Category Archives: current events

Republicans Condemn ‘Hate and Bigotry’ But Don’t Mention President Trump

Image: Time Magazine

One after another, the nation’s most powerful Republicans responded to President Donald Trump’s extraordinary remarks about white supremacists. Yet few mentioned the president.

The Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, condemned “hate and bigotry.” House Speaker Paul Ryan charged that, “White supremacy is repulsive.” Neither criticized the president’s insistence that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a violent weekend clash between white supremacists and counterdemonstrators.

The nuanced statements reflect the party establishment’s delicate dance. Few top Republican officeholders defended the president in the midst of an escalating political crisis. Yet they are unwilling to declare all-out war against Trump and risk alienating his loyalists. And as the 2018 elections begin to take shape, the debate over Trump’s words appears to be taking hold in GOP primaries.

Trump on Thursday attacked some of the Republicans who have directly criticized him.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who doesn’t face re-election until 2020, said the president “took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally” and the people demonstrating against them.

“Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world,” Graham added, referring to the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Trump shot back on Thursday on Twitter: “Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer.” He was referring to Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when she was struck by a car driven into the crowd.

“Such a disgusting lie,” Trump said of Graham’s remarks. “He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember.”

More from Time Magazine

Posted by Libergirl

Why Can’t White Supremacists Confront the Fact That the Source of Their Economic Problems Are White Economic Elites?

Frustrated young white men are facing class divisions more than racial divides.

There’s no disputing the white anger and rage seen in Charlottesville, even if conservative publications like the National Review say these “angry white boys do not have a political agenda.”

Their anger is real and grievances differ, even if they took the old path of joining mobs spewing racist filth. Yet these white supremacists are blaming the wrong slices of society for their angst.

Racial divides are not what’s plaguing vast stretches of white America—deepening class divides are. If you think about who is to blame, it is mostly powerful white capitalists and their government servants that decimated regional economies in recent decades.

Many Democrats keep saying inequality is the top economic issue, as Eduardo Porter wrote for the New York Times in a piece that recaps the party’s national political agenda. However, the conventional wisdom that Democrats need to “recover the support of the middle-class—people in families earning $50,000 to $150,000, whose vote went to Mr. Trump,” especially in swing states “where three-quarters of voters are white”—is not acknowledging the roots of America’s latest outburst of white supremacy.

“Our economy is in very serious trouble. Ten or fifteen years from now, the standard of living of our average citizen may actually be lower than it is today,” writes Steve Slavin, author of the new book, The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It and What We Can Do To Fix It. “Large swaths of the suburbs will be slums, and tens of millions of Americans will have joined the permanent underclass. There will be three separate Americas—the rich and near rich, an economically downscaled middle and working class, and a very large poor population.”

Slavin cites eight major economic trends, pointing out that almost everyone who is not living in wealthy enclaves—usually coastal cities or inland hubs—is facing a downward spiral that’s been decades in the making. These are the same stretches of suburban and rural America that elected Trump, elected the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, where hate groups are concentrated, and where many of those arrested in Charlottesville come from. They hail from the losing end of the trends Slavin cites and forecasts for the country.

It may very well be that the external circumstances of the whites protesting are “pretty good,” as the National Review‘s Kevin Williamson writes, compared to non-white America. That’s even more reason to condemn their visceral rage and hate speech. But as Slavin notes, the national economy and sense of well-being is on a downward slide that accelerated in recent decades.

Those responsible are largely white politicians, white business executives and more recently the graduates of elite business schools—where the curriculum involved outsourcing domestic industries that once allowed people without degrees to prosper.

The culprit here is primarily class—even though race and class are often synonymous. If anything, the downwardly spiraling sections of white America today eerily resemble inner cities in the 1960s, where non-whites called for economic justice. Those urban cores were abandoned after two decades of white flight to the suburbs and manufacturers also leaving.

Here are eight overarching economic trends that Slavin notes have clobbered the middle class, working class and poor.

1. Manufacturing has sharply declined. Notwithstanding Trump’s announcements that a few companies based overseas are returning, factory jobs have widely disappeared across the interior of America, where from World War II through the 1980s they anchored cities and counties.

