conflicts may be bigger and bolder and more likely to spark criminal charges or even corrupt U.S. policy. But is this really the best Democrats can do: to point out that Trump is worse? They tried that in 2016 — and it didn’t end well.”

Truth in Impeachment: A Victim of Schiff, not Just Trump

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JEREMY KUZMAROV, jkuzmarov2 at gmail.com
Kuzmarov is co-author of the new book The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce.

He said today: “While the Democratic impeachment managers have accused Trump repeatedly of dishonesty — often with good reason — they themselves have twisted the truth to serve their own political agenda.

“Impeachment manager Adam Schiff, for example, claimed that ‘more than 15,000 Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies’ and that the military aid [which Trump subverted] was for ‘such essentials as sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, radar… and other support for the war effort.’

“While the military aid may have assisted the war effort, Schiff’s comments are misleading because the majority of those killed have been Eastern Ukrainians who died at the hands of the Ukrainian military that the U.S. has armed — not the Russians. …

“At the hearings, Schiff frequently referenced the danger of ‘Russian expansion’ and its efforts to ‘remake the map of Europe’ and quoted a witness who stated that ‘the U.S. aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.’ …

“By spreading misleading or outright false information about Russia and Ukraine, and drumming up anti-Russian sentiment, the consequences of the hearings, however, could be even more damaging than the Trump presidency.”

Kuzmarov also recently wrote the piece “Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq” for Counterpunch. A piece on Schiff is slated to be published Tuesday on Counterpunch and on Antiwar.com. His prior books include Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State and Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation-Building in the American Century.

“Peace Plan” a “Charade” as Israeli Military Machine Proceeds

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RAMZY BAROUD, ramzybaroud at gmail.com, @RamzyBaroud
Baroud is a syndicated columnist, editor of The Palestine Chronicle and a senior research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs in Istanbul. He is author of the new book These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons.

In the U.S. until Thursday, Baroud said today: “The ‘Deal of the Century’ is not a ‘peace plan,’ nor was it ever intended to be, despite what its chief architect and White House adviser Jared Kushner has been claiming.

“It is yet another propagandist U.S. government political undertaking justified by the false notion that it is in the best interest of the American people that Israel remains the regional hegemon and is enabled to swallow the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. It’s a green light for further suffocation of Palestinian freedom.

“While this charade is taking place in Washington, the prospect of a real just peace is dimmer than ever; the Israeli military machine continues to occupy Palestinian land and to confiscate more territories for the expansion of its illegal settlement projects; Gaza remains under a hermetic siege; and over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners are still in Israeli jails, hundreds of them held without due process or a trial.

“No real peace can possibly be achieved without first and foremost ending the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. The ‘Deal of the Century’ is a political document aimed at propping up the right-wing policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and creating the needed media hype and distraction to give a respite to an embattled U.S. president.”

Baroud’s past books include The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.

Iowa Caucus and Rank Choice Voting

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ROB RICHIE, [currently in Iowa] rr at fairvote.org, @FairVote
Richie is president of FairVote, a nonpartisan electoral reform organization.

He just wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune in which he states: “Iowa at least gives supporters of weaker candidates a backup vote. If, for example, a candidate earns 5 percent at a caucus and isn’t viable for that precinct, those voters can move to have their vote count for their next choice who has enough support to win delegates. Half of all Iowa Democrats may well end up supporting a backup choice. This makes more votes count, and rewards candidates who can help unify the party by picking up support from trailing candidates.

“But it still doesn’t change the real potential that the ‘winner’ might have lost badly in a head-to-head matchup against the second-place finisher. That’s why parties should fully embrace ranked-choice voting. One of the year’s most encouraging developments is that early Democratic voters in Nevada and all Democratic voters in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming will cast ranked-choice ballots in their party-run presidential contests.

“With ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of choice: first, second and so on. If voters’ first choice has enough support to win delegates, their ballots will count for that candidate. Otherwise, those ballots will end up counting for the candidate ranked next who is viable.”

See FairVotes resources on “RCV for Presidential Nominations.”

FairVote commissioned YouGov to conduct a national poll of 1,002 likely Democratic presidential primary voters in the fall, see Vox report: “Elizabeth Warren leads Joe Biden in ranked-choice poll.”

DNC Falsifying About “Stacking” “From the Swamp”

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin at shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola’s original Twitter thread of a week ago about new Democratic National Committee moves went viral  — see from Commondreams: “Tom Perez Stacks 2020 Convention Committees With ‘From the Swamp’ Nominations.” Also see, from John Nichols of The Nation: “The DNC’s Move to Accommodate Bloomberg Stirs Outrage in Iowa.”

See Gosztola’s interview with Marc Steiner of The Real News: “Dems Load Platform Committee to Stop Progressive Movement.” Gosztola recently wrote the piece: “DNC Defends Diverse Group of Corporate Democrats Appointed to Convention Committees,” which states: “Faced with a backlash, the Democratic National Committee defended the secretive manner in which dozens of lobbyists, corporate consultants, party insiders, think tank board members, and pro-Israel Democrats were nominated by DNC Chair Tom Perez to committees for the 2020 national convention.

“Seventy-five individuals were appointed to the Platform, Rules, and Credentials Committees on January 25 during a DNC executive committee meeting. The current membership of this executive committee is unclear.

“Two chairs and four vice-chairs were appointed to oversee each of the committees. Thirty-one spots on each committee were filled.

“Nearly all of the appointees endorsed Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign. Many endorsed Clinton early in 2015, but the DNC said it does not consider ‘past endorsements’ when filling committees.

“The DNC claimed ‘high-profile’ supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were appointed to the committees, but that is false. Only one ‘high-profile’ supporter was appointed to the Platform, Rules, and Credentials Committees.”

Iowa and Democratic Party Corporate Corruption

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The Intercept reports: “Sanders Campaign’s Internal Caucus Numbers Show Them Leading Iowa, With Biden a Distant Fourth.”

Max Blumenthal reports in The Grayzone: “Pro-Israel Buttigieg backer Seth Klarman is top funder of group behind Iowa’s disastrous voting app.”

Monday night, Chris Hayes asked Democratic Party consultant David Plouffe about his ties to the firm in question, Shadow Inc. and its backer, ACRONYM.

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin at shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola’s just had a viral Twitter thread on Shadow Inc. His Twitter thread of a week ago about new Democratic National Committee moves also went viral  — see from Commondreams: “Tom Perez Stacks 2020 Convention Committees With ‘From the Swamp’ Nominations.” Gosztola recently wrote the piece: “DNC Defends Diverse Group of Corporate Democrats Appointed to Convention Committees.”

Today, he emphasized the pattern of corporate corruption in the Democratic Party establishment. He also scrutinized recent statements by Neera Tanden, former Clinton campaign aide and now president of the Center for American Progress, who tried to blame the Sanders campaign for the confusion in Iowa: “Just remember which campaign asked for reporting of three sets of data.” And: “As we wake up and still have no results from the caucus debacle, it’s a good time to remember the committee to set the Dem primary calendar was the Unity and Reform Committee. There were defenders of caucuses on the committee. Folks like me argued caucuses were anti-democratic.”

Gosztola said today: “But Bernie Sanders’ campaign had no role in contracting a startup company to create an app for the caucuses. All his people advocated for as part of the Unity and Reform Committee’s recommendations was public reporting of the raw vote totals in caucus states. That could’ve easily been handled by the Iowa State Democratic Party if they had not added non-essential technology into the mix.

“In fact, Sanders advocated reforms that led Iowa State Democrats to adopt a paper trail that has become the fail-safe for tabulating and verifying caucus results.

“Plus, Iowa Democrats have prided the role these ‘neighborhood gatherings’ play in the presidential election. They have not wanted to do away with the caucus system so it is not all Sanders’ fault for keeping caucuses in the 2020 presidential primary.”

Regarding Shadow, Inc., Gosztola said: “The Iowa State Democratic Party kept the public in the dark when it came to the company that was involved in developing the app that was added to the process of reporting results. No explanation has been given for why the company’s name was treated as a state secret. As it turns out, individuals who were software and tool developers for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign founded Shadow  Inc. It was acquired by a dark money group called ACRONYM in 2019, which was founded by Tara McGowan, a former campaign official for Barack Obama. Her husband works for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, and McGowan has expressed support for Buttigieg.

“It is evident the Iowa State Democratic Party offered a contract to friendly Democrats and failed to take steps to ensure an app could be used by precincts. The net effect of this was to bury the story of Biden doing incredibly poorly in Iowa and that Sanders has apparently done very well.”

“Additionally, the Des Moines Register reports, ‘Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price worked as Clinton’s 2016 Iowa political director.’ This adds to the corruption around creating a process that could be outsourced to a company staffed with multiple former Clinton campaign developers.”

Banana Republic, USA

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the author of many books and articles on money and elections. Short recent pieces include “Big Money — Not Political Tribalism — Drives U.S. Elections” and “The 2020 Election in Three Graphs.”

He said today: “Suddenly all the jokes about the U.S. income distribution looking more and more like Latin America’s aren’t funny. The first member of the Forbes 400 ever to sit in the White House survives impeachment after his lawyers and followers argue that what he did in the Ukraine wasn’t a high enough crime or misdemeanor. Meantime, rival oligarchs are laying siege to the official opposition party and denouncing proposals for modest rises in their taxes and Medicare for All as ‘socialism.’ Amid a frenzy of political money without precedent, they are pushing to change the Democratic Party’s rules to make sure one of them or somebody just as safe is the only alternative offered to voters in November. And the first time any voters were officially asked what they think, democracy itself inexplicably goes down for the count in Iowa. Whether or not he really said it, the famous claim ascribed to Justice Brandeis that a country can have either democracy or lopsided disparities in wealth but not both seems right on target.”

Ferguson’s books include Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (University of Chicago Press). He emphasizes that his views are his own and not that of any institution he is affiliated with.

Media Bias: Debates and Election

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ABC is holding a debate in coordination with the Democratic National Committee tonight.

SAM HUSSEINI, sam at accuracy.org, @accuracy2020
Husseini is senior analyst with accuracy.org, which has just launched accuracy2020. The project is organizing “voters, students, and local activists who care about fair debates and clean elections to gather in front of ABC headquarters in downtown Washington at noon on Saturday, Feb. 8, to challenge ABC and other major media corporations on their handling of the Democratic presidential candidates’ debates.”

Said Husseini: “We saw corporate media bias during ABC’s Sept. 12 debate and CNN’s Jan. 14 debate. Most of all, we’ve seen a skewing and marginalization of real issues, which this election should be all about. The public deserves far better.” See Facebook page for event and new Twitter feed.

JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar at fair.org, @FAIRmediawatch
Hollar is senior analyst for FAIR’s Election Focus 2020 project. In September, she wrote the piece “ABC Debate Lowlights” about the last time ABC ran a debate.

Her recent pieces include “Corporate Media Are the Real ‘Sanders Attack Machine’” and “The Big Loser in the Iowa Debate? CNN’s Reputation.”

JIM NAURECKAS, jnaureckas at fair.org, @JNaureckas
Naureckas is the editor of FAIR.org and just wrote the piece “How Corporate Media Make Pete Look Like He’s Winning.”

He writes that New York Times “polling maven Nate Cohn has a note nearby that states that SDEs [state delegate equivalents] are ‘the metric we use to call a winner.’ But — why? SDEs are a meaningless intermediate step between the number of votes cast and the pledged delegates awarded — the latter being what actually matters in terms of winning the Democratic nomination for president, which is what this is all about. Why not use those as the metric you use to call a winner — the way, you know, the Democratic Party does?”

Also see:

By Jeff Cohen: “7 Pointed Questions for Corporate Media About Their Anti-Progressive Biases.”

By Norman Solomon: “It’s Corporate Media, ‘Moderate’ Democrats, and the Oligarchy vs. Bernie Sanders and a Movement.”

Social Security Defenders Warn of Buttigieg “Right-Wing Talking Points” on Austerity

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LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Benesch is communications director of Social Security Works. She said today: “Austerity is a lie. America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We can fully afford expanded Social Security, Medicare for All, universal childcare, and many other progressive priorities — so long as millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.

By saying that Democrats should focus on cutting the deficit, Pete Buttigieg is promoting right-wing talking points and serving the interests of his billionaire donors. These billionaires want to pit working class Americans against each other by creating a false sense of scarcity, while continuing to hoard their ill-gotten wealth.

“Buttigieg’s comments raise serious concerns about how he would govern. Senator Mitch McConnell says he wants to work with the next Democratic president on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, so that the Republican Party isn’t blamed for the cuts. McConnell uses the deficit as a pretext for demanding cuts to earned benefits, even though Social Security (unlike the $2 trillion Republican tax scam) doesn’t add a single penny to the deficit.

“We need to make sure the Democratic nominee is someone who would never take McConnell’s bait.”

Distortions About Medicare for All

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Norman Solomon recently wrote the piece “Why the Buttigieg Campaign Tried to Have Me Arrested for Handing Out These Medicare for All Fliers.”

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College. He said today: “There are distortions on many fronts regarding Medicare for All.”

He noted NPR recently reported on Pete Buttigieg “pushing back against [Bernie] Sanders’ more extreme positions, like mandatory ‘Medicare for All’ with his own voluntary Medicare buy-in for those who want it.”

Said Himmelstein: “NPR reports this as if Medicare (for seniors) isn’t currently mandatory, which it is.

“Buttigieg’s Medicare buy-in would merely permit those who lack insurance but have plenty of money to buy into Medicare by paying a high premium. Buttigieg’s plan is Medicare for those who can afford it. It leaves out people who need insurance but don’t have the thousands of dollars to pay the premium. It leaves out the millions of people who have skimpy insurance but that’s all their employer is offering. Under Buttigieig’s plan, private insurers would continue to push high cost patients onto Medicare. Medicare would become an expensive high risk pool that absorbs all the losses while private insurers get all the profits. There’s no chance that Buttigieg’s plan would get us to universal health coverage.

“Many media reports around Elizabeth Warren’s plan cited an Urban Institute report about how the plan would allegedly raise healthcare costs, but that study is a unique outlier among the 19 cost estimates of Medicare for All — almost all the rest projected that Medicare for All would save money, and none predicted costs nearly as high as the Urban Institute.

“Some media and candidates claim that people love their private insurance plans, which is simply laughable. Surveys actually show most people don’t trust insurance companies to place enrollees’ health needs above their profits. People are much more satisfied with Medicare. And surveys find that whatever positive feelings voters might have toward a ‘choice’ of private insurance plans, that evaporates when people are told that under Medicare for All, they would get a choice of doctor and hospital. Medicare for All widens choice, it doesn’t narrow it.”

Himmelstein co-wrote the piece “The ‘Public Option’ on Health Care Is a Poison Pill.”

El Salvador Military Force Way into Parliament

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BBC is reporting: “Heavily-armed police and soldiers in El Salvador have forced their way into parliament, demanding the approval of a $109m (£85m) loan to better equip them.” See video.

ALEXIS STOUMBELIS, alexis at cispes.org, @CISPES
Stoumbelis is with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which just released a statement: “Human rights organizations in El Salvador, political parties and institutions on both the left and the right and international bodies including the UN High Commission on Human Rights decried actions over the weekend by President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, to use military force to compel legislators to attend an extraordinary legislative session he convened for Sunday, February 9, in order to approve a $109 million loan to fund his national security plan.

“On Friday, Bukele threatened legislators who did not comply and incited the public, via Twitter, to exercise their constitutional right to popular insurrection if legislators did not comply with his order, despite its dubious constitutional grounds.

“Bukele then deployed members of the armed forces into the legislative palace for the first time since El Salvador’s brutal civil war. On Sunday, social media networks were ablaze with photos and videos of heavily armed soldiers flanking mostly empty seats in the legislative hall. …

“Both the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) — El Salvador’s largest political parties — condemned the president for using military force to intervene in legislative decisions. Members of both parties have also reported harassment by National Civilian Police agents.”

Behind Sanders’ Win in New Hampshire

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ARNIE ARNESEN, nharnie at gmail.com, @pchowder
Arnesen is host of “The Attitude” on WNHN in Concord. She recently appeared on “Democracy Now!” and CNN.

She said today: “Something that Trump likes to take credit for is some limited economic improvement for poorer people. But much of the reason for that is the movements in states and cities across the U.S. to raise the minimum wage — which has been championed by Bernie Sanders.

“The campaign might seem muddled in some ways because the more establishment candidates are responding to the message that Sanders has set. It’s largely with generic nice-sounding things. Pete Butteigeg talks about turning the page. My question is, what’s on the page? He is appealing to people who are not hurting. Sanders is appealing to those who are.

“We cannot forget that Bernie’s message has set the agenda for 2020. Bernie has moved the entire agenda of the Democratic Party not to the left (left/right is so yesterday) but to where the essence and soul of the party has historically been. About workers, about justice, about investment in infrastructure, about healthcare as a right and an environment that sustains us and does not serve the interests of corporate success and America’s failure. The New Dems under Bill Clinton moved the party into the arms of Wall Street and had more in common with a moderate Republican party that no longer exists in America. Our job is not to replace the GOP but to speak to the needs of the 90 percent.”

Is Sanders a Socialist, or a New Dealer?

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Sanders won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. In June, he gave a speech on democratic socialism in which he said: “President Trump and his fellow oligarchs hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, the co-chair of the Sanders campaign, was recently interviewed by Christopher Matthews and said: “Bernie is an FDR Democrat. … I represent Silicon Valley. Let me tell you, Bernie Sanders is not talking about nationalizing Apple.”

VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis writes in his forthcoming book Socialist Practice: Histories and Theories: “The dynamic of Democrat/Republican collaboration is now long established. On the one hand, Democratic electoral strategists rejoice in the most outlandish (racist, misogynist, etc.) conduct of Republicans, as this allows the Democrats to present themselves as guardians of rationality and decency. On the other hand, Republicans, having no policies to address the economic needs of the majority, revel in being able to tar the Democrats as ‘socialists,’ thereby setting firm limits on the degree to which Democrats, recoiling from the dreaded ‘red’ label, can legislate an authentically popular agenda. The result is that whichever of these two parties working-class people vote for, they are voting — except in rare cases of individual candidates — against their own best interests.

“This dynamic affects the way activists sympathetic to socialism define themselves in the political arena. Given the systematic bias of the electoral system and the mass media against third-party challengers, there are powerful inducements for socialists to seek office as Democrats. This leads them to water down their conception of socialism to the point of rejecting any explicit challenge to the power of capital. What remains, typically, is an invocation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and his 1944 ‘Economic Bill of Rights.’ Although these expanded the scope of social welfare, thereby strengthening the economic power of the working class (for which they were widely denounced as ‘socialist’), they stopped short of questioning the legitimacy of the profit-system as such. The resulting political order has been variously dubbed ‘mixed economy,’ ‘welfare capitalism,’ and ‘social democracy,’ but some of its advocates in the U.S. – notably, Senator Bernie Sanders – refer to it as ‘democratic socialism.’

“Given that the New Deal agenda did not entail dissolution of the capitalist class, the practice of implying that it was somehow socialist is highly misleading. Its socialist aspects, although real enough (as far as they went) in terms of their benefits, were in the nature of partial and transitory concessions. What the New Deal meant was that capital gave up a portion of its power in order — as Joseph P. Kennedy said at the time – not to face the prospect of losing all of it. But when the historical moment was right, capital struck back. …

“[I]n the U.S. political context, programs even far more limited than that of Sanders do not escape the accusation of being socialist (recall the attacks made beginning in 2008 against Barack Obama). It therefore makes political sense for Sanders — especially considering the more fully socialist (including anti-imperialist) position he staked out earlier in his career, as well as his lifelong public admiration for Eugene Debs — not to disown his association with the word socialism. What his acceptance of the word ultimately reflects is the fact that socialism, despite any negative historical baggage and (above all) despite its sustained stigmatization, embodies the positive social goals that most people seek.”

Wallis is author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (2018) and Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics (2019). See his website: VictorWallis.com.

“Austerity Pete”

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In “The New Hampshire Democratic Primary in One Graph,” researchers Thomas Ferguson, Jie Chen and Paul Jorgensen at the Institute for New Economic Thinking find: “Lower income towns in New Hampshire voted heavily for Sanders; richer towns did the opposite.”

ALEXANDER SAMMON, asammon at prospect.org, @alex_sammon
Sammon is a staff writer at The American Prospect. He just wrote the piece “Austerity Pete,” which states: “Asked by an attendee at a Keene, New Hampshire, town hall to give his thoughts on ‘the deficit,’ Buttigieg articulated a willingness to embrace fiscal hawkery that’s been notably absent from the Democratic primary.

“’I think the time has come for my party to get a lot more comfortable talking about the deficit,’ Buttigieg answered. ‘Because right now we got a president who comes from a party that used to talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, with a trillion-dollar deficit, and no plan in sight for what to do about it … This should concern progressives, who are not in the habit of talking or worrying too much about the debt.’ He then went on to claim that a ballooning deficit would in fact prevent investment in ‘safety net and health and infrastructure and education programs,’ intimating that deficit reduction would need to supersede the progressive policy agenda.

“That should alarm Democrats all over the political spectrum. Buttigieg’s sudden pivot to deficit-hawk politics is deeply misguided and evinces a profound misunderstanding of recent political and economic history. Virtually all of the party’s disparate factions understand that there simply isn’t a deficit problem worth obsessing over at this time, and making such noises only serves to restrict progressive ambitions. …

“The legitimacy of austerity politics seemed to have been driven out of the political arena with Paul Ryan, after he quickly capitulated and championed the deficit-exploding Trump tax bill. In fact, it’s hard to think of a school of political thought with less credibility and less popularity than deficit hawkery, which was openly forsaken by even its most fervid apostles in the Republican Party once it came up against an opportunity to deposit an extra buck of would-be tax revenue into the pockets of wealthy GOP donors. What’s become clear is that ‘fiscal responsibility’ is a tool only used when Democrats occupy the White House, to prevent popular programs from coming into being. …

“Could a pro-austerity agenda outflank Republicans in 2020? It certainly wouldn’t offend Mitch McConnell, who recently reiterated his long-standing ardor for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, even suggesting he would set aside his undying opposition to bipartisanship to do it. …

“In a general election that should attack Trump for his heartlessness toward the neediest, Buttigieg would be in the awkward position of agreeing with the president on the need to ‘tighten our belts.'”

How DNC Manipulated 2016 Presidential Race: A Timeline

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MICHAEL BRENNAN, mryanbrennan at gmail.com
Brennan is a graduate student in public policy at the University of Maryland and a past intern at the Institute for Public Accuracy. He just wrote “Timeline: How DNC Manipulated 2016 Presidential Race.” Here’s a summary:

* April 7, 2015: Clinton campaign memo to the DNC articulates “Pied Piper” strategy to elevate the most extreme Republican candidates: “Our hope is that the goal of a potential HRC campaign and the DNC would be one-in-the-same: to make whomever the Republicans nominate unpalatable to a majority of the electorate.” (Salon)

* August 27, 2015: DNC announces “Hillary Victory Fund” joint fundraising agreement with Hillary Clinton’s campaign with a maximum possible individual contribution of $356,100 ($2,700 to Hillary for America, $33,400 to the DNC, and $10,000 to 32 of the state parties).

* November 13, 2015: Associated Press releases a widely-cited survey of superdelegates’ public support: 359 for Clinton, 8 for Bernie Sanders, 2 for Martin O’Malley, and 210 uncommitted.

* February 21, 2016: New York Times publishes front-page story proclaiming Sanders faces “steep climb” in delegates, despite trailing Clinton by only one pledged delegate following the Nevada caucus.

* March 5, 2016: DNC vice-chair Donna Brazile provides Clinton with a debate question on the Flint water crisis the day prior (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 10/11/16).

* March 12, 2016: Brazile shares question with Clinton on the death penalty the day before a CNN town hall (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 10/11/16). (Washington Post)

* April 26, 2016: DNC staffer shares messaging preparing for when Sanders ends his campaign (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16). (The Intercept)

* May 2, 2016: Politico reports bombshell on how the Hillary Victory Fund was being utilized to circumvent campaign contribution limits by the Clinton campaign and DNC.

* May 5, 2016: DNC CFO Brad Marshall conspires “atheist” smear against Sanders: “It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16). (Washington Post)

* May 14, 2016: The Nevada Democratic convention unfolds chaotically. Despite no evidence suggesting violence, major outlets uncritically repeat the myth of “pro-Sanders violence and chair throwing.“

* May 17, 2016: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz calls Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver a “damn liar” in DNC internal emails (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16).

* May 18, 2016: Wasserman-Schultz promotes “pro-Sanders violence at Nevada convention” myth on MSNBC.

* May 21, 2016: DNC national press secretary pitches an anti-Sanders story to DNC comms director: “Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16). (The Intercept)

* June 6, 2016: On eve of the second biggest primary day (California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, and South Dakota), Associated Press publishes major story calling the primary for Clinton: “Clinton has delegates to win Democratic nomination”. This count includes public superdelegate commitments who will not vote until July 25.

* April 25, 2017: In class action lawsuit alleging DNC fraud, DNC attorney argues the party has the right to ignore primary voters: “The party could have favored a candidate… We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.’” (See Newsweek: “Was the Election Rigged Against Bernie Sanders? DNC Lawsuit Demands Repayment for Campaign Donors.“)

* November 2, 2017: Brazile reveals Hillary Victory Fund agreement “specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised.” (Vox)

Is Bloomberg Out to Stop Trump — Or Sanders?

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MARGARET KIMBERLEY, margaretkimberley at gmail.com, @freedomrideblog
Kimberley is author of the just-released book Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents, a “concise, authoritative exploration of America’s relationship with race and black Americans through the lens of the presidents.”

She is editor and senior columnist with Black Agenda Report. She wrote last November: “In 2002 Michael Bloomberg was sworn in as mayor of New York City. In that same year the men known as the Central Park Five had their sentences vacated. They all served between 6 and 13 years in prison for a rape they did not commit. They sued New York City for the wrongful convictions but the Bloomberg administration refused to pay. They had to wait until he left office in 2014 to receive their $40 million settlement.

“Michael Bloomberg recently announced that he will seek the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020. Unlike latecomers such as Deval Patrick, he actually has a chance to win the nomination or to play a role in choosing someone else. His weapon is not in any of his policy provisions but in his bank account. Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of $55 billion, a figure which makes him among the richest people on the planet. Like the old joke about the 900-pound gorilla, he can do whatever he wants, including prevent a progressive from getting the nomination.

“Bloomberg says he is ‘Running for president to stop Donald Trump and rebuild America.’ In reality he is running to stop Bernie Sanders because he knows that given a level playing field Sanders would emerge triumphant. Bloomberg’s strategy is to skip the early states and focus on Super Tuesday in March. This plan is a sign that he is more interested in being a spoiler than in actually being president himself.”

Kimberley said today: “Black ‘leaders’ — including mayors of several major cities — have capitulated and endorsed Bloomberg despite his legacy of racist policies. This is obviously connected to his funding vast networks of interest groups including the Democratic National Committee itself.

“Meanwhile, black voters remain incredibly loyal to the Democratic Party. Their fears of Republicans are justifiable but in the absence of a black political agenda, their efforts at self protection have led to dangerous passivity. The support for Biden indicated by polling was a result of being convinced that he was more electable against Trump. It was the same thing that was said about Hillary Clinton in 2016, yet Trump is the president. The notion of electability is a canard that has led to failure.”

Bloomberg: Buying Up Airwaves; Why Isn’t he Running as a Republican?

