News Releases

Groups Oppose Rahm Emanuel for Ambassadorship, Citing Absence of “Ethics, Integrity and Diplomatic Skills”

BREE CARLSON, via Johanna Kichton,  j.kichton@peoplesaction.org@PplsAction
Carlson is deputy director of People’s Action, one of more than two dozen organizations that announced Tuesday that they strongly oppose any nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be a U.S. ambassador. Noting that President Biden is reportedly considering Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan or China, a joint statement declared: “Such top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity and diplomatic skills. Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications.”

Said Carlson: “He covered up the murder of Laquan McDonald, defunded public schools, and attacked benefits for poor people. It would be a slap in the face for many to see President Biden ignore the loud calls of opposition towards him.” See on Common Dreams: “Progressives to Biden: No Ambassadorship for ‘Ladder-Climbing Hack’ Rahm Emanuel.”

The coalition statement said that Emanuel “has routinely served elite corporate interests and rarely the interests of the broad public or the causes of racial justice, economic equity or the peaceful resolution of conflicts at home or abroad. And whether in federal or municipal office, he has been known for his abrasive, arrogant style of wielding power. Emanuel’s disgraceful behavior as mayor of Chicago cannot be erased or ignored.”
National organizations signing the statement include Black Youth Project 100, Demand Progress Education Fund, Justice Democrats, People’s Action, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org, Veterans For Peace, and Working Families Party. Several Chicago groups also signed the statement, including the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, and Indivisible Chicago Alliance.

Rights Group Calls on Biden to Reverse Trump’s Treatment of Gitmo Prisoner Attempting Suicide

The Center for Constitutional Rights has put out a detailed news release: “Gitmo Torture Survivor Asks Court to Reject Eleventh-Hour Trump Bid to Deny Medical Evaluation,” which states: “Lawyers representing Guantánamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani are urging a federal judge to deny an effort by the Trump administration in its final days to reverse a court order to convene a panel of medical experts to evaluate him. A former Defense Department official appointed by Trump attempted to avoid convening the panel by purporting to make an exception excluding men imprisoned at Guantánamo from the military regulation requiring such an evaluation.

“Mr. al Qahtani is the only person imprisoned at Guantánamo whose torture has been formally admitted to by a U.S. government official, and he suffers from schizophrenia, diagnosed years before his detention, and major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from his torture. He has attempted suicide multiple times, including twice within the last four months, when, in a haze of hallucinations, he swallowed broken glass and cut veins in his arms. He is legally entitled to a neutral medical evaluation to determine whether the United States may continue to detain him.

“In an unclassified phone call with his lawyer, Mr. al Qahtani said, ‘I feel so much worse. I tried to kill myself again. I was in a state of madness. I don’t know what I did. … Even the psychiatrists here told me I’ve reached a stage where I might kill myself without even realizing it. These are dangerous behaviors. They put me in the clinic at first and now I’m back in the cellblock. They’re watching me but it’s as if they’re just waiting for me to kill myself. …’

“Al Qahtani experiences a host of symptoms, including hallucinations, screaming, insomnia, crying for hours, banging his head against walls, impaired concentration and memory, hypervigilance, hopelessness, and physical pain throughout his body, among others.”

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights said: “Our government knowingly tortured a man who was already suffering from schizophrenia from his teenage years, long before he was brought to Guantanamo. Eighteen years later, it serves no purpose to hold him alone in a largely-empty prison, where he is losing what little touch with reality he still has.”

“The Biden administration can and should reverse course on Trump’s effort to resist the independent medical examination of a mentally ill prisoner that the U.S. government has admitted torturing,” said Ramzi Kassem, a professor at CUNY School of Law and the director of the CLEAR Clinic, which also represents Mr. al Qahtani.

Contact: Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, jnessel@ccrjustice.org

Biden Should Halt Trump Privatization of Medicare Moves

DIANE ARCHER, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch@socialsecurityworks.org
Archer is president of Just Care USA, an independent digital hub “covering health and financial issues facing boomers and their families and promoting policy solutions.” She is the past board chair of Consumer Reports and serves on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Board. Benesch is communications director of Social Security Works.

Archer just wrote the piece “The Ghost of the Trump Administration Is Haunting Medicare,” which states: “In the last quarter of 2020, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services launched an experiment, euphemistically called, ‘direct contracting,’ that could fully turn Medicare over to private health insurers. The Biden administration needs to halt this experiment before millions of older and disabled Americans lose their right to choose traditional Medicare.

“Traditional Medicare — public insurance administered by the federal government — has been a hallmark of Medicare since the program was first enacted in 1965. Under traditional Medicare, the government sets rates for doctors and hospitals, sets the conditions for coverage, and pays providers directly. Public insurance is cost-effective, reliable, transparent and publicly accountable.