2. Many cities have fallen into decline. Starting after WWII, the government and industry promoted suburbia, abandoning scores of cities to the mostly non-white poor. Detroit’s carmakers bought and dismantled public transit. That led to today’s costly transportation needs with a nation of commuters paying a lot for private vehicles, gas and insurance and spending hours away from home.

3. Health care costs have left wages frozen. Average wages have not seen increases, after being adjusted for inflation, for decades. A big part of the reason is businesses that provide health insurance have to keep paying more to insurers rather than employees. Meanwhile, insurers keep finding ways to draw on what’s left in people’s pockets.

4. Public education is vastly underfunded. Suburban schools in wealthy enclaves might be fine, but nationally half of high school graduates are not at the same level as graduates of other countries and their better achieving peers. That forecloses opportunity.

5. The government is not reinvesting in America. This is not simply about neglected roads and bridges. The U.S. government supports a beyond bloated military industrial complex that accounts for 40 percent of global spending on weapons. This may be domestic spending, but it is not spending on domestic needs.

6. The criminal justice system is bloated. Here too, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation; a predatory system that targets lower-income people and creates taxpayer-funded private police forces.

7. The make-work private sector’s useless jobs. This isn’t just the growth of service industries, but “more than 15 million Americans hold jobs that do not produce any useful goods or services,” such as bill collectors, telemarketers, sales reps paid on commission, etc., Slavin writes.

8. The bloated financial sector. This is Wall Street’s diversion of savings from productive investments to speculative ventures, where money is made from tracking the movement of other assets or the public is sold repackaged securities that generate fees.

In every one of these eight areas, wealthy whites in positions of power and privilege have made decisions that collectively have set the country on the path to today’s downward economic spiral. Right after World War II, the federal government would not lend money to black veterans to buy homes in newly expanding suburbs. They gave real estate investors like Fred Trump, the president’s father, money to build what became urban housing projects where many occupants were non-white renters.

There were not many non-white executives in Detroit when the auto industry acted to destroy public transit systems. There were not many non-whites on corporate boards in the 1980s, when the first wave of moving manufacturing abroad hit. The business schools minting sought-after MBAs were teaching predominantly white students to take operations to countries where labor was cheaper, or extolling the virtues of businesses like Walmart that decimated entire Main Streets across small-town America.

The list goes on and a pattern emerges—a class division, more so than race—which has deepened and afflicts America today. As Slavin writes, “Perhaps the most persuasive indicator of our nation’s economic decline is that millennials are on track to be the first generation in our nation’s history to be poorer than its parents’ generation. In January 2017, CNBC reported, ‘With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.’”

The Young Invincibles are a progressive group concerned about health care, higher education, workforce and finance, and civic engagement. But that moniker could also be used to describe the belligerent attitude of the white marchers in Charlottesville.

As Williamson writes derisively in the conservative National Review, “What does an angry white boy want? The fact that they get together to play dress-up—to engage in a large and sometimes murderous game of cowboys and Indians—may give us our answer. They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links. What they are engaged in isn’t politics, but theater: play-acting in the hopes of achieving catharsis.”

But Williamson only hints at what they seem to want—and it’s exactly what Slavin nails. These angry whites are being bypassed by structural changes in the economy that are narrowing their options. Needless to say, most people in dire straits do not embrace violence and racism. But it seems the heart of their grievances appear to be based on class frustrations, not race. If the white marchers want to blame someone, they ought to point their fingers at the wealthy whites on Wall Street and in Washington.

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Our Fight Against Fascism

When editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg asserts that “the struggle in Charlottesville is a struggle within our own civilization, within Trump’s own civilization,” and that in the wake of such events “an American president should speak up directly on behalf of the American creed, on behalf of Americans who reject tribalism and seek pluralism, on behalf of the idea that blood-and-soil nationalism is antithetical to the American idea itself,” who, exactly, can place his logic?

It reads nicely, and it seems a conscionable thought to have after a woman dies fighting Nazis on American soil. But, really, what history books has Mr. Goldberg been reading?

“Our civilization’s” ongoing genocide against indigenous groups and the violently enforced systematic oppression of Black Americans notwithstanding, the US government – of which Trump is now Commander-in-Chief – has a storied and bloody history of assassinating foreign heads of state precisely because, democratically, a body of citizens or voters “seeking pluralism” elsewhere in the world had commenced down an antifascist political path that did not suit Washington’s interests.