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Ryan Grim of The Intercept noted at end of January: “Just before jumping into the race, @MikeBloomberg gave $325,000 to the DNC [Democratic National Committee], on top of the gobs he spent on ads this month. Totally normal system.” And contrary to popular belief, Bloomberg is courting high-dollar donors. He’s just directing them to give money to the DNC, instead of his campaign. This was followed by the DNC changing its debate rules to help Bloomberg. He is thus expected to take part in the NBC organized debate on Wednesday.

A picket was formed outside ABC following the last debate, organized by Accuracy2020, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy, noting: “while the DNC and corporate-media-coproduced debates have excluded serious candidates at times, they have just changed their own rules to include billionaire Bloomberg. Last night, ABC injected him into the debate. Not the words of candidates of color who have been forced out of the debates — Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker or Julián Castro — but Bloomberg.” See report on The Real News: “Activists Demand Public Control of Presidential Debates.”

ROBERT McCHESNEY, rwmcchesney at gmail.com
McChesney is research professor at the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His books include Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America and Rich Media, Poor Democracy, The Political Economy of the Media. He is also co-founder of the media reform group Free Press.

McChesney just wrote the piece “If Bloomberg Wants to Buy an Election, He Should Run as a Republican Against Trump — Not Sabotage Democrats,” which states: “Bloomberg could spend $100 million every single day on his presidential campaign between now and election day in November … and he would still have a net worth greater than $30 billion. He would remain one of the 30 richest people in the world. …

“Bloomberg may well be successful. He has already made media corporations hugely profitable by flooding the airwaves with his expensive and slick advertising — he has shown something corporate America knows well: carpet-bombing advertisements works if you can afford it — and this is just the beginning. … He has a large chunk of the political class on his payroll, with many more to come. He will accordingly get terrific mainstream press coverage, the type any other candidate would like, and Bernie Sanders can’t even begin to imagine.”

McChesney added that Bloomberg “could have done everything possible to expose Trump and to locate and encourage anti-Trump Republicans. He could have supported primary challengers on the Republican side to defeat Trump’s allies and enablers. He could have built up a parallel party apparatus employing thousands of Republican operatives at big salaries. He probably would have lost, but you never know for sure until you try. Bloomberg could outspend Trump 20 to 1. He would have been able to force public attention to this issue, and keep it there. He might have made Trump completely crack up. At any rate, he would have had an enormous impact that might have helped to slow and begin to reverse the Trumpian drift.”

Bloomberg (Still) Wants to Cut Social Security

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NANCY ALTMAN, LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Altman is president of Social Security Works; Benesch is the communications director for the group, which fights to “address our nation’s retirement income crisis by protecting and expanding Social Security.”

They just wrote the piece “Bloomberg (Still) Wants to Cut Social Security,” which states: “Of all the Democrats contending for the presidential nomination, Michael Bloomberg is the worst choice to debate Donald Trump on an overwhelmingly important issue: Social Security’s future. Bloomberg’s position on Social Security is to the right of Trump’s stated position — and widely out of step with even Republican voters, let alone Democrats.

“Bloomberg has a long history of supporting cuts to Social Security, including raising the retirement age. He’s disparaged Social Security, one of the most popular and successful government programs in history, by comparing it to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Bowles-Simpson austerity commission, which tried to jam through huge Social Security cuts behind closed doors.

“Now, Bloomberg is running to be the Democratic nominee for President — even though he was a Republican for years, and only became a Democrat in 2018. For months, Bloomberg was the only major candidate without a Social Security plan. Now, he’s finally released one.

“Bloomberg’s Social Security plan is very carefully worded. Unlike Bloomberg’s past statements, the plan does not overtly endorse Social Security cuts. That’s no surprise, since cutting Social Security is incredibly unpopular with voters across the political spectrum. But a close read reveals that Bloomberg hasn’t changed his views. He’s just gotten smarter about hiding them. …

“For those who have followed the Social Security debate closely, Bloomberg’s words about ‘options’ are a clear signal. His language is insider speak, a wink and a nod to the donor class that he, like them, favors cutting Social Security. His promises to ‘strengthen’ and ‘preserve’ Social Security are meaningless. Those words are frequently used by billionaire elites like Bloomberg as code for ‘cut Social Security to save it.’ Nor does Bloomberg’s support of targeted Social Security increases inspire confidence. Bowles-Simpson also included targeted benefit increases, alongside huge cuts to overall benefits. So did Paul Ryan’s plans.”

Biden and Bloomberg Falsehoods on Iraq Invasion

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STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He is among several prominent analysts featured in a just-released mini-doc narrated by Danny Glover, “WORTH THE PRICE? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War” and produced by Mark Weisbrot. The documentary traces the central role that Biden — who was then chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee — played in ensuring the Iraq invasion was executed in 2003. 

Biden has continued making misleading claims at many of the debates so far with minimal scrutiny. On ABC earlier this month, Biden claimed “I trusted George Bush to keep his word. He said he was not going to go into Iraq. He said he was only using this to unite the United Nations to insist we get inspectors in to see what Saddam was doing.”

Zunes debunked this false narrative, which Biden has repeated over and over, in a piece last year, “Biden Is Doubling Down on Iraq War Lies,” in which he notes: “More than three months after U.N. inspectors returned, Biden defended the imminent launch of the invasion by saying, ‘I support the president. Diplomacy over avoiding war is dead. … I do not see any alternative. It is not as if we can back away now.” He added, ‘Let loose the dogs of war. I’m confident we will win.’ He then co-sponsored a resolution supporting Bush and the invasion.’

For more: Sam Husseini, senior analyst with accuracy.org on Intercepted: “Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and the Rewriting of Iraq War History” with journalist Jeremy Scahill. Also see Husseini’s piece from last month on Salon: “Joe Biden won’t tell the truth about his Iraq war record — and he hasn’t for years” and relevant past accuracy.org news releases.

Zunes said today: “Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York, was a staunch supporter of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. As recently as last month, Bloomberg stated that he has no regrets over supporting the illegal conquest. Though he acknowledges that it was a ‘mistake,’ he insists that Bush, Cheney and others who pushed the country to war based on false claims that Iraq possessed dangerous weapons, weapons programs, and weapons systems ‘did it honestly.’ In the aftermath of the invasion when no such weapons were found, Bloomberg then tried to justify it by making the bizarre claim that the secular Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks by the Islamist Al-Qaeda network. As the war dragged on four years after the invasion and Congressional Democrats proposed legislation to set up timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, he blasted the proposed legislation as irresponsible and ‘untenable.’ Like Biden, Bloomberg is a dangerous militarist who as president could very well get the United States involved in other illegal, unnecessary, and disastrous wars.”

Establishment Media’s Attempted Takedowns of Sanders

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ROBIN ANDERSEN, andersen at fordham.edu, @FAIRmediawatch
Andersen is professor and director of graduate studies in the department of communication and media studies at Fordham University. She just wrote the piece “Factchecking NPR’s Attempted Takedown of Bernie Sanders,” part of the media watch group FAIR’s focus on the 2020 election.

Andersen writes that on NPR, Mara Liasson “claimed that the main issue for the Democratic Party is ‘electability’ — a fraught term often used to signal ideological orthodoxy rather than empirical chances of winning elections (FAIR.org, 10/25/19). She asserted that Democrats are ‘confused,’ and ‘for good reason,’ because Trump remains an ‘existential threat,’ and not only are none of the candidates ‘a sure thing,’ none even ‘seem likely to defeat’ Trump.

“Such handwringing is, again, not founded in facts or data. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published the day before this broadcast — one day ahead of the Iowa caucuses — found that Trump was trailing all the leading 2020 Democratic candidates, with the top four candidates ahead of Trump in theoretical head-to-head matchups. Looking more broadly at polling, the two candidates who were then leading the Democratic field, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, had beaten Trump in 69 of 73 and 63 of 68 matchups, respectively.”

NBC is the main corporate media outlet determining the issues and questions at the Nevada debate tonight, organized by the Democratic National Committee.

A picket line was formed outside ABC following the last debate, organized by Accuracy2020, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy, noting: “while the DNC and corporate-media-coproduced debates have excluded serious candidates at times, they have just changed their own rules to include billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Last night, ABC injected him into the debate. Not the words of candidates of color who have been forced out of the debates — Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker or Julián Castro — but Bloomberg.” See report on The Real News: “Activists Demand Public Control of Presidential Debates.”

See from Salon: “MSNBC’s Chuck Todd under fire for reciting quote comparing Sanders supporters to Nazis.”

FAIR noted in their critique of a prior NBC debate: “‘Government-Run Healthcare’ Is a Product of Health Industry-Run Media,” writing: “At the first of two Democratic debates (6/26/19), MSNBC host and moderator Lester Holt asked the presidential hopefuls, ‘Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?’ He asked the same question the next night (6/27/19), and prefaced another question to Sen. Bernie Sanders: ‘You basically want to scrap the private health insurance system as we know it and replace it with a government-run plan.’ The question at the first debate, however, was asked just a day after a new report came out from the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). The report, ‘Parroting the Right: How the Media, Pollsters Adoption of Insurance Industry Spin Warps Democracy,’ demonstrates how power brokers in the for-profit health industry have worked to make this exact language (‘government-run healthcare’) the boilerplate description for a national health system in major media outlets.”

Also from FAIR from 2016: “Lester Holt Asks Zero Questions About Poverty, Abortion, Climate Change.”

Is Public Actually Behind a Ban on Fracking?

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Almost 600 groups signed a letter to Congress Thursday in support of The Fracking Ban Act. The bills, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are the first efforts to institute a national ban on oil and gas drilling.

MITCH JONES, mjones at fwwatch.org, @fwaction
Jones is policy director at Food & Water Action, a lead organizer of the letter. He said today: “The reality is that the fight against climate catastrophe requires a ban on fracking. When we properly account for the leaks of methane and carbon dioxide at every stage of the drilling process, we see that gas-fired power — touted so often for being a ‘bridge fuel’ — is barely an improvement over coal. We need to move much faster on clean energy. Fracking has not been a part of that transition; it has undermined it.

“Unfortunately, much of the media narrative pushes the notion that presidential candidates who call for a ban on fracking will lose swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. There is absolutely no evidence that voters actually feel strongly about supporting the fossil fuel industry; in fact, in Pennsylvania, strong anti-fracking candidates are winning elections. There is no doubt that voters want to support candidates who offer bold solutions. The media discussions of the campaign should welcome this discussion, instead of declaring it a liability.”

See piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Pundits say Democrats who want to ban fracking can’t win Pa. Here’s why they’re wrong” by Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Action, a national advocacy organization.

Should Employees Sit on Corporate Boards? What is a Corporation?

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At the recent Democratic presidential debate in Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders said: “You know what, Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn’t you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that, as well. … I want workers to be able to sit on corporate boards, as well, so they can have some say over what happens to their lives.” (See Sanders’ proposals on corporate accountability and democracy.)

In 2018, Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed the “Accountable Capitalism Act“: “Borrowing from the successful approach in Germany and other developed economies, a United States corporation must ensure that no fewer than 40 percent of its directors are selected by the corporation’s employees.” Her proposed legislation builds on Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s “Reward Work Act,” which Warren has co-sponsored, and which would effectively ban stock buybacks while placing representatives of workers on corporate boards.

WILLIAM LAZONICK, william.lazonick at gmail.com
Lazonick is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network.

He was profiled last year in The New Yorker in “The Economist Who Put Stock Buybacks in Washington’s Crosshairs.” Lazonick “noted that both Merck and Pfizer, two of the largest pharmaceutical companies, had been spending heavily on buybacks, but had struggled to develop successful new drugs.”

His latest book (cowritten with Jang-Sup Shin) is Predatory Value Extraction: How the Looting of the Business Corporation Became the U.S. Norm and How Sustainable Prosperity Can Be Restored (Oxford University Press).

His most recent writing is at the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Lazonick said today: “The stock market is an institution that enables owner-entrepreneurs to stop being owner-entrepreneurs, passing the control over management of the company to employees. Public shareholders who hold shares for a yield and who can easily sell those shares at any moment on a liquid stock market should not have ownership rights. Workers have a far stronger claim to call the company theirs, although workers can come and go. I would go for a trusteeship model of governance of publicly listed companies rather than a stakeholder model. That raises the questions of the purpose of the corporation as a public trust, how the trustees would be chosen, and how they would be held accountable.”

Goodale on Assange Case: “Wake up, American Press!”

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, [currently in London] kevin at shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola is in London and covering the extradition hearing for Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange which began today. See his latest Twitter thread. Gosztola’s recent pieces include: “Interview With James Goodale: Stunning How Few In U.S. Care About Threat Posed By Assange’s Case” (see below) and “The DNC May Have Paved The Way For Julian Assange’s Acquittal.” His prior pieces include “The Prosecution Against Julian Assange: Where Presidential Candidates Stand.” Gosztola noted: “There are [members of parliament] from European countries, who will be there as observers, but there isn’t a single person from [the U.S.] Congress who is going over to watch proceedings.”

JAMES C. GOODALE, jcgoodal at debevoise.com
Goodale represented The New York Times in several U.S. Supreme Court cases, perhaps most notably leading the effort in the famed Pentagon Papers case. His books include Fighting for the Press: the Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles. 

He said in his interview with Gosztola (with posted audio) that Assange is “performing for all practical purposes, and particularly for all legal purposes, all the functions of a journalist. So come on. Wake up, American press! This guy is doing enough of what you’re doing so that, when he’s penalized for what he’s doing, the penalties are going to come back and get you. Wake up! …

“And what’s really bad is the United States is going to end up with an Official Secrets Act, by which leaking not only is criminalized but receiving leaks in the capacity of a leakee is also going to be criminalized. And that is really bad because you’re just inviting governments, particularly authoritarian governments, to control their information.”

Consortium News — which just awarded Julian Assange their Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award — is providing video and other coverage of the legal proceedings and protests in London.

Israel’s Racism and Harboring Suspected Assassins Who Fled from U.S.

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The Hill reports: “Sanders won’t attend AIPAC conference, accuses it of providing platform for ‘bigotry.’

DAVID SHEEN, [in Haifa] realdavidsheen at gmail.com, @davidsheen
Sheen has written extensively on Israel. He recently wrote an in-depth investigation for The Intercept about the assignation of Arab American activist Alex Odeh, whose office was bombed in California in 1985, and the whereabouts of his suspected killers, Baruch Ben Yosef and Keith Israel Fuchs, who are extremist racists: “Decades After a Palestinian American Activist Was Assassinated in California, Two Suspects in His Killing Are Living Openly in Israel.”

He added today: “An additional extraordinary thing is that the Trump ‘Peace’/Apartheid plan gives Jews the rights to pray on Haram al-Sharif, which is the very issue that Baruch Ben Yosef (one of the suspected assassins of Arab-American activist Alex Odeh) has been singularly focused on for the last 30 years. That’s how bonkers the plan is, it rewards the extremist demands of Alex Odeh’s alleged assassin.”

His other recent pieces include “Netanyahu has long run cover for Israel’s biggest racists,” “Israel’s homophobic education minister Rafi Peretz peddles a vile doctrine, racist to its core” and “Don’t let my reports on racism get deleted forever.”

Also see Sheen’s data-driven analysis of the upcoming Israeli election at: DavidSheen.com/elections.

Sanders and Cuban Literacy Rate

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Sen. Bernie Sanders has been criticized for recently stating: “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Notably, then-President Barack Obama stated in 2016: “And I said this to President Castro in Cuba. I said, look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education — that’s a huge improvement from where it was. Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care. That’s a huge achievement.” See video clip — viral on Twitter.

A 1984 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report found that in 1959, 23.6 percent of the population above the age of 10 were illiterate. By 1961, the number had fallen to 3.9 percent.

JAMES COUNTS EARLY, early1947 at aol.com
Early has visited Cuba many times over 44 years. He is the former Smithsonian Institution assistant secretary for education and public service and is a trustee of the Institute for Policy Studies.

He said today that an additional aspect of Cuba’s success on literacy has been the “global export of the Cuban literacy model to developing countries around the world, and to underdeveloped communities in developed countries. …

”Cuban citizens and their political representatives have always expressed a desire to respectfully pursue mutual beneficial relationships between the two countries [Cuba and the U.S.] without preconditions, and a readiness to respectfully discuss all differences. This has resulted in progress on drug interdiction, education of medical doctors from African American and Hispanic communities, a biotech joint venture designed to bring four promising Cuban cancer drugs to U.S. patients, artistic and scholarly exchanges enjoyed by both countries, among other mutual benefits. This, despite the U.S. blockade and destabilizing policies of the Trump administration compared to the productive policies established by the Obama administration.

“There is widespread debate in Cuba among citizens and government officials about the virtues, achievements, errors and failures of their economic and political system.” Early noted “the damaging U.S. blockade which all but literally a few countries in the world condemn. … Sanders and other U.S. officials and mainstream media should respectfully go to Cuba and exchange” ideas without castigating or attempting to dictate how Cubans determine the future of their country.

See in-depth interviews with Early from The Real News, including on Cuba.

See documentary “Maestra (Teacher)” at the Zinn Education Project by Catherine Murphy about the successful 1961 literacy campaign in Cuba.

Why U.S. Would Be “Better Off Without Billionaires”

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CNN Business yesterday published an op-ed by Chuck Collins that lays out why we should have fewer billionaires.

CHUCK COLLINS, chuckcollins7 at mac.com, @Chuck99to1; or Bob Keener, bobknr at gmail.com
Collins is senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author and co-author of many books and reports, including with Bill Gates Sr., Wealth and Our Commonwealth.

He said today: “The problem isn’t really individuals making money. The problem is having an entire system that grows the wealth of billionaires at the expense of everything else we care about — including our democracy.

“Billionaire charity may be directed toward noble endeavors, but it is not a substitute for billionaires paying their fair share of taxes that provide essential services like health care, schools or infrastructure.

“Living under an oligarchic system, we should develop a healthy skepticism of the actions of billionaires, whether they are running for office, bankrolling other candidates or giving billions to charity. If we want to make the bold investments we need to expand the middle class, lift up workers and protect the environment, we’ll first need to protect our democracy from extreme billionaire influence.

“At the very least, that means campaign finance reform, targeted taxes on the very wealthiest Americans and reforming philanthropy. And ultimately, it means having fewer billionaires.”

Sanders’ Legislative Record: “Amendment King” and Left-Right Alliances

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A regular accusation from more establishment candidates of Sen. Bernie Sanders is that he is rigid and doesn’t get practical legislation done. This view is seriously contested by some who have followed his career most closely.

GREG GUMA, mavmedia at aol.com
Available for select media interviews, Guma has been interviewed by the Jacobin, the Washington Post and a host of other media about Sanders, who he first met in 1971. Guma is author of several books include The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution. His latest book is Green Mountain Politics: Restless Spirits, Popular Movements. His most recent pieces for VTDigger.org about his decades-long relationship with Sanders include “Through the years with Bernie Sanders” and “Poisoned Press: The original plot to stop Bernie Sanders … and why it didn’t work.”

He said today: “Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric has always been righteous, radical and unequivocal — a class-based battle between the people and the one percent. Yet, as a Burlington mayor in the 1980s and Vermont’s only congressman for 16 years, before moving on to the U.S. Senate, he quickly learned the necessity and effectiveness of forming alliances, particularly with unexpected partners.

“In Burlington, he sometimes worked with Republican members of the City Council, who were ready to be more cooperative than many of the Democrats his victory had displaced. He even made peace with major developers like Antonio Pomerleau, whom he had attacked during his first mayoral race.

“In Congress he became known as the ‘amendment king,’ passing more amendments than any other member of Congress during his years in the House of Representatives. That impressive record, somehow ignored by the same politicians and pundits who decry a lack of bipartisan cooperation, began with an amendment to launch a National Program of Cancer registries, now maintained by every state. In 2001, he successfully passed an amendment to the appropriations bill banning the import of goods made with child labor, as well as an amendment to increase funding for community health centers by $100 million.

“As an Independent in Congress, many of Bernie Sanders’ legislative successes came through forging deals with conservatives. An amendment to bar spending in support of defense contractor mergers, for example, was pushed through with the aid of Chris Smith, a prominent opponent of abortion. John Kasich (later Ohio governor and presidential candidate) helped him phase out risk insurance for foreign investments. Their views on welfare, the minimum wage and foreign policy could hardly have been more different. A ‘left-right coalition’ he helped to create also derailed ‘fast track’ legislation on international agreements pushed by Bill Clinton, one of the many sources of tension between Sanders and the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the party.

“During the 1990s, Sanders and libertarian Republican Ron Paul also joined forces at times. Later, the godfather of the Tea Party movement and the junior Senator from the People’s Republic of Vermont teamed up to propose military budget cuts and push for more oversight of the Federal Reserve. The impact of Bernie’s legislative strategy was clearly felt in May 2010 when his campaign to bring transparency to the Federal Reserve resulted in a 96-0 Senate vote on his amendment to audit the Fed and conduct a General Accounting Office audit of possible conflicts of interest in loans to unknown banks.

“In 2014, Sanders struck a deal with John McCain on legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand veterans’ access to health care and make it easier to fire VA officials for misconduct. During the floor debate, McCain remarked, ‘I respect the fact that Bernie Sanders is known as a fighter, and it’s been a pleasure to do combat with him.’ And Sanders acknowledged  that ‘reaching a compromise among people who look at the world very differently is not easy,’ yet he and McCain had ‘tried our best.’ Five days later, the Senate passed the Sanders-McCain bill 93-3.

“When I asked Sanders about his approach during a wide-ranging interview in early 1999, he criticized the urge to ‘moralize and be virtuous and not talk to anybody.’ While acknowledging that it felt odd at times having ultra-conservatives as political allies, he argued that ‘the job is to pass legislation — and I say that in a positive sense — so you seize the opportunity to make things happen.’

“Contrary to the firebrand image he forged over the years, he argued that a key part of his job was to understand the constraints of politics and ‘do the best you can with the powers you have. You don’t just stand on a street corner giving a speech.'”

Corporate Media-Run Debates Pushing for Militarism

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ANDREW BACEVICH, bacevich at bu.edu, @QuincyInst
President of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Bacevich said today: “Polls suggest that Americans have had their fill of ‘endless wars.’ Yet the questions posed by journalists at the most recent Democratic presidential debate never bothered to explore even the possibility of a less bellicose approach to U.S. policy.  A missed opportunity, to put it mildly.”

SAM HUSSEINI, sam at accuracy.org, @samhusseini
Senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said today: “The CBS debate last night echoed a familiar pattern: Corporate media outlets, especially during presidential debates, questioned candidates from a more militaristic, at times xenophobic perspective.” See @accuracy2020.

Husseini continued: “Moderators in South Carolina speaking in a hall where people paid thousands of dollars to enter perpetuation the claims of U.S. government officials,  that have been disseminated without supporting evidence (that Russia is helping Bernie Sanders for example). They questioned how withdrawing troops would help security — without questioning how continuing U.S. wars would help security. They questioned in the strongest terms the conduct and trustworthiness of other countries — China, Cuba, Russia, Syria — which is fine in principle except the U.S. establishment and its allies are effectively immune from any meaningful scrutiny whatsoever. Rather, U.S. government action and intervention was continuously depicted as the solution to problems, not the origin of them. The only foreign government whose point of view was sympathetically cast was Israel. Such framing completely warps the world view presented to the U.S. public so that it is aligned with the U.S. foreign policy establishment as much as possible. This process is anathema to meaningful journalistic principles.

“The previous debate virtually completely ignored foreign policy. The word ‘Iraq’ was uttered exactly once last night.” Husseini’s pieces include “Joe Biden won’t tell the truth about his Iraq war record — and he hasn’t for years.”

The major foreign policy questions asked by the CBS moderators were:

Gayle King: “Mayor Buttigieg…why would the Russians to be working on behalf of Bernie Sanders?”

Norah O’Donnell: “You said, Senator Warren, you said you wanted to bring home all troops from the Middle East and then you walked that back to say you want to bring home combat troops. … How does that protect America’s national security?”

King: “Would you close the borders to Americans who have been exposed to the coronavirus in order to prevent an outbreak here in this country?”

Margaret Brennan: “Would you allow Chinese firms to build critical U.S. infrastructure?”

Brennan: “Can Americans trust that a democratic socialist president will not give authoritarians a free pass?”

Whitaker: “If it is proven that Russia has interfered in the 2020 elections, would you, as president, launch a retaliatory cyber attack?”

Major Garrett: “What would you say to American Jews who might be concerned you’re not, from their perspective, supportive enough of Israel? And specifically, sir, would you move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv?”

O’Donnell: “Senator Klobuchar, if you were commander-in-chief, would you meet with the North Korean leader?”

Brennan: “The Syrian regime and Russia are targeting schools, bakeries, and hospitals. What would you do as president to push back regime and Russian forces and stop the killing of innocent civilians?”

Brennan: “Senator Warren …. What would you do to stop the mass murder in Idlib, Syria?”

Sanders, Organizing and South Carolina

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KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @KevinAGray
Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. His books include The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama (2008). He has also contributed to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012) and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (2014). He was more skeptical of the Sanders campaign in 2016 — see IPA news release: “What’s Wrong With Black South Carolina Voters Not ‘Feeling the Bern?’

Gray was just on “Democracy Now“: “Sanders did like Jesse Jackson did between ’84 and ’88: He’s been organizing around the country. And a lot of the criticisms that I had in the beginning was, you know, you start out a campaign, start out with that coalition, you start out around that table with black people and people of color and women, and you build from there; you just don’t to start out with a group of white folk around the table. I think that Senator Sanders has learned that lesson well if you look at his campaign. That’s not an endorsement, but that’s to say that’s how he has conducted his campaign. And his campaign is connected to a historic progressive movement, which is what frightens people.”

Jesse Jackson was just on the podcast “Intercepted“: “The Democratic machinery lined up for Biden. But his message does not address the pain of our people. I’m not sure what moderate means [if] people don’t have affordable health care. I’m not sure what moderate means to us. As a matter of fact it means very little to us.”

Does Saturday’s U.S.-Taliban Deal Mean Peace for Afghanistan?

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MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh at riseup.net
Hoh resigned his position as a State Department political officer in Afghanistan in 2009 in protest of the Obama administration’s escalation of the war. Prior to being in Afghanistan, Hoh was a U.S. Marine Corps officer and was in the war in Iraq twice, once with the Marines and once on a State Department team. Since 2010, Hoh has been a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy.

He said today: “The first part of a peace deal for Afghanistan, set to be signed Saturday between the U.S. government and the Afghan Taliban in Doha, Qatar, has a host of uncertainties attached to it, both in terms of the details of the agreement and what the deal between the U.S. and the Taliban means for the Afghan people. What is not uncertain is the immense suffering the Afghan people have endured and that this is a peace process that could have begun years ago.

“Afghanistan has been at war for more than 40 years. For all 40 years, the war in Afghanistan has been funded, supported and participated in by outside nations — in all but seven of those years the U.S. has been involved as one of those outside powers, including supporting Afghan Islamist militants in the year prior to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and for four years after the Soviet Union exited. The suffering of the Afghan people has resulted from a myriad of causes, yet seemingly only those who are either on the payroll of the U.S. government or whose legacy is tied to the U.S. role in Afghanistan will not offer that the largest reason for the suffering of the Afghan people and the continued devastation of Afghanistan has been U.S. war and political policy.

“The war in Afghanistan has been a mirror for the United States for the last 40 years — the dysfunction of the U.S. political system, America’s failed war on drugs, the prioritization of war over all else, and the blowback from ignorant and arrogant decision-making is revealed through the war in Afghanistan as a fundamentally American story. By no means has the U.S. endured the costs that Afghanistan and its people have endured, yet it should be lost on no one that Afghanistan is as much an American story as it is anything else.”

Some of Hoh’s recent writings relevant to the war in Afghanistan include: “Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies,” “And the Armies That Remained Suffer’d: Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide,” “Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War” and “The Killing of General Soleimani: Hail Mars! Hail Pluto!