“Most important, traditional Medicare guarantees people access to care from the doctors and hospitals they choose anywhere in the country. It is designed to meet the needs of healthy older adults and people with disabilities as well as those with complex medical conditions. No corporate health insurer profits from denying care or second-guessing treating physicians.

“Nonetheless, the Trump administration has outsourced Medicare to insurance companies and other for-profit middlemen, placing them between Americans and their doctors. The experiment could assign millions of people who elected traditional Medicare to a corporate health plan that works like Medicare Advantage, the Medicare private health insurance choice, with fewer consumer protections. …

“Allowing for-profit insurers to restrict access to care in traditional Medicare is a dangerous social experiment with the health and lives of the most vulnerable older and disabled Americans. It’s bad policy, a government giveaway to Wall Street, and a betrayal of the most basic principles of Medicare. Congress has given every older and disabled American the right to choose traditional Medicare. The Biden administration should immediately kill this toxic legacy of the former president.”

Is the White House Greenlighting Haiti’s Descent into Dictatorship?

EMMANUELA DOUYON, emmanuela.douyon@gmail.com@emmadouyon
In Haiti, Douyon is an activist with Nou Pap Dòmi (We Will Not Sleep) and executive director of the group Policité. She will be testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Friday.

BRIAN CONCANNON, beconcannon@gmail.com@HaitiJustice
Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon is executive director of Project Blueprint, which promotes a “progressive, human rights-based U.S. foreign policy by bringing the perspectives of people impacted by U.S. actions abroad into policy discussions.” He founded the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and was its Executive Director from 2004-2019. He lived in Haiti from 1995 to 2004, where he served as a Human Rights Officer with the United Nations.

He just wrote the piece “Is the White House Greenlighting Haiti’s Descent into Dictatorship?” for Responsible Statecraft, which states: “As thousands of Haitians protest each Sunday against Jovenel Moïse, their embattled and increasingly authoritarian president, their protest signs and songs exhort the U.S. ambassador and the head of the United Nations mission in Haiti, who is also a career U.S. diplomat, ‘to stop supporting a dictatorship.’ The protests reflect a broad consensus among politicians, intellectuals, lawyers and others in Haiti, supported by human rights experts and members of the U.S. Congress, that the Biden administration is propping up Moïse and preventing the emergence of a Haitian-led solution to the political crisis.

“The Trump administration had backed Moïse despite revelations of spectacular corruption, government-linked massacres, and the expiration of Haiti’s parliament. In just one incident, the 2018 La Saline massacre, government-allied gangs killed at least seventy people to retaliate against anti-government organizing in the neighborhood. I interviewed survivors, and their stories were eerily similar to the stories I had heard 30 years before from the survivors of the 1988 St. Jean Bosco Church massacre — also in La Saline — by the vestiges of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s Tonton Macoute death squad.

“Haitians were hopeful that the Biden administration would change course before February 7, the day that Moïse’s term in office ended, according to Haiti’s judicial oversight body, the bar federation, and religious leaders, as well as the leadership of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. But on February 5, the State Department, citing the position of Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, pronounced that Moïse’s term extended until 2022. This interpretation is based on a constitutional ambiguity generated by election delays in 2015 and 2016. But, as most commentators note, it is inconsistent with electoral law and with precedent set by Moïse himself.

“Taking Moïse’s side might have been an attempt to manage Haiti’s political crisis at a time when the administration’s attention is focused elsewhere. But Moïse proceeded as if this support provided a green light for continued repression. Before sunrise on February 7, his police arrested Supreme Court Justice Yvickel Dabrésil and at least 19 other suspected dissidents, illegally, alleging they were planning a coup d’état. The next day, Moïse, fired Dabrésil and two of his Supreme Court colleagues, who, under the country’s constitution, can only be removed by parliament. Haitians who protested the arrests and other autocratic measures were met with police beatings, tear gas and bullets, as were journalists covering the protests.

“The State Department added gaslighting to its green light on February 12, claiming there had been a ‘remarkable lack of popular response to calls for mass protest in recent weeks.’ The State Department knew very well that Haitian demonstrators had been subjected to violent attacks by government forces and allied militias once they marshaled in the streets. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security reported in February that the government was using gangs ‘to repress the opposition,’ and noted ‘President Jovenel Moïse’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies.'”

Biden’s Venezuela Policy: “Continuity Disguised as Change”

On Monday, the Biden administration gave temporary legal status to thousands of Venezuelans in the U.S.

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74@gmail.com@sellner74
Ellner, a retired professor from Venezuela’s Universidad de Oriente, is currently an associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives and editor of the recently published Latin American Extractivism: Dependency, Resource Nationalism and Resistance in Broad Perspective.