Ariel Dorfman, for instance, reminisces of the 1970s presidential inauguration of Salvador Allende in Chile:

[A]lmost three years later, a few days after the Hawker Hunter planes under the control of General Pinochet attacked the palace on September 11, 1973. Their bombs left a black yawning gap where the balcony stood. Where the president once waved his handkerchief, there is nothing. Allende is dead. And we can sense that outside the frame, below where the balcony jutted out, there is only emptiness…

Oh, were it so easy to condemn Trump for failing to say the “right thing” at the “right time,” and to have that be the end of it. Is this what the Liberal pluribus desires from America’s much-detested Caesar? It may be enough to keep Rachel Maddow employed, but, unfortunately, the reason for the president’s neutrality on fascism is much more serious than this—and let there be no doubt that he, especially, is unaware of the profound impetus for his now proven Nazi-sympathizing.

As we are thoroughly living under oligarchy, we should turn to Deleuze to elucidate a root cause of the Oval Office’s reigning fascist bent:

The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door. These are the societies of control

Clearly, the rightward-leaning have shown a distinct susceptibility to every brand of hate-driven politics—and we should recall that the colonial residence of bigoted pilgrims did not predate the arrival of slave ships on American shores, but that it followed one year later (1620 and 1619, respectively). Nevertheless, Liberals have their work cut out for them if they expect to right the ship of American democracy simply by writing lukewarm editorials about “the American idea” and babyishly debating whether it is “OK” to punch Nazis in the face. In fact, our democracy is a ship that has always been listing! It has hardly been a democracy! And those who cry wolf because they think our political vessel founders only now really must have little-or-no experience with political organizing beyond the soothing environs of their yoga studio. Luckily for them, there is a very toothsome radical history they can get on board with.

Nearly a century ago, Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti offered very valuable advice during an interview he gave with the Toronto Star:

No government in the world fights Fascism to the death. When the bourgeoisie sees power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to Fascism to maintain itself. The Liberal Government of Spain could have rendered the Fascist elements powerless long ago. Instead it compromised and dallied. Even now at this moment, there are men in this Government who want to go easy on the rebels… We want revolution here in Spain, right now, not maybe after the next European war. We are giving Hitler and Mussolini far more worry with our revolution than the whole Red Army of Russia. We are setting an example to the German and Italian working class on how to deal with Fascism.

Our fight against fascism requires that we also set an example for the world, which the US military currently terrorizes. Huffing and puffing about what Trump says or fails to say is superficial. Of course, it is much easier than mounting a revolution to fight fascism to the death. And just how many bourgeois liberals, exactly, are willing to pony-up?

by Mateo Pimentel/DissidentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Republicans are targeting California Democrats over single-payer healthcare

Democrats are widely expected to make Republican incumbents’ efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act a major issue in the 2018. Now Republicans are going after challengers for some Democrats’ support of a single-payer healthcare system.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is launching a digital ad Thursday morning targeting Democratic challengers on the issue.

Image result for Caforio bryan single payer

The ad will run for two weeks and is specifically targeting Democratic candidates Bryan Caforio in the 25th District and Josh Harder in the 10th District, according to NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol.

The ad doesn’t mention either of them by name, though it prominently features Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi throughout.

More from LA Times

Posted by Libergirl…Will Dems get a backbone and stand for single-payer?

The Senate will vote to start their repeal of Obamacare in a few hours — and the process is still in total chaos

On Monday night, Sen. John McCain said he would return to Washington to vote on key issues — most notably, on the Senate’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The dramatic return of McCain, just a week after announcing that he is battling brain cancer, seems to indicate that Tuesday’s vote on the Senate healthcare push is extremely close for Republican leaders.

At the same time, though, no one is quite sure of the exact push they’re making.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday that there would be a vote on a motion to proceed for the House healthcare bill, the first step in a likely multi-day process of debate and dealmaking in an attempt to come through on the long-held Republican promise of repeal.

The question is whether McConnell’s plan is to bring up the repeal and replace bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA); the repeal-now-and-replace-later bill, known as the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA); or some other modified version of either.

(If you want a full breakdown of the three major pathways and their potential effects, Business Insider’s Lydia Ramsey has everything you need to know here.)