In the past year, Hoh has been interviewed a number of times regarding the war in Afghanistan, including on C-SPAN and “Democracy Now.”

Biden’s Record Serving Credit Card Companies

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ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn

Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn wrote the piece “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy.” While Joe Biden is continuously depicted as a friend of working people, the piece documents many aspects of his actual record, including:

• “An earlier iteration [of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act] had passed Congress in 2000 with Biden’s support, but President Clinton refused to sign it at the urging of the first lady, who had been briefed on its iniquities by Elizabeth Warren. A Harvard Law School professor at the time, Warren witheringly summarized Biden’s advocacy of the earlier bill in a 2002 paper: ‘His energetic work on behalf of the credit card companies has earned him the affection of the banking industry and protected him from any well-funded challengers for his Senate seat.'”

• “Even when the ostensible objective lay elsewhere, such as drug-related crime, Biden did not forget his banker friends. Thus the 1990 Crime Control Act, with Biden as chief sponsor, further limited debtors’ ability to take advantage of bankruptcy protections.”

• “Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools.”

• Biden worked diligently to strengthen the hand of credit-card firms against consumers. At the same time, “the credit card giant MBNA was Biden’s largest contributor for much of his Senate career, while also employing his son Hunter as an executive and, later, as a well-remunerated consultant.”

Can Medicare for All Help Deal with Pandemics?

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JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco.

He said today: “Having Medicare for All would encourage promptly seeking needed medical treatment for individuals with symptoms that may indicate a disease like coronavirus. This means that cases would be detected earlier, speeding treatment and epidemic control. Some candidates and commentators have argued that any method to achieve universal coverage would work. However, this misses the mark. We need not only insurance but insurance without financial barriers  — deductibles and copays. You get that with Medicare for All but not other currently contemplated universal coverage approaches.”

Kahn adds, “There’s another important advantage to having a single billing system — rapid and standardized data on clinical encounters, including diagnoses and treatments. This would be immensely valuable for public health officials who are tracking epidemic patterns. Knowing when and where cases happen, and how they are handled, is critical. Our current highly fragmented insurance system and any piecemeal reform can’t do that.”

Kahn’s work includes “Projected costs of single-payer healthcare financing in the United States: A systematic review of economic analyses” and more than 160 scientific articles on the costs and health effects of disease prevention and treatment interventions in the U.S. and globally.

Debate Moderators Frame Questions to Define Acceptable Politics

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JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar at fair.org, @FAIRmediawatch
Hollar is senior analyst for the media watch group FAIR’s Election Focus 2020 project which is regularly producing well-documented analysis of corporate media bias. Recent pieces include “Media Stoop to ‘Russian Assistance’ to Explain Sanders’ Rise,” “NYT’s Look at Democratic Tax Plans Is an Orgy of Really Big Numbers” and “Bernie Sanders Can’t Win (by as Much) Unless Youth Vote Surges (Like It Recently Has).”

Hollar just wrote the wrote the piece “Debate Moderators Frame Questions to Define Acceptable Politics,” which analyzes how the corporate networks have dealt with the three most frequent topics:

• Healthcare

“The moderators have asked more questions about healthcare (161) than any other issue. When Medicare for All has been raised (specifically named in 24 questions, plus many more followups), it has been overwhelmingly associated with negative impacts: ‘forcing’ people off their private insurance (7/30/19), paying more in taxes, getting Donald Trump reelected (or ‘cost[ing] you critical votes’ — 11/20/19), forcing people in the health insurance industry out of work. … By contrast, Biden has gotten next to no scrutiny of his healthcare plan. In fact, he has received the same number of questions about the flaws of his opponents’ plans as he has questions — seldom critical — about his own plan. ‘You were an architect — one of the architects of Obamacare. So where do we go from here?’ (6/27/19)”

• Military Intervention

“A similar skew against positions that challenge the political establishment was apparent in questions about military intervention. Of the questions on Afghanistan, seven exhibited a distinct bias toward intervention, while only two framed intervention as potentially negative. … Five of the pro-intervention questions came from ABC. For example, when Elizabeth Warren was asked by David Muir (9/12/19)  whether she would ‘keep that promise to bring the troops home starting right now with no deal with the Taliban,’ and she answered in the affirmative, George Stephanopoulos badgered her further. …”

• Electability

“A perennial favorite topic among journalists is the question of electability, and the debates proved no exception. As we have pointed out many times, it’s an empirical question better left to voters and to head-to-head polls, but in the hands (and mouths) of journalists it becomes instead a tool to push Democratic candidates to the center (FAIR.org, 10/25/19, 2/11/20). In the debates, candidates were roped into conversations about electability 80 times by our count — but in a far from evenhanded way.

“Moderators raised the issue of Sanders’ electability three times as often as that of any other candidate. …

“It’s a remarkable skew, which could only begin to be justifiable if Sanders showed tremendous weakness in polling against Trump. But he doesn’t. Sanders has consistently topped Trump in head-to-head polls since the beginning of his campaign and is currently beating him by an average of 4.7 percentage points — as compared to 4.8 for Biden, 4.0 for Bloomberg, 2.0 for Warren and Buttigieg and 1.6 for Klobuchar.

“But that political reality — like the reality of Medicare for All’s popularity, and the unpopularity of the country’s ‘forever wars’ — is distinctly unfavored in the media. Hence the incentive for corporate media to use their control of debate questions to try to reshape those realities.”

Joe Biden: “Yesterday’s Man”

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BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich
Marcetic is author of the recently released book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. See his pieces on Biden at In These Times and Jacobin.

He said today: “Biden launched his 2020 campaign boasting about his liberal bona fides, and now stresses that he is a ‘proud’ and ‘lifelong Democrat.’ Yet not only did not become a Democrat until he was 27, for much of his career, Biden has run away from the ‘liberal’ label, telling the press in 1972 he was ‘not as liberal as most people think,’ a belief repeated by local Democrats who believed he was to the right of his Republican opponent. As one former state party chairman recalled: ‘he had no substantive ideology.’

“Rather than follow his principles, Biden instead chased the political winds. After a winning 1972 campaign that rivaled Bernie Sanders in its economic progressivism, Biden lurched in a conservative direction for re-election six years later, calling for a ‘massive tax cut,’ across-the-board cuts to federal agencies, and calling himself a fiscal conservative. Endorsed by conservative businessman Howard Jarvis, a backer of California’s anti-tax Proposition 13, he was first ‘delighted’ he’d been recognized for ‘consistently vot[ing] for lower taxes and lower government spending;’ days later, as he warned about Proposition 13, he told a mostly black audience he didn’t ‘have any feelings’ about the endorsement.

“Biden welcomed Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election, believing it was ‘more consistent with the budgetary thrust that a guy like me … has been going for for the past few years.’ Reagan’s first budget, passed with votes from Biden and 29 other Democrats, was recognized by the New York Times and Washington Post as a milestone reversing the New Deal and Great Society. As Biden had begun saying, ‘we can’t solve all social problems by an endless succession of government programs.’

“Biden’s duplicity hit a peak with his 1987 presidential campaign. After boasting of his civil rights activism for years, he was forced to confess it wasn’t true. Having spent years alluding to his anti-Vietnam War protesting, he admitted he had never been one — an old friend even said he was ‘for a long time pretty much a supporter.’ This was compounded by scandals around plagiarizing his own family history from a British politician and a series of false statements about his academic record, forcing him to drop out. He has lately begun repeating some of these claims.

“He increasingly became cozy with wealthy donors. After refusing to ‘prostitute’ himself to such donors who ‘always want something,’ and complaining that all campaign donations came with an ‘implicit’ quid pro quo, from 1978 on, Biden increasingly drew money from big business and the rich, by which he outraised his opponents. By the 1990s, Biden was caught in scandals for weakening criminal penalties for bank fraud at the behest of a disgraced savings-and-loan executive.

“’It’s going over my dead political body that they succeed,’ Biden said in 1995 about the new, Newt Gingrich-led House GOP majority. ‘I’m looking forward to beating the hell out of Republicans.’ Instead, Biden spent the decade working with those same Republicans to pass their agenda, passing NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the 1994 crime bill, anti-immigration powers that would later be used by Trump, and welfare reform, which Republican Senate Majority Leader called ‘the Holy Grail of [the GOP’s] legislative master plan.’ Another plank of that plan, a balanced budget amendment, narrowly failed three separate times, with Biden voting for it with a lockstep Republican Party on each occasion.”

Biden and Bloomberg Iraq War Lies — And Future Wars

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STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes

Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He is among several prominent analysts featured in a recently-released mini-documentary narrated by Danny Glover, “WORTH THE PRICE? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War,” and produced by Mark Weisbrot.

Biden has continued making misleading claims at many of the debates so far with minimal scrutiny. On ABC last month, Biden claimed “I trusted George Bush to keep his word. He said he was not going to go into Iraq. He said he was only using this to unite the United Nations to insist we get inspectors in to see what Saddam was doing.”

Zunes debunked this false narrative, which Biden has repeated over and over, in a piece last year, “Biden Is Doubling Down on Iraq War Lies.” Well after the invasion, Biden continued supporting Bush: “Nine months ago, I voted with my colleagues to give the president of the United States of America the authority to use force, and I would vote that way again today,” Biden said at the Brookings Institution on July 31, 2003. “It was a right vote then, and it’ll be a correct vote today.”

Zunes wrote: “Biden had been calling for a U.S. invasion of Iraq since 1998, pushed the war authorization through the Democratic-controlled Senate, and abused his role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to suppress testimony by scholars, former U.N. inspectors, and other knowledgeable authorities opposed to the war. However, it is his support for the invasion long after it became evident that Iraq was not actually a threat to its neighbors — much less the United States — which raises the question as to whether his motivation was not in fact about national security as he claimed, but about oil and empire.

“Indeed, after the U.S. conquest, he began pushing the dangerous and destabilizing divide-and-rule strategy of splitting Iraq into three countries along ethnic and sectarian lines.”

Zunes said today: “Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York, was a staunch supporter of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. As recently as last month, Bloomberg stated that he has no regrets over supporting the illegal conquest. Though he acknowledges that it was a ‘mistake,’ he insists that Bush, Cheney and others who pushed the country to war based on false claims that Iraq possessed dangerous weapons, weapons programs, and weapons systems ‘did it honestly.’ In the aftermath of the invasion when no such weapons were found, Bloomberg then tried to justify it by making the bizarre claim that the secular Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks by the Islamist Al-Qaeda network. As the war dragged on four years after the invasion and Congressional Democrats proposed legislation to set up timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, he blasted the proposed legislation as irresponsible and ‘untenable.’ Like Biden, Bloomberg is a dangerous militarist who as president could very well get the United States involved in other illegal, unnecessary, and disastrous wars.”

For more: Sam Husseini, senior analyst with accuracy.org on the podcast “Intercepted”: “Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and the Rewriting of Iraq War History” with journalist Jeremy Scahill. Also see Husseini’s piece from January on Salon: “Joe Biden won’t tell the truth about his Iraq war record — and he hasn’t for years” and relevant past accuracy.org news releases.

Will Biden Get Serious Scrutiny?

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BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich
Marcetic is author of the recently released book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. He was just on an accuracy.org news release.

His recent articles for Jacobin include: “Joe Biden Has a Long History of Giving Republicans What They Want,” “Joe Biden Jumped at the Chance to Help George W. Bush Sell the Invasion of Iraq,” “Joe Biden Helped Pull the Democrats to the Right,” “Joe Biden, the Unreliable Pro-Choice Advocate” and “Joe Biden Tried to Cut Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare for 40 Years.”

His pieces for In These Times include: “Want More Proof of Corporate Media’s Anti-Bernie Bias? Look at MSNBC’s Democratic Debate,” Superdelegates Were Designed To Stop a Candidate Like Bernie” and “In His Lies, Joe Biden Is Sounding a Lot Like Trump.”

Barron’s: “Real Super Tuesday Winners” are Health-Insurance Stocks

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The leading business journal Barron’s is reporting today in “Health-Insurance Stocks Are the Real Super Tuesday Winners” that: “Joe Biden, the former vice president, outperformed expectations in key primary states on Super Tuesday, setting up a rally in the stocks of the health-insurance companies threatened by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.

“Shares of UnitedHealth Group (UNH) were up 8.9 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday, while shares of Cigna (CI) were up 7.3 percent and Anthem (ANTM) had gained 8.8 percent. S&P 500 futures were up 2.3 percent, likely driven by Biden’s success.”

Commondreams reported Monday: “‘Which Side Are You On?’ Ask Progressives as Health Insurance Stocks Spike After Centrists Coalesce Around Biden.”

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco.

He said today: “Improved nomination prospects for Joe Biden could increase the stocks of for-profit health companies, with perceptions that a public financing approach — Medicare for All, supported by Bernie Sanders — is less likely. Medicare for All would shift profits and excess paperwork waste into health care, ending uninsurance and under-insurance.”

Kahn was recently on the accuracy.org news release: “Can Medicare for All Help Deal with Pandemics?”

Kahn’s work includes “Projected costs of single-payer healthcare financing in the United States: A systematic review of economic analyses” and more than 160 scientific articles on the costs and health effects of disease prevention and treatment interventions in the U.S. and globally.

Biden Record: * Pro Wall Street, War, Incarceration * Anti-Anita Hill

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ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn wrote the piece “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy,” which states: “By tapping into these popular tropes– ‘The system is broken,’ ‘Why can’t Congress just get along?’ — the practitioners of bipartisanship conveniently gloss over the more evident reality: that the system is under sustained assault by an ideology bent on destroying the remnants of the New Deal to the benefit of a greed-driven oligarchy. It was bipartisan accord, after all, that brought us the permanent war economy, the war on drugs, the mass incarceration of black people, 1990s welfare ‘reform,’ Wall Street deregulation and the consequent $16 trillion in bank bailouts, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and other atrocities too numerous to mention. If the system is indeed broken, it is because interested parties are doing their best to break it.

“Rather than admit this, Biden has long found it more profitable to assert that political divisions can be settled by men endowed with statesmanlike vision and goodwill — in other words, men such as himself.”

On Anita Hill, Biden “wrapped up the hearings without calling at least two potential witnesses who could have convincingly corroborated Hill’s testimony and, by extension, indicated that the nominee had perjured himself on a sustained basis throughout the hearings. As [Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson report in Strange Justice], ‘Hill’s reputation was not foremost among the committee’s worries. The Democrats in general, and Biden in particular, appear to have been far more concerned with their own reputations,’ and feared a Republican-stoked public backlash if they aired more details of Thomas’s sexual proclivities.” See from January: “Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: ‘Statute of limitations’ for Biden apology is ‘up.’

He was recently on an accuracy.org news release: “Biden’s Record Serving Credit Card Companies.” 

New Report: Medicare for All Would Create Jobs While Freeing Up Workers

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The Economic Policy Institute just released a report: “Fundamental health reform like ‘Medicare for All’ would help the labor market.”

JOSH BIVENS, via Kayla Blado or Nick Kauzlarich, news at epi.org, @EconomicPolicy
EPI Research Director Bivens said today: “A fundamental health reform like Medicare for All would be an unambiguously good policy for the labor market, for the economy overall, and for U.S. workers. Besides the obvious benefits of expanding health care to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, Medicare for All could raise wages, boost productivity, and help small business owners.”

The group notes: “Opponents of a single-payer health care system have quoted an analysis of the economic effects of Medicare for All that includes the projection that up to 1.8 million jobs in the health insurance and billing administration sector could be eliminated if the policy were implemented. Bivens notes that this number has been stripped of all context that is included in the original study, and is often misleadingly presented as the predicted net employment effect of Medicare for All. But while Medicare for All would indeed lead to lower demand for labor in the health insurance and billing administration sector, it would boost demand for other types of jobs overall. For example, expanded access to health care could increase demand for health services by up to $300 billion annually, which would translate into an increased demand for 2.3 million full-time health care workers.”

In addition, the report finds that Medicare for All would:

* “Lessen the income loss, stress, and economic shock of unemployment and job transitions by eliminating the loss of health care that accompanies job-loss.

* “Support self-employment and small business development — which is low in the United States relative to other rich Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries — by eliminating the daunting cost of health care from startup costs.

* “Inject new dynamism into the overall economy by reducing ‘job lock,’ by allowing workers to go where their skills and preferences lie, not just to workplaces with affordable health plans.

Warren: “Which Side Are You On?”

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NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @Roots_Action
Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He recently wrote the piece “A Profound and Historic Question for Elizabeth Warren: Which Side Are You On?” and appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning.

Solomon wrote: “For much of the past year, in many hundreds of speeches and interviews, Warren has denounced the huge leverage of big money in politics. And she has challenged some key aspects of corporate power. But now we’re going to find out more about how deep such commitments go for her. …

“‘Here’s the thing,’ Warren said in a speech to a convention of the California Democratic Party nine months ago. ‘When a candidate tells you about all the things that aren’t possible, about how political calculations come first … they’re telling you something very important — they are telling you that they will not fight for you.'”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Michigan’s Huge Job Losses from Biden-Backed NAFTA

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CommonDreams reports in “Will Biden’s Trade Policy Record Come Back to Haunt Him in Midwest?” that: “Sen. Bernie Sanders and supporters of his presidential campaign took on 2020 Democratic primary foe former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on trade to sharpen the contrasts between the two candidates ahead of … contests in six states, including the Rust Belt state of Michigan [on Tuesday].”

The piece notes that if Biden were the Democratic nominee, he would be vulnerable to attacks from Trump for his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other such deals — indeed, CommonDreams reports: “Joe Biden made a deal, NAFTA,” the president said Thursday at an event in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “He approved it, he was pushing it. It’s the worst trade deal ever made.”

LORI WALLACH, via Matt Groch, mgroch at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Director of Global Trade Watch, a division of Public Citizen, Wallach — a leading expert on such trade deals — has worked to document the results of NAFTA over the years and has summarized her findings regarding Michigan: “We’ve received a lot of requests for data on NAFTA’s effects in Michigan. [A summary is available here.] Michigan lost 40 percent of its manufacturing jobs since NAFTA with 170,000 government-certified as lost to trade just under the narrow Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

“With respect to the auto sector, before NAFTA, there were only a handful of carmakers producing in Mexico. Now major automakers operate almost two dozen assembly plants in Mexico, which thanks to NAFTA provides a duty-free export platform into the U.S. market for goods made by workers who earn less per day than many U.S. auto workers earn per hour. General Motors is now the top carmaker in Mexico, locating production of bestselling models like the Chevy Blazer in Mexico while it closed U.S. plants. Also producing in Mexico are Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Honda, Volkswagen and Audi.

“Despite there being no Mexican auto companies, Mexico’s auto sector employment rose from 120,000 before NAFTA to more than 735,000 today. More than 350,000 U.S. auto sector jobs were lost during the NAFTA era, one-third of all jobs in the sector. … Prior to NAFTA, Mexico did not have a major auto parts sector but currently more than 1,000 factories are producing auto parts and other inputs.

“NAFTA facilitated the shift of U.S. auto production to Mexico by providing investor protections and investor compensation guarantees that effectively subsidized outsourcing and investments in new multi-million dollar facilities in Mexico while simultaneously guaranteeing a duty-free export platform into the U.S. market for goods made by workers making a fraction of U.S. wages. Bank of America noted that Mexican manufacturing wages are 40 percent lower than manufacturing wages in China. Wages in Mexican auto assembly plants range on average between $2-$4 per hour.”

“Corporate Lobbyists Control the Rules at the DNC”

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DAVID MOORE,  david at readsludge.com, @ppolitics
Moore is founder of Sludge, which focuses on investigative journalism on corruption and money in politics.

He said today: The DNC does not make public which of its 447 voting members serve on standing or Convention committees, which are at-large members, which are currently or have been registered as corporate lobbyists, and which are affiliated with firms that have major corporate clients or do business with Democratic party groups. Sludge is producing a reporting series on DNC members whose votes raise a potential conflict of interest due to financial interests in presidential campaigns or with heavy-lobbying companies: on the 47 Executive Committee members and DNC officers, Sludge found that 17 have backgrounds in promoting corporate interests, including at least three at-large members; of the 32-member DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, 20 members have backgrounds in promoting corporate interests, including at least ten at-large members.

“For specific background on individuals and their corporate ties, see Moore’s recent pieces: “Top DNC Committee is Packed With Corporate Lobbyists” and “Corporate Lobbyists Control the Rules at the DNC.”

For example:”James Roosevelt III — at-large DNC member and DNC Executive Committee member:

“The standing Rules and Bylaws Committee has been co-chaired since 1995 by attorney James Roosevelt III, a former board member of the health insurance company trade association America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) who currently chairs AHIP’s Policy and Regulatory Committee. At the beginning of the Obamacare health care reform debate, Roosevelt — then a board member of AHIP — defended the group’s alternative proposal that sought to subsidize the existing employer-based healthcare system and opposed a Medicare-like public option. AHIP, which represents insurers including Kaiser Permanente, Anthem, and Humana, is a founding member of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a health care industry coalition and ‘dark money’ non-profit created last year to defeat single-payer Medicare for All. AHIP spent $9.5 million on lobbying the federal government last year.”

Earlier this year, Sludge published the pieces “MSNBC’s Owners Shower Biden With Campaign Cash” and “Co-Chair of Conservative Blue Dogs Hosts Fundraiser for Joe Biden.”

MSNBC Enables Biden’s Pattern of Iraq Lies

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Biden made a series of false assertions on Iraq during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Monday night.

Biden claimed: “I didn’t believe he had those nuclear weapons, I didn’t believe he had those weapons of mass destruction” as MSNBC’s O’Donnell nodded approvingly. But in his floor speech for war in October 2002, Biden claimed Saddam Hussein “possesses chemical and biological weapons” and “is seeking nuclear weapons” and “for years he has prevented the UN inspectors from uncovering those weapons.”

Two U.S. soldiers were just killed in Iraq. See video of a veteran recently confronting Biden.

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Zunes said today: “As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002, Biden stated that Saddam Hussein had a sizable arsenal of chemical weapons as well as biological weapons, including anthrax, and that ‘he may have a strain’ of smallpox, despite UN inspectors reporting that Iraq no longer appeared to have any weaponized chemical or biological agents. And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency had reported as far back as 1997 that there was no evidence whatsoever that Iraq had any ongoing nuclear program, Biden insisted that Saddam was ‘seeking nuclear weapons.’

“After refusing to allow former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter to testify before his committee that Iraq had achieved at least qualitative disarmament, Biden defended his false claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction on ‘Meet the Press‘ in 2007, by insisting that ‘everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them.'”

SAM HUSSEINI, cell: samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini
Senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said today: “Biden has been lying about Iraq for years, at times brazenly. When the Iraqis honestly were saying in 2002 that didn’t have WMDs, Biden said Saddam Hussein was lying. When he was asked about his record in 2007, Biden replied: ‘The real mystery is, if he [Hussein], if he didn’t have any of them left, why didn’t he say so?’ And Tim Russert let him get away with that then. Instead of scrutinizing claims, major media have continuously both pushed lies about the Iraq war and enabled politicians who did so. And the lies never really stopped. Unlike Trump who just repeats the same brain dead lie over and over, many of the Iraq war lies morphed and became more sophisticated.

“On Monday, Biden claimed that he voted for the war authorization ‘to try to prevent a war from happening’ to get the UN Security Council to approve inspectors. But the congressional vote happened on October 11 — well after Iraq had agreed to the UN’s demand that the inspectors be allowed back in. (See Sept. 16, 2002 New York Times report: “UN Inspectors Can Return Unconditionally, Iraq Says.” This was immediately after a delegation organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy had gone to Iraq.)

“And Biden posing last night as though he was a statesman by asking for a second UN resolution on Iraq before the invasion (as with this falsehood-laden Washington Post oped published exactly 17 years ago today) is completely disingenuous. In early March, British intelligence analyst Katharine Gun had exposed that the U.S. and Britain were illegally spying on the UN in order to coerce other members to vote for war. This was widely ignored in the U.S. media, but caused many UN Security Council members to resist a second forced resolution. So Biden asking for a second resolution but still backing invasion, as he did, is completely dishonest.” (See piece for FAIR on the Katharine Gun case: “Film ‘Official Secrets’ Is Tip of Mammoth Iceberg.”)

“As for Biden’s claim that Hussein ‘for years [Hussein] has prevented the UN inspectors from uncovering those weapons,’ the fact is that the 90s inspection regime, UNSCOM, ended in 1998 not because of Iraqi action as was constantly claimed by the establishment, but because Bill Clinton withdrew the inspectors to launch the Desert Fox bombing campaign just before his scheduled impeachment vote. Withdrawing the later inspections regime, UNMOVIC, was also be how Bush launched the 2003 invasion.”

Husseini’s recent pieces include “It Is Remarkable — and Dangerous — How Little Scrutiny Biden Has Received for Supporting Iraq War.” See related accuracy.org news release, including “Kerry Covers up Iraq War Falsifications” about when he appeared on Chris Hayes’ show.

Zunes is among several prominent analysts featured in a just-released mini-doc narrated by Danny Glover, “WORTH THE PRICE? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War” and produced by Mark Weisbrot.

How Corporate Media Are Taking Down Sanders

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Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote the piece “It’s propaganda, all right — against Bernie Sanders,” published Tuesday by the Washington Post about efforts by the corporate media to depict Sanders as a stooge of the Soviet Union. (Also see today’s New York Times: “Intelligence Officials Temper Russia Warnings, Prompting Accusations of Political Influence.”)

Norman Solomon, founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy, just wrote the piece “‘In a Dark Time, the Eye Begins to See’: The 2020 Bernie Campaign Represents a Fight That Must Continue,” which states: “On Tuesday night, there was no mistaking the smug joy of studio pundits and Democratic Party operatives on networks like AT&T-owned CNN and Comcast-owned MSNBC. Meanwhile, the New York Times rushed into print yet another all-out attack piece masquerading as a ‘news’ article about Sanders.”

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu, @Roots_Action
Available for interviews beginning Thursday, Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founder of the media watch group FAIR, which has been running Election Focus 2020. He said today: “Corporate centrist media have pushed a mantra — perhaps more dubious than the Hillary mantra four years ago — that Biden is the candidate to beat Trump and they constantly poll the public and then pretend to be startled that their drumbeat assertion of electable Biden/risky Bernie is accepted by a big sector of the electorate.”

Cohen’s most recent pieces include: “When CNN Introduces Bernie-Bashers Only as ‘Former,’ CNN Is Lying To You,” “7 Pointed Questions for Corporate Media About Their Anti-Progressive Biases” and “Did Chris Matthews Reveal That Democratic Establishment’s Real Fear Is a Bernie Win?”

Coronavirus: Insurers’ Conduct “Outrageous”

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MELINDA ST. LOUIS, via Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
Director of Public Citizen’s Medicare for All Campaign, Melinda St. Louis said today: “On Wednesday, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the main health insurance lobbying group, contradicted President Donald Trump and said that health insurers have agreed to waive copays only for coronavirus testing, not treatment.

“It’s outrageous that during the worst health crisis facing our country in decades, insurers want to make clear that they still plan to profit from the treatment of coronavirus victims.

“This is just the most recent egregious example of the greed of the for-profit health insurance system and highlights why we need a Medicare for All system, which would guarantee testing and health care to everyone living in the U.S.

“If costs are waived for tests, but not for treatment, people who test positive for the coronavirus may not be able to afford treatment and will continue to infect others.

“There is bipartisan agreement that all tests, treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus must be made available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, if we want to stem this public health emergency. The federal government must intervene to require that all private insurance providers eliminate any out-of-pocket costs for both testing and treatment.”