He said today: “The Biden administration’s posture toward Venezuela is continuity disguised as change. Its statement that it is dropping Trump’s approach to Venezuela is based on the claim that it will be consulting governments in the region and Europe. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Biden is calling for regime change, just as Trump did, and he continues to recognize Juan Guaidó as president. In contrast, the European Union has terminated its recognition of Guaidó. And the winds of change in Latin America are upending the strategy of isolating the Maduro government in the region that Trump did so much to promote.

“The Biden administration has learned nothing from the disaster of Trump’s Venezuelan policy. It has been a disaster for the Venezuelan people because the sanctions have caused them untold suffering. Ninety five percent of the deterioration in living standards in Venezuela occurred during Trump’s four years. That, in itself, puts the lie to Secretary of State spokesman Ned Price’s assertion on Monday that Maduro is ‘at the root of much of the misery and the suffering of the people of Venezuela.'” See Ellner’s piece “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives.”
He added: “The U.S. has always wanted to teach Venezuela a lesson (just like Cuba), specifically because Chavez, more than any other progressive Latin American president, served as a spokesman for the entire region, if not the world. And second, Washington policy makers are now using the term ‘leverage’ which means the sanctions are not designed to bring about immediate regime change but rather improve the U.S. bargaining position.”

Momentum Builds for Financial Transaction Tax in NY on Tuesday

Forbes just published a piece by pollster John Zogby: “Majority Of New Yorkers Want To Collect A Century-Old Phantom Tax That Will Generate Billions In New Revenue,” which states: “For over 100 years, New York State law has provided for a stock transfer tax that essentially collects a tax on all stock transactions. For many years, after heavy lobbying by stock traders, tax money was actually collected — then immediately rebated to the firms that sold the stocks. In other words, it has been for most of its existence a phantom tax.

“Since 1982, the charade of collecting first then rebating the revenue was halted, but the stock transfer tax is still on the books as state law. So, what are we talking about in real dollars and cents? The tax translates into a 5-cent tax per share every time a stock is sold, thus in 2020, with the average trade on the NASDAQ at about eight thousand four hundred dollars, the total tax would have been around $8.80 a trade, or .1 percent — a minuscule sum anyway you look at it. Since 1982, however, New York has kept the tax on the books, but it has rebated more than $350 billion to Wall Street investors.

“Most New Yorkers are not even aware of this issue. John Zogby Strategies was commissioned by a coalition of public interest groups, unions, and Albany legislative leaders to test support or opposition of breathing new life into this phantom tax. Our poll of 704 likely voters statewide found that overall, 53 percent agreed it should be collected while only 34 percent disagreed. After arguments both in support and opposition were read to voters, agreement rose to 59 percent while opposition declined to 30 percent — a 29-point differential.”

JAMES HENRY, jsh11963@gmail.com@submergingmkt
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group. He said today: “The New York State legislature is meeting Tuesday to decide what its revenue options are and Wall Street is really digging in especially because Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imperiled. They have systematically understated the Wall Street revenues that this tax would produce. … If the feds adopt a national financial transaction tax before New York State does then all the money would flow into the federal treasury. So there’s really no good argument for not doing this except that Wall Street is very nervous about this escalating into the first successful progressive tax reform in 50 years.”

Henry is co-author of the paper “Submission to New York State Assembly: the case for Financial Transactions Taxes,” which states: “In New York state, Assemblyman Rep. Phil Steck has sponsored a disarmingly simple three-page bill that would raise some $10-20 billion a year from Wall Street and plough the money into the pandemic response and the local economy, creating jobs with a fair, efficient and progressive tax.”

Twitter Blocking Labor Reporting on Amazon, a Business Partner

MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com@MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. On Thursday, he wrote the piece “Twitter Worked With Amazon to Block Payday, Labeling Payday & Other Labor Reporters as ‘Suspicious Content.'” Elk wrote: “Earlier today, several readers of Payday Report’s Twitter feed informed us that Twitter was blocking labor reporting content shared by us from being viewed.

“I direct messaged my friends a tweet of a screenshot showing a link to an American Prospect story by retired New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse that described psychological warfare being performed by Amazon on its workers.

“After I sent the tweet, several of my friends told me they were given a warning when they tried to access the content: ‘Message hidden due to suspicious content.’

“Twitter’s feeds are powered through Amazon Web Services who also help run Twitter’s program that identifies ‘fake news.’ They often work closely with the company to block ‘flagged’ news links from going viral.

“Now, multiple reporters from various left outlets including Payday Report, franknews, The American Prospect, and More Perfect Union, have reported that they have all had their content blocked and pegged as ‘suspicious.’

“More Perfect Union, a new labor reporting organization founded by former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, made a viral video supporting the Amazon union workers. The video went viral and garnered over a million views before Amazon suddenly removed it for nearly a day.

“’We never got any explanation for why they removed it,’ said RWDSU [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union] organizer Josh Brewer, who has been helping lead the battle against the e-commerce giant.