It’s likely that each of these plans gets brought up at some point, but which one will be pushed by McConnell is anyone’s guess — even for Republican senators.

“If we don’t know those things when you go in, you’re sort of voting in a blind fashion,” Sen Rand Paul, a conservative-leaning member of the conference, said on Monday. “I think we need more information. CBO needs to have scored the whole bill.”

“I don’t have a clue what we’re gonna be voting on,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin. “I just need to know what I’m going to vote on. I’m not real happy with the process.”

Despite the confusion, McConnell is set on pushing forward with a vote on Tuesday — at the very least, to get it out of the way.

It appears that McConnell has backing from President Donald Trump. Trump met with a moderate skeptic of the BCRA, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, in her home state of West Virginia on Monday. On Tuesday, he launched into an early morning tweetstorm urging senators to move forward with the process.

“Big day for HealthCare,” Trump tweeted. “After 7 years of talking, we will soon see whether or not Republicans are willing to step up to the plate!”

When the Senate does “step up to the plate” Tuesday, here’s a rough outline of how the process will go down:

  • McConnell calls for a motion to proceed on the House’s American Health Care Act. Since every Democrat is nearly guaranteed to vote no on this motion, no more than two GOP senators can vote against it. Sen. Susan Collins has said she will vote no, leaving McConnell little room for error.
  • If the motion succeeds, that begins 20 hours of debate — in legislative time — split equally between Democrats and Republicans.
  • The first amendment to be voted on will likely to be the ORRA, to satisfy Paul and other conservatives. This plan is likely to be shot down by moderates.
  • The first amendment to be offered procedurally — but second to be voted on, Axios reported — would be the BCRA, which was last updated on July 20. Again, Republicans can only afford two defections.
  • According to reports, there is an agreement between more moderate holdout Sen. Rob Portman and conservative Sen. Ted Cruz to add an amendment that would keep the bone structure of the BCRA but add in Cruz’s amendment. His amendment would allow insurers to sell non-Obamacare-compliant policies, and the deal would throw in another $100 billion to the state stability fund, a move Portman would support. But that would require 60 votes to pass it has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, almost certainly dooming it since there are only 52 Republicans.
  • From there, a series of amendments could be added to the House bill, including from Democrats. Additionally, other healthcare legislation could be slotted in for a vote.
  • Anonther options, according to NBC News, is for the Senate to pass a bundle of smaller amendments focused on repealing aspects of Obamacare like the individual mandate and medical device tax. After this, the House and the Senate would flesh out a full replacement in a conference committee.

In essence: No one knows what the final bill will be, it’s unlikely that it will be fully analyzed when it’s voted on, and no one known whether it will pass.

Based on reports, the whirlwind session will kick off around 2:30 p.m. ET.

By Bob Bryan/Business

Posted by The NON-Confomist

Your Weekend Briefing

1. Congress’s deal on sweeping sanctions to punish Russia for election meddling and regional aggression created a stark choice for President Trump: veto the bill, or approve sanctions his administration abhors.

The White House signaled that it would go along with the measure, citing changes to the bill that mainly provided a face-saving way to back down.

With the investigation deepening into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia, Mr. Trump claimed he has “the complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly himself.

But it is not clear whether a U.S. president can pardon himself. None has ever tried.

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CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

2. The White House is restructuring its communications operation, with Sean Spicer’s colorful run as press secretary coming to an end. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will succeed him. Here are some of his memorable moments.

Mr. Spicer quit after telling President Trump that he greatly disagreed with the decision to make the financier Anthony Scaramucci communications director.

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CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times

3. Another relationship in the White House has grown increasingly strained: Jeff Sessions — who stoked the president’s ire by recusing himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation — said he would remain attorney general “as long as that is appropriate.”

In an interview with three of our reporters, President Trump criticized officials involved in the inquiry and said he would not have appointed Mr. Sessions had he known that he’d recuse himself. Here are excerpts and audio clips of the discussion.

U.S. spy agencies intercepted communications from Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in which he reported to Moscow that he’d spoken with Mr. Sessions in 2016 about issues relevant to the presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported.

Mr. Sessions initially failed to disclose conversations with Mr. Kislyak, then said they were not campaign related.