Trump Administration Coronavirus Response Going from “Incompetent” to “Obstructionist”

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The Los Angles Times reports: “Trump administration blocks states from using Medicaid to respond to coronavirus crisis.”

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is an emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco.

He said today: “The federal government is hampering efforts by state governments, including California, to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 by refusing to declare a national emergency and broaden access to Medicaid funding. This could have disastrous consequences for the health and safety of our residents. Previous administrations facing past medical emergencies such as the H1N1 virus and Hurricane Katrina eased eligibility rules to support efforts to address the medical needs of affected communities. This highlights once again the inadequacy of the fragmented and inefficient U.S. healthcare system which so far has failed to test — much less treat — patients for the virus on a scale necessary to control this pandemic.

“By contrast, a national Medicare for All system would strengthen our ability to respond to pandemics in four major ways. First, every resident would be covered. Second, patients would have no financial barriers to testing and/or treatment. Third, it would unify the coverage ‘patchwork quilt’ that characterizes the U.S. healthcare system, giving all residents seamless, comprehensive and dependable access to care. Fourth, with a single billing system, rapid and standardized data on clinical encounters would be available to public health officials, enabling earlier detection, accelerating treatment and expediting epidemic control.

Kahn adds, “The federal government continues to miss opportunities to provide resources that are essential to reining in the growing crisis, the likes of which have not been seen in a century. This latest refusal to loosen Medicaid restrictions advances the federal coronavirus response from indifferent and incompetent, to callous and obstructionist. Now, more than ever, Americans need the healthcare security that Medicare for All would provide, saving lives and saving dollars.”

Kahn’s work includes “Projected costs of single-payer healthcare financing in the United States: A systematic review of economic analyses” and more than 160 scientific articles on the costs and health effects of disease prevention and treatment interventions in the U.S. and globally.

BREAKING: Coronavirus and Tonight’s Debate: “Now do you get it about Medicare for All?”

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cnn mediaThis evening, the Institute for Public Accuracy — through its @accuracy2020 project — was scheduled to project a message with giant lettering onto the CNN building in Washington while Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden debated inside.

The planned projection:

CORPORATE MEDIA:
NOW DO YOU GET IT ABOUT
MEDICARE FOR ALL?

Unfortunately, the noted multimedia artist Robin Bell, who was set to do the projection, fell ill. Bell said today: “The fact that we can’t do this highlights even more why we need tests and healthcare for everyone. For the safety of the people we work with and anyone in the public I would interact with, we decided we would release the mock-up of the projection we were planning to do on CNN, rather than project onto the building tonight.”

Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy said this evening: “We’re of course concerned about Robin. The projection was to illustrate how this issue looms over us all — and major responsibility exists with CNN and every other major media institution given how they’ve dismissed Medicare for All and overall have provided paltry coverage to key issues of public health. We genuinely hope that they’re now realizing what is at stake.”

Available for interviews:

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. He was recently on an accuracy.org news release: “Can Medicare for All Help Deal with Pandemics?

He said today: “An effective pandemic response requires many actions, including (1) a strong public health infrastructure, with experts and resources; (2) rapid recognition of the problem by public health and political leaders and well-designed responses; and (3) a strong coverage / insurance system (universal first-dollar coverage and excellent data from a strong electronic health record and a single coherent billing system). You need all three legs. Taiwan showed it can work. Without leg #3, we’re handicapping ourselves. In other words, Medicare for All is not sufficient — but it is necessary.”

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College. He said today: “Our fragmented system leaves public health separate and disconnected from medical care, and provides no mechanism to appropriately balance funding priorities. As a result, public health accounts for less than 3 percent of overall health expenditures, a percentage that has been falling for decades, and is about half the proportion in Canada or the UK. One result is that state and local health departments that are the front lines in dealing with epidemics have lost 50,000 position since 2008 due to budget cuts.”

See pieces on media coverage of this issue from the media watch group FAIR including: “Corporate Journalists Push Tax Attack on Medicare for All,” “Corporate Media Are Here to Warn You: Medicare for All Is a Very Bad Idea,” “As Biden Invokes Dead Family Members Against Medicare for All, Media Play Along” and “Insurance Lobby Talking Points Don’t Come With Warning Labels.”

 

Dean Baker on * Vaccine * Debate Myths

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CommonDreams reports: “‘Depraved’: Trump Reportedly Offered German Firm ‘Large Sum’ for Exclusive Rights to Coronavirus Vaccine.”

DEAN BAKER, dean.baker1 at verizon.net, @DeanBaker13
Baker is senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and visiting professor at University of Utah.

He just tweeted: “It is unbelievably absurd that the world is not working collectively towards a vaccine and effective treatments. That means open research. Unfortunately, our elites are so brain dead, no one talks about this.”

He said today: “In the 21st century, we are relying on patent monopolies, a relic of the medieval guild system, to finance the research leading to a vaccine and effective treatment. While we do have teams all over the world racing to develop vaccines and treatments, the problem is that the quest for patent monopolies means that they are working in competition rather than cooperation. We should want these researchers sharing results as soon as possible so that all could benefit from their findings. The model for this sort of cooperation is the Bermuda Principles, with the Human Genome Project, where results were posted nightly on the web.”

We also want whatever vaccines or drugs are developed to be available as cheap generics. It is absurd that we are in a situation where governments may have to beg the drug companies to sell these items at affordable prices. If they didn’t give them patent monopolies in the first place, affordability would not be an issue. And, in this case, since so much of the research money is coming from governments anyhow, there is no logic to giving a patent monopoly to reward the portion of the funding paid by the drug companies.”

“Governments should just pick up the entire tab. If the drug companies are paid to do the research, there is no reason to pay them a second time with a patent monopoly.” Baker recently wrote the piece “Can Coronavirus Force Policy Types to Think Clearly About Intellectual Property?

He also recently wrote the piece “Educating the Washington Post: We Did Not Have to Bail Out the Banks in 2008.” (Biden claimed in last night’s debate: “Had those banks all gone under, all those people Bernie says he cares about would be in deep trouble. Deep, deep trouble.”)

Baker also recently wrote the piece “Wanting to Cut Social Security, Along with Everything Else, Is Still Wanting to Cut Social Security.” (See from Newsweek “During Democratic Debate Joe Biden Denies Advocating For Social Security Cuts — Here’s Video Showing He Did.”)

During Pandemic, Biden Lies About Healthcare

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cnn mediaBiden claimed at last night’s debate: “With all due respect to Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for All. That would not solve the problem at all.” Sanders responded: “What the experts tell us, is that one of the reasons that we are unprepared and have been unprepared is we don’t have a system. We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans. That is not a system that is prepared to provide healthcare to all people.”

Biden claimed: “The national crisis says we’re responding. It’s all free. You don’t have to pay for a thing. That has nothing to do with whether or not you have an insurance policy. This is a crisis. We’re at war with the virus. We’re at war with the virus. It has nothing to do with copays or anything.”

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College. He said today: “Biden lied about coverage, and also distorted the Italian situation. Italians will not face medical bills, or be reticent to seek care for fear of costs. The problem in Italy is a huge number of terribly sick people who are overwhelming hospitals and doctors,  That’s a problem pretty much every nation will face.”

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. He said today: “Biden, abetted by moderator questions focused on immediate action, claimed that he had short-term solutions, whereas Sanders wanted a revolution. Indeed, Sanders proposes both immediate solutions and long-overdue structural reforms to properly address serious long-term problems.

“Once again, Biden falsely equated his health care solution (a public option) and Bernie’s comprehensive reform Medicare for All. Biden’s approach would cost more — much more — and leave 100 million people seriously underinsured, facing large financial barriers, and limit doctor choice. Medicare for All would shift waste in our current system into giving everyone comprehensive first-dollar coverage, with free choice of doctor.”

In an accuracy.org released Sunday and challenging CNN to finally “get it” about Medicare for All, Himmelstein and Kahn anticipated Biden’s arguments about Italy. Said Himmelstein: “Our fragmented system leaves public health separate and disconnected from medical care, and provides no mechanism to appropriately balance funding priorities. Kahn noted that without a Medicare for All system, “we’re handicapping ourselves. In other words, Medicare for All is necessary but not sufficient.”

See Sunday accuracy.org news release “BREAKING: Coronavirus and Tonight’s Debate: ‘Now do you get it about Medicare for All?” — which announced plans for a projection onto the CNN building in Washington, D.C. as Sanders and Biden debated inside.

CORPORATE MEDIA:
NOW DO YOU GET IT ABOUT
MEDICARE FOR ALL?

The projection was not done because the multimedia artist, Robin Bell, fell ill.

See pieces on media coverage of this issue from the media watch group FAIR including: “Corporate Journalists Push Tax Attack on Medicare for All” and “As Biden Invokes Dead Family Members Against Medicare for All, Media Play Along.”

Biden’s “Budget-Cutting Dogma Is a Threat to Public Health”

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BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich

Marcetic is author of the recently released book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. He just wrote two pieces on Biden.

One piece is pegged to the pandemic: “Joe Biden’s Budget-Cutting Dogma Is a Threat to Public Health.”

Marcetic also just wrote a piece documenting Biden’s lies during Sunday’s debate: “Multiple times, Biden charged Sanders ‘still hasn’t told us how he’s going to pay for’ Medicare for All, even though he released a detailed funding plan last month. He misleadingly charged that Sanders had voted against the 2008 auto bailout. He accused Sanders of having ‘nine Super PACs’ and threatened to ‘list them,’ then backed down when challenged to do so. (For the record, one of those supposed ‘Super PACs’ took only six donations over $5,000 in 2019).

“But it was on his own record that Biden was particularly dishonest. Directly and repeatedly asked by Sanders if he had been on the Senate floor calling for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, Biden repeatedly flat-out lied, saying he hadn’t — a fact easily disproved by the video of Biden doing exactly that in 1995.

“As has been amply documented, Biden has spent his career taking aim at the program: he targeted it in his 1984 spending freeze proposal; he called for raising the retirement age and reducing its cost-of-living increases in 1996; he voted three years in a row for the balanced budget constitutional amendment, which, as Sanders warned at the time, would have imperiled the program; he called again for raising the retirement age in 2007, as well as introducing means-testing to the program; and as Obama’s vice president, he repeatedly rolled over for Republicans in negotiations, offering them significant cuts to Social Security and other vital programs.

“Biden even managed to squeeze one more lie into the exchange. ‘I was not a fan of Bowles-[Simpson],’ Biden said, referring to the commission set up by Biden’s administration to recommend cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In fact, it was Biden who persuaded former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, known since the 1990s as an uber–deficit hawk who wanted to privatize Social Security, to co-chair the commission. Simpson later got in trouble for calling the program ‘a milk cow with 310 million tits.’

“This was only the beginning. ‘I’m talking about a ban on fracking,’ Sanders at one point said. ‘So am I,’ replied Biden. In fact, Biden has never supported a fracking ban, and his campaign helpfully clarified today that he misled viewers last night. Biden changed his position on the Hyde Amendment ‘a while ago,’ he said; in fact, he supported it until the middle of last year, when, under a torrent of criticism, he abruptly flipped, taking two contradictory positions on the measure in the same week. He ‘helped put together’ the Paris climate accord, he claimed. In fact, no Obama officials can remember him being particularly involved in the effort. He again absurdly claimed that his vote for the Iraq War was actually an attempt to stop the war.

“Perhaps Biden’s most outrageous lie was over his bankruptcy bill. Biden claimed that it ‘was passing overwhelmingly and I improved it,’ that he ‘made it clear to the industry, I didn’t like the bill,’ and that he ‘did not support the bill.’ When Sanders said Biden ‘helped write that bankruptcy bill,’ Biden replied, ‘I did not.’

“These are all lies. Biden had been backing the bill since at least 1998, when he first voted with the rest of the Senate to end a filibuster against it, then voted again to pass it.”

Coronavirus: Lack of Testing, Sick Leave

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LISA GILBERT, via Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen

Gilbert is vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. The group is stressing that testing and treatment for the coronavirus should be free. (This approach, taken by South Korea, of containing the virus by extensive testing rather than “mitigating” its effects, has been praised by scientists.)

Public Citizen notes that while “Jeff Bezos makes $8,961,187 per hour,” Vice is reporting: “Whole Foods Suggests That Workers Share Paid Time Off During Coronavirus.”

Public Citizen produced a list of some of the U.S. companies denying workers paid sick leave:

McDonald’s – 517K workers
Walmart – 347K workers
Kroger – 189K workers
Subway – 80K workers
Burger King – 165K workers
Pizza Hut: – 156K workers
Marriott – 139K workers
Wendy’s – 133K workers

Target changed their policy, Business Insider reports: “Target is offering up to 14 days of paid time off for workers in quarantine and those confirmed with coronavirus.”

Also see from Public Citizen: “Coronavirus Vaccine Must Not Be Exclusive to U.S.

With Iran Facing Pandemic Under Sanctions, Call to “Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws”

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AP is reporting today: “Iranian state TV warns ‘millions’ could die from coronavirus.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

She just wrote the piece: “Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws, A Humanitarian Message.”

Kelly writes: “U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.

“Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment.

“For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline.

“The devastated economy and worsening coronavirus outbreak now drive migrants and refugees, who number in the millions, back to Afghanistan at dramatically increased rates.

“In the past two weeks alone, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran, increasing the likelihood that cases of coronavirus will surge in Afghanistan. Decades of war, including U.S. invasion and occupation, have decimated Afghanistan’s health care and food distribution systems. …

“Jonathan Whitall directs Humanitarian Analysis for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. His most recent analysis poses agonizing questions:

‘How are you supposed to wash your hands regularly if you have no running water or soap? How are you supposed to implement ‘social distancing’ if you live in a slum or a refugee or containment camp? How are you supposed to stay at home if your work pays by the hour and requires you to show up? How are you supposed to stop crossing borders if you are fleeing from war? How are you supposed to get tested for #COVID19 if the health system is privatized and you can’t afford it? How are those with pre-existing health conditions supposed to take extra precautions when they already can’t even access the treatment they need?’

“I expect many people worldwide, during the spread of COVID-19, are thinking hard about the glaring, deadly inequalities in our societies, wonder how best to extend proverbial hands of friendship to people in need while urged to accept isolation and social distancing. One way to help others survive is to insist the United States lift sanctions against Iran and instead support acts of practical care. Jointly confront the coronavirus while constructing a humane future for the world without wasting time or resources on the continuation of brutal wars.”

Biden’s Continuing Lies on Iraq War Crisis

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The invasion of Iraq began 17 years ago from Thursday.

As the nation and the world face the coronavirus pandemic, Stephen Zunes is among several prominent analysts featured in a recently-released mini-documentary narrated by Danny Glover, “WORTH THE PRICE? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War” about the crisis of the Iraq war and Biden’s pivotal role in backing the invasion with disastrous results.

At the Sunday night CNN debate, Biden again falsified his support of the war: “I learned I can’t take the word of a president when in fact they assured me that they would not use force. Remember the context, the context was the United Nations Security Council was going to vote to insist that we allow inspectors in to determine whether or not they were in fact producing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. They were not.”

STEPHEN ZUNES,  zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

He just wrote the piece “Would Joe Biden, Like Hillary Clinton, Lose to Donald Trump Over the Iraq War?

Zunes said today regarding Biden’s claims at the debate: “Bernie Sanders correctly observed that everyone knew at the time that this was a vote for war. The bill’s title, ‘Authorization for the Use of Force’ was just that: an authorization for President Bush to invade Iraq. There were no conditions regarding the return of inspectors or anything else. Furthermore, at the time of the vote, the Iraqi government had already agreed unconditionally to the return of the weapons inspectors and it was already clear that the UN Security Council was going to rigorously enforce their resolution regarding Iraqi compliance with the inspections regime regardless of what the Senate did. Finally, Biden at the time never said anything about finding out whether Iraq had chemical weapons, biological weapons, and a nuclear weapons program. As he had been doing even prior to the Bush administration, he was insisting categorically that they did.”

Why “Flatten the Curve” Isn’t Enough

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This Financial Times chart (3/16/20) indicates where countries are headed if they continue on their present pandemic path.

JIM NAURECKAS, jnaureckas at fair.org, @JNaureckas

Editor of FAIR’s magazine Extra!, Naureckas just wrote the piece “To Defeat Coronavirus, Media Need to Look at Real-World Examples, Not Play ‘Simulitis,’” which states: “The idea that the best one could hope for is to slow, not stop, the spread of the coronavirus leads to the advice to ‘flatten the curve’ of the peak of infections, as featured in” various media. “The idea is that measures like social distancing and washing one’s hands can lower the rate of infection, spreading cases out enough to keep the healthcare system from collapsing. …

“If the disease is allowed to spread until it’s naturally halted by herd immunity — which is what the ‘flatten the curve’ model presumes — this would mean (assuming a final infection rate of 40 percent) that more than 20 million Americans would need to be hospitalized, and more than 4 million would require intensive care (Health Affairs, 3/17/20)…in a country with less than a million hospital beds and less than 70,000 adult intensive care beds. There is no feasible way to redistribute these cases enough to prevent a total swamping of our hospital capacity. ….

“It’s hard to escape the impression that ‘flattening the curve’ has been offered as a solution because any strategy that aimed at actually stopping the spread of the virus would necessarily have a ruinous economic impact. China’s economy has been ‘devastated’ by the anti-coronavirus drive (CNN, 3/16/20) — though it will no doubt turn out to be doing quite well in comparison with countries that had to impose nationwide lockdowns after acting too late. The price of not stopping the coronavirus, it turns out, is too great for any nation to pay; that’s the lesson the real world is teaching us, and one we have to heed.”

Lift Economic Sanctions to Avoid More Deaths From Pandemic, Economists Say

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CommonDreams reports: “‘Literally Weaponizing Coronavirus’: Despite One of World’s Worst Outbreaks of Deadly Virus, U.S. Hits Iran With ‘Brutal’ New Sanctions.” In These Times reports: “U.S. Sanctions on Iran Are Increasing Coronavirus Deaths. They Need to Be Stopped Now.”

The U.S. government should instead be lifting economic sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries to avoid unnecessary deaths and more extensive propagation of the pandemic, said economist Jeffrey Sachs, professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

In a statement, the Center for Economic and Policy Research said: “While sanctions already cause tens of thousands of needless deaths, the lethal toll during the novel coronavirus pandemic will be made far worse in countries where imports of medications, medical equipment, and the maintenance of water, sanitation, and health care infrastructure are restricted due to the impact of U.S. sanctions. These restrictions will also make it harder for health authorities to control the spread of the disease within their countries.”

“The Trump administration is using sanctions against Iran and Venezuela to pressure those governments by inducing widespread suffering,” Sachs said. “This policy is unconscionable and flagrantly against international law. Yet worse, it is now feeding the coronavirus epidemic. It is imperative that the U.S. lift these immoral and illegal sanctions to enable Iran and Venezuela to confront the epidemic as effectively and rapidly as possible.”

CEPR noted: “The crippling economic sanctions in place against Venezuela and Iran, and a number of the sanctions targeting North Korea, were unilaterally imposed by President Trump, thanks to the broad sanctions powers accorded to the U.S. president under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) recently introduced legislation that would reform these two laws in order to reestablish congressional control and oversight over executive branch sanctions powers.”

See more statements from economists on this effort from CEPR.

For interviews, contact: Dan Beeton, (202) 239-1460, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc

Economic Plans for Addressing the Pandemic

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JAMES GALBRAITH, Galbraith at operamail.com

MICHAEL LIND, mlind40 at outlook.com
Lind is a New America fellow and Galbraith teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. They recently wrote the piece “Needed: A Finance Agency to Handle the Financial Meltdown from the Coronavirus” for the Boston Globe. They write: “Congress should create a time-limited government corporation, a Health Finance Corporation. It should be modeled on the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, created during the Depression and used to support the New Deal and the World War II mobilization.”

NANCY ALTMAN, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @SSWorks
Altman is president of Social Security Works and just wrote the piece “Learning From FDR: The Coronavirus Pandemic Requires Long-Term Solutions” for Forbes. The piece quotes one of Roosevelt’s closest advisers, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. She explained the thinking in a nationwide radio address: “We cannot be satisfied merely with makeshift arrangements which will tide us over the present emergencies. We must devise plans that will not merely alleviate the ills of today, but will prevent, as far as it is humanly possible to do so, their recurrence in the future.”

EILEEN APPELBAUM, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Appelbaum is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which just released the report “Concrete Solutions to Mitigate the Health and Economic Impacts of the Pandemic.” It includes many recommendations, such as: “Inject immediate economic stimulus to develop the expansion of physical space dedicated to urgent medical care. That includes both the conversion of appropriate spaces as well as, where applicable, adding tents, trailers, and other temporary adjuncts. …

“Make paid sick leave expansion both real … and permanent. A minimum number of paid sick days should be no less than 80 hours for full-time workers, pro-rated hours for part-time, and should be a federally-mandated employment standard, similar to minimum wage.”

A section is titled: “Avoid Bailout for Highly-Concentrated Industries that Could Have Taken Out Insurance Policies,” and states: “If the current cruise ship industry couldn’t foresee health issues, given its history, its shareholders deserve to be cleaned out on their investment. Bankruptcy law exists for a reason — a bankrupt cruise industry does not mean additional unemployed cruise ship workers, it means they will be working for new owners who, in theory, have the foresight to buy insurance that includes pandemics.”

The same applies to other massive businesses. If airlines go bankrupt, the retirement benefits of tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of workers could be damaged through no fault of their own. It is not a worker’s job to make decisions on insurance! We recommend ensuring a prepackaged bankruptcy policy that protects these benefits, which are often the lowest priority under bankruptcy law, as was done with the auto industry. Some federal money as an inducement might be necessary, but that’s significantly less money than if shareholders were to be made whole for investing in imprudent management.”

Beyond Burr: No Dark Money with Bailouts

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ProPublica reports: “Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness.” Bloomberg reports: “U.S. Senators Sold Stock After Coronavirus Briefings in January.”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is a leading scholar on money in politics — author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems and many essays. He is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and senior fellow at Better Markets.

He warns that public money must not set up a vicious cycle of public bamboozlement and profits for politicians.

Ferguson commented: “The news that U.S. senators, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were saying one thing in public and doing another after receiving confidential briefings on the coronavirus is both a vivid reminder and a warning. It’s a reminder, because the evidence that the U.S. is a money-driven political system is overwhelming.

“But it’s also a warning. Right now the U.S. government is laying plans for sweeping bailouts of individual firms and sometimes whole industries. Any such bailouts need stringent regulations about disclosure. Firstly, if we, the people, are not to finance our own bamboozlement, any company receiving bailout money must be required to file at the end of each month full reports on political contributions and lobbying expenditures to candidates and parties. So-called ‘Dark Money’ funneled through fake charities should not be exempted from those requirements nor should ‘527’ funds. Firm and top executives’ contributions to trade associations and other groups that lobby or make political expenditures of their own must also be disclosed. Donations to think tanks and ‘gifts’ from corporate foundations, which we now know are often politically motivated, also need disclosure. Not only money from the companies, but contributions of their executives and PACs need to be included in these reports.

“We cannot set up a closed loop in which voters and taxpayers subsidize companies and then those companies recycle some of the funds back into Congress and the political system and political parties. And it’s high time to put some teeth in the Stock Act, that supposedly stopped individual representatives from engaging in such disgraceful practices.”

Ferguson just co-wrote the piece “Coronavirus Means Zero Hour for the European Union” which cautions against German banks aggravating the pandemic in Italy.

He emphasizes that his views are his own and not that of any institution he is affiliated with.

“Low-Income People Must Actually Get Stimulus Payments”

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ROBERT GREENSTEIN, via Jacob Kaufman-Waldron, jkaufmanwaldron at cbpp.org, @GreensteinCBPP
Greenstein is president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. See his thread on Twitter on “glaring gaps” in current Senate proposals.

He also just wrote the piece “Low-Income People Must Be Eligible for Stimulus Payments — and Actually Receive Them,” which states: “Stimulus payments need to reach as many low-, moderate-, and middle-income households as possible to soften the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial blow to individuals and shore up the economy. That means that lawmakers must not only make low- and moderate-income people eligible for the full payments; they must also ensure that the government delivers the payments without imposing new requirements on individuals to file tax returns or fill out and submit other complex paperwork. …

“The IRS should be able to send stimulus payments quickly to most people who file tax returns. But some 30 million people don’t file returns, including those with incomes so low that they aren’t required to file returns for federal taxes and millions of seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans. …

“States can reach many of the millions of low-income people who aren’t receiving benefits (such as Social Security) from federal agencies by delivering the payments through state-administered programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). …

“Former IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has urged lawmakers to avoid this mistake of 2008 and, instead, to use federal agencies such as SSA and the VA to quickly deliver stimulus payments to people who don’t file tax returns. We agree, and lawmakers should also ensure that the millions of people who neither file a tax return nor receive federally administered benefits actually receive stimulus payments through state governments, as explained above.

“This seemingly technical issue will determine whether millions of low-income people in fact receive stimulus payments. These are the very people who struggle the most to make ends meet and, thus, are the likeliest to spend every additional dollar they receive, providing the greatest potential boost to the economy. Ensuring that they get stimulus payments is not just the right thing to do from a humanitarian standpoint; it’s also the essential thing to do for the U.S. economy.”

Slush Fund or Democratic Economy?

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DEAN BAKER, EILEEN APPELBAUM, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Baker is co-founder and senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research and just co-wrote the piece “Yes, This is an Emergency. No, That Doesn’t Justify a $500 Billion Trump/Mnuchin Slush Fund.”

Appelbaum is co-director of the group, which recently released the report “Concrete Solutions to Mitigate the Health and Economic Impacts of the Pandemic.”

THOMAS HANNA, tmhanna at democracycollaborative.org, @DemocracyCollab
Hanna is director of research at the Democracy Collaborative, and works with the Next Systems Project. He has researched and written extensively about how to deal with financial crises in a way that fosters democracy rather than produces giveaways to major corporations.

His pieces include:
* “The Crisis Next Time: Planning for Public Ownership as an Alternative to Corporate Bank Bailouts,” which states: “During the next crisis, a robust policy response can and should convert failed banks to permanent public ownership, rather than merely using public money to make corporate America whole again.”

* “A History of Nationalization in the United States: 1917-2009,” which states: “Nationalization is the process of bringing previously privately controlled assets under public authority.”

* “Constructing the Democratic Public Enterprise,” which states: “There is a great opportunity to develop forms of organization, governance, and regulation that stimulate public participation, increase accountability, and empower communities and individuals that have traditionally been excluded from economic decision-making in publicly owned enterprises and services.”

When Warren Buffet Bails Out Companies, He Shares in the Upside. Why Doesn’t the Taxpayer?

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
ROBERT JOHNSON, raj at ineteconomics.org
Ferguson is professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston and director of research, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Johnson is president of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and former chief economist, Senate Banking Committee.

They just co-wrote the piece “Rule Number 1 for Government Bailouts of Companies: Make Sure Voters and Taxpayers Share in the Upside,” which states: “The model for any bailout by the government should be a variant of Warren Buffett’s famous bailout of Goldman Sachs during the last blowout. Buffett guaranteed himself against a loss by structuring the deal as a sort of convertible bond by combining preferred shares and warrants. The bond part of the deal — the preferred shares — guaranteed that he got paid ahead of any other shareholders. But the bond part also came with warrants that were convertible into stock: if the firm prospered, then the stock component ensured that he shared in the upside.”

This time, unlike last time [in 2008], when Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, and Ben Bernanke failed to give the public any of the upside, the bailed out firms should be compelled to issue convertible bonds to the government. Those bonds should make the government the senior creditor to the firm for the value of the principal as long as the debt is unpaid. At low interest rates like those prevailing today, there is no reason to burden the firm with additional coupon payments that impair the working capital of firms.”