“In response to the negative publicity, Amazon has hired teams of rapid response PR agents who are scouring the web searching for viral tweets that make Amazon look bad. Thus, many on the left believe that Amazon is working closely with Twitter to prevent negative Amazon content from going viral.”

How Hedge Funds Are Wrecking the U.S.’s Green New Deal

LYNN PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com@INETeconomics
Parramore is senior research analyst for the Institute for New Economic Thinking and just wrote the piece “Meet the ‘New Koch Brothers’ — the Hedge Fund Activists Wrecking America’s Green New Deal.”

The piece gives a series of case studies. Parramore summarized the problem: “Players on Wall Street have been torpedoing our chances of averting environmental catastrophe for years. A group of billionaire financiers has made sure the companies the government must partner with to fight climate change are focused on one thing only – making these men (they all seem to be men) even richer. Instead of leading the world in climate change technology, firms like Apple, GE, and Intel have been pressured to become the personal piggy banks of powerful moneymen — known as hedge fund activists — who can’t see beyond the next quarterly report.

“These guys are blocking their fellow Americans from the chance to leave their kids a safe, sustainable world. That world will never materialize unless we understand what they are doing and stop them. …

“People who did this used to be called ‘corporate raiders.’ They took over companies, fired people, played stock market games to swell the stock price, made a quick buck, and then split. …

“The playbook of today’s hedge fund” manipulators, Parramore notes, “looks like this: Buy a wad of shares of a company on the stock market. Then, line up the proxy votes of the managers of funds who let have hedgies manage pieces of their portfolio. Next, send a letter to the CEO of a target company demanding that he or she get busy pumping up the stock price. Hedge funds with deep pockets will spend millions making this happen — remember, their money comes from rich people or institutional investors like pensions and mutual funds who are seeking high yields. Occasionally hedgies will use their own money — those whose ‘war chests’ have come from previous raids.”

Thirty Years of Bombing Iraq

AP reports this morning: “U.S. forces: Rockets hit airbase in Iraq hosting U.S. troops.” This follows a U.S. government strike from Iraq into Syria last week. Last year NBC reported:”Iraq asks U.S. to make plans to withdraw forces.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild
A long-time peace activist, who has frequently been in war zones and prison, Kelly just wrote the piece “Blood for Oil: Amid the ongoing horror, it’s important to find ways to atone for war crimes — including reparations,” originally published by The Progressive.

Pope Francis is scheduled to make the first papal visit to Iraq from March 5 to 8.

Kelly writes: “Thirty years ago, when the United States launched Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, I was a member of the Gulf Peace Team. We were 73 people from fifteen different countries, aged 22 to 76, living in a tent camp close to Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia, along the road to Mecca. …

“Iraqi authorities told us we must pack up, readying for a morning departure to Baghdad. Not all of us could agree on how to respond. Adhering to basic principles, twelve peace team members resolved to sit in a circle, holding signs saying ‘We choose to stay.’ …

“Another evacuation was happening as Iraqi forces, many of them young conscripts, hungry, disheveled and unarmed, poured out of Kuwait along a major highway, later called ‘the Highway of Death.’ …

“Shortly after viewing photos of gruesome carnage caused by the ground and air attacks, President George H.W. Bush called for a cessation of hostilities on February 27th, 1991. An official cease fire was signed on March 4. …

“Noam Chomsky notes that there were diplomatic alternatives to the bloodletting and destruction visited upon Iraq by Operation Desert Storm. Iraqi diplomats had submitted an alternative plan which was suppressed in the mainstream media and flatly rejected by the U.S. …

“After the ‘success’ of Operation Desert Storm, the bombing war turned into an economic war, which lasted through 2003. As early as 1995, United Nations documents clarified that the economic war, waged through continued imposition of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, was far more brutal than even the worst of the 1991 aerial and ground war attacks. …”

Withdrawal of Tanden Nomination

JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org
NORMAN SOLOMON, norman@rootsaction.org
Cohen and Solomon co-founded the group RootsAction.org, which led the progressive opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget.

They issued a statement Tuesday just after her nomination was withdrawn, saying they are “heartened that she will not be OMB director. The opposition of Republican senators over nasty tweets was of course hypocritical and absurd, given their muted response to years of Trump’s tweeting. But it was inexcusable for Democratic senators to be silent about the legitimate reasons to oppose her nomination — the potential conflicts of interest raised by her years of coziness with powerful corporate elites. That silence may be explained by the fact that Democrats in the Senate are beholden to some of the same corporate donors that lavishly bankroll Tanden’s think tank. Tanden was the wrong choice to head a federal agency that is vital in the regulatory process. It strains credulity to contend that she would have been a true advocate for the public interest after many years of dutifully serving corporate interests.”

RootsAction began its nationwide campaign to defeat the Tanden nomination on Jan. 3.

Cohen was on The Young Turks minutes before Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn.

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