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CreditPeter Morrison/Associated Press

4. A Qaeda suspect, Ali Charaf Damache, above, is the first foreigner to be brought to the United States to face terrorism charges under President Trump. He will be tried in federal court.

The move breaks from the White House’s hard-line position that terrorism suspects should be sent to the naval prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

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CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

5. Senate Republicans are grappling with the prospect of losing one of their most respected leaders, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has brain cancer.

The specific kind, glioblastoma, is extremely aggressive and difficult to treat.

Lawmakers have banded together in support of Mr. McCain.

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CreditSpencer Platt/Getty Images

6. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky remains steadfast in his drive toward a health care vote this week. But he has not specified whether the bill will be to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or simply repeal it.

Mr. McConnell can afford to lose only two Republican votes — just one if John McCain is absent.

Some might consider this a lose-lose situation: Repeal and replace could result in 22 million more Americans without coverage by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The repeal now, replace later approach could leave 32 million more uninsured by 2026.

Republicans seem to have done what Democrats who passed the Affordable Care Act never could: make it popular among a majority of Americans.

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CreditJenn Ackerman for The New York Times

7. The Minneapolis police chief has resigned at the request of the city’s mayor, less than a week after an officer fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault.

The shooting of Justine Damond by Officer Mohamed Noor led to outpourings of grief in Minnesota and outrage in Ms. Damond’s home country.

In all, 10 of our reporters on two continents contributed to this reconstruction of what happened that night.

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CreditMenahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

8. The Trump administration is barring Americans from traveling to North Korea.

The announcement came hours after the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, strongly hinted that President Trump was considering seeking regime change in response to the North’s nuclear capacity.

Another international relationship has taken an unexpected turn. Israel’s military confirmed that it has been sending in truckloads of supplies, above, and treating thousands of sick and wounded Syrians since June 2016.

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CreditMelissa Lyttle for The New York Times

9. Since President Trump took office, more than 65,000 people across the country have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — a nearly 40 percent increase from the same period last year.

Our reporters spent a day with an I.C.E. team as it navigated the streets of Southern California. The state, home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, has been hostile to the idea of mass deportations.

We spoke with some of the men arrested and the families they may be leaving behind.

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CreditPool photo by Jason Bean

10. After spending nine years in a Nevada prison on charges stemming from a 2007 armed robbery, O.J. Simpson will soon be free. A board voted unanimously to grant parole to the former football star.

“I basically have spent a conflict-free life,” Mr. Simpson asserted, somewhat implausibly, before the parole board. Watch the decision.

Some see Mr. Simpson as a “fallen comrade.” Others are less sympathetic.

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CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

11. Jury selection in the trial of Martin Shkreli, above, an embattled former pharmaceutical executive, underscores a growing tendency of lawyers to favor the uninformed.

Perhaps in a sign of a polarized age, lawyers appear to be increasingly concerned that opinions mean inflexibility, leading them to seek jurors who not only have no viewpoints on the case, but also little exposure to the subject matter, and who don’t follow the news.

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CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

12. More than four decades after women began pouring into the American workplace, only a handful have conquered the corporate ladder.

Our senior correspondent on gender issues spoke to nearly two dozen chief executives, would-be chief executives, headhunters, business school deans and human resources professionals, and found that the problem was less about the pipeline and more about loneliness, competition and deeply rooted barriers.

“We are never taught to fight for ourselves,” said Ellen Kullman, above, the former chief executive of DuPont.

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CreditChris Buck for The New York Times

13. Finally, ever wondered what a total eclipse of our planet looks like from space?

Last year, a Japanese weather satellite captured it all, and NASA used the footage to produce this time lapse.

Some earthlings will get a chance to see one on Aug. 21, when a total solar eclipse will trace a path from Oregon to South Carolina, darkening the sky in the middle of the day.

Have a great week.

Photographs may appear out of order for some readers. Viewing this version of the briefing should help.

Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6 a.m. Eastern.

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Big banks are closing branches and investing in more important real estate—your phone

The most important real estate in the world for banks is on your mobile phone—physical branches are closing down, and more investment is being made in digital wallets. This week, JPMorgan launched a partnership with PayPal, bolstering both companies’ digital payment networks. The most recent round of bank earnings provides a window into the shift…

via Big banks are closing branches and investing in more important real estate—your phone

Posted by Libergirl