Universal Vote-by-Mail Program Amid Pandemic

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The media watch group FAIR just published the piece: “Can the U.S. Pull Off a November Election? Journalists Play a Critical Role.”

The UCLA Voting Rights Project just released a white paper “Protecting Democracy: Implementing Equal and Safe Access to the Ballot Box During a Global Pandemic.” [PDF]

The paper urges Congress to “immediately provide funding and guidance for a national vote-by-mail effort as part of current relief proposals to help with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. If Congress fails to act, the paper calls on state and local officials to step in. The paper also seeks to highlight the low-health risks and general safety to the public that voting by mail provides during this national emergency.”

“States around the country are pushing back primary and runoff elections in the hope that election procedures can return to normal at a later time,” said Chad Dunn, co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and co-author of the report. “But hope is not a plan. We must prepare now to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

The white paper offers the following solutions to implement a universal vote-by-mail program by November:

1. Enroll voters immediately in a vote-by-mail program, allowing for an online registration option.
2. Provide a universal mail ballot and envelope to standardize the process and education efforts.
3. Work with the U.S. Postal Service to design a reliable and convenient program to return mail-in ballots.
4. Create security measures for vote-by-mail ballots.
5. Create a process for voters to address any issues with their vote-by-mail ballots so as to ensure all lawful votes are counted.
6. Modify any in-person polling places to maintain social distancing and minimize public health concerns for at-risk populations.
7. Improve sanitation efforts at polling places to provide public health assurances for in-person voting.
8. Increase voter education efforts on reforms implemented.

The group states that six states can take immediate action to move the November election to universal vote-by-mail because of existing programs: Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and California. Further, the coronavirus pandemic provides a crucial opportunity to put benefits in place that will last beyond this election by reducing costs, making it easier to engage communities of color and voters with disabilities, and protecting elections from hacks or other tampering attempts, according to the report.

Contact: Eliza Moreno, lppipress at luskin.ucla.edu

#GeneralStrike?

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The Washington Post reports: “Trump says he wants ‘country opened’ by Easter.” His stance prompted #GeneralStrike to trend on social media.

MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report and correspondent for Business Insider.

He said today: “People should not discount the possibility of a general strike by workers now. I was covering the lead up to the West Virginia teachers strikes in 2018 and that took people by surprise. It inspired strikes across the nation.

“Now, you are seeing strikes of bus drivers in Birmingham and poultry workers in Georgia. Workers are mobilizing and this could inspire a massive strike wave.

“And you have a clear precedent for this. After the 1918 influenza pandemic, you had the 1919 general strike. (See recent piece in The Nation.)

“It’s dawning on more people how critical their labor is and how little these corporations care about them. The veneer of we’re-going-to-take-care-of-you has dropped away.

“Health care workers are having their lives endangered by corporate moves. (See piece in The Intercept: “Kaiser Permanente Threatened to Fire Nurses Treating Covid-19 Patients for Wearing Their Own Masks, Unions Say.)

“The lack of sick days is endangering workers and everyone. Nashville is set to have an enormous outbreak of COVID-19. It’s huge tourist center with many services workers without paid sick days.

“We’re talking about possibly 20 to 30 percent unemployment. That will lead employers to be even more callous.

“Meanwhile, Boeing has $15 billion in the bank and is set to get a bailout.

“Nissan has worked to hinder its workers in Alabama from unionizing and now the company is forcing them to work and risk their lives.” (See Elk’s latest on Nissan here.)

Trump to Us: Drop Dead

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JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco.

He said today: “Tuesday, Donald Trump floated the idea of ending the stay-at-home guidance currently widely in effect to suppress COVID-19 transmission. This strategy is central to the critical goal to ‘flatten the curve’ — aiming to sharply reduce cases in the short-term to minimize total pandemic cases and also to prevent overwhelming of hospital capacity to handle serious cases.

“Trump’s proposal could worsen this crisis to a catastrophe. It prioritizes the economy over saving lives. This action seems aimed to increase economic activity to aid his re-election.

“However, it’s wrong on several levels. First, and most important, it is mean-spirited — amplifying pandemic spread and associated deaths for a political purpose. Second, it is misguided — weakening pandemic control measures now will lead to an even more serious public health and economic crisis later. Third, it supports the false narrative that the pandemic is a hoax. It’s not, it’s very real.”

Does COVID-19 Require Separate Medical Facilities?

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MERYL NASS, MD, merylnass at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Dr. Nass blogs at Anthrax Vaccine, which includes her own analysis as well as resources from around the world, including a just-completed English translation of the Chinese guidebook for care of COVID-19, which has a section on “Isolation Area Management.”

She notes that in a recent JAMA interview, an Italian doctor, Maurizio Cecconi, talks about having tried to “separate our patients” on different floors as “much as possible.”

Her most recent posting is “An Important Proposal That Ameliorates Our Lack of Protective Equipment and Spares Both Patients and Healthcare Workers,” which states: “There is a huge disconnect between the personal protective equipment healthcare workers (HCWs) should be wearing to protect themselves from coronavirus, and what actually exists right now for them to use. The White House has told the governors to find their own supplies. The equipment market is in chaos. Nurses and doctors deserve congratulations for their bravery and commitment to continue working, even without adequate protective equipment.  CDC is now telling them to make their own equipment. But Kaiser Permanente threatened to fire nurses for wearing their own N95 respirators.

“Having doctors and nurses work under these conditions is extremely shortsighted. Given the tremendous propensity of the virus to spread — U.S. deaths are doubling every three days, and are believed to lag infection by a month — healthcare workers will be infected disproportionately, as in Wuhan and northern Italy. But worst of all, HCWs may become viral spreaders, transmitting infection to patients who are in their healthcare facility for other reasons. Doctors in Italy have warned that hospitals might be ‘the main’ source of COVID-19 transmission. …

“There is only one solution: keeping patients with COVID-19 in facilities that treat only COVID-19. And treating other patients in separate facilities. This requires government to take control of a very messy situation: Hospitals and clinics are about to become, if they are not already, the locations that put their patients at highest risk. Hospitals will not suddenly create separate COVID facilities by themselves. Government needs to step in to make this happen.

“Creating designated COVID-19 facilities would allow healthcare workers to put on a complete set of protective garments: masks, goggles, face shields and head to toe gowns and shoe covers, at the beginning of their shift. They would then not change out of the garments between patients, since all the patients are already infected. It would save tremendous amounts of equipment and time, since HCWs would not have to change up their gowns, gloves, etc. between each patient, and would have enough protective equipment to work in safety.

“How do you identify the COVID patients, when PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests have again slowed due to lack of reagents and swabs?

“In Italy and China, ultrasound exams of the lungs, or CT scans, have been used to differentiate the specific lung pattern caused by this coronavirus (a bilateral ground glass appearance, especially in the lung periphery) from other infections. This can provide a faster diagnosis than a lab test, with almost as much accuracy, at the point of patient contact. Ultrasound machines may be portable and inexpensive.” See full posting, with extensive links.

Bailout or Corporate Robbery?

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CommonDreams reports: “‘Looting of America by Big Corporations’: Progressives Appalled as Senate Unanimously Passes Largest Bailout Bill in US History.”

See interview with David Dayen on “Rising”: “It’s not a bailout, it’s corporate robbery” and his piece at The American Prospect.

Newsweek reports: “Bernie Sanders Scolds Republicans Opposed to Unemployment Benefit Boost in Stimulus Bill.”

RICHARD ESKOW, rjeskow at gmail.com, @rjeskow
Eskow is senior advisor for health and economic justice at Social Security Works and the host of “The Zero Hour” on Free Speech TV. He recently wrote the piece “7 Rules for the Boeing Bailout” for Naked Capitalism.

He said today: “As the world struggles with the pandemic, corrupt corporations like Boeing should be held accountable for their failure to prepare for a known risk, and for their destructive social behavior. That behavior has been lethal at times, and socially destructive at others. In Boeing’s case, passengers died on its 737 MAX, while banks and other corporations ruined millions of people’s lives and cost many people their homes.

“Self-interest was their primary motivator. Instead of preparing for known risks, including a pandemic, corporate leaders looted the coffers while exploiting both their workforce and their customers. They ignored their own organizations’ long-term financial needs — and sometimes the law — to indulge in a 10-year sybaritic feast of reckless profit-grabbing.

“This reflects an unsustainable and inhumane economy, led by amoral and out-of-control executives. Instead of being held accountable, however, the government is putting those executives first in line for rescue — before working people, before sick people, before the poor and vulnerable.

“The picture’s still unclear, but it appears that the U.S. government will spend money at levels never seen before – not to save the planet or its people, but to save the executives and corporations that are destroying it.

“And now, the malefactors are coming forward triumphantly, one by one, to exult in their victory. Executives from Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, dens of serial corporate criminality, are openly pontificating about the need to risk human lives to pump up an economy that works only for them. The secret is out: it’s an economy of death, and apparently they no longer feel the need to hide it.

“Unless something changes quickly, future generations will look back on this moment with regret and fury. They have turned our economy into a Boeing 737 MAX, and it has just been cleared for takeoff.”

Eskow also recently wrote the pieces “No, I Will Not Die for This Damned Economy” and “Health Benefit Plans Are Making the Pandemic Worse.”

See recent accuracy.org news releases including: “When Warren Buffet Bails Out Companies, He Shares in the Upside. Why Doesn’t the Taxpayer?” and “Slush Fund or Democratic Economy?

Escalating Sanctions on Iran and Venezuela During Pandemic a “Crime Against Humanity”

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Newsweek reports: “U.S. Adds Iran Sanctions, Indicts Venezuela President as Countries Fight Coronavirus.”

ALFRED DE ZAYAS, alfreddezayas at gmail.com, @Alfreddezayas
Alfred de Zayas was the first UN rapporteur (independent expert) to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years. In his recent interview “U.S. sanctions on Iran, Venezuela during pandemic could be genocidal” with The Grayzone, he calls such sanctions “insane” and a “crime against humanity.” His most recent interview is in Spanish with Swissinfo. See also his other recent interviews and writings.

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kelly just wrote the piece “Making the Pandemic Worse” for The Progressive. She writes: “U.S. sanctions against Iran, which the Trump administration has cruelly strengthened, continue to collectively punish extremely vulnerable people. The United States’ current ‘maximum pressure’ policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the disease.”

LEONARDO FLORES, leonardo at codepink.org, @codepink
Flores recently wrote the pieces “Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You” and “‘Maximum-Pressure March’: U.S. Hybrid War on Venezuela Heats Up.” He was born in Venezuela and is a Latin America campaign coordinator for CODEPINK.

Al Jazeera reports: “Venezuela says U.S. drug charges against Maduro show ‘desperation.’

Flores said today: “A day after President Maduro offered to hold talks with the opposition about the country’s response to COVID-19, the Trump administration did its utmost to once against sabotage an opportunity for dialogue. For years the U.S. government has accused Venezuela of narcoterrorism, without ever presenting evidence. The biggest consumer of cocaine in the world is the United States and the biggest producer is Colombia. Venezuela doesn’t grow coca, doesn’t produce cocaine and according to the U.S. government’s own statistics, only a small fraction of the cocaine in the U.S. transits through the country.”

Sick Teen Turned Away for Lack of Insurance Died: Pandemic Reveals “Inefficiency and Inhumanity” of a Broken System

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CommonDreams reports: “After Repeatedly Downplaying Threat, Trump Now Says Keeping U.S. Coronavirus Deaths to 100,000 Would Be a ‘Good Job’” and “‘Abolish For-Profit Health Insurance’: Analysis Warns Companies Could Hike Premiums by 40 Percent Amid Pandemic.”

The New York Times reports: “The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.”

The Hill reports: “Teen who may have died of coronavirus was turned away from urgent care due to lack of insurance.”

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. He said today: “This one case report of a teen with possible COVID-19 is the tip of the deep, deep iceberg of deaths caused by our fractured and dysfunctional health insurance system. It is profoundly sad that this young man died due to delayed medical care because he lacked insurance. What is untold is the hundreds or thousands like him across the country during this pandemic. And the tens of thousands who die each year in the U.S. because of being uninsured.

“Our country is working collectively to fight the coronavirus. At the same time, the pandemic is revealing the frailties, inefficiency, and inhumanity of a broken health insurance system. We must pull together to move to a public-spirited, public-facing, and publicly-funded health insurance system — Medicare for All.”

“U.S. Beats War Drums in Middle East”

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The New York Times reports: “Pentagon Order to Plan for Escalation in Iraq Meets Warning From Top Commander.”

Mehdi Hasan just wrote the piece in The Intercept: “Beware of Trump Using the Coronavirus as a Cover for War With Iran.”

REESE ERLICH, reeseerlich at yahoo.com, @ReeseErlich
Erlich‘s syndicated column “Foreign Correspondent” appears in 48 Hills. He just wrote the piece “U.S. Beats War Drums in Middle East” in The Progressive which states: “While the world focuses on the coronavirus pandemic, tensions between the United States and Iran are heating up.

“The two countries are engaging in tit-for-tat military attacks that threaten a wider war. In mid-March, Washington officials accused an Iran-allied militia of launching rockets at a U.S. military base in Iraq, killing two American soldiers and one British soldier. The Pentagon retaliated with a missile strike against the group Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, killing militiamen, five Iraqi servicemen, and a civilian who were also at the base. On March 26 rockets once again hit near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“The Pentagon sent two aircraft carriers to the region, claiming in a March 19 Navy statement that the United States is protecting ‘freedom of navigation and [the] free flow of commerce.’ Threatening a possible military attack on Iran, the Navy said the carriers ‘provide the combatant commander significant striking power for contingency operations.’

“Leaders in Washington and Tehran say they don’t want a full-scale war, but they are playing a dangerous game. And the people of Iraq will suffer the consequences. …

“So the ball is in the United States’ court. Trump can continue his ‘maximum pressure campaign’ against Iran and face continued Iraqi attacks on U.S. troops. Or he can back off to focus on domestic concerns and avoid a wider war.”

Pandemic as Reckoning

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DAVID DAYEN david.dayen at gmail.com, @ddayen
Executive editor of The American Prospect, Dayen has written a series of pieces about different aspects of the government response to the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Prospect published a several pieces on especially vulnerable groups, such as people detained by ICEprisoners and farmworkers.

Dayen tweeted: “Every broken piece of our society restricted us from responding to this crisis, from welfare reform to post-2008 austerity to the war on crime. You can’t divorce any of it.”

In the piece “Unsanitized: Covidien’s Story Is Corporate America’s Story,” he examines how a maker of cheaper portable ventilators was effectively hindered because it got bought up by a bigger medical company not wanting to see a cut into its profits in its existing ventilator business.

See his other recent pieces, including today’s “Unsanitized: It’s the First of the Month,” which notes that today “most residential and commercial rents and mortgages are due. This is the biggest financial expense for most ordinary people and businesses. None of the relief in the $2.2 trillion survival aid package passed last week has gone out the door. And many have spent several weeks without salaries or revenues; those in the underground or cash economies will likely get little or no relief.”

His other recent pieces include “The Dangerous Life of an Amazon Worker,” “The Gaping Hole in the Defense Production Act” and “Unsanitized: The Federal Reserve Loads the Cannon,” which states: “Incredibly, the Fed put BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, in charge of this and two other bond-buying programs. One of the programs involves buying up exchange-traded funds, and nobody has issued more of those than BlackRock. The firm can theoretically direct itself to buy up its own troubled funds and take fees on it! Whatever the purchases, BlackRock unquestionably stands to make hundreds of billions of dollars.”

In his piece Tuesday, “Unsanitized: Stimulus, Episode IV, A New Hope,” he writes Democrats “now want to bargain over all the things Republicans rejected in the first three bills. On a conference call [Monday], House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her caucus was ‘taking inventory’ on what the public needed, throwing out ideas like a surge of funds for hospitals for personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing, full paid medical leave, more state and local government aid, assistance for overburdened pension funds, guaranteed free treatment of COVID-19 cases for everyone, an OSHA emergency temporary standard to mandate safety rules in workplaces kept open through the crisis, and longer-term goals like a buildout of broadband to secure access to telehealth. …

“It’s amazing that Democrats had to re-learn this lesson. They gave up all their leverage in stimulus III. Maybe economic conditions will wither to the point that stimulus IV will become necessary, but that’s going to be well in the future for Republicans as long as their business base is satiated. The whole point of doing the bailout and the individual relief together was to maximize both. If you left a bunch of individual relief on the table, you did it wrong.”

Farmworkers: Now “Essential,” but “Denied the Just-Enacted Benefits”

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DAVID BACON, dbacon at igc.org, @photos4justice
Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist. He just wrote the piece “America’s Farmworkers — Now ‘Essential,’ but Denied the Just-Enacted Benefits” for The American Prospect.

He writes: “In fields and rural communities across the United States the nation’s 2.5 million agricultural laborers are waiting for the shoe to drop — for the first cases of coronavirus among farmworkers. As they wait they are already feeling sharply the effects of the measures taken to contain the virus’s spread.

“Francisco Lozano, a farmworker in Santa Maria on California’s central coast, says poverty makes this crisis much worse. In the winter, when there’s no work, families live off meager savings from the previous season, and when those are exhausted, they borrow from family and friends. ‘This is the time work starts up again, picking strawberries,’ he says. ‘But instead of pulling ourselves out of debt, our situation is worse now than ever. … they’re paying by the hour — minimum wage [California’s minimum wage is $13 per hour.] That’s not enough to live on.’

“Working conditions themselves have deteriorated. ‘Because of the rains we’re working in the mud,’ he explains. ‘We work close to each other so social distancing is impossible. They tell us to wash our hands, but there are lots of people for each station and the soap runs out. People normally have colds at this time of year, and many of us have to work anyway because of the economic pressure. With the virus, that’s dangerous. But the growers just want production.’ …

“The final $2 trillion bailout and relief package adopted by Congress, however, includes a bar forbidding the undocumented from receiving its benefits. The legislation, the CARES Act, provides extended unemployment and one-time cash payments to low and middle-income families. People who lack legal immigration status, and even U.S. citizen children who have at least one undocumented parent, are excluded, however. That exclusion encompasses the majority of the nation’s farmworkers, and in California, as many as 70 percent of them.”

Hospitals Trying to Muzzle Health Workers as Nurses in Pittsburgh Walk off Job Due to Lack of Protective Gear

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Bloomberg reports: “Hospitals Tell Doctors They’ll Be Fired If They Speak Out About Lack of Gear.”

See accuracy.org news release from March 25: “Does COVID-19 Require Separate Medical Facilities?”

See COVID-19 resource page from National Nurses United.

MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report and correspondent for Business Insider.

He just wrote the piece “After 42 Test Positive for COVID-19, Nurses in Western PA Walk Off Job,” which states: “On Thursday, dozens of nurses, members of SEIU Healthcare PA, walked off at the Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center in Western Pennsylvania’s Beaver County.

“The walk-off came after 36 elderly residents and six healthcare workers at the nursing home tested positive for COVID-19. Already, two senior citizens at the facility have died of COVID-19.

“Nurses at the facility say that they haven’t been given N-95 masks to wear around residents. After days of the union being rebuffed in its attempt to meet with management to discuss safety issues and hazard pay, nurses on the job walked off on Wednesday.

“’Financially, I probably shouldn’t make that decision, but it’s not about finances. It’s about my health and another person’s health,’ Nurse Tamera Witherspoon told CBS Pittsburgh.

“The union says that it won’t go back in until they get proper protective equipment for the staff at Brighton Rehab. …

“The strike comes as the Trump administration killed a provision in the new COVID-19 bailout package that would have forced OSHA to institute an emergency rule standard to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.

“The provision was killed at the behest of the American Hospital Association. Now, many frontline healthcare workers say they lack basic protective equipment.

“Increasingly, frontline workers from healthcare to warehouses to manufacturing are walking off the job across the country to protest unsafe working conditions.
“With a lack of federal regulations, SEIU Healthcare PA says that its willing to take action into its own hands to force employers to protect frontline healthcare workers.”

During Pandemic: Cuba Sends Doctors, U.S. Sends Warships

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DAN KOVALIK, dkovalik at outlook.com, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is a human rights lawyer and author of the recently-released book The Plot To Overthrow Venezuela and the forthcoming No More War.

He said today: “While countries like Cuba, China and Russia are sending personnel and aid to other countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has sadly pivoted in the other direction — tightening sanctions against countries like Iran and Venezuela, and even sending warships to the Caribbean on the pretext of fighting drug trafficking, allegedly from Venezuela. However, the U.S. government’s own data belies the Trump administration’s claims about Venezuela as some type of narco-state.”

“Instead, the White House’s current actions are about old-fashioned imperial plunder, and in particular, the plunder of Venezuela’s oil. And, the U.S. government appears fully prepared to exploit the current pandemic crisis to achieve its aims of Empire. The current naval build-up in the Caribbean appears to be the carrying out of Trump’s threats early this year to blockade Venezuela in an effort to bring about regime change. This action, combined with U.S. sanctions which have already killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans, will only increase the suffering of the Venezuelan people, especially as they struggle against the coronavirus outbreak.”

Pandemic Highlights Bipartisan Interventionist — Rather than Security — Goals

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Investigative historian and journalist on the national security state, Porter recently wrote: “On Thursday, the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, on which the virus was reportedly spreading, was relieved of command. He was blamed by his superiors for the leak of a letter he wrote warning the Navy that failure to act rapidly threatened the health of his 5,000 sailors.

“Secretary of Defense Mark Esper justified his decision to continue many military activities as usual by declaring these activities are ‘critical to national security.’ But does anyone truly believe there is a military threat on the horizon that the Pentagon must prepare for right now? It is widely understood outside the Pentagon that the only real threat to that security is the coronavirus itself.

“Esper’s decisions reflect a deeply ingrained Pentagon habit of protecting its parochial military interests at the expense of the health of American troops.” See his latest piece in the American Conservative: “How Generals Fueled 1918 Flu Pandemic To Win Their World War.”

Porter also recently wrote: “Pompeo and Netanyahu paved a path to war with Iran, and They’re Pushing Trump Again” which states: “Shockingly, Pompeo has exploited the coronavirus pandemic to impose even harsher sanctions on Iran while intimidating foreign businesses to prevent urgently needed medical supplies from entering the country. The approaching presidential election gives both Pompeo and Netanyahu a powerful reason to plot another strike, or a series of strikes aimed at drawing the U.S. into a potential Israeli confrontation with Iran.”

And in “As Washington Privatized Pandemic Preparation, the National Security State Left Americans Defenseless Against Coronavirus” for The Grayzone, Porter writes: “Donald Trump’s failure to act decisively to control the coronavirus pandemic has likely made the COVID-19 pandemic far more lethal than it should have been. But the reasons behind [the] failure to get protective and life-saving equipment like masks and ventilators into the hands of health workers and hospitals run deeper than Trump’s self-centered recklessness.

“Both the Obama and Trump administrations quietly delegated state and local authorities with the essential national security responsibility for obtaining and distributing these vital items. The failure of leadership was compounded [by] the lack of any federal power center that embraced the idea that guarding for a pandemic was at least as important to national security as preparing for war.”

Today’s Wisconsin In-Person Voting Condemned by Local Elections Inspector

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KWEKU RAMEL SMITH, ramel.blaquesmith at gmail.com
Smith is a licensed psychologist, president of his local chapter of Kappa Phi of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and a registered chief election inspector in Wisconsin. He is available for a limited number of interviews.

He said today: “Our state, specifically our Wisconsin Supreme Court, has forced in-person voting to take place [today], when there were other options. We are in the midst of the worst week [of the pandemic] according to the surgeon general and we decide to make people vote. … Even states like Ohio, who are similar to Wisconsin, had the common decency to protect the people above partisan politics. We failed to do so!”

On April 3, he sent a letter to Wisconsin Gov. Anthony Evers: “We implore you to postpone the Tuesday, April 7, 2020 election being that the pandemic shows no sign of subsiding. The resulting depressed voter turnout on April 7, 2020 will disenfranchise thousands of voters, who will be either unwilling or unable to vote without subjecting themselves and others to unsafe conditions for not just themselves and their families, but for all residents of our state. …

“To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, protect the public health, and provide essential protections to vulnerable Wisconsinites, it is crucial that all Wisconsinites take steps to limit in-person contact. …

“Although protective and sanitation gear will be provided by the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, over 180 polling locations have recently been reduced to eight due to the lack of election inspectors. As such, voters have less than a week to determine their new polling location and will now be forced to go to a polling location where there will be more people due to the consolidation of the voting sites.”

See video of Smith on Facebook about the election. He recently spoke at the Governor’s Conference on Emergency Management and Homeland Security about first responders and trauma.

The Hill reports: “Black people are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.”

See FAIR reports: “To Stop Bernie Sanders, WaPo Willing to Risk Americans’ Lives” and “Media Silent as Poll Workers Contract COVID-19 at Primaries That DNC, Biden Campaign Claimed Were Safe.”

New Study: 7.3 Million Likely to Lose Health Coverage by June 30

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STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., M.P.H steffie_woolhandler at hms.harvard.edu
DAVID U. HIMMELSTEIN, M.D. dhimmels at hunter.cuny.edu
Clare Fauke, Physicians for a National Health Program, clare at pnhp.org
    In a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers estimate that layoffs triggered by the COVID-19 epidemic have already caused more than 1.5 million American workers to lose health insurance, with 5.7 million more likely to become uninsured by June 30, for a total of 7.3 million newly uninsured.

    The study’s authors urge states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so immediately. However, because states are limited in their financial abilities to provide coverage, the authors recommend that the federal government authorize Medicare coverage for anyone eligible for unemployment benefits, and eventually implement universal Medicare for All.

    “Millions of Americans are newly vulnerable to financial catastrophe, as we face an epidemic of life-threatening illness,” said study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a primary care doctor, distinguished professor at Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “The COVID-19 epidemic highlights the folly of tying health coverage to jobs. Our health care system saddles people with medical bills when they’re least able to afford them because they’ve been laid off or are too sick to work. Health insurance in the U.S. is like an umbrella that melts in the rain.”

    “The federal government must step up in this crisis,” added study co-author Dr. David Himmelstein, an internist and distinguished professor at CUNY’s Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “The states can’t do it because tax revenues are plunging, and they’re required to balance their budgets. Congress and the President have provided free testing for coronavirus, but no new coverage for those who need treatment. In this emergency, Congress should make all of the uninsured automatically eligible for Medicare.”

As World Economy Grinds to a Halt, U.S. War Machine Churns On

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SARAH LAZARE, sarah.lazare at gmail.com, @sarahlazare
Reporter and web editor for In These Times magazine, Lazare just wrote the piece “As the World Economy Grinds to a Halt, the U.S. War Machine Churns On.”

She writes: “As the vast majority of people in the United States are being told to stay at home, weapons manufacturers are allowed to keep their doors open. On March 20, the Department of Defense declared the ‘Defense Industrial Base’ to be essential work during the COVID-19 crisis after, as the DOD put it, working closely with ‘the Hill and the Department of Homeland Security.’ …

“This support is going to an industry that is being deemed ‘essential’ during the COVID-19 crisis. But by the Pentagon’s own admission, the goal is to continue business as usual — i.e. maintain the U.S. military apparatus. That the weapons industry is being kept afloat at a time healthcare systems, and millions of ordinary Americans, are sinking, reveals a great deal about the militaristic bent of our government — and the political muscle of the companies that profit from it. As Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-American anti-war activist, writer and scholar, put it to In These Times, ‘Even at a time of vulnerability at home, we’re still thinking about ways to expand our military and to show our imperial militaristic dominance across the globe.’

“As the Washington Post explains, ‘The Senate package includes a $17 billion federal loan program for businesses deemed “critical to maintaining national security.” The provision does not mention Boeing by name but was crafted largely for the company’s benefit, two of the people said.’

“But perhaps the strongest praise came from Lockheed Martin … Lockheed Martin is the manufacturer of the bomb that was used by the U.S.-Saudi coalition to strike a school bus in northern Yemen on August 9, 2018, killing 40 children between the ages of six and 11, and wounding a total of 79 people. Just as the cash has continued flowing to this company, the U.S-Saudi coalition has continued launching air strikes on Yemen. On March 30, the U.S.-Saudi coalition launched several air strikes in Sanaa, with residents reporting loud explosions throughout the city. This was despite the U.N.’s call days earlier for a truce in light of the global pandemic, and despite warnings that five years of air strikes targeting infrastructure and hospitals have left Yemen highly vulnerable to a potential COVID-19 outbreak.”

Iraq’s Coronavirus Crisis Was Made Possible by Decades of War and Occupation

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DAVID BACON, dbacon at igc.org, @photos4justice
Bacon is a California-based writer and photojournalist. He just wrote a piece for The Nation: “Iraq’s Coronavirus Crisis Was Made Possible by Decades of War and Occupation.”

He writes: “On paper, the virus’s toll in Iraq today stands at 1,031 officially confirmed cases, with 64 deaths. … This past week Reuters reported that confirmed cases numbered instead between 3,000 and 9,000, quoting doctors and a health official — a report that led the Iraqi government to fine the agency and revoke its reporting license for three months. The higher figure would give Iraq a per capita infection rate higher than South Korea, one of the virus’ early concentrations. …

“Economic desperation contributes to the impact of the virus, but another factor makes it much more lethal. The spread of COVID-19 is taking place in a country with a devastated healthcare system. The U.S. owns a great part of the responsibility for this. Two invasions, a decade of sanctions and the occupation largely caused the ruin of Iraq’s medical and public health systems.

“According to an analysis by the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center, ‘Before the imposition of international sanctions in 1991, Baghdad operated some of the most professional and technologically advanced healthcare and public health institutions in the Arab world.’ The Ministry of Health operated 172 modern hospitals, 1200 primary care centers and 850 community clinics, providing free healthcare with an annual budget of $450 million. While the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s produced enormous casualties, the infrastructure itself was not attacked.

“Instead of rebuilding the healthcare system and basic infrastructure, the occupation introduced private ownership. Now Iraq has a two-track system in which basic services are provided by the Ministry of Health, although they’re no longer free. Sami Adnan, an activist in Workers Against Sectarianism, which helped organize the protests that began last October, charges, ‘Today we have to pay for every single visit and often, in order to get treatment, we are obliged to give a bribe to the few remaining doctors in the country.’ …

“Sami Adnan says, ‘the reasons why we took to the streets in recent months were precisely these: the social and health system is totally insufficient to meet people’s needs. Inside our tent village in Tahrir Square we are disinfecting everything: clothes, tents, mattresses, blankets, tools and utensils. We are distributing personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.’

“Iraqi journalist LuJain Elbaldawi agrees: ‘The situation in Iraq is heading toward a comprehensive health crisis that the government is unable to cope with; thus, has resorted to drawing from civil society institutions, religious organizations and charities.'”

Bacon also recently wrote the piece “America’s Farmworkers — Now ‘Essential,’ but Denied the Just-Enacted Benefits” for The American Prospect.

Updated: 13.5 Million Likely to Become Uninsured by June 30

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Earlier this week, a new study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine: “Intersecting U.S. Epidemics: COVID-19 and Lack of Health Insurance.”

Various media reported on the study, see Newsweek: “Over 7 Million Americans to Lose Health Insurance During Coronavirus Pandemic, 1.5 Million Have Already Lost Coverage, New Study Predicts.”

However, new unemployment data was released since the research was published which nearly doubles the numbers. Using the latest available unemployment figures, and including a new estimate of dependents who become uninsured when a breadwinner loses a job, the researchers now estimate that nearly 5 million have lost their insurance the last three weeks alone — and a total of 13.5 million people are projected to join the ranks of the uninsured by June 30.

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., M.P.H, steffie_woolhandler at hms.harvard.edu
DAVID U. HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., dhimmels at hunter.cuny.edu
Clare Fauke, Physicians for a National Health Program, clare at pnhp.org

The research was carried out by Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein. Both authors are internal medicine specialists who serve as distinguished professors at Hunter College and Lecturers at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Woolhandler commented: “Our health financing system is in tatters, as our nation faces the biggest health crisis in a century. Millions are losing coverage each week and hospitals are struggling to make payroll. States can’t fill the gaps because tax revenues are plummeting and they, unlike the federal government, are required to balance their budgets each year. In this emergency, Washington must step in to protect beleaguered families by expanding Medicare to cover all of the uninsured.”

The researchers found: “4,805,894 American workers and their dependents have lost health insurance coverage in the past three weeks … The researchers also estimate that a total of 13.475 million will join the ranks of the uninsured by June 30, raising the number of uninsured Americans to about 43 million.

“The new figures include coverage losses among newly-unemployed workers as well as their dependents covered under job-based family policies. The figures update previous estimates that the same researchers published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine on April 7, 2020. Those previous estimates only included workers themselves who were laid off during the last two weeks of March, and did not include dependents losing family coverage because of layoffs, or the most recent week of data.

“The new estimates analyzed U.S. Labor Department data on the number of new unemployment claims in each state, and differences in the likelihood of being uninsured among workers with jobs (and their dependents) and those who have lost jobs (and their dependents).

“Based on an analysis of Census Bureau surveys of health insurance coverage, the researchers estimated that 15.6 percent of laid-off workers become newly uninsured, and that for every 100 workers who lose coverage, about 83.7 dependents also lose insurance. They applied those estimates to the Labor Department’s figures (released on April 9) indicating that 16.780 million people filed new unemployment claims in the past three weeks. The June 30 coverage loss estimate was based on a Federal Reserve economist’s projection that 47.05 million workers will lose jobs by the end of June. The researchers noted that their figures do not include coverage losses among self-employed persons or other job losers who did not file unemployment claims, or their dependents.”

A “Critical-Care” Bailout for Main Street in the Face of COVID-19

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ELLEN BROWN, ellen at publicbankinginstitute.org, @ellenhbrown
WALT MCREE, walt at publicbankinginstitute.org, @PublicBanksNow
Brown is founder and chair and McRee is senior advisor to the Public Banking Institute, which recently released an open letter to Congress: “A ‘Critical-Care’ Bailout for Main Street in the Face of COVID-19 — How Public Banks Can Reboot the Real Economy.”

In the letter, the Public Banking Institute details four immediate actions that will prevent financial catastrophe in our communities and set them up for future fiscal health:

1. “Put real money into the real economy. At least $1,200 per month to all U.S. adults as long as needed.

2. Put money in people’s hands now. Get relief funds to people immediately by restarting Post Office Savings Accounts to direct deposit relief funds and/or by using Treasury Direct accounts to direct deposit newly-issued Treasury dollar bills.

3. Get money to the states. States can get 0 percent loans by forming their own public banks.

4. Cancel debts held by the federal government, starting with student debts.” [Note: “Bank of North Dakota Announces Student Loan Relief Options” — background: “The How One State Escaped Wall Street’s Rule and Created a Banking System That’s 83 Percent Locally Owned.”]

They write: “These relief measures can be funded by tapping into the same money tree Congress and the Fed just used to fund a $4 trillion-plus bailout for Wall Street and Corporate America, as detailed below. States and municipalities can tap into the Fed’s 0 percent rates by setting up their own publicly-owned banks by emergency powers. These banks can provide the low-cost credit communities urgently need during this pandemic, granting 1 percent loans as Germany’s public bank KfW does, vs. the complex SBA programs charging 3.75 percent.”

Brown says: “The same Congress that has insisted we cannot afford a universal basic income, Medicare for All, free state college tuition, and other critically needed programs has suddenly discovered that it has unlimited funds to ‘do whatever it takes’ to rescue corporations and the stock market. Meanwhile the individuals, local governments, and local businesses suffering the devastating consequences of the shutdown have essentially been left out of this bailout. But relief for all is possible, if the central bank is run as a true public utility. The same sort of Treasury-owned Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) set up in the CARES Act to bail out businesses and financial institutions can be used to bail out the people and states. The systems are already in place to issue relief funds immediately by direct deposit, and this can be done for as long as needed.”

Brown recently wrote two pieces “Was the Fed Just Nationalized?” and “Socialism at Its Finest After Fed’s Bazooka Fails” for her blog Web of Debt.

Trump Trying to Cut Pay for Farmworkers, Who “Should Get Hazard Pay Instead”

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DAVID BACON, dbacon at igc.org, @photos4justice
Bacon is a California-based writer and photojournalist and recently wrote the piece “America’s Farmworkers — Now ‘Essential,’ but Denied the Just-Enacted Benefits” for The American Prospect.

Bacon said today: “Empty shelves in supermarkets are proof that the work of farmworkers is essential, if we didn’t know it already. But instead of rewarding this work, and the courage of farmworkers as they continue laboring in the fields, the Trump administration wants to punish them by trying to cut their wages.

“Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are trying to breathe new life into an old proposal to lower, and even abandon, the guaranteed wage received by hundreds of thousands of guestworkers in the H-2A visa program.

“Last year over 250,000 H-2A guestworkers were recruited by U.S. growers. While halting asylum claims on the border, alleging that claimants might bring the virus with them, the administration is pushing growers to bring in even more guestworkers. Field labor in the U.S. already has the lowest possible wages. Now the administration wants to cut them even further, to make the labor of guestworkers even more attractive to growers. When the wages for guestworkers go down, the wages of all farmworkers plummet as well.

“Trump and his political allies already have excluded half of the farmworkers living in the U.S. — over a million people — from any benefits under the recent CARES Act. Their work is certainly essential, but they are working and living in conditions where the spread of the virus is an immediate danger.

“Farmworkers are being treated as cheap and disposable labor, rather than being honored for the work they do. They should get hazard pay instead, on top of a true living wage, and the basic healthcare and economic benefits afforded to other workers.”

“Social Distancing” — Or Physical Distancing and Social Solidarity?

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COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, [in NYC] cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is a professor of sociology at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology and the author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy and of the forthcoming The Capitalist Mode of Destruction (Manchester University Press).

He just wrote the piece “The Uses and Abuses of Social Distancing Under Capitalism,” which states: “Critical accounts of the current pandemic have explained how social distancing is often an unaffordable luxury for the most underprivileged groups in rich and low-income countries alike. One thing that has not received critical attention, however, is the term ‘social distancing’ itself. Its use as a synonym for physical distancing is an ideological misnomer. Social distancing suggests a loosening of social ties, when, in fact, the pleas that authorities and public health officials make on behalf of physical distancing appeal to such feelings of social solidarity as still exist in otherwise competitive and individualistic capitalist societies.

“Using the term social distancing to designate a public health strategy that seeks to combat a pandemic ironically vilifies the very sense of social solidarity necessary if people are to sacrifice, for the good of the broader community and the most vulnerable to the disease, the habits on which their economic survival and general sense of well-being depend. …

“The lethal connection between capitalism and pandemics is also revealed in the brazenly hypocritical use that the beneficiaries of the prevailing order make of the concept of social distancing. Corporate giants, like Amazon, in their bid to capitalize on the pandemic by making their workers labor in hazardous conditions, fire labor activists who initiate protests against this situation by claiming that these activists were not practicing social distancing! …

“Capitalism’s erosion of social solidarity is already rearing its ugly head. Reports multiply that corporate and Wall Street elites are increasingly pushing President Trump to ‘reopen the economy,’ even as public health experts warn of the lethal consequences of doing so prematurely.”

Peace Protesters Face Prison During Pandemic

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The group The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 notes: “On March 23, the Tribune & Georgian announced the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Camden County. That same day, the U.S. Navy announced that it had awarded a contract for up to $592.3 million to prepare the Kings Bay Naval Base [which is in Camden County] for new Trident nuclear submarines. The plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal is projected to cost as much as $2 trillion. Meanwhile, there are major failures to keep people healthy and safe during the COVID-19 crisis. Clearly, priorities ought to change.”

Two years ago, on April 4, 2018, seven activists — the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — entered the Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia, the “largest U.S. nuclear submarine base in the world which houses has one-quarter of the U.S. deployed nuclear weapons.” They sought to “symbolically disarm” the weapons. They spray painted “disarm” on a monument to Trident missiles, spilt their own blood on the base emblem and left an indictment of the activities at the nuclear weapons base.

At their trial in October, the judge prevented them from mounting a series of defenses, including presenting a justification or necessity defense with Daniel Ellsberg testifying on their behalf or invoking international law with professor of international law Francis Boyle.Fordam University theologian Jeannine Hill Fletcher called them “prophets,” but that was outside the court room. Inside, she was not allowed to testify on their behalf either.

This week, after a six-month wait, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has set two May dates for sentencing those who were found guilty on Oct. 24, 2019 for their nonviolent symbolic disarmament action at Kings Bay Naval Base. See news release from the group for details.

The group states: “There is a possibility that they may be sentenced by video conferencing with the judge, but as of today, we don’t know.”

Mark Colville, one of the KBP7, asks us to “all step back and consider the absurdity of sentencing people by video conference to federal prison. To tell us it’s too dangerous to be in a court and at the same time to order people to prison during this deadly virus pandemic is inhumane. People are dying in prisons right now. It shows that the prison industrial complex takes a higher priority in the eyes of this government that human life. All prisoners should be set free.”

The group stresses: “There are a number of petitions and campaigns circulating calling for the release of prisoners in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic causing widespread death in all prisons and jails. Here are two: Faithful America Petition, or the RAPP Campaign, Release Aging Persons in Prison.”

See previous news releases from the group. For more information or interviews with the activists:

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com, @kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com

“Israel Is Militarizing and Monetizing the COVID-19 Pandemic”

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RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052
Silverstein writes on security and other issues at Tikun Olam and for numerous other outlets. He just wrote the piece “Israel Is Militarizing and Monetizing the COVID-19 Pandemic” for Jacobin, which states: “Coronavirus is ravaging the globe right now. It’s a perfect time for the Israeli state to figure out how to expand its already vast surveillance powers.”

Silverstein writes: “As the number of Israeli victims and the first death from coronavirus was announced, Netanyahu saw an opportunity to revive his political relevance. Actually, Netanyahu acted even before the first death, which was on March 20.

“Only a few days earlier, on March 16, he asked the Knesset intelligence committee to approve the use of a hitherto secret national database compiled by the Shin Bet and comprising private personal data on every Israeli citizen, both Jewish and Palestinian. In the aftermath of 9/11, Israel’s Knesset secretly assigned its domestic intelligence agency the task of creating the database, which was ostensibly meant as a counterterrorism measure.

“The data included puts Edward Snowden’s alarms about the NSA’s mass surveillance to shame. It not only contains the names, addresses, and phone numbers of every citizen; it also records every phone call made, and the recipient of these calls, including name and phone number. It uses geo-location to track where every citizen has traveled within the country, and it maintains records of all online activity, including internet searches.

“The top-secret project was couched by Netanyahu as a powerful tool to monitor victims of the epidemic and all who had social contact with them. Few Israelis, aside from privacy advocates and related NGOs, raised any alarms about the obvious violations of individual privacy and rights entailed in both the database itself, whose codename was ‘the Tool,’ and its use to compel suspected coronavirus victims to self-quarantine. They remained silent — even though health ministry officials urging them to approve use of the database suggested that the epidemic would force the state to ‘suspend personal freedoms.'”

“How Ecuador Descended into COVID-19 Chaos”

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“In the last few days and weeks, media outlets around the world have been publishing shocking stories and images of the COVID-19 crisis in Ecuador,” Guillaume Long writes. “Scenes of corpses abandoned in the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city, have shaken audiences in Latin America and beyond. Statistics, even the highly untrustworthy official ones, have confirmed the dire picture of a fast accelerating crisis.”

The BBC reports: “The government said 6,700 people died in Guayas province [which includes Guayaquil] in the first two weeks of April, far more than the usual 1,000 deaths there in the same period. … According to the government’s figures, 14,561 people have died in Guayas province since the beginning of March from all causes. The province normally sees 2,000 deaths a month on average.”

GUILLAUME LONG, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Guillaume Long is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC. Prior to joining CEPR, Guillaume held several cabinet positions in the government of Ecuador, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Culture, and Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent. Most recently, he served as Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Long’s latest post is titled “How Ecuador Descended into COVID-19 Chaos.” He writes: “Ecuador now has the highest per capita COVID-19 death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the second-highest per capita number of COVID-19 cases. …

“From early on, Guayaquil and its surroundings seemed to be the most affected by the spread of the virus. Despite this, initial measures to slow infections were late coming and even slower to be implemented. On March 4, the government authorized the holding of a Libertadores Cup soccer game in Guayaquil, which many commentators have blamed as a major contributor to the massive outbreak of COVID-19 in the city. Over 17,000 fans attended. Another smaller national league game was held on March 8.

“By mid-March, and despite numbers of infected people quickly rising, many guayaquileños continued to go about their lives with minimal — if any — social distancing. Contagion also seems to have spread aggressively in certain well-to-do areas of the city, for example in the wealthy gated communities of La Puntilla in the suburban municipality of Samborondón, where, even after authorities had issued stay-at-home ordinances, inhabitants continued to mingle. A high-profile wedding was attended by some of the city’s ‘finest,’ and authorities later intervened to cancel at least two more weddings and a game of golf. On the weekend of March 14 and 15, guayaquileños congregated on the nearby beaches of Playas and Salinas.

“By the end of the first week of March, the situation had deteriorated sharply. On March 12, the government finally announced that it was closing schools, establishing checks on international visitors, and limiting gatherings to 250 people. On March 13, Ecuador’s first COVID-19 death was reported. The same day, the government announced it was imposing quarantines on incoming visitors from several countries. Four days later, the government limited gatherings to 30 people and suspended all incoming international flights. …

“Yet, the Moreno government’s response has been denial. Government ministers and diplomatic representatives abroad were told to give interviews denouncing it all as ‘fake news.’ …

“There are other, more structural and long-term problems related to the COVID-19 crisis. Convinced of the need and under pressure by the IMF to reduce the size of the state, the Moreno government has made damaging cuts to public health. Public investment in health care fell from $306 million in 2017 to $130 million in 2019. Researchers from the Dutch International Institute of Social Studies have confirmed that in 2019 alone, there were 3,680 layoffs from Ecuador’s Health Ministry, amounting to 4.5 percent of total employment in the ministry.”

Trump Uses Pandemic as “Pretext to Reward Corporate Predators, Polluters”

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The Washington Post is reporting: “White House readies push to slash regulations as major part of its coronavirus economic recovery plan.”

ROBERT WEISSMAN, via Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz at citizen.org, Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org
Public Citizen just issued a statement: “Trump Uses the Coronavirus as a Pretext to Reward Corporate Predators, Polluters,” quoting Weissman: “The shameless exploitation of the coronavirus crisis to advance a precooked agenda to let corporations pollute our air and water, rip off consumers, endanger workers and trample on civil rights will leave the nation economically weaker and will worsen public health.

“How does it help the economy if banks can prey on consumers?

“How does it help us emerge from the public health crisis if corporations can pump more toxins into the air, worsening lung health? …

“The deregulatory measures the administration has already taken during the pandemic — rolling back a smog rule, gutting the clean cars fuel economy rule (the most important U.S. climate change program), effectively waiving enforcement of environmental rules — have done far too much damage already. The last thing we need is more.”The Trump deregulatory scheme will do nothing to get money back into the pockets of consumers, workers and small business owners, or to put people back to work.

“It is an evidence-free, ideological and corporate-driven illusion that public health regulations will hold up the economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Beyond the lethality of the coronavirus itself, the real and most serious impediment to restarting the economy as quickly and sustainably as possible is the failure to provide adequate testing and tracing measures. Focusing on that problem is where the administration should be devoting its energies.

“Public Citizen will closely monitor the administration’s deregulatory moves. If it fails to follow appropriate process or exceeds presidential authority, we anticipate suing immediately to block its destructive efforts.”

Administration Throws Up Yet “Another Barrier for Social Security Beneficiaries to Get Their Full CARES Act Payments”

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NANCY ALTMAN, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks

Altman is president of Social Security Works. The group just put out a statement: “Trump Admin Throws Up Yet Another Barrier for Social Security Beneficiaries to Get Their Full CARES Act Payments.” Altman states: “The just passed CARES Act is supposed to provide emergency payments as quickly as possible to the American people suffering from the pandemic and the resulting economic collapse. To ensure that they can get the payments automatically and quickly, Congress authorized the Social Security Administration to share data with Secretary Mnuchin’s Treasury Department, the agency in charge of the payments.

“At first, the Trump administration informed the lowest-income Social Security beneficiaries, those who have too little income to file income tax returns, that, instead of getting their payments automatically, they would have to provide the government with information the government already has. After enormous pushback from Congress and Social Security advocates, the Trump administration reversed course.

“Outrageously, the Trump administration has now created a new roadblock. It just announced that Social Security beneficiaries who did not file tax returns have only one day to prevent having a portion of those payments — the $500 payments for dependent children — delayed until 2021!

“Adding insult to injury, the Trump administration is requiring that, to avoid that delay, they have to go online – notwithstanding that many of them do not have computers or internet service and are supposed to be sheltering in place — to provide the government with information that it already has.

“While the extremely short deadline is a disgrace, just pushing it back isn’t good enough. Since the Trump administration already has the information it is seeking, it should pay these benefits automatically without putting additional burdens on Social Security beneficiaries.

“It is impossible to tell from the outside if this latest outrage is the result of incompetence, mean-spiritedness or both.”

COVID-19 and the Myth of “Choice” in U.S. Healthcare

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RANI MARX, PhD, MPH, r_marx at pacbell.net
JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu,
Marx is an epidemiologist and health services researcher who currently directs the Initiative for Slow Medicine.

Kahn is emeritus professor of health policy, University of California, San Francisco.

They just wrote the piece “COVID-19 and the Myth of ‘Choice’ in American Healthcare,”

They write: “The empty White House promises of paying for COVID-19 services gloss over the messy and painful reality. While $100 billion designated for doctors and hospitals to provide care for patients with COVID-19 includes treating the uninsured, it is unclear how to disentangle who and what is covered and which conditions can be attributed to the virus. It’s crazy: you may get help for medical costs, but only if you can prove that COVID-19 caused your illness. No other wealthy country does this; they have universal standard medical coverage.

“To make matters worse, many of the 6.6 million newly jobless who filed unemployment claims near the end of March will now join the ranks of the uninsured and under-insured whose COVID-19 treatment will not be covered. All of these problems are exacerbated in states that opted out of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. To add insult to injury, an outsized chunk of the $100 billion will go to hospital administration instead of critically needed care and resources. Insurers stand to realize a big profit from the pandemic due to indefinite cancellation of non-urgent procedures, a high prevalence of deaths among patients with costly co-morbidities, and a projected increase in premiums next year.

“How did we get here? As Wendell Potter (a former public relations executive in the health insurance industry) explained in a New York Times op-ed in January, American choice in healthcare is a ‘P.R. concoction’ that obscures the lack of real choice — of doctors and hospitals. This choice is an unpleasant, ill-informed selection among highly restrictive plans. Not to mention having few options, and loss of coverage due to changes made by employers or job loss. Industry lobbying and advertising have so successfully promulgated the myth that Americans have choice, it was advanced even by many Democratic presidential candidates.”

New Funding States Can Tap Now To Save Main Street

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While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says states should consider declaring bankruptcy, independent analysts are advocating that states set up their own banks to readily tap into newly created financial options to deal with the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

ELLEN BROWN, ellen at publicbankinginstitute.org, @ellenhbrown
ROBERT HOCKETT, rch37 at cornell.edu, @rch371
Brown is the chair and Hockett is an advisory board member of the Public Banking Institute, which Wednesday sent an open letter to state governors and treasurers: “How State Officials Can Save Main Street in the Face of COVID-19: Three Urgent Actions“.

The letter outlines three important new funding possibilities for states:

#1: “States can borrow from the Fed at 0.25 percent through state-owned public banks established by emergency executive order. According to banking experts, a public bank could be set up in a matter of a month if fast tracked by executive order, using a portion of the funds allocated to states under the CARES Act for capitalization. The bank could then borrow from the Fed at 0.25 percent to provide 10 times its capital in low-cost credit to communities. It could also work with community banks to fund loans for small and medium-sized businesses that are too small to qualify for the Fed’s new Main Street Lending Program.

#2: Use the Federal Reserve’s new Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) to sell bonds directly to the Fed. With this new MLF, states and cities can sell short-term notes of 24 months or less directly to the Fed without going through the private bond market, saving related fees. Hockett has proposed a game plan for how states can put this facility to immediate use.

#3: Get low interest loans under Federal Reserve Act 14(2)(b). This section of the Act already allows the Fed to buy six-month debt instruments from states and municipalities. Governors need to collaborate to urge the Fed to activate this section, lend to state and municipal governments on the same favorable terms banks are getting, and roll over the loans, as the Fed is now doing for financial institutions in the repo market.”

The group added: “As states and cities face a tsunami of emergency expenses, imploding tax revenues, and a shrinking bond market, the actions listed above can provide a real financial lifeline to struggling communities desperate for funds. Taking these steps and using emergency powers to establish publicly-owned state banks will not only help stave off crushing economic disaster for their constituents but will create an honest and efficient financial infrastructure that can keep communities productive and healthy long into the future.”

Brown said today: “The Federal Reserve has stepped up to the plate by relaxing some of its rules and dropping interest rates to zero, but only for banks. States could take advantage of this opportunity by having their own banks, something that could be done quickly by executive order. Newly created state banks could follow the example of Germany’s public bank KfW and grant one percent loans directly to Main Street businesses. Building a public bank network accountable to the public is a crucial part of the solution communities need.”

[Note: “Bank of North Dakota Announces Student Loan Relief Options” — background, from the Institute for Local Self Reliance: “The How One State Escaped Wall Street’s Rule and Created a Banking System That’s 83 Percent Locally Owned.”]

COVID-19, Capitalism, and Socialism

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VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com

Wallis is author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (2018), Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics (2019) and the recently released Socialist Practice.

He just wrote the piece “COVID-19, Capitalism, and Socialism,” which states: “The COVID-19 emergency underscores longstanding truths about capitalism and socialism. Acting on the most immediate demands that it raises draws us directly into a confrontation with core issues. …

“The clash between capitalist principles and human need is especially striking in the sphere of healthcare because we find here an extraordinarily glaring discrepancy between the potential cost of a recommended medical procedure and the capacity of a person of average or low income to pay for it. The notion of measuring need through the market fails here so completely that even in otherwise capitalist countries, it has been widely recognized that the provision of healthcare must be informed by socialist principles. Still, the actual implementation of such an approach depends on pressure from the organized working class (which, as a political force, has been notoriously weak in the United States). …

“A socialist approach to healthcare thus goes beyond responding just to market demand or to private interests and instead builds an infrastructure that can respond to emergency needs. This was strikingly shown just now in China, where urgently needed temporary hospitals were built (in Wuhan) in just two weeks. Moreover, a fully socialist approach, with its corresponding culture of cooperation, makes it possible, as Cuba has repeatedly shown, to extend health services on a large scale to people in other countries.

“The capitalist framework, by contrast, not only suffers from the above-noted drawbacks; in addition, in its current ‘neoliberal’ form, it has increasingly prioritized cost-cutting. In the same way that manufacturing industry, using new technologies, turns more and more to ‘just in time’ production (not building up inventories, thereby risking sudden shortages), so also the healthcare industry, in its drive for ‘efficiency,’ closes down hospitals and reduces its total numbers of beds, which then come up short in the event of an emergency. Ironically, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has emerged as a prominent critic of the federal government’s failures, was himself responsible for reducing from 50,000 to 30,000 the number of hospital beds in his own state.”

“Pandemic Profiteering” and Escalating Economic Inequality

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CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org
Collins is co-author of the just-released study “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers,” which found: “Between January 1, 2020 and April 10, 2020, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest 170 billionaires saw their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars. Eight have seen their net worth surge by over $1 billion.”

He is with the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits Inequality.org. In a just-published piece on CNN Business: “Billionaires are getting even richer from the pandemic. Enough is enough,” Collings writes: “Extreme wealth inequality is America’s ‘preexisting condition.’ And unless we act intentionally — with ambitious public policies aimed at reversing inequality — the pandemic recovery will supercharge our existing inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity. …”There are huge disparities in who suffers from the resulting economic fallout [of the pandemic].”Columbia University researchers project that poverty rates in the United States could soon reach their highest levels in half a century. Yet as my colleagues and I track in a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies, the wealth of America’s billionaires actually increased by nearly 10 percent over just three weeks as the COVID-19 crisis took hold. …

“Already, the combined wealth of U.S. billionaires is higher than a year ago, according to our study. At least eight of these billionaires have added another $1 billion to their wealth during the pandemic.

“Among these ‘pandemic profiteers’ are Zoom CEO Eric Yuan and Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, which owns Skype and Teams. Both Yuan and Ballmer are profiting off the boom in videoconferencing.

“But no one has benefited as handsomely as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who has seen his wealth skyrocket by $25 billion since January 1 as homebound customers lean heavily on online shopping, grocery delivery and streaming. This wealth surge for one individual — greater than the entire GDP of Honduras — is unprecedented in the history of modern markets.”

Collins writes that congressional action so far has meant “ordinary households got a one-time $1,200 check. People earning over $1 million, however, could receive an average tax windfall of $1.6 million, according to analysis released by two congressmen.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.

“Instead, Congress should design stimulus bills to put more money in the pockets of ordinary people. An initial six-month universal basic income of $1,500 a month per adult, for households with incomes under $70,000, would reduce economic stress and destitution and boost struggling local communities.”

Origins of Pandemic * Dangers of Labs * Bioweapons Arms Race

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JONATHAN LATHAM, jrlatham at bioscienceresource.org, @BioSRP
Executive director of the Bioscience Resource Project, Latham said today: “Everyone wants to know how a bat coronavirus got into humans. That is to say, how did this virus make the leap from not infecting humans at all to being a virulent pathogen. There almost has to have been some kind of intermediate host and many observers have seen the exotic animal trade as the probable intermediary. As time has gone on, however, evidence to support Wuhan’s Huanan ‘wet’ market as the location for this has weakened since the very earliest known patient had no specific connection to it. Equally, a plausible animal intermediary species has not emerged either. With very little, and sometimes no evidence at all, snakes, civets, and pangolins have been suggested. At the very same time, it has emerged that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), just eight miles from the epicenter, has a large collection of bat coronaviruses and was actively working on them. Moreover, like quite a few virologists, I have strong concerns about coronavirus recombinant DNA research in general, about gain-of-function and passaging research in particular, and about the competence and safety record of BSL-4 labs around the world. Given as well the proximity between the lab, I agree with Professor [Nikolai] Petrovsky who was quoted by the Australian Science Media Centre: ‘this either is a remarkable coincidence or a sign of human intervention’ i.e. that it was research at the WIV that bridged the gap.”

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini
Husseini is an independent journalist. He asked the CDC’s Principle Deputy Director Anne Schuchat if it was a “complete coincidence” that the outbreak happened in Wuhan given the presence of labs there. The questioning was at a news conference at the now-shuttered National Press Club on Feb. 11. (See writeup, video and audio here.)

In a new in-depth piece published by Salon “Did This Virus Come From a Lab? Maybe Not — but It Exposes the Threat of a Biowarfare Arms Race,” he writes: “While much of the media and political establishment have minimized the threat from such lab work, some hawks on the American right like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., have singled out Chinese biodefense researchers as uniquely dangerous.

“But there is every indication that U.S. lab work is every bit as threatening as that in Chinese labs. American labs also operate in secret, and are also known to be accident-prone. …

“‘Biodefense’ implies tacit biowarfare, breeding more dangerous pathogens for the alleged purpose of finding a way to fight them. While this work appears to have succeeded in creating deadly and infectious agents, including deadlier flu strains, such ‘defense’ research is impotent in its ability to defend us from this pandemic. …

“Following the Ebola outbreak in west Africa in 2014, the U.S. government paused funding for what are known as ‘gain-of-function’ research on certain organisms. This work actually seeks to make deadly pathogens deadlier, in some cases making pathogens airborne that previously were not. With little notice outside the field, the pause on such research was lifted in late 2017. …

“During this pause, exceptions for funding were made for dangerous gain-of-function lab work. This included work jointly done by U.S. scientists from the University of North Carolina and Harvard and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This work — which had funding from USAID and EcoHealth Alliance not originally acknowledged — was published in 2015 in Nature Medicine. …

“At least one Chinese government official has responded to the allegation that the labs in Wuhan could be the source for the pandemic by alleging that perhaps the U.S. is responsible instead. … Obviously the Chinese government’s allegations should not be taken at face value, but neither should U.S. government claims — especially considering that U.S. government labs were the apparent source for the anthrax attacks in 2001. Those attacks sent panic through the U.S. and shut down Congress, allowing the Bush administration to enact the PATRIOT Act and ramp up the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, in October 2001, media darlings like Richard Butler and Andrew Sullivan propagandized for war with Iraq because of the anthrax attacks.

“The 2001 anthrax attacks also provided much of the pretext for the surge in biolab spending since then, even though they apparently originated in a U.S. or U.S.-allied lab. Indeed, those attacks remain shrouded in mystery.” Husseini is also senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Cuomo Cancelling Elections: “One Man Rule in NY” Challenged by Grassroots Activists

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The Intercept reports in “How New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is Using the Pandemic to Consolidate Power” that: “New York election officials’ decision on Monday to cancel the June Democratic presidential primary was just the latest in a series of moves by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to consolidate power and shut out progressives in the state.”

The group New York Progressive Action Network held an emergency meeting Monday night and Wednesday issued the following statement, saying their activists “plan to reverse the unprecedented decision by two unelected Democratic Board of Election officials, appointed by Cuomo and convicted former Speaker [Sheldon] Silver, to knock off the ballot Senator Sanders and his 184 pledged delegates, who together filed over 65,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot.

“Attendees agreed to file a complaint with the Democratic National Committee, since NY’s action violated its rules which require pledged district delegates to be chosen at an election open to all registered Democrats. In fact, NY violated its own plan which was approved by the DNC. The remedy is that all of NY’s unelected delegates chosen in violation of these rules not be credentialed at the Convention.

“Activists also approved the filing of a federal lawsuit against the outrageous denial of basic right to vote. Also illegal was the fact that the BOE relied on a new law which Cuomo attached to his budget, passed in early April, which for the first time allowed the BOE to involuntarily remove from the ballot candidates who had ‘suspended’ their campaigns, even if they objected and had never formerly ended their campaign. This placed a retroactive requirement onto candidates, who had satisfied all ballot access requirements prior to the new law, that didn’t exist at the time they petitioned.”

George Albro, NYPAN downstate co-chair, stated: “Canceling elections is something that is supposed to only happen in dictatorships, ruled by one strongman, and not in the USA. This violation of a sacred right has angered not only Bernie supporters, or even only Democrats, but all Americans who cherish their democracy, no matter what their politics are. We Democrats rightly are appalled at Republican attempts to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters — people of color, youth, students — by imposing unreasonable voter I.D. laws, etc — but NY Democrats have topped them all: canceled the entire election and disenfranchised the whole Democratic electorate.”

Kathryn Levy, NYPAN Long Island leader added: “Unfortunately, the Governor has decided to try to shut out of the political process all forces that he doesn’t control: progressives, (by canceling the primary), minor parties (by placing new, onerous burdens on their maintaining ballot lines), and even the Legislature (which has effectively been shut out of the budget process). We now have one-man rule in NY State, and it is un-American and disgraceful.”

The group added: “While the BOE claimed to be chiefly motivated by health concerns for voters and poll workers, this was on its face disingenuous since there will still be in-person voting allowed on the same day in the overwhelming majority of districts and because EVERY registered Democrat will have the opportunity to vote by mail. Unfortunately, the media has not widely reported on these facts and most political leaders have sheepishly remained silent. So NYPAN will also start a campaign to educate the voters, and even the media, about the real motivation to their action, which is to suppress the Bernie vote, while at the same time shore up incumbents.

“Finally, the Governor’s false claim that he had nothing to do with this, and that the BOE acted on its own, must also be exposed, since the BOE expressly relied of the new law which Cuomo alone put in HIS budget without legislative involvement other than a vote on the entire budget.”

Contact:

George Albro, Co-Chair gwalbro at aol.com
Traci Strickland, Co-Chair traci.strickland at gmail.com
Jay Bellanca, Co-Chair jvbellanca at gmail.com

See piece from the media watch group FAIR: “Media Need to Scrutinize Andrew Cuomo’s Record, Not Crush on His Words.”

On May Day: Where is the Power of Labor?

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk

Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report which features a map showing strikes around the U.S.

He also just wrote the piece “The Power to Slow Down Reopening” for The American Prospect. He writes: “Some employers will doubtless take advantage of 20 percent unemployment rates to make it clear to workers that they can easily be replaced if they try to unionize, or even if they organize just to block a dangerously premature back-to-work order from their boss. With an inadequate social safety net, many workers may feel compelled to go back to work, even if it risks contracting COVID-19, in order to keep a roof over their heads. …

“By pausing and creating a more equitable framework for recovery, many workplace advocates believe that workers could find their voices and assert their power — a development that could build on a massive strike wave already hitting the country.”

JAISAL NOOR, jaisal at therealnews.com
CHRIS SMALLS, chrismalls21 at gmail.com
Noor is a reporter with The Real News and has extensively covered labor issues. He just put out the report: “Fired Amazon Worker Chris Smalls: Support May Day Strikers.

“Said Noor: “Dozens have actions have taken place across the country to demand basic safety protections and hazard pay during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s possible we see more walkouts and protests on Mayday or International Workers Day, which is observed in most countries except the United States. Despite its rich militant often bloody history of working class struggle that’s secured major victories like the eight hour workday.  Mayday 2020 could see the reawakening of this more radical tradition in the US as workers with Amazon, Target, Whole Foods and other retailers are holding mass sick outs and other protests to demand fair pay and workplace protections during the coronavirus pandemic.”

In The Real News report, Noor said Small “was fired from Amazon in March after working there for five years. Amazon said Smalls was fired for not social distancing, but his firing is widely seen as retaliation for organizing a walkout at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse where he’s worked.”

Said Small: “We are doing a service for the consumers, but if we’re not healthy, we’re doing a disservice. Meaning we’re bringing this virus back to the communities. So we need to stay together in this aspect. And for the consumers, don’t purchase anything from these types of companies until they protect us. By doing that, you’re standing with us, you’re standing with your loved ones.”

#CancelRent

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SUSANNA BLANKLEY, susanna at righttocounselnyc.org, @RTCNYC
Blankley is coalition coordinator for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, one of several groups backing a #CancelRent policy.

On Friday, the groups, with rent strikers and housing advocates, will target Gov. Andrew Cuomo with multiple actions, including “a caravan surrounding the executive mansion in Albany, a protest at his New York City office, banner drops at apartment buildings, a raucous rally online, and a cacerolazo.”

Simultaneous rallies are scheduled at 10:30 a.m., Executive Mansion, State Capitol, Albany, NY, and Cuomo’s New York City office, 633 3rd Avenue, near East 41st Street, Manhattan. There will also be a 1 p.m. Zoom press conference and rally — to attend, please go to: https://zoom.us/j/99190878708.

The group, which is working with the Housing Justice for All campaign, says: “Across the state, May Day will be a major day of escalation for New Yorkers who can’t pay rent, and have joined a growing movement to pressure Cuomo to #CancelRent and demand federal action that will address the financial crisis facing tenants who have lost income and jobs during the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

See the groups’ demands.

Spanish-language media can dial-in at 1 p.m. at (929) 205-6099; Meeting ID: 83968702242#

A cacerolazo will begin around 2 p.m. after the press conference and rally online. It will be viewable online via Zoom.

Postal Bankruptcy Would Hit Rural America Hardest

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SARAH ANDERSON, sarah at ips-dc.org, @ips_dc
SCOTT KLINGER, scottklinger at earthlink.net
Anderson directs the Global Economy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, and is a co-editor of Inequality.org. Klinger is senior equitable development specialist at Jobs with Justice and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

They just co-wrote the piece “Postal Bankruptcy Would Hit Rural America Hardest” and wrote a report on the subject. They write: “A USPS shutdown would be devastating for the entire country, but especially for the rural communities that rely most on a public service with a universal mandate to serve every address, no matter how remote.”

They find that “the 15 most rural U.S. states would face heavy blows to jobs, revenue, mail and package deliveries, and voting rights.”

In these states with the “largest share of their population in rural areas, more than 75,000 people work directly for the Postal Service — more than are employed in many other major job categories. The total mailing industry employs nearly 700,000 people and generates more than $150 billion in revenue per year in these heavily rural states. Twelve of these states have larger than average shares of 65 and older residents, a group that tends to rely heavily on USPS for medicine, bill paying, and other services.

“USPS provides service at uniform and reasonable rates, delivering to 157 million addresses at least six days a week, no matter where they live. The Postal Service uses revenue from more profitable services to cover much more expensive rural services. …

“Across the country, an estimated 20 percent of all Americans over 40 who are prescribed medication for a chronic condition get their prescriptions exclusively through the Postal Service. An even greater share of the rural population relies on mail order prescriptions since so many pharmacies in rural communities have shut down. Veterans, nearly one-quarter of whom live in rural communities, receive 80 percent of their prescriptions through the mail. …

“Even in ‘normal times’ (without a pandemic), many rural residents either must vote by mail or find it much more convenient to do so. In Minnesota, for example, 130,000 people in towns and townships with less than 400 voters automatically get mail ballots because they do not have physical polling sites. Rural voters are older on average than other voters and often have long drives to their nearest polling places. Vote by mail helps them exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote.

“Although bipartisan lawmakers agreed to an emergency direct aid plan in March, President Trump intervened to strip it from the $2.3 trillion stimulus bill and has vowed to block any future proposals for USPS grant aid of the type offered to the airlines, small businesses, hospitals, and Amtrak. Instead, the CARES Act included only the possibility of a $10 billion loan, subject to draconian conditions that the PMG [postmaster general] and postal board have thus far rejected.”

Earlier this year, Anderson and Klinger co-wrote report the “How Congress Manufactured a Postal Crisis — And How to Fix it.”

During Pandemic, U.S. Trying to Overthrow Venezuela Government

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CNN is reporting Tuesday morning: “Venezuela claims to have captured two Americans involved in failed invasion.”

DAN KOVALIK, dkovalik at outlook.com, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is a human rights lawyer and author of the recently-released book The Plot To Overthrow Venezuela and the just-released No More War.

He said today: “On Sunday, May 3, the Venezuelan government foiled what appears to have been a joint U.S./Colombia attempt to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.” See AP report.

According to Kovalik, who teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, “this type of coup operation, reminiscent of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba decades ago, is not only a clear violation of international law, but is simply unconscionable during a worldwide pandemic.”

Kovalik states that “Venezuela, despite heavy U.S. sanctions which are undermining its economy and healthcare system, is struggling mightily, and with considerable success, to fight the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. is hampering this effort by backing Colombian paramilitary forces to invade and attempt to destabilize Venezuela.”

Kovalik added, “The UN and Pope Francis have quite reasonably called for the lifting of sanctions and the end of hostilities during this time to allow countries to fight this pandemic.  Instead of heeding such calls, the U.S. is doing the opposite — increasing sanctions against and hostilities with countries like Venezuela. This is simply unacceptable.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

May 5, 2020
Institute for Public Accuracy
980 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
(202) 347-0020 * accuracy.org * ipa@accuracy.org
@accuracy * ipaccuracy

Ravitch Denounces Cuomo Tapping Billionaires to “Reimagine” Education

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DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr at gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch just wrote the piece “Beware! Cuomo Adds Another Billionaire to ‘Reimagine’ Post-Pandemic Public Education.”

She said today: “Governor Cuomo has invited Bill Gates to help him ‘reinvent’ education in New York, along with experts identified by Gates. The assumption is that ‘the new normal’ will depend on technology. This is a huge mistake. Parents, students, and teachers are well aware of the boredom of distance learning. They are eager for real schools to reopen with real teachers.

“The Gates Foundation has sponsored a series of disastrous interventions into education, such as the Common Core standards and test-based evaluation of teachers. Furthermore, Governor Cuomo is bypassing the state Board of Regents, which is legally responsible for education policy in the state of New York.”

Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. Her previous books include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

The Post Office Was Designed to be a Pillar of the Republic, Not a Business

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RICHARD JOHN, rrj2115 at columbia.edu
John is author of Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Harvard University Press) and recently wrote the piece “The Founders never intended the U.S. Postal Service to be managed like a business” for the Washington Post.

John writes that since the start of the pandemic, “Congress has seemingly tried to bail out everyone: Millions of individuals, airlines, restaurants, retail businesses and even golf courses are among the beneficiaries of the government’s largesse. But so far, one struggling institution has come up empty: the U.S. Postal Service. …

“The Founders intended the Postal Service to be a pillar of the republic, binding together millions of Americans, urban and rural, for the common good. It therefore always had congressional oversight limiting what management can do to make a profit. Rather than being mismanaged, the Postal Service is — and has long been — one of America’s great successes. Instead of privatizing it, we should take inspiration from the Founders and re-envision its mission for the 21st century. …

“Most critically, the [Postal Service Act of 1792] subsidized the circulation of newspapers throughout the country on a nonpreferential basis and at extremely low cost. Not only pro-government ideas but also anti-government ideas could circulate throughout the length and breadth of the republic. Before 1792, newspapers had been officially excluded from the mail; after 1792, they circulated in numbers unmatched by any other country in the world. …

“Rather than pushing for privatization — a move that might well oblige online behemoths such as Amazon or Walmart to consider buying up postal assets at bargain basement prices — public officials mindful of the wisdom of the Founders might well consider expanding the ambit of the Postal Service to include high-tech ‘last mile’ capabilities. [This could include] the reestablishment of a low-cost consumer banking system, a popular service the Postal Service maintained for much of the 20th century, or even the rollout of low-cost municipal broadband. Rural electrification transformed vast swaths of the hinterland; might not rural Postal Services be configured as hubs for the digital economy of tomorrow? The Postal Service also will play a crucial role in ensuring trustworthy mail balloting, a major issue in the age of COVID-19.”

Contrary to Claims “Cuomo’s Order Actually Ends the Eviction Moratorium”

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SUSANNA BLANKLEY, susanna at righttocounselnyc.org, @RTCNYC
While CBS and other outlets have run stories like “Cuomo: No one in New York can be evicted for not paying rent until August 20,” housing rights groups are saying that’s not accurate.

Blankley is coalition coordinator for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, which just put out a statement: “On Friday, May 7, New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order, which he claimed extended the existing eviction moratorium. However, Cuomo’s executive order actually ended rather than extended our current eviction moratorium, putting thousands at risk of displacement. While Governor Cuomo’s public remarks gave the impression that he extended the moratorium until August 20, his order offers tenants very limited protections. It allows landlords to bring cases against renters who cannot pay rent, while offering limited protections to a limited number of households.

“The eviction moratorium that’s currently in place protects all tenants, commercial and residential, from eviction across New York State. Until June 20, no tenant can be evicted for any reason, period. But on Friday, May 7th Governor Cuomo issued a new executive order that ends the eviction moratorium on June 20th, and forces thousands of tenants facing lawsuits to risk their health to fight for their homes.

“By opening the door to all these new eviction cases and evictions, the new Executive Order will quickly take us back to overcrowded housing courts and families facing homelessness — both of which are guaranteed to endanger individual and public health.”

Two Rounds of Stimulus Were Supposed to Protect Jobs — Instead We Have Record Unemployment

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston and the author of many books and articles. His podcast interview with “The Analysis” on COVID-19 and the workforce is available here.

He said today: “We all know that the U.S. response to COVID-19 has lagged far behind other countries. But now a real trap is closing. The public premise of the government stimulus programs was that they would be needed only for a short period and channeling aid to businesses would enable them to retain workers on their payrolls. So vast sums were handed out while the Federal Reserve intervened massively in financial markets. But now unemployment is soaring, in a country whose health insurance system is keyed to the workplace. Small businesses are collapsing and plainly never got much aid. Workers are also dropping out of the workforce in enormous numbers while a major health and safety crisis rages. Government policy has got to address these issues before it’s too late. It can’t simply grant blanket immunity to businesses for the sake of a hasty, premature reopening. A major re-calibration of policy is in order.”

Schiff and McConnell Fail to Increase Barr’s Surveillance Powers

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SEAN VITKA, sean at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Vitka is senior policy counsel at Demand Progress, which just released a statement: “Senate adopts key privacy protection measure for the USA PATRIOT Act.”

The group states: “The Senate just adopted the Lee-Leahy amendment to the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172). The amendment creates critical safeguards that help address well-documented problems with FISA surveillance, for instance by ensuring independent review of applications targeting religious groups and the media.

“The deeply flawed underlying legislation would revive Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, as well as the ‘lone wolf’ and ‘roving wiretap’ authorities, which expired on March 15, 2020, until December 1, 2023.

“Senators Daines, Leahy, Lee, Paul, Udall, Wyden, and others were able to guarantee two other votes on amendments. All amendments require 60 votes to be adopted. Earlier today, Senators Daines and Wyden’s amendment failed — 59 to 37 — after ten Democrats sided with Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and voted against protecting internet browsing and search histories with a warrant. Votes on Senator Paul’s amendment and final passage are expected in the near future.”

Vitka said: “No committee of jurisdiction marked up or passed the underlying legislation. Instead, through a backroom deal between Adam Schiff and Jim Jordan, leadership rammed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act through the House without any chance to fix the glaring problems in the underlying bill. Majority Leader McConnell tried to do the same thing, but thanks to the courage of reformers in both chambers of Congress, as well as an outpouring of support from constituents, we were able to stop him.

“With today’s vote on the Daines-Wyden amendment, most Senators, and the vast majority of Democrats, voted to protect Americans’ internet activity with a warrant. It is unconscionable that ten Democrats instead voted against that amendment, siding with Bill Barr and Mitch McConnell.

“Nevertheless, adoption of the Lee-Leahy amendment is a major victory for Americans’ civil liberties. The Lee-Leahy amendment ensures an independent voice has access to and can raise issues with FISA surveillance targeting religious groups, political groups, and the media. The underlying bill remains broken, but adoption of the Lee-Leahy amendment represents a privacy victory well beyond what many believed to be possible.”

Will Pelosi Let Barr Spy on You Without a Warrant?

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SEAN VITKA, sean at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Vitka is senior policy counsel at Demand Progress. He said: “After strong bipartisan support for the Daines-Wyden amendment in the Senate, the House of Representatives must stop Attorney General Bill Barr from spying on Americans’ online activity without a warrant.

“Thursday, the Senate passed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172), which would reauthorize three expired Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, including Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Wednesday, the Senate adopted the Lee-Leahy amendment, which established a meaningful privacy protection for the public, religious groups, and the media. [See IPA news release: “Schiff and McConnell Fail to Increase Barr’s Surveillance Powers.”]

“However, the Senate failed to adopt the Daines-Wyden amendment, which would have made clear the government may not use Section 215 to surveil internet browsing and search histories without a warrant. Thursday, the Senate also failed to adopt the Paul amendment, which would have prohibited the use of FISA, as well as surveillance conducted under claimed Article II power, against people in the United States or in proceedings against them.”

Demand Progress Education Fund and the FreedomWorks Foundation have released a number of materials on Section 215 — including visual and written histories of how “the government has repeatedly misused” this specific authority — at Section215.org.

Vitka added: “It is now critically important that the House of Representatives add the Daines-Wyden amendment to the underlying bill. Attorney General Bill Barr personally approved the first known bulk surveillance program targeting people in the United States. That DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] program operated for over two decades, collecting billions of records, but was only publicly revealed two years after it was shut down, in 2015. Just last year, an Inspector General report concluded that Barr initiated the DEA program without first reviewing its legality.

“We cannot wait to find out what Bill Barr’s second attempt at a mass-surveillance program looks like, and this is all the more true while Donald Trump occupies the White House. Now that we know a filibuster-proof majority of senators supports prohibiting the government from using the PATRIOT Act to spy on our online activity without a warrant, it would be dangerously irresponsible for the House to pass this reauthorization without that protection.”

Pandemic Exposes Agribusiness’ “Plantation Economics”

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RICARDO SALVADOR, via Ja-Rei Wang, JWang at ucsusa.org, @cadwego
Salvador is senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He wrote the piece “Agribusiness Is Using the COVID-19 Crisis to Slash Food-Worker Wages” and was recently interviewed on FAIR’s show “CounterSpin.”

Salvador said: “We recently have been forced to recognize how essential these workers are, by actually giving them that official designation. ‘Essential’ means, ‘Without you, the whole thing doesn’t work.’ But there are asymmetries here. … There’s a mismatch of supply and demand.” Workers are brought in from outside the U.S. and are exploited and not paid “the fair value of their labor. So that’s the structure of our food system. It’s very much modeled on antebellum plantation economics.

“Probably the single most influential agricultural lobby is the American Farm Bureau Federation. They say they represent farmers, but they actually represent agribusiness. And the president of that organization is Zippy Duvall. …

“The person who is carrying the water for all of this in the White House is President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He very much says his whole career has been about small government. And by the way, I’ll remind everyone that we’re living in a time where, to quote Noam Chomsky a couple of weeks ago, every fiscal conservative is hiding their copy of Ayn Rand and lining up for benefits from the nanny state. There’s a lot of hypocrisy that we need to throw in these people’s faces, because that’s the urgency that the degree of exploitation and dysfunction that we’re living through demands.”

Salvador also highlighted the role of those who run meatpacking industry in the country, such as “Larry Pope, who heads Smithfield Foods, and Noel White, who heads Tyson Foods, because these are the folks who are making the decisions to force people to show up to work. They’re interested in maintaining share value more than they’re interested in preserving the health of their workers. They put out press releases saying that they value nothing more than the health of their workers, but they’re forcing them to work under highly unsafe conditions, given the etiology of this particular pandemic, the coronavirus.”

Afghanistan: Will U.S. Finally Withdraw?

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Al Jazeera reports Monday: “Afghan intelligence officials killed in Taliban car bombing.”

JUNAID AHMAD, [in Islamabad, Pakistan], junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Ahmad is director of the Center for Global Dialogue and professor of Middle Eastern politics at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. See his interviews on The Real News.

He said today: “With the recent spate of attacks in Afghanistan, the so-called ‘peace agreement’ between the U.S. and the Taliban signed just a few weeks ago seems to be in tatters. The purported truce that was to be had went to shreds the moment the negotiations ended in some resolution. The only provision that seems to have been implemented is a prisoner exchange.

“After dragging its feet” in the prolonged war, the U.S. government “was now willing to meet the principal Taliban demand: withdrawal of all U.S. forces, gradually over the next fourteen months. However, the absence of, and indifference toward, the Afghan government itself was glaringly visible in these U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

“Observers now widely believe that an Afghan ‘puppet’ government, utterly reliant on U.S. protection, is outraged by these negotiations. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, along with his close Indian allies, do not seem to be keen on any U.S. withdrawal that would almost certainly lead to the Taliban, or what is more appropriately considered the ethnic Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan, to win over both more territory and loyalties from the other ethnic forces in the country. The latter has already begun to happen.

“The latest Taliban attack on Afghan intelligence personnel in the city of Ghazni rests upon a strong belief that the Afghan intelligence services, alongside their Indian counterparts, are engineering a number of spectacular attacks within the country precisely to prevent the Americans from considering to withdraw. All of the attacks are routinely condemned by the Afghan government as the work of the Taliban, who on the surface of it, would have no interest in breaking the truce and peace accord since the Americans agreed to their main demand.

“What began as a hopeful sign of the ending of the two-decade bloody American occupation of the country, torn by internecine warfare for four decades now, has now (re-)turned into a chaotic war zone where the geopolitics of the region, and outside actors, prevent any steps toward reconciliation and peace.”

War With China?

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JAMES BRADLEY, james at jamesbradley.com
Bradley is author of several nonfiction bestsellers focused on the American experience in the Pacific and Asia, including Flags of Our Fathers and The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

Bradley has lived in Asia off and on since he went to university in Tokyo in 1974. He is currently in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand and producing a series on “War With China?” on his “Untold Pacific” podcast channel. Recent episodes include “America’s New McCarthyism,” “U.S. Military: ‘War with China Inevitable'” and “U.S. Military Has China Surrounded” with author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger.

In 2016, Pilger released the documentary “The Coming War on China,” which Bradley is featured in — the documentary is now online.

Bradley said today: “We’re seeing both Trump and Biden ratchet up the anti-Chinese rhetoric and it is incredibly dangerous. There’s a great deal of propaganda that depicts China as this great threat and that taps into a long history of anti-Chinese sentiment and misinformation in the U.S.

“Well before the outbreak of this pandemic, elements of the U.S. establishment have been itching in one way or another for increased conflict with China.” This includes the U.S. building “more and bigger military bases that ring China. You have the reconstitution of groups like the Committee on the Present Danger: CHINA with members like Frank Gaffney, Steve Bannon, William Bennett and the CIA’s Bradley Johnson.

“And of course, the pandemic is being exploited by many to ratchet up tensions around a trade war with China and foster resentment.”

Bradley elaborated on the work behind his book The China Mirage — today the U.S. media feature “many who are disappointed that American outreach to China over the last 20 years didn’t liberalize China, make it more American. The China Mirage focuses on this continuing U.S. delusion; the ‘mirage’ in the American mind is that China will become something more like America. Pearl Buck — a huge 20th century author — preached this mirage to the American public in the 1930’s and the U.S. made the Chinese Civil War inevitable.” As Bradley told NPR when the book came out: “Chiang Kai-shek was the China mirage incarnate. He was going to lead China to become an Americanized, Christianized country.”

The book also tracks wealthy U.S. individuals and families like the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt “who dealt with Chinese gangs to inject illegal opium into China and how many prominent East Coast families accumulated massive fortunes as drug dealers during China’s century of humiliation.” The China Mirage traces the American experience with China from presidents George Washington to Richard Nixon.

See from FAIR: “Media Fail to Identify Xenophobia as Biden Says Trump ‘Rolled Over for Chinese.’

Would Earlier Measures Have Saved Tens of Thousands?

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The New York Times is reporting in “Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show” on a study from Columbia University disease modelers that found that if physical distancing measures had begun “on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.”

ALISON GALVANI, alison.galvani at gmail.com
Galvani is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at Yale University. She said today: “This study makes a lot of sense and is consistent with some of our own modeling. It’s undeniable that more rapid implementation of public health interventions would have saved lives. The non-linearity of epidemiological dynamics means that the impact of early action or inaction is amplified over time as an outbreak progresses. The window of opportunity for the prompt containment of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States closed while messages of denial were being propagated by our President. Overall, we were exceedingly slow to implement control strategies.”

Galvani added that lifting distancing measures is now being done prematurely and such actions have “cost thousands upon thousands of lives. I fear that still many more Americans will die unless a more sustained and concerted effort is made to overcome this pandemic.”

The Rise of Global Activism?

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The COVID-19 Global Solidarity Coalition will launch on May 23, 2020, unveiling a manifesto signed by “thousands of people and organizations worldwide. The launch will take place over a live video streaming through Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube. The goal is to establish guidelines, principles, and priorities for dealing with the current coronavirus pandemic to end the neoliberal assault on the environmental and social structures that protect the health and well-being of billions around the world.

“We call upon the global community to rethink the self-destructive path that humanity is presently following as demonstrated by the devastation and the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the existential threats of climate change and nuclear war, the waste of lives and resources due to ongoing warfare and unbridled militarism, and the deplorable living conditions that billions of our sisters and brothers face daily.”

A sample of founding members is available here.

As the manifesto — which people will be able to sign here — states, “The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgency of changing global structures of inequity and violence. We, people around the world, will seize this historical moment … We declare our manifesto today to offer a vision of the world we are building, the world we are demanding, the world we will achieve. …

“In a world where the gap between rich and poor is obscene, with the world’s richest one percent having more than twice the wealth of 6.9 billion people, a fundamental redistribution of wealth and power globally and within nations is imperative. Every human being must have the opportunity to live a healthy, creative, and fulfilling life, free from the ravages of poverty, exploitation, and domination.”

The manifesto (found here) will be publicly launched twice on Saturday, May 23 to accommodate people in different time zones around the world: 9:00 (9 a.m.) and 21:00 (9 p.m.) New York City time. It is available in 18 languages.

More information can be found on the Coalition’s website: CovidGlobalSolidarity.org.

Contact the Coalition’s media team contact at: Covid19GlobalSolidarity at gmail.com; or:

Peter Kuznick, kuznick at american.edu
Kuznick is professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University.

Employers and Government Still Not Protecting Nurses and Patients

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DEBORAH BURGER, ZENEI CORTEZ, JEAN ROSS, COKIE GILES, press at nationalnursesunited.org@NationalNurses
Burger, Cortez, Ross, and Giles are members of the Council of Presidents of National Nurses United. For the last month, the group has been “conducting a nationwide survey of registered nurses. More than 23,000 nurses filled out the survey about their experiences working during the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses are loud and clear:

“While it’s been months since COVID-19 struck the United States, our employers and the government are STILL not protecting us nurses and our patients.

“Despite having months to produce more PPE, the Trump administration and Congress have refused to get us the protection we need to stay safe on the front lines of this crisis. Some 87% of nurses reported having to reuse a single-use disposable respirator or mask with a COVID-19 patient.

“Here are some other troubling statistics about nurses’ lack of safety from the survey:

“Over 33 percent of nurses reported that their employer requires them to use their own sick leave, vacation, or paid time off if a nurse gets COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19 and needs to self-quarantine.

“Some 84 percent of nurses reported they have not yet been tested and, of those who have been tested, more than 500 nurses reported a positive result.

“More than a quarter — 28 percent  — of respondents had to reuse a so-called ‘decontaminated’ respirator with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

“We can’t allow nurses to continue to work in these conditions, leaving them vulnerable to the virus and putting their patients at risk. When nurses aren’t safe, patients aren’t safe. That’s why NNU is standing up to fight for the highest level of protections.”

Pandemic “Billionaire Bonanza” Swells as Unemployment Escalates

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CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org, @chuck99to1
Collins is co-author of the study “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers,” which came out in April. He is with the Institute for Policy Studies and is co-editor of Inequality.org.

They have updated the analysis and find that “between March 18 and May 28, over 40 million applied for unemployment. Over the same ten weeks, the wealth of U.S. billionaires surged $485 billion, a 16.5 percent increase.” See “Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers.”

Collins said today: “The surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature” of inequality in the U.S. today. “While millions risk their lives and livelihoods as first responders and frontline workers, these billionaires benefit from an economy and tax system that is wired to funnel wealth to the top.”

Pelosi, Hoyer and Schiff Keep Trying to Give Trump More Spying Powers?

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Steny Hoyer in the Oval Office on Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CommonDreams is reporting: “Pelosi Accused of ‘Trying to Do an End-Run Around Her Own Party’ by Sending Spy Powers Bill to Conference.”

Trevor Timm, executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, on Thursday wrote the piece “Congress Is Alarmingly Close to Handing Trump Dangerous Spying Powers: And Adam Schiff, of all people, is the one giving it to him.”

Reporter Dell Camron writes: “Democratic leaders are doing anything and everything they can to prevent privacy protections from being added to FISA. People need to be asking themselves why this is happening. What do Pelosi/Hoyer/Schiff have to gain by defending warrantless surveillance?”

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said: “At the request of the Speaker of the House, I am withdrawing consideration of the FISA Act. The two-thirds of the Republican party that voted for this bill in March have indicated they are going to vote against it now. I am told they are doing so at the request of the President. I believe this to be against the security interest of the United States and the safety of the American people.”

Politico reports: “Effort to renew FISA crumbles: It was a rare legislative setback for Pelosi, and Trump rejoiced.”

EVAN GREER, evan at fightforthefuture.org, @fightfortheftr

Greer is deputy director of Fight for the Future. She tweeted Thursday: “I just want to be extremely clear that right now Nancy Pelosi the so-called leader of ‘The Resistance’ is actively trying to gut a bipartisan amendment that specifically protects journalists & religious groups from abusive surveillance, so she can reauthorize FISA & Patriot Act.”

See statement by the group Demand Progress.

Police Targeting Reporters; Big Media Hiding Police Abuse

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TREVOR TIMM, trevor at freedom.press, @trevortimm
Executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, Timm tweeted a string of links to videos of police attacking journalists, writing: “Police are purposefully targeting reporters all over the country, in video after video. There’s no other way to describe it.”
Another tweet reads: “This might be the worst one yet. Journalist complies with order to get down, while making it known he’s press. While he is on the ground defenseless, a cop pepper sprays him at point blank range.”

Timm is a columnist for GEN magazine. In response to a Twitter thread about a series of videos showing a pattern of police violence against protesters from a fellow columnist, he tweeted: “I’ve been watching cable news for the last two hours, it is completely devoid of this reality. It’s been almost all about random looters, virtually zero coverage of the dozens of truly disturbing videos of cops brutalizing civilians for no reason.”

Timm has done extensive work on drones and notes that a Predator Drone launched from Grand Forks Air Force Base was deployed over the Minneapolis protests.

See past accuracy.org news releases on the militarization of the police.

Rev. Hagler on Trump and Protests

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Protestors face off with MPDC officers in riot gear at Lafayette Square following the murder of George Floyd.

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Rev. Hagler is senior pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies, an interfaith coalition. He tweeted about Trump using militarized forces to clear Lafayette Square so that he could hold a Bible in front of a church — and about how some esteem property over human life.

On Sunday, he delivered a sermon, “Divided We Fail,” saying: “I can’t stop thinking about where we are as a country because I do not see this unity or this sacred essential purpose in our existence as people in this America.”

Describing the death of George Floyd, Hagler asked: “Why didn’t the other cops hear [Floyd’s words, ‘I can’t breathe’] and respond? It was because they protect their own, occupy us, for the purpose of keeping us in our places.”

He spoke of “the long-held truth that whites see the police as their protectors of property and themselves against people who are black and not like them.”

In contrast to how police treat African Americans, he pointed to how “gun-touting white men can storm the Michigan Statehouse. …

“The problem with white America [is the] deluded and myth-based thinking that they built this country and made it wealthy. No, its wealth is because of exploited and enslaved labor” concluding that “unless the nation can confess … it will remain divided.”

Police Should be Under Community Control

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NETFA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org, @Netfafree
Freeman is a policy analyst with the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with Pan-African Community Action. He was interviewed late last year on FAIR’s program CounterSpin: “Community Control Over Police Should Be a Democratic Right.”

He said today: “People most impacted by police repression have a legacy of struggle that should inform what demands any allies support. Black radical tradition of the 60s and 70s has conceived of and fought for Community Control Over Police (CCOP) as a solution and this was readopted by the more contemporary Movement for Black Lives policy platform released in August 2017.

“CCOP would make other demands, like ending qualified immunity or defunding the police redundant and unnecessary. These sorts of reforms are a deterrent away from the more grassroots and power shifting demand for CCOP. With CCOP, communities would be empowered to hire, fire, set priorities and duties of the police, as well as establish the consequences for misconduct. CCOP is actually a democratic human right to self-determination and a recommendation to the U.S. by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in 2016.”The other reforms can be won without achieving any power shift at all, but will invariably compel proponents to claim a relatively easy victory [rather than] shifting power to the people most impacted.

“As an institution with origins in the slave patrols and, at the turn of the century, private security agencies hired by owners, policing is about enforcing the laws of white supremacy and capitalism.

“All U.S. armed forces — whether police, National Guard, active-duty military — serve the same essential purpose, to protect the settler colonial and imperialist paradigm. The distinction between them is like that between the FBI and CIA; one enforces domestic domination and the other foreign.”

Freeman is also on the coordinating committee of the Black Alliance for Peace, which works on a host of issues, including calling for shutting down AFRICOM.

Barr Prosecuting Pacifists: Activists Face Prison for Action at Huge Nuclear Weapons Base

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Mass on the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 home base porch, August 8th, 2019, Brunswick, Ga. | Courtesy of Bones Donovan

On April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, seven activists — following the Biblical edict to “beat swords into plowshares” — used bolt cutters to enter one of the largest nuclear weapons bases in the world at the Kings Bay Trident submarine base in Georgia.

On Monday, the first of the defendants, Elizabeth McAlister, a long time peace activist who founded Jonah House in Baltimore with her late husband Phil Berrigan, is scheduled to be sentenced. For public access to audio of this hearing, dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 2296092 and enter the security code 1234.

The support group for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 states that the Catholic Worker activists, after entering the nuclear weapons facility “then split into three groups and prayed, prayerfully and symbolically poured blood, spray-painted messages of disarming nuclear weapons and to love one another. They hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners quoting Dr. King, ‘the ultimate logic of racism is genocide’ and another naming the ominicidal logic of Trident. The seven waited to be arrested.”

A year ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Prize winners wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking the charges against the activists be dropped. Instead, at their trial in October, the prosecution and judge prevented the activists from mounting a series of defenses, including presenting a justification or necessity defense with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg testifying on their behalf — or invoking international law. The prosecution and judge even effectively kept the reality of the nuclear weapons at the base from the jury. The activists were convicted on October 24.

The group states that the defendants “asked for home confinement during this time of COVID-19, as entering prison could be a death sentence. Their request was denied by the prosecution. Elizabeth McAlister, at 80 years old, the eldest of the KBP7 defendants, was notified that her court date was changed from May 28 to June 8. She is to be sentenced by video while she stays at her home in Connecticut. McAlister will probably not face additional prison time because she served over 17 months before trial.

“Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker Movement, was granted an adjournment and given a new date on June 29, 3:30 p.m. in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta, and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (who has been detained in jails in Camden County and Glynn County for more than 25 months) also asked for an adjournment and were given June 29 and 30 as their new dates to appear with no times specified yet. They were not told whether they’ll be allowed to be sentenced in person in open court or whether they’ll have to travel to Brunswick to be sentenced remotely by video once they get there. …

“As they wait for sentencing, each of the defendants and their families continue to serve as their communities’ human needs grow exponentially during this COVID-19 pandemic. The defendants call for the release of people in prisons, in federal and state prisons, county and city jails, especially the elderly, the infirm and all non-violent offenders.”

Interviews are available with:

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761 at gmail.com
One of the seven Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

More information and interviews with other Plowshares activists are available via the group’s extensive website and via the media team:

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com, @kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com

Today, Sentencing for Pacifist Jailed for Protesting “Omnicidal” Weapons — Supported by Activist Thrown to Ground by Police

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Early Friday, IPA put out a news release “Barr Prosecuting Pacifists: Activists Face Prison for Action at Huge Nuclear Weapons Base” about the years-long prosecution and the sentencing of Plowshares activists, which begins Monday morning with the sentencing (by video conference) of Elizabeth McAlister, who founded Jonah House in Baltimore with her late husband Phil Berrigan.

The elderly man who Buffalo police shoved to the sidewalk and lay bleeding from his head has been identified as Martin Gugino.
Gugino is a long-time peace activist and recently made a series of video statements about the sentencing of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 activists who entered a major nuclear weapons facility on April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination to “nonviolently, symbolically disarm” the weapons there.

The support group for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 states that the Catholic Worker activists, after entering the nuclear weapons facility in Georgia “then split into three groups and prayed, prayerfully and symbolically poured blood, spray-painted messages of disarming nuclear weapons and to love one another. They hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners quoting Dr. King, ‘the ultimate logic of racism is genocide’ and another naming the ominicidal logic of Trident. The seven waited to be arrested.”

One of them, Father Steven Kelly, remains in jail. Others, like McAlister, have spent over 17 months in jail prior to trial with little media attention and is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. ET Monday. The unusual sentencing will take place by video conferencing while she remains at home in Connecticut. For public access to audio of this hearing, dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 2296092 and enter the security code 1234.

The group reports that “Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker Movement, was granted an adjournment and given a new date on June 29, 3:30 p.m. in Brunswick, Georgia.”

The other activists — Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta, and Kelly — have asked for an adjournment “and were given June 29 and 30 as their new dates to appear with no times specified yet. They were not told whether they’ll be allowed to be sentenced in person in open court or whether they’ll have to travel to Brunswick to be sentenced remotely by video once they get there.”

In one of his videos supporting Mark Colville and other Plowshares activists, Gugino addresses the federal court in Brunswick, Georgia where Colville is awaiting sentencing in support. Gugino cites Martin Luther King’s belief that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Gugino added: “What he doesn’t say there, is that it doesn’t bend itself; we have to bend it. We have to go out into the culture and act justly, act morally, do good, and little by little it will bend the culture towards justice. And some of the time, the culture doesn’t want to be bent, and so there will be conflict, and that’s just part of it. And Martin Luther King knew very well the possibilities.”

A year ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Prize winners wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking the charges against the activists be dropped. Instead, at their trial in October, the prosecution and judge prevented the activists from mounting a series of defenses, including presenting a justification or necessity defense with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg testifying on their behalf — or invoking international law. The prosecution and judge even effectively kept the reality of the nuclear weapons at the base from the jury. The activists were convicted on October 24 to minimal major media coverage.

Interviews are available with:
MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761 at gmail.com, @amistadobrero
One of the seven Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. He used a hammer made from melted-down guns to smash parts of a shrine to nuclear weapons at the facility. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

More information and interviews with other Plowshares activists are available via the group’s extensive website and via the media team:

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com, @kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com

Bolivia: U.S.-Backed OAS Helped Oust Indigenous Leader

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Nearly eight months after incumbent Bolivian president Evo Morales was ousted in a coup d’etat amid allegations of electoral fraud, The New York Times reports that the Organization of American States’ (OAS) claims of fraud in the 2019 general election “relied on incorrect data and inappropriate statistical techniques.”

However, the new New York Times report makes no mention of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which sounded the alarm on the OAS’s false claims in real time.

CEPR now notes: “On October 21, 2019, just one day after Bolivia’s election, the OAS denounced — without providing any evidence — a ‘drastic’ and ‘inexplicable’ change in the trend of the vote count following an interruption of the transmission of the election results. At the time, CEPR was quick to note that the data simply did not back up the OAS claims.”  Despite CEPR’s documentation, the OAS claims were widely echoed through major media.

In February, findings by John Curiel and Jack R. Williams at MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab — contracted by CEPR to verify the numerical and statistical results of CEPR’s November 2019 study of the Bolivian election — were published by the Washington Post: “Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. Our research found no reason to suspect fraud.” These findings also are unmentioned by the New York Times.

An in-depth report by CEPR issued in March addresses the claims that the OAS is now making. “For those paying close attention to the 2019 election, there was never any doubt that the OAS’ claims of fraud were bogus,” said CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, coauthor of an 82-page report on the Bolivian election and the OAS audit of that election. “Just days after the election, a high-level official inside the OAS privately acknowledged to me that there had been no ‘inexplicable’ change in the trend, yet the organization continued to repeat its false assertions for many months with little to no pushback or accountability.”

“The OAS bears responsibility for the significant deterioration of the human rights situation in Bolivia since Morales’s ouster,” CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. He noted that this was not the first time the OAS had played a damaging role in an electoral crisis, citing the 2010 elections in Haiti as an example. “If the OAS and Secretary General Luis Almagro are allowed to get away with such politically driven falsification of their electoral observation results again, this threatens not only Bolivian democracy but the democracy of any country where the OAS may be involved in elections in the future.”

CEPR was a main source for the Institute for Public Accuracy after the 2019 Bolivian coup. See IPA news releases including: “Is the OAS Interfering in the Bolivian Election?” “Bolivia: What a Coup Looks Like” and “Bolivian Coup Targeting Indigenous People.”See piece by Gregory Shupak for FAIR in November, which criticized the New York Times and other major media for accepting the false OAS narrative when it most mattered: “Unpacking Media Propaganda About Bolivia’s Election.”

For interviews with CEPR specialists, contact:
Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @Dan_Beeton

George Floyd’s Killing, Martin Gugino’s Abuse and Witness Against Torture

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JEREMY VARON, jvaron at aol.com, @WitnessTorture
Varon is professor of history at the New School and an activist with the group Witness Against Torture. He just wrote the piece “Martin Gugino – The ‘Buffalo Protestor’ and our Friend,” which states: “None of us is surprised that it was Martin meeting the police line in a posture of non-violence. Martin is gentle, principled, and undaunted. Allied with the Catholic Worker tradition, he is also deeply committed to a tapestry of causes, from fair housing to immigrant rights. Guiding his activism is belief in the sacred power of non-violent resistance to injustice. If that makes him an ‘agitator,’ as Buffalo’s police chief slandered him, then the world needs more agitators.” [See accuracy.org news release from Monday: “Today, Sentencing for Pacifist Jailed for Protesting ‘Omnicidal’ Weapons — Supported by Activist Thrown to Ground by Police.”]

Varon continued: “In his eulogy for George Floyd, attorney Benjamin Crump named what was done to him as ‘torture.’ It was a striking description I had not heard before. Floyd’s lynching needs no added indignity to stir our outrage. But torture has a special sting, both because of its willful cruelty and its supposed alienness to America.

“For years, we in Witness Against Torture vigorously protested what was in fact America’s systematic use of torture after 9/11. Like other human rights groups, we wanted the detained men to be subjects before the law, with basic protections and access to U.S. courts. In our work, we did not think much about race.

“Yet Black Lives Matter and other activists impressed on us an uncomfortable truth: that many of the abuses in War on Terror prisons, like solitary confinement, are routine in America’s domestic prisons, holding predominantly people of color. Access to the law, moreover, is no guarantee of justice. Sometimes the law is the problem.

“We began to see torture as part of a continuum of state violence, including in its racial aspect. Almost exclusively, the victims of post-9/11 torture have been brown-skinned Muslim men, demonized with the label ‘terrorist.’ Despite the innocence of most of the men historically held at Guantanamo, the law has been all but useless in freeing them. No one responsible for their torture has been held to legal account, including during the Obama administration. Going forward, our group sought to highlight the parallels between domestic and overseas abuses in a vast system of dehumanizing violence.

“Dismantling anti-black racism is today’s urgent priority. But abuses of power crave synergies, making other causes relevant. Recall that President Trump is an avowed supporter of torture.”

Is the Solution Defunding the Police, Or Community Control?

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MAX RAMEAU, afrimax at niainteractive.com
NETFA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org, @Netfafree
Rameau and Freeman are writing a book, Community Control Over Police, and just wrote the piece “Community Control vs. Defunding the Police: A Critical Analysis” which was published by Black Agenda Report.

They write that it is “undeniable that policing in the U.S. is out of control and outrageously overfunded. Since 1977 crime has continued to fall, but police budgets have almost tripled to a staggering $115 billion per year.”

But, they argue, “Defunding the police will not abolish the police. Far from purging classism, racism and patriarchy from its ranks, defunding the police is likely to bring them back in their purest form and with a vengeance.”

They note that historically, “the shift from private security to public utility created the contradiction that allowed civil rights organizations to fight for equal protection under the law, public transparency and other reforms. Of course, this did not end police brutality or alter the fundamental function of police as protectors of wealth and enforcers of the will of the ruling class, but turning the police into a public utility did provide some important tools necessary for the reduction of harm and heightening contradictions when those harms came.”

They point to other examples around the world to illustrate their argument: “South Africa is a modern capitalist country that is mostly post-industrial and features pockets of development that mirror the wealthiest western nations. Yet, the government there does not spend anywhere near the amount of resources on police as the United States. So how do upscale malls, financial districts, wealthy white neighborhoods and other configurations of the ruling class protect themselves from the majority of residents living in poverty? They hire private security firms to enforce the rules of the establishment — not the laws of the province or country.”

Rameau is a Haitian-born Pan-African author and organizer with Pan-African Community Action. Freeman is on the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace and an organizer in Pan-African Community Action which published a longer version of their new piece.

Statues Tumble

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Sam Gillies via Storyful

ADAM HOCHSCHILD, adamhochschild at earthlink.net
Hochschild has written about the conquest of the Congo in his King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa.

He said today: “As the impact of the video of George Floyd’s killing continues to ricochet around the world, one result has been an epidemic of toppling statues. In the United States, longstanding monuments to Confederate generals have fallen. In Belgium, statues of King Leopold II, the ruthless colonizer of the Congo, have been splashed with red or taken down, and in Australia a mountain range named after him lost its name. In Britain, a statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol merchant and slave trader, was tossed into the city’s harbor.”

Hochschild specifically mentions the statue of Edward Colston in his book on the British antislavery movement, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves.

“When people get shocked by an injustice today,” says Hochschild, “it’s only natural that they look around and realize that, on all sides of us, we have symbols of injustices in the past. We would be shocked if Germany had statues of Hitler in prominent places, but Leopold, like Hitler, was responsible for millions of deaths. I sympathize with the Belgians who want to see him gone. Congo today still suffers from the legacy of its ruthless colonization, and some modern corporations — Unilever, for instance — have roots that go back to the forced labor system founded by Leopold. And in so many ways, in Britain, the United States, and other countries, we are still dealing with the heritage of slavery.”

Hochschild teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of ten books.

Challenging Monuments to “Colonialism and Slavery”

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Several statues of Christopher Columbus have recently been brought down. In Albuquerque, Steven Ray Baca shot someone at a protest at a monument to a conquistador. Baca has reportedly been charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

ROXANNE DUNBAR ORTIZ, rdunbaro pacbell.net@rdunbaro
Author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United StatesRoxanne Dunbar Ortiz said today: “As the movement for black lives protests against police violence … has spread to every part of the United States and around the world, some have turned to the glaring public symbols of the history that empowers such violence — colonialism and slavery. Statues celebrating Confederate officers and slavers have come down, as well as those of Columbus, who is best known for pioneering European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere and genocide of the Indigenous Arawaks in the Caribbean; he also brought the transatlantic African slave trade, as well as returning to Spain with enslaved natives who were sold on the European slave market.”

Dunbar also wrote the book Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New MexicoShe continued: “In New Mexico, which was first colonized by the Spanish in 1598, the descendants of those first settlers have in the past several decades erected statues of the genocidal conquistador, Don Juan de Oñate, as well as annually celebrating what they call the entrada, the arrival of the gifts of Christianity and European culture to people they considered savages. Actually, the Indigenous Peoples in New Mexico, called Pueblos, live in small city states with multi-storied communal homes made of adobe or cut granite and practiced irrigation agriculture all along the North Rio Grande River. The Spanish reduced the 98 city-states to 21 within ten years of ‘arrival.’ Today, most of the New Mexico state, county, and cities/t